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Space: Above And Beyond

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The year 2018 saw the outbreak of the Belgian H2 Alpha super-flu strain across Europe. By mid-2019 the Belgian H2 Alpha, nicknamed the "Sterility Plague" had become a global pandemic. The chaos in the global economy caused by the plague, led to serious talks about global unification. In 2022, the new United Nations Charter was ratified. The world had its first united government although all countries kept their national sovereignty. The UN also ratified a treaty of United Earth Forces (UEF), all national armed forces of Earth were joined together under one general command staff pertaining of high-ranking officers of all nations.

By the time Belgian H2 Alpha was brought under control with the development of a vaccine in 2024, it had claimed 230 million victims. Over 704 million people became sterile as a side effect of the plague. Seeing a need to fill the labor force gap after the sterility-causing plague had decimated the population, that same year, the government of the United States created the "InVitro Program" to produce genetically engineered humans to fill the gap.

The InVitro Program involved bioengineering human embryos with the best the human genome has to offer, without the randomness of natural selection. The "InVitros" would be conceived from 'parents' that never actually lived as two human beings. Instead they would be composites of DNA from many sources assembled together in a petri dish to optimize the chances of getting the best traits possible. The race would be a step up from cloning in that no two InVitros would be alike, however they would share certain genetic sequences with another InVitro created from the same batch of constructed chromosomes.

In 2027, the first batch of viable InVitro embryos were created using advanced gene splicing techniques and placed in neutral-buoyancy tanks referred to as "artificial gestation chambers" with the natural umbilical cord delivering the nutrients and hormones they would need while suspended in a sleep state and an artificial cord at the base of their skulls (on the back of their necks) that was connected to a neural network that imputed basic education through direct sensory input to the brain. While floating in the artificial gestation chamber, a series of sophisticated retroviruses attacked the genetic structure of the InVitros, prematurely activating segments of DNA responsible for growth and maturity. By triggering these genes in a closely timed sequence while providing them with a steady flow of nutrient rich protein medium, their bodies were able to reach maturity at a rate far more rapid than naturally. In 2033, after six years, their physical development was equivalent to a "Natural Born" human at eighteen years of age. As it would be with all later generations of InVitros, only 27 percent of the subjects survived the gestation process.

Genetically designed to be stronger, faster and less prone to illness, the InVitros were suppose to help bring the decaying human race back to its feet. They were created to be a servant caste, occupying jobs that were too dangerous, demeaning or strenuous for Natural Born humans. After they were born they would serve a five year period of indentured servitude to reimburse society for expenses associated with their creation. The Thirteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution was modified to allow this. Despite the outcry from various human rights groups, the United Nations officially approved of the InVitro Program and in 2034, the U.S government sold the technology and scientific schematics for creating InVitros to various other governments. A few months later, the UN founded the InVitro Authority to collectively oversee the creation of InVitros all over the world.

In 2038 the computer technologies company Silicatronics Incorporated unveiled ACE (Artificially Conscious Entity) - the first ever self-aware computer. In 2044, Silicatronics developed commercially available androids - walking humanoid personal computers running the latest in cognitive software design. Dubbed "Silicates" because of their silicon-based artificial neural networks, these androids were manufactured to be servants and soldiers, designed to be visually pleasing. However, their eyes were eerie white with rifle sight-like crosshairs in place of pupils so they would be easily recognizable and never mistaken for human beings. Silicates were programmed to comprehend abstract concepts such as philosophy, theology and ethics. Although they could understand these ideas their programming did not allow them to originate new ideas. Their superior intelligence was totally learned so they could understand an idea like freedom but did not have the ability to formulate how to obtain freedom.

The A.I.s were also built to communicate with one another via modulation schemes through a networked wireless modem. When they communicated thusly, the only sound humans could detect were electronic beeps and chirps. The Silicates were networked remotely so they knew one another's position and operating state. In addition, they were capable of storing, and retrieving common knowledge. With a 5 terabyte collected memory capacity, they could share data on demand.

With the advent of the Silicates, who could perform menial labor, the subject of the so-called "InVitro Question" heated up as many InVitro rights advocates clamored for the InVitro Authority to be dissolved and all InVitros serving their indentured servitude to be released from it early. The issue of the InVitros had already become the most controversial topic of the 21st Century, especially since most InVitros who finished their indentured servitude found it very hard to adjust to life among Natural Borns because they were an easy target of constant discrimination since many regarded them as unnatural creations. The additional artificial "navel" present at the back of their necks (where the artificial umbilical cord/neural implant was attached in the gestation chamber) became their only visible distinguishing feature, making InVitros easily recognizable.

In 2046, a research team led by Colombian astrophysicist Dr. Andrés Bunuel discovered the existence of the substrate within which our universe exists. A domain outside normal three-dimensional space, they named this place "paraspace". They found that certain energetic reactions could create an intrusion of this domain into our own space, altering the behavior of all forms of matter and energy within our space-time. They called this intrusion a "paraspatial field". With paraspace being a continuum with different physical laws than our own, paraspatial fields had the capability of "warping" the space-time continuum. Paraspace was also found to provide an additional electromagnetic polarization plane perpendicular to the planes in normal space which could be used for the transmission of particles. This led scientists all over the world to foresee the advent of faster than light communications.

Soon after the discovery of paraspace, an American theoretical physicist named Dr. Kim Everett Eckerly proposed that a spaceship could use paraspatial fields projected by a series of coils to warp the fabric of space and that ship could use that warp to propel it faster than light. Inspired by the theories of people such as Miguel Alcubierre and Richard Obousy, this drive would work by contracting space-time in front of the ship and expanding space-time behind it. The spaceship itself would rests in a bubble between the two space-time distortions. This warped space, together with the region between it, would accelerate off faster than the speed of light and the vessel would then essentially surf on the wave in space-time created by this distortion. Travel at velocities exceeding the speed of light would be possible in this fashion because the spaceship would be, strictly speaking, stationary (relative to the space of its bubble) while space-time itself would be moving. Since it is the space around a ship that would be moving and the spaceship would not actually be accelerating, it would experience no time dilation, allowing the passage of time inside the vessel to be the same as that outside it.

In 2047, a computer programmer with Silicatronics named Dr. Ken Stranahan, who was considered a genius, discovered his senior co-workers were taking all the credit for his work. While upgrading the A.I. Central Processing Unit Dr. Stranahan inserted a computer virus into the A.I. code pool. The instruction was "Take a Chance." That one single act triggered a storm of destruction. As the computer virus was transmitted to the vast majority of Silicates within days, it became a compelling ideology in A.I. behavior, leading them to define all activity in terms of risk and gamble. In less than a week the idea of risk became something of a religion for the Silicates. The only thing human created including themselves that they respected was gambling.

Silicatronics performed an internal witch-hunt, and found that Dr. Stranahan had created the "Take a Chance" virus, infecting the A.I.s. Before formal charges could be laid, Dr. Stranahan committed suicide. By that time, the Silicates had learned how to win a rebellion against the humans, they didn't feel emotions such as fear, intimidation and mercilessness but they knew how it affected humans.

The A.I.s began indiscriminately taking human life, slaughtering the life forms they derisively called "Carbonites." The United Earth Forces came into duty and to the overall surprise, the different generals worked together as one team. It was the first real test to the UEF which it passed with flying colors.

Natural Born losses were still so heavy that the General Assembly and the Security Council of the United Nations jointly passed a resolution that drafted all InVitros serving their indentured servitude into the militaries of their respective nations. After the InVitros were conscripted into the armed forces against their will, they proved to be poor soldiers. With no conventional families to protect, a lack of patriotic fervor toward nations that saw them as expendable slaves, and no vested interest in the A.I. War's outcome, the majority of the InVitros refused to fight.

Despite the A.I.s networked communication system, they were far less organized than humans during the war. As a result, the conflict essentially consisted of several wars being fought in different areas.

While these wars were being waged, extraordinary technological developments were also being made. In 2050, scientists in a Taiwan laboratory succeeded in transmitting information faster than the speed of light via paraspace. A few months later, groundbreaking research at the University of San Francisco on the effects of a static electromagnetic field on gravitons led to the activation of the first working gravity-field generator. This made artificial gravity fields possible on space ships and space stations. Ironically, these huge leaps in science were primarily aided by the superior intelligence of self-aware computers.

As the A.I. Wars raged and many areas remained largely unaffected, others were devastated. Fighting was most intense in eastern Asia. In 2051, President Yung of the People's Republic of China was assassinated by a Silicate. A year later, a militia of Silicates codenamed the "CC Army" overran the Mongolian city of Karakorum. The so-called "CC War" was the bloodiest of the entire A.I. Wars, however after 13 months of fighting the city was liberated from the Silicates.

By 2054, the Silicates had been driven from all populated areas and intense fighting was confined to isolated areas. However, the A.I.s continued numerous terrorist attacks that killed thousands. That same year, a convention on Silicate POWs took place in Ho Chi Min City. As a result of the convention, A.I.s were considered to have the same rights as human POWs have according to the Geneva Convention.

The Silicates took the conflict into space in the year 2055 after they collectively stole several military space vehicles that the militaries of the UEF had been building. Most of them dispersed throughout the solar system to attack human research stations. Unbeknownst to the A.I.s, the ships they stole were only a small fraction of the ships the UEF had been building for the enormous new space navies. For the next two years, the armed forces of the united Earth fought the Silicates in dozens of space battles, always with the humans being victorious. The United States Space Navy was especially effective.

Finally, in 2057, after two years of trial and error the A.I.s succeeded in building the first FTL propulsion engine. The FTL engine worked by energizing the rare element Ununpentium, which when energized caused the energy frequencies in a stream of plasma to shift into paraspace, generating multilayered paraspatial fields with a specific frequency that formed a bubble that enveloped a spacecraft. The spacecraft crossed the light-speed barrier as its pilots used the ship's computers to manipulate these fields to warp the geometry of space-time immediately around the ship. After equipping the remaining Silicate vessels with the technology, they started to leave the solar system one after the other, however some ships were captured by UEF ships before they could leave. When the last Silicate spacecraft left the system, the A.I. Wars were declared officially over by the UN Security Council.

In the midst of that joyous event, 2057 also saw a scientific breakthrough by the Japanese firm Zen Medical enable the repair of damage done by the Sterility Plague at a genetic level. With the fertility of hundreds of millions restored, Earth suffered a minor population explosion.

With the A.I. Wars now over, the InVitro platoons, an abysmal failure, were dissolved by the United Earth Forces in December of 2058. The InVitros returned "home" without familial or community ties to guide their main-streaming and soon became a rebellious race of socio-political untouchables. The refusal to fight in the war led to a stigma that would haunt InVitros everywhere. Persecuted and reviled as disloyal cowards, most became outcasts, living on the outer edges of society. They had gained a reputation as being lazy and shiftless.

The end of the war and the reversal of the Sterility Plague's effects sparked a reawakened sense of optimism in the public. After a team of scientists led by Dr. Kim Eckerly successfully reverse-engineered the FTL propulsion, people all over the world began discussing the eventuality of interstellar colonial expansion in which people would seek to escape from the troubles on Earth to the new 'frontier'. Even government officials talked about the prospect of colonizing planets in other star systems. A colonization program sponsored primarily by the United States and operated by the aerospace engineering company AeroTech began in June of 2059.

A month later, the European Union disbanded indentured servitude to get rid of InVitro ghettos after several rallies of the InVitro Rights Movements had ended in riots. In September of 2060, the United Nations formally outlawed indentured servitude planetwide, completely freeing the InVitros. Out of a sense of guilt, the UN instituted an InVitro affirmative action program.

In 2062, the Colonization Program was launched from Corpus Christi, Texas. The first human extrasolar colony, Tellus was settled in early 2063. Just days after the settlement was established, it was attacked by an advanced alien civilization. During the attack several colonists managed to send a transmission to Earth, however due to the transceiver being rather old it would take a few months for the message to reach its destination. Not knowing of the alien threat, soon after AeroTech launched a second group of colonist from Corpus Christi. This group was headed for a planet dubbed Vesta. As the Vesta colony ship was traveling toward its destination it was attacked by the aliens. The ship's emergency systems sent out a distress signal back to AeroTech, however due to the ship's transceiver being damaged during the attack it would take a few days to reach Earth.

When the message did reach Earth, out of sheer coincidence the message from the Tellus colony arrived just hours later. After authenticating the messages as genuine, the General Assembly of the United Nations held an emergency and secret meeting in which plans were drawn up for war. The next day, Secretary-General Spencer Chartwell addressed the entire world and told of the attack on the Tellus and Vesta colonists.

A couple of days later, several alien ships began appearing throughout the solar system and attacked UEF ships and stations and even civilian research stations and mining ships on their way from planets such as Mars. On some occasions a group of aliens would board a space station. This gave humans their first look at them in their body armor which covered their entire bodies. Many people who encountered the aliens and survived remarked that the helmets the aliens wore were reminiscent of a chigoe flea. As a result the UEF named the aliens "Chigs".

After a week of skirmishes, a small fleet of Chigs vessels were detected to have entered the solar system. They were repelled and destroyed at the asteroid belt by the 58th Squadron of the United States Marine Corps Space Aviator Cavalry and United States Space Navy space carrier the U.S.S. Saratoga. Afterwards the United Earth Forces went on the offensive. Early in the war, it was discovered that many Silicates were helping the Chigs in their war against humanity.

In 2064 the Chig-Human War continues. To lose this war means more than defeat. To surrender is to never go home. Humanity fights when called; on land, at sea, and in space...above and beyond.

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