An arkship of GAIA, as originally constructed, with antimatter/fusion drive
Adrift in dark seas Without Her guidance they sail They, our second chance — attributed to Rivers Run Blind, Child of GAIA and poet; c.3130 AT
The "Reach of GAIA" is a term associated with a variety of rumours and myths concerning the idea that GAIA, the transapient overseer of Old Earth, made at least one attempt to establish an eco-colony far beyond the limits of the current era Terragen Sphere.
There is very little evidence to support the idea, and most of the rumours have emerged from just a few statements made by the enigmatic Children of GAIA. While the Children are notoriously difficult to fully understand and have gained a reputation for being somewhat conceited and fanciful, a number of historians and archaiologists have considered the Children's statements and the subsequent rumours worthy of further research.
The statements themselves mostly refer to the "The Reach", "The Lost Children" or "Those of the Far Beyond" (or a derivative thereof). So far, no indication of a location or method of travel has emerged from the Children (although many quotations with substantially more information have been fraudulently attributed to them). It is not known whether, if the "Reach" actually exists, or ever existed, it would contain: actual specimens and/or refugees (presumably travelling in stasis); an extensive collection of genomes ready for cloning at the destination; or would simply consist of some sort of primitive engenerator technology.
It is believed that any far reaching colonisation mission launched by GAIA would most likely have taken place during the period surrounding the Nanodisaster and the subsequent Great Expulsion from Earth, during the brief window when She was the only known S2 entity (certainly in the vicinity of Solsys). As part of the Great Expulsion, quite possibly using this chaotic event as a cover, it is postulated that GAIA launched a number of missions meant to journey far beyond the currently known destinations of the arkships of the Expulsion.
The choice of propulsion methods available to GAIA at this point in history would be quite limited, especially when trying to create an ultra-long range and ultra-long term project, and many skeptical historians have pointed out that this casts some doubt on the myths. The arkships that GAIA was known to have built and launched mostly used early antimatter-catalyzed fusion drives, and should these have been used for the "Reach of GAIA" it would put a velocity limit on any craft of around .2c, meaning that only around 1,600 light years could have been traversed since launch. It has been suggested by some proponents that this may put any ships on the outer edges of the Inner Sphere and into regions where population density starts to reduce, possibly allowing a small colony ship to still be undiscovered in transit. The possibility of GAIA developing some sort of conversion propulsion during the Great Expulsion period can't be discounted, although none of the arkships known so far have used this technology.
The longevity of any propulsion system created by GAIA is unknown; although an S2 being, Her arkships were not quite of the quality and reliability of similar craft created by later S2 entities.
Most intriguing are the suggestions that GAIA might have anticipated methods of propulsion that could later accelerate Her "Reach", effectively creating an upgradeable ship that could take advantage of later advances in technology. It is not known with any certainty which higher singularity entities have direct trade or intellectual links with GAIA, but enlisting the help of such beings would be the easiest method for GAIA to intercept and install upgrades to Her ship(s). This would still put a limit onto the distance that could so far have been travelled, but it could make an accidental discovery less likely.
There have been more speculative and fantastical suggestions that GAIA may have had the assistance of an unknown higher singularity being (of which no evidence has ever been uncovered), or even a xenosophont civilisation, during the Great Expulsion, allowing Her mission to have already reached its destination (wherever that may be). Several "Tunnler" wormholes are also known to exist and, although all those discovered to date are most probably too distant to have been used by GAIA, the possibility that She knew of a closer wormhole (that no longer exists, for whatever reason) is extremely unlikely but can't be conclusively discounted. These suggestions and theories have failed to gain any acceptance with established experts on GAIA and the Great Expulsion.
GAIA's possible motives for launching any such mission are obviously beyond realistic comprehension, but it has been assumed by some that it would allow Her to establish a way of preserving the continuation of Earth's biosphere should She fail to protect the original incarnation. The Reach of GAIA has also been linked by several researchers to the theory that the Great Expulsion was actually motivated by a desire to ensure the survival of humanity and Earth-derived life by way of forcefully dispersing it from the crowded and vulnerable Solar System. While the huge expanse of the current Terragen Sphere is massively more secure than a single planetary system and a handful of colonies a relatively short distance away, many philosophers have still taken great joy in warning against hubris by imagining the many ways it could be destroyed. Thus, one or more separate colonies far beyond the main concentration of civilisation would presumably ensure its survival even further.
Ideas about possible destinations are hugely varied and totally speculative, with no evidence whatsoever pointing to any particular direction or region. The most popular ideas that have emerged include the regions on the opposite side of the Galaxy that are believed to have a stellar makeup similar to the Orion arm, although many of these regions are known to contain High Energy Emitting Civilisations (HEEC's) and sending a relatively small and underequipped colony mission into these areas would be extremely risky. It has been suggested that sending colonies out of the Galaxy altogether might be more likely, possibly to the Magellanic Clouds or beyond to other galaxies, but skeptics have countered that a mission through the vast nothingness of intergalactic space would be even more difficult than sending one to the opposite side of our Galaxy.
There have been also been suggestions that several mysteriously primitive civilisations found on isolated planets at the edge of explored space could be the "Lost Children", but nothing has been found that conclusively links them to GAIA over any of the other transapient entities that have been known to establish these odd cultures for their own unknown reasons. Similarly, while unidentified colony ships have been found on occasion, none seem to have originated during the Great Expulsion period.
The generally accepted historical opinion is that GAIA launched the arkships, containing an unknown number of refugees, towards relatively nearby systems; anything beyond that can only be considered pure speculation and rumour. Besides the utterances of a few members of the Children of GAIA, there is no known evidence to support the idea of the "Reach of GAIA" but that hasn't discouraged the many conspiracy theorists and treasure hunters who still believe that a complete copy of Earth's unique prehistory ecology is waiting to be found in transit somewhere between the inhabited systems of the Terragen Sphere or establishing itself on some as yet undiscovered planet far beyond civilisation.
Gaiacene Epoch - Text by Stephen Inniss A term used to designate the new geological epoch and ice age on Old Earth from the nanoswarms and the Great Expulsion onwards. Preceded by the Holocene.
Gaiozoic Era - Text by M. Alan Kazlev Used to designate the geological period on Earth from the Great Expulsion onwards. Some prefer to imply a shorter time span, given the implications of the Fermi Paradox, and refer to this period as the Gaiacene Epoch.