Jackson’s Reef was a froth of bubble habitats wrapped around a shaped sliver of rock some ten kilometres long. Half its volume was ravaged, open to vacuum; the rest had devolved to low-diversity, low-energy ecosystems dominated by tough, slow-growing chlorophytes, blue-green algae, and archaebacteria. There were hundreds of similar bodies within the Belt and beyond; Jackson’s Reef was distinguished from all the others by its eccentric, long-period orbit.
It had once been the centre of the Golden Mean, a kingdom of gardens and settlements in the outer belt that had flourished several centuries before the rise of the True Empire. When they’d been deposed by a vicious civil war, the last members of its ruling family had hastily converted their capital city into a multigeneration starship and aimed it at 61 Cygni, but its mass drivers had failed before it could acquire solar escape velocity. It had become trapped in a cometary orbit with a period of more than six hundred years, taking it out above the plane of the ecliptic and across the Kuiper belt to the edge of the Oort cloud before swinging back towards the sun. Its original inhabitants were either dead or long gone by the time it first returned to the Belt. A crew of rovers laid claim to it, tried and failed to revive its ruined biomes, abandoned the project. And now it was returning to the Belt for the second time, and Nabhomani and Nabhoj had devised a plan to strip out salvageable machinery and artifacts, and mine what was left of its ecosystem for useful biologics and unique genomes.
From Evening's Empires