This portfolio originally appeared in Jump Point 10.08.
Humanity’s expansion into the stars faced countless obstacles over the centuries, from monumental technological hurdles to encounters with hostile and aggressive alien races. Yet, some historians say the most significant obstacle was Humanity’s unwillingness to set aside centuries of ingrained cultural differences and ally with each other. In 2380, Earth’s nations came together and, following lengthy and contentious negotiations, agreed to a previously unfathomable outcome; to unify under one central government that would lead Humanity’s expansion into space. While many celebrated the creation of the United Nations of Earth (UNE), others decided to fight back, leading to a bloody and contentious four years of unrest between 2380 and 2384 known as the Unification Wars.
THE STANLEY MUTINY
The warship Stanley was originally commissioned and put into service by the nation of Amecanio in 2369. Still in excellent condition, the battle cruiser’s ownership and command transferred to the UNE in 2380. More than a third of the crew, including the Captain, resigned prior to the transfer after pledging loyalty to their homeland and refusing to join the nascent UNE Navy. New Naval recruits were assigned to fill vacated positions in an effort to embody the new multilateral and multicultural makeup of the Navy. Yet these changes angered the remaining members of the Amecanio crew and led to clashes that resulted in multiple disciplinary reports being filed for fighting and insubordination.
With rumors swirling that Stanley’s Amecanio crew members would be separated and reassigned to different ships, a contingent of them took matters into their own hands. On October 20, 2380, an armed group of Amecanio crew members mutinied and took control of the ship. Their initial plan was to use Stanley to “liberate their country from the tyranny of the UNE” by attacking a number of Earth’s major cities if their demands for the return of Amecanio sovereignty were not met. In a heroic and highly successful operation, the UNE Navy disabled and recaptured Stanley without a single casualty. Those responsible for the mutiny were put on trial. Most were given lenient sentences in a show of compassion, but the three ringleaders received harsh sentences to send a message to other anti-unification sympathizers. Unfortunately, the actions of Stanley’s crew would only inspire others to follow suit.
On December 9, 2380, two UNE warships, Panjwani and Cassano, vanished during a routine patrol. The Navy quickly dispatched ships to determine their fate only for the search party to be ambushed. The Captains and crews of Panjwani and Cassano had secretly orchestrated a defection, and after repelling the search party, broadcast a message calling on other UNE vessels to “join them in rejecting the hegemonic authority of the UNE.” Over the following week, four more warships would defect and join a loose alliance whose main demand centered on the dissolution of the UNE. However, the group would never fully unify, as each ship continued to operate under its own command and make additional demands specific to its crew’s nation of origin, even sometimes in direct opposition of one another.
Desperate to not lose any more ships to mutiny, the Navy took the drastic step of reassigning the crew of all its remaining vessels to ensure people who were from the same former country or had previously crewed together were separated. This slowed its response to neutralizing the rogue ships but some believe it kept more Navy vessels from defecting. Meanwhile, the six allied yet independently operated anti-unification warships baited the Navy into skirmishes by advancing toward cities on Earth and Mars, or the jump to Croshaw. The Navy would briefly engage the ships but avoid an all-out battle. It claimed to be prioritizing the protection of civilians and cities, but Navy brass also worried that destroying the warship would create martyrs for the anti-unification movement and wanted the warships returned to the UNE fleet undamaged. The Navy’s focus on disabling and recapturing the warships frustrated many and allowed the rebellious ships to escape on several occasions. When one skirmish resulted in major damage to a Navy warship and the loss of five crew members, the Navy adjusted its tactics to go on the offensive and began picking off the anti-unificationist ships rather than waiting for them to threaten territories. Four were disabled and captured and two were destroyed. Panjwani held out the longest and was finally destroyed on March 22, 2381. Yet it wouldn’t be long before the war would re-emerge on a new front.
SIEGE OF SYRTIS
Tensions remained high throughout the middle of 2381, with a growing contingent of anti-unificationists publicly expressing their desire to dissolve the UNE. Intelligence services monitored their chatter and noted that a common belief was that the defecting warships failed in their objectives because they lacked a landing zone to repair and resupply. In June of 2381, an intelligence report noted the frontier settlement of Syrtis on Mars, home to a large contingent of ex-pats from Sumerkadia who opposed the dissolution of their country, had opened their city to anti-unificationists allied to any former nation. Syrtis’ population had dramatically increased and the settlement began expanding and strengthening its fortifications. When illegally obtained military-grade anti-aircraft turrets were installed in early August, the UNE sent in the military to retrieve the weapons only to be met with force. The unexpected level of resistance surprised the military, who decided against escalating the incident and endangering Syrtis’ civilians. Instead, the military pulled its forces back, encircled Syrtis, and waited.
Besides keeping anyone from entering or leaving Syrtis, the UNE military instituted a no-fly zone and blocked transmissions to stymie communications. Early UNE assessments believed the settlement had strategic food and water reserves to last six months, yet nearly a year later the residents of Syrtis remained defiant and refused to surrender. Despite the settlement’s communications being cut off, civilian observers monitored the settlement and the UNE’s actions and relayed daily updates on the stand-off to anti-unificationist circles. The incident became known as the “Siege of Syrtis” and grew into a rallying cry and recruitment tool for the anti-unificationist movement which, by now, had solidified into a single united group representing people from all the former nations of Earth known as the Anti-Unification Alliance (AUA). Some members of the UNE Council believed the stand-off made the government look weak and unable to enforce the laws Syrtis was subject to, so they ramped up pressure on the military to resolve the situation as quickly as possible. When residents inside Syrtis refused to negotiate with the UNE, claiming the government had no authority over the settlement, several psychologically stressful tactics were deployed, including the blasting of loud music, night-to-day aerial bombardment to create a canopy of noise, and light at night to try and exhaust the inhabitants for days on end. None of these ploys convinced the residents of Syrtis to give in and only generated more support for the AUA and ire for the UNE government from the wider civilian population. The UNE Council became convinced that the optics of the stand-off were helping the anti-unificationists more than anything and ordered the military to end it. On January 4, 2383, the military sieged the settlement in the middle of the night and, after a brief yet bloody battle, took control of Syrtis.
THE FIGHT FOR NEW YORK CITY
The bloody end to the situation in Syrtis drew widespread criticism and strengthened support for the Anti-Unification Alliance, which also evolved its tactics and communication methods. Peaceful and persuasive AUA members became the face of the movement. They held rallies, wrote Op-Eds, and made constant media appearances to promote their position that the UNE was an imperialist and unelected power structure with no real authority over everyday people. Meanwhile, UNE analysts noticed a troubling silence coming from the more militant wing of the anti-unificationist movement and worried something was in the works. They were right.
With measures taken by the UNE Navy to purge and disempower anti-unificationists within its ranks, the AUA focused on building a fleet of personal ships and modifying them with weapons systems, which were uncommon and extremely hard to acquire by civilians of the era. The movement also made inroads and garnered strong support within the burgeoning militia community. Following unification, many warships deemed too outdated for the UNE Navy were retained by local governments and deployed to patrol shipping lanes, aid in Humanitarian missions, and handle low-level encounters with a budding criminal element. In early 2384, commanders of the makeshift AUA fleet began secretly meeting and plotting with captains of some of these aging warships. Unlike previous anti-unificationist uprisings, theirs would be organized and focused on a singular objective.
On July 29, 2384, the UNE Navy received word that a militia warship that had vanished the previous week was approaching New York City. While local air controllers were attempting to contact the ship, it fired upon the Navy ships sent to intercept it and then fled. When the Navy mobilized ships in the region to pursue the rogue warship, the rest of the AUA fleet attacked New York City, heading for the same target: the United Nations of Earth Plaza, which housed the main legislative and administrative functions for the new unified government. Their mission was simple; destroy the seat of UNE power then use the ensuing chaos to convince countries and regions to abandon the unified government. Upon realizing the true scope of the attack, the Navy recalled most of its ships to come to the defense of New York City, though small fleets were left to defend the key military installments of Port Renatus on Mars and Angeli in Croshaw in case the attack on New York was a double feint.
For hours, the sky above New York City became ablaze in battle. Residents sought refuge in basements and subway tunnels as debris and damaged ships crashed into the city. The Navy rightfully assumed the intended target was the UNE Plaza and put everything into its defense. When it became clear the anti-unificationists wouldn’t be able to overcome the Navy’s defensive line, they adjusted their tactics to spread maximum fear and chaos by attacking the urban sprawl around the main city. Some of their warships fired randomly upon buildings, while others intentionally crashed into the city instead of surrendering. With the number of AUA ships dwindling, several of the rebellious ships fled instead of surrendering. These ships hid in the outer reaches of the Sol system or slipped into Croshaw. Knowing no UNE port would ever give them safe harbor, the crews of these ships would go on to form several well-known outlaw gangs, and despite UNE efforts to bring them to justice, many became infamous for raiding trading lanes through Sol and Croshaw.
The fight for New York City finally brought the mainstream anti-unificationist movement to an end. The random and mass destruction wrought on New York City and its surrounding area angered UNE residents and turned the general public against the movement for good. While there would be some small skirmishes with anti-unificationists in the following decades, historians officially consider the fight for New York City as the final battle in the Unification Wars. The destruction to New York City was extensive yet many famous and culturally significant locations thankfully survived. Today, many historians credit the massive rebuilding effort, including RSI’s decision to build a massive headquarters complex where the largest warship crashed, as key to the modernization of New York City and leading to upgrades and improvements that would solidify the city’s status as a political and cultural capital with one foot firmly in the past and another in the future. While the Unification Wars saw Humanity face great divisions and terrible internal strife, the result coalesced support behind and solidified the sovereignty of a Human-unified government that would boldly lead the species into the wider universe.