Possible background for a story …
The Belter War Background
The year is 2100.
The civilised parts of Earth (North America, Western Europe, Russia, China, Japan, Australia, Israel, Brazil) are united in the Federation, a marriage of convenience. All member states are fascist to some degree; on one hand, there’s a great deal of personal freedom (the war on drugs is long in the past), but political freedom is almost non-existent. The war against terrorists has gone on so long that a surveillance state seems normal. Government is pretty much a mixture of democracy, corporate fascism and outright dictatorship. Basic foodstuffs and entertainment is free. Life is pretty good in the Federation as long as you don’t rock the boat.
Outside the Federation, there is chaos. Governments rise and fall, often within days. The Federation watches from high overhead and drops KEWs whenever a steady government seems to be forming, or there is a realistic chance of a terrorist group or rogue state building nukes, biological weapons or long-range missiles. Living standards have been slipping for decades, not helped by mass expulsions of undesirables from Federation territory. Average life expectancy is forty years.
Governments started a serious move into space long before the Federation came into existence (2060). Terrorist and cybernetic attacks made it an urgent priority. The development of fusion power, running on HE3, pushed various governments into establishing mining colonies on the moon, then cloudscoops orbiting Saturn. (Jupiter is considered too dangerous to use as a fuel source.) Solar power satellites provide additional power for the Federation; asteroid mining cuts off all dependence on materials produced outside the Federation.
The moon was settled in 2040. Despite a brief rebellion in 2050 (workers rebelled against appallingly bad working conditions) the lunar population continued to grow, particularly after the addition of gene treatments preventing Lunar Rot (muscle decay). Luna is now a patchwork of colonies, some operated by the Federation and others owned by corporations or individuals.
Humans first set foot on Mars in 2044, then started a major terraforming and colonising project in 2050. (There were protests against wrecking the native environment, but the protesters were rapidly rounded up and sent to work camps.) Massive colony ships arrived over the following 50 years, bringing hundreds of thousands of colonists to Mars. As of 2100, Mars has a very thin – but breathable – atmosphere and a growing population.
There are small colonies on almost every major body within the solar system (including Pluto.) Titan and Europa are amongst the most important as they supply water-ice to Mars and Venus (which is also being terraformed, but on a far longer timetable than Mars.)
Asteroid settlement started in 2039, starting with small mining ‘towns’ that rapidly grew into populous settlements. Governments saw the asteroids as a place to put groups that were both awkward and potentially useful. A number of small corporations established research bases in the asteroids, which often spawned independent colonies that hid from government authority. As relatively little tech is needed to support an asteroid settlement, no one is entirely sure just how many settlements there are. A number of independent asteroids have small industrial complexes, where spacecraft and spare parts are produced. Others attempt to raise foodstuffs, although Earth is still the main source of fresh (and very expensive) food.
The Federation controls a small fleet of interplanetary cruisers and troop transports (the former have more in common with modern-day submarines than surface ships) which are intended to patrol the spaceways. These forces are intended primarily to deal with rebellions on Luna and Mars (the Federation had to improvise to crush the first rebellion on Luna and hasn’t forgotten the experience), although they have been deployed to support corporate factions when their workers proved rebellious. In recent years, the Federation has been building more warships, despite the lack of any credible threat in space. The Belt Association suspects that the Federation intends to crush it when the time is right.
In addition, the Federation deploys 10’000 Space Marines; men and women trained for deployments in space and non-terrestrial worlds.
The Federation makes no attempt to dictate the internal policy of its member states. Overall matters are decided by secret negotiation between the members and presented to their respective populations as done deals. On Earth, it’s still possible to pretend – and believe – that there are multiple independent nations.
In space, the Federation is far more powerful. It claims jurisdiction over the entire solar system, appointing everything from judges to colony governors (a point that is increasingly resented on Mars, Luna and the Belt.) Balked at any chance at power on Earth, the Federation has grown increasingly oppressive to the colonies.
The Federation’s government is … complicated. Governments have a major say, but so do corporations. (One can argue that the whole system operates like the Republic of Gondar; the more one invests, the more say one has.) Corporations have practically unlimited control over ‘company towns’ (corporate asteroid settlements), while there are a handful of settlements that are effectively independent. Some company towns are run with a very loose hand, other towns are run so badly that minor rebellions and sabotage are a constant problem.
The Belt Association is the closest thing to a non-Federation political entity outside Earth itself. However, it is not – by any earthly standards – a reasonable government. It is, at best, a tissue of agreements signed by various Belters, which are enforced by social pressure and a handful of law enforcement officers (Belt Marshals). Generally speaking, the Belt has two principles; one may do as one wishes, provided that non-consenting people are not involved, and honour contracts. Paying what one owes is practically the founding principle of the Belters – a Belter who does not honour his word, for whatever reason, will rapidly be denied everything from docking to fresh oxygen.
Belters are not ruthless, but they can be strikingly pragmatic. They rarely give second chances.
The bigger asteroid settlements are democracies, mainly run through electronic networks (allowing every adult a vote.) Others have more restrictive franchises. The Kingdom of Pallas, for example, is solely governed by the King and his family.
Unlike Earth, the Belter Internet is largely free of any form of censorship, but suffers badly from time-lag caused by being spread out over light-hours. Many Belters while away the long hours in transit writing posts to internet newsgroups or downloading the latest stories, videos and VR packages from the net.
There is no unified culture, save for the points mentioned above. Belters generally don’t care what their neighbours do, as long as it poses no threat to anyone else, nor do they really care about skin colour. (Women are generally protected, although manpower demands are too high to keep women in isolation.) Space itself tends to remove idiots very quickly. (The Belter version of drink-drivers, assuming they survived whatever happened, would probably be removed permanently by their fellows.)
The Belt, unlike Earth, has no laws against bodily modification. There are some Belters (Spacers) who have been heavily augmented, to the point where they can survive in space without protective suits. Others have been genetically engineered, both to prevent Lunar Rot and extend their life spans.
Over the last few years, tensions have been rising between the Federation and the very loose Belt Association. In particular, a number of events have hardened opinions on both sides:
-An author on Luna published an EBook entitled ‘Musings On The Belt,’ which concluded that the governments on Earth were already so dependent on the Belt that the Belters could not only claim their independence, but bring Earth to heel. He was arrested before he could flee Armstrong City, shipped back to Earth and disappeared. All copies of his book vanished from Earth’s internet, but other copies made their way to the Belt where they were keenly studied.
-A large-scale uprising on Mars (after it was announced that a further hundred thousand settlers would be deposited on the planet) successfully took and held territory for two and a half months before reinforcements were rushed to the planet. The Federation, evidently concerned by both by the uprising’s success and the simple lack of warning any of its intelligence operatives supplied, crushed the uprising with more brutality than usual. It was not, however, able to keep word from spreading through the rest of the system.
-The Federation’s decision to organise a ‘Belt Court’ to handle legal matters concerning the Belt, specifically issues surrounding the claiming of asteroids. Previous Belt formalities weren’t just ignored, they were brushed aside. Combined with a handful of demands for extradition of former corporate serfs who vanished into the darkness – a demand the Belt could not have met, even if it had wanted to – it sent a strong signal that the Belt’s days of semi-independence might be coming to an end.
-Finally, an increasing number of Federation warships calling at Belter ports and surveying nearby asteroids for ‘Dark Colonies.’