by Peter Darvill-Evans
From Break-out to Empire: Essays on the Third Millennium
Edited and published by Federation Archivist Ven Kalik

Extract from the editor's Introduction:
It is a commonly-held misconception that the Break-out - that explosive mass migration of humankind across interstellar space that began in the closing years of the twenty-first century was the result of intolerable conditions within the solar system.
            Various causes of widespread dissatisfaction have been suggested. The necessity of avoiding cognitive dissonance ensured that each and every colony developed a tradition that, however harsh the condittons on the newly settled planet, things had been worse on Earth, By the time a hundred new worlds had been explored there were a hundred different myths about the appalling situation from which the colonists had escaped. These myths have become accepted as truths and have been reiterated in academic works published not only by human historians but also by Draonians and Arcturans. Scholars have entered into heated debates: was the pncipal cause of the migration overpopulation? Or environmental degradation? Or alien invasion?
            None of these theories is supported by the facts.
            Although it is true that Earth was supporting a population that seems barely credible by contemporary standards, the worst of the overcrowding was over. Earth's population had been in decline since the early twenty- first century, thanks to a combination of plagues, birth control measures, and - most importantly - the development of instant transport systems that allowed for the rapid colonisation of the other planets and moons in the solar system.
            Although it is true that Earth's oceans and atmosphere were badly polluted the situation had stabtlised by the middle of the twenty-first century, and thereafter most pollution indtcators showed a gradual improvement.
            It is true that, even at this early stage, humankind had been menaced by hostile alien beings. But retrospect tends to telescope history so that the popular view of pre-Break-out Earth is a planet permanently besieged. In fact at the time of the Break-out, humankind was at peace with its neighbours: the threats from the Cybermen, and then from the former Martian, were past; and the near-destruction of human life on Earth in the early stages of the First Dalek War was still almost a century in the future.
            If not overcrowding, pollution, or war, what was the impulse that drove millions of people to abandon their home? Warp ship technology was almost untried; the ship's owners, Earth-based corporations whose wealth and power were already beyond the control of government demanded extortionate payment for every outbound berth. Why would anyone expend his life savings to leave a solar system that had, apparently, already seen its darkest days?
            The answer; I suggest, lies in the perception of poverty. Wealth differentials were vast and, more importantly, they had never been so visible. Mass commmunications enveloped the solar system; transportation was almost instant. The majority of the population on every inhabited planet lived in relative poverty, depending on state benefits, short- term menial employment, and the proceeds of crime. Yet even the poorest could afford the radio and video links that provided a non-stop display, of flaunted wealth and glamour; even the poorest could aford the Trans- Mat fare to the retail palaces in the floatirtg domes of Venus or to the marble halls of the goverment offices on Earth.
            For the majority of humans, the solar system at the end of the twenty- first century uas a taunting prison. A trip to the stars, however costly and risky, would have seemed an escape.

I wish I had a recorder. Would I remember how to use it, anyway? We left so much behind.
            Anything would be easier than this. Burnt slivers of wood and strips of old sheets. The children came in to see me this morning. Asked me what I was doing. Thought I'd gone mad. They'd never seen writing, of course. Almost forgotten it myself. Don't know why I'm bothering, except that the androids reacted so strangely.
            I thought they'd stop me, I suppose. Take away my carbon and my sheet, destroy it all. On the contrary; they stood at the end of the bed, turned their blank faces tn each other like a pair of gateposts, and had one of their silent conversations. Turning back, they said in unison that my sheet of writing would be preserved in the colony's archives. Could I have a pen, I asked. And paper? They considerrd, whirring quietly. No; the Corporation's rules did not allow the provision of implements for writing.
            I can't have much time left. Hours, perhaps. The pain isn't getting worse, but I've convinced myself I can feel the cancer growing inside me.
            Don't feel sorry for me, though! I really can't complain. They say I'm the oldest surviving colonist now - have been for several years. The only man on the planet who wasn't born here.
            But I was always tough. You had to be, living in the Stop. Hard to remember those days. I must have been strong, though. Sold litres of blood. Sold a kidney and half my optic nerves. Bought and sold bad zap in the tunnels. Survived. All to raise the cash to buy a berth on a warp ship. Everyone in Aryan Heights wanted out. Not just poor, but poor Europeans. The bottom of the heap. We didn't care where we went, mostly. I ended up here.
            And it really is. Land of milk and honey. Couldn't believe my eyes when I stepped out of the airlock. The mountains, the sweet air, the clean rain.
            It's got better since then, too. It was rugged and wild, but we tamed it. Well, the Corporation tamed it. Weather control, terraforming. The androids did the hard work, right back in the beginning. I didn't think a Corporation would be that generous. Still can't work out what the Corporation thought it would get out of this colony. They leave us in peace now, though. Just a few androids left. I can't make the kids understand that they're just machines!
            Perfect climate, now. We built solid towns too, although it'll be difiicult to build any more now that the rules forbid power tools. But it's very quiet. Peaceful. And there haven't been any more settlers, of course, so we have everything we want.
            And as I'm getting near the end it doesn't matter now if I confess. I switched documents, in the warp ship. According to my ID chip, I was going to become a baker. Tradesman. No surname. So I switched with another guy. And now I'm Head of the House of Delahaye. On the Council. Hereditary advisor to that street-sweetie who became the local Princess. Her son came to see me yesterday. Twelve years-old, and a Prince. He had robes and everything. Wearing a crown! These youngsters take it all so seriously.
            Like the Corporation promised, we're living in the way that our ancestors did. No, better than that, because we have enough food and land and everything we could want.
            Just one fly in the ointment.
            It seems ungrateful to complain. After all, I've outlasted everyone who shipped in with me. Ginny went five years ago - just after Edwin was born. Another one of the Corporation's rules, those daft names. Supposed to make us feel in tune wlth the lifestyle here.
            But I'd have liked to see the children growing up. Richard will take over as head of the Delahayes, and he's barely thirteen years-old.
            As I say, I can't complain. At thirty-eight, I've lived longer than most on Arcadia. Unforeseen side-effect of warp travel, the androids say. All colonists die young. Tough luck for us, but worse for those left behind. Our ship was among the last to leave Earth. Colonisation programme halted indefinitely. No escape from the Stop now at any price.
            But the kids won't listen when I try to tell them what things were like back home. The Corporation have left us the androids, but they refuse to provide data about anything except Arcadia.
            There's something suspicious about the whole set-up. The androids say that the Corporation have abandoned the space station. The kids call it the moon now, because they've picked up somewhere that a planet has to have a moon. But I know that silvery glint in the sky is a space station. And I think it's still watching us.
            But what can I do? And why should I care? I'll be gone soon. The last of the non-natives. Our children have taken over, and they do what the androids tell them, mainly. The androids have taken to calling themselves Counsellors. Very fancy.
            There'll be Delahayes on Arcadia for hundreds of years, I guess. Generation after generation. Before long Earth and the solar system - everything except Arcadia - will have been forgotten here. Not even an old wives' tale. Just forgotten.
            It could go on for hundreds of years. Thousands. Unless the Corporation decide to close the colony down.
            I can't make the children understand about the power of the Corporation.
            Or unless someone comes here by accident.
            But what kind of ship - what kind of traveller would arrive on Arcadia by accident?

Source: Doctor Who Magazine #198