Planetary type: Rocky world.
Region: Tyra Expanse/Central Galactic Bulge.
: 8.7 billion years.
Parent star
: K-class star. One natural satellite.
Surface gravity: 0.98 Earth gravities
: 0.95 Earth pressures, mostly breathable.
Average temperature
: 288k.
Ecosystem classification
: varied. Recent mass extinctions.
Solar revolution length: 120 days.
Day length: 36 hours.
Settlement Type
: Local civilisation, failed colonization attempts.
Settlement age
: 36 years.
Population : 2 million.
: Independent.
Distance to Earth : 20,567 lightyears

Starports: Salicandre Station, Lovelace Point.

It's seven in the morning, Tyra local time. The sun bleeds above the horizon. I am scrubbing dust off the solar panels on my rover. I think a local inhabitant tried to break in during the night. There are scratch marks on the main external instruments panel. Probably a desert rat. That's an invasive species. We imported them from the Earth. Amusingly enough they may be the most complex form of life on this planet.

There's a half-buried billboard next to my rover. Dust and sunlight have turned its bright colours into a mixture of grey and decaying flowers. It says something like "WELCOME TO TYRA" in all caps and a dozen languages. There's a happy couple on the billboard: two men holding hands, with a child frolicking in the background. This is probably a remnant of the first private colonization attempt, thirty years ago. I guess there was supposed to be a settlement here. It never even left the planning stage. There's a small self-cleaning solar panel unit next to the billboard. It powers a water extraction pump and a few battery reloading systems. The whole thing must be, what, five meters tall? On my map it's called "Central Relay 7-B" and it's a key element of the trade route I am currently following.

That's the absolute state of public infrastructure on Tyra.

When I was a kid I liked watching movies about the early years of the Low Age. The immediate post-apocalyptic period. The plots were often simple, picturing ragtag bands of unlikely heroes going against raiders for the relics of the old world. Tyra isn't much different. We just don't have raiders. Mostly because there is nothing to raid.

I turn my gaze to the stars. The thin white plume of a reentry vehicle crosses the blue expanse. It's probably heading for Kalahari Port. Scratch that, it's certainly heading for the capital. Where else would it go, anyway? Tyra doesn't have any other settlements to speak of. I think it used to, in the past. Several civilisations have used Tyra as a colony or a staging area, leaving ruins everywhere beneath the great sands. I just have to dig a little with my nails to find something from Tyra's past. Sometimes it's fragments of strange clay-like materials belonging to ancient Forgotten Traveller ships. Sometimes it's an artefact from cities gone. Sometimes it's a heat tile lost by a human shuttle. But most of the time it's a minuscule grain of bone, wood or shell.

When I look at the sky the stars are never gone. Even in the clearest and brightest of days they still shine. Billions of stars, as if someone had frozen the world's biggest fireworks in time right after ignition. The heart of the Milky Way is not far from here on a cosmic scale. Billions of stars surround us and they are to blame for Tyra's state. Billions of hot, massive stars that sometimes turn supernova at the end of their lives, emitting gamma bursts that cauterize life on everything they touch. I do not know how many gamma bursts Tyra suffered from in its history. Two, maybe three. Maybe more. It is impossible to say. Life on Tyra never had time to develop beyond unicellular organisms but it never gave up either. Miniature lichen forests and tardigrades frolic happily in the dusty plains, unaware of what may strike the planet at any moment.

Gamma bursts travel at the speed of light. If Tyra's warning beacons were to spot one, we would have between two to three hours to find shelter. We would survive. The already fragile Tyran ecosystem would probably die. At this point, I wonder what we would do. Perhaps we would re-seed the planet with imported life. Perhaps we would abandon it. I do not know.

Sometimes I do wonder why we are here. There is nothing that should draw us to this planet. The ruins can be excavated using drones and probes. The ecosystems can be studied remotely. We've got a breathable atmosphere, so what? We can still live in stations. The Central Bulge is a hostile place anyway. We should not be here. We do not belong here.

Yet here we are.

And I don't know why.

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