Devir

In the centuries since the discovery of faster-than-light travel, the human race has spread throughout the galaxy, discovering thousands of planets and dozens of alien civilisations. Despite this extensive exploration, only a tiny handful of truly Earthlike planets have ever been discovered. Nevertheless, human beings have managed to colonise hundreds of worlds through their resourcefulness and technological achievement. One way humans have made worlds fit for habitation is through terraforming, a process which can potentially turn a barren rock into a fertile world.

The terraforming process uses a series of chemical and biological processes to transform the atmosphere of a barren world into breathable air. Bacteria or chemical processing plants start the transformation, eventually allowing the introduction of bioengineered algae designed to survive in the harsh conditions. As the atmosphere becomes more Earthlike, the planet can be populated by a succession of higher plants and animals. When human beings finally come to colonise the transformed world, they are part of an ecosystem almost indistinguishable from Earth's.

Devir was just such an early terraforming project, begun by Renzlaer Unified Technology Corporation in the late 24th century. By 2420, almost every planned species but humans had been introduced into the world's ecology. However, it was at just this time that the smouldering unrest between the Human and Arrendis empires first exploded into outright war.

As Arrendis forces swept through Devir's sector of the galaxy, Renzlaer UniTech withdrew its researchers from the orbiting observation station and reluctantly abandoned its investment, leaving the lush, fertile, yet uninhabited world of Devir lost in enemy territory.

Twenty light-years away, passenger transports carrying thousands of refugees fled the world of Rydani as the Arrendis armadas closed in. Caught unprepared, the last evacuation ships were still in dock as the first waves of Arrendis fighters entered the star system. Overloaded with frightened civilians and defended only by the pitifully few spacecraft of the Rydani military, they made easy targets for the invasion forces.

Among the last passenger ships to escape was the IESS "Deliverance", fully loaded with two thousand Rydanian civilians. Its fuel pods ruptured by an attacking Arrendis fighter, it barely made the jump into hyperspace. Unable to reach any inhabited worlds with their crippled ship, the crew set course for the only possible destination: Devir.

Scarring Devir's perfect sky with a trail of smoke and debris, the ship scarcely survived the stress of re-entry. By luck and heroic effort, the pilot guided the battered ship to a near-perfect emergency landing in the sea, near the coast of one of the planet's tropical land masses. Throwing up plumes of salt water, the "Deliverance" finally came to a jarring, scraping halt on a shallow coral bed less than a mile from land. The passengers and crew, shocked and disoriented, emerged from the escape hatches to find themselves in a tropical paradise.

Five hundred years later, the Interplanetary Alliance finally became powerful enough to reclaim Rydani and its neighbouring systems, including Devir, using a combination of diplomacy and military force. The Arrendis had ignored the planet, possibly deeming the undeveloped world strategically and economically unimportant after their scouts reported it uninhabited. The Devir colonists had survived and prospered despite their complete isolation, spreading across whole continents and attaining a technology level comparable in many ways to that of eighteenth-century Earth. The first tentative contacts by Alliance scientists revealed that they had forgotten their origins, with only a few legends and fairytales hinting at their off-world ancestry.

Moebius Space Labs, as Renzlaer UniTech had become after a series of mergers, promptly moved in to reclaim Devir for its own. However, the Alliance's laws against interference with less advanced cultures prevented Moebius Labs from continuing with the original colonisation plans.

Seeing Devir as a potential centre for cultural and biological research, Moebius Labs poured their efforts into expanding and developing a huge orbital space station based around the old scientific observation outpost. From this station, anthropologists and sociologists could study the people of Devir without interfering with their society. Evolutionary biologists could study the adaptation of Earth's animal and plant species to the differing environmental conditions. There might even be ways to exploit the world for tourism, so long as the corporation was not seen to expose the population of Devir to harmful cultural influences. One thing was certain: The corporation had invested heavily in Devir, and they would use any means necessary to ensure a good return on their money.