Light flooded his unopened eyes. Flinching, he waved his arm in the air while muttering charming platitudes to the computer. “Turn off that crap. I’m up, ok?”
He waited for a moment and nothing happened. Now squinting against the light, he said “Computer! Alarm off.”
The ship’s computer echoed a chime of acknowledgement and turned off the alarm but kept the lights on. Just great, he thought, I wake up like an angry lion. One might think it would make a difference. He quickly slid out of his rack and into his boots with the precision of someone who had done it for decades. As he moved through his quarters he collected his uniform on the way to the head. Stepping inside he stared at his reflection in the mirror.
Ship’s Captain James Harding of the SUN Pendleton. Good morning, sir, today you should receive new orders from Solar Union Navy HQ. After a quick run through the three personal duties of the morning, Harding carefully put on his uniform and secured the stick-tight edges and straps. He adjusted each of the false buttons and his rank insignias, and sharpened his officer’s cover. Harding stepped into attention in front of his mirror to inspect his uniform and, before he could look himself over, the buzzer sounded on his personal console. Stepping out of the head, he went to this desk and tapped a few keys to open comms.
“Captain Harding,” he said.
“Good morning sir. You have an ICN message from SUN H-Q.”
Captain Harding recognized the voice; it was Lieutenant Vasquez, the officer of the day on the bridge.
“I will be right there Lieutenant.” He stabbed the “end transmission” icon on the display and waved open the door to his quarters. As he marched out his door, the Solar Union Marine assigned to this post was already at attention and saluted.
“Good morning sir!” bellowed Lance Corporal Ang. Always loud, Harding thought, not like naval crew. However, years ago a Marine had saved his life and ever since he’d decided never to complain about their defining characteristics. The Solar Union Marine Corps had a long tradition stemming back to the North American and European regions on Earth, and generally speaking they were the most exemplary members of the armed services he had ever met. He wouldn’t have them any other way. Because of his mission, Harding had more Marines assigned to his ship then was normal for a light cruiser, but he knew he could never have too many Marines.
“Good morning Lance Corporal” he replied. Captain Harding stopped and returned the salute. He did so every morning without fail. Smiling, he turned and made his way for the bridge.
Captain Harding commanded Task Force S22, known as Sierra-Two-Two, a survey/first contact group that consisted of his flagship the SUN Pendleton and the two destroyers, the SUN Akan and the SUN Lake Chany. At present their mission was to make contact with and analyze a planet-bound race in the Pollux system that had a technology level roughly equivalent to early 20th century Earth. They called themselves the ‘Soffran’ and were a race of bipedal ursoids. They were as hairless as they were vicious and all three nations on the planet had been in a low-grade war for nearly two centuries. They had universally accepted a Stalinist-style of Communism for their government and were as hard on their own citizens as they were on each other. Frankly, it was amazing that they had not decimated their populations long ago. Captain Harding’s first report concluded that they had not wiped out each other…because they have not yet developed nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons.
But the fact that the entire Soffran world was both at war and controlled by violent, oppressive communist regimes was very disturbing. While the Terran government was also socialist in nature, the Terran Solar Union was based on what was called ‘responsible socialism.’ Every citizen of the TSU was expected to do their part for the greater good of society. In return the governing agencies would take care of the needs of the people. The idea that the government could simply force its people into slavery was repulsive. The ideal that the citizens served only to meet the whims of the government had caused a great deal of death in Terran history.
Terran socialism took root immediately after the 1861-1865 civil war of the United States of America. Their president of the time, after narrowly averting an assassination, took great pains to change his country. He set in motion the idea that the government is responsible for taking care of its citizens while the citizens are responsible for doing their part in society. He called this “responsible democracy.” It would eventually set the stage for “social democracy” after the failures of the Marxist socialism. After several terms in office Lincoln had transformed American society by adapting his brand of government socialism to the predominantly capitalist society of America.
Sixty years later the European Democratic wars from 1918-1921 laid the blueprint for social change across the world. Continuing centuries-old spats between many of the European nations came to a head with an assassination, and a network of treaties that caused warfare to break out among the central European countries. Trench warfare ruled the day and, after several years of accomplishing very little, the exhausted nations sat down and hammered out a cease fire. A loosely organized European Republic was formed out of the mess and the larger countries – France, Germany, Britain, and Italy – started using this new European government to reform and rebuild the European economy.
However, eighteen years later Europe was once again at war, but this time with the Soviet Union. After the fall of Tsarist Russian and the rise of the Soviet Union in 1917, Josef Stalin took over in 1925 and created his own brand of communism. Between disrupting his economic and agricultural sectors and creating widespread poverty and depression, Stalin conducted a massive purge of all he considered corrupt or who disagreed with his idealism. When he turned his attention towards Eastern Europe in 1939 the Europeans fought back with renewed vigor. Stalin convinced other communist countries and dictators from Asia to South America that a massive conspiracy was at hand and if the Soviet Union lost then they would be next. One by one, those countries joined the war effort to support Stalin and “their way of life” and the resulting world-wide war was known as “the Great War.” Almost every country fought either against the evil and oppressive communist regimes and their dictator allies, or with the freedom-loving democratic and socialist societies of Europe and the United States.
Before the end of the war in 1946, the United States and Europe formed the United Nations Council to aid them in both rebuilding and emplacement of new governments, and in making the last few hard decisions needed to end the war. The Soviet Union was all but destroyed but they still had a massive weight of flesh and steel in the armies surrounding their last few major cities between the Urals and Moscow. Faced with the long and bloody task of defeating the Soviet Union’s remaining defenders with conventional forces, the United Nations voted to end the war by purging the communist regime with a newly acquired technology – the atomic bomb. A dozen such bombs were dropped on the armies in and around the cities of Moscow, Leningrad, Stalingrad, and the armies holed up in Minsk and Kiev. In only a few short hours the remnants of the Soviet Union were destroyed along with millions of people. But it had to be done.
After the war the United Nations guided the replacement of power in every devastated country. By 1960 every country that opposed the UN had either willing surrendered or was forced to surrender in order to stop the destruction of natural resources, pollution, religious oppression, or massive poverty. By the turn of the century Earth’s unified governments had created a relative utopia that accepted nearly every race, creed, and ideal. By 1990 the world was operating with a central economic plan and every nation’s government was subject to the UN’s General Counsel. At the turn of the century the United Nations voted to make itself the sole government, and by unanimous vote the Earth Union was formed.
But the damage had been done. Even though the Terrans were at relative peace they still harbored hatred towards irresponsible governments and radical societies. Public and political opinion held radicalism responsible for the Great War.
18 AUG 2086 ~0615 (local): Main Bridge, SUN Pendleton
The ICN message was a notice that he would be receiving further orders later in the solar day by mercury drone. Captain Harding entered the bridge at least an hour before he expected the confirmation message from headquarters on Earth. He saluted and greeted officers and enlisted alike as he made his way across the bridge, customarily stopping at the various engineering, scientific, sensor, and command stations to get a quick preview of the condition of his ship. While the SUN Pendleton was only a light cruiser, it had the personnel and support capabilities of full-sized cruiser for the purpose of facilitating a first contact mission. There were many teams conducting negotiations with the various nations of the Soffran and dozens of survey and scanning missions underway to learn as much as possible about them through the interception of the Soffran equivalent of radio and television broadcasts, as well as scanning the planet’s surface for visual analysis and geological survey.
After a few minutes he walked to the aft corner of the bridge where one of the computer stations was being used for intelligence analysis. He silently stopped behind a young officer who was leaning into a monitor with several other personnel and trying to make out some details, while muttering between themselves.
“Lieutenant Commander Andrey” he said, loud enough to make all three of them jump.
Startled, she quickly turned and saluted. The enlisted crew members saluted before scooting away. Andrey said “Captain, I did not hear you coming. I was not aware you were…”
“As you were Commander, I just wanted to know if the ground teams or analytics had made any more progress in determining how likely we may convince the Soffran to change their ways.”
She looked puzzled for a moment, apparently collecting her thoughts, and then stared at the monitor. Intrigued, Captain Harding shifted his weight a little and crossed his arms. “Is there a problem?”
“Not exactly sir, but I don’t think we can expect much. Negotiations are more about each Saffron nation trying to convince us to give to them weapons and technology so they can defeat their opponents, and none are interested in making any changes. They have even issued ultimatums and threats to us to help them or they would consider us aiding their enemies. We are analyzing their infrastructure and making visual tallies of their armed forces. Indications are that the majority of their economies must support the war efforts. But their economies have most certainly been devastated by the same effort. It’s almost like…” she trailed off for a second, “…it’s almost like they are blind, angry, and unwilling. Perhaps generations of war have made them this way.”
Captain Harding looked away. “That is unfortunate.”
“Yes sir, do you know if …”
“I don’t know Commander, but it is above our ranks to speculate. The Soffran are only the second alien race ever discovered.”
“Yes sir. I need to continue working the teams, just in case.” She looked at the monitor.
“Commander, did we figure out what that odd word was that they called Ambassador Kusari in the last sit down?”
“Yes sir, it sounded like ‘Sol-ee-res’ and we figured it was either an honorific or an insult. Further investigation revealed that they were calling us ‘Solars’. I’m not sure why they shorten our identity like that, it would seem to me that it would be more common to use the first word or the last word of a title when trying to shorten it to a single word.”
“Interesting. Let me know if you find anything usable,” he said.
“As you were,” Captain Harding said as he walked away, lost in thought as he wandered back towards his command chair.
We need to make this work.
After its formation, the Earth Union became a utopian society. This created an environment ripe for accelerated scientific and economic progress. Advancements from astrophysics to zoology were made at a greatly accelerated pace. Individuals took on jobs and challenges wherever they were needed, and even before the EU was formed mankind had ventured into space, set foot on the moon, and built an international space station. By 2010 the ISS had become the ESS. Endeavor and had a factory section, a large living section, a half dozen scientific sections, and the beginnings of a shipyard. Man wanted badly to head into space and explore the other planets of the solar system. The construction of four small ships in 2012 enabled him to do that. Slowly, but eagerly, mankind started exploring and staking out claims on the planets of the solar system.
But it was the advancement of the Grand Unification Theorem in 2014 that really accelerated mankind’s exploration of space. The discovery that the symmetrical mathematical structure known as E8 could be applied to particle and field physics – the basic building blocks of the universe – allowed for possibilities previously impossible. Gravitic fields, more direct energy-mass conversion, and even the manipulation of energy fields and space itself were possible once the basic parameters of the universe become quantifiable. Within a few short years fusion power was perfected. A researcher named Stephen Hawking developed the fundamental principles of inertia-less drives through the unification theorem, and worked with several firms to build a prototype. Those drives became known as Hawking drives, and made it possible for mankind to truly escape his home. Colonies quickly spread to Mars, the Jovian moons, Enceladus, and the mining of the asteroid belt and near Earth asteroids was expanded 100-fold as miner-operators were given permits to operate their own mining vessels and companies allowed to build outposts in the belt. There had been small outposts of a few hundred people at Mars and Ganymede, but full-blown colonies were possible only when interplanetary trade and travel was fast, safe, efficient and cheap.
The quirk in Terran socialism came only a dozen or so years later. Many of the colonies had heavily concentrated populations from one region of the Earth or another. Mars had a heavy concentration of Russian and Eurasian peoples. The Earth Union had formed another council known as the Solar Council, and it was to make governance decisions over the various colonies being raised in the Solar System, and had given them 10 years of free economic growth and trade before being subject to taxes, economic requirements, and trade control that the nations of Earth were subject to. Because colonization technology was still early, and the process was fraught with so many hazards, it was hoped that this policy would allow the fledgling colonies to put their full resources towards growth and become productive faster.
This resulted in the colonies beginning to think of themselves as independent worlds. Each colony formed their own government as part of building their own infrastructure. In 2030 the free mandate ended and most of the colonies reluctantly gave up their independence except for two: Mars and Europa. Europa was fairly easy to convince as they were completely dependent upon importing everything except water. Mars was a bit of a different story – the citizens of Mars had already begun terraforming and changing the surface of the planet and had ample supplies of nearly everything they needed. Plant life had been adapted to Mars’ environment and Mars as a whole had enough surplus to trade with most of the Terran colonies. They called themselves the Mars Republic and formed a democratic republic to represent the various concerns of the population domes across the planet. The people voted in practically anyone who wanted to participate no matter if they were normal workers or radical idealists. Nearly every politician had concerns for his own area, but they were all agreed that the EU would crush them if they didn’t get the upper hand. The Earth Union conducted negotiations in faith to bring them back into the fold when the unthinkable happened. Harding was only 7 when it happened, and he remembered the news broadcast well – it was a good part of the reason why he joined the navy:
What Captain Harding remembers is a video scene that was obviously shot in Earth orbit. The view is marred by cluttered clouds of frozen liquids, small pieces of debris, and large sections of metal and hull floating around. This is all that remains of one arm of the Earth Orbit Station Chain, a series of loosely-linked space stations that completely encircles the Earth and appears as an unbroken silver chain from the ground. A small starship – practically an orbital shuttle – floats nearby, transmitting a signal.
“This is Maria Dominque, reporter-pilot for EUNN, coming live to you from Earth Orbit. Our news shuttle has been denied access to the station chain, but as you can see from the images we can feed from our visual sensors…it’s an absolute mess up here.”
“Reports are scarce but we are hearing that the Mars Republic is confused and is demanding that all Republic-flagged starships return to Mars.
The resulting carnage and debris has floated into several adjacent sections of the station chain, and many freighters and EU ships have been damaged either trying to get away or trying to make their way in to help. The only real report we have from the Earth-Space Navy is that the detonations came from 3 or 4 Mars Republic freighters that were being held pending the renegotiation of Mar’s status in the Solar System.”
Immediate boarding and investigation of Mars Republic freighters found another couple nuclear devices in carriages that would enable them to be dropped from orbit onto the surface of Earth. Almost before the explosions wracked the station chain publicly broadcast messages from Mars proclaimed independence and that the people of Mars would rain destruction upon Earth if the EU attempted to deny Mars their basic right to self-governance. While some of the members of the Mars Republic were negotiating in good faith, a handful of the more radical members made the executive decisions and allowed negotiations while making more sinister plans. Perhaps they figured a deadly first strike would convince Earth not to mess with Mars. They were wrong.
President-General Arron Huerra immediately met with the Security Cabinet. Horror, outrage, and vengeance were the nearly unanimous response. The very thought that not once, but twice in the history of mankind an extremist government would allow radicals to kill even a single civilian was unthinkable, and it would no longer be tolerated. Mandate 44 was passed unanimously: no radical governments or peoples would ever be allowed to threaten the existence of humanity, even if they were human. The first space warships in Earth’s history were immediately dispatched to carry it out. Colonization on Mars was concentrated around a few larger population centers and not a single person survived the bombardment. Later colonization erased all evidence of their existence.
In the years following the Mars rebellion the Earth Union changed to become the Terran Solar Union. Public opinion rode high as the colonies became one in government, culture, and economy. Humans had a long history of breaking up into competing nationalities and cultures. The United Nations paved the way for the Earth Union to unify humanity on Earth, but once again human nature found a way to splinter apart. The Terran Solar Union seemed to end that dark blot in human existence.
In 2038 Stephen Hawking made his last great contribution to the union with the formulation and experimental discovery of wormholes. Much work had been done in the past on wormholes but evidence of them remained elusive. What was important was the connection between sub-levels of space and gravity and it wasn’t even possible to make that connection prior to the unification theorem. Hawking not only proved that wormholes existed but also proved that nearly all star systems should have small wormhole mouths, or ‘points’ as he called them, in the turbulence of stellar gravity fields. Hawking designed and built sensors capable of detecting these points and commissioned the Solar Union Navy to build an experimental surveying ship. The SUN Einstein made sail in 2038, and after a general survey of the solar system went to survey a particular anomaly and accidentally made transit to Alpha Centauri. Upon return Captain Nicolai Emery signaled back to SUN HQ that his ship “…accidentally fell through the anomaly and warped to Alpha Centauri.” In 2040 surveying for these warp points had begun in earnest, space was now as open to mankind as the ocean became to the galleon.
Throughout history greed and control forced humans to live under dreadful conditions under dictatorial leaders or to live fractured as disparate peoples with no real direction or purpose in supposedly democratic societies. Only once each individual learned to take responsibility for their society, whether a worker in a factory or a politician taking care of his people, only then did humanity truly flourish. But the real test comes when humanity meets other people that are completely alien. Mankind’s real test of worthiness had yet to come.
18 AUG 2086 ~0845 (local): Captain’s Ward, SUN Pendleton
The morning brief included reports from the officer of the day, the duty staff, the ambassadorial team, and each of the destroyer captains. After the long morning, Captain Harding found himself between meetings. He poured himself a cup of coffee and sat down to go over some messages and alerts. Mmm coffee, such a nectar from the heavens. Without this…
“Captain, you have a priority message” the computer chirped.
“Thank you,” he muttered as he turned back to a console at the briefing table. This message had arrived by mercury drone, a relatively new invention from the R&D folks back home. It was an automated drone that was designed to swiftly and securely carry messages from one place to another. Named after the ancient Roman messenger god, the SUN Pendleton and SUN Akan were built with mercury drone launchers in their hull. The SUN Lake Chany was an older design and the drone launchers had to be added in a refit. Until the mercury drone was in use, messages from other star systems had to be transmitted by ICN buoy and base networks or carried by ship to their destination.
The use of a mercury drone meant that this message was classified and contained valuable information. Captain Harding knew what the message was going to contain. He was waiting for it, but he had wanted to finish his coffee before dealing with the contents of the message. Captain Harding sighed and keyed the computer to view the message in simple form with all the authentication and extraneous information edited out. He continued to sip his coffee as he read.
***COMMANDING OFFICER ONLY***
To: Captain Harding, Commander Task Force S22
From: Solar Marshal Tollen, Commanding, Solar Union Navy
He skimmed through the informational reports and the various reasons and evaluations of the Security Cabinet, Senate Intelligence Committee, Foreign Diplomacy Corps, and the Solar Union Intelligence Corps. Then he settled on the part he’d been waiting for.
The Security Cabinet has issued the following directive for further negotiations. Your orders are...
Harding sat back and closed his eyes for a moment in thought. Interesting. Not exactly what he had hoped. After a moment he keyed his console to open comms with Lieutenant Commander Andrey. The computer chimed assent and she answered immediately.
“Lieutenant Commander Andrey, sir.”
“Commander, the cabinet has decided on a new path for negotiations. Recall all ground teams.”
“Aye aye, sir.”
Captain Harding watched the icon on his console blink out, telling him that the comm channel was closed. After a moment he keyed for the bridge.
“Lieutenant Vasquez” was the response.
“This is the Captain. Message the captains of the Akan and Lake Chany and the command staff and tell them there will be a mandatory orders brief in one hour.”
Continue to Chapter 2