Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Star League Part 20



The SLDF staged “Operation Persuasive Force,” a military exercise in the Hegemony that involved more than 50 divisions, to judge the Terran Military Region’s readiness to repel an enemy invasion. Star League divisions and warships outside the Hegemony made a multi-pronged push for Terra, while the units of the Terran Military Region tried to defeat them.

Few believed that Persuasive Force was just a training exercise. Everyone in the Periphery, from the government to the anti-League organizations, called it a rehearsal for the Regular Army’s imminent invasion of the Periphery. The Council Lords, on the other hand, protested that the operation was an attempt to bully them.

In some ways, both were correct. The Regular Army High Command was using the information gathered from exercises to modernize plans for fighting in the four Periphery realms. It was also true that General Kerensky timed the operation so that the Council Lords would be aware of the might of the SLDF as they traveled to Terra for their spring session. The primary goal of the operation, however, was for General Kerensky to regain Richard’s trust.

Kerensky invited First Lord Richard Cameron, then 13, to observe Operation Persuasive Force with him aboard the SLS McKenna’s Pride. It was an offer that the young lad, steeped in the literature of romantic warfare, could not bear to pass up. Even General Kerensky’s request that he come without Stefan Amaris did not dampen Richard’s enthusiasm.

The First Lord and his Regent watched the operation together, from the first simulated clashes on the border of the Hegemony to its climax, three months later, around Terra. They watched fleets of warships engage in mock battles for control of star systems. They nervously watched as huge DropShips let ‘Mech after ‘Mech fall toward a planet’s atmosphere. The First Lord and the General watched the fighting on the ground from a specially built, two-seat BattleMaster. To show the First Lord the darker side of war, General Kerensky took Richard to field hospitals to see from the many accidental injuries what the aftermath of a real battle might be.

General Kerensky was trying to fight his way back into Richard Cameron’s life. Realizing that he had spent less than a month with the boy in the six years of his guardianship, General Kerensky wanted to get to know Richard better.

Stefan Amaris had been virtually the sole force shaping the thoughts, emotions, and character of the First Lord for years. Aleksandr Kerensky faced a young man who staunchly believed that nobility was born to the person and not something that could be earned. To Richard, Stefan Amaris was the embodiment of the noble man. Whenever General Kerensky hinted that Amaris might not be perfect, that his motives might not be altruistic, the First Lord flew into a rage.

General Kerensky lost in his efforts to sway Richard, and he lost badly. Not only was the mission of winning the First Lord’s confidence hopeless, but every move made by the SLDF was being scrutinized by official Rim World observers, who later used what they saw with deadly effect.


[EDITOR’S NOTE: What follows is an excerpt of a conversation between General Aleksandr Kerensky and First Lord Richard Cameron II on April 19, 2757. The conversation was held in the General’s quarters and was captured on his personal recording system, apparently without the First Lord’s knowledge.]

GENERAL KERENSKY: You mentioned yesterday about "the nobility of the spirit." What did you mean?
LORD RICHARD CAMERON: Nobility...You know, that something people are born with that makes them either good or bad, rich or poor.
GENERAL KERENSKY: Born with? Can someone start out common but become noble?
LORD RICHARD CAMERON: I don't think so.
GENERAL KERENSKY: Could you be a friend to someone who had committed a crime, or was poor?
GENERAL KERENSKY: No hope of redemption for the weary sinner, eh?
GENERAL KERENSKY: Never mind. Look out there, your Highness; what do you see?
LORD RICHARD CAMERON: The Aegis about a klick to port, the Michigan to starboard. Several destroyers and a few DropShips.
GENERAL KERENSKY: And what do they represent to you?
LORD RICHARD CAMERON: The might of the Star League, the force by which the League can smite its enemies and create justice.
GENERAL KERENSKY: Justice can be created?
GENERAL KERENSKY: How? Justice is justice. It is the indefinable purpose of God we look for in life. It's not something we can create.
LORD RICHARD CAMERON: Don't be funny, Aleksandr. Everyone knows that justice is one of the spoils of victory.
GENERAL KERENSKY: Might is right?
LORD RICHARD CAMERON: It is the noble way, isn't it?
GENERAL KERENSKY: According to whose definition?
LORD RICHARD CAMERON: Lord Amaris. He says that nobility is often just blind confidence.
GENERAL KERENSKY: And when you believe you are right, then anything you do is right?
LORD RICHARD CAMERON: Exactly. Why do you shake your head that way?


The years between 2757-60 passed without any major crises. Stefan Amaris, ecstatic that General Kerensky had failed to influence the First Lord, continued to fill Richard’s mind with words meant to enlarge his ego and shake his confidence in everyone except Amaris. General Kerensky, meanwhile, had returned to the Periphery. The show of force in the maneuvers had given General Kerensky a brief respite in the Periphery, but the depth of antipathy toward the Star League still required his presence there.

As the day of Richard’s majority approached, the Council Lords were quickly losing the honor among thieves that had characterized the early years of the Regency. Old hatreds and grievances were rising to the surface once again. Unimpressed by General Kerensky’s maneuvers, the Lords continued to build up their own militaries and to raid one another.

In 2760, the raiding escalated into something more serious when a nuclear explosion on the Davion world of Demeter killed more than 200 people. House Davion claimed that the Confederation was responsible, and they demanded reparations. Barbara Liao, after only four days as Chancellor, referred the matter to the High Council. When the Council Lords could not agree, Prince John Davion began for his offensive.

The Federated Suns opened three fronts, targeting the Liao worlds of Tsamma, Wei, and Redfield. The offensive placed the SLDF units on those worlds in a precarious position between two warring forces. The SLDF units requested orders from General Kerensky, but instead received orders from the High Council to evacuate all the worlds being contested. The Regular Army left those worlds, but not before several officers were demoted for challenging the Council’s authority to give them orders.

General Kerensky left for Terra as soon as he heard that the Council had issued orders without consulting him. When he arrived, he tried to convince the leaders of the Commonwealth, the Free Worlds League, and the Draconis Combine that any fighting between Houses could easily spread out of control. The three Lords hesitated, but they were content to let the border war continue because neither side seemed to be gaining ground. The war sputtered to a halt in early 2762, and the First Lord soon united the Council Lords, even the warring parties, in opposition to his actions.

Richard Cameron turned 18 on February 9, 2762. Everyone, from the Council Lords to the commoners, looked forward to seeing what the young leader would do now. Most were relieved that the Star League had survived the Regency intact. With a Cameron back on the throne, they felt that things had to get better. It seemed that only the Council Lords and General Kerensky were worried as the delighted Richard celebrated his birthday.

A week later, the First Lord invited General Kerensky to his private quarters. Before Kerensky could even say hello, the First Lord thrust papers at him and excitedly asked that he read them. Stefan Amaris was also present, closely watching both the First Lord and the General.

What General Kerensky read was Executive Order 156, an order to disarm all House militaries and private armies. Any piece of military hardware larger than a laser rifle or more destructive than a grenade would be outlawed. Failure to comply would be a treasonous offense. This was Richard’s revenge on the Council Lords. With one bold stroke, Richard intended to pay back every real and imagined insult he had ever suffered. He would also do it in such a way that everyone would acclaim him as a man of peace.

Richard eagerly asked the General what he thought even before Kerensky could finish reading. When he finally spoke, General Kerensky said that he admired the spirit that went into the document but saw no chance of executing the order.

Amaris, who had remained quiet until then, interjected that Richard was the First Lord, and all the other Lords were bound by loyalty to obey him. “The Lords are bound to the Star League, of which Richard is only the first among six Lords,” General Kerensky replied. “Though they look to Richard for leadership, the Lords look to the articles of the Star League Accords for the law,” he went on. He knew the Lords would have plenty of valid reasons to challenge the legality of Richard’s order.

Richard was crestfallen. He had expected General Kerensky’s wholehearted support. Without it, he doubted that the other Lords would accept the order. Sensing Richard’s mood, Amaris demanded to know whether Kerensky supported the laws of the Star League or its leader. The General turned and left the room without another word.

Despite the General’s apparent disapproval, Richard issued the order at Amaris’s urging. The Lords were outraged. Messages that smoked with anger arrived at Unity City. Then the Lords themselves arrived for an emergency High Council meeting. When Richard strode into the Council Chambers, followed by Amaris and a very somber General Kerensky, he had no idea how deeply his order had offended the other leaders because Amaris had kept it from him.

Richard Steiner II, Archon of the Lyran Commonwealth, asked if the order had been a mistake. Led by the Coordinator of the Draconis Combine, the other Lords began to shout their anger about the order and the order’s author. Richard’s stunned silence encouraged them to even louder protests.

Stefan Amaris pretended to be frightened. He defended the order and then behaved as though in fear of his life when the Lords directed some of their venom at him. When Takiro Kurita rose from his chair, Amaris feigned panic and called for the guards. They entered the Council Chambers, their weapons ready.

General Kerensky ordered them to lower their weapons and leave. The shouting died away and everyone looked at him. The guards, uncertain whom to obey, hesitated, then lowered their weapons and left.

It was the First Prince of the Federated Suns who put the question to the General of the Star League Defense Forces. “General Kerensky, where do you stand on this order? Do you support the First Lord in demanding that we give up our legal rights to our own militaries, or do you stand with us?”

“I swore an oath to the Star League when I entered the SLDF. I vowed to defend to the death the laws of the Star League and the uniqueness of each member state. I am loyal to my oath,” General Kerensky said quietly, “which is why I must disappoint my First Lord and say that the Executive Order is, I believe, illegal.”

The Council Lords were ecstatic, while the First Lord looked like a child who had just been severely scolded. Seated on his throne, Richard Cameron meekly signed a hastily drafted order rescinding Executive Order 156. For once, Amaris could say or do nothing.


Deeply ashamed at being bested by the Council Lords, First Lord Richard Cameron went into seclusion after the High Council meeting. He was also extremely angry with General Kerensky, certain that the other Lords had turned the General against him. Amaris fed these feelings with distortions and lies: that the Council Lords had laughed at him after he left the Council Chambers, that General Kerensky had called him a “child,” and so on. Richard disbanded the High Council, vowing to rule by decree, and left the Court of the Star League for the small Star Palace he had built for Amaris in the wilds of the Canadian States. Cameron remained there for two years.

Convinced that the Council Lords and General Kerensky were conspiring against him, First Lord Richard began to govern by himself. His most important act was the Taxation Edict of 2763, which placed an even heavier burden on the Periphery. When the Periphery states refused to comply, Richard ordered General Kerensky to reinforce troops there and take charge personally.

In 2764, Stefan Amaris left the First Lord and Terra to meet with General Kerensky in the Periphery. The stated reason for Amaris’s visit was to try to reconcile their differences. Amaris had a very special peace offering for Aleksandr Kerensky. Because of the underground network among Periphery resistance movements, Amaris had information that would allow the General to smash one of the strongest terrorist organizations in the Taurian Concordat. Called the Taurian Freedom Army, the well-armed and organized band of rebels had stymied the Regular Army and even its vaunted SAS. The opportunity to remove such a menace was, Amaris assumed, worth considerable money or influence to the General.

When Amaris and General Kerensky met, the leader of the Rim Worlds Republic disclosed the information without conditions or demands for payment. This act of seeming friendship and honesty surprised the soldier. Despite his gratitude, General Kerensky told Amaris that he was a bad influence on the First Lord and should allow Richard to learn to rule by himself. Amaris surprised General Kerensky yet again by saying he would not be spending as much time on Terra as formerly. Responsibilities in the Rim Worlds Republic demanded that he return home.

The meetings did not end in friendship, or even in the lowering of General Kerensky’s guard, but Amaris walked away happy. The fact that the General appreciated the value of his information about the Taurian Freedom Army was enough of a victory for Amaris to allow him to continue with his plans.

General Kerensky immediately acted on Amaris’s disclosure. First, he had his own intelligence personnel confirm the information. He then sent three regiments of troops to Camadeierre, the stronghold hideout of the Taurian Freedom Army. Not only were the leaders of the organization captured alive, but the troops uncovered enough evidence to incriminate the government of the Taurian Concordat.

In the meantime, Amaris returned to Terra to say his farewells to Richard. He lied that General Kerensky had attacked Rchard’s friendship with Amaris and ordered the Rim Worlds leader to leave Terra within the month and return to his realm or be arrested.

Shocked, Richard offered to rescind the order. Instead, Amaris donned the cloak of self-sacrifice and said that he would return to the Rim Worlds for the sake of the Star League. Amaris urged Richard not to be angry with General Kerensky, but to have pity on the aging officer. The General just wanted to protect the First Lord from the coming storm in the Periphery, Amaris counseled. The First Lord should be thinking of ways to help General Kerensky fight the coming rebellion.

Amaris offered to help the First Lord and the Star League from the Rim Worlds Republic. He outlined a treaty that would allow regiments from his realm to assume the defense of the Terran Hegemony if a crisis arose. Amaris assured Richard that he could spare the soldiers; his republic was the most loyal of the four Periphery realms, and so rebellion there was extremely unlikely.

Richard shared his grandfather’s deep fear of seeing Terra overrun. To know that the Hegemony could depend on the Rim Worlds Republic for assistance would be a great comfort. Richard eagerly accepted the terms of the treaty and signed it, without the High Council’s knowledge, on July 21, 2764.

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