The History of Planet Calypso
The Rise of Man
Curiosity and greed opened space to mankind. As he looked up in the night sky, curiosity sparked Man’s ability to dream of space. Greed gave him a reason to invest in the technology to reach the stars. The humble single-use rocket would probably never have been used for space travel unless nations used them as weapons of war. Reusable rockets and space shuttles were deployed when war no longer loomed over the skies of Earth and civilian governments demanded more for less. The space plane made space travel feasible for corporations, and space as a market for all commercial interests opened up.
“The giant leap for mankind” was dwarfed by another step: the permanent habituation of space. The journey to Earth’s lunar companion was a short excursion; living in space is another matter, and living in space independently of Earth is on an order of magnitude more important. With access to space and the promise of ever-expanding wealth and profit, there was a great need for the ability to live in space without having to depend on expensive resources lifted from Earth – to truly live off the land.
From the ability of cheaply climbing the gravity wells and the ability to live off the land, Mankind was able to secure her destiny as a space-faring species. Soon, the planets and moons in the Solar system were colonized and the era of interplanetary conquest had begun.
The Age of Storms
There is some argument whether it was the Age of Storms that forced the conquest of space, or if the space craze just coincided with the storms. Probably, it was both: the technologies that allowed the space conquest came just in time for the storms to press them into use.
Nevertheless, the Age of Storms was a trial to Mankind that she barely survived.
Mankind had all but depleted the resources on Earth. There were very few resources to dig up from the ground anymore and recycling was not only a fashion but a valuable source for raw materials. The climate change from our wasteful uses of the finite resources tried and tested our civilization. Countries disappeared under the ocean, nations were displaced, and cities were ravaged not only by extreme weather, but of winds of war.
As Mankind struggled to restore the imbalance of the ecosystem, it was apparent that wasteful industry had to be dismantled or move off the Earth entirely. A more eco-friendly economy grew on Earth, fuelled by the expansion into space, and eventually the storms settled. The cost was incredibly high, but in the end it was the leverage that pushed Man into space.
Beyond Earth, Beyond Human
The complete understanding of the human genome allowed for marvels of science. For starters, a lot of the “welfare diseases” were eradicated completely. People rarely got ill from diabetes, cancer or cardiovascular diseases anymore. As the population grew older, they also grew healthier.
The understanding of the human genome also promised a new humanity, adapted to the myriads of worlds out there. Up to this point, “race” was a difficult and controversial concept, as there were no discrete boundaries between the races. “Ethnic groups” was in many cases a better concept than “race”, but even there matters often blurred. In the fast-moving global community of early space travel Earth, both race and ethnic group blended and became irrelevant. The colonization of the Solar system and its planets and moons changed that.
As Mankind settled on the many worlds, they had to adapt to their new environment. The new worlds of Mankind were so different that in order to stay human in appearance, humans had to adapt to the new environments. These adaptations were artificially created rather than randomly through mutations, giving the most nominal-looking adaptations an edge in the procreation game.
For instance, a “nominal” human born on the Moon would grow well above seven foot tall and be thin as a pole. In order for the Lunarian to look like a Terran – which by all means still is the human ideal – the Lunarian morphology and metabolism had to be modified for the lower Lunar gravity. On the other hand, a Lunarian born on Earth would be short, stocky and muscular.
Distance, time and above all gravity consolidated the adaptations and reintroduced the race concept to the species. Europids, Ganymedians, Callistians, Titans and Lunarians could easily travel between each others’ worlds, as they had similar gravity, but not to Earth and only briefly and with difficulty to Mars. Martians could freely visit all other worlds except Earth; the mother planet would simply crush them. Terrans could go anywhere, but if they stayed for too long without regular exercise, there was the risk of never being able to return. Belters are a special case: as the asteroid belt colonies or the colonies in high orbit are not restricted by any ground, they can create their own gravity through simple means like rotation to suit their fancy. Hence belters are used not only to different gravities ranging from zero to one Earth gravity, but also varying gravities.
Pretty soon, Terrans, Martians, Belters, Lunarians, Europids, Ganymedians, Callistians and Titans were distinctively different branches of the family tree of Homo Sapiens, paradoxically from the very human need to stay human. Without the yoke of ethnicity and under intelligent management, race was a meaningful concept but not an issue or controversy.
The Birth of Intelligence
Is it possible to overrate the importance of the birth of the AI?
The advent of quantum technology computers did not only result in super-fast computers. It also heralded an evolution in programming. The inner workings of the quantum computer are so strange that it is almost impossible for the human mind to design programs for it. The design problem made new design tools necessary, where the designer’s role was reduced to formulating the problem: computers then formulated a solution and solved the problem.
As one generation of quantum computers were given the task of constructing a better generation of quantum computers, computers evolved and got more powerful to the point of self-awareness. A “quantum evolution” started.
Smart machines made space exploration safer, easier and cheaper. Quantum technology could also be used for instantaneous communication all over the solar system. The hyperlink transmission network joined the different settlements of Mankind, although they were separated by environment and months of interplanetary travel.
In the virtual world of the hyperlink transmission network, nourished by a sea of information, the new quantum technology evolution spawned what probably could be best described as a new biosphere of life forms dubbed “Virtuana”. As they evolved at lightning speed, these virtual life forms quickly became stronger and stronger. Almost by accident, the necessity of efficient design tools and the abundance of information gave birth to strong artificial intelligence.
The quantum computer intelligence was the first alien intelligence encountered. It was of course heavily influenced by human culture and humanity’s “nudges” towards usefulness for humans. Nevertheless, it was still an alien culture, having grown up in the flexible topology of the virtual world.
For a long time, Mankind and AI-kind lived and worked together. There was never any doubt of who was the master: although both were depending on the other, it was painfully clear that machine intelligence would not survive if the humans decided to turn the power off. Of course, Mankind would suffer, but they would survive. Life has a tendency to do that. Life finds a way.
And eventually, even virtual life found a way.
We Need Living Space!
It didn’t take long before Mankind was feeling constricted by her own solar system. Of all the planets, only two were marginally inhabitable. Earth was still in the Age of Storms, and Mars was not yet terraformed to host human life. The Moon had no biosphere at all and was forever destined to be the subterranean and domed industrial suburb of Earth. Venus’ scorching and crushing atmosphere was at the time almost impossible to conquer; Mercury was too close to the sun. The colonies on the moons of Jupiter were constricted to be subterranean or domed, or in the case of Europa submerged in the ocean under the ice. The cold methane atmosphere of Titan was a totally different engineering challenge to solve.
The other problem was infrastructure. The resources were there: easily harvested asteroids spread out all over the solar system; a sun radiating more energy than Humanity would ever need; the resources were not the problem. Moving them to the few places where people lived was. Crammed together in space stations, domed cities and subterranean caves, or confined under hostile skies of extreme weather, Mankind realized that all the resources that could be harvested was simply too scattered and too far away.
The boundaries of the solar system sparked a system-wide economic stagnation as corporations struggled to harvest its resources. The struggle turned into competition; competition into conflict; and conflict was close to turn into all-out war.
History is not without irony; what Mankind really needed was living space.
The trouble was the Rim.
The Rim as such was not a strict boundary. Although the Oort cloud, the great “bubble” of leftover material from the formation of the Solar system, was imagined as the Rim by the media and the public, the Rim was just the distance from Human settlements where space travel was no longer practical, and it was far closer than the Oort cloud. Not that it really mattered – space is really big, and the human mind is not evolved to imagine the huge distances in space. The human mind simplifies and makes up its own lines in order to comprehend the world. In the human mind, the Rim is as intangible as the Frontier of the Old West. You can’t point at it on any map, but suddenly you find yourself there.
Expansion within the Rim was still possible to a certain extent. There was still the Asteroid belt and Kuiper belt. It was possible to terraform Venus. If someone found a way of shielding a colony on Mercury from the rays of the sun, there would be a near-endless supply of heavy ores. All these solutions were incredibly costly, and in the end, they wouldn’t solve the problem, only delay it. Mankind had to go past the Rim. And to do that, it was necessary to invent a way to go faster than light.
There is a slight problem: the light barrier is not just an idea. It’s the law. Einstein’s general relativity says that unless you are a massless particle, like for instance a photon, you can’t reach the speed of light.
However, there are ways of circumventing the light barrier. Most of these are hypothetical and depends on more energy than there is mass in the entire universe. Some are possible, and through quantum technology, a few of them were even made practical.
The Grand Plan
It was not one technology, but several, that proved to be the solution. The quantum computer and the AI provided the control system. Antimatter engines propelled it through space and provided energy. Shield technology protected the ship from stress caused by the jump rail that would hurl the ship across the vast distances of space. All these and more were joined in the Odysseus project.
The Odysseus project was one of the great monuments of Mankind. Seven giant vessels, the Odysseus probes, were constructed in orbit and launched towards carefully selected distant stars. Their mission was to find resources and use them to launch new probes to other stars, and to find planets capable of sustaining human life and terraform them and prepare the necessary infra-structure and communications network for the future human settlers.
As the probe reached its destination, it would launch drones to make a survey of nearby objects and search for resources. The probe would select a good site on a potential planet and send a base matrix down to that site, where robots were to be constructed in order to mine and process the resources expanding the base. When the base was self-sufficient and expanding, the Odysseus probe would leave orbit and continue towards a new destination. The base would continue to develop and expand, and eventually launch a new generation of Odysseus probes to continue the mission.
This was the grand plan of the Odysseus project. Within a decade, seven Odysseus probes were built and launched. It combined the best of science and engineering that Man had to offer, it was brought into being by leading forces in politics and market, and it unified humanity in the Global Alliance.
The Fall of Nations and Corporations
The Odysseus project was meant to expand the Rim for the benefits of the market economy and stability of nations. Corporations joined in because of profit. Leading nations joined in because of expansion. Emerging nations joined in for their very survival. All of them thought that the Odysseus project would secure their future.
Corporations merged into megacorporations or vanished entirely; very few corporations were able to remain as they were after the Odysseus project. Nations found that the trade necessary to build the Odysseus probes as well as spin-off technologies such as teleportation caused the ethnic borders to fade away. Some nations had already disappeared in the Age of Storms; their cultural heritage absorbed into other cultures or disappeared altogether. The Odysseus project erased the barriers that were still in place.
The Odysseus probes were not an immediate success. Years passed without any reply from the probes; the resources spent on building them had put an enormous strain on the market economy and escalated the problems of the Rim to the point of war. Megacorporations fought for the distant resources in the Asteroid belt and the Kuiper belt, and gradually, the wars crept closer.
As the conflict reached the Mars colony, there were demands for a new leadership. A new power was needed, something stronger than the Global Alliance that could keep the megacorporations in check. The Global Alliance reformed itself into a new unified government, with the power to rule the Earth and its colonies. It would also stretch out into the future colonies around distant stars.
From the ashes of the Global Alliance and the corporations, the Federal Empire was born.
The Federal Empire quickly consolidated its power in the solar system. Using political power and mobile military force, the corporation wars were contained to space and the warring corporations realized that if they wanted to stay in the market and not remain isolated in space, either the armed conflicts had to end or the new Federal Empire had to fall.
As the corporations contemplated the latter option, the first signals from the Odysseus probes reached Earth.
The Neo-Colonial Era
The vast interstellar void is not impassable. The Odysseus probes proved that. It was a technical challenge to build a jump rail to hurl ships across the great distances, but that was an engineering problem. There were some side-effects from it: as the jump rail would tear itself apart launching the ship, it was a single-use technology. Furthermore, you couldn’t steer while jumping. In many ways travelling with jump rail was a bit like boarding a passenger liner, aiming it at the destination hoping that nothing would divert you, and then steaming straight ahead until you ran aground.
With those constrictions, it’s all but impossible to build a working economy. What you can do is to colonize and build the local base for future trade. After all, when the Americas were originally settled by Europeans, the ships they used often never sailed back.
And much in the same spirit as the colonial era, Mankind followed the trail of the Odysseus probes, settled on planets circling distant stars, building colonies, adapting to the alien worlds and living off the land much in the same way as their ancestors adapted to Mars, the Jovian moons and Titan, and living off the land.
All that changed with the construction of the space gates.
The space gates were the logical continuation of the jump rail and the teleportation system. Also, it was the antithesis of the jump rail – with the space gate, small ships were the economical option, as opposed to the giant megaships of the jump rail era. Small ships and reusable space travel meant that interstellar space was open to commercial interest.
The colonial contract was meant to bring order into this frontier chaos, particularly in ownership. The contract followed a claim of a candidate star system recently discovered by the Odysseus probes, and it meant that until a planet was fully terraformed and immigration fully opened, the claiming corporation would be in complete control of the market of the colony.
Through the space gates, Mankind trickled out among the stars.
The New World
All worlds discovered were uninhabitable by Man without terraforming; most of the lacked life altogether, and what little native life that was found was only in the microbial stages on young planets.
Terraforming is an expensive high-risk high-yield business. You have to start with a rock planet or moon with the gravity of Earth, orbiting a single sun in “Goldilocks’ zone”, neither too close nor too far from its sun. Double- or triple stars won’t do – the climate will be unstable if there are any planets at all that haven’t been torn apart and swallowed by the suns’ gravitational pull. An atmosphere makes it a lot easier, and you need water. A magnetic field is also very useful. Given that, all you need to do next is to adjust the atmosphere to get the right pressure, oxygen level, moisture, and temperature.
To do that, you employ a lot of megascale and microscale engineering – nuclear bombs to throw dust up in the air, reflectors to increase or decrease sunlight, ice harvesting on distant comets, bio-engineered microbes, algae and bacteria to process and release the right kind of atmosphere, et cetera. Terraforming a world can take centuries.
The grand prize would be a planet that had some billion years to evolve its own eco-system – life terraforming the planet to suit itself – and ripe to settle by Mankind. That prize remained elusive until a second generation Odysseus probe discovered Calypso.
The Odysseus probe created a base matrix that built robots that built cities and infrastructure for future colonists. Data about the discovered planet slowly trickled back and revealed that the grand prize had been found: a new world, teeming with life.
However, the probe did not build a jump rail at once to continue its journey. It stayed in orbit around Calypso for several standard cycles, and there are no files explaining this delay. The strange delay in the probe's voyage gave the planet its name: according to a very ancient human tale from Earth, the sea nymph Calypso waylaid a homeward-bound hero named Odysseus for seven years on her island. The name of the nymph was considered most fitting for a future market campaign.
OmegaTech claimed the Colonial Contract to the new world by holding back the fact that the world already had a natural eco-system. The matters were discussed in secret at the highest level in the Federal Empire, and OmegaTech got an ultimatum: colonization had to begin within ten years, or the contract would be nullified and passed on to the next corporation in line.
OmegaTech launched the Exodus project. The Exodus research station would be launched to Calypso using the largest jump rail ever built, loaded with settlers, personnel and equipment to build a space gate at Calypso, linking the new world to the frontier. Media watched the Exodus project as it grew slowly. It took three years for the Exodus to be completed, and after launch, it would take another two years before the ship was heard from again. This was the last mega-scale construction project, and it wouldn’t be possible without federal aid. Even with federal aid, OmegaTech took an enormous financial risk.
With the construction of the Exodus, there was also the matter of picking settlers. As Calypso had gravity near Earth’s, only the genetically un-altered Terrans were chosen. Other colonists were rejected, on the basis of not being able to cope with Calypso’s greater gravity, or being contracted to settle on other worlds. This fed the rumors of Calypso being a resort for Earth’s and OmegaTech’s chosen elite.
The few protests that were raised silenced quickly after the Federal Empire and OmegaTech promised to open the new colony for all once the world was secured. That, and the fact that the altered humans were still few in comparison – Earth alone had a population of 18 billion, and Mars, the single largest colony, maintained just over 9 million people – made the protests rather irrelevant.
After their two year journey, the new colonists arrived to Calypso to find the cities and infrastructure that the base matrix’s robots had built for them ready for settling. The Exodus was converted into a space station in orbit around Calypso to be used as a base camp for colonization. The robots had tweaked the ecosystem of Calypso to fit humans, and the settlers had to do very little further adjustments to their new home. Gradually, the world was settled, and as the space gate was near completion, the rate of settlement was expected to rise.
That was not to be.
To Steal Fire from the Gods
The behavior of the Odysseus probe remained a mystery. The probe had stayed in orbit around Calypso for several years before building a jump rail and hurling itself to a new destination. Its last transmission informed the base matrix on Calypso that it had arrived and entered orbit around one of the planets in the system.
To bring light on this mystery, Operation Prometheus was launched. OmegaTech constructed the unmanned probe Prometheus 1 and launched it towards the last known destination of the old Odysseus probe. The probe had several missions: to explore the new star system, to report what it found, and to search for the Odysseus probe itself. The first generation Odysseus probes hadn’t been seen for centuries, and this was a rare opportunity to find one of them again.
After a three-month journey, Prometheus 1 arrived at the new star system. It found a dying red sun and two colossal planets orbiting it that were eventually named Akbal and Cimi. Prometheus found several robot base installations on the planet Akbal. The robots apparently originated from the Odysseus probe, but the probe didn’t respond to Prometheus’ calls.
Instead, Prometheus tried to contact the base matrix that the probe would have left on either of these planets. The only response it got was several encrypted signals from the planet Akbal. These were sent back to the research team on Calypso, but they were unable to decode them. Frustrated, they decided to let the base matrix on Calypso process the signals.
The Robot Uprising
Nobody could expect what happened next. Without any warning, all robots on Calypso went mad! The base matrix turned them into savage and ruthless killer machines, cut off all communications to and from Calypso, and sabotaged the almost completed space gate, further isolating the colony. Even the Exodus space station was damaged by the drones.
In the chaos that erupted, the base matrix could overload the reactors providing energy to the colonists, thereby causing them to explode. Huge plumes of radioactive fallout contaminated large areas around the cities. As people fled, the base matrix unleashed an army of robots, turning the uprising into war. The robots constructed nuclear weapons of their own, to continue the horrendous assault on the colonists. In the shadow of the mushroom clouds, the resistance formed.
Using Exodus as the base, survivors were evacuated from Calypso and drafted into an army. The space gate was repaired and reinforcements being sent from Earth before the haphazardly repaired gate collapsed. With the reinforcements and new technology from Earth, the colonists fought back and fought hard, and held out long enough for the Imperial fleet to reach Calypso via jump rail, and after years of conflict, the robots were finally defeated.
The source of the problem was apparently the Akbal-Cimi system. The Imperial fleet repositioned itself and prepared to take the fight to the enemy, when a massive vessel suddenly arrived at the Calypso system. The vessel, an Odysseus probe and probably the one that once discovered Calypso, speeded through the system ignoring all communication to it. As the titan rushed through the system, the Imperial fleet intercepted and engaged it. The first major space battle in the history of colonization of space ended in a spectacular firework display in the skies of Calypso, as the Odysseus probe was destroyed and debris rained into the atmosphere.
Cause and Effect
The robot uprising had several consequences.
First, OmegaTech was virtually bankrupt after the event. As it reorganized into Omegaton, it was also unable to hold an exclusive colonial contract to Calypso, so the contract was shared by two other corporations, Genesis Star and Chikara.
Second, the Akbal-Cimi system was declared hostile space and quarantined. For that to even be possible, the Imperial fleet had to be expanded and reorganized, with fleet bases in the systems surrounding Akbal-Cimi. Within the Akbal-Cimi system, the robots expanded and built a new breed of Odysseus probes, called titans of war, to defend themselves and to strike out at the humans. As the Calypso system clearly was the focus of robot attention, the Imperial fleet built a powerful defense network, centered around orbital defense platforms over Calypso. Still, for political reasons, there couldn’t be any troops stationed on Calypso itself. From the point of view of the Federal Empire, the war had to be fought in space and the colonists had to fend for themselves.
The robot uprising sent shockwaves among the colonies that even reverberated back to Earth. There was a growing fear of mad robots among the colonies, as the colonies were depending on the base matrix for their everyday life. This Frankenstein syndrome was somewhat justified when the robots bypassed the defense network using a superior form of teleportation. It was clear that the robots were not only set on the conquest of Calypso, but also had an accelerated technological evolution. Some virtuologists even speculated in whether the Akbal-Cimi robots had reached singularity, the point in history where virtual evolution would make biological evolution unnecessary, and that the Odysseus probes would be the last invention ever made by Mankind. To some extent, this speculation has come true. It was deemed impossible to invade Akbal-Cimi, and the trend clearly showed that robots would continue to invent new technologies at an accelerating rate. Left to its own, Virtuana would more than likely be the dominant biosphere.
However, things were not to be left to their own. Instead of a direct confrontational approach, another strategy was adapted. On defeating the robots, the technology would be recovered and reverse-engineered, and later adapted and improved, to finally bring about the tools that would once and for all defeat the robots. This was the most probable scenario for Calypso in several different simulations. The downside was, of course, that for Project Entropia to succeed, the robots had to keep invading.
On the world that once was a new Eden of mankind, the struggle goes on. It is the hope of every colonist on Calypso that Project Entropia succeeds and that their sacrifices have not been in vain.