BattleTech: Excerpts from the House Steiner sourcebook

SOWING UNCERTAIN SEEDS

The food riots in the Sovereign Republic of Northern Ireland that began in the poorer districts of Belfast last night have now been quelled. It is uncertain how many are dead or wounded. The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom today proposed a worldwide moratorium on the production of all freon-based products to help stop the further depletion of the ozone layer. It is estimated that one million will suffer skin cancers. The development of the first spaceship to use the Kearny-Fuchida drive has gone over budget for the fifth time. The leaders of the Affiliation of Poorer States have called the new ship a ‘great white elephant.’

-From The Evening News with Jessica Fredders, Terran National Broadcasting Co., April 2, 2105

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INDEPENDENCE DAY

On this holiday of holidays, Simon Kilsly was upset. He had just learned from his boss at Deptron Electronics that he was being transferred from his home on Skye to distant Donegal. What had he done to deserve this? Uprooting his family to move to a foreign world where they hardly knew a tri-gated logic circuit from a rock? Where was the sense in that? If this is what it meant to be part of the Lyran Commonwealth, then he would rather remain a Federation man-and the devil hang all the glory talk about strength and destiny.

His wife sensed Simon’s anger as he entered their small apartment. She wondered if perhaps he had seen the remnants of the paint a graffitist had splattered across their door. Even with the fan-laser, it had taken most of the day to remove the paint.

Watching him grumble while ensconced in his favorite chair, she decided that Simon had not seen the graffiti. It must be his work, she thought. Lucky that grandmother and grandfather were away from the house celebrating their 60 anniversary and would probably spend the night at a hotel reliving old memories. That meant it would only be her, Simon, and the three kids in the apartment tonight. She hoped that Simon’s foul mood would be soothed by the unaccustomed quiet.

-From The Kilslys: History Through the Common Family, by Thomas Ehrlich, Dontar & Smithson, Publishers, 3000

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ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENTS

A loaf of bread that cost 5 Tamar dollars last week now costs 54 dollars after the government devaluation. The border incident, the worst in 20 years, involved a battalion of Skye armor and a regiment of Kurita infantry. Tensions along the border have increased enormously. Prime Minister Davis Kelswa today ordered open discussion of the Pact’s continued participation in the Commonwealth, which he characterized as, “a pack of ravenous wolves feasting upon the carcasses of our labors.”

-From the All-The-News-You-Need-To-Know Show, Proud Skye Network, November 16, 2364

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AIR RESCUE

The fact that he and his men were pinned down in the city’s central park and very likely going to die didn’t bother Captain Greerson as much as that they would die at the hands of his fellow citizens of Skye. To either side, the Captain could hear the whoosh of the last anti-tank missiles fired by his infantrymen at the approaching armor of the Skye Independence Army. It wouldn’t be long, Greerson thought grimly.

From behind and above him came an unexpected screech. Peering up through the smoke, he saw a VTOL armored transport craft swooping its way toward him. Hoping for the best, the Captain pressed the recall button that beeped its order into the ears of his few remaining men.

When the craft stopped in a hover, the Captain could suddenly see why. Shrubbery erupted as a tank burst through to point its main gun directly at his command car. Above him, he could hear the whine of protesting jet nozzles. The VTOL lurched and pitched its left side down. One of its weapon turrets looked for, locked on, and spat a missile that sped unerringly toward the tank. The tank exploded with a flash of light and a dull thud.

Later, as the VTOL flew its way back to the beachhead, the Captain and the pilot got to talking about family. They chatted about their wives and the future they dreamed of for their daughters.

After landing, the Captain and his men disembarked. Turning to look at the pilot, Captain Greerson gave the man a sloppy salute and a smile of thanks. Flight Officer Steiner waved back, then popped his VTOL back into the sky.

-From Brother Against Brother: An Unofficial Civil War, by Tolandson Mizer, Graf of Tamaraine, Red Fire Press, 2801

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THE PLAY’S THE THING

Three weeks after the death of the Archon, the Royal Arcturan Shakespearean Players suddenly announced that they had changed their mind and were not going to perform Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream for their gala 20 anniversary performance. They urged those with tickets to come anyway to witness their rendition of a play ‘with special poignancy in these troubled times.’ Many top government officials, including most of the generals from the High Command, attended the festive event.

As the curtain went up, the audience saw that the scene was set for Hamlet, a tale of poisoning, usurpation, and plays within plays. The implied scorn caught the conscience of the would-be kings, several of whom left the theater in a huff. They had definitely gotten the message.

-From The Lyran Commonwealth Before the Steiners, by Thelos Auburn, Commonwealth Historical Press, 3022

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Section 57, subgraph C. On the attendance of social functions: All senior officers are required to attend major social functions to which they have been invited except if attendance interferes with their duty, their unit’s function, poses a potential health risk, or if the officer has already attended five other such functions in the space of four weeks.

Section 57, subgraph D. On the limits placed on attendance of social functions: All senior officers are limited to the attendance of just two social functions without invitation per month. Violations will be reported directly to their commanding officer, who will decide if punishment, which includes the forfeiture of two months’ pay, is required.

-From The Brandenburg Edicts of 2413 (Lyran Commonwealth Armed Forces), Commonwealth Military Press, 2414

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OH, GIVE ME A HOME

The storm, which is expected within four hours, will bring winds of more than 60 kilometers per hour and will deposit at least a meter of snow. The temperatures will be mild, with the highs an expected -35 C in New Olympia and a -30 C at Tharkad City.

Now, turning to the news. Construction work for the capital city is proceeding despite protests of the gazelle herders, who maintain that the new city will block the animals’ free-roaming range. It is uncertain whether the talks between the herders and the Commonwealth government will reach any agreement within the near future.

-From Late Night Tharkan News, New Olympia Broadcasters, January 13, 2407

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DUKES

The early military of the Commonwealth was far more chaotic than today’s fighting force. The main reason for this lack of effectiveness was that the regiments sent by a member world were semi-independent and not legally bound to obey the orders of Commonwealth military leaders. To compound the problem, these contingents were often commanded by political leaders from the homeworld, whose skills as military commanders varied widely.

In an attempt to stop the potential splintering of the Commonwealth military, the government created the title of Duke. This title, along with a substantial cash advance, was bestowed on the leader of each contingent, and a Commonwealth officer was appointed as the new Duke’s second in command. This plan bolstered the egos and pocketbooks of these politicos, yet gave the Commonwealth vital control of their armies. Other titles, such as Count and Baron, were created by the Commonwealth government for similar reasons. This practice continued until the reshuffling of the Commonwealth military by the Brandenburg Edicts of 2413.

These titles were not inherited and gave few of the privileges that nobility confers todays. Use of titles did, however, reintroduce the idea of nobility to the Commonwealth public, making it easier for the Steiner family to begin bestowing true hereditary titles.

-Encyclopedia Res Publica, Thelos Auburn, ed., Commonwealth Historical Press, 3022

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STEINER LITERATURE

Smoke still wreathed the trees. In the red light of the setting sun, the plumes looked like the arms of men and women, upflung in terror. Moving slowly through the forest’s remains, the horse periodically snorted at the sudden snap of embers and the tongues of fire that still licked up from every hollow. Or were they the burning eyes of devils?

It was getting dark and the people back at the inn had warned Emily to find the safety of the castle before the first star shone.

-From Castle Maltra, attributed to Jennifer Steiner, Velcro Fly Publishers, 2760

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BLOODLESS ROSES

Far, shining stars that cast your glow

Upon our upturned faces—

On which of you were our hopes so cruelly ended?

Toward which of you will our curses fly forever?

If only we could throw our flowers in the air

To fall upon your surface and revive

The roses in the cheeks of our now-still children,

The glow that meant their youth and joy, our comfort,

Like the flags of a loving army

That, prancing, marched about us not so long ago.

What bitter, bloodless roses we have planted

In these foreign soils: roses not to blossom

But to rot, in the harsh, dry wings of a world

Circling a shamed and heartless star far, far away.

-Anonymous, from Commonwealth Protest Poetry, Rechele McQuiston, ed., Sunset Poetry Press, 2500

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THE IRON FIST

If there is a weakness in how the Steiner family rules, it is that they show too much intelligence and imagination. Let something happen to a Steiner Archon, whether it be an assassination or the most mild but incapacitating illness, and the entire realm comes to a screeching halt. The Steiners might be good at making others feel an important part of the government, but don’t be fooled. They rule the Commonwealth with an iron hand.

-Hervsas David, Political Advisor to Hanse Davion, quoted in The Federated Suns/Lyran Commonwealth Alliance: An Intelligence Report, by ROM, ComStar, 3024

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THE COMMONWEALTH WAKES UP

In many ways, the assassination of Archon Alistair proved to be the first in a series of events that would be a rude awakening to the Commonwealth. Up until that time, the rule of the Steiner family seemed so sure and strong that most Lyrans had developed a false sense of security. Like children, they had believed that because the Steiners were benevolent and fair rulers, it followed that good would be rewarded and the whole realm would ride into the future unscarred by the political evils that plagued other members of the Terran Hegemony.

-From Political Intrigue in the Lyran Commonwealth, by Thelos Auburn, Regal Press, 3005

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MYSTICISM AND THE COMMONWEALTH

Though the stereotypical Lyran is a money-hungry trader too practical to believe in anything but the here and now, the truth is that there is a strong undercurrent of mysticism running beneath the pragmatism.

Telling fortunes, be it through the I Ching, the Maltal computer program, or one of the many zodiac cycles, is a popular pastime for many Lyrans. A number of the better-known spirit guides, mediums, and their ilk make a profitable living in the hire of corporation leaders who seek help from the spirit world to make major business decisions.

Certainly what happened after Tatyana Steiner’s death and the ascension of Margaret Olsen heightened this mystical bent.

-From Mysticism and the Occult in Commonwealth History, by Thelos Auburn, Commonwealth Historical Press, 3011

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THE FUGITIVE

During this time of upheaval, the most popular holo-video program in the Commonwealth was the fifth revival of The Fugitive, that classic fable of a man falsely accused of his wife’s murder but who hunts down the real, one-armed killer. In the Commonwealth version of the story, Richard Kimble was once a physician in an LCAF surgical hospital. He is pursued by his childhood best friend, now a member of the government’s police force. Kimble’s loneliness and angst seemed to appeal to a people who also had lost the innocence, or at least the comfort, of a happier time.

-From Commonwealth Popular Culture: Insights from our Leisure, by Thelos Auburn, Commonwealth Historical Press, 3014

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THE MANY LIVES OF MARGARET OLSON

I’ve no doubt that I’ve lived many times before. My unseen counselors have told me it is so. I need no greater proof of their wisdom than consulting the memories of my past lives as I meditate over the incense made from Barlabaro seed pod. I was an Egyptian priestess, a swordsman in the service of King Louis XIII, a famous actress from North America, and countless other lives. All these were physical manifestations of my soul’s voyage toward perfection.

As that North American actress, I first came to realize my mission. My message has not changed since then. To gain perfection, one must surrender totally to the unseen counselors, those who wait to guide and teach your mind if only you would allow them to enter.

-From Once Again Out On That Limb, by Margaret Olsen, Channeling Press, 2488

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CRAIG STEINER

Craig Steiner is one of those unfortunate men whose image pales beside the flashier, more charismatic personalities of his time. Though he was responsible for many innovations in the Commonwealth government, history is fickle enough that we remember him best for altering the Throne Room.

-From The Quiet Years, by Yvonna DeCarls, Commonwealth Historical Press, 2569

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REACTION

I can’t help seeing death in the Archon’s actions. She lives too far from the Periphery border to understand that we depend as much on the outworld republics as we rely on our own Commonwealth. Understand me, for I mean to speak no treason against the government that has kept us so well for these past centuries. But can we sit idly by and let Armageddon march toward us without at least protesting?

-From Official Transcripts of Government House, Year 2558, by Keiv Fleicha, Representative of Lost, Commonwealth Press, 2559

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PLEA FOR THE COMMONWEALTH

My friends, we here are all businessmen in one way or another. We know the value of most things. We are admired throughout the Star League as the shrewdest of industrialists. We even feel a secret pride when someone chides us as ‘Money Demons’ or as ‘Pirates of Profit,’ do we not? Well then, why should we, of all the League’s people, forget what it means to invest for the future or to set aside emergency money? How could we fail to realize that some of today’s profit might be needed tomorrow?

Yes, these have been sainted years, filled with peace and the sound of money filling our coffers. But are we so naïve as to expect the shower of money to go on forever? No! And if the shower should end-as showers always do-and the hot sun of misfortune should reappear to evaporate the profits of everyone, everywhere-what then? Do you for a moment believe that cooperation and trust will reign to save the day?

Banks are something that you and I understand. Consider the Commonwealth government as a bank, not of money but of a future where we may store good fortune now, to be used later when times get rough, as surely they will.

-From Official Transcripts of Government House, Year 2643, Commonwealth Historical Press, 2645

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BABE IN THE WOODS

Though the artist’s work was received with great enthusiasm, his largest canvas caused considerable controversy. Titled ‘Lost in the Woods,’ this large oil was painted in ominous, dark hues to show a small, frightened child standing alone in a midnight forest. To either side and behind him are five large wolves, all with glowing eyes and gaping mouths. The controversy arose when someone noticed the child greatly resembled Richard Cameron, and that about the neck of the largest wolf was a chain, from which dangled something that resembled nothing so much as a Steiner Fist.

-From ‘The Kently Exhibition,’ Tharkan Art News, October 2578

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STARVATION AND WARFARE

In 2766, a plague swept through the crops on the small Lyran world of Blue Diamond. As the planet was situated near its border with the Terran state, its leaders decided to seek assistance there instead of from Summer, its nearest Commonwealth neighbor. After leaving Blue Diamond, the planet’s elders were not heard from again. Only much later, it was learned that they had stumbled into the midst of the Amaris takeover and been captured, tortured, and executed as Commonwealth spies. About a third of Blue Diamond’s population died of starvation before help from the Commonwealth could arrive.

-From The Star League and the Commonwealth, by Thelos Auburn, Commonwealth Historical Press, 3014

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Many legends have grown up around General Kerensky and the exodus of the Regular Army. As it is with other beloved leaders such as King Arthur, Roland, Gandhi, Captain Minos, and Duke Greerdon, the myths that have grown up around Kerensky and his men reflect our yearning to live as men and women of righteousness, honesty, and nobility.

One such myth concerns Jessica LeQue, wife of one of Kerensky’s aides. Beautiful, lithe, and golden-haired, she was a native of the Commonwealth world of Alarion. Born to a noble family, Jessica had been raised to love her native planet deeply. Later, she felt the same deep connection to the handsome Major Winson, aide to General Kerensky. When they married, Jessica trusted that fate would be kind enough to allow her both her loves when the Major retired to Alarion. There, they would grow old together, taking long walks hand in hand across her beloved lands.

When the exodus orders came, Jessica was torn between love for her land and for her husband. It was not until just an hour before the last transport was to leave Alarion for the rendezvous at New Samarkand that she finally made her decision. Jessica Winson arrived perhaps a moment too late at the spaceport, for just then, the transport had arched into the night sky, leaving her behind. From there, the distraught woman wandered into the nearby forest, where several weeks later she was found dead.

On Alarion, there is a native tree that is tall, slim, and crowned with golden leaves. At night, the fronds of the tree reach up and unfurl to collect the silvery moonlight. Ever since Jessica Winson’s death, these have been known as Jessica Trees, the reaching of their golden fronds like Jessica’s hopeless gesture as the night sky took away her husband forever.

-From Commonwealth Myths and Legends, by Ketter Seabody, Commonwealth Historical Press, 2987

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McCREEDOM’S DEVILS

In all three wars, when enemy forces were stranded because they had lost either their vehicles or their way off Hesperus, they reformed as guerrilla units. The most famous of these came from the remnants of a Kurita ‘Mech battalion that, after being pummeled in the first battle of Hesperus, took to the mountains around the factories.

For the next three years, this band of 20 men and women, led by a Captain McCreedom, harassed truck convoys moving to and from the factories to the spaceport. They had seized their weapons from an arms convoy after destroying it with a rock slide that pushed the trucks off the road into a steep ravine. Their ambushes soon proved so damaging that heavily armed helicopters and armor units had to escort all later convoys, even though it slowed them down to a crawl.

In their three years in the hills, McCreedom’s Devils, as they became known, destroyed some 150 trucks, along with their valuable cargos. They also destroyed many tanks, hovercraft, helicopters, and one Atlas that they managed to topple into the valley below.

-From Combat Among the Giants, by Hauptmann Michael Tredgon, Lancer Press, 2792

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UNIT INSIGNIAS

Wearing regimental and battalion patches is considered optional in the LCAF. Though all units have at least a regimental patch, only those with some sort of history wear regimental patches on their uniforms at all times. All patches follow a basic shape, but the symbols often distort the shape.

The regimental patches of ‘Mech units of the Lyran Guards are basically shied-shaped. Regimental patches for the Lyran Regulars are diamond-shaped. The Arcturan Guards have large oval patches. Patches for the Donegal Guards are rectangular. The Skye Rangers have circular patches. Infantry units have square patches. Armored units have a triangular patch.

The number of the regiment is sometimes incorporated into the patch’s design. The regimental nickname is generally also incorporated into the design.

-From Military Traditions in the Lyran Commonwealth, by Miclos Davion, NAIS Printers, 3022

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TRAGIC IRONIES

When the Archon conscripted commercial transports into the military during the war, it had a disastrous effect on planets like Bountiful Harvest and A Place.

Bountiful Harvest, always a major food producer, could no longer regularly export any of its products during the war. As a result, the planetary economy plunged, while huge silos stood filled with rotting grain.

Less than a jump away was A Place. A desolate world with rich mineral resources, it never could feed itself on what it raised from its meager topsoil. When the war came and commercial JumpShips were requisitioned, the planet’s population immediately began to go hungry. Though the Commonwealth government sent mercy missions, they came too infrequently to stave off mass starvation. Of the million inhabitants at the start of the war, only 100,000 remained at war’s end.

All that misery on A Place, while only a few light-years away on Bountiful Harvest, grain lay rotting in the sun and farmers were burying their butchered meat animals in ditches because there was no one to buy them.

--From War’s Tragedy, by Grafina Sandra Kelswa, Stratton & Gebhart, 2829

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FAILED NEGOTIATIONS

Over the years, there has been considerable speculation about what poisoned the prisoner exchange talks. Much will never be known, because records of the secret negotiations have been lost, but a few facts can be pieced together.

The chief negotiators for the two sides were: Duke Kendall Marik for the Free Worlds League, and Graf Rebecca Steiner-Nelson for the Lyran Commonwealth. The two apparently had met before, because many of their team members overheard them chatting about mutual friends and time spent at a place called the ‘Casa del Sol’ on some unknown planet.

Many now believe that the chief negotiators had once been emotionally involved. As the negotiations dragged on, each had to take hard positions on behalf of their respective governments, which could possibly have taken a toll on their personal feelings for one another. If so, then the decision to break off the negotiations may have been due more to broken love than to political differences.

Though a plausible theory, it doesn’t answer certain questions. Where had Kendall and Rebecca met before? What about the phantom ‘Mech raid that occurred on the planet where the negotiations were being held and for which neither side would claim responsibility? What of the assassination of the second negotiator for the Commonwealth side, who tried to reconvene the talks after the two leaders had left the planet? It is clear that much more information must come to light before anyone will understand this sad incident in Commonwealth history.

-From The Poisoned Talks: An Examination, by Dmitri Auburn, Commonwealth Historical Press, 2380

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NEW TACTICS

It was certainly not the first time in military history that garrisons and militia units fought in the front lines, but it was the first time the Commonwealth had tried it. Though Archon Marcus used it successfully, the same tactic would later be unsuccessful for Archon Alessandro Steiner, even leading to his fall from power.

-From Questions Raised by the Ouster of Alessandro Steiner, by Thelos Auburn, Commonwealth Historical Press, 3022

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ARTS EXPLOSION

The time of the Triumvirate may have been politically tenuous, but it was a time of rediscovery and optimism for culture and the arts. Freed from Claudius’s reign of terror, the Lyran people felt a mass relief that seemed to set off an explosion of painting, music, dance, and drama. Though hampered by the continued drain of the war, Lyran artists, with their gift for making do with what is at hand, created beauty from the most unlikely of subjects.

Some of the more notable works from this period are Tales of the Heike, a holoseries written by Misako Endo; Newly Built Roads, a travel diary in poetry by John Salters; and Freedom, a sculpture in bronze by Minerva Ray.

-From A History of Arts in the Lyran Commonwealth, by Unchilla Grevra, Prefect of Kaifeng Royal Printers, 3025

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BIG ‘MECHS-SMALL MINDS

Many thought that the unwritten rules of war would handicap the fighting ability of the Lyran Commonwealth. Now that war had become a chess match of maneuver and counter-maneuver, it could put the LCAF at a great disadvantage; because maneuverability was certainly not its military strong point. Indeed, many a lance, company, and even a few battalions would be forced to surrender when they found themselves outclassed in these skills.

The rules did give the Commonwealth one important advantage. If any Steiner unit could put up enough of a fight, particularly when on the defensive, there was a good chance that the enemy would be forced to give up and leave. In a universe of diminishing supplies, fighting became as much a question of economics as strategy and tactics. Whenever the Commonwealth units, in their formidable heavy ‘Mechs and armor, were able to impress on the enemy how high a price they would have to pay to win, their attackers often did refuse the challenge, sometimes leaving the field without firing a shot.

-From The Conventions of War Throughout Man’s History, by Thelos Auburn, Commonwealth Historical Press, 3023

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THE DISAPPEARING STEINER

Apparently Katrina Steiner was not silent during this supposedly good time for the Archon’s strategy. Now transferred to the Strategies and Tactics Division of the military, she was well aware of the LCAF’s reservations about the Archon’s military policy.

An ambitious woman, Katrina Steiner gathered together the senior officers most vocal in their disagreements with the Archon to create a core of officers who regarded her as their leader. She then intimated to her supporters that she wished to become the next Archon, even if it meant deposing her uncle.

The next year, Katrina Steiner disappeared while on Poulsbo. Many have speculated that this was the work of Alessandro, in retaliation for her efforts to seek power. This may be, but there are so many unanswered questions about her mysterious disappearance that it is difficult to blame the Archon automatically. More important is that she finally did reappear just before the disastrous raids that crumbled the Archon’s policy. By that time, her support had swelled tremendously, fueled by rumors that the Archon might have been responsible for her absence.  

-From Encyclopedia Res Publica, Thelos Auburn, ed., Commonwealth Historical Press, 3022

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SOWING UNCERTAIN SEEDS

The food riots in the Sovereign Republic of Northern Ireland that began in the poorer districts of Belfast last night have now been quelled. It is uncertain how many are dead or wounded. The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom today proposed a worldwide moratorium on the production of all freon-based products to help stop the further depletion of the ozone layer. It is estimated that one million will suffer skin cancers. The development of the first spaceship to use the Kearny-Fuchida drive has gone over budget for the fifth time. The leaders of the Affiliation of Poorer States have called the new ship a ‘great white elephant.’

-From The Evening News with Jessica Fredders, Terran National Broadcasting Co., April 2, 2105

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INDEPENDENCE DAY

On this holiday of holidays, Simon Kilsly was upset. He had just learned from his boss at Deptron Electronics that he was being transferred from his home on Skye to distant Donegal. What had he done to deserve this? Uprooting his family to move to a foreign world where they hardly knew a tri-gated logic circuit from a rock? Where was the sense in that? If this is what it meant to be part of the Lyran Commonwealth, then he would rather remain a Federation man-and the devil hang all the glory talk about strength and destiny.

His wife sensed Simon’s anger as he entered their small apartment. She wondered if perhaps he had seen the remnants of the paint a graffitist had splattered across their door. Even with the fan-laser, it had taken most of the day to remove the paint.

Watching him grumble while ensconced in his favorite chair, she decided that Simon had not seen the graffiti. It must be his work, she thought. Lucky that grandmother and grandfather were away from the house celebrating their 60 anniversary and would probably spend the night at a hotel reliving old memories. That meant it would only be her, Simon, and the three kids in the apartment tonight. She hoped that Simon’s foul mood would be soothed by the unaccustomed quiet.

-From The Kilslys: History Through the Common Family, by Thomas Ehrlich, Dontar & Smithson, Publishers, 3000

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ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENTS

A loaf of bread that cost 5 Tamar dollars last week now costs 54 dollars after the government devaluation. The border incident, the worst in 20 years, involved a battalion of Skye armor and a regiment of Kurita infantry. Tensions along the border have increased enormously. Prime Minister Davis Kelswa today ordered open discussion of the Pact’s continued participation in the Commonwealth, which he characterized as, “a pack of ravenous wolves feasting upon the carcasses of our labors.”

-From the All-The-News-You-Need-To-Know Show, Proud Skye Network, November 16, 2364

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AIR RESCUE

The fact that he and his men were pinned down in the city’s central park and very likely going to die didn’t bother Captain Greerson as much as that they would die at the hands of his fellow citizens of Skye. To either side, the Captain could hear the whoosh of the last anti-tank missiles fired by his infantrymen at the approaching armor of the Skye Independence Army. It wouldn’t be long, Greerson thought grimly.

From behind and above him came an unexpected screech. Peering up through the smoke, he saw a VTOL armored transport craft swooping its way toward him. Hoping for the best, the Captain pressed the recall button that beeped its order into the ears of his few remaining men.

When the craft stopped in a hover, the Captain could suddenly see why. Shrubbery erupted as a tank burst through to point its main gun directly at his command car. Above him, he could hear the whine of protesting jet nozzles. The VTOL lurched and pitched its left side down. One of its weapon turrets looked for, locked on, and spat a missile that sped unerringly toward the tank. The tank exploded with a flash of light and a dull thud.

Later, as the VTOL flew its way back to the beachhead, the Captain and the pilot got to talking about family. They chatted about their wives and the future they dreamed of for their daughters.

After landing, the Captain and his men disembarked. Turning to look at the pilot, Captain Greerson gave the man a sloppy salute and a smile of thanks. Flight Officer Steiner waved back, then popped his VTOL back into the sky.

-From Brother Against Brother: An Unofficial Civil War, by Tolandson Mizer, Graf of Tamaraine, Red Fire Press, 2801

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THE PLAY’S THE THING

Three weeks after the death of the Archon, the Royal Arcturan Shakespearean Players suddenly announced that they had changed their mind and were not going to perform Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream for their gala 20 anniversary performance. They urged those with tickets to come anyway to witness their rendition of a play ‘with special poignancy in these troubled times.’ Many top government officials, including most of the generals from the High Command, attended the festive event.

As the curtain went up, the audience saw that the scene was set for Hamlet, a tale of poisoning, usurpation, and plays within plays. The implied scorn caught the conscience of the would-be kings, several of whom left the theater in a huff. They had definitely gotten the message.

-From The Lyran Commonwealth Before the Steiners, by Thelos Auburn, Commonwealth Historical Press, 3022

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Section 57, subgraph C. On the attendance of social functions: All senior officers are required to attend major social functions to which they have been invited except if attendance interferes with their duty, their unit’s function, poses a potential health risk, or if the officer has already attended five other such functions in the space of four weeks.

Section 57, subgraph D. On the limits placed on attendance of social functions: All senior officers are limited to the attendance of just two social functions without invitation per month. Violations will be reported directly to their commanding officer, who will decide if punishment, which includes the forfeiture of two months’ pay, is required.

-From The Brandenburg Edicts of 2413 (Lyran Commonwealth Armed Forces), Commonwealth Military Press, 2414

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OH, GIVE ME A HOME

The storm, which is expected within four hours, will bring winds of more than 60 kilometers per hour and will deposit at least a meter of snow. The temperatures will be mild, with the highs an expected -35 C in New Olympia and a -30 C at Tharkad City.

Now, turning to the news. Construction work for the capital city is proceeding despite protests of the gazelle herders, who maintain that the new city will block the animals’ free-roaming range. It is uncertain whether the talks between the herders and the Commonwealth government will reach any agreement within the near future.

-From Late Night Tharkan News, New Olympia Broadcasters, January 13, 2407

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DUKES

The early military of the Commonwealth was far more chaotic than today’s fighting force. The main reason for this lack of effectiveness was that the regiments sent by a member world were semi-independent and not legally bound to obey the orders of Commonwealth military leaders. To compound the problem, these contingents were often commanded by political leaders from the homeworld, whose skills as military commanders varied widely.

In an attempt to stop the potential splintering of the Commonwealth military, the government created the title of Duke. This title, along with a substantial cash advance, was bestowed on the leader of each contingent, and a Commonwealth officer was appointed as the new Duke’s second in command. This plan bolstered the egos and pocketbooks of these politicos, yet gave the Commonwealth vital control of their armies. Other titles, such as Count and Baron, were created by the Commonwealth government for similar reasons. This practice continued until the reshuffling of the Commonwealth military by the Brandenburg Edicts of 2413.

These titles were not inherited and gave few of the privileges that nobility confers todays. Use of titles did, however, reintroduce the idea of nobility to the Commonwealth public, making it easier for the Steiner family to begin bestowing true hereditary titles.

-Encyclopedia Res Publica, Thelos Auburn, ed., Commonwealth Historical Press, 3022

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STEINER LITERATURE

Smoke still wreathed the trees. In the red light of the setting sun, the plumes looked like the arms of men and women, upflung in terror. Moving slowly through the forest’s remains, the horse periodically snorted at the sudden snap of embers and the tongues of fire that still licked up from every hollow. Or were they the burning eyes of devils?

It was getting dark and the people back at the inn had warned Emily to find the safety of the castle before the first star shone.

-From Castle Maltra, attributed to Jennifer Steiner, Velcro Fly Publishers, 2760

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BLOODLESS ROSES

Far, shining stars that cast your glow

Upon our upturned faces—

On which of you were our hopes so cruelly ended?

Toward which of you will our curses fly forever?

If only we could throw our flowers in the air

To fall upon your surface and revive

The roses in the cheeks of our now-still children,

The glow that meant their youth and joy, our comfort,

Like the flags of a loving army

That, prancing, marched about us not so long ago.

What bitter, bloodless roses we have planted

In these foreign soils: roses not to blossom

But to rot, in the harsh, dry wings of a world

Circling a shamed and heartless star far, far away.

-Anonymous, from Commonwealth Protest Poetry, Rechele McQuiston, ed., Sunset Poetry Press, 2500

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THE IRON FIST

If there is a weakness in how the Steiner family rules, it is that they show too much intelligence and imagination. Let something happen to a Steiner Archon, whether it be an assassination or the most mild but incapacitating illness, and the entire realm comes to a screeching halt. The Steiners might be good at making others feel an important part of the government, but don’t be fooled. They rule the Commonwealth with an iron hand.

-Hervsas David, Political Advisor to Hanse Davion, quoted in The Federated Suns/Lyran Commonwealth Alliance: An Intelligence Report, by ROM, ComStar, 3024

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THE COMMONWEALTH WAKES UP

In many ways, the assassination of Archon Alistair proved to be the first in a series of events that would be a rude awakening to the Commonwealth. Up until that time, the rule of the Steiner family seemed so sure and strong that most Lyrans had developed a false sense of security. Like children, they had believed that because the Steiners were benevolent and fair rulers, it followed that good would be rewarded and the whole realm would ride into the future unscarred by the political evils that plagued other members of the Terran Hegemony.

-From Political Intrigue in the Lyran Commonwealth, by Thelos Auburn, Regal Press, 3005

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MYSTICISM AND THE COMMONWEALTH

Though the stereotypical Lyran is a money-hungry trader too practical to believe in anything but the here and now, the truth is that there is a strong undercurrent of mysticism running beneath the pragmatism.

Telling fortunes, be it through the I Ching, the Maltal computer program, or one of the many zodiac cycles, is a popular pastime for many Lyrans. A number of the better-known spirit guides, mediums, and their ilk make a profitable living in the hire of corporation leaders who seek help from the spirit world to make major business decisions.

Certainly what happened after Tatyana Steiner’s death and the ascension of Margaret Olsen heightened this mystical bent.

-From Mysticism and the Occult in Commonwealth History, by Thelos Auburn, Commonwealth Historical Press, 3011

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THE FUGITIVE

During this time of upheaval, the most popular holo-video program in the Commonwealth was the fifth revival of The Fugitive, that classic fable of a man falsely accused of his wife’s murder but who hunts down the real, one-armed killer. In the Commonwealth version of the story, Richard Kimble was once a physician in an LCAF surgical hospital. He is pursued by his childhood best friend, now a member of the government’s police force. Kimble’s loneliness and angst seemed to appeal to a people who also had lost the innocence, or at least the comfort, of a happier time.

-From Commonwealth Popular Culture: Insights from our Leisure, by Thelos Auburn, Commonwealth Historical Press, 3014

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THE MANY LIVES OF MARGARET OLSON

I’ve no doubt that I’ve lived many times before. My unseen counselors have told me it is so. I need no greater proof of their wisdom than consulting the memories of my past lives as I meditate over the incense made from Barlabaro seed pod. I was an Egyptian priestess, a swordsman in the service of King Louis XIII, a famous actress from North America, and countless other lives. All these were physical manifestations of my soul’s voyage toward perfection.

As that North American actress, I first came to realize my mission. My message has not changed since then. To gain perfection, one must surrender totally to the unseen counselors, those who wait to guide and teach your mind if only you would allow them to enter.

-From Once Again Out On That Limb, by Margaret Olsen, Channeling Press, 2488

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CRAIG STEINER

Craig Steiner is one of those unfortunate men whose image pales beside the flashier, more charismatic personalities of his time. Though he was responsible for many innovations in the Commonwealth government, history is fickle enough that we remember him best for altering the Throne Room.

-From The Quiet Years, by Yvonna DeCarls, Commonwealth Historical Press, 2569

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REACTION

I can’t help seeing death in the Archon’s actions. She lives too far from the Periphery border to understand that we depend as much on the outworld republics as we rely on our own Commonwealth. Understand me, for I mean to speak no treason against the government that has kept us so well for these past centuries. But can we sit idly by and let Armageddon march toward us without at least protesting?

-From Official Transcripts of Government House, Year 2558, by Keiv Fleicha, Representative of Lost, Commonwealth Press, 2559

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PLEA FOR THE COMMONWEALTH

My friends, we here are all businessmen in one way or another. We know the value of most things. We are admired throughout the Star League as the shrewdest of industrialists. We even feel a secret pride when someone chides us as ‘Money Demons’ or as ‘Pirates of Profit,’ do we not? Well then, why should we, of all the League’s people, forget what it means to invest for the future or to set aside emergency money? How could we fail to realize that some of today’s profit might be needed tomorrow?

Yes, these have been sainted years, filled with peace and the sound of money filling our coffers. But are we so naïve as to expect the shower of money to go on forever? No! And if the shower should end-as showers always do-and the hot sun of misfortune should reappear to evaporate the profits of everyone, everywhere-what then? Do you for a moment believe that cooperation and trust will reign to save the day?

Banks are something that you and I understand. Consider the Commonwealth government as a bank, not of money but of a future where we may store good fortune now, to be used later when times get rough, as surely they will.

-From Official Transcripts of Government House, Year 2643, Commonwealth Historical Press, 2645

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BABE IN THE WOODS

Though the artist’s work was received with great enthusiasm, his largest canvas caused considerable controversy. Titled ‘Lost in the Woods,’ this large oil was painted in ominous, dark hues to show a small, frightened child standing alone in a midnight forest. To either side and behind him are five large wolves, all with glowing eyes and gaping mouths. The controversy arose when someone noticed the child greatly resembled Richard Cameron, and that about the neck of the largest wolf was a chain, from which dangled something that resembled nothing so much as a Steiner Fist.

-From ‘The Kently Exhibition,’ Tharkan Art News, October 2578

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STARVATION AND WARFARE

In 2766, a plague swept through the crops on the small Lyran world of Blue Diamond. As the planet was situated near its border with the Terran state, its leaders decided to seek assistance there instead of from Summer, its nearest Commonwealth neighbor. After leaving Blue Diamond, the planet’s elders were not heard from again. Only much later, it was learned that they had stumbled into the midst of the Amaris takeover and been captured, tortured, and executed as Commonwealth spies. About a third of Blue Diamond’s population died of starvation before help from the Commonwealth could arrive.

-From The Star League and the Commonwealth, by Thelos Auburn, Commonwealth Historical Press, 3014

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Many legends have grown up around General Kerensky and the exodus of the Regular Army. As it is with other beloved leaders such as King Arthur, Roland, Gandhi, Captain Minos, and Duke Greerdon, the myths that have grown up around Kerensky and his men reflect our yearning to live as men and women of righteousness, honesty, and nobility.

One such myth concerns Jessica LeQue, wife of one of Kerensky’s aides. Beautiful, lithe, and golden-haired, she was a native of the Commonwealth world of Alarion. Born to a noble family, Jessica had been raised to love her native planet deeply. Later, she felt the same deep connection to the handsome Major Winson, aide to General Kerensky. When they married, Jessica trusted that fate would be kind enough to allow her both her loves when the Major retired to Alarion. There, they would grow old together, taking long walks hand in hand across her beloved lands.

When the exodus orders came, Jessica was torn between love for her land and for her husband. It was not until just an hour before the last transport was to leave Alarion for the rendezvous at New Samarkand that she finally made her decision. Jessica Winson arrived perhaps a moment too late at the spaceport, for just then, the transport had arched into the night sky, leaving her behind. From there, the distraught woman wandered into the nearby forest, where several weeks later she was found dead.

On Alarion, there is a native tree that is tall, slim, and crowned with golden leaves. At night, the fronds of the tree reach up and unfurl to collect the silvery moonlight. Ever since Jessica Winson’s death, these have been known as Jessica Trees, the reaching of their golden fronds like Jessica’s hopeless gesture as the night sky took away her husband forever.

-From Commonwealth Myths and Legends, by Ketter Seabody, Commonwealth Historical Press, 2987

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McCREEDOM’S DEVILS

In all three wars, when enemy forces were stranded because they had lost either their vehicles or their way off Hesperus, they reformed as guerrilla units. The most famous of these came from the remnants of a Kurita ‘Mech battalion that, after being pummeled in the first battle of Hesperus, took to the mountains around the factories.

For the next three years, this band of 20 men and women, led by a Captain McCreedom, harassed truck convoys moving to and from the factories to the spaceport. They had seized their weapons from an arms convoy after destroying it with a rock slide that pushed the trucks off the road into a steep ravine. Their ambushes soon proved so damaging that heavily armed helicopters and armor units had to escort all later convoys, even though it slowed them down to a crawl.

In their three years in the hills, McCreedom’s Devils, as they became known, destroyed some 150 trucks, along with their valuable cargos. They also destroyed many tanks, hovercraft, helicopters, and one Atlas that they managed to topple into the valley below.

-From Combat Among the Giants, by Hauptmann Michael Tredgon, Lancer Press, 2792

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UNIT INSIGNIAS

Wearing regimental and battalion patches is considered optional in the LCAF. Though all units have at least a regimental patch, only those with some sort of history wear regimental patches on their uniforms at all times. All patches follow a basic shape, but the symbols often distort the shape.

The regimental patches of ‘Mech units of the Lyran Guards are basically shied-shaped. Regimental patches for the Lyran Regulars are diamond-shaped. The Arcturan Guards have large oval patches. Patches for the Donegal Guards are rectangular. The Skye Rangers have circular patches. Infantry units have square patches. Armored units have a triangular patch.

The number of the regiment is sometimes incorporated into the patch’s design. The regimental nickname is generally also incorporated into the design.

-From Military Traditions in the Lyran Commonwealth, by Miclos Davion, NAIS Printers, 3022

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TRAGIC IRONIES

When the Archon conscripted commercial transports into the military during the war, it had a disastrous effect on planets like Bountiful Harvest and A Place.

Bountiful Harvest, always a major food producer, could no longer regularly export any of its products during the war. As a result, the planetary economy plunged, while huge silos stood filled with rotting grain.

Less than a jump away was A Place. A desolate world with rich mineral resources, it never could feed itself on what it raised from its meager topsoil. When the war came and commercial JumpShips were requisitioned, the planet’s population immediately began to go hungry. Though the Commonwealth government sent mercy missions, they came too infrequently to stave off mass starvation. Of the million inhabitants at the start of the war, only 100,000 remained at war’s end.

All that misery on A Place, while only a few light-years away on Bountiful Harvest, grain lay rotting in the sun and farmers were burying their butchered meat animals in ditches because there was no one to buy them.

--From War’s Tragedy, by Grafina Sandra Kelswa, Stratton & Gebhart, 2829

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FAILED NEGOTIATIONS

Over the years, there has been considerable speculation about what poisoned the prisoner exchange talks. Much will never be known, because records of the secret negotiations have been lost, but a few facts can be pieced together.

The chief negotiators for the two sides were: Duke Kendall Marik for the Free Worlds League, and Graf Rebecca Steiner-Nelson for the Lyran Commonwealth. The two apparently had met before, because many of their team members overheard them chatting about mutual friends and time spent at a place called the ‘Casa del Sol’ on some unknown planet.

Many now believe that the chief negotiators had once been emotionally involved. As the negotiations dragged on, each had to take hard positions on behalf of their respective governments, which could possibly have taken a toll on their personal feelings for one another. If so, then the decision to break off the negotiations may have been due more to broken love than to political differences.

Though a plausible theory, it doesn’t answer certain questions. Where had Kendall and Rebecca met before? What about the phantom ‘Mech raid that occurred on the planet where the negotiations were being held and for which neither side would claim responsibility? What of the assassination of the second negotiator for the Commonwealth side, who tried to reconvene the talks after the two leaders had left the planet? It is clear that much more information must come to light before anyone will understand this sad incident in Commonwealth history.

-From The Poisoned Talks: An Examination, by Dmitri Auburn, Commonwealth Historical Press, 2380

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NEW TACTICS

It was certainly not the first time in military history that garrisons and militia units fought in the front lines, but it was the first time the Commonwealth had tried it. Though Archon Marcus used it successfully, the same tactic would later be unsuccessful for Archon Alessandro Steiner, even leading to his fall from power.

-From Questions Raised by the Ouster of Alessandro Steiner, by Thelos Auburn, Commonwealth Historical Press, 3022

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ARTS EXPLOSION

The time of the Triumvirate may have been politically tenuous, but it was a time of rediscovery and optimism for culture and the arts. Freed from Claudius’s reign of terror, the Lyran people felt a mass relief that seemed to set off an explosion of painting, music, dance, and drama. Though hampered by the continued drain of the war, Lyran artists, with their gift for making do with what is at hand, created beauty from the most unlikely of subjects.

Some of the more notable works from this period are Tales of the Heike, a holoseries written by Misako Endo; Newly Built Roads, a travel diary in poetry by John Salters; and Freedom, a sculpture in bronze by Minerva Ray.

-From A History of Arts in the Lyran Commonwealth, by Unchilla Grevra, Prefect of Kaifeng Royal Printers, 3025

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BIG ‘MECHS-SMALL MINDS

Many thought that the unwritten rules of war would handicap the fighting ability of the Lyran Commonwealth. Now that war had become a chess match of maneuver and counter-maneuver, it could put the LCAF at a great disadvantage; because maneuverability was certainly not its military strong point. Indeed, many a lance, company, and even a few battalions would be forced to surrender when they found themselves outclassed in these skills.

The rules did give the Commonwealth one important advantage. If any Steiner unit could put up enough of a fight, particularly when on the defensive, there was a good chance that the enemy would be forced to give up and leave. In a universe of diminishing supplies, fighting became as much a question of economics as strategy and tactics. Whenever the Commonwealth units, in their formidable heavy ‘Mechs and armor, were able to impress on the enemy how high a price they would have to pay to win, their attackers often did refuse the challenge, sometimes leaving the field without firing a shot.

-From The Conventions of War Throughout Man’s History, by Thelos Auburn, Commonwealth Historical Press, 3023

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THE DISAPPEARING STEINER

Apparently Katrina Steiner was not silent during this supposedly good time for the Archon’s strategy. Now transferred to the Strategies and Tactics Division of the military, she was well aware of the LCAF’s reservations about the Archon’s military policy.

An ambitious woman, Katrina Steiner gathered together the senior officers most vocal in their disagreements with the Archon to create a core of officers who regarded her as their leader. She then intimated to her supporters that she wished to become the next Archon, even if it meant deposing her uncle.

The next year, Katrina Steiner disappeared while on Poulsbo. Many have speculated that this was the work of Alessandro, in retaliation for her efforts to seek power. This may be, but there are so many unanswered questions about her mysterious disappearance that it is difficult to blame the Archon automatically. More important is that she finally did reappear just before the disastrous raids that crumbled the Archon’s policy. By that time, her support had swelled tremendously, fueled by rumors that the Archon might have been responsible for her absence.  

-From Encyclopedia Res Publica, Thelos Auburn, ed., Commonwealth Historical Press, 3022