To begin with
Tau Ceti was scouted in AD 2071, by a robotic probe that belonged to the EU. The probe confirmed telescopic observations that Tau Ceti III is habitable. Its report reached Earth in AD 2083. The governments of the EU instantly poured cold water on the idea that public funds should be squandered on an interstellar colony, but they did sell a licence¹ to settle one octant of the planet to the British² Interplanetary Society for €100 + VAT.
The Interplanetary Society announced a colony to be called “Avalon”, and raised several billion euros in a frenzy of fundraising, crowdsourcing, and grant-begging. With that sum it built a Ramotswe-Raerino-Alcubierre warp encapsulator³ that it called Bifrost. Bifrost was built in a highly elliptical orbit around the Sun with its aphelion in the direction of Tau Ceti. That gave it 22 days loiter time near the straight line to Tau Ceti once every 17 months. In that time it was capable of despatching four just-as-fast-as-light capsules to Tau Ceti. The Society also built simple disposable spaceships adequate for a one-way trip and landing. Enthusiasm ran high, and the Society sold 1,300 tickets for good prices, restricting passage to healthy, fertile adults under the age of forty years, who had the technical skills that would be needed to establish the colony and start terraforming.
The first two launches from Bifrost were of uncrewed supply packets. The first interstellar passengers set forth in the ship Red Earth, launched from Bifrost on 20 January 2095. The second, Golden Ark, followed on 27 January. Another 1,300 elite pioneers set out in June 2096. Standards and prices sank slightly for the third window 2097, and again in 2099. People continued to join the Avalon adventure from all over the word, but ticket prices were not high enough to amortise the cost of building Bifrost. So affairs continued until 2118, when the news reached Earth that Red Earth had arrived safely at Tau Ceti. Then demand for passage exploded.
Meanwhile, on Tau Ceti III
Travelling just at the speed of light, Red Earth arrived at Tau Ceti in December 2106, and made its landing on Tau Ceti III on the 3rd of January AD 2107. A single man and single woman had been chosen by lot to set foot on the new world together and hand in hand, but subsequent close examination of the video shows that Gwen Missahan’s foot touched the ground about 1/25 of a second before that of Willem van Zaanen⁴.
Though the colonists did not believe that this would have any magical or religious effect, many had agreed to its ceremonial importance: the passengers of the Red Earth inaugurated their colony of Avalon with a festival, as part of which, and as arranged, Gwen Missahan and Willem van Zaanen were the first human couple to couple on Tau Ceti⁵. There are no records to indicate that the organisers purposely chose a woman who was ovulating, nor that Missahan manipulated her ovulation with conceiving in this ceremony in mind in mind. Nevertheless, Missahan’s first child, Adam van Zaanen Missahan⁶, was born on the 25th of September AD 2118, and must have been conceived at about the time of the ceremony. Missahan and van Zaanen did not form a couple, but Adam v.Z. Missahan was always known as van Zaanen’s son.
650 people from Golden Ark joined the colony on the 9th of January. About 1,300 immigrants arrived every 17 months for 25 years, and the colony flourished. Then in 2133 the rate of immigration sharply increased, as the result of the construction several new flingers at Sol twelve or thirteen years before.
Meanwhile, back on Earth
News arrived in 2118 that the Red Earth had landed safely at Tau Ceti with its supplies, then that the colony’s crops were flourishing, then that a health child had been born. Confidence in interstellar colonisation skyrocketed, and the Interplanetary Society easily raise money to build a new flinger with a larger capacity. Also, four superpowers⁷ undertook the foundation of colonies in systems that had been scouted by probes that they owned. Each built its own flinger, each disposed its flinger in such an orbit as to serve its own colony and Tau Ceti on a 2.2-year cycle. They planned to sell transport to Tau Ceti as a way of defraying the amortisation of their flingers.
The EU again disdained to establish an official colony. Instead, it auctioned licences to settle another three octants of Tau Ceti III⁸.
- A consortium of Japanese retirement and investment funds bought the octant directly to the east of Avalon as a commercial proposition. They planned a colony that they called “New Sunrise” and that they promoted heavily in Japan, Korea, and the western Pacific. But they accepted buyers from anywhere.
- A conservative prelature of the Catholic Church, called the Society of Saint Peter of the Holy Family, bought the octant directly south of Avalon, and established the first religious utopist colony, San Pietro, intending it to be a distributist theocracy ruled by an apostolic vicar, and eventually by a territorial prelate.
- The octant directly west of Avalon was bought by the New World Company, a private company formed for the purpose, which announced a commercial colony to be called Ys. New World sold blocs of tickets and swathes of land to assorted social groups, utopist outfits, and smaller-scale promoters, leaving it to its clients to organise the planning and equipment of whatever settlements they wished to found. Many of the tickets ended up as prizes in lotteries, or as items in “complete settlement packages” sold individually or in blocs.
So, on Tau CetiiFive new flingers brought a flood of new migrants to Tau Ceti III. About half were supposed to go to one of the other colonies and not to Avalon. Even at first, over half of those did so. The population of Avalon rose rapidly from 41,646 to 100,000, and in 2144 Avalon established a university, the University of Eridu.
Founded about AD 2133, New Sunrise, San Pietro, and Ys took off from shaky starts, and Ys long remained a patchwork of eccentric independencies founded by eccentrics and crackpots. Many people with tickets to Ys contrived to migrate to Avalon on arrival, or after the failure of their plans. Ys in any case consisted mostly of ocean, though the islands in it were many of them very attractive.
In AD 2179 the rate of immigration jumped again, as a reflection of news having arrived at Earth of the founding of the University of Eridu. At this point the general character of immigrants to Tau Ceti changed. Henceforth immigrants from Earth were not reckless pioneering types, they were not wild enthusiasts for the panspermatic dream, they were not ludicrous utopists with crackpot plans of perfect societies on the islands of Ys. Those people were going elsewhere. New arrivals on Tau Ceti III were now people who had migrated to a sensible, liveable place: spacious and open, yes, but a place with cities and a university, a place with a certain future.
In AD 2183 the population of Tau Ceti III reached one million. The second generation of native-born children of San Pietro started to be born. It was clear at this stage that the settlers — who had not censored the cultural legacy of Earth, nor shut off communications from there or from Avalon and New Sunrise — had not managed to pass on their religious beliefs to their posterity, at least not reliably. And the migrants arriving from Earth were now less pious than the founders had been. The priestly rulers had failed as administrators and technocrats; they undertook reforms to free up society and their economy and to appoint technical experts to the hierarchy.
Back on Earth
News that Tau Ceti had reached 100 000 population and built a university reached Earth in AD 2156, at which time there were 22 other colonies attracting the daring pioneers. Tau Ceti began to attract a more risk-averse class of immigrants, many attracted to nation-building rather than pioneering, more who had plans to practice professions and build up enterprises “in at the ground floor” than take part in terraforming and pioneering agriculture. These were a lot more numerous than the pioneers, and until AD 2200 Tau Ceti was the only place that appealed to them. The EU responded by auctioning another three octants of the planet. All three were bought by commercial consortiums without utopist or separatist agendas. The utopists and separatists were going elsewhere.
- The section between New Sunrise (to its east) and Ys (to its west) was named “Gogmagog”.
- The section south of New Sunrise and east of San Pietro was named “Zinfandel”.
- The section south of Ys and west of San Pietro consist of a couple of continental margins to the east and west, an icecapped polar mass in the south, and numerous scattering of small and very charming islands. It was named “Hell” (ironically), and heavily promoted in Australasia and the southwest Pacific with the catchphrase ”Go to Hell”.
Demand for passage to Tau Ceti grew steadily. AD 2195 was the centenary of the despatch of Red Earth and Golden Ark. It also saw the arrival at Earth of news that Tau Ceti had reached a population of one million. The EU responded by undertaking a colony, Alcuin, on the remaining octant of Tau Ceti, as a government business enterprise. Migration to Tau Ceti became almost a mainstream thing to do: unusual still, but not eccentric.
Only in AD 2199 did news arrive at Earth that any other colony (Mayflower, on 44 Chi Draconis V) had a population of 100,000 and a university.
At about this time it became clear to the Society of Saint Peter of the Holy Family that San Pietro had failed as a Catholic religious utopist colony. They sold the colonisation rights to San Pietro for a handsome sum, and turned their efforts to a new Catholic separatist colony, Agnusdei, on Gliese 113 IV. Catholics were by that stage a much smaller proportion of the world’s population than they had been in AD 2120, but interstellar migration and the colonisation of new worlds seemed much less hare-brained, a larger proportion of people ventured it, and so a smaller population base was needed to make it viable.
From AD 2200 Tau Ceti was no longer a place to go with a special social, religious, or political agenda. It was just a place to live, where by liquidating ones wealth and surrendering part of it for fares and freight one could enjoy a new start in a much less crowded world with more opportunity. In AD 2253 word reached Earth that Paraíso had a population of one million. Only then did Tau Ceti acquire a serious rival for attracting mainstream migrants.
About AD 2300 Tau Ceti was only one of nine sensible place to go. The most developed and urbane, but with rivals now, and a prospect that land would some day be scarce there and labour plentiful. Migration to Tau Ceti tapered off as other colonies stole its lunch, and on the 18th of April AD 2353 it suddenly stopped. Everyone on Earth, in Earth orbit, and on the Nearside of Luna was killed. The people surviving on Farside and in deep space enterprises packed up the stuff they could and evacuated through the flingers, scattering to Tau Ceti, Mayflower, Aeneas, Fureidis, Iter, Egalité, and Todos Santos.
Word of the destruction of Earth reached Tau Ceti in 12 ADT, followed by a few dribs and drabs of refugees from Farside and the Belt, who brought with them salvage useful for constructing a space industry. Tau Ceti had received a total of 3,880,000 immigrants from Earth over 358 years. It had a population of 80.9 million, and its development level was 5.9.
¹ There is, to put things mildly, considerable doubt that the EU had any right or power to issue such a licence as the law then stood. But the BIS was glad of the publicity, the EU was keen to establish title to the rest of the planet, and other powers that had probes en route at lightspeed to assorted destinations were happy with the precedent that it set. No-one else had standing to sue.
² The name was traditional. At this stage the “British” Interplanetary Society had long been an international association. It dropped the “British” shortly afterwards.
³ A “flinger”.
⁴ There has been a succession of monuments on the spot, from a simple obelisk to a monstrous 6-metre statue group in stainless steel. The current marker is a life-sized group of the pair hand in hand, Missahan watching her step and with her foot just touching the ground, van Zaanen gazing off to the horizon with his forward foot a centimetre off the ground. It was carved from a large block of chert from the Fig Tree Formation in Africa, Old Earth, which was shipped specially for the purpose. The monument is over 650 years old.
Based closely on photographs and video of the actual event, but not actually an exact image, the monument has been criticised for sentimentalism, slavish realism, as a copy of a photograph, racism, sexism, heteronormativity, and poor artistic taste.
The original landing stairs from Red Earth, and other relics, are in a museum nearby.
⁵ Ritual sex was not a main-stream custom anywhere on Earth at the time, but the colonists were by self-selection unconventional in their inclinations. Some people wanted to do this. The rest, though perhaps thinking it was silly, went along with it.
⁶ Adam van Zaanen Missahan was the first human conceived on a habitable world other than Earth. He has by now many millions of living descendants, but he is far from being what is sometimes said, an ancestor of everyone on Tau Ceti.
⁷ The North American Continental Congress, Mercosur, Bhārat Gaṇarājya, and Zhōngguó.
⁸ Avalon had a licence to claim an octant of the rotational northern hemisphere of Tau Ceti III, defining its western boundary as the half-meridian through a stainless-steel post driven into bedrock at a place of the colonists’ choice, its southern as the equator, and its eastern boundary as the half-meridian 90° longitude east of the one defined by the Great Steel Peg. Very roughly, you can imagine Avalon as the kind of territory that might be claimed by people who wanted North America, and chose boundaries at about 50°W, 140°W, and the equator to get it. Everyone else’s boundaries were implied by this choice, and were often very inconvenient.