On October 25th 2142 at 4:12 AM GMT, a crew of University students studying old MBUS communication systems on a decommissioned Pike G2 outpost, intercept a strange radio signal. They relay the signal back to their University lab on Earth and 45 minutes later an emergency meeting of the UGC is called.
The signal was human in origin but had come from far beyond man’s current reach into the galaxy. As it was now generally agreed that the Shinigami had used some form of LEAP technology to escape destruction over 110 years prior, there was little debate over the source of the broadcast. To make matters more tense the news of the signal had been made public despite UGC efforts to suppress the information. Amid general fear there was also outrage as questions as to why the signal had not been detected by the SkyEye probe network began to be raised. An investigation soon uncovered a financial conspiracy spanning three decades.
Records seized from SkyEye vaults made it clear that the contract with the UGC to replace the EDI network was an elaborate scam. A scam resulting in the company holding contracts for 89% of all consumer and commercial communications worth tens of trillions of dollars. Given the nature of the fraud had undermined global security the UGC deemed it an act of treason and ordered the arrest of the SkyEye board of directors.
As the events surrounding the SkyEye fraud unfolded there was a collective realization that nobody had been listening to the skies for the last 30 years. World media was dominated by speculations of who, or what, else may have heard the Shinigami broadcast. More importantly; did they have a thirty year head start? People were beginning to panic and demanding action by the UGC. On November 1st 2142, the UGC unanimously voted to reinstate the Earth Defense Initiative. Grey Hevey, son of Garmin Hevey, former head of the EDI at the time of its dissolution, was to be appointed the new acting Operations Director. Hevey agreed to take his father’s former position on the condition that the EDI be reinstated under the terms of its original contract with unlimited access to resources.
The Sword You Fear
If in fact the Shinigami signal was a call for help and a potentially dangerous alien threat was impending, Earth needed a plan. On November 10th 2142, Grey Hevey addressed the UGC in a globally broadcast open meeting revealing that he planned to build a new Shinigami Space Station.
“We are strongest when we face our fears. The tragic events of 2029 have too long been in our nightmares. The Shinigami is a terrible weapon, but it is a weapon we should wield, not cower before. What once nearly wiped us from existence may very well someday be our salvation. God forbid we ever have to use such a weapon, but if it comes down to it, we will not hesitate to make it the thing of our enemies nightmares. The sword you fear is the sword you don’t wield. We will fear no more.”
The UGC backed the EDI plan alongside overwhelming public support. Still not everyone was onboard. Many in the WSO felt that we were assuming the worse and that at least more research into the matter was needed. On January 10th 2149 the new Shinigami 102D Space Station was launched. The 102D not only bore the name and retained much of the original design characteristics of its infamous predecessor, it also housed a variation of the biometric weapon that wiped out two thirds of civilization. It was also the first space station to be equipped with Generation 3 LEAP drive technology.
Over the next few years the divide between the EDI and WSO continued to widen. On May 14th 2149 Tyla Keller, head of the WSO, release details of the organizations plans to move up its schedule for long term deep space exploration. The WSO’s mission objectives included establishing a number of permanent outposts and research colonies, and actively searching for habitable worlds. All of which were expected. However in an interview when asked if the WSO was concerned about encountering an alien race, Keller responded,
“Concerned? We’re anticipating it! We’re actively seeking out contact with another intelligent civilization. We’ve known that we’re not alone for a long time. Don’t you think it’s time to meet our neighbors?”
Keller’s statement shocked the world sparking public protests, political scorn, and even death threats from various “Earth is home” groups. However for as many that were outraged there were just as many that supported the WSO initiative and millions flocked to join the organizations efforts. More than a year after missions began, public opinion continued to be split on the WSO’s controversial objectives to contact an alien civilization. Opposition groups had begun to take an ever more aggressive stance on the matter with each mission launch.
The Christo mission marked a major milestone for the WSO and humanity. It was not only to be the furthest from earth humanity had roamed, but if successful, the Christo crew would be the first humans to walk on a planet outside our solar system. The fifteen person crew was tasked with investigating a number of worlds thought to be suitable for potential human colonization.
On August 25th 2150 the Christo Space Station departs from Pangaea’s Branson docking port. Billions watch from home, and over 120 thousand people gathered in the nearby Pangaean Grand Park to witness the historic event. At 2 PM, as port tugs pull the station to a safe LEAP distance, the world watches in horror as it explodes 400 meters from the Pangaea complex.
Docking barriers absorb much of the initial blast but debris from the explosion rips through the nearby park dome. In a matter of seconds thousands of people are ejected into space before the Pangaean emergency systems can seal off the section. Moments after the explosion an extremist faction of the “Earth is home” group, Children of Gaia, claimed responsibility.
“We can no longer stand by and watch heathens turn their back on their true home, endeavoring to open us to untold dangers simply to satisfy their selfish curiosity. We must take it upon ourselves to defend our Earth Mother.”
Ten minutes after the terrorist’s statement, eight more explosions shook Pangaea as bombs detonated in the WSO headquarters, a major research facility, and the homes of five top level WSO officials. Eight thousand men, women, and children died in the terror attacks that day, and more than three thousand were critically injured.
The Children of Gaia terror campaign did not stop after the Christo disaster. As security on Pangaea tightened, the Gaian terrorists shifted their efforts to targets on the ground. After a series of devastating attacks on a number of transit stations kill hundreds, stories began to emerge that Pangaeans were getting special protection. As public animosity grew so did support for the Gaian movement. This was only exacerbated by the increasingly heavy handed tactics of UGC and EDI security forces in their efforts to weed out members of the Gaian terror cells, often violating the rights of innocent citizens in the process.
2153, Generation 4 LEAP marks the most significant advance in the technology since its invention. Using new improvements to particle sinks and reactor technology the new LEAP system, branded “Limitless”, promised to eliminate limits on LEAP travel. The drive had been tested up to 5 million light years, but unlike previous LEAP systems, that had maximum power capacities, Gen 4 did not. This meant that as reactor technology advanced, or as new power sources were discovered, LEAP ranges would potentially be limitless.
Thousands of expeditions launched every year carrying a new breed of explorers into the heavens, fulfilling the long romanticized dreams of their ancestors. The vast galaxy, of which we previously only occupied a tiny corner, truly became our home. Once escaping the interference of the Sun we quickly discovered that planets like Earth, and indeed life, were not such isolated occurrences as we once believed. Within the first year of interstellar exploration fifteen habitable worlds were discovered. Many of these new worlds were teeming with plant, microbial, and even animal life. Life that was shockingly similar to that found on Earth.
On August 25th 2154, planet PL-091 became the first interstellar world claimed by humans with the establishment of the WSO Nova Research Colony. By January of 2159 twenty planets and moons were home to more than 150,000 humans. However, all this did not help consolidate an increasingly divided public. While WSO supporters were aglow with excitement over opening new territory. The opposition saw a greater threat than ever before.