Chapter 8 – The Actium Crisis (Year 3-5)

The Prometheus on a mission a to save humanity, captained by a lunatic who believes time travelers are respnsible for it. Oh boy.

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Chapter 8: The Actium Crisis (Year 3-5)

In both the mind of the general public and academia alike, the history of Terrans in space can be put into two categories: 2072 to 2174 and after, or as it is often called “pre- and post-Actium”.

Actium Station was the furthest outpost humanity had established by late 2174. 53 lightyears away from the Sol system, Actium Station had been established by Prometheus fourteen months prior, alongside Gannick Station four lightyears away. They were designed as relay stations to observe and monitor local space. Colonization efforts had already been confined to a small sector around Earth at the time. And while colonization had already happened at an alarming rate for isolationists and security analysts alike, Gannick and Actium Stations were established to mark the outer reaches of Terran influence. Rich in minerals and natural resources, as well as inhabitable planets, the systems were already ear-marked for the second wave of colonization and the Stations built to facilitate peaceful trade and diplomatic exchange with local species. Also designed as Naval outposts, both stations had a number of gunboat squadrons and two Spacefleet cruisers on station. Smaller and slower than Prometheus, the still packed an equal punch and served as force multipliers for the already heavily armed stations. Then, late in November 2174, the attacks came. Actium Station was the first to feel the brunt force of the attack. A force of several battlecruisers destroyed the outpost, then moved on to Gannick. The inner colonies and Earth did not hear about the attacks until December when the force came to attack the colony in the Epsilon Eridani system. Smaller than Proxima Centauri, it was still the most heavily populated system with close to ten thousand settlers, most of them freshly arrived from colony ships within the previous three months. Once again a colony was destroyed. The final tally: three Terran outposts destroyed in as many weeks, eleven thousand dead, five stations destroyed, three Naval flotillas nuked with one ship of the opposing force destroyed. Then the attackers vanished back into the opposite direction.

Prometheus was recalled from the first Terran visit to the Vaude home system to help with the relief effort. It was then that Terran hubris was first tested. As Captain Connors wrote into her ship’s log after the dispatch boat had reached Prometheus only hours before:

We might as well have called this the Icarus Project, because we just got burned. Too fast. Too cocky. Foolish.

Without falling back to see the history of Terran exploration reduced to a Prometheus narrative, this was the moment that historians and contemporary cultural observers alike, began changing their minds on the reckless starship captain, who was often called “luck for brains Connors” by the isolationist-friendly Earth News Now and expansionist-friendly Voice of the Colonies webvid channels alike.

As my colleague Commander Hobbs noted in her 2184 habilitation: We often forget this in a world too interested in a post-Actium world, but Connors was not the most beloved person pre-Actium. Sure, she had commanded a successful mission in the last two-and-a-half years, but there were already talks of recalling Prometheus for a refit and replacing Connors, maybe with her first officer Arroway. So clearly there were some voices, both in the public and the government, who were not too happy with her performance. It’s really just masked by the meteoric expansion wave of the years and, frankly, blind luck that Connors got another shot at legendary status. Morbid as it sounds, Actium was her lucky break.

Edited from the interviews conducted by Rear Admiral Chen and Commander Hobbs between 2182 and 2208:

It is an often asked question, but where were you when it happened?

(Commander Arroway) We were on the second week of our Vaude home system visit. The Captain and Lt. Commander Prisha were on the homeworld at the time, partaking in some formal dinners and sightseeing tours. A lot of the crew were planet-side at the time and we had a few dozen Vaude naval personnel on-board to parade around the ship. They weren’t very impressed. I remember that quite clearly to this day. Goes to show how a cracked ego can influence memory prioritization. I still remember the Vaude’s Primarch and Captain Connors had gotten into an argument the previous day. He had always been a vocal opponent of Prometheus’s launch and so Captain’s passion got the better of her, and that’s all I will say about this.

How true are the rumors that you were to replace the Captain after a lengthy refit in spacedock?

They’re nonsense, I can assure you. People always get this wrong: the Vaude government and isolationists back home were an albatross around the captain’s neck from day one. Voices just got louder for the last few months. It was more a question of the ship getting recalled entirely for a lengthy refit and then mothballed until a second wave of colonization, whenever that would happen. It was all politics, of course, but the Captain saw it very personal. I can’t blame her, I couldn’t even back then. It was her family’s dream, her own calling. I would have taken it personal as well.

As a small side note, would you like to elaborate the “all politics” point?

Technically, these details were shared with me by the Captain and Prime Minister McBright before our launch under the impression of keeping it quiet… I suppose twenty years is long enough, considering what happened since… Prometheus’ mission was under threat from both the Vaude and isolationist groups back home. The way our government is organized, all colonies with more than a million inhabitants are immediately recognized by both houses and receive representation. The Global Conservatives Party with its radical Earth First faction were the strongest party on Earth, but it had never gained ground in the colonies. They were good people, by the way, very good allies in the fight for Android-Terran equality. Couldn’t have passed the Rights of Man and Machine Act into law without them. But for the past decade, the Earth national governments and the House were controlled by the GCP while the Progressive Expansionists took control of the Senate. Prime Minister McBright used the launch of Prometheus as a power play within the government to get the resources for the first wave of colonization of the ground, knowing he would only have a small window to get it done. That’s why colonization happened so rapidly, we had no other choice to keep the project alive. It’s also why Prometheus was sent out into deep space, to find more reasons to go out there and expand as rapidly as possible. McBright had called his plan “Occupy Space”. I was never a big fan, because of the ramifications and dangers of fast colonization. I argued in favor of slow and steady. Ironic, I know, since I helped pass the RMMA after only like 10 years of android rights marches. But in this case, we had time after all, but the Captain lobbied big for this idea. It’s one of the reason why we were actually doing so many missions at the time: we were living on borrowed time.

So Actium was a lucky break for you?

That’s a disgusting way to look at it, but yes, I’m ashamed to admit it, but yes. It kept Prometheus in the air. And I cannot stress Captain Connors’ role in it enough. She rose to the occasion, there’s no other way of putting it.

(…)

Walk me through what happened next.

(Lt. Yuedan) The moment the Captain heard about the news from the dispatch boat, we went to Defcon 2, Red Alert throughout the ship, she even ordered the Marines to ready for action. All indecisiveness from the previous two years? Gone. It felt like a switch had been hit. As if she had decided then and there that things were now different.

Why do you think the Captain suddenly acted different?

The captain is also part of the crew, if that make sense. Everyone aboard a starship has a job to fulfill. Not everyone on an explorer is a scientist, there are a lot of engineers, security personnel, medics, hell, even cooks and sanitation workers. It’s an eco-system, right? And the captain is also an administrator, the mayor of a small town. I think when she accepted the job two things happened: first, she was immediately put under pressure because its her family’s legacy. She might have a different name, but everyone always looked at her as Louisa Jiwe’s granddaughter. Big shoes to fill. Hell, I can relate, and my dad was “only” Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps. Second, she thought she’d be the next big explorer, a Magellan, Zheng He, or James Cook. She got to do a lot of ceremonious flag planting, sure, but she’s a trained combat pilot with little to do. Even after the Actium Incident we had maybe two incidents a month. Tops. I can deal with it because of my special forces training. We train every single day for the mission that will never come but eventually does, because one of the lab coats does something stupid and peacenikish. The captain didn’t have a purpose, that’s what I’m saying. The poster child for an exploration mission and they put her in charge not because of qualifications, but because of relations.

So she had a purpose afterwards?

We all had. Our scientists, like Doctor Troughton, Commander Cobenzi, Commander Prisha and the rest of the departments, all were able to contribute to our new mission parameters, but this time around the rest of us didn’t feel out of place. Outside of the scientists, none of us had a purpose in those first two years. Actium changed that.

(…)

 How were the mission parameters changed after the attacks?

(Commander Arroway) First of all, we were recalled home. The fleet was mobilized, the national armies were called up for service back on Earth. We really didn’t have a huge fleet though. EarthGov has always been riding a fine line with a federal military and Spacefleet was always under threat of budget cuts in favor of national efforts. That had, of course, changed after Actium, but the damage was done.  

What do you mean by that?

There is an old saying: “You don’t fight a war with the army you want to have”. Replace army with navy and Spacefleet was a joke. We had one hyper-capable capital ship with Prometheus, around 300 sub-light gunboats, two converted long-haul freighters that pulled 1 ly/day to ferry gunboats to colonies,  and two aging costal defense battleships, also sub-light. We had a hyper-capable fleet, well flotilla. That was up in smoke after Actium, that was all we had. We weren’t able to go on the offensive any time soon.

Were you already calculating a counter-strike at the time?

Spacefleet is a defensive force by design, but sometimes the best defensive is a good offensive. So when we were recalled, we were immediately put into dry dock to upgrade our weapons package. Additional missile pots and gun turrets. The space was there, but we didn’t want to appear to threatening as an explorer. That had certainly changed. Sadly. We were ready to tough it out back home and hole up. It was the Captain who changed everyone’s mind.  

Yes, the records are quite spotty about that. What did she do?  

Let me backtrack a bit: back during the original attack, our destroyed flotilla got off a lucky shot and destroyed one of their ships. Before we were recalled the Captain made a pitstop at Actium and Gannick. The managed to salvage the computer core and, most importantly, a dead enemy crewman. We learned a lot from that, most importantly that they were part hu… organic and part mechanical. And well, that’s when stuff got interesting. Can… can I say this here? 

The Wells Protocol, if that is what you want to refer to?

Yeah… I’d rather not.

(…) 

The Wells Protocol isn’t classified, if that is what you want to refer to?

(Chief Stevenson) Hell yeah, I’m saying time travel! Of course it was time travel. Time travel, time travel, time travel. Man, it feels good to finally say it. Nobody was gonna believe us, they said. It’s not like the Captain didn’t give enough proof that it couldn’t be anything else.

What do you mean with evidence?

The fucking body we recovered! When we were on our way back to Earth after the attack, the Captain went to bed that night and ordered an hour later to change course to Gannick. To pick up evidence she said. She briefed us on the way of what we would find. Nobody knew how she had known this, but there it was.

But one of the dispatch boats had already reported on one of the attacking ships being destroyed.

It had, yeah, but not details, not on which level, in which department to find the body, or how to detach the computer core. It was like playing with cheat codes, or like the captain had been handed a strategy guide, ya know? Point is, we got the thing on board and made our way home. Turned out the organic parts of the cyborg? Yeah, those were human. Like Earth human, salt of the Earth human, catfish eating, organic human. Human human. Changed everything.

How so?

Well, we had a clue of what happened. Captain was kinda cryptic about it. Later she told me it was because using time travel as an explanation would be weird. Told me some lady from the future contacted her, some sort of time traveling secret agent, told her all the stuff.

That would make Captain Connors the second person in her family to explain an important event with time travel.

You betcha. See, it all makes sense! Those robots from the future that came back to assassinate Doc Jiwe? That were stopped by a future Prometheus? It all made sense at that point.

(…) 

Did everyone agree with Captain Connors’ explanation about the Actium Incident?

(Commander Cobenzi) Of course not. It was preposterous. Time travel is impossible, our scientists have proven it. Unless, of course, you are talking about traveling forward through relativistic means, but not the idea of traveling back and forth at will.

Then how do you explain the events of the next two years, the Proteus Mission? Weren’t there a lot of events you participated in that only can be explained with time travel?

They may appear so on the surface, but that is no reason to accept the possibility of time travel. There was always the possibility of a third party trying to influence our mission to stop the Proteus and manipulate it for their own gain. You have a concept for that, Occam’s razor. Time travel is too complex for that. All the theory does is open up problems in the internal logic of the events.

Fair enough. So Prometheus was recalled home. What happened then?

 We brought in the corpse and the computer core, which were analyzed by Spacefleet Command while we received our refit. From the records we could summize that the cyborgs were part of a species of transhumanist aliens to use one of your words. The core was damaged of course, but Captain Connors insisted that this was only the precursor to a true invasion. We also found out their species name: Proteus.

And what did you think?

We Vaude have a different appreciation for space travel than you humans do. I believed what my government’s ambassador to Earth believed: humanity was progressing and expanding too fast for their own good and the attacks were warning shots from a species that had either claimed the space you had colonized or was feeling encroached upon. Spacefleet Command and EarthGov concurred. A defensive posture was adopted.

How did Captain Connors get the orders to scout out the Proteus anyway?

The Captain was, of course, still enthralled by the time travel theory she had come up with, but her reasoning with Spacefleet Command was that even an upgraded Prometheus was not a big help within the perimeter to defend Earth and the outposts. With one ship going on the offensive we could scout out the enemy and then either try a diplomatic solution or at least delay them until a massive ship building program could be conducted. Eventually the mission was approved.

So why did you decide to stay aboard?

My original assignment was to make sure that, to be blunt, Captain Connors and her crew did not completely ruin everything. As far as my superiors were concerned this was still a valid concern. I can also not deny that… I was growing quite fond of my shipmates and they needed someone aboard that had a big picture world view. They were only human after all, especially the androids.

(…)

What did you think about the Proteus mission after you embarked on it?

(Lt. Commander Prisha) I thought it was really exciting. Outside of the Damocles Sword hanging over our heads of course.

So you believed the Captain’s ideas about time travel? 

Oh, that didn’t really matter to me. I was just happy to see Terrans pull together even more. I was afraid there would be anti-android sentiment back home because of the revelation that the aliens were cyborgs, but there really was nothing to that effect. We actually had androids sign up for the ship and the captain requested more of us to join the crew. In fact, I believe that this is her definitive achievement above all else: fully integrating the navy one Android-Terran at a time. Her explained this really pragmatically to Spacefleet Command though, saying that the cyborgs would not consider us a threat if they saw us working together side-by-side, or the many transhumanist crew members. Terrans are quite diverse after all, human, android, cyborg, anything in between. I concurred with her belief that this would be an important argument to make in order to better understand them.

Did you have specific coordinates to follow? 

No, the Proteus had an automatic data scrubber that had almost wiped their core clean. We managed to pull an incomplete flight record though, so we had a flight path to follow. All we really knew is that it was going to be a long journey.

(…)

The first four months were very uneventful, based on the ship’s log but eventually you made contact with a species that could point you in the right direction.

(Commander Arroway) Correct, for the first four months we had followed the flight plan of the Proteus ship that had attacked Gannick. We had almost no encounters during that time. Our entire mission was to find the Proteus after all, so we had no reason to make stops. Of course, we did accept a total of three distress calls that let to some action but overall we stuck to the mission. Eventually we reached a system about 94 lightyears away from Earth, where the local spaceport could direct us to a system another 30 lightyears away, five days travel for Prometheus, but this time in the opposite direction. It turned out the attacks on Gannick and Actium were not random after all, but a delaying action as some had argued. The system was only ten lightyears outside of Gannick. It was an inhabited solar system with a unique wormhole nexus. Many species rely on wormholes for travel until they have developed FTL, but even then it can save you a lot of travel time. The Proteus had made their way through one of the junctions and the local authorities let us pass through them to follow. Within an instant we found ourselves 10.000 lightyears away.  

And what did you find? 

The entire area was littered with wormholes, most of which went system to system, short distance. Turns out there was this vast empire a few thousand years ago. Nobody really knows any details anymore, but they ruled this entire sector of space, a good two hundred lightyears in diameter. But then their AI rebelled against them, took them down. A bloody war was fought, biologicals versus mechanicals. In the end, an armistice was declared when both sides had destroyed each other so much that nobody was in shape to continue the war. They had a cold war ever since, desperately looking for technology to give them an edge. How cyborgs fit into all of this we had no idea when it was a war between biological and mechanical after all. So we decided to press on and investigate. We had a setback though. Turns out their war thousands of years ago was so destructive, it completely cut off the entire section of space from hyperspace. Space travel would only be possible by sublight.

You pressed on regardless?

Yes, it was the only way to complete the mission. The Captain had complete confidence in the ship and the crew and our sublight engines were still more powerful than anything in this part of space so flights through star systems wouldn’t take us long at all to get to the next wormhole. It also meant the Proteus weren’t that far before us, despite us taking over half a year to get to where we were because of their engine technology. Because of the frequency of wormholes, both sides had put emphasis on better weapons, rather than engines when they rebuilt after their armistice about 100 to 150 years ago, Commander Cobenzi and I were never quite sure where to pin it down.  

(…)

What was it like to traverse this part of space?

(CMO Troughton) Lots of disgusting people, if you ask me for my non-PC medical opinion. The robots wanted to kill us for being organic and the organics wanted to kill us for having androids and cyborgs on our crew. That alone there kinda puts the entire stupid affair into perspective. We couldn’t really stand by and let one side oppress slaves they had from the other side, and we couldn’t take on both sides. Mostly we were trying to stay alive while looking for the Proteus homeworld.

(…)

And what happened when you eventually found the Proteus homeworld? 

(Lt. Commander Prisha) Turns out it was all a big misunderstanding. The Proteus had come into contact with Dr Jiwe’s lost starship and reverse engineered its technology, including the biological aspects. Turns out a radical faction of the machine people that had rebelled against the Drobeer Empire had decided to fight fire with hire, meaning use biological components to enhance themselves, reasoning that a biological understanding of improvisation and emotions, as well as a fear of death, could bring them an edge. They split from the original beings and took the name left over from the hull markings of the experimental ship Prometheus. All that was left of Prometheus though was Prometheus. Convenient for a Greek mythology gag too. Then we pretty much just teamed up with the original machine race, who just called themselves The Great Machine, and took down the threat before they were able to destroy the Drobeer Empire and all of its 40 billion inhabitants and, eventually, the destruction or conversion of all Terrans.

When I set out to write this book, or rather edit the previously unreleased interviews and documents to the public and combine them with previous material, while adding in my own essays to give context, I mainly did it for this chapter right here, the Proteus Mission, the Actium Incident, or the other names that have been given to it. This part of Prometheus’ history is the most redacted part of its entire service length and that included the accidental genocide committed by Doctor Troughton. All of the interviews in this selection have been, as the annotations in your feed will show unless you have an adblock enabled, have been classified information, including most of my previous historical background information. The crew of Prometheus was deemed too important for the image of Spacefleet and how Earth and Terrans see themselves in this increasingly diverse universe. Sources always existed to show the truth, we just needed to ask, and exchange students and tourists, travelers to allied worlds, have always been able to view them. And yet we live a lie, one that history books in schools are complicit in. Our history books on the last two hundred years are the cliff notes version of what happened, the theme park version. Plucky adventurers with no care in the world. I hope that, if anything, the previous two and a half chapters have shown that this is not the case. The crew of Prometheus, Spacefleet Command, our government, were all either chronically lucky, incompetent, or downright lucky to a point that it might have used up all the good karma ever collected by the entire Terran population. And this is why I needed this interlude in this chapter right here to emphasize something about the Proteus Mission that was not necessary in the chapters about the first two years: after bumbling around space for two years, the Proteus Mission exposed the reality about Prometheus. The previously shown interviews about the mission were, unlike previous ones, not classified. This is the cliff notes version found in history feeds and old-fashioned ebooks. And you hardly noticed because of how carefully edited it was. But Commander Hobbs and Rear Admiral Chen did go into more detail. With their question, but unlike the previous or later missions, the Proteus Mission got a wall of silence from the senior officers when it came into detail. Even Chief Stevenson, who had previously talked about getting himself impregnated, or Doctor Troughton, who accidentally committed genocide out of incompetence, were quiet. All because they didn’t want to say anything negative about their Captain. Therefore it was time to let the Captain herself speak in this book. I had originally thought not to, as to create a work about the perception of her and her deeds, after she had been the origin of the majority of primary sources on Prometheus anyone cared to work and give to feeds, vids, and ebooks over the last century, but considering that these new sources were, for the first time, declassified, it seemed only prudent to let her speak. In many ways for the first time. The reason? The means of attack on the Epsilon Eridani colony and how omitting this fact, that it was a biological weapons attack against the colony in form of a dead nanite rain, which killed and mutated the entire colony until a thermonuclear device could be launched from a Spacefleet ship to quarantine the entire area.

Captain, I have already spoken with your crew on this, would you care to give me your view on the Proteus Mission?

(Captain Connors) I’m sure there is little I can add to this. I know my people, they speak their minds, even if there’s nothing in them to speak. Ha… we were not prepared. Not at all. Scratch that, I was not prepared. I fucked up so many times, it’s not even funny. The beginning of the mission was mostly how it has always gone, I tried to let my senior officers spread their wings a bit more, like I’ve been trying to before. Not really for their benefit, I was just sure that I had been a terrible micro-manager and a pilot shouldn’t really tell a supersoldier, a linguist, an omnidisciplinary scientist, an engineering genius, and a physician how to do their jobs or get in their way. Basics of command I never learned because it all fell into my lap without much work… But yes, the Proteus Mission… When we entered the area of space I should have turned us back. No hyperspace for the entirety of the mission, all the time in hostile territory, but I needed to get this mission done. Back when this all started, I got this visit from a time traveler from the 25th century. I don’t care how stupid it sounds, it’s what happened. I know it’s weird that both my granny and I now have this story to tell but hey: if it rhymes and whatnot. Point is, I didn’t need much convincing to dig into it after we saw what had happened on Epsilon Eridani. The Clanker colonists [note from editor: 22nd century derogatory term for Android-Terrans] were the ones that ended up the luckiest, they just outright blew a fucking fuse and died. Everything human fused with metal and machinery, grotesque mutations… at that point I knew it wasn’t just a thing with a border conflict. You know, you can respect that, that’s just what aliens do, even if that’s not very PC, but it’s not racist if it’s the truth. But yeah, that time traveler told me that there were factions back in the future and the future’s future and other time periods where factions were trying to hinder humanity’s advancement. They had tried numerous times to alter time, and this was another thing that was never going to happen. Made a lot of sense to me, you know, the Vaude also tried to stop us from advancing to far, and those were our allies, imagine people that didn’t like us at all. So I got us on the mission. Just waiting at home wouldn’t do us any good, sometimes you need to go out and punch something. That’s how I’ve sold a lot of problems. I have yet to meet a diplomat that can talk a nuke out of exploding in his face. And I’m a trained diplomat and that never stopped me from getting punched whenever we were captured by aliens on an away mission so I know what I’m talking about.

What do you think was the hardest part of the mission?

If I were as dead inside as Pill, I would say ‘Finding the Proteus’ but that’s not really it. Nobody can be as dead inside as Pill. Which reminds me, I need to get him to his next AA meeting tonight… what was I talking about? Oh yeah, hardest part… staying alive, maybe… probably staying on mission all the time. It was a whole new area of space and we passed a lot of DE, distinctive encounters. Some of the stuff we always encounter, like mind altering nebula, or getting captured by aliens, but this time around it was because we were looking for the Proteus, so that’s one way to never veered from our mission target. I think about halfway through the mission I just started copy-pasting my mission notes, because we really made little progress outside of knowing there was a Damocles’ Sword hanging over our heads. Didn’t feel much different from usual until March 2175 I wanna say. We found our final clue to getting to the Proteus homeworld. Then we got the shit kicked out of us.

Is this when the Drobeer turned against you?

Kinda. I’d been turning a blind eye towards their treatment of captured or enslaved AI. I mean they were in a cold war with the Proteus as I thought back then, so the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Besides, they were Proteus and they just murdered over twenty thousand Terrans. As far as I was concerned they deserved everything they got. There was a hostage situation on one of their ships. Clankers… androids had taken over the ship to escape. We decided to help out. And let’s better leave it at that, I’m sure you can infer enough.

How were you able to reconcile this with the fact that Android-Terrans make up 5% of the population of the Solar system at this point and are fully recognized members of Terrankind and were members of your crew?

Clankers… Android-Terrans are different. As far as I was concerned… They never tried to exterminate us, we never tried to exterminate them. As far as I was concerned back then, all artificial life had the capability to live in harmony with organic life. We could do it, so everyone else could as well. I was wrong of course. If I learned anything in the last ten years it’s that you shouldn’t prejudge or judge others by one’s own standards. Prisha and the other Androids aboard never voiced differing opinions, but that’s the problem when you’re in charge, your subordinates will always go along with your stupid ideas.  

How would you characterize the first half of your journey, it took you about eight months to reach Proteus space, right?

It was different from our first two years in space. Hyperspace is really boring, nothing happens in terms of adventures, so incidents can only occur in normal space. Because hyperspace was all fucked up in that region of space we had to travel under sublight engines, which meant higher accelerations as people were used to. In hyperspace you accelerate with a constant 1g, so normal Earth gravity. If you wanna go from one wormhole to the next in that area of space you better accelerate faster, so we were under constant combat acceleration, anywhere from three to six g’s for hours on end. On the other hand that meant we finally got our money’s worth of our combat couches and drug mixes designed to keep us alive and functioning. The crew performed admirably, but it also made me realize how important the hyperdrive really is to space travel. If anything it made me appreciate my grandmother’s work more.  

 When you finally reached the Proteus homeworld, what exactly changed in your mission parameters?

For the last leg of the journey we were joined by a Drobeer battlegroup, carriers, battleships, gunboats, you name it. I thought, “Cool, more firepower to help us bring down the Proteus”. Yeah… that worked out great. We reached the “homeworld” after about eleven months since we started the journey. Then it turned out, that the Proteus and The Great Machine, which is what the network of the AI, their governing body, in that sector calls itself, or at least that’s what Prisha translated it to, were not one and the same. The Proteus were a radical faction. They had found my grandmother’s lost ship back in the day. My time travel contact told me that it wasn’t actually a coincidence, but part of a greater scheme to keep humanity occupied. Something with the timeline. It’s all quantum, I really stopped listening at that point. Well anyway… that worked out, and they were looking to make themselves stronger by absorbing more human biology and technology to gain an edge over the Drobeer, while The Great Machine wanted to just be left in peace and develop as a purely non-organic species. I eventually got the System Administrators to help us once Prisha used her Android charm on them to convince them that we were just looking to defend ourselves. For me at least that was the end of it, so we decided to leave and told the Drobeer to leave them alone. Turns out their Fleet Admiral had other plans and launched an orbital nuclear strike on the planet. That’s when I made the decision to jump into the crossfire and help out.

That was quite heroic.

That was quite retarded. We had a mission to continue, had to make our way to the other side of Drobeer space, use their wormholes, and then stop the Proteus from launching a doomsday nanite virus towards Earth. A sane person would have said “Oh, the humanity! Woops, nothing we can do!” and left it at that. I got us directly into the fire and had us disable the entire fleet. We were more advanced, but we also couldn’t use our main railgun because we didn’t want to destroy any ship, so we took a real beating. Lost a lot of good crew in the process. Seventy people. The ship pretty much a wreck. The Great Machine unable to help us with the repairs afterwards… Don’t get me wrong, I know it was the right thing to do, but I never lost people before. I didn’t sign up to make calls over life and death…

And then what happened afterwards?

Mission changed. Our recon mission was concluded. We left the Drobeer for The Great Machine. I thought it would fester some sort of goodwill between the two species if they saw that the Clankers helped their survivors. Nothing much else we could do but to chase after the Proteus with a half-wrecked ship. Fortunately the ship was big and built for redundancy so we were able to fix up a lot of damages over the next few months and build new munitions, but that took time.

So it seems like the entire mission was a lot of stops and starts.

Very much so. Lots of downtime, lots of unnecessary long stretches of nothing in between important missions. Not the way we wanted it to go, obviously, but that’s space for you: long stretches of nothing punctured by pants shitting terror.  

Your log becomes confusing near the end, there is a point where it seems like all hope is lost and then you have a brilliant idea to devise a solution to make your way to the Proteus homeworld in the nick of time to stop the launch. What happened there?

Time travel. My time traveling secret agent contact sent us a few weeks into the past so we could appear at the Proteus homeworld just in the last second to blow up their superweapon. 

Nah, I’m just kidding. I told Stevenson to tech-tech a solution to our problem. You give him enough drugs and he’ll come up with a great solution. We wouldn’t make it in time for the completion of the weapon to make our way there. Hyperspace was all fucked up, but we’ve always postulated that other forms of FTL must exist, so I wondered if we could travel via artificial wormhole, an Einstein-Rosenberg-Stevenson Bridge if you will. Thing got destroyed though and Stevenson forgot to make blueprints of it, so… wupps. .

I’m confused now about which I should believe. The first or the second?

Yes.

So you took the wormhole drive and flew directly into that Solar system?

Yes. The entire system was heavily guarded around their planet. The weapon was in orbit, the planet had about a billion Proteus on them, dozens of ships patrolled the sector, all of them from the size that . We approached from the other side of the system to mask our approach. We took a stealth gunboat closer in and knew that we wouldn’t be able to penetrate their security. It was a suicide run. At that point I had two options: either an orbital strike with the railgun, destroy the shipyard and the planet below. We wouldn’t make it out of there though afterwards. Like I said, a suicide run. My other option…

Based on your log it seemed like your only options were a suicide run and to collapse their star. Did you ever consider a diplomatic solution?

Ironically, bargaining with The Great Machine was possible, and they were purely AI. The Proteus… they were something different. You’ve read my reports, they had become a plague over the entire sector. Before they had come to test out their nanite weapon on our colonies they tried it on the Drobeer and other species. Millions dead or mercy killed by atomic fire. The Drobeer were zealous, but even they didn’t deserve that. I knew at that point that the Proteus would spread over the entire galaxy like a locust swarm at some point. Only way to stop them was to smother the baby in the crypt.  

Yet you said earlier that you weren’t able to make the tough choices.

I was able to make choices, doesn’t mean I have to like them. In that situation it was us or them. And by “Us” in this case I mean the intelligent beings of the galaxy. Organic, AI, something else, doesn’t matter. Us or them, those hivemind technozombie abominations. Did you see pictures of the colonies? Or the world we observed? You must have, so don’t tell me that there were other options.  

Then what did you do?

I decided to collapse the sun. For that we used the wormhole drive, built it into an automated gunship with the thickest armor we could bolt on it and a big, fat reactor. Didn’t have to survive long, just long enough. Then we calculated a wormhole connection to a local blackhole. Then came the fun thing and we made a slingshot maneuver around multiple planets in the system and directly towards the system’s own natural wormhole junction on the float, then burned hard the last two hours. Got shot at a bunch. Lost as many people to enemy artillery as we lost to strokes and blood clots because even with the combat drug cocktail they couldn’t make it through two hours of constant burn. Ten seconds before we jumped, we launched our very own doomsday device. Worked as advertised, the star went supernova and that was it for the Proteus. I have a feeling they’ll leave that out of the heroic epics.  

So no Proteus survived?

None. We went back about a day later when we were certain nothing would come through that wormhole. The system was destroyed, but with Nanozombies like the Proteus you can never be certain if not a few of them here or there survived. Haven’t heard from them in almost a decade now though, so that’s something.

Then you made your way back home?

We made a small detour to the Drobeer homeworld, told them of what happened, and they decided to make peace with The Great Machine in light of everything. Least we could do for those two and not feel totally horrible ourselves. But yeah, after that we were done, went home, kissed all the lovely boys and girls like on that V-J Day Time Square photo.

Can you justify your actions?

The government was completely behind me on those actions I took. Unanimous vote in the security council, including all Android-Terran representatives. The Vaude too, of all things.

That’s not what I asked.

I know. I gave my reasons, I stand by them. The Proteus couldn’t be reasoned with, they attacked us. With an unpredictable enemy like that, who could take outdated technology from us and best us within fifty, sixty years? That wasn’t a risk we could take.

How do you feel about the last part getting classified?

I think that I would prefer to defend my judgement calls now instead of after a hundred years of hero worship.

The Proteus Mission has been a puzzle for historians for the last eighty years. Nothing really made sense. It was the most memorable mission of Prometheus’ entire career. Sure, later missions would be why Prometheus got its place in the history books, but everyone always remembered the Proteus Mission. Saving the entirety of Terrankind from cybernetic corruption and death, and if we believe Captain Connor’s eccentrics also timeline derailment, might be one reason. For many it was where Prometheus’ story should start, a long mission of heroics. There is a reason the most famous vid adaptation from 2243 by Serri Do, was called The Stuff Heroes Are Made From. That miniseries compressed the entire twelve years of service into a ten hour narrative that skipped much of the first two years and gave a highly redacted mission center stage. Good old-fashioned heroics. You might argue this was because everything was classified, but in the end not a lot of it was, it was just simplified for the public. Arguably there is nothing heroic to be found in an ending where the “good guys” blow up a star system. Not many heroes can justify using doomsday weapons in fiction. But this isn’t fiction. This is reality and we need to treat it as such. Eighty-five years ago this mission was released to the public in redacted form. We now need to figure out what to do with these new information. Do we continue our hero worship and accept the reasoning for committing genocide?

We did this to ourselves, like most of the examples I shared within this book so far. Sources were always there, always available. Not for a lot of the gory details, but the great picture was always a lot more grey than we like our heroes to be. Much of the bigger picture was always there, the interviews I had access to only gave a small picture view of the gory details. It’s not what’s in the history books and feeds though. Ironically, it was director Serri Do who gave the answer herself: This isn’t what Prometheus is about. And there we have it. Historical accuracy was ironically more apparent in earlier productions, like 2198’s Proteus and 2212’s 2174 were much grittier, critically praised, made their money, and then disappeared from public consciousness.

Not to take away too much from my final summation, but we created a version of the Proteus Mission for ourselves we were more comfortable with and simply accepted narrative inconsistencies. Because make no mistake: history is about narratives. The German words for history is actually my favorite as it recognizes this Geschichte. Literally Story. The Proteus Mission never made much sense to me without the additional knowledge I had been able to obtain through the declassified interviews. Prometheus’ crew had stolen, compromised their morals, killed, that much I had known. It wasn’t until I had read the interview with Connors that I had context. It was the missing link of how we got from “Cray Cray Connors” to “Captain Kate Connors, Terran Hero”. Both are exaggerations of course and it’s easy to dismiss everything about the former to memes, but to imply that the crew of the Prometheus, her captain especially, has always been the person we celebrate today, is also a false narrative, and I hope this last interview has begun to spin some of the reader’s cogs at this point. The hero who would shape so many events yet to come could not exist without the crucible that was the Proteus Mission. Without compromising her morals and values, Captain Connors wouldn’t have been able to fight so passionately for them later. It is hard to admit for anyone even slightly political, even a historian, but we need to always remember that people make mistakes. It is easy to judge in hindsight. It is so common in our profession that we call it the “historian’s fallacy”.

With the benefit of hindsight, we could always come to a different outcome. Many armchair generals and actual generals over the years have come up with different methods to conclude the mission, if only to make sure that we would never blow up another sun. The emphasis there should be on “over the years”. Captain Connors had little time to decide over the future of terrankind. Imagine having the weight of an entire civilization, maybe an entire sector of space, on your shoulders and you have less than a day to decide. Now imagine that you are sitting in a half-destroyed ship. Almost eighty out of a crew of six-hundred have died. You are low on supplies, relief forces, and most importantly time. Connors’ time travel metaphor, so often brought up in her interview, is just that: a metaphor. As someone who is not a psychologist, but a military historian, there is little I can say to the state of another person’s mind, but even a novice with one mandatory semester of combat psychology as part of his officer’s training fifty years ago, cannot deny the possibility of PTSD and I encourage any student of psychology to read this book to make their own inquiries.

What happened happened. That does not mean, however, that we should ignore it. Outrage and apathy are equally unneeded in this discussion. Yet to say that we want to ignore a part of our history and shared identity because it is problematic or not as grand as we have envisioned it in our hands for not being what Prometheus is or was about, to use Serri Do’s words, is childish. It is not a contradiction that our navy’s greatest hero is both a great woman and also a human being who might made mistakes, grave mistakes, and continues to pay for them to this day. We can only speculate on other outcomes to the Proteus Mission, but we need to realize that we are doing it with the benefit of hindsight and in a world without assimilating cyborgs. As a society we have decided, for good reason, that genocide is wrong. This is a fact. And what is also a fact is that we couldn’t sit here and judge her if the Proteus had been able to commit genocide on all of terrankind. Speculation without evidence is the realm of philosophy.

In the end, this is what being Terran is about: to rise above our mistakes and learn from them, not to ignore them. You cannot have the story of how we are galloping around the galaxy without the story of how we learned to walk. People are not flawless, the Terran Alliance is not flawless. Pretending that Prometheus and Kate Connors are ideal classical heroes are symptoms for the problems of today’s society. The moment we see another being as more than exactly that, we are destined for failure and disappointment. The joke, as they say, will have been on us.

Author: Alex

Full time student, part time "writer" of things.

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