The Log of the Beowulf
History of New Alaska
As any student of Earth history knows, one of the most significant trends of the late 21st century was the rise of the Third Russian Empire. Japan and Korea originally allied with the bankrupt Russian Federation to counterbalance Chinese influence, but economic resurgence turned the Sick Man of Eurasia into the dominant partner in the relationship. While tussling with the giganations to the south over the limited natural resources still up for grabs, the country that launched the first man into space decided its future lay in off-world colonisation. Russian planners had long set their sights on a suitable planet, and so the colony ships were despatched to Noviya Rossiya.
But the cosmonauts were not the first to make planetfall. While the Russian fleet was in transit, the North American-based New Hope consortium launched its smaller but faster vessel, which claimed the most habitable site for the colony of Klondike. Politically outmanoeuvred on Earth and pipped to the post in flight, the Russian colonists had to settle on a less promising continent. To this day, both Old and New Russians often distrust the Dikers as devious opportunists, while the planet’s English speakers regard Noviy Rossiyans as backward, bureaucratic and clumsy.
The two colonies remained rivals, competing in every field from architecture to xenozoology, and most of all in economic exploitation of the planet now known as New Alaska. To take one example, terraforming was considered a matter of national prestige rather than planetary management, leading to today’s unbalanced ecologies featuring reindeer and bears on one continent, bison and wolves on another. Relations varied from grudging toleration to grim menace, but never quite descended into violence – at least, not well-organised violence.
With a more convincing veneer of success, Klondike grew much faster in the early years, exploring and thinly settling the larger of the two equatorial continents, deemed the western one. But New Hope’s profits never attained the anticipated levels, and immigration tailed off when other English-speaking colonies were established on more hospitable worlds. The company’s response was to retrench its position, maximising the advantages from its monopolies at the expense of the population. Many of the later settlers were transported convicts indentured into company service.
Russia continued to send settlers, finding its loss-making colony a useful dumping ground for disgraced officials, suspect businesspeople, dissidents and social misfits. This mix has given Noviya Rossiya a far more entrepeneurial and Bohemian culture than it is credited with. In an interesting inversion of the 20th century, some Russian speakers smuggled popular goods to the West, undercutting NH’s controlled market. However, the exiles’ demographic also established persistent corruption and political tension, concentrated in the capital, Gagarin.
The leaders on both sides shared the same problems and came up with similar solutions: demanding more work from the people, clamping down on opposition groups and patriotic propaganda attacking the enemy. Both benefitted from the cold war, and they reached a deeper understanding beneath. Each side had a large, well-armed police force, and it was a small step to recruit reliable officers into unofficial militias in readiness for a possible war – not between the two colonies, but together against any other planet that might pose a threat.
The next generation cemented the arrangement, building up a small but well-trained and entirely secret force of marines. Space warships would have been prohibitively expensive, but maintaining a few hundred dropships proved quite economical when they were almost permanently hidden under the permafrost. Plans were made to convert two very large bulk carriers at short notice to motherships, which would enable a strike force to seize a disputed city or asteroid, perhaps even a small colony.
The military was now established in the corridors of power, so much so that the informal alliance that built the subterranean bases is now known as the underground government. It gained more influence when, in response to growing piracy, armed forces were allowed to owe allegiance to colony worlds instead of Earth. Now operating openly, the Noviy Rosskiya Guard and the Klondike Rangers posed as two hostile forces obliged to cooperate, although the reality was the reverse.
The underground government continued to seek a military advantage, but many of its pre-war projects are still classified. New Alaska was unprepared when hostilities did break out, and United Earth police were able to seize both the Diker and NR carriers before they could be converted. It is assumed a loyalist spy forewarned the Earthers, but there has been no public explanation.
Although their entry into the war was delayed, the Guard and Rangers were a serious problem for the Earthers, well equipped and trained in both planetary and zero-G combat. Their success in capturing space stations led to the UE tactic of evacuating and destroying their installations when threatened with boarding – and occasionally in response to cunning rebel bluffs. It is also a matter of planetary pride that New Alaskans took part in every successful invasion of a loyalist world, usually forming the spearheaded, backed up by the inexperienced but numerous armies of more populous colonies.
As the war continued, it became impractical to maintain the fiction of a planet at odds with itself. The leaders tried to portray their alliance as a temporary necessity, but more and more evidence emerged of the underground government and its hidden agenda. The population became increasingly dissatisfied, many accusing their rulers of selling out to the enemy, others condemning them for deliberately fostering hatred between the two colonies. Some people managed to criticise them on both counts at once.
Towards the end of the 2340s the tide turned against the rebellion. The New Alaskan government was losing battles in space and support at home, and decided its only chance of survival was to cut a deal with Earth. While the marines fought for the Alliance, their leaders were signing a separate peace treaty in exchange for non-interference in New Alaska. The Alaskans’ sudden withdrawal and the intelligence they provided about rebel dispositions were instrumental in the build-up to the Battle of New Berlin.
For the Dikers and Noviy Rossiyans, the mushroom clouds over New Berlin were one betrayal too many. Agitators in both colonies pursued a surprisingly well-coordinated campaign against the authorities, which tried to restore control in the only way they knew. But most of the police had been drafted into the military, stationed on distant worlds, while the newly-mobilised home guard refused to disband and instead protected the protestors. The government sought help from other planets, but they interpreted the non-interference treaty very literally.
The turning point of the revolution was General Nevsky’s return from New Berlin. A renowned war hero dying from radiation sickness, he marched stiffly at the head of the crowd, returning each of his irradiated medals to a different politician, calling on them to resign. Klondike City’s chief of police, Angela Tibbett, refused to ‘waste a bullet’ on a man who would be dead within the week, and threw her support behind the revolutionaries. A few hours later, an EGM of New Hope shareholders voted to dismiss the board and begin a transition to full democratic rule.
On the other side of the planet, the weakening Nevsky was carried shoulder-high through the streets of Gargarin to the governor’s palace and hastily sworn in as interim president. He was only able to direct events for one day before collapsing. Later, in his hospital bed, his final official act was to sign an agreement for unification with Klondike. This was still a controversial move, with Noviy Rosskiya officials blaming Klondike for the war (and vice versa).
Some members of the regime still fought on from their old military bases. In the end most of their remaining supporters were colonial marines, many of them indoctrinated from an early age to serve the state. But the outcome was no longer in doubt, and the first priority of the new government was to bury the legacy of the past. Much of it remains buried to this day, in abandoned installations hidden beneath the tundra, filled with guilty secrets.