(Pop. 6.2 billion) – Earth, as the cradle of human civilization, has a longer and more varied history than any other human world, but Earth’s recent history is one of rapid, sometimes violent change. Earth has changed in many ways since the beginning of colonial era. Mass starvation, unsustainable power and infrastructure needs and rampant disease due to tight-packed populations in the early 22nd century began not only a slow but steady decrease in population, but also finally spurred the wave of outmigration to other worlds. Those remaining on Earth were clustered into ever shrinking tracts of habitable land as sea level increases encroached on more and more land. These political, economic and environmental stressors combined to bring about a rapid and substantial decline in overall population to barely more than 6 billion people, barely half its peak of over 11 billion at the beginning of the 22nd century. Many once densely populated areas are now only sparsely populated, and some areas have been abandoned entirely in favor of now abundant fertile land and newer, cleaner, less crowded city centers. Some restoration efforts have been made by the Unity Council in recent years to remove structures in abandoned cities and towns to allow the areas to return to nature, but the process is slow, as materials must either be carefully disposed of, repurposed or shipped off-world.
Earth’s more recent history has not been much more pleasant, and modern Earth is far different than it was only thirty years ago. Even prior to the Jovian Conflict, Earth’s governments and political structures had been significantly consolidated under control of China, the EurAsian-African Union, made up of all the nations of Europe, the Middle East, Africa and much of eastern Asia other than China, and the American Coalition, which includes most of North, Central and South America and their surrounding islands. The atrocities committed by Earth forces during the Jovian Conflict were answered with a unified cry for change not just from the colonies, but by the people of Earth as well. As a result, many of the existing power structures were torn down and replaced rapidly, with several high ranking officials within the EAU being prosecuted for war crimes and replaced with new leaders eager to sign the Unity Accords. During this turbulent transition period, African and South American leaders took a much more active role in the governing of the EAU and American Coalition, ending the millennium-long dominance of the northern hemisphere and shifting the balance of power to the continents of the southern hemisphere.
At the close of the Jovian conflict, China, the EAU and the American Coalition became signatories of the Unity Accords, which stipulate that while they and their member nations retain some sovereignty within their own borders, they may not maintain independent military or police forces, and must share the common currency and, by extension, economic fate of the United Worlds. Australia, having withdrawn from the EAU following the destruction of Enceladus, declined to sign the Unity Accords, and has maintained its independence from any larger governing body or treaty organization since, but have adopted the United Worlds currency and have signed treaties of cooperation with individual colonial governments within the confines of the Unity Accords.
Under the leadership of the United Worlds, poverty, hunger and many forms of discrimination have been all but eliminated on Earth, which had been the last of the human worlds to harbor such archaic and disturbing social constructs. Earth’s governments have been integrated into the new United Forces military structure with a minimum of resistance, and the people of Earth are more prosperous than they have been in all of recorded history. Only time, however, will heal the rift between Earth and the other human worlds, despite the fact that the heinous acts that earned the animosity of extraterrestrial societies were committed by a very small minority of Earth’s most powerful military and political leaders. While relations between Earth and Mars have healed fairly rapidly, and the Moon continues to be Earth’s close ally, deep seated suspicions and even open animosity remain, and will likely continue to do so, between Earth and the outer colonies.
(Pop. 1.6 million) – The colonization of the moon was a slower process than anyone would have imagined. While the first outposts, mostly military and scientific, were fully functional at the start of the 22nd century, there was no true colony on the moon until over a century later. While lunar colonies would be technically easier to support, they simply didn’t hold the same romantic image that distant Mars conjured in the minds of potential colonists. The Moon’s resources, while numerous and valuable, did not require permanent habitation to harness, and were not of the type to make a colony self-sustaining.
The final catalyst of the first permanent lunar colony was something that had been the historic starting point for many towns and cities on Earth. In 2240, in response to heightening tensions between Earth and the colonies of the outer solar system, the EurAsian Union, in conjunction with the American Coalition, began construction on Varunastra Base, a fully functional military outpost, inside a series of lava tubes in the Oceanus Procellarum region. The primary purpose of this base was to facilitate a rapid response by Earth’s space fleet in the event of an attack on Earth’s interests anywhere in the solar system. The base would also house the administrative staff necessary to oversee a new military shipyard being constructed in lunar orbit.
The multi-functionality of Varunastra Base required a large permanent staff, largely military, which in turn meant that staff would bring families. Those families would need other amenities, which meant a service industry, which meant additional housing, medical, dining and recreational facilities, and so on. Purely as a side effect, before the military portion of the base or the orbital shipyard had been completed, the Moon had the beginnings of its first full-fledged city. By the time construction of Varunastra Base was completed in 2246, the city had expanded to fill all the remaining space inside the lava tube and 15 km² of the surrounding lunar surface under a series of interconnected geodesics habitats. With the population of this settlement now reaching into the tens of thousands, a colonial charter was granted to the Moon, with the city of Thunderhead as its capital.
Once the Moon had been officially granted a colonial charter, it took no time at all for new settlements to spring up around existing mining facilities and research outposts. Industrial and scientific installations that would previously have been too costly to supply for permanent residents suddenly had a hub at Thunderhead where essentials could be purchased without waiting days or weeks for a shuttle, and at much lower cost. By the time the opening shots of the Jovian Conflict were fired in 2279, less than 40 years after the population of the Moon had already reached almost 600,000 people.
The Moon played a vital role in Earth’s military actions during the Jovian Conflict, with command of Earth’s entire space fleet being relocated from Cape Town, South Africa to Varunastra Base. As a result, the Moon’s population and infrastructure grew rapidly and substantially during the sixteen years of fighting. It also increased the ability of lunar colonies to function independently, and rationing and economic strain encouraged new self-sustaining habitats. The demand for the Moon’s plentiful Helium-3 for military fusion reactors now made lunar mining operations absolutely essential to the war effort. In a very brief time, Earth’s nearest neighbor had gone from a dependent little sister to a formidable political and economic force in its own right.
The Moon was the only colony to support Earth through to the end of the Jovian Conflict and, as such, still does not have the full respect of the other colonial worlds. The Moon is also viewed as dependent upon Earth, despite the fact that any lunar resident would take strong issue with that image. In an attempt to smooth over the Moon’s role in Earth’s transgressions, the military provisions of the Unity Accords renamed Varunastra Base as Luna Base, and make it the official headquarters of the new United Fleet. The lunar governments were also slightly restructured, mostly voluntarily, and the charter was updated and the Moon officially renamed “Luna” and given a new flag without any representation of Earth in its design. While the updated flag was quite popular, most citizens of the Moon were not fans of the name change, and though Luna is the official name used for legal purposes, no one born on the Moon would be caught referring to their homeworld by that name. Outside of legal documents and formal ceremonies, the Moon is still the Moon, and any lunar colonists are all too likely to point this fact out to anyone who will listen.
(Pop. 1.8 billion) – The Martian colonies were, and continue to be, a testbed for some of humankind’s most ambitious endeavors. Especially where terraforming is concerned, it would have been far easier to simply establish the kind of sealed, shielded habitats used for every other human colony. Instead, the desire to know if it could be done outweighed the many voices that claimed it didn’t need to be done. Mars’ atmosphere was too thin and provided too little protection from solar radiation. It lacked a magnetosphere to protect any new atmosphere that could be added. It was too cold. It didn’t have enough oxygen or enough water.
There were a hundred good reasons why even a body as distant and hostile as Titan would be easier to colonize. They were all ignored. Mars became the world where humankind would learn everything it needed to know about whether it could make a hostile world its own. And they did. Every different theoretical terraforming method ever conceived was poured over in exhausting detail and the most likely to succeed were all added to the pile. Most were beyond human capability at the time, but it was expected that new technology would have to be developed in any such endeavor, and so the unlikely and even seemingly impossible were added to the pile of ideas to consider. As it happened, the advent of portable fusion reactors, followed shortly by the discovery of the means to manipulate gravity itself, made many of these previously impossible ideas eminently practical. All that was required was patience.
Over the course of a century, Mars was bombarded with asteroids and comets, huge processing towers were constructed at the poles to liquefy water and release gases from the ice caps. The Metioche spacecraft, originally built as a comet tug and used to crash a large, ammonia-rich comet into the Martian surface utilizing some of the earliest successful gravitonic technology, was repurposed as an orbiting gravity well in an attempt to start Mars’ cold core spinning again and, when this showed slow and limited success, construction began on a network of satellites that would generate an artificial magnetic field to protect the surface from radiation. There were many smaller projects involving scientists from every discipline from botany to geology to particle physics, and within 150 years, Mars became a very different world from the one humans had first colonized.
Modern Mars has an atmosphere dense enough and containing enough greenhouse gasses to allow unmodified humans, on warmer days, to walk on its surface with nothing more than an oxygen mask and a heavy coat. There is plant life covering much of its equatorial region that survives with only minimal maintenance. There are lakes on the surface that are actually liquid for short periods in midsummer, and there are over a billion human beings living and thriving there. While Mars is not yet sustainable without outside assistance, most notably water and fuel shipments, the Martian government carries on with the work of terraforming the red planet, and it is believed that with proper care and controlled population growth, Mars can be entirely self-sustaining within another century.
From an anthropological standpoint, the Martian experiment had produced some truly fascinating divergences within the population; most notably, the self-named Aresian people, often referred to as “true Martians” by other residents of Mars. Over 180 years ago, the first Aresians, then considered little more than a cult, led by Nobel Prize winning geneticist and exobiologist Francis J. Wilkins, began a process of targeted genetic modifications designed to allow them to live on Mars without pressurized habitats or artificial gravity. At the time the project began, atmospheric pressure was far lower than a human body, even heavily modified, could survive without a pressure suit, but the modifications were made with the expectation that those conditions would change, and they did. Less than a decade after the Aresians began modifying themselves, the Metioche comet, combined with numerous other terraforming techniques, had substantially increased the density of the Martian atmosphere. With the planet warming and atmospheric pressure increasing, the Aresians began moving into ever less protected habitats, and within sixty years, between genetic modification and the changes in the environment, some of the more successfully modified of them were able to start unpressurized settlements with no artificial gravity. Radiation remained an issue for the first settlements, so the first of them were built within the sub-surface lava tubes that housed the original exploratory habitats of the original colonists. In the years since, however, several Aresian settlements have been constructed on the open surface of Mars.
Today, there are nearly two million Aresians living on Mars. Their heavy genetic modification and drastically different living environment have made the Aresians distinctly different from other humans. The average Aresian is well over two meters tall and weighs less than 75 kilograms. They tend to be slender and appear almost frail, but in their low-gravity environment, they are known to be faster and more agile than unmodified humans.
There are some distinct disadvantages to the Aresians’ lifestyle. While they have mostly solved the complex issues of bone density loss, breathing thin air, surviving on less food and water, and numerous other difficulties posed by their harsh living environment, they tend to have a much shorter lifespan than other Martians. The average life expectancy of an unmodified, habitat-dwelling Martian is approximately 120 years, but the Aresians’ average lifespan is barely 70 years. Aresians are also unable to enter the earthlike gravity and fully pressurized environments of most Martian habitats, as it is extremely uncomfortable, if not debilitating for them, causing issues with respiration and an increased risk of stress fractures to weight-bearing bones. In addition, while the Aresian genetic modifications are designed to be passed on from parent to child, approximately three percent of Aresian children are born with insufficient genetic variance from the human norm to survive Aresian living conditions. Fortunately, such problems are usually detected early in the pregnancy so proper steps can be taken to protect the child during delivery if carried to term. This issue has resulted in a number of Aresian children being essentially orphaned, as they must live in a pressurized, 1-g habitat inaccessible to their birth parents. With population controls on Mars strictly enforced, there has been little difficulty placing these children with adoptive families, but it does create emotional hardship for the notoriously close knit Aresian community.
And, of course, one does not discuss Mars without discussing grav-sled racing. Martians refer to this dangerous sport, banned everywhere in the solar system except Mars, Saturn and Australia, as the “official unofficial sport of Mars.” Of the seven professional grav-sled tracks in the solar system, four are on Mars. The largest of these, the Ares Vallis Raceway, is home to the Tempus Cup, the final race of the official racing season, by far the most attended and watched race in the system. The track’s construction was a joint venture between the Aresians, who needed a steady source of income, and Tempus Industries, who took advantage of the fact that Aresian construction crews were far more efficient in the Martian atmosphere than a team of suited and masked workers could ever be. The Aresians, seeing the profit to be made, and capitalizing on their unique advantage over the competition, invested their earnings from the Ares Vallis Raceway into the construction of smaller tracks at Paradiso, Cydonia and Arcadia.
The face of Mars and the lifestyle of its people is, more than any other colony, in a constant state of change, as new technologies and new changes in the native environment allow for colonial expansion and new industry. As a result, Martians are a proud, competitive people, fiercely protective of their homeworld.
During the Jovian Conflict, Mars remained neutral, even hosting summit and treaty meetings between the factions, but leaned towards support of Earth prior to the destruction of Enceladus. After that tragic incident, Mars shifted its support and its military might squarely to the side of the colonials. Mars’ involvement is credited with pushing the various Earth governments towards a peace agreement. The Martian government was also crucial in pushing for and helping to form the Unity Council and its military arm, the United Forces. Mars also became the home of United Marine headquarters at Olympus Mons. Due to their political and military influence during and after the Jovian conflict, Mars has generally good relationships with every colonial government, and has at least the grudging respect of the various Earth governments.
The Asteroid Belt
Ceres (Pop. 430,420) – Ceres was the first place beyond the moon to host a permanent human habitat. All other human colonization efforts depended on tapping the vast resources of the asteroid belt, and Ceres was, and remains, the hub of the asteroid mining industry.
The first Ceres habitat was designed and constructed in the early 22nd century for short-term habitation for work crews and a streamlined administrative staff, and consisted of little more than a hangar bay, barracks and a galley. This original outpost functioned in much the same way as the offshore oil platforms of the fossil fuel era, with crews switching out every few months, and the total population never reaching over 140 people at one time. It quickly became evident that with the available resources, longer-term habitation would yield much faster progress, and with the abundance of water ice on Ceres, the only insurmountable difficulty to permanent habitats was the inevitable bone loss due to Ceres’ low gravity. This problem would prevent a true colony on Ceres for several more decades.
The Ceres operation grew over the years, and after three decades of operation, despite the fact that a worker could spend a maximum of six months on Ceres before being rotated off, the original outpost had expanded to 8 hangars, all operating around the clock and at maximum capacity. The subsurface habitats had expanded to house a full operational staff of over 500 people at any given time, and had become more like the frontier mining towns of old than a simple work facility. Still, Ceres fell short of being a true colonial effort.
Then, in 2132, the graviton was harnessed. Less than six years later, Ceres became the test bed for the first artificial gravity system. A new, state of the art facility was constructed with upgraded living quarters, workshops, a full hospital and even restaurants and shops. With the gravity in this new facility remaining steady between .9 and 1.1 Earth gravities, workers and administrators no longer had to be rotated out regularly, and could even bring their families to Ceres. The older habitats were converted to refineries, foundries and water purification facilities, or were used to expand hangar capacity for mining vessels.
The new habitat was an immediate success, and the ability to refine mined materials before they left the asteroid belt made Ceres an even more important outpost, especially to the growing Martian colonies, which were in constant need of every resource imaginable, including and especially the plentiful supply of water beneath Ceres’ surface. Within only a few years, a second, larger habitat was under construction, and more hangars and refineries were added, and Ceres was experiencing a true population boom. Work was plentiful, they had gravity, water, comfortable, if not spacious housing, and everyone needed what Ceres was producing.
Unfortunately, Ceres’ usefulness led to significant exploitation of workers by corporate interests and the Earth governments who had funded the construction of Ceres’ facilities, and relations between Earth and Ceres deteriorated rapidly after the construction of the second habitat. By the time Jovian moons declared independence in 2275, Ceres was more than willing to side with their fellow colonials against what were viewed as the entitled and tyrannical practices of Earth’s governments.
Despite its strategic importance, Ceres was mostly untouched by combat during the Jovian Conflict, as no government wanted to be responsible for damaging such a crucial resource. Still, Ceres sent supplies and troops to support the other colonies, and felt keenly the losses of its allies. Despite their being one of the first signatories of the Unity Accords, the people of Ceres still harbor a deep distrust of Earthlings and corporations. There is still some resentment towards Mars, as well, for their initial failure to support the colonies, but as Mars is one of the biggest markets for Ceres’ raw materials, the two colonies have done their best to mend their strained relationship. The outer colonies and Ceres continue to view each other as a valued and trusted allies.
The Congregation (Istos) (Pop. 98,497) – Originally an independent cooperative mining colony named Istos, the Congregation is a mass of 48 permanent and a variable number of temporary asteroids held together by a system of carbon nanotube structures. Its original configuration was intentionally designed in a spider web pattern, but it has since grown in a more haphazard fashion. While still officially named Istos, the Congregation is only ever referred to by this name in official documents and scientific publications. The people of the Congregation gave it its new name as an inside joke once they started adding new asteroids to the configuration to house their growing population. They began referring to the large central asteroid as “the pastor” (for various reasons, mostly based on puns referring to its use as a greenhouse and/or its somewhat unusual greenish surface coloring) and its growing number of attendant asteroids became “the pastor’s congregation.” The name stuck.
The Congregation is capable of independent propulsion, and is located in an area of the asteroid belt that is dense in mineral-rich bodies. That, coupled with its efficient mining methods, make it one of the system’s most productive mining installation. Rather than sending out ships to gather ore, the Congregation simply approaches an asteroid, pulling it in close with small gravity wells, and then latching on with a number of tethers. Once attached, the asteroid is mined for any valuable materials and then released as close to its original orbit as possible. In rare cases, an asteroid is found more suitable for habitation than an existing module and is kept, while an older habitation asteroid is gutted and released into the new asteroids former orbit. The number of permanent asteroids in the Congregation started at 26, but has remained relatively stable between 46-52 for the last 50 years.
The ore and minerals mined by the Congregation are often routed to Ceres for distribution, as the Congregation has only limited docking facilities, but depending on planetary positions at any given time, goods are also routed through Mars or, in more rare cases, one of the Jovian moons. As a result, the Congregation maintains positive relations with all of its nearest neighbors, and its inhabitants are generally well thought of by Martians and the outer colonies, despite Congregationalist tendencies towards gruffness and extreme pragmatism.
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The Jovian Moons
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Ganymede (Pop. 1.6 million) – The colony on Ganymede was the first colonial project carried out entirely without the involvement of Earth. A joint venture between colonists on Callisto and Europa, the original Ganymede habitat was thought by many in the inner solar system to be too difficult to be worth the effort. Previously, Earth’s interest in Ganymede had been limited to automated water collection from the large moon’s subsurface oceans. But Ganymede, with its vast and unexplored oceans and its unique magnetic field, not to mention a strong potential for harboring extraterrestrial life, was simply too intriguing for a group as absolutely ruled by the pioneering spirit as the Jovian colonists. Europa’s colonization had already supplied much of the construction technology needed to build habitats on Ganymede, so all that was required was a way to carve a dome 100 meters beneath the surface ice layer. For this, the engineers on Callisto worked with some of the best mining engineers from the asteroid colonies, and together with the structural engineers from Europa, they had a viable plan within a year of the project’s inception.
The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs flatly denied their request to begin colonization efforts. Construction on the first Ganymede habitat began three months later. While Ganymede’s political significance as the first hammer-tap on the wedge being driven between Earth and the outer colonies can hardly be overlooked, at the time it was its significance as a feat of engineering that gained it the most attention outside political circles.
The construction of the first Ganymedean habitat, and the two others that would eventually follow, involved using three specially designed drones equipped with powerful but extremely precise mining lasers to create a 65 km³ spherical “bubble” 100 meters below the surface of the icy crust. As they carved out this spherical cavity, the drones also laid lengths of pipe that was used to pump the water out to holding tanks on the surface. This mechanism required an exact balance between being heated enough to keep the water from freezing, while not radiating enough heat to melt the icy walls inside the sphere. .
Once the sphere was completed and the water pumped out completely, the pipes were used to pump in a mixture of krypton and argon harvested from Jupiter itself using unmanned ram-scoops. This gas mixture would be slowly displaced during the construction of the habitat itself, to form an insulating gas layer between the outer walls of the habitat and the surrounding ice.
The habitat was then constructed as a smaller sphere within the “bubble.” At the widest point of the habitat sphere was constructed a single platform that filled the whole of the space. This platform, after accounting for machinery, irrigation and structural reinforcement, would provide 13-14 km² of space dedicated exclusively to agriculture, starting with aeroponic and hydroponic growth, extending to actual soil farming as base material was slowly imported from asteroids and mixed with organic waste and minerals extracted from the ice during water distillation. This central garden was designed to provide food and additional oxygen production, as well as providing work and recreation for the newest members of the Jovian colonial family.
Living quarters, food production and medical facilities were constructed in a spiral pattern along the outer walls of the habitat sphere, spiraling up from above and down from below the central platform. Energy production, water distillation and most industrial facilities were constructed as hanging structures attached to the upper central portion of the sphere, while scientific research facilities, along with workshops and light manufacturing facilities were constructed as towers rising up from the lower center, which doubled as support struts for the central platform. The full construction took only 6 years, and was completed without a single component from Earth.
The original colonists were an eclectic mix of people from Europa, Callisto, Vesta, Ceres and the Congregation. While the colonists from Callisto initially felt somewhat claustrophobic in their new home below the surface, those from the tight tunnels and small caverns of the asteroid belt and Europa felt almost agoraphobic within the relative vastness of the Ganymede habitat. Despite the adjustment in lifestyle, this mix turned out to be exactly what was needed for this new enterprise. The colony was surprisingly successful, and was even able to extract potable water for export from Ganymede more efficiently than the unmanned drones ever had.
The first habitat was dubbed Galilei, in honor of the discoverer of Ganymede. Within fifteen years, enough interest had been generated that two new habitats, Marius and Perrine, had been constructed, and were populated by people from nearly every world in the solar system. These habitats were also met with disapproval from Earth bureaucracies, for mostly political reasons, but given their seeming success and undeniable popularity, there was little that could be done.
Ganymede’s future was finally assured beyond doubt, however, when during the construction of the Perrine habitat, the laser drill cut through to a pocket of warm water unexpectedly close to the surface. It was in this water, part of a plume sent up from a thermal vent thousands of meters below, that the first extraterrestrial life forms were discovered. They were only microbes, but they were undeniably alive, carbon based, and the single plume of warm water contained 8 distinct types.
This discovery was a far cry from finding alien intelligence in the universe, but the existence of alien life this close to home certainly changed the general attitude regarding the possibility of other intelligent life in the universe. It was a discovery that even the UNOOSA had to praise, at least publicly, and it resulted in Ganymede becoming the first colonial world to put a halt to the immigration of new colonists for fear of overpopulating the limited living space.
Since that initial discovery, Ganymede has yielded a wealth of new information regarding how life is formed, and has become a haven for biologists of all stripes and scientists in general, and the Perrine habitat now houses the only university in the outer solar system. As a result of this, and the fact that the whole colony started out as an unlikely venture, Ganymedeans are, somewhat justifiably, often thought of outside the Jovian system as intellectuals and optimists.
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The Saturnian Moons
Enceladus (former colony) (Final pop. 4.2 million) – Enceladus was one of more prosperous of the early outer colonies, despite its difficult geology. With an abundance of water, radiation protection and natural heat between its icy outer layer and warm subsurface ocean and the presence of enough organics to make food production practical, if not easy, Enceladus was near the top of the list of places humans could make a home in the outer solar system. After the initial habitat was complete, Enceladus grew quickly, exporting clean water and materials harvested from Saturn’s rings. Today, Enceladus is known not for its great achievements, but rather for how the people of Enceladus and, in some ways, the planet itself, met their end.
The surprise attack on Enceladus was the turning point of the Jovian Conflict. Earth forces, having received intelligence suggesting that an experimental weapon was being designed at one of the Enceladus habitats, launched a brutal, calculated surprise attack. Not knowing which habitat housed the alleged research facility, Earth’s fleet simply destroyed them all. Over four million people were killed in the bombings, either from the bombs themselves or the decompression of the habitats. Another three million died in subsurface shelters, either from radiation or hypothermia. All ships attempting to leave the surface were destroyed, presumably for fear one of them might be carrying information on the experimental weapon. Reinforcements from Titan attempted to defend the colonies, but they were hopelessly outnumbered and their nearest allies were days away. No colonial on or in orbit around Enceladus survived.
Today, Enceladus is a memorial to the lives lost, and stands as a reminder of the folly of continued war. Orbiting the dead world are a series of powerful broadcast beacons that constantly transmit a list of the names of every life lost in that fateful attack. There is an accompanying video feed that includes images and clips of the millions of lives that were so needlessly cut short. At close range, the beacons are powerful enough that they interrupt all other communication and can even interfere with the navigational capabilities of smaller ships. This is by design. Following the signing of the Unity Accords, it was agreed that no one should pass near Enceladus without being reminded of the tragedy that took place there.
There are still over six thousand survivors from Enceladus who were on ships, stations, mining facilities or other worlds when the attack came. These citizens are exempted from mandatory military service, and were paid substantial restitutions by the governments of Earth as part of the Unity Accords. Despite this, there are several hundred Enceladus survivors currently serving in the United Forces, most of whom feel that service will help prevent another incident like the destruction of their home from ever occurring again.
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Titan (Pop. 6.7 million) – SOLNet Informational System is compiling additional data for this article. Update coming soon.
(Pop. 1.2 million) – Freyr is the pinnacle of human pioneering achievement not because of the great leaps of engineering and ingenuity required to live there, but rather because of what it took to get there. Freyer is the first human colony orbiting another star. Located almost 22 light years from humankind’s home in the solar system, Freyr is closer to an earthlike planet than scientists had dared to dream they would find within reach of current technology, and even with early FTL technology, the trip to Freyr took years. The planet was originally detected in the mid-21st century and was labeled a “super earth,” but it wasn’t until the first FTL probes were sent out over a century later that the true nature of this alien world would become known.
Freyr is located in a binary star system, orbiting close to a red dwarf star, called Wodan, but is much farther from Wodan’s companion star Frigga, a yellow-white main sequence star which has only a negligible effect on the planet. Wodan’s relatively cool temperature and red color mean that Freyr’s habitability depends on a close, short orbit of only 42 Earth days. Wodan also puts out significantly less ultraviolet radiation than a main sequence star, which presents some difficulty for Freyr’s human inhabitants. Despite its proximity to its parent star, Freyr is not tidally locked, and completes a rotation once every 37 hours. This close proximity, coupled with Freyr’s thick atmosphere and lack of significant tilt on its axis give the planet a much more uniform temperature than earth, averaging between 12°F (-11°C) and 88°F (31°C), with the most extreme temperatures varying from the average by only 10°F or so at the poles and equator.
Freyr is larger than Earth, with 2.7 times the mass, 1.5 times the radius and 1.2 times the gravity. Its atmosphere is denser than Earth’s and is composed of approximately 80% hydrogen, 18% oxygen and 2% other gases, mostly argon, neon and carbon dioxide. Sixty-four percent of the surface of this new world is covered in warm, shallow oceans, which leaves Freyr with nearly twice the landmass of Earth. Almost all of this land is safely habitable, with the exception of a few highly geologically active mountain ranges. Freyrean’s live beneath a white daytime sky that fades to red or pink near the horizon, and is often a deep scarlet or violet at sunset. Sunlight on Freyr is dimmer than on Earth, with noon light levels similar to a late afternoon on Earth, and stars are visible on the horizon even at midday. Freyr has no natural satellites.
Feryr’s most surprising and, some would say, miraculous feature is that it is teeming with life. While no species yet encountered has shown any signs of advanced intelligence, its oceans and land support a staggering variety of species of plant and animal life that range from the utterly alien to the shockingly recognizable. Unlike Earth, Freyr boasts no indigenous flying species of any kind. Freyr has no deserts, and is mostly covered in vast plains, shallow marshes and dense forests of dark red and purple foliage that appears almost black from any distance. Most native Freyrean life forms, both plant and animal, are smaller than their Earth counterparts, and nocturnal species are far more common, making up the majority of Freyr’s fauna. Most importantly for human colonists, Freyr’s native plant and animal species are carbon-based and are therefore a viable and plentiful source of food. Earth species of plant are also adaptable to the Freyrean environment, but after the first 50 years, cultivation of Earth species was outlawed over fears of damage to the planet’s navtive ecosystem. Instead, Freyreans have begun domesticating and adapting Freyr’s indigenous species.
Freyr may sound too good to be true, but it is by no means perfect. The slightly higher gravity takes its toll on the human body after prolonged exposure, and the limited ultraviolet emissions from the red dwarf sun means that the colonists have to supplement UV exposure with special interior lighting. The constant twilight of their dim parent star has also resulted in Freyreans being more prone to depression and other psychological stress impairments. The planet itself also poses more active threats to colonists than many apparently harsher bodies within Earth’s solar system. There are numerous species of invasive arthropods, a few of which are venomous, and some of which are small enough to infiltrate any habitat that is not completely sealed. There are several species of plants that cause violent and sometimes deadly allergic reactions. Freyr is also home to a number of predatory species which, unlike those on Earth, have not learned to fear humankind. Many explorers have been overtaken and killed by quick and compact predators who are not slowed down by Freyr’s higher gravity. Though these problems are not nearly as prominent now as they were for earlier generations of colonists, it is still unwise to travel through the wilds of Freyr unarmed or unarmored, or without a well-stocked medical kit.
Modern Freyr, of course, is not all savage, unexplored wilderness. The Freyrean capital of Vanaheim, situated on the largest known river on Freyr, the Vadgelmir, is currently home to almost 500,000 people; nearly half of the human population of the planet. Except for its small size by Earth standards, Vanaheim is every bit a bustling metropolis, complete with roads, an elevated rail system, high-rises, shopping centers, parks, famous landmarks, and an airport which doubles as Freyr’s only spaceport. Surrounded by the Skjaldborg, a defensive wall bolstered by energy shields, Vanaheim is a safe haven from the everyday dangers of the world at large while still embracing the things that make Freyr a truly alien world. There are three other cities on Freyr, all connected by high speed rail and accessible by aircraft, but the largest of these has a population of only 80,000 people. A large portion of the Freyrean population are true pioneers, living on small farmsteads, hunting and trapping, or exploring and cataloging the unending stream of new discovers Freyr has to offer.
Even with the many advances in faster-than-light travel, a trip from the solar system to Freyr takes just under two years. As a result, only three ships, berthed at Crescent Station in the outer solar system, travel the route in a constant circuit, delivering passengers and supplies to Freyr every two years. These ships also transport Freyr’s mandated military recruits for training at the United Forces facilities in the solar system, and eventual service. Two of these ships are kept in transit, while a third ship is drydocked in orbit around Europa for maintenance, upgrades and repairs.
Communication between Freyr and the other human worlds is maintained through Odin’s Eye, a tiny wormhole-like gravity tunnel used to send compressed data bursts to a relay facility on Crescent Station in mere hours. In the Wodan system, communications through the Odin’s Eye is controlled and monitored via a United Fleet relay on Heimdallr Station, a facility in a distant sun-synchronous night side orbit around Freyr. Heimdallr Station also serves as a docking facility for supply and transport ships arriving from the solar system, most of which are too large to land on the planet’s surface. The station is also the orbital anchor for the Freyrean skyhook, a hanging transatmospheric tether which allows cargo and personnel to be transferred to and from the planet’s surface. While conventional craft are still used, the skyhook allows for transport into orbit without the fuel expenditure and high-gee discomfort of escape velocity from Freyr’s higher gravity. The skyhook, while officially labeled simply “the Freyr Skyhook,” is usually referred to by Freyreans as “the Bifrost,” in reference to the bridge between Earth and Asgard famously guarded by Heimdallr Station’s namesake in Norse mythology.
While there have been difficulties with the colonization of such a harsh and alien planet, the spirit of the Freyrean colonists has never wavered, and they are a fiercely proud group overall. In addition to taming the wilds of a faraway world, Freyreans have been responsible for several technological advancements that have made life easier for other human colonies. While they have a reputation for being a rugged and often non-conformist group, Freyreans are well respected by the other colonial worlds. The success thus far of the colony on Freyr has been inspirational, to say the least, and has led to dozens of unmanned probe launches to other potentially habitable systems, with two more manned missions planned before 2330.
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