Chapter 1: Solicitations
"We didn't abandon Earth, we fled from it. Earth chased us away with its hatred for the starcorps. We were accused of being havens of depravity by Earth leaders almost daily. Earthers were opposed to our very existence, and as far as we can tell that hasn't changed. Why should we go back to that?"
"It will be different this time."
"No, it won't. I am one-hundred and seventy-three years old. I remember how it was in the Sol System. The many combative nationalities, ideologies and religions on Earth that hated us more than they did each other. You may think that Earthers have learned their lesson, but you still exist under the same influences that plagued you then, but now they're starting to expand out into the star system. Why should we mire ourselves in your social, cultural, political and religious squabbles? How long will it be before you direct your weapons at us?"
"We're not asking for you to change. We're asking for your help."
"You're asking us to renew our association with Earthers and their hatred for everything that we stand for. We know what you're asking, and we know how you think. We know you better than you know yourselves. The Earth republics are stuck in the past. You reject anything that conflict with your fiercely held beliefs and prejudices. You evolve grudgingly, and when you do, it only comes after decades of burning new-ideas and new-thinking at the stake. We are the embodiment of what you hate the most, freedom to live as we choose. Earthers are gripped in an endless tug-of-war. The leading members of one side struggles to legislate select biases that they hold to be inviolate, and the leading members of the opposition struggles to institute freedoms that they believe to be theirs by right. This dichotomy is the underlying cause for the endless conflicts roiling throughout your collective republics. On the day of our conception, starcorps threw off evolution by revolution and instituted revolution by evolution. We do not confine solutions to that which will fit within the boundaries of institutionalized norms and prejudices. We embrace progressive thinking that's supported by a credible argument and does no real harm. Change for Earthers is often forced into existence after a fierce struggle between freethinking minorities and the ingrained prejudices of powerful social conservatives. Our evolution is based on the premise that people will follow what works."
"The lunacy behind the starcorps dissent into new lows of immorality is your own affair. What we are asking for is your help to topple an authoritarian regime that is oppressing the people of Earth."
This sociological debate was not uncommon between an Earther and a Spacer. The seemingly unchecked lifestyle of Spacers was looked upon as an abomination by the traditionalists of Earth. One of the outcomes of Earth's Third World War was the rise of authoritarian regimes and the suppression of progressive thinking. Many of the 19th and early 20th century restrictions on social behavior and conduct were restored by governments that were under the control of a minority of the people. And in almost all cases, these minorities were comprised of people who were fiercely loyal to doctrines, beliefs and conventions that were created and passed down to them by their forebears. Out of necessity, the starcorps did all that it could to do away with extremisms in space. It was decided early in the evolution of space-based civilization that bigotries, dogmas and strongly held opposing ideological positions between segments of the population were dangerous to the starcorps. Acceptance and tolerance were looked for and expected from all who migrated up into the starcorps, and they were largely successful in this. Shortly after the Third World War, the socially conservative Earth grew to despise the socially liberal starcorps for this difference nearly as much as they despised them for all other perceived transgressions. This contempt was more in effect now than for anything the starcorps did in the past. And this was evident in the venomous tone of Elijah Cromwell's immorality remark.
Elijah Cromwell was a representative of the Tellurian Resistance Fighters. He was one of three resistance movement representatives sent from Earth to negotiate with the starcorps for military assistance. Phillip Hecht of the Rebel Warriors Army and Lee Miyoshi of the Free Earth Legion were the other two representatives present for this meeting with HL02's Chief Executive Officer, Anthony Haywood.
HL02 was the 7th starcorp that the trio had visited since they left Earth 28 months ago. Much of this time was spent traveling between the seven separate star systems where the starcorps were located. The fragmenting of the starcorp community out into multiple star systems came about shortly after there departure from the Sol System. The original 57 starcorps came to the agreement that an individual starcorp could make a claim of ownership of an entire star system. It was agreed upon by the member starcorps that the one requirement needed to make this claim was that the starcorp have a fixed presence within the star system that exceeded 500,000 shareholders. This number was picked because of the level of investment needed to sustain a population of that size. This agreement and the desire to claim an entire star system had the affect of forcing many of the starcorps to do mergers so that they had the resources to sustain their populations. At the end of this reorganization, the starcorp community of 57 had condensed down to 23.
So far, the Earth Resistance Movement Representatives had failed to win any allies in their fight with the United Earth Federation. The thought of returning to the Sol System to do battle with the UEF was generally unpopular among the starcorp inhabitants. None of the board members of the seven starcorps they had spoken with wanted to get involved in the perpetual conflict occurring between the many factions of Earth. This was especially true within the starcorps now. The starcorp community was growing slower than their efforts strived to achieve. This dichotomy was wholly due to the size of their populations. The Directors of the starcorps saw the time and expense of an engagement with the UEF as a distraction from productive pursuits. And there was the added problem that there was no guarantee a starcorp could win a war with the United Earth Federation.
The starcorps fled the Sol System 53 years earlier. New wars between the Earth States flared up within a few years of their departure. These conflicts merged into a space war for dominion of the Sol System. Much of this fighting took place in the space around the Earth. The planet endured several surgical strikes from space. The damage was not extensive enough to hinder the industrial output of the planet, but they were powerful enough to produce nearly 50 million casualties. The war ended when there was only one space force left. The government in command of this space force subjugated the whole of Earth through its control of food supply shipments from Mars and with the threat of bombardments from space. Thirty-two months after the starcorps fled the Sol System, the victor of this war marked its rule over the Earth by renaming itself the United Earth Federation.
From the beginning of its rule, the United Earth Federation (UEF) devoted much of its effort to controlling Earth. Resistance to its rule slowed the federation's growth out into the solar system. Their industrial development of the Sol System was half as extensive as they had hoped it would be by this time. This setback was vexing, but it had no negative effect on their control over the system. The UEF's military presence in Sol Space was unchallenged, and this fact maintained their dominion over Earth.
The UEF was a capitalist republic controlled by a single political party. This political party was controlled by a global community of oligarchs. The UEF military existed, primarily, to suppress resistance to their rule. Challenges to their authority with conventional weaponry came to a stop within 3 years of the UEF's inception. Asymmetrical warfare directed at the UEF increased in number and scope as the years passed. Over time, two-dozen resistance organizations from around the world merged into 3 large underground armies. The Free Earth Legion operated in Earth's middle and far east. The Rebel Warriors Army operated from the north of Europe to the southern tip of Africa. The Tellurian Resistance Fighters operated throughout the Americas. Together they represented nearly 80% of the resistance fighters on Earth and affected more than 90% of the carnage perpetrated against the UEF.
Despite the growth in size and effectiveness of the resistance movements on Earth, the UEF continued to solidify its control over the planet. The spread of UEF government facilities and police forces around the world outpaced the resistance forces arrayed against it. The weight of death and destruction that the resistance armies perpetrated was largely assisted by an ever growing complex of targets. The resistance movements became aware of this reality late in their existence, and the growing rate of attrition to their numbers made this fact even more ominous. In the end, the three largest resistance movements concluded that there was only one way to defeat the UEF. They needed a powerful ally, and the starcorps was the only option they had.
Sending representatives out to plead with the starcorps for assistance was a distasteful choice for many within the 3 resistance movements. The bulk of their talents for fighting an underground war was honed over decades of plotting against the starcorps. The pangs of hatred for the starcorps had only partially dissipated despite their 53 years absence. This was particularly true for many of the senior anti-starcorp rebels within the ranks of the resistance movements opposed to the UEF. For the leaders of the three resistance movements, reaching out to the starcorps was a necessity that was implemented after five years of debate and two years of planning. The two-year delay was due to the difficulty in contacting the starcorps.
Fifty-three years before this meeting, the starcorps used a new method of travel to leave the Sol System that they alone possessed. They referred to the system as a star-drive. Their new drive system put the starcorps out of reach of the inhabitants of the Sol System. Without a star-drive of their own, the Sol System inhabitants were looking at a 70-year transit across interstellar space to reach the nearest starcorp. Sol System explorers lost all interest in long duration space voyages because of the knowledge that the starcorps had this star-drive. Replicating the starcorp star-drive technology was the only research the inhabitants of the Sol System was doing toward interstellar travel. It was this interest that steered the attentions of the Sol System inhabitants toward a string of infrequent energy bursts in the outer star system.
When massive bursts of energy began erupting at irregular intervals and in random locations within the outer reaches of the solar system, officials in the science, military and political disciplines took notice. This interest was not due to any perceived danger. The strength of these bursts was not enough to be a threat to life or property within the solar system, and its intensity dissipated as the aura expanded out. What caught the attention of the scientists studying these energy bursts was its signature. The energy was always identical in quality to the bursts emitted by the starcorps when they activated their star-drives 53 years earlier. When the third energy burst event occurred, the UEF Space Force was quick to seek out and find the starcorp spaceship that produced it. The spacecraft was far too distant from The UEF Space Force to enable them to engage with it militarily. The UEF was limited to observing the spacecraft as it moved across the backdrop of the universe and to watching it disappear several weeks later behind another burst of energy. What these sightings told them was that the starcorps were monitoring wireless communication transmissions in the Sol System.
The leaders of the three resistance movements started believing that communication with the starcorps was possible shortly after these spaceships began appearing. A plan to intercept one of the starcorp spy ships was formulated and put into operation. A well provisioned spaceplane was secretly launched on a trajectory that would take it to the outer reaches of the solar system. When the craft reached the right distant out from the sun, it began transmitting a hail specifically addressed to any starcorp spaceship in the vicinity. The three resistance movement representatives inside the spaceplane were living on sparse rations as they waited for a reply. Being picked up by a starcorp spy ship was the desired outcome. Being captured by the UEF Space Force was the fear. The UEF was sure to hear their hail and come out for them. If a starcorp spaceship did not collect them first they were sure to be arrested. Three weeks out from the start of their hail, it appeared that the outcome they feared would happen. No starcorp spaceship was detected anywhere in their vicinity, and a UEF Space Force Spaceship was 130 hours out from intercepting their spaceplane. It was at this time that a starcorp spaceship suddenly appeared from out of a burst of energy and began a rapid deceleration.
The starcorp spaceship approached the resistance movement spaceplane with extreme caution. This did not surprise the 3 occupants of the Earth Resistance Spaceplane. They anticipated that the starcorp captain would consider the possibility that their hail was the lure of a trap setup to capture their star-drive. To belay this fear, the 3 occupants of the spaceplane complied with all demands of the starcorp spaceship captain. These precautions delayed the collection of their spaceplane by several hours. As soon as the spaceplane was secured aboard the spaceship, the starcorp vessel launched toward interstellar space at maximum thrust. This rate of acceleration was necessary because of the speed the starcorp spaceship came down to so that it could collect the spaceplane. Escaping the fast approaching UEF Space Force Spaceship took all the thrust they could produce. They were just 5 hours away from an engagement with the UEF spaceship when the starcorp vessel reached a suitable speed for the activation of its star-drive. Several hours after their launch, the starcorp spaceship was safely ensconced within the dimension that they referred to as null time and space.
Elijah Cromwell, Phillip Hecht and Lee Miyoshi started soliciting the starcorps for help as soon as they were aboard the spy ship. The captain of the starcorp spaceship Draco deferred their request to the CEO of Starcorp FFL02 in the Alpha Centauri star system. Their journey to FFL02 took three hours in null time and 888 hours in real time to complete. Elijah, Phillip and Lee took their request to the CEO of FFL02 at the first opportunity and were directed by him to his Board of Directors. In the end, Starcorp FFL02 declined their request for military assistance. What they did approve was financing so that the three Earth Resistance Representatives could take their requests to a starcorp in a neighboring star system. What they were given were vouchers for round trip travel to and from a nearby starcorp plus room and board for a set length of time. The neighboring starcorp also said no to the representatives' request for military aid, but it did provide vouchers so that they could take their solicitation to another starcorp. Refusals and more vouchers went on through four more starcorps. Elijah, Phillip and Lee had visited six starcorps by the time they arrived at HL02 in the star system that they dubbed Astra.
The Earth Resistance Representatives had little hope that their meeting with HL02's Board of Directors was going to come to a favorable decision for them. This belief was born out of their experiences with the other eight starcorp Board of Director meetings. The reasoning that the previous Board of Directors gave for their refusals to help followed 2 basic lines of thought. The first thought was that war with the UEF would require an expenditure of half their wealth and resources if the endeavor was to have a chance of succeeding. The second thought was a calculation that a loss would bankrupt them. Because of these two concerns, the Resistance Representatives tried arguing for a joint effort involving several starcorps. But this idea only garnered them more vouchers to recruit some other starcorp into this venture. By this time the Resistance Representatives were weary of the process. This feeling had less to do with the 6 starcorps they had already visited and much to do with the 16 additional starcorps in front of them.
It took the CEO of HL02 30 hours to get back to the Earth Resistance Representatives with the report that they were scheduled to meet with the Board of Directors in 68 hours. None of the 3 representatives were surprised by the wait. The Directors were busy people with their own lives. Getting all of them together in the same room for an impromptu meeting meant that 19 separate calendars had to be assessed and a date and time had to be negotiated. The 3 Resistance Representatives had been through this before, but this fact did not make it any less annoying. Waiting for the anticipated refusal to help them only made the wait more infuriating.
The three Earth Resistance Representatives spent much of the time before the meeting doing interviews with different news medias. They were eager to get out their stories about conditions in Sol Space under the UEF. And as expected, the different news medias and their audiences were eager to hear these stories. Everything happening in Sol Space was popular news in all the starcorps. The Earth Resistance Movement Representatives entertained this hunger for news about the Sol System because of their hope that it might win them supporters. This had been the case in the past but never to the extent that they needed. When Elijah Cromwell, Phillip Hecht and Lee Miyoshi arrived outside the Executive Headquarters Structure for Starcorp HL02 a small band of onlookers, supporters and opponents were there to watch them go through the main entrance.
"Mr. Miyoshi, are you saying that we have an obligation to return to the Sol System and go to war with the UEF?"
Director Mark Cooke, a stern looking man, pressed this question with a scowl. All 19 pairs of eyes of the HL02 Board of Directors were looking down the long conference room table and staring at Lee Miyoshi as Director Cooke spoke his question.
"I'm saying the people of Earth are your relatives, and they need your help." Miyoshi stressed with a healthy expression of frustration.
The meeting of the Board of Directors and the Earth Resistance Movement Representatives had been going on for nearly an hour when this exchange happened. Much of what was said over this time were statements of position and prolonged sales pitches. The debate portion of the meeting had only just started. Miyoshi and his colleagues discerned from the push back they were hearing that they were not going to get a favorable vote, and in this they were right. All nineteen Directors voted no to their request.
"Gentlemen," Chairperson Helen Fraser began in a solemn tone of voice. "We will not undertake the task that you are asking us to do. However, we will help you to continue canvassing the starcorps. I want you to know that we do wish you good luck with this endeavor, but we cannot take part in a war with the UEF."