Man of War?

15 Jan

I was reading about the later days of Rome and I had (another) idea.

Imagine a far-future Empire that handed out citizenship (and the right to vote) based on military service, particularly for those not lucky enough to be born on the Core Worlds. What this means, in practice, is that a relatively small caste can exploit hundreds of poor worlds that don’t have many Citizens to defend their interests. Many DO go into military service, but as the Empire is in a constant state of ferment, they are often unable to return home. And the baddies do a lot of tinkering to ensure that only a relative handful manage to enlist.

The hero enlists in the Imperial Marines after accidentally/deliberately killing an overlord who was trying to rape his sister, steal his farm, or something else unpleasant. He slowly climbs up the ranks until he finds himself in a position to reform the empire – or destroy it, utterly…

Thoughts?

Chris

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9 Responses to “Man of War?”

  1. The Deposed King January 16, 2012 at 11:33 pm #

    You know. As the grand arc of the story it works just as your wrote it. Personally I would like to see the guy join the military and make a try to invest in the system before being burned yet again. And finding out that not only do the planetary senators or overlords or what have you, stick it to the plebs. But with the military Legates and Tribunes it gets stuck to you again.

    In roman history. Roman Citizens could join the legions. Anyone not a Roman. i.e. Greeks, phonecians, hibernians, what have you you join the Auxiliaries. If they survived twenty years of military service they could retire and automatically received citizenship and a small plot of land. Their decendents would be born citizens.

    The auxiliaries were mostly commanded by elected citizens just like the legion cohorts. Although not always.

    You could set it up the born citizens get to join the Legions and get all the top rate equipment, training, support and the best jobs. While the Auxiliaries cohorts (twice the size or more of legion cohorts, because of expected losses) get all the dirty jobs and get thrown into the meat grinder first and foremost. This wittles down their numbers. Lowering how many citizens they produce. It also invests the survivors with the complex that they survived if the current auxiliaries want to same citizen status they have to earn it just like they did. Hazing mentality.

    That’s not to say that the Legions Cohorts don’t get stuck into the hairy eyeball of combat, after all they have to have the stank if the Auxiliaries rebel. But its most by deliberate design. Not standard operation procedure like with the auxiliaries.

    This way you can have the whole. I fight for the empire but I’m not even really a citizen yet. I uphold its values and get the shaft. So on and so forth. The worst thing about those fancy boys in their top line equipment is that they can fight too! Their only weakness is their arrogance and they simply aren’t used to taking the kinds of losses the auxiliary boys do as a matter of course.

    You could tie in lots of old roman traditions. Legions that loose their eagle, or break in combat or rebel against the government and are voted disbanded, the surviors carry a mark of shame. Even just having the brand that is normally a source of pride now legs anyone who sees it know of their shame.

    Decimation for failure or cowadice. Line them up, pick one in ten and force the rest of the squad to beat them to death to prove their loyalty to the state. If they won’t do it, the whole squad is killed.

    Anyway lots of ideas. Lots of ways to go with it.

    And uh chris if you want me to stop putting all my ideas in your comment threads you just let me know. I can keep it short and sweet instead if that’s what you like.

    The Deposed King

    • chrishanger January 17, 2012 at 10:27 pm #

      I like you putting ideas here

      I may run with that idea. Maybe start moving from battle to battle until he snaps.

      Chris

  2. The Deposed King January 18, 2012 at 10:35 am #

    Yeah. Battle to battle. A few brief reprieves at party central, or in most cases the slime hole that passes for one. Maybe only after they ‘earned it’ do they get to go to a real legion party world.

    Friends keep dying until its like with this book I read. When you joined the crunches, i.e. the battlefield fodder, they essentially ignored you as a person, except to tell you what to do and crap all over your attempts to get close and form bonds. Only after you’d survived your first battle did they welcome you into the club with genuine open arms.

    In roman times every cohort had a standard, as did every century and these were sources of great pride to the men. But only the Roman Legions had Eagles. You don’t have to use the eagle thing. I mean honestly that’s so over played. Put Dragons or you know what, better yet Bears. Something cool. Although eagles aren’t the end of the world either.

    Anyway only the legions have eagles and its carried by a citizen. Who’s like the most respected non-officer in the legion. Gets to sleep in the legate’s tent in some cases and eat the same food. that sort of thing. Because the death rate for carrying a standard of any kind, let alone a legion standard was so high. The sight of the eagle about to fall into enemy hands would sometimes rally otherwise routing troops. If the eagle fell into enemy hands that was the end of the legion and it would be decimated and then disbanded until the eagle was recovered. Great shame.

    Auxillaries in roman times were, again for the most part, attached to legions. At least anytime there was a big army and war of conquest. They didn’t get to have eagles (another legion pretty boys grudge). There were the core legionaries, the tip and iron shaft of the sword. Then there were the auxiliaries, the edge that got all nicked to pieces. Anything from the relatively civilized and respected greeks, all the way to the latest barbarian conquest who were thrown to the wolves. Of course greek physicians were in many ways superior to roman ones and so were highly prized and kept away from the battlefield. Other than having to respect rome and the chain of command, they were given extra ‘privileges’.

    So if the Auxilliaries are smart they are fanatical about protecting to standard. Because if they don’t its not the walk of shame and ostricization for them, and they get sent home to exile. Its decimation or a double decimation and they might get a few extra years knocked onto their term of service. Anyway if our main hero torques off some officer, and if he really is like the shiz when it comes to battles, then while he might want to avoid becoming a standard bearer like the plague, the Tribune currently in command of the Auxilary cohort assigns it to him anyway. Maybe the Tribune hears other auxillary guys complaining about how our hero never gets any recognition or some rival breaks Aux code and tells the Officer how the men feel, because he knows it will shaft our main man. Maybe our guy was busted from Auxillary Centurion for no good reason and what is this dirty so and so new arsed Tribune going to do about the situation. They say he’s some decorated,Tribune, worked his way up from common pretty boy legionary soldier status (who else are they going to assign to an aux cohort not some pampered senators son like the one that got killed?) but just like with the crunchies only with more respect for his powers of life and death over them, until the tribune survives a battle, he gets no real respect from the men. Assuming he didn’t bust the hero down to regular soldier himself. Maybe he inherited this bad situation. Maybe not. Anyway his solution to a potential trouble maker like our main man and one with too much respect from the men, is to give him the honor of being the Standard Bearer. Heck the Tribune might not hate our guy, he just sees a potential problem for the state and sets about getting rid of it in an appropriately honorable way.

    The hero gets to eat from the same plate as the Tribune, he gets the cushy lodgings and gets to go visit the legate and high command when the Tribune is called for orders and a strategy meeting. (part of how he gains experiance with larger military formation than just an Aux cohort) He gets the official respect due a standard bearer, because hey standard bearers don’t usual survive a single battle, survive three and you’re a veteran and most tribunes will let you join back in the common formation, survive 5 and you’re a hero. Even citizen legionairs are supposed to respect an auxiliary standard bearer, although they only do it when the officers are watching. So no one cares that he get to see real generals and legion commanders instruct the tribunes and set strategy but he watches and learns.

    Get the whole reluctant mutual respect but I still have to see you change you way of thinking or see you dead thing going on. From both sides. Our main man is maybe past his breaking point before this Tribune shows up or on the ragged edge and either you recognize our plight and join the cause or ultimately you have to go and our Tribune is a principled honorable guy who looks after his men whether they are Aux or Legion and men with seditious beliefs have to go.

    You could even set it up that in later books, when the Aux rebel, this Tribune who was the only one who could keep half a handle on our guy but was later promoted back into the legions as a legate or something and transferred to another front, is our opposing General. After he left our Aux cohort got another brutal sadist Overlord’s son (maybe from our guy’s homeworld adding that personal touch to just throw him over the edge) and with our guys getting the shaft full bore again, they are now open to rebellion like they never were under the old Honorable Tribuen.

    After the Aux lay their plans and set up their networks both with other Aux Cohorts and a few seditious planetary movements to give them bases. They rebel and smash a few armies, headed by those stupid, ineffectual, pampered senator sons of course (wink).

    The Senate eventually sees the writing on the wall and calls in the real talent. An army of Battle decorated Legions from the other front with an experienced commander who rose through the ranks and knows his men Legion and Aux like the back of his hand. He’ll get too much respect and political power but they have no choice.

    And if the Aux are separated by national and racial and star cluster regional lines, you might have the Polar Front Aux under our main man (maybe a very few cohorts of legionaries under former Aux Commanders, who just couldn’t give up the military life for farming or lord of the manor status, it just wasn’t for them and so they went back to war when their son’s were old enough to join the legions with them) battling the combined Legionaries and Aux from the Orion Arm.

    A real battle for not only for the Empire and its brutal way of life but also for its heart and soul. Is it worth saving or not. And the same thing for its Armies too, should we abandon a structure that has saved us, our families and humanity and/or the empire time and time again or just scrap it all because its overly harsh and has excess. All in favor of something that might not last more than a generation. And will fall just like all the barbarians this Rome has conquered.

    If citizens aren’t invested in their Empire on a personal level, if they don’t know what it is to fight and bleed and die for what they believe in. If they do not pay taxes and share the burden of paying for and directly equipping Centuries and Cohorts of those who go to fight in their stead. Will they value whatever new structure takes its place, or will have little concept of sacrifice and making their own way. And some day will a faceless beuracracy will dominate every facet of their lives until they are nothing but sheep. Just like on earth. Better to die a wolf than live a sheep versus, maybe we can be sheepdogs and do better. Can we forge a different, more fair and better structure?

    Legion and Auxilary, decadent Polar Region rebelling against its tyrannical overlords and up in arms verus the smaller more hardened Frontier Orion arm that hasn’t had time to get soft and are closer to the hardened ideal the Empire is supposed to stand for.

    As former reluctant friends/adversaries and now current Generals with separate armies at logger heads its,
    Mostly Legion against Mostly Aux. But as in every rebellion there is enough mix and match that brother is turned against brother and father against son. And with a Corrupt Senate plundering the provinces and sadistic Planetary Overlords fully to blame for everything.

    I know. I know. I went on too long again. Sorry.

    The Deposed King

  3. chrishanger January 18, 2012 at 7:27 pm #

    I don’t mind, really

    I was thinking about having it be impossible to accurately bombard a planet from space. Powerful PDCs on the planet’s surface could blow away a starship as soon as it emerges from hyperspace, meaning that it would be possible to launch a ‘D-Day’ style of invasion from space. The forces on the ground would land, clear away the PDCs, and then bring in a much larger army for expanding their control until they take the entire planet.

    Some long time in the past, interstellar society fell apart – to be replaced by a slowly expanding ‘Rome.’ Rome takes most of the galaxy, but has a deeply-corrupt (or at least insular) government; citizenship goes to those who are born Roman, or serve the Empire for a period of at least 20 years. Actually, even afterwards, the new citizens might be distributed out to newer colony worlds as a hard nucleus of Roman citizens – and perhaps become just as bad as the native-born Romans. It also dilutes their voting power, which the rulers wouldn’t see as a bad thing.

    I haven’t decided if I want aliens in it or not. Perhaps there are hundreds of subject races that don’t really have any chance of citizenship (which is against the Roman model, but aliens couldn’t breed with humans). Or perhaps there are only genetically-altered sub-races of humanity. They’d be inferior, at least according to the Romans, but they could breed with Citizens and be welcomed into Rome. Actually, I was thinking that born Romans – even those born to new Citizens – wouldn’t face much discrimination. They’d be considered part of the Roman people.

    How does that sound?

    Chris

  4. The Deposed King January 19, 2012 at 12:07 am #

    Yeah it sounds like a good cross from the historical to the futuristic. The roman era, middle republic to early/middle empire is my personal favorite historical period. I even at one point purchased the AD&D 2nd edition roman campaign supplemental book.

    And your ideas sound really good.

    Part of the way Rome would ‘Romanize’ the provinces was to found new cities and plant colonies of recently retired roman soldiers in and around it. For your story with the Aux and heck even politically unconnected Legionaries the Senatorial Families wouldn’t want them horning in on their turf. So sending them out to complete the pacification of conquered worlds by giving them lands in previously independent or rebellious areas sounds ideal. Theoretically in a generation or two the world would have an Censor show up, do a census of citizens and when there were enough the Planet would provide a Senator because it had enough votes to swing things. In roman time a Censor was an elected position. A man who toured the provinces and entered new born (in some cases this mean five year olds because he hadn’t come through in that long) citizens on the rolls and counted citizen heads for voting block purposes. Only in the imperial provinces of course. This was a sincure for men who were too old and looking for a plush, pocked filling retirement or men pushed out of power and isolated from rome city poltics by his rival and sent to the provinces.

    Also one of the ways Rome kept political power concentrated in Rome was to make it so that, local elections the micro-governmental, was for anyone under Provincial Governor and his Quaestors (right hand men and elected heirs if he died), were determined on a local level. In your case planetary level. So that the local citizens had a direct say in all local affairs at home, that didn’t effect the empire at large. Helping to keep them satisfied. nothing ticks of a man/citizen than being told what to do in his own home and community level. But imperial politics are just too big and dangerous. So maybe some ideas here on how you’re rig your political game.

    While all Republic or Imperial offices were always, ran for, voted on, and elected in the City Rome itself. They had voting blocks set up into eight different level. Senatorial families in the capital got to vote for their eight, magesterial (rich famiiles, new or fallen families of which there were more) got an eighth the vote, Common citizens, then freedmen citizens, citizens out in the provinces, etc. But the trick of it was. While anyone who cared to was eligable to vote in their voting block. They had to leave home and travel all the way to rome to do it. When you added in travel time and then the weapons restrictions in the city combined with all the armed men with clubs hired by Senators to keep the voting going their way for their candidates… It was a rigged system where unless the people took to the streets in force because they were so outraged, the powerful Senators, and few cases upcoming Magistrates with men and money inside the captiol city, horse traded and wheeled and dealed until someone mistepped, then the knives came out. Unless it was a job and position no one cared about, watch out! A whole host of brotherhoods and secret societies were in place for everthing from graft to muscle for hire to help swing elections.

    For your PDF system, I think it works. I mean honestly for a non-space ship, ground combat centered and centric system you only have three options as far as I can tell.

    1) Planetary Shields that are powered by the Planet’s Core or massive Anti-matter generators.

    2) Some kind of PDF system. The main flaw with this is, how can men and/or shuttles come down without getting blown up. Otherwise you’d think a massive barrage of nukes could force a capitulation. My personal solution is a sensor system that detects all metalic substances including uranium or whatever you’re using and shoots it down. The counter is to send in troops with ceramic armor and weapons. With crystal focusing arrays and other non-metals, if you’re using firearms or crystal edged swords and shields if you aren’t. After they’ve broken the ‘city walls’ the legion with its superior metalic power armor comes in to save the day. Or whatever, that’s just me I’m sure there are facets I haven’t considered.

    3) a Star Gate type system that bypasses star ships entirely. This works if you are rediscovering an old human or alien network.

    Your alien or human sub-racial thing works as well. The Romans could claim to be the purest or most superior strain (they could have been a gene-mod themselves). But like the Roman’s of old if you worked your way into the system, theoretically in as little as three generations your family could go from conquered barbarian to senator.

    This doesn’t mean that they probably don’t like transplanting sub-human races to their personal villas and plantation. Especially the stupid hardworking ones that won’t rebel. And love sending the violent, high end ones to Gladiatorial Schools to fight and die making them money and not incidentally removing themselves from the rebellious gene pool.

    Even throwing in an alien race or two wouldn’t be the end of the world. Like with the Greeks, they were respected, but for the most part they were Greeks, remained Greeks and never romans. You could have a high end alien race that rome conquered early on because they were fragmented. And while most alien races get the shaft worse than the human sub-races, becasue they have less value to rome, the Greeks who can never get organized but are always producing new things for the romans were highly valued.

    Our guy could be a gene-mod himself. Whatever works.

    The non-discrimination thing works as well. It just like the AUX, do you time and don’t get killed and you’re as roman as any other man. Same same for the sub-races, work your way up the ladder and you have the same rights as anyone else. Stay on teh botton and as they say, you know what flows down hill.

    Anyway got to run.

    The Deposed King

  5. chrishanger January 19, 2012 at 7:53 pm #

    My general feeling regarding the PDFs was that they would find it a little harder to target shuttles than starships – particularly with dummy shuttles and other decoys confusing their sensors. That would allow you to get at least a small lodgement on the surface and the operation could expand from there.

    Chris

  6. The Deposed King January 19, 2012 at 11:42 pm #

    Yeah another case of sending in the cannon fodder in their old shuttles with their last generation ECM to overwhelm the sensor nets of the PDF, maybe along with some handy busted up asteroids and meteors, and other decoys (like you say) to confuse things. Then let the legion boys ride in behind on their next generation super stealth super strong shuttles.

    They say its because the legions get the first line equipment first. And that’s true as far as it goes. Nothing’s too good for our legion boys, says the Senatorial Families who’s sons need to military experience as the next step in his political career and happily buy top of the line brand spanking new shuttles for the whole legion their son’s assigned to.

    The old stuff gets cycled down to needy legions first, then whatever’s left over goes to The Aux.

    For the AUX its, captured barbarian gear that cuts the mustard, old worn out hand me downs from Legions who either have new gear or view them as too deadly to continue operating. Or in a few very rare cases some former Aux retiree made good will donate to the men under his old standard. Maybe there’s a nephew or something.

    Anything else is last generation factories still operating and fielding orders as the lowest cost bidder, when the senate looks at appropriating equipment for those intolerably expensive AUX. Did you know that their budget is almost a third of our Legion Boys! Never mind that there are three or four times as many AUX as Legion’s. We’ve conquered lots of barbarian worlds, let them stop wasting their share of the loot on stupid Aux parties and instead keep some their plunder to equip themselves if they’er coming up short!

    The Deposed King

  7. chrishanger January 21, 2012 at 2:09 pm #

    Definately sounds like a good idea.

    I’m thinking that there was a Golden Age of Humanity – one where the stars were linked together by the Hypergate Network or something not unlike it. No actual FTL drive, just the gates. And then the gate network shattered, leaving countless worlds stranded and isolated – most fell back into barbarism. The Romans were the first (according to them, at least) to develop an FTL drive that didn’t rely on the gates.

    Cool background?

    Incidently, I’m thinking about calling it the Concordance – but it’s really an empire.

    Chris

  8. The Deposed King January 22, 2012 at 11:37 pm #

    Yeah I think if you can explain it right, it should work like a charm. Maybe explain how this is the year 4231AD, which would have given us time to send out slow drive colonizers to settle worlds and set up our own gates. Before someone discovered the FTL drive. (maybe the gate networks bigger than should be possible, someone else discoved FTL, and seeded hyper gates before also falling)

    Then, just like in history when the opponents turn out to be bigger than expected, when our legion boys used the FTL drive to land on some primative sub-ftl world, they find themselves in a world of hurt as an unending wave of reinforcements pour through an unseen and unexpected hyper gate. Maybe in one corner of the little gate network they have a thriving little 3-9 or whatever size, (just throwing out numbers) mini-hyper gate system.

    So the little Neo-Barb suppression expedition turns into the Golden Gate Network Campaign. Especially if, the neo-barbs capture an FTL ship early on or really at a later point to. Their worlds are conquered and they fled. Only to return. Or some such nonsense. This means our guy could be involved in some major campaigns. More than just one world where the legions crush the native’s local manufacturing base and slowly grind them down. Or he could be from one of these previously conquered multi-system civilzations.

    So maybe after a few small suppression and integration campaigns. Plus remember rome was big on sending expeditions out to thin down the barbarians but not always holding the territory. Germania or beyond hadrian’s wall in scotland etc. so not every campaign was for territory, some Tribune or Legate with a wild hair might take them out on unauthorized looting expeditions or to thin down the natives so they didn’t get restless. The response from the senate, ‘Boy’s will be boy’s’ so long at the military leader is well connected and doesn’t have a disaster. So ween our guy on some low level, god’s what are we doing to these helpless locals stuff. Then throw him deeper and deeper off the end, once the Senate or Miltiary Command decides they are ‘seasoned’ enough for front line combat and need to be ‘thined’ before they start wondering why they are still licking legion boots.

    The name: Concordance is probably better than anything I came up with. Like the Citizen’s Accord or the Citizen’s Coalition.
    Motto:
    Citizenship is neither a Right nor a Privilege but an Obligation. You can never Receive it only Seize it with your own two hands.

    Then like all governments they won’t let you have it until you earn it. Or something like that.

    Anyway Chris I’ve got to run. I’m 95k into my first full length novel. Hoping to finish the first draft by the end of this month and then start on either a sequel or finish up my Military Insect novel next. I’m free this month so its 5K a day to keep the gremlins away until I’m finished. Not sure what next month is looking like. But if I finish my current project and have time. I’m open to helping out with this story or another story idea later on, if you want. Depending on if I have the whole month free or if I have to get a new job which would suck but that’s life. It would kind of limit my free writing time. Anyway anything from story ideas and critiques to a collaboration or co-authoring of some kind i’m just throwing out there. I’m not as polished as you are, so my drafts need lots of revisions before they’re post worthy but hey the offer’s out there. I didn’t take you up on your offer back in ’04 or ’06 because I wasn’t up on the sheer production scale like you were, still just playing around and dreaming. But I think I’m over that hurdle.

    But whatever’s good I’ve got lots of projects to work on in the mean time. So have a good one. I’ve really enjoyed your works so far.

    The Deposed King

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