VICIOUSNESS ON INGRESS
I’ve been a Sergeant in the Colonial Marines for over 20 malfing years. I served in the Alliance Global Militia and then in the Hegemony Armed Forces. I’m one of the best damn combat sergeants they’ve ever seen, which is why the brass came to me and offered me a transfer into the first CAAN regiment (Combined Armor, Air, and Naval Regiment). Prestige and extra pay are two things I’ve never turned down, a willing man being a third.
For the next year, I participated in the formation of the regiment. Being a grunt Marine, most of my duties were centered on helping create effective tactics and procedures to mesh with all the tanks, hovercraft, and fighters the regiment would have.
In 2316, the regiment was all set for action and it wasn’t too long before we got the word to mobilize for a new task force setting out to take Ingress. Briefings described the world as rich, with many natural resources and thriving industrial development. What made the planet a perfect target for a CAAN Regiment was that most of the planet’s important cities were clustered around one large, deep sea.
I’ve never been a fan of JumpShips and travel through nether-dimensions. It always makes my sick, no matter how many barf-pills I swallow. Getting to Ingress put me into a pretty foul mood, which didn’t get much better when I could feel our ship suddenly accelerate and shudder. Apparently the rebels at Ingress were better armed than what Intelligence had led us to believe.
As it turned out, the First CAAN was among the first regiments to make it onto the planet. Our DropShips landed in their assigned zones near the Ingress Sea, which had been semi-secured by Marine Jump Troops dropped earlier. Some of our DropShips landed directly in the shallow waters and began unloading hovercraft and gunboats, while other DropShips landed the fighters in the large, flat valley that was to be our fighter base.
My troops and I strapped ourselves into our hovercraft and set off for our first combat mission. Grand Port was a major city down the coast. Our assignment was to attack the sloping beach and seize certain key points along the waterfront so that the dogfaces could land in their DropShips and take the rest of the city.
After we had sped along for an hour, our target became visible. It was infantry with anti-tank grenades and missiles. One white line of missile smoke became two, then three, then a whole thicket of white smoke streams all aimed directly at us. Most of the missiles were small heat-seekers, easily avoided with our flares and heat suppressors. Still, a few got through. One hit the engine compartment and control surfaces of the hovercraft next to us. The craft gave a shudder, then suddenly twirled to port as the engine detonated.
After the fight, we discovered that the enemy on Ingress somehow had access to ancient blueprints of missile weapons. These things were really antiques-some of the plans were for a missile used by the military of the old Unites States of America. All the enemy had to do was retool a few factories and they could start churning out weapons like cheap toys. Though the weapons were outdated, they were capable of causing considerable damage, especially when used in combination with sneaky guerrilla tactics.
The fight for Ingress was far from the peaceful persuasion the folks back home were led to believe. It was a war, pure and simple. Our weaponry, for all its high-tech glory, was sh*t, considering all it took was some country bumpkin with a handheld missile launcher to turn it into a pile of scrap metal.
-From The High-Tech Toy Army, by Randi Fahner (HAF retired), Terra Military Press, 2322
The poor performance of HAF technology forced Director-General McKenna to reconsider his priorities. He saw that his dream of uniting all mankind under one flag would require a force vastly larger and more powerful than the HAF. Yet, James McKenna still devoutly believed that Terra should become the center of all Humanity.
Meanwhile, worlds outside the Hegemony had found it necessary or profitable to band together. The Marik Commonwealth, the Federation of Oriente, The Dominion of Regulus, the Federation of Skye, the Protectorate of Donegal, the Tamar Pact, the Crucis Pact, the Ozawa Mercantile Association, and the Capellan Republic were just a few of the alliances created at this time. Many had banded together for economic reasons; others hoped to protect one another from bands of marauding brigands. A few of the associations consisted of worlds conquered by a particular family bent on acquiring wealth and power.
By the 2330s, these associations had become large and vigorous independent domains, each with its own private military. Having already encountered a few of these militaries, McKenna knew he could not conquer them all. Privately, he doubted he could conquer even one without straining the Hegemony’s resources.
Diplomacy suddenly became McKenna’s most potent weapon. He began to tone down the rhetoric of his speeches. No longer did he speak of one realm uniting all Humanity, but instead described the Hegemony as the repository of all mankind’s knowledge and compassion. Within the Hegemony government, McKenna also began to completely revamp the government’s Foreign Affairs Department. In this era, many important diplomatic delegations traveled from the Hegemony to the worlds beyond its borders to exchange ambassadors and establish full diplomatic relations.
THE SYRMA AMBUSH
Despite improved relations between the Hegemony and the various pacts and confederations around it, there were still quite a few unaffiliated worlds that Director-General McKenna considered fair game. In 2335, he launched his third, and last, major offensive to seize certain worlds that he considered vital to the Hegemony’s continued growth.
Most of these planets lay toward the Federation of Skye in what would one day be the Lyran Commonwealth. Two worlds, Syrma and Galatea, became the focus of McKenna’s plans. Though both planets were technically within the boundaries claimed by the Federation of Skye, they were populated by an anti-technology religious sect that had no wish to join any interplanetary realm. The Federation had tolerated the inhabitants’ wishes, but these resource and water-rich planets were too much of a temptation for Director-General McKenna.
The Terran Hegemony was initially successful. Drawing on lessons from its two earlier offensives, the better-trained and equipped HAF easily took Denebola, Milton, Alioth, Mizar, and Lyons. Morale was high in the various strike forces. Though technically in command, the Director-General had turned over most of his authority to his son, Admiral Konrad McKenna, who had his father’s charisma and intelligence.
Since 2333, Konrad McKenna had commanded the HAF’s Navy, over 300 warships strong, with skill and panache. Though he had yet to command in a heavy combat zone, everyone expected Konrad to perform like a McKenna. Most also expected that he would succeed his father as Director-General. When James McKenna announced that duties and poor health were forcing him to leave the strike force and return to Terra, Admiral Konrad McKenna took over.
Approaching Galatea, one of the main objectives of the entire offensive, Konrad McKenna broke with standard procedures by striking at the world without the usual Naughty Picture Runs. He claimed that there would be little resistance from the peaceful and technologically backward inhabitants, who were unlikely to have advanced weapons. Though the people of Galatea were indeed believers in low technology, they were more than willing to arm themselves with slug-throwing weapons. They used their superior knowledge of the planet to harass the HAF forces, many of whom died in the effort to subdue the people of Galatea.
After this serious error, the rest of the Hegemony strike force commanders were doubtful about accepting McKenna’s judgments. Sensing this, McKenna began to blame them publicly for the problems, which his father would never have done. The Navy High Command still believed in Konrad McKenna, however, and stayed out of the feud brewing between the Admiral and the army.
After a difficult, year-long battle, Galatea was finally won. The Navy was assembled at the system jump points for the leap over to Syrma, when Admiral McKenna announced another, more serious break with standard campaign procedures. He believed that it was a waste of time for only the major warships to fight for the jump points so that the troopships could safely make their jumps. Instead, he wanted the cargo vessels and troopships to make the first jump simultaneously with the warships. The Admiral reasoned that because Syrma was populated by the same sort of anti-tech colonists as Galatea, there would be no need to fight for the jump points. It would be more efficient for the troopships to jump insystem and immediately accelerate toward their target.
The other commanders violently disagreed, with even the Naval officers wary of such a risky move. When General Rebecca Danforth publicly branded the Admiral a fool, she was arrested and sent to the brig. The invasion of Syrma, as planned by Admiral Konrad McKenna, began on July 23, 2338.
What Admiral McKenna did not know, and his military intelligence had failed to uncover, was that the inhabitants of Syrma had struck a secret deal with the Federation of Skye after receiving news of Galatea. Though the Federation had no wish to ruin good relations with the Hegemony by actively defending Syrma, they did not take kindly to the McKennas seizing worlds so close to Skye, capital of the Federation. Thus did the Federation of Skye take the extraordinary and expensive step of building and spreading countless mines and Sleeper missiles at Syrma’s main jump points.
Many of the mines exploded the instant the HAF ships fully materialized. There were even reports of some JumpShips actually materializing around mines. The heat and force of the explosions activated the dormant Sleeper missiles, which fired up their engines and sought out the survivors after the debris had floated by.
The folly of Admiral McKenna’s plan quickly became apparent. The larger warships could withstand hits from many mines and missiles, but the less massive troopships and cargo vessels could not. Of the 29 troopships that jumped into the Syrma system with the first wave of the HAF, only two survived. Not only was this a tremendous loss of life, but it also effectively stripped the strike force’s ability to invade and seize a planet.
Things were going to get even worse, however. Admiral McKenna’s plan was for the second wave of ships to make the jump without waiting for word from the first wave. This meant that the survivors of the first wave now had to pick their way through the remaining mines and the floating hulks of destroyed vessels as the ships of the second wave started to materialize around them. Most managed to limp out of the way, but some could not, and another six vessels were lost.
Unfortunately for all concerned, Admiral McKenna’s battleship came through the jump without a scratch. Instead of seeing the flaw in his planning, he blamed everything on the commander of the first wave, Vice-Admiral Harris Cather. So incensed was Admiral McKenna by the Vice-Admiral’s supposed treasonous neglect that he held a court-martial right there amid the hulks of the many destroyed Hegemony ships.
The court-martial was a farce in which Admiral McKenna, acting as prosecutor as well as judge, laid all blame at the feet of Vice-Admiral Cather. As the trial dragged into its third week, the survivors of the disaster began to shake off the numbness of shock. At least ten crews privately vowed to mutiny if the Vice-Admiral were found guilty for Admiral McKenna’s ineptness.
A day before the trial was finally to end, the Black Lion appeared alongside Admiral Konrad McKenna’s flagship. The Director-General had left Terra as soon as news of the Syrma Ambush reached him. Deeply ashamed of his son’s behavior, James McKenna apologized to the survivors and announced that he was stripping his son of all ranks and privileges. Assuming command of the remaining vessels, he ordered everyone back to Terra.
The Black Lion paused in the Syrma system for three hours after the departure of other Hegemony vessels. There has never been any official explanation for why James McKenna remained for so long among the twisted hulks of those lost Hegemony troopships.
DEATH OF JAMES MCKENNA
When details of the disaster at Syrma reached the Hegemony public, they reacted with shock and outrage. Public demonstrations and riots became widespread.
Die-hard supporters of the old Alliance and other critics of the Director-General used the Syrma Ambush to their advantage, blaming the disaster on the McKennas and the government they had created. This inflamed passions even further, as street demonstrations escalated to dissatisfaction with the Hegemony government itself.
Within the HAF, the Syrma disaster created a deep rift between the Army and the Navy. The Army, having lost two divisions of men and equipment, blamed the Navy for not realizing earlier that Vice-Admiral McKenna was incompetent. Navy commanders pointed out that the Army may have lost more in the disaster, but that the Navy had losses of 34 trained crews and as many ships of its own. If anyone was to blame for not seeing Konrad McKenna as a fool, the Admirals said to the Generals, it was the man’s own father.
Public and military tensions increased as the Director-General refused to allow his son to be prosecuted for incompetence. This was further fuel for opponents of the Hegemony, and the bravest among them called for the Director’s impeachment. Though technically impossible, the call to depose him almost immediately divided the Hegemony into two camps, with the state threatening to plunge into a chaos as destructive as that which had brought down the Alliance.
It was at that moment that the Director-General made a realm-wide broadcast to his people. With touching candor, he explained that he knew his office demanded that he punish Vice-Admiral Konrad McKenna for the Syrma fiasco, but he could not forget that Konrad was his son. Torn between his sense of duty and his desire to protect his son, the Director-General had decided that it was time for him to retire.
The announcement caught the entire Hegemony by surprise. Because of his truthfulness and humility, McKenna had once more won the people’s support. Within ten days, however, he was beyond politics. James McKenna died of cancer at age 64.
RISE OF THE CAMERONS
I’ve spent much of my life in the military. I’m used to being forced to volunteer.
-Michael Cameron, as quoted in The Life of Michael Cameron, by Henrietta Vela, New Earth Books, 2399
The Hegemony, specifically the High Council, now faced the task of finding someone to replace the irreplaceable James McKenna. There was still enough public and political discord in the Hegemony over the Syrma Ambush to give the High Councilors a sense of urgency. Yet, they agreed that the next candidate for Director-General would need at least some of James McKenna’s qualities, if not his name.
James McKenna’s only offspring, Konrad, was out of the question. Disgraced and drummed out of the HAF, he had retreated to his London home, where he was quietly going mad among a jungle of house plants and 50 cats. Other close relatives, such as McKenna’s sister Katherine McKenna or cousin Uston McKenna, were either too young, too uninterested, or too eager for the job.
Expanding their search to include more distant relations of the late Director-General, the Councilors eventually settled on two candidates. Graham Nellas, a nephew of James McKenna, represented the Pacific Northwest States of North America in the Terran Congress. Forty-five years old, he had served in the HAF as a Marine officer, winning a medal of valor for his actions in the conquest of Addicks. The handsome Graham was politically conservative and an excellent orator.
Michael Cameron, a third cousin to McKenna, was the other candidate, though some Councilors believed he was less qualified than Senator Graham Nellas. Only thirty, Michael was currently an officer in the Army Reserves. A scholarly man, all his life he had shown a marked distaste for politics or religion of any sort, believing instead in what he called “heart’s honor.”
One of the reasons the High Councilors were considering Michael Cameron was his learning and interest in serious research. He could discuss almost any topic with a knowledge equaled to or even greater than that of some experts. This led to his later becoming known as the first true Renaissance Man in centuries, which Michael considered the highest of praise.
The other quality that attracted the High Councilors to Michael Cameron was the passion he brought to everything he did. Someone once said that when he was deeply involved in a project, Michael “got a strange air of doom about him, almost as though you could hear the thunder of his mind and see the flashes of lightning behind his eyes.” Other stories described Michael spending whole days and nights working on research projects or trying to solve various problems relating to his reserve unit.
Though some admired this quality of dogged determination, others called it obsessive behavior, perhaps even a sign of mental imbalance. In person, though, Cameron deeply impressed the Councilors with his honesty and intelligence.
As the day for a decision drew nearer, the Councilors remained split over whom to recommend as the next Director-General, and the debate became more heated and tense. On the day before the announcement must be made, the Councilors were still hanging fire. Because of their inability to choose, they decided to submit the names of Graham Nellas and Michael Cameron to the people for consideration. Privately, many Councilors expected the public to choose the more personable Graham Nellas, while others hoped that they would appreciate Michael Cameron’s genius, despite his unassuming demeanor.
According to political election rules laid down by Director-General James McKenna, the two candidates had to run strictly controlled political campaigns. The number and type of public appearances they could make was severely limited, and advertisements in the public media were banned. The late Director had wanted to make sure that the days of the people electing a photogenic person with a winning smile and vacuum between the ears were gone forever.
In place of a media blitz, the public witnessed frequent debates between Michael Cameron and Graham Nellas, before the holocameras as well as in the various print media. In the public debates, Graham Nellas came across as suave and self-assured, but perhaps too glib in expressing himself. Nellas also had actual experience in the Terran Congress, a fact he mentioned as often as possible. The public nevertheless voted for the serious and brilliant Michael Cameron by a large margin, reassured by his air of quiet competence. Incredible as was this upset, a total of three official recounts requested by the High Councilors turned up no evidence of vote tampering or changes in the results.
On January 17, 2340, Michael Cameron was sworn in as the second Director-General and Lord Protector of the Terran Hegemony.