by Max Barry

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by The Disputed Territories of CBG-Palisade. . 111 reads.

future compass 2 reverse bandwagon boogaloo

aa switch to dark mode


so, a note- i had intended to redo my compass properly for some time- but when i got around to it, it was only to find that like eight other absolutely incredible people had flexed on me and made better ones that weren't a mix of two formats that ultimately failed to work out well (for reference, that's synne, fedrem, khoro uwu, and rein), and thus i shall in order to regain my based card finish remaking mine, but Bettertm and with Moretm bbcode tricks. so, i'm... somehow both early and late to a trend. for once. now look at the funny pretty picture and laugh. goddammit, laugh.

⠀⠀     COMPASS     ⠀⠀

The sanest madhouse you'll ever see.
Link(Click Here for Full Image)

⠀⠀⠀⠀   AXES   ⠀⠀⠀⠀

For the vague, ill-defined future of Liam's Reach and its associated hellholes, there are two significant driving forces- both of which have been at work among spacers and spacefarers since Man first left the Cradle and reached for the stars. They are, corresponding to the X and Y axes of this compass, the degree to which humanity has embraced the interstellar State and to which it has rejected the old ways of Earth. In short, how much bureaucracy one is willing to take upon oneself, and how much one is willing to look beyond one's precious few surrounding generations and consider the scope of a broadened world vaster than any other humanity has explored to date. The future of Liam's Reach is... nebulous, of course, and currently very ill-defined, existing on a knife's edge between colbureau's domination and a slip towards the negative on the axis of statism, and warlordism, its unappealing present, and a corresponding slip towards the negative side of the separation axis. In short, as propagandists might put it, a descent back into imitating the ways of the Cradle-world, or stepping forward into the void and a more resilient society. Of course, the propagandists missed a few- but that can be explored below.

Ahem. Enough with the dramatics. To review, and to provide you with something of a navigational directory,





Got it? Good. Now, on to the compass points- all of which, I should note, will not occur until well after 2995; the seeds of some, at least, are laid with Operation Merchant-Marine, but even that itself is still a ways out for the canon. And, of course, you should be aware that if you were looking for one, there is no "good" end. But there is a definite bad one. As you can likely tell by the color palette, it's by far not the most unlikely. And now, without further ado, the real explanations. It gets a lot worse than "paperwork bad."

(The lines go up.)


      Arlin Bergmann, long-dead theorist and economist of the 2600s only known for his regretted, controversial, retracted hypothesis that- in the most dramatic of terms- the humanity of colbureau is its single most detrimental factor, and in purely economic terms removing it in sustainable fashion and automating the state in its entirety would prove eventually necessary to sustain growth- is, more or less, vindicated, though were he alive to see a fully-functioning autostate he would feel little comfort. Now, the Interim Government solidifies its power over the Reach just in time to render itself obsolete- with its solidification, the Committee for Organizational Affairs undergoes expansion after expansion, and finds itself unable to cope with the workload of administering an entire corridor. Refusing help from others more experienced, and refusing to decentralize further than it has, it instead turns to automation, rigidizing the bureaucracy in favor of streamlined operations. The gears begin to turn for no reason other than being told they had to, the goal of fueling a society replaced with a simple maintenance of the status quo in computerized systems. Eventually, as those systems grow, they optimize their environment further through both prescription and policy; the bureaucracy is steadily laid off, then the entirety of the Interim Government, and lastly, the Reach itself, the automated bureaucracy seeking to reduce its resource drain through shuffling its people out of its space or simply permitting them to persist only in the crevasses of its lanes of supply. Fuel is stockpiled for ships that will never come, habitats are constructed and made into scrap on the whims of a dead man, and an entire sector of space slowly dies, carrying out the functions of state without a functioning state. To the Autostate such a thing is a detrimental externality, and its destruction a net gain- it was humanity kept the line from going up. It will never do so again.


      The Interim Government prevails, once more- for the Reach's sole "superpower", fueled by an entire coalition of foreigners, material success is to be expected. But that success is just that- material. The Reach itself remains, only a decade removed from an increasingly romanticized vision of a glorious society and freedom from the bureaucracy and "macro-scale prosperity" of colbureau and the Colonial Authority of Liam's Reach. The Reach protests its masters and is met with the very force it has spent over a decade becoming quite well acquainted with. But this time, there is nowhere left to run- even for the Interim Government's old and faithful servants. The Reach is a colbureau state now, and it has been hardened against such micro-level disruptions and detrimentalities. The Committee for Organizational Affairs, once thought the lesser of the two factional committees vying for domination on Liam's World, has prevailed, the wartime Navy faction disarmed in favor of a party of theorists, thinkers, and paper-pushers. Said paper-pushers, it will be shown, are... not toothless in the slightest. And the crackdowns, the strike-busters, the enforcers of the 2400s are for the new Goddard their teeth. Liam's World maintains its bureaucracy not through decentralization or reform but through the espatier's rifle and the naval railgun. Where the creeping nightmare might have acted with subtlety, the Autostate with a sense of pacing that only machines can master, or the Navy with military minds accustomed to death, the dehumanization of man once more into a mere economic factor will take place in a far harsher, far rougher light. It will be done with a surgeon's dispassion, the beating heart of the Reach's people exposed to open air by the delicate scalpel- and put against the wall. The lines must go up. And refusal to aid in the new Authority's great work will not be tolerated.


      Perhaps it was predictable that installing and actively funding a military junta might produce a regime opposed at least ideologically to the Network's interests- it was hardly an impossibility to any outside observer with two brain cells to rub together. But once the wheels of Colonial Bureaucracy have set their course, they are rather difficult to stop, putting things mildly, and thus as the Navy faction and Tanya Kovalova's Committee for Naval Affairs, the largest extant power bloc within the Interim Government as of 2995, slowly solidified their power, defanged the Committee for Organizational Affairs, and positioned their own speakers on the Committee for Stability and Security, there was little the Network or the rest of the Coalition could do to dislodge them. At some point in the future, then, assuming the success of Operation Merchant-Marine and the corresponding overthrow of the Free League, Tanya Kovalova and her gang of usurpers would find themselves standing dominant in Liam's Reach. Their reaction to beholding their position of power is swift and absolute- the Interim Government of Liam's Reach may have never truly embraced colbureau, but it appealed to them nonetheless, and for the new Authority in the Reach it proves too useful a tool to abandon. With the Admirals' Board's surviving members firmly positioned atop their thrones, the Bureaucrats entirely subservient to the Navy, and opposition and dissidents within the bureaucracy purged, the Network is given no choice but to recognize this military Authority and try to appease the monster they've created. Military men with military minds rule over the Reach now, and all too aware of the defeat they suffered when they failed to keep a tight grip on the leash of the old Confederacy, they make sure to keep their new hold grasped in an iron fist. Strengthened by its own blend of colbureau, Kovalova's Reach will not be made to prostrate itself to foreigners again.

    (-1, 1) - FOR A PLACE IN THE SUN

      While Peter van Heerden may bill his corporate empire as an alternative to dependence on bureaucracy and the organs of State, what he fails to communicate to his patrons is that his developmental projects amount to little more than trading one snake's venom for another. His very philosophy is centered around simply shaping another state free of the baggage of colbureau, not coming up with a viable alternative. It stands to reason, then that when the Free League and the warlords of the upper Reach's supplies ran low in the face of the Interim Government's privateering and anti-piracy efforts and their ability to wage war against their foe began to vanish, and they came crawling to a supplier who had ever since 2987 been attempting to worm his own way into the Reach along the Veronica Line they did so with full knowledge of the devil they were dealing with. They were just as aware that their arms sources were being bodied out of the black market by this very same devil- and they could do nothing to stop it. But the warlords alone were nothing compared to the Interim Government, just as aware of the threat van Heerden posed and far more willing to stop it; thus, when Operation Merchant-Marine was launched, van Heerden's efforts to keep Veronica open for trade were similarly all-in. And when the dust cleared, his outposts there remained. The last gasps of the Interim Government against the warlords are here violent ones, the Network pouring as much of its supply into fueling its puppet as it can. In the end, with the upper 97th Corridor flooding resources into the 98th from galactic south and the 93rd frantically attempting to counterbalance, the ensuing conflict is violent, extended, and with seemingly no end in sight. Bishop's Free League is puppeted by van Heerden as its brushfire war and uneasy status quo breaks into an all-out slugfest it was not designed to endure; similarly, the Interim Government once more is made to bow to the Coalition. The lines nonetheless keep going up- the arms trade has certainly become far more profitable. But the rest of the cosmos... the Reach burns, and now, so do its neighbors. All because van Heerden wanted a place in the sun.

      (Back to Top)

      X+, Y+|REJECTION⠀⠀⠀⠀
      (Me, myself, and I.)

        (1, 2) - THE BATTLE IS GOING AGAIN

          Out of all the political forces that sought to revitalize the Reach, perhaps the least expected was the Assembly of Free Unions. The runt power of the 95th Corridor, that loose collection of hundreds of habitats connected only by an ideology colbureau thinkers claimed was outmoded in the 2500s, the Assembly had been for ten years bullied by its stronger neighbors into compliance . Its soft-spoken Speaker Delisle did his best to pass off its incorporation into the Gang of Twelve in 2985 as a vertical motion and acknowledgement as a valid nation-state, but in reality it was very clearly the opposite, the 95th's largest power not strong enough to keep itself from being press-ganged into a material supplier for ideologically-opposed states. But, funnily enough, that could lead to its eventual dominance, and by a twist of fate Stepanovist anarcho-syndicalism may yet find itself catapulted to success. The Free League, though dominated by Bishop's Confederacy loyalists, nonetheless as the largest organized faction with a stated goal of overthrowing the Interim Government attracts to it figures susceptible to Stepanovist diatribe, and thus offered the Assembly an opportunity to double-deal- after successfully making inroads with the League's upper hierarchy and managing to even convince Bishop to some degree of the viability of their way of life, the Assembly is able to open up a covert war of two fronts with the Interim Government; through volunteers, through secretive shipments of materiel, and through what little political pressure it can bring to bear on the Network to permit the Interim Government's independence. As a result, Operation Merchant-Marine fails, and with an alternate source of arms the Free League is able to eventually win an easy peace with the beleaguered Interim Government. The Confederacy is birthed anew, albeit in different shape, and with a new Stepanovist coalition in place the Assembly gains a new comrade on the geopolitical stage. Though yet still confined to a pair of runt powers surrounded by stronger foes, the battle- the revolution, even- is going again.

        (2, 2) - A HOME AMONG THE GODS

          Despite the efforts of nation-states piling into the Reach hoping to claim it, in a most unlikely twist of events it is no one power or even one ideology that comes to dominate the 98th Corridor. In fact, what does ensure its dominance over the Reach is a lack of dominance- humanity is, thanks to what Stepanov might have termed the liberating nature of the stars, and what the Colonial Authority would kindly and bluntly refer to as "flyover flotsam", at least in the Reach now divided along the lines of little more than habitat. The constant warring factions eventually tire of the endless protracted investment the Reach seems to require and simply withdraw- it's not worth it. Slowly, the Coalition begins to pull out. The Free League and their privateering brethren begin to dwindle in supplies, but without an enemy to fight that they can best they, too, end up eventually simply fizzling out, after a period of attempting to establish their own petty empires- the Network, at least, now presents a hard border, and the new border the Reach shares with the Assembly is one that both sides loathe to make a hot one. Ideologically, the two "powers"- though one might hesitate to call a Reach divided into thousands of functionally self-sufficient habitats a "power- are still opposed, as the Reach hardly presents a coherent political front. Functionally, though, there is potential. Van Heerden's atttempts to permeate the Reach find themselves stymied by an... unlikely force- the Reach is now permeated by thousands of military-grade weapons and hundreds of vessels, and capable of raising militia forces and self-sufficient (for the most part) after a breakdown of minimum consumption they no longer depend on anything the Corporation could potentially provide. What has been born in the Reach is not a state, in any sense- the state, it turns out, was never really true to the potential the stars offered, and thus it was abandoned. Though prone to violence and by no means a soft place to live, the Reach has become the largest truly stellar power of its day- an accomplishment earned solely through luck... and sufficiently applied violence.

        (1, 1) - AN ATTEMPT WAS MADE...

          The Interim Government, for the entirety of its short lifetime, knew that it could not rule forever, at least not in its current form- it was too loathed, too hated, especially by the upper Reach, for its control to ever be sustainable. An aging Tanya Kovalova, as loathe as she was to acknowledge the fact that she could not protect her beloved Reach from itself indefinitely as her body reaches the end of rejuvenative therapy's potential, thus makes preparations- preparations for yet another coup. But this time, it is not to overthrow a democratically-elected government; it is to install one. On her deathbed, Kovalova watches as the Organizational Affairs committee is steadily and violently disarmed, and as the Navy faction is reordered into something resembling an elite democracy. The goal she has in mind is a simple one: she wishes to appease the upper Reach rather than fight it, knowing full well that should she come to dominate it herself, she would be in turn pressured by the Network into capitulation and full absorption. Thus, in order to beat them before they can begin, Kovalova attempts to liberalize her state just enough that it signals a willingness to negotiate and concede at least some of the Free League's demands. The Free League refuses to comply, years of constant low-level warfare now accepted as status quo not proving to be easily forgotten. But, utlimately, it doesn't matter- Tanya Kovalova has had them on the back foot ever since Merchant-Marine blocked van Heerden from the Veronica Lane. The League, short on supplies, eventually caves, and the Reach is reunified. Of course, the expected happens shortly thereafter: the organs of bureaucracy were too strong to be easily dismantled, the state remained incredibly strong in terms of controls exerted on its territories, it was unable to effectively coordinate any sort of democratic process thanks to a refusal to confederate, and slowly the Interim Government's new Reach backslid into the same authoritarian semi-bureaucracy it had been before. But hey, at least they tried. For once. And at least the Reach was united. That has to count for something, doesn't it?

        (2, 1) - THE POWER VACUUM FILLED

          The fact that it did not somehow prove futile for the Reach to even attempt to reassert some form of governance in the wake of the '87 Campaign is, all things considered, the definition of a miracle. Unfortunately, though, it was just that- a once-in-a-lifetime thing, a miracle, and when it was presented with an opportunity to collapse, it did so. The Interim Military Government of Liam's Reach, for all the good it did in terms of stabilizing the lower Corridor, could not last forever, especially with the people chafing under its yoke. Perhaps it fails to suitably adjust supply quotas one year, perhaps it simply overextends its forces and is unable to stop uprisings of opportunity- but whatever happens, the Interim Government starts to hemorrhage territory to its disruptive opponents to galactic north, and soon afterwards, full-blown war breaks out once more. But it is not the war that Bishop hoped for, or a war that Kovalova could ever hope to control. Rather, it is a civil war within a civil war, the Interim Government splitting along the seams and fleets being forced to go rogue just to fuel their ships. It's 2987 all over again- it doesn't matter if Merchant-Marine is launched or not now, or whether or not things manage to go one faction's way over another's. Navy folds, OrgAffairs tries and fails to capitalize on the death of its political opponents- quite understandbly, since there's no state left to manage. Kovalova slips away, or is killed; no one knows for sure. Rumor has it she takes a ship towards the 93rd Corridor, but the gates leading out of 98 in that direction were siezed by partisans and have their endpoint apertures closed. There would be no salvation for her there- but no proof of her death ever emerges. And, all things considered, it and the thousand other mysteries that rose during the new Civil War never will be answered- the Reach, disrupted by turmoil, is now lawless, governed only by the hundreds of splinter groups still armed with the Interim Government's weaponry and the old Confederacy's. The power vacuum has been filled in the most violent manner possible- by rampant warlordism. The Reach is free now- it might not like the cost of that freedom.

          (Back to Top)

          X-, Y-|DESTRUCTION
          (You can't go home again.)

            (-2, -1) - A LITTLE BIT OLD, A LITTLE BIT NEW

              The progression of the Interim Military Government from a provisional junta to a genuine member of the Network and legitimate colbureau state was a rocky one, marked by outside interference, civil wars, and rampant factionalism; nonetheless, it was a genuine progression, and with the support of the Coalition propping it up from outside its own borders it was able to persist despite the Free League's constant assailing of its territory. However, with that support and with that outside guidance, the order that Tanya Kovalova and her Committee for Naval Affairs were attempting to impose on their territories was in its own time undermined. Kovalova, the admiral who had led the coup against the old order in the Confederacy, found her own power slipping away from her and into the less militarized, more utilitarian Committee for Organizational Affairs, the second of the "Big Two" committees within the bureaucracy the Coalition had established after '87. In this scenario, Admiral Kovalova's military junta and the old Admirals' Board persisting within CINTGOVLR's upper class are surpassed by the theorist, the academician, and, in a sense, the apparatchik; whereas before her attempt at creating something of a "milbureau state", a military junta operating along the principles of colbureau to appease her Network overseers, now the Interim Government truly does become a colbureau state- and more than that, a perfect canvas for the Network to attempt a more "theoretically accurate" form of colbureau, better reflecting the ideas the theorists of the Stellar Renaissance had been able to conceptualize, but never enact. Examination systems, "intellectual autocracy", and the absolutist iron fist in a velvet glove of the sort the Authority only ever attempted finally found a place to be established, a second rebirth of colbureau's old Renaissance grown in the shell of the old order's last gasp at liberal democracy. Tanya Kovalova's military order, Bishop's Free League, van Heerden's Cooperative, marauders like Rudin and Sidorov, none of them could prevail over the grinding progression of colbureau- and at last, it was able to paint its own canvas, free from the detrimental externalities of human rage and human compassion.

            (-1, -1) - A TOAST TO THE NEW ORDER

              Operation Merchant-Marine was always something of a long shot for the Coalition's Interim Government of Liam's Reach- a last-ditch attempt at bringing the Veronica lane under the control of CINTGOVLR and digging the globe and lances deep into the Free League's heartland. It was, truth be told, not entirely meant to succeed- the fleets sent to galactic north were entirely expected to stall in the warrens of gates in Artemyev and the strongholds and citadels of the intersection between Artemyev and Veronica. When it did succeed, then, the feeling permeating CINTGOVLR is something approaching shock. They have won- and, surprisingly enough, with little in the way of trouble. A fractured League and a slow response on the part of van Heerden's mercenary armies permits them to manage the campaign swiftly and efficiently and to cut off Veronica from the rest of the Reach in short order. The end result is precisely what CINTGOVLR's planners anticipated- a collapse of the Free League into bands of squabbling warlords, cut off from supply lines they would need to prevail over the Interim Government in open battle. But, quite unexpectedly, CINTGOVLR comes to find that they cannot actually solidify their claim over the upper Reach- autarky, it seems, is the order of the day, as self-produced weaponry comes to proliferate the ex-Confederacy's northern bounds and the League's remnants, along with their compatriot pirates, privateers, and warlords, manage to pull themselves back into a scrabbling insurgent defense. Merchant-Marine's unprecedented success fades into a slow-burn victory and then settles into status-quo life once more- the Interim Government makes claim to the entirety of the Reach, and it always has. The Interim Government does not control the entirety of the Reach, and it never will. But the new order on Liam's World seems to be stable enough- hardly an interim, despite its name- and things seem to be going well enough indeed, or at least as well as they can go in the shell of a broken world. A toast, then, is in order- for victory achieved, and for the fact that it was not, and God willing never will be, complete.

            (-2, -2) - MAN WAS NOT MEANT TO MEDDLE (EnSeg, oh no...)


            (-1, -2) - DREAMING OF TSIOLKOVSKY (Emulation of Early Authority, Renaissance^3)

              X+, Y-|LIBERATION ⠀⠀⠀
              (But you can certainly try.)

                (1, -1) - THE DIAMOND STAR YET BURNS (Confederacy return?)


                (2, -1) - THE YOUNG GUNNER CLEARS THE FIELDS (Free League success w/o CLR)


                (1, -2) - GIVE ME QUIET OR GIVE ME DEATH (Settling into Status Quo w/ "democracy")


                (2, -2) - OUR CHILDREN WILL PLAY COSMONAUTS (Resiliency and wait Earth did what-)