Chapter 10: Once More With Clarity

The ship relaunched… but it’s not the same anymore. After the highlight, what is there but to go through the motions again?

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And here we are, second to last chapter of the novel. Leave me a like down below or give it a share, much appreciated.

Chapter 10: Once More With Clarity (Year 7-12)

The next five years of Prometheus’ service differed greatly from both the first two years of service, as well as the Actium mission. Without the public attention the first two years received, nor the adulations and fame that came with the conclusion of the Actium mission, Prometheus and her crew were able to focus on their mission, or rather missions. Outfitted with the new Mark VI engine capable of 3.5 ly/day, Prometheus retraced its steps from the last five years to reconnect with previously visited species and build relations. As with its previous mission, most of the time was spent in hyperspace. And while Prometheus was now focused more on making contact and building on previously established relations, as well as help allied species, its overall number of missions reduced by half, with longer missions taking their place.

Years of 2177 through 2181 saw numerous upheavals in local galactic policies, with the Terran Alliance in the still unique position of being able to pick and choose the conflicts it got involved in.

What changed when you got out there again?

(Commander Arroway) We had first gotten into space at a very interesting time. A lot of species were developing space travel, either with help or on their own, the Vaude were steadily losing their hegemonic power over the local group of systems to in-fighting and their conflict with their Vanvaude cousins, the Leonids were growing their empire, and with The Great Machine and the Drobeer finally declaring peace, their sector of space was finally safe to traverse again, meaning that species from the other side of their wormhole junctions were coming into our sector of space. The Alliance was in a strange spot, we were on good speaking terms with most of the species, more advanced than anyone but the Vaude and the Vanvaude, and a unified, and more importantly stable, government back home. Prometheus helped by setting up embassies and trading outposts. We were in the place where we used the tools originally created for the First Wave of Colonization for diplomatic purposes instead, and it worked out great for while there.

Why only for a while?  

(Commander Arroway) The Terran Alliance was too stable and too big in this part of space to stay neutral. We had expanded just in the right moment of time to the point where we didn’t need more colonies or Solar systems.

The local group of systems, 200 cubic lightyears in diameter, was slowly becoming a powder cake. The Terran Alliance had its own empire of almost 34 lightyears in diameter, the second largest behind the Vaude and their colonial possessions and vassal worlds. In the early 22nd century Earth could have easily become another vassal world, but by that time the Vaude’s empire had already begun to collapse and nobody was interested in another world that would make trouble over the next few decades. Forced to harvest the resources of a Solar systems more sparse planetoid bodies in the habitable zone than any other spacefaring nations, Terrans were forced to adapt their economic base to artificial stations. In the Land Grab of the 2170s and 80s, the Terran Alliance could thus take a step back and stay out of the inevitable fallout and blowback. After spending half a year building diplomatic infrastructure and trading outposts, Prometheus thus made its way back to Drobeer and Great Machine space, facilitating the peaceful transition of the two species from war economies to peaceful and productive trading partners. It wasn’t until 2178 that Prometheus returned to local space to intervene in the conflict between Vaude Hegemony and Vanvaude Republic.

Can you explain the conflict between the Vaude and Vanvaude?

(Lt. Commander Prisha) Sure, it’s surprisingly simple, actually. The Vaude once had a huge empire at the height of their power, but about two centuries ago there was a big civil war, where the Vanvaude split from the Vaude. That’s when they laid out that minefield we stumbled into a couple of years ago. We don’t really know the reasons to this day, but they eventually the Vanvaude lost and the Vaude nuked their planets from orbit and quarantined them. The Vanvaude took a couple of centuries to rebuild, but then they came looking for blood. At that time though, the Vaude had already been showing signs of declining as a regional superpower so the Vanvaude, who were about equal with us in technology and weaponry, had an easier time to draw first blood. But mostly that war was fought with intelligence assets on part of the Vanvaude, outfitting pirates, younger races, and so on with weapons capable of giving the Vaude a fight. Death by a thousand cuts if you will.

And what was Prometheus’ role in this?

We were helping out a distant Leonid colony with raider attacks they’ve been having for a while as part of our good will tour. Usually those ships are so small that our weapons are too powerful to just disable them, but this time we managed to find some wreckage and recognized technology consistent with the minefield we ran into some years ago, specifically the same stealth technology. From that we could trace it all the way back to a clandestine Vadvaude naval base in that general area of space. Didn’t take long for us to get involved in the conflict.

(…)

Why did the Alliance decide to get involved in a conflict that was clearly a Vaude internal matter?  

(Commander Cobenzi) Because it wasn’t internal. The Vanvaude, to this day I might add, are not powerful enough to defeat either us or the  Terran Alliance in open combat, but they could destabilize systems around us. In the end general conflict would make its way over to either of our nations. The Alliance decided to honor their declaration of friendship with the Vaude. The problem came with the way that they decided how to help.

What actions did Spacefleet take?

First of all a general anti-piracy and stabilization action on part of Prometheus and a Battlecruiser squadron that was detached to work with us on the matter. Secondly, we made our way to the Vanvaude homeworld. The surface was barely habitable considering the last war, so everyone was moved underground. Captain Connors decided to try a diplomatic solution first as per the orders of the Alliance government. That was the mistake though, the Vanvaude weren’t out for peace talks at that point anymore, they just wanted to take us with them. I believe you have a saying about dying and cornered animals fighting the most ferocious or something.  

But based on all accounts, the diplomatic mission was a success.

For a while. Earth decided to help rebuild the Vanvaude homeworld or help them settle a new one, do some trading. In the long term it didn’t help, only in the short term. The Vanvaude are just too savage to deal with them diplomatically, they need a taskmaster to stand over them.

The second Vaude-Vanvaude War only lasted a few months and was never officially declared so you will never find that name in Vaude history books, but it was the first example of the Terran Alliance’s new confidence on display: after the Actium Crisis we were ready to take on new tasks in the local neighborhood. It is also the first example of the new mission of Prometheus seemingly working. Captain Connors and Commander Arroway, in association with Special Alliance Envoy Punjabi were able to negotiate a ceasefire between the Vaude and the Vanvaude. Despite the best intentions of the Terran Alliance representatives though, the conflict also highlights some of the problems of early Alliance foreign policy. Still relatively new to the galactic stage, combined with an unstable colonial empire, and a home system in an isolationist mood, neither Prometheus nor Spacefleet was able to enforce a robust peace in the years to come. The nature of Prometheus was such as that it had to move on, but just because the ship had moved on did not mean that the mission was accomplished. A squadron of Spacefleet cruisers was on a one year assignment to the planet, and the Corps of Engineers and the Diplomatic Service were able to help ease the suffering on the Vanvaude homeworld, but the mandate was too weak to accomplish much of anything. The Vaude refused to hold up their end of the bargain at all, believing the cease fire to be a giant waste of time. This only increased the hatred for them inside the Vanvaude public, while the Terrans were seen as weak and ineffectual. When the ships left after eventually two years on station and barely half the money invested in the rebuilding effort as were promised during the negotiations, the Vanvaude quickly returned to their old ways. To this day a Vaude battle squadron visits the system at regular intervals to bombard industrial centers in orbit. And although Connors and Arroway lobbied for over two decades for relief missions to the Vanvaude to continue, the Terran Alliance was never willing to invest any more time, money, and effort. So while Prometheus proved itself capable and willing to improve something within the Terran sphere of influence, the government was not. Once again a Terran government had chosen a good appearance over good results. This also shows a new element to Prometheus’ mission: a strong and seasoned leadership about a living legend of a starship being able to accomplish a lot of good in the last five years of service, but unable to shape the larger picture in a quadrant of space where the Terran Alliance was unwilling to act according to its status as the second or third largest power.

In the next three years of service however, Prometheus was able to accomplish more in the quadrant, interestingly more on the periphery of Terran influenced space where the Captain had more leeway to shape the situation in her own image, rather than rely heavily on the Alliance government. This is when Captain Connors realized that a neither her old approach of improvising, nor strictly following a government agenda, would serve on the fringes of explored space, as she noted in her log entry after world from the disastrous management of Vanvaude rebuilding reached her:

I thought my way was wrong when I rethought the events of the last couple of years, but recent word from our relief mission to the Vanvaude left me wondering, if I wasn’t up to something. Spacefleet captains are still issued with loose mission parameters. So I am wondering what to do now: continue on with this new way of leaving behind a safe legacy or to try my own hand once more, but this time with the experience of enough fuck-ups under my belt to make a good whore proud.

In Prometheus’ final years of service, Captain Connors used her influence and standing with Alliance press and public to get away with more than most captains were allowed even at the time under the old carte blanche rules, much less today. Advised by her executive officer, Connors understood that Prometheus would not be able to truly shape the politics in the local sector block, but it could focus on improving the lives of individuals and systems on the fringes of known space.

After the Vaude-Vanvaude War, what changed in your mission?

(Commander Arroway) Officially nothing. We were still on our general good will tour, but we had learned the hard way, or rather the Vanvaude had, that the Terran Alliance wasn’t one to actually follow up words with action. And so I advised Captain Connors to interpret our orders very broadly. To play to our strengths we had develop over the last couple of years. Our hope was to build and fester cooperation among the races in this sector block of space. 

Wasn’t there before?

Absolutely not, there were many races fighting each other for scarce resources and space. See, the Vaude and Terran colonial empires are actually anomalies. Most star nations are single or two or three system powers at most around these parts of space. A lot of these problems actually arose from the decline of the Vaude Primarchy as a superpower, as it meant that many systems previously kept from developing hyperspace capability quickly did so, that is why so many new players emerged over the last hundred-fifty years or so. Earth scrambled for colonial possessions at just the right time and our less developed status compared to the Vaude was actually an advantage.

How’s that?

You see, the Vaude’s hyperdrive is way faster than ours, meaning they always decided to keep a tight grib on everything despite their enlightened appearance towards us. Our drives were too slow to adequately micro-manage everything, so our federal system with early independence for colonies worked to our advantage. Many other nations were not so lucky. So we decided to focus our “good will mission” on the border regions of their territories and help them build cooperation. Very hit and miss though.  

Why was it hit and miss?

There is only so much a single ship can do. We were active for more than three, almost four years in that capacity, we helped with border conflicts, colonization rights, averted a couple of shooting wars, really, we did do a lot of the things we were doing before Actium, but this time it seemed to matter, at least in the short term. I suppose that was because there was at least some method to our madness. But for every time we helped someone, there was always someone we couldn’t help or where our help was dismissed or simply came too little too late.

Commander Arroway was right in one regard: one ship alone could not make a difference in the grand scheme of things, but one ship was able to make a difference for enough people to care. Other Spacefleet ships out on missions of explorations similarly followed the principle adopted by Prometheus in its later years over the course of the decade. It is hard to imagine it now after more than two decades of too much or not enough inference and three very unpopular wars with other star nations, but Prometheus’ greatest accomplishment might be the positive standing that it allowed the Terran Alliance among other races. Over its final five years in space, Prometheus became the most traveled ship in Terran history until the Deep Space Missions of the 2240s with almost 9000 lightyears traversed, 343 worlds visited, and twenty-nine first contacts.

Prometheus did not stay all of its time out in the outer rim of our sector block, but returned home during the Second Spring terror attacks that struck the Solar system and the colonies in coordinated strikes against aliens, androids, and space exploration. During 2179 the ship returned to Earth for several months to help with stabilization efforts during Second Spring, evacuating and protecting non-Terran visitors to the colonies and Sol, merchants, diplomats and other visitors, while Spacefleet was active in being deployed against uprisings terrorist strongholds throughout Terran Alliance territory.

While voices within Prometheus’ crew, chief among them tactical officer Lt. Yuedan, supported  Spacefleet Command’s lobbying for martial law to be declared during this Alliance wide state of emergency, cooler heads like those of Captain Connors and Commander Arroway, as well as Spacefleet Chief of Staff Admiral Leyton, prevailed in recommending no state of emergency to be declared at any point during the year, a recommendation the government decided to follow. As Commander Arroway put it in a letter to her husband during this time:

The Actium Crisis still rears its ugly head to this day. Now it’s Spacefleet and its presumptuous way to decide how we tell the people we serve how to run planet- and station-side business.

The massive military build-up during the war and the events of the following had instilled in the Terran Alliance a sentiment of over-reliance on Spacefleet and TAMC in any role. Coupled with the fact that ever since Spacefleet had been combined with the Earth Space Agency, as mentioned in chapter 4, the service had increasingly had had to wear many different roles, many of which were performed by Prometheus itself on its original journey. Spacefleet and its Marine Corps had become the Alliance’s answer for every problem: science, exploration, colonization, police action, mediation, defense, a cult of sorts had developed over the years around Spacefleet as the answer for everything. This led to the increasing reliance on a service that was therefore encompassing more and more duties but also power into itself. While ironically created from a body designed to keep power at the state level, it left the Alliance unprepared in the face of acts of domestic disturbance like Second Spring. Or, as Lt. Yuedan of Prometheus described in her log at the end of the mission: “If all you have is a hammer, all problems will suddenly start to look like nails. But then you can nail terrorist scum with that, so that’s something”.  So while martial law was never declared, seeing Spacefleet and TAMC personnel patrolling the streets of Terran habitats during the years of 2181-82 became an all too familiar occurrence, which, many terrorist experts believed at the time, did more harm than good by validating terrorist efforts with the presence of a mighty military juggernaut, which Spacefleet was even after post-Actium downsizing. During all of this, Captain Connors decided to keep the ship as far removed from the action as possible and not to deploy Marines, instead relying on security personnel and local police forces near Proxima Centauri, Vega, Beta Gabriel, and Eridani II colonies, as well as Gateway Station Jericho, where the ship was stationed on and off throughout most of the year hunting down terrorist cells and keeping the stations’ and colonies’ admission to the Terran Alliance on track, as they had reached the five million inhabitants milestone during the time, which the terrorists wanted to stop by encouraging colonists to flee to the inner planets, halting expansion to the stars. After most of the terrorist cells had been captured or destroyed, Prometheus returned to the fringes of the sector block. Before leaving the Solar system, Connors transmitted a message in the clear to the nearest netlink upload, transmitting to the entire Solar system, and on its way to its next mission at every colony:

I am not worried about terrorists with little explosive device and loaded shuttles crashing into crowds. While horrendously tragic and deplorable, I believe that we ourselves are doing more harm than good by deploying Marines and warships during every domestic incident. The Terran Alliance was not founded on a principle of rule by fear, nor should we resort to strongman politics whenever any of the colonies or the New Hanse don’t cooperate. And neither should the colonies nor the Hanse fear terrorist reprisal: we are with you, and as long as we are, you must not fear anything. I am aware that the Terran Alliance, even when it was still known as United Earth Government (EarthGov), was founded on the principle of autonomy for its member states, a long leash, for without it would have been destroyed like the Unified Nations before it. We were worried about too much power resting on a federal government. In doing so, however, we have robbed ourselves of room to maneuver. During a national emergency like Second Spring, God forbid it shall ever happen again, we cannot deploy Marines to keep the peace in our cities and stations. We, the military, for we are a military and not just armed scientists, are there to protect the public from all enemies foreign to our lands. When the military is called upon to perform police actions, the line blurs. Therefore I urge the Senate and Parliament to pass legislation to make possible the creation of a federal police force to cooperate with local law enforcement in emergencies such as these and to make certain that no fringe group of human supremacists can ever stand against the good people of the Terran Alliance again.

As an aside: Kate Connors was and is many things, among them a trust fund baby, a military starship captain, a diplomat, and a pioneer, but for me the most important element comes right here and is often forgotten: Captain Kate Connors, is the godmother of the Systems Police Service (SPS). Surviving mails from many pro-federalist politicians survive that ring home how unremarkable Captain Connors was in her handling of several situations, but she had an ability to surround herself with smart people to make up for her lack of knowledge and first-hand experience and knew when to give her clout as support to something worth fighting for. The proposal for a federal police and investigative force had been discussed for many years at this point, but it was the combination of Second Spring and Connors’ message that allowed Parliament to introduce legislation with widespread appeal across the isles to finally create the SPS. Many more federal institutions followed from there, increasingly narrowing Spacefleet’s mission parameters. While many within Spacefleet have cursed Connors in the following years due to coinciding spending limitations (Department of the Navy spending having never decreased in the entire history of the Terran Alliance), many more recent voices have followed Commander Hobbs’ statement on the subject fourty years ago when she stated that “Connors had saved the fleet from itself”.

Connors and Prometheus were in the unique position of both being within and without the military hierarchy as a maverick explorers and bridge builders to both other star nations and Terran systems. Spacefleet was the glue that held the Terran Alliance together in its early years and Prometheus was its spear tip. So while this book was, and still is, on its own mission to demystify Prometheus, it had done a tremendous job itself about it over eighty years ago.

But all missions must come to a close eventually. In its final two years of service, Prometheus’ output sharply declined. Structural issues with the hull, a mandate that would not be renewed another time, and increased operational costs for the ship would finally lead to its decommissioning in 2184.

Prometheus decommissioned on February 14th 2184, Valentine’s Day. Having spent the last two weeks flying victory laps past every colony and outpost they helped create, Prometheus docked for a finale time at Earth Space Dock Alpha. The crew disembarked, many of them retiring, many of them moving on to other jobs within the fleet, but all with full military honors and protocol. Medals were handed out, Connors promoted to Commodore on the spot, Arroway to Captain as a retirement gift. Speeches were held as Chief Stevenson powered down the reactor and fuel lines were disconnected. Barges then towed the ship to a permanent orbit around Lunar, where it would be turned into a museum, its story complete.

 

Author: Alex

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

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