Inspiration for this timeline came from a variety of sources. I've been reading a lot of Asimov and Arthur C Clarke recently; several nationalist parties enjoyed success in the recent European Parliament Elections; I read an essay on what the state of government might be in the near future; finally, I watched X-Men: Days of Future Past, which is awesome.
Mars Base 3, known as MB3 to all, became a hotbed of psychic training and research. Within ten years, the first psychs had developed into a society based around research. They developed cloning technology that worked, and used it to improve the calibre of their trainees. The facility was run by a dumb-AI that was incapable of attaining sentience. It was in charge of all mechanical aspects of MB3, the cloning, food production, weather control… everything. It was also live-storing everyone’s psyche in case of death, which was a realistic threat in psych training. It would then clone a new body for them and restore them, complete with memories up to the second of death. In reality, the computer was able to do all this by peer-to-peer sharing the information in the minds of every other psych, using their brains as parallel processors. Only the upper echelons of the teaching staff were aware of this, however.
The first psychs there graduated to become the de facto teachers, taking others under their wings. The time it took to train a psych to the peak of their ability was narrowed to four years. The teaching became rougher, and some teachers began to see weak psychs, grades 1 to 3, apparently having time wasted on them. The three-year rule was introduced. All students were entitled to three years of tuition. The fourth year, they gave something back through research, continued to have their skills refined and attempted to stay alive. Cloning rights were stopped during that fourth year. The next graduating class of 2168 was a third the size, but every single one was grade 4 or better.
Mars itself was not kind to the cities there. Few lived in MB1 and MB2. The terraforming algae, known as Mars Green, was doing its job, but too slowly. A quicker, better version of it was released, but it reacted horribly with the algae already there and died. Mars was not going to be easily to colonise for another century and a half.
The Empire had not been idle since the Machine Threat had left in 2135. The Moon was full and quickly becoming an outdated slum as the overspill population were shipped there. The first colonies there had never been upgraded. Earth was tolerably populated and Mars was considered a failure, so other planets and moons were considered. The modified terraforming algae, Phobos Blue, was tested first on that moon, then Deimos. Within five years, both moons had bubble atmospheres and were ready. Martians looked on with envy as the moons were colonised. The Empire moved on to the Jovian moons, Europa, Ganymede, Callisto, and there found resistance for the first time. Psychs were summoned to lead Earth Empire troops in colonisation attempts on the Jovian moons and beyond, but the school teaching staff had other plans.
In 2169, lifeforms were encountered on three of Jupiter’s moon, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto, and then on Saturn’s moon Titan. Colonisation slowed as these indigenous life forms were analysed and categorised. Much was made of all the alien races appearing to be the same, so different to men. They had incredibly strong upper bodies, similar to humans, but their lower bodies were what gave them their nickname: The Spiders. Their lower bodies were four-legged, longer at the rear, able to quickly move over any terrain.
The effect was akin to modern man finding a lost tribe of neanderthals. They showed little in the way of intelligence, and much savagery. The Emperor ordered the planets carefully terraformed so as to preserve this natural feature, but the aliens fought back. They destroyed Phobos Blue generators, killed soldiers and researchers, and the Empire reacted with anger. A war began, one that the aliens were able to maintain thanks to their incredibly fast reproductive rate.
The Empire captured many examples of Jovian life and enslaved them, using them where once it had used robots. Middle-ability psychs kept them in check and the general public was not informed.
The Emperor had long kept a wary eye on MB3. Its rise showed a terrifying parallel with the rise of the Machine Threat, and that had ended poorly for humanity. So when the psychs demanded independence from Earth, he was faced with a choice. Their terms were fair; complete independence from authority of Earth in exchange for weapons, research and psychic soldiers. The psychs even suggested a sort of psychic police force, as undetected manifested teenagers were becoming a serious terrorist threat. However, the Emperor didn’t have enough troops to assault an entire school of psychs, each one trained or in training to become a deadly weapon, and didn’t want to lose the resource. He acquiesced and MB3 gained its independence. Using weapons and soldiers developed at MB3, the war against the Spiders began to swing towards the Empire’s side.
Then the Machine Threat began its own attacks, and the war was suddenly on two fronts. The first attack was devastating, mainly for how unexpected it was. The Emperor was assassinated during a visit to Ganymede; tiny machines, styled after Earth bees, swarmed him and delivered fatal levels of toxin into his blood. Although EMP-guns were brought to bear by his bodyguards, some of them psychs, it was too late. The Emperor’s son, Nicholas, ascended to the throne at the relatively young age of 22.
The Psy-Ops, the PO as they are known to most, patrol the streets of cities. MB3 continues to turn out battle-ready students and researches new weapons and tactics every year. The Spiders continue to hold, showing an almost clannish nature, and they make up in sheer savagery what they are lacking in intelligence. Aiding them, albeit unintentionally, the Machine Threat performs regular surgical strikes into Empire territory. The Empire itself is beginning to show cracks, as rebellions break out and undetected psychs manifest despite the best efforts of the PO.
The Emperor, Nicholas Cutter, now thirty, harbours a deep paranoia brought on by the unsettling state of the Empire. He allows no psychs near him, fearing they plot a coup, while his staff know that the psychs could be their only defense against the Threat.