Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Star League Part 17


When the commission still had not decided anything after eight years, Takiro Kurita decided the issue for himself. The Kurita Coordinator assembled a large invasion force on the Federated Suns border and then began his offensive. In early 2725, the Eleventh Benjamin Regulars, a Kurita ‘Mech regiment trained in city fighting, landed on the Davion world of Marduk.

The Federated Suns sought quick revenge. Prince Joseph, though his troops were unprepared, ordered a strike deep within the Draconis Combine. Though the war between the two most powerful Houses threatened to destroy the Star League, First Lord Jonathan hesitated. Increasingly plagued by visions of a destroyed Terra, the First Lord refused to commit Star League troops for fear of leaving the Hegemony undefended.

With Davion troops on the offensive, Coordinator Kurita used his assembled forces not to defend, but to launch a drive of his own. Draconis regiments began a push directly toward New Avalon. Though the Federated Suns blunted that drive and occasionally handed the Kuritans a setback, the Combine troops gradually gained ground during the next four years of the War of Davion Succession.

At the Court of the Star League, impatience with First Lord Jonathan’s detachment was growing. SLDF Commanding General Ikolor Fredasa was one of those most concerned. He led delegations to the abbey of Mother Jocasta Cameron in an attempt to persuade her to take over for her brother. When Mother Jocasta refused General Fredasa’s offer of support for her to depose First Lord Jonathan, the General began spreading rumors that she was planning a coup. Knowing his sister would never do such a thing, Jonathan was enraged at the plotters. General Fredasa, BSLA Commander Gregory Wallace, and Revenue Director Brice Hinchcliffe IV were tried for treason and hanged.

This episode convinced First Lord Jonathan that he needed help, and he turned to his sister. Through her “suggestions,” she became de facto First Lord. Jonathan quickly named Mother Jocasta’s close friend, General Rebecca Fetladral, as Command-in-Chief. General Fetladral immediately began to plan Operation Smother to stop the War of Davion Succession and reunite the Star League.

At precisely the same time, civil war erupted in the Free Worlds League over Marik succession. Many lives were lost in the five-year conflict, but the Star League remained strictly neutral, even when urged to intervene by the Capellan Confederation and the Lyran Commonwealth. General Fetladral and Mother Jocasta realized that the Steiners and Liaos were hoping for the departure of SLDF units so they could grab Hegemony worlds. Upon Mother Jocasta’s advice, First Lord Jonathan declared the Free Worlds League fighting an internal affair and ordered General Fetladral to concentrate on ending the War of Davion Succession.

Not knowing that help would soon arrive and watching his troops being pushed back, Prince Joseph Davion made a decision that turned out to be fatal. To rally his troops, he took command of the counterattack on Royal. When his Marauder was disabled in the fight, the Kurita ‘Mechs swarmed over him. The death of their Lord shocked the Davion troops, who fell back and soon retreated off Royal.

Before the Kurita forces could exploit their good fortune, Operation Smother began. Five flotillas carrying five Star League divisions were already heading for the contested worlds of Breed, Klathandu IV, Lima, Royal, and Wapakoneta. General Fetladral chose some of her best units: the Twenty-sixth Royal BattleMech Division (The Graham Division), the 159th Royal Mechanized Infantry Division (The Athena Division), the Thirty-ninth Royal BattleMech Division (The Denebola Division), the 160th BattleMech Division (The Sirius Division), and the First Jump Infantry Division (The Hellraisers from Heaven).

The simultaneous appearance of five Star League fleets and the dispatching of hundreds of Star League DropShips toward the five embattled planets surprised both the Davions and the Kuritas. None of the five landings met any opposition. On three worlds, Lima, Klathandu, and Wapakoneta, the arrival of elite Regular Army troopers and ‘Mechs shocked both sides into agreeing to a hasty cease-fire.

On Breed, the Combine forces were less intimidated by the appearance of the First Jump Infantry Division. When they tried to retaliate, however, they discovered quickly that they were vastly outclassed.

On Royal, the Sirius Division met similar resistance, but the 160th still had most of its troops orbiting the planet in DropShips, putting its vanguard forces at a serious numerical disadvantage. In the end, though, the superior training of SLDF forces prevailed. In the 160th, in his first combat command, was a young Captain named Aleksandr Kerensky.

Operation Smother succeeded in ending the fighting. It also humbled Houses Kurita and Davion before the power of the SLDF. First Lord Jonathan, depending heavily on Mother Jocasta for advice, severely chastised both realms. He was harder on the Draconis Combine, restoring the border to its 2724 position and forever denying the Kurita claim to the Davion throne.

The Kuritans were bound to accept the First Lord’s decisions, but they did not forget that the Camerons had again discriminated against and humiliated the Draconis Combine.


The attempted coup and Mother Jocasta’s quiet advice and counsel made First Lord Jonathan realize how sick he was. The First Lord offered to step down in favor of Jocasta. She flatly refused, saying that her religious life came first, even above ruling all mankind. Though Jonathan’s son, Simon, was old enough to take over, the First Lord barely knew him and trusted Jocasta implicitly.

They agreed that Jocasta, from her abbey in the cold Scottish highlands, would be First Lord Jonathan's most trusted adviser. With a sophisticated communications link to Unity City, Mother Jocasta became a temporary co-ruler.

The compromise worked well. Though Jonathan’s mental and physical health worsened with age, he indulged in the few things that made him truly happy, such as building hospitals, contributing to relief efforts, and other humanitarian acts. He became deeply loved by the people of the Star League for his accomplishments during the last years of his reign.

Meanwhile, Mother Jocasta shouldered more and more of the government’s burden. In 2735, the Council Lords journeyed to the Abbey of St. Joan for their autumn meeting. Seated behind the grillwork that separated her community from the rest of the world, Mother Jocasta chaired the session of the High Council, thereby assuming the highest powers and responsibilities of the Star League government.

Jonathan Cameron died in 2738 of a stroke. His funeral, attended by all the Council Lords and the League’s highest nobility, was also attended by his aging sister. She had been de facto ruler of the Star League for the last three years.

In a short ceremony after the funeral, Mother Jocasta, as executrix of Jonathan’s will, handed Simon Cameron the jeweled staff symbolizing the office of First Lord of the Star League. With that, Jocasta Cameron left the Court of the Star League for her beloved abbey, where she lived peacefully and no longer burdened with awesome responsibilities, until her death in 2742.


I see nothing that indicates the Star League will not last for a thousand years. We are stronger than ever before. Our lives are better than ever before. We are a better people than we were before. Why should not the Star League last into and beyond the next millennium?

-Simon Cameron, 2739

When Jonathan Cameron died in 2738, his 39-year old son, Simon, had been the Director-General of the Terran Hegemony for four years. Because of his experience in dealing with Hegemony bureaucracy, he was amply qualified to become the First Lord.

Simon was neither glib nor suave. He was a no-nonsense ruler who spoke his mind bluntly and made even blunter demands. Beneath the brutally practical side of Simon was a deep idealism, however. He read voraciously, as did most Camerons, and the authors he most admired were members of the recent Modern Chivalrists Movement. Writers such as Uston DeKirk, Toshiro Ohiriko, Mina Samuels, and Bonnie Cracken, believers in a strict code of personal behavior, deeply influenced the new First Lord’s early development, so much so that he appointed Mina Samuels as one of his advisers.

Modern Chivalrists tried to adapt an ancient code to the modern era. They believed that morality and honor depended on three separate but entwined beliefs: belief in an ever-present God, belief in Goodness, and belief in strict mutual loyalty between a liege lord and his subjects. Because of their reliance on medieval writings and poetry, the Modern Chivalrists often referred to ancient legends, such as King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, to drive home a point.

It was not long before medievalism became the rage throughout the Star League. It soon influenced almost all aspects of the culture, with even societies far removed from the European tradition eventually taking a lively interest in the Modern Chivalrists. The pervasive legends of courtly love and feats of honor achieved by moral knights soon became tragic threads in the tapestry of events.

The First Lord encountered difficulty adapting his strict morals to the administration of the Star League. When he was Director-General, he had ruled a homogeneous realm whose people agreed with his beliefs. To rule ten different states, each with its own culture and values, was much different and much more complicated.

Though he believed in a strong military, First Lord Simon spurned the Space Defense Systems that were so important to his father. He allowed the completion of the partially built SDS networks, but canceled plans for the rest. Anticipating trouble in the Periphery, First Lord Simon instead ordered the construction of massive fortifications on key worlds in the four Periphery states. These forts were virtual copies of the ancient Castles Brian still in use on Hegemony worlds.


By the time Simon Cameron came to power in 2738, the Good Years were over for the four Periphery States. Gone were the days when the people on those distant worlds willingly obeyed the regulations coming from the Inner Sphere. There was a deepening anger instead.

The people of the Periphery had many reasons to feel as they did. First Lord Jonathan, preoccupied by his visions and worried about unrest in the Periphery, trusted the Council Lords’ explanation of Directive 41 and signed it without further ado in 2722. The Directive, written by the Lords from the Capellan Confederation and the Free Worlds League, appeared to grant the Periphery states limited autonomy, freeing them from many restrictions after the Reunification War.

The freedoms were only cosmetic. Though changes did occur, the real power merely shifted from the Bureau of Star League Affairs to the governments and businesses of the Inner Sphere. Despite the withdrawal of the Periphery Administrators, who could veto laws proposed by the Periphery governments, ambassadors of the Inner Sphere realms held the real power. The five greedy Lords had tricked the First Lord into signing the directive. The BSLA had monitored and restricted exploitation of Periphery resources, but the new system allowed Inner Sphere businesses to suck the Periphery dry. Hegemony companies were no exception.

A wave of exploitative businesses swamped the Periphery worlds, setting up factories that consumed whole sections of planets. Products were sent to the Inner Sphere without benefit to anybody in the Periphery. Unaware that the rape of their lands was the fault of the Council Lords and not the First Lord, citizens of the Periphery focused their anger on the Camerons. Demonstrations outside Star League offices became common, and underground independence movements gained wide support. By the time Simon became First Lord, Periphery support for the Star League had deteriorated beyond redemption. Lord Simon knew that Council Directive 41 was to blame, but recent divisiveness, such as the Davion War of Succession, left him in no position to try to repeal it. Instead, he strengthened military forces in the territories while privately condemning the Council Lords for their greed.

What worried the First Lord most was that scattered throughout the Periphery were 20 weapons manufacturers capable of turning out BattleMechs, heavy tanks, and DropShips. These manufacturers were under no scrutiny and no constraints. The First Lord learned from his agents that the factories operated around the clock and that anonymous parties purchased most of the weapons, which then disappeared without a trace.

The possibility that the militaries of the four Periphery realms could equal the Regular Army prompted the First Lord to build more fortresses in the Periphery. The First Lord hoped that the fortresses would be able to contain any uprising until help could arrive from the interior.

The Rim Worlds Republic, ruled by the Amaris family, seemed to be the only Periphery realm that the Star League could trust. Everyone daily pledged allegiance to the Star League and Terra, but a closer look at the Amaris high praise and admiration for the Star League made some observers skeptical.

The Republic’s military furthered the uneasiness. The number of Rim Worlds regiments, while technically limited by the Edict of 2650, was actually three to four times that size if one counted the reserve and militia units, which could be fielded on short notice. The First Lord, heeding reports from his agents, kept the Rim Worlds Republic under control by building even more fortresses there than in the other Periphery Territories.


The Federated Suns, once a staunch supporter of the Star League, gradually withdrew its cooperation during Simon Cameron’s reign. The Davion government raised economic and social barriers and began subtle propaganda campaigns to discourage young men and women from joining the SLDF. Mutual assistance between the two governments ceased.

Richard Davion never forgave the Star League for taking four years to force a cease-fire between the Federated Suns and the Draconis Combine. He saw those years of inaction, during which many Davion lives were lost, as a betrayal of a Star League promise to enforce peace between member states. The Davions felt no obligation to honor a government that did not keep its commitments.

Though First Lord Simon tried to reason with Richard Davion, it did not help. He had no choice now but to sit back and watch both the Federated Suns and the Draconis Combine drift further from real participation in the Star League.

In 2741, a gang of brigands attacked the Commonwealth world of The Edge, unleashing a battalion of brand new BattleMechs on the unsuspecting public. Firing at anything that stood in their way, the ‘Mechs crashed their way to their objective, a rare-metals refinery and its stockpile in the center of The Edge’s major city. More than 500 civilians died in the raid.

A year later, the Twelfth Lyran Regulars landed on the brigands’ base world, Butte Hold, showing the gang no mercy. Afterward, the Lyrans interrogated the survivors and discovered that the Draconis Combine had supplied the brigands with BattleMechs. The news was outrageous, but the informers offered hard proof.

Archon Michael Steiner confronted Coordinator Takiro Kurita with that damning evidence at the Winter Meeting of 2742. The Coordinator denied nothing, saying only that the Lyrans, of all people, knew that business was business. In a rage, the Archon threw himself at the Coordinator, wrestling Takiro to the floor. Obviously, the former cautious good will between the realms was gone forever.

The leaders of the Capellan Confederation and the Free Worlds League also contributed to the increase in interstellar tensions. Ewan Marik of the Free Worlds League was a belligerent lush, who liked to make boorish comments about everything said at High Council meetings. On the other hand, Warex Liao, Chancellor of the Confederation, was quietly building up the Capellan military.

Raids and reprisals between the member states were becoming common. The official explanations were to blame the raiding on a small number of very energetic pirates. This fooled no one, especially First Lord Simon Cameron, whose military was chasing these supposed bandits. SLDF warships and troops often pursued fleeing raiders into neighboring realms and saw them land at military bases. They even captured on holofilm some unmarked vehicles with enough gray paint stripped away to reveal the colors of a House military.

In 2744, the First Lord issued new orders to his troops: No longer was the SLDF supposed to capture bandits alive; Star League forces should shoot on sight any unmarked and unresponsive soldier, vehicle, or ship. The offending realms, of course, resented Star League interference. Warships began to escort the bandits on their missions and fire on any SLDF ships. Soon, small groups of warships were battling all along the borders.

No one wanted to provoke a full-blown war by accusing neighboring realms or by taking responsibility for raids. House leaders were content to let the “pirates war” rage while in public they smiled charmingly and wrung their hands piously. This era of hypocrisy and inter-realm aggression is known today as the Third Hidden War.

Simon wrote later that the League felt like a valuable tapestry that was about to unravel. Uncertain of what to do, he canceled the next two meetings of the High Council and then sent high-level officials to the capital of each member state to negotiate their growing differences. All that came of these efforts were lukewarm promises that the various House leaders would look into the problem.


The diplomatic missions of 2743-44 failed to produce anything concrete. High Council meetings had degenerated to the point that the sullen Council Lords often sat, eyeing each other suspiciously and not talking. There was only an occasional outburst, usually from Ewan Marik, who drank through most sessions, to break the tense silence.

By 2750, the First Lord had finally had enough. If the Council Lords were not going to cooperate, he would appeal directly to the people to restore the unity of Star League. Gathering a huge fleet of warships to escort his private JumpShip, the First Lord left Terra on an ambitious five-year tour of his realm.

His first stop was the Lyran Commonwealth. After arriving at the star system of Skye, several DropShips and fighters escorted his private vessel to the planet. He addressed the assembled cadets of the Sanglamore Military Academy on the virtue of peace and on responding to the needs of the common people. He then visited workers at factories and farms, as well as visiting soup kitchens. After several days spent with the common citizens of the planet and ignoring the nobility entirely, he left Skye. While his ship was returning to the jump point and the rest of the fleet, the First Lord gave extensive interviews to the journalists whom he had invited to join him.

The effect of the First Lord’s visit was electric. The sight of a First Lord speaking to people on city streets, riding bicycles, and even feeding slop to pigs on a farm instantly endeared him to the public. The interviews he gave to the reporters, in which he stressed the importance of involving common people in decisions, galvanized public opinion in support of Simon Cameron and the Star League. He repeated this strategy on the other Commonwealth worlds he visited.

The more planets he visited, the more interest and support for the Star League rippled to other worlds. For the first time in decades, the common people believed that they could affect political policy and influence the noble classes.


Some sociologists believe that individuals’ feelings and thoughts are shaped by history. To them, free will is meaningless because any ostensibly independent action is actually a reaction to social and economic conditions.

Others feel that mass behavior is useful in predicting the future. As proof, they point to the crash of the tourist trade in 2745. In the years preceding ’45, tourism into and out of the Hegemony was extremely heavy. Ever since the creation of the Star League, the number of travelers had steadily increased.

In 2744, tourism was at its peak. The five major JumpShip lines (Red Swan Lines, Black Ball Express, Ozawa Passenger Interstellar, Blue Diamond Shipping, and Tamar Liners) had record earnings and plans to expand. All the major hotel chains were reporting similar growth and profits.

In early 2745, travel between member states dipped, then plummeted. By mid-year, the number of bookings dropped to about half of what was expected. There was no obvious explanation. Though the political situation was tense, there was not any major fighting between realms, and none of the leaders had restricted travel. There was no reason for people suddenly to fear space travel, nor were there economic problems that limited available cash. Everyone just decided not to travel anymore.

Some sociologists believe that people could sense the impending collapse of the Star League. Whether an indicator or not, the simultaneous decision of billions of people was an eerie precursor to the Fall.

-From Divining the Fall: Road Signs to Disaster, by Countess Yolopres, Terra Press, 2809

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