Planetary type: Binary Earth-like worlds.
Region: Smyrnian Bubble.
Age: 9 billion years.
Parent star: single M-class star.
Natural satellites: None (binary planet configuration).
Surface gravity: 0.75 g (Silesia) // 0.74 g (Smyrnia).
Atmosphere: 0.75 bar, breathable (Silesia) // 0.65 bar, breathable (Smyrnia).
Average temperature: 9.5°C (Silesia) // 8°C (Smyrnia).
Climate range: High altitude cold desert to low altitude mist valleys.
Ecosystem classification: Carbon-based, with occurrences of natural nuclear fission.
Solar revolution length : 4 months.
Day length: 22 hours.
Settlement Type: Pockets of planetary civilisation.
Settlement age: 48 years.
Population: Estimated around 2 to 3 million (both planets combined).
Allegiance: Meta-queen // Smyrnian Flux State.
Distance to Earth: 1,000 lightyears
Starports: Silesia Orbital, Smyrnia High, Meta-Queen Citadel.
Wind blew over the ice shelf, sharp and mean like a rusty blade. A red, pale sun hung in the sky, right above the icy planet that filled half the horizon. Small, miserable-looking pseudo-penguins shivered in the train station's shadow. A radiotelescope gleamed under the eternal twilight, its white dish painted in a mixture of pink and blue, outlining the symbol of the meta-queen. Lazy djinns roamed the open hallways and the few humans in sight wore brightly coloured frost jackets, complete with rebreathers and googles. It was hard to distinguish half-buried derelicts from usable equipment and, to be fair, the locals did not make a clear difference either. A lone train had come to a halt in the station, black-clad locomotive pulling blind wagons and an oversized surface-to-orbit cannon. On one side it bore a delicate hand written inscription: "Welcome to Smyrnia." On the other, it said "THE RIDE NEVER ENDS" in big, red, obnoxious letters.
Smyrnia-Silesia is a binary planet, made of two habitable icy worlds orbiting each other, themselves locked in an elongated orbit around a red dwarf at the heart of the Smyrnian Bubble. This is a fairly unique orbital configuration: while not unheard of, stable binary worlds are exceedingly rare, and only two habitable binary planets have ever been found.
Now, to be entirely fair, both Smyrnia and Silesia stretch the definition of habitability quite a bit.
Located at the very edge of the puny goldilocks zone of their parent stars, the two worlds share very similar characteristics and are often classified as “Heavy Mars planets”, i.e cold worlds with a thin atmosphere but enough mass and magnetic field to enable the presence of complex life on the surface. In effect, the two planets have never known anything other than freezing cold temperatures and a razor-thin atmosphere. Local life mostly exists under the ice shelf, with the few surface creatures having evolved to generate their own heat through natural radioactivity.
The colonization of Smyrnia and Silesia owes a lot to the general inhospitality of the Smyrnian Bubble and wouldn't have happened in a more stable region. However, make no mistake: the icy twins remain a harsh place to live on. While Smyrnia is a true ice ball world, Silesia enjoys a slightly warmer climate with a few open seas in summer, due to heightened geothermal activity; however, Smyrnia has a more coherent tectonic structure and does not suffer from daily earthquakes the way Silesia does. If you intend to settle on either of the twins, you get to pick your poison, but do not worry, they share a lot of the same annoyances. With an Earth-sized planet in the sky, both worlds suffer from massive tides that result in shifting ice shelves, and the albedo from icy surfaces mean that true night doesn’t exist on the barycentre-facing sides. The system’s red dwarf is also a variable star, with all this may entail in terms of sudden magnetic storms, yearly climate variations and raging flares. Did I forget to mention atmospheric oxygen levels only rise to acceptable levels during stellar summers, when vegetation and plankton finally dare come to the surface?
And yet, an entire civilisation was born on Silesia and Smyrnia, on these two deeply intertwined planets that have been facing each other for billions of years. On Silesia lie the railway communes of the Northern Company, based on vast nuclear trains crossing the icy plains at the pace of stellar years. Smyrnia is dotted with self-sustaining “nest cities” built under the ice and inside the great, dark ocean below, the largest of which is Bismarck, home to the Tsiolkovski Institute, specialized in exobiology and exoarcheology studies. And at the barycentre between the two planets is Orchard Station, home and seat of power for the meta-queen, a memetic entity that holds the twins together and the Smyrnian Flux State with it. Her rule is firm, but distant: on Smyrnia and Silesia, political life is strange, colourful, extremely dynamic and relies way too much on nuclear explosions.
The ride, indeed, never ends.
Illustration courtesy of Lilly Harper, who writes most excellent sci-fi prose on the Beacons in the Dark blog.
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