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In the mid twenty first century, Earth was dying. Imminent environmental collapse, centuries of poor resource usage and decades of war were finally taking their toll. Humanity had begun settling the solar system and between 2040 and 2080, five billion people migrated from Earth to Mars, Venus, the asteroid belt and the Jovian and Saturnian moons. It was not an easy life, but staying on Earth gave no guarantees either.
The first faster-than-light starship was constructed in 2079, and it made planetfall in the Alpha Centauri system in January 2080. Capable of speeds approaching fifty times the speed of light, the journey still took thirty two days and wasn’t without its limitations.
The Alcubierre Drive, an unassuming collection of carefully machined antennas and magnets, had been initially theorised in the twentieth century but it was in 2055 that two scientists at the Olympus Mons Institute of Research accidentally produced the first functional field generator. Whilst the laws of physics dictated that nothing with mass could travel through open space at faster than the speed of light, the Alcubierre field bent space to produce a disconnected bubble which could then itself move unburdened by such restrictions.
There were issues, the folded space acted as a trap for interstellar radiation which if left unchecked would heat the interior of the bubble to similar temperatures to the surface of the sun. The maximum distance one could travel in a single hop was a little over twenty five light years, and navigation in deep space proved sufficiently problematic that no-one particularly wanted to try. It also required prestigious quantities of uninterrupted power.
To make matters worse, ships could not travel faster than the speed of light within the ice line, the point at which the light from a star was strong enough to melt ice, requiring that ships make a lengthy journey out past the asteroid belt before they could jump away meaning the sub-light journey often took longer than the FTL portion.
Following the news of the successful colonisation of Alpha Centauri every spaceship that could, or could be converted to carry colonists was equipped with an Alcubierre Drive. The intense conditions and precise manufacturing required meant that there were precious few facilities that could produce them correctly. An untold number of ships were lost as sub-par or poorly maintained ships were lost in the gulf between stars. But untold more did make it and all in all by the end of the twenty first century, upwards of seventy five percent of all living humans had left the solar system for a new life amongst the stars.
Even before this, trouble had been brewing. Despite the exodus, humanity was still heavily focused on the cradle of mankind. Political power was highly concentrated on Earth and small conflicts had been fermenting in the outer solar system in the decades before the expansion. Almost as soon as it was revealed that there were dozens of habitable planets within easy reach of Sol, an entirely different kind of riot emerged as the descendants of the colonists who had fought so hard to find their place on the inhospitable worlds of the outer solar system fought to escape them.
Every ship that left Sol was full and whilst they returned from every run carrying valuable resources and scientific data the United Nations were beginning to worry that they, like Earth, would be left in the dust. In 2095, a unanimous vote by the UN Security Council established two things: first, the new planetary colonies would be admitted to the UN as provisional members and two, that the UN would change its name to reflect its new, extrasolar remit. The United Nations of Mankind was born.
Continue reading Revolution and Independence.