Monday, December 1, 2014

[Traveller] The Unified History of "Visions of Empire"

Long Live the United Terran Republic!
Long Live the New Terran Republic!
(UTR Flag by Oculus Orbus)
I have decided to unite both "visions" of my Visions of Empire setting idea into a single setting: both These Stars are Ours! (relatively near-future Terra vs. the Reticulans in galactic politics) and Ashes of Empire (far future post-collapse of the Terran Empire). The thing is that: These Stars are Ours, AKA Vision #1, will be an earlier milieu, while Ashes of Empire, AKA Vision #2, will be a later milieu, both of the same setting. So, without further ado, I present the unified history of my Visions of Empire setting!

2082-2232 Reticulan Conquest and the EFA
Humanity has missed its chance to start its own interstellar state. In the hyper-consumerist 21st century, apart from a few privately-owned space tourist outfits and several abortive attempts at belt mining, we Humans did not pay much attention to space, preferring instead to focus on our day-to-day lives here on Earth. Space programs were cut back, and the single manned Mars landing in 2043 was never followed by any further exploration. But then the Reticulans came.

In 2082, several Reticulan (more particularly, House Thiragin) capital ships appeared in Earth orbit, sending a wave of smaller saucers to hover above Earth's major cities. Soon enough, through promises of advanced technology and access to vast wealth through interstellar trade, most Earth governments signed pacts with the alien visitors. In a matter of months, Earth was transformed from a chaotic collection of independent states into one big client-state of the Reticulan House Thiragin, ruled by the Earth Federal Administration (EFA). A few Earthlings did resist this economic and political takeover, however, under the umbrella of the hastily-formed Terran Defense Committee (TDC), which, for several years, launched covert operations against the aliens and their collaborators, until hunted down and defeated by the EFA's bio-augmented Federal Security Apparatus (FSA), better known as the Men in Black.

While self-administered and allowed to build its own armed forces - mostly to serve as auxiliary troops for House Thiragin - Terra was under the alien thumb, its economy and resources exploited by the alien Thiragin, some of its people used by Thiragin scientists as lab-rats for various bio-tech experiments, and its soldiers send off to fight distant wars on the behalf of its alien masters. the EFA allowed relatively little freedom to its citizens, but, on the other hand, developed its own sphere of space around Earth with nine major colonies settled by Mankind, exporting goods to the Thiragin monopoly and the larger Reticulan Empire.

2232-2258 Terran Liberation War (the First Reticulan War)
But then, in 2232, Humanity had enough. After a century and a half of subjugation, massive protests against the EFA's unfair tax burden and tyrannical practices turned into open rebellion on Terra and the nine major colonies. Out of the chaos, rose the United Terran Republic (UTR), which declared itself an independent state, and, soon after, called for the Reticulans' other thralls and client states to rise up in rebellion as well, towards a free Interstellar Republic.

The Reticulans responded by trying to crush this impudent uprising, sending their own Thiragin Huscarls as well as Cicek mercenaries and many other alien auxiliaries. Thus began the Terran Liberation War. Stubborn Terran military resistance, as well as diplomatic efforts, found, however, their success, as parts of the Cicek hordes broke off from their own, Reticulan-dominated client-state, forming what was first known as the Cicek Democracy and later as the Cicke Confederacy. The combined might of Terran troops and allied Cicek dissidents crushed, in 2239, House Thiragin's might, breaking through the defensive lines and approaching Zeta 2 Reticuli, House Thiragin's Sector Capital. Until then, however, the other Reticulan houses, content to see their Thiragin competitors embroiled in what was seen as a minor rebellion of barbarians and thus weakened, have not intervened. Only when UTR and Cicek Confederation troops were two jumps away from Zeta 2 Reticuli, the Empress herself sent her Legions, supported by numerous to crush the rebellion.

Ultimately, they failed. Fighting raged for two more decades, with the lines moving back and forth between the Terran-Cicek alliance and the Reticulan Empire, but, in January 2258, the fabled Terran Guard, supported by Colonial Troops and a heavy Cicek fleet, crushed through the Reticulan lines, captured Zeta 2 Reticuli and thus declared the entire Reticuli Sector (now Terra Sector) their own.

The Reticulan Empire had to capitulate. In June 2258, they signed a treaty with the UTR, recognizing its sovereignty, as well as its conquest of the Reticuli Sector, Furthermore, Terra forced the Reticulans' hand into allowing the various minor races close to Terran space to secede, if desired, from the Reticulan Empire.

2258-2296 Ascendancy of the United Terran Republic
Out of the Terran Liberation War - later called the First Reticulan War - the UTR came with its upper hand, a strong polity with massive military might and an enormous popularity among its citizens. While the centralized state-run economic machine of the war was mostly privatized, the state still held a massive military machine, maintaining a universal draft and a strong offensive military arm. The initial post-war period saw much liberalization and demilitarization of the United Terran Republic, owing to the Dovish-Nationalist line held at the time by the ruling Terran Coalition party and most of the public. This, however, slowly changed as more Hawkish politics gained ground, especially as the massive military achievements of the First Reticulan War gave many Terrans a taste for conquest, which grew stronger as time progressed and the horrors of war were less remembered than its glories.

So in the late 2270's, the UTR became more and more active in interstellar politics, challenging the Reticulan Empire on many fronts, and, initially, gaining ground using aggressive diplomacy rather than the open force of arms. A major step in this direction was the establishment of the Reticulan Technate - then a pro-Terran state - in regions of the Reticulan Empire conquered by the UTR in the past war. The Terrans backed the Technate by force of arms and build and trained its military forces, openly supporting the Empire-wide Technocracy Movement, which, in the Reticulan Empire proper, was an illegal underground movement aimed at overthrowing the Great Houses and replacing them with a Technocracy - the meritocratic rule by scientists and engineers.

From lucky barbarians (in Reticulan eyes, that is) in 2258, the UTR became a force to be reckoned with, aggressively pursuing its interests along the Imperial border and arming the rebel Technate. Client species of the Reticulan Empire were encouraged to rebel against their masters, and these rebels were armed and trained by UTR "military advisers". By the 2290's, this led to mounting pressure, especially by House Thiragin on the otherwise prudent Reticulan Empress to counter these Terran moves. And, in 2296, this gave rise to a Second Reticulan War.

2296-2312 Second Reticulan War
In 2296, the Reticulan Empress, pressured by the Great Houses to counter the Terran aggression, finally declared war on the Reticulan Technate, and heavily suppressed the Technocratic movement within the Empire's borders. The UTR responded by declaring war on the Empire and sent its fleets and Terran Guard units for a massive counter-offensive. Several of the Cicek tribes also joined this war on the Terran side, typically in hope for plunder and planetary land-grants. The initial fighting was near Zeta 2 Reticuli, then the Technate's capital, but by the turn of the century, the Reticulan forces were pushed by by multiple parsecs, as Terran fleets gained the upper hand. Fires burned on a hundred worlds as the two superpowers fought for dominance.

The first decade of the 24th century was thus marked by war and slaughter on an interstellar scale. But the Reticulan Empire, ossified and wracked by internal strife between the Great Houses, proved weaker than the determined an aggressive Terrans. Despite a massive price in lives and lost materiel, the UTR gained the upper hand, and, in 2312, helped the Reticulan Technate to plant the Technocratic flag on the Reticulan homeworld moments after the last Empress committed suicide by jumping out of the Imperial Spire. The empire thus was no more; the Technate controlled Reticulan space, after massive concessions, of course, to its Terran allies. The species long held in thrall by the Reticulans were now free of Imperial control, though Terra moved to try and bring them under her leadership.

2312-2345 Terran Dominance and Rise of the Megacorporations
The first half of the 24th century saw the UTR as the dominant interstellar power. But soon after the great victory, once the major enemy of Terra, the Reticulan Empire, was gone, the massive Terran military, as well as the highly centralized nature of the Republic, came into question. At first, the vast post-war prosperity quieted this dissent. But, as the decades went by, the victorious UTR looked, to its citizens, more and more anachronistic, a military beast with no real enemies but with an insatiable thirst for budgets and manpower. Most Terrans became more interested in commerce and industry than in the old Terran Cause, not to mention the Galactic Liberation cause, and society slowly transformed itself into a more civilian-oriented one, chafing against the old military establishment. Having lost millions of lives to war, many Terrans became war-weary, and Dovish-Nationalist views rose to prominence once again.

By the early 24th century, immediately following the Terran victory over the Empire, ten stable megacorporations, each owned by a single family, arose from the continued growth, and privatization, of the United Terran Republic, the so-called Zaibatsus. Each laid claim to a major slice of explored and unexplored space, or, in some cases, occupied Reticulan space. Each developed a vertical, as well as horizontal, monopoly over the majority of goods produced and consumed in that slice inter-corporation trade was mostly in rare earth elements, radioactives and specialized technologies. Concurrent with this monopolization of the economy, the UTR itself became more and more bureaucratic, ossified and authoritarian, bordering on an outright military regime.

2345-2626 The Terran Empire
Contrary to many predictions, the United Terran Republic did not fall in a violent coup or an alien invasion. Rather, it was (mostly) peacefully dissolved into the Terran Empire. Why so? The main reason was that the old UTR was a very militarized state, born as it was out of the struggle for Terran independence from the Reticulan Empire. In its early years, the citizens of the UTR were very happy with that - they were proud of how their small, backwater state kicked out a much more powerful and much older polity and brought freedom to the Terrans. But as time progressed, and, especially, after the Second Reticulan War, these military-centered policies and attitudes became less and less popular, with their greatly inflated military budget (requiring high taxes), universal draft and strong political power held by the military.

Meanwhile, the corporations, growing rich and powerful in the wake of the Second Reticulan War and the conquest of massive swathes of Reticulan space, found this militarized setup to be a burden on their profits. So, eventually, Karl Durnhal, heir and owner to the massive Durnhal Enterprises and richer than any man in recorded history, proposed in the 2340's the Imperial system, ironically enough inspired by the conquered Reticulan Empire; it would be a mercantile society, a polity run by businessmen, by people who produce, who sell, who provide services, and not by militaries and their insatiable thirst for war. This charismatic vision of peace and prosperity was too much for the majority of the war-weary Terran public to resist. So, in 2345, the Act of Dissolution was passed in Parliament, dissolving the republic and installing an Empire in its place, with the ten greatest and richest megacorporation-owning families becoming Great Houses and governing space, Durnhal on top, of course. Only a relative minority bemoaned what they saw as a gross betrayal of what their forefathers fought for a century before. But the majority of Terrans rejoiced as the universal draft was abolished, the military cut back and the taxes greatly reduced. And so the Republic became an Empire. At its very heart, the Terran Empire was a glorified price-fixing scheme, a deal amongst monopolies to divide known space between their interests.

Some resisted, and, for several decades, a low-intensity insurgency was carried out by those loyal to the old Republican ideals against the Empire, but the vast wealth of the megacorporations, and the brilliant future of plenty and prosperity they promised, prevented the opposition from gaining much ground. For 43 years, the republican holdout, officially called the United Terran Republic - Emergency Administration but unofficially called the Terran Freehold, lingered on, becoming more and more authoritarian and eventually totalitarian, only to collapse under its own weight in 2388 and be absorbed by the Empire.

For three centuries things went well, with the empire growing and expanding, becoming the largest, richest state in the entire history of the Human species. The era between the Empire's stabilization in the mid-24th century and the Great Stagnation beginning in 2626 was called the Terran Golden Age. While Great House nepotism and bureaucracy made scientific discoveries slow, trade with the alien neighbors brought new ideas to Terra, and technology progressed (up to Traveller TL15), albeit in a conservative fashion. Apart from the occasional border skirmish with alien polities, such as the weakened Reticulan Technate and the various Cicek Tribes, as well as the growing threat of piracy, the single greatest military threat to the Terran Empire was the Matriarchate, a posthuman polity formed by dissident belters in the far reaches of space, and embraced cybertechnology to the hilt (unlike the conservative Empire), up to an including creating a synthetic shared consciousness of their group. And, indeed, the threat of the utterly alien (though of Human origin) Matriarchate served as a whip to keep Imperial citizens in line for several generations.

2626-2651 The Great Stagnation and Civil War
The Great Stagnation was cooking, in fact, since the mid 26th century. Ossified, decadent and introverted, the Imperial Core saw innovation as an inconvenience and progress as a threat. An economy and a society which is not moving forward, however, is bound to start sliding back. In 2626, the first Great House was forced to declare bankruptcy, an unprecedented event in Imperial history. Recession set in, and the power struggles between the Great Houses grew bitter. When Empress Elena II died an early death in 2639, despite TL15 medical technology, and left the line with no clear heir, the Empire fell into disarray, with the Great Houses scrambling to place themselves on the Terran Throne instead of the dying House Durnhal.

The actual Civil War, and the Terran Revolution which followed, were actually relatively short. For eight long years, between 2539 and 2547, brief fire was exchanged between the major houses, and a major uprising had occurred in several parts of the Empire, including on Terra itself. But lacking economic strength to back up their war machines, the remaining Great Houses, as well as the New Republican rebels, were unable to claim a victory. When the dust settled in 2547, the New Terran Republic was unseated from Terra, and a weak Emperor, a puppet of the resurgent Reticulan Technate, found his way to the Terran Throne (ruling Terra itself and a handful of nearby worlds, which were in bad economic shape); only three of the Great Houses remained in any measurable strength.

Into this vacuum came new forces seeking to gain ascendancy from the chaos. First and foremost, Terran space was invaded by aliens, chief among them the Cicek, the Sselassians, the Zhuzzh and the Reticulans, seeking to expand their territories and grow rich from Imperial plunder; little or no Human forces were able to repel these invasions. Secondly, local warlords, as well as opportunistic Oligarchs - interstellar robber-barons feeding on the rotting carrion of the fallen Great Houses - rose and consolidated their local forces. The New Republican armada and its rag-tag civilian followers, fleeing prosecution and near-defeat in the Core and the Coreward-Spinward by the remaining Great Houses, crossed known space into the utter Rimward, where they found sympathetic locals and re-established the New Terran Republic- far from Terra itself.

2651 and on - Ashes of Empire
The year is 2651 and the former Terran Empire lies in ruins. But out of the chaos, new opportunities arise for the brave, the enterprising and the opportunistic. Whether they serve one of the old Great Houses, align themselves with a warlord or Oligarch, join the New Republican cause or strike out in their own, player characters have a chance for fame, glory and empire-building.

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