Humble origins a tale of humanity
Posted on 6th Jul 2016 in Development
Venturing into space had always been the dream of mankind - “the final frontier” that inspired countless generations. The space race of the 20th century turned that dream into a reality, but only briefly. For the next 50 years humanity remained grounded on Earth until reusable launch systems, developed by several private enterprises, moved space exploration from large national agencies into the hands of privately owned companies. This was the beginning of a “new space race”, a period of brutal competition for energy, resources and stock market shares between various rival companies.
Earth’s orbit became home to numerous companies that dealt in large scale orbital construction, energy production, mining and transportation, as well as smaller enterprises that dealt in research, agriculture, consumer electronics and even entertainment and tourism. As more and more companies ventured into space in search of profit, conflict followed in their footsteps. The distance between celestial bodies became their largest obstacle and turned any potentially valuable object in close proximity to Earth, whether a comet or an asteroid, into a priceless commodity that many were willing to fight over. Disputes over Moon mining rights and safety regulations became common and many companies sought ways to circumvent the painstakingly slow courts of Earth and UN bureaucracy. Various Earth security companies seized the opportunity and began renting services to space based businesses and started zero gravity training programs for their personnel. Private military companies followed soon after and with them large international arms manufacturers and major government weapon contractors. The number of incidents involving bribes, public scandals, corporate espionage, sabotage and open conflicts increased exponentially as more and more people began migrating into orbit.
This situation was largely tolerated due to political instability back on Earth. Breakthroughs in fusion technology during the late 21st century and the subsequent transition from fossil fuels and nuclear power plants to clean, fusion based, energy sources nearly caused a complete collapse of the Earth’s economic system. As time went by Earth’s leading nations became dependent on the extraterrestrial supply of Helium-3 (He3) for all energy needs. For the most part, governments were content to let corporations have their way beyond Earth’s orbit as long as they provided vitally needed economic support and rare commodities for the elite. This situation changed drastically after the “May 23rd incident”.
May 23rd Incident and the re-establishment of UN supremacy
On May 23, 2116, an asteroid mining barge “Atlas” lost control while returning to Earth from its trial run in the asteroid belt. The colossal vessel plummeted towards ground at 12.6 km/s. The ship exploded in the atmosphere and most of its structure burned away during re-entry. Several larger fragments crashed into the Pacific while others got shot down by ground to air batteries. Still several smaller objects found their way into populated areas causing devastation, panic and massive loss of life. This incident prompted the UN Security Council to immediate action. Within a year a new international space agency was created and placed under the command of the newly reformed UN Government. A special taskforce was assembled and charged with restoring order and policing the orbit to prevent any future incidents.
Faced with collective economic power and resources of Earth’s leading nations many orbital corporations agreed to sign a special charter, accepting new rules, restrictions and responsibilities. Those that refused were quickly subdued and had their assets seized. The new UN agency quickly established itself as the dominant political force and started a lengthy investigation. What followed was a series of lawsuits often accompanied by the confiscation of property of many space based enterprises, regardless of their involvement in the incident. In addition, the UN government imposed new restrictions on all companies operating at and beyond Earth’s orbit in an effort to further increase its influence. The new regulations for space travel, resource shipping and construction operations, were especially hard on smaller companies. Soon many smaller enterprises found themselves pushed out of business by companies with large government subventions.
Altair corporation - concept art
Rise of Altair Corporation
Even during the massive reshuffling of the orbital infrastructure that followed the Incident, several larger companies managed to retain their integrity. They began buying out former competitors and initiated a series of corporate mergers. The end result of these mergers was the birth of Altair Corporation, a massive corporate entity with vast holdings in orbit as well as on Luna and Mars. The company began the first completely independent orbital colonization effort and started construction of a massive orbital habitat designed to house over 60.000 people. The project gradually gained popularity, as the new corporate entity encompassed experts from various fields of science, from agriculture to energy production. The initial station layout was finished in record time and “Hesperides Station” became home for 46.000 company employees and their families. Following the successful completion of their first major endeavor Altair Corporation started a global recruiting campaign, offering new and exciting opportunities to people of various backgrounds, from scientists and engineers, to restaurant holders and artists.
By the time UN finally solidified its position as a political and military power in orbit, a lot of people already lived and worked in space. Altair Corporation was a massive entity that could no longer fit into any existing legal framework. The company owned several large orbital habitats, mining rights across the Solar system, long standing contracts with Earth’s governments and employed over 1.5 million people, of whom 600.000 lived on company stations along with their families. Additionally, AltCorp had contracts with numerous smaller enterprises that provided everything, from security to education and healthcare, to its employees. It had proved that the Earth laws and regulations were inadequate for handling an extraterrestrial civilization. From the standpoint of the reformed UN government Altair Corporation was an anomaly, one that had to be brought into an existing legal frame by any means necessary but the UN bureaucrats found themselves at a loss. Easiest solution was to give AltCorp special status, but doing so would create a precedent and create countless future problems. After many long debates Security Council finally opted to slowly erode AltCorp’s influence with new treaties aimed at gradually diminishing the giant’s power base. Altair Corporation found itself standing at a threshold.
Military corporation - concept art
Fate of private military companies and UN takeover
One problem that plagued the UN government after the incident was the issue of numerous private military companies (PMC) and large weapons manufacturers still operating in orbit. During lawsuits, confiscations and scandals that followed UN’s rapid rise to power the legal system that allowed these companies to operate was completely shattered. The new government used this as leverage over private security companies holding them responsible for the events that led to the May 23rd disaster. Threats of legal prosecution and several military actions backed by strong public opinion pushed PMCs into a corner. So when the new agency offered amnesty in exchange for information and military service, many companies jumped at the opportunity to legalize their operations and avoid prosecution. Since the new UN Space Agency was assembled in haste and initially lacked training and capable personnel, experienced PMCs filled the gaps perfectly. In addition UN made similar offers to several major arms manufacturers, thus compensating for its lack of reliable equipment. Most of these companies were simply contracted by the UN government. Only a handful were given permanent positions in the new military task force.
Once the situation was under control the UN administration began dismantling private military providers as it no longer had need of their services. History was repeated when many PMCs once again found themselves facing prosecution for crimes, illegal missions and atrocities. This time, those committed during the UN’s lengthy takeover campaign. They still had their ships, weapons, training and manufacturing facilities, but without legal backing they would be little more than outlaws waiting on their sentence.
By the time UN Security Council realized what was happening, it was already too late.
Military corporation spaceships - concept
Skyline Defense Solutions and Outer Orbit Treaty
In January 2136, AltCorp’s representatives began undercover negotiations with various independent space companies, still outside the UN’s sphere of influence. The negotiations were held in preparations for a special summit that would discuss the current UN restrictions, legal implications and Earth’s impending monopoly over orbital energy reserves. These efforts did not remain unnoticed and UN began mobilizing its forces to intervene by force if necessary.
On April 14, 2136, remaining PMCs, security companies and arms manufacturers announced a merger and founding of “Skyline Defense Solutions” (SDS). One day later the new security behemoth signed a long term defense contract with Altair Corporation. Founding of SDS was the final piece of a puzzle, eight years in the making. According to terms of the contract SDS was tasked with protecting AltCorp’s interests against any and all foreign threats. But it true purpose was to serve as armed deterrent against further UN intrusions. The UN Security Council was caught off guard by the treaty and unable to act, without risking an unprecedented war in Earth’s orbit.
The grand summit took place at “Hesperides Station” on May 24, 2136, exactly 20 years and a day after the May 23rd incident. The UN government officially recognized Altair Corporation and Skyline Defense Solutions as sovereign and independent political entities within the Solar System. After several months of negotiation UN, AltCorp and SDS signed the Outer Orbit Treaty, a document detailing mutual responsibilities of all three sides within Sol.