The prisoner they brought back to „Ranger“ closed many of the numerous gaps in the puzzle that was the Utgardian colony - after they overcame the language barrier, since the prisoner did not speak a single word of english.
First, but not foremost, they learned that the distance to Ragnarök apparently had a direct influence on the passage of time. The waiting orbit that took „Ranger“ one time around the black hole until it met up with Hall again had a smaller diameter than Halls orbit around Ragnarök had. As a consequence, during the 15 years measured on „Ranger“, 52 years had passed on Utgard. 52 years in which the colony stabilized, grew and prospered - in some way.
The social development of the colony remained an unsolvable riddle. The UPA had already embraced the concept of a classed society decades ago - but facing a society in which genetic heritage made the difference between being part of either a ruling elite or a caste of slaves was still something they felt more than uncomfortable with. Understanding why colonists from the almost pathologically tolerant and liberal FSE created a totalitarian society with more than obvious ideological and aesthetical influences from 20th century NS germany would have required insights to occurrences that took place back on earth only months prior to „Daedalus’“ departure.
The neural knowledge induction technique had not been used on earth for two reason - the aspect of its ridiculous inefficiency being the more obvious one. The other aspect was responsible for the method having been actually outlawed. Inducted knowledge could be configured to be dominant - meaning that it would completely override contradicting knowledge - or ethic attitudes and socialization. When what Alfred Rotland, a 31 years old system operator for the NKI system, had done was finally discovered, it was much too late. „Daedalus“ was already on its way, a few historical files had been deleted, cultural, biological and ethical schedule files had been amended. The man who ended his life in a psychiatric clinic had found a way to create a society that thought of him as a mythical Führer and founder, a society that drew a line between one group that was hence considered a superhuman race destined for leadership - and inferior, lesser men born for service. The careful selection of colonists to ensure genetic diversity in the colony that was considered critical for a long term survival of humanity had become irrelevant the moment the ship started. The „power by strength“ doctrine meant that the rulership of the „superhumans“ had to be maintained by force, leading to the immediate implementation of a security caste and the production of adequate weapons to keep the „inferiors“ under control.
By the time „Ranger“ started the invasion, most of the first generation colonists had already died of old age. Indoctrination of the second and later generations took place in a more conventional way - but stayed extremely effective. Each and every one of the original colonists had been programmed - be it slave or master - to embrace his role in society. Not only accept, but literally embrace.
For many of the „Rangers“, this resulted in a perceived change of the mission. Taking over a helpless colony by force turned into a liberation expedition. Or, from a less idealistic perspective: a fight for survival against a more than equal opponent. After all, the Utgardians did not only turn out to be much better armed than expected… they also had many more soldiers. Even before the „Rangers“ ran in a deathtrap that cost them a third of their military personnel.
The „Rangers“ did not have the required resources to build an own colony and had to conquer at least one of the existing settlement clusters. The only chance they saw was an attack with all remaining forces on the clusters center and then taking over one outpost after the other. The significant disadvantage in numbers meant that even if a settlement could be conquered, the „Rangers“ could not spare personnel to permanently defend it afterwards against counterattacks. This slowed the progress of the campaign significantly - and several settlements were just cleared from enemies, but not used yet. They needed to wait until their population had grown sufficiently to actually make use of the infrastructure. The degree of indoctrination of both masters and slaves made the liberation of the Utgardians theoretical desirable - but completely impractical. With this in mind, the invaders set the objectives to securing infrastructure and decimation of the current population. The development of non permanent chemical agents helped much in achieving these goals.
A technological advantage in the beginning and especially air superiority allowed the invaders to both push the conquest and defend what they had already taken. However, this meant that the trained soldiers permanently hopped from mission to mission - and all the time, their numbers dwindled further and further. Military service for the civilian settlers was established during the first weeks - but eventually, new specialized recruits had been trained.
It took about half a year to secure the first cluster and establish a territory controlled by the invaders. At that time, their military strength had been reduced to little more than a single company - but they consolidated and eventually their population did grow. Both sides concentrated on military development, with the first colonists resorting much on the historical and technological files the arms-enthusiast Rotland had stored in Daedalus’ databases. Growth was significantly slowed by the losses in the conflict - but both sides acted careful enough to limit their own losses.
78 years after the invasion, the Heimatverteidigung - as the defenders called their military then - had built a respectable host of tanks and self propelled guns. With limited production capabilities and resources, the Heimatverteidigung valued flexible designs in their equipment. As a result, each tank could quite easily be adjusted to a given situations requirements.
The Liberation Force, on the other hand, stuck to their Hit-and-Run doctrine with few light, but fast and hard hitting vehicles and aircraft. However… aircraft that dated back to the landing and that was used and maintained very careful, since the local industry had only then reached a capacity where new aircraft could be produced.
In that year, 78 years after the arrival of „Ranger“, a trace of fire in the sky marked the arrival of a spaceship of unknown origin.