Chapter 7: The Militares go to war!
1 May 1848, Chancellor's office, Rome
Publius Tullius Cicero hadn't had much time to himself since his appointment as Chancellor. Publius looked around his office in quiet satisfaction. I've finally done it. A Cicero is Chancellor! Nobody begrudged him his success, not even his predecessor, Agrippa Germanicus, who had settled in more properly as head of the Provincares. Valerian approved of his new Chancellor, and early polling suggested that the electorate was generally favorable towards the new coalition of the Militares and Pecuniares. Publius had further solidified his position by keeping a Provincare in the cabinet -- Benjamin O'Connor remained Foreign Minister, although his wife had recently given birth to baby Aaron, so he'd been out of the capital for a couple of days. The rest of his cabinet was pretty straightforward. His son, Gaius, remained Minister of Education. Marshal Contadino was, of course, immune to replacement by anybody but the Regent. Magnus von Horgen remained Minister of Information, but he was a Militare anyway. The Regent, with five distinct factions, had also elevated Deputy Chancellor to a Cabinet-level post, with unofficial duties in the Curia. Although Publius was uncomfortable with him, he had no choice but to name Decimus Deputy Chancellor. His talents at building consensuses should serve us well, especially in the Curia, where the liberals still have a firm grip, Publius hoped.
Decimus had insisted upon one other change to the Cabinet. The Senate had recently passed a law requiring all Cabinet members (apart from the Marshal) to be Senators, effective January 1849. That wouldn't be a problem, as all of his appointees were running unopposed in their various provinciae -- except one. Karl Marx. Marx had privately hoped his former hometown would be integrated into the Empire, but it was not, and Marx had not officially changed his residence. Given the recent cooling of liberal and revolutionary fervor, nobody was particularly eager to welcome Marx as a resident of their district, and so his only official role in the government would be leader of the Republicares. That was when Decimus recommended a good friend of his for Marx's post of Minister of Science and Industry; Edward Vickers.
Publius knew and liked the British industrialist, and had no real concerns about Edward's ability to do his job well. However, Marx had taken particular glee in attacking Vickers in editorials in the Roman Times. Marx accused Vickers of all kinds of things, but only in the most circumspect way, so that he could evade the Empire's censorship laws. Regardless of how he did it, Marx had successfully weakened Vickers' public image in the eyes of some artisans, a key part of the Pecuniares base. Without his "sister" faction, Publius knew it was highly unlikely that he would retain power after the next elections. He'd told Decimus that Vickers needed to shape his act, perhaps selling off some of his stock in various Roman factories to shake the charges of "monopolist." Decimus always politely listened, but firmly rejected Publius' worries as foolish.
Fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately, Publius would not have long to worry about it.
28 July 1848, office of the Imperial Regent
One of the few joys for Valerian was tutoring the two Farnese boys in the policies of good government. Although they were in the very peak of health, the recent scare of viral influenza -- the so-called "Spanish Flu," as some doctors insisted that it came from Hispania -- and the death of Chancellor Cicero had resulted in the recall of both Constantine and Trajan to Rome, as Constantinople was hit particularly hard.
Valerian smiled at the two adolescents as they entered his office. The poor kids had never even met their father, and "Uncle Valerian" had been a de facto father. With the relatively smooth operation of government, Valerian had to do less and less personally, which gave him more time to make sure both Farneses were capable of handling the job of Emperor someday. The Regent nodded to Corporal Orsatti, the youngest member of the Praetorian Guard at the tender age of 16, who was the personal guard for both children. It was largely a ceremonial post, a recognition of Arturo's fine work in recognizing the Wallonian rifle design. Trajan was particularly fond of Arturo, which was no surprise given his military ambitions.
"All right, Signori. Let's begin."
Constantine and Trajan dutifully took their seats and opened their notebooks.
"Constantine, who is our current Chancellor?"
Constantine looked confident as he answered. "Marcus Porcius Cato Decimus."
Valerian shook his head. "Incorrect. Trajan?"
Trajan thought carefully for a moment. "We don't have one?"
"Very good, Trajan. Why don't we?"
"Only the Curia can confirm a new Chancellor, and they have not returned from emergency recess."
Constantine interjected, "Yeah, but Decimus is Deputy Chancellor, so he's the guy in charge for now."
Valerian grinned wryly. "Crudely put, Constantine, but absolutely correct."
Both brothers beamed, and chimed at the same time, "Thank you, Professore."
"Today's lesson will be on the intervention in Imperial industry." Valerian scanned his notes, then looked up at his students. "Part of Deputy Chancellor Decimus's plan has been a radical government investment in industry. How can a Chancellor intervene in the economy, under the policies of the conservatives?"
Trajan raised his hand. "He can subsidize factories, expand them using the Imperial coffers, and place factories on a priority list for new hires."
"Very good. Which factory recently received a subsidy, Constantine?"
"The explosives factory near London."
"Why? Shouldn't we let unprofitable factories close?"
"Yes, but there are over 5000 unemployed craftsmen near London, and the winery and shipyards won't be expanded for another few weeks. The explosives plant can carry the slack until the more profitable industries are upgraded."
Valerian nodded. Constantine had an excellent head for business and administration. Trajan's strengths laid in his military knowledge and gift for foreign languages. The two would be a formidable team some day. "Trajan, who owns the London factories?"
Trajan frowned. "Southampton Shipping is owned by Edward Vickers and Samuel Morse. Vickers owns the explosives plant. The winery is owned by... Juan Carlos de Farnese." After a couple of moments of frustration, he sighed. "I can't remember who owns the clipper shipyard."
Constantine chuckled. "Willem van Dijk, Trajan. It's easy to remember because the Dutch are good at ships."
Valerian rolled his eyes gently at the slightly elder twin's terrible grammar, but nodded anyway. "Excellent. Who else has been the beneficiary of government funds?"
Trajan desperately wanted to redeem himself: he hated getting anything wrong. "A cement factory in Lombardia and a furniture factory in Northwest England -- near Manchester, I think -- were both expanded to ease unemployment in those areas."
"Very good, Trajan. One last question today, and I think we'll let Constantine handle this one. Who did we sign an alliance with just a couple of weeks ago?"
Constantine started to sweat. He'd never been good with foreign countries. Latin was hard enough; those Atlantic languages were strange to him. "Ummm... Zanzibar?"
"Yes, we are allies with Zanzibar, but that's an old alliance. Another try?"
"Closer. Ireland does have land in South America thanks to their war with Austria, but it's not much. One more guess?"
Constantine grew more and more frustrated. Why does he always pick on me? grumbled the youth. After a few more moments, he cursed and knocked his notebook off his desk.
"Watch your temper, boy!" snapped the furious Regent. Privately, Valerian was pleased that Constantine cared so much, but the bigger concern was the future Emperor's temper, which he'd never controlled well. "Trajan?"
"Molto bene. That's all for today. Enjoy your weekend."
Both boys nodded -- Constantine a little shame-faced -- and left. When they were gone, Valerian chuckled.
Our Empire is in good hands, I think.
6 August 1849, office of the Foreign Minister, Rome
Benjamin O'Connor wasn't sure what was more exhausting -- being Foreign Minister or the father of a toddler again. Aaron was trying to learn how to walk at the age of just over 1 year, six months, and generally making a mess of their expensive home. Shannon was 10 and James was 8, so they were hardly grown up themselves. However, a few international events had made his day job much more interesting. Braunschweig had won a victory over Nassau, claiming parts of the German Rhineland. The Russian Empire had added the Chengdu region from China. Norway was part of the Roman sphere.
However, easily the most exciting event had been the foundation of the Kingdom of Czechoslovakia, replacing Bohemia-Moravia. The announcement pushed Austria out of the Great Powers, with Czechoslovakia taking her spot.
Benjamin had sent Trajan to Prague, along with Corporal Orsatti and a handful of Praetorian Guardsmen. It was important for the boy to get some seasoning, and Prague was both beautiful and, more importantly, stable. The Roman ambassador to Prague was a kindly old man who'd requested the assignment as his final one before retiring. O'Connor couldn't remember the ambassador's name -- he knew he was French or something -- but his file spoke well of the man, which was good enough for the Minister. A brief knock on the door announced the arrival of Edward Vickers.
"Good afternoon, Mr. Vickers."
"And to you, Mr. O'Connor." It was a rare opportunity for both men to use English, and they didn't waste it.
"How can I help you today, Edward?"
Vickers reached into his bag and extracted the signed law, allotting increased funding to a new, sturdier rail for transit in hilly country.
Benjamin carefully examined the map of the proposed route.
"We need some assistance, Ben."
O'Connor looked perplexed. "I'm not sure why. None of my people have any experience whatsoever at building railroads."
Edward smiled. "Very true, but none of my people have any experience in speaking Bulgarian or Turkish, and most of the local workers do."
The Foreign Minister nodded in understanding. "I can see why that might be a problem. Talk to Giovanni Pasquale in Constantinople; he's my deputy there, and should be able to get you some translators."
"Did I hear that you're working on improving the family heirloom," Ben asked with a chuckle. The "family heirloom" was his father's steam engine, which ensured that the O'Connors would probably never have to worry about money.
Vickers handed over another signed law for new funding.
"I think your father would approve, Ben. We licensed an American design -- a chap named Corliss devised it -- and I think we'll surpass his original design."
Benjamin's face clouded briefly at the thought of his father, but he shook off the ill feelings and distracted himself with his own surprise. "Did you hear about Cyprus?"
Unfortunately, to Vickers, it was no surprise. "Yes, I did. Rather foolish of the buggers to remind the Regent they hadn't been conquered yet."
Benjamin burst out laughing. "You should have seen the look on Valerian's face. He was practically ready to order the invasion, but he was concerned about Magnus's ability to generate a casus belli in time. We had a rating of 8.04 on the O'Connor scale of infamy."
"Have we got a bit of an ego?"
Ben shook his head in mock horror. "Who, me? Of course not. It's named for my dear aunt Kathleen, not me. It was Karl's idea when he was Minister of Education."
Vickers's own face darkened at the mention of his arch-nemesis. "I wish I knew why you liked that detestable German. Do you know he's accusing me now purposefully firing capable workers from my shipyard?"
Ben grimaced. "Look, I know you don't get along, and I've tried to tell Karl to back off, but the only way to keep his mouth shut would be to bolt his jaws together."
Edward muttered, "Now there's an idea."
"All right, Ed." Benjamin hardly ever used his friend's nickname, but it seemed to calm the British industrialist down. "I'll talk to him again."
"Thank you, sir. I must be back to London; the workers aren't going to oppress themselves!"
Benjamin rolled his eyes and waved Vickers out of the office.
26 August 1850, Syndicate Headquarters, Sydney
The board of directors of the Syndicate was short one member, with the untimely demise of Juan Carlos de Farnese, a victim of another outbreak of influenza.
Still, with a capable replacement -- Eugene Schneider, a French artillery manufacturer -- the Syndicate had a lot to celebrate. They'd almost finished colonizing all of Australia and New Zealand with the addition of Western Australia and South Island. Eugene's experience with metallurgy had already paid dividends, as a new gold mine was discovered in Gibson's Desert.
While the Syndicate would see little direct profit from the mine, thanks to the law which granted the Imperial government a monopoly on all precious metals, they were able to use the influence gained from the new mine to re-open three of Eugene's artillery factories in Picardie, Andalucia, and Sardinia. Even better, Decimus, now officially Chancellor with Gaius Tullius Cicero as his Deputy, had made significant gains in the Senate.
With Titus Cato's stranglehold on the Protectores, the liberals could almost be entirely ignored in the Senate. That meant that imperialism could be formally endorsed by the government, making sure that if Australia were integrated into the Empire, it would be on the Syndicate's terms.
Best of all, thanks to Syndicate resources, Karl Marx had been shut out of the Senate for the second year in a row. Without an active political voice, Marx was slowly fading into the background, which meant that nobody asked uncomfortable questions when the first factory built after the American alliance just happened to be owned by Syndicate member Samuel Morse.
The Massachusetts Steel Mill would certainly pay dividends in the future, but it also fueled Morse's sense of pride. The directors of the Syndicate clinked their champagne glasses together. A recent government subsidy reopened an ammunition factory in Normandy and a Midlands Fertilizer Factory -- the former owned by Schneider, but the latter by a dummy corporation owned by somebody with the ridiculous name of "Nemo Posside" -- how the censors had missed that little joke was beyond any of the directors.
1850 was shaping up to be an excellent year for the Syndicate.
8 September 1850, Office of the Regent, Rome
Valerian was normally happy to see his elder brother Peter. That didn't happen very often, since Peter was the Tsar of the Russian Empire, but when it did it was always a big party. With Peter, Valerian didn't have to be quite so emotionless; with Valerian, Peter could complain about how stupid his ministers were. It was something of a win-win. But this was not one of those times.
"Pyotr, are you sure about this? I know Karelia is ancient Russian territory, but Sweden is the number two Great Power and we just got embarrassed by Wallonia, of all places."
His brother grunted. "Valerii, you know I wouldn't ask if it weren't important. Besides, your contributions will mostly be naval, I think. Aren't you always going on and on about your fancy steam-powered boats?"
Valerian grinned broadly. "I do brag a lot, don't I?"
"Yes, you do. When will the Rodina get some of these wonderful advances, brat'?"
Valerian's grin disappeared. "You are my brother, and I love you, Peter" -- explicitly Latinizing his brother's name -- "but I will not compromise the Roman Empire because of your jealousy." Before Peter could get too angry, Valerian sighed. "If Russia needs Roman help, Tsar Pyotr, Rome will come to her aid.
I just hope we don't regret it."
The joke in the company's owner, by the way, is that Nemo Posside means, roughly, "Nobody possesses [it]." Rodina is Russian for Motherland; Brat' is brother.
The war with Sweden is a big one, and will take more than one update. It's almost a shame the new patch wasn't out yet at the time -- as a minor spoiler, it would be considered a Great War (Russia and NRI vs. Sweden, Austria, and Poland; Austria is a GP again, bumping out Bavaria just before the close of the update), which could have meant some sweet, sweet territory, instead of what I actually end up with. Still, it was a challenging war to fight, and I'm sure you'll like it.
Thanks for reading!