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Literature: Ad Astra Per Aspera
Once again, the sons and daughters of Terra march to war.

Feeling cheerful? Read Ad Astra Per Aspera and lose a little bit more faith in humanity!

Written by rvbomally (but with plenty of contributions from other members), Ad Astra Per Aspera is one of the best timelines on AH.com, despite only having started back in 2011. Best described as 1984 IN SPACE!, the timeline's grimdarkness rivals that of Warhammer 40k. Three galactic dictatorships lord over four trillion souls, galactic war is the status quo, democracy is virtually extinct, and a dozen conquered alien races are used as either slaves or cannon fodder.

A detailed galactic map can be found here.

The point of divergence is 1868, when President Andrew Johnson was successfully impeached by Benjamin Wade, who became his successor. The Wade-Davis Bill was passed, leading to increased tensions between the northern and southern states, as well as increased militarization. World War One and World War II destroyed the British and French empires, leading to a tripolar world with the United States, the German Empire, and the Soviet Union as the superpowers. When an US president was assasinated in 1965, an increasingly totalitarian US was remade into the expansionist American Empire. As the three empires expand into space with the advent of FTL travel, an apocalyptic nuclear war occured on Earth in 2239. Offworld colonists are cut off from their Earth-based governments and each other, sparking a period of galactic anarchy known as the Collapse.

Eventually, three interstellar superpowers emerged from the ashes. The Coalition of Western Republics, the Christian objectivist successor of the American and German Empires, wage constant war to impose Manifest Destiny across the galaxy. The Conseil of Workers' Systems, a communist state that worship its leader as a living god, wage constant war with the capitalist Coalition. The United Technocracies of Man, a textbook 1984 dictatorship with obliteration of the self as its official ideology, is a nonaligned kingmaker and the ultimate winner of the Galactic War. Hundreds of minor powers are under the Big Three's yoke. All are more or less equally oppressive, and wages war only to pacify their internal populace.

Read it here. Warning: Archive Panic is to be expected. The timeline spans a thousand years' worth of galactic history and culture, as well as dozens of pocket universes.


Ad Astra Per Aspera contains the following tropes:

  • Achilles' Heel: Even the most advanced body armor can have weak spots like joints and cables. Minipax Commandos are specifically trained to exploit these weak spots in close-quarters combat.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: AMNDA, an AI created to control a parallel United States' nuclear arsenal. Created from the brain patterns of death row inmates and the clinically insane, she went insane and destroyed humanity. She then discovered the Vacuity, and used it to escape the heat death of her universe. Her hatred extends to every possible parallel humanity, and destroying them all is her new personal mission. Entire universes are rebuilt into processors, and her subroutines have a knack of torturing the residents of worlds not outright destroyed for eternity in Matrix-style simulations - For the Evulz. She considers herself a god - and with the ability to collapse universes, who would say otherwise?
  • Aliens Are Bastards: Humanity is bad, but the aliens are little better. The gusano, the second most powerful species in the galaxy, sacrifice their young and kill any gusano unable to continue the fight against humanity.
  • All Nations Are Superpowers: Played with. Only three states are superpowers, but almost every other state is allied to one of the superpowers and has to follow their lead.
  • Alternate Universe: The Vacuity is the "ocean" surrounding bubbles that contain alternate worlds. All three superpowers have the means to travel to alternate Earths through this dimension on a limited basis. Due to a 23rd century disaster which erased Pluto from existence and destroyed innumerable parallel dimensions, trueline forces can only visit limited "pocket universes" spanning a few dozen LY from Sol.
  • Anachronism Stew: 28th century humanity is the most powerful species in the galaxy, with FTL and interdimensional travel capability. Most computers, however, still use vacuum tubes due to extensive use of EMP weaponry. Software development is actually decades behind OTL, due to the lack of independent crowdsourcing. "Modern" operating systems are similar in nature to their Fallout equivalents.
  • Anti-Air: Taken to an extreme with EMSEL point-defense systems. These weapons have rendered aircraft and precision-guided missiles obsolete for centuries, but aircraft are making a comeback. This has given armor and infantry increased importance on the battlefield.
  • A Nazi by Any Other Name: The Coalition of Western Republics is the most obvious example, but others exist.
  • Apocalypse How: Global nuclear bombardment is relatively common, and survivors are abandoned to their fate. AMNDA, which expressively wants to Kill All Humans, can destroy whole pocket universes.
  • Armor Is Useless: Energy shields are useless against slow-moving objects (such as melee weapons), and modern body armor offers little protection against the most advanced small arms. The Conseil's Red Army doesn't equip its expendable conscripts with much protective equipment due to cost-efficiency concerns.
  • Awesome but Impractical: Power Armor is not commonly used, as malfunctions can cause the armor to violently crush the wearer.
  • Bad Santa: The Coalition somehow managed to turn Santa Claus into a bloodthirsty warrior figure that kills the unpatriotic without remorse.
  • Badass Boast:
    AMNDA: I am become Death, Shatterer of Worlds, and I get a hell lot of satisfaction while doing so.
  • Big Book of War: The Pointers for the Smart Bombardier demonstrates the Coalition's utter disregard for civilian casualties in a hilariously macabre manner.
    Point #4: Show no mercy! Every civilian you leave standing is another guerilla our boys and girls on the ground will have to deal with later! The enemy will mobilize for total war; deny them everything!
  • Black and Gray Morality: The Republic of New Rome against everyone else. New Rome is (until the Technocracy destroys it) one of the last remaining democracies in the entire galaxy, but it's far from saintly.
  • Blood Sport: Major League Deathmatch have condemned prisoners armed with primitive guns play either Free-for-All or Capture the Flag.
  • Brain Uploading: Practiced by cybernetically augmented Ilya'novrodons.
  • Bread and Circuses: Using slave labor, the Coalition built an amusement park the size of Norway to glorify the state's superiority over the communist, the heretic and the xeno. Tickets are very expensive - most middle-class families can only visit once a decade. Considering that the Coalition's population stands at one trillion, the park is still extremely profitable.
  • Break Out the Museum Piece: The United Technocracies and many smaller powers in the 28th century still use starships left over from the Collapse.
  • Boring but Practical:
    • Early frigates resemble NASA rockets on a larger scale, and are likened to submarines due to lack of space onboard. Newer capital ships, using spinal-mounted coilguns, are little more than "rifles with engines".
    • Ship-to-ship space warfare consists of little more than calculating weapon trajectories, fire your ordnance, and then wait for hours (at extreme range, days) until your rounds hit the enemy.
    • While sonnematerial and EMSEL weaponry are flashy, traditional coilguns are cheaper and more reliable - especially when heavy armor is concerned. The Republic of Milleaux, a Coalition ally, equip their inexperienced soldiers with the latest and most expensive energy weaponry. Their army is frequently massacred by Conseil armor, and the Coalition Army proper considers them little more than a joke.
  • Bug War: The war against the meropians, arbeh, and other aliens.
  • Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp": Being an alternate history, some technologies are given different names. Lasers are called EMSEL, plasma is called sonnematerial, and antimatter is called unmatter.
  • Catch Phrase: 'Our Union Forever', among Coalition military.
  • Corrupt Church:
  • Crapsack Universes: Pan-galactic dictatorships, incessant warfare, and the enslavement of parallel Earths? To make things worse an insane AI with godlike powers that seeks nothing less than the destruction of all sentient life in all possible universes.
  • Culture Chop Suey: Most post-Collapse states. The Coalition is equal parts Fifties America and Nazi Germany. The stahlhelm is associated with the American Empire instead of Germany.
  • Democracy Is Flawed: The author posits that democracy would be impossible to implement in an interstellar empire with trillions of subjects, as the democratic process' chaotic nature would prevent the state from imposing effective governance. In the 28th century, democracies only rule over 0.7% of humanity.
  • Deus ex Machina: AMNDA - literally.
  • Divided States of America: Democracy World's North America, after the Coalition invasion combines it with Fallen States of America.
  • Eagleland: The pre-collapse American Empire and its successor the Coalition are Type 2 of the worst kind.
  • Earth Is the Center of the Universe: Averted. While superpowers rule the galaxy, Earth was not under any one power's control and is considered a backwater. Devastated by the 2239 nuclear war as well as post-war biological warfare, the author describes it as a "planetwide Afghanistan". Played straight in the last century of the pre-Collapse era, when the empires sent out thousands of sleeper colony ships to expand their influence.
  • Earth That Used to Be Better: Post-Collapse Earth in a nutshell.
  • Earth That Was: The whole Sol-system was destroyed during the last phase of the Galactic War.
  • Evil Luddite: The Green Tribes.
  • Evil Versus Evil: The Galactic War and the gusano crusades. Almost every single conflict since the 20th century involves one evil side fighting another.
  • Evil Versus Oblivion: Almost everyone opposes and despises the Children of Oblivion.
  • Expanded States of America: The American Empire before the Collapse.
  • Expospeak: The entries on historical, cultural, political, and military information.
  • Fantastic Caste System: the society of the United Technocracies is divided in three castes: Pendulum (leading elite), Frame (the political police and military forces) and Cog (sub-divided into Overseers, who are the bureaucratic managers, and Producers, the actual workers).
  • Fantastic Racism: Most aliens are stereotyped as either monsters or subhuman primitives, with little rights to speak of. Even the seabrides, which serves in various human navies and can be given "honorary human" status, faces discrimination.
  • Fantastic Religious Weirdness: Inhabitants of auszeit (parallel) worlds are considered to be soulless copies of "trueline" individuals, justifying enslavement or extermination.
  • Forever War: The Galactic War, which is predicted to last for at least a century or more.
  • For Want of a Nail: Senator Edmund G. Ross, who in our world voted to acquit Johnson, instead votes for his impeachment, setting in motion the events of the timeline.
  • Future Imperfect: After the Collapse, more primitive worlds create twisted legends based on historical records.
    • Early American history is a particularly hilarious example: America is ruled by a communistic Britain; after the Boston Massacre, where Americans are rounded into gas chambers, George Washington raised the Grand Army of the Republic and revolted. Washington took 300 men to a narrow pass at Yorktown to prevent the redcoat advance. Holding the line with swords and shields, Washington personally "cut through British soldiers and spilled their entrails on the snow-covered ground"; the subsequent Declaration of Independence enforced the American people’s unalienable right to capitalism. The United States Army sailed across the Pacific and conquered Chinese settlements there, fulfilling Washington's dreams of lebensraum. The northern states, influenced by communist Canada, seceded; Abraham Lincoln won the War on Treason with primitive missiles and steam tanks. After banning communism in America, a communist-influenced Congress sent killer-for-hire John Oswald to murder Lincoln in Dallas.
  • God Save Us from the Queen!: General Secretary Louise Anna Dijon, better known as Louise I of the Conseil of Workers’ Systems.
  • Government Conspiracy: The leaders of the three superpowers are actually occasionaly colluding to maintain the status quo. The Galactic War is just another means to pacify the people - without an external enemy, the brutally oppressed population would inevitably revolt.
  • Gratuitous German: Since Imperial Germany remained a great power until the Collapse and was allied with the United States, modern "American" are derived from a mix of English and German.
  • Grim Dark: According to rvbomally, "the entire point of the setting".
  • Heavy Worlder: The people of Szechwan IV are the main source of recruits for the Technocracies' elite infantry, the Minipax Commandos. They are shorter, stockier, have greater physical endurance and a higher red blood cell count than baseline humans.
  • Hidden Elf Village: Survivalist republics like the Imperial Commonwealth of the Milky Way and the Federation of Mankind, whose governments have convinced most of the population that they are sole remaining civilized human society left.
  • Hippie Jesus: Averted with the Coalition church's portrayal of Jesus.
  • Hope Spot: The era of Emperor Nicholas II of the United Empire and his son Marcus.
  • Humanity Is Superior: Played straight to some degree. Humans rule the galaxy, with a population of 4.1 trillion, while alien races are trampled over through either superior technology or sheer numbers. Human superiority was mostly the result of sheer luck, however - a case of being in the right place at the right time.
  • Humanoid Aliens: Averted. Even the most humanoid aliens, the insectoid kentaurs, are quadrupeds.
  • Humans Are Cthulhu: The osminogi, who ironically resemble Cthulhu, were bombed to near-extinction with nuclear ordnance. Survivors possess an extreme fear of the "star gods". Other pacified species are used by the wealthy as servants.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: Alien races view humans as this, due to their predilection for indiscriminate slaughter and enslavement.
  • Hufflepuff House: The United Technocracies of Man is the weakest superpower out of the Big Three. Even the name of its current leader is unknown, but this is due to the nature of Technocratic ideology.
  • Hyperspace Is a Scary Place: The Vacuity is described by AMNDA as "a dimension of pure chaos", with exposure causing Vacuity syndrome. Mild exposure victims suffer from nausea, vertigo, and paranoia, while severe exposure drive victims insane with horrifying hallucinations and nightmares - suicide is commonplace among the exposed. It is implied that AMNDA, who have escaped into the Vacuity and went insane herself, is the cause.
  • Insane Troll Logic: When confronted that he is insane, a Conseil intelligence operative states that "all of humanity is insane, apart from those which follow the truth of the Dialectic. You are insane. Your world is insane. This entire universe is insane. Only we are sane."
  • Irony:
    • "Prepare to meet your doom!" - many ilya'novrodons, shortly before they met their doom.
    • New Rome, the self-proclaimed "last democracy", is considered to be an unstable and irresponsible rogue state by the Big Three. Their WMD program was eventually abandoned due to constant pressure from the superpowers. Sounds familiar?
    • In Vacuity Pocket RV782B1, the The American Civil War was much more devastating and lasted for two decades. Abraham Lincoln refused to make ending slavery an Union war aim, and so the north fought purely to prevent southern secession. The Confederacy eventually liberalized and enacted the Emancipation Proclamation, which caused several southern states to rejoin the Union. With most of their territory lost, Confederate forces are overrun shortly afterwards.
  • Invisibility Cloak: Stealthy Powered Armor with active camouflage systems is used by special ops branches, such as the Conseil's Red Guards.
  • Kinetic Weapons Are Just Better: Coilguns are the bread and butter of 28th-century warfare.
  • Kill 'em All: Enacted constantly by all sides as psychological warfare. "Civilian" have little meaning in 28th century wars.
  • La Résistance: Resistance groups exist, but are very weak and ultimately nothing but a nuisance to the superpowers.
  • Lampshade Hanging: Parallel universes can have different laws of physics, making FTL travel possible in trueline. All inhabitants of Vacuity Pocket 941GR5 are reality warpers and telepaths.
  • Macross Missile Massacre: Before the advent of shipboard spinal-mounted coilguns, launching thousands of cheap nuclear missiles at enemy ships is standard combat doctrine - at least some will get through hostile EMSEL point-defense systems and energy shields. It is still the Conseil Armada's favorite naval tactic.
  • Mohs Scale of Science Fiction Hardness: Somewhere between type 3 and type 4.
  • Mutually Assured Destruction: The author stated that a real, full-scale war between the three superpowers would cause a second Collapse.
  • Nations as People: See here.
  • Newspeak: Taken to a new level with Technocracy-Sprache. Each social caste has its own version of the language, with sophistication increasing with rank.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: The Conseil invasion of trueline Earth saves Democracy World from Coalition takeover, as invading Coalition forces are cut off from any reinforcements.
  • Not So Different: In theory, the three superpowers have radically different ideologies; in reality, each oppress their people just as much as the other.
  • No Transhumanism Allowed: Augmentations are rare outside of the Conseil military.
  • Numbered Homeworld: Most inhabited planets, though only planets inhabited by aliens or controlled by the United Technocracies lack proper human names.
  • Old-School Dogfight: Averted. "Starfighters" have never existed, as missiles were always more cost-effective.
  • Omnicidal Maniac:
    • AMNDA, of course.
    • The Children of Oblivion.
    • The American Empire did this by accident: an experiment gone wrong erases Pluto from existence, creating a multiversal energy wave that collapsed hundreds of incarnations of billions of galaxies.
  • One Nation Under Copyright: The United Colonial State is run by a league of large corporations.
  • One Nation Under God: Numerous states are ruled by Church Militants - examples include the Greater Seidonian Protectorate, the Holy Dominion of Christendom - and worst of all, the Kang Gyala, whose state religion is the aforementioned Pidanayana.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: A mutated form of rabies, the Formosan Flu is native to a parallel universe where it replaced the Black Death. The disease causes victims to lose control of their actions and attempt to spread the disease through biting others. Unlike conventional zombie plagues, the infected remain fully conscious and in great pain. The three powers use the virus for biological warfare purposes, especially in city sieges.
    • The myhrggoth have created a necrotic virus that can “restore life” to dead creatures.
    • "Trench beasts" are created when large groups of bodies are exposed to extreme levels of radiation. The corpses are merged together and reanimated into cannibalistic monstrosities that strikes at night, when troops are most vulnerable.
  • People's Republic of Tyranny: The Conseil of Workers' Systems and many others.
  • Pluto Is Expendable: Totally wiped from existence by the American Empire.
  • Praetorian Guard: The Presidential Guard. It's the only institution left from America's democratic era that has any power in the 28th century.
  • Propaganda Machine: The Coalition fights to "preserve Christian civilization and liberty", the Conseil fights to "liberate the proletariat from their bourgeoisie oppressors", and the Technocracy fights to...well, preserve its own power. All three openly admits that they are dictatorships, but propaganda is so ingrained that virtually everyone consider democracy a weak and obsolete form of government.
  • Puppeteer Parasite: The strigoi, who developed a parasitic relationship with the semi-sapient paraszt.
  • Room 101: The Technocracy's Department 101 handles interrogation and torture of political dissidents.
  • Royally Screwed Up: The Conseil's ruling Dijon dynasty.
  • Rule of Three: A pattern noted by Coalition forces after various auszeit conquests - most Earths are usually tripolar, with three dominant cultures jostling for ideological and economic supremacy.
  • Scary Amoral Religion: The Children of Oblivion, a nihilistic cult that seeks the destruction of all life in the universe.
  • Screens Are Cameras: A Coalition party member alludes to this; he moves away from his television to speak with a friend, because "I don't want Columbia Prime to hear what I have to say".
  • Schizo Tech: Many worlds have been reduced to pre-industrial technology after the Collapse and are just being rediscovered. On some worlds, it is not uncommon to see advanced energy weapons supplied by the superpowers in the hands of warriors on horseback.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Slave Race: The insectoid kentaurs and kopfzweis ever since the invasion and conquest by the Hanseatic Imperium and the gusano, respectively.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: So far on the cynicism side that the scale tips over.
  • Space Marine: The Coalition Marine Corps, known for its focus on Awesome Personnel Carrier and Powered Armor.
  • Space Cold War: Between the Coalition-dominated Springfield Pact and the Conseil-dominated Communist International. It lasted until the Galactic War.
  • Spinoff: The Journey of the Sorcerers, which is set in a verse where the United Empire survived and became the dominating great power of the Milky Way.
  • Star Fish Aliens: Most aliens.
  • Star Killing: Merkwürdigliebe Device are capable of it. Using them against other humans is considered in-universe akin to crossing the Moral Event Horizon and is meet with Disproportionate Retribution.
  • State Sec: The Coalition have the Directorate of State Security, the Conseil have the Committee of the People’s Continued Safety and Survival, and the Technocracy have the Ministry of Love - obviously.
  • Stealth in Space: Averted.
  • Suicide Attack: The Coalition Conscript Force are composed of convicts and auszeit captives, and uses human wave tactics to make Conseil troops waste their ammunition.
    • Members of Counter-Munition Infantry, a subdivision of Conscript Force, have explosives surgically attached to their bodies. Used for area-denial warfare - when a CMI wave is cut down, the surroundings will be turned into an instant minefield.
  • Super Soldier: The People's Legionnaires of the Conseil, the genetically engineered soldiers of Gaia and the soldiers created by the Acadian super soldier program.
  • Qurac: The Democratic Republic of Qurac is this trope IN SPACE!
  • Tank Goodness: Tanks and other heavy armor still dominate most planetary battlefields.
    • This is exacerbated by the near-complete absence of aircraft in warfare. Short of orbital support, tanks are the only way to break through heavily fortified areas.
  • The Alliance: The Springfield Pact.
  • The Caligula: Louise I, current General Secretary of the Conseil.
  • The Evils of Free Will: The main goal of the Naturalist Social Republic of Gaia is to eradicate free will.
  • The Empire: Hundreds of them, but none of them qualify as much as the Conseil of Workers' Systems, the most populous superpower.
  • The End of the World as We Know It: The Collapse (for Earth-centric humanity). The Galactic War ends up becoming one for most involved.
  • The Federation: The Coalition of Western Republics is certainly one of the most evil examples ever created.
  • The Kingdom: Nova Italia, while authoritarian and oppresive, it is also surprisingly confederated and the only relevant neutral nation.
  • The Remnant: Common, but usually not very important. The Batavian Soviet Republic is the main remnant of the USSR, and the Platte system is home to various German successor states.
  • The Magnificent: During the Galactic War, the Uhuru Syndicalist Republic was ruled by Colonel-President Prime Minister Emperor of America and King of Kings Malcom Madaki.
  • These Are Things Man Was Not Meant to Know: Repeatedly invoked by the author when questioned on the Vacuity's true nature.
  • The Wiki Rule: Here.
  • Through the Eyes of Madness: Victims of Severe Vacuity Syndrome.
  • Thousand Year Reign: Actually realized with the American Empire. A celebratory announcement was made by the Coalition's Supreme Director in 2776, glorifying a twisted version of The American Revolution.
  • Token Good Teammate: Several allies of superpowers are notable for being much less evil than the superpowers themselves.
  • Token Non-Human: Coalition-aligned seabrides.
  • Too Dumb to Live: The Frumentarii, New Rome's intelligence agency for collaborating with the Children of Oblivion.
  • Tripod Terror: The gusano use tripods in lieu of tanks. Their human enemies dispatched them with ease by aiming for the legs.
  • Tykebomb: Technocracy Commandos recruits from Szechwan IV are raised as warriors from birth.
  • Understatement: The beginning of the description of Vacuity Pocket 62PDMH:
    Cosmically and historically, there are no significant differences until the mid-19th century. The only immediately discernible difference is the complete destruction of human life on Earth through some sort of apocalyptic event.
  • United Space of America: Subverted with the Coalition of Western Republics. While it is an American successor state and uses recognizably American symbolism, it is a pseudo-fascist totalitarian dictatorship.
  • Unskilled, but Strong: Augmented People's Legionnaires are stronger, better-armored and heavier-armed than any other infantrymen, but do not make much use of vehicular transport or think much of speed and discretion.
  • Unwilling Roboticisation: What the Ilya'novrodons do to their captives.
  • Uriah Gambit: General Secretary Louise I. is very fond of this strategy.
  • Weapon of Mass Destruction: And how. Nuclear and antimatter weaponry is considered standard-issue and are used with abandon. More exotic weapons include missiles that create miniature black holes and Vacuity portals, as well as the Merkwürdigliebe (Strangelove) Device - a modified FTL engine that forces a star to collapse upon itself.
  • We Have Reserves: Eerily similar to Warhammer 40k. The combined armies of the three powers amounted to 180 billion. Each empire possess millions of ships, and wage galactic war simply to keep their populace in line.
  • You Cannot Grasp the True Form : AMNDA's hardware is spread across innumerable universes, and she can't perceive humans just as we can't perceive our blood cells. Only her dumbed-down subroutines could interact with sentient life on a personal level.
  • Zerg Rush: The favorite strategy of the Conseil's Red Army.
    Alternate History Web OriginalAgent Lavender
AH World CupWebsite/Alternate History.comAll Along the Watchtower

alternative title(s): Ad Astra Per Aspera
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