The spaceliner Icarus had just completed its phase jump into the Proxima Centauri system. It was the first refuelling stopover for ships travelling to the outer colonies and immediately after her arrival things started to go badly for the Icarus. The captain slammed his fist onto the armrest of his flight chair in frustration. The sub light engines had failed yet again. Without propulsion within the system it would be impossible to reach the refuelling station in the orbit of Proxima Major. The co-pilot swallowed hard next to him, fearful of giving the captain any more bad news lest his anger spill over into rage. Aggressively the spaceliner captain pressed the button on the intercom system.
“Attention passengers, the Icarus has successfully phase jumped into the Proxima Centauri system. Unfortunately, our sub light engines have developed a minor fault and we will have to remain adrift in space until we have repaired them. In the meantime, if you look out the port side windows you will see the beautiful blue planet Proxima Minor. Site of the greatest colonial disaster in history. Have a listen to the travel guide for full information about what happened to the poor settlers of that world while you’re waiting for us to resume our journey.”
With that terse explanation to the passengers on board completed the captain unbuckled his belt straps and floated off to the maintenance chute near the ceiling behind him, leaving his anxious co-pilot sweating in his flight seat. The Icarus was long cigar shaped spaceship with a triangular cross-section. The passengers sat in rows of seats in the top section, while the broader lower section contained the cargo holds and engines. It was typical of ships like the Icarus to ferry two or three hundred passengers at a time from the solar system to the outer colonies. It was also typical of these ships to suffer break downs in deep space. The expense and stress of deep space travel had lead to a culture of poor maintenance and frequent system failures.
On the main passenger deck of the spaceliner Harold and Alfred were admiring the beautiful blue orb that was Proxima Minor from out of the window between their two seats.
“That’s strange,” said Alfred, “I thought Proxima Minor was a yellow planet.”
“It used to be, now it’s all ocean,” said Harold casually.
“How did that happen?”
“You should watch this video that the captain just added to the inflight playlist, it’ll explain everything.”
Harold handed Alfred his computer pad. The video started immediately after Alfred took it into his hands. It was playing a short documentary about the doomed colonisation of Proxima Minor. Images of planets, spaceships, and people popped up on the screen throughout the presentation.
“Proxima Minor is the smaller of the two planets in orbit of the star Proxima Centauri. With an iron core, oxygen rich atmosphere, a circumference of 38,000 kilometres, simple organic life, and even some water, it was a perfect candidate for colonisation. However, there was never an official plan to colonise the planet. In the year 2057 an orbital station studying the planet was knocked down due to an unpredictable gravitational eddy. Astronauts Steven and Kaylin Baker evacuated the station in their escape pod and landed safely on the planet below. Steven and Kaylin were thought perished but in 2060 a radio message was received from the surface of the two of them living in a make shift homestead with a baby boy.
“News of their heroic survival and starting a new family on the planet sparked great enthusiasm on Earth to establish a new colony in space. So a government program was initiated to investigate the feasibility for establishing a colony. Many anarchists and libertarians in particular saw this as a golden opportunity to escape the care of the central government. In March, 2061, Frederick Owen lead a group of eight illegal colonists on a daring escapade. Stowing away on a cargo vessel they detached their cargo pod while in orbit of Proxima Minor and made a bid for planet fall. Using dozens of old style re-entry capsules the group of eight astonishingly managed to land safely on the planet, bringing the total population on the planet to eleven people.
“When news of Owen’s expedition reached the solar system there was a huge surge of people manufacturing re-entry capsules and raising funds to hire cargo ships. In September 2061 twenty-six more colonists made successful planet fall. By June 2062 hundreds of people were illegally landing on the planet each week. Despite no official government sanction and fines for ships transporting these illegal colonists the flood of settlers just kept rising. As more people arrived on the planet using shoddy homemade re-entry capsules there were increasing numbers of accidents leading to dozens of fatalities each month. Eventually in 2066 the new Earth president Gerris Zlar declared that there would be a crack down on colonising this new planet for reasons of safety.
“Between 2066 and 2069 the numbers of people landing on Proxima Minor dropped down to just a few dozen daring criminals each week. During this time a number of factions with different philosophies established themselves on the planet: The Ferrens who specialised in mining, the Comptoni who specialised in manufacturing, the Vegani who specialised in farming and homesteading, the Aerons who specialised in transport and communications, and the Kirons who specialised in high technology. Each group lived together and interacted with each other, but socially kept within their own faction with their own leaders and belief systems.
“Between 2070 and 2075 came the second great wave of settling, at a rate of thousands per month. Soon it was becoming clear that this colony was going to continue to grow despite the government’s insistence that people should wait until the official government expedition was ready to launch. Despite over a decade of planning the official government colonisation team was still not ready to leave the solar system to establish an official presence on the planet. The president warned the illegal colonists that due to the lack of industry on the planet it was a one way trip. Space falling onto a planet like Proxima Minor is easy, but there are no rockets, space elevators, or maglift stations on the planet to allow a person to leave the planet to return home again. President Zlar expressed confusion as to why anyone would want to live in a place without any government services.
“In 2076 the situation on Proxima Minor changed radically. The Kirons were concerned with the lack of water on the planet. While water is abundant on Earth, only 4.1% of Proxima Minor’s surface is covered in water. Thus giving the planet the distinctive yellow-gray colour it has. The Kirons looked to the neighbouring super giant planet Proxima Major for a way to relieve to these water shortages. Proxima Major is a bigger than Jupiter, but instead of being a gas giant, it is a water giant with oceans that are over 100 kilometres deep. The strong gravitational pull of the planet makes landing there and living there impossible. You would weigh seven times as much on the surface of Proxima Major as you would on Earth.
“Seeing the relative abundance of water on Proxima Major the Kirons proposed a revolutionary new method for collecting water from one planet and depositing it on another. The Kirons opened a spatial rift inside the atmosphere of Minor with the other end underneath the ocean of Major. As soon as the rift opened huge torrents of water started flooding in from the oceans of the larger planet into the surface of the smaller planet. The Kirons had succeeded in bringing new water to the desert planet. This would allow massive expansion in farming and population into the future for this world. However, the excitement was short lived when the Kirons discovered that shutting down the power to the rift generator did not close down the rift as planned.
“Water from Proxima Major just kept pouring and all attempts to close the rift failed. It was clear that Proxima Minor would be flooded in just a few years if something was not done. However, nothing could be done. By 2078 37% of the planet’s surface was covered in water, by 2080 89% was covered in water, and by 2082 the entire planet was submerged under water and all the colonists drowned. Proxima Minor remains a warning to those who choose to follow the errant political beliefs of anarchism and libertarianism. Trust in the wisdom of the central government!”
The video closed with a caption explaining that it had been funded and produced by the Department of Information. Alfred blinked, “Wow. I had no idea that was what happened to Proxima Minor. I didn’t even know we had non-government colonies.”
Harold frowned, “Yeah, I’ve noticed the media don’t talk about it much, but it was a failed colony so who would want to focus too much on it?”
The two friends continued chatting for a few minutes longer when they overheard a passenger screaming hysterically, “THE PLANET! IT’S GETTING BIGGER!”
Looking out the window Harold and Alfred were shocked to see Proxima Minor had indeed grow much larger. In fact, it was growing larger every second!
“What’s happening?” cried Alfred.
“We stopped dead in space, we have no momentum, we’re falling towards the planet like a stone!”
To be continued! (Part Two)