Saturday, July 25, 2009
The Star League Part 11
ORGANIZING THE MILITARY
First Lord Cameron appointed his wife, General Shandra Noruff-Cameron, as Chief of Staff and Commander-in-Chief of the yet-unformed Star League Defense Forces. To accomplish the daunting task of creating a single military from the soldiers of six separate armies, Shandra divided the SLDF into six separate Military Regions, each corresponding to the borders of a member-state. Each region had its own military contingent that would include very few troops from that state. This precaution was intended to prevent an insurrection if the Star League should be forced to act against that state. General Cameron was also not to place too many soldiers from a state’s rival into its SLDF contingent.
At the core of each region’s force were group divisions from the Hegemony Armed Forces. Known as “Royal” divisions, these units formed the backbone of each region’s force. Royal regiments and battalions were also scattered throughout other divisions of mixed soldiers to enforce the proper execution of orders.
Personality conflicts among the new SLDF officer corps were at first an immediate problem. Enlisted men might settle their differences with fistfights that easily ended up with the combatants buying one another drinks. Officers hid their rivalries under a civilized veneer. They could usually find more devious and destructive ways to express their competitiveness.
Because of these interstate and interservice rivalries, the First Lord and the Commander-in-Chief decided to make a high priority of recruiting and training officers specifically whose first loyalty would be to the Star League Defense Forces. The First Lord also won the right to recruit common citizens for SLDF military service. Though this would ultimately create serious tensions, it would also produce some of the Star League’s greatest military heroes.
ATTITUDE TOWARD THE PERIPHERY
The Periphery? It’s like one big booby hatch. You don’t lock up that crazy guy walking around your city screaming about God at the top of his lungs or exposing himself to school girls. You just give him a ticket to the Periphery.
-Duke Mitchell Frenser of Caph, quoted in The Periphery Mistake: An Exercise in Misconceptions, by Duchess Bethella Ganis, Terran Press, 2811
In Ian Cameron’s dream of Humanity united under one government, he had always envisioned the Taurian Concordat, the Magistracy of Canopus, the Rim Worlds Republic, and the Outworlds Alliance, the four major Confederations of the Periphery, as part of the Star League. Yet the fiercely independent governments and people of the Periphery did not share that dream. Those distant worlds had originally been settled by people disenchanted either with life on the Terran homeworld or in what became the five other states of the Inner Sphere. Why would they seek to realign themselves with Terra or her offspring now?
As for the leaders of the Inner Sphere, they were even more suspicious and hostile toward the Periphery than they had always been toward one another. That did not prevent the Lyrans, the Capellans, and the Mariks from trading with Periphery governments when it was to their advantage. Truth be told, however, most people of the Inner Sphere looked down with ill-concealed contempt on their Periphery counterparts, misperceiving them as scoundrels, ne’er-do-wells, radicals, or savages.
The Cameron family had its own private hatred of the Periphery because of an incident that occurred in 2499. In that year, one Lieutenant John Cameron was a second officer aboard the Orion, an unarmed survey vessel exploring a star system beyond the Lyran Commonwealth. In the Orion’s last message, the ship reported being attacked by an unidentified vessel. When an Hegemony searching party eventually located the survey vessel, it was an empty hulk with not a trace of crew. Though no conclusive proof ever turned up, some evidence indicated that a Rim Worlds Republic warship had attacked the Orion. The Camerons vowed that one day they would make those Periphery bandits pay dearly for the death of John Cameron.
PRELUDE TO WAR
We’ve given a million men and women the knowledge to kill in new and exciting ways, then taken away their weapons and told that they can’t practice what they’ve learned.
-From a letter by General Shandra Cameron to Lord Ian Cameron, October 2569
It is ironic that the Star League, whose stated purpose was peace and good will among the stars, should have made war its first major undertaking. Known as the Reunification War, this conflict would claim more lives in 20 years of brutal fighting than had the Age of War, which lasted a century and a half. The purpose of the Reunification War was to bring the major governments of the Periphery into the Star League by force of arms.
Within weeks after the signing of the Star League Accords, Ian Cameron sent copies of the Accords to each of the major Periphery states, all of whom rejected the offer within the year. In public, the First Lord and his Council Lords expressed regret over this refusal, but the Periphery leaders had played right into their hands. Like nearly every powerful government that came before or after it, the Star League suffered from the imperialist urge to dominate. If they were no longer going to be warring with each other, then they would go to war with the Periphery.
Ian Cameron began to refer to the Periphery as the “lost worlds,” while instructing the Star League propaganda machine to produce a variety of materials portraying the outworlders as everything from prodigal sons and daughters to the most murderous Neanderthals. Cameron also kept Star League diplomats busy making such proposals to the Periphery leaders as a galactic summit on Terra in 2572 (which every Periphery government except the Rim Worlds refused to attend) or a “favored-nation” trade package with the Taurian Concordat in 2573. The latter was particularly specious, for the Taurians’ local products were superior to the exports the Star League was offering.
There was another, more pressing reason for a war against the proud and independent Periphery governments. Now that real cooperation existed between the Great Houses of the Inner Sphere, every government would have to significantly reduce its standing army. Even with the troops being contributed to the Star League Defense Forces, this would still leave hundreds of thousands of battle-hardened veterans without work-and without any other marketable skills.
The creation of the Star League Defense Forces took the best soldiers from each member-state, while the cream of the remainder quickly rose in the ranks of the individual state militaries. Yet even as the largest military force in mankind’s history was being created, the new era of peace sent many trained soldiers back into civilian life. Many soldiers suddenly faced the unpleasant prospect of having to beat their sword into plowshares. Most had joined the military as young men and women. It was all they knew, all they were trained to do. Now they were suddenly expected to return to civilian life.
Many veterans found work as bodyguards for local nobles, and others banded into fighting units that hired out to nobles and governments to combat roving brigands. Some veterans, however, felt so lost that it was they who became the brigands preying upon their former masters. One of the gravest questions dominating High Council meetings of this period was what to do about the millions of unemployed soldiers roaming the Star League.
UNITED TRIUMPH MILITARY EXERCISES
In late 2571, a band of brigands, composed mainly of veterans from the Capellan military, attacked and razed a group of islands on the Capellan world of Milos. When the Capellans responded by sending in a ‘Mech regiment, the soldiers recognized the brigands as former comrades and refused to attack. In response, the Chancellor of the Capellan Confederation asked the Star League for assistance from the Twenty-Second Royal BattleMech Regiment. Just as the Twenty-Second was overrunning the brigands on Milos, the Capellan regiment went to the rescue of their former comrades by counterattacking the Star League unit. The Twenty-Second managed to retreat without suffering too much damage, but news of this turnabout persuaded the Council Lords that something had to be done immediately.
Transcripts from the High Council Spring Session of 2572 indicate that every Council Lord except Archon Viola Steiner voted in favor of the resolution they placed before First Lord Cameron. If the wandering veterans could not be controlled, the Council Lords said, then each Great House would have to return its military to a war-time footing, a move that would threaten the SLDF’s numerical superiority and destabilize the fragile League.
After consulting with his advisors and Commander-in-Chief Shandra, Ian Cameron responded by ordering the staging of a massive series of military exercises between the SLDF and the state militaries. These exercises would create work for unemployed soldiers, whom the League would hire as ersatz regiments to hold certain unimportant worlds while the real regiments were out participating in the exercises.
In fall 2572, the First Lord announced his plan for the United Triumph Military Exercises. Thirteen SLDF divisions and ten equivalent House units participated in the largest military exercises ever staged. Over 50 barren and lightly populated worlds became the game board where the exercises were played out. Most of these worlds were near the Periphery state borders.
Militarily, the exercises proved embarrassing for the Star League. Though technically and logistically superior to all other armies, the divisions of the new SLDF were still uncoordinated and unsure of themselves. They suffered many clumsy defeats and some outright disasters. One of these was the collision of the SLS Rickover, a Congress Class frigate, and the SLS Davion’s Heart, a Davion Class destroyer on loan to the League, over the Marik world of Vakarel.
The exercises were also embarrassing politically. The leaders of the Periphery realms took special comfort in seeing the much-vaunted SLDF bested by ordinary House units. Gaining confidence that they could continue to resist Lord Cameron’s demand that they join the League, some Periphery leaders began to openly scorn the Star League and its apparently inept military. Among the people, ribald songs and lurid caricatures of Lord Ian as a doddering old man began to appear in the Outworlds Alliance and the Magistracy of Canopus.
The only good salvaged from the United Triumph exercises was passage of the Border Guards Agreement of 2572, which allowed the SLDF to establish military bases throughout the Inner Sphere, particularly in Periphery border areas. These bases would soon become vital.
SPARKS OF SANTIAGO
A great flame follows a little spark.
-From “Paradiso,” The Divine Comedy, by Dante Alighierei
In 2572, First Lord Cameron learned of the presence of a regiment’s worth of BattleMechs in the Outworlds Alliance. He had no idea from whom the Alliance had purchased the ‘Mechs, but believed that they were going to use them as models for manufacture. In response, Cameron issued Directive 21, which informed key worlds in the Outworlds Alliance that they must accept SLDF units for their “mutual defense and protection against the numerous bands of outlaws and pirates that have infiltrated the region.” SLDF troops and units from the Draconis Combine were immediately deployed into the Outworlds Alliance.
Though the Star League Regulars had explicit orders to concentrate on searching for the location of the Alliance ‘Mechs, the Combine units were under no such orders. The Seventeenth Galedon Regulars, a typical Combine BattleMech regiment, was assigned to search Santiago City, a major metropolis and communications center of the Outworlds Alliance. With typical Draconian arrogance, the Galedon Regulars destroyed buildings, ruined businesses, and earned the animosity of every citizen in their search for the elusive Alliance ‘Mechs.
Santiago civilians jeered and threw things at the Combine ‘Mechs as they lumbered past. The children of Santiago, known locally as “sparks,” particularly enjoyed this sport. They thought the worst thing that could happen was that a ‘Mech would swivel its head to look at them while making deafening, unintelligible noises over its loudspeakers.
On December 14, 2572, this “sport” became deadly. While a lance of Galedon Regulars proceeded through a poor neighborhood, the local children taunted and jeered, ran between the ‘Mechs’ legs, and pelted the soldiers with a barrage of snowballs, stones, and other objects. Finally, one young warrior cracked open the cockpit of her Locust and tossed a can of coolant at a child running alongside her ‘Mech. It is entirely possible that the warrior was only trying to keep the youngster from running between the legs of her ‘Mech, but the can missed the fleeing child and struck the concrete before him. The can split open, exploding coolant all over the boy.
An enraged crowd gathered around the screaming child and the MechWarrior, whose lance had moved on. While trying to escape, her Locust’s legs tangled in the rusted-out shell of an abandoned vehicle and the ‘Mech toppled over, crushing several people. The crowd attacked the fallen ‘Mech with steel piped, wooden boards, and anything else they could find. Completely panic-stricken, the young Combine warrior began to blindly fire her ‘Mech’s weapons. Twenty-seven Santiagans were killed and another 30 were wounded that day.
Repercussions of the Santiago Massacre were widespread. Anti-Star League demonstrations broke out in all the Periphery states. In 2573, the crisis grew even deeper after the Combine MechWarrior’s court-marshal took place on Terra instead of in a Santiago court. The people of the Periphery and their leaders were thoroughly convinced that the Star League was a treacherous as it was deceitful.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: There have been many versions in the telling of this incident. This account meshes several previous reports and includes new research.]
As a direct result of the Santiago Massacre, the ruler of the Magistracy of Canopus broke off negotiations over a border dispute with the Star League. In the Taurian Concordat, Protector Mitchell Calderon ordered military emergency measures to rapidly strengthen the Concordat’s defenses. It was also in this period that all the Periphery governments but the Rim Worlds refused the Star League’s call for a galactic summit and the Taurians flatly refused “favored-nation” trade with the League.
Though many BSLA diplomats counseled letting the furor subside, the Council Lords retaliated. In 2574, they passed a series of harsh trade restrictions and taxes intended to bring the Periphery to its knees. Though the new taxes brought about hard economic times-even the threat of starvation-for the people of those distant realms, their spirit of independence seemed to grow even stronger. War was inevitable and everyone knew it.
This is the Grex-Dex Mining Station on Fontana in the Malagrotta system. We will soon be under attack by five Taurian Concordat naval vessels. Mitchell Hensley, our foreman and a Navy veteran, tells me that the ships are a Winchester Class cruiser, two Wagon Wheel frigates, and one Pinto corvette, all armed and headed this way. For the love of God, help us. We’re lyal to the Federated Suns and have no wish to end up as slaves to a bunch of gun-happy hooligans.
-Dispatch from a Davion mining colony on Fontana to the government of the Federated Suns, February 19, 2573
In 2499, huge deposits of titanium were discovered just beneath the sulphur-encrusted surface of the airless moon known as Fontana, which orbited the gas giant DeeCee in the Malagrotta star system. The discoverer of that moon, Grex-Dex Mining, had offices in the Federated Suns and in the Taurian Concordat. Upon learning of the discovery, both realms claimed the Malagrotta system, which lay in the unclaimed area of space between the two realms. Each side also dispatched military units to reinforce its claim.
In one of the few instances of cooperation between an Inner Sphere realm and a Periphery domain, the two sides reached a diplomatic solution. In 2511, they negotiated the Omsol Accord, which decreed that Fontana was so rich in titanium that there was plenty for both. They formally agreed to operate Fontana as a joint venture. The most important provision of the treaty was the promise that neither state would establish a military presence in the system.
In February 2573, the Omsol Accord was inadvertently broken. Five Taurian naval vessels, on manuevers with a larger fleet in the nearby Drexa star system, strayed into the Malagrotta system because of navigational and communication failures. Unaware of their incredible blunder and unable to communicate, the five vessels calmly made their way to Fontana, hoping to repair their equipment and then leave. They were completely unaware that the panicked Davion miners on the planet had issued several distress calls to the Federated Suns.
The Federated Suns dispatched ten vessels from its nearby naval base to look into this “cowardly Taurian sneak attack.” Arriving at Malagrotta, they discovered the Taurian vessels floating above Fontana. The Davion commander immediately ordered his vessels to open fire on the Taurians. The battle lasted three hours and ended with all but one Taurian vessel captured or destroyed. Only the Taurian cruiser, severely damaged, managed to limp to the jump point and escape home.
When the truth came out later, the Malagrotta crisis might have blossomed into an interstellar incident. Instead, the Davion military covered up this officer’s mistake while continuing to complain loudly about the Concordat’s act of war in the Fontana system. The Armed Forces of the Federated Suns geared up for war. Troops were placed on full alert along the Davion/Concordat border and warships were moved in from the realm’s interior in preparation for action. The Concordat, realizing that it was too late to let truth speak for itself, placed its own sizeable military on alert.
When Lord Alexander Davion finally learned the facts about the Malagrotta crisis, he appealed to the First Lord to mediate the dispute, though he did not reveal his officer’s stupid mistake. The Taurian Concordat flatly refused to deal with the First Lord, however. They claimed that their grievance involved only the Federated Suns and that the Star League had no business meddling in their affairs. Enraged by the Taurians’ refusal, Cameron is reported to have said, “We have been compassionate and prudent long enough. I’ll be damned if I’m going to pull any more punches.”
Publicly, he announced that the Federated Suns had acted justifiably in response to unwarranted military attacks on civilian settlements. In notes regarding his decision, Lord Ian was apparently in favor of the Federated Suns occupying the Malagrotta system if the Concordat refused to pay reparations, but Archon Viola talked him out of it. The other Council Lords were split on the Malagrotta affair. The only thing all six could agree on was that something would have to be done about the Periphery.