A few weeks ago, I have visited the Technikmuseum Speyer, which is home to the Buran OK-GLI, the atmospheric test flight article of this Soviet Space Shuttle.
The second thing I developed over the past few month would be the Ormiold.
The Ormiold are a contemporary species of the Quetzal, and managed to get some survivors out from the ‘Last War’ against the Onouch’l Automatons and into the Solar System, hiding out in the Asteroid Belt in cryostasis.
And image for the Ormiold will come up eventually.
I’ve been working on a few things for ‘A Giants Shoulders’ over the last few month.
One of the independent nations in the Sol Main Asteroid Belt, the Federated Districts of Ceres.
The Federated Districts have started out as a company settlement to provide manpower for Asteroid Mining on Ceres, but eventually grew to become a democratic nation in its own right, under the tutelage of the European Union. The latter since the company in question, Euro Asteroid, was a company with its seat in Luxembourg.
Over the past few days I have put a lot of thought into spacecraft design for ‘A Giants Shoulders’. Of course the design is firmly grounded in the designs I’ve made for ‘Seeing Further’, but a bit more refined.
To this end, I have written up a document on the Type 45 interstellar patrol spacecraft, capable of operating up to 18 month on a patrol pattern to take care of potential enemies and commerce raiders of nations that are opposed to the Solar Nations.
I’ve always had fun using LaTeX to write my documents and I did use it two write a number of faux scientific documents, though most of those are not safe for work and certainly to available here.
Now I’ve thought to use the little wiki document data I still have on the Quetzal and write a ‘Primer on Quetzal’ to dive a little deeper into the creation of a fictional species. I certainly hope that I’ve managed to get it done well enough.
Well… First things first.
I have just posted the entirety of Seeing Further content on this new page. At least the content that I still had readily available.
Thing is… the entire background info that used to be contained by the old web page is lost. I cannot recreate it and repost it here.
Still, have fun reading Seeing Further, the link to there is above.
On the other hand, I’ve been planning to rewrite Seeing Further for a while now and have some content for it, but work is slow and I will change a lot of thing around.
For example, there will be no Soviet Union will collapse like it did in our normal timeline. The last few years have shown that Russia and China are more than enough to replace the Soviets.
I will also take more time between the discovery on Mars, landing on Mars, finding the Quetzal and Europans and going FTL. For one, thanks to The Expanse series, I want to have at least a century that allows to have something of a distinct Belter culture and population and much more infrastructure in the Solar System.
Over time, I will post a few world building ideas here, while I play around with the new setting.
Unfortunate Realities about the Quetzal
by Rynem Thriem, March 22nd 2054, quetzal.blogs.nytimes.com
With my recent appearance on CNNs Martin Sanchez Show and my resulting clash with Doctor Irene Cramer, I feel that I should talk about a number of unfortunate realities about my species. Most might have been supported by several of the other survivors, but as Doctor Cramer reminded me in her strange way, it is time that people recognize that those things are wrong and would hurt both us and human more than they actually help us.
Quetzal are an endangered species
We are not an endangered species. We never actually were.
Quite the opposite in fact.
You see, the Quetzal species has evolved from a r-selected species of omnivores. That means that we have a rather high number of offspring each time we mate. With each mating cycle a Quetzal can lay up to 50 eggs, with a high genetic diversity from the high number of matings during the mating season.
Even if currently about four of these offspring survive the first two years, this is still a high number even for a small community of Quetzal, allowing it to grow rapidly.
And taking a look at the current consensus (December 2053) of Quetzal will show everyone that we have gone from about ten thousand to nearly three million.
That is a population growth of 30000 percent in just about thirty years.
We certainly are not an endangered species by any means.
All Quetzal hatchlings need to survive
Here, we have multiple problems that play into this misconception, as my discussion, or rather screaming match, with Doctor Cramer showed, who was very, VERY insistent that all Quetzal hatchlings need to survive and that they should even be forced to survive.
That is a very bad idea for multiple reasons.
I would, again, like to note that we are not an endangered species.
If we were to be have fifty offspring of each mating cycle survive, for about half the Quetzal population and even taking in the maturity cycle, the Quetzal would simply outbreed humanity in less than 150 years. Not to mention that wars would break out long before that as food and water becomes scarce, mainly for humans, because the growing Quetzal population would inevitably contaminate water and food sources with arsenic and mercury, as well as simply eat it.
The quetzal would survive, but humanity would not, and that is by mere math.
Additionally the Quetzal are not humans.
We are genetically and psychologically incapable of really caring much for our extremely young offspring, outside of making sure that they are fed. This is a protective mechanism of evolution that prevents a parent from slipping into depression over the repeated deaths of their offspring during the first two years of their life. Only after these two years a loving parent-offspring bond, not unlike that between a human parent with his or her child will develop.
These hatchlings are also able to survive on their own, should the need arise. They are already capable of hunting and feeding themselves. In fact homes with the hatchlings are pretty clean when it comes to pest animals, because the hatchlings will hunt them down and eat them.
That leaves the question, why do so many of our offspring die during the first two years after hatching? Even with modern technology?
Again there are multiple reasons.
One is that the medical technology never much cared about finding way of making sure that more survive, due to the inability to really care much about our hatchlings. Without the need to protect them, like humans have, there is no need to find ways to have more survive.
The hatchlings are also in some times hunting and eating each other, particularly when they come over those hatchlings of another parent. In most cases, no one ever knows, just that there is one of the hatchlings missing. They are not very bright at that age and will get into situations that are going to kill them.
In some cases genetic differences, which are not very rare, will lead to the death of a hatchling.
I will of course note that the number of surviving hatchlings has risen from one or two per mating to as much as eight during the times before the Final War.
In the end life on Cterin has been very Darwinian. And we Quetzal are a product of that world.
Of course we also developed a number of additional ways to cope, or rather rationalize the high mortality rate of our hatchlings in our various religions.
One thing they all have in common is that the hatchlings that die or vanish, have their souls incompletely formed and are unable to fully live in the world.
But in the end it all comes down to one thing.
The Quetzal are not human, even if our two species share many things.
The Quetzal are a peaceful species
Please allow me to laugh very loudly at this.
The Quetzal as a whole are about as peaceful as humanity as a whole. In fact I believe that there has not ever been a time on Cterin where there hadn’t been any form of armed conflict between two or more groups, tribes or nations.
And it only got worse.
For the most part it can be traced back to the hatchling mortality rate. As history progressed the mortality rate went down, the population pressure went up. More land was needed to feed the populations and armed conflicts have always been a great way of population control.
Which brings me to the fact that there were never any semblance of ‘civilians’ among ud Quetzal when it came to war. Even the most peaceful of the Quetzal is always armed with very powerful natural weapons and will know how to use them. I don’t know any instance where the population of a town or city has NOT fought back against any invading force.
Everyone of us is a combatant in case of an armed conflict. One way or another.
The use of chemical and in some cases biological weapons was never a tabu like it is on Earth. The only real tabu have always been nuclear weapons, even if only because they would not only destroy the enemy, but also usable land and resource stocks.
In most cases conflicts have been small and waged over one and the same plot of land over centuries, with this land switching owners multiple times even just within a century.
And international politics have always been vicious, even more so than human international politics. I should know, I have been a part of it.
What you see today of the Quetzal are largely survivors who want to rebuild and young Quetzal who have assimilated almost completely into their new cultures and taking their values as their own.
Quetzal are more intelligent than humans
While there are some, who believe that, whether they are humans or Quetzal, it is not true at all.
Yes, technology advanced faster on Cterin than it did on Earth, but for the most part that comes down to population pressure and more people looking for solutions to problems.
One example is the use of oceanic habitats. We have developed the means and technology for building large ships and eventually floating cities in the Cterin equivalent of Roman times, simply to reduce population pressure and increase the availability of food sources.
By the time of the Final War, we had advanced to free floating cities with populations of several million.
The same can be seen in space flight. We advanced there even faster than humanity, simply because early on space was seen as a perfect way to reduce population pressure with settlements on other planets, moons and asteroids. With FTL we also had access to other solar systems and endless space to grow.
Of course there was always the population numbers to throw at problems. I won’t go into how many lives had been lost with the push into space.
This is everything that I have to say for the moment about the unfortunate reality that several people in the human academica have to face. Something they cannot change at all, whether loud they scream and cry about it.
And there are those misanthropic people who put us on a pedestal. I have recently stumbled over works of fiction, where we are made out to be, the human word would be ‘Mary Sues’, who came to Earth with the best of intentions and aim to convert humans into perfect little Quetzal.
Just reading the summary of these works made me feel sick.
EDIT (March 25th, 2054):
It appears that I have been killed off as traitor to the Quetzal in one of the earlier mentioned pieces of fiction. A very interesting development.
The need to survive and population control
by Rynem Thriem, March 29nd 2054, quetzal.blogs.nytimes.com
After reading the comments on my post ‘Unfortunate Realities about the Quetzal’ from a few days ago, I have decided to talk about a few things.
In my previous post I have already noted that population control has always been a problem for the Quetzal.
One of the classic methods was to go to war and draft large numbers of the population as warriors and send them against the enemy, which also had the side effect that cities of the enemy were depopulated and used to house the own excess population.
In the really old days eggs would be destroyed rather than be allowed to hatch, when the population pressure was high enough and there was no enemy to wage war against handy. Or expeditions were sent out to far away lands to colonize them in force.
Another was the use of herbs that suppressed the hormonal cascade that preceded the mating season, as well as the permanent chirurgical removal of glands that induced the hormonal cascade. With the raise of modern medicine a number of pharmaceutical companies made a killing by selling drugs that had the same effect as the herbs, but weren’t limited in numbers.
Of course there were also other drugs, like those that would ensure that all eggs of a clutch would not hatch.
Now as the number of Quetzal on Earth has grown to over three million already, the old problem of population pressure and population control raises its ugly head yet again.
Right as I write this down, a number of companies, such a Bayer and Pfizer, are working on producing several drugs to allow us Quetzal the choice of whether we want to have a clutch of offspring or not.
And those drugs will not be the only thing to use to control our own population.
There is more than enough space for a large number of Quetzal in space. Currently there are talks with several asteroid mining companies to support us with the construction of asteroid habitats, as well as settlements on the Moon, Mars and Callisto. Another potential target for Quetzal populations are Alden in Proxima Centauri, a water world with a breathable atmosphere where we can work on our experience with building floating cities to live on. A second planet that might be suited for colonization is Wunderland orbiting Beta Centauri, which is a warm mars like world.
Of course Eridu is the best real estate we can use.
However, not everyone can be moved to potential settlements in space and the population pressure remains.
I can already hear the comments regarding that it’s impossible to force everyone to take the drugs, or remove their glands, to ensure that they don’t get offspring. There might even be comments about the failed One Child policy of the People’s Republic of China.
Those comments are all based around the misconception that Quetzal are funny shaped humans.
And I cannot stress it enough, Quetzal are not human. We have many things in common, but we are still different. No amount of comments, wishful thinking or even ‘scientific papers’ (Yes, those exist) can disprove that fact.
And here I want to shock several the people who write those comments or ‘papers’.
As a whole we Quetzal will be perfectly fine with voluntarily taking those drugs or remove those glands, if it means that our species survives in the long run. It is not even a psychological thing, but a remnant of our primitive ancestors instincts.
You see, we Quetzal as a species and as individuals are survivors. We will survive many things. But there are ‘levels of survival’.
The first level of course is the personal survival, which goes without saying.
The second level is the survival of the family, of the lineage, of the genetics of a Quetzal. Any Quetzal will gladly give their health or even their very lives to make sure that the family survives in the long term. You won’t even find any Quetzal think much about it, they will just do it.
On the third level we have the survival of larger social structures, be it a clan, a tribe, a city or a nation. All members of a family will lay down their lives to ensure the survival of those large social structures. It is part of the reason why there is no such thing as a civilian among Quetzal. We all will fight to protect our city or our nation.
On the final level is the survival of the species. When it concerns the survival of the Quetzal as a species, any individual Quetzal will do what is necessary to allow the species to survive. Again, it’s not even thought that enters into the equation, as its mostly instinct that drives us there.
Of course survival does not always mean that we are going to fight. At times fleeing is just as good as fighting.
In the end the Final Battle was something of a distraction so that a few fleets of ships could flee, with the Enemy not following them, to ensure the survival of our species.
Now, here on Earth, our long term survival is, to a degree, in jeopardy again, by population pressure and the potential of a war for this planet’s resources. If we don not control our own population.
So every Quetzal who is asked will take drugs or have a gland removed.
No question about it.
While the internationally financed Beagle Program was ongoing and returned valuable scientific information to Earth, public interest in the program and the journeys of the Beagle had vaned since its maiden journey and the survey of the closest stars. This reduced public interest resulted in a reduced interest of the international partners in the program as well. The results however were valuable and had resulted in the discovery of the survivors at 61 Virginis and of a habitable planet and the funding nations didn’t want to defund the program either, especially since Beagle was equipped with the scientific instruments that military craft didn’t carry.
As such the Beagle Program, too important to simply defund, but too uninteresting to keep funding in an independent international program, was in desperate need of a solution. Handing it over to one of the Great Powers would only lead to problems with the other Powers, so the only usable solution was to hand it over to the United Nations in exchange for additional funding.
The switch to the United Nations in 2057 didn’t only mean a new owner for the Beagle, but also the integration of the Beagle Program into the newly founded United Nations Institute for the Exploration of Outer Space, UNIEOS. UNIEOS was under the joint administration and funding of the UNOOSA and the UNESCO. The UNESCO provided the scientific crew and the scientific systems, while the UNOOSA was responsible for the flight crew and engineering support.
This joint funding, as well as the ability to source equipment and crew through UNOOSA and the UNESCO, allowed the UNIEOS to expand it operations. Where its sole aim in the beginning was to operate the Beagle, the Institute ordered three additional Beagle class exploration spacecraft by 2060, as well as a small number of smaller Light Courier Craft that were turned into small scientific platforms to be carried by a Beagle class. The Beagle class differed from a conventional MMUS by having additional tankage for coolant, as well as several jettisonable lithium heatsinks.
The three new Beagle class craft were all named after ships in the Age of Discovery, Santa Maria, after the flagship of Christopher Columbus, Victoria, the only ship to return from the world circumvention of Ferdinand Magellan, and Halve Maen, a Dutch ship that had searched for a Northwest Passage in 1609 through the Hudson river.
While Beagle went into dock for a refit to more modern technology and systems to allow a docking of two Light Science Craft, the three new craft went to their more simple first missions.
Santa Maria moved to Proxima Centauri to take a look at the Polyphemian world Alden, a life bearing ‘Eyeball Earth’ covered by ice, ocean and a massive storm.
Victoria‘s mission was to Niniveh, the sole planet of the red dwarf Luyten 726-8 A. Beagle had detected life within the atmosphere of the temperate gas giant, as its atmosphere was warm enough to allow water clouds to form. The algaes and insect like life was expected to shed light in the formation of life itself.
Halve Maen on the other hand, didn’t really leave the Solar System at all. Fitted with a massive extendable zero-g mirror of three hundred meters, the craft only went to the outer edge of the solar system to a distance of about 550 AU from the Sun. This allowed to use the gravity lensing effect with the Sun, allowing unprecedented optical observations of extrasolar planets without the need to send a spacecraft there.
The FOCAL named mission of Halve Maen had been on the mind of astronomers for nearly half a century in one way or another, though mostly the mission had been to send a satellite out to take readings, but only towards specific targets with the gravity lens of the Sun. With an FTL spacecraft on the other hand it was much easier to move from place to place and take observations of more stars and their planets.
The first target of the FOCAL mission was Eta Cassiopeiae, a double star system of a G and a K class stars not even twenty light years away from Earth. As both stars had a habitable zone comparable to that of the Sun, it was thought that it could harbour multiple planets bearing life.
Within three months, Halve Maen had discovered two planets with an oxygen atmosphere with its FOCAL telescope. One planet was a Super Earth six times the mass of Earth with visibly active vulcanism all over the planet orbiting A component of Eta Cassiopeiae, while the second was a two Earth masses sized world in an ice age orbiting the B component.
Some of the information from the mission was transmitted back to Earth, using the FOCAL telescope as a radio dish, allowing Earthbound astronomers to work on the data. The two discovered planets quickly turned into targets for exploration.
Halve Maen returned to Earth after nine month of jumping around in the outer solar system, taking a look at other planetary systems, though none of the observed systems did, on the first glance, contain any signs of life. Following the first FOCAL mission, Halve Maen and Beagle, which had finished its refitting, were equipped for a dual exploratory mission to Eta Cassiopeiae. Each was to enter orbit around one of the planets and explore it for life as well as the potential for settlement.
With just under twenty light years distance, the enlarged heat capacity of the two spacecraft allowed the journey with a single Heim-Feynman Space transit. By September 2061 the two spacecraft left the solar system towards Eta Cassiopeiae, leaving Heim-Feynman Space half a light year distant to take first close up reading of the system. With no radio signals detectable, the two spacecraft split up, Halve Maen moved towards Eta Cassiopeiae Ac, named Phineus, while Beagle approached Eta Cassiopeiae Bb, called Carme.
The discoveries made by both spacecraft were not expected.
As Beagle approached Carme, the sensors detected a number of weak radio signals coming from orbit, from which eventually turned out to be almost derelict artificial satellites. There were no signal from the ground however and after entering orbit, the telescopes of Beagle detected telltale crafters of high yield nuclear weapons, which had exploded as ground bursts.
Some of the orbital debris was taken in by Beagle and analyzed. The satellites turned out to have been primarily communication satellites, with some having quite large antennas for long distances, most likely enabling to talk to Phineus.
One of the lander probes from Beagle landed inside one of the destroyed places, returning images of destroyed buildings and levels of radiation that were deadly for humans within ten hours. Landers to other locations, like grassy plains, showed normal levels of radiation. One of the manned landing missions landed in one of the not irradiated areas, taking biological samples.
For Halve Maen orbiting Phineus was even worse. The masses of orbital debris and artificial satellites in orbit of the planet was even larger, rivaling the ring of debris orbiting Earth in volume. Halve Maen even detected a number of damaged and destroyed orbital stations.
The surface and atmosphere of Phineus could only be described to be close to the classical imagery of Hell. Geologically extremely active planet produced a high amount of volcanic gasses and the Sulfur Dioxide was making up nearly two percent. Worse however was the stifling heat and only the pressure of the atmosphere and the gravity, twice as high as that of Earth, kept the water from simply evaporating very quickly.
It was hard to imagine that such a planet could harbour life at all.
Yet it was there and at one time had been intelligent. Only to be destroyed by what appeared to be sustained nuclear bombardment of any major and minor population center. To make matters worse the crew of Halve Maen counted no less than ten Chicxulub sized craters that were extremely recent, indicating the use of large asteroids to completely destroy the intelligent life of Phineus.
Halve Maen didn’t attempt a manned landing and only sent its unmanned probes down, documenting the destruction and the remains of the civilization that had been destroyed here.
Both Beagle and Halve Maen returned to Earth in August 2062, the crews showing signs of depression over their discoveries. In depth analysis of recovered technology later showed that the civilization of Phineus apparently had colonized Carme, before it had been destroyed about a hundred fifty years ago.
This recent destruction of the alien civilization just twenty light years away reignited the fear of The Enemy for the Great Powers.
Yet, with the loss of an unknown civilization, a new form of intelligence was discovered closer to home.
In the late 2040s more and more agent based software systems had shown emergent behaviours, optimizing processes of all kind. Tightly observed by controllers most of these systems remained on the state of simple emergent systems, utilizing these optimizations, while preventing the potential further.
The tightly observed systems were all based on Earth however, with the most prominent examples being the Googleplex server farms as well as the Soviet Prirost system. Others were situated far away from the real time access of administrators and computer scientists, running the resource extraction systems of the many automated asteroid mines.
The long distance made any form of access to prevent the development of fully emergent systems uneconomic for the corporations, though they were still under observation. This allowed to pinpoint the time when each system reached full emergence into full sapience and sentience.
The forms of intelligence that awoke were unlike the more human intelligences of the known alien species, fully dependent on the type of situation they emerged from. Thankfully in all cases these intelligences were, for the moment, satisfied with their current situation. The asteroid mining corporations that owned the automated mines however were not very enthusiastic about these AIs, concerned about the legal implications, especially since the only two, or rather three, previously known AIs of Quetzal origin were essentially given basic sophont rights and technical ownership of their hardware and software.
On the other hand the AIs were presenting an economic benefit simply through the optimized processes, resulting in a higher yield for a lower input. In most cases the output had nearly doubled and any replacement of the AI with a conventional system would result in its loss.
While some groups called for the immediate destruction of these AIs, the purely pragmatic decision was to keep these AIs active, but continue to closely observed them, so that any potential problems with rogue AIs could be prevented. On the other hand a number of xeno psychologists found employment with the corporations, to build up an understanding of these completely alien intelligences to keep them on their good side.
Down on Earth, these emergences of AIs from complex software lead to controlled experiments, where it was tried to develop AIs through similar means.
Shortly after the Llighaqua Mission had left the Solar System, Beagle had returned, carrying a wealth of information on the habitable planet the spacecraft had discovered in the Epsilon Eridani system. Named Eridu, this planet massed 1.33 times of Earth and had about 1.2 times of its gravity.
Most of the planets just 17 percent landmass was made up by three small continents and a larger number of island chains of various sizes, most of which were the tops of the only large mountain chains the planet had. The tallest peak of the planet was merely 1265 meters in height, measured by two of the radar mapping satellites carried by Beagle.
The equatorial continent was named Alulim, the northern continent Jushur and the narrow north-to-south continent Etana, using the names of ancient Sumerian kings, as were the larger islands and island chains.
As the planet was along the inner third of Epsilon Eridanis habitable zone and the amount of water in the atmosphere, the average temperature was about 23 degrees, making the majority of the landmass being covered by lush dschungels and forests, while the lack of large mountain ranges meant that it lacked anything like central continental climates like found in the American Middle West. An axial tilt of just 9 degree resulted in less developed seasons.
While most of the observations of the planet had been made from orbit and through teleoperated landers, two manned expeditions to the planet’s surface had been made, allowing xenobiologists and geologists to take a closer look of their own.
As expected there was little chance of cross-infection with native bacteria and viruses, even though the ecology of Eridu was based on the same proteins and genetic bases as Earth life. However it was discovered that a few plants and maybe animals might be digestible by humans, just as a few other native animals might be useful as work animals for potential first settlers.
With the return of Beagle, talks about settling the planet began, culminating in the United Nations Summit on Extrasolar Settlements in 2057. During this summit the Great Powers tried their best to carve up the planet, much like the colonial powers of old had done to Asia and Africa nearly two centuries ago. Many of the nations that used to be colonies however were successful to interfered here. Partly this was due to bad memories, partly by wanting their own piece of the cake.
The Summit ended with the Eridu Treaty, which allowed the signatory nations to lay claim on an area of land not more than 2500 square kilometers for the first ten years, before being allowed to grow their claimed areas within limits that still had to be set. Additionally claimed areas also would need to have a direct connection to the originally claimed area. The Eridu Treaty would extend to other habitable planets, as well as uninhabitable planets and dwarf planets and be valid for fifty years before being renegotiated.
Corporations and private missions were also allowed to claim areas, however they were limited to merely ten square kilometers. Unclaimed areas were free to be used for building traffic infrastructure as well as being explored by scientific missions.
As the Eridu Treaty was limited to extrasolar claims, the situation in the Solar System didn’t change at all.
Backed by the Eridu Treaty, the Great Powers made use of the scientific data from Beagle to select the best places for their initial settlements and lay out plans to set them up.
The first to launch missions to claim and colonize parts of Eridu were China and the Soviet Union, having already used their extensive propaganda machinery to turn extrasolar colonies into the new places to be, resulting in a larger pool of volunteers. So shortly after the Eridu Treaty was signed, both nations had already build up the first settlement expeditions and were ready to go.
Both expeditions set out from SEL 1 on September 15, 2057, a month after the end of the Summit. They were loaded with construction material, transportation, food stocks and other materials to build up basic infrastructures, allowing a very limited autarky for the new settlements. Additionally they carried materials for basic transit space stations and defenses, just in case.
While the Soviet mission, claiming the isthmus area on Etana, had an initial population of 500 settlers, carefully screened for their ideological purity, the Chinese sent out no less than 1500, some of whom were just wanting to get as far from the thumb of Beijing as possible, settling down around a bay on the east coast of Alulim.
Other nations were to follow during the 2060s, with the United States and EU establishing their settlements with a relatively low number of around 300 settlers on the east and west coast of Badum.
While the first settlements were established on Eridu, commercial interests were already established in Proxima Centauri, Barnard’s Star and Luhmann 16, after Planetary Mining & Manufacturing and Orbital Industries, among others, purchased or build their first FTL capable craft. The first craft were survey craft based on the MMLS hull, followed by MMHS based industrial craft, first scouting out interesting asteroids and establishing mines.
Of course this raised the question whether or not these extra solar mines were cost effective or even needed, considering the large amount of minable asteroids back home. To a small degree the mining companies were granted tax cuts to help create claims for their home nations, potentially allowing them to claim parts of the systems. Another was to give the incentive to create smaller forms of the Waypoint Depot, allowing future patrols to protect these claims.
Back in the Solar system the mining companies continued to expand their infrastructure feeding the continuously growing orbital industries in cislunar space. There was a drop in the prices for platinum group metals in the late 2050s when Lunar Surface Mining LLC began to look at impact craters on the lunar surface for the asteroids that impacted there, showing closer targets for these metals than the Near Earth Objects used by various other mining companies.
This valuable discovery lead to the development of semi-permanent redeployable habitats for the technicians and engineers tasked with supervising the mining systems. While designs varied, they generally followed the basic structure of the German antarctic station Neumayer-Station III or the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, though with integrated propulsion systems, such as continuous tracks and/or cryogenic thrusters.
With additional sites for Helium 3 mines on the lunar surface the population of the Moon, whether permanent or temporary increased by several thousand.
The rather cost intensive mining of lunar Helium 3 however had already lead to the development of other means of mining the valuable gas. The Neptune Gas Mining Corporation was formed by several EU and US companies as a joint venture and using the Turukal Gas Giant mine began to develop their own gas mining system to be used in the upper atmosphere of Neptune.
This first Gas Mine was a close copy of the multiple piece Turukal system. An Orbital station was designed to house large tanks and docking ports for tankers, as well as habitation for technicians and engineers. It was then connected through a long tether wo the main scoop collected the atmospheric gas of Neptune, where it was collected and separated to extract the Helium 3.
The main scoop also collected some Deuterium to feed its integrated fusion reactor, which also powered the orbital station as the heat management for the reactor was more effective in the gas giant’s atmosphere. Additionally the current running through the tether interacted with Neptunes magnetosphere, providing a propulsive force to counteract the atmospheric drag. To transfer the mined gas to the orbital station, a climber was attached to the tether, running up and down along its length to carry the mined liquified gas into orbit.
Operation of the Nereid Gas Mine began in December 2061 and it was served by three FTL equipped MMUS based tanker craft.
Only three month later the cost of Helium 3 dropped significantly, though not thanks to the Nereid Gas Mine, but through the arrival of two FTL spacecraft from 61 Virginis, carrying a few enterprising Untiph-bel entrepreneurs as well as ten thousand tonnes of Helium 3. This amount alone was several times the 2061 production of Helium 3. Their arrival not only crashed the cost of Helium 3, but also provided a big problem, as there was the need to work out how to pay for the the liquified gas necessary for fusion reactors.
The Untiph-bel were using an energy backed monetary system, with its smallest unit being equal to 0.764 Joules. To make things more complicated to find a conversation was the use of kilograms for of liquid Helium 3 being used as monetary units in itself. Eventually however a conversation was found, going back to an oddity of the Quetzal biology, which made crude oil a delicacy. As the Untiph-bel, other than the survivors, had never tasted crude oil, they were very interested in purchasing it to be sold back home. In the end fifty thousand barrel of crude oil were used by various groups to purchase the ten thousand tonnes of Helium 3, as well as 500 million Euros and US Dollar for any future dealings in Swiss company accounts.
There were some fears that this relative low cost of the Helium 3 was going to make Earth dependent on the 61 Virginis Helium 3, but those fears were slowly put to rest. With the Nereid Gas Mine active, with a projected yield of 1000 tonnes of Helium 3 per year, six similar sized mines in various stages of construction and larger mines planned for Neptune and Uranus, eventually Earth might be able to compete with the Untiph-bel.
To make things even more interesting, Sol was almost in a straight line between 61 Virginis and Beta Hydrii, making it a prime spot to take on supplies for any spacecraft of the Untiph-bel and the Tiaunt. It became clear when the two tankers that had visited Sol in early 2062 made their way towards Beta Hydrii in late 2062, selling off a thousand tonnes of Helium 3 on the way. They later returned through Sol, carrying fourty thousand barrels of Jerat crude oil.
Outside of this small economic boom in the outer parts of the solar system, Mars remained a boom town as well. The Aldrin Cyclers of the Mars Society were continuously enlarged to cope with the growing number of settlers moving to Mars, making use of the low cost service. By 2060 the amount of incoming settler, either by Cycler or powered spacecraft, exceeded the capacity of the existing gateway stations in Mars orbit.
To take care of this problem the Mars Society suggested a base on Deimos to take care of the international traffic, operated by the UNOOSA to safeguard the fair use of the station. The Mars Society even went as far as offering their own Mayflower Station as the core for the new Port Deimos.
While the UNOOSA was interested in the idea, Port Deimos could only be set up in 2063, following negotiations with both China and India, since both nations had only recently enlarged their own traffic control stations. Rather than using the Mayflower Station as a core however the UNOOSA used the Waypoint Station design already used several times, since it could easily be extended and was intended to be anchored to an asteroid from the ground up, making use of modular systems that were already produced and didn’t need work to be make compatible with the Mars Society systems.
Closer towards the Sun, the Soviets intensified their scientific work on Venus. While their decades long work on the Veneran derelict still didn’t yield any significant advances in science outside of a few metallurgic advances, their interest in Venus itself had slowly returned.
Over the past decade the Soviet Academy of Sciences has developed a manned mission to Venus. Rather than landing on the planet however, the plan was to use a special inflatable airship to cruise through the upper atmosphere of Venus for about a year to get more information about the atmospheric currents as well as testing technologies that might be useful for the potential colonization of the veneran upper atmosphere.
With the new developments everywhere in the solar system there was a need for high speed courier craft, to transport large amounts of data that couldn’t be transmitted with conventional radio or laser communication systems, either because they needed to be encrypted or were simply too large to be easily transmitted. Such a craft was quickly developed and based on the Unmanned Combat Drone design, by more or less simply replacing the weapons payload with a habitat for a crew.
This new Light Courier Craft was quickly put into service and saw its first use in cislunar space, ferrying important people around, before it was used for scientific missions within the solar system. It could also be carried by a larger FTL spacecraft to act as a light scientific craft or a light scout.
By 2057 the diplomatic contact with the United Colonies and the Emkin Assembly in 61 Virginis had become relatively good and the great powers of Earth inquired through the United Nations about the possibility of sending observers. This was to take a closer look at how the Untiph-bel waged war.
Most of Earth’s militaries saw the Untiph-bel as being much more experienced in matter of space war than themselves or even the Quetzal that had made it into the Sol system. About Two thousand years of experience wasn’t something that should be ignored. Additionally, if it ever came to it, it would allow to try and develop countermeasures against Untiph-bel tactics.
During these observations it became clear that the Untiph-bel largely preferred to use missiles for long range engagements with each other. This was largely due to the long detection ranges that came with the long distances between nations and even habitated celestial objects. Only the spacecraft equipped with the newly rediscovered Quetzal Heim-Feynman Event Generators they were able to get into close fighting ranges quickly, using lasers and kinetic energy weapons.
With missile combat being preferred, several kinds of missile warheads were observed. One of the most common were kinetic warheads that all but covered the target with ball bearing sized ‘grapeshot’, spreading the damage over a larger area. A larger version of these warheads spread small chemical explosives over a larger area that exploded just after impact. Nuclear warheads were not as spread as first thought, where human spacecraft were solely equipped with nuclear weapons.
The use of small ‘counter missiles’ to intercept large missiles over a longer distance was one of the reasons why the large monolithic nuclear warheads had fallen out of favor as the kinetic impactors and ‘grapeshot’ of the counter missiles could intercept about forty to sixty percent of missiles before the terminal approach phases.
Reports on the tactics and weapons used were well received across the globe and sparked off the development of several new missile systems. Due to the modular nature of the commonly used spacecraft, those missiles, while domestic developments, were modular and could be used across all combat spacecraft of Earth.
One of the missile systems was the long range missile, based around the various designs for ground-to-orbit missiles, like the American ESM-12 Trembler with a Delta-V of nearly ten thousand meters per second. Additionally longer ranged missiles with gaseous fission thrusters and experimental fusion thrusters were under development. Each could be equipped with one of several warhead variants. One was a conventional high yield nuclear warhead of 500 kt, while a second was a MIRV nuclear warhead with up to ten independent terminal guidance and a low yield of 10 to 20 kt.
A third warhead was the Shattershot warhead that could be described as an improvement of the Untiph-bel designs. Rather than carrying a mass of ball bearing sized kinetic impactors, the Scattershot was designed around the same principle as cluster munitions. Each warhead was essentially a bus that carried about a hundred soda can sized submunitions equipped with simple sensors, hydrazine reaction controls and guidance systems that communicated with each other and the bus.
The bus dispersed the submunitions with simple springs before the terminal phase, during which each submunition could independently maneuver. Before the actual impact a small explosive charge exploded releasing the actual warhead, a pre fragmented block of tungsten carbide or depleted uranium. The bus itself acted as active electronic countermeasure for the submunitions, pretending to be a conventional warhead with terminal guidance.
The second missile system was a counter missile system that, equipped with a smaller version of the Scattershot warhead, could be used to intercept an opponent’s missile before it entered the terminal guidance phase. In a pinch it could also be used as anti-spacecraft missile.
The Scattershot missile warhead also lead to the development of similar munition for the large 155 mm and 406 mm rail guns.
With the observation of space warfare also came limited observations concerning infantry combat, when it came to infantry assaults on asteroid mines and habitats of the Holy Hegemony of Lerr.
Conventional infantry was equipped with armored space suits and an interesting mix of weapons. Most of these weapons were short ranged shotgun like flechette weapons, as well as handheld short range particle weapons.
The flechette weapons were specially designed that they would be stuck in the walls of a pressure vessel, like the living area of a space station, to minimize atmospheric losses. The particle weapons were primarily used against armored targets to deliver an electric charge that could destroy even hardened electronics, but where notoriously short ranged and prone to emitting ionizing radiation if not properly taken care of.
It was of an interesting note that the Untiph-bel had developed a form of armored fighting vehicle that could be used inside and outside of asteroid habitats and mines, using a design similar to the old Soviet TKS spacecraft, armed with a number of flechette guns, particle weapons and a limited number of explosive tipped missiles.
These observations lead to the development of a series of new Personal Protective Armors specially for the use in microgravity and vacuum environments. In most cases this merely necessitated to add a mechanical counter pressure suit into an existing PPA design, but this was considered to be a stopgap measure until an actual space PPA could be developed.
Still, it was expected that these PPA would do reasonably well against flechette weapons, even if they were vulnerable to particle weapons.
While flechette weapons were already considered for space borne infantry, particle beam weapons were a new field of development for personal weapons. The first prototypes were short ranged weapons based on conventional linear accelerators that were unable to reach the energy levels observed with Untiph-bel weapons. Later prototypes utilizing Wakefield accelerator designs were able to reach up to 1 GeV.
Similar observations on weapons and tactics utilized by the Tiaunt allowed the first comparison to military force that was planetbound like most Earth militaries.
For the most part the tactics used by the Tiaunt were comparable to those on Earth, though the Tiaunt were more in favor of fighting at a distance. Only rarely a Tiaunt would favor close quarters combat situations. This was largely based on their biological development and their ‘build in’ biochemical lasers.
The biochemical nature of these lasers also allowed them to develop a working understanding of optics and lasers early in their technological development, making them masters of optics by the time the Quetzal had found them. The fall and rise of their civilization had done little to reduce this knowledge.
Compared to the lasers available to the Tiaunt, ballistic and kinetic weapons were less developed and handily surpassed by both humans and Untiph-bel.
Where humanity was using coil-assisted liquid propellant kinetic weapons for armored fighting vehicles, the Tiaunt were still using solid propellants without kinetic boosters.
The relative lack of room and high temperature superconducting materials also limited Tiaunt capabilities, as their vehicles were dependent on petrochemical engines or even, though highly advanced, steam turbines. Comparable human vehicles were long since using an all-electric drivetrain with superconducting batteries for power, easily rechargeable in the field by a trailer sized compact fusion reactor.
New designs however were making use of new developments, and the Soviet Union was the first to field a tank armed with a particle beam weapon, where China was the first to use a high powered laser.
Another area of development where the Tiaunt were superior to Earth and the Untiph-bel was protection. While their actual armor used on their spacecraft was comparable to those of mankind and the Untiph-bel, the Tiaunt had managed to developed what could be called force field technology.
This force field technology was actually just a trinary application of the Tiaunt Heim-Feynman Event Generator, using the strong magnetic field produced by the rotating superconductors to create something of a mini-magnetosphere around a spacecraft, capable of deflecting charged particles and even larger metal objects to a certain degree. Additionally some ionizing radiation could be deflected as well, by injecting an ionized gas into the field, creating a thin plasma.
Theories of this technology had existed for a while on Earth, but had not been implemented due to various reasons, like that it had sounded too fantastic to exist, or that the Quetzal had not developed it themselves. Now however the development and use of this technology, combined with the potential of influencing missile warheads as well, received a higher priority. Until the system could be integrated into the next generation of the Heim-Feynman Event Generator, a simple software patch and an external plasma injection module had to suffice, with a higher use of power by the Heim-Feynman Event Generator itself.