Introduction to the Shadeward Saga
This is one of a series of guides to the Shadeward Universe. You can read the others here.
The Shadeward Saga is a four part SF series cataloging events upon the planet Esurio.
The Planet was colonised by refugees from Earth at some point in the distant past. Unfortunately, most of the records of the colonisation have not survived to the present time. The following history has been put together from incomplete records.
Red Dwarf Colonisation Target
The Lacaille system, officially ‘Lacaille 9352, Red Dwarf Class M2V’ in the stellar catalogue, was not originally a primary colonisation target. Red dwarf stars were considered generally poor candidates and the system was relegated to the lower end of the league table. The only reason it was considered at all was that, at a distance of just over ten light years from Earth, it was within range of ships powered by the new atomic pulse engines, a factor that eventually became critical.
It had been known for some time that there were several planets in the system. Esurio, along with four unremarkable gas giants and a series of rocky dwarf-worlds, had already been catalogued and studied in some detail by Sol based orbiting telescopes and, more recently, by high speed atomic space-probes. The returning data was greeted with initial enthusiasm.
Esurio lay just within the outer boundary of Lacaille’s ‘goldilocks zone’, close enough to support liquid water and far enough out to prevent it evaporating away. It maintained a thin oxygen/nitrogen atmosphere with sufficient greenhouse gases to raise the ambient temperature above freezing. Around a more familiar star the planet would have been considered the ideal target, a close parallel of the home-world. A red dwarf would naturally mean that metals would be in short supply, but that could be countered by technology. It might support a simple agrarian culture.
Difficulties in establishing a Colony
Lacaille’s peculiar properties made the colonisation of Esurio problematic for many reasons. The star was extremely faint and cool, with the planet in an alarmingly close orbit. Conditions on the surface ranged from the extreme to the astonishing. Tidally locked to its parent star, one side of the planet always faced the glow of ruddy sunlight; the other was shrouded in eternal night.
An everlasting hurricane raged on the sub-stellar pole, fed by ferocious evaporation from the surface due to the intense heat. At the terminator, kilometre high cliffs of eternal ice and glaciers that dwarfed anything ever seen before marked the transition onto the dark side. Images showed a temperate zone between the two extremes. High wind speeds due to enormous convection between the hot and cold sides were noted in a number of places, coerced by significant mountain ranges.
The atmospheric pressure was too low to support humans unassisted. Either some significant terraforming would need to be undertaken or genetic modifications would need to be made for any prospective colonists.
Lacaille’s brightness dropped precipitately as sun spots periodically blotched its surface, far bigger than the tiny motes that affected the star humans called ‘the Sun’, causing dramatic temperature drops. Fortunately, it appeared that Lacaille did not suffer from the dangerous flares that so often plagued such stars.
There was no evidence of any intelligent life, yet there was something there; sensors confirmed the tell-tale presence of methane in the atmosphere and there was evidence of widespread vegetation. None of the probes had the resolution to peer down to the surface during their brief encounters as they flashed through the system on a one way journey. The planet’s magnetic field was detected, weak as expected, the planet slowly losing its atmosphere under the fierce assault of Lacaille.
With long term viability uncertain and the rigours to be endured by any prospective colonists considered insurmountable, Esurio was marked as ‘non-viable’ and overlooked in favour of more conventional spheres by the committees of the home-world.
That was, until those same committees were awakened to the knowledge that before long they would have no home-world.
The resultant programme was rushed, with provisions and equipment pared to the absolute minimum. The timescales allowed no other outcome. The known issues were immense and intractable, but they were overcome, though often by controversial and experimental means.
After much sacrifice and difficulty, Esurio was colonised.
Only the brave and hardy survived.