Pluto is the largest and second-most-massive known dwarf planet in the Sol System, and the ninth-largest and tenth-most-massive known object directly orbiting the Sun. As both a listening post to monitor signals from all over Federation territory and a mining world, Pluto played two important, but not irreplaceable, roles for the UCF. When it was first discovered to have an infestation of Arachnids, there was talk about shutting it down and burning the entire world. This was discarded in favour of Mobile Infantry action. Which temporarily eradicated the aggressive native population. Rather than lose any more lives and resources to the Arachnids, a nuclear solution was approved and the surface of Pluto is now mostly a radioactive wasteland. Pluto still counts as an active installation world because of its automated refuelling stations and communication repeaters in orbit.
Considered by official UCF astronomers to be the smallest, coldest and most distant planet from the sun of the Sol system, Pluto is also the largest of a group of objects that orbit in a disk-like zone well beyond the orbit of Neptune called the Kuiper Belt. miniature icy worlds with diameters of at least 1,000 km. This distant region consists of thousands of This belt is also home to more than 300 comets, many of which only pass close enough to be visible from Earth once every century or so.
Discovered by astronomer Clyde Tombaugh long before the Disorders, Pluto takes 248 years to orbit the system’s sun. Pluto’s highly elliptical orbit brings it closer to the sun than Neptune on occasion, providing rare opportunities to study this distant world and its companion satellite Charon.
Most of what SICON and the United Citizens’ Federation knows about Pluto was learned through the detailed analysis provided by the Galileo’s deep system probe and the surveying efforts of the FSA shortly after the advent of Cherenkov drive technology. Many of the key questions about Pluto, Charon and the outer fringes of the Sol system were answered by the Galileo mission and the efforts of later robotic explorations.
The Pluto Campaign
The shock on Earth of discovery of a hostile alien species in its own Solar System cannot be underestimated. In one moment, the Federation went from a glorious government ready to span the stars to one under siege, with enemies knocking on the front door.
Initially, the Federation believed the Arachnids to be an indigenous species of Pluto, a rugged form of life that had managed to escape detection by virtue of hibernating far underground. Fascinated by the discovery of this species, the Federation sent scientists and diplomats (in case the creatures were intelligent) to Pluto, under the protection of a squad of Mobile Infantry troopers.
By necessity, SICON’s strategy calls for the elimination of the Arachnid race. Doing any less would imperil the survival of humanity itself. It is clear that humanity must expand to survive. To remain still, to remain stagnant, would relegate the human race to the graveyard of history. The Arachnids represent a very real threat to the ability of the human race to expand, even to hold on to what the Federation already controls. If the Arachnids were found on Pluto, a world that has been inhabited by humans for more than a century, what other worlds might they be lurking on? Iskander? Rhohan? Karrus? Europa? Even Earth itself?
The results of allowing the Arachnids to survive are too terrible for SICON and the Federation to contemplate. As frightening and alien as the Skinnies are, it is at least possible to consider that one day they and humanity might live in peace. No such possibility exists with the Arachnids. For the safety and security of the human race, they must be eliminated.
The ﬁrst Pluto Campaign was relatively short. A small Mobile Infantry detachment, dispatched to investigate the loss of communication from Pluto’s small mining colonies quickly found Arachnid warrior bugs boiling out of the ground from hidden lairs. Though the troopers of the Mobile Infantry had yet to ﬁght in any real war, let alone be pitched against the most vicious alien race yet discovered in the galaxy, they deserved all the credit received from a grateful Earth. Within a few short weeks, Sky Marshal Smithson declared a victory, announcing that the alien threat was vanquished.
Despite having faced the Arachnids in battle, no one yet appreciated just how tenacious the aliens could be. Only three months after victory had been declared, the monitors on Pluto went silent once more. The transfer station on Pluto’s moon, Charon, reported that enemy activity had again begun on the planet, in greater strength than before.
Sky Marshall Smithson was retired from his position, the ﬁrst high-ranking ofﬁcial to become a political casualty of the Arachnid War, and Sky Marshal Wood took his place. Judging the mining colonies on Pluto’s surface to be still intact and recoverable, Wood deployed the Mobile Infantry in force. A full division was landed on the tiny planet with one clear mission – to end the infestation of Arachnids on Pluto at any cost.
The second Pluto Campaign, as it came to be called, was conducted under the eyes of the entire Federation. The general population, informed that diplomatic efforts with the Arachnids had gone poorly, were in full favour of reclaiming their Solar System and FedNet made a great deal of noise about the brave troopers of the Mobile Infantry, ﬁghting to defend humanity from a true menace. No one expected the campaign to go on for long and Wood was under pressure to deliver a complete victory, avoiding the mistakes of his predecessor. The Mobile Infantry learned a great deal about their enemy in the battles that swept across the entire surface of Pluto but this was paid for in the lives of many troopers. In the end though, it became clear that the enemy was too numerous. Ground would be taken, held and then lost when the Mobile Infantry moved on to take another Arachnid position. A single division of even the Mobile Infantry was simply not enough.
Finally, Wood ordered the withdrawal of all Mobile Infantry and then commanded the Fleet to pound Pluto from orbit. Within hours, the planet’s surface was reduced to a blasted wasteland that nothing could survive.
Briefing prior to Mobile Infantry engagements on Arachnid presence on Pluto:
'Sit down and pay attention, ‘cause this is only coming once. As most of you know, two months ago SICON detected activity on Pluto and went in to find an aggressive alien race infesting a run of valleys and caverns. There were a few… incidents, but we fought back against these aliens and managed to wipe them from the face of Pluto for good. Or so we thought.’
‘That’s right; you heard me. Command has just gotten word of a reinfestation. Now maybe they had a bunch of eggs in hibernation ‘cause of the cold. Maybe they had deeper tunnels the last force didn’t find. All I need to know, and all you need to know, is that a month after clearing Pluto, the bugs have reappeared. They were sighted a few hours ago and are already swarming the back side of Entora Valley. They haven’t spread out yet, but it’s only a matter of time.’
‘Settle down! Now for the bad news, apes. There are a whole lot of them this time. SICON predicts at least five times as many as we encountered the first time. The worse news is how few of us are here right now. Somebody up the chain miscalculated our need for reinforcements to hold this ball of rock, so we don’t have the manpower to assault the LZ properly. Look left. Look right. What you see is all we got.’
‘It’ll be enough, troopers! We have the tools and the talent, but this time we have to fight smarter. We have to be harder than the bugs. If they get their pincers into Pluto and dig in long enough to reproduce again, we’ll have a real ‘incident’ on our hands. No one expected ‘em to be seen again, let alone in such great numbers. Hell, boys, the black hats at Intel are even saying there might be a whole colony system full of these things deeper underground.’
‘All I got to say is that’s some other company’s problem, at least until Intel makes it ours. All we have to do right now is keep our heads down and our guns up. We can theorise all day but that don’t put bullets in bugs! You get me? We either fight for this rock or we ditch it to the bugs. I don’t want Arachnids anywhere in my solar system. Do you? I didn’t think so.’
‘On the bounce, apes! I want tactical ops and combat clearance by 07:00 tomorrow. Hit your bunks, set your hypnopedia units for deep sleep and wake up sharp. Nobody infests this planet but us!’
The events of the Pluto Campaign were the Mobile Infantry’s second taste of combat with the Arachnids but in many ways they also served as the Federation’s first true challenge to its authority. Pluto showed the UCF that another race is capable of encroaching on human space, one that cannot be easily defeated. It was a turning point in Federation history.
Aftermath of the Pluto Campaign
With the revelation that the Arachnids are not indigenous to Pluto, many new questions now vex the United Citizens’ Federation and SICON. If the Arachnids do indeed come from another world, as ‘proven’ by the multiple transport bugs that left the surface during the events of the Pluto Campaign after Operation: Bug City, where is that world and how much of a threat does it pose? How many bugs are there and how many forms do they come in? Can transport bugs defend themselves against spacecraft? And how can a living insect move at interstellar speeds?
From: General Maxwell, 2nd Battalion, XIVth Army
To: All company commanders
Re: In the wake of Pluto
Fellow servants of the Federation,
Recent events on Pluto have brought to light disturbing information about the Arachnid race discovered there a few months ago and thought to be destroyed. When they were once again detected on the surface of Pluto, SICON dispatched a full company to deal with the problem.
While every platoon involved has acted with great precision and skill, the situation has now escalated far beyond its previously assumed threat level.
Immense insects, currently being labelled transport bugs, were seen leaving the planet’s surface and departing the Sol system at tremendous speed. This, coupled with our exhaustive investigation revealing no evolutionary evidence of life on Pluto, leads Military Intelligence to only one logical conclusion: Arachnids did not originate on Pluto. Instead it is believed that they are an alien race originating from outside our solar system.
Their return to Pluto after previously being removed from it also leads SICON to further conclude that they are an aggressive species which poses a threat to all human-controlled space.
We have triangulated the trajectory of the transport bugs leaving Pluto and have projected their destination to be a world somewhere in the Alpha Hydræ system, the brightest star in the constellation of Hydra. SICON reconnaissance probes and psychic scans are already combing this system for any sign of Arachnid presence, however, such searches have already uncovered countless other star systems, each a possible destination for these transport bugs. Rest assured that SICON will continue to investigate and deal with the growing concern of attack by the bugs, an effort fuelled by the public outrage in the wake of the bug’s devastating attack on Buenos Aires.
That is why the bugs can never be forgiven. Their attack on Buenos Aires was unconscionable and utterly unprovoked. Raining down fire and stone to kill millions in an act of murder beyond any scale humanity has suffered before, the bugs have signed their own death warrant in the blood of our citizens and civilians. Let the Buenos Aires mass grave lend strength to your arms and fire to your heart when you go to war. The Federation has been violated, its spirit lies wounded on Earth. Now we take the fight to our enemy. We may not have started this war, but with the dead of Buenos Aires as our witnesses, we will finish it!
Even as I address you on behalf of Sky Marshal Collins and the rest of High Command, the full weight of SICON is preparing to move out. We are sure to learn more about the bugs and effective ways of neutralising any possible threat they pose to our people. The loss of the Federation’s considerable investment in our Pluto facilities due to the brutal Arachnid occupation will not go unavenged, but this is only the first step on our road to victory.
General Maxwell stated in his debriefing communique that the Arachnids are directly responsible for the deaths of hundred thousand civilians and personnel stationed on Pluto. This has by now been debunked as several former Federal employees testified that the majority of these deaths were caused by the nuclear carpet-bombing run carried out by the Rodger Young on its way out of orbit.