Extracted from The Tau that can be seen is not the true Tau – Reflections on an ancient civilisation, by Professor Yuri Telyav, University of New Dellah, 2665 AD

A planet orbiting YZ Ceti, Mocrichi was originally an uninhabitable rock with no atmosphere. Its primary, YZ Ceti, is a red dwarf star that emits massive solar flares at unpredictable intervals, bombarding Mocrichi with intense bursts of radiation that would destroy any naturally occurring life. Around 6500 B.C., a business consortium belonging to a sapient reptilian species, the Raskabos, used the planet as a test-bed for advanced terraforming technologies designed to cope with extreme conditions. They set up gigantic force-field domes, designed to absorb the star’s radiation, all over its surface. Beneath the force fields, they engineered numerous ecosystems, mostly the jungle wetlands with which they felt most comfortable. The experiment was a technical success, but the cost was prohibitive, and the Raskabos eventually abandoned it when their society suffered a massive economic recession followed by a prolonged civil war.

A thousand or so years later, a loose coalition of pirates and smugglers discovered Mocrichi, and found much about it to attract them. The YZ Ceti system was devoid of life or useful resources, and the unpredictable bursts of radiation from its star were a navigational hazard to spacecraft. Because of that, it had been largely ignored by the interstellar civilizations in its vicinity, but it was conveniently close to a number of them, notably Diplos in the neighbouring Tau Ceti system. Originally used simply as a hidden base for attacks against nearby shipping lanes, Mocrichi gradually evolved into a thriving entrepôt with a vibrant and diverse – if rather violent and lawless – culture. Over time, the original founding gangs re-invented themselves as semi-respectable “Houses” which formed an uneasy but functional alliance to keep crime under control – specifically, their control – and business thriving. By 4200 B.C., the “planetary government” formed from the various Houses had even signed free trade deals with Diplos and other nearby worlds. But the planet continued to “enjoy” a reputation – largely deserved – as a wretched hive of scum and villainy. Despite this – or perhaps, because of it – it developed a thriving tourist industry, largely made up of rich kids from Diplos who wanted the experience the thrill of danger while staying in a comfortable hotel. A few unfortunate incidents involving these young tearaways led to pressure from the government of Diplos for the Mocrichi Houses to clean up their act. Unwilling to hire mercenaries to enforce order – who knew when your own private army might turn on you? – the Houses turned instead to robotics. Within twenty years, their mechanical shock troops had cleaned out the worst of the gangsters (well, the ones who didn’t belong to the Houses, anyway), and made Mocrichi relatively safe for tourists again. But the robots proved too effective a means of control, and within a few decades, the Houses were using them for all manner of oppression, extortion, and tyranny against the rest of the population. Outwardly, Mocrichi remained the wild, cosmopolitan place it had always been, but away from the eyes of the visiting tourists, it had become a computerized police state.

The overthrow of the Houses and their replacement by a rough-and-ready democracy happened seemingly overnight. Historians have been arguing over the origins of the revolution for centuries. Diplos had just been rocked by the theft of the Great Seal, a political and diplomatic scandal of the gravest magnitude. Unsubstantiated but widespread rumours linked elements in the Mocrichi Houses with the theft – might the coup have been some sort of covert intelligence operation, orchestrated by the government of Diplos? The subversion of the ruling Houses’ entire robotic security forces was a technological feat beyond anyone on Mocrichi, suggesting that an outside agency might have been involved. The Diplos government is the obvious suspect, particularly since the notorious Cessair, the prime mover behind the theft of the Seal, was captured as a direct result of the revolt. One could even speculate that her mysterious disappearance soon afterwards was also the work of the Diplos government. Against that, however, we must remember that Cessair’s ship also held two Megara-class justice machines, leased at enormous expense from one of Diplos’ neighbours – given the nature of her crime, no-one on Diplos was felt to be impartial enough to grant her a fair trial. Their disappearance, and the reparations it was forced to pay as a result, were a financial and diplomatic disaster for Diplos. It seems unlikely that they would have placed themselves in such a position – unless, perhaps, Cessair knew something so incriminating, so embarrassing to them, that she had to be silenced, no matter what the cost. At this distance in time, we can do no more than speculate.