Humanity was born on Earth, and the Sol system was where they learned to crawl. And crawl they did, to Mars, and to Mercury, and to Titan. They got so comfortable with crawling that they eventually crawled all the way to the Centauri Coast—Alpha Two, orbiting Rigel Kentaurus—on a three-kilometer generation ship that somehow managed to be both sprawling and cramped. Those who first disembarked, people who were born between the stars, made a decision as they left the first human footprints under an alien sun: humanity was done crawling.
It was time to learn to run.
Again, it was a task too large for one generation alone, but these were a people who appreciated the scope at the outset,. After 300 years of sacrifice the Starcaster was finally completed. You couldn’t see it from the Coast, but by God it was there. People talked about it like a singular machine, but it was truly a constellation, and for a machine it sure didn’t have many moving parts. A series of rings—16,384 keyholes, according to the marketing materials—formed a thread around the star, a tight helix that spiraled out and away from the plane of the ecliptic. With a hundred-person boltship and a little borrowed angular momentum, most people could launch themselves at their favorite star and, crucially, expect to be alive on arrival. We were running now.
Bernard’s Star was a popular choice, but certainly not the only one. Tens of thousands took to the skies in their little boltships, headed for Ross 128 and Luyten’s Star, for Wolf 1061 and Gliese 876 and 82 G. Eridani. Inevitably, the first thing they did upon arrival was change the name. But the second thing they did was start building a Starcaster. Soon they were nearly everywhere. Nearly, because Sol never got on board. Alpha Two started simply going by Alpha, outgrowing Earth like a taller younger brother. But that’s just a footnote, really. The important part was that we learned to run.