No doubt the most notable military conflict of the fourth millennium was the so-called Fifty Years' War, fought in 3307-3360 between the Outsiders
, a nomadic and highly transhumanist offshoot of humanity, and the Harmonic Federation
, the largest and most powerful star empire in the human space
. It's been over eighty years since the war's end, yet its effects are still being felt and continue to influence the political and military climate of not just the Federation, but of all human polities.
The Outsiders and the Federation disagree heavily on who was responsible for the war. This disagreement is borne from the fundamentally different philosophies embraced by the Outsiders and the Federation which make them totally incapable of seeing each other's points of view.
The Outsiders, being an entirely nomadic culture that considered all space - whether interstellar or interplanetary - as its domain, had traditionally refused to recognize anyone's ownership or sovereignty over empty space or uninhabited planets and asteroids. They had deep respect for the independence of settled planets and habitats, but according to their philosophy, everything between them was free for the taking. Their immense Grand Liner
starships often refueled and restocked at any convenient asteroid field or gas giant, completely ignoring any claims by others on these celestial bodies. Even when visiting star systems that were within the sphere of influence of another polity, the Outsiders followed only their own rules, ignoring local laws and customs. A Clan Captain was the highest authority figure the Outsiders recognized, and they wielded almost unlimited power aboard their city-like ships. Since the Outsiders were generally reclusive and mostly travelled between the nameless Outer Periphery systems, this aloof attitude was rarely a major problem. Even when the Outsiders visited settled star systems, they were more often than not seen as potential trade partners who had access to extremely advanced technology and useful knowledge. Still, many were wary of them, mainly due to their rather alien nature and the fact that every now and then, some Clans engaged in piracy in order to obtain rare technologies or alien artifacts carried by lone travellers in the edge systems.
Meanwhile, the Harmonic Federation was a dynamic, expansionist and imperialist power with a strong adherence to its guiding principles. The Federation claimed entire star systems at once, settling them in massive, decades-long projects that saw the moving of millions of loyal citizens and the simultaneous construction of mining infrastructure on a system-wide scale. They also sought to secure their borders by patrolling nearby independent star systems suspected of hosting pirate bases or other unlawful activity such as smuggling, illegal sale of alien artifacts and seditious movements. The Federation's long-range patrol fleets often visited even the Outer Periphery in their relentless search for potential future settlement targets and threats - after all, the prevalent notion among the Federation's elite was that it was their eventual destiny to unite humanity under a single rule for the first time in history; it was advantageous to recognize and deal with potential obstacles as early as possible.
Needless to say, these policies eventually created some friction between the Federation and the Outsiders, and over the 33rd century there were a number of shootouts between Outsider Grand Liners and Federation patrol fleets. Most of these incidents ended with the retreat of the Outsiders, and the general assumption among the Federation's leadership was that while the Outsiders were a future obstacle to be dealt with, they were not a serious threat.
They were gravely mistaken.
The war begins
There was never any kind of declaration of war, but the Outsiders had clearly planned their invasion for decades. In 3307 the Federation's newest settled star system, the Idda system, came under attack by thousands of relatively simple robotic warships that spilled forth from the Oort cloud. (It was later discovered that these warships were being produced by twenty-six automated factories the Outsiders had secretly left in the Oort cloud, most likely by deploying them from interstellar space.) The Idda system contained one settled planet, Harvantha, and 116 space habitats of various size. The total population of the system was nearly seventy million. Like all Federation systems, Idda was extremely well-defended: in addition to several defensive space stations and a dedicated defense fleet, its central star was orbited by a powerful stellar laser array with an effective killing range of over 20 astronomical units. The robotic warships were a serious threat, but a threat the system's defenders were more than capable of dealing with. Fleet Master Jasmando, the commander of Idda's defense fleet, ordered his ships and the defense stations to engage the invaders before they could threaten Harvantha or any of the habitats.
Unfortunately for Jasmando, the attack of the automated warships was just a diversion. While the system's defenders were busy dealing with this first wave, the real attack began when relativistic projectiles moving at 0.95 c
rained down on the defensive stations and the primary energy collectors of the stellar laser array. These projectiles had been launched months earlier from the edge of interstellar space - the Outsiders had counted on the automated warships to distract the defenders enough to prevent them from countering the incoming projectiles. Immediately after the defense stations and the stellar laser array were out of the picture, nine Grand Liners performed a quantum bubble jump into the system, just outside the vanishing radius, and began their overwhelming attack on the remaining warships under Jasmando's command. Realizing his hopeless situation, Jasmando had one of his torchships
perform and emergency jump into the Federation's capital of Junkyard system and inform the high command of the attack.
This was the last communication from the Idda system.
Plans for counter-invasion
It took several years before the Federation was confident enough to attempt the liberation of the Idda system. While the Federation had a large and powerful fleet, it was spread out over hundreds of light years and had to be recalled home before any serious plans for liberation could be made. The Federation's parliament also wanted to ensure that none of their other systems were under the threat of a similar invasion and thoroughly investigated their Kuiper belts and Oort clouds with long-range probes. While preparing for the counter-invasion, the Federation significantly strengthened the defenses of its most important systems and constructed hundreds of new warships. All this took additional time.
The Outsiders used that time to consolidate their hold over the Idda system. They systematically eradicated what remained of its defense fleet (although after the war, it was discovered that Fleet Master Jasmando had been captured alive), moved all habitats into orbit around Harvantha and set out to fortify the system as thoroughly as possible. When the Federation's hopefully named Liberation Fleet, under the command of Supreme Fleet Master Zelda Linandal-Pascalus, arrived in the Idda system seven years after the start of the invasion, it faced not only the nine original Grand Liners, but also a fully repaired solar laser array, several newly-built defense stations and thousands of combat drone
swarms. In addition, the automated factories seeded decades earlier in the system's Oort could were still active, and the Liberation Fleet had to fend off constant attacks by waves of robotic warships.
During the entire Fifty Years' War, there wasn't a single proper two-way communication between the Outsiders and the Federation. The Outsiders never made any demands or attempted to negotiate. When Supreme Fleet Master Linandal-Pascalus tried to contact the Outsiders and demanded their surrender, she received a tightbeam message from Tinus Hanin, the former Steward of the Idda System. In a voice trembling with fear, Hanin - who looked badly beaten and seemed to be suffering from severe malnutrition - politely asked the Liberation Fleet to leave. The Outsiders, he told, were building the greatest work of art in the history of mankind and would not leave until it was finished. When the Supreme Fleet Master demanded to speak directly to the Clan Captains, the Outsiders ended the message and refused to reply to any further attempts at communication. (Hanin, as it was later discovered, was not killed, but instead became part of the Outsiders' "work of art".)
The most intensive and violent phase of the war, consisting mainly of space combat, lasted for forty-three years. It very nearly caused the Federation's social and economic collapse. Invading a fully fortified star system with brute force alone turned out to be just as hard and resource-consuming as military strategists had predicted. For decades, the Federation had to devote its entire economic, industrial and scientific capacity to the war effort. Idda was not an important system per se
, but the Federation could not afford to lose face by allowing even one of its own star systems to fall, and so Idda had to be wrestled back from the Outsiders one orbit at a time. Many great war heroes and legendary figures emerged during this period. In addition to Supreme Fleet Master Zelda Linandal-Pascalus (who led the Federation's war effort from the beginning to the end) herself, the most well-known veteran of the Fifty Years' War was General Alexander Larris
, the future dictator of the Federation.
The Liberation Fleet suffered extremely heavy losses and had to be reinforced numerous times. Both in the outer Idda system and in several nearby mining systems, the Federation's mobile refineries and factories faced constant harassment by Outsider torchship strike teams, forcing the Federation to devote additional warships to protecting its shipbuilding and resource gathering operations. The largest single assault of the entire war was the destruction of the solar laser array in the thirty-sixth year of the liberation; the captured superweapon was overwhelmed in a two-week attack that involved thousands of ships and over 1,400,000 combat drones.
The Outsiders gleefully sacrificed everything they had - except the Grand Liners. They kept their motherships in orbit around Harvantha and used both the planet and the habitats orbiting it as shields against the Federation fleet's most powerful weapons. Even as their outer system defenses fell one by one, Outsider mining ships continued to strip the inner system of all easily available resources to feed the production facilities aboard the Grand Liners and the captured habitats. These in turn churned out thousands upon thousands of gwailo
-crewed interplanetary warships and combat drones that were sent to slow down the advancing Federation fleets. By now it was clear that the Outsiders had never intended to actually "win" the war. Rather, they had always wanted to simply capture the Idda system and then hold on to it for as long as they could while causing the Federation as much losses and suffering as possible. Apparently, the Outsiders believed that this way they could demoralize the Federation and curb its expansionism by showing how dangerous and nightmarish an opponent a nomadic civilization with no planets or habitats to lose could be to a system-bound civilization.
Almost exactly fifty years after the first robotic warships had engaged Idda's defenders, the system was back in Federation control with the exception of Harvantha and its two-moon system. In the final phase of the space war, the Grand Liners and Federation capital ships engaged each other directly with weapons powerful enough to crack open small moons. Heavy railguns, high-energy laser and particle beam cannons, antimatter howitzers
and countless other weapons turned the space around Harvantha into a cauldron of radiation, shrapnel and death that permanently disrupted the planet's ozone layer and weather patterns.
In the end, the Outsiders hastily retreated through the L1 point between Harvantha and its largest moon - a gravitationally flat escape route they had secured long before arrival of the Liberation Fleet. One of the nine Grand Liners, Dancing Devil
, had been crippled the day before and was approaching the L1 point at a greatly reduced acceleration. Before it could escape, it was utterly destroyed by the concentrated fire of four Firestrom-class missile cruisers
and over six hundred combat drones. This was the only major loss the Outsiders suffered during the entire Fifty Years' War.
Ground battles and the discovery of the Monument
While the Federation's populace had expected the war to end with the Outsiders' retreat, in truth it took three more years before the last battle was fought. The Outsiders had left behind millions of armed gwailos, near-mindless, genderless clones they used as crew aboard their ships. The gwailo-soldiers had occupied and fortified most cities on Harvantha as well as all of the remaining space habitats. Often, they used the remaining civilian population - reduced to approximately thirty million, many of them half-feral savages - as human shields against the Federation's ground armies. They fought to the death for the Captains who had abandoned them, never questioning their final orders. Some gwailo armies were equipped with primitive fission weapons and used them as a last resort in the face of defeat, killing both themselves and their besiegers. The ground battles fought in the ruins of Harvantha's once-bustling cities were brutal and protracted, a perfectly pointless conclusion for the war.
Finally, when the last gwailo armies had fallen, the Federation found one last surprise on Harvantha: the Outsiders' great work of art, briefly mentioned by Steward Tinus Hanin forty-six years earlier - the Monument of Idiotism
. The Monument, a gigantic, artificially intelligent structure designed to keep hundreds of thousands of Federation citizens permanently alive and in horrible pain, was the Outsiders' final statement for the Federation, a warning to leave the Clans alone and undisturbed. Most First Class citizens of the Idda system were found attached to the Monument, including Tinus Hanin and Fleet Master Jasmando.
If the Outsiders had hoped to break the Harmonic Federation with their invasion and the Monument, they failed utterly and miserably. Following the war, the Federation entered a period of political turmoil and uncertainty which ended with a coup led by General Larris, a veteran of the war who had later turned rogue and joined a radical vigilante organization called The Order. Under Larris' leadership, the Federation has taken a darker turn, becoming a militaristic, ultra-nationalist and human supremacist dictatorship that views the Outsiders - as well as anyone else who who might oppose it - as mortal enemies to be eradicated instead of being simply contained and pacified. For the past several decades, the Federation has been arming itself for a war of conquest, stripping entire star systems of resources to build and arm a fleet larger than anything seen before in the human space. It seems, at least to the average citizen of the Federation, that in their attempt to cull the Federation, the Outsiders only managed to engineer their own future demise.
* * *
Phew. That was quite the description to write...
The Fifty Years' War has been mentioned in so many of my other works that I decided to finally make a full account of it. There's nothing truly new in the description, other than some additional details on the war and its progression.
Planet Harvantha, seen here surrounded by Outsider Grand Liners, was my first attempt to create a habitable planet with Photoshop. Not that pretty, but it's a start. The space battle looks kind of stupid and unrealistic, since I've previously established that space warships tend to fight at extreme ranges of hundreds of thousands of kilometers or more. And I really can't do explosions, it seems. Something to practice in the future...