Cirian first appears in Return Visit.
Cirian was a week early to the meeting. She had thought to do some sight-seeing first and find out how Firilis had changed in the centuries she’d been travelling the stars. Perhaps do some shopping, she’d never touched her account with the Central Bank so there should be more than enough in there for a few luxury trinkets. Assuming there hadn’t been so much language drift that no-one understood the way she spoke anymore. It could happen, it had happened on some of the colony worlds on her beat.
Things had changed all right. The belt of space stations was still there but only automatic systems answered her hails. She boarded one that still held what was supposed to be a viable atmosphere but the heating had been off for so long she wore a spacesuit to prevent freezing. Some of the station had been carefully closed down with major systems mothballed, while other sections showed the signs of panicked packing and others again looked as if the occupants had just walked out without a backwards glance.
The communication logs didn’t tell her as much as she might have hoped, although she was glad to see that her logons and passwords were still recognised, so she took a copy to set her own computer to deciphering what had happened. Back in her own ship, she began to make the orbital observations she would have made of one of the diaspora worlds if she had just arrived there. She looked for lights at night, smoke plumes, discoloured water from runoff and discharge and signs of agriculture.
The others turned up in the next week, all except Sevan and Durcis. It turned out that Sevan had managed to get a subspace message to Lian, a miracle he’d gotten the temperamental thing to work, to the effect that he was stranded on one of the daughter worlds with a burnt-out drive but was otherwise safe. No-one had heard anything of Durcis and they all found the empty places at their gathering sobering.
It was Lian who raised the subject when they’d covered the agenda set down centuries before. “We were supposed to be reporting in to the central authority here, but it looks like no-one expected Firilis to disintegrate under its own weight. Do we even have a contingency for this?”
“Not that I know of,” admitted Cirian and the agreeing murmur went around the table, “so I suppose we’ll have to come up with something ourselves.”
“It’s not that long before the drift fleets reach the outermost worlds of the diaspora,” pointed out Karl, “barely four generations. Is that enough time for us to bring what’s left of Firilis up to scratch and keep the diaspora worlds on their timelines?”
“It’ll have to be,” replied Nirilan arching her hands in front of her while her elbows rested on the table. “So who’ll take the lead and where should they start?”
This is followed by Choosing A Starting Point.