After three years adrift in space, the remnants of the expeditionary fleet made landfall on this anomalous planet in synchronous orbit around the gas giant Doramir. They drew on years of experience to terraform the planet for human habitation, but, unlike Mars or Venus, Auraxis wasn’t a blank slate. It had life to work around.
The planet was once a home to an advanced race of aliens known as the Vanu, or the people of Vanu depending on who you ask. Many of their ruins and artifacts slumber beneath the surface along with the mysteries they hold.
Auraxis’ heart is forged of a dense sphere of exotic auraxium crystal born from the decay of -3rd generation quarks. Great crystalline spears branch away from the inner core, stabbing through an outer core of iron and nickel and a boiling mantle before penetrating the crust. Offshoots of these can be readily observed on the continents of Amerish and Esamir. Indar has been skewered by an auraxium spire as well, but no small amount of digging in the sand is required to find the purple crystal.
Gravitic fluctuations in the configurable energy density field emitted from the core make space flight around Auraxis risky business. A number of facilities dropped from space during the initial colonization period were knocked off course by these phenomenon and crashed. Further research of auraxium led to the invention of ground based beacons capable of anticipating fluctuations, now standard gear in all orbital drop operations.
It is theorized that Auraxis, its moon, and Tauaxis were once one giant proto-planet before a cataclysmic event known as “The Bending” tore it apart. Scientists still debate what exactly it could have been. Some argue that proto-Auraxis was torn apart by tidal forces from Luminaire or Doramir while others claim it was hit by another planet hurtling through space at a staggering velocity. A few even suggest that the Vanu engineered the event for reasons beyond our understanding.
How exactly auraxium became present in the cores of Auraxis and surrounding planets is unknown. Because it has a negative energy density and thus negative gravity, it’s impossible that the planets formed normally through the process of accretion. The only thing holding the core in place is a heavy layer of iron and silica molded around it, cooled into a solid state by its negative energy aura. One outlandish hypothesis speculates that the Vanu intentionally planted a molecule of auraxium to the core of this proto-planet as a sort of seed. The molecule would steadily assimilate the matter found in the planetary interior, blossoming into a massive crystalline formation for harvesting.
When we first first arrived on Auraxis it was shrouded by a combination of Carbon Dioxide, Hydrogen Sulfide, and Sulfur Dioxide blasted out of volcanoes and seafloor vents agitated by constant tidal forces from Doramir and crustal stress fractures from auraxium crystal growth. If you were caught outside under some unfortunate circumstances, you would first be hit by the rotten stench of sulfurous compounds. You wouldn’t have much time to be offended by it, however, as your eyes and skin begin to burn. Painful coughs rack your body. A trio of chemicals bind to your red blood cells, restricting their ability to carry oxygen. Nausea overcomes you. A mess of sweat, mucus, vomit, and tears, you collapse to the ground. A lizard-like Hossinian creature, perfectly adapted to the agents of your demise, scurries over your body as you succumb to asphyxiation. Needless to say, respirators and protective suits were essential outside of sealed habitats.
Humanity wasn’t about to be outplayed by mere lizards, however. Terraforming plants were constructed all over Auraxis to scrub pollutants out of the air. It was no easy task, as the plants had to constantly work to outpace gas pouring from the mantle through crustal fractures. It was a losing battle- until Henry Briggs stepped in, that is. A brilliant xenobiologist, he realized that Auraxis was full of potential allies- chemosynthetic life. Corals with funnel-like roots directed chemicals seeping up through the seafloor into tubes lined with symbiotic chemosynthetic bacteria. Drinking straight from the source were subterranean colonies of thermophilic bacteria that grew to fill the fractures themselves. Plankton drifting lazily at the whim of the currents were content with processing any hydrogen sulfide they missed. Genetic modification equipped this life with highly efficient cellular processes, enhanced survivability, and more rapid reproduction. The project was successful. The alliance between terraforming factories and GMOs had all but eliminated sulfur dioxide and hydrogen sulfide from the atmosphere by 2657.
Climate was an issue, though. Even with the addition of sulfur hexafluoride, a potent greenhouse gas, to compensate for the loss in carbon dioxide, temperatures plummeted across Auraxis. Northern Indar’s 70°C days became a thing of the past. Esamir and its rivers, once stuck in a continuous cycle of freezing during the nights and thawing during the day, were permanently frozen solid. Despite scientist’s best efforts, they couldn’t beat Chaos Theory. The smallest of changes to the gene pool had wrought drastic consequences.
Though chemosynthetic life adapted well to the changing atmosphere, photosynthetic life was another matter entirely. Dropping carbon dioxide levels were triggering the extinction of plant life that depended on it. Without them, oxygen levels on Auraxis would plummet, making the planet uninhabitable by aerobic life forms- namely humans. Genetic engineering of photosynthesizers was attempted, but they ultimately did more harm than good was done, with modifications resulting in massive overgrowth then subsequent extinction or spreading botched genes to other unmodified plants. Towering Hossin trees that stood since humanity was embroiled in the Great War fell with thunderous crashes. Amerish’s emerald plains grew sparse and patchy. The Indarian Cactus was all but wiped out, resulting in the extinction of herbivores that relied upon it for nourishment in the sparse desert. The terraforming program was forced to halt progress on making Auraxis habitable to focus on stabilizing its biosphere. Though terraformers were successful in preventing further degradation, high carbon dioxide levels still rendered the atmosphere incompatible with human physiology. We were right back where we started in 2643, minus some sulfur. The situation seemed hopeless until Briggs stepped up with a radical proposal.
“Auraxis has gladly changed itself for us. It’s time that we changed ourselves for Auraxis.”
…he proclaimed after stepping out of an airlock and into the carbon-laden atmosphere without a breathing apparatus on June 12th of 2658. Working in his lungs was an implant of his own design, inspired by Auraxian biology. Using a host of carefully engineered proteins, it supplied Briggs with enough carbon dioxide to regulate blood pH without compromising its ability to carry oxygen. For the first time, humans were able to experience their new home to the fullest extent of their senses.