Excerpt - Post-Earth History | Starborne

Excerpt - Post-Earth History

Tue Nov 24 2020 (Updated: Thu Jan 28 2021) - 7 min read

Lore

Excerpt from Post-Earth History by W. W. Dunstmann

27th Revised edition, Atlas Education Inc.

Introduction

Unbelievable as it may seem today, the vast majority of human history played out on a single planet. Only in the last few hundred years has humanity expanded across the stars. This datasheet aims to delve into the major phases and events of this most recent and dynamic era in human history.

It shall be noted that all references to years are made under the universal standard time convention based on the old Terran Calendar. Given the scope of this sheet, only the most salient developments are mentioned, and many details omitted for the sake of brevity.

The Late Terran Age

The decline of Earth

Although humanity first forayed into space in the middle of the 20th century, there is a general consensus among historians that the ‘space era’ truly began with the advent of inter-planetary activity. When compared to the vast ocean of space, the short crossing from the Earth to its satellite was little more than a skip across a puddle.

Despite rapid progress in computer and communications technology, the period between 1957 and 2073, known as the ‘Late Terran Age’, was marked by violent conflict and the general decline of human society.

Low G Luxury
A marvel of engineering and systems design, the orbital habitat Scipio was completed in 2050. Fully self-sustaining, the station served as a research installation as well as a jumping-off point for shuttles to and from the moon. It also boasted a range of luxury apartments and cutting-edge amenities for its small, semi-permanent population of multi-billionaires and VIPs. On the Scipio, the top 1% of the 1% believed they’d found a safe haven, a life free from the mounting pressures of a troubled Earth.

By the middle of the 21st century the Earth’s ecosystems had all but collapsed. Many of the planet’s coastal cities were claimed by rising sea levels, the largest of which was Shanghai, where more than 45 million residents were forced to evacuate. Diminishing crop yields, exacerbated by income inequality and the climate crisis, led to a global refugee population that at its height exceeded half a billion people. At the same time, there was a marked exodus of capital and power to orbital installations such as the Scipio habitat and the fledgling lunar colonies.

These and other pressures led to a series of confrontations between the leading military powers. For years, the threat of mutual assured destruction had kept the worst tendencies of the species in check, but now the delicate equilibrium was tottering. The tipping point came with the 15 Day War of 2072 and the indiscriminate use of weapons of mass destruction. In the wake of the nuclear cataclysm, life in space became the safest option. Spared from the fire, the privileged now looked down on a decimated world.

The Lunar Silver Age

Spaceward shift

In the aftermath of the 15 Day War, the lunar colonies underwent a systemic reorganization of their corporate and political infrastructure. A new ‘lunar consciousness’ was arising, and the common refrain “Why should the people of Earth govern us when they cannot govern themselves?” captured the sentiment of the period. In 2074, the Lunar Directorate was founded as a neutral arbiter of the settlements scattered across Luna. The resulting period of expansion from 2074 to 2144 is often characterized as the ‘Lunar Silver Age.’

Very few of the historical trends of the period were influenced by events on Earth. Much of the planet’s surface was either uninhabitable or ruled over by minor warlords or other short-lived regimes. Almost all scientific and social progress took place on orbital habitats and in the rapidly expanding lunar colony. Mineral yields from asteroid mining overtook crippled Terran production for the first time in 2081, and within a generation, the Earth’s most valuable commodity had become its people, lifted by the thousands to fuel the economy of space. 

Escalating protests against Terra’s second-class status led to the rise of several terror organizations, most notably “Blue Ancestry”, the group which claimed responsibility for the destruction of the Scipio in 2086. Despite these challenges, the Lunar Directorate proved itself a capable steward of the solar system’s economy. The relative peace and prosperity enjoyed by the offworld population resulted in a flourishing of the arts. Much attention was paid to the conditions of people on Earth. Ysbel Arraiz-Gavas, one of the era’s most celebrated literary figures, summed up the prevailing mood in her poem ‘Pale Light’:

To you, poor child of Earth, 
the moon’s scars are as shadows,
and our dust shines like silver.
To me, daughter of Luna, 
your blue waters are untainted
by the blood of fallen man.

Outward expansion continued apace. Key milestones included the foundation of the Mars Colony in 2095 as well as the Europa Outpost in 2103. The first Martian land auction was held in 2099, with millions of square kilometers around Olympus Mons sold as territories to private interests.

‘Go Red Young Man’
During the Lunar Silver Age, hundreds of thousands of Terran migrants made the difficult journey to Mars. Boosted by the promise of ‘land to the tiller’, the Martian population surpassed that of the lunar colony in 2126. However, very few of these new settlers enjoyed the fruits of their efforts, as exploitative labor practices and an abusive legal system funnelled much of the wealth back into the hands of the ruling class.

Early Martian construction, ca. 2112.

First Lunar-Martian War and Martian Independence

As the Martian population swelled, there was a growing sense that its interests were not adequately represented within the Directorate hierarchy. Bitterness surrounding the lunar taxation of Martian landowners fueled the desire for change. In 2127, the landowners banded together as the Mars Economic League (MEL) to press their case in a more organized fashion.

After peaceful appeals and diplomatic efforts failed, the MEL took more drastic measures, beginning with a general strike in 2133. When Lunar authorities threatened to boycott Martian imports, MEL-aligned security forces and private military contractors occupied major Martian space ports and orbiting stations. Soon after, the MEL was branded a rogue military force. Although no formal war declaration was made, the ensuing conflict is now known as the 1st Lunar-Martian War.

The combat underscored the logistical limitations of the period. The Lunar Directorate assembled what at the time was the largest ever fleet of space faring vessels, and drafted 50,000 marines from the ranks of Terran paramilitary forces. Several of the vessels were destroyed in near-Mars orbit, and despite the successful landing of 35,000 troops on Mars’ southern pole, the lunar offensive was easily routed by the numerical superiority of the MEL militia.

Martian command retaliated by launching Inter-Planetary Nuclear Missiles (IPNMs) at the lunar capital of Tranquility. However, these were easily detected and intercepted en-route. Given the time and difficulty of travel within the solar system, both sides were faced with the high cost of maintaining and developing fleets that were incapable of scoring a decisive strike. 

After years of small skirmishes and economic embargoes across the system, a series of negotiations culminated in the Treaty of Radiant 25-I. This document formally recognized Martian independence, concluded a peace settlement between the MEL and the Directorate, and provided a framework for Martian transition to nationhood.

The Lunar Golden Age

Martian nationhood

After independence, political authority on Mars was invested with the “Martian Commonwealth”, a skeleton state with minimal responsibilities and few powers of taxation. Overseen by the Assembly of Peers, each member state was equally represented within the Commonwealth, though major policy decisions and most of the real power remained with the owners-cum-rulers of the individual territories.

With the political goals of the MEL effectively accomplished, the organization transitioned into a private entity responsible for advancing economic cooperation and was rebranded as the Mars Prosper League (MPL). The League proved extremely effective, helping to integrate the varying (and often contradictory) interests of the Commonwealth’s member states. While formally an independent conglomerate, it was popularly regarded as an integral part of the Martian political framework. During the period, Martian relations with the Lunar Directorate remained peaceful, allowing for record growth in both GDP and population size in both nations.

The birth of Tenebris

In 2177, a team of Lunar Researchers led by Dr. Eloise Tsai achieved the first technological singularity, an Advanced Artificial Intelligence (AAI) capable of self-actualizing far beyond the capabilities of its human designers. As its cognitive functionality quickly passed beyond human understanding, it was dubbed “Tenebris”, Latin for “darkness.” The system quickly assumed the role of a benevolent and seemingly infallible resource for the betterment of mankind. Given its rapid development, the creation of further AAI projects was deemed impractical, and most modern AI systems are derived from a Tenebris base.

The advent of the singularity

Energy-tech Revolution and Sol Dyson Project

The existence of AAI-calculations unlocked a new era of technological progress that led to rapidly shifting economic and social paradigms. As new principles in physics were applied, old industries were replaced with new, and populations thrived.

Developments in negative energy formation led to the invention of the Tenebris-Rosen-Bridge-Generator (TRB-Generator), a device capable of manipulating space-time in an effort to facilitate FTL transport. At first these “bridges” were limited by the incredible amounts of energy required, and initial efforts at extrasolar exploration were stymied.

Faster Than Light
The first activation of an experimental TRB-Generator in 2192 resulted in the death of 117 scientists when their station’s hull was ruptured by a collapse in the containment field. It would not be until 2208 that the first manned TRB shuttle made the passage through an FTL bridge, traveling from Jupiter to a docking station near Earth in just under twenty minutes.

The need for an unlimited energy source led to the grandest project in human history – the creation of the Sol Dyson Sphere. Energy harvested through careful extraction and conversion of the sun’s plasma permitted building on a scale previously unimaginable. Even so, the project would take 52 years to complete. To oversee this generational effort, a handful of megacorporations, as well as the Lunar and Martian authorities, founded the Terran Combine, which later became the dominant conglomerate in the field of space construction technology.

Delegates arrive at the opening of the Sol Dyson Sphere in 2442

At the stroke of midnight on January 1st, 2442 the Sol Dyson Sphere was activated. Opening ceremonies were attended by delegates from both the Lunar Directorate and Martian Commonwealth. Notably absent were representatives of the Terran trade unions principally responsible for the manpower that built the sphere, if not its design. 

Two years after the Sol Dyson Sphere went online, the first TRB generator in a stationary solar orbit was completed, allowing for the creation of interstellar bridges. At long last, humanity had unlocked the stars.