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THE FIRST recognized act of the Jupiter War was the destruction of the Johnny Greene by Confederation fighters, but no modern war really starts with bullets. As befits any media event, the Jupiter War started with words—words that had been building in intensity for more than two decades. The consistent failure of the Earth’s nations to form a working planetary government virtually forced every nation to choose sides. In 2041, for the first time in six hundred years, Switzerland joined the United Nations, now a military alliance. What had once been merely a debating society during the twentieth century had turned by the rapprochement of the super powers into a body whose main purpose was to enable the four major powers, the States, Europe, Russia, and Japan, to continue their dominance of the rest of the world. After the failure of the economic aggressions of a failing Japan, the international body evolved into an active military and economic alliance. An alliance whose purpose, once Japan became a desolate backwater, was to ensure that the less powerful nations of the Southern Hemisphere and Middle East continued to supply them with raw materials.

As their abundant resources propelled the nations of the Southern hemisphere to importance, old grudges against the “exploiting” powers radicalized the nations of the Southern Hemisphere. Controlling an ever greater part of the world’s dwindling resources, the nations of South America, Africa, and Arabia used the massive wealth they were accumulating to modernize their countries, and their armies. Together they formed the Confederation of States, whose expressed purpose was little less than the domination of their former “oppressors.” As these nations grew in both economic and military strength, they began looking for ways to flex their newfound muscles. The older countries, fading in both importance and economic strength, sought to reassure themselves by asserting their own power whenever the opportunity to do so safely arose. Soon minor skirmishes, mostly at sea, constantly threatened to erupt into a greater conflict.

A worldwide war in the twenty-first century was not a viable alternative. Beyond the suicidal destructive strength of fusion bombs was the even greater power for destruction of the myriad of custom diseases held in every nation’s arsenals. There were simply too many ways to die, and with the Confederation’s newfound prosperity, too much for either side to lose. Grudgingly, peace continued. During the fourth decade much of this competitiveness was directed into the space programs of the two alliances. As the space between the Earth and Moon became cluttered with military hardware, the leaders of both sides discovered that any war directly above the Earth would inevitably prove as destructive to the planet as any other. When each side could shift thousands of men anywhere· on the planet in a matter of hours, no “brushfire war” would remain limited. The contradiction of near-complete peace and a near-constant state of high military preparedness continued for the rest of the first half of the century. The pattern was both familiar and frightening. The world was the home of just too much fear, too much distrust, and an overwhelming amount of lethal weaponry. Forced by circumstances, the nations comprising each alliance had virtually ceased to have meaning. By 2032 the world consisted of two mega-nations and a number of backward neutrals who were completely unable to affect the situation.

In space the outposts of each side continued the animosity. The nations of the United Nations had staked their claims to the Moon and Mars long before the Confederation became a factor. With the energy of a new convert, the Confederation threw its resources behind the exploitation of the asteroids. Awakening to this new challenge, the United Nations turned its still considerable resources to the settlement of the resource-rich moons of Jupiter. Permanent settlements were established by both sides in 2038.

Part of the New Year’s Celebration in 2054 was a Peace Festival in almost every capital of the United Nations. Most of these festivals were marked by the most massive displays of military strength seen that century. The Russian leadership of Stalin would have felt quite at home viewing the French display, in which it took over seven hours for all of the units to file past the reviewing stand. ‘The military displays were more appropriate than the announced theme for these celebrations. In reality, freed of the constraints placed on their forces near Earth, both sides had long maintained a low-level conflict. In many ways the moons of Jupiter were ideal for confrontation. Rich enough to be worth fighting over and highly photogenic, this area was also distant enough to give both combatants’ populations a false sense of security.

There is no reliable record of the first incident. By 2051 each side was losing an average of two ships per month. Virtually all of the fighting occurred in space. They were fighting over the resources of the Jovian moons, and it made no sense to destroy the only means of exploiting them. Then again war is hardly a matter of sense. It took only the one incident to escalate the conflict irreversibly.

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