What the ship could plant

The Last Colony Ship of the Aera Tree People

Space ripples and twists as the Searcher’s Hope emerges from meta-space. Huge solar sails unfold to capture the starlight as the ships awakens from hibernation. A dozen probes disperse to scan this latest solar system. Apparently not finding what the ship was looking for, the Searcher’s Hope basks for a week to charge it’s meta-drive before it begins another month long journey to its next destination.

The Searcher’s Hope is the last vessel of the Aera, a species of sentient trees. They called their homeworld Deyanna and had just begun to explore nearby stars when their sun betrayed them. Photosynthesisers, the sun god Saraia sat atop of their pantheon and was worshipped by the Aera as the source of life. That Saraia could turn on them and blast they homes with lethal radiation was a realistic and religious threat that shattered their culture. Amidst the chaos of their final days a group was able to refit a cargo ship with their latest technologies and send it out to find a new world.

Aboard are 20,000 seeds. These are the last children of the Aera and the only survivors of their species. There are no adult Aera aboard as the scientists were unable to invent a way to indefinitely preserve a grown member of their species. The seeds in the containers require less power, volume, and mass, allowing the ship to carry many many more that it otherwise could for adults. Each seed container carries with it the lineage of the family and is stencilled with the family’s bark marks. When the ship does eventually find somewhere to land, it will unfold itself into a plantation. Simple robots will care for the saplings and videos will provide a limited education. Much if not all of Aera culture and knowledge will be lost but such losses were preferable to a total loss of the species.

Colony ShipCenturies later the ship still wanders with its primitive meta-drive pulling it slowly across space. It has survived far beyond what was originally hoped for but has still not yet found a world that meets its needs. The guidance computer has been programmed with a very restrictive set of requirements as the mission team were horrified at the idea of the seeds germinating only to die on a hostile world.  It was considered better that they stay as seeds forever than suffer that fate. Without the proper combination of soil, light, air and water the ship will not even consider a detailed survey. Even if thee requirements are met, the computer is programme to observe for a solar year to ensure climate compatibility.

The Searcher’s Hope is long thin in design of with a wind cylindrical outer hull.  At the front are the four primary engine pods, each mounted on gimbals for thrust vector control. The rest of the bow is taken up by manifolds, fuel tanks and the power plant. At the rear is the meta drive, its waveguides and the exotic matter core. The space in between was once the living quarters of the crew and the cargo holds. This has been replaced by the seed storage unit and its supporting systems. The computer core sits at the centre where the radiation shielding is thickest. Each seed is encased in an orb three times its size that’s filled with a red tinted liquid. The orbs are plugged into the ships’ power system but can survive independently for up to a decade. The ship’s windows have been removed as has everything else that wasn’t needed, like the interior lighting.

Plot hooks

  • The navigation system is having problems finding new systems. It was only programmed with a limited local star chart and will not deviate from this as that would risk going to a system with a hostile star. The ship is thus stuck jumping between the same set of systems, never finding what it’s looking for. Gossip in the spaceports is of a ship full of treasure cruising along a long but predictable path.
  • The recon ship Silver Sliver wasn’t expecting to find anything of interest in this system, muchless a weak distress call. The Searcher’s Hope is in a decaying orbit around Tango Verde VI and its aging engines are no longer up to the task of pulling it free after centuries of micrometeorite collision damage. Tango Verde VI  is not suitable for the tree people and a proper home will need to be found.
  • Searcher’s Hope has landed on Verdant and the robot workers have begun planting the seeds. However, the Kaeleen have also just founded the colony of Polu’s Rest on the world. They’ve appealed to the stellar forum for their claim on the world to be enforced but with the near extinct Aera having no voice there, a team of investigators has been dispatched to learn more and then represent them.

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