Beta Comae and the “Liberation”
New Australian defenders attack the Liberation destroyer Jericho
Beta Comae Berenices lies 29.9 light years away from Sol near the star Asterion. It was colonised by a group of idealists who had signed contracts with a number of mega-corps who wanted pioneers to tame the Earth-like world of Beta Comae 5 and exploit the bountiful resources in the system.
By 2150 there were 1,500,000 settlers on the distant world all making a brave attempt to colonise the system. Beta Comae 5 was renamed New Australia by its new inhabitants for its vast outback-like deserts and grasslands and also for the rugged frontiersman like culture, which had developed through years of struggle in the sometimes harsh wilderness of the planet.
The people of Beta Comae were a culturally diverse and proud group. Whatever reason had made them leave the new distant Earth be it the challenge of the frontier, fleeing environmental decline, economic pressure or escaping some unspoken tragedy or mistake in the past Beta Comae had become their new home and no-one was going to take that away from them.
That was until the founding mega-corps decided to raise the interest rates of the loans which everyone on the planet had taken out to pay for transit across the cold depths of space and to fund enterprises on the new world.
Resentment had been growing in the planetary congress towards the greedy executives and shareholders back on Earth who grew rich from their hard work and sacrifice.
With the transition from the colonial council to a system wide senate in 2207 the reactionary Independence Party led by Bruce Sterling swept the board under a promise to rid the system of Mega corp influence (it was widely known that the previous council was a rubber stamp organisation for megacorp interests) and to cancel all debts to the founding companies. This caused outrage back in Sol and many mega-corps feared that other colonies would follow suit. An example had to be made.
Corporate lackeys in the Beta Comae system where encouraged ( with extensive bonuses) to seize strategic installations, most notably the newly constructed space elevator near Corbuier and a number of orbital factories which where part of Beta Comae’s fledgling spaceship industry.
At the same time a “peacekeeping force” was assembled around the metal rich asteroid Philadelphia in Sol and thousands of dispossessed citizens of Earth signed up to teach “the freaky spacers a lesson”
The corporate publicity machine that held the minds of many on Earth and its orbitals spurred such xenophobic rage on. The Beta Comaens were portrayed as a group of reactionary troublemakers who indulged in questionable outsystem behaviour, had resentment towards the mother planet, and worst of all refused to be abided by the legally binding contracts that they had wilfully signed upon boarding the colonial transports.
The crowning glory in the vicious publicity campaign was the appearance of a Ti`Thal envoy in the system some years previously which inspired rumours of alien subversion. Examples of this myth can be found in many of the related spools of the time such as “Invasion of the Callites” in which an imaginary human colony is subverted by aliens and the hero fights a campaign to free the colonists from the influence of the “Callites.” Such a xenophobic and embarrassing spool may seem hard to swallow now but at the time was widely seen as prophetic and caught the imagination of those living in the overcrowded cities and orbitals.
Back on Beta Comae those who supported the Independence Party’s move could see what was happening back on Earth and prepared for the worst. The entire planet and those offworld settlements not controlled by the corporate sympathisers started building defences and weapon systems, helped unofficially by hot-headed followers of the Community and other supporters of the Beta Comaens bold move.
In 2221 the peacekeeping force left sol with the retrofitted Philadelphia as its flagship/base camp building weapons, APC’s missiles, aerospace fighters and combat drones on its 30 year journey. It was the most massive offensive force ever at the time sucking vast amounts of funds and material from its supporting mega-corps and nation states and with a high-tech army of over half a million conscripts and volunteers. Led by the American General John Harvey Arnold III a man who had a profound understanding of new technology and space combat but who made no attempt to hide his contempt for the “freaky spacers” and “lefty subversives” that where springing up all over colonised space.
He had a great felt passion for “Mother Earth “ and all its traditions and history and felt that to make an example of Beta Comae would announce to the other colonies, alien cultures and the Community that Earth was the one true superpower and not to be trifled with. He inspired those under his command with carefully worded speeches (or rants) to his officers and their subordinates and likened himself to some 20th century general such as Patton and MacArthur or celebrities such as John Wayne or Daniel Travis.
With surveillance by the Mars/Luna Alliance at Sol and the corporate sympathisers at Beta Comae the intelligence on both sides was quite complete. The Bate Comaens knew when the “Liberation Fleet”, as it had become known back at Sol, down to the month and that compelled those who wished to fight to waste anything but time in preparing for the invasion. Back on the Philadelphia the “colonial marines” as they called themselves (in reference to an influential series of movies of the late 20th century) spent their 30 year voyage mostly training with the new hardware and tactics as for most of them their only combat experience before leaving Sol was playing virches and spools such as “Space Patrol” and “Game Over Man!”
By the time the first advance party arrived in Beta Comae in 2249AD the raw recruits had become seasoned veterans and their training and personal growth from the date of launch was followed (with sensitive material cut out of course) in a number of reality shows back at Sol. The “Liberation” was to be a massive media event where the folks back home could follow the exploits of the characters they had grown to love (or hate) as they brought freedom and sanity to a strange alien world)
The Beta Comaens realising that this was not only a military operation but also a battle for the hearts and minds of all those throughout civilised space also told their side of the story, going for the plucky colonists fighting for their independence from a greedy and backward culture angle (an irony not lost on General Harvey who was enraged by the Comaen’s likening their struggle to that of the Americans against the English in industrial age Earth)
A group of New Australian guerrillas before a sneak attack to sabotage a Liberation base on the moon Matilda
On the 21st of the 7th 2249 the advanced party of the Liberation attempted to dock at Achilles Station, the space elevator hoping to use it to ship their troops to the surface quickly and safely. A firefight between Comaen combat drones and Liberation aerofighters ensued, the war had begun!
The first stage of General Harvey’s operation, to achieve orbital supremacy, went largely to plan, despite a number of software failures that left some ships to the mercy of the few combat drones of the Comaens. The Liberation achieved planet fall at the base of the space elevator as expected but a units of special ops made planet fall at key areas of the planet that were held by the Corporate Lackeys in a bid to catch the Comaens by surprise.
The fighting around the space elevator was fierce. Every time the Liberation forces thought they had pinned down a group of Comaens they would disappear into a network of tunnels and bases surround the vast installation. It was quite apparent the Comaens where using guerrilla tactics and the conflict could get very messy.
Unbeknownst to the liberation though a group of Comaens had managed to infiltrate settlements on New Australia’s large moon, Mathilda an area believed to be secure. Using e-warfare that was very advanced (fuelling speculation that outside forces where directly involved) they managed to convince the “friend or foe” systems on board the Achilles Station that the small fleet of ships heading towards it from Mathilda where on their side. By the time the ships had docked at the station the forces inside where too busy coping with the peculiar system failures that where plaguing the rock and the stations controlling AC had no apparent explanation for (it was later revealed that Achilles had a sudden change of heart when it saw the destruction on the planet below and defected to the Comaen side!)
The Liberation Beachhead was cut off but they still had orbital superiority and General Harvey commanded the beginning of surgical strikes on the planet below. Civilian casualties (such as a hospital in Baileyville being mistaken for a communications centre) where largely dismissed as Comaen propaganda when news reached the outside.
The marines on the planetside however where fighting an infuriating battle. Despite being able to secure many of Beta Comae’s quite substantial cities with little bloodshed (to the relief of the Liberation’s PR unit) every time they ventured out of their strongholds soldiers and machines would be picked off or immobilised by hit and run tactics, each one more ingenious or crazy than the last.
Reports of birds suddenly flying towards mechs and exploding with incredible force and mysterious camouflaged “predators” lurking in the jungles (both urban and organic) playing twisted mind games on luckless patrols where common. And the locals where at best apathetic to the Liberators and at worst violently opposed to them. Rarely did they resort to rioting in the streets but instead to playing tricks and sabotages to hack away at the nerves of the marines, spiking the marine’s food and water supply with psychotropic drugs such as the Frisco Freakout and playing loud and disturbing noises and music 25 hours a day. On one occasion the inhabitants of Royston Vasey slaughtered hundreds of Mikailbeasts, erected their corpses on crucifixes around a Liberation mech support base and set fire to them, about twenty staff fled into the woods only to reappear weeks later apparently unable to speak of assumed unspeakable horror of their absence!
While these tactics where successful in sapping Liberation morale some of those more rabid marine units such as the 13th Texan Air Infantry and the 7th Atlantian Astro-infiltration Brigade would wreck terrible revenge on those they suspected of being in the Comaen guerrilla army. The asteroid settlement of Freetown was nuked when it was suspected of being a weapons factory when it was actually a collection of homesteaders mining carbon ores and constructing fullerene.
When news and footage got out onto the supra-net many condemned the Liberation’s actions. The Community declared that the war should be brought to a peaceful conclusion as soon as possible and it would offer itself as a neutral base on which to discuss a ceasefire (though how neutral the Community was during the conflict is debateable considering recent admissions of information exchanges between the Community and the Comaens!)
The mega-corps and the nation states back at Sol still held a powerful sway over the minds and hearts of the public and merely dismissed the Freetown Massacre the use of “passivity weapons” to subdue angry mobs on New Australia and examples of less than precise orbital bombing as subversive propaganda and an attitude that was later summed up by the Terran President at a press conference saying “ in the fight for freedom you have to break a few eggs, tread on a few toes..”
By 2353 the conflict looked as though it was going nowhere. The Comaens had prepared well for the invasion stockpiling weapons and supplies in well-concealed bases around the planet and offworld. The general population, despite living in martial law in cities that were frequently rocked with firefights and system failures as the battle for cyberspace raged on showed little sign of giving up support for the guerrillas. The Liberators despite having all the best tools at their disposal and having established well-defended enclaves throughout the system suffered from low morale. Regardless of stories to the contrary the alleged alien occupation force was little more than some very confused and worried Ti`Thals safe in their embassy and the locals occasionally odd and mostly stubborn behaviour showed little sign of a people willing to take over other systems and finally attack Mother Earth herself in a titanic interstellar war.
Even the otherwise ironclad General Harvey was showing signs of severe fatigue, stress and a growing paranoia. Being the public face of the Liberation, having to juggle the whims of the politicians and PR machines back home and manage to inspire his forces in a war that was becoming a Vietnam in the eyes of the “folks back home” was taking its toll.
He became increasingly absorbed in a paranoid fantasy of alien subversion and being the last true saviour of good old-fashioned human values and his speeches to the troops became more rabid and violent as the months dragged on.
Liberation APC’s patrol the Gomez Mountains in an attempt to find a secret base, rumoured to be in the area.
General Harvey’s tactics became more and more destructive with increasing and indiscriminate attacks on alleged guerrilla outposts and manufacturing plants that resulted on the deaths of hundreds of civilians. When a courier from nearby Asterion arrived the general ordered it destroyed believing the ship to be carrying supplies for the Comaens (Asterion was quite vocal in its support for Beta Comae but the ship contained nothing more than humanitarian supplies and ghoulish thrill-seekers wanting to see a real war.)
When General Harvey ordered the use of an antimatter weapon to destroy an uncovered Comaen stronghold his subordinates had had enough placing the man who had inspired them for so long under arrest and sued for peace as private communications from Earth to the general agreeing to throw in the towel where revealed.
In the end the whole Liberation episode showed that Earth was no longer in charge of its children across the stars. It displayed the impracticalities of sending expensive military fleets on journeys that would last decades to enforce its will on errant colonies and outposts. It also showed that popular opinion throughout colonised space was a very powerful thing to go up against and that the main opinion makers for the fledging interstellar culture that was developing was not Earth or even some other Homeworld but the Community.
To this day Beta Comae proudly remembers the actions of its people during the Liberation. Many monuments have been erected to those who fought and also those civilians caught up in the crossfire. The Comaens are still a tough, rugged individualistic lot and Beta Comaen forces within the CDF are usually at the forefront of any defensive action inspired by tales of the Veterans (who hold quite an influence in the system’s culture)
But to say the Beta Comaens are a warmongering lot out for a fight is wrong. Having had first hand experience of combat they wish to leave the impression on all those who visit the system that war is neither glorious nor the only way to resolve conflict. This sentiment can be felt in no better place than the Peace Museum the abandoned mothership Philadelphia in orbit around New Australia.
Word must be made of the fate of the Liberators themselves after the Achilles peace accord of 2353. The more rabid xenophobes returned to Earth when one of the newly constructed Warpships arrived in the system in 2356 where they either went one to settle on worlds far, far away, or became bitter reactionaries telling anyone who cared to listen about the “truth” of Beta Comae. Quite a number settled down in the system they were supposed to liberate, at first meeting with distrust with the locals but eventually becoming part of the society. Indeed New Australia’s 34th President was a sergeant in the Liberation army!
And General Harvey himself escaped the brig on the Philadelphia with the help of some sympathisers and disappeared into obscurity. Stories abound of his life after the peace treaty was signed, it has been confirmed that he spent some time in the wilderness of New Australia hiding from those out for justice but it is also known that some 30 years later he jumped planet and has never been spotted since. Those who hang around spaceports and the seedier parts of the galaxy all claim to have seen a grizzled, bitter old space bum in a bar who is the spitting image of John Harvey Harold III even though he must have outlived his biological body by now!