“The Miracle over Neptune” was a rescue operation on a doomed space station over Neptune early on in the days of space exploration. The event overall became known as The Miracle Over Neptune, with hundreds of stories told to commemorate and remember what had happened.
Part I : Aurora Station
At the beginning of the 22nd Century humanity was already looking towards colonizing exoplanets, with space colonization efforts focusing on preparing for long distance colony ships that would carry tens of thousands of souls to far off new worlds. Development and settlement of space in our native solar system all but halted, the romanticism, and profit, of life on an orbital station or the surface of a world hostile to our basic survival seemed to have disappeared overnight.
This time also coincided with major political and social changes. The continuing shifting of power of nations towards corporations and cooperatives was reaching its zenith, leading to massive power blocks collapsing while others united to make a “front” against the new status. Distrust among many countries and unions grew as each imagined the others influenced and controlled by nefarious forces, and each acting as if they weren’t themselves being puppeted to some degree.
Under this climate the orbital stations and planetary settlements in our home solar system saw themselves ignored by the central powers of Earth, both national and corporate, with financial resources for their expansion, and most importantly their maintenance, being almost entirely put towards the conquering of other stars. At the same time the social and political troubles on Earth left them out of sight and mind, practically ignored and forgotten as a quaint artifact of bygone days and antiquated thinking. Some orbitals would make an effort to remain relevant, some would simply slowly be abandoned, but others would take the opportunity of this new found accidental independence to distance themselves further from Earth, from the national and corporate control that had dictated their existence, from the strife and machinations of its people living in a state of constant infighting, and declare themselves, for all effects and purposes, independent.
This was the case of Aurora Station, orbiting Neptune. For decades it was a bustling center of life and business, housing thousands of people that just wanted the “spacer life”, industry focused on the gas giant the station orbited, spaceports to serve as a refueling and transport hub, the furthest point of civilization from Earth. With the realization of faster than light travel and the discovery of Antares, the first earth-like system to be colonized, it became practically forgotten, no longer interesting, no longer seen as profitable. Twenty-six thousand people found themselves on a station that existed solely for its own survival. Many cherished their situation, or at least they told others as much; they didn’t depend on any big player, they made their own rules, and they were all in it together. Those that didn’t, and could afford it, had already left.
Part II: Starlight Song
Only a few years into their new “independence” disaster struck. With most exobody observers no longer financed and shutdown due to the refocusing of investment towards escaping the solar system, a cluster meteoroid (not just a large rock but thousands of meteors traveling together, ranging from the size of a bus to just a marble) avoided its predicted impact on Neptune and instead slingshot past the Aurora Station. While such an event would have just made for pretty streaks of light in the skies over Earth, to the station, without atmosphere or any other type of effective shielding, it was armageddon. Power lost, life support lost, navigation lost, communication lost, and thousands of lives lost in an instant, with the station now placed in a decaying orbit. With no one watching out for Aurora Station and its auxiliary communication satellites out of commission, the nineteen thousand surviving souls on board knew they were doomed, they just didn’t know how their lives would come to an end: asphyxiated from lack of oxygen, frozen from lack of temperature control, starved from lack of resources, or burned as the station crashed towards Neptune.
In the chaotic hours that followed one of the groups attempting to flee the station made it as far as a docking bay and a small maintenance ship within. Unfortunately, the docking bay was ruined and no ship could leave it; fortunately, the ship itself was undamaged, and a distress signal was sent from it. On a refueling run between asteroid research stations was the Starlight Song, a small cargo ship with a crew of sixteen on a transport mission usually relegated to automated ships, but intended now for a resupply mission to a research base in the Kuiper belt. While the signal from the station barely made it out of the wreck it had become, the Starlight Song received enough to understand something had gone horribly wrong, made clearer after attempts to contact the station directly were met with silence. While their legal obligation was only to relay the message further, the crew understood how dire the situation had to be on the station; knowing they it would cost them their employment, and likely even be criminally charged for it, the Starlight Song’s crew jettisoned all nonessential cargo and changed course for Neptune.
Arriving at the station the crew immediately realized the station and those trapped within were all but doomed. Large chunks of the station were simply gone or completely exposed to vacuum, the rest peppered with holes slowly letting the remaining atmosphere leak out, and only a few sections still had any sort of emergency power. Now in contact with some of the station’s survivors, including the group with access to the docked maintenance vessel, the crew began operations to physically carry portable oxygen tanks to what few airlocks were still in operation and enact emergency repairs on power and life support systems where these were exposed and not completely destroyed. Many recordings exist, taken from those on the station, of the crew of the Starlight Song, donned in bulky, cheap spacesuits, floating around the station carrying out repairs, with a particularly memorable scene of one walking through an airlock door carrying an oxygen tank in their arms.
Part III: The Miracle over Neptune
The crew of the Starlight Song worked to exhaustion, and after 38 hours of nonstop work, and losing two of its crew, they and those on the station were forced to accept the situation was hopeless. While the Starlight Song had saved the lives of thousands with their resupply and repairs, it was really only delaying the inevitable. With no more oxygen or supplies left to give and no possible repairs that could save the station, all within would perish in a handful of days. The Starlight Song began transporting children aboard as best and fast they could and made preparations to travel to the nearest station. Less than a hundred could be saved as the ship, while large, was never meant to transport live cargo, and the ship’s own supplies of had been depleted in the attempts to save the station.
Unknown to them, word of what had happened over Neptune, as relayed by the Starlight Song, had spread like wildfire throughout the system. Nations were urged by their citizens to act, and the profit-focused corporate world itself agreed to do something (though in many cases, driven by the PR boost of acting, or the cost of doing nothing). The greatest fleet for many decades to come assembled, from cargo freighters to military ships to private yachts and even a colony ship, all intent on saving those trapped within the Aurora. As a trickle the ships arrived, in plain sight of many within the station, each promising salvation. Over the next week over seventeen thousand people were saved from certain death, as the rescue fleet moved to evacuate all those they could and effect repairs on the station for those they couldn’t yet reach. While the Starlight Song could not have saved them all, their actions in resupply and repairs delayed certain death for those trapped inside the station for long enough for the rescue fleet to arrive.
The entire operation was highly public, as were the countless stories of those within. From the initial disaster, the survivors struggling to find each other and stay alive, the journey of the team that out the critical distress message, thousands of personal recordings recounting what many believed would be their final moments, and the pervasive terror of the creeping frost enveloping the station as temperatures plummeted. Later the arrival of the Starlight Song and the spark of hope, the race against the clock to save all possible, the sacrifices of the ship’s crew, and the terrible realization of the unavoidable as they prepared to escape with as many as they could. Finally the stories of the public’s reaction to the events, the calls to unite and put down now petty differences, to forget about profits and inconsequential squabbles and become one to focus on saving those doomed on the station. The event overall became known as The Miracle Over Neptune, with hundreds of stories told to commemorate and remember what had happened. It’s particularly popular on space stations and among other spacefarers, celebrating the need for them to stick together to survive, giving to those in need, keeping hope even when things are at their worst.