Saturday, July 25, 2009
The Star League Part 8
THE DECADENT CAMERONS
When Director-General Jacob died of a stroke in 2461, he left behind a regime that was the strongest military power in the Inner Sphere. This was due especially to the newest weapon in the Hegemony arsenal, the fearsome BattleMech. Yet Jacob had almost brought the economy to a grinding halt to build his ‘Mech force because so many industrial forces had to be siphoned away from the civilian economy. As a result, the public now faced shortages of basic goods, a situation that had not occurred since the time of the old Alliance. At the time of Jacob’s death, additional woes such as inflation and extended work days had stirred up the people’s anger toward the government.
Jacob’s son Theodore was his father’s chosen successor. Because of his experience as a HAF officer, the uneasy public elected him as their ninth Director-General, hoping the new leader would prove more responsive to their needs. However, more than 25 percent of the Hegemony’s voting population showed their distrust of the Camerons by voting against Theodore.
Instead, Theodore Cameron proved to be a half-hearted ruler. On certain issues, such as the passage of a restructured tax bill and the continuation of the HAF’s buildup, he was very decisive. On other pressing issues, he waffled and wavered.
Lord Theodore also had a taste for extravagance and high living. He revived ancient customs such as lavish balls, horse races, grand banquets, and richly ornamented finery. Though it has never been proved, many of Theodore’s wild parties were said to rival famous debauches of myth and legend.
What most outraged the public was Theodore’s blatant use of Hegemony funds to build or restore palaces. He spent billions of dollars renovating Louis XIV’s palace at Versailles for his own use. He also built Castle-by-the-Columbia, the Chicago Palaces, and 20 more on Terra and nearby Hegemony worlds.
By July 2470, the public was fed up enough to stage the first general strike in the history of the Hegemony. It began in the small Terran city of San Antonio, on the North American continent, where Lord Theodore had demolished a local landmark to build a “small Texas ranch” for his use. Incensed, San Antonians organized a complete work stoppage the next day and took to the streets. It did not take long for the demonstration to become a riot. Within hours, similar strikes and demonstrations erupted in neighboring cities. By the next day, the entire continent had shut down. By the end of the third day, Terra was at a total standstill while her people were shouting the slogan, “Remember the Alamo!” in dozens of languages.
Realizing that this could turn into a full-fledged assault on the government, the High Councilors apparently took Theodore aside and persuaded him to apologize to the people of Terra and to promise to rebuild the Alamo. Within six days, things had returned to normal. Though Theodore never reformed completely, he became more prudent after the Alamo incident.
It was also during Lord Theodore’s reign that relations between the Terran Hegemony and the Free Worlds League began to sour. The Marik family, particularly Carlos Marik, believed that the Hegemony’s military build-up was only a prelude to an invasion of their state. Thus did the Free Worlds League embark on an expansion of its own military, focusing on a large and modern fleet of warships.
Lord Theodore knew that under the right command, the Free Worlds’ new warships could pose a serious threat to the Hegemony worlds near their shared border. Taking personal command of the Hegemony battlecruiser Kiev, Lord Theodore led a massive naval assault against the Free Worlds fleet anchored at the Oriente star system. In the largest fleet action yet taken, more than 20 major Free Worlds warships were destroyed, while the Hegemony lost only two.
This created a political crisis within the Free Worlds League, resulting in a bloodless coup by Brion Marik against his older brother, the paranoiac Carlos. In 2478, Theodore Cameron offered to negotiate a peace treaty with the new Captain-General, which was signed in that year.
Theodore’s fast lifestyle finally caught up with him in 2479, when he died of pneumonia after a three-day party during the wet season of the Thorin Monsoons. Succeeding him as tenth Director-General, though by an even smaller margin of popular support, was his daughter, Elizabeth Cameron.
Though Elizabeth Cameron was another lover of extravagance, she was not as wild as her father. She showed little interest in the fate of either the military or the economy, and it was only the intervention of her High Councilors that prevented a total collapse of the Terran Hegemony.
During Elizabeth’s time, the HAF fought few battles. Instead, it continued to improve on its weapons, including lighter BattleMech frames, better computer systems, and AeroSpace Fighters. By the time Elizabeth died of New Earth Pox in 2501, the Hegemony was politically unstable, with the idea of dissolving the government being openly discussed.
It’s not Peace through Strength but Strength through Peace that will be our motto.
-Director-General Deborah Cameron to assembled nobles and political leaders, April 2509
Lady Deborah Cameron, daughter of Elizabeth Cameron and Alexander Rimes, almost missed becoming the eleventh Director-General of the Hegemony. Because the public had been so unhappy with the reigns of Elizabeth and Theodore Cameron, a shocking 46 percent voted against Deborah on election day. Though illegal, political parties had sprung up on many worlds, all of them with a definite anti-Cameron, anti-Hegemony slant. The leaders of these managed to occupy many public posts, which led to a number of confrontations with the more traditional bureaucrats. Many nobles felt especially threatened by this anti-Hegemony sentiment, but Lady Deborah simply allowed the political storm to swirl around her. She took no action against even the most blatantly anti-Cameron agitators.
Lady Deborah finally assumed the Director-Generalship after much of the initial furor died away. She further calmed the realm by immediately proving that she would not be another wasteful, ineffective leader like her mother. The public greeted a series of measures aimed at repairing the damage caused by the wasteful spending of her predecessors with cautious approval.
The new Director-General was a scholar whose intelligence and seriousness soon led to comparisons with Michael Cameron. After many years of study at prestigious universities such as Oxford, the University of Washington, and Olympic College, she had become Professor of Interstellar Politics and Diplomatic History at the Military Academy of Mars in 2499.
With all her knowledge of history, Lady Deborah understood that the Age of War was seriously weakening the other states of Inner Sphere. As Director-General, she decided that the Hegemony would be wisest to use its superior military for defensive purposes only. Instead, she intended to increase the Hegemony’s stability and stature through the peaceful means of trade and interstellar politics.
The Terran Hegemony had gradually been taking on the role of mediator even before Deborah’s time. Seven times before her accession, other realms had looked to Terra to settle their disputes. Though the parties did not always follow the Hegemony’s recommendations, no one had yet accused the Terrans of favoring one side or the other.
Lady Deborah hoped to expand this mediator role. In 2502, she delivered a series of speeches and papers outlining what she called her “Strategy of Aggressive Peacemaking.” This strategy called for a policy of superior intelligence and diplomacy that would contribute to the well-being of other realms. Instead of waiting for other states to come to the Hegemony with their disputes, Lady Deborah would begin to offer mediating services to the other Houses, asking for only a nominal fee and unrestricted travel between enemy realms.
This emphasis on diplomacy and intelligence meant a complete overhaul and substantial expansion of the Hegemony’s Central Intelligence Bureau (HCIB) and Department of Foreign Relations (DFR). Until then, the HCIB had concentrated on protecting and preventing technology from leaking to other realms. Now, under the Strategy of Aggressive Peacemaking, the agency would be responsible for learning all it could about every foreign realm. Though idealistic, Lady Deborah was realist enough to understand the value of secret information when attempting to settle a dispute, and she expected the HCIB to dig deep for dirty laundry.
There was plenty of work for the DFR and the HCIB under the new diplomatic doctrine. Though the Ares Conventions saved lives and property, these rules of war also made it easier for combatants to fight to an inconclusive draw. Disagreements over who had won or lost a planet were often more violent than the actual combat. As a result, dozens of worlds were in a kind of limbo because two states claimed its ownership. Neither side would allow any activity, not even farming, to take place until the question was settled, which could leave the local population seriously endangered. Due to Lady Deborah’s diplomatic strategy, contested worlds began to welcome the sight of a Hegemony vessel approaching.
Lady Deborah’s policy of Aggressive Peacemaking was not without some notable failures, but its many successes outweighed them. As news spread of the Commonwealth-Combine Ceasefire on Alrakis and the Phact Peace of 2538, it encouraged other realms to seek out Hegemony mediation. By 2540, Lady Deborah and her people considered the Strategy of Aggressive Peacemaking a resounding success.
For the Terran Hegemony, the benefits were twofold. First, every dispute settled between nearby realms made it less likely that the Hegemony would become involved in a war. Second, Director Deborah, by proving the reliability and worth of her diplomats, soon had strong political ties with other realms. This, as the Director had hoped, gave Terra some influence over its neighbors in the Draconis Combine and the Federated Suns, who had been aggressive toward the Hegemony in the past.
The general public was equally pleased. Though the Hegemony had managed to stay clear of a major war, there was always the fear of one in this era. The people of the border worlds felt the strain most strongly and were relieved by a policy that reduced the threat of war.
It was the military that objected to Director Deborah’s strategy. A small minority within the HAF feared that her policies would starve and whittle away the military. Though most officers and troops were loyal, many career officers questioned what would become of their already meager role in Hegemony politics. Though they kept under wraps their resentment at being downgraded in importance during Deborah’s reign, the seeds of discontent had been planted and would one day sprout and bear fruit.
HEGEMONY IN CRISIS
When Lady Deborah Cameron retired in 2542 after 41 years in office, she chose her son Joseph as successor. Though not the brightest of Lady Deborah’s three children, Lord Joseph was the eldest and most experienced in the ways of the government. He had spent his military career as a combat officer in the Marine Corps, which had cost him his right eye in a training accident. When forced to transfer to a desk job in the Department of Foreign Relations, he distinguished himself as a skilled negotiator. At the time of his mother’s retirement, Lord Joseph was the Hegemony ambassador to the Lyran Commonwealth.
Upon taking office as Director-General, the 35-year-old Joseph Cameron promised to continue his mother’s policies of funding diplomatic efforts at the expense of the military. Indeed, he publicly lionized diplomats as being worthier than soldiers. With this declaration of support for the hated Aggressive Peacemaking, the resentment simmering in the HAF began to boil. Secret warrior societies, or cabals, formed among the various branches of service. These groups vowed to force the new Director to reassert the military’s supremacy over the diplomats.
Some have claimed that the HCIB failed to alert the Director to this growing movement because the Intelligence Bureau was in collusion with the cabals. This seems unlikely, because the HCIB did not share any of the military’s grievances. The agency was, in fact, suffering from overwork rather than lack of work. Another possible explanation for the HCIB’s lapse was that in 2549 they were deeply involved in efforts to reinfiltrate the Capellan Confederation’s Maskirovka, which had purged all HCIB agents 20 years earlier.
Whatever the reason, the HCIB failed to recognize Marine Captain Henry Green’s growing influence as an opponent of Lord Joseph and his policies. After a few months in a cabal, Green became disenchanted with the group’s cautiousness. He broke with them, vowing to take direct action.
Though Captain Green was little more than a bureaucratic clerk in uniform, he still remembered how to use his laser rifle. On the night of September 19, he climbed a tree outside the Director-General’s palace on Terra and patiently waited his chance. For 27 hours, he remained there, watching as the sun rose and then set. Just as Green must have been wondering if fate had cheated him of his chance, a string of limousines drove through the palace gates. When they stopped in front of the palace’s ornate doors, Lord Joseph stepped out.
Captain Green’s first shot missed, but his second caught the Director-General before he could duck back into his limo. It is ironic that he had only just removed a specially treated overcoat that would have stopped any weapons fire. The twelfth Director-General of the Terran Hegemony died six days later, on September 26, 2549.
If push comes to shove, I’ll push harder than you could ever dream of shoving.
-Lord Ian Cameron’s warning to units participating in the September Revolt, quoted in The Cameron Dynasty, Volume X, by Duke Brian Dekerny, 2899
News of the assassination of Joseph Cameron generated various reactions. The general public expressed almost universal sadness, while the leaders of other states sent condolences to the Hegemony but asked that Lord Joseph’s death not interfere with Terran diplomatic efforts. Shocked and shamed, the HCIB felt responsible for Lord Joseph’s death and began a vigorous campaign to find and punish disloyal military personnel.
The military was rocked by the assassination. None of the cabals had expected that one of their number would resort to such a measure. With public support for the HAF at an all-time low, cabal members tried to conceal their activities even more. This did not prevent the HCIB from discovering two of the largest cabals a week after the assassination.
While all this was happening, Ian Cameron, Joseph’s younger brother, came forward on September 28, 2549 to declare himself the thirteenth Director-General without waiting for the courtesy of a public confirmation vote. Though some democrats worried that the Hegemony had finally gone monarchist, most understood that the seriousness of recent events probably justified Lord Ian’s actions.
The disgruntled soldiers within the HAF used this political irregularity as a pretext for a desperate plan to seize control of the government. On the night of September 29, elements of the Fifty-First Dragoon Regiment-“The Green Devils”-seized control of the Hegemony Congress, the Palace of the Director-General, and key government buildings in and around the capital city of Geneva on Terra.
Though the members of these units, all loyal to various cabals, were only a small fraction of the HAF, they were now in control of the government’s nerve center. The new Director was at his private residence in Mexico City at the time of the uprising. When the news reached him, Ian Cameron ordered a regiment of his Household Guard to seal off the capital city with as little violence as possible.
Lord Ian then ordered that everyone in the military take an oath of loyalty to the Cameron family and the Hegemony. During the week, he ordered all loyal units to seize control of as much of Geneva as possible. He then cut off all power, water, and food from the rebellious soldiers, while making sure that the rebel demands were made public. He assumed that it was better not to generate curiosity and possibly even support for them.
After ten days, the resolve of the rebels broke and they began to fight among themselves. When loyal forces moved in to protect some of the many citizens held hostage, a full-scale battle erupted. For most of that day, downtown Geneva became a ‘Mech battlefield. Forces loyal to the Hegemony tried to restrain their fire so that stray shots would not damage the city, possibly harming innocent civilians. The rebels, under no such restrictions, began to take advantage of their opponents’ hesitation. By nightfall, however, the loyalists’ superior numbers finally overcame the rebels, and the battle ended. Surrounded and without hope, a battalion of rebels surrendered.
AN UNWELCOME TRIP
I’ve always believed in the romance and mystique of the military. My father was a Ship’s Officer and my mother was a Marine Sergeant, so you might say that the military was more or less born into me.
When I was old enough, I chose the Army and spent most of my life following other people’s orders. And I was pretty good at it. I received a commendation in 2540 for the way I handled my ‘Mech in the Caph Incident. I was pretty certain that the military would be my home for the rest of my life. I’d be one of those grumbling old vets in the NCO Club, bitching with the rest of the gray-hairs about the stupidity of the young officers and the general cruelty of fate that was slowing down our bodies just when our minds were getting a clue as to what life was all about.
Then, about a year ago, a couple of stern-faced officers approached me with whispered stories of how the government was going pacifist. As I listened to them, I was tempted for a moment to join the “Royal Defenders of the Hegemony,” as they called their cabal. I was no more a fan of Lady Deborah’s and Lord Joseph’s plan than any other soldier. As I said before, I was born and bred in the military and anything that diminished its value raised my ire.
In the end, though, I turned down their offer to join their secret society. For one thing, I didn’t think my folks would have held these two in very high esteem. My father would have called them “know-nothings,” while my mother would have warned me to keep track of my wallet whenever they were around.
A year later, I found myself sweating buckets, with my right arm twitching and bleeding uncontrollably in the rags of my uniform while my computer screamed in my ear. My ‘Mech, a Phoenix Hawk Special, was in no better shape, as the breeze coming through a ragged laser hole in the cockpit wall told me. When I closed my eyes, I could tell that the ‘Mech’s left leg was mostly scrap metal and that somewhere deep in its gut, in among the bundles of trunk myomers and control wires, a fire was burning out of control.
I had always dreamed of visiting Geneva, the way most of us born on colony worlds do. Never in my wildest nightmares had I dreamed that I would be sitting here in my battle-wasted ‘Mech while the sun set blood-red behind the ruins of the Senate Building and one of the traitor ‘Mechs burned almost as fiery red nearby. I was sorry I had come to Geneva and I was so glad when I left it, and the military, forever.
-From Tales of the September Revolt, edited by Nicholas Trenny, Bronski Books, 2555