Just an idea that has been buzzing through my head. I might turn it into a series …
From: Encyclopaedia Imperial.
The oddest thing about the life of Maxim Thrace, founder of the Thrace Dynasty, is that very little is known of his family prior to his rise to power. The records have either been lost or deliberately destroyed during his reign. Trace himself claimed, at times, to be a farm boy, a local aristocrat or the descendent of a pre-space noble family. It goes without saying that none of these claims have ever been proven. What is known is that he was born on Taros, most likely to a freeholder family.
He signed up with the Imperial Marines at seventeen (he would claim, at times, to be fifteen when he took the oath) after an incident involving the son of a local nobleman. His own account of the incident insisted that he caught the nobleman trying to rape his cousin and beat him to within an inch of his life. Knowing that the nobility would not let his act go unpunished, he fled to the city and joined the Imperial Marines. The marines would protect him until he was shipped off-world to Boot Camp.
As it happened, Thrace never went to Boot Camp. (He remains one of the very few people to be listed in records as a marine, even though he never underwent the training.) He was still waiting for his ship – and training with the marines stationed on Taros – when civil war broke out. Even an untrained warm body had to be pressed into service and Thrace had a number of adventures – including being captured by the nobility – before the civil war finally came to an end. Thrace would probably have gone on to a successful career in the marines if he hadn’t made the mistake of punching an officer who arrived after the fighting ended. Instead, having earned some favour from the governor and his former superiors, Thrace was offered a midshipman’s post on HMS Jackson. Realising it was his only way to escape Taros, Thrace took the offer.
His term on Jackson was controversial. He learned fast and well, but rapidly found himself bored. Disciplinary records insist that Thrace was not one to suffer fools lightly. He was eventually sent on a mission to raid pirate ships and locate their bases, a mission which ended with the successful rescue of the Sector Governor’s daughter. This earned him promotion, but it also brought him into contact with Commander Edward Patterson … a man who would prove to be a friend as well as an enemy.
This did not become apparent at once, of course. Thrace went on to take command of HMS Ravage and patrol the neutral zone between the Imperial Empire and the Delphic Union (one of the few peer powers during that time.) Again, he had a series of adventures, ending in a raid across the neutral zone to prevent the Delphic Union from launching a sneak attack on the Empire. He also became friends with Prince Henry, the heir to the Imperial Throne.
Promoted – again – Thrace was sent to Earth. He rapidly found court life boring, a sentiment shared by Prince Henry. Wanting something more for himself, Prince Henry convinced his father to launch an invasion of the Agave, an invasion that would give him a chance to win military glory. Thrace went along as his ‘adviser’ – in reality, the person who would direct most of the space combat.
Unluckily for Prince Henry and Thrace, his father gave him a fleet consisting of old ships, crewed by the dregs of the service. (It isn’t clear if this was an attempt to force his son to learn the ropes the hard way or a deliberate attempt to get rid of a presumptuous heir.) The early stages of the invasion threatened to be disastrous. Thrace, however, devised tactics that would give the invaders an advantage, as well as beating the crews into shape. (Sometimes literally – one of the charges levelled against Thrace during his court martial stated that he had beaten his own crews.) The invasion was a success, giving the Prince lands and territory of his own. The fact that the invasion probably cost the empire more than it gained was tactfully left unmentioned.
In a show of thanks, Prince Henry arranged for Thrace to marry Lady Christina, one of the emperor’s many wards. It was not a match based on love, but they came to an understanding anyway – they had both been shunned by the court, although for different reasons. (Christina’s family had been implicated in an attempt to unseat the emperor – while she’d been a child at the time, no one dared to show her favour.) Their child was born nine months later.
Marital bliss didn’t last, however. Thrace was sent back to the border, where incidents with the Delphic Union were growing out of control. Expected to delay their offensive, Thrace successfully counterattacked and stalled their drive into the empire … despite facing newer and better enemy weapons. Unfortunately, it also sowed the seeds of later trouble – his decision to deny Edward Patterson a command of his own would come back to haunt him during the civil war.
Prince Henry returned to the front, just in time to take nominal control of the offensive into enemy space. (Thrace remained in actual command.) The offensive was successful, but Prince Henry was killed by enemy treachery. (It was often suggested, after the civil war, that Edward Patterson deliberately arranged for the prince’s death, but this has never been proved.) Organising the remains of the Delphic Union, Thrace was horrified to hear that he had been blamed for the prince’s death and recalled to Earth. His wife sent him a message warning that he had been tried and sentenced to death.
It isn’t clear why the Emperor signed the death warrant. On one hand, it is possible he grieved for his son. Prince Henry had been demanding more and more power for himself, but there is no suggestion he ever seriously intended to overthrow his father. But on the other hand, he may well have seen the empire’s most successful military leader (and one who had married into the aristocracy) as a potential threat. The conquest of the Delphic Union had turned Thrace into a galactic hero. The sheer unpopularity of the empire might have prompted someone to try to put Thrace on the throne. (And, in hindsight, it is clear that some of the reports from the front had been deliberately slanted.)
Not the sort of person to put up with this – and believing himself to be the victim of court politics – Thrace instead took his entire fleet back to Earth. A series of running battles followed as the emperor tried desperately to slow his advance, only to watch helplessly as world after world fell to the rogue general. As Thrace seemed unstoppable, hundreds of aristocrats and politicians started to switch sides. Even the discovery of treachery – Edward Patterson had intended to start a full-blown civil war – didn’t stop the offensive. The emperor took poison – Princess Sofia took much of the fleet (and her youngest sister, Princess Tamara) and retreated into the hinterlands – as Earth itself fell to Thrace.
The Imperial Senate declared Thrace the new Emperor and formally condemned Princess (now Empress) Sofia. It was a move they would come to regret. Thrace had a long list of politicians (and uniformed politicians) he wanted to remove. They were purged rapidly, followed by the institution of a whole series of reforms. Thrace had never forgotten how the worlds along the Rim had been exploited, nor how so many of them had eagerly supported the enemy during the war. While the court had planned to load punishments on the colonials, Thrace had other ideas. Any hope of making peace with the court was rapidly lost.
He was not – and never would be – someone at ease with political wheeling and dealing in the Imperial Parliament. It didn’t help that he knew Princess Sofia was gathering her strength to continue the civil war. A succession of Prime Ministers followed, while Thrace tried to prevent the civil war from growing worse. And yet, everything he did only made him more enemies. It was almost a relief when Princess Sofia launched her offensive, allowing Thrace the chance to take command of the fleet and head out to do battle. Unknown to him, the politicians had planned a coup – and, also unknown to him, the colonials intended to head it off at the pass. Earth turned into a war zone as various forces fought it out for supremacy.
Thrace defeated Princess Sofia in a major battle and drove her forces back, capturing her sister. He returned to discover the situation on Earth had turned into a nightmare. Luckily, he was able to use it as an excuse to completely reshape the Imperial Parliament and hammer out a peace and gunpoint. His son would be married to Princess Tamara and inherit the crown, serving as the basis for a constitutional monarchy.
It was just in time. The civil war had grown worse. Sofia, unfazed by her defeat, tried again – this time, launching a fleet directly at Earth. Thrace took command of the defence while his loyal supporters took the empire itself, putting the reforms into place. Thrace met Sofia in battle, where they were both – seemingly – killed. His son became Emperor in his place …
… But did Thrace really die? No one knows for sure …