Life in the Bubble, part 1

Human Space

The distribution of humans is still very much concentrated near Earth, but they are spread very widely. Of the roughly 27 billion humans alive in 2448, about 18 billion live on the Earth, 7.5 billion live spread about the Solar system and about 1.5 billion humans live outside the Solar system. The Earth is divided into around a hundred largely peaceable nations with fairly liberal immigration and legal systems. Most of the population is concentrated to Earth-orbital, cis-lunar and lunar stations, with a smaller number on Mars. The asteroid belt and beyond are largely inhabited by itinerant workers in some resource extraction business, with the population density quickly dwindling beyond Jupiter. Beyond the Solar system, the vast majority of humans are in permanent settlements on earth like worlds near Sol. Beyond that, it’s mostly widely spread explorers and prospectors, with a few small enclaves established to maintain friendly relations with the few starfaring alien species humanity has yet encountered.

Human Governments and Fleets

The Interstellar Commonwealth is a loose affiliation of Earth nations and human settlements throughout most of known space. The nations on Earth are mostly autonomous as are the governments of the Moon, Mars and the largest extrasolar settlements. Smaller human settlements are established and run by the Commonwealth, itself, one or another member nations or by one of the larger megacorporations. There are a few wildcat colonies out on the periphery. While the popular media on Earth and the inner colonies tend to portray the wildcats as lawless anarchies or pirate stations, the vast majority are peaceable and lawful. They simply, for one reason or another, desired independence from the governance of Earth. For comparison purposes, the IC has a role largely similar to the old United Nations, but more cohesive and with genuine enforcement powers.

The Interstellar Commonwealth Space patrol is a highly professional, skilled and disciplined military and police force equipped to the latest and highest quality human technological standards. In times of crisis, the ICSP can also enlist the aid of the IC Survey and Exploration Service, a civilian government agency charged with exploration of distant systems and survey work on inhabited worlds. While the SES is civilian and many of the ships and crew of the SES are independent contractors, it is recognized that deep space exploration is a potentially hazardous business, so exploration ships are well protected and  even many of the independent contractors are at least lightly armed. On the periphery, where the law can be thinly spread and piracy is a distinct hazard, civilian freighters can be permitted some anti-piracy armaments in exchange for agreements to come to the aid of the ICSP when needed.

Until recently, most of the IC Space Patrol’s forces have been designed entirely with law enforcement in mind. The most significant fighting expected by an ICSP ship would have been taking down a pirate gang or smugglers. Trepidation about the earliest contacts with starring aliens led to the construction of a small fleet of now quite elderly purpose-built warships. Recent tensions between the IC, the corporate league and the Union of Soviet Soviet Systems has spurred the ICSP to modernize its existing warships and begin building new ones.

The corporate league is a loose defensive coalition between interstellar corporations for the most part originally chartered on Earth. Technically, almost all of these corporations are subject to the laws of the IC, although a few of the smaller corporations are chartered out of larger interstellar colonies, the Moon or Mars. The corporate league has no united military forces of its own and in fact no official existence. “Corporate league,” was an appellation coined by journalists which managed to stick, as,”loose collection of defensive agreements between interstellar corporations…,” was, while accurate, rather unwieldy. Driven by a mutual antipathy and increasingly frequent hostilities with the USS and dislike of regulation by the IC(and on the IC’s part, suspicion of increasing lawlessness and efforts to illegally influence IC politics by some of the megacorps), some of the larger(and usually less lawful) corporations are beginning to fit out ships for combat. Most of this activity has been carried out at newly-built shipyards on the periphery of human space, beyond the prying eyes of IC regulators and USS spies.

The state of corporate fleets vary greatly. Most are genuinely dedicated to protecting corporate shipping from pirate activity, though some are used for smuggling. Only a few of the largest corporations have built larger warships, and this construction has been covert. The quality is also highly variable. Some of the largest megacorps have forces as modern and disciplined as those of the ICSP, with a great deal of anti-piracy and counter-smuggling experience. Others are quite laid-back, obsolescent, inexperienced, ill-maintained or sometimes all of the above. While the overall forces that the corporations could gather would rival or even outnumber the Space Patrol, much of that force would be poorly prepared for a serious fight and in the event of a civil war it is likely that many of those forces would side with the Commonwealth or prosecute rivalries against other corporations. The biggest firms like the Amicus Corporation, Yukawa Industrial and Tritanium Enterprises are already clearly, if quietly committed to the illegal construction of warships, an offense that would result in immediate loss of charter and liquidation of assets were the ICSP and the IC’s courts not so hamstrung by corporate influence. The situation brewing between the Commonwealth and the corporate league seems ripe for civil war, and skirmishes have already begun. So far, though, the actions have been deniable and attributed to pirate activity. Lately, many of the pirate gangs seem suspiciously well-equipped.

The Union of Soviet Systems is a recently-formed alliance of socialist-leaning colonies gathered together to defend their newly-won independence from the Commonwealth and fight corporate incursions into their systems and those of their neighbors. Not all of their neighbors appreciate the ostensible help. Some of those neighbors have requested aid from the ICSP or corporate forces to restrict USS interference. Some of those requests were genuine, others were engineered to support corporate attacks against the Union.

Except for the somewhat “cutesy” name, this group is by no means a resurgence of Chinese or Russian or Korean communism. In fact, it has no connection to any 20th century socialist movement of note, although it does have a loose lineage connecting it to Scandinavian socialism and some democratic and anarchist socialist movements in mid- to late-21st century North American politics. Although they jealously guard a buffer zone around their little pocket of systems, and they’d be happy to help nearby systems slough off the yoke of corporate dominance if they had the resources, any slight interest they might have in expansionism is limited by the sparse population and good resources of their existing systems and the ready availability of uninhabited systems further out. Besides, they are fully engaged in trying to hold on to what they have and not stupid enough to risk squandering their freedom by grasping too greedily.

The corporate league, for their part, and particularly the Amicus Corporation, which has a lot of investments near USS space, would be far more interested in squashing the Union than any fight with the Commonwealth, but with corporate infighting, the remoteness of USS space and the recent capture by Union Marines of a suspiciously well-equipped yet poorly prepared pirate base on Gimel3129, a radioactives-rich planet orbiting a white dwarf in a planetary nebula on the Union’s border, their their efforts have so far been stymied.

The USS Marines managed to capture a huge cache of shipboard munitions, ship construction and maintenance equipment and a large number of industrial fabricators, many of them brand new, still in their cases. Had a USS informant not overheard a drunken pirate, in a starport bar, bragging about the base they were building in the planetary nebula, the base might have been completed. Given the equipment found, it could easily have become a formidable fortress, beyond the ability of the Union’s limited forces to overcome. This has made the USS skittish and put their forces on high alert.

The Commonwealth, on the other hand, has little interest in the Union, largely washing their hands of it. Unfortunately, they can’t tolerate corporate aggression against a now independent power, so they are watching the situation closely.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this,
The Astrographer

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