Various media outlets throughout inhabited space received an anonymous communiqué this morning. "The galactic community is in peril," the message began. "They just don't know it yet."
The transmission asserts a connection between Core Dynamics, the destruction of the Antares and Starship One, the Emperor's Dawn insurgency, and setbacks in Unknown Artefact research. It also claims that the deaths of Federal Vice-President Nigel Smeaton, Sean Richards, Arnold Lowe, Susan Monroe, Elaine Boyd, Emperor Hengist Duval and the disappearances of former Federal president Jasmina Halsey and Professor Ishmael Palin are similarly connected.
The message concluded: "Many of those who have tried to connect these seemingly disparate events have been silenced, along with their sources. That is why I have chosen to remain anonymous. So far, only pawns have been revealed in this shadowy game. We must discover the king."
Neither the Federation nor the Empire has chosen to comment on the transmission.
In September, Gutamaya Shipyards released a new version of the enduringly popular Eagle. This month, the company has announced the launch of a new fighter designed specifically for the CQC Championship – the Imperial Fighter. Gutamaya has said that the small, manoeuvrable vessel will be ideally suited to close-quarters dogfights, and more than capable of going toe-to-toe with other CQC fighters.
As befits a ship created with the CQC Championship in mind, the Imperial Fighter offers a delicate balance of defence, firepower and manoeuvrability. The ship is more agile than the F63 Condor, which offers a similar spread of features, although it lacks the Condor's speed and hull strength. In terms of firepower, the Imperial Fighter matches the Condor with two small hardpoints.
The Imperial Fighter's specifications are not the only important factor, however. According the ship's designer, Pascal Roux, the vessel was created as a tribute to the late Emperor, Hengist Duval. In an interview with the Imperial Herald, Roux said: "What I admired most about the Emperor was his balance of elegance and strength, and the fighter represents my attempt to reflect those qualities."
The Imperial Fighter is due to be released for use in the CQC Championships in December, and will go on general sale in early 3302.
Standing on the steps of the Senate building, Chancellor Anders Blaine announced the Senate's decision on the succession. In a historic selection, and as a result of a clear majority vote, Arissa Lavigny-Duval will be the next ruler of the Empire. She will be the first female leader of the Empire since Marlin Duval founded the original colony on Achenar in the 23rd Century, although she will carry the title 'Emperor' rather than 'Empress'. Such an appointment would have been impossible prior to the reign of Hengist Duval due to an ancient decree that all Imperial rulers be male, but a ruling passed by the late Emperor early in his reign did away with this generations-old tradition.
The news has been almost universally celebrated, and even Princess Aisling Duval offered her support for the appointment. The celebrations are likely to continue until the coronation ceremony in a week's time.
Not everyone agrees with the Senate's decision, however. In a statement, Emperor's Dawn declared the selection of Arissa Lavigny-Duval "a desecration of the traditions of the Empire". The organisation has vowed not to allow the ceremony to happen.
Since news of Emperor's Dawn first emerged, there has been extensive speculation about the group's agenda. That the organisation wants to destabilise the Imperial power base seems highly likely, given that it was almost certainly responsible for the assassination of Emperor Hengist Duval, but the specifics of its ambitions have remained unclear.
Propaganda material disseminated by Emperor's Dawn has been thoroughly examined, but the generalities it contains, and the vague promises of returning Imperial society to 'traditional values', have done little to illuminate the group's philosophy. Some commentators have suggested that the organisation may be deliberately avoiding making an explicit statement for fear of discouraging potential recruits. After all, if you are intentionally vague about what you stand for, people may assume you stand for the same things they do.
All this has changed, however, with the recovery of an internal Emperor's Dawn statement, released by an individual claiming to be a former member of the organisation. The following text is taken verbatim from the document:
"The Empire has become irrevocably decadent, and stands at a vast remove from the noble ideals that birthed it. In anticipation of its inevitable collapse, we, Emperor's Dawn, Heralds of the New Imperial Age, have compiled the following edicts, to be delivered to the Empire at an appropriate time. We demand that Emperor's Dawn be free to determine the appointment of a new Emperor, that the corrupt and amoral Imperial Senate be immediately disbanded, and that the equivocation and leniency that has neutered the Imperial military be stamped out, to be replaced with a philosophy of total martial conviction."
The identity of the individual who provided the information is not known, but it is understood that Imperial security experts believe the material to be genuine. The office of Senator Denton Patreus responded to the release of the document with a brief statement:
"This information does not change the Senator's position regarding Emperor's Dawn. It is an enemy of the Empire, and it will be destroyed."
Edmund Mahon's policies have allowed the Alliance to achieve new levels of prosperity this week. With optimism and trading profits reaching new highs, it's never been better to be a part of the Alliance. Following the prosperity of the past week, two influential systems pledged their support to the Alliance, and the Council of Admirals reported successfully thwarting numerous incursions seeking to spoil the Alliance's blossoming golden age.
Arissa Lavigny-Duval's administration stabilized last week, but once again there is turbulence in her domain. As a result, four systems have begun to question whether Arissa's administration meets their needs. Some have questioned whether the difficulties plaguing Senator Lavigny-Duval's administration in recent weeks stem from her preoccupation with the closed session of the Imperial Senate, where the question of Emperor Hengist's successor is being decided.
Zachary Hudson's approval rating fell slightly this week, but overall the President maintained his standing in relation to other major powers. Heavy undermining took place throughout the President's territory, but overall the Federation fleets under Hudson's command weathered the storm well. The fly in the ointment this week came in the form of a complaint lodged by the Katurru system.
Felicia Winters endured setbacks in her attempt to forge diplomatic agreements during the past two weeks, but she also deflected serious opposition to her rule with aggressive community outreach and aid to systems in need. Her command capital reserves are not as deep as in recent weeks, but funding is available for media teams to spread liberal values to at least one system this week.
Li Yong-Rui was disappointed, as deals that would have incorporated additional systems into the Sirius portfolio fell through. Sirius's investors remain optimistic about the corporation's future performance, as deals with wealthy systems lie on the horizon. With the ongoing study of Sothis Crystalline Gold, Sirius stocks are soaring.
Following the negative press surrounding the potential involvement of one of the Aisling's patrons in the Emperor's assassination, two systems pulled support a week ago, followed by four additional systems this week. The People's Princess now looks forward to the events of the coming week, and the decision of the senate on the matter of the Imperial succession.
Zemina Torval made great strides, as her enterprise expanded its influence into three valuable systems. With this news, the elderly senator has demonstrated her frailty is a figment of her detractors' imaginations. With a vast command capital reserve, Senator Torval is in a strong position to offer several systems the opportunity to become preferred trading partners this week.
Denton Patreus fought to stabilize his territory this week, following recent conflicts with Emperor's Dawn. The cost of the conflicts, combined with regular undermining in the Senator's territory, led to the loss of one key system, although three others that had been in turmoil were retained. The senator now looks to recoup some of the strength that was spent, and to take positive steps leading to a stronger future.
Pranav Antal authorized Utopians to send humanitarian aid to the Munshin system to support the displaced Pegasi Sector citizens. Polevnic's finest commanders sallied forth, crossing hundreds of light years to deliver much-needed medical supplies. The emphasis placed on this mercy mission came at the cost of further advancement of Utopian ideals in surrounding systems.
Archon Delaine and his ruthless crew met with success this week as they brought the resistance force of HIP 106072 to its knees. Those who resisted paid the inevitable price in blood, their families sold into slavery. The expansion of the Kumo Crew comes as a blow to those who have fought for months to end the tyranny of the pirate lord. Analysts now suspect the harassment of refugee ships served as a distraction that allowed the Kumo Crew to conquer this remote world.
In a devastating exposé released earlier today, the Imperial Herald has published details of alleged links between the secretive group backing Princess Aisling Duval and some of the funding sources for the Emperor’s Dawn insurgency. While a direct connection between Princess Aisling and the insurgency is not alleged, there does appear to be a connection to senior members of the Princess’s inner council.
Most notable of these is the patron and industrialist Damon Clarke. The Herald has found evidence that D and C Shipping, Inc., one of Clarke’s companies, apparently funded and organised weapon shipments to people now known to be members of Emperor’s Dawn three years ago.
It is not known at this time whether there has been any recent contact between Clarke’s company and these individuals, or how this relates to the assassination of Emperor Hengist Duval. Patron Damon Clarke was unavailable for comment, but a spokesman for the company said:
“We are an interstellar shipping company, making thousands of shipments for clients each day. We are approved to transport weapons where such shipments are legal, and we occasionally do so. We do not comment on individual transactions. If a former client later became a terrorist, that is certainly abhorrent, but it is hardly the fault of D and C Shipping, Inc.”
Four days ago, Imperial senator Denton Patreus launched a military campaign against Emperor’s Dawn, the organisation responsible for the murder of Emperor Hengist Duval. Since then, there has been intense conflict in the Dakshmandi and Maausk systems, where two Emperor’s Dawn bases are located, with scores of Imperial Navy vessels and Emperor’s Dawn ships exchanging fire.
Journalist Katherine Ryder, who has reported from war zones across the galaxy in a career spanning more than twenty years, recently met with one of the Imperial generals leading the campaign. In a report for the Imperial Herald, she described the unfolding conflict between the Empire and Emperor’s Dawn:
“Against the crisp darkness of space drifts a Majestic-Class Interdictor, its elegant lines belying the deadly power of its artillery. A few hours ago, the ship was deep within the Dakshmandi system, overseeing the deployment of Imperial squadrons tasked with rooting out and destroying Emperor’s Dawn vessels. For the people of the Dakshmandi and Maausk systems, the arrival of the Imperial fleets has proved divisive: some see the Empire as a saviour, while others fear that the conflict it has incited will do only harm.”
“On the bridge of this stately vessel I meet General Anthony Corvus, the military veteran who recently voiced scepticism about Denton Patreus’s campaign. He describes the insurgents as disciplined and methodical, capable of delivering systematic, targeted strikes. With what sounds almost like admiration, he refers to their steely resolve, telling me that no matter how many Emperor’s Dawn ships his pilots destroy, the rebels’ morale never appears to waver. He also mentions the many hundreds of independent pilots who have boosted the insurrectionists’ numbers. Evidently, he says, the Empire’s enemies see this conflict as an opportunity to deal a blow to the superpower.”
“The general’s remarks highlight a facet of the campaign underscored by Denton Patreus’s critics – namely that the senator has underestimated Emperor’s Dawn, assuming that the mere sight of an Imperial battle fleet would demoralise the insurgents. In reality, Patreus has found himself drawn into a protracted battle against a disciplined and apparently imperturbable enemy. No one questions the Empire’s ability to bring significant firepower to the conflict, but even the Empire’s resources are not inexhaustible. If it does not gain an advantage soon, it may have to consider temporarily withdrawing from the conflict, and devising a different strategy.”
After the day’s Senate deliberations finished, Senator Arissa Lavigny-Duval stopped to answer questions from the assembled reporters. When asked what she considered the most important issue facing the Empire, she replied:
“Most of all the Empire needs stability and continuity. I was privileged to spend some time with Emperor Hengist Duval after he recovered from his coma. He shared with me a vision in which the Empire continues to build on its strengths of justice and tradition.
“It saddens me greatly that anyone, especially someone considering themselves an imperial citizen, could bring an end to such a great man. I consider it my duty to make sure that his vision becomes a reality.”
When asked if that meant she considered herself the heir to the Emperor’s throne, she stated:
“The decision of who will become Emperor is in the hands of the Senate. There are many suitable candidates, and I am honoured to be among them. Whether or not I am crowned, I will continue to work toward the future that Hengist Duval shared with me.”
With the Imperial Senate now in closed session, political commentator Marcus Macmillan takes a look at the likely candidates for the throne.
For political commentators, the varied landscape of Imperial politics provides plenty of intrigue to delve into, and this is particularly true of the Imperial throne. In theory, every member of the Duval family has an equal but invalid claim, and for those that lack the right blood there is always an opportunity for the right marriage. Doubtless many whispered deals of support and corresponding reward are being proposed between the senators to get their votes as we speak.
For traditionalists, the obvious candidate is Chancellor Anders Blaine. He has always been close to the Royal Family and is extremely well connected. When considering his history, however, it becomes clear that he prefers the guiding role of Chancellor, and would not consider himself the next Emperor, even though the next Emperor might not want Chancellor Blaine as their right-hand man.
Based on popularity among the masses, the ‘People’s Princess’ Aisling Duval is the obvious choice. Were it not for her father’s lack of marriage, and the recent declaration of his insanity by the late Emperor, her claim would have been the strongest, and centuries ago that would probably have been enough. She is young for the role, but that could work in her favour as many would like an Emperor with a potentially lengthy rule ahead of her. Her youth works against her in other respects, however, as all the other candidates far surpass her in experience. That being said, she is rumoured to have some powerful, unnamed people behind her.
Senator Arissa Lavigny-Duval was clearly the Emperor’s chosen heir, but without the marriage to Florence Lavigny being completed she cannot be legally considered so. However, as the illegitimate child of Hengist Duval she does have a suitable bloodline, just as strong as Aisling’s, and she enjoys the support of both Chancellor Blaine and the citizenry. Her popular support is not as strong as Aisling’s, but it is still significant, and more importantly she is respected in the Imperial Palace.
When considering potential rulers the powerful Senator Zemina Torval must always be included. She is a shrewd operator with extensive commercial interests, and also an avowed traditionalist, which provides her with solid support both in the Senate and among the wider population. She lacks the strong bloodline connection of other candidates, but does have some royal blood, and her strength in the Empire and in the Senate would put her in contention if she so chose.
The last candidate is Senator Patreus. His popular following is still strong, but beyond the inner circles of political life it has begun to weaken, particularly among free-thinking commanders. He wields considerable military and financial power, and his aggressive policies – based on conquest rather than taxation –are attractive to certain elements of the population. He is powerful in the Senate, and given that Senator Torval has indicated her support for him, he is still a contender. Speculation abounds that a marriage between Senator Patreus and Aisling or Arissa Duval would cement his position. He is a well-practiced operator, so he is one to keep an eye on.
The smart credits are on a two-horse race between Aisling Duval and Arissa Lavigny-Duval. In general terms little separates the two, so there is likely to be a lot of politicking over the next month to determine the winner.
With the sombre echo of Emperor Hengist Duval still resonating throughout Capitol, the Senate reopened today to deliberate how the question of succession will be resolved. Chancellor Anders Blaine opened the discussion:
“Without a clear line of succession, we have a solemn duty to decide who will rule the Empire in these fractious times. It is clear that our beloved Emperor wished for Senator Arissa Lavigny-Duval to become heir and so, when the time came, become Emperor. That time has now come, but the law does not allow us to honour his wishes. Instead, we must follow the rules set out for us by centuries of law and tradition.
“The Senate has one month to determine who will be the 16th ruler to sit on the Imperial throne. The candidate must be of royal blood or of royal marriage, and must have a clear majority backing of the Senate in the final count. The final tally will be taken on October the 5th.
“Personally, I would urge the senators present to consider the Emperor’s intentions carefully. I knew him well, and I know that everything he did was for the good of the Empire.”
The city has almost recovered from the massive influx of mourners, and the streets are once again clear of the press of humanity. Now the question on everyone’s lips is: who will be the next to occupy the Great Throne?