Chapter 1: The Industrialization of the Empire
8 December 1835, Chancellor's office, Rome
Marcus Porcius Cato Decimus, Chancellor of the New Roman Empire, had a pile of paperwork on his desk. So this is the new and radiant Empire of Rome Reborn, eh? Looks the same to me, the bureaucrat grumbled. Decimus knew very well that he hadn't been chosen for his brilliance or political wits, but for his unceasing loyalty to the Empire. That meant he spent much of time simply signing purchase orders or, worse still, simply checking his little to-do list provided by the Emperor. As Chancellor, he saw all of the most important documents, which gave him, in theory, almost unlimited power. Unlike some rulers, however, Emperor Charles I preferred to do as much as he could himself. Every document went to the Emperor first, not the Chancellor, who could often only react to policies decided upon by the Emperor. His faction, the Protectores, was one of only three major factions in the Senate, and again, only the grace of the Emperor made his the premier faction.
Decimus sighed. He wasn't even invited to most of the policy meetings; Marshal de Ruyter and Foreign Minister Valerian were the Emperor's chief advisors on most things. If he had a question about science, he'd turn to Alexander O'Connor, the Minister of Science and Industry. Even the Minister's sister, Kathleen, was involved more than he, titularly the second most powerful man in the Empire, was. In fact, in a normal reign, he'd be #3 or #4, but with no heir to the throne, there could be no Prince of Constantinople. The Emperor was legally required to name an heir, but with no other living Farneses except for the Tsar of Russia and the President of the United States, he was taking his time about it. Everybody hoped the Emperor could produce a son, but Charles I's wife, Victoria, had married him purely for political reasons. The Empress seemed to think she deserved better, but to the Chancellor (and many other Romans), she was a simple English girl that should have been proud to so much as gaze upon the Emperor.
A knock on the door announced Decimus' new clerk. Gaius Tullius Cicero, a representative of one of the oldest families in the Empire, had only recently graduated from the Empire's premier university, the University of Rome. A mere 17 years of age, Decimus often thought that the bright but exceedingly naive lad had been inflicted upon him by Valerian or Bartolomeo de Ruyter as a practical joke. His thoughts were interrupted by his clerk's polite greeting.
"Chancellor Decimus? I am your new clerk, Ga--"
Decimus tried not to sound too gruff, but he was quite sure he didn't succeed. "I know who you are, lad. You may put your things on the desk over there; we've got a long day ahead of us, so don't dawdle."
"Yes, sir." As the gangly youth deposited his coat and valise on the desk, Decimus picked up the first document in the pile.
Decimus extracted a pen from his desk, wrote "Accepted and signed, M. Porcius Cato Decimus, 8/12/35", and continued on. Gaius took his seat right across from the Chancellor.
Commensurate with the Treaty of Rome, the Emperor has ordered the following legions disbanded. Their passage back to the Empire must be provided from the state treasury, and they may apply to be reinstated upon their arrival.
Legio XL 'Pacificus'
The "Garrison Legion"
Legio XXI 'Fulmens'
Additional legions will be disbanded, as necessary, to meet with the manpower shortages that currently plague the Empire.
in foreign seas have been directed to the island of Jamaica for refurbishment and new assignments.
General Julius Contadino, Chief of the General Staff
"Gaius, what did you study at the University?"
Decimus raised an eyebrow. "Then how did you end up here, son?"
Gaius shrugged. "I was told I'd been assigned to this office. If you want the truth, sir, I suspect that they were glad to be rid of me. I'd been quite vocal about the closing of many of our cultural buildings on the campus."
"The Emperor wants to make sure that the best and brightest go into the army, the way they always have. That means less of this avant-garde nonsense, or so I'm told."
"Perhaps, sir. What would you like me to do?"
The Chancellor handed a stack of papers to his clerk. "If the paper requires a signature, give it back to me. In fact, go ahead and sign it."
The young scholar looked horrified. "Sir, is that legal?"
Decimus chuckled. "What do you care? It's not as though anybody ever reads this stuff."
Gaius turned pale, but shook his head vigorously to snap out of his momentary illness, and began to read the next document.
"Sir, in the provinciae of Campania and South East England, they're opening new schools to train additional clergy."
Decimus grunted. "You don't have to read them to me; just sign them."
"But what if there's something --"
Decimus put down his document and glared at his young clerk. Noting with satisfaction that the clerk withered, Decimus sighed as if he were greatly put upon. "Listen here, lad. You have two choices. You can shut up and work, or you can keep talking and find a new job. I already sorted the piles while you were putting down your coat. Got it?" The youth swallowed and nodded. "Good."
The next document looked at the new budget the Senate had decided upon the day before. One of the few things I do get to do is keep all of those idiots on the same page. Lucky me, thought the increasingly bitter Chancellor.
Gaius looked up to ask the Chancellor a question, but another glare simply had him sign and move on. When he saw the next paper, his eyes grew very wide. "Sir, this one you might have to look at."
Decimus grabbed the document and scanned it. "No big thing, kid. This is one of Valerian's projects. He sends spies into the other country; they stir up trouble in the hopes of convincing everybody that we're only defending ourselves when we attack. It's only two regiones, nothing to get excited about."
Gaius started to protest, but this time remembered his job and simply nodded, marked it, and proceeded. He was verifying the cost of the new naval base in Jamaica when the Chancellor thrust a new document under his nose. "Let's test your degree, Gaius. Why did we build these four factories in these four places?"
"Well, Rome is the capital, and given our local fruit production, a Winery makes good sense. Same with Spanish steel and British shipwrights. But the Cement factory in Thrace? That one I don't understand."
Decimus snorted. "Politics. The Mayor of Constantinople, along with the Governor of Thrace, have been whining about no Prince meaning no attention. The Mayor's a Turk -- he even calls it Istanbul for some weird reason. Cement factories are important, sure, but you can put them anywhere. Pretty sharp, though, Cicero. What do you make of this railroad map?"
"It's all concentrated in Italy, sir. Since most of our wealthiest citizens do live in Italy, that makes a lot of sense. Why are some of these areas in red?"
Another chuckle from the Chancellor. "That's the engineers. Some of them think we're too dumb to realize where hills and mountains are. They keep saying they'll get a breakthrough in technology soon, and we'll be able to finish the Rome-to-Constantinople railway, but I have my doubts."
Gaius nodded and continued sifting through his pile. One showed the priorities for new diplomats as they graduated from the university.
Russia, the UPCA, China, and Japan. The UPCA and Russia make sense, but why the emphasis on Asia? I'll have to do some research and find out.
Decimus looked at his clock. "Lunch time, son. Good work. We've got a meeting of the Senate after lunch, so you'll be taking notes."
18 December 1835, Foreign Minister's office, Rome
Benjamin O'Connor gulped. He knew the Foreign Minister wouldn't take this mistake very well, but at least it wasn't his fault. He lightly tapped on Valerian's door.
"Come on in, Benjamin." No matter how many times the Deputy Foreign Minister looked at his boss, he still got the chills. Valerian was an imposing man on the best of days, and O'Connor knew that, despite his father, he could still be in a lot of trouble for delivering bad news. He handed the document to Valerian with no comment.
Sure enough, Valerian was visibly angry. Few people could tell Valerian's emotions, but Benjamin had worked for him for long enough to know when he was angry. "Why can't we get any decent intelligence operatives? 10 days! It took just over a week for the Yemeni embassy to figure out who was stirring up trouble. Benjamin, look after the office. I need to take this to the Emperor."
"Of course, sir."
The Foreign Ministry was about a mile from the Palace, and most of the time Valerian was able to compose himself during the walk. Not this time, as he burst into the Emperor's room with the offending document in hand.
"My apologies, Sire, but one of the idiots under my command has already revealed our intentions in Yemen. Should we still proceed?"
Charles I, Emperor of the New Roman Empire, was already slightly irritated with some of the Senate's more insistent demands when he heard that news. Although a smaller man than his father -- Charles was about 5'7" and weighed about 150 pounds -- the Emperor had clearly inherited some of his father's temper. "Damn it! I'd hoped our preparations would go unnoticed for at least a couple of months. Do you know who messed up?"
Valerian shook his head ever so slightly. "I just now received the news, Emperor. It will still take us the better part of a year to generate enough evidence to go to war. I could very easily conduct an investigation, if you like."
Charles was about to reply, then sat back and thought for a moment. "You know, I think we can solve two problems at once. You've heard about the Provincares latest proposal?"
Valerian nodded. "I have. They want to cut military spending and use the money saved to research new weapons."
"Bartolomeo tells me that the army could use some new muskets -- I think they're called 'rifles' -- but thinks that cutting our manpower after a fairly visible defeat makes us look weak. Admiral di Medici wants us to modernize the fleet to include the miniature steam engines O'Connor developed, but he wants full scale production, not more R&D. The problem is, both the Provincares and Militares are screaming their heads off about these fancy new toys. Decimus has stalled a vote for the last couple of weeks, but if this goes over now, he'll have to give in."
"How do we stop the Provincares?"
Charles grinned wickedly. "Easily, my friend. We blame one of them for leaking these secrets to the Yemenis. That will kill their momentum and discredit them in the eyes of the Militares. Better still, I can cancel the Senate meetings indefinitely until we 'investigate'."
Valerian smiled briefly. "A fine plan, Sire. I will make the preparations. Shall I tell the Chancellor?"
"Yes. In fact, let's do even better -- tell Decimus that he can pack the Senate with his buddies if they'll agree to keep military spending high and quiet this R&D talk until we can afford it."
"Excellent. I will go there now."
7 February 1836, Marshal's office, Florence
Bartolomeo de Ruyter looked with satisfaction at the latest expenditure plans. Although the Marshal was no politician, he still knew that a drastic expansion of the army, even to pre-Civil War levels, was out of the question. Chancellor Decimus had kindly provided the funding, instead, to expand the navy.
With no real opposition, Admiral Giovanni di Medici was able to get 20 new steam-powered transport ships and three new naval bases in Rome, Constantinople, and Southampton. Once the transports were completed and tested, he was given authorization, in advance, to build some warships with the new steam engines. The new ships would sail for Rome as soon as they were commissioned.
In the meantime, General Contadino's recommendation was to use the army's budget to expand the Germanicus Academy to train both soldiers and officers. Most of the old high command still existed; they just needed men to lead. The army was a mere 79 brigades; still larger than anybody except the Russians, but not the conquering hordes that had created the Empire in the first place.
Minister O'Connor, for all of his genius as a scientist, lacked the political expertise to understand what the Emperor had done. By depriving both Publius Tullius Cicero and O'Connor of their own power bases, the Emperor made them more vulnerable to individual persecution. O'Connor was bought off with funding for new breakthroughs in medicine.
Publius had tried to hold for a cabinet position, but unlike Alexander O'Connor, all Publius had to offer was his own party's support, which was now irrelevant. Most of the ex-soldiers that formed his party had been, at best, lukewarm towards the career politician. Publius had traded a lot of his political capital to get even as far as he had. The Emperor let Cicero save a little face and named him Proconsul of Campania. It was, on the one hand, the Empire's largest provincia. However, it was also stable. That meant the former party leader wouldn't really be in a position to gain any more recognition as a result of any good policies. Proconsuls were already marginal figures; the Governors were the heart and soul of the Empire, and the Governors were elected by committees of the nobility in each regio. Still, being a Proconsul was much better than being in prison or even exiled, so Publius Tullius Cicero accepted. At least his son, Gaius, was doing well in the Chancellery.
de Ruyter turned his attention from matters of politics to his own department. Preparations for war with Yemen needed to be accelerated, as Valerian's agents had struck a major propaganda coup.
Still, even the depleted legions of the Empire could easily handle Yemen, even the day after tomorrow, if needed. Rome's first conquest since the beginning of the nineteenth century would need a reliable commander, both politically astute and an excellent tactician. de Ruyter started to mentally compile lists.
Life is pretty good right now. I'm glad Charles is Emperor; he understands and appreciates us.
Not like those damned liberals.
4 May 1836, the home of Kathleen O'Connor, London
Kathleen had finally retired from public life as she'd always meant to. Unlike her brother, she was less than pleased with the Emperor's heavy-handed tactics. The Senator from London had been a close friend and a Provincare; now, he was a teacher at one of the new literacy schools opened by the Emperor's decree. It made good sense, she knew, to have literate citizens, yet it was still disappointing to see somebody fall so far so quickly. When the alliance with Russia's new Tsar, Peter III, was announced, Kathleen had hoped that the Emperor would have reopened the Senate and allowed it to meet again; she was to be disappointed.
Even more frightening to Kathleen's sensibilities had been the announcement of the new Heir to the Roman Empire. Valerian! For the first time, and suspiciously soon after Peter III's coronation, Valerian finally provided his full name: Valerii Dmitriyevich Farnese. In other words, he was Dmitrii IX's younger son, and with Peter the Tsar of Russia, Valerian announced his own candidacy for the throne of the Roman Empire. Even Charles I was taken by surprise, but, if Charles had a son, he would still take precedence and gain the throne. Charles I was still young and fit, at just over 23 years of age. Valerian was now officially Prince of Constantinople, which at least got her nephew a promotion to Foreign Minister. Benjamin wasn't as vicious as Valerian, but he was every bit as savvy with foreign affairs.
Kathleen didn't know what to do. She still loved the Empire, but like many of her friends, she'd hoped for a much more representative government once the Civil War was over. When Charles did not deliver, Kathleen felt betrayed. I can't go into politics; too many people still mistrust women as political figures. I have some cachet with the Emperor, but nothing for something this radical. The only thing I've ever been good at is writing. At that last thought, Kathleen snapped her fingers. A newspaper! If the liberals can't get a voice in the Senate, we'll get one in the press. But what do I call it? As she tapped her pen on the desk in frustration, she began to smile. She had the perfect title.
Vox Populi. The Voice of the People.
Took longer than I thought, but there you have it -- our first proper gameplay update! I've tried to throw in some new stuff for AHD; let me know if you have questions. I've got 10 or 11 updates of material -- I played for 25 years -- and I'll try to get at least one update a week, if not two or more.
So much for five years an update