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.
Commanders' assistance helped Imperial Senator Zemina Torval gain a crushing victory and 76% influence in the Sorbago system. Torval used the Mastopolus Mining Corporation as a front to acquire slaves and bolster her power base in the manoeuvring to succeed the ailing Emperor Hengist Duval.
Senator Denton Patreus was dealt a bloody nose in the Jera system, with Commanders weighing in to ensure that the incumbent Jera Social Democrats remained in power despite Patreus's best efforts.
The Emperor himself has been making quite an impact for such an allegedly frail man. Days after appearing in the Senate to pronounce his son and heir Harold 'not of sound mind', Hengist Duval announced his intention to marry his sweetheart from their younger years, Florence Lavigny.
Even in his condition, the Emperor will be fully aware of the focus this throws on his and Florence's illegitimate daughter Arissa. The soon-to-be Princess Arissa immediately announced her intent to change her surname to Duval, seemingly putting her in pole position in the succession race.
Undeterred by his defeat in Jera, Senator Patreus has declared all out war on the tiny feudal system of Durius for defaulting on massive loan payments to him. Commanders are taking this fresh opportunity to earn credits whilst influencing the wider battle for Imperial succession. Although support for the Durius government has risen slightly since Patreus's intervention, the outcome is still very much in the balance.
The Federation are also active. After blockading Kappa Fornacis and then apparently sending Federal dropships in to bomb its Onionhead farms, President Halsey yesterday surprisingly sought to deny responsibility for the outrage - she suggested Admiral Vincent was acting without her authority.
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."