This is the period of human history that marked the start of colonial expansion. The name Diaspora is a reference to the settling of scattered colonies of Jews outside Palestine after the Babylonian exile. The Little Diaspora extended from the colonization of near-Earth asteroids in the mid Twenty-first Century (2042CE) to the end of the Twenty-seventh Century (2694CE) when the Corporate Hegemony Executive Board called for a Charter moratorium on the colonization of new worlds.

The Little Diaspora was made possible through scientific and technological advances in genetics, physics, astroengineering and biotechnology. Historians and Imperial scholars divide the period into three stages. Within each stage certain events, cultural and political pressures, and technological developments came together to produce create the environment for what followed. The ultimate result was a colonial empire of over a thousand worlds by the time of the Charter Moratorium.

The Days of Discovery – 2036 CE – 2290 CE

The initial public offering of the Mars Exploitation Corporation (MEC) on April 20, 2036 CE is used by most historians to mark the beginning of the first stage of the Little Diaspora. The company had been formed a year earlier as a consortium of three major mining corporations, an agricultural conglomerate, and six financial service corporations. The colonial charter was granted by the United States of America who had landed manned exploratory missions Mars in the 2010s and 2020s. The consortium agreed to fund the International Space Station budget for three years in return for exclusive rights to exploit Mars until 2099 CE.

The establishment of iron mining operations on NEOS 2856 by the Matsui Group in 2042CE is the first true commercial colonial settlement. Three more settlements of Near Earth Orbital Survey (NEOS) asteroids followed the next year by Matsui’s competitors, and by the end of the decade over fifty mining and chemical enterprises had footholds on asteroids in both near Earth orbits and the trans-Martian belt.

Transportation of men and materiel during this period was limited to spacecraft with chemical rocket propulsion systems. Personnel and equipment were ferried to one of the two International Space Stations where a settlement shuttle was outfitted and launched toward the selected asteroid. Transits to the claims took anywhere from a month to a year depending on the period of the asteroids orbit and the time of the launch.

The MEC charter is technologically significant because the proceeds from the $100 billion IPO were to design and construct a fleet of eight Winglee transports capable of lifting 1,000 tons of people and equipment from Earth orbit to Mars orbit. This number would make possible a continuous transport system where spacecraft were outfitted, traveled to Mars in three weeks, unloaded, loaded with cargo, returned to Earth in six weeks, and unloaded. The first of these Winglee transports, commissioned the MS ADM Challenger on the first of October, 2038CE, had a plasma sail that was 1,000km in diameter and reached a top speed on her maiden voyage of 98.2kps. In the early years of the colony the transports returned empty except for passengers. The Mars colony did not become fully operational until 2048 CE.

By the 2050s, the lunar colony had replaced the ISS as colonial shipyard and provisioner. The lunar colony had become self-sufficient in food, water and basic raw materials by the early 2030s. By the mid-2040s the polar and equatorial mass drivers were completed which permitted the rapid delivery of materials and foodstuffs to the orbital graving yards. The lunar orbit provided colony transports a 384,00km head start over the ISSs. The lunar mass drivers used solar power to energize maglev rails that accelerated multi-ton cargoes to orbital insertion velocities in seconds. The MEC transport MS Bountiful was the first transport out of the Newport News graving docks in 2051 CE.

An important precursor to the colonization efforts beyond the human Home System was the Origins mission of the United States of America’s National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The Origins Program sought to answer the fundamental questions about the Universe: Are we alone in the Universe? How did we get here? What is the origin of the Universe? Is there another Earth – a Terra Nova?

The Origins missions formed a family, in which each generation passed on a rich technological heritage to those that came after. Much like in human families, each mission had something unique to contribute, yet was closely tied to the others to form a supportive web. Origins had four chronological generations that moved technology and knowledge forward. One generation preceded the Origins program. The first and second generation were implemented by NASA and provided the scientific and technological building blocks that made possible the Queloz-Mayor Orbital Observatory.

The third generation missions of the Origins program were superceded when the Japanese Space Agency (JSA) agreed to join forces with NASA in 2011CE and planning for the QMOO began in earnest.

Origins I Survey was the first of two planetary surveys conducted jointly by Japan and the United States of America. The survey employed the Queloz-Mayor Orbital Observatory (QMOO). The first survey was focused on G-class stars within six light-years of Sol, scanned these stars for a planetary system containing one or more Earth-like planets. The search commenced in 2029CE and was concluded in 2049CE. Its results were surprising to asterologists of the time. Over half of the more than 500 G-class star systems surveyed possessed planets. Within that number the survey found thirty-eight that appeared to be potentially life supporting.

The reaction from the public was similar in nature to the celebration after Apollo 11 landed on the Moon. The groundswell prompted the major national space agencies and organizations to establish the Terra Nova Consortium. The consortium’s mission was to launch probes to investigate the Origins I Survey candidates.

These probes consisted of a Winglee drive, a deep space communications package, a full spectrum sensor array, a biosciences spectroanalyzer, and an artificial intelligence (AI) control system. The sensitive probe was housed in a transport carapace the size of a small floaterbus that was jettisoned upon reaching the destination. The Winglee drive produced a 1,000km plasma sail which protected the instrument package from stellar radiation, and also produced a peak acceleration of 258.2kps and a velocity of .28C or 84,000kps (see – Origins I Probes).

Probes were named for the 88 constellations and given an additional numeric designator to identify its sequence position. They were fabricated by BoeingLockheed at their Korolev North lunar base and launched by maglev mass driver. Ceti I was the first Terra Nova probe constructed and launched toward a colony-world candidate in 2038CE and orbited τ Ceti 4 in 2058 CE. The Terra Nova Institute received first data from the probe in 2064 CE.

Queloz-Mayor was taken off-line in 2049 CE and the array was expanded and upgraded with improved sensors and telescopes in preparation for an expanded Terra Nova search mission – the Origins II Planetary Survey. The second survey was focused on stars within twenty-five light-years of Sol and scanned these stars for a planetary system containing one or more Earth-like planets. The search commenced in 2053 CE and was concluded in 2093CE. The second survey confirmed that the majority of G-class stars have planetary systems. Over half of the more than 10,000 star systems surveyed possessed planets. Within that number the survey found nearly 200 that appeared to be life supporting. Beginning in 2058CE, probes were constructed and launched toward these colony-world candidates (see –Origins II Probes). The Terra Nova Institute began receiving data from the early arriving probes in 2088 CE.

Human civilization greeted the dawn of the Twenty-second Century with the firm certainty that there existed planets orbiting other stars that could support life from Earth. It was also certain that colonization of the solar system was not only possible but profitable. Each day asteroid mining was becoming more commonplace. The Jovian lunar colonies were well established by the mid-2070s and the massive aerostats of ExMShell were mining the upper atmosphere of Jupiter for commercial quantities of helium-3 (He3) by 2097 CE.

By 2105 CE the Terra Nova Institute had amassed sufficient data sets on exosolar planets that discussions were finalized by the Big Three – JEKU, the USTA, and the EU – about what the next steps in exploration should be. It was determined that each of the terra nova candidates confirmed by the Origin probes should be thoroughly studied to determine its colonial viability. It then became a question of how this was to be accomplished.

These manned exploratory missions for the period were as daunting as the early voyages of Columbus, Magellan, Cortez, Smith and Cook. The Winglee and AMP drives of the period could only produce a fraction of light-speed. This meant that the voyages would extend into decades. It was determined impractical for the crews to remain active during the voyage. A method of stasis was needed to reduce the demand for supplies and energy during the voyage phases of the missions.

The potential colony worlds identified in the first and second Origins surveys were in a sphere around Earth twenty-seven light-years in radius. The best velocity attainable with an AMP drive was .64C or 192,000kps. This meant that that a voyage to the farthest potential colony world would take over forty-two years. It was imperative that either a method was found to significantly slow the aging process in humans, or a way to induce human hibernation was discovered.

Planners for the manned exploratory missions began a search to find methods of aging deceleration and hibernation in existing genetic and biomedical research institutions. By 2110, and after an exhaustive search, it was determined that the gentek research community was decades away from a method to slow the human aging process. However, it was discovered that the University of Southern California Medical Center had developed a substantial body of research into human metabolic reduction sufficient that the Medical Center had been using a form of human hibernation for protracted surgical procedures.

A derivative of Tetradotoxin was used. The drug slowed metabolic processes which made possible the lowering of the patient’s core temperature to 283°A. At that temperature it became possible to sustain them in a form of suspended animation for twenty-four to forty-eight hours.

Immediately upon this discovery, a joint research program was undertaken between NASA, JSO, and ESO with the financial assistance and test cooperation of MEC and ExMShell to determine if the hibernating period could be extended. A hibernaculum was designed and tested. Next subjects were placed in the hibernaculum for increasing periods and their fitness carefully studied upon awakening. By 2122CE, hiburnaculae were standard equipment on all intrasystem transports.

2122 CE was a pivotal year for the manned exploration of the potential colony worlds. On March 23, 2122 CE the Terra Nova Compact was signed in Washington, DC by the heads of state of JEKU, USTA, and the new European Federation (EF). The Compact called for collaboration on a spacecraft design, crew selection, and launch sequence for spacecraft to the 238 potential colony worlds.

Multinational corporations were solicited to become signatories to the Compact. The businesses agreed to fund equally with the nations, and in return they received the opportunity to bid for rights to concessions on planets found suitable for colonization. The Terra Nova Consortium was dusted off and recapitalized as a joint government and business enterprise.

A design for the manned exploration spacecraft was finalized in 2123 CE. The spacecraft, called an AMP Surveyship, were designed to transport a crew of thirty-three scientists, engineers, and support technicians under the command of a five person spacecraft staff. The surveyship’s mission was to perform a fly-by survey of a colony-world’s star system, and land on the candidate planet and perform a comprehensive inventory of all aspects of the planet. The objective of the survey was to determine if the planet was habitable and if it had sufficient resources to support a colony and ultimately support trade. The first AMP Surveyship was the Beagle commissioned on June 25, 2130 CE and launched toward α Canis Minoris in 2131 CE.

The propulsion system of the surveyships was a two-stage AMP drive. The first stage produced a 1G acceleration with a terminal velocity of .23C or 69,000kps. The second stage of the AMP drive employed the proton-antiproton reaction directly to produce continuous acceleration for the first half of the journey. This produced an average velocity of .64c or 192,000kps.

Sixty-seven of the AMP spacecraft were launched before the turn of the Twenty-third Century, and by 2261 CE the entire fleet of 238 was outward bound on their missions.

The Terra Nova Institute began to receive data from the survey teams in 2156 CE. One of the first to return survey reports was MSS Thessalus that had reached its destination of α Centauri A. The fourth planet (α Centauri A4) had given spectral indications of organic compounds and water in the atmosphere, but the exploration team discovered that the planet had only progressed to the late Vendian period. The most advanced life forms were rudimentary multi-celled animals, algae, lichens and fungi.

Early results from the survey mission continued to be disappointing until 2195CE when the preliminary data from β Hydri 4 was received from the MSS Sea Dragon. The Sea Dragon had found a world teaming with life. They placed its biological development to be late Paleogene period. The climate was temperate, 58.2% of the planet surface area was covered by water and most of the land masses (73.7%) were forested with a variety of hard and softwood trees similar but not identical to Earth species found in tropical and temperate rainforests. The 2231CE Annual Report of the Terra Nova Consortium to the Compact signatories summarized the results as follows; Missions launched – 197; Surveyships under construction – 11, Missions completed – 6, Surveys completed – 49, Colony prospects confirmed – 6, Terraforming candidates – 18, Missions in progress – 146, Missions overdue – 3.

The six prospective colony worlds confirmed by the surveyships were; β Hydri 4, η Cassiopeiae 3, τ Ceti 4, α Canis Minoris 5, α Canis Majoris 6, and π Orionis 5. A sad historical footnote to this otherwise glowing century of exploration were the three missions reported as overdue in the 2231 Annual Report. The MSS Flying Fish which had been launched in 2142CE had filed their survey report on α Pisces Austrini 7. The data was received by the Terra Nova Institute in May, 2199CE. The report had been negative and the Flying Fish was returning to Earth. Their expected arrival window was between August and December, 2226CE. No transmissions were heard from the Flying Fish until a colony slowboat – the WS Gionotti outward bound for Garibaldi 6 – received an automated beacon in 2582CE. The Gionotti recovered the bodies of the crew and the ships log. The data recovered from log of the Flying Fish made possible a closing chapter on the surveyship’s history. The failure of the antiproton storage ring shut down the first stage of the AMP drive shortly after return was initiated. This failure created an event cascade that resulted in the catastrophic failure of the internal power and life support systems. The hibernating survey crew perished in their sleep. The aged command staff could not affect repairs. Several poignant entries were made in the Flying Fish’s log before the command staff died week later.

The MSS Pequod was launched in 2179CE and bound for α Ceti 3. The survey crew arrived at their destination in 2196CE, but was trapped on the surface by a massive ultraviolet radiation burst from LZ Ceti and was marooned with no means of return on a planet with meager resources. A Charter astrodetic survey craft the lightship Prince Henry discovered the remains of their encampment on a routine charting mission in 2612CE.

The last of the lost surveyships was the MSS Freedom that was launched in 2148CE and bound for α Aquilæ 4. The command crew confirmed initiation of AMP stage two acceleration at Sol’s heliopause and were never heard or seen again. The Terra Nova Consortium Annual Report of 2281 to the Compact signatories itemized the manned exploration program results-to-date: Missions launched – 238; Surveyships under construction – 0, Missions completed – 180, Surveys completed – 135, Colony prospects confirmed – 23, Terraforming candidates – 74, Missions in progress – 58, Missions overdue – 9. The twenty-three prospective colony worlds offered the potential of vast wealth the Corporations that had recently taken over control of the Colonies.

Human expansion into the Universe was at hand.

The Charter Crusade – 2290CE – 2540CE

Effective August 30, 2290CE the Terra Nova Compact was dissolved. Jurisdiction over the Terra Nova Consortium and the Terra Nova Institute was passed by the United Nations to the Charter Convention.

The Charter colonial expansion depended completely on the development of the Winglee Slowboat. Developed by the Terra Nova Consortium in the mid-Twenty-third Century, the slowboat was a colonial transport that enabled a Corporation who had been deeded a colony world to transport population, materials, equipment and supplies to the world in one mission. The Winglee Slowboat employs an asteroid as a spacecraft. The Pantheon-class spacecrafts were built by tunneling compartments into C-type (carbon-chondrite) asteroids having a major axis of greater than 20km and a minor axis of more than 7km. Later classes of slowboats were much larger.

The WS Pantheon’s design was begun in 2206CE when the complete data set had been received from the Sea Dragon. Preliminary specifications were completed by 2219CE with the exception of the Winglee drive. The Winglee Model 4 drive was prototyped and tested by 2228CE. However, the Information Plague of 2229CE and the severe economic and political dislocations that resulted from it caused the Terra Nova Consortium to delay plans for the Pantheon’s construction indefinitely. The delays became more protracted as the rift between the northern superstates and the southern superstates widened and human civilization devolved into economic and political gridlock.

Colonization of the outworlds itself went into hibernation until the Charter Convention of 2290. During the next few years the new Charter administrative bodies grew in strength and agility.

The first Charter Deed Auction was held in 1 Ceres in 2294CE. Corporation attendees were required to post a bond of UN$200 billion to have a seat and be open to bid. On the block were the twenty-three colony worlds confirmed in the Terra Nova Institute’s survey reports. Each of the Corporations interested in bidding had to first submit an Exploitation Plan to the Colonial Committee of the Charter Executive Board. These plans were reviewed and judged for soundness, economic benefit to the submitting Corporation and macroeconomic benefit to the Charter Convention as a whole. Historians and Imperial scholars have marveled at how successful this first auction was when viewed in the light of the backroom politicking, conflicts-of-interest, and general flimflamming practiced by the Corporations against each other, against the Colonial Committee, and against and amongst the Executive Board. However, the result when viewed from the perspective of ten millennia is impressive.

The first deed up for auction was β Hydri 4. Two Corporations had qualified to bid: Weyerhaeuser-Pacific and EOG-MartinMarietta. The media expected a pitched battle slugfest between the two Corporations based on the back channel information leaked prior to the Auction. The Terra Nova Institute’s analysts set the baseline value of the deed at UN$150 billion and five percent of the colony’s gross planetary product. The Auctioneer opened the bidding at that amount and Weyerhaeuser-Pacific took the bid. To the surprise of the spectators in attendance and the media viewers, EOG-MartinMarietta rose from the table and walked out of the room. Weyerhaeuser-Pacific won the deed by default. Later in the week when π Orionis 5 came up for bid the same two Corporations had qualified to bid. When EOG-MartinMarietta took the opening bid at UN$135 billion and eight percent of the gross planetary product and Weyerhaeuser-Pacific walked out, it was clear that the trades had been made before the auction had even started.

Day after day in June, 2294CE the pattern repeated itself until deeds had been sold to all twenty-three of the Terra Nova worlds. The Charter Convention’s coffers were UN$3.56 trillion richer, and the Colony Crusade had begun. Half of the Deed Auction proceeds were transferred to the Terra Nova Consortium to fund operations and construct the Winglee Slowboats. Weyerhaeuser-Pacific, having purchased the first deed, took priority for the first Winglee Slowboat. On October 1, 2294CE the Terra Nova Consortium reactivated the development program for WS Pantheon. Decades earlier the Consortium had commissioned a survey of near-Earth orbiting (NEO) asteroids. Nearly 400 of these planetesimals were cataloged in the survey with suitable dimensions to be candidates for slowboat construction. These were studied in greater detail using the Hoyle Telescope. Three NEOs were in orbits that were close enough to Earth’s location that ferry teams were sent to perform a physical inspection. 2139 Aten, one of these asteroids, was selected to be the hull of the Pantheon. The AMPTug Bulldog took 2139 Aten under tow and moved the asteroid into a parking orbit 10km southwest of the top of the American Tower by the end of January, 2301CE. Construction of the interior quarters began in April of that year and the slowboat was ready for outfitting in November, 2305CE. August Weyerhaeuser, CEO of Weyerhaeuser-Pacific and the eleventh great-grandson of the Founder of the company commissioned the WS Pantheon on July 4, 2307CE. Crew, colonists, and cargo were aboard by mid-September and the slowboat was launched toward β Hydri – now named Zeus – on September 21, 2307CE.

The WS Pantheon arrived in a 2,000km parking orbit above β Hydri 4 – now named Olympia –May 4, 2355CE. Edward Royce Ferguson, Olympia’s Planetary Executive Officer, immediately initiated the first planetary survey. Within a year construction was under way on the planetary capital – Port Angelis, five production cities and fifteen harvest mills. A decade later the Pantheon was inbound to Earth loaded with twenty million tons of a variety of hardwoods, softwoods, wood pulp and assorted cellulose derivatives.

The Weyerhaeuser-Pacific dock on the Sanchez Ring at 35W American accepted shipment from the Pantheon in January, 2424CE and the cargo was unloaded for transshipment to the surface, the solar system colonies and the outworlds. The shipment produced revenues for the Corporation that not only repaid the deed price and the Charter royalty, but also provided a handsome net profit which offset their investment in four other slowboats: The WT Seattle, the WT Portland, the WT Boise, and the WT Salem.

Weyerhaeuser set these slowboat transports on a circuit that had a transport arriving at Olympia every year and departing six months later. The Seattle arrived above Port Angelis in March of 2366CE and was inbound with cargo by September of that year. The Portland followed in 2367CE, the Boise in 2368CE, and the Salem in 2369CE.

The colonization cycle developed by Weyerhaeuser was fairly typical of the timetables implemented by the other deedholders. The only variable in the cycle was the travel time between the colony and Earth. Trade between the colonies was restricted to transshipment via Earth because the early colonies were so scattered inside the twenty-seven light-year sphere with Earth at its center. All this was soon to change with the development of the Atiyah Slipdrive in 2431CE. The Slipdrive enables a spacecraft to exit four dimensional space-time and slip instantly along the time face of the four dimensional continuum and drop back into three-dimensional space. The spatial distance slipped is directly proportional to the ability of the drive system to manipulate the 4-brane manifold of the spacecraft locus.

The Slipdrive was developed by a team working under a research grant from ExMShell as a result of breakthroughs in Manifold theory made by Sir Jeremy Atiyah. The earliest recorded successful test was in 2431CE. The robot experimental vehicle (XV-4) traveled the distance from Mercury’s Third Lagrange Point (L3) (see – Lagrange Point) to a lunar high orbit in .0135 secs. The XV-4 actually arrived in lunar orbit before the message of its departure – the message arrived 7 mins 37.2 secs later.

The mid-Twenty-fifth Century placed Earth at the hub of a thriving colonial trade. Slowboats were arriving monthly from the original twenty-three colonies. The Terra Nova Explorations division of the Charter Colonial Office had expanded the QMOO Planetary Surveys out to distances of one hundred light-years. AMP Surveyships had been dispatched to confirm conditions on another 637 prospective colony worlds. Terra Nova had set plans in motion to transport full-spectrum orbital arrays to each of the most distant colonies so that the search for new colony worlds could be further extended.

As the original colonies became well established, the more expansive PEOs requested authorization from their Corporations to let concessions to other Corporations to exploit planetary resources beyond the Deedholders’ core business. ADM-Cargill let a concession to Weyerhaeuser-Pacific to harvest vast softwood forests on η Cassiopeiae 3 – named Prairie Home by the colonists. The concession was to clear-cut the forests to make more land available for agriculture.

Weyerhaeuser-Pacific let a concession to EOG-MartinMarietta to mine Olympia for titanium, rare earths, chromium, molybdenum, and manganese, and let another concession to Homestake-DeBeers for gold, silver and diamonds. EOG-MartinMarietta reciprocated with Weyerhaeuser and gave a concession to establish tropical hardwood operations on π Orionis 5 – renamed San Joaquin by the Corporation.

Possibly the most unusual situation in the early colonial period involved the star system OSI 07519+00104 – named Valencia. Deeded to Unocal-Kerr by the first Charter Deed Auction in 2295CE, Valencia 4 was a late Neogene world orbiting a G1 V star 24.8 light-years from Earth. The Corporation’s true interest was in Valencia 6 – a gas giant 1.2 times the size of Jupiter. Unocal had difficulty establishing aerostat extraction plants to mine Valencia 6 for helium-3. The Charter Colonial Office gave them two extensions and then revoked the deed in 2450CE. ExMShell purchased the deed in 2452CE and had extraction plants operating by 2482CE. The energy giant auctioned off the resource rights to Valencia 4 to eight concessionaire Corporations for fees that paid for the helium-3 plants floating in Valencia 6’s atmosphere and the price of the Valencia 4 deed.

Valencia 4 – renamed New Richmond – was settled by the concessionaires during the 2490s and was highly profitable both for ExMShell and the Charter Convention by the turn of the Twenty-sixth Century.

The decennial report of the Charter Colonial Office to the Charter Convention of 2530CE gives historians and Imperial scholars of the sixteenth millennium a vital perspective on the early Terran colonial period. An inventory table in the report itemized the Colonial achievements: Twenty-three profitable colony worlds with a combined population of 562 million; A slowboat fleet of 138 craft transporting colonists to the colonies and cargo to Earth; An AMP surveyship fleet of 638 enroute to verify the suitability of potential colony worlds as far as 100 light-years from Earth; Twelve Orbital Array Observatories located in L5 orbits adjacent to the most distant of the original colonies – roughly a sphere 25 light-years in radius from Earth; and A newly proven Lightship design that made ‘foldspace travel a practical reality.

The Rush to Riches – 2540CE – 2694CE

The Lightship entry in the 2530CE Colonial Office Report was part truth and part hyperbole. ‘Foldspace travel was a practical reality for any destination where the slipspace exit points were known. The Atiyah Slipdrive made ‘foldspace travel to a range of 25 light-years possible. Lightship astrodetic surveyships had to apply trial and error – inching forward in slips of a light-year or two at a time until their destination was reached. However, once the astrodetic survey was complete, ‘foldspace travel was only limited by the Atiyah Slipdrive’s efficiency in its manipulation of the space-time manifold. The Lightship transports and freighters greatly accelerated the rhythm of colonization and trade. Unlike the slowboats, they were limited in dimension and tonnage. Early Slipdrives could only produce a field of one kilometer in radius and Lightships were very expensive to construct and equip because of this. One slowboat cost the same as three Lightships, but could carry eight times the tonnage of the Lightships combined.

The deciding difference was time: A slowboat round trip was a minimum of eight to fifty-eight years. A Lightship round trip was only limited by the stevedores – usually one week to two months.

The Charter Convention of 2550CE approved the Colonial Office’s request for five Lightship fleets. Each fleet was to consist of an administrative flagship, three passenger transports, three heavy-lift freighters, and two astrodetic Surveyships. In addition, The Convention agreed to finance additional freighters for the individual Corporations through participation in the profits obtained from the sale of the vessels’ cargo.

Contract for the fleets and individual transports were awarded to the Earth-orbital shipyards of Aerospatiale, the lunar graving docks of BoeingLockheed, and the outworld shipyards of Newport. A progress report made by the Colonial Office to the Charter Convention of 2560CE indicated that three of the fleets were in service, one fleet was being fitted out as completions of their contract by Aerospatiale, 2,000km up from their Sanchez Ring graving docks at 32 West Africa Tower. NewportNews had laid the keels on the last two freighters in their graving docks at Jefferson farside.

New colonies were being settled at the rate of three every two years. This rate had increased to five every two years by 2570CE. The Charter Convention of 2570CE approved an Executive Order from the Charter Executive Board to hold Charter Deed Auctions every ten years effective 2575CE. The rate at which new colony worlds were being surveyed and certified made this factor-of-five increase in Auction frequency possible.

At the dawn of the Twenty-seventh Century the sphere of Charter Colonies was 260 light-years across and expanding at a rate that would double its diameter each century. The number of colonies was also growing: In the nearly three hundred years since the settlement of Olympia nearly 800 colonies had been settled. Earth’s population had stabilized at 2.75 billion and the population of the colonies totaled over 7 billion.

Corporations had changed their colonization strategy by the early 2620s. No longer was every fleet originating at Earth. The Corporations were drawing down the populations on the older Colony worlds to provide settlers for newly deeded worlds.

The Colonial Office Report to the Charter Convention of 2660CE projected that the Charter Colonies would reach one thousand before the end of the century. This sparked fierce debate that was to occupy the Convention’s sessions in 2670 and 2680.

The Colonial Office’s coffers were bulging from the payment for deeds to the new worlds and the royalties from the older worlds. The Corporations had extended their means of financing new deeds and the costs of new settlements to limits they felt could jeopardize their stockholder relations. The megastock funds were seeing wide fluctuations in the stock prices of their holding and calling the CEOs to task.

The situation came to a head when Franklin-Columbia one of the smaller mutual funds filed a shareholders suit against Krupp-AMF when Krupp announced that the newest deed purchases would require a dividends moratorium until 2692CE. A petition started circulating through the corporate representatives to the Convention of 2690CE to call upon the Executive Board for a moratorium. The Colonial office attempted to thwart the groundswell of opinion against them by offering certain financially troubled Corporations Colony Charters under the table. These deeds were to be executed in the Auction of 2995CE. The plot was exposed to the financial media who had a field day with the story. Those individuals and organizations exposed as participating in the plot suffered for the indiscretion.

The stink caused by the Scandal of 2690 created a change in the membership of the Executive Board. A reform slate of directors was offered up by largest Corporations who had a constituency of the most financially troubled Corporations. The reformers ousted the old Executive Board and their first official act was to adopt an Executive order for the Colonial Moratorium in 2694CE. Subsequent to the Moratorium a Board of Inquiry was convened to scrutinize the Colonial Office. The Inquiry findings identified many abuses of power and circumvention of the regulations. New organizational checks and balances were put in place and by 2700CE, when the Moratorium went into effect; the Colonial Office had the tools to continue in a reduced but productive capacity.

The Rush to Riches was at an end but Earth had an empire that stretched out nearly 400 light-years in all directions from the Sol system. The moratorium would prove to only be a short respite in Human civilization’s expansion into the Universe.

The process had already begun that would open a world to settlement that would change humanity’s perspective for ten millennia – Enochii – Equinox.

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