The dawn of the 22nd century saw the start of the permanent, self-sustaining Martian colonies. Mars at this point was still quite inhospitable, but great biodomes were erected and provided a base enough for humans to survive in.
On Earth, the slow relegation of those who rejected the alpha strain continued, and they died off in the millions as many proved unable to support themselves without the aid of technology. Many believed that their god would aid them in their dying hours, and cast down the men who would make mountains and conquer the heavens, but this reckoning never came. Soon, knowledge became legend, as literacy collapsed, but always the evils of technology would be known. It was not right for man to inquire of certain things.
Not all chose to accept such fates. Various terrorist organizations, polarized against technological progress, began to form. Dubbed luddite groups, or 'luds' for short, there are several hundred organizations at first, though they quickly consolidate into a handful of powerful militia groups, whose main goal is to bring humanity down to its proper place - on Earth, still human, and mindful of its position.
Various plasma drives and other forms of propulsion finally achieved a measure of perfection, to the point where a liftoff from Earth was actually feasible. The tops of nearly every arcology became a kind of launch pad, a gateway to the Solar System. The 'roots' - another term for self-exiled humans - called them dragons.
A strange phenomenon, speculated on for some decades, began to make a drastic appearance during this period. As age increased, so did the suicide rate, especially among males. Dubbed the suicide problem, many began regarding this as the last barrier to true immortality.
The first probes to Alpha Centauri and Barnard's Star were launched, reminiscent of Project Longshot and Project Deadalus respectively. Further probes, and initial supply and support missions to those and other stars followed shortly after, even though the initial probes had not yet reached their destination.
A massive brain-drain to the Martian colonies occurred during this period. Less chained by the bureaucracy of Earth, the restrictions on technological growth, as well as genetic and cybernetic enhancements, were largely removed. This activity drew a great deal of hostile attention, not just from various ethicists, but a lot of 'intellectual property rights' were being slanted, driving further criticism. Eventually, they were ignored.
Mars was undeniably rising to power, however, and it soon became the leader of humanity's technological progress. Terraforming had already given it, and Luna, a barely breathable atmosphere, and the Red Planet's color was slowly changing.
The first luddoterrorist 'victory' involves the destruction of the Martian colony of Ulysses Mons. A group calling themselves the Returners managed to redirect an asteroid accurately enough to annihilate the colony. There were no survivors.
Martian flagrance drove Earth to action. The first sanctions were imposed in the year 2157, restricting various supply imports. This did little to curb the Martian 'threat', however, and every sanction brought a workaround.
In 2160, the Martians unveiled the Gamma strain, and the liberty with which the human design was treated appalled many on Earth. The Earth governments unilaterally agreed to cut off all supply to Mars, and to begin immediate bombardment.
The same year, the Martian colonies united, declaring themselves independent of their corporate and government sponsors. 'Enforcement forces' from Earth found their passage intercepted, and the Terran fleet was massacred. In response, the Martian fleet moved on to overtake the Lunar colonies, and began making ever increasing demands, under threat of bombardment. The massacre would later be called the Martian Conflict.
By the year 2163, Earth was forced to capitulate, and the newly established government was called the Solar Consortium. It was modeled, not as the seat of the Solar government, but for a future galactic expansion of humanity. Surprisingly efficient, the Consortium has little in the way of social programs. Instead, it carefully watches financial institutions, and actively promotes transportation, communication infrastructure, research, and, of course, maintaining a not-insignificant 'police force'.
The end of the century saw the productive capacity of humanity increase a thousandfold. Construction of the Clarke Rings around Earth and Mars began, and would take mere decades to complete. Hadronium was discovered, allowing for the creation of exomatter, though for the time being these could only be forged in excessively minute amounts.
The MEHRS was completed. Its maiden run would not see significant improvements over the Yevatron's discoveries, as it was being treated with far more caution. The Yevatron itself was rebuilt close to the end of the century.
As the first probes and coil arrays arrived and were set up in their target star systems, the Missions were launched, the Centaurus Mission being the first among them. These were manned expeditions to the nearest star systems, and the beginning of the short-lived period of initial human colonization of the stars.
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