Sins of The Empire
History of the Empire
The Terran Empire was born in blood. In the twenty-fourth century Humanity found itself battling a terrifying enemy: the Xenovores. Deadly predators who viewed all other sentient life as nothing but food and slave labor, the Xenovores had attacked Humanity without provocation or warning, precipitating a century-long war. Their attacks cost Humanity dearly – they ravaged or destroyed hundreds of planets, and even Earth itself suffered millions of casualties in Xenovore raids. The Human worlds scrambled to build defenses, but the Xenovores had the advantage in both technology and numbers.
A hundred years of fighting saw Humanity pushed back year after year until many predicted the extinction of mankind. But to the surprise of many other species, Human determination and ingenuity prevailed. A suicidal attack on the Xenovore home system by the Combined Fleet in 2396 finally turned the tide, but at great price. The Fleet destroyed the Xenovore homeworld and two major colony planets, killing billions of Xenovores and crippling the enemy’s industrial base, but only a handful of Human ships survived the assault. News of the attack caused a wave of uprisings among Xenovore slave species that ensured the end of the Xenovores’ role as a galactic power.
2397-2434: THE ANARCHIC PERIOD
Unfortunately, the Humans couldn’t follow up this deadly blow with an occupation to claim Xenovore space as their own. Too many ships were lost, too many planets devastated and exhausted. Some worlds pulled out of the Human Alliance to concentrate on self-defense; others took the opportunity to settle old scores or pursue old ambitions. For decades near-anarchy reigned throughout both Human and Xenovore space. Individual planets struggled to defend themselves or conquer neighboring systems, while ships and squadrons on both sides turned pirate. The Ackalians and Thorgons took the opportunity to annex border regions. It was a time of chaos and uncertainty.
THE BIRTH OF THE EMPIRE
In 2426 Admiral Marissa DeValiere assumed command of the Sol System Defense Fleet. At that time, Earth controlled half a dozen systems in its vicinity, as well as the Sol System itself, in a governmental entity called the Terran Union. DeValiere believed Humanity needed unity to survive, but it was not until 2428 that she obtained the support of the Union’s acting President, Wu Zhang, to begin a program of expansion and reunification. (During the Imperial era, Wu Zhang was virtually erased from history by the DeValiere propaganda machine. It was not until the formation of the Galactic Federation that Humanity honored him as the “Father of Terran Reunification.”)
With support from home and a powerful fleet, DeValiere began the work of reunifying Human space. Her methods were simple: show up with overwhelming force and demand surrender. Most of the small-time warlords, self-appointed “provisional governments;” and newly-formed confederations she faced had little stomach for fighting a real war, and the pace of reunification was swift. In the first five years, DeValiere brought numerous worlds back under central control.
2434: THE CAPAC INCIDENT
Post-Imperial historians agree that the Capac incident was what put DeValiere on the road to the Imperial throne. Capac was a Human colony world which survived the ravages of the Xenovores and fought off raiders and pirates for a generation with no help from Earth. The people of Capac had a stable democratic government and only wanted to remain free and independent. Admiral DeValiere refused to accept this. In her opinion, too many worlds like Capac would leave Humanity disunited and vulnerable. When the planet would not accede to her demand to surrender and join the Terran Union, her fleet destroyed Capac’s defenses. A brigade of Earth assault troops seized the capital.
This outrage provoked a storm of resentment back on Earth. President Wu demanded DeValiere’s resignation (some historians believe he may have been looking for a pretext to remove her as a political ￼rival). She ignored him and continued her campaign. In 2434 Wu sent a squadron with loyal commanders to arrest DeValiere. She refused to give up her command, and in the brief battle that followed her forces wiped out the loyalists.
2435-2454: PRESIDENT DEVALIERE
News of DeValiere’s mutiny reached Earth only hours before the leading elements of her fleet. She denounced Wu as a traitor to Humanity and broadcast propaganda suggesting he was planning to dissolve the Terran Union’s Senate and make himself dictator. DeValiere was very popular on Earth; she had a battle fleet in orbit, and may already have been in contact with some of Wu’s leading opponents in the government. The coup was swift and successful, and DeValiere took over as Acting President in 2435. A year later her position was made a life-long appointment, and although Marissa DeValiere never actually used the title “Empress” herself, historians date the Terran Empire from 2436.
With her new, unchallenged authority, DeValiere hoped to complete the task of reunifying Humanity and pacifying the region. It was not to be. Her coup led several other commanders to attempt the same maneuver, and a number of Human colony planets refused to recognize her authority. The years 2436 through 2454 were occupied in stabilizing DeValiere’s regime, quashing rebellion, and creating the administrative structure of the new Empire.
Marissa DeValiere died in 2455; during her final illness she ensured a smooth transfer of power to her nephew Esteban. Upon her death he was officially crowned Esteban I, Terran Emperor and Permanent President of the Union. Esteban lacked his aunt’s tactical brilliance and personal charisma, but was himself a tireless administrator with a good grasp of economics and Galactic diplomacy. Esteban resumed the process of reuniting all Human colony worlds, peacefully if possible, by force when necessary.
Under Esteban the Empire’s administrative structure took its final form: most of the worlds which Admiral DeValiere had reconquered for the Terran Union (and a few important worlds which rejoined voluntarily early on) came under the governance of the Union Senate. Conquered planets and frontier districts were under the control of the Emperor, who could react quickly and decisively to revolts or incursions. However, as the Empire expanded, Esteban (and his successors) were unwilling to surrender any more power to the Senate. The core remained under Senate control, but all the Empire’s expansion increased the Emperor’s share of power.
2473-2490: EMPEROR GREGORIO
Esteban’s chief military commander was his cousin Gregorio. Though not a genius by any definition of the term, Gregorio DeValiere was a competent commander and had a certain dogged persistence which eventually wore down obstacles. The combination of Esteban’s adroit diplomacy and Gregorio’s methodical campaigns nearly doubled the size of the Empire during Esteban’s reign. In 2465 Esteban formally nominated Gregorio as his successor, and had the nomination easily confirmed by the Senate.
Esteban died in 2472, and Gregorio reigned from 2473 until 2490. His reign continued Imperial expansion, though the direction changed somewhat. Under Esteban Terran space had grown in almost every direction. Gregorio preferred to concentrate on capturing regions of the former Xenovore Empire, and so most Imperial expansion in the 2470s was in that direction. Former Xenovore slave species inhabited several worlds in that region. Some accepted Imperial rule willingly out of gratitude to the Humans who had saved them from extinction at Xenovore hands. Others fought desperately; sure the Humans would be no better than the Xenovores they had defeated. Emperor Gregorio had little patience for diplomacy or economic warfare; species that resisted him, were smashed, as hard and as often as required. In 2482 the Terran Empire almost completely exterminated the Dasmaa, a subterranean species resembling pangolins, after their fourth uprising against Terran rule. The Emperor’s reaction was blunt: “Three tries should be enough for anyone.”
Gregorio voluntarily resigned his position in 2490 due to declining health and nominated his son Ricardo as his successor. Surprisingly, the Senate refused to confirm Ricardo (due to his notorious irresponsibility) and the old Emperor did not press the point, substituting his daughter Ximena instead.
She took the throne in 2490 and devoted herself to integrating and developing her father’s conquests.
2505-2509: THE FIRST THORGON WAR
Unfortunately, the Thorgons interrupted this process in 2505 when they invaded two border provinces and destroyed a Terran fleet sent to hold them off. Empress Ximena had little military experience herself, and most of her senior commanders were veterans of her father’s campaigns – very good at surgical strikes against planetary warlords and rebels, but tentative and easily panicked in large fleet actions against a powerful enemy. For two years Ximena sacked admiral after admiral, looking for one who could take the fight to the enemy. Meanwhile she devoted her own energies to rebuilding the Imperial fleet and expanding production facilities in safe regions.
By 2507 the Empire’s fleet was back up to full strength and Ximena had found a commander who could use it effectively. Toshiro Kanagawa had been a starship captain at the outbreak of the war, and his impressive string of victories in single ship and small squadron actions brought him to the attention of the Empress. She promoted him directly from Captain to Admiral (and gleefully accepted the resignations of every senior officer who refused to serve under him), then told him to beat the Thorgons. Kanagawa did so. Bypassing Thorgon fleets in contested sectors, he took a large force directly into Thorgon space, blasting shipyards, bases, supply depots, and industrial facilities in dozens of systems. Since a number of his ships had the new Class Eta-VI Hyperdrive and Type 3 Displacer drive, he had superior strategic mobility and could evade Thorgon elements sent to stop him. As his fleet approached their core systems, the Thorgons panicked, pulling back everything to defend the homeworld and suing for peace.
The Treaty of Kapteyn cost the Thorgons dearly (something they’ve never forgotten). The Imperial border moved dozens of parsecs closer to the rim, transferring to the Empire systems over which the Thorgons had once exercised exclusive influence. The final agreement also established a belt of neutral systems between the Empire and the Hegemony.
2518: THE ACKALIAN BORDER WAR
The Ackalians failed to learn from the Thorgon experience. They made their own test of Imperial strength in 2518. This time the Empire was ready, and the invasion force was efficiently cut off and destroyed while Imperial task forces seized key Ackalian border systems. The other Galactic powers could dismiss the Thorgons as "Rim barbarians;’ but the Ackalians were a recognized major power. The swift Imperial victory served notice that the balance of power had changed – that the Terran Empire was a force to be reckoned with.
2548-2554: THE GALACTIC WAR
Empress Ximena died in 2524, and was succeeded by her daughter Feodora. The new Empress’s father was Admiral Kanagawa, though he and Ximena had never been romantically involved and Kanagawa was happily married – Ximena decided the Admiral’s genes would make a good addition to the Imperial bloodline and used artificial conception.
Feodora was only 16 years old at the time of her accession and relied heavily on the advice and authority of the Senate. The first two decades of her reign marked the high point of senatorial power in the history ￼of the Empire. Her political mentor in her youth was Senator Dermond of Alpha Centauri, and upon his retirement Senator Yang of Procyon became her chief advisor. Ackalian agents assassinated Yang in 2548, and two days later the Galactic War broke out.
Having individually suffered defeated at the Empire’s hands, the Thorgons and Ackalians formed an alliance and prepared for a joint offensive. Huge fleets surged across the Imperial border on two sides, intending to link up and cut off the entire antispinward half of the Empire.
Empress Feodora had little experience in military matters, and none of her commanders had fought a major war in thirty years. What she did have was remarkable courage and determination. Ravaged Imperial squadrons fell back before the onslaught, buying time and doing what damage they could, forming a defensive line to keep the antispinward corridor open. Reserve ships, mothballed vessels dating back to the Xenovore Wars, and even armed merchantmen filled holes in the order of battle until the Empire’s industrial might could make up the losses.
The first offensives wound down in 2550, as the Ackalian and Thorgon fleets fought themselves to exhaustion against stiffening Terran resistance. The Antispinward Corridor remained open – barely – and a host of Imperial raiders and privateers interfered with enemy supply lines and communications from the flanks.
In 2551 the Ackalians (without informing their Thorgon allies) made a radical shift in strategy. Instead of pressing forward to complete the pincer movement and menace Earth, they shifted their most battle- worthy fleets and replacement units to maximize their own gains from the war and to keep the Thorgons from grabbing some important systems first. This shift gave the Terrans the chance to begin some tentative counter-offensives against the Thorgons, and alarmed the Mondabi enough that they agreed to an alliance with the Terrans. The rag-tag squadrons of the frontier defense forces were reinforced by Mondabi battle cruisers, and the Ackalians had to scramble to guard their own antispinward borders. The climax of the war came in early 2552, with the massive Thorgon assault on the Tetsuo system. Tetsuo was a key junction on the Antispinward Corridor, and the Thorgons threw everything they had into the attack. However, the Terrans were done falling back and retreating, and chose Tetsuo as their stronghold. The result was a three-month bloodbath in which both empires hurled entire fleets and armies into the maelstrom. By the time it was over, all six planets in the system had seen heavy fighting, the terraformed world Tetsuo II was uninhabitable, and two million Imperial soldiers and crewmembers were dead. But the Thorgons had lost twice as many, and the massive effort had utterly exhausted their forces. The Terrans began pushing the Thorgons back out of Imperial space. By the end of the year Imperial units were crossing the prewar border into Thorgon territory.
The Ackalians hoped for a negotiated peace, and when that was not forthcoming they evacuated the Imperial systems they had occupied, as well as a considerable section of coreward space they had controlled, and prepared to defend their primary borders. The Mondabi were unwilling to wage an offensive war, and the Empress Feodora eventually agreed to an armistice in 2553 after seizing some of the regions of space abandoned by the enemy. The Empire never signed a peace treaty with the Ackalians, and the border remained tense for decades.
The Thorgons fared worse – abandoned by their ally and on the verge of collapse, they finally surrendered in early 2554. The Empire moved the frontier further into Thorgon space and imposed a huge indemnity aimed at crippling the Thorgons economically for generations. (As it happened, the Thorgons discovered several systems rich in high value resources and paid off the indemnity in less than a decade.)
The war was not without cost to the Empire.
Millions of lives and quadrillions of credits were lost. Perhaps more importantly, the Empire itself changed. The ongoing “cold war” situation along the Ackalian border and growing fears of potential Thorgon attacks or Perseid expansion increased the power of Imperial security agencies. Imperial reaction to dissent and opposition became more brittle and paranoid. The Senate never recovered the level of influence it had enjoyed early in Feodora’s reign.
2561-2597: THE INTER-WAR PERIOD
￼Worn out by the stress of the war, Feodora died unexpectedly in 2561 without nominating an heir. Fearing the effect of a succession struggle, the Senate quickly recognized Feodora’s cousin Ibrahim as Emperor. Ibrahim was the grandson of Gregorio’s son Ricardo, and had a respectable (if unimpressive) record as a commander of ground troops in the Galactic War. He reigned from 2561 to 2570, and did as little work as possible while Emperor, spending his time attending endless parties and keeping a platoon of mistresses. Under Ibrahim the Imperial bureaucracy grew considerably in size and influence as he let senior ministers make policy themselves. The inflow of wealth from the Thorgon indemnity made up for the resulting waste and inefficiency. Despite his flaws, Ibrahim was a very popular emperor, and the pleasure-loving Imperial court was reflected in a period of exceptionally lax public morals on many worlds.
Ibrahim’s one lasting legacy was the creation of an Imperial nobility. The original idea was to reward leaders and heroes of the Galactic War with hereditary titles. The Emperor also awarded titles to his mistresses and illegitimate offspring, and after 2570 all Senators automatically gained the title of Count upon taking office.
Ibrahim’s successor was his son Kemal, who took the throne in 2570. Kemal was ambitious, and conducted a series of aggressive wars against small neighboring states and independent systems. He took an increasingly high-handed tone in diplomatic matters, and succeeded in driving the Seecra and Perseids into a short-lived defensive alliance in 2582. During his reign Kemal built up the Imperial military to near-wartime levels and gave his field commanders a great deal of autonomy. To his credit, Kemal did bring about useful reforms of the Imperial administration and completed the work of reconstruction neglected during his father’s reign.
2598-2602: THE IMPERIAL CIVIL WAR
Emperor Kemal died in 2597. He had three potential heirs, and at various times during his reign had named each as his successor. Grand Duke Richard, his son, was the obvious candidate and had strong popular support, but had disagreed strongly with his father on several matters of policy in the 2580s and was living in virtual exile as the governor of the extreme spinward provinces. Richard’s sister, the Grand Duchess Marissa, was Kemal’s favorite at the time of his death, and had strong backing in the Senate and the Imperial bureaucracy. Finally, the Emperor’s nephew Count Ivan was a well-respected military commander, serving as Admiral of the fleet guarding the Thorgon Neutral Zone.
THE FIRST PHASE
Marissa was on Earth at the time of Kemal’s death and quickly got the Senate to confirm her as Empress. Richard and Ivan refused to abide by the decision, and advanced on Earth with the Spinward Frontier and Thorgon Border fleets. In early 2598 the two rivals appeared before the Senate to plead their respective cases; their fleets were positioned at Sirius and Alpha Centauri to avoid the impression they were attempting a coup. The Senators heard the two but refused to reconsider the vote of confirmation. That might have ended it, but Marissa chose the disastrous step of having her rivals arrested as they left the Senate chamber in Brussels. Both resisted; Richard was killed and Ivan escaped. For a month Marissa believed she had secured her throne, then Ivan reappeared in command of his fleet and declared war.
The Civil War was a complex affair. The first phase (2598-99) pitted Ivan against Marissa. Because Ivan refused to directly attack Earth, most of the fighting was in the outer Solar System and nearby star systems as Ivan attempted to blockade the capital while Marissa summoned provincial garrisons and border fleets to her aid. Public opinion on Earth itself turned against Marissa and she had to devote almost as much effort to maintaining order as to fighting her cousin. In late 2599 an assassin drone tunneled into the gardens of the Imperial Palace at Lyons and killed Marissa along with several Senate leaders having a breakfast meeting outdoors.
Ivan declared a truce and asked the Senate to confirm him. But the Senators were strongly opposed to Ivan for various reasons (including the death of their colleagues with Marissa). While they deliberated a new claimant appeared: Richard’s son Antonio. Since Antonio was only nineteen, the Senate probably ￼would not have taken him seriously – but his chief advisor and supporter was General Hei Feng, commandant of the Imperial Marines. Feng and Antonio had the loyalty of Richard’s fleet, and the young man inherited much of his father’s charm and popularity. As much to spite Ivan as any other reason, the Senate voted to make Antonio the next Emperor, and the second phase of the war got under way.
THE SECOND PHASE
The second phase (2600) saw fighting in the Antispinward Corridor region as Ivan sought to cut off Antonio from his power base on the frontier. Antonio held Earth with the help of the Senate and the Imperial Marines, but the heavy-handed measures General Feng adopted to suppress dissent quickly soured popular support for the young Emperor.
Count Ivan was killed in 2601 at a meeting Antonio had called promising a peaceful end to the war. One of Antonio’s ambassadors had a bomb concealed in his skull (apparently unknown even to himself). The explosion killed Ivan and several of his key advisors.
THE THIRD PHASE
The third phase of the Civil War (2601-02) saw three more factions arise in opposition to Antonio’s rule. Ivan’s younger sister Countess Elena gained the support of his forces and resumed the war; a coalition of military and business leaders trotted out Marissa’s five-year-old son Feodor as her rightful heir; and twelve Senators gathered the planetary defense fleets of several core systems to support a Terran Republic.
Antonio wiped out the Republicans in short order, putting the rebel systems under military rule and absorbing all other planetary defense space forces into the Imperial Fleet. He began a campaign of attrition against Elena’s forces, since he had the shipyards to replace losses which she could not afford. In early 2602 she surrendered, accepting Antonio’s promise of safe conduct to exile in Perseid space. But Antonio had no intention of letting her go, and killed her personally on the bridge of his flagship, strangling her with his bare hands.
Emperor Antonio’s increasingly erratic behavior alarmed his patron General Feng, and now the General saw his chance. While Antonio’s courtiers and officers were still stunned by the murder, Feng drew his laser pistol and shot the Emperor, proclaiming his loyalty to the young Feodor.
Because of Feodor’s youth, the Senate appointed Feng to act as Regent until the young Emperor reached adulthood. Feng’s regency lasted until 2614, and was occupied with pacifying rebellious systems, ending the piracy and raiding which had become epidemic during the civil war, and thwarting a Perseid attempt in 2604 to “restore order” to the Empire. Feng reduced the privileges of the Senate governed worlds, citing the Republican uprising as justification. He expanded military garrisons on all Imperial worlds, and vastly increased the size and authority of the Terran Security Service.
2610-2614: THE GOODCHILD REBELLION
Most notable of these many rebellions is the “Goodchild Rebellion”, led by Jerek Goodchild of the House Goodchild. In 2610 Jerek stepped forward proclaiming himself “Emperor of the Milky Way” and decried Feodor and Feng as false rulers. He used his House’s wealth and influence to begin a war that, while small in scale, was enormously costly and damaging to the Empire. In 2614 Jerek earned the name Jerek “Darkwater” for razing the planet Darkwater for not supporting him against the Empire. One year later Goodchild struck his fleet straight for the heart of the Empire, losing his fleet in a futile attack against Earth’s defenses. He was arrested shortly after, and brought before Regent Feng and the young Emperor personally, where he somehow freed himself from his captors and killed Feng with the General’s own sword before taking his own life. Following this, Feodor decreed that the House Goodchild was officially no more, that all of its properties be sold or granted to other Houses, and that any surviving members be arrested and immediately sentenced to death. This is today known as the “Goodchild Genocide”, where for the first time in Imperial History a noble House was erased from the galaxy. There are no known survivors of the Genocide, though a few living heirs are suspected.
￼Feodor knew nothing of government or military affairs, and spent the rest of his reign in wild self- indulgence. A series of aides and favorites ran the government; they all did their best to get rich through bribery and corruption. Some retired wealthy; Feodor executed others during his occasional fits of “reform”.
2633-2651: EMPRESS MARISSA III
Feodor’s daughter Marissa succeeded him in 2633, taking the throne as Marissa III. Her father’s numerous affairs and mistresses created a score of illegitimate half-siblings who might have caused problems for Marissa. She prepared for this by establishing close ties with the Terran Security Service during her father’s reign. In the month between her father’s death and her formal coronation, her relatives fell victim to numerous deadly accidents and sudden fatal illnesses.
On the throne, Marissa III was extremely intelligent and extremely ruthless. Interested in science and space exploration, she authorized expeditions that sent Imperial scout ships venturing out as far as Varanyi space – usually with a Terran Intelligence Command officer on board. The Terran Empire reached its greatest extent under her with a final burst of new colonization in antispinward and rimward systems. She disliked the unpredictability of war, and so relied on clever diplomacy, bribery, and assassination to achieve her goals. She detached the Psi Division from the Terran Security Service and made it into a separate agency, the Mind Police. After the chaos and inefficiency of her father’s reign, Marissa’s smooth-running tyranny seemed like a golden age to many… though it definitely foreshadowed evils to come.
Marissa lavished attention on the creation and training of her successor. She had genetic engineers create a male clone of herself, and brought in the Empire’s leading scholars and educators to raise her son Stephen. The result was not what she hoped. He grew up resentful, spoiled, suspicious, and with enough of his family’s legendary willpower to resist all attempts at molding his character. As he reached adulthood, his mother began to speak openly of Stephen as a “failed experiment” and made plans to create a better heir in his place.
2651-2663: EMPEROR STEPHEN
In 2651 a band of Thorgon mercenaries assassinated the Empress during her tour of the frontier provinces. Equipped with security codes and a detailed schedule of Marissa’s movements, the assassins evaded her tight security and completed their mission. Stephen took power immediately, and his first official act was the execution of his mother’s murderers. Nobody really knows how they obtained their information, but common gossip is filled with treasonous rumor.
The young emperor reigned from 2651 to 2663. He hated the work of government and left most of the decisions to his advisors. Seeking “revenge for my mother’s death;” he waged a brief and utterly inconclusive war with the Thorgons in 2653. The chief effects of this war were to move the Thorgon Neutral Zone back slightly – the first time Humanity had ever permanently lost ground to the Hegemony – and to make the Thorgons expand their military forces and begin a policy of destabilization in the Empire’s border regions.
The one thing Stephen did concern himself with was his personal safety. As his paranoia increased from year to year, he isolated himself from the public and the Senate, constructing fortified underground palace-bunkers in Switzerland, Tibet, and Mons Pavonis on Mars. He kept his movements secret even from his closest advisors. For his bodyguards he used either robots or Human soldiers fitted with brain implants to make disloyalty impossible.
The flip side of his concern for safety was a terror of revolt. During Stephen’s reign the security forces became ever more intrusive. The TSS considered every organization not under Imperial control a potential focus for opposition, and every political leader as a possible usurper. Arrests on trumped-up charges and deaths attributed to “mysterious accidents” became all too common among the Empire’s governing class. Naturally, this had the effect of generating real conspiracies to overthrow the Emperor among people who feared for their lives. Yet when Stephen did die it was not the result of any rebel plot but his own carelessness and paranoia. His sleeping quarters were an armored vault with a voiceprint lock. To foil assassins Stephen changed the code phrase every day. In 2663 he forgot the code overnight and could not get out of his bedroom. His guardian robots refused to allow anyone to approach the door with drills or cutting torches, and the Emperor died of thirst and starvation in his own room.
2663-2668: EMPRESS SOPHIA
Stephen’s death provoked a succession crisis. He had no children of his own and no siblings. His nearest relatives were a pair of second cousins, the grandchildren of Ivan DeValiere: Count Vincent, a starship captain in the Exploration fleet; and Vincent’s younger sister Lady Sophia, a student in Tokyo. As soon as the government announced Stephen’s death, Sophia presented herself at the Senate chamber in Brussels, accompanied by the Minister of Security, Dr. Marcus Stone. The Senate confirmed Sophia quickly. Vincent disappeared.
Historians have debated how much power Sophia actually had as Empress. Some view her as an equal partner with Dr. Stone, whom she used as the scapegoat for any unpopular measures so she could present herself to the public as naive and good-hearted. Others portray her as Stone’s puppet and victim. Sophia’s reign continued the heavy-handed methods of Stephen’s. To counter possible disloyalty in the Imperial forces, Sophia (or Dr. Stone) began to employ mercenaries – mostly Ackalians and even some Thorgons – as bodyguards and garrison troops on Earth. Rebel movements in the Empire, which hadn’t constituted a significant political force for most of the 2600s, increased during Sophia’s reign.
In 2665 four planets in the spinward frontier declared themselves an independent republic and held out until 2667 against the Imperial fleet sent to arrest their leaders. On dozens of other worlds rebel cells began organizing, making contact with one another, and working to resist the Empire’s growing tyranny.
Sophia’s reign ended in 2668 when her brother Count Vincent appeared on Earth. Apparently he had spent several years a prisoner on a distant world, guarded by Dr. Stone’s Security goons. With the help of a devoted band of Exploration Service veterans, Vincent escaped and avoided patrols on the way to Earth. Vincent told the Senate he would serve his sister as a loyal officer, but demanded Stone’s arrest. The Empress refused to dismiss Stone and claimed Vincent was an impostor.
Ministry of Security troops placed all of Earth under a security lockdown and began mass arrests of anyone who might support Vincent. This goaded the armed forces into open mutiny – most commanders loathed Stone and the rise of the Ministry of Security, and in Vincent they saw a leader they could respect. The security troops were no match for the Imperial Marines, and after a week-long siege Vincent’s supporters took the palace at Lyons.
Sophia died by poison; no one could tell if she committed suicide or Stone murdered her. Doctor Stone was never found. Emperor Vincent took the throne in early 2669, a sad, bitter man.