Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Star League Part 6


Corncob Cruisers

The Potemkin Class cruiser, designed and built by Riga Interstellar Shipyards, may have been the oddest ship ever to appear in the Hegemony Navy. The basic hull was a thick cylinder with major weapon systems on its nose and around the retractable sails and the nozzles of the interplanetary engines; along the sides of the cruiser were 25 DropShip docking rings. Potemkin cruisers went into battle carrying 25 DropShips, though the type carried depended upon the particular mission. The old Dictator Class vessel, the forerunner of the Overlord, was used most frequently.

Potemkin Class cruisers performed well, but the enormous fuel requirements of 25 DropShips made it necessary for at least two fuel tankers to accompany each cruiser into battle, defeating the Cameron doctrine of highly self-reliant vessels. After participating in the liberation of Terra, the last Potemkin Class cruiser, the Riga, was decommissioned by the Star League Defense Forces in 2781. The Riga was recommissioned by General Kerensky in 2784, and eventually participated in the Exodus of the Regular Army.


In 2390, Johnson-Aldis Weaponries announced the production of a combat vehicle that would revolutionize the battlefield. Dubbed the Thorizer, after the Thorin flying predator, it was a cross between a large hovercraft and a jet fighter. The Thorizer spent most of its time on its hovercraft skirts, but hidden wings as well as concealed nozzles to provide jet propulsion would emerge if necessary. The Thorizer would then speed along the ground, gradually forcing more and more of its engine exhaust through the jet nozzles and away from its hovercraft skirts as the wings lifted it off the ground.

As with most hybrid weapons, the Thorizer could not perform up to the standards of either of its parents. It was a poor hovercraft because it had no armor, and it was a poor fighter that could fly at only half the speed of its slowest airborne rival. The Thorizer, quickly dubbed the “Goony Bird” by its crews, lasted only 20 years, mostly in militia units.

The Wrong-Way Pack

The Starbird EVCMP (Extra-Vehicular Combat Maneuvering Pack), manufactured by the Park-Nieldson Propulsion Systems company of Altair, tested far beyond the expectations of all observers. The Starbird Flight Pack was to be worn by marine infantrymen for maneuvering between spaceships during boarding and search-and-seizure operations. That meant it had to be lightweight, tough, reliable, and equipped with advanced computer and navigation equipment. Because the Starbird met all these requirements, it is not surprising that, in 2399, the Marine Corps ordered more than a hundred thousand.

A few months later, the Hegemony Marine Corps began to receive numerous reports of soldiers directing that the flight pack go one way and having it suddenly accelerate in the other direction. At first, the Marine Corps ignored the reports, blaming the flight pack’s erratic performance on inexperienced soldiers. As the number of incidents increased with time, reports reached the ears of the civilian government, which began to investigate. After much public pressure, the Marine Corps finally grounded all Starbird Flight Packs and began its own investigation.

The root of the problem was that the computer chips in the command maneuver center were poorly designed and constructed, leaving them extremely sensitive to overheating. Instead of completely failing, however, the chips would create what computer experts call “a heat-induced command flip-flop.” The chips would interpret any command entered by the operator in its exact opposite form. It took trillions of dollars and nine months of redesign effort to get the Starbird Flight Packs back into active service in the Hegemony Marine Corps.

-From ComStar Research Bulletin No. 61283217, “Weapons Research in the Star League Era”



In February 2380, Margaret Cameron was diagnosed as having cervical cancer. Though the disease went into remission two years later, she remained too feeble to properly rule the Hegemony government. In March 2382, she announced her retirement, suggesting her son Raymond Cameron as a replacement.

Though only 34 years old, Lord Raymond Cameron was not in particularly good health, either. A decade earlier, as a young pilot, he had been in a jet fighter accident that almost killed him. The accident left his face horribly scarred and he also suffered other injuries that continued to affect his health. Raymond was also sterile, but the High Council nevertheless nominated him and the public elected him as the fourth Director-General.

Raymond Cameron’s wife was Katherine McQuiston, whose family had formed the Federation of Skye and were among the founders of the Lyran Commonwealth. Up till now, relations between the Hegemony and the heavily industrial Federation of Skye had been cool because of the Mother Doctrine restricting the Hegemony from sharing technology. Businessmen on both sides of the issue hoped that Lord Raymond’s accession would herald more profitable relations between the two realms.

It was not to be. Director-General Raymond was even more protective and attentive of Hegemony trade secrets than of his wife. Feeling neglected, Katherine began a romantic liaison with Raymond’s brother, Lord Brian. Meanwhile, Raymond was further tightening restrictions on the list of secret technology.

In 2385, the planet Bryant voted that Director Raymond should rescind or modify the laws requiring the induction of every able-bodied man and woman into the HAF. In reply, Raymond cut off all government funds to Bryant and threatened military action if the people did not withdraw their demand. The Bryants had no choice but to reverse their previous request.

Heavy-handed actions such as this earned Director Raymond the animosity of the entire Hegemony. For the next two years, both the Congress and the public became increasingly hostile. No longer able to pass the laws he wanted, Raymond Cameron began issuing “Emergency” and “Temporary” Directives.

In late 2387, Katherine McQuiston became pregnant, creating a monumental scandal and sending Director Raymond into a rage. Brian Cameron was arrested. The entire realm braced itself for a political crisis as Raymond publicly charged his brother with treason, an offense punishable by death.

In an emergency meeting two days before the trial, the High Council attempted to change the Director’s mind. They were unsuccessful. Shortly afterward, Raymond Cameron was found dead in the cloakroom of the Halls of Justice.


The coroner’s reports showed conclusively that Raymond Cameron had died of a coronary, brought on by medication he was taking. Yet rumors of assassination spread throughout the Hegemony, creating a split among the people. Many wanted all charged dropped against Lord Brian so that he could accede to the Director-Generalship. Others argued that even if Brian were innocent of murder, he was an adulterer and therefore unfit for the office of Director-General. When Katherine McQuiston gave birth to Brian’s son, whom she named Richard, the scandal and debate rose to an even higher pitch.

It was up to the High Council to restore sanity. As there were no other Cameron relatives of sufficient skill to nominate, the Council decided to swear in Mitchell DuKirl, President of the Terran Congress and nephew of the late Sonya DuKirl, as Director-General Pro Tem. With someone at the helm of state, the High Councilors were free to prosecute the trial of Brian Cameron. This controversial action was the only way the Councilors could imagine ending the situation without giving the impression of a coverup. For two months, they attempted to piece together a case against Lord Brian from the rambling diaries of the late Director. Then they presented their evidence to the Supreme Court. As expected, the Court threw out the case, and the High Councilors proceeded to publish everything they had found.

Their scheme was successful. When confronted with the insanely jealous words of Raymond Cameron, even the most suspicious person had to admit that Brian Cameron’s greatest crime was indiscretion. In September 2388, the High Councilors nominated Brian as Director-General of the Terran Hegemony. Though he won by only a slim majority, Brian Cameron became the new leader.

During his 15 years in office, Director-General Brian Cameron made two important contributions to the Hegemony, the first immediately after his accession. During his mother’s reign, he had served as Ambassador to the Draconis Combine. Even though the Kurita realm was in a relatively peaceful period under the lukewarm rule of Nihongi Kurita, Brian could not abide their martial philosophy. He knew that once the gentle Nihongi was gone, the belligerent Kurita blood would reassert itself. In preparation for renewed future tensions between the Hegemony and the Combine, Director Brian announced a major boost in military revenues in 2391.

Much of the new money would go toward the creation of huge military complexes on all worlds bordering the Draconis Combine. These complexes, which became known as Castles Brian, were built not to prevent an enemy from landing on a world, but from actually controlling it. Many of the Castles Brian were constructed in mountains, underground, and even beneath seas. Most had tunnels radiating from a central complex so that enemy attacks could be launched from various locations. The expense was enormous, but no one even questioned Director Brian’s decision. Events in the Inner Sphere made it all too obvious that the backbreaking effort was prudent.

Lord Brian’s second major contribution was the introduction of the Succession Bill of 2392. This bill set forth regulations by which the High Council could choose “the correct candidate for the Directorship,” should a Director die without naming a successor. Though couched in legal finery, the bill in effect introduced hereditary succession. The bill’s working technically allowed for election of a candidate from outside the Cameron family, but the rest of the provisions made that almost impossible.

In 2399, Brian Cameron married Katherine McQuiston and legally claimed Richard Cameron, then eleven years old, as his son.


In 2403, Lord Brian Cameron went to Elbar, a world that the Hegemony had recently acquired through a joint-ownership arrangement with the Federated Suns. The planet was once an arid and inhospitable wasteland that the Federated Suns could do little to transform. When the Hegemony provided assistance in the form of a water purification plant the Elbarians were able to build a small city surrounded by farms and ranches. Lord Brian had spent some of the best years of his life on a relative’s farm on Elbar. During most of his visit in 2403, he rekindled fond memories by touring the new farms and ranches.

Just before he arrived at a small cattle ranch, some bored young men had begun teasing the ranch’s prize bull. By the time the Director-General’s entourage of cars and hovercraft arrived, the bull was enraged. As Cameron and his staff passed, the animal smashed through the wooden bars of its corral as though they were twigs. Before the Director-General’s guards could react, the bull charged directly for Lord Brian, slamming into him with incredible force, and goring him severely. One of the guards shot the bull, but it was too late.

While everyone crowded around, Lord Brian, who was conscious and in pain, called the ranch owner to him. Fearful of being blamed for the Director-General’s injuries, the man timorously approached. When Lord Brian asked if the bull had been important, the rancher admitted that it was his only bull and that his fortunes depended on the animal. Though Lord Brian was obviously in pain, he told his staff pay the rancher for the bull. When they asked why, the Director said that an animal cannot be blamed for its nature, nor should a rancher be punished for a bull with remarkable aim. He wanted both himself and the bull to be remembered. Brian Cameron died before he could be moved to a place of care.

The ranch owner took Lord Brian’s remark to heart. He had the bull’s head mounted and the horns, still smeared with the blood of Lord Brian, coated with plastic resin. By way of apology, he sent the mounted head to the Camerons on Terra. The family accepted the gesture and had the bull’s head placed high on a wall in the main ballroom of Cameron Castle, just outside Glasgow, Scotland.

Lady Judith Cameron, younger sister to Brian, wasted little time in informing the High Council that she was the only rightful candidate for the Director-Generalship. Dismayed by such eagerness so soon after her brother’s death, the High Councilors resisted passing her name on to the public.

Lady Judith was the youngest of Margaret Cameron’s three children. Because Margaret had assumed that one of her sons would continue the Cameron dynasty, Judith had not been trained and molded to be a future ruler of the Hegemony. During a brief career in the HAF, she had shown a remarkable lack of Cameron brilliance and an almost violent disregard for authority.

Based on her record, the High Council decided to search for another candidate. When no other likely prospect emerged, they reluctantly nominated Lady Judith as the next Director-General two months after her brother’s death. The public showed their faith in Judith Cameron by confirming her appointment as the sixth Director-General.

Judith surprised many in government by continuing her brother’s policy of military build-up. She even requested that the Castles Brian, the series of fortresses built on Hegemony worlds facing the Draconis Combine, be built on worlds bordering the Free Worlds League and the Capellan Confederation.

The Age of War had just begun when Lady Judith assumed control over the Terran Hegemony. Beginning with the clash of forces of House Marik and Liao over control of the Andurien star system in 2398, that era was one of almost unrelenting violence, with every major realm fighting for control of key border worlds. For the Terran Hegemony, located smack in the middle of all the fighting, this was a period of considerable tension. The HAF might be able to defend itself against one enemy, but it would not stand a chance against two or more realms.

It was for this reason that Judith Cameron was so keen on expanding the construction of Castles Brian to border worlds along the Free Worlds League and Capellan Confederation. She felt that those two states, along with the ever-threatening Draconis Combine, were most likely to turn their avaricious sights on the Hegemony.

Director Judith did not fear House Marsden (which would become House Steiner upon the death of Alstair Marsden and the accession of his wife in 2408). The ties between the Hegemony and the Lyran Commandwealth had always been close, and her brother’s marriage to one of the Commonwealth’s famous McQuistons had made the bond even stronger. Relations were so good that the Hegemony and the Commonwealth, through the system of the joint-ownership of worlds, were carrying out extensive economic and industrial development of many marginal worlds in one another’s realms.

Relations between the Terran Hegemony and the Federated Suns were also good, with similar joint-ownership agreements for several worlds, most recently Cartago. The Federated Suns had by now come under the tyranny of Etien, Edward, and Edmund Davion, whose ineptitude and callousness were threatening to tear apart the Federated Suns. Judith, who wanted to maintain peaceful relations with House Davion, consoled herself with the thought that if the Federated Suns should suddenly turn on the Hegemony, it would be a short-term war. The people of House Davion were already showing signs of rebellion against the tyrants.

The HAF saw considerable military action during the Age of War. The Draconis Combine, the Free Worlds League, and the Capellan Confederation continually tested the Hegemony’s strength with “accidental” raids and “unintentional” strikes, but it was not until 2407 that the HAF saw major action. In that year, the Draconis Combine launched a full-scale offensive against the Commonwealth. Though the Combine forces appeared to be heading for the Commonwealth capital of Arcturus, the offensive suddenly veered away and began to force its way through the Federation of Skye.

When the Combine’s intentions became clear, Alstair Marsden, Archon of the Commonwealth, asked Lady Judith for help, but she refused to commit her troops to a Commonwealth offensive against the Combine. Instead, she agreed to send HAF forces to worlds jointly owned by the Commonwealth and the Hegemony to assume complete defensive duties on those worlds. Her decision, which meant the shipping of a dozen divisions to such worlds as Blue Diamond, Lyons, and Nusakan, freed Commonwealth units to participate in offensive actions against the Draconis Combine.

The Hegemony Armed Forces faced the Draconis Combine Mustered Soldiery in only one major battle during this time. In 2408, the Third Assault Armored Division faced an equivalent number of Kurita regiments on the planet Lyons. In this battle, the Hegemony used its superior warships in a coordinated space-ground defense to achieve a major victory. The battle was very costly in terms of casualties, however.

On the opposite side of the Hegemony, the HAF turned back the forces of the Capellan Confederation, who attempted to take Terra Firma in 2409. In that battle, Hegemony ground forces, led by the famed Black Charger Tank Division, stood their ground against a superior number of Capellans and despite the presence of enemy naval support. The Black Chargers held the planet for two months before being forced to withdraw. It was not long before a major Hegemony relief force, complete with warships, arrived to retake the planet, however. The Chancellor of the Capellan Confederation, Aleisha Liao, eventually offered to make reparations for the invasion, but the bitterness and violence of this costly battle had created a deep rift between the two governments.


Late in the 24th century, the Camerons realized that the limited number of worlds in the Terran Hegemony would eventually mean shortages of raw materials, the breakdown of industry, and collapse of the economy. Going to war to obtain new resources was ruled out almost immediately, however. Surrounded as it was, the Hegemony was not sufficiently strong to embark on conquest. Nor could it simply enter into a treaty agreement with one of the surrounding realms, for any such pact would most certainly require the Hegemony to share its superior technology. The Camerons had to find another way besides war to preserve their realm’s technological lead and to obtain raw resources.

The answer came from David Ocrassa, a young planetary engineer assigned by Director-General Margaret Cameron to study the problem. He proposed that the Hegemony negotiate agreements with neighboring Houses to make previously uninhabitable worlds habitable. In return, the Hegemony would own half of the planet's mineral resources and have some representation in the planet’s government. Though this arrangement would result in the loss of some closely guarded technology, the benefits outweighed the disadvantages.

When Hegemony leaders proposed joint-ownership ventures to the Lyran Commonwealth and the Federated Suns, they eagerly accepted. By the beginning of the 25th century, the Hegemony had transformed 20 such marginal worlds. As relations between realms improved over time, the Draconis Combine, the Free Worlds League, and the Capellan Confederation eventually made similar arrangements with the Hegemony. By the next century, the Hegemony was joint owner of more than 100 planets in the Inner Sphere.

-From Resource Management and Exploitation in the Terran Hegemony, by Precentor Nicholas Ferhill, ComStar Press, 2899

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