I am en route to the star Rickelia to investigate two planets, the second and third of the system. Historian Robert Burkwell found references to them while decoding 117,000-year-old computer records, which places the colonization of the two worlds just prior to the trideckia pandemic that wiped out most of the human race throughout the galaxy. It is thought these two distant, self-sufficient ecosystems might have escaped contamination and maintained human populations that survived to the present day.
According to Dr. Burkwell, the planets, which were far from other occupied worlds even at the time they were colonized, were quite attractive to early settlement as they both supported a primitive type of vegetation that had produced an atmosphere with adequate oxygen levels for humans as well as deep soils suitable for growing domestic plants. The similarity of the life on both planets led scientists at the time to speculate that it had started on one planet and spread to the other via an asteroid strike.
The inner, warmer planet was colonized first and was initially used as a preserve for endangered carnivores. Carefully selected plants and trees quickly took over and formed thick jungles around the planet’s equator, into which were introduced animal species, both predator and prey. The experiment was so successful, the planet became a tourist destination, and cities began to spring up outside the jungles.
The outer, cooler planet was colonized later to grow food for the inner planet, and it was much more sparsely inhabited. Only useful plants and a few hardwood trees were brought there, and the only other life forms allowed were insects for pollination; earthworms, microbes and fungi for soil conditioning, etc.; and horses for personal transportation.
In preparation for this trip, I studied what we know about the people who lived at this time. They were slightly taller than people today, on average, and a little hairier. Men had hair that grew on their faces – called "beards" – beginning shortly after puberty. Most of the people who populated the Rickelia system had black hair, brown eyes and bronze skin.
No recognized communication signals have been detected from either world. My expectations are low that any human population has survived, but it seems more likely we’ll find people on the inner planet.
Report from Rickelia 3
Rickelia 3 is an icy world with a 514-day year, 31-hour days, a narrow temperate zone along the equator and a 7° axial tilt that creates mild seasonal changes. As I flew along the habitable area in the landing craft, it was easy to spot the cultivated fields below, interspersed with grassy meadows and pockets of trees. I could see small, carved-rock buildings erected here and there. I searched for a city, but only found a few areas where several buildings stood together. I picked one and landed nearby.
Upon exiting the craft, I was surprised to see what I thought were oxen grazing...