The storm of Civil War had been brewing in Aquarius for some time already, since the establishment of an authoritarian Imperial Government in the sector. The forces behind the new empire had perhaps underestimated the human drive for freedom, the craving for liberty, to be free from the shackles of tyranny like a primal instinct instilled into every man woman and child of the species. It was this growing storm that finally erupted on the fateful cycle of 4461 A.D; ushering in a rapid transition of a new Age and Chapter in Aquarius's history.
The exact series of events that caused the first spark of conflict are difficult to trace, but it is largely believed to be directly linked to the events of the Corsis II uprising in 4449 A.D, upon which an entire City Complex was brutally massacred by forces from the Imperial Military's Core Sector Fleet and Planetary Forces regiments. This act of brutality awakened a spark that had been resting in the minds of the people - largely free from the influence of the Imperial States' 'Compliance Regulation' implant program that had seen extensive deployment upon its armed forces. The every day citizens of the civilian United Aquarian Systems Civic government sectors would soon realise the implications of the shadow of the regime within which they resided.
After the Corsis II uprising, the Imperial Government created dedicated branches of its Imperial Security Service (ISS) to track down and neutralise any actors deemed 'seditious' by the Government and its puppet ministers; eventually resulting in a series of further massacres by ISS agents on high-profile senators of the UAS Civic Senate that were interpreted to have expressed anti-Imperial States viewpoints. Eventually, those senators would be replaced by puppets of the Lorentian Imperial Government, itself a puppet of the elusive Red Sector organisation; largely believed to be behind the entire Fall of the UTN itself, some 450 cycles prior.
By 4461 A.D, public opinion for the Imperial States in the Core System of Corona had plummeted to rock bottom; riots and protests were rampant among the population of the Lava-world's floating Magneto Cities; so much so that the Coronian Local Government deployed its own UAS Civil Law Enforcement units to quell the protestors - in fear of an Imperial response similar to the one which resulted in the deaths of millions of people in Corsis II.
Eventually, political pressure on the Coronian Local Government became so great, that the Planetary Senate voted in favour of succession from the Imperial States; and accepting the risks that it came with. The decision to incur the wrath of the Imperial Government on Lorentis was not made lightly; only with the support of the Coronian Paramilitary and ex-federal security forces units could such an undertaking be made possible - and even then, the odds of success were weighted heavily against the Corona System.
Perhaps the biggest factor in the decision was the fact that the Corona System was by far the largest industrial supplier of base-elemental Nanopolymer materials used in essentially every aspect of modern human starship design. The lava world's resource-rich surface had been exploited for millennia for otherwise rare elements that were in unusual abundance; bubbling to the surface among pools of molten rock, superheated by the immense heat and radiological output of the Corona red giant star. Those deposits made the world strategically invaluable, and indeed, it would add a significant bargaining chip to the Coronian Local Government's chances at avoiding an Imperial orbital bombardment of which they could not defend against.
For hundreds of cycles, the Imperial Government had imposed severe restrictions on member systems' local armed forces, eventually going so far as to disband the local militaries that were present during the Old Federal Era, and centralise the entire Aquarian military into a single unit, the Imperial Navy and Planetary Forces, with its command structure based on the capital world of Lorentis. Without an armed forces, the Corona System was essentially defenceless. However, paramilitary forces had arisen from the population and local corporations to form something of an armed 'militia' that would eventually serve as the basis for the Coronian military in any future Civil War, mostly equipped with Pre-Fall sub-capital ships, severely outdated, but better than nothing.
At the end of the year of 4461 A.D, the Coronian Government began its plans to use its industry's strategic importance as leverage against the Imperial States; but before such plans could be put into effect, an Imperial Fleet arrived within the system - acting on intelligence gathered by covert ISS agents operating in the system. The situation became dire as elements of the Imperial Navy Core Sector Fleet's 3rd Division, the same unit involved in the massacre of Corsis II, blockaded the Core World's orbit and demanded the immediate surrender of all government officials or face severe consequences.
Convinced the Imperial commanders in orbit wouldn't dare damage the vital industrial facilities planetside; or face essentially cutting the Imperial States' shipbuilding capability in half; the Coronian Government refused to comply and demanded open dialogue with the Imperial Government on Lorentis. Considering the situation, the Coronian High Senator at the time, Alexaie Vascgrift, gave the order for an emergency message to be dispatched to the illusive Eridonia Free Peoples' Fleet; of whom the government on Corona had been involved with to some degree in the decades prior. The fate of the world and its population of five billion people now hung in the balance.
The Weight of Responsibility.
The message dispatched on Old-Federal Era encrypted FTL transmissions towards the Angel's Hook Nebula was intercepted and decoded by an EPF frigate operating in the outskirts of the Corona System; which had already detected the FTL transition signatures of the Imperial Fleet and alerted the EPF Command in Old Bastion's Star.
Legendary Terran Captain, Ronin Kociero personally received the message shortly after, aboard the EPF Battlecruiser and flagship, Pathfinder, during an espionage operation in the Angel Reach. As the commander-in-chief of the EPF's armed forces, the responsibility for any decisions involving the Fleet were a burden the Old Man had to shoulder.
Over the decades after its formation, the EPF had slowly been growing in size as it secretly recruited from the former ISAR worlds in the Angel Reach; already oppressed by the Imperial Government some years after its foundation. There was no limit on young, adventurous outcasts willing to stand up to the Tyranny in Aquarius. It had grown so much that an entirely new colony was founded on Old Bastion, the small barren world orbiting the Old Bastion's Star, in the clutches of the Angel Hook Nebula. By 4460 A.D, the Eridonia Free Peoples' Fleet had formed something of an independent state, with its own Governing Council and military forces.
The time to act had come. Ronin Kociero saw great opportunity in the situation, along with enormous risks; for one, facing an Imperial Fleet in naval action directly was almost suicide without an effective countermeasure for the powerful SPARTAN-E missile system, now widely deployed in its 4th Generation by the warships of the Imperial Navy. CoRE, Pathfinder's C-AI, and a brother to Ronin, had been developing such a countermeasure for many years, with little ability to test it in a real combat situation. The time had dawned, some 52 years after the EPF made its first move in Aquarius as a resistance to the Imperial States, to stand openly against the Empire.
Ronin put forward a strategic plan to disrupt the Imperial Fleet over Corona, allowing enough time for the SPARTAN countermeasure system to be deployed on fast-moving Heritage-class frigates; theoretically shielding the world and its defence from the long-range bombardment capabilities of the Navy's RV2M-class Cruisers and the newer RE-II-Class battlecruiser which was just entering service at the time. With the SPARTAN system removed as a viable stand-off threat, the EPF's own Fleet would have a fighting chance at drawing the Imperial fleets away from the world. However, long-term plans for the survival of any potential bridge hold established by the EPF in Corona were unlikely to materialise in the face of a numerically, and largely technologically, superior enemy.
The EPF Council worried the intervention would simply lead the Imperial Navy to Old Bastion's Star, upon which the colony and its hundred-million people would be at the full mercy of ATIS. Authorisation for any such deployment would only be permitted if the Fleet committed to the Corona System started on a one-way journey, and would not return to the Angel's Hook. Of course, Captain Ronin Kociero insisted he and the Pathfinder Fleet lead the attack. The odds of success looked slim, but something had to be done in this critical moment.
Continued in Part 2.