The Belarian Initiative - Prologue

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Life emerged on Belarius almost two million years before it emerged on Earth. Evolution there was fast-tracked due to an ideal climate free of the retarding effects of ice ages, global warming, and especially due to the near absence of asteroids in its solar system, the presence and bombardment of which delayed the development of a favorable climate on Earth. Belarius was located in an ideal orbit around its sun, which was even more stable than the Earth's sun. As a result, its tropical climate was ideal for the development of an extensive variety of life forms.

Humanoid life evolved on its fast track as well. The Belarians developed into a benevolent race, avoiding lengthy world wars and all the destruction they bring, but instead devoted their time, energies, and considerable intellect to the pursuit of the sciences, mathematics, philosophy, and the arts. As a result, they became a society on two paths one pursuing science and math, the other philosophy and the arts. This 2-tiered society worked well for Belarius. Neither group envied the other. Neither group interfered with the other. Each group respected the other's endeavors, leaving them free to be totally committed to their studies, their research and development, their visions and plans for the future.

As the Belarian civilization spread across the planet, they remained one society. Having no need for a 'federal' government and having eliminated the need for currency, there were no 'budget' limits for scientific pursuits. The first aircraft were developed on Belarius 100,000 years before the Wright Brothers were born. Space travel followed quickly and within 100 years Belarians had colonized their two moons. Although all the planets in their solar system were visited by either manned or unmanned spacecraft, the Belarians were alone no life was found elsewhere in the system. Of course, they searched the skies for signs of life for more than 200 years. All manner of radio and optical telescopes were brought to bear. But not one beep or chirp was ever detected.

But the Belarians were not ones to give up. Blessed with a superior intellect, an overwhelming abundance of scientific knowledge, unlimited resources, and a boundless determination, they soon developed The Belarian Initiative. The Initiative, as it was most commonly referred to, was simple to state and, for the Belarians, almost as simple to implement. They would develop interstellar space travel and seek out life and new civilizations in their small region of the galaxy.

The Initiative was clearly multi-generational. It took a thousand years to develop the capability and to design and build 36 interstellar spacecraft, which were themselves multi-generational in design. The spacecraft were also anticipated to never return home, the distances being too great. And why return to Belarius anyway? After a thousand years of exploration, the spacecraft were home to their occupants.

However, a reliable means of communicating search results back to Belarius had to be devised. The 'gamma ray burst transmitter' was developed for that purpose. Its design was simple and elegant, requiring only a small thermonuclear device and the gamma ray burst transmitter. The device was dropped in space and pointed toward Belarius. The ship would then move off to around 5,000 kilometers, a distance necessary to protect the ship from the electro-magnetic pulse produced by the device. The EMP was the engine that powered the transmitter. To further enhance the effectiveness of the device, the EMP was focused in much the same way a shaped explosive charge is focused.

After the EMP was generated by the thermonuclear detonation, during the microsecond before the transmitter was destroyed, a gigawatt of coherent, collimated gamma ray energy, digitally modulated with the data stream of all information thus far collected, would be produced and transmitted toward Belarius. Although the data stream only traveled at the speed of light, the fact that it was a coherent and collimated gamma ray energy stream in the gigawatt range, Belarius had no problem detecting and collecting the data. Of course, they had to be ready to collect that microsecond of data every 50 years from each ship. They also had to allow for the distance each pulse would travel and allow for the temporal changes on each ship caused by their velocity, which approached 25% the speed of light. [Yes, Einstein's theories applied on Belarius as well.] However, for the patient and focused Belarians, these considerations presented no problem. They had a meticulously developed and carefully followed schedule of data retrieval, which was clearly necessary given the fact that three dozen ships were reporting.

Nevertheless, after a thousand years of exploration, only the most rudimentary life forms were discovered on the hundreds of planets visited within 100 light years of Belarius. The Initiative had not rewarded the Belarians with the discovery they so desperately sought - advanced life forms at least capable of space travel.

A quantum leap in spaceflight capability set the Belarians on a new journey, the scope of which even they did not realize for many years. Warp drive, having been a scientific theory for more than 2,000 years, became a reality. The solution was to 'warp' space, not try to travel faster than light. A warp-driven ship could jump a few billion miles or a few light years, the time required in every case was the same. The practical and prudent travel limit per warp was around 25 light years. Any more than that and it was difficult, if not foolhardy, to predict where the ship would be after each warp in an asteroid field, too near a star or black hole? Warp drive would make it possible for the Belarians to explore vast volumes of the galaxy in only a few hundred years. However, the galaxy is truly vast; too vast for just a few dozen ships to explore. The scope of the Belarian Initiative needed to be greatly expanded.

The new Initiative provided for the design and construction of 500 multi-generational, warp-capable starships that would spread out across the galaxy. Their enhanced mission was to find and catalog all life forms in the galaxy not a small undertaking. The paramount goal, the Prime Objective, was to find intelligent, benevolent life with which the Belarians could communicate and share cultures and technology. As before, this new Initiative contained no plan for the starships to ever return to Belarius. Generation after generation of Belarians were born and raised in space, educated and trained to take over the mission and the operation of the ships, grew old, and finally passed control on to the next generation.

The starships were enormous, spherical in design, and roughly 16 kilometers in diameter. Since the ships had warp drive, they did not need to travel at high speeds or even have engines per se. Power on board was plentiful, supplied by fusion reactors that had been developed and in use for thousands of years. Every consumable was captured and recycled. But recycling is never 100% efficient, so consumables like water, oxygen and other vital gases were easily replenished with a quick stop at a suitable planet. This had the added benefit of providing variety to the Belarian's vegetarian diet when fruits and vegetables on these planets were gathered and cultivated on the ship's immense agricultural complexes.

Jobs and careers aboard the starships were also plentiful and rewarding at all levels of society. A multitude of career paths were available to every citizen. A full array of occupations, from the service and maintenance sectors, to farming and food distribution, to education, journalism, and the medical professions, were all present. Each starship was a fully functional and self-sufficient city. Of course, the pursuit of the sciences and arts continued as well.

Communication between starships and Belarius was maintained on an annual or as required basis. Near instantaneous warp-derived communications technology had been in use since the development of warp drive. Through this regular schedule of communication, Belarius and all starships remained in contact and maintained the prime database of life in the galaxy.

As the 500 starships spread throughout the galaxy, it was quickly determined that the central third of the galaxy was too populated with colliding star systems, gravity wells, mini black holes, super nova and other intra-galactic catastrophic events, for any of the ships to explore safely. Fourteen starships were lost before the decision was made to confine the mission to the outer two-thirds of the galaxy.

It took only a couple of hundred years to determine that life was not abundant in the galaxy. The existence of perfectly sized planets, having the perfect complement of elements, located in perfectly positioned and stable orbits, around stable stars that were not too small and not too large, etc., were rare. [This is known on Earth as the Goldilocks Principle.] A few hundred planets were cataloged containing rudimentary flora and fauna. Less than a two dozen had intelligent life in various stages of evolution. Some had life forms evolved to a level equivalent to Neanderthal man. Some had organized civilizations similar to ancient Rome. A very few were well into their industrial revolutions. Some were engaged in world wars. All were observed and cataloged, but never contacted. The Belarians did not waste their time with civilizations that did not meet the criteria of their prime objective.

The mission continued for hundreds of years as the starships fanned out across the galaxy. (As depicted in the above graphic, the Earth is at six o'clock on the plane of the galaxy. Belarius is located at about eleven o'clock, on the far side of the galaxy.) The now less than 500 ships had spread around the galaxy, covering the area from about nine o'clock to one o'clock on the galaxy spiral, when the Belarian Initiative encountered its first insurmountable problem.

Each starship was a closed society, starting with a population of around 20,000 individuals. As the mission progressed, the populations aboard the starships grew to a sustainable 50,000. Even at that population, inbreeding eventually became a factor. Generation upon generation of this inbreeding aboard the starships had caused an unforeseen genetic reproductive problem. The Belarians were dying, unable to procreate on a consistent or reliable basis. And it was happening on every starship. The enormous population of the ships only served to delay the inevitable outcome. The Belarians had failed to anticipate this outcome. They were also unsuccessful in their efforts to manipulate their genetic code to treat the problem. The noble Belarian Initiative was doomed to failure.

So a desperate modification was made to The Initiative. The mission was accelerated by avoiding the study and cataloging of any planet or civilization that did not meet the prime objective. It was calculated that this accelerated plan would decrease the search time by a factor of 10. The remainder of the galaxy could be explored before the current generation aboard the starships passed away.

And so it went for decades. The 486 surviving Belarian starships scoured the galaxy at a 10-fold increase in the rate of star systems explored. Any spaceflight-capable civilization would have artificial satellites in orbit around their planet, so after determining that, a short monitoring of a civilization was conducted to determine if they were benevolent. The ships would stop for only a few minutes or hours in each star system before moving on. But an intelligent, benevolent life form evolved to the level the Belarians so desperately sought, was not found....until now.

Chapter 1 - Eureka!