Luhman 16Aa

Ember is a singularly unpromising world, inhabited by Terrans only in their desperate desire to expand away from the Imperium. Smaller than Luna, and with nearly no atmosphere, it was originally intended as a stepping-stone into space to trailing. Unfortunately, neither it nor its nearby brother Loki was near another “stepping-stone.” Ember is a dead end, more than two parsecs from anything further out, and was officially abandoned years ago.

Still, the economic and military buildup of the Confederation is so intense that some people see worth in Ember. Ember orbits 23 AU from its twin primaries, and most of the time its surface is completely frozen. However, the smaller of the two primaries is a flare star and leaps to five times its normal brightness every now and then. Ember is still frozen at these times … but less so than usual. During flare episodes, complex molecules like ethane and acetylene can form in the nearly oxygen-free conditions. These are valuable feedstocks for several industrial processes, so something more than 1,000 independent miners and explorers can be found on the planet at any given time, scooping up the chemicals once the flare is over and they freeze solid.

Flare times can be very dangerous, not least because there’s no way to predict when they will occur. Ember has multiple locations where large water ice plateaus poke up above the landscape. Prospectors rest on these safe havens while a flare is going on – despite the increased temperature, there’s no chance of water ever melting on Ember. Once the flare is over, however, their crawlers must descend to the plains and begin their mining. If they’re trapped out in the open when another flare hits, they risk being mired in slushy swamps, or even completely submerged in a hydrocarbon lake, to be entombed when things freeze up again.