Part of 2100 CE.
Continues from Part 1.
By placing Laika station in polar orbit, DESS provoked a conflict with national powers meant to define the Directorate’s place on the world’s stage. Although officially under the auspices of the international confederation mandated by the Treaty of Reykjavik, as the only major international agency in outer space, DESS effectively operated independent of authorities on earth. With three orbiting bases from which to monitor traffic coming and leaving the Earth, it was feared that DESS would create a toll”pay-to-play” system for travel into orbit, particularly after DESS was tasked with providing customs services for the space colonies and the moon. For the superpowers on Earth in particular, this represented a veritable infringement of sovereignty, and there were many who questioned at what height national airspace terminated and therefore whether or not Laika violated that airspace, with the most hawkish among them suggesting the use of nuclear warheads to destroy the asteroid. Before any such drastic action could be taken, DESS once more demonstrated its ability to manage public opinion in its favor. The Directorate took great pains to demonstrate to representatives from the major powers the civilian nature of operations taking place on each of the stations, all the while citing figures which correlated a decrease in space traffic collisions and near-hits with the installation of the space traffic control stations and expanded communications arrays on the three stations. Combined with a social media campaign meant to display the wonders of the earth and space captured via cameras and instruments housed aboard Laika, Dess, and Nyphthys, the complaints were lost with time, and DESS established itself a global power.
There were still those who looked on DESS with some degree of suspicion. For most persons living beyond the earth, DESS became the only point of contact between themselves and the authorities on Earth, and as such DESS became a surrogate for the international community and the many grievances held against it. While in the Terresphere DESS operated alongside various other agencies primarily in the role of space traffic control with some investigative functions, beyond the Earth’s sphere the Directorate’s authority was total, to include the administration of colonies and their residents. DESS Security Police (DSP) officers were regular sights on street corners, in patrol cruisers, and assisting DESS Customs officers at ports-of-entry. Both agencies had reputations for discriminating along economic lines, routinely delaying less economically-advantaged individuals during interactions with officers over those registered among the upper elite of migrants. It was regularly said that the police worked for the rich and their laws, not for the people. More sinister was the DESS Special Security Police (DSSP), a branch of the DSP trained in intelligence and special operations not typically tasked to Security Police officers. These plainclothes officers were best known for rapid and unexpected abductions of suspects, sometimes in broad daylight, but more often in frighteningly efficient nighttime raids. It was impossible to know when a raid would come and whom they would target, leaving the pockets of the economically disadvantaged in constant fear of the Security Police. Though officers from the DSP Office of Public Affairs were never far behind with explanations and rationalizations for the use of force, sentiment against the Police grew in proportion to the number of raids conducted by the DSSP. Demonstrations on Clearwater against DESS and the DSP were among the first acts of civil disobedience in humanity’s migration to space, but they were far from the last.
When it became known that elements of the DSSP’s Triton Wing were operating out of Laika station, a demand filtered up from the global superpowers that DESS identify every DSSP outpost located in terrestrial space. This had all come at the prompting of the Indian government, which alleged that DSSP commandos had dropped from orbit into the airspace over Sri Lanka before proceeding in a fast descent to their target along the Tamil coast. Part of the raid had been captured by a security camera and showed a heliplane with DESS Security Police markings passing overhead before – now at some distance – boarding the raid party with their targeted objective and roaring off into the night’s sky, leaving behind a state of utter chaos, with both police and residents stumped. Here there was no Public Affairs officer, like there was on Mars – here it had been a raid carried out under total secrecy, with stealth or sensor-evading technology that made the entire event a confused garble of unreadable data on radar displays across the country. Even local security camera footage was useless as the raid had used an unidentified form of jamming technology to render all electronic devices within a 5-kilometer radius of the raid inoperable until 30 minutes after the team’s departure. Had it not been for security camera footage taken from atop a high-rise some 5.1 kilometers away and radar signatures picked up by a passing Russian airliner, the raiders’ identity would have remained a mystery.
Consisting entirely of undercover officers, DSSP could provide no comment on the raid, but DSP Public Affairs was quick to announce that they had no knowledge of any such operation. When further security camera footage came to light showing the aircraft and the raid party more clearly than before, DSP recanted their story, acknowledging the raid as an operation conducted by their officers, but justified it as having been conducted in pursuit of a fleeing suspect. Though born at Clearwater to migrant parents, the suspect and his parents had returned to their home in Tamil Nadu when the raid’s target had still only been seven years old. The reason for the raid was acknowledged to have been related to crimes related to threats which the suspect was suspected of making against DESS locations, though the spokesperson from Public Affairs would not comment on whether the alleged crimes had taken place within DESS jurisdiction, citing the case as still under investigation. No response would ultimately be forthcoming as the suspect, Driti Konar, would die in Security Police custody at a brig aboard Laika station. In the fallout which followed, a detachment of the DSSP Triton Wing operating out of Laika station were identified as the unit responsible for the raid. Although their identities were kept a secret, the identity of their unit and of their base, along with the base of every other DSSP, DSP, and DESS Customs unit operating within the Terresphere were made public knowledge. No fewer than eight Triton detachments were operating around the earth, including one on each of the asteroids and a few among the colonies. It was also revealed that the injuries resulting in the death of Driti Konar were sustained as a result of an accident in which a security working dog would not release the suspect after unexpectedly grabbing him by the throat. Can it come as little wonder that Laika then became the focal point of so much separatist literature at the turn of the century, being referred to disparaging along the Tamil coast as the mongrel in the sky. For Junius Zanscar, Laika was like “a beacon of corruption and pain, powered by the generator we call The Earth.”
It was those words precisely which were broadcast across all space traffic channels and frequencies in Earth orbit on the morning of 13 March 2119. Its wide dispersion was made possible through the emergency broadcast system, which each space traffic control station had the ability to activate. The individuals who took control of Laika station that day were aware of this feature, though it had never been tested or used before, and so when it began its broadcast, it brought the entirety of the Terresphere to a grinding halt. Images showed Laika’s massive maneuvering engines suddenly come to life as blue-white incandescent light, silently lurching from its regular orbit towards the blue marble filling their sky. It was a perplexing sight for those who saw it, the twinkling running lights on the asteroid growing dimmer and smaller until disappearing amid the reflected light of the earth, and then Laika herself, smaller and smaller – and then igniting, trailing a fiery tail behind it, tumbling inexorably through the atmosphere. Her insides begin to roast from the atmospheric friction and expand, but rather than burst high in the atmosphere, the dense asteroid once again proved its strength, holding out until just above an altitude of 4,000 feet before bursting. The shrapnel created by the explosive forces within the asteroid carved out a city-sized crater along the southern California coast, annihilating the immediate area and a massive swathe of land to its south, while sending hundreds of tons of vaporized rock, plastics, and ocean water hurtling high into the upper atmosphere. The asteroid’s intended target, the General Headquarters of the Peacekeeping Forces at Vandenberg, was among the greatest symbol of Earth authority over those beyond its planetary bounds. The use of military force to quell dissident voices beyond the earth had become increasingly routine, and so with one fell swoop, two symbols of Earth hegemony were wiped away.
In the aftermath of Laika’s fall to Earth, Jovian and Cronian separatists in the farthest reaches of outer space came to regard Laika as a symbol of liberty – the first true one-to-one blow between the periphery and its much more powerful center. On Earth the asteroid – as it was simply referred to – ignited a global crisis on a scale unmatched since the Second World War. It was the end of the world, as crops would fail without sunlight, livestock would die under toxic rain, and humanity on Earth would perish. Her name was thus erased from the minds of people affected by the impact, whose lives now so deeply depend on the very achievements the asteroid’s namesake had made on their behalf more than a century before.
But most of all, Laika became a symbol of revenge – a name to which the act of retribution is assigned – her named scrawled on firearms, artillery pieces, and drones across the stretch of human presence in space. It was not without a little humor that the surface-to-orbit missile defense system which wreaked such terrible devastation upon the Space Forces over Titan was nicknamed by Jovian separatists Laika II. And so without reservation it is appropriate to call the war that followed these events as “Laika’s revenge,” a series of catastrophic events which would entangle, destroy, and erase the lives of so many.