The Stars Beckon - The Story of the Empirical Commonwealth of Earth [Modded Technocratic LP]

Prologue

ChicagoZohan

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Prologue: The Journey Begins

March 28th, 2200. A relay satellite operated by the Department of Physical Sciences in the outer reaches of the solar system blinks on as it receives a message. The message was broadcast only moments beforehand by Lieutenant Scientist Daniel Smith Jr, an Archeologist trained by the Department of Sociological Studies but operating under a grant from the Department of Physical Sciences. His ship, of course, was outfitted by the Department of Practical Engineering, which controlled the majority of industrial production in the Commonwealth of Earth, both on-planet and off.

004.png


This marked the first time that all three branches of the Directorate cooperated this closely since the Climate Accords of 2130, soon after the conclusion of the Third World War with the Day of Rationality. The scientists of the world had successfully convinced the highest ranking generals of each of the great powers that continued war would lead only to the destruction of mankind. The war must be ended, and the climate crisis dealt with strongly and decisively! they urged, and in 2129 the generals finally listened.

Soon after, the three great departments of the Directorate found that while they all upheld the principles of rational analysis and the scientific method, their differing perspectives often led to conflicting paths forward. Humanity avoided extinction, but the glorious future the Directorate had promised at the founding of the Empirical Commonwealth of Earth was slow to arrive.

001.png


By 2200, development in the Commonwealth had stagnated. While some of the Directorate's achievements were praised, such as their work in the Sahara, their inability to deliver on such promises as an automated workforce for the benefit of all or radical improvements in medicine translating to increased lifespan and quality of life has marred the Directorate's reputation.

Two thirds of Earth's population still worked relatively menial jobs, and while the basic needs of nearly all of Earth's billions were met sufficiently, opportunity for growth was rare. Nearly all children of working class families would remain working class for their entire lives. Even for the middle class, it was rare for more than one or two of their children to find the same sorts of opportunity that their parents had. Social mobility mostly pointed down.

001.png


Despite this, faith in the Directorate remained strong. The people hoped for a new generation of scientists to make new breakthroughs which would lead to another burst of growth. Governor Miroslava Larionova of the dominant (and in an open secret sponsored by the Directorate itself) Intellectual Party had been elected under precisely that mandate, promising to expand the planet's research facilities. In the Empirical Commonwealth of Earth, a position of Researcher was greatly coveted, especially as the rank of Director-General could be reached only by a Scientist approved by the three Departments.

006.png


The current Director-General, elected for a 20 year term in January of that year, was a non-nonsense architect from the Department of Practical Engineering. Before her election as Director-General, Katya Fedorova had spent time directing projects both on Earth and in space. Her biggest claim to fame was overseeing the construction of Uranus's wind turbines, which harvest its violent storms, as well as the asteroid processing plant on 4 Vesta. Her platform called to restore Earth to the time when new discoveries drove growth and innovation.

Following a Director-General's inauguration, they appoint a cabinet of Director-Colonels to head up the Departments of Sociological Studies, Physical Sciences, and Practical Engineering. These candidates are chosen based on proposals made which come from a pool of prospective in each Department. By law, the sitting Director-Colonels must make their own proposals, but generally at least two of the three are retained. Bucking tradition, Fedorova immediately replaced the whole batch of Director-Colonels. Her new cabinet consisted of three of the brightest young minds in their fields, each of whom was selected because they promised that under their guidance, the Department would accomplish new and remarkable things.

Director-Colonel Mathieu Fortin of the Department of Physical Sciences was the least experienced of the three, but he was also known to be something of a prodigy. His early work studying the anomaly that had recently been discovered near Pluto was quite remarkable, and under Director-General Fedorova's guidance, he directed the Department to study the wider implications of these strange readings on the Directorate's accepted quantum models, while his personal team dug into the anomaly itself.

Director-Colonel Natsuki Sato of the Department of Sociological Studies began her career in practical government, but after becoming frustrated with the entrenched political structure she returned to academia, determined to reform the process to be more efficient and produce better results.

*Director-Colonel Aluwanip Tshonyane of the Department of Practical Engineering is an industry titan and the owner of a great conglomerate of private research lab, manufacturing facilities, and asteroid mining operations. His appointment to the Cabinet again bucks tradition. Tshonyane studied the sciences and is certainly more than qualified for his position, and in his earlier years he held a number of lower positions within the Directorate. In 2197, as he prepared for reelection, his father (who at the time controlled the family industrial empire) unexpectedly passed away; Tshonyane abandoned his campaign to care for his ailing mother, and did not return to the public eye until his appointment in 2200. His qualifications aren't in question, but his status as a wealthy industrialist with control of over a third of Earth's manufacturing facilities worried many even before his political appointment. However, this was the result of a compromise; in exchange for this position, Tshonyane ceded 49% control of each of his factories to the Directorate.

005.png


Two months after the election, Director-Colonel Fortin called an Assembly of Directors, summoning his two equals as well as Director-General Fedorova to a meeting. It was here that he revealed the results of his investigation of the anomaly near Pluto.

About a year beforehand, the ECS Amazon detected strange radiation readings from an otherwise unremarkable point a way out past Pluto's orbit. Fortin, not yet a Director-General, was put in charge of a thorough investigation of this anomaly. While his findings remained classified, whatever he had revealed to Director-General Elect Fedorova convinced her to place him as head of the Department of Physical Sciences. Since then, his team had continued investigating the anomaly. These were their findings.

008-Strange-Readings-Pluto.png


  • The anomalous radiation readings were leaking from an unknown dimensional anomaly. This anomaly is not localized to a single point; instead, it stretches outwards in a line. The readings are incredibly faint, but they can be detected emanating from as far as one light-year away. It is likely they continue further, but current instruments are not sensitive enough to detect that far.
  • The path of space which is generating anomalous readings points directly at the neighboring Barnard's Star. It is likely it continues all the way there.
  • There are two other places in the solar system generating similar anomalous readings, pointing at two other neighboring stars.
  • These anomalous readings are not consistent with any known physical model. Quantum theories attempting to explain the readings have struggled to come up with a natural way for these anomalies to develop, but under some models a sufficiently dense veins of dark matter linking between stars could generate these readings by bringing our dimension close to another, which may obey entirely different laws of physics.
  • Fortin's proposal which so captivated Fedorova was that these veins were placed there by an advanced civilization, with some means of manipulating dark matter directly. With the right technology, it should be possible to generate a field around a ship which would allow it to pass through this weakened field in space, into this other dimension. It would be impossible to know for sure what awaits on the other side; but assuming that these veins ARE created artificially, it is likely they would have some use, considering the unimaginable energy expenditure of such a project. As the paths appear to connect between stars, it is likely they allow travel between the stars - perhaps even faster than light travel.
The appropriate technology to manipulate this field was indeed developed by Fortin's team - or so he hopes. Now he called the Directors together to gather their approval and aid in his new proposal: to send a ship to Barnard's Star.

007.png


So it was that Lieutenant Scientist Daniel Smith Jr. was placed in command of the ECS Aldrin, the first ship outfitted with a hyperdrive device. By mid-March, the Aldrin had made its way beyond Pluto and started charging up the new Fortin Device it was equipped with. A few days later, the Aldrin dropped off a satellite equipped with a modified Fortin Device to allow communication through the neighboring dimension, should all go well. Then it slipped through the anomalous region and disappeared.

009.png

010.png


A few days later, a message arrived over the relay. It contained only a single high-resolution image, taken by the relay device on the other side. Humanity had reached a neighboring star system.

011.png


*If this guy ever gets elected Director-General, I may need to change government type to a MegaCorp
 

DensleyBlair

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Been meaning to get more into reading Stellaris again. Will try to keep up here!
 

Macavity116

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*If this guy ever gets elected Director-General, I may need to change government type to a MegaCorp

I'm glad to see I'm not the only player who switches government types whenever an interesting RP scenario presents itself.
 

DensleyBlair

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This marked the first time that all three branches of the Directorate cooperated this closely since the Climate Accords of 2130, soon after the conclusion of the Third World War with the Day of Rationality. The scientists of the world had successfully convinced the highest ranking generals of each of the great powers that continued war would lead only to the destruction of mankind. The war must be ended, and the climate crisis dealt with strongly and decisively! they urged, and in 2129 the generals finally listened.

One wonders, by 2130, just what exactly was left to fight over. Presumably the war was being fought with the proverbial stone spears…

The current Director-General, elected for a 20 year term in January of that year, was a non-nonsense architect from the Department of Practical Engineering.

An architect with an engineer's education. Lord help us all. :p

His qualifications aren't in question, but his status as a wealthy industrialist with control of over a third of Earth's manufacturing facilities worried many even before his political appointment.

This sounds… ropey.

However, this was the result of a compromise; in exchange for this position, Tshonyane ceded 49% control of each of his factories to the Directorate.

Hmmmm…


Nice start, ChicagoZohan. Plenty of turmoil back on Earth, and now it looks like humanity have just taken their biggest leap forward in millennia. Lots of food for an excellent story. :)
 

ChicagoZohan

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I'm glad to see I'm not the only player who switches government types whenever an interesting RP scenario presents itself.
Yes! I'm sure my government will undergo some changes at one point or another. Technocracy would take a bit of societal change to go away from, but if we drop off Fanatic Materialist it could happen. [If I went megacorp I'd play it as a big science based corp, so even though the trait would be gone I'd RP in a similar way.
 

ChicagoZohan

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One wonders, by 2130, just what exactly was left to fight over. Presumably the war was being fought with the proverbial stone spears…

In my head, various half-measures were passed along the way, enough to slow the disaster - but ecological catastrophe and resource shortage is what left to the Third World War in the first place.

And if you look at the Green Sahara bit, that means they basically geoengineered the planet at some point, so the aggressive policy called for would have included active restoration as well as new protections.

To be honest I initially thought about making this a tomb world start, but I figured that's a bit TOO bleak!
 

DensleyBlair

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In my head, various half-measures were passed along the way, enough to slow the disaster - but ecological catastrophe and resource shortage is what left to the Third World War in the first place.

That certainly all makes sense. (Sadly…)

And if you look at the Green Sahara bit, that means they basically geoengineered the planet at some point, so the aggressive policy called for would have included active restoration as well as new protections.

Not that I think you're referencing the game here necessarily, but can you do geoengineering on Stellaris? Takes me back to playing Spore years ago…

To be honest I initially thought about making this a tomb world start, but I figured that's a bit TOO bleak!

Good call. that would be a bit of a party pooper.
 

ChicagoZohan

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That certainly all makes sense. (Sadly…)



Not that I think you're referencing the game here necessarily, but can you do geoengineering on Stellaris? Takes me back to playing Spore years ago…



Good call. that would be a bit of a party pooper.
When you start on Earth, there's a special feature called Green Sahara that adds 4 ag districts.

And you can remove tile blockers representing volcanoes, mountain ranges, etc -- I'd call that geoengineering!
 

DensleyBlair

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When you start on Earth, there's a special feature called Green Sahara that adds 4 ag districts.

And you can remove tile blockers representing volcanoes, mountain ranges, etc -- I'd call that geoengineering!

Interesting! Yes, that does sound like geoengineering to me. :D
 
Chapter 1: The Stars Beckon

ChicagoZohan

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Chapter 1: The Stars Beckon

001.png


Earth was abuzz with news and bustling with excitement. A ship - and one with a human crew, no less! - was in orbit around an alien star, for the first time in human history. And how quickly they got there! In just a few days of lost contact -- a few days which they had no memory of. Their instruments showed that no time at all had passed between their entrance into the anomaly and their exit lightyears away. And yet, they had traveled, in mere days, a distance many lightyears long. It shouldn't have been possible.

Already debate raged as to the origin of the dark matter veins (which the public had dubbed "Hyperlanes", a term the scientific community begrudgingly adopted) which the ECS Aldrin had followed. Fortin, discoverer of the pathways, claimed they were constructed on purpose by an alien race. Within a few months a competing theory emerged. New models of the formation of the universe, informed by the strange quantum behavior measured around these hyperlanes, were supposed to answer some long-standing questions about the clumping of star systems in the early universe. If true, these models implied that the hyperlanes were natural, and many billions of years old.

At the time, no evidence of extraterrestrial life had been found, so Director-Colonel Fortin was privately ridiculed by many for his basis theories. All that changed at the first world visited by the ECS Aldrin.

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While the Alrdin did not send down landing parties, Daniel Smith Jr. did record an impassioned plea to the Directorate, requesting that this world be earmarked for future study. The Director-Colonels unanimously agreed, and so Barnard's Star I was designated for further study.

While an underground ecosystem is no ancient mega-civilization capable of hyperlane construction, the fact that the first world explored contained life bode well for the odds of finding life in the galaxy.

These promising results encouraged the Directorate, and so as the ECS Aldrin continued visiting the worlds of Bernard's Star, a second ship was commissioned. The young and eager Viktor Dudnik was put in command of the newly commissioned ECS Grissom, and set off to explore the next star to which a hyperland led - Iresta.

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Even while he was in route, the Aldrin had reported back with even more remarkable news. Evidence of intelligent life -- extremely advanced intelligent life, capable of constructing a Dyson Sphere eons ago, was found around Barnard's Star. No one was laughing and Fortin's ideas now, and the Director-General was praised for her foresight in selecting him.

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On Earth, Governor Larionova announced that they would be breaking ground on a huge expansion of the planet's largest research complex. Huge amounts of data were pouring back to Earth from its exploratory ships, even with their cursory scans of the exoplanets. There were finally opportunities for young scientists once more; the population rejoiced, reading every press release with great enthusiasm.

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Meanwhile, Lt. Scientist Smith Jr. made yet another Earth-shattering discovery. Conclusive evidence of a confederation of highly advanced alien civilizations being active in the system two million years ago was discovered!

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Yet there was trouble. These aliens were clearly gone. Why? What could have wiped out such an advanced civilization? And as the months went by, the models were refined, and the astrophysicists insisted: the fingerprints of the hyperlanes can be found in the pattern of star formation many billions of years ago. This First League could not have been the creators of the hyperlane system. So who were they, and where did they go?

Over in Iresta, Lt. Scientist Dudnik discovered a mineral rich planet. Scans of its depths revealed some sort of artificial chamber. Further investigation was clearly warranted, but for now Dudnik's orders were to map as many of the nearby stars as possible.

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Back home, the Directorate's leadership was worried. Director-Coloner Natsuki Sato was convinced that it was only a matter of time before living aliens as advanced as the Commonwealth or beyond would be discovered, and it would pay to be prepared. If Humanity could find its way into the hyperlane network, so could other species. The other Directors agreed, and so as soon as the alloy refineries were ready, a third science vessel was commissioned. The ECS Darwin, helmed by another archeologist - Kirill Lazarev - set off to the last star system connected by the hyperlanes directly to Earth - Aethos. It would arrive by March of 2201.

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Commonwealth ships were now exploring in every direction. Earth's economy was improving for the first time in two decades as more and more researchers were hired to go through the necessary data. Things were looking up.

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Unfortunately, not everyone believed that the scientifically rigorous approach was the correct path forward....

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The Commonwealth of Earth did not have a true military fleet, but it did have a few armed corvettes that were used as a police force. These ships were deployed against the rebel fleet in short order.

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Director-General Fedorova was beyond furious. The loss of a corvette was actually quite a blow to the Commonwealth's economy; each ship took a sizable portion of Earth's yearly alloy production to complete, and this loss came at a time when she and Director-Colonel Tshonyane were trying to push for the allocation of alloys for additional military ships, in light of the evidence that spacefaring aliens existed in the region in the relatively recent past.

At least she wouldn't have a hard time convincing the others that combat ships were necessary, she mused as she ordered the boarding of the last surviving enemy ship.

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As the Directorate prepared a fleet that could track down the renegades, scientific readings continued returning from the science ships. Having finished exploring Barnard's Star, the ECS Aldrin continued onwards to the star system Izar, where it found an asteroid filled with deposits of rare crystals, which the Department of Practical Engineering believes may posses unusual and exotic properties that could prove useful in the future.

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An even more remarkable discovery is made by the ECS Darwin in the Aethos system, who discovers that soon after it arrived in the system, another set of spacefaring ships appeared as well, coming down another hyperlane path. These ships appear almost organic in nature, although with alien creatures nothing is certain.

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Ordering her entire department to hold off on its reform project, the Director-Colonel of Sociological Studies Sato redirects efforts to the investigation of these alien beings. This is unanimously approved by the Directorate's high board, who consider the identification of these creatures a top priority. Luckily, they do not appear hostile, the the Darwin is able to continue its work.

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In a series of fiery speeches aired on every television channel, the Director-Colonels declare that the Commonwealth is entering a New Renaissance, and commit to diverting every available resource to the greater understanding of all new discoveries, for the betterment of all mankind. The public, having been fed constant live streams of the exploration of alien solar systems, is extremely excited by the prospect.

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This commitment seems to pay off almost immediately. In the star system Procyon, the ECS Grissom discovers a mostly habitable world. It is much more arid than earth, with very few oceans, and a lower gravity. But it definitely posses photosynthetic life that seems akin to Earth vegetation, and boasts a nitrogen-oxygen atmosphere. Colonization is an immediate prospect.

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In May of 2202, the construction ship ECS Amazon is sent beyond Sol's sphere for the first time. There are many mineral deposits that would be easy to harvest in orbit around Barnard's Star, as well as the planet bearing underground life and the evidence of First League life. The Directorate intends to claim the system for the Commonwealth.

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In July, the ECS Darwin reports another phenomenal discovery. In orbit of Sirius is a continental world, very similar to Earth. Even more so than Procyon, Sirius III is a perfect prospect for colonization.

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By September, the station around Barnard's Station is complete. Humanity is officially an interstellar species, and the minerals of Barnard's Star's worlds will soon flood back across the hyperlanes to enrich the Commonwealth of Earth.

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Chapter 2: First Contact

ChicagoZohan

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Chapter 2: First Contact

By October of 2202, initial excitement over the strange spacefaring lifeforms discovered by the ECS Darwin in the Aethos system began to wane as the realization came that they were not intelligent after all. They turned out to be more like space whales, traveling between stars using a natural affinity for the hyperlanes and grazing on the upper atmospheres of gas giants. The most remarkable thing about them, according to the memo released by Director-Colonel Natsuki Sato, was that they had apparently evolved in response to the opportunity presented by the artificial hyperlanes. Whether this occurred naturally or through intentional engineering remained unknown.

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Private meetings of the board began to discuss the possibility that some sinister force was destroying sentient empires before they could grow. Contingency plans were being formed for dealing with the attention of such a being. In despair, scientists theorized about stranger and more powerful forces that could be lurking in the darkness of space, waiting to destroy them all. The Femi Paradox had never loomed so heavy.

And then, with a peculiar stroke of luck, the matter would be resolved by a most unusual discovery made by the ECS Aldrin.

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When the Directors first received Lt. Scientist Daniel Smith Jr.'s report, which was forwarded straight to them as all proof of live sentient life was to do, they thought the stress of helming the Aldrin had finally cracked him. There was simply no way this report could be true. And yet, when they tried to signal the hyperlane coordinates referenced by the alien charts Smith reported, sending out a string of prime numbers in simple binary code, they got a message back: the Fibonacci Series.

Cross-referencing the alien charts, which appeared to be written by someone with knowledge of both human and Mishnar languages, communication was achieved within weeks thanks to dutiful efforts by researchers on both ends. The aliens introduced themselves as the Mishnar Compact, a pacifistic and rational confederacy of vaguely humanoid aliens.

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As the aliens appeared cooperative, and their homeworld habitable enough for humanity, envoys were quickly exchanged - it seemed the tradition was familiar to the Mishar as well. They are enormously strong, but quite solitary and docile by nature, preferring to isolate themselves in frigid mountain dwellings.

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Meanwhile, the Commonwealth had replaced the destroyed corvette, and built a fourth beside it. The small fleet headed off to the Iresta system, where some of the cultists had been traced. After a swift and decisive battle, this cultist fleet was destroyed as well by April of 2203.

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Around this time, Director-Colonel Tshonyane announced that his department's broad analysis of new advances in nanomechanics had concluded, and he proposed a number of avenues for further research. After some discussion, the Directorate agreed that the production of powered exoskeletons for military and industrial use would be of a top priority. Privately, Tshonyane believed that advances in this field would open up new opportunities in the world of robotics, freeing up more citizens to work on research instead of as technicians or farmers or miners. His own conglomerate, of course, would benefit greatly from these improvements in capital - especially as, with the Directorate possessing a large share of the company, they'd be inclined to hand more of their contracts to him.

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At her next State of the Commonwealth speech, the Director-General again praised the work that the exploration ships were doing, as well as the work of the researchers who dutifully crunched the returned data for the betterment of all mankind. Additional resources were committed once more to the exoplanet project, with the promise of Humanity's ascension to an interstellar species to follow shortly.

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Despite this speech, and Governor Larionova's lobbying to further expand the research facilities again, military leaders insisted that with the discovery of the Mishar just a few star systems away, friendly as they may appear, additional investment in naval capacity was crucial for the Commonwealth's survival, and Director-General Fedorova reluctantly agreed. While not as influential as the scientists, the Commonwealth's generals had always remained powerful, and with the discovery of alien life and the Temple of Unity insurrection their influence was growing once again. And so the next project was not an expansion of the research complex, but the construction of additional alloy foundries across the planet.

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Fortin's Department of Physical Sciences, meanwhile, had completed its own survey of new models of quantum mechanics. Rather than continue the theoretical discussions, Director-Colonel Fortin proposed a test. A number of the new models predicted vastly more energy efficient methods of generating deflector shields could be possible. Fortin assigned competing labs the resources to develop prototype deflectors based on their new models. The successful models could be put into production, and would advance the Commonwealth's understanding of physics.

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The discovery of the massive Tiyanki raised the possibility of more hostile forms of spaceborne life. As the ECS Darwin began to explore the star system Jabeth, it discovered evidence of just such a creature. Luckily, it was dead, but the generals and admirals were now nearly frantic in their demands for a proper defensive force. Director-General Fedorova now lent them her ear, and even began toying with the suggestion of allowing an admiral into the meetings of the high board; for the moment, resistance from the Director-Colonels prevented her from doing so.

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In the latter half of 2204, the Department of Sociological Studies had caught up to the others, despite its diversion to study the Tiyanki; Director-Colonel Sato's Planetary Unification campaign was complete. Sato now shifted focus, piggybacking on the public's thirst for knowledge of the exoplanets. She directed her team to shift focus to the study of the incredibly diverse ecosystems that developed on each world, and with unanimous approval from the Directors created the great scientific-study/public-relations-campaign for which she would go down in history, the Habitable Worlds Survey.

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In late 2204, the Joint Chiefs of the Defense Department sent a letter to the High Board of Directors. The letter explained the strategic situation, as agreed upon by the Joint Chiefs.

Sol, they pointed out, was rather close to the galactic core, on the outer edge of one of four arms. The stellar system of Izar, to the galactic south of Barnard's Star, is a key strategic point. It is the only bridge in Sol's immediate vicinity which connects to the next galactic arm through the hyperlane system, which appears reluctant to cross the gap between arms.

The Mishar's home star, which they call Shar, is on the inner edge of the next arm, and is the star connected to Izar by hyperlane.

The Mishar had built an outpost around the star Suulan before we even made contact with them; and recently they expanded to the star system Voon. Clearly they would soon expand to Izar as well.

To prevent this, Izar must be seized and fortified; borders with the Mishar must be closed. The envoys can continue doing their work - there is no need to war with the Mishar; blocking them off from expanding into our arm would be enough.


After hours of deliberation, the Directors agreed unanimously. Izar would be taken and fortified, and borders would be sealed - at least until Earth had established control of all the worlds it was interested in.

The message went out on the 25th of November, 2204. The Mishar appear genuinely confused by the demand, not understanding why their ships would offend us; but they agreed with no issue reported Wolfgang Stein, the envoy to the Mishar Compact.

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025-Nov2204.png
 
Chapter 3: Gradual Growth

ChicagoZohan

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Chapter 3: Gradual Growth

Predictably, the Mishar soon closed their own borders in response. Despite this, relations continued to improve overall, and a few months later the Mishar Compact proposed a cultural exchange as well as a series of political, commercial, and scientific agreements which brought the two fledgling star nations together.

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At the same time, the Commonwealth's exploration efforts were truly beginning to pay off. In the star system Jabeth, the ECS Darwin stumbled onto an ancient fortress built by the First League. In June of 2205, Director-General Fedorova delivered a fiery speech urging the people of the Commonwealth to reach out and take their place among the stars. Another science ship and construction ship were commissioned by the Commonwealth, the ECS Hawking captained by Lt. Scientist Msibi.

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The Hawking would soon find its way to the Alpha Centauri trinary system. Around the largest of its three stars, two habitable worlds were discovered; both rather small, but one quite similar to Earth while the other was mostly covered in water, but possessed a few small islands that could be inhabited, and rich oceans full of fish-like xenos.

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At the same time, Director-Colonel Tshonyane unveiled a number of new powered exoskeleton designs for use by the armed forces and in industrial capacity. With the cultist threat looming, the Department of Practical Engineering shifted its focus to the development of new, more powerful mass drivers.

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In preparation for the coming battles, the Directors unanimously ordered a massive expansion of the fleet. Government stockpiles of raw materials, food, and consumer goods were traded internally for all the alloys the Directorate could squeeze out of Earth's economy, and the fleet was expanded.

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As the ships began leaving the shipyards, science ships were sent to follow the ion trails discovered when the cultists were first defeated. A small cultist fleet was found to the galactic north, in a system called Ovaslivum. To the south, around a binary system called Lothandra, a larger fleet was discovered, which included a massive ship of strange design that the cultists were calling the "Temple of Light". By September 2206, the fleet was sent north to deal with the smaller fleet. Following a quick and decisive battle, the cultists were defeated. The fleet's admiral, Nadezhda Ulanova, greatly distinguished herself in the battle. Admiral Ulanova's influence would grow, and with the discovery of the giant cultish ship Ulanova finally convinced the Directors to allow her (and by extension the Commonwealth Navy) a temporary seat at meetings of the high board during times of conflict. The Admiral had a reputation for a remarkable stubbornness -- once set on a course, nothing could change her mind, unless the situation had changed enough to make that course infeasible.

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The massive purchase of alloys wasn't only meant to expand the fleet, however. In December 2206, following speeches by the Director of the Department of Sociological Studies (encouraging humanity to rise to its fullest potential) and the Admiral of the Navy (reminding the Commonwealth's citizens of the vulnerability inherent to being a single planet species, and pointing the extinction of clearly far more advanced alien races as a potential hint of a looming threat), Director-General Fedorova announced that the colonization of Sirius III would soon commence; the shipyard had already started construction of the colony ship, and all that was needed now were volunteers.

The colony project had so many eager and qualified volunteers that the launching of the ship was delayed long enough to expand it, allowing a larger batch of colonists. By late September of 2207, the ECS Hope set off for the Sirius system; the transit would take nearly a whole year.

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As the Hope was being built, the Department of Sociological Studies completed its analysis of the newly discovered xenoecological systems, Director-Colonel Sato shifted focus back to policy, seeking to develop an efficient system of offworld trade, as would be needed once the new colony had grown.

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The Department of Physical Sciences, meanwhile, had a number of viable deflector candidates following their experimental trials. Fortin chose a design to be put into mass production, and announced the next departmental competition: the same quantum principles that had been honed through shield design would now be applied to the design of a device capable of containing a fusion reaction for a net gain of energy. Fortin's top physicists assured him that this could lead to the development of miniaturized fusion reactors, much smaller than the bulky ones used for power generation on Earth, and that these could replace the fission reactors currently powering Commonwealth ships. In the meantime, it would greatly increase power generation on-planet.

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As the colony ships set out, so did the Commonwealth 1st Fleet. It, too, was headed south - past Sirius, to the star system Lothandra where the massive cultist ship had been spotted.

Meanwhile, far to the galactic north, a science ship discovered a massive ruined installation, which had served as the construction yard of some ancient super-advanced civilization. Unanimously, the Directors and the Admiral agreed that taking this system was of paramount importance.

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On September 27th, 2208, the colony ship Hope set down on the planet Sirius III. The colonists had settled on the name New Roanoke, despite that colony's ill fate.

As the colony ship was setting down, a few lightyears away the Commonwealth 1st Fleet finally encountered the cultist fleet. The battle against their massive battleship had begun.

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DensleyBlair

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THree updates to catch up with, will do each in turn. So much change for humanity straight out of the gate. the Barnard's Star event chain is fascinating, and I'm always intrigued by what it must feel like to live through so paradigm-shattering a discovery as, say, the existence of a once-functional Dyson sphere.

Worried about this cult, mind you. All this talk of conspiracies and 'investigations' feels like it's leading towards some sort of Doctors' plot, even if there obviously is something going on. The Commonwealth needs to be careful it doesn't lose a good thing for too much paranoia…
 
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Chapter 4: Exponential Growth

ChicagoZohan

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Chapter 4: Exponential Growth

By November, Admiral Ulanova reported the utter destruction of the cultist fleet at the cost of one Commonwealth corvette. She requested a science ship to be sent to investigate the debris, but as none were in that part of the galaxy at the time, this would take some time to accomplish. Further, a science ship would be needed to scout out the path to the last star system where cultist activity had been traced.

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Back on Earth, despite popular pressure to open up more Researcher position, reality once more got in the way, and factories for the production of civilian goods were ordered instead. Earth's growing population and the additional requirements of sustaining life on other worlds (air filter masks, special sunscreen to account for different wavelengths of light being filtered by the atmosphere, and a million and one tiny details that double the cost of everyday life, as Director Colonel Sato would explain to anyone who'd listen. Until New Roanoke could produce such components on its own, they'd have to be shipped in from Earth.

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D.C. Tshonyane had a different proposal for resolving these shortages. With the coilguns developed and tested, he gained Admiral Ulanova's approval for their mass fabrication before redirecting the Department of Practical Engineering towards a new goal: the production of autonomous robotic workers, capable of learning to complete any number of simple and repetitive tasks. In December of 2208, the Department's full resources were officially allocated towards this goal.

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Meanwhile, D.C. Sato was forced to put her development of offworld trading protocols on hold for yet another urgent alien analysis. Strange spacefaring vessels, somewhat larger than a corvette and apparently alive, were detected by a science ship in the Hagawa system; worse, they were apparently hostile, and quite numerous.

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After retreating from the alien beings, the science ship made yet another remarkable discovery close to the ruined shipyard. A ruined matter decompressor, capable of pulling material out of the event horizon of a black hole!

Tuayama now became even more strategically important, as access to it would secure the Yamek's Singularity system where the matter decompressor was found.

Back Earthward, in June of 2209 a second colony ship began construction, this one headed for Alpha Centauri's continental world. D.C. Sato's vision for the Alpha Centauri system was a pair of interconnected worlds, each a jewel in its own right but together forming the backbone of a mighty galactic empire. The marketing campaign designated the two colonies Apollo and Artemis, after the twin deities of Greek mythology, and the system dubbed 'Delos' after the ancient gods' birthplace.

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In December of 2209, the analysis of the newly discovered aliens was finally complete. They were dubbed 'space amoeba' by the public, somewhat ironically considering the danger they posed. As the new colonies were nowhere near ready to begin trading with Sol yet, the study of these beings was deemed a high priority, and though D.C. Sato dissented, the high board agreed to continue prioritizing this over the offworld trade project. This project would take much longer, halting further study on offworld trade for nearly three years.

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In May of 2210, D.C. Fortin had completed his field modulation project, and confirmed that energy production had increased throughout Earth's generators. While he proposed further study to prototype a miniaturized fusion reactor for use on ships, a proposal backed by Admiral Ulanova, he was overruled by Director-General Fedorova and D.C. Tshonyane, who requested the Department of Physical Sciences instead focus on the development of more advanced AI - advancements which would aid Tshonyane's roboticization project.

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Finally, a science ship headed by Lt. Scientist Daniel Smith Jr. made its way to the cultist wreck. Its findings pointed to a star system to the galactic west as the source of the cultist ships. Smith would be ordered to scout the hyperlane path forwards, allowing the fleet to follow.

By the time Smith reached the Poligar system, however, he was forced to retreat -- some kind of strange, mechanical craft were patrolling the system, preventing him from moving forwards. Smith would scan the systems to the south while waiting for the fleet to arrive and clear the path.

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In November of 2210, D.G. Fedorova gave a speech which had come to be fairly standard by this point ahead of the midterm elections, urging the Commonwealth's citizens to continue their work towards the settlement of the new worlds. The colony ship headed to Alpha Centauri had already left Sol by this time, and was expected to arrive early in 2211. Approval in the Directorate had never been higher.

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Despite this, the election did not go as expected. The Empirical Commonwealth of Earth was a representative democracy in name, but with few exceptions the party approved candidates had won election every time, for over a hundred years. Polls showed that Director-General Fedorova's party, the Academy of Technologists (informally the Intellectual party) had as high an approval as they've ever had. Yet somehow, for the first time in decades, a sizable minority -- nine of the twenty eight senators -- were members of the Directorate-approved opposition party, the more liberal True Democracy Watch headed by Lt. Scientist Viktor Dudnik (who helmed the ECS Darwin).

In theory, the True Democracy Watch party planks called for a move towards more direct democracy. In practice, they were entirely made up of Directorate-approved Scientists, and so did not deviate very far from the mainstream. Still, their rise as a real political party in the 2011 term would signal the end of one party rule in the Directorate; some in the party, Dudnik included, believed that this election had given them a mandate to assert their will upon the nation. Some radicals in the party even floated the idea that the meetings of the high board should be extended further, to include the Director General, the three Director Colonels, the Admiral, and also the leader of any party with sitting senators; but for now, this was rejected, even by Lt. Scientist Dudnik himself.

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The rest of 2211 saw the landing of the second colonization ship on the planet dubbed "Apollo" in April; in September, a second foreign empire was discovered. Hyperwave contact was made with a race calling themselves the Lokken Mechanists, who seemed to share the Commonwealth's rationality. They had mastered robotics even before they reached space, a fact which made D.C. Tshonyane absolutely giddy. He convinced the rest of the high board to develop friendly relations with the Lokken, redirecting Wolfgang Stein to their homeworld of Lok and signing a research agreement with the Lokken. As the Mechanists were more than a little further ahead than humanity in their technological development, his arguments faced little opposition, and friendly contact was soon established.

With Lokken aid, the Department of Practical Engineering unveiled their first robotic prototypes in March of 2212; their deployment would begin on the colonies first, then on Earth if proven successful. Tshonyane's next project was the development of more efficient mineral extraction techniques.

In April, the colony of New Roanoke had fully been established. The first human children born on an alien world began cropping up throughout the colony. Celebrations on both New Roanoke and Earth lasted for days. The colonists on Apollo could only spare a few hours for celebration before continuing their labors; soon they too would join New Roanoke as a full-fledged colony.

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Interlude: A Speech by Director Colonel Sato at the founding of New Roanoke

ChicagoZohan

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Interlude: A Speech by Director Colonel Sato at the founding of New Roanoke

My friends; my fellow citizens of the Commonwealth. Today we embark on a new journey.

Some in our Department have asked me, how can I support Director General Tshonyane and his proposal for the roboticization of society? Won't this create massive unemployment, massive unrest? Won't it make the poor entirely dependent on the whims of the owners of the robots?

These are concerns which I have had as well, believe me. I understand the problem facing us. But after a long and in-depth discussion with Tshonyane, and a joint study commissioned by both our departments, I think a test is justified. For now, robots will not be allowed on Earth. They won't be taking your jobs. And for now, the Directorate will be the only legal owner of autonomous robots. I hope these two factors will negate most of the potential harm.

What we will be doing is an experiment. An experiment to build an entirely new type of society. Under the Department of Sociological Studies' guidance, the colonists on New Roanoke will be attempting to build an entirely new type of society -- a post-scarcity society, one where autonomous robots run the factories and the generators while humanity is free to pursue more lofty goals.

I cannot tell you if this experiment will result in success or failure, but what I can guarantee is that no changes to our own society here on Earth will occur until we've seen the results, and on more than one world. If we find the results to be a failure, we will dismantle the robot factories, and use them on newly colonized worlds to prepare the way for humans. If we find the results to be a success, there's no limit to what humanity can achieve.

I hope you will have trust in the Department of Sociological Studies, and allow us to make this attempt. Thank you; I will not be taking questions.
 

ChicagoZohan

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THree updates to catch up with, will do each in turn. So much change for humanity straight out of the gate. the Barnard's Star event chain is fascinating, and I'm always intrigued by what it must feel like to live through so paradigm-shattering a discovery as, say, the existence of a once-functional Dyson sphere.

Worried about this cult, mind you. All this talk of conspiracies and 'investigations' feels like it's leading towards some sort of Doctors' plot, even if there obviously is something going on. The Commonwealth needs to be careful it doesn't lose a good thing for too much paranoia…
Glad you're enjoying it! I've got even more played -- enough for two more updates. I'm trying to catch up so I can play more without feeling guilty!
 

DensleyBlair

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Chapters two and three done. Great stuff. It's fascinating to see humanity navigating its practical relations with the Mishar; the mixture of xenophobia and optimism feels about right. Closing the borders as a panicked first response is possibly not the most empirical thing to do (or if it is, it's a very paranoid science) but encouraging to see that this doesn't not seem to have set back relations too much – or at all.

And meanwhile the human race really isn't sitting about on its hands. Very rapid expansion. One wonders how long it can go on before something upsets the course. I suppose that's the underlying logic behind such frenetic activity in the fist place, mind.
 

HistoryDude

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Well, those cultists were annoying.

Interesting relationship with the Mishar. They must be so confused.

Nice to know that we aren't the only rationalist interstellar state.