A sprawling world government headed by the Emperor Undying. Though its primary mandate was to put up a show of strength while negotiating with the various alien species, it has grown in both power and influence over time.
- Mandate and Precepts
- The Imperial Government
- The Imperial Court
- Imperial Departments
- Bureau for the Assessment of Imperial Domains
- Collectors of the Imperial Tithe
- Imperial Armed Forces
- Imperial Court of Justice
- Imperial Interstellar and Domestic Relations
- The Domain Council
HistoryThe Empire of Earth was formed in 2301 as a direct response to humanity's first contact with an alien species. At that time humanity was still extremely divided. The gradual crumbling of the great nations into warring city-states which had begun under the Gene Lords had largely continued after the war; the closest Earth came to a central authority was the Council for Peace. The arrival of the Hroon ship Search for Salvation changed that. Even a brief contact with one of the more harmless alien races convinced the Council that a race which the larger galaxy perceived as divided by infighting had all the survival potential of a knife-fight in a shark tank. And so, in a flurry of panicked consultation, the Empire of Earth was formed.
The core of the Empire was the Cold Fusion Party, a party which had held a slender majority in the Council and which had long been arguing for the Council to take a more aggressive role. Its leader, Alexander "Icebreaker" Haskell, took the title of Emperor. The Council for Peace was renamed the Council of Domains and handed over to the Cold Fusionist's main rivals, the Common Party. The Council was to have most of the internal power and negotiate between rival states, while the Empire would handle the aliens and apply military force where necessary. It was clearly stated at the time, however, that neither power would have any say in the affairs of domains; all states would remain autonomous, so long as they agreed to the necessity of acknowledging the Empire's rule.
In the general atmosphere of panic, most states joined the Council and acknowledged the Empire before the new Emperor had even been crowned. A large percentage of the remainder joined a week after the coronation, after the Imperial Armed Forces had invaded the ten most strident opponents, razed three of their capital cities, and executed four of their leaders. By the time the translators had gotten far enough to start negotiations with the Hroon, the Empire was a solid reality, even if the Imperial Residence still smelt of fresh paint.
The next half-century was a difficult one for Earth. The galaxy was as vicious as the Council had feared, and no weftgate in solar orbit meant that, while any race that cared to could get in, a six-year trip to Alpha Centauri was the only way out. The Empire was fighting a two-front war, providing mercenaries to the Hroon as part of their original trade settlement and dealing with those Earth domains who regretted agreeing to the Empire Pact; what little resources and energy it had to spare, it was pouring into the acquisition of a weftgate, which the Emperor believed was the only way to change the balance of power. The benefits of alien contact were few and far between, and the costs considerable. News filtered in of isolated space stations being raided by aliens for cheap labor. The forces on Kariami were taking heavy losses. And the Empire kept taking more and more in the form of taxes. This era is also known as the Age of the Child-Emperor due to the number of times His Highness was assassinated by annoyed subjects.
The Sol weftgate was finished in 2342, to general apathy. But in the end the Emperor proved right. With the system open to easy travel, trade picked up, and reverse-engineered technologies started showing up on the market. The Kariami War finally stuttered to a halt, and the Hroon fulfilled their bargain by setting aside a large island for human settlement, another huge popularity boost. And the Empire, due to tariffs placed on everything coming through the weftgate, finally had the funds to put down the remaining rebellions for once and for all. Over the next seventy years it would only consolidate its power, becoming not only an accepted if resented world government but a force that even the aliens treat with grudging respect.
Mandate and PreceptsBoth the Empire and the Domain Council hold to the original twelve precepts laid down by the Council for Peace, with a thirteenth (added at the time of the Empire Pact) being held and enforced by the Empire alone. The Precepts, in their shortest form, are as follows:
1. You shall neither condone nor practice the enslavement of sentient beings.
2. You shall not use the genetic material of sentient beings without their express approval. You shall not practice non-essential manipulation of human genetics.
3. You shall maintain the basic level of human rights.
4. You shall maintain economic, sexual, racial, and social parity.
5. You shall maintain a basic levels of education.
6. You shall not have unacceptable levels of sickness, malnutrition, or preventable mortality in your Domain; you shall have a humane and effective method of containing disease outbreaks.
7. You shall control the population in your Domain by humane and effective methods.
8. You shall control the poisons and emissions of your Domain in a timely and effective manner; you shall neither expect nor allow other Domains to suffer from your excesses.
9. You shall punish crime effectively but without excessive cruelty towards criminals, and you shall not deny any sentient being fair trial.
10. You shall give those people who live in your Domain a voice in their government, that their government might honestly speak for them.
11. You shall not war with other Domains.
12. You shall have bureaucratic, economic, and politic structures of reasonable stability that allow for a smooth and peaceful transfer of power.
13. You will acknowledge the reign of the Emperor; you will obey His Edicts and honor Statements of His Will; and you will render him the tithe which he sets to you.
With the exception of the Thirteenth, the Precepts are optional: the Empire and Council can only encourage the following of the other twelve. "Encouragement" usually takes the form of withholding certain trade or voting privileges, though the Empire has become quite ingenious about finding pressure points. The primary purpose of the Empire remains to protect and represent the interests of humanity in the galactic forum. However, over time, it has become more and more openly involved in Domain business, due largely to failures within the Domain Council.
Some of the problem between Council and Empire is structural: the Empire is relatively small and has a simple chain of command, while the Council consists of representatives from each of the 9,873 Imperial Domains, most of which fail to agree on nearly everything. Also, while the original writers of the Empire Pact fondly visualized the Council as a power for egalitarianism, the Councillors are representatives of their governments, not their people, and in general decisions made by the Council have been good for governments but not necessarily good for people. It has been the Empire who has stepped into the power vacuum, providing everything from disaster relief and refugee housing to the occasional clandestine overthrow of a corrupt government. Not all of these attempts have ended well, and the Domain governments regard Imperial "meddling" with hostility.
The Imperial GovernmentThe heart of the Imperial government is the flying city of O'Donnelly-Tomasek, which is also the home of the Domain Council. Formerly two conjoined cities, O'Donnelly-Tomasek is governed by a ten-member city council and a mayor; it is theoretically democratic, but realistically has been dominated by the O'Donnelly family since its founding. It is the only Domain which holds no seat in the Council.
The Imperial government consists of the Emperor, his Court, and the five Imperial Departments. Persons working for the Empire, court members, and residents of the Imperial Isle hold status as Imperial citizens, as opposed to the rest of humanity, who are Imperial subjects. While the Domain Council is not a part of the Empire, the two work closely enough together that they are frequently treated as one.
The Imperial CourtThe Imperial Court is a place, an event, and an institution all in one. As a place, it is the heart of the Imperial section of O'Donnelly Isle, a mile-long promenade surrounded by tiered balconies that cuts straight through the heart of the Imperial Residence. This interior section of the Court, sometimes called the High Court, is where His Highness conducts official business every day of the week except Thursday; His Imperial Highness claims that he has never gotten the hang of Thursdays. Hours are highly variable, and court can stretch anywhere from six to twelve hours depending on Imperial whim. The Court is open to anyone not visibly armed or frothing at the mouth, and the majority of court time is spent hearing petitions to His Highness. Anyone can publicly petition the Emperor, though wait times sometimes stretch into the years, and the Court is always full of petitioners, lobbyists, alien ambassadors, reporters, and people with an off hour and an appreciation for street theatre. Some, however, have privileged access to His Highness, and many will give or barter this away to other petitioners; they form the permanent population of the Court and account for most of its power shifts and political wranglings.
Lords of Land, Sea, and SkyAlso called Domain Lords, this is a generic term for rulers of Imperial Domains; specific rulers usually prefer to be called by their local titles (President, Prime Minister, Most High Holy, et cetera.) Under Imperial law a Domain Lord is entitled to petition the Emperor four times per year, twice publicly and twice privately, and is also entitled to be housed on the Isle at Imperial expense for a certain number of weeks per year. Most Lords do not take advantage of this themselves, but may send ambassadors to live at court. A Lord's ambassador is generally addressed as His or Her Grace.
Privy LordsOccasionally the Emperor recognizes someone who has done exceptional service to the Empire by naming them a Privy Lord. Privy Lords are entitled to petition the Emperor twice per year (one public, one private, or two public), to have their family members educated at Imperial expense, to maintain an estate on the Imperial Isle, and to pass all these privileges on to their descendants, up until such a time as the Emperor revokes the Lordship. The original Privy Lords (sometimes called High Lords) are universally exceptional people. Their descendants tend to fall into two categories, the obsessively devoted -- a class which forms the backbone of the Imperial Government -- and wastrels. Most aristocratic families have their share of both, but the wiser ones keep a wary eye on their black sheep. The Emperor is prone to revoking Lordships with very little warning, and though he has done so only five times so far, the remaining families are quick to take the hint. There are about a hundred families with Privy Lordships at this time.
Champions of the EmpireAlso called an Imperial Knighthood, this is a distinction His Highness hands out liberally for acts of valor, charity, or prudence. It is non-hereditary and entitles the Champion to petition the Emperor publicly or privately once per year and to be housed at Imperial expense whenever he comes to court. Some Champions make their home at court entirely, but most receive their Knighthood and rarely if ever return.
Imperial CompanionsA handful of men and women -- generally somewhere between fifteen and thirty -- whom the Emperor has handpicked to keep him company, on the grounds that he finds them interesting. This has led to a predictable set of assumptions, but contrary to his public image, His Highness does find things other than sex interesting. The makeup of the Companions is too varied to predict but has included numerous artists and musicians, several diplomats, and at least one assassin. Because of their free access to the Emperor they hold great influence in the court.
Imperial WardsAll children born to Imperial Companions are made Wards of the Empire, essentially a non-hereditary form of Privy Lords with a small stipend in place of the estate. This status is also sometimes extended to other children for various reasons. While only a handful of these children are actual blood relations of the Emperor, he regards them all with an amiable if somewhat detached fondness, and those who remain near the court are cultivated in much the some way the Companions are.
Imperial DepartmentsThe heart of the Imperial government, and where -- regardless of the show and splendor of the court -- the majority of the work gets done. The Imperial government is divided into five departments.
Bureau for Assessment of the Imperial DomainsThe BAID is at this time the largest arm of the Imperial government. Its job is to assesses how well each Domain of Earth conforms to the Thirteen Precepts. It maintains at least one office in each domain, conducts regular inspections, and employs legions of specialists. The Bureau also issues warnings if it believes a Precept violation poses a threat to Imperial subjects visiting the area: a domain with serious water contamination problems might get a Yellow Band under the Eighth Precept, for example, while a domain known to have abducted and enslaved visitors will receive a Red Band under the First. It also receives the award for the Imperial department most resigned to bad puns on its name.
Collectors of the Imperial TitheA much-hated division of the Imperial Government in charge of assessing and collecting tithes from the Domains and Imperial citizens. Like the BAID, it maintains offices in each domain and legally has full access to the Domain's financial records, although practically speaking it prefers to go through diplomatic channels first. The CIT is specifically forbidden from revealing anything damaging to the Domain that it may discover during its audits; its purpose is strictly to make sure the Empire is not cheated. Reality has sometimes fallen short of the ideal, however, and CIT auditors tend to be very nervous -- and sometimes short-lived -- people.
Imperial Armed ForcesThe IAF is the enforcement arm of the Empire. In deference to the Empire Pact, it is relatively small; however, stringent entrance requirements, rigorous training, and high pay grades have all combined to make it the most elite fighting force in the Empire. The Empire also passes on technology it acquires from alien races to the IAF first.
Structurally the IAF is rather different from its counterparts. It is divided into four functional divisions. Conflict focuses on warfare and martial training; Infrastructure covers the technical aspects, such as supply, engineering, and computer use; Interaction encompasses everything from translation to information gathering; and Command is expected to make them all play together nicely. A soldier entering the IAF declares a specialty in one of the three non-Command areas and will gradually move up through the five ranks of Specialist. Dual specialties, once the third rank has been achieved, are common and encouraged; this is the only way to enter the Command branch.
Imperial Court of JusticeThe ICJ handles crimes against the Empire and internal crimes, that is, crimes of one Imperial citizen against another. It divides into two arms, the Court itself with attendant judges, lawyers, and the like, and the Court Police (CP) in charge of apprehending criminals. Aside from the main court on the Imperial Isle there are six traveling courts which move around the globe and one on a circuit between Earth and Jupiter to service the extraterrestrial colonies.
The laws governing Imperial citizens are tricky. Citizens living outside Imperial territories (that is, most of them) are expected to abide by local laws and, if in violation, will be tried in local courts. Locals who assault, rob, or otherwise break the law in regards to Imperial citizens are likewise tried in their own courts. The Empire forbids, however, the physical torture or execution of its citizens no matter what the local laws say, which can provide tension; and a local who targets an Imperial specifically because they are an Imperial is considered to have committed a crime against the Empire, and will be tried in the ICJ. Citizens are also not imprisoned in non-Imperial establishments; even if sentenced locally, they will serve their term in an Imperial prison.
Finally, the ICJ handles specific cases where it is believed that the accused cannot be fairly tried on a local basis. These are almost always cases of a prominent, usually political, figure, and include crimes like corruption, sedition, and genocide.
Imperial Interstellar and Domestic RelationsColloquially known as the Double Eye, the IIDR is a sprawling and complex department charged with negotiating both with the various alien races and with fractious internal domains. It also handles intelligence work for the Empire via the Information sub-department (the infamous Triple Eye). Espionage, counter-espionage, and shady operations are the meat and bread of the Triple Eye, which has somewhat tainted the rest of the department with its reputation; however, most of the Double Eye is fairly peaceful and harmless. Aside from maintaining embassies and deploying observers, it also runs a news service called the Line (technically, the Imperial Interstellar and Domestic Newsline), consisting mostly of dry, dense reports from various departments, which is accessible from every domain in the Empire; while casual users are few, many official and unofficial news sources draw the basis of their stories from the Line.
The Domain CouncilThe Domain Council is the representative body for all domains in the Empire. The Councilhouse dates back to the time of the Council for Peace; originally a mobile armored building, it eventually grew large enough that it had to be attached to O'Donnelly Isle for stability reasons, and has continued growing since -- a ramshackle maze of meeting rooms and offices that only the skilled dare negotiate. Counsellors are sometimes appointed and sometimes elected by their governments, and each government is allowed a single vote; they can have unlimited proxies, however, and so the larger domains will often have half a dozen acting Counsellors running around attending meetings.
Typically Domains are divided by their location type into Land, Sea, and Sky. The Land domains make up over three-quarters of the recognized domains, including all the domains on continental Earth, Lunar settlements, Martian settlements, Ionian settlements, and the two extrasolar colonies. Sky domains include all of Earth's Isles as well as the orbital habitats, space stations, and the weftgate hub. Sea domains include all the drifting ship-colonies, the reef colonies, and the sea-vent habitats. Sea domains are relatively few in number and limited to Earth, though their abilities to produce cheap food and energy give them a fair amount of power over some resource-starved Landlords. A fourth domain type, the nomadics, remains a minority with little power in the Council, though their sovereignty is recognized by the Empire.
Technically the Council has a massive amount of power, up to and including the power to overthrow the Emperor. Practically speaking, however, its influence is limited. The vast number and diversity of Domains means that getting a majority vote on major issues is near-impossible, and full Council sessions are held infrequently and mostly as a matter of form. The real power in the council lies in the leagues and the agreements between them. Leagues -- essentially groups of domains with a common geographic, ideological, or trade interest -- are an immense power within the Council, and the barter for agreements and votes between them where the true business of the Council lies.