Ad Astra Per Mens Aspera
June 26, 2011 § Leave a comment
An idea I had a few years ago. It’s written in RPG supplement form but with no rules as such included, so feel free to adapt it to whatever game you like. If you do use it, a few cents in the PayPal tip jar would be appreciated, but not required.
The year is 2053, and Earth is colonizing the stars.
Russia has claimed distant Vega. The USA has colonies in nearby Proxima Centauri. The European Space Agency races China to carve out the Jovian and Saturnian moons. The asteroid belts are free for the taking, open ground to be exploited. Mars is the province of the UNESA (United Nations Earth System Authority) administered for the entirety of Earth’s disjoined nations.
The moon belongs to supermen.
Since 1968, when NASA first lifted an Apollo capsule with two men in it, intending to blink the entirety of the capsule from low earth orbit to the far side of the moon and back, space has been open to man. The test capsule blinked as it had been intended to. Instead of seeing the dark side of the moon, however, it returned to normal space on the far side of distant Pluto. The personality well had been escaped.
The world ‘below’ those discoverers changed, as it had in 1944 when a young man converted his entire body from matter to energy and vaporized a small town on the Japanese islands, as it had in 1908 when a mad genius named Tesla attempted to perfect broadcast power and instead managed to inadvertently tap what would be called ‘the energetic vortex’, sending a wild pulse of energy loose to cross the globe. What it awakened in man…call it sorcery, the power of the mind, the lost blood of the gods…allowed for feats not see on earth outside of legends in thousands of years. With the raising of platforms into space, the nations of that small blue globe could range forth into the void and colonize.
This progress comes at a price.
A century long cold war shows no signs of abating, as each nation or coalition of nations jockeys for position both in our own system and in others. Those with the ability to bend the fabric of space (whether they do it through force of will or applied sorcery) are in heavy demand for the exploration of space, and there are simply not enough of them to handle all of the traffic. Gauss launch platforms and reaction-mass shuttles ply the in-system spaceways and are at risk from pirates and privateers. The distant outsystem colonies are all still dangerously dependent on earth’s resources, and like all frontiers, lawlessness and competition are rife.
On the earth’s moon, the Terran Concordance seeks to prevent such things. Their Earth Legion play the role of policemen, soldiers and peacekeepers in the dangerous regions of space. In addition, the Concordance prepares along with the UNESA and the nations of earth (divided as they are) for earth’s first contact with an alien race…or, more accurately, earth’s first peaceful contact.
1908 – The Tunguska Blast coincides with a giant leap in Spiritualism and reported supernatural events as a ‘energetic vortex breach effect’ creates a thought-wave that spreads outward from the blast. After the wave, long dormant potentials in the human race slowly begin to re-awaken.
1909 – 1919 –The Period of Adjustment : Unusual or supernormal abilities become accepted as fact by most people, albeit at a remove (very few have any actual contact with such events and there are not many who can actually claim to possess such gifts). During the Great War, the Central Powers debut their Geistenchaft Kommandos, while the Allied Powers each field smaller, independently operating squads of supernormals. The GK outnumber the Allied teams twenty-two to eighteen. When the United States enters the war, they bring their twelve man psionic legion to contribute to the ‘mind-war’ raging alongside the trench warfare. When the war ends at Versailles an exhausted world attempts to settle back into peace. The Spanish Influenza claims millions of victims, and the three-day long assassination of Rasputin the Overlord in 1917 brings Lenin to power in Russia.
1920-1930 –The Jazz Age : After the war and the plague, people seek stability and a respite from the chaos of war, including so-called ‘spiritualist hexes’ (the governments of the world are generally reluctant to reveal just how much validity there is in such hexes, downplaying the ‘mind war’ as best they can) – Writers like T.S. Eliot and H.P. Lovecraft are active at this time, and their works are later seen as possibly the result of latent predictive facility coming to the fore. Known supernormals who vanish into obscurity at this time include Eobard Jankeovich (first recorded pyrokinetic), Thomas Danton, (who displayed inhuman degrees of strength and speed) and Albert Camus (often called the ‘world’s most developed mind’ , a well respected thinker and telepath).
Supernormal gangster Avram ‘ The Assassin ‘ Delacore is gunned down by the FBI, as are several non-gifted felons and bank robbers like Bonnie Parker and Clyde Darrow. Prohibition is repealed in 1929.
Nikola Tesla writes ‘Supernatural Paradigm Shifts and Humanity’ which declares that all people have the potential for supernormality if they can access the ‘energetic vortex’ lying below subatomic space as it was then currently understood, but Tesla’s own infamous instability and a desire by most to ignore such topics leads the book to obscurity for a time. The book does reach the desk of Niels Bohr, however, and is later listed as an inspiration for quantum theory.
As the decade rolls on, wild parties and prosperity serve as a shield, allowing people to more easily ignore the creeping weirdness around the edges of day to day life.
1931 – 1940 –The Depression and War on the Horizon : As the world’s economy sputters, ‘hexes’ and ‘mumbo-jumbo’ become more acceptable as last-ditch attempts to stave off ruin, and groups like the offshoots of the Order of the Golden Dawn (like Crowley’s AA and Waite’s Stella Matutina) find minor magics begin to work again. The publication by Crowley of The Equinox and Israel Regardie’s book in 1937 of the more or less complete rites of the Matutina spur further interest in magic, and paths from Appalachian Folkways to the complex workings of Voudoun show results.
Charles Lindberg teleports across the Atlantic.
The secretive occultists of the Thule Society decide to use occult trappings to create a tool for their own aim to overthrow the Weimar Republic and rule Germany, but their tool overwhelms even them as the Nazi Party, led by a charismatic speaker with a fascination for crankish racial slanders and mystical theories, takes over Germany. Fascists rise to power across Europe and Asia.
In 1938, Winston Churchill is convinced by painter Josef Calvin’s interpretation of Eliot’s The Waste Land that Hitler will invade Poland and start WWII, and win unless the United States can be convinced to enter the war.
The Japanese take Manchuria.
In 1939, Germany invades Poland.
1940-1945 –World War II : The German SS-G ( Geist Sonderkommando Schultzstaffel ) spearhead the Axis drive in Europe, mirrored by the Bushikamen serving the Japanese forces (and sworn to the Emperor personally) in Manchuria and Indochina. Mussolini is not so fortunate in terms of supernormals, making do with a few minor fulgatores and haruspices (and quite nervous about Aleister Crowley’s presence in a small villa as well, but if the Great Beast is up to anything there is little sign at the time) while after the occupation of France, Albert Camus takes the lead in resistance efforts, using his telepathic abilities and enhanced intellect to great effect both tactically and in the matter of espionage.
The Japanese, misled by British Special Operations supernormals, decide to attack Pearl Harbor to forestall what they believe to be a massive American naval offensive planned for December 11th. On December 7th, 1941, they precipitate American involvement in the war (despite an attempt to warn the Department of War by Providence, RI native H.P. Lovecraft, an amateur astronomer and sometime writer). America recruits between fifteen and twenty supernormals into Zeta, the heir to the Psionic Legion, and deploys them in two task forces in Europe and Asia alongside their military forces.
After smashing Rommel’s Afrika Corps, the Allied supernormals under the command of Lt. Sarah Dunbar and Captain Pol Vermes take the war to the Italian peninsula, clashing with the SS-G but making rapid time due to the unleashing of the Soviet’s secret ‘Koschei’ force, a squad of remote control tanks on legs designed and built by a fifteen year old genius kept strictly secret by the Kremlin.
On February 15th, 1943, David Andrews, a technician on the Manhattan Project, is exposed to Uranium. By February 23rd, he is comatose and slowly emitting more and more radiation…project scientists realize he is somehow creating a fission reaction within his body and it is building towards critical mass (although at a much slower rate than a conventional atomic explosive or reactor would). Storing Andrews in graphite and lead slows the reaction, but he does not die (he awakens on November 17th of that year), and studying him allows scientists to develop the atomic bomb by March of 1944. Andrews’ inevitable critical mass is another issue, and one that he himself volunteers to solve. On April 4th, 1944, while the war in Europe is grinding to a halt, Andrews is dropped on a Japanese target, destroying Hiroshima and stunning the world.
1945 – 1955 –The Colder War : Aftermath Europe is not partitioned or redrawn, resuming its pre-war dimensions with the exceptions of Poland and Germany. Germany is divided into a small northern sector which is allowed limited home rule, with France administering the territories closest to their border, Britain administering the central territory and the United States on the border with Soviet-Occupied Poland. Since Berlin is US territory, the wall is not built there, but rather a series of military bases rise on the borderland between Germany and Poland.
In China, the Bushikamen withdrawal in 1944 is followed by the imposition of order by Zeta Squad and the eventual imposition of peace by the US backed United Nations in 1946. Chiang Kai-Shek and Mao Tse-Tung form a coalition government (some suspect telepathic coercion by UN mentalists or sorcery).
In 1947, David Greenglass, Ethel Rosenberg and Klaus Fuchs are captured by OSS agents who read a pattern in tea leaves that led them to interrogate Harry Gold, a KGB courier.
The USSR develops an atomic explosive device by 1949; the USA counters with a Hydrogen Bomb in 1950, which the USSR develops by 1953. Korea is formally partitioned along the 38th Parallel in 1954.
Niels Bohr and Albert Einstein engage in a series of arguments about the nature of subatomic physics and quantum theory that leads, inadvertently, to the popularization of Tesla’s ‘Supernatural Paradigm Shifts and Humanity’ and the ‘energetic vortex’ is linked with quantum reality following Einstein’s death in 1955.
1956 – 1964 –Space and Beyond : The world grows more ideologically polarized, and more and more supernormals are going public with their abilities; indeed, it seems that there are more and more of them to go public. OSS director Wild Bill Donovan admits to mild psychic gifts, as does poet, playwright and liberal activist Jack Dunfee.
In 1961, US President Robert Kennedy pledges US Space Travel by the end of the decade; almost in response, the Soviets launch Sputnik.
In China, the coalition government of Chiang Kai-Shek and Mao Tse-Tung falls apart in an orgy of violence including the use of massive supernormal reserves…the end result of the Chinese Civil War is a deficit in supernormals caused in part by the casualties and in part by the prevailing attitude caused by the conflict that it is unhealthy to have such abilities in the first place as well as the eventual ascent of Mao in a limping, bloodied, nigh-Pyrrhic victory over his rival.
NASA and the Baikonur Soviet Space Agency begin their race for the moon. In 1962, Doctor Annette Abrahim opens the Insititute for Psychic Healing in Bern, Switzerland, and Jason Andrews (David Andrews’s son) enrolls in College in the fall of 1964, choosing Stanford University, where he meets Wanda Tobias, with whom he has a brief affair.
1965 – 1975 –The Interstellar Age : President Kennedy (having survived the assassination attempt by a fire ifrit that claimed the life of Governor Connolly of Texas) signs the American-European Cooperative Space Treaty in December of 1964. This treaty expands the availably launch sites for the upcoming Apollo missions as well as expanding the talent pool of astronauts.
In 1966 the Leon Uris novel “Sons of Fire” reaches #1 on the US Bestseller lists. Its subject matter covers the period from the end of WWII and the Holocaust to the Establishment of Israel, including several supernormals who participated in the victories over Egypt, Syria and Jordan.
Apollo I launches in 1967: the crew would have died if not for the warning of OSS Precog David Paul Gleeson, who saw the capsule burst into flames in a dream. This success (Gleeson’s second, his earlier warning of danger having saved the life of President Kennedy in Dallas) makes him the most famous seer in the world until he kills himself four months later, unable to cope with the increasing visions and the expectations of his superiors and the public.
Apollo 7 launches in Christmas of 1968. In the capsule are Scott Eaton, a British psi from the European Space Agency with the ability to teleport and Stephen Relner, an OSS Telepath who had served two tours of duty as a Marine Corps Navigator. Once Apollo 7 had achieved low earth orbit, Eaton was instructed to attempt to teleport the capsule into lunar orbit while Relner attempted to keep in telepathic contact with NASA Mission Control: instead, Eaton accidentally teleported the capsule into an orbit around Pluto . For several hours,Mission Control assumed that Apollo 7 was lost until Eaten and Relner managed to navigate their way through Astral Space and reappear in orbit around the earth.
This teleport (later referred to as The Event in Eaton’s book, later made into a movie starring Gregory Peck and David Niven) was the first interplanetary jump. Relner and Eaton explained to the stunned Ground Control crew that once outside of the psychic ‘static’ generated by the billions of minds on earth, a field that extended out into space, teleportation seemed almost effortless and Eaton had simply overshot the mark due to his unfamiliarity with the effect. (Indeed, as he was the first teleporter in space, he was the first to experience it.) Without Relner to serve as a psychic ‘beacon’ helping him re-establish his location in the universe, Eaton explained, he probably wouldn’t have been able to make the jump back to earth at all. Eaton coined the term ‘otherspace’ to describe the experience. Later historians of NASA claimed that ‘The Event’ was the greatest moment in Apollo history, overshadowing the moon landing of Apollo II, the Martian landing of Apollo 13, even the triple landing (Ganymede, Titan and Ceres) of Apollo 22.
Even as NASA and the ESA began construction of a space platform in Lagrange Point L2 (only point L2 is always entirely free of earth’s ‘Personality Well’, while point L3 is the only other point that is ever free of it, and even then only intermittently) the USSR announced that they had made a journey to the edges of the earth system itself, the Oort Cloud. This was followed by a joint NASA-ESA journey to Proxima Centauri in 1971. That journey was famous for the discovery of a series of semi-habitable worlds in orbit around the twin system, named the Centaur Belt by James Lovell, captain of the Perseus 2 mission. By 1974, Perseus 7 had delivered ten thousand scientists, technicians and colonists to the Centaur Belt, settling them on Buckle, the Ceres-sized asteroid that dominated the chain.
By this time, the joint NASA-ESA missions had settled nearly 3 million people from North and South America, Europe, Africa and the Indian subcontinent on Mars, the Moon and in the Proxima Centauri system, using both technological and supernormal means to terraform these worlds to suit mankind.In December of 1975, a joint Sino-Soviet mission managed to jump to the Vega system, discovering ten worlds, 2 of which had relatively recently formed reducing atmospheres and which were open and suitable for terraforming. These worlds were named Vlanik and Tao.
Also in 1975, Dr. Jason Andrews moves to Mexico City to teach at Aztlan University.
1976 – 1981 –The Four Years War : On January 7th, 1976, three Soviet agents were caught attempting to either sabotage Station L2 or steal the plans for it. In response, the United States and European Alliance go from a Cold War footing to preparing for armed conflict. Each colony is armed with psychotronic devices developed to prevent ease of teleportation by amplifying the ‘personality wells’ generated by the colonists minds, out of fear that a nuclear weapon could be teleported into a colony. A coalition of South American nations led by Brazil, encouraged by Chinese and Soviet support and angry that they were not among the nations included in the colonization project, begin a guerilla war with US ally Mexico. One of the leaders of the war, a sorcerer named Javier Colhech Xidalgo, uses his ability to summon and bind tutelary spirits of nature to smuggle an atomic device into Mexico City against the wishes of his backers and detonates it. Mexico City is destroyed by a 13 megaton nuclear explosion on July 4th, 1976 (Hidalgo’s sense of irony indulged). Dr. Jason Andrews is found alive but comatose in the crater a year and a half later.
The destruction of Mexico City ignites the Four Years War, a war that takes place mostly in space or on the colonies. After the Mexico City blast most nations seek to avoid a nuclear exchange as a death warrant both for earthbound humanity and because the colonies are not self-supporting, and the unconventional effects of supernormal abilities create a kind of lateral war philosophy , an attempt to constantly surprise and outmaneuver the opposition through unexpected and unpredictable uses of exotic abilities. As the war fluctuates wildly, America elects Alexander Haig President in 1976. Haig is unfamiliar with both supernormal or space tactical warfare, but is bright enough to allow William Donovan, the still spry head of the OSS, to prosecute the conflict creatively. He soon becomes known as Haig’s brain by those who know of their power dynamic.
By 1978 the war had ‘stablized’ : The Americans possessed a majority of teleporters and could make more long range strikes, but the Chinese possessed more supernormals of a ‘mystical’ bent and were difficult to predict or neutralize. The Chinese were definitely in the ascendency while their Soviet allies are suffering by this time. In August of 1978, the USS Lexington II destroyed the Chiang Shich in high Tao orbit and bombarded the planet’s industrial centers with a payload of 36 Titan missiles, eradicating the Chinese ability to continue fighting. The Soviets managed to organize a strike that destroyed the Lexington II before it can jump outsystem, but while Haig is villified in the press Donovan’s strategy works: without the power of the Chinese supernormals or the industrial might of the Tao manufacturing centers, the Soviets are unable to continue fighting.
While they limp along for the next two years in a series of ineffectual skirmishes, they sign the Olympus Mons accords on July 4th, 1980, in a bit of symbolism orchestrated by Donovan. The accords divide up the Terran system, giving Mars and the Moon to the USA, the Jovian system to the European Alliance, allowing for open exploration and settlement in the rest of the solar system, and granting extra-solar colonies to the nation that founded them. (Since the USA-EA colonies are in good shape whereas the USSR and China have suffered the most damage, it’s not as magnimous as it sounds.) Donovan made sure that the accords totally avoided the fixing of any blame. His ability in successfully waging the war, his personal magnetism and distinctive style, and finally American pride in the victory make him the only man ever elected President of the United States without running for the office in 1980.
1981 – 1991 –The Torpor : After the war, things slow down considerably. People aren’t as inspired by space anymore, seeing it as a dangerous place settled mostly by pirates, soldiers and thrill seekers, and the number of colonists heading out from earth sharply drops. The prevailing ennui seems to force those with ambition, zeal for exploration or noncomformist views to take the ultimate dare and in addition many supernormals in a world which fears their demonstrated power and utility in warfare also take the risk out of proportion to their numbers. The Soviet Union pursues a closer relationship with the west, specifically the African republics, Australia and even the US, which responds surprisingly favorably to the idea under Donovan’s leadership. Likewise, the European Alliance, having tired of what it sees as American belligerence, pursues an alliance with the Chinese to repair the damage to Tao’s infrastructure. The USA-USSR alliance eventually leads to joint space missions which discover another 5 habitable planetary systems, and the ESA-Chinese flights also add another 3 such systems to humanity’s tally. These years are fairly stable. Britain cedes the Falklands to Argentina, Japan opens an alliance with France and OPEC in order to rebuild a normal economy after years of UN occupation, the UN itself grows in power and prestige as the nations of earth and her colonies find themselves tied together in complex alliances. Slowly, the situation grows in complexity until it resembles that of Europe pre-1914. However, it never has the chance to de-stabilize.
1992 – 2012 –The Rage : In September of 1992, the USS Ambrose , on a mission exploring the stars in the Alpha Centauri system orbited by Proxima Centauri, encounters an object. It is fifty times larger than the Ambrose , and disgorges ten blob-like craft that proceed to attack the earth ship without prelude or mercy, ignoring the Ambrose’s weapons fire entirely. Only the supernormal powers of Lt. Takienze Atubo keep the intruders from destroying the ship before the teleporter crew can jump it back to earth. Although she fights ferociously and bravely, Lt. Atubo is one of seventy-seven casualties of the encounter. Soon reports come in over telepathic links and spell-channels that massed fleets of the alien objects were attacking all over the Centaur Belt, annihilating all human life in the entire system. Soon, all US Colonies in Proxima Centauri were gone. Now the human race stood at the threshold of interstellar war, this time with an enemy at once more powerful and completely unknown to earth. Their next attack was at the ESA-Chinese colonies at Beta Andromadae, which they also annihilated by November of 1992.
Once again Wild Bill Dononvan, who had retired after one term in 1984, found himself pressed into service ( both political parties candidates turning down the nomination in his favor) as US President in the 1992 elections. Together with Soviet Premier Magda Gogol, Chinese Premier Deng Xao-Ping, EC Chairman Francois Mitterand and Brazilian Coalition President Trisha Salazar, Donovan formed the Terran Concordance, a multi-national force designed to find, train and field as many supernormals as were available. The next five years were an inexorable series of defeats for humanity, as another four colonies are lost to the invaders. Since they will not communicate, the enemy is designated ‘The Rage’ by reporter Arthur Kent in his last report from the Battle of Barnard’s Star. The Rage seem to attack without any reason and range from colony to colony with no rational plan of attack or objective other than destruction.
The Battle of Barnard’s Star itself begins on December 7th, 1997, when the Terran Concordance intercepts a Rage flotilla entering the system. The following conflict (lasting until January 4th, 1998) is the first successful defense of a colony in the history of the war: Terran Concordance mages and shamans prove baffling and devastatingly effective against the Rage, and a two thousand, two hundred and twelve mind gestalt on board the Yangtse manages to seize control over several Rage ships, revealing secrets of the enemy biotechnology for the first time. Despite being outnumbered and outgunned, Terran Concordance ships and supernormal tactics win the day.
Unfortunately, on April 27th, 1998, the Rage find Earth. Their previous attacks had been triangulational in nature, attempting to determine where reinforcements were coming from. However the Rage travel faster than light, it is not through ‘otherspace’ as Eaton defined it, leaving the Earth unaware of their approach. The Concordance manages to teleport a sizable force into Jupiter orbit, but not before the Rage ships completely destroy the sixteen colonies between Pluto and Jupiter. The Rage ships then chase a ragtag fleet of refugee ships directly into the path of the Concordance fleet on June 2nd, 1998. Thus begins the Battle of Ganymede. During the course of the battle, Ganymede itself is depopulated and the refugee fleets destroyed, while the Concordance fleet suffers 40% casualties. However, the Rage fleet is destroyed before it can progress further.
This battle marks the beginning of a three year period referred to as the lull , as the Rage seem to have either been destroyed or are in some sort of retreat. While the resources to resettle the lost colonies are not available at this time, both Vlanik (Vega system) and Balthazar (Barnard’s Star) achieve self-sufficency and ecological stability during this time and are voted to admission in the UN as independent member states. The US offers Mars to the UN in exchange for financial compensation to balance out the enormous costs of the war and the loss of so many colonies to the Rage. By 1999 the UN has taken over the planet’s institutions fully. Rather than accept another term as President, Donovan retires again, declaring “I don’t want the job anymore. I’ve been in the saddle one way or another since 1940. New millennium, new leadership, sounds good to me.”
On March 2nd, 2001, a Rage fleet lays waste to a Concordance battlegroup patrolling the Centaur Belt as part of an attempt at an Early Warning System for just such an eventuality. Before her death, Captain Elenia Potorikev manages to summon a spirit of technology (a tachyon spirit) and sends it to earth to explain in some small degree what Peter Akiombe, her telepathic adjunct, managed to read out of the mind of the Rage bioship: the Centaur Belt asteroids are somehow precious or sacred to the Rage, and the human presence there is seen as desecration. Over the course of the next decade, the war settles into a terrible deadlock, as the Rage have learned not to concentrate all their force in a single location to allow the Concordance to mass a supernormal response. The Rage only manage to destroy one more colony during this time, but the attacks just keep coming without letting up, probing and testing all around human space. They seem to be both willing and capable of dealing humanity the death of a thousand cuts.
Here re-enters the story of Dr. Jason Andrews, son of David Andrews, stored in a lead and graphite vault at the DOD laboratories in Lexington, Kentucky since 1977. Andrews lay motionless on a slab in the tenth sub-basement of the facility, defying any treatment or analysis and radiating like a reactor. On August 11th, 2011, Andrews regained consciousness, melted his way to the surface of the labs, and requested an audience with President Byron Ireland.
Andrews revealed to President Ireland (and eventually to the UN Security Council) that he had been receiving visions of the Rage war, and indeed of all historical events occurring while he had been comatose. In his visions, he explained, the Rage were now ready to make their final attack on humanity, an engineered bioweapon that would annihilate the entire human race, or at least all of them on earth. Andrews then stated that he had an alternative plan: decoy the Rage into attacking Tao by pretending that it was a lynchpin in humanity’s defenses. Then, while the Rage attacked Tao, Andrews could lead a large Concordance fleet to the heart of Rage space, and once there, they could break the back of the Rage once and for all. This option, dubbed Operation Yggdrasil, was finally voted into effect by the Security Council on August 30th, 2011, after several days of heated debate as to Andrews’ credibility and the morality of the plan.
From August to December, the few remaining settlers on Tao’s surface were removed while frantic construction created a series of realistic looking bases and industrial plants out of the remains of the old cities of Tao itself. Various communications were sent to and from the planet in an attempt to create the impression that it was a hub of activity aimed towards a final offensive. On January 14th, 2012, it worked. An enormous Rage flotilla entered the Vega system and annihilated the robot-piloted ships of the Concordance protecting Tao, and then bombarded Tao itself with sufficient force to render its surface molten. Meanwhile, Andrews provided the location of the Rage’s main attack base on an inhabited planet 35 light years from Barnard’s Star. He then provided the Concordance fleet with a teleport to that system by himself.
Once they were in position the Concordance fleet crushed the token resistance and entered a high orbit around a very hostile world with a non-terrestrial atmosphere. Scrying and psi-scans revealed over 35 billion minds on the surface. Before the fleet commander, Sigurd Aliarrsen, could decide on a course of action Andrews disappeared from the bridge. For twelve seconds it appeared as though the fleet had been betrayed. Then the explosions began. Over the course of several hours, the planet began to break up from within as a series of atomic explosions (the first one, a 35 gigaton blast directly on a volcanic stress point near the planet’s northern pole, ejected material directly into space in a gigantic plume) tore the world apart. As a stunned Concordance fleet looked on, Andrews then teleported them into the Vega system with a wave of his hand before falling into the star, his last words being a thought broadcast: Look upon my works, ye mighty, and despair. The Rage fleet orbiting Tao were barely moving following the destruction of their base and were easily destroyed, raining down on the molten surface of Tao like a turkey shoot in hell. The Rage war ended on January 20th, 2012.
Ad Astra Per Mens Aspera Background Notes:
Current Year – 2053
Following the conflict with the Rage (1992 – 2012) and the destruction of several of Earth’s colonies, the past three decades have been years of rebuilding and re-exploration. The earth system’s inner worlds have been settled, and two of them (Mercury and Mars) are free territory, where residents of every earth nation and every outsystem colony are welcome. Mercury is a kind of interplanetary Switzerland, chosen because no earth nation wants the hassles of terraforming it, while Mars belongs to the UN and is the home of the UN Interstellar Assembly, as well as the Interworld Court at the New Hague. The moon is nominally still a US territory, but is actually more or less under the control of the Terran Concordance, the organization dedicated towards maintaining a supernormal ‘army’ for the defense of all humanity against threats like the Rage as well as internal problems.
Mercury – Population 1.5 million in orbital stations, 2 million in underground cities (New Istanbul, Labrynthis and Powhattan Cavern). Mercury is home to the Solaris Magical College which boasts ten supernormals on staff and some twenty seven students. Mercury does not otherwise keep track of her supernormal citizens, although with the College in place it is an open secret that she is capable of producing significant supernormal defenses if called for.
Venus – Population 18 million on surface, 2 million in orbital stations. Thanks to magical and psionic terraforming systems, Venus is habitable by human beings. A great ritual in 1972 combining the efforts of hundreds of mages with a gestalt mind of hundreds more psionics focused together and using cenotaph obelisks as foci created an energy web that maintains earth-normal conditions on the Venusian surface. Venus itself is a very magically active world, and boasts at least one hundred and eighty supernormals living amidst the verdant jungles and lush wetlands that dominate the planet.
Earth – Population 5.5 billion on surface, 120 million in orbital stations. Earth is the homeworld of humanity, and magical/psionic measures have helped reduce surface pollutants from their 20th century highs. New York City is the home base for the Mitchell Institute for Psychic Studies: The Institute for Assisted Healing is in Bern, Switzerland. The planet is littered with significant location, and probably boasts the highest population of supernormals anywhere except its own moon, with an estimated forty thousand or more worldwide.
The Moon – Population 1 million. The Terran Concordance home base, the moon has over fifty thousand supernormals in active service and almost that many retired due to age or injury. Many of the moon’s supernormals are on active duty elsewhere in human space at any given time. Armstrong is the largest settlement at three hundred thousand people, and is the main headquarters for the Earth Legion, the Concordance’s most famous division. The moon was the site of the pioneering experiments in underground settlement.
Mars – Population 1.2 billion on surface, 178 million in orbital stations. The terraforming magics that make Venus livable, but the Martian surface is maintained by more deliberate and mostly psionic measures and at present is a crowning achievement of the terraforming art. Mars boasts farms, oceans, and even seasonal variation. Over the course of the year the Martian Atmosphere Corps forms a psionic gestalt mind to adjust the Martian ecosystem and keep the planet viable. There are eleven thousand supernormals living on Mars, which is also the home of the UN and thus a common tourist attraction and very interstellar in its outlook.
The Asteroid Belt – Population somewhere above three hundred thousand (estimate). Belters tend to be rabid isolationists who moved out there to get away from people and get on with the industry that powers the inner worlds or as a step towards the resettlement of the lost Jovian and Saturnian colonies. At present, it suits the nations of earth and the colonies to devote more resources to outsystem expansion than to revisit the Jovian and Saturnian systems in any significant manner outside of mining (which both the EA and Chinese engage in heavily, employing many belters as their proxies) and so small belter communities are considering moving further outsystem to escape UN and Concordance interference. Several asteroids are the sanctums of reclusive and very powerful wizards and sorcerers. It is wise to be careful before meddling with them.
Proxima Centauri – The Centaur Belt.
Population 1.2 million. The Rage completely annihilated earth’s Proxima Centauri colonies on their way to Vega, but independent-minded people who either wanted to escape 21st Century society or simply re-forge humanity’s first stop on the way out of the solar system resettled them. The Rage attacks so pulverized the Centaur Belt that for the first decade of resettlement, people were forced to live in orbital stations around the ruins of Buckle, the Ceres-sized asteroid that once held the largest colony. Now, several of the largest asteroids have been refurbished again and are habitable underground. Rumors of ghosts haunting Buckle have not been substantiated. There are at least one hundred native supernormals living in the Centaur Belt.
Barnard’s Star – Balthazar.
Population 800 million (estimated). One of four independent, self-sufficient ex-colonies, Balthazar is a fully terraformed world with 50% surface water almost as large as Venus. Even before terraforming, Balthazar was fairly similar to Earth just prior to its formation of an oxygen-heavy atmosphere. It lacked only life. Now Balthazar has climate ranges and ecological diversity to rival earth itself. Balthazar is home to the Ordus Novus movement, which seeks to ‘free’ Balthazar from the UN and then to gain colonies for Balthazar deeper in space, perhaps even by conquest. Balthazar has very liberal immigration policies for supernormals. The actual number of supernormals under the Balthazaran Aegis is a state secret.
Beta Andromedae – Breton.
Population 100 million on surface, 2.7 million in orbital stations. After the Rage annihilated the European Alliance and Chinese settlements, both sides decided that resettlement was too much trouble. The US, feeling the loss of several of its colonies, felt differently, and its offer of resettlement was accepted by many of the refugees from the system. In 2016 the USS Sapientia dropped off the first group of colonists on Breton’s surface. Due to the large distance (75 light years) between Breton and the earth, the trip out is an arduous one requiring many teleporters working in gestalt or a powerful enough mage who can open gateways between systems: therefore, even though Breton is a US colony, it is for all intents and purposes independent. The local Governor Consul, Jason Mackenzie, is practically the sole executive. Breton’s culture is a strong mix of European, African, Asian and American traditions. There are rumored to be almost three thousand supernormals living in Breton, many of them mystical in aptitude.
The Pleiades – (.)
Vega – Vlanik.
Population 557 million on the surface, 5.2 million in orbital stations. Vlanik is the oldest independent world in the human sphere. It is a mixture of Russian and Chinese society (especially those who originally settled Tao) with a heavy influence of cosmopolitan feel from settlers from Africa and Oceanic Asia. Vlanik is a center for human commerce, the Terran Concordance have a sizable fleet based on the southern continent (invited by the Vlanik Politburo as an attempt to stave off any covetous eyes from Balthazar) and the orbital stations are home to dozens of research houses, manufacturing concerns and supernormal concept limiteds. Vlanik, being one of the centers of human space, is viewed with covetous eyes both by her old colonial founder the USSR and by its old rivals in Balthazar. The Vlaznik Emerald Protectorate, an intelligence agency combining the best of the former KGB and Chinese agents stationed in Vega long ago, is constantly working to provide security against Vlanik’s enemies. Vlanik is rumored to be home to over seven thousand supernormals (not counting the Terran Concordance base, which may rotate up to five thousand more through it within a three year tour of duty) including the infamous Morrigan, a group of supernormals who attempt to understand the Rage biotech and devise new countermeasures against it.
Population zero. Tao is uninhabitable due to the Rage bombardment at the end of the war, which shattered the surface of the planet and released massive volcanic upheaval. In addition, hunter bioliths stalk the surface, battling and consuming each other in an orgy of wild recombination, adapting to the hostile environs without end and without the controlling influence of their masters. An entire ecosystem based on the biotechnology that rained down upon the planet following the destruction of the Rage fleet has rooted on the surface of Tao. Every year Terran Concordance scientists working in conjunction with Morrigan experts and various bio-tech firms, extract samples of Tao’s lethal ecology while performing control extermination sweeps in an attempt to keep the system in check. The work is considered extremely dangerous but necessary in case the Rage ever return.
Organizations of Human Space
The Terran Concordance – Dedicated, according to its charter, to the ‘protection of humanity from all threats to its well being as a whole, be they external or internal’, the Concordance came into existence as a means to find, train and deploy as many supernormals as possible in the defense of human space against the Rage. No matter the way they manifest their abilities, the Concordance welcomes anyone with gifts that set them apart from the majority of humankind to use those gifts constructively in the defense and protection of human space rather than in selfish or self-destructive applications.
While no one would claim that the Concordance is a utopian society or seeks to create one (since much of the Concordance’s early history was a purely military one) it today serves as a combined police and military defense force. Terran Concordance agents can be found engaging in anti-pirate activities against both mundane and supernormal criminals, defending the trade routes, helping in difficult space exploration (many teleporters and mages engaged in interstellar transit and commerce are reserve TC agents expected to return to active duty in an emergency) and performing search and rescue missions, and of course spearheading the watch for any further Rage incursions as well as possible contact with another race in the future.
Concordance agents tend to be idealistic and competent, but the Concordance as a whole follows no set guideline for recruiting its agents other than supernormal ability and the facility to cooperate with other agents and local authority where feasible, so they sometimes lack the baseline ruthlessness of agencies such as BORA or the VEP. The Concordance is broken up into three wings: Space, Planetary and Combat (Often called the Earth Legion) but these wings are more traditional than functional divisions at this point. Space being as vast as it is, any agent of the Concordance is expected to be efficient in a variety of roles.
BORA (The Balthazar Orbit Reconnaissance Agency) – This innocuously named agency has operatives secreted throughout human space from Mercury to Breton, from Mars to Vlanik. BORA seeks to increase Balthazar’s power and influence by any possible means. BORA’s Supernormal Intelligence Command acts aggressively in opposition to VEP, the KGB and especially the Terran Concordance, whose interest in maintaining the peace and promoting cooperation in the human sphere of influence often places them in almost diametric opposition from Balthazar’s elite. BORA agents are known to be intelligent, ruthless, patient and aggressive when they deem it necessary, and are respected throughout human space as worthy opponents. They keep as much information as they can about their existence and operations secret.
OSS (Office of Strategic Services) – The OSS is one of the oldest intelligence operations in the whole of human space. Founded in 1942 by future President William Donovan (known as Wild Bill), a gifted tactician and intelligence operative with maverick sensibilities. Donovan’s career has long since been studied but his brilliance, his understanding of the proper use and counter-use of supernormal gifts and possibly his own limited supernormal abilities allowed him to preserve and hone the OSS as a tool of US interests at home and abroad, even to the reaches of space itself. The OSS operates primarily in US Colonies like Breton and the Centaur belt, but no one denies the presence of OSS agents throughout human space. While relatively benign compared to groups like BORA, the OSS is first and foremost concerned with benefit for the United States of America and acts as such.
VEP (Vlaznik Emerald Protectorate) – So called by the OSS survey of Intelligence Services of 2037, the actual name and organization of this agency are state secrets of Lank. It is suspected that the VEP was born out of the remains of the KGB and Chinese state security agencies left on Vlanik after the planet achieved independence and later bolstered by refugee groups from Tao. What is known about the VEP is that they are absolutely dedicated to protecting Vlanik’s independence and economic prosperity from the likes of BORA, the KGB, and even the Concordance or OSS if it proved necessary. And with the hungry eyes of both Balthazar and the Soviet Union eyeing the resources of Vlanik, they have their hands full fulfilling that mandate. VEP subcommitties are unknown but postulated ones are code-named The Mandarinate, the Khazakinoi and the Committee for Cosmological Research.
The United Nations – Currently the guarantors of Mars and the closest thing to an interstellar common ground, the UN has representatives from worlds ranging from Beta Andromedae to the Pleiades in common. Most worlds view the UN as a necessary evil since most colonies are not self-sufficient and require UN assistance to remain viable. The UN has an interstellar navy of its own (mainly for purposes of protecting Mars itself as well as participating in the defense of human space in case of Rage incursion) and helped provide necessary coordination during the Rage war. Almost all of Earth’s nations are members of the UN, as are the independent colonies (Vlanik, Balthazar, Proxima Centauri and the Pleidaes) as well as Mercury and Venus. The Terran Concordance has an observer present at the UN in case of emergency.