Aethernauts - The Thrid War of the Canadas
The beginnings of the Third War of the Canadas were fairly typical by the standard of the ever ongoing conflict between The Commonwealth and the American Empire: The Empire, wracked by scandal, turned to the old standby of waging war on it s long term rival to distract the public with battle and glory. However, the Third War of the Canadas would turn out to be so much more than just a “simple” war of “bread and Circuses”; coming at a crucial moment in the ongoing aetherial Scramble, the war would spread far from its terrestrial bounds, spreading into the stars itself, the deciding battle ultimately occurring far from the lands in question. The war would see the introduction of maturation of several new weapons, the development of new styles of warfare, and saw rapid growth in aetherial military power; most importantly, it revealed just how intertwined the world was becoming, as what should have been an isolated conflict between two powers almost triggered a global conflagration.
The lead up to Third War began in 1878, as the Empire was wracked by several scandals: The Bouchard-Daft Affair had just recently resulted in the resignation of Minister of Electricity, the Palensave Scandal had brought negative press to the ongoing Social Fitness Program, a series of crashes had brought the nations rail network into crisis, and there was in general doubt about the success of the Imperial Scientific Society; support for the Crockett Government was increasingly shaky, and even the popularity of Emperor Richard IV was suffering leading to rumours that the Stuart-Calvets may have been preparing to challenge for the throne. On top of all this, the “Great Celestial Expansion” had wracked up great debt, as the cost of the massive colonisation of Ganymede and Callisto quickly outstripped any of the meagre returns coming from the colonies.
Surrounded on all side by forces of instability, Richard IV and Prime Minister Crockett turned to a tired and true method: War. Their target was what was left of the Commonwealth Canadian Territories; in the wake of the Second War of the Canadas, the Commonwealth had peen pushed to the west of the Northern Rockies, occupying a strip on Pacific coast running between Russian Alyáska
in the north and Japanese America in the south; the former territories west of the Rockies had been transformed into the Saskatchewan Protectorate, a nominally “independent” buffer state that was an imperial vassal in everything but name. Imperial business interests, who had near free reign in the protectorate an had been mercilessly exploiting its resources, had been pushing for years to drive the Commonwealth into the sea, while the Imperial Group, an prominent grouping of lectures and teachers from the Avalon Imperial War College, had been promoting the conquest of Commonwealth Canada as to completely surround Japanese America and another step closer to complete hegemony over the entirety of North America. The target seemed simple, offered new sources of resources and markets, served to further long term Imperial goals, would give the public something to cheer about and would be another blow to their long time enemy: in other words, it was perfect. Richard IV signed the order,and a quiet buildup of troops began immediately.
Unfortunately for the empire, after two hundred years of such events the Commonwealth was well aware of the signs; it was obvious the Empire would attack, and Canada seemed the perfect target. The Commonwealth Military began quiet perpetration immediately: Mountain passes were mined, new fortifications dug in, while additional troops and weapons were brought up from Australia. As well, Lord Protector Junius Duffery ordered Admiral of the Aether Hunter Marsden to draw up plans to wage wholesale war on the Empires atherial holdings; at the time, a campaign of such magnitude had never been attempted, but Marsden, at the helm of the largest fleet of atherial warcraft in history, felt confident in the ability of his forces. In the meantime, Prime Minister Roscoe Armstrong reached out to several potential allies, most successfully with the native Free Nations, a resistance group that had been operating in the Saskatchewan Protectorate, as well as planning a series of economic actions that could have had the potential to severely cripple the Empires economy.
War came, as predicted, the next year, as the Empire, supported by its “allies” the British Free State, the Kingdom of Scotland and the Kingdom of Ireland, marched troops across the Rockies, while a fleet of ships sortied from Northern California. The land campaign had a varying amount of success: Imperial mountain units managed to force some of the passes in the south, with great casualties, while strikes further north were repelled. Limited to just a few passes through the mountains, the Imperial advanced slowed as supply lines were stretched, although they were still able to take the city of Port Fairfax; the naval campaign fared better, with the Imperial Pacific Fleet destroying the Commonwealth Canadian Squadron in detail.
The Commonwealths response was immediate, but not as expected: on the 23rd of July, a flight of Imperial registered Treasure Shells carrying precious metals from Ganymede were overtaken by a Commonwealth Atherial Navy bombnaught in deep ather between Mars and Jupiter and captured complete; on the same day, two more outbound Treasure Shells and an Imperial Navy cutter were intercepted and destroyed in orbit around the moon. The Commonwealths atherial campaign had begun.
The initial attacks were a surprise to Imperial High Command, who had expected a greater response from terrestrial forces, but were regarded as aside show to the main conflict on Earth; however, while the empire continued to win slow victories on the Earth, their losses in the aether rapidly grew. The battle on Earth was not going as easy as expected either: the Commonwealth had introduced several weapons they had developed for combat in the colonies, including armoured “Crawlers” that had originally been designed for service on Mars; the Crawlers, armed with cannons and machine guns, contributed significantly to the Commonwealth victory in the Battle of Jervis.
By the end of 1879, the Commonwealth moved from simple commerce raiding to active attacks on American colonial holdings; Commonwealth Colonial Service troops launched attacks on American water mines on the Northern Martian Ice Cap, while Commonwealth marines seized the American controlled minor world of New Scilly, itself a world sized of the Five Italies in a Imperial punitive campaign six years previously. The loses occurred by the Empire in the Atherial Front were increasingly disproportionate compared to the Commonwealth,and caused great argument in the war council: the Army argued that the aetherial battles were a side show, and that the Empire could achieve victory purely on Earth, while the Navy and Science board counted that the loss of the colonies would massively outstrip any gain made from conquering Canada. Eventually it was the Emperors intervention that altered the focus of the Imperial campaign from conquest of Canada to defence of the colonies; the massive colonisation project had been Richards brainchild, and were the cornerstone of his legacy,a swell as being important to the Imperial Scientific Society.
Unfortunately for the Empire, this shift in focus did little to alleviate their losses in the aether: while the Empire had focused almost exclusively on colonisation efforts, seizing huge tracts of the other worlds, the Commonwealth had focused on the development of its Aetherial Navy, seeing control of the ather as analogous as control of the seas. The Commonwealth Aetherial Navy outnumbered the Imperial Navy three to one in bombnaughts and close to five to one in cutters and other small craft; as well, the Atherial Navy's bombnaughts included 500 inch vessels such as the Voyager
class, while the Imperial navy as limited to 300 inch craft capable of being lofted by civil stage-cannons. The massive disparity in forces caused great embarrassment to the Imperial Navy, who embarked on a crash program to develop and build a 500 inch stage-cannon in Panama to loft equivalent ships.
With the focus off the ground campaign, the battle on the coast slowed, while a new battle developed in the Saskatchewan Protectorate, as the Free Nation sparked native uprisings across the region. These uprisings threatened the Imperial supply lines, forcing them to pull back troops to police the territory. With their main supply lines threatened, the Empire attempted to negotiate with the Japanese Empire to utilise the rail lines running through Japanese America; when the Japanese refused, preferring to maintain their neutrality, an Imperial force, made up mostly of Irish and British regiments, attempted to seize the northernmost line to run supplied through to Port Fairfax; to this day, it is not know if the attack had been per-mediated, was conducted on the local units own volition, or was simply a mistake, but the results were all the same: Japan immediately declared war on the Empire, allying with the Commonwealth.
While the front on earth was expanding, the battle in the aether was starting to even out: the Imperial Navys crash construction program had seen a dozen new bombnaughts launched; while still on 300 inch, they served to even the numbers with the Commonwealth. Battles raged across the Jupiter system, both in the aether, as well as on the Jovian worlds. The Empire contracted the support of the Ghealach Brotherhood, a militant group of Martian Irish who had long been a thorn in the Commonwealths side, and set them to launching attacks throughout the red planet; at the same time, the Commonwealth made contact with the Free Sons of Ganymede, a rebel army made up of convict colonists, and instigated a rebellion in three of the Ganymede colonies. The rapid growth, the constant fighting in the colonies and the ongoing threat of Commonwealth commerce raiders had put a great strain on the Imperial economy, with collapse only being put off by continuous emergency measures.
While it appeared the Empire had been getting all the bad luck in the conflict, The Commonwealth was suffering too: while better prepared for an aetherial war, it still put a strain n it economy, while all the focus of effort left the door open to other forces to take advantage, first and foremost being the French and Austrians, who challenged to Glass Tax on Mars and attempted to tear down the customs line. The Ottomans and Brazil both took an opportunity to seize control of several minor worlds,as well as claim several Venusian floating islands, while Prussia actively countered Commonwealth attempts to completely control the Martian Ice Pack; this conflict would eventually lead to Prussia declaring war on The Commonwealth, allying with the Empire, which resulted in the Union of Germanic Kingdoms, concerned with Prussian aggression, allying with the Commonwealth; this would result in Prussia launching an attack on German holdings over Venus, which would inadvertently draw in the Spanish Republic, which sided in The Commonwealth, which resulted in the Empire launching an invasion of the Republic of the Floridas, a Spanish ally. After all this, the Korean Empire, sensing chance to strike while its greatest enemy, the Japanese,were distracted, also allied with the Empire, launching attacks on the Home Islands as well as against Japanese holdings on Mercury. Half the world was now at war.
By 1881 exhaustion was starting to show: the aether had been stalemated, the Commonwealths superior ships being counted by the Empires superior industrial capability, while the ground war, almost forgotten, had ground to a halt, the one new change when an attempt to flank the Commonwealth forces Fromm the north resulted in an Imperial force accidental attacking a Russian village, drawing the Union of All Russia into the war allied with the Commonwealth. A rebellion in the Quebec Protectorate, instigated by the French Empire, caused further setbacks, as more troops had to be recalled to put down the uprising.
Looking to break the stalemate any way possible, the Commonwealth turned to economic warfare; risking a major hit to the economy, the Commonwealth Government banned the sale of Mercury and Sulphuric acid to any business or outfit that might eventually sell on to powers “deemed hostile to the Commonwealth”; at the time, The Commonwealth produced seventy percent of they worlds mercury; essential to the mercury boilers that were used for generating power from the sun; and fifty percent of the worlds Sulphuric acid, used in the fuel cells and atherirte charges that powered many aethercraft. Through wholesale to a number of global firms, the Commonwealth was inadvertently providing the Empire with nearly two-thirds its annual requirement of the two materials, an oversight which had become apparent upon an in depth investigation of potential economic weapons. The embargo effectively halted the Empires military construction, and put server limits on its fleets, as their fuel supplies had to be carefully rationed.
The Commonwealth embargo was the major turning point of the war: with their enemies fleets trapped in port, the Commonwealth Aether Navy ranged far and wide, overwhelming the Imperial forces wherever they found them. Through a combination of combat and fuel shortages, the Imperial military presence around Jupiter was whittled away, until finally the flagship of the Imperial Jovian Fleet, HMS Enterprise
, was destroyed by the Commonwealth bombnaught CNS Vampire,
leaving the Jovian colonies completely at the the commonwealths mercy. Distraught at the possible loss of “his” colonies, Richard IV ordered his forces to cease operations, and instructed his government to sue for peace; the Armistice of Manila was signed four days latter, ending the war.
With the Commonwealth in undisputed control of Jupiter, it dictated the terms of peace: The Empire was to withdraw from Commonwealth Canada, and the Saskatchewan Protectorate was to be granted its actual independence; as well, the Ganymede colonies seized by the Free Sons of Ganymede were to be granted independence as a Commonwealth Protectorate. Japan demanded, and received, Oriacion Territory, expanding their American possessions southward, while the Russians only requested monetary remuneration for the destruction cause to their Alyáska
territory; other nations would sign their own treaties. It wasn't all loss for the Empire: the failed rebellion in Quebec was all excuse the Empire needed to forcefully integrate the Protectorate into a full domain of the Empire, while their conquest of Florida was complete. These gains, however, were little comfort in the face of the colossal debt and loss of face the Empire had experienced: for the first time in sixty years, it had been defeated by its oldest enemy, and near overwhelmingly so.
The unpreparedness of the Imperial Navy to contest the aether, as well as the embarrassment the revelation their enemy had been supplying much of their most critical resources for years, were too much for the proud people of the Empire, who demanded someone be held accountable: Richard IV obliged them, firing Crockett and his entire government and effectively ending the Imperial Scientific Society. This attempt to deflect all the blame was ultimately not enough; he was dethroned two year later, challenged and replaced by Charles V of the Stuart-Calvets. With the end of the Imperial Scientific Society came great upheavals in Imperial society, as the new framework upon which their nation was being built was torn away and exposed, revealing dark horrors an unimaginable crimes that would almost lead to civil war; many of those closest to the the top, Richard IV included, were ultimately exiled.
The Commonwealth, on the other hand, exulted in its victory; it was now the undisputed power of the cosmos, with unmatched military force and economic power. Its tactics of aether control and intercept revolutionised war in the aether, and dircetly led to the start of the aether arms race; although it was top dog now, that position would be challenged by others, with France, Brazil and the Ottomans all waiting in the wings. Having shown the way, the Commonwealth would ultimately find it expensive to stay at the top, its victory ultimately trapping it in a seemingly never ending cycle of military and colonial expansion, as it desperately attempted to avoid befalling the same fate that had lead to their greatest victory over their oldest foe.