In 2096 four colonies, Vega, Altair, Adhibah and Ophiuchi, declared their independence from Earth and what they saw as its puppet government. The words “Leave us alone” were burned into the side of a UN sanctioned colony ship and returned to Earth. On board, a fifty page document outlined the systems’ demands. They wanted nothing to do with Earth, and they threatened to shoot down any ship that tried to break their policy of isolationism. Suffice to say, the newly formed UNM saw this as an affront to their authority and (in their minds) their very generous offers of assistance and membership.
Sol quickly rallied the leadership of the twenty or so other fledgling colonies and instituted a blockade. Most traffic was still to and from Sol, so this amounted to little more than what the rebels had asked for. For four years, the four rebel colonies faced no real censure. Sol sent no new ships but they were largely self sufficient and between them could produce or barter other colonies for anything they needed. On Altair, the largest of the four, they tentatively celebrated their independence every year.
Back on Mars, the OMIR had not been sat on their laurels. Whilst some researchers tried to find ways to make interstellar flight faster or safer, the Extrasolar Defence Initiative looked at the possibility of militarising the Alcubierre Drive. Carefully modulated, it could bend space enough to deflect projectiles and radiation but keep itself in real space. This alone had spurred an unparalleled boost in research into both Sol and other stars, allowing probes and spaceships to peer ever closer to the surface of these stars. But they had their sights on another, greater prize. It was well known that the folds in space captured radiation and stellar debris, which had to be carefully dispersed whenever the field generator was powered down. The EDI wondered if this could be harnessed, focused onto a target and used for offensive purposes.
In March of 2100, a flotilla of five ships translated in-system to Altair. Freedom’s Torch, the main station in orbit of Altair Prime, captured the first image of them as they approached the planet. Five bright white ships with a single blue stripe down the centre arrayed in a close arrowhead formation, sporting the large booms that would quickly become the defining visual feature of the UNM Navy.
A full half of the merchant spaceships in the system burned to meet them, twenty or thirty in all, armed with a mixture of jury rigged gauss cannon turrets and missile tubes. The UNM ships were by comparison lightly armed, with only a pair of gauss cannons each and an extra missile battery on the lead ship. For six straight hours, the UNM flotilla refused all hails. Once inside weapons range of the space station, they broadcast a single message on all frequencies demanding the complete surrender of the rebel fleet.
The merchant ships closest opened fire. Gauss slugs and missiles deflected harmlessly from the Alcubierre field. The UNM ships began to emit a wavering white light that slowly formed into a halo. Silence fell across the bridges and command decks of the merchant flotilla. The halos broke, lancing out spears of deadly radiation. Each spear found a ship and every ship hit was reduced to so much expanding debris. Many tried to flee, others renewed their attacks, but one thing was certain, within ten minutes the UNM ships passed through the merchant flotilla having taken minimal damage and leaving nothing but slowly cooling wreckage behind them.
An Alcubierre drive equipped clipper ship carrying the leaders of the rebellion fled Freedom’s Torch and transited away as soon as the outcome of the battle was clear, and the UNM let it go. Leaderless, the planetary government folded almost as soon as the UNM warships entered orbit. The clipper set course to the next closest rebel colony and after days of travel emerged to find a similar UNM presence in orbit there. The same scene had played out around every planet that had dared to question the UNM.
In response the UNM severely restricted the availability of Alcubierre drives, limiting them to loyal colonies and significantly limiting trade to those systems that rebelled. Whilst this had the intended effect of sapping the ability of the rebels from organising, across the rest of human space millions of settlers looked at the images from Altair and considered if this was the government they wanted.
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