The Fourth Age (named after the fourth and most modern generation of Faster-Than-Light Drives) is an age of relative peace for the major human powers. But it wasn’t always so. The Second Age saw the advent of the Pan-Eurasian War, a conflict fought not on Earth, but through the Solar System and the first of what would become the Core Worlds.
It was a turbulent time for humankind. The stars were within reach but the American and British powers had claimed the nearest, most resource rich destinations. The European Union and Asian Coalition lagged behind. The Union more technologically advanced, the Coalition with a glut of manpower. During the First and Second Ages, small skirmishes between opposing colonists weren’t rare, but the deployment of warships made this conflict something new and more dangerous.
The UN gathered and debated for days as Union and Coalition warships postured and often innocent miners and travellers were killed in acts of retribution. With no clear solution, the American and British militaries declared themselves and Earth neutral. Any conflict on Earth, they made clear, would not be tolerated. And they had the most advanced technology to enforce this ruling. The UN action ended there, however, and nobody did anything to stop the mobilisation of opposing Union and Coalition forces through Sol and beyond.
The conflict centred around Sol, the Alpha Centauri and Kepler Systems. The most habitable and resource rich sites of these locations had been claimed by neutral powers, leaving the Union and Coalition fighting over the remainder. Both were resource hungry, but the Coalition particularly desired space to expand it’s overcrowded populations eager to escape the crowded Earth. The asteroid Ceres, which had served as a refuelling station during the First Age, saw boardings and counter-boardings. Although nominally held by the Coalition, Ceres was under Union blockade for a year. Many people died of starvation and preventable diseases in the process.
Such tragedies did little to prick the consciences of the neutral powers. An arms embargo had been place from the beginning of the conflict, the British and American militaries protective over their technological edge. The temptation for some people was too great, however, leading to the prosecution and dissolution of Bolo-Ataris Systems. BAS had sold prototype strike fighters to each side and was punished by it’s American masters with extreme prejudice.
Aside from the black marketeering of weapons and other technology, the War featured significant use of mercenary brigades. The armoured infantry of SolSec made their name fighting for the Union on Kepler IV, whilst the canny Widebrims supported the protection of Coalition outposts in the ‘Centauri System, often using the hostile desert environment to confuse and trick the opposing Union forces.
Other groups worked for both sides during different phases of the conflict. The elite forces of the Tailored Saints were contracted against the Coalition during the early stages then deployed for them near the end. Rumours persist that the shadowy Agency deployed ‘assets’ (i.e. it’s superpowered individuals) throughout the conflict, at great expense to the Union and Coalition. This is denied by all involved, but ex-soldiers bought a drink in some out of the way bar will tell tales of individuals flying, shooting energy from their fingers and other fanciful feats.
Both sides started the War with outdated technology. The Union’s flagship, a the First Age generation EUS Dupleix, was easily neutralised by a mercenary fighter squadron in the early stages of the conflict. Necessity was the mother of invention, though. A year later, the Union had developed a more resilient replacement flagship with advanced anti-fighter capabilities.
The Ceres Blockade lasted over a year. Coalition ships ran the blockade but were unable to mass enough firepower to break the Union formations. Elsewhere, the Coalition ceded a fledgling colony on Kepler IV to Union troops, but made them pay for it by preying on stretched supply lines for the remainder of the conflict. Recent historians agree that Kepler IV was more of a Pyrrhic victory for the Union.
Earth was a tense and odd place to be throughout the conflict, a tenuous peace kept on the ground and in orbit. Both sides operated terrestrial and near-space shipyards, meaning the highest concentration of warships around Earth since the invention of FTL. Attempts at an armistice frequently failed, neither side willing to give an inch of territory nor gaining a decisive edge in the conflict. Union ships were larger and more suited to naval formation fighting and supporting their ground troops from orbit, whilst the Coalition had more men on the ground and favoured smaller ships working independently. These differing approaches led to decisive Union victory in the deep space Battle of Centauri Reach and conversely the Coalition victory and eventual defence of Alpha Centauri V.
The War ended not due to some great victory of peace, but for two reasons. Firstly, significant loss of life and resources left both peoples with limited hunger for war, with protests on the streets of major cities and colonies. Secondly (and perhaps more importantly) the advent of the third generation of Faster-Than-Light drives expanded the horizons of humankind, allowing colonists and supply ships to reach planets further from Sol more efficiently and quickly. This ‘new’ zone of habitable and usable space meant one of the prime reasons to going to war at the first place was null and void. The Toronto Peace Treaty was organised through the UN and brought an end to the War formally. The Toronto Treaty included UN administered loans to both sides, which were then used to invest in new colony ships and – controversially – more modern warships to escort them. The Third Age saw the battered and bruised Coalition and Union prosper, whilst still lagging behind the British and Americans in claiming new territories.
Battles of the Pan-Eurasian War:
- Centauri Reach – Union Victory
- Kepler IV – Pyrric Union Victory
- Siege of Ceres – Stalemate
- Alpha Centauri V – Coalition Victory