The Shattered Ring
The Long War
Stafford Morton was a brilliant business man – he played the cut-throat game of Zvitter corporate politics, and played it well. He was charming, handsome and successful, and around fifteen years ago was tipped to succeed Bruno Hester as the next chairman of the Zvitter Corporation itself.
But unbeknownst to anybody, Morton was becoming increasingly mentally unstable. His megalomania was mistaken for arrogance, and his paranoia for clever insight. Convinced of a plot to deprive him of Zvitter’s top post, he set his sights higher and higher, driven to out-do all his business rivals. It was in this atmosphere that he conceived Hammerblow.
Over-riding the concerns raised by his cowed board, Morton embarked on a massive financing campaign. Foolhardy investors flocked to buy into the new company, not noticing the fact that the major shareholders were deserting Morton in droves.
He eventually reached his target figure, and set about purchasing the finest military equipment Zvitter could supply. Escort vessels and atmospheric fighters were bought in droves, and a ground force of almost twenty thousand Parian clones was assembled, trained and equipped. Six elderly but serviceable slipstream carriers were purchased to transport this force, and amidst a media frenzy Stafford Morton departed Zvitter and sailed into the history books. No-one seemed to notice at the time that every supplier had demanded all payments up-front…
His target was of course Sekothai, and it is clear that Morton genuinely thought that he could conquer the planet and incorporate the entire moon into his Zvitter Corporation holdings. On the face of things it was actually not an unreachable goal – Sekothai’s lack of an effective government meant that its defence forces were small, and it’s lower technology level would act as a force multiplier for Morton’s forces.
However, in all his preparations he had forgotten one simple fact – Sekothai could see him coming. A military build-up of this size could not possibly be concealed by from another nearby world, but Morton had not even tried – his corporate prospectus had clearly stated the goal of his new company!
Faced with the prospect of an invasion force descending on their peaceful world, and with the scars of the Cascade War still fresh in everyone’s memory, Sekothai’s Barge swung into action, reaching consensus for the first time in living memory. Their response was typical of the laid-back world – rather than instigate a costly build-up of Sekothai’s own military, a few well-chosen diplomats were sent to other allied worlds in the cluster, and to the newly-formed Council of Worlds, which at the time was still struggling to get off the ground.
By the time Stafford Morton and his Hammerblow fleet departed Zvitter, Sekothai’s response was in already in place. Military vessels from Heorot, Turbine and indeed other divisions of the Zvitter Corporation itself were waiting in orbit of Sekothai, powered down so as to avoid premature detection. Ground forces from these worlds, Jardin, and even Lens were present, just in case any of Morton’s clones should manage to land on the moon itself.
This was achieved primarily though brilliant diplomacy on the part of Sekothai, aided by the Conference of Worlds which saw an unparalleled chance to gain legitimacy by acting as a go-between for all the different and possibly mutually antagonistic forces involved. Sekothai’s diplomats had politely pointed out the possible effects of having their world under Morton’s control – faced with this possibility, allied powers had flocked to provide forces to defend the moon.
The Long War
Morton’s fleet arrived in-system, and immediately headed towards Sekothai. Whether he was surprised by the lack of any kind of response from the local defence forces is unclear, but he was certainly not deterred. Challenged by the local Orbital Traffic Bureau, he arrogantly demanded Sekothai’s immediate and unconditional surrender, on pain of orbital bombardment and occupation.
Not unnaturally the duty OTB controller, a corporal Chai-Lai refused, and told Morton where he could put his invasion force, in terms that is are still famous throughout the cluster today. To back up the point, all the assembled defending vessels activated their targeting systems, with weapons pointed squarely at the Hammerblow force.
What happened next is unclear – the best guess is that Morton’s megalomania finally got the better of him, and he thought he could actually defeat the defences arrayed against his ships. Regardless of his reasons, a missile salvo was fired from Morton’s command ship squarely at the nearest defender, another Zvitter vessel controlled by Alexandra Ores, who were heavily involved in the ice-mining operations in Rama’s ring system.
The combined point defences of the allied fleet destroyed the incoming missiles well before they could reach engagement range, and every single vessel returned fire at the same instant, completely vaporising Morton, his ship, and over three thousand cloned soldiers.
Faced with this overwhelming demonstration of firepower the other captains almost fell over themselves to surrender, and the war was declared over. From Morton’s initial communication to the final surrender a period of two minutes and ten seconds had elapsed.
Sekothai’s famous sense of humour quickly came to the fore, and the shortest battle in history was quickly named ‘The Long War’. This was a source of much amusement to the few Lensites who had been involved, and much puzzlement to the serious Heoroti questing knights present.
The captured military hardware from the engagement was shared amongst those powers which had contributed to Sekothai’s defence as a thank-you gesture, while the clones and small number of Zvitter employees who surrendered were returned home with a stern admonishment not to invade Sekothai again.
The Conference of World was a major winner, having gained a measure of respect and legitimacy from being the public face of the successful defence of Sekothai, although most of the work was actually done by that world’s own diplomats.
Perhaps the real beneficiaries though were the personnel who had been deployed by the defending forces. In typical Sekothaian fashion, every single person was invited to a massive beach barbecue on Caldera’s sea front. It’s said the hangovers lasted for weeks, and almost 30% of an entire year’s production of Sekothai’s famous smoked brandy was consumed in the space of just three days. People from many worlds and all levels of society mingled without restriction, as Helium Lords drank alongside Zvitter corporate security grunts, and Jardinian supply clerks shared swordfish steaks with Heoroti questing knights.
One (fairly hung-over) Conference of Worlds spokesman summed things up afterwards by saying ‘Typical. We spend fifteen years trying to promote peace and understanding, and the Sekothaians do better in three days with a bloody huge party. Why didn’t we think of that before? Now pass me that bottle, will you?’