A Dying Planet
As the middle of the 21st Century approached humanity could no longer ignore the degradation of the planet Earth. Water wars threatened to replace the previous generation’s oil wars. Miners dug deeper and deeper into the Earth and found fewer and fewer raw materials. Ocean levels rose. Poverty increased and the quality of life decreased.
The people of Earth looked up to the skies for a solution. Space offered everything humanity could ever need. Asteroids filled with raw materials and comets filled with water orbited the Sun. The resources of hundreds or thousands of Earths sat up in the sky, ripe for exploitation. The only obstacle was distance. Fueling and firing rockets from the surface of the Earth would cost more than it could ever possibly recoup. Scientists turned to an old science-fiction trope to solve the problem.
In 2051 a rocket launched into Earth orbit carrying a single narrow, delicate strand of woven carbon nanotubes. Twenty-seven hours later one end of the strand returned to the surface of the Earth, where it was tethered to a massive platform just outside of the city of Macapa in Brazil. The rocket then stretched the strand out to a point halfway between the Earth and the Moon. The Macapa Space Elevator began operation on New Year’s Eve 2051.
A Fight for Control
Control of the Macapa Space Elevator meant control of Earth’s access to space. The United Nations held the site in trust but lacked the power to enforce the elevator’s neutrality. United States, Russia, and China soon engaged in a three-way tug-of-war to control the site. The Russian Navy moved a permanent flotilla to the island of Cuba. The United States Navy countered by moving two surface battlegroups into the Caribbean. War seemed inevitable.
Britain, France, South Africa, and Japan formed a coalition to try to force the three biggest powers to stop fighting over the elevator. Germany and Canada soon joined and the six nations began referring to themselves as the World Commonwealth Coalition, or the Commonwealth for short. The Commonwealth deployed an Anglo-French battlegroup to the Caribbean to counter the Russian and American navies. Brazil, emboldened by the Commonwealth’s support, threatened to deport all American, Russian, and Chinese nationalists. The United States and Russia stood down.
A New Charter
In 2053 the Orbital Resources Commonwealth Charter was ratified by every nation on Earth except China. China’s refusal to ratify was met with a blanket ban on access to the space elevator and threats to cut Chinese scientists off from all scientific research conducted by elevator-based assets. Space telescopes, prototype ship drive components, and pieces for a massive orbital station soon started crawling up the elevator.
In 2055 the Chinese surprised the world by launching their own space elevator into orbit with the intent to anchor it on the artificial island known as Fiery Cross Reef. A piece of low orbit space debris struck the Chinese rocket shortly before the elevator strand reached the surface, forcing mission planners to abort the mission and prematurely fire the elevator extension stage. Six weeks later China ratified the Orbital Resources Commonwealth Charter.
A New Dawn
In 2063 astronomers announced the discovery of potentially habitable, Earth-like planets in the Tau Ceti, 82 Eridani, Epsilon Eridani, Kapteyn’s Star, and Gliese 832 systems. Previous surveys had shown the stars had planetary companions but lacked the precision to say there were human habitable planets. The new generation of space telescopes proved this was possible beyond a shadow of a doubt.
2063 also saw the successful testing of two new propulsion systems. An antimatter-fueled rocket launched from Lunar orbit reached the Kuiper Belt in just over two weeks. Two months later an ion propulsion drive capable of accelerating at a constant .1g was launched towards Mars.
2063 ended with the launch of an expedition to the near-Earth asteroid 99942 Apophis with plans to land rocket motors on the asteroid. The intent was to capture the asteroid and draw it into Earth orbit at its next close pass to Earth in 2068. Once in Earth orbit the asteroid could be stripped down for raw materials. The expedition would also offer an invaluable opportunity to practice capturing comets and get a first-hand look at the challenges of asteroid mining.
“The Basquiat Miracle”
2064 began with the United Nations’ declaration of intent to begin the Messenger Program. The technologies tested in the previous year and materials stripped from Apophis would be combined into giant colony ships to send humans out to the newly discovered worlds orbiting distant stars. The United Nations called for the launch of the first ship by the year 2150.
2064 ended with the election of Cecil Basquiat to the office of President of the United States of America. Basquiat ran on a platform of universal disarmament and greater international cooperation. His most ambitious promise was to start a program to scrap 75% of the United States’ weaponry and turn it over to the Messenger Program. He won the 2064 election in a landslide.
Over the course of his first term in office he convinced Russia and China to join his pledge. The world, it seemed, was finally tired of war. The Messenger Project became humanity’s new cause.
Days after Cecil Basquiat’s re-election in 2068 the Brazilian Ambassador to the United Nations spoke on the floor. She proposed a new organization to replace the UN and spearhead humanity’s journey to the stars. Basquiat joined with the Chinese Premier, Russian President, and leaders of all of the old Commonwealth nations in support of the Brazilian plan. Pakistan, India, and Australia signed on almost immediately.
In 2072 Cecil Basquiat’s Vice President, Eleanor Mitchell, was elected President of the United States. In 2073 she signed the United Commonwealth Charter and used the occasion to suggest the new organization elect Cecil Basquiat as the first Governor General. Six months later Governor General Cecil Basquiat announced his intention to launch the first colony ship by the end of the century.
Isimud and Zaqar
The Messenger Program expanded to four ships: the Isimud, Zaqar, Papsukkal, and Anu, all named for Mesopotamian deities. Isimud, Zaqar, and Papsukkal were all messengers of the gods. Anu was the god of the heavens. His messengers would precede him as humanity traveled to the stars.
In 2096 former Governor General Cecil Basquiat ascended the Macapa Space Elevator. He met with the commanders of the colonial groups leaving aboard the Isimud and Zaqar. After a short speech he formally ordered the launch of the first two colony ships. Isimud departed for the Wolf 359 system while Zaqar headed towards Tau Ceti.
Mars, the Asteroid Belt, and Beyond
In 2101 Jerry McCandless and his wife, Mary Leavitt-McCandless, announced the successful testing of the Asynchronous NUclear GRAvitic Drive, or the ANUGRA. The ANUGRA was a major improvement on previous drive technology and allowed accelerations up to 20g with a nearly instantaneous power curve.
Mars was now accessible in a matter of days. Saturn could be reached in a few weeks. The Solar System was ripe for colonization. One hundred thousand colonists descended on Mars by 2103. A small research station was established on Jupiter’s moon Ganymede in 2104.
In 2107 the second generation ANUGRA Drive arrived with a nearly 80% increase in efficiency. Every corner of the Solar System was now easily accessible. Colonists who had signed up to go to the stars on Papsukkal and Anu decided to head to Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn instead. Construction on the massive colony ships ground to a halt.
Piracy and Lawlessness
By the middle of the 22nd Century humanity had colonies on Mars and several moons in the Jupiter and Saturn systems. Miners were digging into the major asteroids and Vesta, Ceres, and Pallas boasted populations of nearly a million each. With new colonies came trade. With new trade came piracy, black markets, and racketeering.
In 2133 the United Commonwealth founded Earth Command. Earth Command’s job was to patrol the trade lanes and stop pirates. The first Earth Command ships were armed freighters. They were inadequate to the task.
In 2147 Earth Command began construction of the Venus Shipyards, a shipyard facility in geosynchronous orbit over the second planet. The purpose of the new facility was to separate Earth Command’s military developments from the rest of humanity. Engineers at Venus drew up plans for a new type of ship.
In 2159 the first purpose-built space warship, ECS Dragon, launched from the shipyards. ECS Phoenix followed two years later. 2162 saw the launch of both ECS Wyvern and ECS Zephyr. Critics of the utilitarian ships dismissed them as “bricks with stardrives” and political cartoonists dubbed them the “Cinder Block-class.”
By 2170 piracy was down by 80%. The comics and pundits stopped laughing. The Dragon-class patrol ships ushered in a new age of utilitarian spaceship design.
The Colonial Authority
As the 23nd Century dawned humanity’s demographics changed. For the first time more humans were living off of Earth than on it. Most of the non-Earth humans lived under the domes of Mars. The United Commonwealth founded the Colonial Authority as an additional avenue for people to bring their needs to their government. A complete reorganization of the United Commonwealth structure followed. The name of the office of Governor General was changed to President to reflect the United Commonwealth’s reach.
In 2192 the colony ship Zaqar reached the Tau Ceti system and found the planet Tau Ceti VI perfect for human settlement. The founding of the city of Shenandoah technically expanded the Colonial Authority’s reach to a whole new star. In 2194 the Zaqar set off towards the 82 Eridani system, its second and final destination.
Ishtar Station and the Golden Age of the Solar System
The first half of the 23rd Century was a time of unprecedented peace and prosperity. By the middle of the century United Commonwealth planners realized they were about to hit a critical point for population growth. As more and more people moved to the Jupiter and Saturn systems food production and transportation was reaching its breaking point. The low gravity on civilian ships and the moons of Saturn and Jupiter also made child birth difficult and any children who were born in low gravity environments were born with weak, brittle bones and short life expectancy. They needed a radical solution to humanity’s emerging problems.
The answer came in the form of the unfinished Papsukkal and Anu. The giant colony ships were fused together and towed out to Jupiter’s L5 Lagrangian point where they were converted into a massive, enclosed farm. Ishtar Station became the central hub for all of humanity between the asteroid belt and the Kuiper Belt. The station also became the jumping-off point for humanity’s most ambitious plan yet: the terraforming of Callisto.
Mars declared that they, through the Colonial Authority, should be in control of the developments at Ishtar and Callisto. The United Commonwealth responded by closing down the Colonial Authority offices. Responsibility for the colonies was transferred to the Upwell Colony Administration based on Ishtar Station.
As the century drew to a close Earth Command planners concluded the four venerable Dragon-class patrol ships were simply no longer adequate to the task of patrolling the entire Solar System. The United Commonwealth authorized the construction of a new class of ships. Four Advocate-class frigates launched from the Venus Shipyards between 2294 and 2296.
In 2301 Martian scientists discovered the Martian moon Deimos was not what it seemed. An alien intelligence had hollowed out the tiny chunk of rock and built a base before humans learned agriculture. For twenty years scientists studied the base and linguists attempted to translate the alien language. In 2324 Dr. Herman Porter translated the alien language. Earth Command responded by militarizing the base and locking down all news of further discoveries.
Mars protested Earth Command’s heavy-handed response. They declared Mars the only legitimate colonial seat and began to refer to themselves as the Colonial Authority again. They also began a program to expand the Martian Shipyards and drew up plans for a new class of Martian warships.
Admiral Erin Belden and the Nightwind Project
In 2337 Earth Command promoted Captain Erin Belden to the rank of admiral and put her in charge of the Department of Requisitions. Belden, age 35, was the youngest admiral in the history of Earth Command. She immediately set about expanding the Venus Shipyards and put Commander Jason Tanaka, a promising ship designer, in charge of a new project to incorporate alien technology into a new class of ship.
Tanaka supervised construction of the corvettes Raven and Coyote to justify the expansion of the Venus Shipyards. Martian observers pointed out that the two new ships were small enough to be constructed in one half of one of the shipyard’s three new slipways. Mars immediately began construction on its first warships, the frigates Spirit, Opportunity, and Curiosity.
In 2346 Jason Tanaka supervised the laying of the keel of humanity’s first faster than light starship, the ECS Nightwind.
2356: The Year that Changes Everything
As 2356 dawns Admiral Erin Belden, now in charge of all of Earth Command, prepares to launch Nightwind. The Colonial Authority, now under the control of a radical, ultra-nationalist faction lead by a man named Robert Laird, prepares for their own moves against Earth Command and the United Commonwealth. Neither one knows that humanity’s place in the universe is about to change dramatically. An ancient alien empire holds the key to humanity’s future. A terrifying alien race threatens humanity’s doom.