It was the only life-bearing planet in the entire universe; the very first planet to have life. It was the only planet in existence to have the conditions necessary for biogenesis, including being a double planet, each orbiting each other. The double planet was one of the keys of biogenesis, because of the tides. The timing of orbits and gravities had to be perfect, as well as chemical and photonic conditions.
Life has a hard time getting started. This was the first planet on which it was possible. It would be billions of years before any other planet had these conditions.
In time, its rotation slowed as its sister planet Theia went farther away and took up an eccentric orbit around the star.
It was a very rich planet. Rich in metals, rich in diversity of vegetation once life had evolved that far, vast riches of water, and very rich in hydrocarbons. It was rich in chemicals and conditions conducive to abiogenesis. One of the planet’s fauna evolved to the point of sentience, then the arts, than the sciences, until their technologies were very advanced. By the time this had come about, though, the slightly smaller sister had wandered away. The Vulcans never knew of it.
The Vulcans were a very religious people who worshiped Plutus, a god everyone could see and love. When the heretic prophet Ragnarok was twenty three, he warned them that Plutus had told him to inform everyone that he was commanding them to explore outer space, that there were vast riches there, and their very existence depended on it.
But space exploration isn’t cheap, and the Vulcans couldn’t see any monetary payback, only expense. Space travel wasn’t started.
Fifty years later Ragnarok spoke of an evil that only Plutus could save them from, and said it was on its way, and called it Theia. He spoke before a crowd one day, saying Plutus had spoken to him in a dream. As they listened intently, he informed them that their god was angry because they had never left Vulcan and was going to destroy the Vulcans, and Ragnarok and his family were the only ones who would survive the cataclysm unless he told anyone of his dream, in which case he would die instantly and his family would perish as well. His blasphemy was met with a storm of stones, and he died there broken and bloody. The mob then murdered his family and set his house on fire.
But Ragnarok was right. The rich are never satisfied with their riches, so poured more and more of their seemingly limitless hydrocarbon riches into industry and commerce, all worshiping Plutus with all their hearts. Technology brought wealth, and was developed to a very high degree.
A century after the would-be savior Ragnarok was stoned to death, the Vulcan culture was already in decline. They developed space travel, but they never saw the signs of the decline. The denizens of a declining civilization never do. But space travel was developed despite its seemingly nonexistent to meager payoff, and a colony was planted on the next planet out from theirs, the third, and another on the fourth. The third planet was uninhabitable because of its almost completely nitrogen atmosphere, and space men and women had to wear oxygen masks and very heavy clothing outside. It was very cold there, having very low concentrations of greenhouse gasses. The planet was called “Schnee”.
Schnee was the reason space travel was actually developed on Vulcan. Vulcan had been much like Raj a few centuries earlier, but had gradually warmed, becoming hotter and drier. The area near the equator become a desert with fewer and fewer forms of life, and its oceans started shrinking, the water entering the atmosphere as vapor and staying there. Collecting this water was very expensive, so they started looking at Schnee for water. It was a hard life for the scientists and ice miners there, many of whom froze to death.
The fourth planet, Raj, was much nicer. It had a nitrogen atmosphere with plenty of oxygen for animals to breathe, and carbon dioxide for plants to breathe and warm the planet, so had very comfortable temperatures near its equator. Scientists were there before too long, followed by rich tourists, followed by rich immigrants who went for its beautiful weather and the wonderful Marineris Ocean’s seashores. As Vulcan became hotter, Raj became the star’s ruling planet. All still worshiped Plutus.
Vulcan was dying, but wasn’t yet dead when Theia returned. It had been in its eccentric orbit for billions of years, its orbit often changed drastically by a gas giant and a ringed planet.
Theia seemed to be headed directly to Raj! It came very close, its gravity from its larger mass than Raj’s and its nearly all iron composition tearing away almost all of Raj’s atmosphere. Animals, including the sentient Rajians whose ancestors had immigrated from Vulcan died in hours. Flora came to its end shortly later.
Raj’s gravity altered Theia’s course, and it was now headed directly to Schnee. Vulcan had fallen so far that its meager population of Vulcans had no idea of the destruction that had hit Raj, now dead, and what awaited Schnee. It mattered not to them, for they knew that they were doomed. Ragnarok’s prophesy was well on its way to being true—but no one would be left alive to tell tales of the blasphemous prophet.
The Vulcans on Schnee saw Theia coming, but were helpless to do anything about it. There were few of them left, as well.
At first it was a white dot in the night sky that got brighter and brighter every evening, then bigger and bigger. Before long it was a huge circle. It hit Schnee with tremendous force, releasing tremendous energies. It made a giant splash of molten rock and metal, and steam from the suddenly boiled ice. Vulcans who still had binoculars could see rings around Schnee, but there were few Vulcans, let alone binoculars. They, the few animals, meager vegetation, and microbes in Schnee’s atmosphere that had ridden to Schnee with the Vulcans were the only life in the entire universe.
Plutus had his revenge, making Vulcan so hot anything combustible burned, and soon there were rivers of flowing lead. Schnee was covered in an ocean of magma, and Raj was hit by so many meteors that all traces of Vulcan activity were erased completely. Plutus had not only destroyed the Vulcans, but all evidence of their very existence.
It was finally only the microbes in Schnee’s atmosphere that lived, who had no way of appreciating the beauty of Schnee’s rings. Which was a pity, as they were very beautiful rings indeed.