Death may Die
In 2044 CE, technology developed to allow for serious survey of the solar system. Projects went out on nascent distortion drives, the fastest of which could approach the speed of light. This raised some serious problems, though there was no way of realizing it at the time.
Space Development (2045-2050 CE)
The Russian mission to Pluto suddenly went silent. Remote telemetry managed to visualize it just well enough to detect that the vessel had broken up. There was no clear reason why. Despite this, projects went underway to begin capitalizing the solar system.
The international missions to Mars and Venus, along with the United States mission to Jupiter and the Chinese missions to Jupiter and Saturn, and the Russian, Chinese, United States, and international missions to the asteroid belt all came back with useful data. In 2045, work began on the International Lunar Colony, placed on the far side of the moon. Refinement of lunar minerals began, and several firms began projects for near-Earth asteroid mining.
By 2049, colonies were established in several worlds, usually on orbitals. There were ground-based colonies on Mars and Luna. Orbitals got installed around Mars, Venus, and Jupiter, with China planning a Saturnine colony. These weren’t heavily populated, mostly having scientific crews. As time went by, people began to go to these worlds because of resource potential.
However, the real space industry was in asteroid mining, with combines staking claims in the asteroid belt and in near-Earth asteroid mining. This would, in itself, grow into its own conflict, along with another conflict brewing. Two more missions went out to Pluto during this time, and each one broke up before reaching the planet. The second came under direct observation, and while the source couldn’t be seen, it was obvious that it had been attacked, struck by some force of violence.
Space-Borne Fungal Siphonophores – Early Operations (2045-2051 CE)
During this time, SFS had also been active. Information about the SFS operations of this time comes mostly from SFS themselves, who are rather talkative when they aren’t trying to kill someone. Their instinct for intellectual discourse allows us great insight into their operations.
The incoming vessel of 2044 was unexpected. SFS had expected human development into space, but didn’t expect humanity at their doorstep for another hundred years, and certainly not with a functioning Alcubierre drive. Analysis of the wreckage of the first craft created a dreadful suspicion. Individual SFS went to Earth and discovered a planet with a strong telecommunications grid, which was to be expected. However, the abundance of arcane technologies was not expected.
SFS had spent a while trying to eradicate arcane biology from early humans. They discovered in 500 CE that the process had reversed itself due to some unknown force, but that human development had largely ignored the arcane (having so long lacked any access to it). Now, humanity was using arcane sciences as if they’d had them for thousands of years.
Terrified that humanity might do something “extreme and irreparable” with this capability, they moved to cut this action off. They spent five years repurposing their scientific and manufacturing capabilities to military purpose, and in 2051 began their guerrilla war against the human nations.
Early SFS Attacks (2051-2054 CE)
Humanity now knew that it faced a hostile aggressor, and sought to act against it. For the first time, several nations of the world developed their own space-borne military forces in hopes of defending itself against this threat. Before they could be completed, the first attacks came. These attacks were acts of sabotage and terrorism, placing explosives for maximum social impact and destroying critical infrastructures in the colonies.
Then bombs started going off on Earth, and chemical weapons suddenly flooded into parts of certain major cities. In 2053, there were attacks on New York, Houston, Paris, London, Shanghai, Tokyo, and Dubai. These were seemingly invisible forces that could deploy weapons anywhere.
The nature of their invisibility became clear in the Chinese Saturn orbital colony in 2054. A Chinese astronaut on spacewalk managed to spot something. This astronaut, Chau Yet Kwai, was known for being somewhat reckless with the rules, and she’d smuggled a firearm to the colony. She braced herself effectively and fired several shots, killing the creature. She then used a space mobility rig to capture the corpse in space and bring it back.
This was the first official cataloging of a human observation of an SFS. Later reports confirmed that these creatures were invisible because they were mobile in space under their own power through means nobody could piece together. They were invisible because they were tiny and nobody was looking for them.
The rules changed suddenly.
The Start of the Interplanetary War (2055-2057 CE)
The combat fleet of Earth began to mobilize. However, there was a prolonged sitzkrieg as the major powers hesitated to send their (very expensive) fleet and personnel against an unknown foe capable of moving invisibly and impossibly and attacking with unknown capability. It was only when the Jovian orbital station broke apart under terrorist bombing that the nations decided to attack.
The fleet traversed towards Pluto in 2056. By this time, SFS preparations were much better, meaning that they had actual weaponry to field against a military invasion. Although SFS did not have military platforms, they could quietly move quite close to a terrestrial craft and deploy a weapon before it could react. The Plutonian offensive was a David and Goliath battle, only bizarrely it was humanity who was Goliath.
Still, an estimated 20,000 SFS died, which estimates give as being about 10% of their total population and likely all of their military force. (SFS themselves declared it more like 4%, and only including those forces not devoted to direct planetary defense.) The fleet never made it to Pluto, suffering 20% losses of vessels to disablement, serious damage to 60% of the fleet, and complete destruction of 2% of forces.
Counterattack (2057 CE)
This led to an SFS counterattack. Humanity had taken patrol positions, and now had military and remote sensing platforms in Trojan positions around several of the planets. Unfortunately, it didn’t help much. Again, invisibility was the key, as SFS attackers could come dangerously close before being noticed.
The real hammer-fall was a literal one. SFS pulled a major gambit by throwing at high velocity a series of 500 kilogram spheres of tungsten at the Earth, striking New York, London, Shanghai, Milan, and Frankfurt before humanity gained a sensor upgrade that changed the path of the war. Major parts of these cities died thanks to the footfall tactics.
The Second Phase of the Interplanetary War (2058-2063 CE)
2057 CE brought a significant advance in the form of the thread assessor, thread spindle, or simply the spindler. This is a telemetry mechanism utilizing some very advanced multidimensional physics, a development of Nopaltin Engineering. However, other companies did come up with variant forms of the same technology over the next several years.
The spindler is a superluminal gravimetric sensor. The first orbital platforms mounting it detected a few bizarre movements which they rapidly determined to be tiny Alcubierre events traversing space. These quickly came to be identified as SFS. Suddenly, SFS were deprived of their invisibility.
The war changed dramatically at that point. As spacecraft became retrofitted with the new technology, the SFS got pushed back. However, they did counterstrike, especially at targets that didn’t appear to have the new sensor capabilities. They managed to get a hold of Nereid and destroy the two Neptunian Trojan facilities (though the Neptune orbital colony remains).
The SFS also managed to break some trans-Neptunian colonies, though those were established purely for smaller-time mining operations away from the brewing mineral wars (see below). Their one final major offensive was in 2063, with the assault on the Europan colony. They claimed the colony and refitted it to SFS purposes, and have held it ever since using a field of automated defense. Although at this point humanity had the power to break it, the value of doing so just wasn’t there.
The SFS remained entrenched in their few holdings – Europa, Nereid, Pluto, Charon, and some trans-Neptunian worlds. They held on for quite a while, and didn’t move about the system as they once did. It seemed, for all the world, as though they were trapped, in some cases practically next door to the adversaries who might strike out at them.
No such strike ever came, and some people now regret that, but there was good reason for it. By 2060, another situation in space had developed that was taking precedence over what seemed to be a beaten foe.
The Mineral Wars (2060 CE to present)
The first acts of space mineral conflict actually occurred in 2053, but they ended nonviolently. Claim jumpers often had only to demonstrate the capability of force and others would back away. In many cases, the early claim jumpers would allow the original claimants some mining, allowing them to get the early work done and claim some profit before stepping in and taking the rest.
This changed late in 2059 with the conflict between Neolight and Thermopylae Industrial, two firms heavily involved in asteroid belt mineral operations. When their “patches” of space came in close proximity, Neolight attempted to claim a rock held by Thermopylae. Thermopylae opened fire, and the first shots in the Mineral Wars began.
The Conflict Rages
The Mineral Wars aren’t a constant battlefield. It’s a series of acts of piracy, claim jumping, etc. However, it turns bloodier and bloodier as time goes by. In the present day, full-time criminal syndicates have erupted in space. Firms, officially in space mining, now devote themselves entirely to piracy and theft. In many cases, it’s presumed that the miners will react violently to attempts at claims, so the attackers simply open fire to kill as many as possible.
Many of the attackers figured that the Sudan Wars, which almost made the news in 2063, would overshadow the scattered conflicts. However, this did not happen. The Sudan Wars became an African problem, while the space wars were everybody’s problem. People took greater and greater notice of the “blood minerals” from space, though nobody stopped buying them.
The conflicts escalate every year and continue to this day. By 2068, space military forces were principally deploying to avert and end hostilities between humans in space. However, this focus shifted rapidly come 2069, and the Third Phase of the Interplanetary War didn’t distract the miners from their claims, nor the pirates from the miners.
The Third Phase of the Interplanetary War (2069 CE to present)
Reports of a massive Alcubierre event in extra-Neptunian space led to a military investigation. That military force encountered a sortie of nonhuman military vessels that ransacked them. Soon thereafter, several colonies and patrols faced assaults from a fully developed war machine with SFS swarms assisting them. The Neptunian colonies fell.
The Neo-SFS Military Analysis (2070 CE)
The human forces made their own counterstrikes, but these were of markedly limited effectiveness. The new fleet was significantly more capable than the human craft it encountered. This was dubbed the “Neo-SFS fleet.” Several counterstrikes led to successful sacking of some Neo-SFS craft, and two sets of wreckage got recovered.
Analysis of this wreckage demonstrated both superior materials and engineering science and the detail that people had only somewhat expected. These were SFS craft, piloted by SFS. The superior technology and the lack of need for life support or similar convenience meant that the SFS had gained considerable advantages in space once again.
The SFS also renewed terrorist attacks on colonies and on Earth, in particular deploying weapons on major aerospace transports on Earth, forcing cargo movements to the sea lanes where they were subject to Raliite attacks.
The Human Counterattack (2074 CE)
Humanity began work on utilizing some of the new materials and sciences made available by the SFS craft, although most of it was incomprehensible to modern engineering or arcane science. The fleets obtained new retrofits for handling heavy military spacecraft, and some technology sharing between nations allowed for a greater defense of the system.
It became clear by 2073 that the Neo-SFS fleet encompassed approximately thirty small craft and perhaps three large capital craft. Two of those capital craft were essentially carriers, designed to operate and maintain the smaller craft. One was presumed to be some form of dreadnought.
In 2074, a major counteroffensive launched against the dreadnought and one of the carriers (the other carrier remained parked near Pluto/Charon). Using lessons gained from the Pacific strike of 2069, they used specialized strategies intended to undermine the disadvantages of striking a foe in its natural environment.
The dreadnought’s capabilities were immense, and the total cost of the attack was high. In addition, the two craft enjoyed a screen of five smaller craft, and four others returned during the assault. However, despite the considerable cost, the fleet wrecked both the dreadnought and the carrier. Almost immediately, salvage operations began on the destroyed parts of both fleets, but the United Nations had already arranged for the nature and type of pickups and the operational procedure. This limited the amount of gunfire exchanged between human salvage operations (unfortunately, it did not eliminate that gunfire entirely).
With only one carrier left in system and only 14 small craft, the SFS seemed outmatched again, though perhaps only just. The SFS craft were truly superior, and the technology wasn’t adapting well to human understanding.
Unfortunately, it wouldn’t last.
The Second Plutonian Strike (2075 CE)
Recognizing the presence of major production centers on Pluto and Charon would be re-tasked to military purpose, the United Nations authorized a major offensive against the Pluto planetary system itself. The attack went relatively well, given the revised technologies and tactics of the terrestrial fleets, but the attack did not manage to score a beachhead.
What it did do was seriously injure the manufacturing capability of Pluto and Charon. Major industrial centers (and possibly major population centers) took sizable hits, and SFS operations suffered as a consequence. In addition, the second carrier took serious damage, and half of the remaining Neo-SFS fleet got wrecked in the defense of Pluto.
The Second Neo-SFS Fleet (2076 CE)
A series of massive Alcubierre events led to a rapid and massive military action in the extra-Neptunian patrols. This was beaten back rapidly. The first fleet was only for recon and beachhead – this fleet was the main assault force. Multiple capital craft entered the system and engaged, while smaller forces scattered and attacked.
However, human science had not been idle in the intervening years, and some human craft (in particular in the United States and Chinese space fleets) had adapted new and superior systems. The United States fielded its own dreadnought class spacecraft, as well as several smaller craft, all designed around the most modern technologies. Most of these technologies had specific devotion to bridging the military gap between human and SFS.
The engagements were fierce and harsh, but led to SFS control of extra-Neptunian space. However, pushing inward faces harsh problems, as the SFS appear to have only limited production capabilities. The industrial plants on Pluto were still recovering, and the carriers weren’t designed for manufacture of vessels. A few of the carriers are in obvious retrofit, possibly being converted to shipyard functions. Every SFS craft that gets killed is one that doesn’t get replaced, or at least not rapidly, while human manufacturing accelerates thanks to the inner and outer system resource operations.
Unfortunately, those resource operations have their own problems thanks to the Mineral War, and the terrestrial fleets can’t devote much time to reducing these. SFS attacks occasionally intercept cargo shipments, but it would seem they have little use for the resources acquired, at least until they get their industrial systems back online.