Chapter 9 – Homefront (Year 6)

They saved the world! … Now what?

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First of all, happy new year. 2016 was a mixed year for many, highs and lows like all, and maybe that’s why I decided to write this book when I did as a lot of what happened over the last year resonated with me when I looked over the past few chapters while working on the second draft. Either way, have fun with the new chapter, and as always all I ask for in return is a comment or social media share. Thanks.

Chapter 9: Homefront (Year 6)

After their more than two year mission to stop the Proteus threat, Prometheus and its crew returned home to a hero’s welcome. The years of 2174 through late 2176, one would think, were years of an the entire Terran Alliance holding its breath, but the crew of Prometheus quickly learned how much had changed in those three years and the two before that they had gone.

There is the popular notion that in every century there seems to be a decade that rapidly expands our notion of ourselves and the way we perceive the world, a decade of astonishing change. Of course our understanding always changes, so it’s actually an illusion, but there is still something to say about a good ten years every generation that The years of 2172 through 2176 were most definitely such a period of profound change. While the conflict that was raging hundreds of lightyears away had no impact on the day to day life of the Sol system or even the inner colonies after the initial attacks on the Actium, Gannick, and Epsilon Eridani systems, Terrankind had not stood idly by while Prometheus had shipped out to fight an interstellar war, and had gotten to work instead.

Prometheus would make an interesting study for the fact alone that the entire crew was away for the duration of what are now considered the Years of Affinity, as sociologist Mark Krennic had dubbed them, the years in which the rapidly expanding Terran Alliance had come together. In 2167, after the Treaty of Mars gave precedent for colonial independence, the foundation of the New Hanse, and the Rights of Man and Machine, all of which greatly expanded our notion of “Earthlings”, EarthGov renamed itself the Terran Alliance as the governing body of all the peoples which had once come from Earth. Human, android, all Terran, all united under one governing body, one voice. It wasn’t until the Deep Space Program that Terrankind had a common course to unite under, as previously mentioned in chapters 7 and 8.

Or as Android-Terran comedian Lee Arroway McTavish put it in 2176:

Who’d have fucking thought that all it took for all us meatbags and clankers to come together was a good fucking war? I think this is the only time progressives were ever fucking excited for a good war! More identity politics? Have you tried some fucking plasma torpedoes with that?!

The android rights movement had made extraordinary advances over the previous decades thanks to the Rights of Man and Machine Act, and the prominent roles of Prometheus’ XO Commander Arroway and chief linguist Lt. Commander Prisha in both the movement and the news thanks to the first two years of the Deep Space Program.  But it was the Actium Crisis that had brought everyone together. As current Secretary of State of the Terran Alliance, and first Android-Terran Commandant of the Marine Corps, McKenzie Iwate wrote me in response when I asked her about this:

Everyone in the Android community was really scared of the Actium Crisis and the nanite attack on Eridani. It was our worst case scenario after all. Here we were, barely a decade or so after we had gained our rights as citizens. We were still freeing our brothers and sisters from subjugation, there were still organizations like the Luddite Union that were hunting us down to maim and kill. Prometheus was out in deep space, so Prisha and Arroway weren’t here to give us celebrity support. We were a small minority at the time too. Greater physical capability than humans or not, we would have lost in an rise of violence against us. But that never happened. Terrankind was a very new term at the time, most didn’t use it. Many still don’t use it and prefer to refer themselves as Human or Android, but something happened in those next few months that were… magical. Very little violence against our community, and the Alliance quickly sprang into action to prepare a military response. Androids, transhumanists, our communities really grew together at that time. And we did our part. When Spacefleet, Marine Corps, and the Planetary National Guards started recruiting and asked for three million volunteers for emergency service, we jumped at the call. We were patriots. Biological or not, Earth was my home, so I joined the Marines OCS, did the Recon course, and spent thirty-five years in the Corps. Ooh Rah.

After the Resource Wars and the fall of capitalism and the military industrial complex after First Contact, Earth was understandably nervous about centralized power and a huge military. Even before the Actium Crisis, with Spacefleet support at its height, the navy never had more than 40.000 Spacers in its rank, the Marine Corps only four regiments with a total manpower 10.000 Marines, including support personnel. A training cadre in the case of emergency. As Vice Admiral Holden of BuShips put it in a memo in 2175:

We told them this would happen. Build a navy only when you need it my ass. You fight a war with the navy you have, not the one you want. Prometheus’ retarded recon mission is gonna buy us maybe a year. We’re not ready. I’m gonna  ask these fuckers for a trillion Denarii if they ask me how much money I need tomorrow before that fucking Senate Hearing. Son of a Clanker…

When he came before the Senate the next day, Vice Admiral Holden got his trillion Denarii and more. Inspired by the attack on its outmost colonies, Terrankind was on the warpath. Humans and Androids alike had joined the Prometheus’ expedition into enemy space or stayed behind to serve. Government contracts were over tens of billions of Denarii were handed out by the day. My son once asked me why there were no 2175 and 2176 models of any classic car or bike or ship out there. That’s because there were none. Printing plants, foundries, space docks, the entire economic output of a Solar system focused on preparing for war. A war that was averted. In the words of then Secretary of the Treasury Wilhelmina LeMarr:

Within two years we had done the impossible and prepared ourselves for a war, and then the worst thing happened: it was already over. It was good for business though, but we were quickly finding ourselves unsure of what to do with all that tonnage of ship we had built up.

From 2174 to 2176, the hulls Spacefleet had to work with, including Hammerheads and shuttles, went from 240 to 2900. Entire new wings of these Fast Attack Crafts had been built, new capital ships designed and put under construction. In 2174 Spacefleet had 8 capital ships, the heaviest of which was Prometheus, which, while the size of a battlecruiser, had only the armaments of a heavy cruiser, even after the refit. Two years later and Spacefleet had completely renovated its fleet with 94 capital ships either built or in the end stages of construction, among them 4 Charlemagne-class battleships of 600 meters in length and 12 Yet-sen-class battlecruisers. Logistically speaking the creation of such a force has been unprecedented, to the point that the TAS Charlemagne was built in a year and two days, barely losing out against the construction of the wet-navy days of HMS Dreadnought. Politically speaking though, having just built a navy to then not use it, had almost killed Spacefleet once again.

Secretary of the Navy Rosenstein wrote into his journal after a cabinet meeting the day after Prometheus’ return:

The Terran Alliance truly is a marvel of the possibility of vegetative living. The moment the immediate threat is vanquished, they want to completely dismantle our navy for the sake of domestic policy. They forget that we were only in this tight spot because we didn’t have a navy to begin with. What do they expect? This Hail Mary pass to work every time? Can you imagine the world in which every time there is a major threat to civilization there would only be one ship around to deal with the situation? Madness. Madness.

The Terran Alliance might have just gone through the most significant build-up of infrastructure, both civilian and military, since World War II, but as quickly as it came, the nature of the Alliance immediately brought about voices for the dismantling of federal power. The Alliance had been created, as its EarthGov predecessor before it, as a federal republic, with many restrictions for the federal government based on deals struck to even facilitate the creation of the Alliance. This meant no federal army, a small Spacefleet, and an even smaller Marine Corps. The Actium Crisis could have facilitate the movement of power from the states to the federal government on Space Station One, but the quick resolution of the conflict lead to the states quickly trying to reassert control. Of the almost 2000 new hulls created or being created for Spacefleet, 1900 were to be immediately mothballed. This was not necessarily bad, as a mothballed ship in space, if properly stored, be quickly made operational once more, and begun projects finished. In theory, state governments, weary of a military build-up in the Solar system and the horrors of the mid 21st century still in the minds of many citizens, Spacefleet could be up to speed again within a month of new hostilities, a better ration than the Actium Crisis. Combined with the fact that Prometheus alone was able to defeat the enemy, many saw their opinions validated. This saw the creation of an unlikely alliance between the federalist wing of the Martian Sovereignty Party, the Terran Labor Party, and the expansionist wing of the New Progressives. Commander Arroway recorded in her log:

You know we are looking at hard times when three parties on the left cooperate instead of resort to the usual in-fighting that comes with the left.

The parties had come together for three reasons: stability, unity, economic growth. Many officials in all parties, had realized that a navy, unlike an army, is useful even in peacetime. Humanitarian missions, border control, anti-piracy action, first-strike capability, science and exploration, and first-line defense. The last two of which were the big compromises the parties were able to get through Parliament and Senate. With a slight but sufficient majority of 51%, the three parties were able to reverse the original decision to mothball 90% of the fleet. Instead, the new plan became known as the “The 3/4th a Navy Initiative” came into existence.

Instead of keeping dedicated warships and explorers on hand, Spacefleet would only mothball half of its hulls, and refit the others to a hybrid concept. Similar to Prometheus, all active duty ships in the fleet would now officially be classified as explorers, but with firepower that could easily be upgraded within two weeks by swapping out science labs for additional missile launchers and gun emplacements. Of course, this led to the bizarre picture of a Charlemagne-class 700 meter long battleship with a 500 meter long WMD railgun capable of propelling a Tungsten or depleted uranium shell to 20% the speed of light as a ship of exploration. Nevertheless, the plan worked and Spacefleet came out of the conflict in a stage of never before seen strength and capability.

With the existence of an actual fleet of exploration, with even new heavy cruisers now both more heavily armed and better outfitted for short-and mid-range exploration than Prometheus, the ship’s future hang in the balance. Prometheus had completed a five-year tour of duty, it was heavily damaged, its crew depleted, and it’s captain in a state of doubt. Having reached the height of glory, many minds in Spacefleet were now wondering if the ship should be decommissioned.

What was it like to come back to a system that had so changed over the last few years?

 (Lt. Yuedan) Daunting. I don’t make friends easy, what with being a former member of a secret government super soldier program and all, but I had gotten used to Prometheus. There was a sense of belonging I hadn’t felt since being in the Teams. So hearing that the ship might be decommissioned made me surprisingly sad. Coming back to a Terran Alliance that was so… united in purpose was strange. I was used to making shit up as I went along, whenever the Captain had another great… idea, or a first contact went south, or we went drunk from standing to close to a star. A Spacefleet with a mission and a purpose somehow felt wrong.

(Commander Arroway) Everything I had fought and lobbied for years to be created had been accomplished. On the surface level of course, there was still inequality in between human and android, inner and outer planets, but we were making big strides forward. I was unsure if I should leave again on the Prometheus. The Captain, really, had called me out of retirement to reactivate my commission. I felt my services were needed elsewhere.

(Lt. Commander Prisha) It felt strange coming home to a system that had come to accept androids so readily into its society. When I joined Spacefleet, there were maybe a few dozen prominent androids around. I mean, I was the third ever android who was made a citizen, so it’s not been that long, but in the five years we were on the Prometheus, people back home had organized and really bonded together in the face of the Actium Crisis. Know you were seeing androids out in public, not hiding anymore. No contact lenses to look human, many even modified their shells to display their artificialness. I thought it would be nice to live in that society we helped create for a while, but my job on Prometheus was so stimulating that I decided to postpone retirement until later. I was still young after all, barely fifty years since production and not even 35 since I achieved sentience. I wanted to see it all. I was… curious.

(Chief Stevenson) I figured, I’d go where the Captain went, and she went with Prometheus, and I wasn’t done perfectly tuning her fine engines, so I wanted to stay. Nothing for me on Earth except two ex-wives, so there wasn’t much choice, eh?

(CMO Troughton) I wanted to leave. I was done announcing people dead after a slime monster attack, or accidentally killing species with my scam medical expertise, or simply getting shot at. The alternative would have been to go back home, crawl back into my bottle, and disappoint the Captain, and that simply would not do. Read up on some actual medicine books while we were back, so that was good.

(Commander Cobenzi) … I wanted to leave, but my time on an Earth ship had completely ruined my career back home. No way I would get an assignment or a command. So I was forced to take drastic measures and ask for a commission in Spacefleet. I was stuck. Least I could do was make sure the ship never flew and I was assigned somewhere else. That went nowhere.   

While the crew of Prometheus was more or less enthusiastic about continuing the ship’s mission, voices in both the government, the Spacefleet Command, and its own captain were not sure about it. Prime Minister McBright’s party had lost become the junior coalition member in the 2175 elections and McBright had to step down, replaced by the head of the Terran Socialist Union Rachel Malek. Prime Minister Malek had previously been Secretary of Urban Development and Infrastructure in the third McBright cabinet, and as such favored policies to advance the infrastructure of Terran possessions. As she put it, it was the infrastructure already in place that managed to create a military out of nothing within barely two years, so an even stronger infrastructure within the Solar system and the Terran colonies would be as important to defense as a strong navy. Unlike her predecessor in office though, Malek was not an expansionist and considered “Terra’s Empire”, as she had called it during the historically long and five week long election campaign, a balloon. Big and enormous, but with a thin periphery and a hollow core. Many military leaders, economists, and even members of Prometheus’s crew, agreed with her. As Commander Arroway commented on in a mail to her husband Francis on Mars in the lead-up to the election:

I love the work we have done on Prometheus, and without McBright we wouldn’t have launched at all and had no economic base to start the build-up during the Actium mission, but as a nation, the Alliance is still too young and fragile. We are already left with a huge border to defend, and actually to explore the worlds we have planted our flags on. We expanded too rapidly and must now catch up. If we don’t, then we leave ourselves open to more attacks like that of the Proteus.

With the new administration taking office, many believed at the time that Prometheus had done its duty and earned its place in history. The spaceframe was, as mentioned in the early chapters, compromised, the engine either already standard or soon-to-be obsolete in newer ships, and the mission parameters of Spacefleet fundamentally changed since the Actium Crisis. Deep space exploration would be discouraged for the next few decades while the colonial possessions of the Terran Alliance consolidated. No Spacefleet ship was to penetrate deeper into space than Prometheus had already done. Instead, Spacefleet would stress its research and diplomatic roles.

Now many argued and wondered about the future of Prometheus. Should it return to active duty, or be turned into a museum? And if it did return to active duty, what would it’s role be: training ship, exploration vessel? The ship had, after all, originally been intended as a testbed for the ships that would end up exploring deep space. Better armed, better equipped with scientific instruments. Yet the ship’s accomplishments over the last five years were substantial and the crew of Prometheus had more celebrity status than ever before because of their single-handed defeat of the Proteus. And while the senior officers wanted to go back into space to now work on the details of their rough-at-the edges mission, there was still one person who might not return: the captain herself.

What was the state of Captain Connors when you returned home?

(CMO Troughton) She was incredibly self-loathing. You know, more than usual. Taking out the Proteus was necessary, and most agreed with us, but even before we were back in the Solar system, Kate began isolating herself more. The mission had made her more serious, or as Isy calls it “less fun”, but she had just done some growing up. We all had. Being out in space that long… it reveals something about you. She had done an amazing job of keeping most of us alive, and saving the entire Alliance to boot, but it left a mark on her. Hearing about the ship possibly getting laid up and decommissioned might have given her the rest.

When she was given the assignment almost eight years prior, there were talks of her being given the job out of nepotism, for the sake of PR.

Yeah, I think she had ignored it for a while, but deep down, during the first few years, she knew that it might have been the reason or her getting the job. She thought about it a lot, regardless of her public face. I can’t even imagine what it must have been like, knowing you only get a job because of political reasons, instead of your own merit… Even with the training, there really is nothing that prepares you for command until you actually do it. So, I guess nobody was ready for that job… but in the first few years, she thought she wasn’t measuring up to some high ideal of what a starship captain was supposed to be. Today people are badmouthing her decisions and critizing her for stuff she couldn’t have possibly known or foreseen. We fuck up, we’re human. Or android, but you get my drift, we’re all just mortal. God knows, I know how to fuck up more than anyone. Nobody was born ready, everyone who has come since. All of this bullshit about “She sure is no Captain Stewart or Captain Brooks” or some bullshit like that, all of those captains that have come in the last forty years and worked on what she left behind. She was the guinea pig, anyone in that role would have been. She fucked up a lot, held some pretty corny speeches, but every single captain since had time to learn from that. It wasn’t as bad back then, directly after Actium, it’s only really gotten this bad in the last couple decades, but it still knawed at her.

So she didn’t want to continue commanding afterwards?

Spacefleet was ready to promote her and give a cushy assignment developing a FAC carrier and doctrine for deep space operation, which was shelved anyway in favor of just buying retrofitted civilian-grade bulk freighters as taxis instead. She thought about it for a while. Wouldn’t have been front-line anymore, she would have been out of the spotlight. Most of that year when Prometheus was in dry dock, she spent back on the family property at Mariner Valley, overseeing the final stages of terraforming. Didn’t really respond to any messages. I knew enough to leave her alone.  

But she eventually came out of it?

Yeah, the XO visited her when the hearings were coming up in regards to the future of Prometheus. They never talked about it with any of us, but I know that Kate wanted Arroway to take command of Prometheus, and Arroway knew that she was politically so isolated that this would mean Prometheus could never fly again. It was a tough time. Spacefleet was allowed only so much tonnage and ships on active duty, and Prometheus wasn’t a good value anymore in the tonnage per usefulness equation voodoo the assholes at BuShips have come up with to sell to the Senate. Kate didn’t want to go out anymore just for the sake of going out, to hold up the Spacefleet banner if you will. I didn’t feel like it either, I had already cost one genocide, I didn’t feel like repeating it. But Arroway eventually was able to convince her to come back anyway, and from that day on, I saw a very different Kate Connors. More serious. More drive. Suited her. Helped me too, because there’s nothing worse for a drunk than a fun drinking buddy.  

(…)

I’ve talked with most of the senior officers now, and nobody could tell me what happened in that time you went to the Captain’s property before Prometheus was relaunched.

(Commander Arroway) I suppose I didn’t tell her anything she didn’t already know herself. Sometimes you just need to listen. She knew, that she was considered a joke, who got lucky when the Actium mission got hot, that I was the true brains behind the operations, and similar nonsense. But for every one of those accusations, there was a sliver of truth that eventually almost drowned her in depression. So I did what anyone would have done, and I just listened to her talk about the last five years and eventually I asked her if she wanted to give up now and be remembered as a PR appointment who got lucky near the end of her career, or someone who learned from those mistakes and which made her a better captain. Actium had changed everything after all, gave us a new status quo, and, in many ways, a second chance. There were new people in charge back home, people that knew we needed to build towards something instead of aimlessly wandering around space getting into interesting but ultimately pointless adventures that didn’t go anywhere and were forgotten the week after. And that’s when she came up with the plan that she ended up presenting to the Senate. 

In late 2176, Prometheus had been restored to operational status, but was now awaiting orders from the Senate on whether or not to decommission and be turned into a museum, recommission as a training ship, or resume her original duties. Voices in both Spacefleet and government differed on what was to be done with the ship. Many, like Admiral Behr and Senator Moore, who represented large parts of Spacefleet, Parliament, and Senate, wanted to retire the ship and send out new ships with new crews to carry on the mission in, what they called in private, a “more dignified and mature and less meandering” way, while Senator Coto, Senator Reeves, and Admiral Stevens, with support of a minority in the houses of government, argued for the merit of a continued Prometheus mission. Eventually, Captain Connors was asked to appear before the hearings and made the following statement when asked if Prometheus deserved to go out there again:

I don’t think it matters, if we want to go out there again or not. I think the question should be whether or not we have a reason to go out there. Last time we did a lot of bumbling around, I will be the last person to argue against that. The question is now: what do we do with this. Do we accept, that we have done some good and some bad while we were out there, throw everything away and retreat behind our thick wall of defense until we think we are ready? Or do we learn from other mistakes and counteract immediately. Go back out there now instead of in decades, go out to build something better and bigger. I say: let us go out there once again, but this time with a purpose, a purpose of peace and diplomacy. A purpose of building both communities and our image. We have traveled hundreds of lightyears deep into space, crossed paths with almost two dozen species and civilizations. But we always moved on, ruhing to get to the next spot where we could take PR-friendly pictures to send home. The one time we went on a mission with a purpose, Actium, we brought peaceful understanding and co-existence to The Great Machine and the Drobeer because had time to get to know them. I say let us go back and build the same relations with them that we built with them and among each other. We are Terran, we exist to improve both ourselves and help others. If we go out now, we will not see an immediate result, but I promise you this: the next time an enemy like the Proteus come knocking at our front door, we will not be alone to confront them. Send us back out. This time, not to find strange new world, but to seek out new allies and friends. Prometheus will come to represent the new Terran Alliance: a good partner to lean on.    

Eventually it was decided to keep Prometheus operational for the foreseeable future, mainly because the funds for a replacement had dried up and it was realized that a similarly capable replacement ship class was still two decades away from launch, so the ship was allowed to stay operational but with new guidelines. This does not, however, invalidate Captain Connors statement, as it demonstrates the new self-perception of both the post-Actium Spacefleet, Terran Alliance, and Connors herself. It was a time they saw as ready to make big statements now that the ground work had been laid down, time to build towards a future they wanted to create. A new era, but ultimately, like all new eras, the same as the old.

Author: Alex

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

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