The Free Alliance
of Colonies and Nations
I. THE JUMP
“Voidfarer”, the second vessel of the Eden colonization project was primarily designed as a durable space transport able to withstand numerous voyages from Solar System to the newly discovered Eden System and back. For its virgin flight she brought along over 20000 colonist families in cryostasis chambers with a complement of scientists, engineers and military personnel to replace the small teams already stationed on new worlds that were initially brought there on recon vessels. Thankfully, a huge load of equipment to bolster colonization effort was on board as well.
When the wormhole collapsed Voidfarer suffered substantial damage that could spell doom for the ship and all its crew. Aft sections housing main magnetoplasmadynamic thrusters and reactors were torn from the main body of the vessel and disappeared without a trace together with all hands stationed there, leaving the Voidfarer low on energy or means of propulsion.
After what seemed to be hours of turmoil, with radiation, searing heat rays and gravitational pulls tearing apart the rest of the ship’s hull like a pack of rabid dogs, the craft finally entered back into the calmness of real space and stopped in the gravitational pull of the planet that would be known as Haven Prime.
With fires on board, failing energy supply of cryochambers and danger of uncontrollable decent on Haven Prime, during the next 72 hours Voidfarer’s damage control teams together with all able civilians valiantly fought to keep the ship in one piece. Almost one third of crew members who were awake at the moment of the catastrophe lost their lives along with the Captain and his First Mate, but thanks to these sacrifices the rest were saved.
With its key remaining modules back online again and majority of humans onboard alive, the ship, with the help of its secondary thrusters, was quickly set on a stable orbit around Haven Prime. After the imminent danger was averted, remaining colonists were woken up from their peaceful sleep to their new reality. They were ready to begin a new life, yet met terrible news with grim determination, ready to overcome what the fate prepared for them. However, without formal leadership and no powerful figures ready to take it the colonists quickly broke into quarrels over the proposed course of action. As days passed with no mutually satisfying decision found, tensions were rising to dangerous levels. The Voidfarer could have soon faced a spectacle of bloody violence. At last, an uneasy peace was reached, several landing parties were formed and first shuttles entered Haven Prime’s atmosphere. Within the first month, five first colonies were established on the virgin world.
Voidfarer’s surviving military personnel that accompanied civilians to the planet’s surface stayed on high alert, yet the planet greeted humans only with sounds of nature – they were the first sentient species to set foot on its surface.
Thus, mankind made their steps into the Enigma sector, blind and still shaking from the tragedy that separated them from their homeworld, yet eager to survive and thrive, as humanity always does.
II. NEW HOME
While having breathable air and sources of potable water, Haven Prime was not the Eden for which the colonists were ready. Multiple predators roamed its forests, stalking foolish colonists outside the settlements’ armored gates at night. At day, local vegetation exhaled clouds of irritating spores into the air, and rat-sized half-scorpion half-spider insects visited human homes, drawn to their heat. That challenge was nothing new however for the Human civilization, the one that was always known to strive in most unimaginable conditions, with Haven Prime being no exception. Mile after mile, the planet’s surface was claimed, settlements rising one after another with yet more gravestones appearing behind hospital modules. With no communication with earth available and the ship being locked in orbit in a pitiful state, there was no other option for humans than to win themselves a new home.
After half a century, Humans became the full-fledged masters of Haven Prime, and could finally enjoy the luxury of rest as they started diverting resources from immediate survival purposes to previously suspended fields such as scientific research, healthcare or education.
Human population grew exponentially, and colonies flourished amidst the still omnipresent hostile wildlife. At the same time despite political efforts the initial five colonies and two dozen more that were established during the first ten years refused to form into a joint state, maintaining their independence from each other and even having territorial disputes from time to time. The only constantly shared activity that united the colonists was the newly initiated joint space program that included the Haven system exploration and Voidfarer’s repairs and modernization. Many small space-capable vessels that survived aboard the vessel and that were subsequently modified for flights within the system were sent to neighboring planets with small teams of scientists and soldier, in order to contact any sentient races that could be out there, and to find additional locations suitable for colonization. After first reports returned in several years, they confirmed that other habitable planets of the system were as devoid of sentient life as Haven Prime was.
In years following the Collapse humans sent numerous signals into the emptiness of space, with no reply whatsoever. Numerous probes returned empty of any data that could help humans get back home or even understand where exactly they landed.
III. SUDDEN DISCOVERY
With the exploration of the Haven system well underway, Human scientists encountered a strange phenomenon, namely multiple small groups of chaotically moving asteroids, later proven to be artificial, which received a nickname of Dancing Stones. These objects were found orbiting four out of nine planets of the Haven system in small clusters, with each asteroid keeping within a certain range from the others. Each cluster of the Dancing Stones numbered exactly three objects. They followed their planetary orbits like a satellite would, however in the same time they obviously were somehow connected with each other and it seemed that they were constantly rotating around an invisible item located between them, although no tests made by Human scientist could explain this – there were no magnetic anomalies or unusual heat signatures. Extensive research was carried out in relation to all four of these clusters, but after several years it yielded no results and was abandoned. For Humans. The Dancing Stones became yet another unsolved mystery of the Enigma Sector.
All changed in the year 124 After Jump when an unmanned probe No.SRP-71 that was set to orbit one of the planets that was also orbited by the Dancing Stones sent to the Voidfarer a footage of the Stones halting in place and a 12-km wide wormhole forming in the heart of the Dancing Stones formation. The rift seemed to be akin to the one that led the Voidfarer to the Haven system in the first place.
The discovery shook Haven society to its core and strengthened the already significant division between colonists. For those who believed that the colonies were forever lost for Earth, the hope to get in touch with the rest of humanity was reborn. Others argued that precious resources that would be inevitably required for exploration of the wormholes were needed for maintaining and developing colonies of the Haven system. That division gave birth to two political and social factions: the Wanderers, who were searching for a way to reestablish connection with the Earth, and the Settlers, who preferred to go on with colonial expansion within the system. These two factions and their conflict shaped the future of Human colonies from that moment on.
Wanderers received overwhelming support from Human population and managed to form the Free Alliance of Colonies and Nations (FALCON) that united all colonies of the Haven system. During the first FALCON Public Vote Wanderers pressed through the Space Exploration Act authorizing enormous expenses in order to reinforce the Alliance’s space exploration capabilities and thoroughly research the newly opened wormhole.
Within weeks after the Act came into force, almost half of planetary factories were retooled to provide orbital construction teams with necessary materials and parts. Space engineers set new records assembling orbital shipyards. At the same time, scientific community frantically studied the new wormhole and Dancing Stones clusters around the Haven system, and proved that the new rift was connected to another unknown system, bearing no resemblance to the Solar System. A weaker people could have been broken by this news, but not the people of FALON for whom their new reality was so much more perilous than the life of their ancestors back on Earth. However, when three months later first long-distance space research vessels were almost ready to launch the wormhole suddenly closed without warning.
Unprecedented political turmoil shook the Alliance. Wanderers were blamed for fruitless waste of precious materials and time. Some of their activists, scientists and politicians were threatened with violence and even physically assaulted. Things were getting really ugly when the head of Wanderers resigned from all public posts and committed suicide. This sudden death of a prominent politician shocked the members of both factions. The Settlers were not ready for such turn of events and this death, labeled a voluntary sacrifice, helped to tone down the criticism addressed at the Wanderers. Still, the damage to the prestige of the Wanderers was already done and they lost most of their supporters, leaving the future of FALCON space program in the hands of their opponents.
Half a year later another formation of Dancing Stones was spotted with a wormhole blossoming between them, proving that there was a certain pattern for such activity. This time however FALCON research teams were ready, and soon first probes entered the unknown system, relaying back precious data. The time of the First Expansion began.
IV. FIRST EXPANSION AND CONFLICT
Despite Wanderers urging the politicians to initiate full-scale exploration of new worlds, the Settlers who now had the majority of supporters at the FALCON Public Vote insisted on careful study of wormholes and their patterns. For almost 30 years only unmanned probes entered the rifts while space infrastructure near the Dancing Stones was being prepared for future missions. After substantial observations and research of the Dancing Stones patterns, a total of 4 stellar systems were identified. All of them could be entered from Haven space 2-3 times per year from different sets of Stones, with each rift being opened for seemingly random time, but never less than 11 days. Finally, teams of volunteers received approval to venture into the new systems which were later called Nova, Revenant, Morana and Thorn.
In each of these four systems recon teams discovered not only habitable worlds, buy yet more formations of Dancing Stones, similar to those found across Haven system space. Several years later first FALCON outposts were established on Thorn and Pompeii, and scientific camps appeared on the dead world of Tombstone. New materials and data flowed back into Haven system and a new dilemma arose: whether FALCON should first establish a firm foothold in these systems or carry out further exploration of newly found wormholes.
The Wanderers unsurprisingly advocated for jumping into these new rifts, arguing that other systems may hold a key to finding the way back to Earth. The Settlers on the other hand opted for a much more conservative and careful approach, pointing out that supply lines were already stretched thin and newer colonies very much depended on the shipments from the Haven system.
What started as peaceful public discussion quickly escalated into mutual accusations and distrust. Soon the Haven system was again divided into two conflicting camps. Most radical wings of both fractions were secretly preparing for the inevitable clash. Not before long first blood was shed, and within weeks a full scale civil war began. There was no centralized government or a military force that could prevent it, and the conflict spiraled into chaos.
Fortunately, Humans never had any real armed forces or heavy weapons, after all the Voidfarer was not a military invasion vessel. From the moment the colonies were established only small arms and perimeter defense systems were produced. However, almost half a year of skirmishes resulted in thousands of casualties and huge losses of assets and resources. To make things worse, collateral damage to the space expansion program was overwhelming – newest colonies on Thorn and Pompeii were left on their own with almost half of outposts soon wiped out by local wildlife or natural disasters. The few space battles that were fought diminished the already modest FALCON spacefleet and made wormhole transportation even more difficult. Supply lines were cut and communication lost, with radio silence covering entire planets.
With a war effectively in a stalemate both factions tried to tip the scales in their favor by gaining control over the factories and laboratories of the Voidfarer that remained neutral all through the conflict. After intense firefights on the ship’s multiple decks, it took a tragedy to stop the bloodshed once and for all. A stray demolition charge exploded near one of the vessel’s fuel storages, the resulting explosion tore away a large section of the ship’s hull, and molten metal rained on human settlements below. What was worse is that the ship that was steadily hanging in orbit started a spiraling descent, pulled by the planet’s gravitation to its ultimate doom. It took joint effort from both warring factions to stop the ship from crashing by using boarding vessels and shuttles as improvised retrothrusters.
Once the fire was extinguished and bodies properly buried, an uneasy truce was made. A decade later second wave of exploration officially started, destroyed outposts were rebuilt and damaged spaceships were repaired. However, deep mistrust between the two factions remained.