Bush Fires (a Core-verse story)

The first spin-off from The Terra Core (see http://www.movellas.com/en/book/read/201310281154034479-the-terra-core for the details), this story will take a look at the wider universe the Core stories inhabit- and take us into the world of the United Western Alliance military, as they deal with terrorists, insurgents and crumbling regimes.

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1. Fun and Games

On the borders of UWA, MEA and RF territories sat a number of so-called 'independent' systems. They prided themselves on not belonging to any of the major galactic players. They had their own currencies, fleets and anthems. They were- or at least they told themselves they were- autonomous.

This did not mean they actually were. The grim reality was, they had strong economic ties to the major governments around them. They had to, for they depended upon trade with those larger nations for their very survival. 

The goods from these worlds were quite rare and the independent worlds could demand a high price for their wares. However, the governments they traded with refused to be held to ransom, even for the rarest of silks, foods and minerals. As such, trade tariffs were steep. Bitterness ensued, and apathy for the desires of the major players set in. 

Things weren't helped by the governments of some of these independent systems. One such government, the Free Worlds of Sirius, boasted greatly of its riches and exports and claimed to fight fiercely for the benefit of its people. The reality was very different.

The government was democratic in name only. The ruling party enforced a police state upon the three wolds under its control, and much of the money earned from trade went straight into the coffes of the ministers of the ruling party. Officials of the United Sirius Party would argue on news feeds of the injustice of UWA taxation, offering up sob stories about how poor the average hard-working citizen was. They would whip up a storm of anti-UWA, RF and MEA sentiment. The public, seething with resentment at their apparent enemies, demanded their government cease trade altogether. 

But that of course, would end the revenue stream, so that was never on the cards.

Some citizens though, knew better. They knew the truth. A small political resistance had a presence on each of the three worlds under FWS control. They distributed leaflets in city streets, broadcast pro-democracy messages from small ships whilst hacking satellites, and tried to encourage demonstrations about their government's true nature.

Over the years, these problems grew. The United Sirius Party insisted it offered its citizens all the freedoms they could want- they were being held back by outside forces- that was the reason for the increasing poverty of the average family. The Open Doors Movement (the name of the small political band committed to true democracy) were trouble-makers, and they were undermining the efforts of the legitimate government to solve the problems troubling their nation.

The ODM grew in strength. The USP grew worried.

Of the three worlds under its control, two were in the same star system. One however, was several light years away, and as such, more vulnerable to the actions of the ODM, who had slowly but deliberately shifted a lot of their activities in that direction down the years. Free Sirius 3 (a bit of a tongue-twister admittedly) was still firmly under USP control, but the ODM had more illegal broadcasts going on there than elsewhere, and a greater presence at street level too. 

To counter the growing threat of dissension, the USP passed a law decreeing that the ODM was an illegal movement designed to undermine the government and inflict harm upon FWS society. On Free Sirius 1 and 2,they took actions to arrest key ODM members and to seize assets of the group.

The move was sudden, and many ODM officials were arrested. On Free Sirius 1 and 2, the ODM presence was nearly shattered. However, some of their people managed to flee to Free Sirius 3, where they brought tales of a crackdown to their brethren.

The average citizen of Free Sirius 3, generally more sympathetic to the ODM than on the other worlds, felt angry at their government when they heard tales of homes being broken into the dead of night and people dragged from their beds, or when they learned of shops with links to the ODM being closed down, and even burnt to the ground in some cases. In several towns, ODM members who had escaped the witch hunt joined their fellows in passionate speeches about the oppressive regime back on the other two worlds, and emplored the people to say enough was enough. 

With emotions bubbling over, many of the average citizens of Free Sirius 3 began to take part in street protests against the USP. They numbered in the tens of thousands, demanding that the USP offer up greater transparency and greater freedom of speech.

Concerned, the USP dispatched ships carrying soldiers Free Sirius 3, wanting to nip a potential revolution in the bud. Their short-minded approach would prove most costly.

The arrival of military vessels enflamed the general public. Not only had the USP ignored their protests, but now they sought to silence them! ODM officials were quick to point this out and did their level best to smuggle this message out to Free Sirius 1 and 2. 

Yet more protests erupted, on a global scale this time. On a world with a population of nearly 800 million people, this gave the military great pause. Officially, the military stood outside the government, duty-bound not to the politicians but to the nation. Unofficially, many senior military officers benefited from the current system, and were fully prepared to quash any rebellion.

On the surface, things started to get ugly. Protesters in Free Sirius 3's largest city, Jamesville, stormed the city hall and demanded the local governor and his administration resign. The local police, ordered to treat the situation as a hostage scenario, ordered the mob to disperse and to release the governor. After several hours of a tense stand-off and with the entire world waiting to see what would happen next, someone finally ignited the powder keg.

The police would claim someone from the building started shooting at them, and that they were fully justified in returning fire and storming the building to free what they considered to be hostages. In the chaos, 27 hostages and four police officers died, and the rest of the planet went berserk.

The police force took the brunt of the initial backlash. Several police stations were attacked, with people throwing home-made incendiary devices, rocks and bricks. Riot control measures saw officers firing stun guns into crowds, and government buildings were attacked and set on fire.

Scenes were so frightening that the ODM appealed for calm. Peaceful protests were the only reasonable way forward. Unfortunately, radical elements within their organisation were emerging who considered only violent revolution to be the answer to their plight. 

Local army bases, where the generals were keen to keep the status quo and an increasing number of regular soldiers felt sympathy for the protesters, were ordered to enforce martial law. Orders were given- shoot to kill any violent protesters. The ships that had arrived to deploy more forces were given fresh orders to land troops to help keep order and quell the protests. USP rule would be maintained, and anyone who threatened USP interests was to be branded an enemy of the state and arrested.

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