Political Headaches

George H.W. Bush was the President of the United States, that guided the nation into the 21st century and reduced the chance of a World War III, even if that had meant to talk with the Soviets and somewhat normalize diplomatic relations with them.

His second term came to a close and as Bush had been a relatively good president, without major problems, the Republicans were given another chance. As such, Bush turned his office over to John McCain, who had beaten William ‘Bill’ Clinton by a good margin.

McCain was a staunch follower of ‘Nixonomics’ and opposed to the part of the Republicans that still tried to propagate the ‘Reaganomics’ model. On the diplomatic side, and largely since he was a Vietnam veteran, he favored a position of military strength, even though he didn’t advocate actual involvement as long as it could be avoided. More than once he quoted Theodore Roosevelt on his stance of ‘speaking softly and carrying a big stick’. Interestingly he also worked towards reopening diplomatic contacts with Vietnam.

To this end his administration organized the first G-12 Conference of the twelve largest global economies in Phoenix. Following its success, it was turned into an annual event, with each meeting being hosted by another nation, starting with the 2002 G-12 Conference being held in Beijing.

During the McCain administration the economy opened up more to the rest of the world, and while McCain tried to keep the United States economy as independent as possible, imports were seen as a good method of increasing competition and foster innovation.

Only the area of commercial and private spaceflight was something McCain did not support. He wanted space lift capability to remain within the hands of the government, but fearing a drop in his approval ratings, he tried to make it a controversial subject.

McCain was reelected in 2004 and as economic signs already made it look like he was doing a good job, chances increased that the next president would be a Republican as well. His first major contribution to the United States in his second term was to sign off the construction of the North American Maglev Transport Network, beginning with the construction of Maglev connections between all major American cities, as well as connecting it to a few Canadian and Mexican cities. Although the project wasn’t expected to be finished until 2024, it provided an enormous boost for the American economy and improved the availability of room temperature superconducting materials with new production processes, in turn reducing the size of rechargeable batteries for electronic devices.

Mitt Romney, who eventually became the presidential candidate for the 2008 election, stumbled over a thing of his past, just as it looked like he was going to win the elections. A number of documents were discovered by the New York Times that at least parts of the funds of Romneys initial startup Bain Capital were tied to Central American oligarchs, with ties to drug cartels, right-wing death squads, or left-wing radicals in the area.

Romney’s ratings dropped sharply as it was questioned how good a president could be if he was willing to work with that kind of people. As it was, Mitt Romney lost to Hillary Rodham in 2008.

Rodham was the first female in the office of the President as well as the first divorced woman, after having left her ex-husband and former presidential nominee Bill Clinton, over a string of affairs.

Rodham had built up most of her campaign based on being a divorced single woman taking her responsibility, as well as her support for private and commercial space flight, where Romney had gone for the McCain model.

During the Rodham administration the FAA approved manned commercial and private spaceflight, though imposing a number of safety requirements. Rodham had a large influence in the Commercial Space Infrastructure Act, which supported commercial space flight to its fullest.

Her biggest publicity stunt however was visiting Space Operations Command Hephaestus of NASA on July 4, 2011 and remaining there for three days, largely to show her support for space flight in general. During the stay on Hephaestus, Rodham held the first presidential speech from orbit, noting how beautiful Earth was from above and that the United States should do its best to keep it that way.

During her reelection campaign however, while performing a speech at Cape Canaveral on September 10 2012, Rodham was shot twice by a sniper. Rodham was rushed into a nearby hospital, where her life was saved after a three-hour operation. Afterwards her condition was considered to be critical but stable as one of the bullets had hit her spine, damaging her spinal cord.

While the Secret Service wanted to fly her out to Washington D.C., the damage to her spinal cord meant that she had to remain in Florida until she was deemed healthy enough to be moved. Only on October 21, she could be transported, and to a degree able to do some of her job as President of the United States.

Once in Washington, the physicians at Bethesda confirmed the diagnosis of their colleagues in Florida. Rodham was unlikely to be able to ever walk again. This did not stop her however and in a press release one week before the election, she stated that she had not and would not give up on running for office again, nor would she ever give up on trying to walk on her own two feet again.

While some far right Republicans cried foul, stating that the entire thing was a publicity stunt, Rodhams approval ratings went through the roof and Republican candidate George W. Bush failed to beat her.

The Cape Canaveral sniper, Todd William James, was caught two days after his attack on Rodham. He was immediately moved to a high security area and questioned, where he stated that he had to save America from an ‘unclean daughter of Satan’ who was perverting everything America stood for. It was later found out that he was linked to a radical fundamental preacher, who may or may not have ordered the assassination attempt.

As James kept declaring that it was his own idea, it was eventually considered be impossible to to link the preacher to the actual crime. In November 2013, James was sentenced to three life sentences in a high security prison, even though there had been calls for the death penalty.

Rodham was able to get fully back into office in April 2013, being the second president to use a wheelchair, after Franklin D. Roosevelt, although this time it would be a modern motorized version.

As the first American Tokamak fusion reactor ignited in May 2013 and produced 500 kW of electricity for one week, Rodham put her full support behind nuclear fusion, stating that it was a clean power source that would push America forwards and make them more independent in their energy needs.

Construction of the first commercial test fusion reactor began in February 2015, to be completed in September 2017 and see continuous operation from June 2018.

The only major scandal during the Rodham administration was the Brin Search Scandal, wherein Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google Corp. and son of two former Soviets, was presumed to be a Soviet spy, after the Soviet Union presented a very Google like search engine. To make matters worse, the programmers of Google discovered a code fragment that activated automatic transmission of all search results in a compressed version to a Soviet server.

Brin denied to have been responsible for anything that now linked Google to the Soviet Union and the KGB. The scandal caused a rapid devaluation of Google’s stock value as well as customers moving to other platforms as Google motto of ‘Don’t do Evil’, was placed in doubt. Only three months after the original publishing and Brin’s withdrawal from Google, the real culprit could be discovered, a relative low level programmer, Andrew Parker, who had ‘only done it for the money’.

Google’s reputation was damaged badly however and the company had to work very hard to get it back, by supporting the US government at any chance they got. This of course lead to its own problems and Google never returned to its former glory.

The 2016 presidential election saw a race between Democratic Senator of Illinois, Adlai Stevenson IV, and Republican Senator of North Carolina, Richard Burr. Compared to Rodham many considered Stevenson to be a bit colorless, but Rodham’s support carried the vote and he narrowly defeated Burr.

In the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev used the late 1990s and the early 2000s to fully consolidate his power in the Politburo, aided by time itself. The old guard of the Politburo, who had gone from the Stalin era through the Brezhnev era to Gorbachev, were not getting any younger and with some political maneuvering had slowly been removed on grounds of health or other matters of age, retiring them to their Dachas.

To fill up the vacancies, Gorbachev and his allies within the Politburo used like minded politicians, slowly pushing old ideas and the old Status Quo in the Soviet Union into the background.

By 2005 the Politburo had all but changed in its entirety, just as the economy of the Soviet Union could be considered to be fully recovered from the Stalin era policy of the Five Year Plans and everything that followed.

Productivity of the industry was at an all time high, with the Prirost system closely managing demand and supply according to the actual needs in almost real time. Additionally the link with the Soobshcha Network allowed it to quickly recognize trends and needs within the general Soviet populace. Agricultural effectivity had grown since the Kolkhozes had been largely left to their own devices how to produce the food that was in demand, although connection to Prirost was required by the government on each farm. Again, the link with Prirost was of utmost importance, as it allowed for better weather forecasts and quicker requests for transport and storage of consumables.

A small luxury economy had established itself, satisfying the peoples needs for luxury articles, be it a large color television, restaurant visits or simply a few bottles of high quality wodka.

To open up the marginalized region of Siberia for further increase future economic growth and to speed up transport through the Soviet Union and eventually the Warsaw Pact, the Politburo decided to follow a lead from the west, ‘acquiring’ plans of the American and European Maglev Networks to speed up the development of its own Maglev system.

The first connection, the Trans Siberian Maglev, began construction in 2008 and was finished in 2016, linking Moscow to Vladivostok, cutting travel times down to 24 hours, allowing a daily connection. Eventually it was planned to connect other regions of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact into the network as well.

Originally the Trans Siberian Maglev and other Maglev connections were powered by dedicated nuclear power plants built along the line, but by 2016 they were slowly replaced by cleaner and safer fusion reactors, after the first Tokamak had successfully ignited and kept active for over two weeks in 2014.

The Soobshcha Network was also on the path of growth. As more and more young people finished school knowing how to use computers and wanting to work with computers during their space time more and more computers with ‘Soobshcha Box’ found their way into common households. The traffic within the Network grew and the KGB had to rise to the challenge of keeping an eye on the population, making more and more making use of advanced search algorithms.

The development of those algorithms eventually got a boost when KGB agents in the United States managed to place a few moles into the Google Corporation and other American and European IT companies. This allowed the KGB, through their front of the Soobshcha Network Authority, to present a search engine that permitted Soviet citizens to search for any data available with the Soobshcha Network, as well as giving the KGB the ability to monitor these searches.

The similarity between the Glasnost and the Google search engines was glaring and eventually sparked of the Brin Search Scandal. Brin had some ties to the Soviet Union, but only with family there. To the KGB, the entire scandal was ironic, as it was Brin’s mother Eugenia, who actually had returned information of NASA and Space Force projects she had been working on at the Goddard Space Flight Center since the 1990s.

In the Eastern Bloc the situation of East Germany had stabilized and a measure of freedom had been given to the population, even though the Soviet Politburo held the reins tight to the new East German Government. Additionally the Soobshcha Network was heavily expanded into East Germany as well, allowing the KGB and the newly created Stasi replacement NSD, Nationaler Sicherheitsdienst, to keep watch over some of the problematic elements that remained following the Civil War.

Not willing to appear to play favorites, the Network got quickly expanded into the other Soviet client nations.

West of the Soviet Union, the European Union grew closer over the success of the Lunar mission and later the construction of the Marco Polo along with the Mars mission. With these large projects and the continued expansion of the Maglev network, more trust was built up among the nations.

To further cement this, a fiscal union was proposed in 2000, combined with a unified currency, the Euro. While the EU needed until 2013 to introduce the fiscal union, the Euro was introduced in 2007, also creating a monetary counterweight to the US Dollar and quickly turning into the second most traded currency on Earth.

It was not all sunshine and rainbows however. The London Times, together with the German magazine Der Spiegel, uncovered a system of corruption within the European Parliament. That had negative effects on the European stock market and fostered the 2015 Economic Crisis. It was discovered that a number of relatively new companies, including companies operating the heavy water plants, were partially managed either by politicians or people closely related to politicians, creating a conflict of interests. These companies received subventions from the European Union to produce a specific good, allowing a decent reduction of production costs, while the management received a good amount of money. In some extreme cases even, the politician that gave out the grant was the same person that it was given too. While some subventions were given back along with deep apologies after the huge public outrage resulting from the news, many others were only returned after several cases were won in European courts. In the end, many of these companies went bankrupt.

The heavy water plants of the EU were a special case and the companies running them were allowed to keep the grants as their future economic importance was realized, although they had to go further in their apologizes, committing to the neutral European Energy Commission. They produced heavy water for European nuclear reactors and some of it was sold outside of Europe, but most of it was directly sold to ESA for a largely fixed price. The heavy water was then electrolyzed to produce deuterium for the Marco Polo. While it was needed as fuel for the Z-Pinch thruster, several experts not employed by ESA noted that most of the deuterium was wasted as propellant, making it very expensive to operate the Marco Polo. A full fuel load of 1050 tonnes deuterium cost over 200 million Euros, not including the cost of launching it into space and transport it to the Marco Polo. Combined, one full tank for the Marco Polo was estimated to cost about one billion Euros.

While a number of politicians were replaced during the Subvention Scandal, the ESA was forced to admit that they had made a rather large design mistake and that the deuterium could have been replaced by using normal hydrogen or even ammonia as propellant, both cheap alternatives to deuterium. Currently however, ESA was stuck with their design decision as the Marco Polo’s thruster was designed to run purely on deuterium. A replacement, designed to run on either hydrogen or ammonia was going to cost nearly five billion Euros to develop, and needed several years of construction and testing before it could be launched and built into the Marco Polo.

The mass production of heavy water and in turn deuterium was eventually seen as a boon when fusion power plants became viable, following the development of a working Stellarator fusion reactor in Le Havre in 2014 and the first commercial fusion plant in Oxfordshire in 2017.

In China the beginning of the 21st century meant a further opening of the nation to the outside. To a degree it was to attract more companies to build up factories to produce cheaper than elsewhere, while another part was to get more know how the transparent way for the high tech areas into the country.

Existing cities expanded quickly, while new cities were created from the ground up, to urbanize a population that numbered over one billion. Local factories produced cheap products that could be exported and lead to high economic growth.

But the Central Committee of the Communist Party needed to keep up with the rest of the world if China wanted to become the major power of the 21st century. The discovery of the Imperial Dragon’s grave, and with it the technological information and a complete Quetzal aerospace craft, was felt to be heaven sent, in every sense of the word.

While some exceptions had been made, like sharing information about the extrasolar threats, the remaining information was kept as a secret trump card and would solely used to advance the Chinese knowledge base. While parts of the project lead to advances in space, like the Feilong SSTO spaceplane, the most important part for the Chinese economy were the increased knowledge on fusion reactors, based on the small fusion powerplant of the Quetzal aerospace craft.

In 2013, this design was successfully copied, creating a fusion reactor capable of producing 100 kW of electric energy, making use of a reactor design known as Polywell. The only downside was that the reactor was much larger, weighed more than 5 tonnes and produced massive amounts of waste heat.

In 2014 a larger 1 MW reactor was built, showing that the design could be scaled up, allowing China to be the first one to build up a large number of fusion reactors to augment and eventually replace coal fired power plants in the 2030s.

The energy created by the fusion reactors was needed, as China had built massive, energy intensive projects. One such project was the Pan-Chinese High Speed Transport Network, tracks of high speed maglev trains used for passenger and freight transport. It connected all major cities of the nation with tracks for 3 meter wide passenger maglevs and 6 meter wide cargo maglevs.

While China had its economic boom, it tried to use its newly found economic and political power to put political pressure on its neighbours. China laid claims on several islands and tried to expand its 200 miles zone into the zones of other nations in Asia.

As a reaction the nations of the Asian-Pacific Cooperation Pact came closer together in defiance. To counter the Chinese aggression, whether military or economically, the members of the APCP negotiated a Customs Union to promote closer economic ties and to help impose a common tariff on Chinese imports. To counter the military threat India and Japan proposed the formation of a NATO like organization, the Asian-Pacific Treaty Organization, between the APCP member nations to help the integration of the military.

India, in a rather daring move, was the first of the APCP member nations to officially recognize the Republic of China as an independent nation in 2005, following improved bilateral relations between India and Taiwan. Of course this move angered the Peoples Republic of China, making them increase their military presence at the border to Arunachal Pradesh. There were several border incidents from 2005 to 2007, but they eventually stopped as India remained steady on the issue and was joined by Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Indonesia in 2006 and 2007.

This move resulted in some tension between India and Japan as well as South Korea, which did not want to wake the sleeping dragon.

However there were a few military exercises of the APTO in the East and South China Sea.

For India both the APTO and the increased tension with China presented a chance to build up its military. While a number of weapons were developed natively, such as a nuclear aircraft carrier, the INS Vikramaditya, and a nuclear missile submarine, the INS Arihant, other weapon systems were bought abroad, like the SAAB JAS 39 Gripen as land and carrier based multirole fighter, or the Leopard 2A5 Main Battle Tank as a supplement to the Arjun and T-72 MBTs.

In turn, the arms buildup in India was a sign for the other APTO and APCP nations to increase military spendings, even though the more rapid Indian buildup was seen with a slight degree of suspicion.

When Pakistan was discovered as the backer of the 2015 Space Pirate Incident, the Indian government used it as a casus belli for another conflict with Pakistan over Kashmir, showing off their increased military strength. Forces of the Indian Army and Air Force attacked military installations on December 10, 2015, allowing a quick push into Kashmir. Additionally several ground-to-orbit weapons were used to intercept and destroy Pakistani surveillance satellites that had been launched with Chinese launch vehicles.

China saw a way to flex its military power as well and offered support to Pakistan, in the form of arms and a ‘volunteer division’ of the People’s Liberation Army, equipped with the latest Chinese arms. The new arms and the ‘volunteers’ helped the Pakistani to push back the Indian forces and contest the Indian air superiority.

By February 2016, Pakistan had forced a stalemate in Kashmir, while China once again increased its military presence at the border of Arunachal Pradesh. With India’s best forces bound in Kashmir and Somalia, the Indian military presence in Arunachal Pradesh was reduced, allowing China to try and pressure India into ending the War with Pakistan, threatening to cross the border into ‘South Tibet’. Both sides also brought their anti-orbit weapons into place to intercept and destroy the others satellites.

The nations of the APTO, while opposed to the actual war with Pakistan, were not willing to let their largest member fold against the Chinese. Therefore Indonesia, the Philippines and Australia increased their presence in Somalia, allowing India to reduce its military strength in Somalia by two thirds, reinforcing the Chinese border.

Help for India came from an unexpected side, as the Soviet Union in turn increased its military presence in Siberia and informed China that they were not going to allow a large war between them and India. The Soviets even threatened to intercept and destroy any rocket launched by China. To the Soviets such a war could make China stronger or make the war escalate into a nuclear war, most likely just local, but in the worst case global.

The situation would remain tense in Arunachal Pradesh for the coming years, with Chinese and Indian troops ready to have a go at each other. On the other side of India, combat in Kashmir ended on June 15, as Indian forces were able to push deep into Kashmir, allowing them to drive a wedge between the Pakistani forces and destroy about one third of their army in a battle that resembled Stalingrad in many ways. It forced Pakistan to sue for peace, unable to put much more forces into the fight.

The Indo-Pakistani War of 2015 made the other APCP members force talks between the heads of government, creating slight cracks in the facade. Especially India had to work hard to repair these over the following years.

In the Middle East, the beginning of the 21st century saw the birth of another nuclear power, as Iran detonated a nuclear device on March 4, 2001. They were the third in the area, following Israel and Egypt. Most analysts in the west believed that it were Egyptian and Pakistani scientists that helped Iran develop their nuclear weapons.

The possession of nuclear weapons and delivery vehicles in the form of an ingeniously developed advanced version of the Soviet Scud, shifted the power to a degree and set Iran at odds with Saudi Arabia and Egypt. At the same time, the Soviet Union tried to extend their influence over Iran, as they had done with Egypt after they had developed nuclear weapons.

The nuclear weapons however had increased the confidence of Iran and they managed to ward off most of the pushes of the Soviet Union, with Mohammad Khatami using religious rhetorics about godless communists. They had had their usefulness, but now were becoming a threat to Iran. This made the United States very interested to use Iran to strengthen its ties to the Middle East again after decades of a cold shoulder in the wake of the Oil Crisis and normalize their relations to a pre revolutionary state.

Khatami knew fully well that good connections to the world would allow Iran to flourish, by selling its oil. If it meant to drop the Israel issue, that was going to be a minor problem. It also was something of a direct diplomatic attack on Saudi Arabia, who used to be one of the prime trading partners of the United States before the Oil Crisis.

During the early 21st century Iran provided something of a stabilizing influence in the Middle East. As the time was the era of growing islamic fundamentalism in the Middle East, fostered by Sunni Imams in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia as well as Shia Imams in Iraq, it was somewhat ironic that a nation that was born in an islamic revolution was the stabilizer.

The stabilizing influence of Iran didn’t expand too far, as the Pakistani and Saudi Arabian governments covertly supported fundamentalist groups in Somalia and North Africa, as well as in Afghanistan, where the Mujahideen still fought in the Afghan civil war against both the Communist and Republican forces.

In North Africa, there were a number of nations that were under the influence of the Soviet Union. Sentiments against the Soviets and the national governments had grown over the years and as some of these nations attempted to modernize, allowing to sell computers and eventually cellular handsets, the GlobalNet spread out to the largely disgruntled youth, mainly students.

Voices against the governments of Libya, Tunisia and Egypt, as well as Syria, rose in the growing social networks, like Facebook and MyVZ. For the CIA this situation was new and unique and presented the first real chance for the Agency to try out new possibilities by manipulating the social media.

At first it did not seem to be doing much and the CIA considered sending out actual agents to work with a few groups, but the mood in North Africa eventually shifted as actual videos about actions of the governments were uploaded on YouTube and DailyMotion.

Especially in Libya, the mood switched from an almost silent protest to open demonstrations in Benghazi and Tripoli against Al-Gaddafi. The first few demonstrations were ignored, but as they grew stronger, from a few thousand to tens and finally hundred thousand, the Libyan military and police moved in to crash the protests.

It only had the effect of more videos getting out, showing others in Libya what the government was doing. The CIA only added fuel onto the fire with well placed comments and posts in the networks. With Al-Gaddafi, who became more and more eccentric as time went on, determined to silence anyone speaking out against him,the situation escalated in June 2014. Tens of thousand of young people marched directly towards the Bab al-Azizia barracks to protest, only to be gunned down mercilessly by the military.

In Benghazi, the protests turned into an uprising. Many groups that were against Al-Gaddafi were quick to put their lot in with the new rebels, be they Democrats, Marxists or Muslim Brothers. The initial rebellion soon became a Civil War, supported by secret arms trades by the CIA, as well as the French DGSI. The Soviet Union, while nominally supporting Al-Gaddafi, but getting tired off his antics, technically aided the government, but secretly assisting the Marxist part of the rebels to try and set up a communist Libya once the Libyan Civil War was over.

The Libyan Civil War lasted until January 2015, when Al-Gaddafi was found dead in a ditch, together with his bodyguards, outside of Sabha a bullet in the back of his head and no one claiming responsibility. This lead to rumors that either the CIA, the DGSI or even the KGB had taken him out of the equation.

The aftermath of the Libyan Civil War was no less chaotic than the war itself as Democrats, Marxists and Muslim Brothers fought for dominance. Eventually a provisional government was put into place to prepare for general elections, though all sides tried to swing the vote their way. The Democrats were supported by the West, the Marxists by the Soviets and the Muslim Brothers by Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

The end result became an almost equal share of all three parties with a slight advantage for the Democrats. At first the Marxists objected against the results, but then decided to move into a coalition with the Democrats to stabilize the nation before attempting to take power, thereby also denying it to the fundamentalist Muslim Brothers.

With the success of the Libyan Civil War, similar uprisings followed in Tunisia, Egypt and Syria. But only the Tunisian Uprising had a definite success, while the Syrian one turned into a long, bloody civil War. In Egypt the military stepped in in a surprisingly unbloody way, removing Hosni Mubarak from power, replacing him with a marionette president, while pacifying the nation by removing several Emergency Laws, but without actually changing much.

Later on the events of 2014 and 2015 would become known as the Arab Awakening.

In East Africa the situation had changed for the better and became worse at the same time.

In 2000 the East African Community, made up of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, was re-established following its collapse in 1977. The region had enjoyed close relations since the early 20th century and cooperation had always been a source of economic wealth and political power. Foreign relations became better as well and especially the Asian-Pacific Cooperation Pact became an important trade partner.

In 2008 the three nations were joined by Rwanda and Burundi. Only a year later the East African Community began with talks about taking a few steps further, from a trade and tariff union. The next step was a common market for good, capital and labor in 2010, followed by a common currency in 2013 and finally merging the five nations under a single federated government, the East African Federation in January 2015.

North of the East African Federation, the nation of Somalia was the complete opposite. Following the collapse of the communist republic to the various clans in 1991, one Civil War after the other shook the nation, one government following the other.

The nearly constant state of civil war between the single groups didn’t allow the nation to come to rest and at times it had splintered up in five different sub-nations. The constant strife lead to some people turning to religion and in their powerlessness following fundamentalist Imams forming into militias that fought among each other as well as the clans and warlords. The parts of Somalia controlled by them were put under Shari’a law, making life even harder for the population.

In the northern areas piracy flourished as a part of the local economy, bringing money into the coffers of some warlords. It increased heavily until 2015, threatening all shipping that went through the area.

In 2011 Ethiopia and the, then, East African Community looked at the rise of Islamists and Sharia law with wary eyes, fearing that it might jump over into their nations and intervened in 2012, without official backing of the international community. At first they were successful in pacifying some areas of Somalia, but eventually were driven back by the various militias and warlords, who had a much better knowledge of the area and were more experienced, as well as willing to do things that the military commanders of Ethiopia and the EFC would never think of doing.

By 2013 the Ethiopian and EFC forces were forced to withdraw into Mogadishu, the only city they managed to pacify and allowed a degree of normality for the population.

In 2015 Space Pirate Incident the APTO entered the fray, as the United Nations backed a resolution to restore order in Somalia. The Somali Incursion began on December 4, 2015, as two divisions of the Indian Army and one division of the Indonesian Army landed near Mogadishu, supported by the INS Vikramaditya, INS Delhi, KRI Ahmad Yani and KRI Yos Sudarso.

The initial landing allowed the Indian and Indonesian troops to get behind the Al-Shabaab blockade of Mogadishu and break through to the forces of Ethiopia and the East African Federation. In return the harbor of Mogadishu was used to land more troops.

Even though the Indian and Indonesian Armies were trained for asymmetric warfare and counterinsurgency operations, the resistance of the Somali warlords and islamist militias was heavy and the Somali Incursion proved to be more of a problem than initially expected due to continued fights against insurgents, both foreign and domestic, trying to reestablish the Shari’a rule of the Islamic militias. Due to the escalating Asian situation, Indian troops were mostly replaced by troops from the Philippines and Australia in early 2016. By 2017 the situation still had not been resolved, but Indian troops returned to the area.

On the opposite side of Africa, the West African nations also realized that they were better off when they spoke with a common voice, to be heard by the rest of the world. The world was changing fast around them and neither wanted to be left behind.

The foundations had already been laid in 1975, to a degree aided by France, with the formation of the Economic Community of West African States ECOWAS. By the early 21st century, much like East Africa, they believed that it was time to move further. The direction they went was more along the lines of the European Union, rather than a form of West African Federation. The new organization, the Guinean Union, was named after the Gulf of Guinea and set the CFA franc, the currency of the West African Economic and Monetary Union since 1994, as the common currency used within the Guinean Union.

Taking another point from the European Union, the Guinean Union formed a common military command, similar to Euroforce, to jointly defend them. A common trade and foreign policy helped economically with better relations across the Atlantic to South America as well as Europe.

In South Africa the Apartheid was a thing of the past since 1999, but the gradual removal lead to different domestic problems. For the only African nuclear power aside from Egypt, that was not a good thing. A number of the white elites had remained in positions of economic and political power and continued to make problems for the rest of the population.

Even the short term of Presidency of Nelson Mandela, as he suffered a stroke in 2004, was only able to gloss over the situation and that inequality remained a fact in life. But Mandela still shaped the future for South Africa with a policy of peace and a reform of the educational system.

One of South Africa’s northern neighbours, Zimbabwe, formerly known as Rhodesia, faced different problems in the beginning 21st century. President Mugabe implemented a land reform in 2000 that forcibly took land from the big white farmers and redistributed it to black farmers. But it quickly became clear that land on its own helped little without additional financial help to put up actual new farms or even knowing how to work the farms, let alone maintain the equipment they did get.

Already in 2001 the number of agricultural exports dropped. While the white farmers hoped that it would let Mugabe see his error, he continued and on September 5, 2001 Mugabe was assassinated by a black former army sniper, who had been paid by a coalition of white farmers.

In the political aftermath, the forcible land redistribution stopped and a more moderate President, Morgan Tsvangirai, was elected into office after his party, the Movement for Democratic Change, won the election held in 2002.

Tsvangirai was quick to officially stop the farmland redistribution, but made it clear that the already redistributed lands would not be returned to their previous owners. To placate the white landowners however, they were paid for the land by the government, while the new farmers finally got financial support for setting up their farms.

The socalled ‘Landowner Investment Package’ hit the Zimbabwean economy and governmental funds hard, inducing a short recession, but by 2005 the agricultural sector had recovered to ninety percent of its strength before the redistribution.

By 2014, South Africa and Zimbabwe were talking about closer relations, which eventually lead to a fusion of the two national space programs in 2017.

In South America, Brazil and the other Mercosul nations enjoyed a period of economic growth.

While high tech companies like Embraer made sure that South America slowly pulled up to Europe and the United States, Petrobras and Petróleos de Venezuela exported oil to the United States and West Africa. Other resources like iron ore were mostly used in the domestic industry.

The success lead to Chile, Bolivia, Paraguay and Peru to request Mercosul membership in 2006 and 2007. While there were a few problems about Chile with Argentina, Brazil was able to influence Argentina in Chile’s favor with a higher share in AESA. By 2010 Chile and Bolivia were admitted as provisional members of Mercosul, followed by Paraguay and Peru in 2012.

Ecuador and Columbia were left out of the picture for the time being. Ecuador was not interested at the time and Columbia had some serious problems with domestic terrorist organizations like the FARC.

Not everything was going fine however as the massive economic boost in Brazil, by increased agricultural production and mining destroyed large parts of the Brazil rainforest. Legislations to prevent the loss of the important piece of Earth ecosystem were passed, but corruption in many areas kept the land barons in business. Once or twice the Brazilian government tried to intervene, but without much success.

Another problem remained in the form of the Falkland Islands, or Malvinas to Argentina. While a war over the islands had been averted during the 1980s, Argentina kept agitating against Great Britain. The other Mercosul nations had to use all their political power to keep Argentina from doing anything stupid, lest it would sour the relations to the European Union as a whole.

The early 21st century was also the time when religious problems over the revelation of alien life turned serious.

Two of the big world religions had little problems with the notion of alien life.

The least problems were presented by the Buddhists. The 14th Dalai Lama noted that aliens were just another part of the cycle of rebirth and that their existence meant that it might be less likely to be reincarnated as a low animal with the existence of intelligent aliens.

To many currents of hinduism aliens were not too far out there either. The gods were numerous and of many appearances. So why should it be any different for the creatures that lived in the universe?

The Abrahamic religions on the other hand had more problems with aliens. Or at least those that were against the notion of aliens with souls and real intelligence were much louder than any of the moderate voices.

The loudest voices were heard from televangelists in the United States, but also by several catholic bishops and cardinals, not to mention many other fundamentalist preachers in any of the three abrahamic religions, who concluded that aliens were minions of the devil as they came from the deep scary darkness of space.

There were also some who openly embraced the idea of alien brothers to the human race. They noted that if god had created life, he had also created alien life. And if God had created alien intelligent beings, why should they not have been created in His image? God was God, and therefore not bound to any shape or form.

Pope John Paul III was a curious case. He was the first Pope from South America, being born in Sao Paolo, as well as the first Jesuit. Part of the reason he had been elected following the death of John Paul II, was that he was a well-known and respected negotiator. And he was one of the few who had not decided whether aliens were ensouled creatures or not, allowing him to negotiate something of an uneasy peace within the Catholic church about the issue.

John Paul III hoped that he could have an answer before he was succeeded.

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