UNSEC Space Lore: Earth in the 22nd Century

Starforge draws ever closer, readers, and with it the epic conclusion to the UNSEC Space Trilogy. But while it isn’t quite here yet, that doesn’t mean we can’t take a look back at the state of the universe and some of its characters, locations, technology, and lore. So, until Starforge is in your waiting hands, tide yourself over with these little looks into the setting. Today, we’re going to be looking at the homeworld of all mankind itself: Earth.

NOTE: This post does include spoilers for Colony and Jungle, books one and two of the UNSEC Space trilogy. Be warned if you want the exciting reveals of those books to stay exciting!

Otherwise, hit the jump.

Earth in the Early 22nd Century: A Background

Earth is a very different place in the 22nd century, while still resembling the world of the early 21st century. While nations still claim to exist as independent states, often the status is strictly in name only, and truly independent states are far fewer in number. Independent or not, all find themselves bent to the whims of one of the two global powers: The all-encompassing economic juggernauts of the megacorps, whose wealth and reach far extends that of all but the most powerful 21st century nations, or the ever-present and immensely powerful United Nations, whose vast reach resembles a unified authority for all of mankind with each passing day.

The rise of these two global powers was a matter of some contention during the 21st century. Megacorps, already taking form during the 21st century’s early years, continued their aggressive expansion outward. Such growth was enabled and emboldened by once-mighty nations such as the United States of America, who continually kowtowed to the demands of corporate interests, going so far as to be the first “first world nation” to pass anti-automation laws that would later be adopted and enforced globally by the United Nations.

As these megacorps grew in power, opposition arose from two sources: The United Nations, who in light of so many state governments kowtowing to the whims of such massive corporations, began to see itself as a “government” that could keep them in check, and The People’s Republic of China, who felt that such power should only be held by those with supreme authority to do so, namely themselves. What could have been a three-way competition for control of mankind’s destiny, however, quickly became a two-sided battle as aggressive military conquests by the PRC in the latter quarter of the century aligned both the megacorps and the United Nations against them, as well as every nation those two powers controlled. PRC economic momentum stalled, conditions worsening on all fronts even as they absorbed what few remaining territories they could.

However, the beginning of the end for the PRC came in a two-pronged strike near prior to the middle of the century: The successful application of fusion power, the subsequent discovery of stable island metals, and the space race both spawned in earnest. With its borders tightly locked off, the “Dragon of the East” had set its sights on controlling terrestrial territory, its space program only barely keeping pace with those of the megacorps and United Nations territories. Capitalizing on this weakness and seeking to limit the PRC’s reach, the United Nations passed a motion that would shape mankind for a the century to come, establishing the United Nations Space Exploration and Colonization initiative, a directive that put all of mankind’s fledgling steps into space firmly in the complete control of the United Nations. Space stations, Lunar colonies, and even the early Mars settlements suddenly found themselves under UN authority under the blanket directive of “for the good of all mankind.” While the megacorps were able to carefully maneuver themselves to maintain some measure of economic power, the PRC, at odds with both, was unable to. Internal strife rose, and for a time the world feared that it would find itself in a global conflict the likes of which hadn’t been seen since the prior century.

Then the PRC’s long-standing economic bubble popped, and the “Dragon of the East” collapsed into a shell of its former self. Once again, however, its two foes proved that they had only been allies of convenience, as neither the megacorps nor the United Nations wanted the other to gain control of what was now known as the “Dragon Bloc.” With space the new frontier and the world seeing technological revolution on a level not seen since the birth of the internet, an agreement was reached where both would cede to the collapsing PRCs last demands and “stay out.” The Dragon Bloc would be a neutral territory between the two—and a haven for black markets—forever after.

With the PRC gone, both the United Nations and the megacorps set their sights on the stars. While the UN maintained control over space-bound assets at large, the commercial use of fusion power and the discoveries brought about by stable island metals were still game-changing, space-bound mining operations ballooning in profitability and discovery. Technological development came rapidly, booming into a period of discovery unmatched by any before, compressed into the span of a few years known as the “short boom.” Island metals were the key, unlocking a doorway into thousands of technologies that mankind had theorized for decades.

The largest game changer, however, was the discovery—and subsequent control of—faster than light travel. Though the official story of its discovery is wrapped in secrecy, ostensibly to ensure that the secret itself remains in the hands of the UNSEC, discovery of faster-than-light travel would change everything for the citizens of Earth. Developed by a European science team during the “short boom,” the discovery was folded, as was law, into the hands of the United Nations Space Exploration and Colonization initiative, who overnight went from one of the equal arms of the UN to one of the most powerful.

In truth, to many it seemed like a golden age … and for those on top it was. Despite the formation of the Dragon Bloc and the rapidly eroding rights of citizenry around the world—a cause undertaken by many megacorps and then mimicked by the United Nations in order to maintain parity—as well as record levels of overcrowding and scarcity, the discovery of FTL travel created a boom like no under.

Shotgun to the Stars

From the mid-twenty-first century, mankind found itself part of the largest expansion ever known. “Project Starshot,” which would later be known by many historians as the “shotgun approach” was UNSEC’s first largely public initiative, the creation and deployment of thousands of FTL-capable automated survey craft, leaping out into the stars on a multipurpose mission: To not only find habitable worlds mankind could expand to, but also to test at large the device that made FTL travel possible itself. At this time the old rivalry between the UN and the megacorps reared its head once more, as the latter objected to the UN’s complete control and distribution of information in this regard.

However, a shadow of the Dragon Bloc would arise and ultimately prove the deciding factor in centralizing UNSEC control of space and space-bound technologies: The quantum bombing of North Korea. North Korea, effectively the “last holdout” of the pre-fall Dragon Bloc, managed to acquire—through means that have been speculation of conspiracy thriller and theory for decades—plans to a newly developed weapon, craft it, and test it.

The resulting destabilization of space and time wiped out over a thousand square kilometers, thoroughly ending the nation’s dreams of holding the weapon over the heads of other nations, as well as any and all other plans. It also thoroughly cemented UNSEC’s control over FTL and all related technologies, as the UN seized on the terror wrought by such a disaster to pass several new resolutions confirming that such power and capability needed to be wielded by a “neutral party” and kept from the greater public, though with this step, UN and UNSEC’s status as a “neutral party” officially became anything but.

However, the North Korea disaster threw the public firmly in the UN’s favor, and even a few of the megacorps, who were now forced to work their space-based operations through UNSEC with increasing regularity, sided in favor of the resolutions. UNSEC kept the increasingly desperate population of Earth entranced with phase two of the “shotgun” plan, building massive colony ships in orbit while collecting data from thousands of probes and laying the groundwork for what would by the 22nd century be the well-respected expeditionary programs.

UNSEC promoters drove the colonization frenzy higher, doling out images of some of mankind’s best prospects, worlds that would come to be known as Harmony or Arcadia dominating newsfeeds.

The rabid focus on new colony worlds brought with it new concerns however, prominent leaders in both the megacorp-states and UN territories concerned by what a mass-exodus could mean for the economy and well-being of Earth. The collapse of the PRC was still fresh in the minds of many, a warning sign as to what improperly controlled expansion could do. Not wanting to see Earth fall by the wayside—though for their own reasons—even as the first expeditions began to set foot on other worlds, steps were taken on Earth to ensure that it would not fall into irrelevance. Laws and agreements were drafted, plans taking shape so that from the very beginning each of Earth’s colony worlds would always be deferent to the “cradle of mankind.” As life was changing quicker than ever, with booming industries developing in AI and quantum computing, and the fall of the Dragon Bloc ever-present, these steps soon became ratified into law through legal means and backroom deals.

Thus, when the first colony ships made their much-publicized and celebrated journeys out into the stars, the first colonists setting up new homes under new sunsets, it was under the watchful eyes of UNSEC, now additionally tasked with ensuring security and prosperity … for Earth and its new offshoots.

This in turn meant that as mankind moved away from the middle of the 21st century, UNSEC continued to grow. Earth’s offworld colonies needed security forces, and UN Peacekeeper divisions were more than suited to the task. As true AI began to take its first steps in laboratories, UNSEC began construction of its first “security fleet.” And just in time, as well, as Mars, its earliest colonies predating UNSEC’s formation, was beginning to chafe against its new leash. As mankind moved toward the 2070s, unrest on Mars continued to foment, even as UNSEC began to expand past “security fleet” into “full military power,” justifying many of its decisions for the public as reaction to bombings and other issues on Mars or elsewhere in the solar system, but much of the genesis of the growth actually shared cause with UNSEC discoveries—deeply classified—concerning evidence of intelligent alien life and other “unknown” threats.

In the early 2070s Mars officially rebelled, an act that opened with the bombing of UNSEC’s governmental authority center and kicked off a conflict that would last for two years, largely owing to both sides being inexperienced with conflict on such a scale. Though UNSEC would emerge victorious over the Martian rebels, it would only be after both sides had stooped to using orbital weapons against ground targets. Footage of the results—as well as the horrific cost of life attached—led to ratification of laws regarding space combat and agreed upon limits, such as restrictions against using orbital guns on ground targets in most capacity.

Earth First

While the rebellion of Mars was the last major conflict undergone by mankind prior to the rebellion of Pisces, smaller conflicts did erupt across known space. Hades, in particular, was one such location. As resource-rich a planet as it was, abundant with naturally occurring island metals, UNSEC fell victim to its own propaganda concerning the importance of a distribution of resources back to Earth, allowing the megacorps to spring and be granted “administration” of the planet—though this administration was with a backroom agreement that Hades harsh conditions, dangerous without automation banned under UN and megacorp law, would be perfectly suited as a penal location for those that weren’t quite as in line with the new vision taking shape on Earth or elsewhere.

UNSEC expanded outward, maintaining its firm control over growing space fleets while back on Earth, megacorps engaged in warfare both shadowy and open, often through proxy nations that were then quickly added to the growing number of megacorp controlled sovereignties or, if not, “stabilized” by UN peacekeeping efforts. Distinct sides began to take shape, lines drawn between nations where the UN had the final say, or those where the independent government served only at the behest of the a megacorp’s board of directors. Megacorps competed with one another, but also against the UN, even while doing business within their borders. The UN, meanwhile, began exerting more control over those companies headquartered inside its territory, expanding its authority in order to streamline the organization itself. The Dragon Bloc remained a neutral territory, abused and destabilized by both sides in order to keep a space in which both could work freely.

The latter end of the 21st century was not without its strifes, despite the booming colony worlds. The UN and the megacorps had expanded, but often at the cost of those they controlled, and riots became almost as commonplace as brush wars for the final decade. In megacorp controlled states, it was increasingly obvious that individual lives were considered little more than cogs or circuits in a vast inescapable machine. In UN territory, the image was a dark mirror, life and livelihood almost identical, but driven by the promise of “building a better mankind” or “Earth first.”

For both, the surest ticket to something different was a way off-world, and the UN capitalized this, easing the tensions that had led to the riots by expanding and accelerating their colonization program, offering free travel to the stars. Without a purchased ticket a passenger had no say in where they were going, but it was free passage out of the squalor of Earth’s slums, and that was something.

The Early 22nd Century

As mankind transitioned into the 22nd century, things had stabilized somewhat. While the UN and the megacorps were both at increasing odds with one another, things had reached a sort of stable balance. Earth’s colony worlds continued to flourish and grow, feeding their resources and discoveries back to the “cradle of mankind” so that it could continue to prosper. Wealth inequality continued to new heights, but was kept in check by the trust in UNSEC’s colonization system. Expansion continued on all fronts, and mankind entered a relatively peaceful period … outside of the slow but constant shadow wars and brushfires that were smaller states and locations changing hands between various megacorps or slowly being absorbed by the UN.

However, pressure was mounting. As the number of truly independent nations began to shrink, more and more the megacorp-nations came into conflict with the United Nations. Colony worlds, now home in some cases to several generations of colonists, were beginning to question the “Earth First” focus of so much of what they’d built. Harsh treatment of civilian populaces everywhere was building a slow but steady resentment towards various parties and factions, even as both the megacorps and the UN did what they could to win over as much of the public as possible through twisting the truth or even outright fabrication.

The first decades of the 22nd century passed without major events of note, but like the first notes of a warming orchestra, it was but the quiet before a symphony of violence would encompass everything mankind had built.

The Pisces Rebellion

Things reached a head with the open rebellion of Pisces, one of Earth’s more established colony worlds. Comprising over fifty million people, colonists on Pisces had chaffed under an openly oppressive UNSEC rule, the government little more than a military junta reporting to the security director for UNSEC. Unknown to much of the colony, however, was that the military occupation was in fact due to the concealed nature of the planet itself as an artificial, alien structure, something that had not been fully understood before the first colonists had already departed. The forces of the revolt found themselves joining in an alliance with the UNSEC navy that had been their enemy as the planet itself reacted to their conflict, disgorging thousands of alien drones only to be quelled by the detonation of a quantum warhead deep inside their emergence point. The aftermath of the “Battle of North Shore” saw Pisces left in flux, a large portion of its once-loyal UNSEC forces joining with the forces of the revolt and declaring, if not a complete and total intent to secede from Earth’s control, then no interest in maintaining the status-quo.

Worse (or better, depending on who was asked), Pisces rebellion tipped the long balance of power on Earth by granting the UN a legal obligation to seize control of one of the United State’s most prominent megacorps, SoulComp. The Americas, long a thorny holdout of megacorp power and less agreeable to the UN than the African states, were suddenly thrown out of balance as the UN surged into the gap, choosing to stabilize its home holdings rather than immediately pounce on the wayward planet of Pisces. The revelations and claims coming from Pisces had also panicked much of the populace, even as the UN downplayed them, leading to a deadlock over what to do about the rebelling colony. Worse, the UN’s even slight delay and apprehension over invading an obviously active alien artifact was seen to by the public as inaction, and sentiment on other colony worlds, in conjunction with the same backdoors that had allowed the revolt on Pisces to flourish, boiled out into the open, resulting in dozens of metaphorical fires. The UN chose to cement its grip over Earth before reacting in force to the other fires, forever altering the careful balance between itself and the megacorps.

What resulted was a short, bitter, civil war that couldn’t have come at a worse time, as a second alien threat revealed itself: An off-the-books death world whose existence had been covered by UNSEC revealed itself to be an intelligent, malevolent alien lifeform unlike anything mankind had ever encountered. Even as the civil war on Earth cooled and internal factions inside the UN shifted to back the growing power of the UNSEC security director, Syrah Eidre, this new alien threat began attacking world after world. Additionally, Pisces now maintained firmly its independence from Earth, and had even executed a surgical strike on a UN black-site, stealing the technology that had been UNSEC’s most prized secret for so long—the knowledge of how to build FTL drives—and freely distributing it across all communications channels. Every colony world, Pisces included, now had the means to build vessels capable of striking at Earth.

The Future

For now, mankind seems to hang on the edge of a precipice. All but a few colony worlds are in open revolt. A new, alien threat, the “All,” strikes at random, brutalizing worlds with alien power and ferocity. Pisces maintains its claims of standing apart from Earth while building a fleet of its own. And the alien artifact Pisces is built upon is an even greater mystery, its ultimate purpose unknown to UNSEC.

Starforge arrives this holiday season to bring the UNSEC Space Trilogy to its epic end!

Got a bit of UNSEC Space lore you’d like to see explored? Post it in the comments!

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