April 3, 2076
Geosynchronous Earth Orbit, somewhere over California
Adam’s life was anything but exciting. Having dreamed of joining the Space Force (now the newly independent Space Corps), he thought he would be living the high life by now. Literally. He had gone to the right schools, majored in the right degree (orbital topography) and been at the top of his Space ROTC class. Yet somehow he was assigned to lead a repair team…a repair team of all things.
Well, he thought, it was a little better than that – he was technically the flight commander for sixteen repair teams responsible for the maintenance of the aging Astro-Particle Beam System…or APBS for short. It wasn’t so much that he hated the work, no that was interesting enough. The APBS were basically antiques after all, the first one launched in 2022, and the newest was about 25 years old. And Adam had a soft spot in his heart for the classics….it was why his troopers always teased him about his Justin Timberlake playlist.
No it wasn’t the work, it was the tedium, and the pointlessness of it all. These systems had been launched at the height of tensions between the Sino-American conflict, and had been instrumental in removing nuclear weapons from the table during the Chinese invasion of Taiwan, the reunification of North and South Korea, and the establishment of the new Japanese empire in the Pacific. Yea – they were useful then…but gawd it had been decades since anyone even thought about using nuclear weapons, especially with all of the defense money going towards competition between the great powers on Luna and Mars. He could have been out there – his ex from SROTC was on Luna managing one of the defense stations there. Now that would have been interesting.
Just as he turned his attention back to checking the work his epsilon team had done on APBS-6 he noticed a meteor storm on the horizon. “Was that over Europe?” he thought absently. As he swiveled back to his work, his mind nagged at him to look back, something just wasn’t right about the meteors he just saw. Before he could turn he heard “ALL HANDS BRACE, BRACE, BRACE….THIS IS NOT A DRILL” over his headset.
Grabbing for the nearest pylon Adam began cycling through his radio channels trying to raise his commander. As he did. APBS-6 began to pivot until Adam could see the meteor storm he noticed earlier…except the meteors weren’t plunging towards earth….they were moving up.
Cold horror crept into his bones as Adam started to think maybe he shouldn’t have wished for his life to get more interesting. As the system vibrated beneath his boots, Adam laughed uncontrollably. He had been one of the people who had sworn blind that the system was not only not needed, but also that the physics of the system meant they would be silent and motionless. Now – as the system fired for the first time Adam couldn’t think of anything except how wrong he had been. Well that and how he hoped everything he thought he knew about nuclear explosions in space was accurate…otherwise he was about to be adrift in his unshielded repair tug.
the Real Deal
“Peaceful use of space”.
That has always been a pipe dream, talked about by politicians, and a fiction of academics. The first use of space has always been to achieve military dominance…or at least parity with, ones enemies. Absent a significant shift in geopolitics between now and the end of the 21st century, the story described above is extremely likely.
Already the US, China and Russia are exploring launching space-based defensive systems to be able to thwart their opponent’s new (or just about the emerge from development) hyper-sonic missiles. This may be good in the short run, as these systems prevent any single power from gaining too much power over another, but if history is a guide, they also mean it is only a matter of time before their limits are tested by a country desperate enough to risk everything for what seems like their survival.
One day we will realize we are all stuck on this planet together, and there isn’t another one viable right now, so we should probably avoid cracking the mantle open with projectiles in the hope of getting ahead….
Next time we will explore how difficult even really simple things are in space. Until then feel free to check out some of my old posts here and here, or check out my nutrition blog over at Fully Human.
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