The Origins Of CommNet

The early years of the Commonwealth may have spelled disaster for the newly formed government, if not for the establishment of the Commonwealth Communication Network, otherwise known as CommNet.

Fresh after the Coretia Accords of 2346 and the founding of Commonwealth in 2348, the initial eight Commonwealth factions were still wary of each other and distrustful. The interstellar gulf between colonies required communication to be conducted via the few trade ships that migrated from colony to colony.

Messages were infrequent, sometimes never delivered, or worse; altered by a ship captain for personal gain. The new drop point regulations meant that round-trip conversations could take months and were dependent on the courier's whim. Votes by the Faction Council or the House of Commons took even longer. Even though the eight factions had agreed to a mutual government, every colony was just as isolated as before.

The solitude bred suspicions and resentment in many colonies as unprovable rumors worried their way from the tall tales of the trading ship crews to the dinner tables of the colonists. Local governors and their political opponents sought to leverage the innuendo and fear to their advantage. Coups broke out, toppling several colonial governments.

By the late 2350's, at least two factions were on the brink of disintegrating because of in-fighting between their colonies. Among the other factions, accusations of spying and sabotage were growing more forceful, though no official reprimands were ever sanctioned due to the discord in the Faction Council. The fledgling Commonwealth seemed on the brink of either dissolution or civil war.

The Dominicus Directive

Well aware of the rising tensions, a proposal was made in 2360 by a non-faction member of the House of Commons, a small colony called Pacem Sidereal. Knowing that a shared goal might be the only way to prevent war, the Pacem Sidereal commonswoman proposed the establishment of a research center that would benefit all members of the Commonwealth.

The proposal received mixed reviews from the Faction Council. Some faction heads were openly eager to participate while others were adamant that they would not share any technological advantages with the other factions.

After the proposal languished in discussions for several weeks, the head of the Avant Garde faction offered to host the research center on a Gardean colony world. The announcement quickly sparked a series of arguments, with each faction suddenly making the case that the project should be based in one of their colonies.

Once again, discussion ground to a halt until the Coretia, the Commonwealth's capital colony in the Pollentia system, was floated as possible compromise. Coretia was a neutral colony, supported financially by all members of the Commonwealth. Could it not also serve as a research hub?

The Urophan councilman immediately came out against the idea. Coretia was the seat of government and was likely to grow as the Commonwealth expanded to include more members. The strict population cap of 500 people per colony to prevent further limbic riots like those that destroyed Earth was non-negotiable and effectively ruled out a dual-purpose capital.

The final compromise came by making the entire Pollentia system neutral territory. All four planets were annexed for use by the Commonwealth as a whole: Acropolis, Architrave (home of Coretia), Ruditatis, and Silenda.

Though all planets in the Pollentia system were devoid of life, Ruditatis held the most immediate promise for another colony, with long-term potential for terraforming. The atmosphere wasn’t breathable, but it was clear and thick enough to absorb a significant amount of solar radiation. Temperatures were cool, but most ice existed only at the poles. At 0.85g, the gravity was strong enough to prevent serious health risks to the colonists.

Thus, in late 2360, the scientific colony of Dominicus was founded on Ruditatis and the annexation of Pollentia became known as the Dominicus Directive.

Wave Tunnel Communication

Work on Dominicus began almost immediately. The mutual distrust of the factions caused each to send resources and scientific personnel for fear of suffering a technical disadvantage from participating factions.

While the factions intended for their personnel to act as agents and extensions of their own governments, the scientists had other ideas. Led and inspired by Yves Durand, an Avant Garde scientist, the new residents of Domincus decided to ignore the political arena and focus on pure research.

The first scientific breakthrough happened quickly, in 2363, while much of the colony was still under construction. It was Durand himself who was responsible.

Durand realized that one of the most immediate problems facing the Commonwealth was the speed of communication. It was impossible to share a common culture across such great distances and intervening periods of time. Superluminal travel was possible with the Alcubierre wave drive, but the costs of the journey meant that few people traveled regularly. Faster-than-light communication, however, had not yet been achieved.

Experimenting with the principles that made the wave drive possible, Durand discovered that he was able to create a microscopic, fixed-point continual Alcubierre wave, a phenomenon he called a wave tunnel. By manipulating the wave frequency and power, data could be transmitted through to the wave's endpoint.

However, just as in the case of the wave drive, the terminus of a wave tunnel could cause extensive damage to anything in its path, though on a much smaller scale given that the wave tunnel was microscopic and the Alcubierre wave from a wave drive needed to be large enough to propel a ship through space. The dispersal area for a wave tunnel measured in thousands of cubic kilometers versus several AU for the wave drive.

Durand and his colleagues constructed a special sensor array that could measure the output of a wave tunnel from a safe distance. The array could, in turn, create another wave tunnel directed toward another receiver array, or retransmit the information to local space via more conventional communication methods.

The smaller splash zone for the wave tunnel meant that the endpoints didn't need to follow the same strictures as the drop zones and could safely be placed much closer to colonies. Suddenly, near real-time communication across large sectors of space became a possibility.

Telegraph Trail And The Birth Of CommNet

When Yves Durand published his findings on wave tunnel communication in 2364, the Commonwealth government sought to capitalize on it immediately. The faction heads recognized the opportunity to consolidate their internal power among their own colonies as well as the external economic and strategic benefits.

The first receiver arrays were placed in orbit above Coretia and Dominicus and quickly proved their utility by reducing a 33 minute communication delay to several seconds.

Despite the general eagerness to implement wave tunnel communication across the Commonwealth, the União Real councilwoman temporarily derailed the project by declaring that she didn't want Commonwealth-controlled receivers near her colonies. The locations were protected information, she argued, and divulging them could place her colonies at risk of military action. Moreover, the arrays themselves could be hacked or used for espionage.

It was finally settled that factions would control their own networks of arrays using their own security protocols. The faction arrays could then communicate with the public Commonwealth arrays through a proxy array not tied to a colony location.

In 2365, additional arrays were constructed and ships were dispatched to place them just outside all known drop points. At the time, the new network was jokingly referred to as the Telegraph Trail, though it eventually came to be called by its formal name, the Commonwealth Communication Network, or CommNet.

Second Order Effects

The initial implementation of CommNet triggered a series of changes across the Commonwealth. Faction governments strengthened their internal ties and became more efficient and responsive to the needs of their individual colonies. Travel and trade between the factions also became more frequent. A central banking system was established and entertainment and news options began to come online. Slowly, a shared culture began forming.

CommNet access was restricted to members of the Commonwealth only, so its advent served as the impetus for many holdout factions and colonies to formally apply for membership. Both the Faction Council and the House of Commons were reluctant to dilute their political power with new members but still wanted the economic gain from trade, so in 2371 they instituted the Commonwealth Membership Protocol as a political gateway mechanism to control the amount of power new entrants could wield.

The Commonwealth Membership Protocol didn't go over well with all new applicants, however, and the destruction of a dozen CommNet arrays in 2372 proved the relative fragility of the new network.

In response, the Commonwealth Government commissioned a navy to protect and service CommNet. The navy was to be headquartered at Munitio, a new military colony on the planet Acropolis in the Pollentia system.

Factions and unaffiliated colonies also began to tighten their security, adding defensive and stealth capabilities to each array. It soon became commonplace for ships to communicate only with the Commonwealth arrays when outside of faction space as access to any non-faction arrays was completely restricted to outsiders.

The creation of a military and the cost of servicing the arrays prompted the passage of the First Commonwealth Tax Act in 2374 to pay for the expansion. Many faction governments followed suit, reintroducing taxation to the majority of mankind for the first time since the Burning.

While there were some drawbacks to the new order like taxation, most Commonwealth citizens saw the advent of CommNet as the critical first step to truly recovering from the exodus from Earth. Though scattered among the stars, the remnants of man could still yet adapt and survive.

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