Prologue I: The State of the Universe

Earth Union.

When those words were first spoken on international news they carried an immense weight. That weight forced itself into every home and building on three planets.

The unity of the major powers of Earth was the beginning of humanity leaving the Sol system, the Third Wave of Colonisation – the transformation and settlement of the worlds outside the Sol system. The three powers of the economically strong and traditional Asian states, the libertarian democracies of the European nations, and the multi-faceted republics of North American powers compounded their interests into one union.

Soon after, Mars suffered. With its Navy forced into docks by interplanetary agreements its remaining military forces were left stranded. The army of the red planet faced no opposition, yet was faced with a secret, internal war – Earth Union’s newly founded Office of Defence Intelligence Network cut their teeth with the Espionage Units that took the humanitarian technocracy of Mars by complete surprise. As a silent result that later proved to be damning, the new, Martian knowledge of earth shaping was stolen before being completed under the eyes of Earth Union in a race to settle the other planets.

While Mars completed and took their final terraforming experiments to Europa and Ganymede, enabling Jovian colonies to set themselves on a new planetoid for the first time in some generations, Earth Union secretly took up Project Demeter, establishing the first terraformed planet of the same name beyond Pluto.

It was the first step into the new worlds, making Demeter very rich very quickly. Its location in the interstellar neighbourhood was a huge distance from Sol, yet when Martian and Jovian colonists caught onto the Earth Union’s plan they were forced to settle planets just a little further in order to grow and avoid stagnation. It was a calculated risk that placed Earth Union at the top of the economic chain.

In a gigantic explosion of civil expansion the Third Wave of Colonisation continued further into the stars. Mars followed Earth’s largest union in history beyond Sol and eventually Jupiter’s long suffering colonists shadowed the red planet’s path with their own starships.

Martian, and Jove corporations descended upon Earth Union’s gateway planet. This was the intellectual result of schemes that dated years before the prolonged terraforming project that cultured the vast tracts of moorlands, barren heaths, and harsh mountain tundras that made up Demeter, much of which lay rarely overseen and uncultivated where they spread out too far from settled civilisation.

Earth Union did not stop at merely one planet. Not content to merely tax and tariff the trade that came through Demeter to Sol, the Unionists went deeper, settling as many planets as they could within their means, securing the valuable resources that came with expansive territories.

When the Third Wave came to an eventual halt it was as if all wars stopped. Of interplanetary conflicts there was no point to such a thing when the resources that would be put into land wars across a dozen systems would be far more costly than anyone would be able to afford, even with the vast amount of wealth accrued by even the almost imperial Earth Union. Time was one such commodity that the governments could ill afford, and the space between worlds was so vast that it would take weeks, if not months, to travel between systems on the purpose-made Voyager engines. Martian engines that became quickly universal fittings that could easily power ships to travel at a speed that could make the journey from Earth to Mars in three days.

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For more than a decade after Demeter’s settlement the pledge to settle the stars in the Third Wave of Colonisation continued.

Interplanetary peace reigned, with only scant wars – peacekeeping, as Earth Union had put it – cropping up on individual planetoids. Ballistic wars between nations of Earth continued on regardless. The Earth Union itself had taken it upon themselves to become a police force of the planet, being invoked and petitioned by those in conflict. In all the campaigns, as brief as they were in many cases, it was the African nations that had become the most problematic, inevitably becoming the longest in the history of the unity. Terrorism, disease, famine and war both civil and international became a bloody staple of the continent. The great machination of Earth Union attempted interception of any violence, and the recovery of any and all collapsed infrastructure.

Earth Union had become a political machine, monstrous in its bureaucratic scale. It had become a body of states where its movement had depended on the fluctuation of the public opinion. The stagnating internet gave way to the Array where, in this advanced civilisation, computerisation had long spanned the stars where information was spread across the universe by humans in their vessels. A sea of information lay in parallel to the physical dimension that they inhabited, and in this demeanour had garnered its own alternate reality that gave the voice of the people a deafening volume.

When the Mandate declared themselves, planet after planet under Earth Union’s flag declared themselves independent of their parent government. The Martian machine and the eye of Jove lost influence too, given the revolutionist’s ideals, and in the race to define the frontier of space they were losing. Earth Union had the number to carve a small empire under half a dozen stars, which meant that of all the colonies established out there in the Third Wave it was Earth Union who was losing the most power, if only in terms of numbers.

Underground Mandate cells had made themselves known when Demeter first announced itself as an independent planet, appearing on Demeter at tactical locations all over the planet. Key areas were occupied with the Mandate digging themselves into defenses all over settlements, power stations and atmo-processors like parasites. Even Highgate, the capital of the planet and seat of governance on Demeter, was held hostage by the strangling hold of the revolution.

Demeter itself was the gate to the third wave of colony systems, making it a firm, main hub of commerce. The fleets of ships that translated into the Demetian system refueled here. This meant money was spent on the services offered, not just on the orbital platforms, but in the cities planetside.

It was the first step into the new worlds, making Demeter very rich very quickly. Its location in the interstellar neighbourhood afforded great value to the sublunary of Earth Union, and the Earth, Martian, and Jove corporations descended down onto the gateway planet. This was the result of schemes that dated years before the prolonged terraforming project that cultured the vast tracts of moorlands, barren heaths, and harsh mountain tundras that make up Demeter, much of which now lies rarely overseen and uncultivated where they spread out too far from civilisation.

For more than a decade after Demetian settlement the continuing pledge to settle the stars beyond in the golden Third Wave of Colonisation continued. When the Mandate declared themselves, planet after planet under Earth Union’s flag declared themselves independent of their parent government. What fighting there was consisted of relatively small garrisoned forces of thousands of Unionist troops against thousands more revolutionary citizens – those who took up the cause and those proclaiming their membership of the new Mandate.

The Martian machine and the eye of Jove lost influence too, given the revolutionist’s ideals, and in the race to define the frontier of space they were losing. Earth Union had the number to carve a small empire under half a dozen stars, which meant that of all the colonies established out there in the Third Wave it was Earth Union who was losing the most power. At least in terms of numbers.

Mandate spread across the third wave systems like covalent bonds, touching each world adjacent to another, spreading their will, waking up the sleeping titan of Earth Union’s military might. Mars shuddered when the first fleet activated full burn, making them a 1 g thunderbolt before translating barely outside of the belt. Taskforce Tartarus arrived in view of Demeter like an angry deity, and it cast a titanic eye on those who had toppled their temples and smashed their statues.

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– by Kier Sparey

© Copyright Kier Sparey 2015