Gather round, children while I tell you the story of how the E-System became barren. Are you all sitting comfortably? Take that out of your ear, Nurmel. Settle down, Marvinne. Then I’ll begin. 

When the exploration ship, the Marseilles, reached the E-System, the Franco-German Alliance laid claim to the planet they found there. That’s right, Marvinne, the E-System is a very long way from Earth, 225 lightyears is a very long way indeed. Back on Earth, the celebrations started. A Europe-wide competition was held to name the planet and Égalité was the name that was chosen.
Yes, Laycee, the word is Franco-German. Égalité means equality in old Franco.

Who can tell us about the fifth dimension Conduits? Yes, Dwill, that’s right. They were discovered in space. Nobody knows, Marvinne. Some people believe that. What was that, Dwill? Aliens, yes. Aliens with technology far more advanced than ours. No one knows that either, Laycee. They may have been there for a very long time indeed before we discovered them.

Sit still, Nurmel. Don’t you want to hear the story about Égalité and the E-System? Sit beside Marvinne if you like.

Égalité was a goldilocks planet with sweet, breathable air, mature rainforests, and a perfect climate. Within 16 Earth months 40,000 eager Europeans had arrived to set up a colony, and the process of clearing the forests had begun. Twenty-five Earth years later, the early pioneers had cleared a vast area of forest and 100 large farms had been established. The colony was entirely agriculturally self-sufficient. The future looked good.
What was that Nurmel? That’s exactly like the three bears. You remember Goldilocks found one bowl of porridge was too hot and one was too cold and one was just right? Égalité was just like that: not too close and not too far from its sun. It was just right.
An entirely new Égalitarian culture sprang up. Ebonne Édru, one of the new generation of native colonists, born on the new planet, designed an entirely new musical instrument, the flugelharp. It was made from natural Égalitarian materials. And she used it to compose original songs that were carried on the spaceships to all the planets of the five systems, and all the way back to Earth.

Maybe tomorrow, Dwill, if your father gives his permission, you can bring in your junior  flugelharp and show it to us all. Yes, thank you Laycee. That is one of Ebonne’s songs. Perhaps you could sing it for us later, when I’ve finished telling the story.
Égalité became famous as a paradise, the jewel of the Five Systems. The realtors moved in, and rich Earthers began to buy holiday homes there. Life was good.
And then one bright day, as the white dwarf sun rose over the northern hemisphere, the palace of the Governor was visited by a ragtag collection of native animals. Strange looking creatures with nine limbs, no nose, and ginger hair. Speaking a garbled, barely intelligible mixture of Franco-German and pidgin English, their leader hammered the ground with a brightly colored pole and demanded that the colonists leave their home – which they called Veerra – and go back where they came from.
The Governor immediately accepted the demand in good faith. He informed the colonists of his decision over the airwaves the following day: The colony must be evacuated. All farms and holiday homes must be abandoned. The colonists must pack up and prepare to ship out on the next available transport.

Quiet down children and I’ll tell you the rest of the story. Nurmel, take that out of Marvinne’s ear.
There was pandemonium among the colonists. Community groups and religious fanatics sprang up to justify their claims to the planet. Their arguments ranged from a sort of statute of limitations through divine right for the children that had been born there. The most popular objection was that they had improved the planet to such an extent that they should be allowed to remain.

No, Laycee, that’s a statute, not a statue of limitations. It means that the law was past its best-before date. No, no, it wasn’t. The colony was well over a hundred years old, but a law like that never goes out of date.The Governor wouldn’t change his mind. The Geronimo Principle clearly applied: No planet found to be inhabited by intelligent life could be colonized. 

Geronimo. That’s right, Dwill. It is named after a famous Native American chief. Yes, Laycee, they all had to leave. It was six standard months before the last colonist left. Some went back to Earth, others moved to other colonies, like Califon or Liberté in the C-System.

That was how the E-System came to be barren, hosting two Interdimensional Conduits leading to the C-System and the D-System, and with one uncolonized goldilocks planet, called Veerra, once known as Égalité. 
Yes, Laycee, the colonists could have stayed. They could have fought to hold onto the planet, but the Geronimo Law is wise. Holding land that is occupied by other intelligent lifeforms is unethical – that means wrong, yes, thank you, Laycee – and what would have happened if the colonists had tried to remain? Anyone? Yes, Dwill, that’s right, there would have been war. Thank you, Nurmel, we don’t need a demonstration. I think we all know what war means.   

(C) Copyright JJ Toner