In a shocking development on Mars, Federal Vice President Nigel Smeaton was discovered dead in his private swimming pool at his luxury apartment on the foothills of Mount Olympus. A heart attack is suspected, but an investigation is ongoing.
The news will come as another blow to an already beleaguered President who some pundits claim is considering resigning her post.
A new VP will have to be appointed, and several senior Congressmen have suddenly been giving doorstep speeches to get themselves in the public eye.
In an attempt to quell the clamour for her resignation President Jasmina Halsey has tried to clarify the rift between the Admiral of the Fleet, Admiral Vincent, and her office.
“Admiral Vincent runs our Navy, and I run the government. From time to time, he gives me a status report on naval operations, and we discuss issues of importance to the Federation. On the events in Kappa Fornacis the Admiral acted unilaterally, and simply reported his actions after the orders had been carried out. It is not my role to interfere with naval operations, but I do expect to be consulted when decisions of such import are made.”
Political pundits are speculating that this carefully worded speech she read out must have been the results of negotiations between the Navy and Halsey’s office. They are rumoured to detest each other, and the friendship between the Shadow President and Admiral Vincent has doubtless not gone unnoticed.
Despite the continuing ‘Oniongate’ protest on the steps of Congress, Admiral Vincent has announced that surface bombing of Panem in the Kappa Fornacis system has resumed, but this time with targeted, genetically engineered biocides to destroy the onionhead crop.
“Automated munitions deployed from orbit, release a gentle mist that then descends on the crop. It is harmless to humans and to other flora and fauna.”
This time, the protests are more muted, and the Shadow President Hudson claimed on the political panel show ‘Face the People’ -
“On the contrary. Now we see the layabouts are more worried about where their next onionhead fix will come from than about the farmers on Panem!”
Last night a relaxed-looking Senator Zemina Torval announced what had happened to the leaders of the Sorbago rebellion in a press conference following the return from her holiday cruise-
“We managed to fight off the Federal rabble rousers due to excellent support from many independent pilots fighting to support the honourable tradition that is Imperial slavery, and I’d like to pass on my thanks to them.”
Production has already restarted, and a small number of slaves that had succumbed to the persuasions of the foreign trouble-makers have now been punished.”
She also commented on the recent uprising in Ongkuma.
"These rabble rousers don't appear to learn very quickly. We will have the system back in working order soon."
Senator Torval has paid generous combat bonds to independent ships that have helped her in large numbers over the last few weeks. It is understood the ringleaders of the Sorbago rebellion were executed.
This morning during the ceremony to mark the start of term at the prestigious Olympus Village University When President Halsey began her talk a large number of the assembled students began booing her.
The university principal apologised profusely to the President before she left. Nevertheless the damage was done, and the event was carried on newsfeeds throughout much of human space – and her embarrassed and indecisive reaction and she attempted to proceed with her speech is now the butt of much satirical humour.
Arissa Lavigny has shown the plans for her parent’s wedding on the 22nd of this month, including a sneak peek at the bridesmaids’ dresses. It will be a grand affair with visiting dignitaries from systems around and beyond the Empire. Rumour has it that the Federal President and Shadow President will both be invited, although many expect them to politely decline.
The ceremony is to take place in the Imperial Palace, and the Emperor and his new wife will remain in specially prepared ornate travel chairs throughout as the Emperor is not expected to be fully recovered by the time of the wedding.
Markets rose dramatically after the news as it would seem that the Emperor’s illness is not as bad as many commentators have made out.
In the popular show “A fireside chat with Serena”, the celebrity royal, Aisling Duval, surprisingly talked through tears about narcotics -
“Yes Serena, that’s my early childhood. I hate narcotics and think they should be made illegal. My mother died from them before I was old enough to remember her.”
When asked about her father she replied -
“Oh Serena. He was led astray in his youth, but Dad is a lovely man, and would make a great Emperor if his controlling father wasn’t so spiteful.”
Commentators have expressed outrage at her comments about our beloved Emperor, and the network cut the broadcast at that point.
Senator Torval has criticised the arrival of a Federal warship now stationed in the Luluwala system.
“They think they can throw their weight around. Stationing a warship at this small outpost can only be a distraction from their lack of enforcement of their own laws.
“They think stationing a cruiser in Luluwala is a show of strength? A show of real strength would be to move against slavery in the Federation. Really they are being weak.”
There has been no comment from the Federal government as yet.
Rumours are coming in from multiple sources that rebellion has broken out amongst slaves in Ongkuma.
This news has surprised commentators given the speed with which the Sorbago rebellion was crushed last year. Some commentators speculate that the rebel leaders are relying on intervention from independent pilots, although many consider this to be a foolish hope after the widespread support the Senator received in the Sorbago campaign.
Indirect confirmation came from a comment in social media from a lowly shipyard loader driver, who posted that the ‘Cleopatra’ and the ‘Marlin’, two of Senator Torval’s Majestic Class Interdictors, were being provisioned to leave for the Ongkuma system.
Senator Torval is still on her holiday cruise on the ‘Xanadu’ so was unavailable for comment.
It seems many private pilots have been helping Senator Patreus’ warships against the government of Durius, and that the government is suffering serious losses.
Despite Senator Patreus’ actions Durius has still not settled the debt. Governor Malachai gave the following interview from his governmental headquarters -
“It is heart-warming to see the support for a down-trodden system like ours from commanders of independent ships. Sadly there are those who are siding with Patreus. We hope they will see the error of their ways before it is too late.”
There are reports from sources close to Senator Patreus is pleased with his force’s progress so far. Another aide quipped that that the “Governor Malachai is clearly deluding himself!”
We have seen several off-the-record comments from unnamed Congressmen who are angry at the publicity Onionhead has received from the President’s various announcements, and her criticism of the Admiral of the Fleet.
According to reports on black market pricing, the value of Onionhead has soared throughout Federal space, despite its illegality. The ‘Oniongate’ protests are still ongoing, seemingly paralysing the senior leadership from taking further action.
On the Imperial Herald political show, Arissa Lavigny gave a long and detailed interview, hinting that the Emperor's status was not as serious as some claimed.
"We've heard a lot of debate between the honourable Denton Patreus, Aisling Duval, and Zemina Torval, but we need to look at the Empire itself. We need continuity, not in-fighting. His Excellency Chancellor Anders Blaine has served my father well for over five decades. Soon my mother will finally marry my father, but rest assured if and when the time comes I will serve the Empire as best I can, and will bring continuity and stability."
Share prices on Imperial markets have already risen in pre-holiday trading.
In a statement Shadow President Hudson announced his sympathy for Sanna.
"Our taxes are crippling those we most need to help. We waste it on bureaucracy and the lazy. We should be supporting and protecting hard working States like Sanna."
It is understood a Federal Battlecruiser will be deployed some time in the New Year to provide a venue for discussions, and to help Sanna remain within the Federation.
Aisling Duval provided a colourful outburst while discussing Senator Torval's home system Synteini on the lifestyle show 'Favourite Holidays'.
"Torval is a horrible, twisted old lady. We have no beggars or people going hungry on the streets as they are down her mines working their fingers to the bone, starving in private!"
Senator Torval, now back in Synteini for the holiday celebrations responded:
"I wouldn't set any store by her childish outbursts. She doesn't know what she is talking about. A happy New Year and Empire Day to all."
The Congressman for Sanna, Marcus Albertson, has given a speech to his own parliament in Sanna.
"Federal taxes are holding back our progress. We say we have democracy but what can we change? Our coffers are sucked dry by the Federation as they lord it over us. What do we get in return? We get one vote in Congress. One vote! We are powerless. I suggest we get no votes in Congress and keep our money and our freedom! I suggest we leave the Federation immediately!"
His speech was met by cheers, not just from his own party, but from the opposition too.
The armed conflict between Senator Patreus’s Imperial forces and those of the impoverished Durius system continues.
Patreus is paying well for outside assistance, but an exhausted Governor Malachai has spoken out.
"What can we do? Our people are dying. We cannot pay even the interest on these crippling debts. Those irresponsible fools that accepted this money in the first place are long gone, but we are left to pick up the pieces. How can we ever hope to get out of this hell?
I call on those independent governments out there like ours thinking of getting into debt with this evil Senator to think twice. We are forced to protect our homes because that is all we have left."
In a move causing shockwaves throughout Federal space, President Halsey has announced Federal tax increases.
"I am sorry and I appreciate people are frustrated about this, but I have to announce further Federal tax rises. This is to cover our ever increasing welfare burden, and high military spending."
Federal taxation is already a problem throughout Federal space, and this squeeze where the frontier worlds are effectively supporting the rich core systems is causing unrest amongst the frontier states.
Commentators have suggested the Shadow President's speech yesterday was triggered by some inside knowledge or leak from the President's staff. Confidence ratings of the President are now at an all-time low.
In the traditional speeches that mark the re-opening of Congress after the holiday, Congressman and Shadow President Zachary Hudson has outlined his views for the coming year.
In a long speech highly critical of his opponent President Halsey, the only new element was his criticism of Federal youth.
"We need to get the unemployed lazy youth of our core systems off their backsides. They need to get off their sims, and in to the real world to do something useful. We need to counter the Imperial threat. Let's get them into the Marines and the Navy. Let's spend our tax credits on protection, not sloth. The Navy never did me any harm."
For the first time Aisling Duval revealed a little of the state of mind of her father Harold, on "Late Night with Aaron Smith". He is no longer considered by many as heir to the throne, following the Emperor's formal declaration that he is not of sound mind.
"My father is a kind man. A gentle man. A thoughtful man. He has always loved parties, and some have criticised him for that. It has perhaps taken its toll on him too. He is only seventy, but does look a lot older now I'll admit, but that hasn't taken away his kindness.
His father has always disliked him, and that is something I can't understand. I suppose it is fair to say they dislike each other. I'm sure many of the things Harold said and did in his earlier years were to annoy Hengist, but rebelling against a parent is not such unusual behaviour for a youngster. Taking away his throne though is a spiteful act."
It is clear from the social media response to her comments that she has avoided the question of his sanity. More importantly it makes her claim to the throne more tenuous.
In what is usually a quiet time for politics the Shadow President has given an interview to support Admiral Vincent.
"Our military forces have always operated independently of government. In fact some of the worst events in our long history were caused by political meddling in military matters. President Halsey is out of order to distance herself as she has. Our forces need to be able to enforce the law in far flung systems, and we should be pleased that they do so very well. It is clear that sometimes the law they are enforcing is the problem, and it is up to Halsey to change that."
If it is indeed the case that these actions took place without direct orders from the President it suggests a rift between the beleaguered President and her top Admiral.