2544 The First Extraterrestrial Visit to the Solar System.
Humanity has spread throughout the solar system. Millions of people live in orbit and on other planets. Recently, spaceships started to travel faster than the speed of light. And only 13 light years away, a trading post has been discovered where alien species meet. Humanity’s first FTL ships travel there. The trip takes several months because the space bending technology is still brand-new.
After meeting humans at the trading post, an interstellar trader of the Marui species decides to visit the solar system. For the Marui, the trip only lasts 10 days. From humanity’s point of view, their ship is extremely modern and fast – the Marui, however, consider it rather small and old.
The Marui ship’s incoming trajectory is 60 degrees off the plane of the ecliptic. The nearest planet is Saturn. Neptune and Uranus are currently somewhere on the other side of the solar system. During their approach, the Marui crew analyses the traffic patterns and approaches one of the busiest hubs: the Ibadan habitat orbiting Titan.
The merchant vessel hails Ibadan’s traffic control centre. Using automated translators, they ask about docking procedures and local habits. The traffic control centre assigns a docking tube, just as if extrasolar visitors were an everyday occurrence.
Traffic in the outer solar system outside the plane of the ecliptic is not regulated. Sometimes, long-distance ships arrive there, but interstellar traffic is negligible compared to local business. The Marui ship can easily be mistaken for one of humanity’s few long distance merchants.
In the middle of the third millennium, the live translator is ubiquitously used for communications. Many languages are in use throughout the solar system. Traffic control centres typically use their local language, which in this case is Titan-Nigerian Hata.
The Marui vessel pulls in at the flexible docking tube. As they have been advised by the control centre, the crew waits for the release indicator before they open the airlock. Inside the Ibadan dock, a group of five Marui, dressed in light protection suits, knock at the crystoplast window of the docking master’s booth.
The docking master on duty is surprised by the protection suits and by the unfamiliar look of the visitors, even though an experienced 26th century docking master has seen a lot of questionable genetic engineering. Compared to all the uplifts, bio-mods and mech-shells, the Marui seem rather normal. At least, they walk on two legs, which cannot be said about all human zero-g genetic hacks.
During the following conversation (with the help of the automatic translator), the docking master slowly realizes that his visitors are more alien than he initially assumed. Then frantic activity breaks loose. The docking master rushes back into his crystoplast booth and alerts the control centre (3 seconds), the on-call team of the immigration agency (10 seconds) and finally his sister at Kronos News (25 seconds).
Fifty seconds later, the five Marui are surrounded by camera drones and police bots. At the 55 second mark, the avatar of a reporter flickers up inside the Marui group. The first flash posts are online after 60 seconds. Kronos News starts to broadcast live after 78 seconds. Their 3D live feed is taken over by a relay chopper after 85 seconds. 90 seconds after the dock master’s alert a rapid response team in heavy exoskeleton armour takes aim at the visitors. The area around the Marui is cordoned off by mobile barriers after 92 seconds. Three seconds later, jammers unsuccessfully try to interrupt the live feed – the relay chopper had arrived in time and is inside the barrier.
Avatars of the first gawkers flicker up after 98 seconds. The first physical spectators, after 105 seconds, are uploads in mechs. Bios arrive at the scene only slightly later.
Two minutes after the initial alert, the dock is filled with 25 circling sensor drones belonging to ten different news services, as well as 15 police bots with crowd control equipment, seven military drones, an airborne tactical coordinator AI, 12 movable barrier bots with transparent shields, 800 mechs, 120 bios (among those the four in battle armour, who don’t have a free line of fire any more), and 5000 avatars in varying sizes and shapes, though these don’t take up any physical space.
An uneasy silence falls on the scene, which is only interrupted by the reporter avatar’s persistent attempts to get an interview with the Marui.
After another 90 seconds Esmeralda Alvarez Velasquez, head of the Ibadan civilian traffic control, pushes through the crowd and reaches the inner circle, where the five Marui have moved closer together.
Almost exactly four minutes after the docking master realized the significance of the moment, the first extrasolar visitors are officially welcomed, covered live by Kronos News. The news is propagated at the speed of light throughout the Saturn system with all its moons and satellites. The Kronos newsfeed is automatically augmented by other news agencies with live impressions, background information and commentaries. The exa-level priority tag is authorized by nearly all the reputation networks, so the news penetrates all news filters.
Most of the ten million inhabitants in the Saturn system interrupt what they are doing, or they are woken up or booted. They experience the first extrasolar visit live via their retina displays, implants or data interfaces, as if they were present on the spot.
Velasquez tells the visitors “Maraba da rana. Kada ka damu”, using the local language Hata. This means “Welcome to the solar system. There is no need to worry”. The term “Kadakadamu” – “No need to worry” turns into a popular quote transcending all language barriers, and Velasquez becomes the star of the talk shows.
2557 Heavy Losses at Vladivostok.
The Earth Union's new military capabilities in space are an existential threat to the Solar Coalition. They are trying to stop the coalition's expansionist activities by force. The Union had occupied the moon, attacked the Martian system, and captured Mars orbit. The Coalition was finally able to recapture Deimos and defeat the Earth fleet, using all the forces of the inner and outer system. A year later, the Coalition was even able to liberate the moon and take the System War into Earth's orbit establishing a blockade. Still there has been a stalemate for three years. The Coalition dominates orbit preventing Earth from launching military forces into space and the earth on the other hand controls the planetary surface.
Actually, this means that the status quo has been restored, which already existed for a long time before the war broke out. The Solar Coalition reigns in space, the Union on Earth. The coalition is expansionist and is now interstellar active. The earth is isolated. It focuses on a sustainable economy and on repairing its ecology. 90 million people spread across the solar system stand against 18 billion on earth.
But both sides cannot leave the situation as it is. Having long been anti-expansionist the earth is horrified at the Coalition's interstellar activities. And the Dilan incident, 25 years earlier, confirmed its worst fears. The Earth Union is determined to prevent further interstellar activity. Therefore, it is now trying to break the orbital blockade. But objects launched from earth do not get very far. Most are already neutralized in near-Earth space.
Failing to retake the orbit and to establish its forces in space, the earth has switched to terrorist tactics. The Earth forces launch long-range missiles with nuclear warheads to attack interplanetary targets. Both sides still shy away from hitting planets directly. But the frequency of missile launches is increasing and the Coalition's blockade forces can no longer prevent breakthroughs. Each of them can cause huge damage and strike millions of Coalition citizens. The first major loss on the Coalition side is Gemini, an L5 O'Neill cylinder with 40,000 residents. The Coalition retaliates by intensifying the orbital warfare shooting down even civilian suborbital transport vehicles and high-flying aircraft.
The Coalition is determined to stop the interplanetary attacks. To this end, they strive to achieve a regime change on Earth. In addition, there are still influential groups in the coalition that want to end the isolation of the Earth. Many have never come to terms with the fact that their home planet is inaccessible. Even though the interplanetary civilization has grown self sufficient, Earth nostalgia is still a strong motive. These groups see the current escalation as an opportunity to win back the earth.
There are still expansionists holding out on Earth. But they have to stay underground. The expansionists are not willing to accept that "the people of the earth are denied the stars". There are expansionist guerrilla groups in many regions. Some of which carrying out terrorist attacks, others quietly preparing for the liberation fight. The Coalition is helping with propaganda from orbit and by landing equipment and personnel in deorbiters. However, the Union has a firm grip on the earth. Just as the Coalition can suppress almost all launches into orbit, the Union has a dense surveillance network to prevent landings from orbit. Still sometimes landings succeed. But there is no reliable and efficient transport route. Material support for the underground comes through only very irregularly.
The Coalition therefore intends to establish a bridgehead on earth. From this base, agents are supposed to support the underground movement. Later, special forces with modern weapons will help in the liberation effort. For this purpose, the Coalition chooses a sparsely populated area in Asia northwest of Vladivostok.
Phase I: The area is levelled by kinetic bombing within a radius of 200 km. All vegetation and the topography disappear in a storm of high-speed projectiles, each of which deposits its kinetic energy of one kiloton. This has the same effect as thousands of nuclear explosions without causing any radioactive contamination. The Coalition takes care to use biocompatible non-toxic materials for the projectiles, as the region should later be habitable again.
Phase II: Crash-deorbiters land on the perimeter to establish a defense network that will later protect the space landing troops. Hundreds of launch units for hypersonic projectiles are stationed, each able to carry a ceramic pellet storm into the target area. The delivery systems employ linear accelerators (railguns) to take its offensive components to the threat over many kilometers within seconds. There are pellets for different performance profiles, e.g. heat-resistant boron nitride darts (against reactive armour), boron fullerenes (more of a dust storm against swarms of microbots), and diamond-encapsulated tungsten particles with particularly high penetrating power (against strong passive armour). All together they constitute a so-called ceramic shield. Every attacker, whether bullet, drone or soldier, encounters a storm of tiny hypersonic ceramic pellets when crossing the imaginary border. The pellet storm grinds everything in fractions of a second, including armour, microbots and military fog.
Phase III: More deorbiters land passive defense equipment inside the protected area including mirror projectors, i.e. swarms of sub-millimeter-sized programmable mirrors made of optically active metamaterials. These micro-mirrors are floating in the air automatically aligning themselves to strong light sources. They block laser weapons reflecting the beam energy. Phase III also brings in mobile aerosol generators, which prevent observation by the enemy and at the same time offer protection against plasma weapons.
Phase IV lands heavy equipment: classic missile defense, ground-penetrating radar against underground attacks, semi-autonomous drones, EW (Electronic Warfare), ECM (Electronic Counter Measures), and ECCM (Electronic Counter Counter Measures). Pioneers arrive with power generators for all electrically operated equipment and for heavy duty gear run by high performance vacuum power transmission tubes. In addition they land tunnel drills taken from asteroid mining, in-situ-resource utilization (ISRU) extraction units, and fabs for base construction as well as for ammunition. This equipment is the used to dig several underground bases distributed over the entire landing zone. The bases are widely ramified networks of underground tunnels with many exits. Thus, they do not offer an easy target.
The Coalition has the air and space superiority. It can stop air strikes and missiles through kinetic strikes from the orbit. Except for a few initial tests, the Union forces refrain from airborne attacks. Attacks on the landing zone are primarily conducted by heavily armored ground vehicles or through tunnels dug over hundreds of kilometers. For this purpose the earth is able to resort to its sophisticated tunnelling technology originally developed for the construction of vacuum railways.
While the base construction continues under constant attacks, Coalition ground troops finally land. The secret service personnel begin to establish connections to resistance groups. Special forces and their drones explore the wider area preparing for global deployment. On the land side, the Union forces have set up a blockade front. Yet, the bridgehead has been deliberately established at the Pacific Ocean to be able to transport people and material secretly underwater around the world.
Over the course of one year the military personnel grows to 10,000 people, 50.000 drones with upload crews, and 1 million semi-autonomous drones.
Then the antimatter mines explode. The bridgehead is completely wiped out by three 50 megatons charges. Brute force wins over high-tech.
A long ago the Earth Union had cunningly prepared for such an invasion by burying heavy nuclear warheads in all areas around the world suitable for landing operations. 100,000 antimatter mines had been sleeping deeply underground ready to strike on command.
The Earth had 200 years to prepare for an invasion.
It is a catastrophic loss for the Coalition. A huge amount of equipment and all available ground forces are lost. An invasion is now out of the question.