Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Star League Part 19


There was always an air of disappointment hanging heavy about him. He looked as if the world around him were a poorly written novel.

-From Richard Cameron: An Unauthorized Biography, by G.R. Tillers, Sian Press, 2775

Richard, like all Camerons, grew up keenly aware of his family’s history, nourished from childhood by tales about his famous ancestors. They were fairy tales, bedtime stories laced with virtue and passion and action, but regrettably short on fact. Richard’s parents did not worry that the stories would give their child the wrong impression; there was plenty of time for him to learn the unvarnished truth.

Then they died, leaving their child with the grandly romantic stories permanently etched in his mind as the truth about his line. As he grew, Richard began reading all he could about the great romantic heroes of literature. He became obsessed with figures such as King Arthur, Charlemagne, Roland, and Aragon because they reminded him of what he thought his parents were and what he should be. The many histories of the Cameron family did not interest Richard. He said that they were “too dark and filled with depressing lies.”

Young Richard had very few people to turn to after his parents died. He had only a handful of distant relatives, and they were scattered across the League. Because of his importance, the few children at Unity City shied away from him. Teachers, butlers, and maids were the only people that he would see for days. None of them seemed able to look past Richard’s title and see the very lonely boy. Richard delved ever deeper into his books about kings, queens, and knights.


My loyalty to the Star League and to the young First Lord is unswerving. May God strike me dead if I ever do anything to harm the glory of the Star League and the Camerons.

-Stefan Amaris, October 2754

Stefan Amaris, leader of the Rim Worlds Republic, became a frequent visitor to the Court of the Star League during the Regency. As leader of the Periphery’s most pro-League realm, his presence at the Court was welcomed by some, but most looked down on anyone from the Periphery. By making himself up like a bad imitation of Genghis Khan and deliberately playing the country bumpkin in public, Stefan Amaris played on these prejudices to mask his cunning. Seeing this seemingly harmless, roly-poly man, few thought to question why the ruler of such a distant realm suddenly showed such an interest in Court life.

Hidden behind Amaris’s unimpressive exterior was a grand schemer. Ever since he could remember, Stefan had believed that his family and his realm had suffered at the hands of the Star League like the poor relations of a rich family. He felt the Star League and the Camerons had spent the last two centuries either ignoring the Amaris family’s diligent attempts to show their worthiness or by behaving like a club-wielding policeman the instant the Amarises made a minor mistake.

Stefan Amaris had decided early in his life that he would avenge himself on the Camerons and the Star League and prove the Amaris name worthy of recognition. With the death of Simon Cameron, Amaris got the break he needed. The moment he heard about the First Lord’s death, he began to read and study everything he could about young Richard Cameron: his likes, dislikes, what he read, and what he watched. Once he felt he understood this lonely boy, Amaris left the Republic for Terra.

The leader of the Rim Worlds Republic had done his homework well. When introduced to Richard Cameron in August 2753, he knew just how to attract the bored boy’s attention and curiosity. From beneath his cloak, Stefan Amaris produced an ornate book of stories about chivalry and knighthood. When activated, a small holographic scene in wondrous color and detail appeared on one page depicting a scene from the text on the facing page. Richard was entranced by both the book and this mustachioed leader from a far-distant realm. The friendship blossomed, and soon Amaris was accompanying the lonely boy through his daily routine of studies and endless audiences with a long stream of officials.

Considering Richard’s extreme isolation, his immediate fondness for Amaris is not surprising. Here was a man who understood his favorite stories, who claimed to share Richard’s beliefs, and who seemed to listen. No one in Unity City cared enough for Richard Cameron to recognize that he was still a boy with a child’s needs. The only person he found to comfort him would turn that trust to his own secret ends.

Under Amaris’s influence, Richard Cameron began to change. He grew ever more petulant, demanding, and outraged when denied anything for any reason. He cried, he yelled, and he sneered, alienating the few people who did care for him. Amaris approved and even encouraged the future First Lord’s expectations by saying that in the Rim Worlds Republic, Richard would be treated like a god.

Under Amaris’s influence, Richard came to believe that everyone should bow to his will simply because he was a Cameron. Anyone who did not was an imbecile or a traitor, and the young First Lord took careful note of those who would not yield to him. He remembered every insult, every slight, however small, and waited for his 18th birthday, when he would have his revenge on everyone who did not show him the respect he was due. To restrain his anger for a decade required remarkable control, a sign of how vindictive Richard Cameron had become.

The Lords of the High Council, busy with their own unscrupulous plans, were pleased that someone was keeping the young First Lord occupied and not intruding on their work. Others of the court thought the two were just good friends. Yet some did not trust the overly polite Amaris, whose whispering into the First Lord’s ear sent shivers down their spines. These nobles made several attempts to reduce Amaris’s influence, but the First Lord believed he had finally found someone he could trust. As for General Kerensky, though Richard’s Regent, he was so pressed by his duties as commander of the military that he had few chances to see the boy, let alone form an opinion about the friendship with Stefan Amaris.

When Stefan Amaris received a pile of extravagant gifts from the boy during the holidays of 2754, he realized how total was his influence over the boy. Knowing his position was secure, Amaris began to poison the lad’s thoughts so that Richard began to see everything as a threat. If, for example, one of his teachers tried to discipline him, he would assume it was an act intended to shame the First Lord.

Amaris must have gloated privately at how easy it was to sway the child.


…I dreamt again last night, Jocasta. I dreamt of seeing the wheel again, but this time upon its rim were vultures black as night who looked expectantly at the young child who was laughing and playing with swords in the wheel’s center…

-Excerpt from a letter by First Lord Jonathan Cameron to his sister, Mother Jocasta, 2729

When the Council Lords passed their laws imposing heavy taxes on the Periphery in 2752, they unleashed the fury of many underground Periphery movements bent on overthrowing the Star League. This unfair tax burden outweighed any previous political and ideological differences among these organizations and gave them a common rallying point.

Many Periphery worlds suddenly became battlegrounds after well-organized and well-equipped terrorists staged attacks. Taken by surprise, the SLDF forces in the Periphery suffered heavy casualties. The bombing of troop ships or the poisoning of a military base’s water supply became commonplace.

The SLDF in the Periphery was ill-equipped to respond. ‘Mechs were useless against lone saboteurs, and even the best-trained soldier had no defense against assassins supported by the local population. Even worse for the Star League, some SLDF troops were becoming sympathetic to the Periphery’s cause.

General Kerensky had few choices. He could not keep his troops inside their bases like besieged knights in castles because it was their duty to collect taxes from the hostile people. Nor could he expect his troops to walk through the gates into one ambush after another. Hoping that the sight of more soldiers would discourage the guerrilla violence, Kerensky reluctantly ordered more troops.

The Special Armed Services was the Regular Army’s elite anti-terrorist combat organization. Recruited solely from members of the Hegemony Armed Forces, the SAS quickly established itself as the Star League’s premier institution for covert operations and anti-terrorist missions. The few who knew of the existence of the SAS called its members the Blackhearts because they traditionally left their calling cards on the bodies of their victims. Their cynical motto was “in hoc signo vinces,” which means “by this sign you will conquer.”

In 2753, the SLDF had about 100 battalion-sized SAS squads. General Kerensky sent all but a few into the Periphery. He assigned them the monumental task of finding and rooting out the groups responsible for the terrorist activities “without resorting to equally violent actions.” Outnumbered and facing a public as determined as the underground groups, the SAS began to resort to tactics as brutal as those of their opponents.

On the other side, the Periphery governments began to take a more active role in the growing revolt, secretly funding the underground organizations and providing them with support and alibis. The governments also began to hamper the efforts of SLDF forces to track down suspects.

Only the Rim Worlds Republic appeared to remain staunchly loyal to the Star League. Terrorism was not nearly as rampant there as in the other three realms. Indeed, the Amaris government made a big show of ruthlessly hunting down suspects accused of terrorism and handing them over to the Star League for trial.

In retrospect, it is easy to say that General Kerensky and the rest of the Star League should have been suspicious of the way the Rim Worlds Republic reacted to the revolt. At the time, however, the SLDF welcomed help from any quarter as it tried to contain what threatened to become a catastrophe.


After the deaths of Jonathan and Jocasta Cameron, some curious incidents and coincidences sparked a remarkable religious phenomenon in the Hegemony. Calling themselves “the devout believers of the Saints Cameron,” the movement at its peak claimed a following of more than one million on Terra and another 50 million throughout the Hegemony, including many soldiers and officers.

The truth behind the “Mystical Revelations” that gave birth to the movement is hard to determine. A summary of accepted fact follows.

One year to the day after the death of Jonathan Cameron, Lieutenant Saul Robstein, a young soldier in the 191st Royal BattleMech Division, was struck blind and dumb while participating in a military exercise. Doctors could not explain his affliction. Three days after being struck, Lieutenant Robstein suddenly regained his sight and speech. He began ranting to the shocked doctors that the ghost of Jonathan Cameron came to him, a flaming sword in his hand. He said that the ghost told him that Jonathan’s sister would die in two years but that her influence would be felt far into the future.

Two years and three days later, Mother Jocasta Cameron died. Five days after her death, another soldier, this time a gunner in the Seventieth Infantry Division, Trooper Sandra Ustus, was struck deaf, blind, and dumb. She also regained the use of her senses, but in five rather than three days. She claimed that Mother Jocasta prophesied that Simon Cameron would meet an unfortunate end at the hands of an “assassin’s digging machine.”

Both incidents were reported in magazines catering to the bizarre, but otherwise forgotten until the death of Simon Cameron in 2751 at the hands of an errant Miner ‘Mech. A debate erupted in the Hegemony media over whether these events were just twists of fate or influenced by God. Eight days after Simon’s death, Sergeant Heinz Mann inexplicably fell into a coma. Sergeant Mann, who served in the 290th Mechanized Infantry Division, had been in excellent health but his current condition baffled doctors for eight days.

The private letters and writings of Jonathan and Jocasta, including the many about bizarre dreams, were released to the media by the Court of the Star League staff. The writings were published in book form and became instant bestsellers. Many people read the books and dismissed them, but others took them as clear visions of the future and began to shape their lives accordingly. Eventually the believers began to meet together, forming a set of common beliefs and rituals. Among these beliefs was that both Jonathan and Jocasta were saints of God who watched over the Star League from heaven. When he awoke, Sergeant Mann told of visions of dozens of dead Camerons, lying in their own blood.

At first, the general public considered the Believers of the Saints Cameron to be crackpots. In 2753, however, the Believers’ cause received a major boost. Richard Cameron met Stefan Amaris in a meeting supposedly divined by Jonathan Cameron in one of his letters written half a century earlier: “…a Cameron child shall stand before a distant ruler and be beguiled by his rough country ways and the interests that they share. I fear for the child because the distant ruler has cruel, dark thoughts…”

This drew more people to the Believers of the Saints Cameron. Symbols unique to the new religion began appearing everywhere. One was the Three Swords of Saint Cameron, representing the visitation of Jonathan Cameron to Lieutenant Saul Robstein. Another was a symbolic representation of the habit worn by Benedictine nuns. A third was a bloody throne. These symbols sprang up on the sides of buildings, machinery, and even BattleMechs.

The Believers of the Saints Cameron wielded considerable social and political power in the Hegemony during the last years before the Fall. The religion not only survived the chaos that followed, but it even grew, with small, fervent groups scattered throughout the Inner Sphere and the Periphery. The Believers, not surprisingly under the circumstances, added General Aleksandr Kerensky’s name to the two Saints Cameron to form a trinity of divine figures from the last days of the Star League. Simon Cameron became a minor prophet even though he had shown little interest in spiritual affairs during his life and had appeared in no visions after his death.

Today, the religion has all but died out. Except for a few small pockets of Believers in the Periphery and in the Lyran Commonwealth, most of the lore has been absorbed into the huge mythos surrounding the final days of the Star League.

-From The Death of Order, The Birth of Legends, by Precentor Tamela Cresky, ComStar Press, 2999


As unrest increased in the Periphery, the Star league began to suffer from the lack of Cameron control. Despite the new tax money flowing from the periphery into the Inner Sphere, the massive buildup of the House armies still strained the economies of the five realms. The healthy economic signs of just a few years before-near-full employment, high wages, and major worker benefits-began to deteriorate. Unemployment climbed into double digits in three member states.

The five Council Lords ignored these economic problems, so preoccupied were they with outfitting and training their new regiments. They even lost interest in running the Star League. Without a First Lord, the Council Lords were supposed to be in charge. When only two or three attended meetings of the High Council, effective government became impossible.

The Bureau of Star League Affairs tried to handle some of the responsibilities without overstepping its legal bounds, but its efforts lacked the force of law. Many career diplomats and bureaucrats, whose loyalty and dedication had been the core of the government, began to resign in disgust. Morale plummeted throughout the Star League government.

Stefan Amaris was pleased. The growing government discord, the shaking of the realms’ economies, and the continuing urban wars in the Periphery all fit into his plans.

His friendship with the now adolescent Richard Cameron was firm. Richard saw Amaris as his closest confidant and as a substitute father, and Amaris did everything to encourage that. Richard’s trust was the foundation for all of Amaris’s coming plans. Until 2755, Amaris had resisted the urge to manipulate the young leader. He wanted to be certain that Richard grew up trusting only him, but he also needed to soothe the fears of the few nobles suspicious of his intentions. After four years and with the young teenaged ruler eager to show his authority, Amaris began to exert more control.

Richard Cameron, though still too young to assume complete control, was allowed to sit in and comment on all High Council meetings. Until Amaris suggested it, Richard did not go to the meetings, which suited the purposes of the Council Lords just fine.

The appearance of the First Lord at the 2755 Winter Meeting was definitely a shock. The sight of the slim youth sitting in the ornate chair of the First Lord was disconcerting. Even more surprising was his announcement that, to honor his friend’s birthday, he was making Stefan Amaris a Knight of the Star League. He added that, as a further sign of the Star League’s gratitude to the leader from the Rim Worlds Republic, SLDF units would be withdrawn from his realm.

The Council Lords were too stunned to react. The First Lord received the necessary certifications from each Lord to make the proclamations legal before any Lord had the wit to question them. The Lords later wrote that each had been so perplexed by Richard Cameron’s request that they thought to object only after the “Birthday Proclamations” had become law.

The Knighthood created considerable pubic controversy. Many people were outraged that a man of such “unscrupulous nature and backwoods origin” would be given Knighthood. To them, the Star League list of Knights was tainted by inclusion of a man of no worth or integrity.

The public was unaware of the struggle the second birthday proclamation created between Richard Cameron and General Kerensky. To abandon the Rim Worlds with only Stefan Amaris to combat anti-League forces was bad enough, but Richard Cameron specifically ordered General Kerensky to turn over all Star League bases and fortresses to the military of Stefan Amaris.

General Kerensky would not allow this. In a series of sharply worded messages from the Periphery, the General said that he would never submit to an order that “would hand over Star League technology to a Periphery realm.” Richard Cameron, at the urging of Stefan Amaris, demanded that the General carry out his orders.

Though the Council Lords must have had their own misgivings, they sided with the First Lord. The High Council considered General Kerensky, with the might of the SLDF and charisma on his side, to be the more formidable adversary. Even if it meant siding with Stefan Amaris, the Lords were willing to do anything to drive a wedge between General Kerensky and the First Lord. With the First Lord and the High Council united against him, General Kerensky had not choice but to accept the orders.

The Regular Army began to evacuate its installations in the Rim Worlds Republic, but not before General Kerensky stripped everything from all the bases, forts, and fortresses. He wanted nothing handed over to the Republic that might benefit it or give it insight into SLDF operation.

Unfortunately, he failed. At Fort McHenry, a typical Star League fortress, stripping was so inept that more than 50 percent of the facility was left in working order, while at Hevrol Aero Base, computer memories were improperly wiped, leaving behind many files of sensitive SLDF documents. Stefan Amaris was overjoyed at obtaining access to the secrets of General Kerensky’s military. These were the gifts he wanted, and he immediately began to scheme on how to use them to best advantage.

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