With an opening for Jerry to do as he would like with Triangle, of course! And Travis the same with Albrook.
The Esper Union: Life has been hard for the Esper Union. T.O. Halberg died in 46 WR, seemingly in a terrible accident, but rumors of his murder quickly began to spread. The truth is that the precursors to the Neo-Returners assassinated him, in hopes of trying to force a change in leadership and create a crisis to rally the nation. In the end, neither of these things happened.
The Esper Union is afflicted by three things. The first is the rise of the Imbued; I’ll talk about them in a lot more detail below because this is a key theme that I want to play with, using two of the new characters I planned out. The social effects, though, are a class of people aged between 18 and 30 (at the most extreme end, born of the products of Nikeah’s and Mobliz’s earliest experiments), who have magic and considerable wealth. This has led to destabilization in the EU’s class structure; the Imbued’s parents have taken to styling themselves not that unlike nobility. “My lord” and “my lady” are accepted forms of address for them. This has bred resentment by the populace; the leadership, in turn, fears being replaced.
The second is a bloated government. Even before Halberg died, the bureaucracy was oversized and employed far too much of the Esperian population. It has increased in size ever since, and no longer makes enough tax income to fix this. A lot of the Esper Union’s energy goes to keeping the bureaucracy working; corruption and graft are common, too, making things that much worse. They’re also frozen – bureaucrats don’t want to change policies, for fear of destabilizing the political system by causing unemployment. Also, AAA corporations from Tasnica have virtually no regulation here, employ Esperians at three-quarters to half the wages required in Tasnica, and are getting a lot of money without having to invest much.
The third is that the military is too big and feels strapped down and ashamed. The Sky Riders’ integration, after the Aerospacy’s defection, has been bumpy. They seem themselves as better than the rest of the army; they are not, in fact, in the Esperian United Soldiery, but rather considered equal to the rest of the combined forces. In addition, the SRAN still takes officers from Fabul and has the “Foreign Fleets” to represent its old – and, ideologically, not quite surrendered – international philosophy. The EUS, conversely, consisting of the Ground Forces and Naval Forces, are now headed by the Imbued at the middle officer ranks. They view themselves as needing to prove themselves. They recently established the Grand Order of the Golden Phoenix – commonly shortened to Phoenix Knights – as an elite force of knights, allegedly in the Guardian style. While they have swords, impressive armor, and powerful magic, they tend to be more boisterous, with fewer traditions, and arrogant rather than honorable. Phoenix Knights absorbed the STORMs on their formation, and former STORM officers are at their head.
The EU is led by the Sovereignty Council, consisting of the Admiral of the Fleets of the SRAN, the Lord Commander of the Phoenix Knights, the twenty-three heads of the departments of the Esperian bureaucracy, and the Council Chairman, who serves two year terms and is appointed by a vote. Whoever the current Council Chairman is, he hates his job.
Doma: Doma won its independence in 47 WR. It reestablished a monarchy afterward, and the Doman Independence League converted into its armed forces. It is reasonably stable, but is a traditional monarchy with elements of a military dictatorship. It has remained a fairly weak and isolated nation; the island it occupies is rather small and largely farmlands, and while its military has retained Esperian hardware from the Leviathan War (including a powerful naval contingent), its air and space forces are particularly weak. A contingent of Doman officers feels that the current king, who sought peace with the Esper Union after the independence movement succeeded, has not done enough to guarantee independence. They, perhaps correctly, feel that the EU has only allowed their independence due to sloth. There has been talk of a coup already. This is another adventure point, because they have considered a spectacular assassination to stop it.
The People’s Republic of Greater Tzen: The Scandian League allowed the “independence” of the occupied zone in 49 WR. Since then, southern Hosluftgrad and Tzen have transformed into a nation in their own right. As the Scandian League’s power diminished, they achieved more real independence. They stayed out of the White Cell conflict – controversially, when Lenart demanded passage for White Cell forces through Tzenian territory, they agreed – and prospered more than the EU. They have converted to a form of state capitalism, selling their products abroad, especially to their Communist allies in the Merge League, but even successfully in capitalist nations. They have adopted Scandian military practices, but also designed and produced their own Dracoforms, and field a considerable naval force. They lack space power, however, and remain in fear of a constant threat of war with the Esper Union, which does not view them as a legitimate nation. They have yet to achieve GACA status, but have been considered for it.
The Veldt: In 52 WR, when the White Cell conflict began, Rinster sent out a most disturbing transmission from Fort Locke on the southern coast: “Bored now.” Shortly thereafter, the entire Veldt was overran by genetically engineered monsters coming from Fort Locke. For all intents and purposes, no one lives here. Powerful monsters, capable of handling military hardware, and stranger wildlife still dominate the continent and have devastated human settlements. The EU claims it as an experiment gone terribly wrong. However, photography from space reveals that the Fort Locke Research Group’s facilities have not been disabled like the rest, and appear operational. The Veldt isn’t no-man’s land; it’s Rinster’s biology and ecology experiment, writ large.
The Imbued: As I mentioned, this is the big story element that I want to play with. Basically, the magitech infusions that the Esperians were doing from about 25 WR to the present day are inheritable. The method of inheritance is uneven; for example, a doctor who had a few curative spells can have a child capable of powerful offensive spells (and vice versa). Not all people with infusions have children who are Imbued, but the rate is about 40% and rising with later infusions. Imbued typically show magical ability around puberty, so it wasn’t noticed as a problem on a wide scale until about 45 WR.
Officially, Imbued are seen as future heroes of the Esper Union. Unofficially, the leadership views them as a problem: they have access to money and resources because of their parents’ resources and tend to get military and government jobs. To put it bluntly, they’re already taking over the middle levels of the EU government, and the officials want to stop it. The public is divided; some mistrust them, seeing them as a new aristocracy (they are correct), while some hail them as heroes who can fix the whole system. The Imbued have high expectations placed on them.
They’re spread throughout the EU at an adult age, but a disproportionate number are Phoenix Knights. Phoenix Knights tend to style themselves like a Guardian order and have that rough look, with an Esperian flare. Swords and armor are common, though they tend to combine armor and greatcoats, with red, black, and brown coloration (and gold or silver lining). Fanciful helmets are a must, most of which cover the face. They prefer, but not exclusively, Imbued with offensive magic. These knights typically act better than everyone else – largely a response to being treated as tools of the state, and a desire to secure a reputation as an elite force. They are, however, an untested elite force, as the EU hasn’t fought a major engagement since the Leviathan War.