Introduction

This is reality. There’s no hyperspace or warp bubbles to cheat the distances between the stars. Each step that humanity’s seed made across the cosmos took a long, long time. Centuries. And folks just don’t last that long.

Humans spread beyond Earth not in a faster-than-light fantasy, but as computer memories held by the Intelligences during the long slog from star to star.

Terra Beata’s climate limited humanity to a thin strip. That strip, a good distance from the limb of the planet, the Intelligences called goldilocks zone. If I ever meet Goldilocks, I’ll kick her ass. On Terra Beata, goldilocks zone not mean “just right.” It means you will not die today from violent storms, drought, heat stroke or extreme cold.

The planet Terra Beata floats like a disembodied eyeball in the black background of space. I’ve seen the pictures. A stark white cornea of featureless ice emerges from the permanent dark side. The side facing the sun has a massive eternal storm. The storm’s cloudless center acts as the pupil the space eyeball. A small Earth-like cord surrounded the iris storm of the planet between the flat bright white of ice and the billowed clouds of the storm.

The habitable area bisected a single continent for a short distance. There, enough rain fell over the landscape, but not too much. The temperature stayed warm enough for people to survive and grow food but not too warm. The Intelligences planted the seed of humanity in that ground as one of their first steps across the stars.

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