In a frosty response to a question from a reporter climbing into a speeder, Senator Torval replied:
"All this in-fighting over the succession is unseemly. I have at least as much Imperial blood as that Arissa Lavigny woman and you don't see me clamouring for the throne. Any fool can change their name to Duval, but it makes no difference. I may disagree with Senator Patreus on many things but he is right on this matter. We must do what is best for our beloved Empire. Not glory for an individual. In the absence of a clear well-prepared successor, the throne should go to the Senator most popular with the Citizens, and like it or not that is currently Patreus."
A peaceful Christmas demonstration which started on Christmas Day continues on the steps of the Congress building in Olympus Village on Mars.
This year Christmas falls during the cold season, and the students are wrapped up warm, mostly dressed in red and white Santa outfits. Above them a giant repeating holo of the burning warg running from the field of flames plays. The protestors chant "Babykiller" in between renditions of various carols with amended words to reflect the protest.
Newsfeeds are now carrying this story throughout the Federation, but members of the government have been unavailable for comment.
In a statement from one of Senator Torval's closest advisors the Senator declared that the rebellion in the Sorbago system had been crushed. She praised her forces and the allied pilots who aided in suppressing the rebellion.
"The institution of Imperial slavery in the Sorbago system has been restored. Those that have broken tradition will be punished according to Imperial law. Our focus now is on restoring production and additional manpower from Mastopolos Mining will be transferred into the system to assist in the rebuilding process."
She also promised that the situation in the system would return to normal quickly, although local market prices haven't yet returned to their pre-rebellion levels.
After the traditional Presidential Christmas Eve banquet in New York on Earth in Sol last night, the President was confronted by a crowd protesting against ‘Oniongate' - and the bombing of fields and farms on Panem in Kappa Fornacis.
Struggling to speak above the noise of the crowd chanting “Babykiller”, President Halsey answered questions from the press.
"I have heard about the terrible events on Panem. I did not issue any orders to crack down on the narcotic onionhead, and certainly did not authorise bombings of the surface. Admiral Vincent has operated without my authority and I have asked for an enquiry to see how this happened."
This is a surprising development, as it seems unlikely Admiral Vincent would have acted without support from the top. Some are saying this is Halsey washing her hands of the problem.
Senator Torval has long criticised slavery outside the Empire or 'unregulated slavery' as she refers to it.
Even though she doesn't celebrate Christmas, for the last few years she has freed slaves she has found for sale in Federal systems. Speaking from her yacht the 'Xanadu' she said:
"Today, as with previous years, I am freeing 10,000 unregulated Federal slaves bought from private traders in Federal systems for their Christmas celebration. The barbarism of unregulated slavery in the Federation is unforgivable. The Federation needs to pass laws to regulate slavery rather than pretending the practice doesn't exist."
Senator Denton Patreus refused to comment today when questioned regarding the apparent failure of the rebellion in the Jera system despite his support.
Reports from the system have indicated that the local security forces with the support of hired independent pilots experienced little difficulty in suppressing the attacks by the rebel forces. One of the pilots commented:
“I’ve never had a job this easy. It’s like the rebels can’t even be bothered to fight. It’s the easiest money I’ve ever made!”
A source close to the senator revealed that more forces may be sent to the system.
Christmas celebrations and official public holidays have begun throughout Federal, Alliance and some independent systems.
In ancient times the date once marked the shortest day on Earth and developed into a key date for various ancient religions still observed by some. The now traditional Christmas celebration of commercial excess, parties and present-giving is in full swing.
In Imperial systems the focus of the present-giving celebrations is the New Year in the standard calendar, and of course Empire Day, the day after.
Rumours are spreading that the Emperor's illness has taken a turn for the worse. Speeders carrying medical experts have been seen entering the palace, and inadvertently last night an Imperial aide confirmed that one wing of the Imperial Palace has been turned into a hospital.
Critics of the Emperor have said that he should have taken genetic therapies long ago. With them he would have lived another fifty years, but the Emperor has always believed in clean living and avoided medications, drugs and narcotics. Those same critics also blamed him for his rebellious son's descent into debauchery during his early years as a response to his father's "puritanism" as Harold called it at the time. Others have pointed out that Harold would have rebelled whatever, and some say this rebellious nature explains Harold's stance on slavery.
Senator Patreus held talks on his Majestic class Interdictor the "Imperial Freedom" last night.
The talks in the palatial Red Room on his ship were an impressive affair, but they quickly broke down early this morning, GMT, and Governor Malachai flew back to Durius without any comment to the press.
After the talks Senator Patreus gave an interview with journalists that had been invited on board for the talks.
"I am very disappointed that Mr. Malachai has not taken this issue seriously. Honour and honesty are vital attributes in our modern society, and here we have seen neither. It is with a heavy heart I have decided to take action to recover the debt from Durius. I have ships already in the Durius system, and more will be deployed as required."
Panic has spread through the tiny population of this feudal backwater, as the system moves to a war footing.
Speaking to press in the jungle retreat on her yacht 'Xanadu' this morning, when asked about the comments Aisling Duval made on the chat show 'Celebrity Pets' Zemina Torval stated:
"That illegitimate child Aisling Duval speaks out against slavery, but she knows nothing of it. Look at our streets. We have no beggars. No graffiti. No one goes hungry. Our streets are safe.
Look at the Federation. The girl's never been of course. People die of starvation despite their crippling taxes. Is that what she wants, because it seems popular? Go to the Federation then!
She speaks for her father because he can barely talk and is only lucid for a few moments at a time. It's not as if her father will ever ascend to the throne. Everyone knows he wrecked his brain many years ago."
We couldn't reach Aisling Duval for comment.
A palace spokesman today announced on behalf of his grace Emperor Hengist Duval, that he is to marry Florence Lavigny, a sweetheart from his younger years.
Under Imperial Law a marriage must be announced 30 days beforehand. Commentators have pointed out the Emperor could decree it to happen sooner, though he would have to appear in the Senate to do so.
With his son declared unfit the marriage would make Arissa Lavigny, his illegitimate daughter with Florence, next in line for the throne. Under Imperial Law the marriage cannot happen for 30 days to allow people to lodge their objections.
Arissa Lavigny will become Princess Arissa as soon as they marry, and of the announcement she has said:
"This is one of the happiest days of my life. I will of course change my name to Duval, so the honourable Duval line will continue in both blood and name."
Senator Denton Patreus announced today in a press release that the government of the impoverished Durius system has defaulted on the loan he provided in 3294. The Senator has given them 24 hours to make the overdue payment or action would be taken.
A haggard Governor Xavier Malachai, leader of "Durius Dominion" in Durius said to anxious reporters:
"The interest on this debt is crippling us. It is not as if the money helped the people of Durius. It went into military hardware, bought at full price from Patreus, all those years ago. We've offered to return the warships - we cannot afford to crew them anyway, but Patreus is not interested. We cannot afford the payment. We can't sell them, so what can we do?"
Onionhead stories are dominating the Federal media, with teenage criminality being highlighted. The coverage has increased demand for the narcotic in Federal space higher than ever.
Admiral Vincent has announced a program of crop destruction from low orbit around Panem.
"Dropships, launched from our orbiting Farragut class battlecruisers, have bombed large areas of crops. We used pinpoint modern weaponry and no human has been harmed in these attacks."
Local news reports show this not to be true. An entire family was found dead, overcome by the noxious fumes from the burning of the ripe crop in their field tent. The image of a burning warg (a deer-like creature with big eyes, probably imported as a pet by one of the settlers) running from a burning field, has spread through social media, especially within the Alliance, spreading hatred for Federal Forces.
At the annual Feast of the 100, a banquet for key business leaders on Capitol in Achenar, one of the after dinner speakers, Senator Denton Patreus declared the importance of the Imperial succession.
"We have a truly great Empire. Our grace Emperor Hengist is sadly not well, and I wish him a speedy recovery. Nevertheless, we do need to plan should the worst happen. The choice of our next Emperor is a vital one. The succession should not be about family bloodlines, but about who would be best for the future Empire. For past generations, and for Hengist himself, he was groomed for power for decades by his great father, and this has worked well for over a thousand years. It was not just about blood, it was about learning from his father. This time there is no such successor, so things need to change."
Reports are coming in that the slaves in Sorbago have taken control of many of the mines on Sorbago A1 and have massacred those in control. We have no reporters on the scene so cannot verify these stories.
A spokeswoman for Mastopolos Mining Incorporated, which runs the mines and much of the system, has issued the following statement:
"Our security forces have intercepted ships from outside the system bringing guns to the rebels. This is destabilising our workforce, and has got to stop."
Senator Torval, a major shareholder in Mastopolos, has sent some of her private warships to the system. She has also further increased aid for those assisting her in fighting off "these external rabble-rousers". In the meantime, the price of ore has risen in the area.
Arissa Lavigny, the outspoken courtier and the daughter of historic socialite Prince Aristide Lavigny (famously eaten by his own pet Linglang when Arissa was very young) has declared that the Prince was not her father.
She claimed that she is in fact the illegitimate daughter of Emperor Hengist. She spent many of her early years around the Imperial Court. Her father and mother were close friends of the Emperor, and perhaps now we know why. Her mother is still seen in court from time to time.
The information was conveyed in a press release and our requests for an interview with Arissa have so far been declined.
This would put her claim to the throne ahead of Aisling Duval's, but her parents being unmarried still means her claim is not solid. Palace officials could not be drawn to comment, but the fact that the Palace has not issued a denial is significant.
16 December 3300 was the day President Halsey declared the onionhead narcotic illegal in Federal systems.
The outrage amongst the Farmer's Cooperative may be tempered by the fact that her edict doesn't seem to have had much effect on Commanders' activity, quite the oppostite in fact, with Kappa Fornacis' finest produce being eagerly distributed to the black market throughout the galaxy, and especially within Federal systems.
We've heard a whisper that Madame President's dismay at this may lead her to start flexing her metaphorical muscles.
Meanwhile Senator Torval is looking to shore up her powerbase in the deadly game of Imperial succession that is being played out. Her wealth is built on slavery, and from the 26 million credits claimed by Commanders willing to offer Sorbago's slaves the 'opportunity' of a better class of slavery in the Empire via Mastopolos Mining Inc's links with the Senator it looks like she is gaining traction.
Senator Denton Patreus, meanwhile, is engaged in a more even fight. Ever the one to manipulate strife to his own ends whilst disguising his intentions with grandiose sentiments, Patreus has thrown his considerable resources behind the Jera Nationalists. The incumbent Jera Social Democrats are currently managing to hold their own in the battle for control in the system, with Commanders' support evenly split.
Federal Admiral Vincent has declared a blockade of the Kappa Fornacis system to prevent the spread of the narcotic onionhead.
Speaking after a meeting at the Admiralty in Quenisset on Mars he answered questions from waiting journalists.
"The local government is failing to prevent the spread of this vile narcotic through the galaxy, so we must do so on behalf of the Federation. Any ship carrying this narcotic will be destroyed by our forces."
The Farmer's leader, Georgio Algeria has put out a plea for help.
"Please help us. This is our livelihood. If the Federation doesn't like it then it must be cool. And you'll be cool if you help us. Come and back us against the oppressors."
The sick Emperor Hengist Duval has managed to appear in the Senate, albeit in a travel chair, to issue a decree.
He decreed Harold, his son, not of sound mind. This gives some credence to the claim in the more scurrilous news feeds a year ago that Hengist once referred to his son in not very regal terms in private.
"The little idiot is utterly bonkers. He couldn't find his own bottom with both hands."
This was of course, denied. This decree, as commentators have been quick to point out, means there is no clear successor to the throne. Unusually the event was excluded from newscasts, but those present said he looked frail.
Aisling Duval, arguably second in line for the throne if her parents were married, spoke out against slavery on the chat show 'Celebrity Pets', particularly the rebellion in Sorbago.
"We should accept that in this 34th century, this is a barbaric practice for people of honour. We should free the slaves in Sorbago. And for that matter Ngun, Eta Horologii, Kuyu, and Cemiess right away. This will happen anyway when my father becomes Emperor."
There has been some discussion among commentators that Aisling now appears to be speaking for her father. Senator Torval said in an off-the-cuff remark while leaving an awards ceremony:
"Well I suppose her soak of a father can't speak for himself any more. At least she could read the names of a few systems she had been given on a note. It would have been better if she could have been told how to pronounce them!"