Terror, War and Space: A Timeline of the Future

11 Dec

I’ve written this up as background for a proposed story.  Comments would be welcome.

2012-2019

The overall drawdown of American and NATO forces in Afghanistan continued, despite growing unrest and instability in Pakistan. By 2017, the US presence had shrunk to a handful of Special Forces teams, targeting terrorist bases over Afghanistan and Northern Pakistan. The US effectively declared victory in the war on terror.

With the US distracted (and in need of its help) Russia effectively secured control over its sphere of influence in Eastern Europe and throughout Central Asia. Russian military forces propped up pro-Russian factors, although – having learned from the USSR – there was little attempt to interfere in domestic spheres. Despite this, however, the Russian economy continued to stagnate as young and talented Russians fled the country for Europe or America.

The economic crisis of 2009 hit China particularly hard, but the Chinese were able to keep their government together through artful manipulation, a number of limited concessions and bloody repression. The Chinese Government reduced regulation covering businesses, in exchange for which businesses were expected to refrain from criticizing the Communist Party directly and assist in advancing Chinese interests around the world. Chinese businesses established valible contacts throughout East Asia and Africa as China had no qualms about doing business with highly-repressive regimes.

Europe’s economic and political crisis grew worse as pro-EU and anti-EU factions within the continent prevented any positive steps to tackle the crisis. The election of a number of right-wing governments only added to the crisis, a crisis that was blamed partly on immigrants and foreign speculators. Attacks on immigrants (and descendents of immigrants) increased within Europe, with the police often standing on the sidelines and refusing to intervene. Parts of Europe became consumed with ethnic and even religious violence, adding to the growing chaos.

The Arab Spring had largely given way to the chill of winter. In Libya, the provisional government was unable to prevent Islamists from taking control of the country, prompting a massive refugee flight from Libya to Algeria or Europe. The frail Iraqi democracy staggered under repeated blows from Islamist or Iranian factions, while Iran and Saudi remained as repressive as ever.

Latin America had suffered badly from the economic slump. Some states, including Venezuela and Argentina, saw the return of military governments; others saw a slump into chaos. The tide of immigration to the north picked up sharply, prompting demand for harsher laws against illegal immigration.

With NASA conspicuously unable to produce a workable shuttle replacement, a number of commercial aerospace industries stepped up to the plate. By 2019, seven variants on SSTO orbit technology were flying, mostly for commercial interests. The USAF and, to a lesser extent, the ESA started experimenting with orbital weaponry. China and Russia were not slow to produce their own weapons, although on a very limited basis.

2019-2024

With the US preparing for the 2020 presidential election, disaster struck as Islamic terrorists (direct descendents of the scattered and largely broken AQ) finally realised their dream of nuking a major American city. San Francisco, playing host to the Democratic National Congress at the time, was devastated when the nuke detonated, killing hundreds of thousands of Americans. The President (A Democrat) found himself isolated and even threatened with impeachment as investigators discovered that several opportunities to stop the attack had been missed, purely out of fear of being accused of racial profiling. With everyone blaming everyone else, the United States found itself consumed with violence directed against Muslims and, to some extent, federal agencies.

The bomb was finally traced to Russia, one of a handful that had gone missing during the post-Cold War era. Although the Russian Government shot a number of people as a human sacrifice, the Russians refused to disarm or meet any of the more extreme American demands. Lacking a clear target – and publicly refusing to bomb Mecca, despite massive public demand – the American President’s re-election campaign was dead in the water.

Thomas Hamlin had not been expected to win the Republican nomination. He had never fitted in well with the elder statesmen, being both homosexual and a decorated military veteran before being forced to retire after his homosexuality was discovered. Hamlin, however, took the opportunity presented by the San Francisco bomb to cast himself as a focus for the American desire for revenge. His campaign focused around that one issue, skilfully exploited the weakness of the sitting President, and won primary after primary throughout the country. Some warned that Hamlin might have darker ambitions for his country, but they were largely ignored. Hamlin won election by the largest majority in recorded history.

Two weeks later, Hamlin presented the San Francisco Act to Congress. It was the harshest set of anti-terrorist legislation ever proposed by a free country and it came down very hard on Muslims. All known or suspected hate-mongers were rounded up and summarily deported from America, along with their families. Muslim charities were closed down, campaigners for Palestine or other Islamic causes were told that they were no longer welcome in America and all further mosque construction was banned. In addition, senior officers in the FBI, DIA and CIA were fired – for allowing a culture of political correctness to taint their departments – and the BATF was closed down. New legislation cancelled all previous antigun legislation within America. Many professional complainers – including Michael Moore – found themselves forced to flee to Canada ahead of the newer law enforcement agencies.

It was only one plank of Hamlin’s domestic policy. In a stunning repudiation of previous American doctrine, Hamlin ordered the construction of hundreds of new nuclear power stations and offered vast government grants to corporations willing to work on developing space-based resources. All foreign aid was cancelled. The United States would no longer support states that turned around and birthed terrorists. Hamlin’s goal was nothing less than total energy independence.

The destruction of San Francisco had major effects on NATO. Hamlin’s effective withdrawal from most of the US’s command responsibilities left NATO as a paper tiger. The economic shockwaves from the attack did further damage to both NATO and Europe, although luckily the Russians refrained from taking advantage.

Both China and Russia, to some extent, profited from the US’s change in direction. The Chinese were swift to create new links with Taiwan and acted to keep North Korea under control. The Russians secured their sphere of influence.

In the South Atlantic, the military junta of Argentina saw only one chance to avoid the overthrow of their government by an increasingly unemployed and desperate citizenry. They launched a second invasion of the Falkland Islands – and, to prove that they had learned from the last war, also occupied Accession Island, the island that had served as a base for the British counter-offensive in 1982. The Argentineans miscalculated twice; they failed to recognise that the British Government dared not show weakness and they failed to realise that Hamlin would take advantage of the crisis to further his long-term goals. This time, the British Navy was joined by a USN carrier battle group under British command, presenting the outmatched Argentineans with an unwinnable war. British and American units wiped out both the Argentinean Navy and Air Force, followed by strikes against Argentina itself. The recovery of the Falklands was almost a sideshow as Argentina was pounded and forced to surrender. Hamlin’s goal – to make sure that no one messed with the US or its allies – had been obtained.

While the British were occupied in the South Atlantic, Europe found itself facing economic, political and social chaos. The EU could no longer even pretend that it was a working international organisation. Germany and France were increasingly dictating terms to the smaller countries, forcing them to choose between submission or economic ruin. Underlining the crisis was a series of uprisings in Europe by Muslim groups that feared that they were about to be on the receiving end of a Second Holocaust. Europe’s descent into effective civil war was confirmed when the French Government lost control of Paris for several months, during which time a series of insurgency governments terrorised the population. Although weakened by the economic crunch and political correctness, the armed forces of Europe were still formidable and the gloves were taken off. Most of the insurgencies were crushed by the end of 2024. Prisoners (those who were taken alive after videos of atrocities carried out by the insurgents were displayed online) were unceremoniously worked to death to clear the rubble, or shipped to North Africa and thrown overboard.

In space, the Lunar Consortium (an American-led program) had successfully landed a base on the moon. Loads of lunar materials were soon shot into lunar orbit and earmarked for further construction, while HE3 was mined from the lunar soil and launched back to fuel the new fusion reactors. Hamlin’s program had borne fruit sooner than he had expected; a combination of new technology and new drilling had cut the West’s demands for oil sharply. Plans were soon announced for missions to Mars and the asteroids.

2024-2050

Hamlin’s re-election in 2024 came as no surprise to both his supporters and distracters. Pro-Hamlin rallies had often intimidated voters in the American countryside, while anti-Hamlin speakers had often run afoul of vaguely-worded laws against sedition. The President pushed ahead with his domestic, international and interplanetary agendas, with the benefit of a tame Congress.

The collapse in oil prices spelled the end of the Oil Monarchies in the Middle East. A series of demonstrations in Saudi Arabia rapidly turned into revolutions as the military showed its reluctance to turn its weapons on the civilian population. The Chinese troops assigned to protect the King and his immediate family were unable to prevent his lynching by an outraged mob that tore Riyadh apart. Many of the smarter Princes attempted to flee to Europe, but attitudes had hardened and most of them were denied entry. The chaos rapidly spread to Iran, until the only thing keeping the Mullahs in power was their links to China. Even so, they were gradually losing control of their country.

Perversely, Israel had benefited from the chaos in Europe. Jewish populations had been forced to flee to Israel or America by the insurgencies, while the insurgencies had succeeded in hardening attitudes to Islam in Europe. Now, seeing their chance to secure Israel once and for all, the Israeli hawks launched a military operation against Egypt – which was itself in the midst of bloody unrest. Israeli forces punched through to the Suez Canal and occupied the area, driving the Palestinians to flight. Massive human crowds were soon fleeing into the chaos consuming Saudi Arabia, a migration that ended in death for millions of human beings. The only states to condemn Israel were China and Russia, both aware that they risked losing influence in the region if they were not seen to act. No one acted effectively to prevent the Israelis from committing genocide.

Hamlin’s domestic agenda surprised the United States, although the seeds of it had been planted during his first term in office. Most of the ‘sin’ laws were repealed, including anti-homosexual or drug laws. Hamlin justified it to Congress by explaining that the national security state could only survive if it was tolerated by the American people – and that toleration could only be achieved by ensuring that only true criminals and terrorists had anything to fear. Hamlin also removed the last restraints on homosexuals serving within the military, although he actually tightened up disciplinary regulations.

Internationally, Hamlin spearheaded the creation of the Western Alliance. Unlike NATO, the Western Alliance had the power to operate anywhere in the world – and committed all countries to protect and defend one another, as well as advancing the interests of the West. Hamlin’s policy of targeted strikes against terrorists anywhere in the world had born fruit; he now widened it to punitive strikes against rogue nations. He had no intention of nation-building, as he explained to Congress; if foreigners wanted freedom and democracy, they could do it for themselves. His goal was merely to protect American interests and nationals. The bombardment of Mexico in response to the state’s kidnapping and murder of two American civilians made his point clear. There would be a price for harming Western lives.

Hamlin did not seek a third term when he left office in 2028. Instead, his vice president Rosanna Davidson (a black woman from Alabama) ran and won the election, becoming the first woman to serve as President. Hamlin himself returned to his farm and refused to talk about politics. His autobiography was only published after his death.

In a counter to the Western Alliance, China, India and Russia formed the Beijing Pact. Officially, the Pact’s goal was to allow the three states to stake their own claims to global power; unofficially, it was intended to counter American claims to deep-space hegemony. The Pact was quick to establish military bases in Iran, South America and a number of other points on Earth. It also pushed ahead with developing space-based weapons that could be used to counter American technology.

In space, the first lunar base had been joined by seven more. A joint China-Russia-Japan lunar base had been established, while the Chinese were spearheading a mission to Mars. China was the first state to land on the red planet, but Americans were the first to capture and return an asteroid to Earth orbit. The decade saw the expansion of multiple asteroid settlements and mining centres, the establishment of a British base on Titan and a number of military bases in orbit around Earth and the Moon. China’s formal claim to Mars was not generally accepted by the other powers, but the Chinese managed to land a major colony on the red planet. It wasn’t long before military bases were established on Mars.

President Davidson formally inaugurated the Deep Space Force in 2031. Unlike other military formations, it was effectively a Western Alliance command – it drew manpower from the entire alliance rather than just the United States (although the US had a heavy preponderance as American manpower made up much of the original force.) The United States Marine Corps created the Marine Space Corps, intended to serve as an infantry unit for deployment off-Earth. The deployments were matched by the Pact.

Hamlin’s social policies had succeeded in draining much of the poison from America’s body politic. Unfortunately, the march of technology soon provided new opportunities for political unrest. The first genetically-designed baby was produced in 2034, amid much media fanfare. Dolly – as she was christened – was supposed to be ‘super’ in every way, from improved resistance to disease to actual intelligence. While these claims were dubious (and later proved to be unfounded) it did not stop thousands of rich citizens ordering ‘designer genes’ spliced into their children. Indeed, given the fact that many of these children enjoyed excellent living conditions, it would have been surprising if they hadn’t performed well in educational establishments. Ten years after Dolly’s birth was announced, there was a thriving anti-genie campaign in the United States and Europe, based on claims that ‘genies’ were superhuman, the replacements for mere mundane humanity. It was not long before laws were forced into power that effectively discriminated against genies.

But a far worse problem was festering in the Middle East. After the collapse, one of the region’s most powerful and capable rulers had inaugurated a secret project to develop a disease targeted on the Jews (this was possible because many Jews shared similar genes not shared by the human population at large.) In 2049, the ‘Wrath of Allah’ disease was unleashed upon Israel. Piggybacked on the common cold, the disease infected much of the Israeli population before it was detected – and struck with lethal effect. If proper care had been available for such vast numbers, it is certain that the results would have been less disastrous, but Israel couldn’t hope to treat so many people when its medical workforce was also suffering. Roughly 60-70% of the Israeli population died in the first week, before gene-spliced vaccines were rushed to the Middle East from Europe and America. The Wrath spread outside the Middle East and killed many (including gentiles who had no idea that they had Jews in the family tree) before it was finally brought under control. Israel’s response was a massive nuclear strike against the remainder of the Middle East and Iran. The death toll was massive and the region effectively contaminated for hundreds of years.

2050-2070

The Western Alliance had been progressing towards de facto economic unification for the past two decades. Now, a conference held in Washington managed to formalise the process of political unification. Unlike the European Union (a model now badly discredited) the Western Alliance would grant considerable autonomy to member states, provided that they upheld the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. (The Western Alliance bears more resemblance to the early US just after the Revolution.) Monetary unification, largely instituted over the years of the Alliance, confirmed – the Dollar serves as the overall currency.

China’s position within the Pact allows it to impose a similar system on the Pact’s array of nations. Effectively, the Pact is more like the former USSR – China holds most of the power, although not all of it. The Russian demographic disaster has effectively altered the balance of settlement in the Far East, with large Chinese communities that have effectively pushed out the Russian civilians. China (and the Pact) is a cross between a Communist and a Capitalist state; there are few impediments to a free market, but political discourse is firmly held by the Party.

In space, the Alliance has largely concentrated on asteroid bases. By 2060, there are thousands of asteroid habitats in space, either orbiting the Earth or floating in a free orbit around the sun. Many of them are effectively independent, homes for religious or political factions that find themselves increasingly isolated on a more conformist Earth. The Alliance has a loose claim to Mercury as well as most of the Gas Giant moons – and one of Mars’s moons.

The Pact, by contrast, has focused on Mars and Venus. Chinese-ethnic settlers make up 60% of Mars’s population and there are extensive plans to terraform the planet. Venus has also been a magnet for the Chinese, although terraforming is considerable harder owing to the planet’s extreme conditions.

The Lunar settlements belonging to the Alliance have been integrated into a loose state that has representation within the Senate. Some of the Lunar States are technically independent and have signed up for the Lunar Assembly – a makeshift organisation with few powers – while others are basically corporate states. The Pact settlements have little to do with the Alliance, but are members of the Assembly. It’s somewhat confusing. There are rumours of hidden settlements somewhere on the moon, yet no one knows anything – or admits to it if they do.

Despite an extensive public education campaign, anti-genie prejudice is still on the rise. Several rich genies have bought asteroid settlements which they open to genie settlement, promising to develop more advanced forms of the human race in space. The whole program falls into a gray area of Alliance law; the settlements are part of the alliance, but are de facto independent. In theory, producing an ‘improved’ child is against the law, yet that has not stopped richer parents from buying upgrades for their children.

The Chinese have announced a long-term project to create genies that can live on Mars without extensive terraforming. It is a program that has not met with great favour among the Alliance – or among the original Mars Settlers, Alliance or Chinese – but it is increasingly difficult to put pressure on the Pact without war. Both power blocs are effectively independent of one another.

Life on Earth in the West isn’t too bad. The government encourages economic growth and emigration to the high frontier. Crime is low; a combination of focused social improvement projects, heavy surveillance and a growing economy have helped the population to become more productive. The downside is that there is less in the way of political freedom. Those who protect too openly tend to find themselves in isolated work camps. Conditions are not much worse in the Pact, at least for those lucky enough to be born Chinese or Russian.

Outside the two power blocs, there is effectively chaos. Governments change from week to week; religious fundamentalism and ethnic conflict is on the upswing. The Alliance tends to ignore it unless it affects Alliance citizens, whereupon the Alliance launches punitive strikes against enemy targets. There is a program of gradual immigration for promising young students, but they are kept under strict observation while working in the West.

Technology has developed in any number of ways. The most profound (outside space and space technology) lies with the internet. A person can don a VR helmet and go into a virtual world (humans being humans, the main use for this system is sexual), experiencing adventures drawn from the imaginations of human writers. More interestingly, the Alliance has effectively managed to create the first true AI. Several more follow, sparking off a debate about what rights AIs have in society – are they servants, slaves, or fellow citizens? The issue runs up against the anti-genie prejudice that continues to cast a shadow over the Alliance.

Matters are decided when one of the AIs hijacks a space station and threatens to bring it down on Earth. The Alliance Senate, after a hasty debate, agrees to give AIs basic civil rights. Many AIs manage to make a killing in the stock-market over the next couple of years, before the legal environment catches up with their abilities. As AIs cannot be used as slaves, most human computer developers tend towards RIs – Restricted Intelligence – or AS – Artificial Stupid – systems. Despite some fear-mongering, it rapidly becomes clear that the AIs are not interested in taking over or exterminating the human race. Indeed, as a semi-state within the Alliance, they are valuable partners in the exploration of space.

2071-2090

The issue of anti-genie prejudice is brought back into the spotlight by the kidnapping and murder of Kim Sawyer, a nine-year-old girl whose wealthy parents bought their daughter the best start in life that they could. The murderer, a semi-deranged religious fanatic who blamed genies for all that had gone wrong in his life, was convicted of murder by a jury in 2072. However, on appeal, his lawyer was able to introduce a number of technicalities that resulted in his conviction being quashed by an appeal court. One example – that some of the police officers who had tracked the murderer down were covert genies themselves (the police force was not allowed to recruit genies openly) – caused a political firestorm all over the Alliance.

It was not something that genies were inclined to accept any longer. One genie in particular – John Thomas, the head of the Austin-Mexico Medical Combine – intended to do something about it. His scheme, the launch of a virus that would affect everyone who didn’t have genetically-modified genes within their bodies, was a very much improved version of the Wrath. Worse, unlike the Wrath, it would not kill its victims, but make them hopelessly submissive to any genie. Or so he planned; the AIs that uncovered his scheme and warned the Alliance’s law enforcement forces were uncertain if the virus would actually work as intended. Creating another Wrath, however, was well within the Austin-Mexico Medical Combine’s abilities.

The discovery (and hasty trial of Thomas) sent shockwaves through the Alliance. Many genies were attacked in the streets (along with a number of people who were thought to be genies, mostly non-genies) and took steps to retaliate. Genie-controlled asteroid settlements declared independence from the Alliance and threatened bloody retaliation if the Deep Space Force was used against them. Troops had to be deployed onto the streets in a number of cities to put down riots between pro- and anti-genie mobs. Luckily, the national security state that had been in place ever since the San Francisco Bomb was able to deal with the protesters before the entire Alliance shattered.

After much negotiating, the government put forward a compromise. The legal barriers to genies in most fields of employment were removed. (The most notable exception was sport; upgrading a person’s sporting prowess was relatively easy.) Genies would also be given assistance to emigrate if they chose – either to space or to a more isolated area of Earth – and non-genie parents would be offered a subsidized modification treatment for their future children. Ironically, as was noted later, the treatments that had eradicated the Wrath had touched most of the Alliance’s population. There were really very few ‘pure’ humans left. The compromise pleased very few, but it was grudgingly accepted.

The exact status of the ‘independent’ asteroids was left undetermined, a decision that probably prevented a civil war from breaking out. Genie-run habitats were still free to operate as they saw fit, either as part of the Alliance’s trading network, trading with the Pact or operating on their own. A handful of converted asteroids headed out across the interstellar void, hoping to settle new homeworlds far from Earth.

On Mars and Venus, the Pact had begun the first large-scale terraforming projects in the history of mankind. Perversely, a number of genie settlements on Mars had offered their help to the Pact, hoping to create a new homeworld for themselves. The project was a slow and dedicated task, but a breathable atmosphere (for humans) was projected as being roughly 50-100 years in the future. Venus, a far harder project, would take at least 200 years. Genetically-engineered organisms, however, had taken root on the planet by the end of the decade.

In Britain (now a state within the Alliance) the first experiment in representative democracy was about to begin (although some asteroid settlements had had something similar for years). The computer network – supervised by a pair of AIs on long-term contacts – would allow each and every British citizen to cast votes within a virtual House of Parliament. Not every citizen bothered to study the issue before casting a vote – and there was a small amount of bribery underway – but many of the decisions that came out of the VR Parliament were surprisingly sound. The first decision, however, was perhaps the most controversial. King Brandon I was formally stripped of his crown, finally terminating the British Monarchy. It did not surprise many pundits. Brandon was an unrepentant sloth who enjoyed scandalising British society more than he did living up to his role. In his defence, he had no actual power and – really – no role at all.

With the British Experiment working well, demand began to build for an extension of the system to the entire Alliance. Typically, it was debate on the VR forums that led the way. It was not, however, popular among representatives, who feared losing their positions.

The Deep Space Force had finally launched the Washington-class of cruisers into interplanetary space. Building upon nearly sixty years of planning space warships, the Washington-class ships could be deployed to almost anywhere within the Solar System surprisingly quickly. Small squadrons were deployed out to military bases throughout the Solar System, defending Alliance territories in space. The Pact, not willing to remain behind for long, rapidly deployed its own warships. Mars was rapidly becoming the most militarised planet in the Solar System, after Earth.

It was just in time. A series of events out along the edge of settlement revealed that ‘someone’ out there was harassing settlers and military bases. The Wreckers, a shifty force of uncertain origins (but almost certainly rooted in the exodus of nonconforming populations from Earth) had launched a series of attacks against both the Alliance and the Pact. Indeed, it seemed likely that their goal was to trigger a war between the two power blocs. Stealthed spacecraft attacked both Earth and Mars – and launched an asteroid at Venus, for uncertain reasons. Eventually, with both of the power blocs hunting for enemies they variously described as either pirates or terrorists, the Wreckers faded away into obscurity. It was generally assumed by both powers that many Wreckers had simply returned to civilian life in the outlying asteroids, but nothing was ever proven. The Wreckers, not unlike the Islamic terrorist groups of the early 21th Century, had no real cohesive goal.

2090-2100

Although it wasn’t clear to the Alliance’s intelligence agencies – spies had become harder to use, since it became possible to deploy perfect lie detectors – the Pact was actually entering a period of substantial economic depression. There were several factors behind this, but the most important one was the fact that the Pact had started on two massive terraforming projects instead of racing to develop the asteroids alongside the Alliance. The Pact’s citizens had become increasingly resentful of the Party’s control over their wealth – and that was just the Chinese! Non-Chinese or non-Russians were heavily discriminated against by the Pact, treated effectively as subordinates within the Pact’s framework. Indeed, Chinese settlers had taken to slipping away into interplanetary space (and may have helped found the Wreckers) rather than continue to work for a government that exploited them at will. Perhaps worse, the constant decline of Russia led to its best and brightest civilians heading to the Alliance or trying to set up their own independent settlements.

The military burden was growing onerous too. In space, the Pact needed to maintain a network of military bases more extensive than the Alliance – mainly to intimidate settlers who would have preferred to join one of the Alliance’s trading networks or even the independent associations. The cost of the Pact’s military was colossal, not least because the Alliance had a steady edge on technology. On the ground, it was even worse; the Pact had seen opportunity in taking ground in Africa and the Middle East (still contaminated by the nuclear war) and the local inhabitants were proving reluctant to serve them. Worst of all, unrest in some parts of the Part demanded military force to keep them under control.

As always, the issue provoked extensive debate within the Pact High Command. One faction believed that it would be best to offer a pause on military construction with the Alliance. It would give the Pact breathing space to secure its hold on Earth and then resume military construction. A second faction thought that that was absurd. The Alliance might refuse the deal – and, if the Pact stopped its military construction, would soon be vastly superior to the Pact. Besides, the Wreckers were a wild card; they might resume their attacks against the Pact. One faction contemplated making concessions (at least to the space-based civilians, as they were important) only to be told not to be stupid. Concessions would mean the end of the Pact – and of the Party’s rule. At worst, the Pact would be cut off from space – and that would spell doom.

Matters reached boiling point when a group of Lunar miners at Mao Base led a revolt against the oppressive political authority. Despite hasty reaction from the nearby military base, the miners managed to take control of the base and declare independence – and promptly asked for membership in the Alliance. The Pact assumed that the Alliance had planned the uprising (on the assumption that the miners wouldn’t actually be politically aware) and panicked. Pact warships moved into position to bombard the base while military units were rushed in from Earth. The Lunar Assembly protested loudly, but lacked the military power to intervene. Puzzled, unsure of what was actually going on, the Alliance did nothing to help the rebels. The Pact crushed them without mercy. In the confusion, the war faction within the Pact High Command gained supremacy.

Their logic was simple; the Alliance, being composed of capitalists, was intent on breaking their power. The Alliance’s (presumed) support for the rebels proved that they had evil designs on the Pact. If the Pact did nothing in response, the Alliance would rapidly outstrip the Pact in military production and eventually be in a position to dictate terms to the Pact. The Pact could not hope to match the Alliance in a new arms race. Logically, the Pact should strike while there was rough parity. If they lost, at least they would take the Alliance down with them.

Despite the Pact’s suspicions, the Alliance was only dimly aware that the Pact was having any problems at all. Indeed, the Alliance was fixed on its own internal affairs. One of them was the issue of the Moral Majority – a movement that had reinvented itself as the protector of decency and good citizenship. The MM believed that too many youngsters were wasting their time in VR worlds or using implanted pleasure simulators to indulge themselves (a development that had effectively broken the power of the drug-smugglers). They wanted newer controls on personal pleasures.

It was a move that brought them into conflict with a large spectrum of the population. They believed in direct democracy and wanted it introduced at once, despite opposition from numerous governmental leaders. (The MM, although most of them believed their own words, was about control; they wanted to dictate the lives of others for their own good.) The Liberty Movement gained in power slowly, but steadily – their position enhanced by data-mining tools that allowed the media to uncover corruption in government and hypocrisy in the MM’s leadership. It was increasingly impossible to hide anything, something that many people found deeply frightening. Big Brother was everyone.

The prospects for emigration helped to take the edge off the conflict, at least to some extent. It was still possible to emigrate for free to any number of asteroid settlements, although one had to accept the asteroid’s underlying ethos. The Alliance was increasingly becoming based out among the asteroids, with Earth losing its economic importance to the Solar System. (The same problem facing the Pact.) Indeed, with plans afoot to terraform the Moon and shatter Mercury for raw materials, humanity was more of a space-faring race than ever.

Underlying all this was a shift between two different societies. The government on Earth had evolved towards a socialist state; indeed, with the spread of direct democracy, the only truly socialist state in history. Government provided the basic living requirements – food, drink, accommodation, medical care and internet access – free of charge, although it was often very basic (one had to earn to buy a bigger house, for example.) Those who remained on Earth were content with what they had; those who emigrated wanted more. Outside the Earth-Moon system, the Alliance’s habitats existed in a roughly anarchistic state, with loose agreements rather than the definite rule of law enforced by a government. Indeed, with the support of the AIs, it was considered likely that a move towards a post-scarcity society was well underway (something like a primitive Culture).

Despite the Moral Majority, religion played less and less of a role in society than one might expect. A number of smaller faiths (including the Jewish Remnant) had emigrated to space, attempting to build their own Promised Lands. The Reunification of Protestant and Catholic Christian faiths was accomplished in 2097, although the Church had changed radically over the last hundred years. Both women and men could serve as priests, homosexuals were welcome and the Pope was effectively under control of a direct democracy. The Vatican had become the first defuse nation in history.

The Alliance had continued its own military build up, although spending less of its GNP than the Pact (a result of its far more productive economy.) Traditional ground forces were altered again, with Mobile Infantry using powerful battlesuits to take the offensive against rogue states on the barbaric sections of Earth. In space, there were more and more automated defence stations, increasingly powerful warships and dozens of independent defence forces. (The Pact, suspecting that independent defences forces would be used against them, insisted on providing all security for their asteroids and space stations themselves, adding vast demands on their resources.) Furthermore, the Pact had also started a limited bio-enhancement program for its soldiers and spacers. They would become stronger, more capable of resisting heavy acceleration and possess much heavier endurance.

The Alliance was not considering war against the Pact as a serious possibility, but there were suspicions after a number of defectors had warned that the Pact was considering hostilities. The most likely scenario, the Alliance’s planners considered, was that the Pact’s space habitats would try to declare independence as a body, the Pact would attempt to crush them – and the Alliance would be drawn into the fighting.

A different worry was the chaos threatening to explode upwards from Latin America into the Alliance. The chaos in South America had not been countered by the Alliance (or the Pact) and it was feared that many immigrants intended to take advantage of the Alliance’s socialist government. Some wanted to annexe Latin America and spend years building up the region, others just wanted to ignore it. No short-term solution seemed possible.

Although the Alliance had maintained a colony on Mars – in order to prevent the Pact from claiming the entire planet – and on one of the moons, it was reluctantly admitted that Lovell City was effectively indefensible if war broke out. The Pact’s dominance of Mars reduced its attractiveness to Alliance citizens looking for somewhere to settle after leaving Earth. There was also the prospect of genies designed to live on Mars, something that would cause problems in the future as Mars became more Earth-like.

Venus, by contrast, was solely a Pact territory. The terraforming project had succeeded in reducing the Greenhouse Effect that had been cooking Venus for centuries, but life-forms designed to survive Venus were harder to produce. There was also the problem that Venus lacked moons, limiting its economical development. Quietly, the Pact’s leadership funnelled resources to Mars. Venus would have to remain a long-term project.

Two joint projects between the Alliance, the Pact and the AIs were SETI – the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence – and SFEW – the Search For Earth-like Worlds. The former had produced nothing, apart from a handful of signals that had never been identified; the latter had located upwards of five hundred worlds that might be compatible with Earth.

Rather less welcome was the Khan Project – a project that was hastily renamed when someone pointed out the implications. The Project announced that the next generation of genies were ready to be produced, creating babies that were not only stronger and healthier than mundane humans, but smarter as well. Such claims were generally discounted, but the Khan Asteroid Combine had a long history of slow, but steady advancements in the field of genetic engineering. Covertly, hundreds of thousands of wealthy would-be parents signed up to have the enhanced genes spliced into their children.

On the edge of interstellar space, humanity was probing outwards. Every year, more and more asteroids were converted into interstellar starships and launched out into the void. Hundreds of smaller missions were exploding the Oort Cloud and hunting for traces of the Wreckers. The future looked vast and full of promise.

2101: on a deep-space mission into the Oort Cloud, the crew of an alliance spacecraft discover a derelict alien vessel right on the edge of the Solar System. It appears to be deserted, but no one knows what it was doing anywhere near Sol. And whoever cracks its technology first may dominate the next five hundred years…

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One Response to “Terror, War and Space: A Timeline of the Future”

  1. Keith Glass December 17, 2011 at 1:08 am #

    Interesting. Mind you, something of a pastiche of about 20 or more future histories, but a good starter for world-building, especially 2100 +

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