Harland couldn't stop shaking. His vessel was slowly approaching the one place he never though he would see again.
It looked the same from a distance, fleets still patrolled the space around the station, thousands of ships ready to act upon a moment's notice. But as they drew closer, the turmoil that was taking hold was apparent. A burning building from one of the Wards billowed smoke which lazily danced away from the station.
Fiddling with his thumbs, the Ambassador called out to his AI companion, "Niri…can you give me a complete recap of the situation down there?"
Nirvana appeared before him, a grim look on her face, "Do you want the optimistic version?"
Harland didn't respond.
The AI sighed, "When the deportation order went through, humanity was given five days to pick up shop and leave. Dissent grew within factions of the humans on the station, chiefly from businessman and former political activist Jacob Krieger. He began recruiting several soldiers of fortune to his cause, mostly highly trained human mercenaries with former ties to the Alliance Military or private corporations." Nirvana's naked form shifted, disappearing from Harland's sight for a moment, only to reappear sitting in the seat next to him. "But Krieger seemed to have realized that he wouldn't have enough men for his little insurrection, so he began branching out and took in volunteers who were willing to fight for him. Still, his numbers were not high enough so he raided the deportation outposts the Council had established. They started a forcible recruitment."
The muscles in Harland's neck and jaw tightened as he could imagine armed soldiers rounding up droves of people, putting guns in their hands and making them fight. What baffled Harland was the 'why'. Why did Krieger need all these people?
He had to know that a sustained fight on a space station, especially with so few actual soldiers and limited resources, would be nigh impossible to maintain. What was his endgame?
Nirvana continued, breaking up his train of thought.
"Since then, rioting has taken place, especially within the more human-centric districts of the Wards. C-Sec has done its best and has made several arrests, but has yet to apprehend Krieger or any of his mercenaries." The AI paused as she accessed more information. "They seem to be using tactics likened to insurgent groups: car bombings, singling out and eliminating ranking C-Sec officers, firebombing various law enforcement outposts, and assorted hit-and-run tactics."
"What about C-Sec's response to all this?"
Linking up with C-Sec's secure network, Nirvana immediately cut through the several firewalls in place and began to decode encrypted reports bit by bit. It took her less than a few nanoseconds.
"They've increased patrols throughout the Wards, along with deploying several specialized units to raid specific areas of interest, where several arrests have been made." She paused for half a second, dissecting new information. "But they're not making meaningful headway. They're afraid that a large operation could cause a bloodbath, and too many would die due to the lack of medi-gel on station. Ever since the Sirta Foundation picked up its assets and left, hospitals began to ration medi-gel."
Harland rubbed his forehead. He was basically walking into what was more or less a war zone.
And his mission?
He was asked by Vice Admiral McCordus to renegotiate the terms of humanity on the Citadel. It was a laughable endeavor. Harland knew the Councilors had made their minds up, and they almost never reversed a decision. This was going to be an exercise in futility.
The man looked towards the AI.
"Was this anything like what happened on Earth?"
He gave Nirvana a quizzical look. "Why do you ask?"
Her holographic features gave him an almost confused look back. "While my access to Alliance records and databases is vast, I was deliberately designed to be unable to access or hack into records of anything predating the First Contact War." Fluorescent eyes scanned Harland's cool blue orbs. "What happened on Earth, Harland? What led to its near-total destruction?"
The Ambassador sighed as his head fell into his hands. While he was not there for the actual conflicts, he was certainly well-educated on it. As an Ambassador, he had to know Earth's history from top to bottom, charters and treaties, technological developments, wars, important individuals, he had to know it. On top of all that, he had received the best education that one could ask for when he was a teenager, being taught by some of the very best professors Earth had.
Recalling what he had researched, he slowly began to tell her just how Earth, and the Alliance, came to be in its current state.
After the discovery of alien ruins on Mars in 2148, the very foundations of the political environment on Earth was rocked to the core. Mankind had irrefutable proof that they were not the only beings in the galaxy, and they could not sit idly by if these aliens were to return to the Sol System. Not a year later, eighteen of the world's most powerful nations, led primarily by the United States of America, Japan, China, Russia, the UK, and Brazil, drafted and quickly ratified the Systems Alliance Compact.
A forty-member parliament was formed, creating a central governing body for the newly found coalition. After that, a set of laws and declarations were created, followed by a single currency that all member nations now used.
This in turn had created something that never been successfully accomplished before; a unified planetary government. A military force was quickly created soon after the Compact went into effect.
The Systems Alliance Military was eventually formed out of three distinct branches: an Army, an Air Force, and a Navy, with a Marine Corps becoming a specialized infantry branch for the Navy.
Every member nation of the Alliance sent a large number of its own troops, vehicles, and equipment to fill out the ranks of the newly formed government's military. Ideas and technology were shared amongst the collaboration of so many nations, with cultural differences cast aside in favor of progress. Never before had a planet experienced such growth before.
Many great minds dreamed of not only seeing the entirety of Earth's home system, but the galaxy as well. Those dreams came to fruition with the advent of FTL travel and mass effect field technology, as the first mass relay was discovered by the dwarf-planet Pluto, once thought to be its moon Charon.
The Arcturus Stream was discovered at the other end of the relay, and the Alliance drew up plans to build neighboring stations to each system's mass relay. The Von Braun would be built in Pluto's orbit, initially meant to be a scientific research and development station. That meant what would eventually become Arcturus Station, soon to be the nerve center of the Alliance's military machine, would be built on the other side.
"This was of time of cultural growth, assimilation, and unity. It seemed at first that humanity had reached new heights, finally putting aside its petty differences for something greater," Harland said quietly, his eyes locked with Nirvana's. "But…But this period of cooperation didn't last much longer."
As Arcturus Station was in the adolescent stages of construction, the Alliance began to experience a rather large political rift back on Earth. Many within the military and political body had reservations when it came to the pressuring of other nations to join the Systems Alliance.
Many mid to lower-ranked officials objected to the forceful recruitment other nations, while most of the highly-ranked ones claimed this forced assimilation was necessary in order for the Alliance to survive.
Young naval Captains like Anderson and Hackett were quite vocal that forcing people to join a cause they did not believe in would only lead to disaster, but the older, 'wiser' voices of Admirals like Drescher, Ho-Chen, and Karlsson disagreed.
The Alliance needed to be bolstered, they claimed, because a large compact like it would inevitably fail if they relied on a volunteer system to strengthen their numbers. Admiral Kastanie Drescher stated that Earth had to stand as a united whole if an alien race were to ever attack mankind, whether or not they wanted to.
Anderson called it tyranny.
The subject was a key point within parliament, and when voting came down to decide whether or not a peacetime draft was to be instated, the voting was split twenty-three to seventeen in favor of the draft. Dozens of protests soon came about, but all were ignored or forcibly put down.
Soon nations like Mexico, South Africa, the Korean Union, and several others were forcibly integrated into the Systems Alliance, some by economic pressure, others by political gunpoint. Their citizenry were subjected to a peacetime draft as well.
Dissent grew within the Alliance's ranks, clear lines were being drawn amongst parliament members, amongst the different branches, and amongst soldiers in individual units.
Things came to a head on April 7th, 2153, when a pair of Alliance ambassadors on a trip to Nigeria attempted to force themselves into the National Assembly Building. They foolhardily demanded of their senate to sign into the Systems Alliance Compact.
Harland almost smiled, "From what I've read, Nigerian soldiers grabbed the ambassadors and brought them before the Nigerian president, John Adeyemi, who had been discussing an important trade deal with the senate that day." The man could almost see the Nigerian president's incredulous expression as these two ambassadors were making demands of his people. "Adeyemi said to these two, 'You come into the very center of my nation's government, and attempt to force a free people to sign into a coalition that they have no wish to join?' When the two had nothing to say to the man, he merely flicked his hand and said, 'Take them away.'"
As the Nigerians held the Alliance ambassadors prisoner, a powder keg of events was set off. Adeyemi went before the world and declared open war against the Systems Alliance, citing its constant political and economic pressure as hostile actions against the free people of his homeland. Several nations immediately came to Nigeria's side, including a handful of member nations, much to the shock of many Admirals.
At first, no immediate action was taken against what the Alliance labeled as 'rogue states', confident that it could stifle it them without the use of military action. When nonviolent means proved ineffective however, Parliament held another vote, this time for a drastic change of tactics.
On April 23rd, the Alliance attempted to squash this resistance through brute force via orbital bombardments and massive troop surges.
After the first orbital payload destroyed a barracks in southern Nigeria, Hackett and Anderson could no longer stand idly by and put into motion a series of carefully organized events that led to the schism within Systems Alliance.
The civil war that followed was called by some historians as the bloodiest conflict ever in human history.
Entire cities, such as Chicago, New York, Tokyo, and Johannesburg, turned into devastated hellholes. Each city saw entire divisions of soldiers fight for control, with millions of civilians caught in the crossfire.
The battles in space were massive, some military historians to this day still cannot account for just how many ships were destroyed. Harland had once heard that soldiers could see the battles taking place groundside, and could often see the dead husks of crippled vessels falling back to Earth, burning white hot with the fires of reentry.
All the while Arcturus Station was hotly contested, Parliament having long abandoned the station as both sides constantly took control of it from one another. It was once stated that over the course of a week ownership of Arcturus shifted at least a dozen times.
As the civil war dragged on, Anderson soon realized that the key to winning the war and putting an end to the bloodshed was cutting off the head of command, a group whom he had referred to as 'The Big Three'. They consisted of newly-dubbed Marshal Admiral Kastanie Drescher, General Felix Perelkin, and Admiral Jun Ho-Chen.
He was convinced that if The Big Three were taken down, anyone who rose in their place as commanders wouldn't be able to sufficiently fill the void of power, thus bringing an end to this conflict. Both Hackett and Anderson knew however, that taking down these three in open combat would be all but impossible.
For this task Anderson had several spies and agents within the opposition to carry out the necessary deeds.
But Anderson wasn't the only one who had a similar idea. Hackett, who was the acting Vice Admiral at the time, fell victim to a spy amongst his command staff. One night as he overlooking some plans in his private quarters aboard his vessel, he and his wife were found brutally stabbed to death.
It was because of this that the Alliance had such tight security aboard Arcturus today, reminding Harland of the several security checkpoints that led into the Nexus. Never again was a Vice Admiral to fall because of lax security.
"None of this tells of how Earth came to be in its current state, though. The widespread destruction on its surface, the nuclear fallout?" Nirvana questioned quietly, almost overwhelmed by all the information she was being given.
"Towards the end," the Ambassador sighed, weary from recounting this little history lesson, "the Alliance we know today had started gaining major victory after victory against the opposition. Eventually, we managed to find and start pushing back the remnants of Ho-Chen's fleet. He was the last living member of The Big Three, since Perelkin was killed via car bomb and Marshal Admiral Drescher was poisoned." Harland stopped as he felt the hull of his shuttle shake. They had finally docked, magnetic moorings gripping onto them. "But Ho-Chen had gotten paranoid when people started dying around him, and took to one final stand above Earth."
With Vice Admiral David Anderson fighting within the continental United States, overseeing an operation to evacuate civilians from the ruins of Chicago, Ho-Chen fighting off an attack in the dreadnought SSV Helios.
Kalan McCordus was the one leading the battle against Ho-Chen, and who some historians blame for the destruction of Earth. Though Harland believed without a doubt there was nothing he could have done, nor was any of what happened his fault.
"What we didn't know was that the Helios was loaded with what was considered ancient weaponry. Cruise missiles, very old GARDIAN laser prototypes, and above all, a nuclear payload." Harland remembered the raw footage from the bow cameras of the lead cruiser as if fired shell after shell into the Helios. "No one to this day knows how Ho-Chen got antiquated nuclear weapons on board, but I know for certain he had no intention of bombing Earth with it. Those nukes were meant for McCordus and his ships."
"One would think he would adopt a scorched-earth policy, destroy several strategic areas on earth where opposition was held. The blast radius would wipe out entire armored columns, entire divisions of soldiers." Nirvana quipped, fully versed on the destructive potential the Helios had.
"You got to remember that Ho-Chen had his own people on the ground too, Niri." Harland quickly reminded the AI. "Ho-Chen was a brilliant tactician and commander, but above all, he was definitely no butcher. He didn't want to see any more people die than absolutely necessary...No, McCordus pushed too hard, had his ships mercilessly beat down on the Helios and any ship that came to defend it."
More raw footage played back across Harland's mind. A crippled dreadnought, fire belching out from countless breaches in its hull, the ship itself listing lazily to one side as any sort of stabilization systems had failed long ago. Then one more shell was fired.
It punched through the ship, just slightly off the port side of the bow, and drove all the way to the drive core. The Helios' drive core went critical, and set off a chain reaction that decimated the entirety of the ship, which included the weapon bays.
By the time McCordus could be told by his ship's VI that nuclear shells were lodged free, several were burning through the Earth's atmosphere.
All Kalan McCordus could do was watch in horror as his home planet was being ravaged by nuclear hellfire. Thousands of miles of land turned from a vibrant green to a pure inferno.
"What was left of Alliance Command attempted to get into contact with Vice Admiral Anderson, but not a single hail got through. People were clamoring for a rescue mission until the Vice Admiral's area of operations got hit by an errant shell..." The Ambassador suddenly felt tired, and his weary tone reflected it. "And then...well, on March 21st, 2155, the Alliance Civil War had ended...and in a sense, so had Earth. Roughly seventy-five to eighty percent of the planet was covered in fallout, and those few areas that were blessed with neither a direct blast or a wave of radiation were never quite the same."
Harland rose from his seat as he knew a Citadel Customs team would come to do a security sweep of the vessel, and he himself would be searched as well.
"Then whatever was left of the Alliance unified again, put on a brave face, and tried to rebuild," Nirvana finished, awestruck by the massive amount of information just given to her.
"Precisely," the human replied. "And then came the First Contact War two years later." His eyes drifted to a nearby viewport, where one of the long arms to the Citadel seemed to stretch on for miles in the distance. "Maybe the Council's right. Maybe we don't belong here..."
His throat seemed to close up on him for a moment.
"...but damn it. Where else do we have to go?"
Soooo. Hey guys. I've been in college. So that's why this hasn't been around.
I'll try to update when I can, but grades and college come first.
But most importantly, tell me what you guys thought. Feedback, feedback, feedback. Please.