Scarlet Seas, Crimson Banners: An Illustrated Setting

Discussion in 'Alternate History Maps and Graphics' started by Color-Copycat, Dec 23, 2017.

  1. Color-Copycat Well-Known Member

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    [​IMG]

    The illustration depicts the view from the flag bridge of the cruiser "Pretoria". Visible out the port side are the corvette "Karoo Wind", the cruiser "Majuba", and accompanying aerial scoutcraft, comprising the Squadron Dingaan. This division of the Fleet Republic Vryheid plies the trade routes of the Southern Hemisphere and is depicted off the coast of Tianlong's Rest, a prosperous Diong-Gok archipelago that lies in the shadow of an ancient interstellar wrecksite.

    The Fleet Republic Vryheid is just one of the many nomadic Berger republics that endlessly cruise over the vast mudflat steppes and flooded alluvial plains that sprawl across the entire surface of Shindai, the second and only inhabitable planet of the Corvus system. Unlike the throngs of Diong-Gok clans who constitute the vast majority of the global population, the far less numerous Bergervolk are extraordinarily recent arrivals on Shindai, their forebears having first set foot on the planet just three centuries before as the ultimate culmination of a tortuous exodus across the stars.

    When the Dissolution Wars triggered the fragmentary collapse of mankind's spacefaring civilization and the abrupt halt of the interstellar shipping routes, the ancestors of the Bergervolk were stranded far out among the asteroid mining outposts and orbital ore processing stations of Beyers' Reach, a remote and uninhabitable system located on the bleak and empty frontier of deep space. Their very isolation on the fringe of interstellar civilization, however, initially insulated the Afrikander mining crews of Beyers' Reach from the worst excesses of the Dissolution Wars. Signed on for seven year rotations with the ZAMKOR mining conglomerate, the technicians, contractors, tug pilots, security officers, and corporate executives stationed at Beyers' Reach were at first unfazed by the sudden halt of resupply shipments and replacement personnel to their remote system with the outbreak of the Wars. But as the permanent wartime transit blockades in neighboring systems prolonged their isolation, the tension and unrest began simmering among the mining crews of Beyers' Reach as the weeks turned into months, and the months turned into years. The boiling point was reached when a convoy of badly damaged troopships limped into the system, carrying disheartening news of the ongoing wars and a decimated demi-brigade of mutinous Foreign Legionnaires. Bled dry by a decade of torturous campaigning among the primitive backwater worlds of the French nebulary territories, these hardbitten veterans had deposed their officers and, in the confusion of a general retreat, commandeered transports for the long voyage home. With the docking of their battered vessels at the primary ore processing station of Beyers' Reach, the sudden arrival of these war weary men and women and their mutinous mood proved an infectious catalyst for the restless ZAMKOR miners, who followed the Legionnaires' rebellious example. Practically overnight, the ZAMKOR corporate hierarchy was toppled, with the company employees seizing control of the various stations and outposts. The mutineers' self-elected leaders declared, in light of the diminishing ration stockpiles and the vanishingly small likelihood of further resupply, their intent to join the Legionnaires for the long voyage back to inhabited space. Better to make it back to civilization and be charged with breach of contract before a corporate tribunal than to starve and asphyxiate among the airless planetoids and asteroid belts of Beyers' Reach, they reasoned.

    The Great Exodus began with the loading of all salvageable company goods and property onto the "Springbok", a decommissioned interstellar ore hauler that had been docked in Beyers' Reach since the outbreak of the Wars. One by one, the ZAMKOR outposts and stations of Beyers' Reach were emptied of their crews, who piled aboard the "Springbok", joined by the Legionnaires, whose war weary ships were themselves unlikely to survive any further stresses of interstellar flight. Nevertheless, the cannibalized components and modules of the Legionnaires' ships proved enough to bring the critical systems of the "Springbok" back online, an invaluable contribution without which the exodus could not have proceeded. The ZAMKOR executives and administrators were the last to grudgingly leave their posts and board the "Springbok", still smarting at the employee mutiny and the simultaneous seizure and abandonment of so much valuable company property. At last the entire population of the system and much of its material wealth had been loaded into the cavernous cargo holds and crew quarters of the "Springbok", and with the ignition of the ore hauler's sublight drives, mankind bade a final farewell to the remote desolation of Beyers' Reach.

    The self-elected leaders of the Great Exodus had plotted a preliminary course back to the nearest inhabited system but on arrival found those worlds utterly devoid of life. Where thriving, prefab frontier settlements had once stood, only blackened ruins and burnt bodies remained. The terraformed atmospheres of these worlds had been burned away, and all around the system drifted the detritus and wreckage of savage orbital battles. Disheartened but not defeated, the miners and Legionnaires salvaged what they could from the smoldering hulks and blasted ruins and moved on. The next system told the same story, as did the following three. Once vibrant hubs of trade and interstellar travel, all turned into ashes and dust by the all-consuming fires of the Dissolution Wars. No survivors, no habitable worlds, only silent skeletal ruins and spacewrecks left for the lonely miners and Legionnaires to pick over for what could be salvaged. Left with the shattering conclusion that perhaps all the Outer Rim territories had been depopulated by the devastating conflagration of the Dissolution Wars, the leaders of the Great Exodus plotted a new course for the Solar territories, the beating heart of mankind's interstellar civilization, following the path of the old Eastern Trade Route and salvaging what they could from the ruined worlds along the way.

    A voyage that should have taken months at worst on conventional jump drives stretched into years due to the painfully slow sublight drives of the "Springbok", an intrastellar vessel that had never been intended for the longhaul trade routes. Even worse, the ship had been designed with a skeleton crew of just twenty in mind, so there was no chance of the ship's handful of hypersleep chambers accommodating the combined total of 600 Legionnaires and 3000 miners and shielding them from the ravages of time. Thus the ship's inhabitants gradually resigned themselves to the arduous realities of the seemingly endless voyage, and so it came to pass that an entire generation was born and reared aboard the "Springbok". These youths, born of steely Legionnaire blood, hardy Afrikander miner stock, or an admixture of both, knew nothing else but a transient life among the stars. Where their parents saw the shattered spacewrecks and blasted worlds of the Outer Rim as the bonechilling remains of the old world, the youths saw those same wrecks and ruins as romantic reminders of a golden age that they had never known and, besides that, lucrative sources of the invaluable technological relics that were necessary to keep their ship in good repair. Regardless of their parents' origins, be they from the war weary ranks of the Legionnaires, the snobbish elite of ZAMKOR's Kapenaar corporate executives, or the lowly miners and technicians of the company's Boer contractors, the new generation knew only the shared hardships of a life spent salvaging supplies and sustenance from the broken and blasted ruins of an older era, and from that they took their demonym. They called themselves Bergers, meaning "salvagers" in the Afrikander tongue of both miners and the assimilated descendants of Legionnaires, and their entire existence was spent endlessly journeying towards a home out among the stars that they knew only through the distant memories of their parents: a faraway place called Africa from which Kapenaar, Boer, and Legionnaire had all hailed from before the fall of civilization. The Bergers kept these fragile legends and half-remembered memories alive as the keystones of their birthright, gleaning whatever else they could from the fragmentary collections of texts and video archives that their forefathers had brought aboard the "Springbok".

    But the Great Exodus was brought to a sudden and unexpected halt after 81 shipboard years (three centuries for the outside world, adjusting for time dilation) of near continuous sublight travel, just two weeks after the last living survivor of the pre-Exodus days had breathed her last. Upon reaching the outer limits of the Corvus system, the trusty sublight drives of the "Springbok", perhaps sensing the sorrowful passing of that last loyal companion on their decades' long journey, succumbed for the last time to a critical system failure that the Bergers traced to the battered ore hauler's aging fusion power core. Concerned but unperturbed, the Bergers expended the last reserves of their maneuvering propellant to bring their vessel into high orbit around the second and largest planet of the Corvus system, safely out of reach of the space debris field the Bergers had come to expect from every one of the dead and abandoned worlds they had encountered.

    But below them lay a world unlike any that they had hithertofore seen. The planet of Shindai was, at a cursory glance, seemingly unmarred by the ravages of the Dissolution Wars that had been the ruin of every other formerly inhabited world of the 23 systems the Bergers had passed on their long journey from Beyers' Reach. Shintai had a breathable atmosphere, abundant amounts of water, nitrogen, carbon, and all the other key ingredients of life. But most shockingly of all, Shindai was marked by unmistakeable signs of active human habitation. Even with their low resolution orbital survey scopes, the Bergers could plainly see the flickering nighttime glow of cooking fires and fuel-burning lamps from the sparse and scrawny settlements clustered about the slopes and foothills of the scattered archipelagos of rock that slightly rose from the flooded plains and mudflat steppe of the northern hemisphere. The southern hemisphere, though clouded and obscurred here and there by the seasonal storms specific to that time of year, also flickered with unmistakeable weblike networks of electric illumination at times. And after the shock of realizing for the first time that they were not alone in the universe had worn off, indeed, it was the southern hemisphere that drew the Bergervolk's greatest attention, for there the orbital survey scans had revealed a veritable treasure trove of riches.

    Stretching for hundreds of kilometers across the vast mudflat steppes of the southern hemisphere, rusting cyclopean hulks of twisted and burnt spacewreck lay half-buried in the silt and mud, marking the final resting place for the battle fleets of two great interstellar powers that clashed in high orbit above Shindai three centuries before. The battle had been the last suicidal gasp of a dying civilization, and in an earlier war would have rated as only a minor skirmish between frontier patrol squadrons, but it was probably one of the final desperate actions of the Dissolution Wars and undoubtedly the biggest clash of military might that the backwater agricultural world of Shindai had ever seen. Punctured and torn by beam blasts and kinetic projectile impacts, the shattered and fragmentary skeletons of nearly thirty frigates and destroyers littered the southern hemisphere of Shindai in a debris field that stretched from equator to pole, the rusting wreckage further scarred by atmospheric reentry and deformed by planetary impact. Mixed in among this veritable spacewreck graveyard were the remains of a handful of even larger vessels; dreadnoughts, battlecruisers, carriers, and other capital-class ships, in their heyday, perhaps, the flagships of the doomed fleets of Shindai.

    It was here that the Bergers saw the salvation of their people and the key to their long journey home. Although the delicate jump drives and warp engines of the wrecked battle fleets were unlikely to have survived reentry and planetary impact, there were strong but dispersed residual energy signatures emanating from the all over the southern hemisphere, indicating the survival of at least one or more active reactor cores. These reactor cores, armored with hardened shielding and stabilizers to withstand the worst rigors of battle damage and catastrophic failure, could, once recovered, restore full power to the "Springbok" and complete the Great Exodus.

    Unfortunately the same shielding that had preserved any surviving reactors from the shock of planetary impact would conceal them from long range scanning, and with thousands of wrecksites dotting the planet, the search for an active reactor core would clearly be the work of years if not decades. In light of the inexorably deteriorating state of the core systems of the "Springbok" now that the vessel was running on emergency power reserves, the Bergervolk realized they had no choice but to land and seek their fortunes among the mudflat steppes of Shindai.

    In the last final weeks as the emergency power reserves of the "Springbok" drained towards empty, the Bergers frantically launched weather sats, topographical survey scanners, GPS modules, relay comm sats, and every other possible piece of orbital infrastructure they could retrieve from the decades of salvage that had accumulated in the cargo holds of the "Springbok". Aboard the vessel, the cavernous loading decks of the shuttlecraft were filled with every manner of ground and air vehicle that could be scrounged from the various hangars of the "Springbok", chief among them the great surface transports that had once been used as tractor engines for the planetary ore trains. The first landings were not a particularly momentous occasion, given the pressing need to rapidly shuttle all vehicles, supplies, and personnel from orbit to surface before the "Springbok" lost all power. But when the final flight of shuttlecraft arrived at the designated landing zone in the misty equatorial dawn, the Bergervolk were at last able to revel in the sheer magnitude of their feat and the vastness of the desolate mudflat steppe that stretched from horizon to endless horizon.

    After a generation spent crammed aboard the stifling confines of the "Springbok", the Bergers found the unending openness of the new world a perfect salve to decades of pent-up restlessness and the countless personal disputes and rivalries that had arisen from a lifetime of close-quarters living. The Bergers almost immediately began fracturing along family lines as they organized into the convoys of surface vehicles and prospecting scoutcraft that would carry them across the vast flooded plains of the new world. Without the shared duties and dangers of shipboard life to bind them together, there was nothing the old guard of the Berger leaders could do to prevent the fragmentation of their people into the dozens of family clans and hereditary factions that had survived the long journey across the stars. For though the Bergers had been united in the challenges and travails of their interstellar voyage, they never entirely forgot their disparate origins as Legionnaires divided by unit, corporate administrators divided by pay grade, and mining contractors divided by crew. Nevertheless, recognizing their shared vulnerability on an alien world and their common goal of acquiring an active reactor core with which to complete the Great Exodus begun by their forefathers, the Bergers finally managed to hammer out a loose form of unity under the banner of what they came to call the Vierkleur Konfederasie, the Four Color Confederation, during the last days spent unloading vehicles and supplies at the landing zone. Sharing the same network of communications and survey satellites, the Berger clans all swore to meet on an annual basis to share new findings and to come to one another's aid should the call arise. The eponymous four color flag they agreed to fly from their vehicles recalled the four pre-Exodus tribes of the Bergervolk; orange and blue for the two Boer tribes (Vrystaaters and Vaalpasche respectively), white for the Kapenaars, and green for the Legionnaires, but it was not long before the republican banners and insignia of the splintered families and clans began to wave proudly alongside that of the Four Color Confederation.

    The roots of their rudimentary alliance and clannish republics thus established, the Berger convoys turned their eyes to the horizon and began dispersing to all corners of the compass. With only a few weeks of meteorological data on hand and thus unable to forecast or predict the paths of the violent seasonal storms that scoured the flooded plains of Shindai, the Bergers valued the mobility granted them by their vehicle-borne convoys, keeping them one step ahead of the storms as they ventured from their equatorial landing sites towards their first confrontations with the old nations of the new world.
     
  2. ST15RM Ich bin ein AH.commer!

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    cool
     
  3. Color-Copycat Well-Known Member

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    [​IMG]

    The southern hemisphere of Shindai is home to a fractured network of warring states whose roots were forged in the cataclysmic orbital battle that extinguished the light of spacefaring civilization in the Corvus system. Even as the last of the crippled dreadnoughts and starcruisers began their death ride into the upper atmosphere of Shindai, the first shots of a new war were already ringing out across the smoldering debris fields on the planetary surface below. All across the scattered mudflat steppes of Shindai's barren southern hemisphere, the bloodied survivors of the embattled fleets clambered out of their blackened escape capsules and reentry pods to continue with carbine and machine-pistol what had begun with hyperkinetic impact projectile and broadside missile barrage. But without any way of retaining coordinated command and control over the widely dispersed pockets of survivors, it was not long before the desperate struggle devolved into a barbarous and merciless slaughter, with roaming bands of survivors preying on former compatriots and comrades in pursuit of ever dwindling packages of emergency rations and supplies. Savage chaos reigned for ten years, as the starving remnants of the great fleets fought on foot over the scattered farmsteads and aquaculture plots of the sparsely populated southern hemisphere, much to the misfortune of the hapless colonists, many of whom fled north to their ancestral corporate heartlands, preferring to brave the terrors of the equatorial storms rather than endure any more suffering at the hands of the ravenous off-world hordes. But gradually a kind of order emerged from the bloody butchery of the south, as the strongest and hardest rose to the fore, planting their banners upon what they now saw as rightfully theirs.

    Among the phoenixes to rise from the ashes was the Texacor Battalion. Spearheaded by the battle-hardened survivors of the only ICA Aerospace Marine Corps assault group to reach Shindai planetary surface with less than eighty percent casualties, the Texacor Battalion was able to rapidly consolidate a position of strength among the windswept crags and peaks of the Liang-Gao Archipelago. From their hilltop bunker strongholds and fortified trench lines, Texacoran combat teams were able to hold off countless waves of hostile Red remnants flying the banners of the old Combined People's Liberation Fleet despite the daunting threat of being outnumbered and outgunned. The fortuitous survival of colonial hydroponics infrastructure in the Archipelago enabled the Texacor Battalion to support the absorption of numerous desperate bands of their former compatriots from the ICA Joint Task Force. Within a decade, the Texacor Battalion was strong enough to launch punitive deep strike raids into the heartlands of Red remnant territory. By this time, however, the Texacor Battalion's attentions were diverted from the Red remnants as a potentially greater threat had materialized in the form of a vast conglomeration of ICA survivors united beneath the standard of the Fleet Commodore. Proclaiming himself the supreme emergency administrator of all legal and military prerogatives of the Interstellar Commerce Authority and enforcing his mandate to rule through an elite detachment of Joint Fleet IntelSec operatives, the Fleet Commodore impressed thousands of desperate ICA veterans into his self styled Provisional Interstellar Authority and demanded that the Texacor Battalion likewise submit and join, for the addition of such a wealth of arms, munitions, and agriculture would significantly strengthen the Fleet Commodore's hand in his ongoing campaigns against the Red remnants. However, the ruling junta of Texacoran officers refused the ultimatum, insisting that their hard-won stockpiles of priceless supplies were not to be wasted on a fruitless campaign of extermination against an already defeated enemy. Furthermore, the Texacoran junta challenged the legitimacy of the Fleet Commodore's claim to supreme military authority and command, as the ICA Joint Task Force had been so thoroughly decimated by the great orbital slaughter that it was impossible to account for a complete line of succession in which a mere cruiser squadron captain could rise to take the office of Fleet Commodore. With ultimatum rejected, the armies of the Fleet Commodore's Provisional Interstellar Authority swiftly encircled and besieged the holdings of the Texacor Battalion, but every assault was vigorously repelled time and again with heavy loss. As the cost of the simultaneous campaigns against the Texacor Battalion and the Red remnants steadily drained his armies of irreplaceable manpower and materiel, the Fleet Commodore was forced to suspend the repeated offensive thrusts against the Texacoran strongholds and call off the campaign entirely when a particularly severe seasonal storm cluster descended from the equator to devastate the southern hemisphere.

    By the time the storms had cleared, the balance of power in the south had shifted in favor of the Red remnants, whose shock brigades now ranged freely once more across the flooded alluvial plains, diverting the attention of the Provisional Interstellar Authority. The Texacor Battalion had survived its most decisive trial and was thenceforth to remain a permanent and powerful presence in the heart of the south.

    The illustration depicts a lieutenant colonel of the Texacor Battalion. Although the commissioned officer class of the Texacor Battalion is a hereditary aristocracy largely descended from the Battalion's founding cohort of ICA Marine and Task Force Fleet officers, battlefield casualties typically ensure that only the competent survive to command. In contrast, the ancient American Marine ethos of total meritocracy lives on among the Texacoran enlisted and noncom classes, who consist of volunteers drawn from the Texacoran occupied territories. The lieutenant colonel depicted is armed with an M11 Rifle Carbine of pre-Collapse vintage and a ceremonial Mameluke officer's sword of modern manufacture. The M12 helmet and M35 battle dress uniform are also of pre-Collapse vintage, though with modern modifications and additions including the rain cloak. Despite centuries of wear and heavy usage, the Texacor Battalion fields a substantial amount of pre-Collapse materiel and equipment due to careful repair and maintenance supplemented by salvage and recovery of pre-Collapse supply caches from surveyed interstellar wrecksites.
     
  4. CtrlAltHistory bleeding heart

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    This is really cool! I hope it gets some more publicity, cause this is good wordbuilding and great drawing!
     
  5. Color-Copycat Well-Known Member

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    There is still one more illustration-text set in the pipeline nearing completion, but after that it will be a longer time to get successive sets finished as it will be working entirely from blank canvas and page, as it were.
     
    CtrlAltHistory likes this.
  6. Color-Copycat Well-Known Member

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    Since the day the Bergervolk first set foot on the flooded alluvial plains of Shindai, the success of their nomadic existence was entirely dependent on the mobility granted to them by the wealth of technology that had survived their nigh century-long exodus across the stars. In the vast cargo holds of the great interstellar ore freighter that brought them to Shindai, the forefathers of the Bergervolk had loaded nearly the entire corporate inventory of the remote ZAMKOR mining outposts from whence they came. Fortuitously for their descendants, this stock of seized corporate assets included a fleet of nearly three hundred Ossewa-class heavy transport vehicles.

    These lumbering titans of steel and polymer had their origins in the golden age of interstellar expansion that preceded the Wars of Dissolution. Originally commissioned and manufactured by ARMSCOR Heavy Industries as a military logistics transport for counterinsurgency operations in the Argentine extrasolar territories, the entire production batch of Blesbok-class heavy lifters was left without a buyer when the Argentine Trade Bloc was subjected to corporate embargo by the Interstellar Commerce Authority. After nearly a decade sitting in storage, the entire mothballed production line was purchased at significant discount by the ZAMKOR mining conglomerate, whose engineering division refitted and retooled the obsolete Blesbok-class chassis into what eventually became the Ossewa-class transport. Pressed into corporate service as a multipurpose utility vehicle in the Outer Rim territories, the Ossewa-class excelled as a mobile mining rig, logistical support craft, and heavy surface hauler on many a world and airless moon whose mineral extraction rights had been acquired by ZAMKOR.

    Three centuries later and in the service of descendants of mutinous ZAMKOR renegades, a sizable portion of the original Ossewa fleet continues to demonstrate the enduring utility of the design in roles and environments that its architects could never have imagined. To this day, many of the Berger fleet republics and nomad clans of Shindai still rely on the Ossewa as the workhorses of their mobile convoys. For the first hundred years after the Bergervolk made landfall on Shindai, the Ossewa-class transports were their undisputed key to survival on the mudflat steppes of their new world. With each Berger clan plotting its own course across the desolate, windswept landscape of the equatorial wastes in search of useful salvage, the faithful Ossewa served as the mobile homestead for every Berger family, traversing the varied terrain of the planetary surface with relative ease. Shallow seas, salt flats, sandbanks, and mudflats proved no major obstacle to the early Berger pioneers who helmed each Ossewa. The devastating equatorial storms systems that spell doom and total destruction for any locally constructed vessel are minor inconveniences to the sturdily constructed Ossewa, which can survive any maelstrom intact, provided it is properly anchored and battened down beforehand. The standard suite of sensor and satellite arrays mounted high up on the superstructure of each Ossewa enabled Berger explorers to confidently navigate debris fields that would frenzy even the best of locally constructed magnetic compasses. Its fusion powerplant and photovoltaic arrays could sustain a small squadron of rechargeable motor craft and mechanized salvaging equipment, and there was plenty of stowage capacity aboard each transport for the storage of goods, expansion of living quarters, and construction of subsistence hydroponics facilities. Requiring only a skeleton crew of one pilot-driver and as few as two technicians to operate, the Ossewa's reliability, ease of maintenance, and multitude of automated systems ensured that the vehicles could remain in service down many generations of Berger ownership.

    Early on in the diffuse expansion of the Bergervolk across the steppes of Shindai, it became common practice for the families and clans to consolidate their Ossewa into convoys for mutual aid and protection. Grouped together by bonds of familial lineage, friendship, or pragmatic alliances of convenience, the emerging Berger nomad republics and splinter states found that the optimal Ossewa convoy consisted of three or more vehicles traveling in loose formation. Should one Ossewa founder in crossing a shallow coastal sea or loose its traction in the quagmire of a waterlogged mudflat, the simple arithmetic of physics and engine horsepower dictated that two Ossewa would be required to tow its immobilized companion to safety. Thus the mobile laager, or "laer" in the Afrikander tongue, was born. Berger clans grouped into laager-republics and other such convoys benefited from the coordination of their salvaging operations, being able to more quickly and efficiently strip an interstellar wrecksite before rival clans could contest their salvage claims. In times of war, too, the laager proved its use by doubling as the basic fighting unit of the nascent Berger fleet republics. Depending on prevailing wind and course of pursuit, a determined squadron of Djong-Kok battle-junks, Freeporter raiding skiffs, or Kommersant gun-clippers could overtake an Ossewa convoy trundling along at maximum speed, forcing even the least martial of Berger captains to halt and give battle. Essentially a defensive formation in nature, the laager allowed its constituent Ossewa to cover one another with overlapping fields of fire that ensured no point along their defensive perimeter would be neglected. From the upper decks of each Ossewa, the Bergers aboard could lay down a continuous barrage of massed geweer and auto-fusil fire that would deter most boarders and neutralize the hostile gun crews of pursuing vessels.

    Over the next two centuries as the older nations of Shindai began to adapt to Berger tactics and the nomadic Berger clans found slimmer and slimmer pickings among the increasingly depleted debris fields and wrecksites, the laager began to show signs of its age and obsolescence in a more modern age. Due to developments in locally constructed artillery and firearms, the once impenetrable Ossewa is now threatened by armor-piercing jingals and hypervelocity musketry which can cause havoc aboard an Ossewa if allowed to close within effective range of a Berger laager. In conjunction with the proper tactics, this meant the laager could no longer guarantee total protection against the depredations of a hostile and competent foe. For the first time in living memory, no less than three mobile laagers were defeated in open battle by nations that the Bergervolk had once derided as technological primitives. As news of the staggering triple defeat at Cape Wrath began to spread panic among the Berger republics, their leaders called for an emergency council and convened under the banner of the old Vierkleur Konfederasie. After much discussion and deliberation, a path was forged to the ultimate preservation of the Bergervolk.

    The solution to the crisis was the joint construction of a radically new fleet of Berger vessels in the secluded sanctuary of the Great Southern Salt Flats. For many months, laagers from all across Shindai made the long voyage to the far south, bringing an entire year's harvest of salvaged debris to contribute to the great construction program taking shape in the forests of temporary scaffold rigging that had sprung up in the midst of the salted desert. A completely new class of vessels was being constructed, like none that Shindai had seen since the fall of interstellar civilization. Incorporating intact anti-grav propulsion systems salvaged from a handful of fortuitously preserved interstellar wrecks and rigged with speed-boosting photovoltaic sails, these new surface cruisers were swifter and faster than the stolid old Ossewa-class transports while just as capable of traversing the varied planetary terrain. Although they could not weather an equatorial storm anywhere near as well as the old Ossewa, the new surface cruisers did not need to, for they could outrun any storm that might cross their path. In fleet combat too, they were superior to the old Ossewa, as the new vessels were armed with kinetic impact accelerators fashioned from salvaged electromagnet arrays, completely out-ranging the inferior artillery fielded by the older nations of Shindai and capable of delivering heavier payloads, too.

    But for all their strategic and tactical superiority, the new vessels that had been assembled in the salted wastes were ultimately the product of a less technologically advanced age than that which had manufactured the Ossewa in their identical thousands on an automated production line. Even with the total cannibalization of their old Ossewa and the painstaking pooling of valuable material salvage and closely guarded technical knowledge, only the most prosperous of Berger republics could construct a full squadron of the new surface cruisers, and as many as five or six of the smaller Berger clans working in conjunction might only produce one or two of the new ships. Thus were many of the old clans and splinter republics forced to combine or absorbed, and just as well, as the new vessels required crews much larger than the old Ossewa, lacking many of the automated systems and controls that could not be replicated in this fallen age.

    The social upheaval caused by the construction of the surface cruiser fleet was matched by an economic revolution as well. While many of the Bergervolk had dabbled in a little profitable trading among the Djong-Kok city states as a side endeavor during their cross-planet salvage expeditions, their lumbering Ossewa had never been able to really compete in the commercial trade routes against the swift corporate clippers of the Kommersant. The construction of the surface cruisers changed all that, allowing the Berger republics fielding such vessels to dominate the old trade routes by carrying bulk cargoes in quantities and at speeds that had hitherto been the uncontested domain of the Kommersant merchant fleet. For the new Berger fleets, the traditional practice of wrecksite salvage was rapidly eclipsed in profitability by the burgeoning trade in global commerce. With cavernous holds brimming full of such exotic cargoes as tea bricks, textile rolls, and krillcake, the surface cruisers plied new seas and flood plains, amassing wealth beyond imagination.

    But for those Berger clans left behind by the commercial revolution, either unwilling to let go of the laager way of life or unable to afford the exorbitant cost and expense of constructing a surface cruiser flotilla, the Ossewa remained the workhorse of their nomadic existence as it had for generations of their forefathers. In time, these backwards clans still clinging to the old ways came to be regarded with disdain by their more sophisticated cousins, who disparagingly referred to the salvager yokels as "Orbitaalers", for in mannerism and appearance they seemed closer to the first generation of Berger pioneers who came down from orbit than their modern descendants who commanded the swift cruiser fleets. Whereas the Bergers of the modern fleets had begun to adopt gaudy elements of Corporate high fashion and military culture from their frequent commercial contacts with the Kommersant, the so-called "Orbitaalers" continued to dress in the same hard-wearing coveralls and EVA suits of their forefathers and fight in the same old fashion, too. Unfazed by the half-joking moniker, the Orbitaalers adopted it as a defiant badge of pride, a sign of their faithful preservation of their forefathers' legacy and mission. As their predecessors had before them, the steadfast Orbitaalers continue to scour the wastes for undiscovered wrecksites and untouched debris fields, in search of the ever elusive active reactor core that had brought their forefathers down from orbit three centuries ago. Now, though, their salvaging activities are confined to the storm-wracked equatorial latitudes, where there are still unearthed wrecks to be found and the titanic hurricane-maelstrom discourage even the most foolhardy of pirate raiders.

    Although greatly withdrawn from the affairs of the modern commercial fleets of the Bergervolk, the Orbitaalers do not shun all contact with their increasingly divergent cousins. Whenever an Orbitaaler laager and a Berger fleet republic share a port of call, it is not uncommon for a few adventurous Orbitaaler youths to desert their backwater clans to sail aboard a Berger surface cruiser for a few seasons. Indeed, some Orbitaaler clans, linked by ties of kinship or strategic alliance to a modern Berger fleet republic, send their first sons and daughters to apprentice with the bridge crews of surface cruisers in order to learn something of modern fleet tactics and operations before returning to share their knowledge with their ancestral clans. Beyond these technical exchanges, formal commercial and military partnerships are quite lucrative as well. Berger fleet republics carry prime Orbitaaler salvage to the ever hungry markets of the Kommersant and beyond, and joint Berger-Orbitaaler punitive expeditions provide the strong striking arm for many of the Vierkleur Konfederasie's military reprisals.

    Though they cling to the old ways, the Orbitaalers themselves are not exempt from change. In their equatorial isolation, they find themselves in increasingly regular contact with the peoples of the Djong-Kok archipelago states and the tribes of corporate fugitives who populate those desolate latitudes. Djong-Kok and corporate fugitive laborers are regularly recruited in the hundreds by shorthanded Orbitaaler captains who anticipate a busy salvaging season. Among the more isolated frontier clans, intermingling with the local sedentary populations is not unknown, with some Orbitaaler clans of heterogeneous blood rising to own full salvage shares and even command laagers.

    Nevertheless, in the essence of their ways and at the heart of their culture, the steadfast Orbitaalers are determined to live as their forefathers had before them, secluded but not insulated from the winds of change that stand poised to shift the balance of power between the great fleets of Shindai.

    [​IMG]

    The illustration depicts the view from the exterior of the forward control cabin of the "Suikerbos", an Ossewa-class heavy transport vehicle. In the background, visible from left to right are the Ossewa-class vehicles "Sidi Bel Abbes", "Stormberg Junction", and "Thaba 'Nchu", accompanied by motorized escort craft. Together, all four Ossewa comprise the entirety of the Laer-Staat Paardekraal, an Orbitaaler mobile laager that scours the equatorial wastes in search of fresh debris fields unearthed by the powerful storm systems that ravage those latitudes. A pristine wreck site has just been surveyed from a distance as the laager crews prepare for salvaging operations. The Orbitaaler standing on the roof of the control cabin uses a high-power electronic scope to scan the horizon for any other mobile laagers that might contest the salvage claim. The traditional geweer, or rifle, is more for show than practical defense here, as hostile foreign raiders are unlikely to penetrate this far into the equatorial wastes and disputes with rival laagers are usually settled by negotiation. Fabricated from archival blueprints of a pre-Collapse antique weapon, the standard geweer is nonetheless far superior to the muzzle-loading blackpowder firearms employed by the majority of infantry levies that would be encountered on Shindai. The sjambok, or bamboo whip, was once carried as an unofficial badge of rank among Orbitaaler captains but is now a common fashion accessory, and it serves a practical purpose as a crowd control tool during shore leaves spent in the teeming alleyways and crowded streets of the Djong-Kok city states.
     
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2017
  7. CtrlAltHistory bleeding heart

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    Sep 12, 2015
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    Mississippi
    What program do you use? Your art style is pretty unique-looking.
     
  8. Color-Copycat Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2010
    Location:
    make america great again
    It is called GIMP 2.8, aka the poor man's Photoshop. It is not very popular for map making because it does not have a good system for vectors. I think even Paint.net has most if not all the features of GIMP these days, so it is getting a little inferior compared to the other programs.
     
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  9. Color-Copycat Well-Known Member

    Joined:
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    [​IMG]

    The illustration depicts a typical Djong-Kok sailskimmer, configured for service as a krill-harvest vessel. With minor modifications, craft of the same basic design are employed for such varied roles as piracy, merchant trade, transport, and fleet combat. Djong-Kok war-junks are often distinguished from civilian craft by the presence of armored hulls, broadside gun embrasures, and decorative martial designs on both sides of the main sails.

    The aggregate populations of the Djong-Kok states together comprise the majority of the global total on Shindai. Descended from the original terraformers and colonizers of the planet, the numerous Djong-Kok peoples and states are divided among a number of rival factions, all centered on the ancient corporate heartlands of Shindai's northern hemisphere. There, before the fall of interstellar civilization, affiliated subsidiaries of the Haifeng-Hayashi Group had sowed the seeds of human settlement in the Corvus system. After purchasing colonization rights from the French astronomical consortium that had backed the first manned exploratory survey of the system, the Haifeng-Hayashi Group immediately contracted its subsidiary planetary engineering division to begin terraforming operations on Shindai. The decades long process was completed on schedule, molding an arid and marginally habitable world into a planet ripe for aquaculture cultivation and human habitation. With the aid of solar reflector arrays assembled in orbit, the polar ice caps of Shindai were melted to flood much of the hitherto featureless planetary surface with shallow seas, which were seeded with hardy strains of genetically modified algae designed to boost atmospheric oxygen levels and provide the nutrient base for the artificially constructed aquatic ecosystem that was to follow. High-yield plankton, specially tailored for local environmental conditions, were introduced to the shallow waters of Shindai. These initial seed-species in turn provided the raw biomass for the establishment of planet-wide cultivation of hyperkrill, the premiere export that the ecological engineers and financial analysts of Haifeng-Hayashi predicted would guarantee the greatest return on their decades-long investment in the Corvus system. To protect against the slightest chance of natural misfortune, orbital weather control platforms ensured that environmental conditions never drifted too far from the optimal equilibrium points required for the exponential growth of the hyperkrill population. Within a few years of seeding, automated harvester fleets plied the waters of Shindai, collecting and processing millions of tons of hyperkrill for shipment to the equatorial space elevator that would send them up the gravity well, and from there aboard interstellar freighters to points further beyond, as dictated by the forces of the free market.

    However, the severe market fluctuations and logistical strains caused by the simmering Wars of Dissolution marked the beginning of the end of Shindai's halcyon days as an agrarian cornucopia. Fewer and fewer outbound shipping convoys risked traveling the increasingly perilous Outer Rim trade routes, now the favored hunting grounds of commerce raiders from a dozen fractious belligerents, so while shares of foodstuffs rose in value to dizzying heights unimaginable during the long years of peace, an immense surplus of export product accumulated at Shindai. As the bitter conflagration of war burned its way through sector upon sector of colonized space, drawing ever nearer to the Corvus system, the tens of thousands of employees of the Haifeng-Haiyashi Group and its subsidiaries on Shindai prepared for the anticipated day of evacuation by mothballing all corporate installations and assets in orbit and planetside, while placing billions of tons of unexported harvest into long term storage. The process was barely begun when three battle-weary squadrons of the Interstellar Commerce Authority jumped into the Corvus system, with an entire shock division of the Combined People's Liberation Fleet in hot pursuit.

    The subsequent cataclysmic clash in high orbit above Shindai completely obliterated the carefully engineered orbital infrastructure and showered the planet below with megatons of flaming wreckage, the smashed and smoldering detritus of two mortally wounded fleets locked in a final fiery death ride that ended on the surface of Shindai. Caught between the warring survivors of the crashed fleets, who clashed over the precious depots of stored foodstuffs and supplies, the thousands of Formosan aquaculture engineers and Singaporean terraforming techs marooned on Shindai fled to the relative safety of the remote weather stations and hydroponics installations far from the southern debris fields of the dead fleets. Fortunately for them, the destruction of the weather control satellites provided another unexpected reprieve by gradually unleashing the cyclopean equatorial storm systems that had hitherto been suppressed via the delicate orbital platforms. Thus were the Haifeng-Hayashi employees of the northern realms effectively isolated from the depredations of the military remnants in the southern hemisphere. In their peaceful seclusion, they struggled to preserve the deteriorating colonial infrastructure that the company had so painstakingly constructed before the fall of interstellar civilization. But as the complex network of automated harvesters and transport power grids began to inevitably fail, the engineers and their descendants withdrew to the rocky island outcroppings and archipelagos that stood above the flooded plains, transforming once bleak irrigation substations and meteorological outposts into bustling settlements and cities. The foundation was thus laid for the thousand city-states of the Djong-Kok, as the descendants of the corporate employees came to see themselves. Although often isolated from one another by vast distances and difficult terrain, the inhabitants of the nascent city-states faithfully preserved many elements of the corporate culture that they had inherited and felt a strong sense of kinship with their fellow Djong-Kok states.

    Each city-state came to rely on a combination of hydroponic algal cultivation and hyperkrill harvesting to provide for its population, and over the centuries, they came to master the latter through the novel construction of increasingly efficient vessels for the traversal of the mudflat steppes and shallow seas. The sailskimmer, as the most popular variant was called, was a spindly craft of neo-bamboo and synth-fiber capable of crossing both gentle terrain and calm waters, if provided a stiff breeze. With flotillas of this versatile amphibious design, the Djong-Kok were able to effortlessly make the otherwise laborious journey to the krill spawning grounds of the open steppe, regaining a little of what had been lost with the loss of the old automated harvesters. The sailskimmers also empowered the development of a flourishing inter-state coastal trade, which in turn fostered piracy among the more impoverished of the Djong-Kok clans. Masquerading as krill-fishers by day and seizing cargo skimmers by night, the sail skimmers of the southern clans were to prove a constant menace to the more prosperous Djong-Kok states, whose war-junk captains were hesitant to pursue their pirate foes into the storm-wracked wastes of the equatorial latitudes.

    And it was from the equatorial wastes that the last and greatest threat to the Djong-Kok would come. After two centuries of secluded isolation, the peaceful spell was broken by the appearance of a Red vanguard on the storm-darkened southern horizon. While the Djong-Kok had fended off a dozen previous attempts by the military remnants of the south to penetrate their northern domains, those ill-fated raiders of yore had consisted of only a few squadrons of half-starved and desperate fugitives, whose vessels and crews had already been battered nearly to pieces by the titanic storm systems they had been forced to brave in their crossing of the equatorial latitudes. Now, though, entire shock brigades of the ravenous Great Red Fleet had forced their way through a slim gap in the equatorial storm front in a desperate bid to escape total destruction after the decisive Nine Islands Campaign, which had seen the Grand Armada of the Great Red Fleet shattered in open battle by the veteran squadrons of the Kommersant and the stolid regulars of the Texacor Battalion. Although their ranks had been utterly decimated by the time the last ragged remnants of the Red Fleet broke through the howling storm front, the battle-hardened survivors of the Long Flight now gazed upon rich domains ripe for conquest. Without pausing to lick their bloody wounds, the battered Red brigades surged forth in their thousands, with torn and crimson banners fluttering at their fore, and set upon the frontier settlements of the Djong-Kok states. One by one, the ancient strongholds and cities of the Djong-Kok fell before the ravenous hordes of the Red brigades. Two centuries of relative peace and prosperity had taught the Djong-Kok little of the arts of war, and their peasant levies and war-junk flotillas were unable to offer much more than token resistance before the battle-hardened ranks of the Great Red Fleet. Still smarting from their recent defeat by the hated squadrons of the Kommersant, the now victorious Reds showed no mercy in their conquest of the Djong-Kok realms. The ancestral temple shrines and corporate archives of the defeated Djong-Kok cities were put to the torch, and no quarter was given to those Djong-Kok captains and levies who vainly struggled to hold back the Red hordes.

    In conquered cities and settlements across the northern hemisphere, the hereditary rulers of the propertied executive class were executed en masse for crimes of corporate oppression, and their wealth and holdings seized by the Red officers and commissars who would come to rule in their stead. Although they proclaimed themselves revolutionary liberators and distant kinsmen to the peoples they now ruled, the warriors of the Great Red Fleet had soon established themselves as the aristocratic overlords of the now subjugated Djong-Kok peoples. But with their hunger temporarily sated and their ambitions fixed on a triumphal campaign against their traditional Kommersant enemies to the south, the rulers of the Red Fleet were content to simply displace the former executive class and retain the highly stratified corporate class structure in being if not in name. For the Djong-Kok commoners, the Red overlords, with their unintelligible dialect and barbarian ways, remained a distant and alien ruling class more familiar for their oppressive martial law and demanding tribute quotas than their self-proclaimed revolutionary ideology. The traditional heart of the Djong-Kok economy, based on the twin pillars of hydroponics and the krill-harvest, was allowed to continue as it had in previous centuries, albeit collectivized and overseen by Red supervisors who collected most of the produce for the state and cracked down on the bourgeois cultivation of teas and silks.

    For those fugitives of the former corporate executive class and the Djong-Kok loyalists who refused to submit to the oppressive Red regime, safe harbor and refuge was to be found in the secluded pirate archipelagos of the windswept equatorial latitudes. There, they found many sympathizers and allies among the numerous outcast bandit clans of the Djong-Kok, who viewed the newly established Red domains as a lucrative source of loot and ransom for their raiding expeditions. Annual campaigns by successive Red commanders to subjugate the bandit clans frequently returned empty handed, as the nimble sailskimmers of the pirate bands swiftly fled beyond the stormy horizon at first sight of the Great Red Fleet or simply bribed corrupt Red commanders to abandon their pursuit. Left largely to their own devices by an increasingly exasperated series of Red fleet commanders, the more prosperous outlaw states straddling the equatorial territories would come, in time, to be the stalwart protectors of the continuity of free Djong-Kok civilization.
     
  10. Color-Copycat Well-Known Member

    Joined:
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    Location:
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    [​IMG]
    The Legionaar represent the only permanent, professional military force fielded by the Bergers of the Vierkleur Konfederasie. While most Bergers, especially those of the backwater Orbitaaler clans, are proficient in the use of their traditional Geweer long arms, they are sometimes at a disadvantage in dismounted firefights due to their lack of any professional tactical training and experience. Preferring the safety offered by well-protected defensive laagers, most Bergers are more comfortable with taking long-range potshots from cover than in the storming of enemy positions on foot. While the majority of fleet skirmishes on the open steppe are resolved without the need to engage in such costly dismounted infantry actions, campaigns that take the Berger laagers all the way to the fortified archipelago strongholds of the Djong-Kok heartlands or the frontline trench networks of the Kommersant require a vastly different tactical approach with infantry actions at its core. It is in these hardfought actions that the Legionaar truly excel.

    Although the mutinous 157e Demi-Brigade of the Foreign Legion represented the second largest of the four African tribes that constituted the Bergervolk on its departure from the Beyers' Reach system, by the time the century long Great Exodus had reached its conclusion in high orbit above Shindai, those Bergers descended from the Legionnaires of the 157e DBLE had largely been assimilated by the more numerous Afrikanders of the other three tribes. When the first Berger landing parties set foot on the flooded plains of Shindai, only a paltry hardcore of Legionnaire descendants stubbornly clung to the language and traditions of their illustrious forebears who had fought many a colonial campaign across the interstellar territories of the Fourth French Union. Yet it seemed as if even this proud minority was destined to be absorbed by their Afrikander compatriots by sheer weight of numbers, despite the self-enforced isolation of the stubborn Legion holdouts among the arid salt flats of the southern hemisphere.

    However, in the bloody centuries that followed, the handful of Legionaar republics cultivated a well-deserved reputation as hardbitten volunteer campaigners in the countless succession of small wars and skirmishes that their Afrikander sister republics found themselves entangled in. Whereas the Afrikander clans largely considered open warfare to be an ugly and costly distraction from their fruitful salvaging expeditions and could often only be induced to come to the armed aid of beleaguered compatriots due to the strength of clan and family alliances, the Legionaar republics enthusiastically offered their assistance to any Berger clan or fleet that found itself at war with the established peoples and states of Shindai. This mercenary relationship became highly formalized over time, with the Legionaar clans accepting advance payment in exchange for joining other Berger republics on campaign and tackling the brunt of the fighting required for the duration of each campaign. Other arrangements were also established, with Legionaar officers and security detachments being permanently attached as liaisons and tactical advisers to those vulnerable Berger republics on the violent frontier.

    In these roles, the traditions and customs of their ancestral Foreign Legion predictably proved to be of immense value. Against the massed blackpowder musketry of the Kommersant's corporate field forces and the peasant levies of the Djong-Kok, the auto-fusils of the Legionaar allow a handful of determined and entrenched Bergers to hold back tenfold their number. The renowned Legionaar fieldcraft, practiced and honed in the hostile environs of the southern salt flats, matches that of the Kommersant's elite Aerospace Marines Corps and the heavy infantry of the Red Fleet's Guards Shock Brigades. And for all their skill in intercepting and deciphering Berger radio traffic in the heat of battle, the communications and intelligence officers of the Kommersant still find the Legionaars' archaic battle dialect of Fransje, or "slagtaal" as most Afrikander Bergers call it, a baffling and wholly unintelligible tongue.

    Although their strengths in the field are in many ways reliant upon the preservation of their unique traditions and practices, the cultural distinctiveness of the Legionaar clans has not resulted in any especially great gulf between the Legionaar Bergers and the Afrikander Bergers, thanks to centuries of close collaboration, intermingling, and assimilation. Legionaar security detachments and fleet tactical advisers are to be found among the crews of many an Orbitaaler Ossewa and Berger surface cruiser, while adventurous Afrikander Bergers constitute much of the annual intake of the Legionaar training cadres. After all, it is the blood spilled in combat that makes the Legionaar, not the blood inherited by descent. All Legionaar are fluent in the Afrikander tongue, while most Bergers, irrespective of ancestry, have at least a basic knowledge of the Legionaar slagtaal for its utility as a secure combat dialect if nothing else. Outside of combat, the average Legionaar would be difficult to distinguish from the typical Afrikander Berger in custom and appearance were it not for the distinctive Legionaar kepi, ballistic tunic, and gaitered boots.

    In combat, however, the Legionaar is a completely different creature from the backwater Orbitaaler or Afrikander Berger. Whether storming a stronghold on foot with auto-fusil and bayonet or directing fleet maneuvers and hyperkinetic battery fire from the bridge of a surface cruiser, the Legionaar acts boldly and decisively to seize the initiative and inflict the greatest possible damage with the ultimate aim of attaining the total destruction of the enemy. Where the ordinary Berger flinches from heavy close quarters fighting and falters at the first sign of an unraveling battle plan, the Legionaar relentlessly presses on without regard to risk of life and limb. In both attack and defense, the Legionaar exerts all efforts to achieve the most tactically advantageous outcome in a given engagement, even in the face of heavy casualties. Of course, the enthusiasm of the Legionaar for the classical attaque a l'outrance is much tempered, some say hindered, by the risk-averse conservatism of the Berger kommandants and vekt-kapteins under whom they are often compelled to serve. Nevertheless, the tactical recommendations and counsel of the Legionaar liaison frequently constitute a valued contribution to the average Berger krygsraad.

    The illustration depicts a Legionaar fusilier of the Kompagnie de Clercq in typical infantry combat dress. The M86 casque-kepi provides advanced kinetic protection to the head and neck, along with an integrated radio comms suite. The M69 ballistic tunic and M70 sapper's apron protect the torso and groin, being completely impervious at all but pointblank ranges to the blackpowder musketry fielded by the nations of Shindai. The Fusil-Automatique M91, of reliable pre-Collapse vintage, offers a devastating volume of accurate and fully automatic firepower to those Legionaar fusiliers skilled enough to earn the right to wield the coveted rifle. Until they earn their kaporal's chevrons, Legionaars must make do with the traditional Geweer long arms of the Bergervolk. The auto-fusil is reloaded from spare magazine pouches slung over the chest and at the waist, while the Sabel bayonet, hand-forged from salvaged ceramsteel, makes the Legionaar the equal of any Kommersant conscript or Djong-Kok levy in the arena of the close quarters melee.
     
  11. Zek Sora hi

    Joined:
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    the worst managed and yet richest city
    good stuff as always:)
     
  12. Color-Copycat Well-Known Member

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    thanks. i think after one or two more worldbuilding pieces, there will be enough material to start working on a preliminary world map for the setting
     
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  13. Color-Copycat Well-Known Member

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    Something new. An elaboration on existing elements of the setting, and simultaneous introduction of a few new things in terms of geography and nations.

    [​IMG]

    This illustration depicts a scene from the Vermilion Coast, deep in the heart of the eastern equatorial wastes. In the wake of a wandering storm cyclone, a twin-vehicle reconnaissance party of the Vryberger Vlootstaat, one of the more prosperous Orbitaaler fleet republics, probes a newly formed inlet of the Sea of Vapors ahead of the main salvage fleet, cautiously searching for the spoor-sign of the Freeporter bushwhackers who prey upon the unsuspecting and unwary in this untamed swathe of the equatorial frontier.

    The vehicles are Grysbok-class all-terrain utility vehicles, manufactured before the collapse of interstellar civilization by the old Armscor conglomerate in the heyday of humanity's colonial expansion across the stars. Originally designed and fabricated in response to a military specification drawn up by the European arm of the Interstellar Commerce Authority for the extraterrestrial rigors of the Twin Moons Campaign, the mine-resistant Grysbok and its various derivatives, both licensed and unlicensed, had proven their sturdy reliability in the service of twelve armies on ten times as many battlefields in just as many years, from Antarctica and Angola to Alpha Centauri and Aurora VII. In peacetime, surplus and decommissioned Grysboks were routinely refurbished and further customized for resale to colonial corporations, including the ZAMKOR conglomerate, which purchased hundreds as satellite vehicles for their Blesbok-class heavy lifters, later to become the Ossewa-class rigs of the Orbitaaler-Berger republics.

    In the service of the republican descendants of the original ZAMKOR miners and corporate contractors, the ubiquitous Grysbok has become colloquially known as the Bakkie, and under that name, it ably serves as the workhorse of every Orbitaaler-Berger fleet, from the great surface cruiser squadrons of the mercantile republics down to the triple Ossewa convoy of the humblest scrap salvaging clan. The modular nature of its various external mounts and interior compartments alike allow the Bakkie to be reconfigured from a reconnaissance scout into a cargo transport, mobile comms station, or dozer-excavator in a matter of hours, provided the proper modules and access to the automated vehicle bay aboard any Berger surface cruiser or Ossewa. On solid ground, a well-tuned Bakkie can match the speed of the fastest surface cruiser, can nimbly navigate rough terrain inaccessible to the lumbering flagship behemoths of the Berger fleets, and even amphibiously motor across open seas too deep or swift for even the best of Ossewa captains to safely ford. The Bakkie is even capable of fully autonomous and remote operation, though usually a skeleton crew of one or two qualified operators stands watch on the command deck while the autopilot is engaged.

    The vehicle's great limitation is its range of operation. In the three centuries since the Orbitaaler-Berger clans first set foot on Shindai, near continuous use of their trusty Bakkies under conditions above and beyond the intended operating thresholds has inevitably degraded the storage capacity of their vehicles' irreplaceable fuel cells over the years. Where they were once capable of traversing tens of thousands of kilometers without requiring a single recharge, an exceptionally well-maintained Bakkie of today can only manage a mere hundred kilometers before it exhausts its power reserves and must return to the vehicle bay of its parent Ossewa or surface cruiser for an overnight recharge. Thus, Ossewa and surface cruiser captains typically mandate rotating shifts for their Bakkie escort pickets.

    In combat, the Bakkie scout-escorts were traditionally withdrawn to the safety of the laager under the old fashioned Orbitaaler tactical system and kept in reserve for the pursuit of shattered enemy forces in the aftermath of a successful "laerslag". Since the obsolescence of the laager, however, the Bakkies have found a new role in the innovative fleet tactics of the more progressive Berger and Orbitaaler republics. Although retaining their conventional role as the forward eyes and ears of the Orbitaaler-Berger fleets, the Bakkies have joined the striking arm of the fleet force, making full use of their superior mobility and durability to counter the movements of hostile squadrons and blunt their attacks through judicious employment of ramming and combat minelaying. Among the many treasures they brought with them in their voyage down the gravity well, the Orbitaaler and Berger republics possess entire shiploads of the explosive demolition and mining charges that their corporate ancestors had used to crack open many a deep space asteroid. Rigged to blow on a contact fuse or via remote detonation and strapped to a bundle of inflatable flotation spheres, these jury rigged mines are loaded aboard Bakkies and dropped overboard in a carefully coordinated pattern to create rapid-deployment minefields that restrict the paths of maneuvering enemy fleets, breaking up squadron cohesion and separating unwary vessels from the support of the fleet. Minelaying tactics are nothing new to fleet combat on Shindai, but the superior maneuverability of the Bakkies enables the laying of offensive cordons with unequaled speed and precision, and their durability gives them an unmatched ability to counter enemy minelaying tactics. Although the Bakkies of the fleet republics were stripped of their original complement of military grade ceramsteel armor plating during the civilian refurbishing process centuries ago, the mine resistant nature of the vehicles' basic chassis and wheel design still enables it to safely plow through the heavy blackpowder contact charges and self-propelled torpedoes employed by many of the nations of Shindai as the ultimate battleship-killers. The same sturdy construction enables the bold, some say foolhardy, Bakkie pilot to safely ram his vehicle into most other hostile vessels at considerable speed, inflicting critical structural damage under the right circumstances without seriously jeopardizing the operational integrity of the Bakkie's core component systems. Nevertheless, Bakkies in their standard configuration still remain vulnerable to modern hypervelocity musketry and armor-piercing artillery, requiring them to either keep a respectable distance or use their superior maneuverability to effect evasive maneuvers that frustrate the ability of enemy gunners to find their mark.

    Returning to the scene of the illustration, the object of the Orbitaalers' salvaging efforts dominates the background of the tortured landscape in the form of the decaying ruins of what was once the planet's sole space elevator. In its heyday many centuries ago, it towered above the equatorial mudflats of Shindai, a pristine white column that stretched from the horizon to the blue of the heavens above. A mega-scale product of the ancient nanoengineering revolution, for decades it had lifted countless cargoes of harvested hyperkrill and algae biomass from the planetary surface up the gravity well and into geosynchronous orbit for transshipment to the interstellar trading lanes beyond the Corvus System, but those days are long gone. Since the cataclysmic clash of fleets that extinguished the light of spacefaring civilization in the system, the cyclopean fragments of the shattered hulk have been scattered for tens of thousands of kilometers across much of the planet's equatorial reaches. Considering the roughly contiguous patchwork debris fields as a single entity, the ruins constitute by far the single greatest spacewreck on the planet, dwarfing in sheer dimensions all other wrecks by orders of magnitude.

    The titanic, world-spanning ruins are known by many names to the peoples of Shindai. Projected upon the topographical holo-surveys of the Orbitaaler-Berger fleets, its numerous debris fields are collectively labeled as the Olifants' Graveyard, recalling the lumbering leviathans of ancient Africa. In the navigational maps of the Kommersant and terrain charts of the Texacor, it is called the Grand Anaconda Reef, a moniker dating back to the notes of the first scouting expeditions to brave the hellish storm systems of the equatorial wastes. And to the Dyong-Kok and their Red overlords, it has been known for generations as the Long Serpent, after its peculiar appearance from a distance. But to the savage pirate tribes who have infested the cyclopean ruins since the fall of interstellar civilization on Shindai, there is but one name: Freeport's Bones.

    The Freeporters, as the pirate savages call themselves, are the degenerated descendants of those freelance shipping crews, freight handlers, terminal staff, customs inspectors, and dry dock workers who were marooned on the planet's sole orbital spaceport at the cataclysmic local conclusion of the Wars of Dissolution. Although initially escaping the wrath of the great fleet combat, whose combatants were too busy pummeling one another into oblivion with hyperkinetic ordnance and smart missile barrages to take note of the handful of backwater civilian structures in orbit, the spaceport and the elevator linking it to the planetary surface were catastrophically wrecked by the vast swarms of orbital debris left hurtling silently through the void in the aftermath of the great battle. Within a matter of days, the ruined hulk of the triple torus spaceport had violently reentered the upper atmosphere of the planet and come to lie at the center of a smoldering impact crater in the stormwracked equatorial shallows, bringing down with it the shattered column of the space elevator, whose broken cylindrical segments lay where they had been toppled across nearly the entire circumference of the world.

    The battered and bloodied parties of survivors who pulled themselves from the wreckage of the interstellar spaceport and its attendant dockyard of long-haul freighters found themselves in the midst of a hellish place. Burning debris rained for days from the skies, before they turned dark with storm clouds and the promise of more suffering to come, for the runaway destruction of the orbital infrastructure by the whirling detritus of the dying fleets had obliterated the weather control platforms in low Shindai orbit, enabling the formation of the first of the cyclopean megastorms that would henceforth ravage the equatorial latitudes of the planet for all time.

    While the howling winds and pounding rains finally extinguished the worst of the fires burning in the shattered hulk of the spaceport, enabling the dazed and motley bands of survivors to seek shelter from the deadly storms within the half-flooded ruins of the spaceflight terminals and scavenge for sustenance and supplies in the twisted wreckage of what had once been duty-free concourses, multi-level food courts, and zero-G storage blocks. Trapped in the labyrinthine maze of ruins by the raging storm systems outside as the weeks dragged into months, and the months into years, the civilian inhabitants of the wrecked spaceport inevitably slid towards anarchy as they feuded over ever diminishing stockpiles of salvaged supplies, and violent clashes soon gripped the starving population as gangs of roving scavengers fought over hitherto unexplored sectors of the spaceport ruins. One gang, formed from an amalgamation of all the shipping crews of a Subsaharan Free Trade Union freight convoy that had been delayed at Shindai for months on illegal smuggling charges, rose above all the others survivalist bands in savagery and brutality. Exterminating or subjugating rival gangs one after another and enslaving those hapless parties of scavengers too weak to resist, these Freeporters, as they came to be known, soon established their bloody dominion over all the others and found themselves the unchallenged rulers of what they christened Freeport's Bones.

    In the decades of isolation following their consolidation of power over the spaceport survivors, the Freeporters added to their short but bloody history within the half-flooded corridors and upturned concourses of the wrecked terminals with a few heated wars of tribal succession and the brutal crushing of a number of slave revolts, all the while unaware of the insidious danger lurking in the very air they breathed and the rations they ate. Since the orbital devastation and reentry of the spaceport, its ruins had been heavily contaminated with all manner of toxic, carcinogenic, and mutagenic compounds and agents. Millions of tons of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, enzyme precursors, industrial coolant fluids, volatile liquid thruster fuels, half-processed reactor core waste, and a multitude of other hazardous materials and chemical byproducts typically stored within the vast holding tanks and quarantine bays of any interstellar spaceport began to seep out of sealed reservoir compartments and containment systems as safety shielding and reinforced bulkheads were torn asunder by the earthshattering impact of reentry. Trapped within the fetid passageways and tunnels of the ruined underworld by the unending danger of the equatorial megastorms outside, generations of Freeporters waded through a toxic milieu of chemical contaminants, with the long term exposure resulting in substantial genetic deterioration, manifested most visibly in psychotic savagery and the extreme ritual scarification employed to camouflage the most gruesome of physical deformities.

    It was no surprise then, that when the first parties of equatorial explorers unknowingly entered the realm of the Freeporters, contact was instantaneously violent and brutal. In their period of undisturbed isolation, by using the intact segments of the collapsed space elevator as a sheltered path through the stormwracked wastes, the Freeporter tribes had gradually colonized the full extent of the equatorial debris field that would later be known to other nations as the Olifant's Graveyard and the Grand Anaconda Reef. Safe passage north through the equatorial wastes by first the refugee bands of the Dyong-Kok and later the defeated squadrons of the Red Fleet was only practicable through a precious handful of unguarded passes. Along the rest of the impenetrable length of what they fearfully called the Long Serpent, the dark pirate gangs of the terrible Freeporter tribes would strike out from their hidden strongholds in the decaying underbelly of the Serpent and fall upon any unwary sailskimmer flotilla. Along the narrow winding inlets and twisted broken coasts of the Serpent's flanks, to say nothing of the claustrophobic confines of its bisecting passes, even a veteran Red shock squadron could be hemmed in with no room to maneuver and cut to pieces by the nimble pirate skiffs of the Freeporter tribes, leaving them easy prey for the berserker raiders swarming over the upper decks with boarding ladders and grappling hooks. Armed with a handful of ancient yet functional plasma cutters, fusion torches, and a multitude of savage slashing blades and spear-staffs crudely fashioned from ceramsteel scrap and sectioned pipe, a boarding gang of a hundred shrieking Freeporters can make quick work of a lone steelclad Kommersant gun-clipper or even a Texacoran treadnaught if their Desantnik and Marine detachments respectively are not up to the task of repelling the savage boarders.

    The occasional campaigns mounted by the great old nations of Shindai to suppress the pirate menace and make safe the equatorial passages have been frustrating exercises in futility. The Freeporter raiding parties never stray far from the safety of the Long Serpent, which offers them safe harbor along almost every point of the equator at any point they choose to break contact and flee, while the unpredictable equatorial megastorms prohibit extended campaigning in those latitudes during most months of the year, with the danger of the storm fronts always threatening to obliterate any fleet unfortunate enough to be caught in their paths of destruction. If that were not enough, negotiation and diplomacy have failed at every turn. Whereas the numerous outlaw pirate clans of the Dyong-Kok and the licensed mercenary privateers of the Kommersant make a brisk and even perfunctory trade in the ransoming of hostages and goods, whose monetary value would be considerable damaged by mistreatment of any sort, the savage Freeporters have never shown any interest in accepting tribute or ransom. Vessels, cargoes, and prisoners that they seize simply vanish into the cavernous bowels of the Long Serpent and are never seen or heard from again. For centuries, darkly whispered rumors and lurid tales have told of the unspeakable tortures and sickening horrors inflicted upon those unfortunate enough to fall prey to a marauding band of Freeporters, but searches of blasted skiff wrecks and liberated pirate outposts have only turned up scraps of faded cloth and a scattering of bone fragments that might have once belonged to unlucky captive.

    The only fleets to have successfully pushed back the Freeporter menace with a permanent measure of success are those of the Orbitaaler-Berger republics, which began advancing into the hitherto unconquered equatorial wastes a century after they first made landfall on the planetary surface. The key to their unexpected success was the resilient network of meteorological satellites the first generation of pioneers had placed into low orbit. This valuable relic of orbital infrastructure gives Orbitaaler-Berger laager commandants and fleet captains highly accurate forecasts of oncoming equatorial storm systems, which their surface cruisers can outrun and their Ossewa rigs can safely weather. For Orbitaaler-Berger fleet campaigns in the equatorial wastes, the titanic storm systems endemic to those latitudes, while still a considerable factor to contend with, are not insurmountable obstacles and can sometimes even be turned to their advantage in combat against the Freeporter pirate tribes under the right conditions.

    Out on the equatorial mudflats and coastal shallows, the unarmored raiding skiffs of the Freeporters present easy targets for the long range rifle fire of even the most modestly armed of Orbitaaler laager convoys, so long as the lumbering Ossewa rigs and their Bakkie escorts can keep their distance and stay out of boarding range. However, most cunning Freeporter gangs know better than to tangle in open fleet combat with Orbitaaler laagers and Berger squadrons, and all experienced Orbitaaler-Berger commandants know better than to allow their massive Ossewa and surface cruiser flagships to be lured into the labyrinthine maze of the Olifants' Graveyard. Thus the most decisive combats between the Freeporter tribes and the Orbitaaler-Berger republics are frequently small unit affairs in which vanguard parties of Orbitaaler volunteers advance on Bakkie and foot deep into the Olifants' Graveyard to pry the savage Freeporter bands out of their hidden stronghold anchorages in the heart of the ancient debris fields. Although their semi-armored Bakkies, repeating magazine rifles, explosive demolition charges, and orbital surveillance satellites somewhat compensate for their numerical inferiority in dismounted combat against the seemingly endless hordes of Freeporter berserkers with their cutting torches and nefarious blades, the unpredictable skirmishes and sudden ambuscades in the Olifants' Graveyard are often closely contested affairs. In the savage warfare of the equatorial wastes, no quarter is given and none is requested, with the Orbitaaler republics and the Freeporter tribes fiercely despising one another as hated ancestral enemies whose deep seated animosity reaches all the way back to the bloodstained battlefields of ancient Africa. The Orbitaaler salvagers of the equatorial latitudes are taught from birth to never allow themselves to be taken alive by the barbaric Freeporter heathens for fear of suffering the multitude of fates worth than death that the brutish pirate savages would inflict upon a captive Orbitaaler, and this intensely fatalistic attitude has served them well by transforming even the smallest punitive backwater expedition against the Freeporters into a zealous crusade for the Orbitaaler laager-states and fleet republics involved.

    Over the past two centuries, sustained Orbitaaler-Berger combat operations in the equatorial wastes, not infrequently augmented by volunteer expeditionary forces sent by the Kommersant, the Texacor, and Djong-Kok states with a mutual interest in suppressing particularly troublesome pirate tribes threatening the equatorial trading passages, have liberated not only the Great Western Pass from Freeporter depredation but also nearly all the permanently navigable passes through the Olifants' Graveyard, ushering in a golden age in cross-hemisphere commerce and mercantile trading. The traditional Freeporter hunting grounds that once ranged across the entire breadth and width of the equatorial latitudes have now been forced back to those troubled shallows and bleak flood plains lying within the shadows of the Olifants' Graveyard.

    And even there, in the den of the beast itself, the most ambitious Orbitaaler-Berger republics have established temporary salvaging outposts and seasonal footholds in pursuit of a forgotten resource now highly coveted by the reindustrializing nations of Shindai. In fact, the decaying remains of the ancient space elevator that stretches the entire length of the Olifants' Graveyard are a veritable goldmine for millions of tons of priceless carbon nanotube. Originally woven into high tensile fiber bundles which formed the structural backbone of the ancient space elevator, these endless kilometers of tightly bound carbon nanotube now lie unraveled in millions of twisted heaps and limply coiled piles throughout the heart of the Olifants' Graveyard. For centuries, these shimmering black bundles were known and prized across the planet for the remarkable structural properties offered by their high tensile strength in such varied uses as sailskimmer rigging and harbor towing lines. Since the advent of reindustrialization, however, these ancient carbon bundles have gained an even greater value to the the industrial concerns and modern fleets of the Kommersant, Texacor, and Dyong-Kok alike. When the sooty, fibrous bundles are shredded into a fine powder and mixed with the proper reactive compounds in the correct proportions, the resulting carbon nanotube dust is rendered into a highly combustible fuel additive that provides a potent boost in power to the hungry blast furnaces, machine forges, and steam engines that feed the fiery heart of mechanized industry on Shindai. Thus, raw nanotube is the essential lifeblood of the ongoing industrial revolutions in the elder nations of the world. The merchant fleets and naval forces of the Kommersant and Texacor depend on their precious fuel bunkers and internal reservoirs of nano-dust to achieve top speed in crucial trading runs and combat cruises. The bustling manufactories of the great Kommersant industrial houses and the Dyong-Kok mercantile clans consume tons of nano-dust every day in order to run the machinery of industry that turns out the thousands of stands of arms, commercial trade goods, and raw reforged ceramsteel that feeds the growing appetite of the hungry nations.

    The Orbitaaler salvager clans of the equatorial latitudes were quick to exploit this newfound demand for nano-dust by mounting vigorous offensive campaigns to expel the Freeporter savages from the sites of the richest and most easily scavenged deposits of ancient carbon. Although the victorious Orbitaaler clans sought the manpower of Dyong-Kok contract laborers and the mercantile expertise of Kommersant fuel traders to maximize their exploitation of the rich nano-dust deposits of the Olifants' Graveyard they now claimed as their own, the shrewd Orbitaaler commandants and captains were always careful to maintain their salvaging monopoly on the precious resource deposits. Rising tensions and open disputes over the Orbitaaler domination of the nano-dust market reached a boiling point at the conclusion of the last century, resulting in a bitter war between the grand battle fleets of the Kommersant and the backwater Orbitaaler salvager clans of the equatorial wastes. The prosperous Berger mercantile republics of the Vierkleur Konfederasie, fearing the threat of trade embargo and open commerce raiding from the Kommersant, declined to intervene on behalf of their frontier Orbitaaler sister republics, eventually tipping the balance of the war in favor of the Kommersant, with their grand fleets of modern gun-clippers and unending waves of conscript levies. A peace treaty between the belligerent forces was finally negotiated in the fifth year of the war by a neutral delegation of Texacoran diplomatic emissaries, as the embattled Orbitaaler fleet republics struggled to contend with a resurgence of renewed Freeporter pirate activity in the eastern equatorial regions that had arisen due to the withdrawal of Orbitaaler fleets to participate in the defensive campaigns against the Kommersant in the vicinity of the rich western nano-dust deposits. In exchange for the cessation of hostilities, the Kommersant secured substantial concessions in the form of full territorial and salvaging rights to two of the five greatest nano-dust deposits and partial salvaging shares in all subsidiary deposits.

    In the decades since the Dust War, the much weakened Orbitaaler monopoly on the precious ebony deposits has been steadily consolidated and in some places expanded through the pacification of new stretches of the Olifants' Graveyard to the eastern frontier and the exploitation of the black treasures that lie within, leading to whispered fears of a second Dust War. The executives of the Kommersant's leading industrial concerns make no secret of their keen desire to punish the insolent equatorial Orbitaaler clans and permanently demolish their stranglehold on the black dust of the Olifants' Graveyard, but the Kommersant's fleet admirals have thus far been hesitant to risk entangling the full might of their battle squadrons in a protracted war in the hellish equatorial wastes given the growing naval strength of the Red remnant empires of the northern hemisphere.

    While the uneasy peace holds, the equatorial clans of the Orbitaaler salvagers are more than content to give the full focus of their military attentions to the ever present threat of the Freeporter pirate incursions on the untamed frontier.
     
  14. Color-Copycat Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2010
    Location:
    make america great again
    change of plans, this first to further expand worldbuilding of setting rather than retreading old ground

    [​IMG]

    A view of Liangfong, the winter capital of the so-called People's Liberated Territories, colloquially known to the nations of the southern hemisphere as the Great Red Empire. Although the Kommersant and Texacor have long since established footholds and concessions in the independent corporate cities, Red tributary states, and Djong-Kok pirate freeholds of the northern hemisphere, Liangfong is the only port in the entire Red Empire proper that grants permanent fleet anchorages to the military states of the south. For centuries since the successful year round navigation of the equatorial passes by the Orbitaaler-Berger frontier republics, the trade fleets of the Kommersant, surface cruisers of the mercantile Orbitaaler-Berger republics, and the blockade runners of the Texacor have made deep inroads into the Djong-Kok trade routes of the northern hemisphere, but it was not until the unplanned Texacoran intervention in the Taikong Uprising that a southern nation was permitted to establish a permanent diplomatic legation at Liangfong, then the winter capital of the People's Liberated Territories. Though the ancestral memories of the wars between the Old Red Fleet and the Texacoran regulars had not yet entirely faded, there was reason more than usual for a delegation of old enemies to be allowed entry to the port capital.

    As the Great Red Empire was then embroiled by a succession crisis among the claimants to the high imperial office of the People's Liberator, each of the feuding factions sought to decisively end the conflict by inducing the recently arrived Texacoran legation guard to enter the dispute on their side. With the heavy naval artillery of the Reconstituted People's Liberation Fleet sent away on a yearlong campaign to assist in the quelling of the northern frontier revolts, the shore bombardment batteries of the Texacoran legation's proto-treadnoughts were the only guns in the port capital capable of penetrating the fortress walls of the imperial armory and Red Guard barracks overlooking the harbor. The staunchly apolitical Red Guard garrison was the last major uncommitted political element in the capital, and any faction who could force their hand or otherwise neutralize them would possess a clear path to the throne of the People's Liberator.

    In the months of negotiations and backroom dealings that followed in the attempts to sway their favor, the Texacoran legation secured rights to a permanent fleet anchorage in the capital, along with numerous port concessions in the outlying imperial territories and the Red tributary states. As the negotiations and court intrigues dragged on, dispatches from the Texacoran legation began to reach the southern hemisphere and despite the best efforts to suppress the news, the latest developments in the distant north were soon known to all the great nations of the south. Just when a settlement in the Red capital seemed at hand, a battle fleet flying the blue and white banners of the Kommersant steamed into the western approaches to the capital. The longtime rivals of the Texacor had come to claim their slice of the pie, eager to thwart Texacoran ambitions which had turned north beyond the equator ever since their defeat in the latest war in heartlands of the southern hemisphere. The balance of power had been completely upended overnight and the situation threatened to deteriorate into the resumption of open warfare between the interventionist fleets, but at the last moment, a formal agreement was hammered out by the diplomatic staffs of the Kommersant executive admiral and the Texacor brigadier. The erstwhile enemies entered into a temporary alliance of convenience and finally intervened decisively and bloodlessly on the side of the loyalist claimants to the imperial throne.

    Both parties were granted their promised concessions from the victorious faction of the Great Red Empire and all seemed well and settled when the vanguard shock divisions of the Reconstituted People's Liberation Fleet descended on the capital after their year of hard campaigning in the northern frontier. The newly enthroned People's Liberator, now secure in his base of power and buoyed by the return of the grand fleet, sought to nullify the concessions and expel the expeditionary forces of the Texacor and Kommersant from the heart of the People's Liberated Territories. However, the Red Fleet that returned to the old capital was a mere shadow of the imperial force that had gone out a year before to crush the northern insurrectionists. Its elite shock divisions had been depleted and demoralized by the extended pacification campaign in the northern latitudes and its upper ranks gutted by the zealous purging of elements suspected of sympathy with the defeated factions of the recent succession crisis. Thus, although vastly outnumbering the handful of Texacor proto-treadnoughts and Kommersant gun-clippers that sallied out of Liangfong harbor to oppose them, the Red Fleet was only able to score an indecisive stalemate in the fleet combat that followed. Although the People's Liberator and his Red Guard had escaped and joined the retreating ranks of the Red Fleet in the chaos of battle, the bulk of the imperial court remained trapped in the capital, becoming invaluable hostages for the besieged Texacor and Kommersant squadrons. For the safe return of his ministers and retainers, the People's Liberator was forced to reaffirm most of the previously granted concessions, promising permanent fleet anchorages and diplomatic legations at Liangfong, along with trading rights at five of the largest Red ports. It was a close won affair for the victorious Texacor and Kommersant expeditionary forces, who were shortly thereafter reinforced by the first wave of auxiliary squadrons to clear the equatorial passes after the worst of the seasonal storm systems had passed, and the surviving commanders of the Red Fleet were more than willing to grant them a reprieve as another flare up of rebellion called their attentions away to the northern frontier.

    Upon securing the release of his court, however, the People's Liberator predictably undermined the significance of the largest concessions by permanently relocating the imperial court to the northern summer capital, reducing Liangfong to a secondary provincial port almost overnight. In volume of trade, the former capital is greatly overshadowed by the great commercial ports of the Red Empire's eastern coastal reaches and the independent Djong-Kok corporate remnants nearer to the equatorial frontiers. Today, Liangfong, or Two Wind Bay to its visitors from the southern hemisphere, is still nominally the winter capital of the People's Liberated Territories, but in reality, with the exception of a succession of foreign ministers to the southern legations, the imperial court has not returned to the ancient port city in over a century. But for all its dwindling commercial significance and fading imperial glories, Liangfong still retains great strategic significance due to the permanent fleet anchorages and diplomatic legations of the Texacor and Kommersant that the port city hosts. As in days of old, Liangfong remains the site of much diplomatic intrigue and military posturing, as much between the Texacor and Kommersant as between both powers and the Red Empire. Some of its local inhabitants still pride themselves as the inheritors of the old imperial tradition, though these days the city has fallen back on the traditional bulwarks of krill-harvesting, aquafarming, and the coastal trade to sustain itself. Although few locals would be willing to admit it, the city's economy has become increasingly reliant on the bulk sale of fuel, materials, and provisions to the visiting squadrons of Kommersant gun-clippers and Texacoran treadnoughts. At any given moment, upwards of ten foreign warships might be anchored in Two Wind Bay, with hundreds of officers, crew, and garrison forces on shore leave in the city, which caters to their more disreputable needs in the seedy dockside blue-light districts.

    In the depicted scene, the First Armored Brigade of the Texacoran Third Amphibious Division, also known as Mouton's Armored Brigade, is visible at anchor towards the left. From left to right are the picket treadnought Ranger Apache, the heavy capital treadnought and flagship Great Southern Way, the picket treadnought General Arsenault, the line treadnought Greyjacket, and the line treadnought Ivory Shoals. The Third Amphibious Division is one of two Texacoran divisions permanetly stationed north of the equator and often provides expeditionary forces for Texacoran punitive campaigns and military interventions in the Djong-Kok pirate kingdoms and in the outlying Red tributary states. During peacetime, the armored brigades of the two Amphibious Divisions are regularly rotated through Two Wind Bay for refitting and repair, ensuring a continuous presence in the port city to show the flag to Kommersant and Red alike. The treadnoughts of Mouton's Armored Brigade display peacetime colors of overlaid yellow trim that would be stripped off in the event of action to reveal the camouflage underneath. Only the flagship is permitted to fly the national ensign when in port, in observance of the diplomatic protocols concurrent with the visit of any foreign fleet to a nominal capital of the People's Liberated Territories.

    Visible at the right foreground are the Kommersant gun-clippers of the 59th Mobile Squadron, a convoy escort detachment of the 16th Expeditionary Combat Fleet. Visible from left to right are the flagship frigate Free Market IV, medium frigate Grand Korolev, escort frigate Prosperity II, heavy frigate Gagarin's Folly, medium frigate Wealth of Nations, and the heavy frigate Free Trade. Unlike the more self-sufficient treadnoughts of the Texacor armored brigades, the gun-clippers of the Kommersant, which still officially styles itself as the Provisional Interstellar Commerce Authority, can only effect minor repairs and refit work with the limited shore facilities, shipyards, and drydocks available at Two Wind Bay, requiring a return to the great port cities of the Kommersant's southern domains for complete overhauling. Nevertheless, the Kommersant is obligated to maintain a permanent fleet presence at Two Wind Bay to guard its diplomatic legation and keep parity with Texacor at this strategically vital refueling waypoint in the heart of the Great Red Empire.

    Visible in the far background is the surface cruiser Oranje-Senekal of the Transorbitaal Republiek, a mercantile republic of the Vieurkleur Konfederasie. Although Two Wind Bay lacks the immense commercial opportunities it once enjoyed as one of the Red Empire's dual capitals, the city still represents a reliably profitable terminus for the nanodust trading routes of the mercantile Orbitaaler-Berger clans as a result of the permanent presence of the Texacoran and Kommersant fleets and their insatiable hunger for high grade fuel. When the ever tense relations between the Texacor and Kommersant deteriorate over the occasional diplomatic fracas over a Djong-Kok pirate kingdom or Red tributary state, there is always a killing to be made in the nanodust market at Two Wind Bay, as Texacoran quartermaster officers and Kommersant commissariat agents rush to buy up all the fuel in port to fill their fleet's fuel bunkers and deny the valuable resource to their counterparts on the other side. While they are in port, Orbitaaler-Berger kapteins and kommandants have also discovered that there is a tidy profit to be made in the sale of their solar electricity and reactor power to the energy-hungry city, whose needs have long since far outstripped the ancient colonial-era wind turbines that give the bay its name. Along with the colossal remains of the derelict pumping station, the twin titans are the primary reminders of the city's origin as a remnant of the planet's ancient terraforming infrastructure.

    The city is overlooked by the walled fortresses of the former imperial armory and Red Guard barracks complex. Although a ceremonial regiment of the Red Guard remains to garrison the port city and provide honor guards for visiting diplomats and imperial officials, most of the old military complex has been turned over to the ministers and officers of the imperial foreign ministry for use as living and working quarters. The great waterfront berth that once accommodated the Great Liberator's palatial barge during his winter visits to the southern capital has since been repurposed by the port's inhabitants as the so-called Tidal Market District, which is vacated daily ahead of high tide to allow the onrushing waters to flush out to sea all the discarded detritus and accumulated debris left after a day's buying and selling.
     
  15. Color-Copycat Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2010
    Location:
    make america great again
    [​IMG]

    Where the heavy guns thunder and the massed caplocks rattle,

    Facing bluejacket ranks that yell o'er the roar of the battle,
    Some lesser men waver and their ardor doth fade,
    But there at the fore you'll find Sorrel's gallant Brigade

    The scene depicts the uphill charge of Brigadier General C. F. Sorrel's Acadienne Brigade at the Battle of the Haifong Salient from the perspective of the Third Regiment, "Camp Gautier Guards". In this decisive action, Sorrel's Brigade advanced under a heavy barrage of incendiary grapeshot and smoothbore musketry to storm the central redoubt commanding the left flank of the defensive lines above Port Lianhua, forcing the overnight capitulation of the Black Orchid Conglomerate's encircled field forces, anchored fleet, and their embedded Kommersant advisory detachment. The battle represented the victorious conclusion of the Eastern Shallows Campaign for the Texacoran First and Third Amphibious Divisions against the combined naval and ground forces of the Black Orchid Conglomerate, one of the Kommersant's easternmost Djong-Kok client-states in the northern hemisphere. Although armed clashes between Texacoran and Kommersant client-states in the independent Djong-Kok territories of the northern hemisphere have become a common occurrence in recent decades, the nation whose expeditionary fleet reaches the conflict zone first tends to handily win the day and dictate ceasefire terms, as expeditionary commanders on both sides are under immense political pressure to avoid open fleet combat for fear of triggering another full scale, cross-hemisphere war between the Kommersant and Texacoran nations. Since the last great War Between the Fleets nearly a century ago, successive generations of Texacoran Secretaries of War and Kommersant Chief Executive Commodores have been keen to avoid provocation of another total war, now that the year-round opening of the cross-hemisphere trade routes and interventionist expeditionary campaigns have gradually roused the Great Red Empire of the north from its long slumber.

    Hurrah, hurrah, for Texacor hurrah!
    Hurrah for the Texacor flag that bears the stars and bars!


    Visible in the background, the nearest battle flag is the Texacor national standard and behind it is the banner of the Third Regiment. Properly styled the Third Acadien Marine Regiment (Camp Gautier Guards), Second Acadienne Marine Brigade, Third Amphibious Division, this Texacoran regiment is drawn from volunteers hailing from settlements all along the coastal lowlands and bamboo thicket groves of Camp Gautier, at the western tail of the Nouvelle Acadie archipelago. This region of the Texacoran heartland is almost exclusively populated by the proud descendants of the mutinous Phalangistes Quebecoises, whose sympathizers and conspirators were well represented among the pilots and ground crews of the Canadian interceptor squadrons attached to the North American arm of the ICA Joint Task Force that met its end in orbit over Shindai. In the decades of chaos following the collapse of interstellar civilization and the emergence of the Kommersant as the self-appointed successor to the ICA on Shindai, the dissident Phalangistes were among the first wave of ICA dissenters to break away from the iron rule of the Kommersant's First Fleet Commodore and join the disaffected band of ICA Aerospace Marines who were already establishing what would eventually become the Texacoran nation.

    However, the early Phalangistes were initially wary of completely surrendering their zealously won and treasured independence, so their Phalangiste Republique de Nouvelle Acadie existed as a nominal protectorate of the Texacoran nation for nearly a decade before being fully incorporated as a core Texacoran territory, resulting in the original Acadien militia companies participating in very few of the formative battles and campaigns of early Texacoran military history. For this reason, in addition to their hereditary officer corps's lack of substantial ICA Aerospace Marine heritage, the Acadiens of the western archipelago are still often disdained by other Texacoran citizens and officers as little more than backwater algae farmers and swampboat krill-trappers, only fit for service as second-rate home guard militia. However, in subsequent centuries of hard campaigning against the best that Kommersant desantniki, Freeporter pirates, and Red shock infantry alike have had to offer, the Acadien volunteer regiments have proven their stolid reliability in the face of much hardship and suffering. While they are considered somewhat inferior in precision marksmanship and volley musketry to the well-drilled regulars of the so-called Old Salt regiments which consider themselves direct heirs to the ancient ICA Aerospace Marine Corps tradition, the Acadien regiments are acknowledged by even the most hidebound Old Breed officer as competent skirmishers and fearsome assault troops when thrown into the melee of close quarters combat. However, as traditional Texacoran tactics place heavy emphasis on conventional long range rifle-musketry and reserve the bayonet for decisive offensive action, the three Acadienne Brigades were historically held in reserve during the grand battles against Kommersant field forces and the imperial host of the Red Fleet, and only in the last century have found they found heavy employment in the expeditionary skirmishing and shore actions in the Djong-Kok territories of the northern hemisphere.

    In the depicted scene, the Marines of the Third Acadien Regiment are armed with the standard Texacoran issue Pattern '57 Port Faulkner Rifle-Musket. Capable of firing either standard expanding ball projectiles or heavy armor-piercing slugs, the Port Faulkner rifle-musket is a versatile and accurate single-shot percussion arm suitable for both shipboard and infantry use, though in order to fire armor-piercing rounds, its delicate breechloading block must be temporarily locked into the fixed muzzleloading configuration in order to withstand the heavy powder discharge required for hypervelocity slugs. Each rifle-musket is issued with a matching Model '51 sword-socket bayonet, a multipurpose implement that is often pressed into service by Texacoran Marines and Militiamen as an entrenching tool and cooking utensil among other things.

    The Third Regiment's commanding officer, a major of the Old Breed officer-aristocracy's Acadien branch, is armed with a ceremonial Mameluke sword and a Lefebvre Heavy Frame Revolver, both of modern manufacture. The Lefebvre revolver is an eight-shot percussion revolver, capable of firing either standard heavy ball, anti-armor impact slugs, or powder-and-shot canister cartridges. Although the more traditionalist officer graduates of the Texacoran Tactical College prefer to set an example in rifle-musketry proficiency for their men by carrying ancient automatic carbines and smart rifles into battle, not every Old Breed officer is fortunate enough to inherit such a prized ancestral heirloom in functional condition and even fewer can afford the exorbitant expense of procuring stocks of surviving ancient ammunition. For these less fortunate Texacoran officers, the Lefebvre revolver offers a practical modern alternative for self-defense on the battlefield.

    All Texacoran Marines are issued with Model '38 forage-kepis of modern manufacture and M12 combat helmets of pre-Collapse vintage, complete with radio receiver headphones and combat goggles. The standard issue combat goggles offer complete protection against the disorienting optical effects of the combat flares, ranging lasers, and ancient phased energy beam arrays that a Texacoran Marine might expect to encounter on the battlefield, especially in fleet action. However, only company grade officers and higher are issued with the throat-microphone, transmitter module, dual camera/display suite, and power pack attachments for the M12 helmet, owing to the scarcity of surviving communications gear. The relative abundance of ancient comms equipment among Texacoran Marine formations gives them a distinct advantage in command and coordination compared to Red imperial armies and even Kommersant field forces. On the battlefield, the execution of maneuvers and control of fire by Texacoran officers is often strikingly crisp and precise in comparison to that of their foes.

    All ranks are also issued with Model '43 all-weather cloaks of modern manufacture, woven from salvaged synthetic fabric. These waterproofed over-garments are impervious to the thermal imaging often used by reconnaissance scouts to pinpoint concealed infantry entrenchments in low visibility conditions. Two cloaks can be combined as shelter-halves to form a serviceable field tent, and their non-flammability offers satisfactory protection against the combustible effects of incendiary shrapnel. Only higher grade field officers like the major depicted here are able to afford or inherit an intact example of the M35 battle dress uniform of the ancient ICA Marines, though even here, the major's shirt, necktie, armored tunic, boots, gloves, and waist pouches are of modern manufacture. The major's battle cloak bears both the traditional ICA Aerospace Marine Corps insignia sported by all Old Breed officers of the Texacoran aristocracy, and underneath the regimental unit badge is displayed. The shoulder tabs and gold braid on the interior sleeve of the battle cloak are non-regulation embellishments but increasingly common among less traditionalist Texacoran officers. The intact sections of the major's M35 battle uniform are armored with integral ballistic fiber and heavily augmented with modern ceramsteel front-to-back tunic plates and waist plate segments. Enlisted ranks are issued with a single front-facing ceramsteel tunic plate, while noncoms are issued with front-to-back tunic plates. Modern ceramsteel armor plates are capable of protecting wearers against smoothbore ball projectiles at all ranges and rifled ball projectiles up to point-blank range. However, ceramsteel armor is vulnerable to modern armor-piercing hypervelocity musketry at ranges of roughly less than one hundred meters, depending on angle and incidence of impact. Stacked against the levies of the Djong-Kok, Red Empire, Kommersant, and the Freeporters, the Texacoran Marines undoubtedly represent the most individually well armored infantry element on Shindai, with every Marine being issued at the minimum the basic ceramsteel tunic plate. In comparison to the infantry-oriented Texacor, all other nations of Shindai reserve prized ceramsteel for fleet construction, leaving only enough surplus for supplying combat armor to officers and elite warriors.

    The regimental color sergeant bearing aloft the Texacor national standard is a V-series combat android of pre-Collapse origin. Thousands of combat androids and military-grade humanoid synthetics participated in and ultimately survived the cataclysmic clash of fleets that brought interstellar civilization to an end in high Shindai orbit, though their ranks have been substantially thinned in the centuries of warfare between the various successor states that arose from the ashes of the old world. The ICA Aerospace Marine Corps survivors that initially established what would become the Texacor nation brought with them the original cadre of combat androids that still serve with the Old Salt regiments of the Texacoran brigades. As various dissident units and separatist mutineers broke off from the tyrannical rule of the fledgling Kommersant and sought safety and refuge under the Texacoran banner, they brought with them their subordinate combat androids, adding to the initial Texacoran synthetic cadre. Unique among the old nations of Shindai, the Texacor have retained the ancient practice of parceling out single combat androids to augment individual field units as point-men and general purpose tactical advisers. However, as centuries of warfare and rough wear have reduced the number of operational androids in the Texacoran ranks, these valuable assets are now only issued on a regimental basis, rather than on the company or platoon basis that was standard among the great military powers during the heyday of interstellar civilization. Presently, the one or rarely two combat synthetics issued to each Texacoran regiment ubiquitously serve as color bearers to best take advantage of their inhuman durability and fearlessness in combat. From this leading position at the fore of the line of battle, Texacoran synthetics frequently provide on-the-spot tactical analysis and reconnaissance scans to Texacoran field officers in the heat of battle, notifying regimental commanders of tactical solutions and signs that even the keenest human mind and senses might miss. In the fray of combat itself, the Texacoran synthetic applies itself with terrifyingly inhuman efficiency, loading and firing a standard issue rifle-musket one-handed with twice the speed and accuracy of even a veteran Marine marksman, all while it tightly grips the flagstaff of the regimental colors at a perfect and unmoving angle with its other hand. With the added protection of modern ceramsteel tunic plates, the Texacoran synthetic's core systems are almost entirely resistant to armor-piercing hypervelocity musketry at all but point blank ranges, though self-maintenance is often required after action to repair damage to peripheral systems. Outside of combat, Texacoran synthetics typically serve as secretary and technical adviser to their regimental commander, in addition to doubling as the attentive keeper of their regiment's battle history and unit traditions, and indeed many retain fragmentary memories extending all the way back to the golden era of ancient interstellar civilization.

    In contrast, the Kommersant has long since concentrated all of its surviving combat android cadres into a single elite security legion answerable only to the Chief Executive Commodore after the unpleasant and costly experience of putting down rebellions of frontier fleets bolstered by combat synthetics loyal to mutinous commanders. Similarly, the Great Red Empire has organized its remaining synthetics into an imperial bodyguard directly subordinated to the People's Liberator to serve as an incorruptible counterweight to the scheming factions in the Red capital. While both the Kommersant and Great Red Empire will regularly dispatch a synthetic here or there to assist fleet commanders whose loyalties are assured, most of these nations' combat androids remain idle in their respective capitals, only seeing action when their nations' leaders take to the field in person. Furthermore, Kommersant and Red synthetics are always memory-wiped when a new Chief Executive Commodore or People's Liberator respectively takes power to ensure no conflicting loyalties to the old regime.
     
  16. Ernak Master of WIP's

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    What is the PoD? What year is it?
     
  17. Color-Copycat Well-Known Member

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    POD is 1893 ZAR presidential election, in which Joubert's Progressives narrowly defeat the Krugerite faction of the Volksraad, which subsequently grants the five-year franchise to the Uitlanders after the Jameson Raid and thus averts the South African War of 1899-1902, paving the way for the voluntary unification of the ZAR, OVS, Natal, and Cape Colony under republican government over the following three decades.

    The year is in the 2990s. I should have put specific dates with each illustration as I uploaded them, but the chronology is still a little fluid, so they could be spread over a 3-5 year range at this point.
     
  18. Color-Copycat Well-Known Member

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    [​IMG]
    The picket treadnought Yankee Belle, of Goree's Armored Brigade (colloquially known as the Old Salts Brigade); First Amphibious Division, spearheads the Texacoran amphibious assault at the Battle of the Eastern Ming Narrows, closely supported by the landing assault boats of its shipboard guard regiment, the 7th Continental Marine Regiment. The two ensigns visible from the treadnought's topmast are the brigade colors and shipboard regimental guard colors. The national standard is flown only from the brigade flagship and divisional flagship and is thus absent here. The two yellow turret flashes represent naval kills previously scored by the Yankee Belle in the Shan Yu Delta Campaign. In the background, the stricken wrecks of the Kommersant gun-clippers Invisible Hand and Tau-Ceti Maru are visible from left to right, representing just two of the six ships of the 112th Mobile Squadron that were unable to escape from Kuanyin Bay before the arrival of the Texacoran treadnoughts of the Old Salts Brigade. Preparing for a final stand ashore to buy time for the demolition of Kommersant fuel and supply depots just a few kilometers inland, a rearguard detachment of the Kommersant's 87th Fleet Security Brigade affixes M24 spike bayonets to their muzzle-loading M48-C rifle-muskets. Although the kosmodesantnik veterans of the Kommersant's elite Fleet Security Brigades are still colloquially referred to as "bluejackets" by their traditional Texacoran Marine foes, since the Great Dust War all Desantnik rifle companies stationed in the equatorial regions and the northern hemisphere territories that lie beyond have been attired in uniforms of a more practical khaki shade, as the traditional blue battle jackets and head covers made easy targets for the Afrikander sharpshooters of the Orbitaaler republics.

    The armored treadnought battlewagon constitutes the heavy striking arm of the Texacoran amphibious divisions and among the fleets of Shindai, the treadnought has no equal when it comes to delivering and receiving firepower. Even lightweight picket-class treadnoughts are protected by a meter thick casemate layer of pure ceramsteel laminate plate above the water line and a series of overlapping composite armor belts below. These armor defenses are only penetrable by direct fire, hypervelocity, armor piercing ordnance at ranges of less than one kilometer, though plunging fire from shore batteries at a higher elevation can penetrate the thinner deck glacis plates at ranges of up to three kilometers. All treadnoughts are armed with a forward turret battery, in addition to secondary bow and broadside batteries, though the heavy capital-class treadnoughts may sport a second turret battery and their secondary batteries are typically larger in number and sometimes heavier in caliber than those of picket-class treadnoughts. Secondary batteries normally consist of 155 mm Pendleton rifles, optimized for fleet combat and capable of firing both general purpose high explosive shells and hypervelocity, armor piercing ordnance. Turret batteries consist of 406 mm Nova Pattern guns, mounted singly in picket-class treadnoughts and doubly in capital-class treadnoughts, and effective in both shore bombardment and fleet combat roles, provided the proper munition type. Fire control for all batteries is handled by a combat android tactical officer of pre-Collapse vintage, issued on the basis of one per battery. Point defense is provided by the shipboard guard regiment, primarily armed with Pattern '57 Port Faulkner rifle-muskets and often augmented with a handful of surviving crew-served energy weapons of pre-Collapse vintage, including phased beam arrays and laser projectors. Whereas picket-class treadnoughts are assigned only a single guard regiment and its complement of assault boats, capital-class treadnoughts are assigned two to three guard regiments and are further capable of accommodating and transporting an entire brigade of Marine infantry.

    However, the heavy arms and armor complements of the treadnought come at a price in weight, which limits top cruising speed at sea to 12-15 knots for picket-class treadnoughts and 8-10 knots for capital-class vessels, allowing even a heavily laden Kommersant gun-clipper to outpace a Texacoran treadnought on the open seas. Slightly higher cruising speeds are attainable for short periods of time with a richer nanodust-to-fuel mixture, but the limited shipboard bunker stores of nanodust fuel additive are typically conserved for particularly crucial combat maneuvers. Propulsion and power is provided by a Hexamer-type steam turbine in picket-class treadnoughts and in a Gemini-type twin turbine system in capital-class treadnoughts. The boilers of both powerplant systems are gravity fed by hoppers directly linked to the treadnought's main fuel and nanodust bunkers, eliminating the need for a blackgang crew of dedicated stokers. The treadnoughts' heavy weight also results in less than ideal seaworthiness in rough seas and especially poor handling under full storm conditions. Thus, the Texacoran treadnoughts enjoy their greatest mobility in the shallow littoral waters and seasonally flooded plains of the coastal regions, where their amphibious capability enables them to easily traverse sandbars and silt bottoms that are impassable to the seagoing gun-clippers of the Kommersant. On land, treadnoughts have a top speed of just 8 kph, and their terrestrial maneuvering is strictly limited to relatively easy and featureless coastal terrain such as tidal mudflats, beaches, and alluvial floodplains.

    Due to their limited top cruising speeds, Texacoran treadnoughts are rarely able to independently force decisive fleet combat actions and when operating alone must exploit weather, terrain, and strategic pressure to catch hostile squadrons and flotillas unawares. However, as Texacoran strategic doctrine emphasizes amphibious operations above all with fleet combat as a distant secondary priority to that end, Texacoran treadnoughts are rarely detached from their constituent armored brigades during major campaigns. Thus, barring chance encounters on the open sea, most decisive Texacoran treadnought fleet combat occurs in the context of amphibious operations, either in clearing a path for a landing force or defending a beachhead against a naval relief force. However, over the past century, the need to show the flag in punitive expeditions to the scattered archipelagos and port-settlements of the northern hemisphere territories has forced Texacoran divisional commanders to frequently detach and parcel out single treadnoughts and their shipboard guard regiments from their parent brigades for these exercises in gunboat diplomacy. Thus, the Fleet Colonel commanding each treadnought in the modern Texacoran amphibious division has been forced by necessity to become proficient in the mastery of independent operations against local naval threats and in regimental-scale assault landings.
     
  19. Color-Copycat Well-Known Member

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    next planned illustration set will elaborate on the role of the Kommersant in this setting
     
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  20. Color-Copycat Well-Known Member

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    The Great Western Salt Flats at the far end of Shindai's southern hemisphere constitute the heartland of one of the Kommersant's most storied warrior nations. Here, among the endless expanses of shallow brine pools and featureless salt pans, a proud and fierce people arose from the bloodied and battered survivors of the old Interstellar Commerce Authority's aerospace-interceptor corps. The cataclysmic orbital battle that saw the destruction of the great interstellar fleets was a contest that pitted cruiser against cruiser, frigate against frigate, and of course fighter against fighter. As they had in previous campaigns across countless star systems, the autonomous combat fighter-drone swarms of the Combined People's Liberation Fleet proved to be formidable opponents for the attack-interceptors of the ICA's aerospace superiority wings. But enough ICA pilots survived the destruction of the great fleets to haphazardly coordinate the emergency landings of three gutted attack wings and their heavily damaged carrier support elements among the Great Western Salt Flats, which afforded the best landing zones in the southern hemisphere for those small craft with enough in the way of fuel and operational systems to reach the desolate locale.

    Here the survivors remained in isolation for a century among the ruins of the wrecked attack craft and interceptors that had brought them to the surface of this backwater world and which gave that stretch of the Western Salt Flats its colloquial name: the Boneyard. Far removed from the distant and primitive wars of desperate attrition fought between the reconstituted forces of the Kommersant's First Commodore and the Red shock brigades, the descendants of the Boneyard survivors were free to tinker with the battered wreckage of their forefathers' aerospace fighters. Although much technical knowledge and high technology had been irretrievably lost with the collapse of interstellar civilization, it was not long before the tribes of the Boneyard, ever cognizant of their ancestors' lofty aerospace origins and raised from childhood on tall tales of legendary interceptor-jockeys and subspace dogfights, inevitably redeveloped the basic principles of manned flight. They took to the skies in primitive gliders constructed of salvaged duralum and polymer sheet, shot into the air from catapult-operated launch ramps, and cruised high up on the gentle thermal vortexes of the arid salt flats. With the aid of their newfound aerial vantage point, it became ever easier to track and hunt the roving packs of rock lizards and migrating flocks of salt gulls that sustained their people. And it was not long, too, before they began converting these increasingly complex gliders into weapons of war.

    Isolated though they were from the greater conflicts raging across both hemispheres of the planet at large, the people of the Boneyard were kept more than occupied by severe internal strife and dissension that often culminated in violent clashes. Arrayed and divided against one another by squadron rivalries and recriminations dating all the way back to the time of the Collapse, the descendants of the three attack wings fought two dozen tribal wars among the dry salt flats in the span of a century. Petty squabbles over contested hunting grounds and inequitable division of wreck salvage frequently provided the instigating impetus for aerial skirmishes and raids fought between the fiercely combative squadrons. Gliders armed with explosive rocket and revolver cannon clashed with one another in the cloudless skies of the Great Western Salt Flats, littering the land with fresh wrecks that were quickly cannibalized for spare parts, munitions, and materials. But despite the savage energy and enormous quantity of irreplaceable resources expended in these violent struggles, they were often relatively bloodless affairs. There was no loss of honor or prestige associated with ending an aerial contest by means of that universally recognized signal of surrender, the waggling by a pilot of his glider's wings. Had his valor and skill in the air been particularly praiseworthy, the surrendered pilot and sometimes even his glider, though stripped of weapons and squadron insignia of course, would be returned to his tribe to fight another day. And ultimately many a protracted war was brought to a swift resolution by single combat in the air between tribal champions, with the hosts of both warring squadrons observing the decisive duel from afar.

    Thus a century was spent amidst the blood and fire of the tribal wars, driving deep divisions between the squadrons even as it molded their people into the finest aviators of their time. Even as the first exploratory gun-clipper detachment of the Kommersant's Mercantile Fleet Command beached its hulls on the northern rim of the Great Western Salt Flats and disgorged the blue-jacketed kosmodesantniki infantry pickets upon the briny shore, the pilots of the Boneyard were embroiled in yet another three-way tribal conflict between the warring squadrons, who temporarily suspended hostilities to meet the Kommersant emissaries under a flag of truce. Predictably, first contact between the two estranged peoples immediately took a turn for the worse when the Kommersant Trade Commissioner delivered the Standard Articles of Corporate Sovereignty to the high colonels of the warring squadrons. Like the Texacor nation on the other side of the hemisphere, the tribes of the Boneyard bridled at what effectively amounted to a Kommersant ultimatum for immediate and unconditional annexation, based on what they considered to be the obsolete corporate obligations of their long dead forefathers. To add insult to injury, the Kommersant Trade Commissioner announced that his fleet would return in one month's time to accept delivery of the signed Articles of Corporate Sovereignty, along with half a million Adjusted Dollars in trade tax and the first levy of conscripts for immediate service in the Kommersant's latest campaign against the ever rebellious Texacoran separatists halfway around the planet.

    Practically overnight, the sudden arrival and departure of the Kommersant expeditionary force had managed to unite the tribes of the Boneyard to a hitherto unprecedented degree. Rallying under the banners of the Three Wings of old, the squadrons came together for the first time in living memory, united by a common love for their fiercely cherished tribal independence. An Ace of Aces was jointly chosen from the colonels of the squadrons to command all Three Wings in battle for the first time since the Collapse, and it was not long before the full fury of the Three Wings was unleashed upon the returning Kommersant expeditionary force. The fleet officers of the Kommersant gun-clippers and their bluejacket counterparts among the desantnik infantry detachments had all observed the aerobatic prowess of the tribal gliders from afar during a demonstration display presented by the tribes in honor of the Kommersant Trade Commissioner in the midst of the first tentative diplomatic negotiations, but they had all unanimously failed to anticipate the tactical ramifications of that maneuverability. Although the free flying gliders of the Three Wings squadrons bore a superficial resemblance to the observation kites and tethered air balloons of Djong-Kok and Red war fleets which Kommersant fleet gunners were accustomed to swatting from the sky with high elevation volleys of musketry and explosive shell, they were far from the static targets presented by the aerial observation platforms and signalling stations of the northern nations. Instead, the free-flying gliders of the Three Wings proved to be elusive prey for even the best drilled Kommersant gunnery crews and desantnik sharpshooters, while their aerial bombs and revolver cannon wrought havoc among the unarmored top decks of the Kommersant gun-clippers.

    The equivalent of almost an entire Kommersant mobile squadron was sunk that day in the briny shallows to the north of the Great Western Salt Flats, with just the crippled flagship and a trio of damaged escorts escaping home to report the near total destruction of the expeditionary force. Preoccupied with the unsuccessful subjugation of the Texacoran separatists in the first War Between the Fleets, the Kommersant's First Commodore of the day ordered a blockade of the Great Western Salt Flats to contain the tribal insurrectionists of the Three Wings until sufficient forces could be assembled to mount a full-scale expeditionary effort against the insolent rebels. However, the Kommersant blockade did little to starve the Three Wings, as the united squadrons drew all the sustenance and material they required from the rich debris fields of the Boneyard. In fact the blockade stretched Kommersant fleet pickets in a thin arc across hundreds of kilometers of calm briny shallows, providing a multitude of predictable and relatively static targets for the war gliders of the Three Wings, much to the despair of those Kommersant provisional admirals and commands assigned to blockade duty. As Kommersant losses mounted and the fame of the Three Wings accordingly rose, the airborne tribals effectively became co-belligerents with the Texacoran nation in the first War Between the Fleets, despite the fact that they fought their battles on opposite ends of the hemisphere and were only aware of the other nation's existence through dispatches and propaganda captured from their common foe.

    Thus, when that conflict was brought to an end by the so-called Admirals' Putsch, which saw the Chief Executive Commodore of the day deposed by the commanders of the Kommersant home fleets, the Texacoran Secretary of War successfully lobbied for the Kommersant junta to grant the Three Wings a place at the peace negotiations. So it was that the Ace of Aces, heading the diplomatic delegation of the Wingmen, came to meet the Texacoran Secretary of War and his general staff in the heart of the Kommersant capital, establishing a cordial if tenuous friendship between the two nations that would endure for almost a century despite their vast geographical separation. In the alternating decades of peace and conflict between the First and Third of the Wars Between the Fleets, the Texacor and the Three Wings would occasionally exchange military attaches and observation missions, with three consecutive generations of Wingmen colonels being educated at the Texacoran Tactical College. In times of war against the common Kommersant foe, the Texacoran amphibious brigades and the Wingmen battle squadrons synchronized the tempo of their operations at opposite ends of the globe in order to divide the attention and split the strength of the Kommersant's mobile squadrons.

    But as the Texacor consolidated and even expanded their hold on their advantageously located archipelago environs through the decades, the unruly squadrons of the Three Wings gradually fell back into the old patterns of internal tribal rivalries when not united in wars against the hated Kommersant. Without the promise of the rich loot and salvage to be gained from raiding Kommersant shipping routes and commercial convoys, the free-spirited pilots of the Three Wings often felt little incentive to elevate one of their tribal rivals to the exalted title of Ace of Aces. Bereft of high level leadership in times of peace, the divided squadrons struggled to devise and execute a cohesive policy of foreign alliances and internal development despite reaping the technological benefits of the industrial revolution of the age. So even as the Wingmen traded their traditional light gliders for the first generation of high-speed steam turbined fighters and exchanged the old smoothbore revolver cannons for motor-actuated mechanical repeaters, they developed a growing dependence on foreign fuel and materials to sustain the modernization and upkeep of their battle squadrons. There was no question that modernization was essential to the survival of the Three Wings as an independent nation, as the Kommersant developed and deployed increasingly sophisticated anti-aircraft countermeasures and tactics with each new conflict between fleet and squadron. The introduction of incendiary canister shot and time-fuzed explosive shells aboard Kommersant gun-clippers crewed by gunnery officers with training in high elevation barrage drill more than matched the newest generation of turbine-powered fighters and aerial armaments employed by the modernized squadrons of the Three Wings.

    By the time of the Second War Between the Fleets, the Wingmen had exhausted their ancestral Boneyard of all salvageable duralum and lightweight polymer despite relentless cannibalization and recycling of decommissioned and obsolete aircraft. To fill the vacuum, the Wingmen came to rely on peacetime imports of Kommersant duralum and ceramsteel to construct new airframes, while the mercantile Berger clans and Orbitaaler trading laagers of the nomadic Afrikander republics supplied the increasingly vast quantities of nanodust fuel required to keep the new turbine-powered fighters of the Three Wings in the air.

    It was this dependence on Afrikander nanodust that would prove to be the Achilles' heel of the Three Wings. As the divided tribes vied to develop and field ever more advanced models of high performance fighters and cultivate a rather well deserved reputation for petty piracy over the southern seas, they came to take for granted the regular shipments of high-grade Afrikander nanodust from the hellish equatorial reaches, as the nomad republics of the Orbitaaler and Berger clans were always avowed neutrals in the military conflicts of the southern hemisphere, ensuring that Afrikander trade laagers and mercantile fleets enjoyed free access to the border ports of the Three Wings, even in times of war against the Kommersant. Thus, the Wingmen were rudely awakened by the outbreak of the Great Dust War, which saw the gun-clipper fleets of the Kommersant steam into battle against the Afrikander nomad republics of the equatorial latitudes. In a matter of months, the flow of Afrikander nanodust to the Wingmen of the Great Western Salt Flats had slowed to a trickle as the Afrikander republics recalled their trade laagers and mercantile squadrons to bolster the defense of their threatened equatorial territories. Although the Three Wings remained on a nominally peacetime footing, having just concluded the last in a series of non-aggression treaties with the Kommersant in order to buy enough time for a series of organizational and technological reforms in preparation for the next anticipated war, they gradually burned through their fuel stores of nanodust to the point of tapping into their emergency reserves. With the vast majority of their airframes demobilized and laid up in hangar for overhaul and modernization, the Wingmen could only watch and hope for a swift and decisive Afrikander victory in the Great Dust War.

    As the war dragged on year after year, their hopes and spirits were dashed by the realization that the Kommersant would eventually gain the upper hand and likely secure nanodust trading concessions from the Afrikander republics, including the nanodust shipping routes that had hitherto replenished the fuel stores of the Three Wings. Their worst fears were realized when news arrived of the peace negotiations concluded between the Kommersant and the Afrikander republics in the last year of the war. The Afrikander clans had surrendered their southern nanodust trading routes to the Kommersant, giving the hated foe of the Wingmen a near total monopoly on the supply of nanodust to the lands of the Three Wings. Recognizing the dire nature of the situation they faced, with the very lifeblood of their nation passing exclusively through the hands of their ancestral enemy, the squadron colonels of the Wingmen elected an Ace of Aces from among their number to confer with the Texacoran Secretary of War to search for a possible solution to the crisis. An initial attempt was made at rerouting a portion of the southern Texacoran trade routes to the Great Western Salt Flats in order to provide at least a trickle of nanodust to the hungry squadrons of the Three Wings, but the Texacoran supply convoys soon found their newly plotted shipping lanes obstructed by Kommersant blockade patrols directly aimed at constricting the flow of precious nanodust to the Wingmen.

    Nevertheless, the Kommersant's mobile squadrons and war fleets were worn and weary from years of bitter campaigning in the equatorial wastes against the hardy Afrikander republics, so both Wingmen and Texacor were optimistic about the chances of success for a military solution to the crisis. A series of lightning offensives into the corporate heartlands of the Kommersant was expected to bring the Chief Executive Commodore to the negotiating table before the Three Wings exhausted the last of their emergency nanodust fuel reserves. Thus the last and most recent War Between the Fleets was inaugurated, with all three nations scrambling to fight a war that none had genuinely expected nor adequately prepared for. Although the forces of the Kommersant had indeed suffered severely from their recently concluded operations in the Great Dust War, the fact that the battered mobile squadrons had not yet been demobilized and were largely crewed with campaign veterans rather than the usual green cadres of levy conscripts gave the Kommersant's provisional admirals an advantage that had not been underestimated by the strategists of Texacor and the Three Wings. Initial victories scored by the Wingmen and Texacor soon gave way to a succession of surprising defeats at the hands of Kommersant commanders and admirals whose ranks had been purged of those unable to survive the brutal conditions of equatorial campaigning against the wily Afrikander kommandants and vek-kapteins.

    Although the last War Between the Fleets was to stretch on for two more years and result in an bloody stalemate between Texacor and Kommersant, the fuel-starved squadrons of the Three Wings were forced to capitulate to the despised Kommersant after decisive victory eluded their grasp within the first year. With their nanodust reserves totally exhausted and no prospect of timely resupply from the Texacoran amphibious divisions that were fighting for their very survival halfway around the planet, the Wingmen were powerless to act as the advance pickets of the Kommersant's 472nd Mobile Squadron steamed into the briny shallows north of the Great Western Salt Flats and landed khaki-clad kosmodesantniki battalions in full view of the grounded aircraft of a dozen proud Wingmen squadrons. Aboard the flagship of a mere provisional admiral of the Kommersant, the Ace of Aces and the high colonels of the Three Wings were forced to unconditionally sign the Articles of Corporate Sovereignty that their legendary forefathers had rejected a century ago. In one fell swoop, the Three Wings had lost their cherished independence, and with Kommersant annexation they feared the total ruin of their nation and the disbandment of their proud battle squadrons, whose prized airframes were already being shipped back to the Kommersant capital as war trophies.

    But to the surprise of the Wingmen, they found that after the first few harsh years of Kommersant rule and armed occupation, their newly installed corporate overlords were willing to overlook their ancestral scorn for what they regarded as a savage tribe of airborne pirates in deference of military necessity. In the years following the bitter peace that settled the last War Between the Fleets, the gradual extension of Kommersant trade routes into the northern hemisphere and establishment of colonial footholds and corporate client states among the fragmented Djong Kok archipelagos and Red provinces had revealed a need for long range power projection that only the airpower of the Wingmen could hope to satisfy.

    The gun-clippers of the Kommersant's mobile squadrons, fast and numerous though they were, found themselves stretched thin among the vast expanses of the northern hemisphere, where the Kommersant's colonial enterprises and intrigues often collapsed into regional conflicts and uprisings. The long range striking power offered by the mothballed fighter-bombers of the Three Wings presented an attractive means of augmenting the mobile response of the Kommersant's colonial garrisons and frontier policing fleets. Thus the Chief Executive Commodore of the Kommersant permitted the reactivation of several Wingmen squadrons on a limited basis for forward deployment to the northern hemisphere frontier with the Red Empire. The reformed battle squadrons of the Three Wings were outfitted with the last generation of high performance fighter-bombers, hastily recalled from the Kommersant military proving grounds at which they were being evaluated, and crewed by veteran Wingmen who had proven their skill in the last War Between the Fleets. Operating from flattop Kommersant clippers converted at frontier drydocks for take-off, landing, rearmament and refueling, the first flights of Wingmen took to the air since the great capitulation, though they flew through the blustery foreign skies of the northern hemisphere, in service of the Kommersant, and against the alien peoples of the Djong-Kok city states and the Red Empire.

    Within a short period of time, the reactivated squadrons of the Three Wings had made their mark on Kommersant operations in the northern hemisphere. Long range Wingman reconnaissance patrols kept the Kommersant's provisional admirals well-appraised of the dispositions and deployment of hostile Red fleets and Djong-Kok pirate bands, while Wingman strafing raids harassed and broke up hostile formations long before they came within firing range of Kommersant gun-clippers. In the pitched battle of fleet-on-fleet general engagements, Wingman fighter-bombers cleared the skies of Djong-Kok signalling balloons and tethered Red gun-kites, before shifting their attention to isolated war junks, vulnerable to direct armor piercing bomb hits, and unarmored sailskimmers, which could easily be sunk by as little as one or two concentrated strafing runs. And in support of Kommersant desantnik infantry and colonial levies clinging to landing beachheads, the Wingmen flew close air support sorties, laying explosive cannon fire and incendiary dust bombs danger close among the ranks of counterattacking Red shock infantry. Although the handful of tenacious Wingmen rarely decided alone the outcome of every hard fought engagement and were limited in their scope of operations by the unpredictable weather systems of the northern hemisphere, they acted as an undeniable force multiplier for the thin-stretched squadrons of the Kommersant, who deemed the experiment a triumphal success.

    On the basis of their undeniable and integral contributions to the northern colonial campaigns in the following decades, the Three Wings were rapidly integrated into the corporate structure of the Kommersant. Close collaboration with the great industrial houses of the Kommersant's corporate heartlands produced ever more efficient and powerful steam-turbine powerplants for newer generations of fighters, more destructive nanodust fuel-air bombs, and more reliable and harder hitting wing cannon. As their complete and total reliance on the nanodust and industrial output of the Kommersant's core territories ensured their national loyalty, the Three Wings were permitted an unparalleled level of independence among the nations of the Kommersant, with successive generations of Chief Executive Commodore and Trade Commissioners being convinced that the mercurial airborne tribals were better left appeased with nominal tokens of independence to forestall any renewed threat of separatism or insurrection. So long as the squadrons of the Three Wings heeded the Kommersant's calls to arms in times of war and unrest, their tribes were exempted from the heavy-handed levy-conscription and trade tax demanded of all other Kommersant nations. Though they were now nominally designated the 1st Colonial Aero Corps and subordinated to the Kommersant provisional admirals in times of war, the tribes of the Three Wings continued to choose an Ace of Aces who ranked among the great lieutenants of the Chief Executive Commodore, though these latter day Aces of Aces served largely as political liaisons rather than field commanders. Despite their diminished role, these high kings of the Three Wings proved their diplomatic skill in securing significant concessions from successive Chief Executive Commodores on the backs of battlefield victories by the brave pilots of their tribes. These Aces of Aces ensured that subsequent generations of Wingmen only among the nations of the Kommersant would enjoy a monopoly on the closely guarded secrets of powered flight. Though the great Kommersant industrial houses might manufacture the high performance steam turbines, armaments packages, and duralum fuselages of the Wingmen's airframes, the free-spirited tribals would assemble and test-fly the completed attack craft in the isolated seclusion of the arid Boneyard. And far from the prying eyes of Kommersant military attaches and technical specialists, the young pilot-initiates of the Three Wings would learn the fundamentals of flight and maneuver in the deep interior of the Great Western Salt Flats.

    Still, a century of close collaboration with their Kommersant rulers and liaisons has inevitably resulted in a degree of cultural assimilation. Only a handful of Wingmen among the younger age cohorts still leave pre-flight prayer offerings at the old tribal shrines to the Sky Gods of the Wild Blue Yonder, with many of their number having embraced the Common Corporate Doctrine of the Kommersant. The stylized Trade Speech of the Kommersant's corporate elite has spread even among the high colonels of the Three Wings, although the old Inglic dialect remains the preferred medium of radio communication in combat for all classes of Wingmen. Decades of subtle Kommersant propaganda and distorted myth have turned the memory of last War Between the Fleets and the Nanodust Embargo into a tale of malicious Texacoran betrayal in the minds of many modern day Wingmen, to the point that the current Chief Executive Commodore no longer fears the political repercussions of deploying his airborne legions against their historical Texacoran allies in the colonial campaigns and proxy wars of the northern hemisphere. Nevertheless, the Wingmen retain a healthy respect for the combat prowess of their former Texacoran allies. The armored Texacoran treadnoughts with their dense point-defense batteries and incendiary canister barrages have proven time and again to be extremely dangerous targets for even the swiftest flying Wingman aviator. Just as difficult for the fighter-bombers of the Wingmen to counter are the surface cruiser convoys and mobile laagers of the Afrikander nomad republics. The treacherous storm systems of the equatorial reaches keep many Afrikander republics permanently beyond the reach of Wingmen combat patrols, while the unmanned aerial survey drones and recon scans of most Orbitaaler laagers can alert them to the approach vector of Wingmen strike flights with enough early warning to plot an evasive course.

    Thus, the favored targets of the Wingmen remain the irregular pirate bands of the Djong-Kok and the war fleets of the Red Empire in the colonial territories. There, the Wingmen have become a source of feared terror among those who oppose the heavy handed trade monopoly of the Kommersant. Outside of their exploits in active combat operations, the Yankee Air Pirates, as the Wingmen are colloquially known in the colonial latitudes, have developed an unsavory reputation for strafing the civilian sailskimmers of krill-fishers and coastal merchants that mistakenly wander into the exclusion zones of Kommersant trade blockades, sometimes solely out of a playful desire to break the monotony of blockade duty. Though they prefer the tribal glory that is gained in pitched aerial battle against the gun-kites and signalling balloons of Red and Djong-Kok war fleets, oftentimes the frontier squadrons of the Wingmen are assigned to punitive bombardment and strike missions in those frontier territories beyond the reach of the Kommersant's colonial gun-clipper pickets. Thus, the first and only impression of the Wingmen for many inhabitants of the northern hemisphere is to be found in the indiscriminate aerial bombardment and strafing of Djong-Kok fishing villages suspected by the Kommersant of harboring pirates or smugglers. Downed aviators of the Three Wings on colonial campaign know better than to expert merciful treatment from their captors, and thus few take to their 'chutes in hostile territory. Even among Kommersant-aligned client states and allied port-cities of the northern hemisphere territories, the arrival of the flattop aviation clippers flying the distinctive silk banners of the 1st Colonial Aero Corps often represents a fearsome omen for the innkeepers and tavern proprietors of the local bluelight districts, for the Wingmen aviators have earned a near legendary reputation for their wild behavior on shore leave in the colonial ports.

    Yet for all their mistakes and missteps in a long century of colonial campaigning, the pilots of the Three Wings have become an inseparable facet of Kommersant operations in the northern hemisphere. Though they remain arrogant and aloof tribal aviators in the eyes of the other Kommersant nations, none among the ranks of the Kommersant's kosmodesantniki and gun-clipper crews would deny that in the heat of pitched battle, the arrival of a Three Wings close support flight is always a most welcome development.

    ***

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    The illustration features a Three Wings aviatrix of the 1st Colonial Aero Corps at a forward archipelago airfield after returning from a successful strike sortie in the Pearl Islands Campaign. Her flight jacket and side cap are of typical tribal style and emblazoned with the hereditary unit patches and flight badges of her ancestral aerospace squadrons. Hereditary rank insignia is often worn in addition to tribal squadron affiliation, though taking a secondary precedence in prominence of display. Aviators of the Three Wings are accustomed to personalizing their flight jackets, flight gear, and headwear, with a great variety in flying goggles, tinted spectacles, neckties, silk scarves, and other accessories in evidence among all Three Wings pilots. Short trousers are the order of the day in both the arid training grounds of the Great Western Salt Flats and the sweltering humidity and heat of colonial campaigning, as long hours are often spent waiting on the flight line while squadron colonels and Kommersant military liaisons confer over pre-flight preparations in the shade of an operations tent or the bridge of a flattop gun-clipper.

    The aviatrix carries a heavy ceramsteel survival knife of modern tribal origin in her utility belt and a six-shot Serrograd 7-series percussion revolver of Kommersant manufacture in her pistol holster. The survival knife is considered an essential element of the combat kit worn by Three Wings aviators, and due to its general utility as a convenient flat-bladed cutting tool, it is frequently worn on the ground as well. In comparison, the cap-and-ball Serrograd 7 percussion revolver is of rather limited utility, prized only for its relatively light weight for Three Wings pilots trying to cut every conceivable gram of excess gear from their takeoff weight. While performing adequately as a handy self-defense weapon during shore leaves in lawless colonial ports and frontier settlements, in combat over hostile territory the Serrograd 7 revolver serves as a fatal last resort for downed aviators facing the prospect of immediate capture by enemy ground or naval forces.

    The aviatrix stands atop the port wing of her Rapier II, the latest generation model of turboprop fighter-bomber hand-fitted and assembled in the Great Western Salt Flats by General Avionics Reconstituted, the Three Wings consortium that oversees all Kommersant aviation manufacture. The semi swept-wing Rapier II fighter-bomber is scheduled to replace the aging gull-winged Comet-series of airframes in combat service, though currently only those forward-deployed squadrons in the colonial north have been reequipped and converted to the new attack craft. The Rapier II is powered by a high performance Zvesda-C steam turbine powerplant produced in the Kommersant construction yards of the New Vostok & Hyde Engineering Works. Burning a dry fuel-air mix of high-grade nanodust, Zvesda-C enables the Rapier II to reach a maximum altitude of 5000 meters and a maximum straightline cruising speed of 500 kph, though direct injection of pure nanodust fuel into the combustion reactor enables a limited maximum speed of 750 kph at the risk of rapid fuel depletion and engine damage. The duralum-ceramsteel composite alloy airframe of the Rapier II is crafted in separate wing and fuselage sections by the expert Kommersant forgemasters of Ulyanovsk Heavy Industries, and along with the pure duralum skin, are capable of shrugging off standard caliber ball rounds from conventional musketry and ground fire. Nevertheless, the airframe remains highly vulnerable to the standard anti-air incendiary canister shot employed by the better equipped military forces of the Djong-Kok and Red imperial states.

    The Rapier II represents the premier fighter-bomber of the Three Wings battle squadrons not only in performance but in armaments as well. Each Rapier II is equipped with no less than sixteen M3 Windstorm .50 caliber revolver cannons. Mechanically actuated and linked to the primary power drive of the airframe's Zvesda-C steam turbine, the M3 Windstorm is the pinnacle of modern Kommersant automatic weapons design. Originally designed as crew-served weapons mounts aboard Kommersant gun-clippers, the M3 was initially thought by Kommersant tacticians to be of limited combat utility, as their requirement for an external power source prevented their forward deployment with kosmodesantniki in the field. However, once coupled to the high performance steam turbines that powered the fighter-bombers of the Three Wings, the M3 Windstorm was transformed from an auxiliary point-defense weapon with a modest automatic capability into a first-rate aerial cannon with a blisteringly high rate of fire. Although typically loaded with a general purpose mix of incendiary, armor piercing, and tracer rounds, the exact ratio of ammunition mix can be tailored by aviators to suit specific combat missions or preferences. Modular payload pylons on the underside of the Rapier II's wings allow for the deployment of several different classes of offensive systems, including a variety of unguided chemical rockets, nanodust fuel-air incendiary bombs, general purpose cluster explosives, and armor piercing bombs, all standard pattern and manufactured under contract by one of the many Kommersant weapons conglomerates.

    The color scheme of the depicted Rapier II is typical of an airframe deployed in the northern hemisphere campaigns of the 1st Colonial Aero Corps, with the black-yellow-black stripes on rear fuselage, wingtip, and vertical stabilizer particular to those airframes participating in active combat operations. The blue and white engine cowling embellishment is indicative of a flight leader's airframe. The aviatrix's personal flight emblem is painted ahead of mission markings and aerial victory score. Each bomb case silhouette represents a successful strike mission, while each star marks an aerial victory scored against a tethered gun-kite or observation/signalling balloon. Aerial victories are increasingly uncommon as the Djong-Kok pirate clans and Red war fleets withdraw vulnerable aerial platforms from frontline service, making each star a highly prized trophy for the veteran combat pilots of the Three Wings. Personal and tribal airframe decorations were once ornate and highly florid affairs that decorated every exposed external surface, but in the century since the annexation of the Three Wings to the Kommersant, tribal squadron markings have been discouraged entirely and personal emblems reduced in size in order to improve the visibility of operational unit markings. The roundel painted on the rear fuselage of the airframe is unique to the 1st Colonial Air Corps and derived from the ancient emblem of the Interstellar Commerce Authority's North American Aerospace Force, symbolically acknowledging both the historical ties and modern day loyalty of the Three Wings to the ICA successor state embodied by the Kommersant.