Introduction
A Brief History of the New Era

In the 21st Century, Earth was stricken by a great calamity. It is the only logical conclusion for what followed. In truth, we do not know for certain. We can only guess at what happened, for our history has been stolen from us.
It was a gargantuan feat, sealing away at least twenty years of world events, destroying any and all records of what happened during that time. Somehow, they succeeded. Perhaps they did not want the people to know the measures taken to secure the new world order. Maybe they were trying to prevent the calamity from being repeated. No one knows and now everyone who lived during those days is long since dead, leaving us with nothing but what we have been told.
What we have been told is that the world was reborn from the ashes of global ruin, that a united humanity rose up to start a new page in the annals of history. So great was this achievement, they claimed, that the old Common Era had come to an end, paving the way for a new dawn for the species, a New Era.
This New Era began with the opening session of the World Council and the official creation of the Earth Union. The Union's motto was 'One Planet, One Humanity, One Rule'. Supposedly, the sad divisions of the past would be swept away with the abolition of the very concept of the nation-state.
With the Union came a mandate for a new Age of Exploration. Humanity spread first to the ocean depths and then to the stars. A boom of new technology gave life to this spread. Perhaps the greatest of these was the Schauer Fusion Propulsion System, commonly known as the 'Schauer' or 'SFPS', a powerful new engine that, for example, reduced the months-long journey to Mars to a mere three weeks. Orbital space stations and offworld colonies quickly followed.
Within a matter of decades, the Union spanned the solar system, but there were those who feared the consequences of the rapid rate of expansion. In the end, the more conservatively-minded leaders won out, passing the Ringe-Wahl Act in 073. This fifty-year moratorium on further colonization bound the Union by the combined orbit of Neptune and Pluto to give humanity ample time to grow into its new Lebensraum.
There were optimistic voices who saw the creation of the Union as the end of the bloody history of war. This was, of course, hopelessly naive, but not entirely false. Acts of crime and terrorism continued, as did dissent and sedition, but it was all rather tame compared to the darker chapters of the past. Indeed, in nearly a century, there was only one incident that could be called a war, the short-lived rebellion known as the Lunar Revolt. That was before the Sheolites came.
At first, it was nothing more than a few scattered attacks dismissed by the authorities as simple piracy. Even with the destruction of the cruiseliner carrying the World Council Chairman and a crushing raid on a prison colony, the government's attention was drawn more to the artificial humanoid controversy than the ever increasing escalation of attacks by these mystery raiders. Then the declaration was issued, and the war began.
Nothing was known about these raiders who called themselves the Sheol Empire. They would appear suddenly, attack with brutal ferocity and then disappear. Who they were and where they came from were mysteries that have not been fully answered even to this very day. Only one thing was certain: thousands were missing or dead and if nothing was done, many more would follow.
The first years of the war went badly for the Union. The Lunar Revolt, then seventy years in the past, did little to prepare the military for the threat it faced. Whole colonies were devastated and as the years dragged on, there seemed to be no end in sight.
However, after more than twenty grueling years of war, there was hope for the reeling Union. Despite all the death and destruction, and the people's weariness of fear and fighting, the tide was beginning to turn. The Sheolite raids were being thwarted and the Union was gaining the upper hand. The time had come to take the battle to the enemy, for the hunters to become the hunted.
In NE 120, the Union unveiled the centerpiece of its new strategy, the America-class heavy spacecraft carrier. Equipped with all the latest technology, no expense was spared and the call went out to gather the military's best and brightest. The once distant dream of victory would be made a reality.
This is the story of the first America-class carrier, the ESS Ticonderoga, and the brave men and women of her crew. The fate of the Union rested on their shoulders and they rose to the occasion. Like so many who had come before them, they were ordinary people who answered the call to serve and, in doing so, would do extraordinary things.