Thursday, March 11, 2021

Third Imperium - Second Imperium: The Rule of Man

Second Imperium: The Rule of Man

The humans from Terra were still balkanized when they discovered Jump drive and began colonizing their solar system in 2058 A.D. Because of the dearth of nearby stars, the Solomani were confined to their own solar system for the next four decades despite having the Jump drive. During this time period, the Terrans developed an extensive variety of jump-capable ships that were tested by years of use before they were able to make the leap to another star. It wasn't until 2094 A.D. that they were able to mount an expedition to Barnard's Star, and it wasn't until 2096 A.D. that the Terrans encountered the Vilani in that system.

The discovery that they were not only not alone in the universe but that the aliens they discovered were also human sent shockwaves through Terran society. The stories the Terrans heard of the Imperium's size staggered them. The fact that most worlds more than a few parsecs away from Terra were already claimed and inhabited was a source of consternation. Even so, joint international expeditions met with Vilani representatives and explored nearby star systems. In 2110 A.D., the Terrans launched an effort to colonize Barnard's Star even though Vilani prospectors were already working on the system's primary planet. This rush to colonization almost inevitably led to conflict between the upstart Terrans and the Imperials.

Things came to a head in 2113 A.D. (-2405 Imperial) when a caravan of Vilani vessels ignored Terran traffic signals, resulting in a confrontation that became the spark that ignited the First Interstellar War. Although this resulted in what was ostensibly a Terran victory in 2121 A.D., the Imperium didn't even really know it had been in a war. Because of the Imperial Bureaux system devolved so much responsibility for managing local affairs downward to provincial governors, the first war was fought with only the resources available in the region. Because being unable to handle such matters without help from the Imperial throne was seen as a failure for a provincial governor, resulting in a loss of prestige and personal power, there was significant reluctance on the part of the Vilani provincial authorities to seek help from the central authority.

On the Terran side, the war, although a victory, exposed command and control issues resulting from having fractured forces drawn from multiple nations. After much negotiation, in 2122 A.D. most of the nations of Terra signed the Treaty of New York, placing their space-faring forces under the centralized control of an empowered United Nations. In 2123 A.D., most of the off-world colonies were invited to join the compact, and by 2130 the organization was formalized as the Terran Confederation, placing all Solomani possessions under a single governmental authority.

Over the next one hundred and eighty years, the Terran Confederation and the First Imperium fought a series of wars, although the exact number is subject of some debate among historians. Due to the slowness of interstellar communication, no consensus can be reached as to when the later conflicts began or ended due to the array of armistices, ceasefires, and relatively rare periods of peace. In many cases, conflict would begin in one region before news of a peace accommodation could reach the local area or the respective capitals, sparking a new conflict. Although most scholars generally count seven interstellar conflicts between the Terrans and the Vilani following the first, there is much disagreement as to when each one began or ended, and some scholar maintain that there more or fewer wars than this number. As a general matter, academics have mostly agreed to simply refer to the wars between the Terran Confederation and the First Imperium as the "Nth Interstellar War", with proper accounting requiring that the specific dates of the war being discussed to be defined by the speaker.

The Second through Seventh Interstellar Wars were back and forth affairs, mostly confined to the Dingir and Sol subsectors, fought between the Terran Confederation and the Vilani provincial authority. It was not until the Solomani seized Dingir itself in the Eighth Interstellar War that the Vilani Emperor took notice and dispatched a sizeable fleet to the theater of operations. Unfortunately, by then the Terrans has developed the Jump-3, which gave them a strategic advantage so great that they were able to crush the Imperial forces, forcing them to relinquish control of the Solomani Rim. From that point on, the Terrans were on the offensive. The Treaty of of Ensular, signed in 2299 A.D., ended the war with the Vilani ceding all territory rimward of Vega to the Terrans.

Primed by centuries of decline, corruption, and decay, the Vilani Empire collapsed almost immediately after this defeat. The Terrans, emboldened by their victory, fell upon the former territories of the disintegrating empire like wolves, with the Terran Confederation setting out to swallow an opponent hundreds of times larger than itself. The entire Terran officer corps, more than one hundred thousand strong, was dispatched to the former Imperial domains, but even that was not enough. Junior officers found themselves thrust into positions of authority far exceeding anything they were prepared for: Ensigns found themselves commanding entire space stations, lieutenants found themselves acting as planetary governors, commanders were placed in charge of entire subsectors. The Vilani Empire had been vast and unwieldy even with the massive Imperial bureaucracy, and the Terran Confederation simply didn't have the manpower to effectively assume control of it. For fifteen years, the Terran forces tried to impose military rule upon the remnants of the First Imperium.

In 2317, the Terran Secretariat voted to transfer control of the conquered territories directly to Terra, a move that would have wrecked havoc across the former dominions of the Imperium. Admiral Hiroshi Estigarriba, commander of the Terran Navy, realized the cost such a transfer would impose, and moved to install himself as regent of the Vilani Empire and protector of Terra. The personal loyalty the officer corps held towards Estigarriba smoothed the way for this takeover, as did the fact that the Terran forces had integrated Vilani military assets into their own ranks. The Terran fleet headquarters at Dingir became the capital of the new Imperium, but the administrative hub remained on Vland. The Terran Confederation was simply dissolved.

What might have been a temporary situation was transformed into a permanent shift when Estigarriba died and his chief of staff succeeded him, crowning himself Emperor Hiroshi II. For the next five hundred years or so, the combined Solomani-Vilani Empire dominated interstellar politics. This period, known either as the Rule of Man or the Ramshackle Empire, depending on how the speaker feels about this period, is officially referred to as the Second Imperium. Hiroshi II transferred the government from Dingir and Vland to a centrally located world named Hub by the Terrans and Ershur by the Vilani, and the capital remained there for the next four centuries.

Depending on who one asks, the Second Imperium was either a period of innovation and progress following the stagnation of the First Imperium, or a time of chaos and growing instability. Solomani migrated from the Terran dominions and spread throughout the new empire, brining with them their ambition and exuberance. The rigid Vilani caste system was swept away by the new regime, opening the way for a newly dynamic society to emerge, but also creating an uncertainty alien to the denizens of the First Imperium. The Terrans swept aside the old system, unleashing an era of invention and devlopment, but weren't able to come up with a replacement that allowed them to effectively manage such a vast domain.The First Imperiums caste system and heavy economic control had been cumbersome and employed a bloated bureuacracy, but the system of military rule employed by the Second Imperium wasn't any more effective, and in the end it proved to be just as brittle.

In -1776 Imperial or 2742 A.D., the Second Imperium faced a financial crisis that marked the beginning of the end for the regime. The treasury at Hub refused to honor a monetary issue from the Imperial treasury at Antares, resulting in a monetary crisis that shattered the confidence in interstellar trade and effective governmental power. Though the Rule of Man limped on in some form or another for the next two and a half centuries, the writing was on the wall: Eventual collapse was inevitable. The Twilight had begun.

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