Good Solomani, Bad Solomani...

Over in what had been the Solomani Confederation, three different states had emerged by the end of the 12th century.

[Warning: not all of this section is Canon. In particular, the stuff about the New Earth Union and the Church of Man is from Butteller 1 and 2 and is not at all Canon.]

The subsectors around Earth belonged to the New Earth Union, an expansionist military dictatorship about which I have already written. Nearby, centred on the world of Dingir was the Church of Man. Although more of a religious organisation (or strictly speaking, a non-religious organisation), the Church had taken to claiming worlds in its own name.

The third former state was by far the most powerful by 1200 and also the most dangerous - 'The Solomani Imperium'.

The Solomani Imperium had been founded by some of the more hard-line leaders of the old Solomani Confederation. These hard-liners had been deposed when Transhumans had attacked Home and other key Confederation worlds in 1138. The hard-liners had fled to the trailing edge of Neworld sector (near the border with the Hive Federation) and by 1161 controlled a stable racist state governing 50 worlds.

At this point there was no real threat posed to the Hivers by the Solomani Imperium, but in the long run, there probably would have been. And Hivers are better than anyone at taking the long term view. So the Hivers built a fleet of warships along old Imperial and Solomani lines (so as to disguise their true origin), deliberately infected them with Virus and pointed them at Solomani Imperium space.

The Solomani Imperium took many years to recover from this battering, but by 1206, it had grown again. Its leaders, deciding that they were the legitimate successors to the Solomani Confederation and therefore the rulers of all other survivor states in the old Confederation, declared the 'Second Rule of Man' and embarked upon a campaign to integrate nearby worlds under their rule.

By 1208, this campaign was well underway and Rule of Man envoys had arrived at Terra, Dingir and Home to demand the surrender of the rest of Solomani space. The region around Home was deep Wilds at this point, but the New earth Union was growing steadily and wanted nothing of the Solomani Imperium and its Solomani supremacist policies. The Union had also managed to keep the existence of other interstellar states secret from its citizens thinking that control of the populace would be easier if there did not appear to be an alternative.

Fortunately for the Union, intervention from the Hivers once again forced the Solomani Imperium / Second Rule of Man to turn to trailing to face a new threat.

Seeing Rule of Man fleets pushing out into Langere, Aldebaran and Alpha Crucis sectors, the Hivers looked on with growing dismay. Their clever vampire fleet invasion had only slowed Solomani expansion, and if the increasingly powerful Rule of Man discovered that it was teh Hivers who sent the vampires, then the Hive Federation, already faced with danger from the K'Kree on their coreward border, would be in real trouble. So the Hivers came up with another cunning plan.

For some time, the Hivers had been cultivating relations with a number of pocket empires in the hope of creating a counterweight to the Rule of Man. None was anything like powerful enough to take on the sector-sized state, however, so there was only one option ? create an alliance, and lead it into battle.

With one eye ever to the future, the Hivers engineered a number of ?border incidents? to give their actions legitimacy, and played up the threat to human states in the region beyond all necessity. True, the Rule of Man was engaged in a fit of jackbooted lunacy surpassing everything that the old Solomani Confederation had managed, and equally true, it was engaged in expansion, but there was really not much of a threat to humans or even non-humans more than a subsector or two from its borders; not for a century or more at least.

Hiver propaganda turned the Rule of Man from an expansionistic militarised state into a ravening monster in the eyes of local leaders, and persuaded worlds as far afield as Alpha Crucis and Spica sectors to assemble a rag-tag fleet, which was duly sent into hopeless battle against the shiny black warships of the Rule of Man.

As the ramshackle fleet shattered under their weapons, the Rule of Man admirals advanced out into the Wilds to chastise these upstarts that had dared attack them with no warning. Several worlds and pocket empires were quickly subjugated, sometimes by a single vessel. However, more than half the squadrons that went out so confidently into the unknown simply disappeared. Their fate was in many cases never discovered by the Solomani leaders. In fact, the retribution squadrons had run into Hive Federation fleets that could not possibly have arrived in time to save their allies had they not known exactly what was going to happen long before it was set in motion.

Larger forces followed, with greater caution, and were engaged by the fleets of the Federation. The Hivers followed a strategy of attrition, allowing the Rule of Man to attack pocket empires that the Hivers had sent vessels ?to protect against aggression?. The catspaw states were ultimately expendable, the aim being to draw out the bulk of the Solomani fleet and wear it down.

In order to keep the Rule of Man on the offensive, the Hivers quietly encouraged their protected states to earn the support being given them by ?pulling their weight in the fight for freedom?. Most of the protected states could not put anything capable of resisting even a Solomani light cruiser into the line of battle, so they were totally dependent upon the Hivers to protect their homeworlds from fleet action. But most of them could cobble together a raider or two and play their part by attacking outposts or commercial traffic, thus needling the Solomani into further offensive action.

The containment campaign actually caused the Rule of Man to expand, but it weakened its fabric as it did so. The Hivers, taking the long view, reasoned that they would eventually cause the Rule of Man to collapse under its own weight, or at least force it to retrench. The Hive Federation was at this time a long way from full recovery, and the containment campaign drew off a lot of resources that might better be used elsewhere. However, it was considered vital to continue so through 1208 and onwards the Hivers continued to draw out the Rule of Man and erode its naval strength. Worlds that fell to the Solomani became internal nuisances and sources of conflict rather than of strength. It would take time, the Hivers knew, but they would eventually bring down the Rule of Man and replace it with something more suitable to their desires.