Belt Development and Independence

Selected Timeline
  • Shikomi Industries and D'Courtney-King Cartel introduce tax disincentives to discourage use of baseline-human genomes.
  • Construction of Tau Ceti colonyship begins.
  • Destruction of Laodamia, possibly by antimatter weapon.
  • Series IV ramrobot production begins in belt.
  • Belt Zaibatsus begin independence drive.
  • Ceres Combine becomes independent state.
  • First Earth-Belt Cold War.

In the early years of the 22nd century, the economic development of Cis-Lunar space drove the growth of the Belt, which supplied Cis-Luna with many of its raw materials. The population of the Belt increased steadily throughout the first half of the century. The region became a balkanised collection of habitats controlled by the transnationals and smaller corporations, some based in the Belt itself, and a small number of stations established by radical groups. As the permanent population of the asteroid belt increased, the mines were joined by many other industrial operations. The super-abundance of raw materials easily accessible in free-fall made the Belt ideal for the construction of megastructures such as the gigantic colony vessels. The fourth-wave ramrobots and the Tau Ceti and later colonyships were assembled among the asteroids.

By 2150 the majority of Belters had been born in the Belt habitats. The Belt was rapidly becoming a significant part of the Solar economy, and its inhabitants had started to view themselves as a group distinct from the people of Cis-Luna and Earth. The nascent Belt societies were shaped by three factors. Firstly, the population of the Belt remained small compared to that of Mars or Luna, and totally insignificant next to the masses of Earth. Secondly, this small population had access to the vast raw-material resources of the asteroids. Thirdly, the Belt clusters were separated from the inner planets and each other by vast distances. As the Belter population passed a critical level, these factors combined to produce the Belt independence movements, the radicalism of the Belter factions and finally the Earth-Belt rivalry that has shaped the modern era.

The second half of the 22nd century was a time in which the megacorporate order that had preserved peace in the System for a century was beginning to crumble. The growth of the corporations, the headlong advance of technology and the vast increase in exploitable resources was changing the nature of the metanationals and their interactions. The corporations had grown to the extent that each could provide all the material and informational needs of its employees. The growth of incentives and rewards for service to the corporation had increased to the extent that the megacorporations were slowly becoming centrally planned states in their own rights. This transformation changed the emphasis in corporate interactions away from competition for markets and towards competition for material resources, and more importantly for talented employees. The 2160s saw this competition step up a level, as the major corporations became military as well as economic powers. That decade saw three Belt-based and five Cis-Lunar corporations demonstrate a nuclear capability.

Against this background, the Belt-based corporations emerged as more tightly-integrated entities even than those of Earth. For the isolation of each habitat cluster led inevitably to the identification of corporation, polity and society. The Belt corporations had a serious disadvantage in the struggle with the Cis-Lunar corporations: the small size of the Belt populations. In the cut-throat struggle for the future of the System, technological sophistication was everything - no corporation could afford to slow its research efforts for fear of being eclipsed by its rivals. If the Belt corporations had fewer employees, then their only option was to have better employees. The Belters embraced extensive geneering of their populations, intelligence amplification and artificial intelligence. By the 2170s, the Belt corporations owned the genomes of over half their employees. During the previous four decades the differences between corporation, society and family had started to blur, but now it disappeared almost entirely. The Belt corporations became the Belt Zaibatsus. Soon each Belter had a fierce loyalty to the Zaibatsu and defections became almost unknown. Despite these radical measures, the Belt megacorporations still remained relatively minor powers next to the great Cis-Lunar postnationals.

In these circumstances it is not surprising that the Belt independence movement became popular, but it is somewhat surprising that it emerged as a pan-Belt organisation. The Belt-based corporations were already effectively independent, but there remained many industrial operations belonging to Cis-Lunar corporations. It is amongst the citizens of these habitats that the independence movement was most visible. The deciding factor was probably the changing policies of the Cis-Lunar corporations. The polities of Cis-Luna had long been colonial powers, but the troubles on Mars forced the postnational regimes to rework their structures and methods of operation to fully reflect this. A side effect of this need to control unruly populations on the `Martian frontier' was the similar change in attitude towards all the trans-lunar colonies, a change most noticeable in the decisions of the UN. Perhaps without the Martian troubles the Cis-Lunar and Belter polities would have viewed themselves as rivals competing within the same system. The gathering crisis on Mars, however, made this impossible. The pattern of pro-Earth rulings in the United Nations and the general feeling amongst the Belters that they were becoming second class citizens drove many towards the independence movements.

In 2181 the largest of the Belt corporations began to use their economic muscle to buy the main belt assets of the other corporations. Five years later, the Ceres Combine, a consortium of Belter corporations, declared itself an independent nation. In contrast to the violence of the Hellas Revolt (and the later Earth-Mars War), the secession of the Belt habitats was bloodless - the UN had few options but to recognised the Cerean state. Ceres became the coordinator of intra-Belt laws and regulations. From the first it was clear that the government in Piazzi had a radically different agenda to the postnationals and governments of Earth. The Combine tacitly supported the Martian resistance and ruthlessly promoted the interests of the Zaibatsus and other Belt factions. There was talk of a Cold War between Earth and the Belt: the cracks in the corporate order had widened into an abyss, and the struggle for the future of the System had truly begun.

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