Chapter 11, part 1: The rising of the Jacobins
13 July 1855, Palazzo di Farnese, Rome
Constantine XII sighed. He knew that, despite his victories, he was growing increasingly unpopular among the citizens of the Empire. The fact remained that, even with the complete success of Operation Colossus, the war with Panjab grew more and more expensive.
The problem was that there simply was no quick fix for the economic problems that ailed the Empire. Mines throughout the Empire were outfitted with new equipment, and steam turbines were underwritten by Minister Vickers, but it really looked bleak, as a document attached to the funding request for the new turbine showed.
The anti-war parties' huge growth only further complicated internal political matters. When elections returned a heavily anti-war Curia, the Emperor either had to abandon the war -- and lose Russia -- or suffer the consequences of increased unrest and further economic wounding.
Magnus von Horgen knocked gently on the Emperor's door. "Your Majesty, you wanted to see me?"
"Yes, Magnus. Have a seat. We have a very serious problem."
Magnus nodded grimly. "The election?"
"Exactly. Marx has been Chancellor for a couple of years now; why aren't the Republicares stronger?"
"You answered your own question. He's been so busy as Chancellor with his pet reform projects that he's neglected his own faction. Meanwhile, Disraeli and Cicero have built up their own factions, Titus Decimus has been screaming for martial law since day one, and Agrippa is being held hostage by his own party."
Constantine couldn't help but laugh at the macabre humor in the situation. "If only we had some kind of strong executive to cut through this bureaucratic nonsense. Let's call him an 'Emperor', give him the power to break such deadlocks. Wouldn't that be ideal?"
Magnus chuckled politely, but didn't really find things the least bit amusing. "Sire, I can stall a couple more weeks, claiming 'vote verification issues', but no more."
"What's your opinion of the martial law option?"
Magnus sighed. "The Marshal won't do it. Julius said, and I quote, 'One Contadino dictator is enough for one family.' Titus Decimus is salivating over the position, and promises to 'restore' the Empire to its former glory, but the Catos have disowned him and I'm not sure how many more noble families would follow him."
"I have a little more room to work with there. The soldiers are very conservative and would endorse you without question. The officers are the problem. A lot of them will follow Gaius Tullius Cicero and the Militares, but Cicero is a wild card. I think he'd back your play, but only if he was given assurances that the state of emergency is temporary, and I don't think we can do that."
The Minister of Information shrugged his shoulders. "Popular unrest. Nearly every Senator will scream their heads off about martial law. Unless we're willing to completely repress them, including executing the ringleaders, the lower classes will probably revolt with the Senators egging them on."
"But if I put Agrippa back in charge, the only viable Deputy Chancellor is Disraeli, given the conservative hold in the Senate and Marx's tiny faction."
"Disraeli will force peace tomorrow if we do that. Agrippa is pro-war, but his followers aren't. Agrippa either joins with Disraeli or he's kicked out. Simple as that."
"I'm in charge of war and peace, not the Senate or the Curia!"
Magnus nodded sadly. "Constitutionally, yes. Popularly, no. If the Curia and Senate publish a joint resolution condemning the war, the people will revolt anyway if you don't heal the economy right away."
Constantine swore. "I wish Valerian were here. He'd know what to do."
"He probably would, but he's enjoying retirement too much."
"Yeah. So let's recap. If Germanicus is Chancellor, the people revolt because Disraeli wants peace and I don't. If Marx is Chancellor, the people revolt because I'm ignoring the election. If I go with martial law, I'll be murdered in my sleep. Does that cover it."
"Unfortunately, yes. Decimus was a sleaze, but a patriotic one, and able to keep the Pecuniares in step with the Militares. Disraeli really has changed everything."
Constantine pondered that. "Could we... you know..."
"Kill him? Yes, it would be tactically very easy. Unfortunately, I have no idea who would replace him. You told me to stay out of the factions and I have."
"Damn. If not for this dumb election..."
Magnus and Constantine stared at one another, both lost in thought. After a few minutes, Magnus snapped his fingers. "I have a solution, my liege."
"Please, go on."
Constantine was dumbfounded. "The Jacobins?"
"Let me explain. The Jacobins are the only thing that every conservative fears. Even Germanicus is terrified of the idea of a true democracy. Heads would roll, quite literally. The Jacobins want you, above all else, gone. Not dead, but gone or neutered. Without an Emperor, there is no Empire. Without an Empire, the nationalists will take over, rile up the masses, and pretty soon Europe will be chaos."
"The Jacobins haven't been a threat for years."
Magnus smiled for the first time all day. "I'll take care of that. Marx is the key. If he speaks out against the Jacobins, whether or not they do present a threat, people will listen. There'll still be a backlash, but it won't be as big or widespread. You can avoid martial law altogether."
"That sounds good, but why would Marx support our little cabal?"
"Because Marx only has two options: back us and keep his job, or reject us, save his ideals, but lose his power. The Republicares will be disgraced as a faction and might even dissolve.
"Plus, Emperor, you'd be surprised what men will do when they have power in order to keep it."
5 October 1855, Sydney, Australia
Centurion Arturo Orsatti examined the First Infantry Regiment of the Australian Guards with a mixture of pride and disappointment. They were nowhere near good enough to defend their homes by themselves, but had already come a long way in just over a year. He was surprised how helpful Caroline Sheridan had been; despite a complete lack of military training, she took to her role in translating with gusto. At the moment, the troops were celebrating the addition of Northern Australia to the colony, the final piece of the puzzle.
Despite his lack of social graces, Caroline seemed taken by the young Centurion, and Arturo had to admit the feeling was mutual. One of the things Arturo had denied himself as a result of his profession was a relationship. Arturo wasn't a virgin -- he'd been with many a camp follower -- but he'd never had a girlfriend. To be honest, I'm not sure I have one now either, thought the soldier from Lombardy. He'd spent some time with Caroline, getting to know her, but only in a strictly professional setting. Caroline had plenty of duties for the Roman "Embassy" in Sydney in addition to her assigned position with the First Guards, which made it extraordinarily difficult to find the time to have a proper date. Arturo had learned snippets of English, but not enough to survive in the country outside of the barracks, and so he rarely ventured without her support. That made buying her gifts difficult.
As he inspected the unit's artillery battery -- five of the new iron artillery pieces -- Caroline came rushing up to him.
"Good afternoon, Caroline, what can --"
She shoved a piece of paper in his face before he could finish.
"War with Wallonia?"
Caroline nodded tersely. "Yes. Marx's speech against the Jacobins reopened some old wounds in his home town; as a result, one of the largest stores in Trier is boycotting our merchandise until Marx is fired."
Arturo shrugged. "My father's always liked Marx, said he sticks up for the little guy, but even he agrees that the Jacobins are nothing but trouble."
"I don't really see what's so wrong about the working class having a vote."
Arturo scoffed. "You and I are hardly Emperor and Empress, but we can vote."
"That's because I'm a bureaucrat and you're an officer. What about farmers and miners, or those hundred men you watch after?"
"They're worried about putting food on the table and doing their jobs, Caroline. How could they possibly have time for politics?"
Caroline glared at Arturo, but only because she didn't have a response to that. Luckily, she was saved by one of the "Embassy's" clerks. "Centurion Orsatti? I have a telegram for you."
"Who is this 'Capello'?"
To Centurion Orsatti STOP You are being recalled to Rome STOP Please finish your immediate affairs STOP Return home soonest STOP You are promoted to Captain for your hard work STOP Colonel Capello
Arturo tried to conjure up a face for the name. "If I remember right, he was briefly Commandant of the Germanicus Academy. He's been a Colonel for some twenty years; he and Marshal Contadino have some kind of beef, which is why he's never been promoted to General. Don't remember what that's about."
"What about me? I'm only here because of my assignment."
Arturo checked the telegram again. "I don't know. Maybe you're to stay here?"
"What about your men?"
"It's just me leaving; a couple of Lieutenants have shown some promise, and I'm sure they'll be fine."
Caroline grimaced, but nodded. "You have to follow orders, I guess. Please keep in touch, Captain. I've grown... somewhat fond of you."
"I will, Caroline."
18 November 1855, Trier, Wallonia
Unlike a lot of the men in the 2nd Parma Infantry, Captain Orsatti remembered the first war against the Wallonians, and he was not surprised at the horrific casualties from the first Battle of Trier.
Captains were kind of an odd fit in the legions. While they led a cohort of five centuries in the field on paper, in practice, the two Captains were staff officers for the Lieutenant Commander of the regiment. Since Orsatti hadn't completed the Advanced Officer's Course at the Van Dijk College of War, he wasn't even trusted with regimental paperwork. Instead, he was a glorified dispatch runner. His official responsibility was "coordinating orders with the officers of the regiment," which sounded impressive but was about as empty a job description as you could imagine. It did give him a nice superficial view of the battlefield, better than any other officer in the entire brigade, but since nobody listened to him when he wasn't handing them mail, he couldn't apply any insights. A daring infantry raid had captured a number of enemy cannon at the Battle of Spa, and that gave Orsatti an even more humiliating job; guarding prisoners and making sure their guns were spiked.
He remained at Spa with the prisoners while the rest of 2nd Parma absolutely decimated the enemy lines, breaking Wallonian resistance at the Second Battle of Trier.
Arturo thought about writing a letter to Colonel Capello in protest, but at the end of the day, Arturo Orsatti just wasn't that sort of man. He hated playing politics, even for something as valuable as a real chance to make Lieutenant Commander. He still couldn't remember the Colonel that clearly, and for all Arturo knew, Capello had written dozens of similar telegrams that day. So Arturo suffered in silence.
That reluctance to call on a favor saved his life.
6 July 1856, Chancellor's office, Rome
Karl Marx was not normally a very tanned individual; despite the gorgeous weather of Rome, he spent most of his days indoors. Even with that in mind, Marx was as white as a ghost.
His day began normally, with some paperwork. He scanned the election results from the January Senatorial election and the recent census data to try to find ways to strengthen his faction.
The great problem with the Republicares was that it often split the pro-war vote with the Militares; given that over 50% of the Empire tended to be conservative, that meant a proportionately smaller share of that vote actually went to Marx or his candidates. Marx noted with satisfaction that his faction was more popular than the Protectores, but ground his teeth at the latest economic numbers: over 80% of the Imperial population was disenfranchised by the tax laws, as they were either farmers or laborers. Marx had been ignoring the suffragist cause more and more, but made a mental note to meet with leaders in that community. He had lunch with Foreign Minister Benjamin O'Connor, and the two discussed the introduction of peace, finally, into the Empire, thanks to treaties with Panjab and Wallonia.
An alliance with the Chinese Empire and, more importantly, the addition of the USA to the Roman sphere also demonstrated a more peaceful outlook on life for the Empire.
Russia had squawked about the Chinese alliance, since Peter III still had designs on Chinese territory, but ultimately stayed quiet and enjoyed their new lands in Panjab. While Benjamin thought about foreign peace, Marx was still concerned about domestic tranquility. That tranquility was disrupted with screams of panic throughout Rome. He rushed outside to find out what was going on. He grabbed a tough looking young Private as he ran past.
"What's going on, son?"
The Private swallowed hard. "Chancellor, it's the Jacobins. We've ignored them for years, and they've finally decided that they've had enough."
In all the excitement, Marx forgotten about a single solitary envelope that was in his pocket, one he'd gotten just an hour earlier.
The name on the address read Colonel Vincenzo Capello.
Hope the wait was worth it!
Originally Posted by Anjwalker
Part 2 may not come until next week, so I hope this can slake your thirst for at least a little while.