Tuesday, August 18, 2009

[Future Perfect] The Regency (Part 1)

The Imperial Regency

I. The Rise of the New Terran Imperium

The history of the New Terran Imperium stretches back almost nine thousand years, to the times of Koenig Prime’s second wave of space exploration. Where the first wave focused on travel to the moon and adjacent planets within the starsystem, the second wave was marked by a vast increase in scale. Begun to investigate potentially dangerous stellar phenomenon, the second wave was carried by the first discovery of an active stellar gateway. Indeed, the explorer’s from Koenig Prime had no idea what to expect.

They had long suspected they were not alone in the Universe, noting that no significant evidence of humanity or human impact could be found prior to about seven or eight thousand years before their early efforts at space travel. All evidence indicated a relatively high level of technical and social sophistication for the peoples of the oldest data. This sophistication receded fairly quickly into clusters of pastoral agrarian communities, many of which developed into cities as intercommunity trade routes were established along the coasts and waterways. These communities rose and fell due to a variety of social factors ranging from being conquered or razed by petty warlords to economic weakness to environmental upheavals. In time, these communities banded together regionally into national sovereignties, governed, at first, by the regional aristocracy. However, a warlord by the name of Rocco Condari would change everything.

[The Inception of Conquest]
Backed by his regional aristocracy by means of both intimidation and a desire for profit, Condari’s armies rolled over their home continent conquering and subjugating every regional authority under himself. Condari set himself up as Monarch, with council of Nobles picked mostly from his homeland and supplemented by those persons most useful and trustworthy from the conquered regions. In less than 50 years time, Condari had roads and travel-ways powered by steam engines spanning halfway across the continent. His descendants would see the task completed, and conquer another two continents within a handful of generations. However, the line of Condari was not to rule in perpetuity. After a long campaign to conquer a particularly troubling region, the council of Nobles was not pleased with the vast resources expended compared to the pittance gained. When Monarch Enzo Condari’s sexual debauchery resulted in the death of a Noble’s twin son and daughter (and countless other lives of persons not born to noble blood), the council decided to act. Enzo had no legitimate heirs of his own, and most of his immediate family was dead or far too young to assume the throne. A few of the Nobles were distant relatives of the crown, and it was among them that the Nobility sought a replacement. It was Finn Werkholt, a young, fairly quiet member of the council who’d served with distinction in the military, who was to enact the dissident Nobles’ plans and take the throne. Backed by the military, a coup was staged, Enzo killed, and Werkholt was named Monarch. The Condari family was to retain Noble status, though to its shame was ever after in decline (with no less than half a dozen failed attempts to reclaim the throne in the century that followed).

[The Rise of Bureaucracy]
The line of Werkholt proved to be a bit much for the Nobility to handle. Finn Werkholt himself never was as pliable and easy to control as some members of the council had hoped. Indeed, Werkholt was staunchly pro-military and less pro-aristocracy, and immediately set upon rearranging the structures of governance to fit a more hierarchical, even bureaucratic model. His hope was to streamline economic efficiency – and in Monarch Finn’s lifetime, he accomplished remarkable administrative changes which removed local control from the Nobility and placed it the hands of a civil service hierarchy. Finn strongly encouraged, forcibly, an educated and well trained Nobility. He required all persons of Noble and Common birth alike to serve a term of military service. Nobles who left the military were required to undergo an additional term as a civil servant and encouraged to retain positions of authority within the bureaucracy even after that term expired. Finn hoped to encourage a Noble class that understood it position in service to the common folk. Werkholt’s line ruled for several hundred years, before the civil bureaucracy bloated to a critical mass of inefficiency. Indeed, it was a popular uprising that forced the Noble’s from their own complacency and, utilizing the very lessons Finn Werkholt had hoped to teach the Noble class, eventually forced the Werkholt family from the seat of power. A three way civil war erupted between Loyalists – those who served the line of Werkholt – the Reformists - most of the progressive minded Noble caste who wanted both a new Monarch and a re-examination of the civil authority – and the Populists – those most prominent among the common folk who wanted to wrest control of government from the Nobility and place it into the hands of the people.

It was a young Noble and military officer by the name of Sven Koenig who eventually came up with an answer to the issues of civil unrest. From a predominantly Reformist family, he understood the need to both reexamine the structures of government, as well as his own place within it. He knew well the lessons of team building across faction lines, and made efforts to find common ground with leaders among the Populists. Over the next five years, Sven managed to unify prominent factions of both the Reformists and the Populists. The unified coalition of Reformists and Populists quickly seized power at most key locations on the planet, forcing the loyalists and much of the surviving Werkholt family to remote locations. When Sven’s forces overran even those locales, the Werkholt’s were forced into hiding.

[The Founding of a Dynasty]
Sven was a canny individual. He noted a popular religion among the common peoples and managed to insinuate himself into it. Once backed by the power of religion, even the less politically minded flocked to his banner. In short order the remainder of the Werkholt family was sold out and betrayed by their servants. In a public display, Sven offered the Werkholt family amnesty – but only under the condition that every one of them publicly pledge their support of the line of Koenig and their loyalty to the People’s government. Their refusal meant immediate execution. Sven Koenig was not playing any games.

In turn, representatives from each of the other Noble houses swore loyalty to the People’s government, starting with House Koenig’s declaration spoken by Sven himself. In addition to the Sovereign, who served as arbiter, final decision maker, spiritual leader and Commander-In-Chief of all Military forces, three councils were set up to handle most affairs of government. The Noble Council endured, but was refashioned to include the regional governors as well as the assorted house patriarchs. The Guild Council was formed from the leadership of assorted trade guilds and large, incorporated businesses. Last was the Common’s Council, populated by elected officials from among the common folk from region to region. Each council was to elect a Prelate who presided over it and was responsible for advising the Sovereign about council affairs.

Sven Koenig was the first Sovereign of this new regime, and his descendants have continued in the role ever since – though the title would come to change in a handful of generations. Shortly before Sven’s death, the first archaeological evidence was found to indicate that perhaps this world was not their home world. Human impact was measured and gaged, dating the point at which human activity began. There was a time prior to which no human artifacts could be located. Sven ordered the matter to be investigated, but died before its true significance could be discerned. His son, Lars Koenig had to bear that revelation to his people. The wreckage of an ancient ship had been found, and its outer hull – and much of its surviving interior – still bore markings in a language remarkably similar to Aroistech. From what they could understand, the ship had belonged to something called the “Terran Colonial Expeditionary Force.”

Sovereign Lars I did an excellent job managing the resultant social upheaval. History, Culture, Religion, Spirituality, Astronomy, Metallurgy, and even the politics of social identity were all turned upon their heads. Lars was clever, and quickly turned what he could to his advantage as more and more evidence seemed strongly to indicate that his people had come from the stars. “We all come from the same people”, he said, “possessed of one shared vision to colonize a new world. We cannot let the spirit of our heretofore unremembered forebears remain quiet. We have been delivered into a new era. And though now we are rendered small in the face of the Universe’s vastness, we must know now that greatness exists within each and every one of us. For they were our own ancestors, working together as one people with one mind, one vision, who could cross the stars.” Lars I provided a new identity for the people, gave them a fresh, shared sense of purpose that would grow to define the men of the Imperium. What Lars didn’t say, at least not publicly, was that the colonial vessel they’d unearthed contained not only untold hordes of information and technology far surpassing their own, but was likely only one of many such ships sent out into space. Better to let the people believe they held an exalted position in the cosmos, the progeny of the Terrans -- whoever they were -- and inheritors of a history that stretched out into space, than to expose them to the harsher possibility that they were an insignificant spec, no more than the descendants of survivors who’d crashed on the world ages ago. In truth, Lars had no idea what the truth was, but he knew damned sure what he needed the people to believe.