It was when I got halfway through writing this one that I started thinking it was basically just Stargazing in space. That almost put a damper on things during my twenty minute break to go get a spicy chicken sandwich at Carls Jr and think about what would happen next in this story. Thankfully, the damper didn’t go on all the way and now it’s done (or at least the first draft).
So this one is the first complete story I have in the big, centuries-long space opera I’ve been planning for a few years. It brings up a lot of things that other stories I’ve put out there in the same setting (First Instance, Divided House, and The Ryosh) won’t touch on for another couple hundred years, while also featuring Interplanetary Resources Incorporated once again. I hit on the idea of including them as a sort-of constant easter egg, not unlike Stan Lee appearances in Marvel films, when working on First Instance. Writing-wise, the appear first in Divided House as the owners of a passenger/cargo ship coming into Ceres from asteroids in the orbit of Jupiter. Since then, they’ve taken on a larger role as the human corporate future moves out from the Sol system to include other stars.
By the time Waiting on the Rain rolls around, it’s now 2915 AD. A lot has happened between then and First Instance that I haven’t entirely written yet, but I have certain important events hammered out. The biggest of these result in the first interstellar human government, the Terran Confederacy, splintering into competing factions. Some of these, like the Confederated Markets and Human Collectivist Union, see themselves essentially as glorified economic systems with a military. But what really is a nation but an economy with guns, at least in the meanest terms? Others, namely the Rim Systems Alliance and Frontier Systems Congress, see themselves as bringing law and order to the rapidly expanding edges of human settlement, with varying results. This is where the Human Progressive Expansion League comes in.
They aren’t pleased with what they see are concessions made by different human governments to alien species, some with their own interstellar governments. These concessions include agreements to reserve certain sectors of space for other species, mostly by not terraforming planets these species could potentially inhabit. IRI enters the terraforming business over time, first by collecting government contracts to scout out potentially inhabitable star systems and then develop them for human colonists. Projects like this can sometimes take centuries to complete and every step along the way has to be carefully evaluated by experts: climatologists (like Rell), xenobiologists, xenobotanists, etc. Basically anyone with xeno- on their title has a stake in making sure that these worlds are not just cataloged and surveyed, but properly acclimatized to future human occupants. This, it is argued, is the best way to guarantee the long-term survival of the human species.
Of course, not everyone is pleased by terraforming. Atmospheric modeling is the process of re-configuring a planet’s atmospheric gases to make it not just breathable, but within the survivable surface temperature range. Greening usually takes place after atmospheric modeling has produced enough carbon dioxide for plants to survive on the surface and exhale oxygen. The end result of these processes is usually that the planet is then rendered uninhabitable by not only other alien species, but also whatever native life forms were already there. Efforts to mitigate this damage include salvage xenobiology, which means that a team of scientists is subcontracted by IRI or a similar entity to collect as much important data and specimens as they can within its time and budget constraints. While these teams try their best, it’s inevitable that the vast majority of surface life (mostly microorganisms but occasionally larger animals and plants) will be destroyed in the terraforming process. Only then could repopulation, mostly with terrestrial species tailored to the specific environment (think GMO patents on DNA sequences but done with pretty much anything the colony would need to survive), occur and make the new planet truly hospitable, at least for humans.
This result could only be downplayed for a while before leaked data revealed the true toll that terraforming operations had on most planets. Energized by what they saw as genocidal actions by companies like IRI, human and alien protesters became increasingly involved in the movement to make terraforming more sustainable, if not stop it altogether. By the time Waiting for the Rain comes around, human and Thevashi groups have become militarized in much the same way that HPEL was. High-ranking fleet officers or other saboteurs joined the movement with more and more military hardware, intent on putting an end to what they viewed as mass murder with little payout.
There’s a lot more that could be explored here but I’ll save that for future blog posts and “wouldn’t that be neat” worldbuilding sessions during hours when I should probably already be asleep.