Tarsus Background

2 Dec

Rough notes for The Pen and the Sword …

Tarsus was originally intended to be the sector capital of the Allston Sector – and was only deprived of the title by what was considered, even at the time, to be pretty blatant bribery by New Samos’s planetary government. Tarsus’s government did not take the slight calmly – and indeed, a sense that the planet was cheated pervaded politics for centuries after settlement – but the affair has largely faded from the public eye.

The planet itself lies in a rich system that was extensively developed over the last two thousand years. Tarsus itself is the only Earth-compatible world, but the three rocky worlds – Argil, Agatha and Wormwood – and four gas giants provide a sizable base for industrial development. During its glory years, Tarsus supported the massive colonisation effort that settled sector after sector, but – as the frontier moved further and further from the Core Worlds – it started to enter a slow recession. A planet as dependent on interstellar investment as Tarsus – it’s industrial base was far larger than it needed to be to support the planet’s own requirements – could not help but suffer, even before the Fall of Earth. Successive planetary governments have been unable to boost the lacklustre economy.

Tarsus’s original settlers were quite selective in who was allowed to settle on their new homeworld, with the net result that the planet’s population is racially-mixed but ethnically and culturally homogenous. (Intermarriage has ensured that most of the population is dark-skinned.) By the time the settlement corporation gave way to a democratic government, the planet’s course was fixed. A handful of later settlement populations caused problems for the original settlers, particularly expats from the Core Worlds, but most of them were eventually assimilated into the mainstream. The handful of exceptions were either marginalised or ‘politely’ invited to leave. This did not make Tarsus and its government popular outside the system limits. There were, in fact, a number of cases being brought against the planetary government when the Empire collapsed and the issue became moot.

Technically, Tarsus is a democracy. Practically, matters are a little more complex. Seats in the Hall of Representatives are doled out according to proportional representation – if a political party wins 10% of the vote, they get 10% of the seats – which makes it impossible for independent candidates to make much headway against powerful political parties (and, perhaps more importantly, breaks any ties between the representatives and the people they claim to represent). Seats on the planet’s executive council (the secretaries) are divided up by backroom dealing, much of which remains out of the public eye. It isn’t impossible for the First Citizen – the planet’s chief executive – to have to reckon with a secretary from a different political party. It is actually quite difficult to get things done, not least because each successive secretary shakes things up to ensure that his clients get the best jobs. The only way to gain political power is to join one of the parties and work your way up the ladder.

That said, there is a strong streak of authoritarianism that runs through the planet’s political environment. It is very difficult to live without leaving a paper trail (despite this, there is an underclass of immigrants and people who have dropped out of the system.) The government, whatever party seems to be in formal control, does not like being questioned. People who step outside the limits of acceptable discourse, including political independents, find themselves struggling against a system designed to push them back down. The police have wide powers to question, arrest and sentence (without public trial) dissidents; the security services take full advantage of their own powers to watch for potential threats to their masters.

Unsurprisingly, corruption is an epidemic problem. The planet’s civil servants, for example, are quite capable of demanding bribes – or, for that matter, making life difficult for reform politicians. It isn’t really a surprise that assaults on government workers have been steadily rising over the past few years.

During the years between settlement and the long decline of empire, two main political parties – the Empire Loyalists and the Corporatists – dominated. There was very little difference between them, keeping the planet on an even kneel. The decline of empire changed things, with the rise of both the Rebirth Party and the Socialist Party, both of which were effectively chapters of interstellar political parties trying to take advantage of the Empire’s problems. Their rise shocked the political establishment, but they were – to some extent – absorbed into the political mainstream. Their ability to exercise real power – and change the planet – is very limited.

Despite this, Tarsus is on a knife-edge. The collapse of the interstellar economy has already sent the planetary economy into freefall, although the government has done its best to hide the worst effects of the crash (for example, corporations have been ordered not to lay off employees even though they cannot afford to keep paying them). Other steps – the expulsion of the Forsakers in particular – have raised hopes that cannot be fulfilled. Street violence is on the rise, as is unemployment. It is only a matter of time before the government can no longer paper over the cracks …

Oddly, Tarsus has only one continent of any real size (roughly the size of North America). The remainder of the planet is oceans and (relatively) small islands. The global planetary population is estimated as being around two-three billion, although activists suggest the real figure is much higher. (Off-planet, the population is estimated at seventy million.) Tarsus’s capital city – Adana – is one of the largest in the sector, although still far smaller than one of Earth’s megacities.

Given its industrial base, and pretensions to greater power, it is no surprise that Tarsus maintains a powerful Orbital Guard. Seventeen cruisers and thirty-seven destroyers (often deployed on convoy escort missions) are backed by a formidable array of system patrol craft, gunboats and orbital battlestations. The system also houses an Imperial Navy base, which was put into mothballs twenty years prior to the Fall of Earth.

2 Responses to “Tarsus Background”

  1. George Phillies December 4, 2018 at 10:11 am #

    Aspects of the government sound vaguely like a TV series I have never watched, but Yes, minister, this seems ike an amusing proposal. However, where is the plot here? Pirates? Imperial expansionism?

  2. Les Barrie December 8, 2018 at 6:22 pm #

    What is happening at Avalon and the traders federation ,love to read more about their development.

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