APAGear II Archives Volume 2, Number 3 April, 2000


From Caprice to Collapse

Janne Kemppi

[NOTE: This article follow's Janne's article from last month, entitled "From Ice Age to Caprice." Be sure to check it out! --Ed.]

Caprice was the first planet found by humanity. It allowed Human Concordat to plan for the first time the exploration and exploitation of other solar systems.

To this point the interstellar travelling had been exclusively reserved for scientists and military pilots. Human Concordat had run the exploration effort as joint venture of military interests and academic community. This approach had reached its goals although at very high economic cost. With escalating costs and stated goals finally achieved, the publics support for interstellar exploration project was dwindling fast.

Human Concordat decision makers started to address the issue. They decided to supplement the public financing with private sector contributions as well. Private corporations had been active through the era of interstellar space exploration but only as subcontractors in massive projects. So far it had been quite satisfactory arrangement for all. Sheer scale of the project made clear no private company could have done it. Project had been too uncertain and too long-range plan to be worth investing.

The Human Concordat had created the tools for the interstellar exploration. The next logical step for them was the exploitation. Various studies and futurologists predicted that Human Concordat had comfortable lead in technology and could thus set the background for exploitation. It was, however, deemed impossible that Concordat would at first create then build up and finally run whole colonies. Thus new strategy was needed.

Futurologists suggested a mixed system. Idea was that public money would create the setting and then private individuals and companies would be allowed to develop the colonies. This was essentially the same system as what had been used in rebuilding the Earth after the Ice Age. Back then, years and even decades had been used to prepare and develop territory under aegis of Human Concordat. Then the land had been divided according to plans to the people. This system had worked generally fairly well and it was touted as the best choice to continue.

Private corporations were also interested in colonies. Their motivation was greed. Each new planet to be found and colonized offered practically limitless resources to be owned and used. Planets were valued to be low value investments at short term but extremely valuable as long term investments. There would be little or no real competition, as the high capital costs would tilt the playing field to whoever had owned the colony rights first. Owning a space colony was thus a surefire way of getting obscenely rich. When Human Concordat paved the way with lavish tax exemptions and funding, the private sector came in big to the colony business.

First private mining operation started in Caprice only two years after finding the planet. Mining licenses were distributed rapidly. Licensees were major corporations with plenty of experience on the space mining on Sol's asteroid belt and Jupiter moons. The companies had the necessary know how needed to get the operation running. Concordat provided the necessary transportation without fee. The initial exploration studies had shown Caprice to hold a fabulous mineral wealth. It all seemed like a dream come true.

Caprice was a marginally habitable planet. In many ways it was the worst possible way to start a new colony effort. Planet had gotten its name from its erratic orbit. This meant that space travel was difficult to begin with, and the possibility of hitting space debris was a constant danger. Planet itself had very thin atmosphere. So thin actually that one couldn't live without life support on its surface. One could, however, live without suits in deep chasms where mining operations were originally set up. Thin atmosphere was thick enough to support storms and deep complicated chasms created whirling vortex effects with ever changing gusty winds. This created effect of ever changing weather with dangerous high winds that were perilous to air travels.

The enthusiasm of finding the Caprice and a single inhabitable star in it soon faded. The deep chasms could be used for mining but the costs of setting up operations exceeded all predictions. With no real experience on living in Caprice everything had to be learned the hard way. Accidents and problems mounted making it all known as a virtual death trap to miners. Work continued, but behind schedule and against mounting costs. Economically it was a sinkhole.

There was considerable criticism back on Earth and Mars on Caprice affair. While everyone hailed the technological prowess of building a colony the expense felt unjustified. People thought that the whole colony effort had shown little real value to ordinary citizen on Earth. A compilation of grassroots organizations soon sprung to oppose the colony effort. These organizations had no real political clout. They had also no sympathy of media.

Colony effort supporters were big business, political elite and military leadership. Enormous resources used to interstellar travelling were naturally interesting to giant corporations associated with space related work. Concordat's willingness to guarantee their risks and possibly rich rewards generated more interest. Military had little real interest on colony effort. However, their people manned most of the vessels and exploration meant constant supply of new money for equipment and supporting research work. Finally, the politicians wanted to share good news of new discoveries and possibilities to billions of people living throughout the Sol system. Fact that aerospace industry also underwrote their election campaign bills further increased their interest towards the colonies. While there were no real united front on how the interstellar exploration and exploitation should continue, there was rough consensus to continue. With the weight of media, research community and the support of the well-to-do segment of population behind them, the powers that be had no trouble convincing ordinary people that colony work was vital. In the end, these grassroots organizations had no real impetus on Concordat's decisions, although they were a harbinger of things to come.

Thus the exploration work continued on Caprice system despite astronomical costs and deadly accidents. The supporting infrastructure was continuously improved and expanded with Concordat footing the bill. The goal was to fully explore the dozen or so new gates found on Caprice system. Concordat scientists guessed that end of some of these gates would be future colony planets. Therefor groundwork was being laid for turning Caprice from a mining colony into a major industrial center in future. This was all done fairly quietly to avoid raising public outbreak while tension was sore over the fate of Caprice.

Next phase of the exploration lasted over a hundred years. New systems were found and scouted at regular pace but there were no systems worth exploiting. Many technological advances in space travelling were introduced during this time. Space vessels were more reliable and their gate systems more compact. Cryogenic sleep now allowed a relatively comfortable jump through the gates. Newer and better ships could scout solar systems faster and more reliably.

Caprice grew as well. The scattered mining camps evolved into a giant city of Gomorrah. The cumulating knowledge of weather patterns and environmental phenomena reduced accident rates to tolerable. Industry grew as well. Caprice supported originally Earth's growing need for raw materials but facilities developed. A series of industrial sites in vast tunnel network around Gomorrah grew constantly. These products and facilities took more and more work from the old aerospace industrial sites on Mars.

Next system to be found was Terra Nova in 4752. For the first time in its history humanity had found a new fertile planet. Caprice had been hell but Terra Nova was almost too good to be true. The more information reached Earth of the planet, the more it felt like a paradise. There was plenty of atmosphere and water. Biosphere was practically similar to Earth. Humans could eat most of the local flora and fauna. Terra Novan weather was also mild and pleasant compared to horror of Caprice. Further studies showed that terraforming was simple as well.

In many ways founding of Terra Nova sealed the commitment of Human Concordat towards colony effort forever. Above of all, it rekindled the discussion at general public. Generally the consensus was that finally the centuries long search had ended and a new world, named Terra Nova, would indeed represent a fresh starting point. The opposition to the colonies was quickly shoved aside. The immediate backlash varied from heated letters to the editor to violent terrorism.

Resistance was a loose collection of groups with various backgrounds and goals. Their only combining factor was belief that colonies should be given up. The reasons varied from idea of Terra Nova being God's last refugee for saints to firm belief it was all a hoax to lure more money out of pockets of ordinary people. Perhaps the most infamous of these groups was TAM. They believed Terra Nova being alien inhabited planet and returning scientists being mind controlled by Alien invaders.

Media and public interest followed closely the violent excesses of TAM but it was just a tip of the iceberg. Several groups also took arms for different reasons from religious fervor to anti Concordat political action. These violent protests were soon put under the control but Concordat did go further than that. Several non-violent dissidents were also clamped down.

While violence and populist discussion flowered, the real deal making was being done behind the scenes. There was no need to terraforming in Terra Nova. The whole planet was as ready as Earth had been after rebuilding the flora and fauna soon after the Ice Age. Terra Nova could be divided immediately. Whole system was essentially a prize waiting for its taker.

However, the logistical problems prevented the colony building. Travel to Terra Nova was difficult. One had to jump through gates in three solar systems between. The cost of building staging bases to these three systems was simply much, even with the seemingly endless resources of Concordat. The survey work in Terra Nova was being done through these systems, each of which had a small base to support scientific missions. Terra Nova seemed so tempting yet so impossible target until in 5102 a direct Tannhauser discontinuity was discovered between Caprice and Terra Nova. It allowed one to jump directly from Caprice to Terra Nova allowing real colonization.

With Terra Nova now at hand, the question remained how it should be divided. The big corporations wanted priority. They argued they had been part of the whole exploration business since the beginning and as such deserved the first picking. They also argued, correctly, that they were only ones with money to pay for Concordat the rights to the lands. Second idea was a new pioneering spirit. It was suggested that new planet would give people of Earth a second chance to take. They argued that this way humanity would energize itself like it had in the Second Renaissance after the Ice Age. Thus ordinary people should be given a chance by distributing the lands for the willing. Anyone who could fill the set requirements should be able to do it.

These two views can still be seen in Terra Novan popular mythology. They depict Terra Novans as hardy individuals, who overcome the perils of frontier world with their skill and determination. This pioneering spirit image is still strong among the colonial population. The corporate approach -with resources, planning and teamwork- is downplayed and shown as Earth based unwanted influence.

The arm wrestling of the division continued through the survey of the planet. In the end, however, Human Concordat decided to distribute the lands to anyone who had money to pay for these rights. This meant that only corporations or very wealthy individuals could afford it. With the lands divided, the real colonization of Terra Nova started in 5107.

The real importance of Terra Nova was not so much in its natural wealth but that it truly committed the human race into the colonies. Caprice, despite its mineral wealth, was still seen as yet another asteroid mining post. The popular imagination did not light up until humans could walk on another Earth like planet. The true legacy of Terra Nova was that.

Colonization did not, of course, end with the founding of Terra Nova. Scientists had worked through all the history on new generation of Gateships. New drive mechanisms were developed in 5238. They allowed Humanity to fully exploit Tannhauser gates that had been previously impossible to go through. This opened a dozen gates for study in Caprice alone. In the next hundred or so years humanity explored, found, and surveyed seven new colony systems. These were divided into two arms. First was known as Atlantean worlds. Second were the Utopian worlds.

Atlantis was the first new colony. Extensive terraforming effort turned it into a giant aquatic farming colony. Next was Home. It finally became a totally autonomous colony. Then came Eden. It was terraformed in a generation but its owners went bankrupt while doing it. New Jerusalem soon followed. It was the only planet ruled by a theocracy when Roman Catholic Church.

Utopia was a competitor to Terra Nova in its rich flora and fauna. It was truly worth its name. Total opposite to it was the Botany Bay. The planet was so hostile and bare it was used as a prison colony. No one else wanted to be there. Last planet to be founded was Jotenheim in 5491. It was the only planet that was actually taken by pioneers. Colonial Cooperative of almost a million members placed a common bid and bought it.

At the same time the role of Caprice changed from being the halfway point to Terra Nova into a gateway to new systems. Its industrial sites changed from colonist support to full interstellar vessel construction facilities. This did not happen over night. However, slowly but surely the giant interstellar vessel construction facilities in Mars were closed in favor of new ones in Caprice. It was a sign of change of impetus of the humanity from Sol system to the colonies. Social changes were bound to follow as well. While everything looked fine at the surface, things were brewing beneath. Explosion would be bound to happen, sooner rather than later.

Colonization was a balance of three factors. First was the political power. It was represented by Human Concordat. Second was the economical, privately owned power. It fell on huge aerospace corporations. Third was the general public with their votes and public opinion. This triangle of power determined the fate of Human Concordat, Earth and finally entire humanity.

Human Concordat and its bureaucracy controlled the colonies and how they were developed. They made the necessary laws and regulations. Essentially it wrote the rules. It also controlled the economical development and how its considerable funds were distributed in their stated goals of developing humanity towards the better. Budgeting gave it very strong say in what things were done and what were not.

Private corporations came next. They built things for Human Concordat and for the public at large. Naturally these services had to be paid in full. Aerospace and colonization companies are few in number so relatively few companies can have a lot of say how things should be done. They also have huge resources and lobby for their views with crossing ownership to other industries and financial institutions. They also provide jobs that are very important factor in the minds of politicians.

Public at large has its own weight as well. They vote the political elite holding the power in Human Concordat. They also need money to live and as such are dependable on major corporations and banks. Public opinion can be very fickle. Careful lobbying and spinning the news angle to right direction can go a long way in beswaiging the public opinion and thus policies towards wanted direction.

Most important common denominator for all these three groups was money. Politicians need it to run the country. Corporations need to be profitable for their owners and finally everybody wants to live comfortable and safe lifestyle. Everyone is moderately greedy but when some start to get much greedier than others do, the social contract starts to crumble. Winners want to keep what they got and losers want to get even. This is precisely what happened with the Human Concordat.

Interstellar travelling, exploration, terraforming and colony construction was all supposedly very profitable to everybody. This was indeed true for those corporate employees who got to the colonies. They worked anything from five to ten year contracts and returned home with enough savings to retire comfortably. More and more of these employees actually wanted to stay in the colonies for the rest of their lives as living standards in colonies improved. Still, not everyone in the colonies was a winner. Some did work with relatively modest pay. For example the Liberati people from Caprice lived in squalor. However, most people who went to the colonies, made it off quite well.

Second group of people who profited from the exploration was the employees in the related industries. Living standards in Mars increased steadily through the colonization because they specialized in supporting aerospace industry. However, it all stagnated when more and more work was moved to the Caprice. The closure of factories and weakening living standards brought more and more grumbling. However, their livelihood was relatively protected for the most part of the colonial construction period.

The real winners were the corporate owners of colonization companies. They were making a killing on a stock market and Concordat's contracts. While colonies were themselves extremely expensive to buy, the investments were actually a sure-fire bet. It took a lot of money to build a colony. The expenses were so high only few corporations could actually undertake it. Therefor the competition was limited at best and monopoly at worst. In such a situation company can charge anything it liked to recuperate its initial costs. Human Concordat additionally subsidized the colony building with lavish perks varying from tax exemptions to underwriting loan guarantees to directly transferring cash to these same corporations.

It was all a money making machine beyond anyone's wildest dreams. The combined lobbying power of said corporations and segment of population most benefiting of colonies was strong. With their voting and economic power the Human Concordat politicians were eager to please them more than ordinary citizens in old Sol system. One could even say that the Human Concordat decision-makers were so much enthralled with the colonists that they forgot those left behind.

When one combines greed, lobbying and bowing to selected minority, the things started to change. The original regulations were somewhat pushed to give colonies chance to grow but now the playing field was more and more tilted from unfair to ultimately worse. Slowly but surely the Colonists became seen as the real humans and those in Earth became seen as second-class citizens that were stupid and lazy. That view was reinforced with the long-running economic upturn that seemed to go on forever as long as there were colonies to build.

Economy had been growing ever since the end of the Ice Age. There had been downturns but the general trend was continuously upwards. With the colonization, the economic expansion turned into an explosion. The contemporary journalists exaggerated only a little when they said that it was all growing like a colonization spaceship flying through the stars. Only slightly less enthusiastic economists coined a term of "The Third Renaissance Economy" to describe the phenomena. As far as everyone was concerned, the slumps were merely hiccups on the road to a new brave future where humanity would enjoy never before seen prosperity.

The broad expansion enjoyed during the colonization period was indeed true but there were cracks in the picture. There had been slumps, stagnation and downturns in some sectors of the society. These sectors were the 'old economy' of Earth with nothing or little to do with the 'new economy' of colonial expansion. Truthfully many of these recessions would have happened anyway but the concentration of Concordat to colonial matters and growing ignorance of the Earth based economy certainly slowed the recoveries. Vast majority of the population went through painful readjustment after another when economical negligence meant only half-resort assistance was often done.

The 'new economy' on the other hand, was rolling high. The stock market had turned from high to fantastic. Anything with something to do with the colonies was automatically growing. People were lining up weeks before IPO's to the streets to buy these new stocks. With stocks riding high the compensation packages were similarly outlandish. Someone with a ten-year contract on a colony world could easily jump from middle class to riches. In a world of colonial exploration, no one seemed to lose. Indeed, the living standards of very wealthy people kept on going.

The excesses followed next. Gigantic housing, personal servants and expensive toys were all rage. When the world had seen a rage of small electronic pets that needed constant attention, they were thrown to garbage cans the moment it became de rigeur to scorn them and love instead yellow-black soft and cuddly genetically engineered animals. When that one was passe, it was time to collect something else. Consideration of others, however, never seemed to come part of the equation. Nor came the realization that much of the expansion was originally fueled with the Human Concordat's contracts that were run on a heavy borrowing.

When the collapse came it did not came from any particular reason. It wasn't the fact that ridiculously high valued stock market filled with colonization companies who never made a profit. It wasn't the fact that most of the people had not seen their living standards rise for the last two hundred years or so. It wasn't the fact that most of the people had lost their will to vote in elections. It wasn't the fact that Human Concordat's entire budget was used to cover the debt made by subsidizing the colonization. It wasn't the fact that entire economy was a bubble long overdue. It wasn't the fact that the gulf between rich and poor had grown into such that these parts of society could live entire generations without ever seeing each other. It wasn't the fact that everyone was so busily spending to gain new fashionable status symbols that private people had actually no savings. There was no single reason. Everything just collapsed like a house of cards. Earth found itself in a massive recession. No one had the slightest clue what would happen next.

People were fed up with the old way. Those who had always been left behind wanted the change now. Those who had always been on top were still in such a state of shock that they could not do anything but to accept the inevitable. It was no wonder that a populist leadership came into the power in the next few elections. It was no miracle either that this new group was running on a mandate of stopping the colonization of space. Then things got really sour.

The populists were outsiders to normal political circles. They had really no platform other than anger and wish to change things. Their rise to power happened amidst the worst recession in human history. With such an inexperienced leadership and a hostile old political spectrum against them, their actions were hastily done and immediately carried out. The cost of many of their decisions was dear and they accidentally caused a long-term damage to Human Concordat they wanted to save.

The colonization was stopped immediately in the year 5940. Everything was just shutdown. The series of incomprehensible wrongly worded and probably outright stupid orders then followed to Concordat's once huge space assets. Fact that once so mighty colonial corporations were now locked on endless lawsuits on 'Earth-first' government. The new government simply overruled everything. A series of legal shenanigans and outright violence did nothing to help the matter.

When word of this came into the colonies, the yesterday's winners were now fighting and killing each other on a place on a last few interstellar vessels back to Sol. At the same time the vital systems were simply cut off in the midst of a refugee wave. Everything had gone brutally wrong. Everyone was really to blame.

The only merciful words that could said of the end of the Human Concordat's interstellar colonization fleet was that they somehow managed to put those vessels on a long term storage on Jupiter's orbit. Given the chaotic circumstances it was nothing short of miracle. At one time the refugees were shot at outright by Human Concordat military vessels near the Threshold Station in Jupiter while at another time same vessels could be dropping humanitarian aid to Caprice. These kinds of actions soon cut of all the contacts with the colony worlds now in total chaos as well. The long silence fell between the Colonies and Sol system for the next few centuries.

Anti-colonization populists did not last long in power. Another government soon replaced them. It wanted to turn everything around but achieved nothing except endless argument over who was to blame of everything. Then came next government followed by yet another. Finally there were a series of rapid succession followed with each new coalition promising same things but with nothing new truly happening. With no stable government, its economy in ruins and social structure crumbling beneath the Human Concordat was slowly grinding to a halt. This did not happen overnight nor did it happen constantly. There were times when things were not actually worsening but even the best of times were stagnation while the worst of times were a slow fall. Life became one of unknown and insecurity.

Social cohesion of the Human Concordat was poor. The gulf between those who have and have-nots was staggering. People felt insecure. The neglect of Earth had led to failing infrastructure in some areas. Concordat's answer to failing social structure was increase of security or more correctly the more heavy handed policing. Officials said they had taken off their kiddy gloves to deal with the situation. The crude methods did nothing to solve the problems whose roots were in the existing social situation. In reality the escalating violence ended up to a hundred-fold guerilla wars preceded by tens of thousands of terrorist movements.

Violence begets violence and each brutality was soon responded in kind. Whole regions turned to free fire zones and finally into lawless areas where Concordat soldiers did not dare to venture. Large parts of Sol's population were displaced as well. These huge refugee waves then tried to escape the carnage to better areas. Life there was harsh as well. People lost their faith into the entire concept of Human Concordat.

Fortress mentality grew. People started to band together to defend themselves against the chaos. Some of these attempts were simple affairs but those with wealth and connections could afford more elaborate schemes. They started by turning the well to do neighborhoods into fortified zones. When violence and chaos spread, the self-sufficiency soon followed. These valuable assets were then guarded at times with well-armed professional mercenaries. Some of these places were existing arcologies but some were old refurbished Ice Age bunkers.

These fortresses soon became safe havens amidst the sea of lawlessness. As Human Concordat's power waned the old military units and refugees turned to these places for food and shelter. As such they grew in size and power. They soon became the only real nations in savaged Sol system. The inevitable was finally accepted in January 1st 6003. Human Concordat dissolved itself officially. Over night there were hundreds of new nations, each claiming sovereign status and their place in the sun.

The breakup of social order and constant warfare had changed human population patterns once again. When order had gone, the survival imperative had become the order of the day. The first question is then really the food. Each entity that can survive is small enough to live off the farming in nearby areas yet large enough to shield the food producing areas. Surviving cities had also diversified enough population to offer the skills necessary to fulfill all the functions. These skills are numerous and vary from law to electricians, from horticulture to liberal arts.

Survival problem is further complicated with the proximity of others. These city-states have same problems and needs as everyone else. Thus the cities within close proximity are actually fighting each over the limited resources. This siege mentality does not, however, ring true with the cities far away. These cities are close enough to have some communication, yet far enough not to send any troops to fight. This raises the opportunity for trade.

Trade allowed the city-states to get resources they needed. Trade also fueled diplomacy, which on its own part fueled trade again. Economic and military alliances sprung up. The advantage was on those countries with enough high technology to upkeep communications via sea. Aircraft could carry material but the costs were much more than with sea trading.

The coastal cities in Europe were first to make this come true. With a combination of diplomacy, luck and greed they forged a series of alliances with other similar nations across the whole Eurasian continent. Similar alliances were born in other parts of the Earth and Mars with suitable places. Some of these alliances were born due common coast, some along rivers and some due easy access to land routes. The alliances and the trade were originally both limited, but as these economies obtained more resources, their economies grew as well.

Their land locked or just badly positioned neighbors did not accept these developments. Thus the third World War started officially in 6007, when most major new nations went to war over ownership of Eurasian continent. There were no declarations of war, just the breakup of truce that escalated to skirmishes and finally all-out assaults over lush farmlands of Sahara. The war was not fought between nation states. There was no firm group identity to land. Instead the war was being fought over the resources needed to survive the chaos. One of these loose alliances born in this era was to be the future New Earth Commonwealth.

NEC started as a New Eurasian Commonwealth in this perilous era. It was originally nothing but a group of trading city-states with a smattering of small armies each defending their own city. Their real hallmark was trade. The member nations were all coastal cities. They had natural access to each other through the seas. Their major shipping route extended from Atlantic Coast to Baltic Lake via series of channels and rivers. This line provided their first access to Eastern Europe and beyond to Central Asia.

Second important route went across Atlantic Ocean to the rich surviving cities of the Caribbean Sea. The Caribbean cities did, however, have their own goals. They competed with NEC over the shipments to Rangstadt. Thus the relations soon soured and NEC was forced to search for allies and trade routes from other directions. NEC never really managed to get a hold of rich farmlands of North Africa and it was forced to look for Asia in search for allies.

Asian cities had enormous population but lacked some industrial products such as biotechnology Europe could supply. At the same time these Asian cities had access to services Europe had lack of. Actual trade could be done with huge cargo submarines moving under the polar ice cap though Bering Straight to Siberia, China and Japan. Both east and west agreed to a common alliance under the flag of New Earth Commonwealth exactly the day when bloody war for reunification started in Yakutia.

The start of the Third World War left little room for celebration for NEC. Instead it found itself fighting in every direction against every other nation and alliance. The beginning of the war was truly terrible. NEC was on defensive and started to lose cities at alarming pace to more aggressive neighbors. NEC somehow managed to survive this era with skillful diplomatic moves aimed to point its enemies against each other. Propaganda was used to dupe its enemies to see things that weren't there and resources were burned without hesitation to buy things to happen if necessary. It was -however- clear they could not carry out like that forever. Thus NEC members joined together to a conference in Yakutsk to plan for future.

The meeting was nothing short of stormy. Two major directions were clearly present. First was the freedom of choice and the vision of loose trade union made of independent member states. They saw NEC as a commonwealth of independent states, where each and every crisis would be solved separately and preferably with the bilateral deals between its members. This had been the basis of NEC on its birth and the ideal most members wanted to upkeep.

The alternative viewpoint was especially prevalent among the Yakutians. The city had been at the state of perpetual siege until the treaty and their martial prowess had kept their poor nation alive. They saw the situation in totally different light. They wanted to have a common unified defense, leadership and iron discipline to stop, roll back and finally overcome all the enemies. They saw military treaty as a natural continuation of trade alliance. They could also show alarming string of NEC's military setbacks as a proof of what had to be done.

In the end neither viewpoint won. The delegates came into a conclusion that giving up some of the sovereign powers of the member states was necessary in order to survive. They'd need a concentrated leadership as well as a real army to defend them. First decision was installment of a unified leader, a General Manager who would rule through trust of the voting majority of NEC's members. They would also have a real defense called New Eurasian Commonwealth Armed Forces. On the other hand, each and every member could renegotiate its terms with the NEC whenever they wanted. NEC would also have nothing to say on how its members run their own internal affairs.

The voting power and voting slices of each member states were counted according to a Byzantine system. Exact weight varied from a thousand things from laws and treaties followed to membership fees paid. This voting power could be represented within each member any way they pleased from a single authoritarian leader to collegial of representatives. Thus every member could regulate its degree of membership within the NEC. It cut both ways, as then NEC would only extend its services to a degree agreed beforehand. There was also a single leader, a General Manager, aided with a board of directors. They would make the day to day decisions. Both GM and his board of directors were subject to vote of confidence by the votes of Commonwealth members.

NECAF handled the fighting under the leadership of GM. Each Commonwealth member had individual military might. The size, equipment and doctrine varied as well. NECAF was originally intended to supplant the strength of these local armies with its own firepower. In the early days the NECAF served as a reactionary force thrown to aid the beleaguered city-state or to recapture the lost one. NECAF forces were used regionally and stationed in most threatening sectors. NECAF was amply financed and thus well equipped. It also recruited volunteers all over the Commonwealth for its units. Appearance of NECAF soon led to a greater stability within NEC. As the fronts stabilized and the skills increased Commonwealth could finally keep its own against attackers.

NECAF role changed as well. It concentrated onto conventional warfare against major enemy pushes while member state armies were intended to rear security, support and unconventional warfare. When direct attacks got less frequent, they also got bigger and more violent. Thus NECAF turned itself more and more into highly mechanized, heavily armed fighting machine. Appropriate equipment was being developed as well fueled with economical power. As NECAF fighting power increased, the lure of making pre-emptive strikes on enemy territory and even conquering it grew as well.

New strategic paradigm had to be planned next. The original idea of desperate defense had turned into a potent high technology force quite capable of taking fight to the enemy. Commonwealth politicians were planning different strategies. While cautious view of holding the current borders was generally seen as prudent choice, the past successes and lure of more economical resources tempted many. Even the idea of ultimate victory and conquest of Earth was being flirted by some.

The hawkish line was especially promoted by Yakutians. It was under their leadership that the lobbying group for aggressive warfare was formed. Originally this group, known as Party, was a loose collection of people from all walks of life thinking similarly. By the time this group changed its name officially into the Party. It became an organization devoted to expansion of New Eurasian Commonwealth by any means necessary.

Party leadership was a mixed one. Some of them were civilians and industrialists, while others were NECAF and member nation officers. They turned all their efforts to lobby for more aggressive stand with doctrine that now it was NEC's turn to rule the Earth as a successor to failed Human Concordat. This viewpoint was rationalized and reinforced with variety of reasons from economic need for markets to need for raw materials to world stability to humanitarian reasons. These ideas were backed with careful explanation and analysis in media to turn the public opinion to their advantage. Their goals were clear, however, and they managed to get upper hand in among the delegates. For better or worse, humanity's fate had now been cast.

Third World War continued for decades more. It was being fought everywhere in the Solar system. The consequences were grave to biosphere. There was environmental warfare with artificial floods and earthquakes. Changing of weather patterns was mixed with weapons of mass destruction. Everything was more or less poisoned and ruined as the war grind on. Butchers bill was staggering. At the end of the war Earth population had dwindled by some one sixth. War had lasted for some hundred years.

War changed the nations participating as well. The cost was not count on money and lives alone. NEC had been forced to put everything onto the war to overcome aftermath of nuclear warfare, diseases, environmental catastrophe and crime and corruption. The answer to these terrible ordeals had been more and more aggressive tactics towards others. This attitude filtered from the military circles to Party as well. This attitude did not appear as intolerance to others but as idea of NEC's manifest destiny to guide the rest of the humanity towards the future after the war. Their ideology of inherited superiority and a lofty idea of crusading was sustained through the war. It was especially strong at the end when NEC's victory was certain.

NEC did not, however, seek dominance over the others with sword and fire alone. Instead they chose a variety of methods from diplomacy to trade to military conquest to genocide switching between various methods when necessary. They could always argue that presence of NEC had brought peace after the chaos of Concordat and brutality of the War. The loyalty of the localities was then won over when the change was combined with a sensible program to unify the new areas to NEC as a whole. While this work could take decades the cost of economic support was easily small compared to costs of a full-blown war.

Third World War ended officially in 6105 when New Eurasian Commonwealth formally changed its name to New Earth Commonwealth. NEC was now the unquestioned leader of things in Earth and easily most influential member of the solar system as well. NECAF was biggest and best equipped military in Earth. Its troopers were battle hardened and supported with endless supply of genetically created super soldiers called GRELs. NECAF did not posses any weapon, idea or tactics its rivals had not studied, fielded and used but it had managed to unite them all into a winning combination.

Same thing could not be said of Earth. The planet seemed to be in its death throes. The surface temperature had increased rapidly during the Third World War. Scientists were now warning that polar ice could conceivably melt in the next several hundred years. Weather patterns were wildly changing and unpredictable leading to erosion at massive scale. Limited nuclear wars, chemical and biological agents had destroyed much of the biosphere. Pollution ran wild during the world. Flora and fauna had mostly disappeared during the war from both land and seas.

Humanity had suffered as well. Rangstadt and the other huge sprawls were in ruins. Teeming camps were filled with refugees while poverty and disease were widespread among the survivors. NECAF was still busily reducing the last pockets of "rogue states" in the name of the stability. There were remote areas where chaos and anarchy still ruled and active guerilla movements thrived. Psychological and physiological problems were rampart among the population. Finally, billions of mines littered the landscape together with the unexploded ordnance killing and maiming civilians.

New Earth promised nothing but acid rains, poisoned ground and endless dust storms. Space installations close to Earth had been destroyed, shot down or simply guided to hit the ground leading to massive amounts of dust in the atmosphere and destroyed ozone layer. Heat waves and fast changing climate patters mixed with pollution and chemicals making even breathing impossible in some areas. No wonder the scientists predicted that life on Earth was going to painful end in the future.

New Earth Commonwealth, however, did not intend to sit down and die. Its leadership soon created a plan for the future. They intended to reactivate the massive interstellar travelling capable space fleet and get whatever resources they'd need from the colonies. The old maxim of Earth supporting colonies would be turned upside down. The idea was thus presented to the public at large.

NECAF was facing severe budget cuts after the war but the prospect of colonies would allow it to continue operations as before. Military was certainly thrilled of the idea. The old memories of bloody setbacks had faded and idea of rapid victory was on their minds. They had won over the Earth so the colonies seemed tame in comparison although everyone agreed that they knew next to nothing of situation there.

Major corporations were interested as well. They had profited handsomely from the peace in conquered lands. They saw the colonies as new markets to exploit. Furthermore, they also believed that the costs would be slimmer than originally feared. NECAF provided equipment and huge expense of gate ships was avoided by taking old ones back into use. Furthermore the ride to the colonies would spur anyway new contracts for them. The only cloud in their minds was the fear of possible drawn out conflict. Their support was hesitant at first. The promises of new markets and exploitable resources soon turned the biggest corporations as the biggest proponents of the campaign.

Public was originally not thrilled of the idea of conquest of the colonies. The idea was, however, sold on them by stressing the relative cheapness of the military option. GRELs would be used as mainstay of manpower cutting down the human losses to minimum possible. Additionally, the concept was sold as crusade to unite the colonies and end the wars of the humanity. With little fear for loss of life and lofty ideals possible, the public opinion shifted to support the military campaign as best way to unite entire humanity under the flag of New Earth Commonwealth.

Following ten years were busy tine for NEC. They created a new military force intended to fight for the new Colonies. They would all be volunteers and equipped with the best equipment Earth could provide. While Colonial Expeditionary Force was busily training in the Australia, the Colonial Expeditionary Fleet was restoring the mothballed vessels to their former glory. What ever was further needed was rebuilt in huge factories in Mars. Old staging bases in Jupiter were reactivated as well.

Finally in AD6116 the Colonial Expeditionary Force was good to go. When the Fleet appeared on the Caprice the Humanity had gone a full circle. They had started everything from Caprice and they would start it again from Caprice.

Welcome to the future.

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APAGear II Archives Volume 2, Number 3 April, 2000