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Irata

First discovered by the people of pre-war Earth in the year 2136, the third planet of what the astronomers dubbed the Irata system is the first extrasolar planet thought to have potential for future colonisation.

Following the discovery of the terraforming compound Gabanium - and its use on Mars - scientists realised that the atmosphere of Irata-3 was almost completely identical to that of the Red Planet and set about postulating the viability of remote terraforming to their superiors.

The following year, the Federation of the Free World launch an unmanned probe, specifically designed to make the journey to the Irata system - a distance of eighty light-years - and begin the terraforming process in their stead. Because of the timescale of both of these prospects, totalling the better part of four centuries, Irata-3 is all but forgotten about by the western public.

However, through their channels of espionage, the Chinese Empire learn of the existence of Irata-3 and, in a desperate move, create the Starcruiser - a "generation ship", designed to ferry colonists across insurmountable distances by placing them in suspended animation - and launch it on a course for the planet.

The Starcruiser - due to a misunderstanding - was in fact the reason for the nuclear war which claimed the lives of 23 billion people just six years later. After finding debris from an aircraft's hull, Chinese Emperor Xu Derui claimed that, out of jealousy, the Federation had shot down the Starcruiser in order to win this new "space race" that had arisen.

In September of the year 2636, after the Psi Monks - who were ruling Neocron at the time - rediscover the capability to build spacefaring vessels, a manned space mission to Mars is launched. Named Shirkan after the chief of their governmental council, the craft takes nine months to reach its destination, where the astronauts discover the remains of the Red Terra colony.

As well as discovering that the colonists had perished from an unknown virus four centuries earlier, the astronauts also discovered that it was Red Terra's inaction that allowed the leaders of Earth to jump to conclusions and start a nuclear war. However, a search of the communication logs of the colony reveals something intriguing.

In addition to not being destroyed as Xu Derui thought it had, the Starcruiser had actually reached the Irata system and successfully colonised the planet. The Gabanium probe which had preceded them had terraformed the planet according to plan and, for generations, they had been awaiting further instructions; instructions which they had requested through the use of a looping message which had reached the Mars colony every three hours.

Spending a total of two weeks on Mars, the Shirkan's crew brought back a number of 22nd Century "relics" back with them, such as holodisk players and videogaming consoles as well as a large quantity of the metal needed to safely build fusion-based engines.

Nearly twenty years later - in 2654 - the Psi Monks finish the construction of their own generation ship: the Avenger. As well as ferrying 2000 colonists to Irata-3 in much the same way the Starcruiser had, the Avenger also carries the components for a deep-space communications array.