Story Background: The Union of Thule

4 Dec

Background for Retreat Hell.  Comments welcome.

The Union of Thule

It is somewhat ironic that Thule, which played a major role in the opening moves of the Commonwealth-Wolfbane War, would actually – in a kinder era – be considered one of the Empire’s success stories. Years of successful development was only brought to an end by outside events, rather than internal failures. In effect, Thule serves as a lesson in the dangers of depending too much on external help.

Thule was settled roughly 400 years prior to the Fall of Earth, mainly by German-ethnic settlers from New Berlin, Bohemia and Dresden. There were a smaller number of settlers from Kinabalu (Malay-ethnic) and Earth (multi-ethnic) but the development corporation and then the government instituted policies intended to break down ethnic barriers at breakneck speeds. It is a tribute to their success that neither ethnic nor religious conflict played any role in Thule’s collapse into anarchy.

The settlement of Thule was originally conducted by the Thule Development Corporation (TDC). By 105PS (Post-Settlement), the loan had been paid off and a duly-elected government of the planet’s taxpayers took power. This, combined with additional off-world investment, a bludgeoning local birth-rate and a steady rate of controlled immigration boosted Thule’s economy to the point that it was supplying starship components and HE3 to other worlds in the sector by 300PS. Settlements were established on other worlds in the system, hundreds of asteroids were turned into small colonies and construction even started on additional cloudscoops. It should have gone on forever.

It did not. The sweeping series of disasters that led inevitably to the Fall of Earth hampered off-world investment, which the government tried to conceal by allocating public funds to keep the workers employed and civil unrest from taking place. Eventually, the government’s methods started to fail, provoking local economic problems that merged with the interstellar issues. As outside investment came to an end, local corporations were forced to lay off thousands of workers … which led to major problems as the government was trying to prevent layoffs and raise taxes, at the same time. Large parts of the economy simply collapsed into ruins.

The government declared martial law, only to discover that there was no money left to pay the troops. Luckily, the government was not deeply corrupted and (once aware that the problem was not a local hiccup) managed to arrange food deliveries from the farms and outer islands. However, as the population was too large for the surviving economy, the government was faced with a seemingly-permanent unemployment crisis. Matters were not helped by out-world settlements and asteroids declaring independence, believing that the system government was not considering their interests.

Perversely, the next social disaster to hit Thule came from a helping hand. Trade Federation starships, reminded of the growing pre-collapse economy, entered the system two years after the Empire withdrew. They offered to bring Thule back into the post-Empire system, which would revitalise the moribund economy. Several months later, starships from Avalon offered Thule the chance to join the growing Confederation. On the face of it, Thule was well-positioned to take advantage of the reshaped galaxy.

However, the surviving corporations on Thule had survived by devouring their weaker rivals and cutting costs to the bone. Worse, as the only large-scale sources of employment and taxes on the planet, the corporations were politically untouchable. They, not the planet as a whole, were the ones positioned to benefit from the change in circumstances. And while they did, the remainder of the planet remained seething with unrest. The issue of joining the Commonwealth became politically explosive.

The Commonwealth and Trade Federation both made matters worse. The Trade Federation had no interest in local governments and made deals with the corporations, deals which benefited the corporations, but not the population as a whole. Meanwhile, the Commonwealth took no overt interest in the form of government, but was widely blamed for pressing Thule to abandon the social welfare state.

Thule’s galactic position made a bad situation worse. The planet sat on the edge of core-ward space, brushing up against the border between the Commonwealth and Wolfbane. Unsurprisingly, the planet became a battleground in a growing cold war.


Thule has three main continents; Wilhelm, Eva and Gina (named for the children of the first TDC President.) Wilhelm and Eva are both heavily developed, while Gina is largely untouched and serves as a sanctuary for the planet’s native wildlife. The capital city of Thule, Asgard, rests on the northernmost coastline of Wilhelm.

Officially, Thule is a democracy, but with a very restricted suffrage. Put simply, a person who earned money was entitled to a vote. The founders believed that this would encourage people to work, rather than merely collect benefits (a major problem with Earth and many other Core Worlds prior to the Fall.) However, the system was always open to abuse, which became a great deal worse when mass unemployment spread rapidly, accidentally creating an elite composed of employed and unemployed.

The franchised elect Speakers, which move amongst themselves to elect the First Speaker, who is the Head of State. Each Speaker remains in office until the completion of a ten-year term, whereupon they are prohibited from re-entering politics.

Despite its economic troubles, Thule is quite heavily defended, as the local government threw money at the defence industry in the hopes of covering up the true scope of the economic crisis. However, political unrest, rather than outside attack, may prove the true danger to Thule’s security.

4 Responses to “Story Background: The Union of Thule”

  1. J Alfred Goodwin December 4, 2013 at 1:30 pm #

    Editing Notes:

    “duly-elected government of the planet’s taxpayers” reads awkwardly – perhaps a “duly-elected government chosen by those who paid taxes”

    “to keep the workers employed” should be “to keep workers employed”, “to keep its’ workers employed” or similar

    “raise taxes, at” –> “raise taxes at”

    ” remained seething with unrest” feels awkward – try “seethed with unrest”

    Other than those four, I like it. Seems like a very believable, modern social democrat state, with a hint of social darwinism in the choice of voter qualification.

  2. Mark December 6, 2013 at 5:11 am #

    Any relation to the Thule referenced in Confederation history in Sufficiently advanced Technology?

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