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Vestal Flame: Concerning Vesta...
Posted By: Arthur Wellesley<arthur_wellesly@hotmail.com>
Date: 11 June 2010, 4:29 am

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FROM: 00522-29007-JA
DATE: 2519.07.29 T 21:43 (MILITARY CALENDAR)

Mr. Burke,

I hope the Hermes finds you well. Take care of her. She's a private bird—very expensive.

I had the boys in Section Two compile the relevant information we have on Vesta. You would be well served to untangle the web of this particular internecine conflict in which you are about to become enmeshed. Remember what I told you.

Submit your reports exclusively on this channel. I have been assured of its security.

Best of Luck,

Vesta is a so-called "Border World," due to its location on the notional "border" between the Inner and Outer colonies. When it was first settled in the early 25th century, it was one of the outermost colonies, though today it is considered a fringe Inner Colony. Vesta is substantially smaller than Earth, with a circumference of approximately 32,000km, versus Earth's 40,000km. Despite this, the two planets have almost identical masses, indicating Vesta's large quantities of heavy metals. It was the promise of mineral wealth that first attracted the United Nations Colonial Administration's attention in 2374.

Over 75% of Vesta's surface is covered in water. Vesta's land surface is comprised of two polar landmasses joined by a single, continuous continent. This adjoining continent is referred to as Vesta's mainland, and is home to around 90% of the planet's population. The only other sizeable landmass on Vesta is a continent sized island lying far off the west coast of the mainland. Also of note is a large peninsula that extends from the northern polar continent to the west of the mainland.

Vesta's most remarkable feature, and part of the reason for its high density, is its Northern Highlands. This enormous mountain range stretches around 5,500km north-south, and is almost 3,000km at its widest point. It is an unremittingly rocky, mountainous, and cold land. It is bounded by a periphery that rises some 5,000 meters above sea level; within its boundaries, peaks routinely dwarf Earth's highest mountain, Everest. The Northern Highlands were formed by an unusually intense continental collision approximately 200 million years ago. A separate continent collided with the mainland's eastern flank. This exogenous tectonic plate drove completely under the mainland's plate and lifted it to present heights.

This continental submersion created a deep oceanic trench off the east coast of the mainland. The difference in temperature between the depths of the trench and the warm surface waters creates very regular ocean currents which does much to dictate Vesta's climate. The mainland is subject to prevailing southeasterly winds, which tend to be quite warm and moist. Typically, the moisture is released over either the Northern or Southern Highlands. As a result, the windward side of the mainland tends to be quite wet while the leeward side tends to be much drier. Certain features on the west coast, however, like the Touros Stream, can mitigate this effect.


Terraforming begins on a planet in the Beta Aurigae system, Beta Aurigae IV.

The Colonial Delegation: Representatives from all the colonies, excepting those of Epsilon Eridani and Sol System which already have representation on the UNSC Council, meet on the colony of Pegasus. The official agenda consists mostly of pursuing representation on the Council and regulating inter-colonial trade, but some outside observers are shocked at the vitriolic speeches delivered against the UNSC. The view that the UNSC pursues rapacious economic policies without colonial consent is widespread and, to an extent, is legitimate.

The Office of Naval Intelligence reports increased "Revolutionary Fervor" in the colonies simultaneous with a surge of encoded messages between colonial governments. Most military brass either discount these reports, or else ignore them in favor of combating the growing problem of interstellar piracy. UNSC forces remain small and low-impact.

February: The United Nations Colonial Administration offices on Eridanus II are taken over by armed gunmen, and the Consul is executed. The UNSC Army contingent stationed on the colony march on Elysium city to restore order, but they are engaged and defeated by militia forces as the rebellion spreads. The Army survivors and other UNSC personnel are forcibly evicted from the surface.

March-April: On Pegasus, much closer to Earth, a rebellion ignites on the heels of the successful Eridanus uprising. Pegasus is a much larger colony with a significantly larger planetside garrison. Fighting is fierce and bloody, but when it spreads from the countryside into the cities, the UNSC orders all personnel to evacuate in early April.

May: The Abbakum Putsch: an ill-fated attempt to overthrow the pro-UNSC government of the industrial colony of Abbakum leads to a shootout with police and the arrest of several dozen high ranking Colonial Militia. Riots break out in the capital Ionia.

June: For two weeks, a series of devastating bombs rip through several prominent cities on Reach, killing over four hundred people. The response by the terrified government is extreme: Martial Law is declared and urban superintendent programs are put on emergency status.

July: A failed uprising in the hinterland colony of Hainan spurs bloody reprisals from pro-UNSC paramilitaries. The killings are well publicized, and the UNSC is accused of sanctioning them. Rebellious sentiment is galvanized in several colonies as a result.

August 3: Several bombs rip through Ionia on Abbakum, targeting UNSC personnel. The Marine garrison is put on high alert.

August 5: The Indefatigable, a Destroyer captained by one Francis Perry, enters the system to provide extra security.

August 6: Riots erupt once again in Ionia. In the chaos, the colony's President is killed. The Army garrison attempts to restore order, but they are driven back under heavy gunfire. They request reinforcements from the Indefatigable. Captain Perry deploys his Marine attachment.

August 7: Abbakum's land based orbital defense guns open fire on the Indefatigable, forcing its retreat from orbit. It holds position at the edge of the system and awaits reinforcements.

August 7-10: Siege of Bourgas: The UNSC armed forces on Abbakum, numbering about three and a half thousand, retreat to the town of Bourgas on the outskirts of Ionia. There they are besieged by an ever-growing army of Militia and paramilitaries. Attempts to seize the town are all rebuffed.

August 9: After a string of defeats and with the situation in danger of losing control, FLEETCOM decides to draw a line in the sand at Abbakum. Captain Perry is ordered to use tactical nuclear weapons to relieve the soldiers at Bourgas. Conservative estimates by FLEETCOM put casualties at a few tens of thousands, but Perry's own analysts put the likely body count in the hundreds of thousands.

August 9-10: Perry countermands the BANDERSNATCH order and commences the withdrawal of the Marine and Army forces by Pelican airlifts. The airlift begins at nightfall and continues almost until sunrise on the 10th. The final wave to be evacuated number only five hundred; they are almost overrun in the final hours of the operation, but are saved by the deft use of close air support. Casualties are relatively high: three hundred and fifty were killed and almost a thousand were wounded during the siege. Around five thousand Militiamen are estimated dead or wounded.

August 10: Perry sends the worst of the wounded by shuttle to the nearest medical facility but is ordered to remain in the system to monitor the situation.

August 10-24: The Abbakum massacres: in response to the perceived injustices of Hainan, bloody reprisals are carried out by the victorious Militia. Politicians and bureaucrats of the deposed pro-UNSC government are dragged out to the street and killed. The imprisoned leaders of the failed May Putsch are liberated as heroes, and their persecutors are hunted down and murdered.

August 21: An armada of 12 battleships and 30 transports, originally intended for Pegasus, arrives in the system to retake the colony. The Indefatigable is boarded by a contingent of MPs and Captain Perry is arrested for countermanding the BANDERSNATCH order.

August 24: The invasion of Abbakum begins. The colony is bombed extensively from orbit.

August 26-29: The invasion force retakes Ionia after several bloody days of fighting.

September: By the end of September, all major population centers on Abbakum fall to the UNSC Expeditionary Force. The rural areas, however, remain hotbeds for insurgents. The invasion, which was planned around a month long campaign, was to last two years, with extensive commitments required on the surface until the war's end in 2409.

November: Captain Francis Perry is convicted for insubordination and dereliction of duty. He is dishonorably discharged and sentenced to three years in prison.

December: The Christmas Coup: The colony of Saraswati deposes its government and a fiercely anti-UNSC junta seizes power. The colony's garrison withdraws from the planet without a shot fired.

The UNSC finds itself massively unprepared for rebellion on this scale. They begin a recruitment drive and undergo a huge buildup of offensive spaceships. Meanwhile, they begin their "Fortress Siege" strategy, whereby the remaining loyal colonies would be buttressed to prevent uprisings, while the rebellious colonies would be blockaded from orbit and dealt with one at a time. The UNSC vows not to leave Abbakum or begin a new campaign until the fighting there stops completely.

March: The blockade at Pegasus is temporarily disrupted by a daring raid of small fighter craft and retrofitted transport ships. The element of surprise and the use of novel tactics, including targeted boarding, results in the destruction of two UNSC battleships and the capture of one frigate. Reinforcements arrive by the end of the month to shore up the blockade. The UNSC is highly embarrassed by the episode.

November: Abbakum is declared pacified and the UNSC prepares to move on to Hainan.

December: The invasion of Hainan begins.

Francis Perry is released in November as a private citizen. He visits Ionia on Abbakum to see what he spared and to see what the destruction wrought by the invaders. Perry is shocked by the level of devastation and the anger that still seethes amongst the population. He begins to write his memoirs.

June: Hainan is declared pacified. The UNSC keeps a tight leash on the press as they flood in, and broadcasts from the planet are highly restricted.

August: The invasion of Pegasus begins. As the largest rebellious colony, with almost one hundred million inhabitants, the invasion is immediately a bloody affair. The colony has also invested heavily in ground-based anti-orbital weapons. Several transport ships are destroyed in low orbit. An intense bombing campaign follows, and lasts several months.

September: Using contacts within the military, Perry visits Hainan and tours the warzones. The level of destruction is unprecedented, and many civilians complain of indiscriminate bombing and the deaths of large numbers of innocents. Perry sends video evidence to several news agencies.

December: Perry releases his memoir, detailing the account of the BANDERSNATCH order which until now have been kept quiet by the UNSC. The book is released as the war takes a turn for the worse on Pegasus. Many dismiss him as a malcontent or even a traitor, but he instantly becomes a public figure.

The UNSC desperately tries to recruit more men to salvage the faltering effort on Pegasus. Their recruitment efforts become more invasive, particularly on the colonies, causing discontent to rise among the loyalists. Perry, meanwhile, gains popularity as the war loses it. He becomes a regular guest on news broadcasts, denouncing the war and arguing for self-determination.

The war begins to turn in the UNSC's favor after a massive influx of troops. Still undermanned for the task at hand, however, the UNSC continues to use widespread bombing in their campaigns. Images of bombed out towns and burning citiy blocks permeate the blockade and are seen by horrified people abroad.

July: The Saraswati uprising is put to an end. The UNSC sponsors a counter-coup that brings down the ruling junta. Backed up by only 1500 Special Forces, of whom only 16 perish, many observers declare this operation to be the only true victory in the war so far.

April: Pegasus is declared pacified. 30,000 UNSC personnel and 200,000-400,000 enemy combatants are killed in the conflict. Most estimates of civilian casualties fall between one and two million. Close to ten million are left homeless.

May: As with the previous battlefields, Perry visits the wreckage of Pegasus. He sets up a refugee fund with sympathetic off-world backers, and tries to assist the displaced colonists.

September: The invasion of Eridanus begins. By now the UNSC is well equipped and well manned, and the invasion initially goes well.

October: The inertia of the invasion wears off and the effort gets bogged down in guerilla warfare. The Eridanus rebels, who were the first to rebel, view themselves as the true flag bearers of the insurrection and refuse to surrender.

December: Terraforming of Beta Aurigae IV is completed. The United Nations Colonial Administration opens the bidding for planet's settlement. Perry petitions the UNCA to make the planet available for the settlement of the war's refugees. Using funds from his backers, Perry launches a campaign to advocate for the initiative. A disenchanted galactic audience soon clamors in support of Perry's effort.

March: Guerilla activities subside on Eridanus, and the rebellion is officially declared defeated on the 11th. The toll is not as heavy as it had been on Pegasus, with around 6,000 UNSC deaths and about 150,000 colonial deaths.

April: The UNCA formally rejects Perry's petition and reopens bidding for settlement rights. There is a great uproar from the colonies, and many on Earth side with the colonists after the heavy-handed prosecution of the war effort. Many view Beta Aurigae IV as a means of defusing tensions and offering an outlet to legitimate grievances.

June 12: Francis Perry arrives in Sydney, where he bypasses the UNCA and petitions the UNSC Council directly. They refuse to hear him.

June-September: Perry organizes mass protests across the major cities of Earth and Reach. The response is overwhelming as millions take to the streets to support the Beta Aurigae colonization effort.

September 5: The UNSC Council finally relents to the public pressure, and forces the UNCA to reserve colonization rights to Beta Aurigae IV for displaced persons from the war. Perry is made chairman of the Beta Aurigae Committee (BAUCOM), directing the colonization effort of the planet—an unprecedented position for someone who held no military or civilian rank within the UNSC.

November-December: Perry begins the colonization drive on Pegasus, where the devastation was worst and where most of the refugees were located. He was already a well known figure in many of the refugee camps due to his yearlong stint among them, and many had heard of the Beta Aurigae plan. The response to the drive is rapid and overwhelming; in the first two months alone, BAUCOM recruits two million prospective colonists.

January: After it became evident that finding prospective colonists would not be a problem, Perry leaves the recruiting to his lieutenants in BAUCOM and turns his own attention elsewhere. Bitter at being forced to concede the Beta Aurigae issue, the UNCA tries to undermine the effort by starving BAUCOM of funds. Beginning in January, Perry begins a campaign to raise money privately. The initiative is immediately successful, as wealthy individuals sympathetic to his cause donate large sums to BAUCOM. Many banks, impressed by Perry's administrative skills and the apparent inertia of the drive, are willing to lend BAUCOM large sums at relatively low interest. Perry is surprised by another source of funds: UNSC veteran enclaves raise comparatively minor but still substantial sums to help the effort, and many express interest in settling on the new colony. A great number of veterans are hastily and unceremoniously demobilized after the war, and many feel cheated out of benefits they feel they are owed.

April: Perry signs a deal with Massilia Corporation, a small mining firm based on the obscure colony of Feros with interests along the Outer Rim. Massilia Corp is attracted to the deal by the promising surveys conducted on the planet's Northern Highlands, while Perry is grateful for the much needed infusion of capital.

July: Perry accompanies a Massilia survey team to Beta Aurigae IV. For the first time, he lands on the planet. He christens the world "Vesta," naming it after the Roman goddess of hearth and home. He envisions the planet's warm and fertile equatorial region to be a bucolic paradise, populated by small landowning farmers. He remains on Vesta only for a few days, before continuing his fundraising campaign.

October: Massilia Corp is satisfied with its surveys of the Northern Highlands, concluding that the original assessments were accurate. To solidify their monopoly on the colony's metals, they are the first to establish a permanent presence on Vesta, setting up a small mining camp on the northern continent which they aptly name "Massilia."

March 7: The first settlers arrive on Vesta aboard private ships chartered with the funds that Perry had raised. Approximately 25,000 land on the first wave, mostly from Pegasus, setting up mostly around the site where Perry had first landed the previous year. They found their new settlement along a fertile river in the area, calling it Talavera after a city that had been utterly destroyed by the UNSC offensive on Pegasus. Perry declares it to be the site of the future capital.

March-February 2412: About 1.3 million settlers arrive on Vesta. The initial colonization effort is focused overwhelmingly on the southern hemisphere: about 80% of the settlers end up in the South, where BAUCOM parcels out plots of land to family units.

February: With the initial colonization an apparent success, the UNCA finally acknowledges the inevitable and helps fund BAUCOM's activities. Perry is also able to secure more regular loans as banks feel more assured of Vesta's return of investment potential. As such, Perry ceases his fundraising campaign and arrives at Talavera, where he becomes a permanent settler. Perry sets to work on the administrative tasks of settlement.

April: The UNCA sets up its offices in Talavera, finally becoming involved in the effort directly. The UNCA's headquarters on Vesta are promptly vandalized.

December: By the end of 2412, Vesta is populated by more than 2.2 million people. It is one of the fastest colonization efforts in human history, a feat all the more impressive considering that much of it had been privately funded. The vast majority are concentrated in the South, where farming activities quickly become viable.
December 25: Christmas celebrations are held in Talavera, and many of the settlers travel to the capital to join in the festivities. Francis Perry is hailed as a hero, and a statue is erected in his honor outside the city's Government House.

March: The UNCA sets a quota for settlers arriving per month to Vesta that is lower than the one desired by Perry. In response, Perry forms the Vesta Party, a loose conglomerate of BAUCOM veterans and politically active settlers. By mobilizing the colonists and his off-world supporters to his cause, Perry simply ignores UNCA quotas and continues to bring in large numbers of settlers.

October 27: The quota issue again rears its head. In an attempt to assert its authority over the intransigent colony, the UNCA rejects three transport ships from Eridanus carrying 20,000 refugees, as the month's quota had already been double their limit. The ships are ordered to turn around and head back to the refugee camps on Eridanus. Images of weeping refugees aboard the ships splash across Vestal airwaves.
October 28: An angry mob gathers outside UNCA headquarters in Talavera and firebombs the building. Most UNCA employees flee with Army escorts, but six are killed in the fire and thirteen are ripped apart by the mob after fleeing the burning offices.
October 29: The UNCA temporarily suspends its activities on Vesta and evacuates their personnel to orbiting UNSC ships. In a televised address, Perry condemns the violence but chastises the UNCA for their arrogance. Many across human space are shocked at the renewed violence and nervous that it might destabilize the tenuous peace of '09.

October 30: The three Eridani transport ships are officially recalled to Vesta.

October 31: There is a small riot on Hainan, but it is quickly subdued by police.

November-December: Colonization of Vesta continues apace, despite the cut of UNCA funding. By the end of the year, the population of Vesta reaches 3.5 million.

December: Mining by Massilia Corp begins in earnest in the north, particularly around the Northern Highlands. This activity brings increased colonization to the north, which had previously been dwarfed by the south. For the first time, as well, settlers arrive who are neither refugees nor veterans, but simply men and women who are looking for work. Perry wants to give refugees priority, but grants the workers settler status at the insistence of Massilia Corp.

February 3: UNCA Secretary Li Na arrives at Talavera to meet with Francis Perry to discuss the future of the colony. The visit gets unprecedented media coverage. Large crowds gather outside the Government House in Talavera, but the protest remains peaceful at the strict urgings of Perry.

February 4: Perry, feeling that public support and sympathy are behind him, proposes a radical idea: allow Vesta self-governance. The colony would not be subject to UNSC rules or laws, it would be free to develop its own economic policies, and it would be free of a UNSC garrison. The proposal is made public that evening to put pressure on Li. The announcement is met with roars of approval across Vesta and most of the Inner Colonies.
The UNSC views the proposal pragmatically. They view it as a relatively minor concession to heal some of the wounds of the Inner Colonies War. Furthermore, they see Vesta as a potential outlet for malcontents across the Inner Colonies, removing a destabilizing element from the UNSC controlled worlds and concentrating them in one place where they could be easily monitored. The UNSC orders Li Na to accept the proposal.

February 5-12: Details of the agreement are hammered out over a grueling week long session. Perry forces the admission of the press to the conference in an attempt to limit the scope of manipulation by Li. Many praise Perry for his adept statesmanship.

February 12: The Vesta Accord is signed and Vesta becomes the first independent colony. Perry had finally achieved what the Inner Colonies could not after eight years of war and millions of lives lost. There is euphoric celebration across Vesta. Colonization accelerates even faster.

December: By the end of 2414, Vesta's population reaches 5.8 million. Around 40% of the new arrivals land in the north rather than the south, beginning a reversal of the Southern concentration trend.

Economic activity explodes by the end of the year. After getting established and being supplied with some start-up capital, southern farmers quickly find Vesta's soil to be exceptionally well suited to intensive farming, especially of cash crops like citrus fruits. In the north, meanwhile, Massilia Corp's mining activities soon begins to bear fruit. While mining in the Highlands is sometimes treacherous and startup costs are high, the wealth of metals and minerals is even greater than first anticipated.

April 9: Perry announces that the first independent elections would be held the following year, and accordingly Vesta would have to be divided up into administrative regions. He calls a delegation of colonial leaders from all parts of Vesta to meet in Talavera and work out an administrative plan.

April 27: The political borders of Vesta are agreed upon and drawn up. The planet is to be divided into eleven administrative areas: 9 states and 2 territories. The Southern states are Talavera, Touros, Barracas, the Plains of Greve, and Guilin. The Northern states are Odessa, Sarafand, Silesia, and Madurai. The two territories are the Northern Highlands and the Southern Highlands. The Northern Highlands, which have no permanent residents, are to be administered by the government of Silesia, which effectively consigns the metal rich mountains entirely to Massilia Corp. The Southern Highlands, which are sparsely populated, is to be administered by Talavera. 98% of Vesta's population falls within these eleven divisions. All other lands are unorganized territories, under the nominal administration of the government in Talavera.

July 5: After several months of debates, the delegates reach an agreement and a constitution is drawn up. Due to the foreseen differences between the North and South, Vesta is to be a Presidential Republic, with significant state power set against the federal government in Talavera. A monopoly on military power is granted to Talavera in the form of the Vestal Self Defense Force (VSDF); however, it is tightly constrained in scope. No more than 0.5% of the population can ever be in active duty, and two thirds of the states must approve of their usage. The cap cannot be raised without two thirds of the states' consent. It is generally agreed that Vesta must not give the UNSC any excuse for intervention.

October: The campaigning for the following year's elections begins in earnest. Francis Perry, the head of the Vesta Party, is seen as the only viable candidate, and most view the election as his official inauguration. In the states, however, competition is more intense. The North, in particular, sees a proliferation of parties to compete with the Vesta Party. The Reform Party, based in Silesia with the unofficial backing of Massilia Corp, is the most prominent of the new parties.

February 25: The Vesta Party wins a sweeping victory, taking the presidency, three quarters of the seats in the legislature, and eight out of nine of the states. The Reform Party wins Silesia and takes the second largest share of the seats in the legislature.

December: By the end of 2416, the population of Vesta surpasses 8 million souls.
Perry's first months as the official leader of the colony goes well. The complex and potentially contentious issue of marrying settlers to land in the south is resolved efficiently by Perry's administration, and production continues to soar. However, the time and effort involved in starting a farm from scratch is still daunting. For the first time, more settlers opt for the north than the south.

The makeup of the settlers changes dramatically by the end of 2418. More than half of the incoming settlers are neither refugees nor veterans but are simply people looking for work. The lion's share of the new settlers goes north rather than south. The population of the colony reaches 11 million.

September: Campaigning begins for the elections of 2420. The major issue is whether to limit the access of non-refugees to permanent settler status. Advocates, including President Perry, argue that Vesta was meant to be an enclave for victims of the UNSC's war, not just another colony for workers of unknown allegiance. Opponents, most prominently the Reform Party, argue that such politics caused the conflict in the first place. Furthermore, they argue that strength lies in numbers, and that restricting the flow of settlers would be damaging to Vesta's prospects in the long run.

The Vesta Party again wins by a landslide, but the Reform Party gains some ground. Perry again wins the presidency, but the Reform Party wins the state of Madurai and chips the VP's domination of the legislature down to 70%. Nonetheless, Perry easily pushes through legislation that grants permanent settler status to only bona fide refugees or veterans. As a result, the flow of settlers slows to a trickle, as the pool of refugees and veterans had become very shallow 10 years after the war.

Massilia Corp, incensed by the legislation and hungry for more workers, petitions Perry for an exception. Perry denies them. As a result, Massilia Corp induces the Reform Party to pursue alternate strategies to work around the legislation. The result is a state-based temporary worker program, which allows workers to settle in Madurai and Silesia without becoming citizens. As it is the prerogative of the states to track down visitors who overstay their visas, the program essentially allows the northern states to continue the status quo pre-2420. Perry condemns the program as unconstitutional, but he is powerless to stop it.

The Vesta Party once again takes most of the states, legislature, and the presidency. However, the northern state of Sarafand is lost to a third party, the Progressive Party. The population imbalance between north and south continues to grow in the north's favor as the temporary worker program continues apace. However, as non-citizens, they are ineligible to vote, allowing the Vesta Party's success to continue unabated.

The final northern state that remained loyal to the Vesta Party, Odessa, falls to the Progressive Party. Reform and Progressive form an uneasy coalition in opposition to the Vesta Party, and all northern states now adopt a temporary worker program. The population imbalance becomes even more pronounced. Vesta's population is now 17.5 million, almost 60% of whom live in the North.

Francis Perry, now 77, announces that he will not seek reelection in 2432. Kirron Naidu, a prominent Vesta Party Senator, looks set to become Perry's successor.

July: Massilia Corp finally ratifies reality and officially moves its headquarters from Feros to the capital of Silesia, Massilia. The mining firm's rich finds in the Northern Highlands continue to yield huge profits. Massilia Corp branches out, buying up companies on Vesta and abroad. Critics in the Vesta Party disparage the north as "one big company town."

Senator Naidu wins the presidency, but the Vesta Party's domination of colonial politics begins a precipitous decline. The VP's share of the legislature falls to 48%, for the first time becoming a plurality rather than a majority. The Party is decisively defeated in all northern states, but the northern parties are too fractured to seriously contest the presidency. However, the north-south divide deepens politically, demographically, and economically.

September 4: Francis Perry dies in his sleep at the age of 85. He is given a lavish state funeral in Talavera City. In a video released after his death, Perry pleads for all of Vesta's factions to work together lest the colony fall victim to the sectarianism it was created to avoid.

December: Vesta's population reaches 21 million.

After the Vesta Party wins the presidency yet again, the Reform and Progressive parties agree to merge. In April, they become the United Party, with the stated aim of creating an immigrant friendly environment and seeking closer ties with the UNSC and off-world corporations.

February: The United Governor of Madurai, Larissa Vertova, wins Vesta's general elections, at last breaking the Vesta Party's monopoly on the colony's highest office. They also win a plurality in the legislature: 49% to the Vesta Party's 44%. The South remains loyal to the Vesta Party, but the United Party sweeps the Northern states.

April: The United Party pursues its pet legislation: granting citizen status to the mass of "temporary workers," who comprise around one quarter of the Northern population. Bundled in with this legislation is a reversal of Perry's restriction of new settlers. The proposal includes a scheme that would involve a regularized and rapid process towards citizenship for immigrants.

May-August: A fierce debate over the legislation rages all summer long in Talavera. Protests erupt in both Northern and Southern cities, but they reach a boiling point in the colony's capital. Twice, protests in the capital turn violent, and images of riot police and tear gas mar the idyllic limestone cityscape of Talavera.

August 18: The United Party forces through the legislation, naturalizing any temporary worker who had spent at least three continuous years on Vesta. Senator Richard Durandt, the Vesta Party's Presidential Candidate for '44, calls the legislation "outrageous and unconstitutional," and calls President Vertova a "traitor."

August 21: The Vesta Party announces that it will boycott the Talavera Council to protest the "treasonous legislation" of President Vertova. The Vesta Party launches an extensive propaganda campaign with images of the United Party rolling out a red carpet for the UNCA's return. Fiery speeches on both sides brings public agitation to a fever pitch.

August 26: Violence erupts among the Vestal Self Defense Force, based primarily in Talavera State. The General of the Armed Forces, Chris Sanderson, is a staunch partisan of the Vesta Party. He disbands all Northern soldiers and orders them to leave Talavera State immediately. In one incident just outside Talavera City, a firefight breaks out between Northern and Southern soldiers, resulting in seven deaths. The threat of civil war looms.

September 3: The Vesta Party Councilors arrive in Clearwater, the capital of Guilin. They announce that they do not view the Vertova administration as legitimate, claiming her legislation flagrantly disregards the Vestal constitution. The Vesta Party Councilors set up a temporary governing body in Clearwater called the Presidium, which is designed to govern the Southern states until Vertova relents.

September 6: Vertova refuses to give in. She holds a vote among the United Party Councilors concerning whether or not to remain in Talavera or set up a new government in Massilia. 58% of the Councilors vote to leave.

September 7: The United Party Councilors leave Talavera in an armed convoy, driving past streets full of protestors. Government House is shut down.

September 12: President Vertova sets up a new governing body in Massilia. Unlike the Presidium, it is designed to be an identical institution as the old Talavera Council. Emergency elections are announced for November to accord with the new circumstances.

November: By the end of November, elections are held in both North and South. Vertova wins the Northern Presidency, though the Liberal Party, a relatively minor party prior to '44, challenges the United Party in the North and wins a respectable number of seats. In the South, Durandt becomes Premier and the Vesta Party retains over 85% of the legislature. Vertova calls the South a "single party state" and accuses Durandt of faulty voting practices.

December: Vesta's population reaches 27 million, most of whom are now citizens.

March: By the end of March, both North and South ratify new constitutions, making official the bifurcation of the colony. The South is to be highly decentralized, more of a confederation of states than a single political body. The spirit of independence runs deep in the South, and many feel that the problem with the old constitution was the concentration of power in Talavera. The North arrives at an opposite conclusion, and the four states are bound closer in the Northern Federal Republic.
Talavera remains nominally independent and the de jure capital of Vesta, though it generally associates with the South and sends delegates to the Clearwater Presidium. Government House reopens, though it has no real power and serves mostly as a podium for activists and aspiring politicians. Talavera also plays the role of the buffer state: Northern and Southern armies set up bases on either side of the Talavera border.
The governments of Massilia and Clearwater make no arrangements for official bilateral relations, and communications between them remain sporadic and often heated. Nonetheless, Northern and Southern firms enjoy close trade relations, and many Northern citizens continue to vacation in the warm climes of Guilin.

Aleppo, a continent sized island and the only other major land mass on Vesta, surpasses 2.5 million people in population. They petition the Massilia Council for statehood. In July, their request is granted, and Aleppo becomes the North's fifth state.
The population of Vesta reaches 38 million, around 70% of whom reside in the Northern Republic.

The colonization of the so-called "outer rim" begins in earnest, with over 500 viable worlds claimed by various private and public organizations. Millions of people across human space sign up for colonization, and billions of credits are invested in the effort. The Outer Colonies are born.

May 5: The "Mazhar Incident." Mohammed Mazhar, a prominent Northern senator, is arrested on his estate in Guilin on murder charges. Northern President Samuel Harris rails against the arrest as being purely political in nature. Harris demands Mazhar's return, but he is rebuffed.

May 7: Northerners clamor for Mazhar's release. Southern businesses are boycotted and some extreme Northern newscasts call for war. Clearwater police claim they have proof of Mazhar's guilt, but Southern politicians block cooperation between Northern and Southern law enforcement agencies.

May 7-12: Northerners who were living or vacationing in the South leave for home as tensions build. Harris cuts ties with the Presidium after their continued intransigence, and builds up troop concentration on the Talavera border.

May 18: In a daring raid, Northern Special Ops break Mazhar out of his Clearwater jail cell. Although the soldiers are instructed to use non-lethal force, one Clearwater police officer perishes during the raid. The Presidium leadership reacts with fury. Some call for war.

May 19: Working on his own initiative, a Clearwater detective sends Northern law enforcement agencies the notes on the Mazhar case, providing convincing evidence for his guilt.

May 20: The news is made public the following day, embarrassing the Harris administration. President Harris offers his immediate mea culpa, though he does not offer to return Mazhar.

May 21: The Talavera Council suggests trying Mazhar on neutral ground, in Talavera. Both sides reluctantly accept.

May 23: Mazhar is handed over to the Talavera police. Harris meets with Premier Singh to reestablish relations. He offers an official apology for the Clearwater raid and pledges 5 million credits to the slain police officer's family.

August 9: Mazhar is found guilty of killing his mistress in his estate in Guilin. He is sentenced to 25 years, which he is to serve in Talavera.
The incident is attributed by most to a failure in communication between North and South. However, anger on both sides in the wake of the incident prevents the much needed regularization of relations between the two factions. Many commentators warn that similar incidents will inevitably occur in the future without it.

The South's first space elevator opens in the Plains of Greve, just outside the capital Greve. As neither the Presidium nor any individual Southern firm has sufficient capital to construct this massive edifice, Southern government and business elites reluctantly allow Massilia Corp to build it and own a controlling share of it. In return, Massilia Corp has exclusive rights to charge for use of the elevator, and tight controls of foreign investment in the South are lifted for Massilia Corp. As a result, the company's subsidiaries establish several retail chains and manufacturing centers across the South.

August 16: Parseta, a remote peninsula stretching out from the Northern pole of Vesta, reaches a population of around 2 million and applies for statehood. This frozen land had experienced a boom over the past forty years since the discovery of a rare crystal vital for the production of AIs and other advanced electronics. It is promptly admitted as the North's sixth state.

December: Vesta's population now stands at 82 million, around three quarters of whom live in the North.

The second space elevator opens in the South, also owned and operated by Massilia Corp. The North has seven—four in Silesia and three in Sarafand.

March-July: Over-speculation and underestimation of startup costs derails the Outer Colonies drive, which has spread over hundreds of worlds. Several overleveraged banks collapse as a result of the failure and the economy in the core planets, including Earth, sputters to a halt. Millions of settlers are marooned on distant worlds that are no longer viable.

July 5: UNSC Council representatives from Eridanus move for the government to reimburse settlers who lost out on the Outer Colonies boondoggle. Eridanus, which in 2401 had been at the outer edge of human space, now straddles the "border" between the Inner and the Outer colonies. It had invested heavily in the effort, and had been the stopping point for many settlers going further abroad.

July 16: The motion is defeated in the UNSC Council. Eridanus bears the worst of the recession of any of the Inner Colonies. Some impoverished Outer Colonies settlers limp back to Eridanus where they live off the dole. Unemployment soars while the economy spirals downwards.

October 4: Eridanus' government is defeated in a no confidence vote, spurring an election. They reflect the chaos gripping the colony. The ruling majority government is brought down and replaced with a tottering coalition of viciously anti-UNSC parties.

November: The UNSC reports increased levels of piracy along the so-called Inner Rim: the notional "border" between the Inner and Outer Colonies.

February 11: A convoy of three freighters are seized by pirates in the Groombridge system. One UNSC corvette is destroyed in the daring raid, and the second is forced to retreat. This is the most brazen piracy attack in almost eighty years. The UNSC redoubles its anti-piracy patrols along the rim.

Piracy continues to rise, mostly emanating from failed Outer Colonies. Efforts to reinvest in the Outer Colonies and relieve the struggling settlers are hampered by the prolonged downturn of the UNSC economy.

November: The Eridanus government, in an attempt to save the economy which had contracted by around 10% since 2507, institutes a centralized scheme whereby the government would settle bad debts and loan settlers the money they needed to either reinvest or leave their defunct worlds. Unfortunately, the government is too small to deal with the scale of the problem. The government teeters on the edge of bankruptcy and off world investors jump ship. The economy, which had been slipping, enters into freefall.

December 3: Eridani Council representatives beg the UNSC to bail them out to prevent total collapse. The Council is crippled by indecision and reacts only half-heartedly.

December 15-18: A major riot erupts in Elysium City, the capital of Eridanus. Most of the rioters are the unemployed, who now make up around one third of the population. The overwhelmed police force call in the UNSC Army for assistance, but their appearance only inflames the situation. The death toll is estimated to be in the high hundreds. Images of Elysium make it look as though it were a battle zone. Civil unrest spreads across the colony.

January 6-8: A mostly bloodless coup is launched by one Colonel Robert Watts, a senior officer in the Eridanus Colonial Militia. The Capitol building in Elysium falls to his forces without a shot fired, but Watts has difficulty reestablishing order throughout the city. The colony's UNSC Army garrison is instructed to stay out of the conflict.

January 9: With his grip on the city secure, Watts broadcasts his intentions on open channels from the Elysium Capitol. Watts says that he has no interest in fighting the UNSC, claiming the coup was a necessary step to regain stability in the conflict ridden colony—his is not the anti-UNSC revolution of 100 years ago. However, he does chastise the UNSC for their shoddy handling of the Outer Colonies, saying the reason for it is that the Council's interests are too far removed from the far-flung worlds. He proposes that Eridanus, as the largest Inner Rim world, become the steward of the Outer Colonies in the UNSC's stead. Eridanus would use the revenue of the Outer Colonies to recoup their losses from the collapse, and thereafter would manage the entire effort.

January 12: After several days of silence, the Council at last responds by not responding. They do not acknowledge Watts' demands, instead calling his coup illegal and ordering a return to democracy. They promise aid for Eridanus' devastated economy once democracy is restored.

January 14-18: Watts' Militia forces surround the UNSC Army base outside Elysium City. Watts orders the soldiers to leave the surface, expressing no wish for violence. By the 18th, all UNSC forces evacuate Eridanus.

January 19: The Southern Presidium of Vesta issues a formal statement of support for Watts, condemning UNSC treatment of both Eridanus and the Outer Colonies. The North makes no comment, but criticizes the South for getting involved in the matter.
Vesta, meanwhile, fared well throughout the recession. Its banking system, now substantial, wisely avoided the Outer Colonies bubble, and demand for both commodities and agricultural goods diminished little throughout the crisis. Manufacturing, particularly important to the state of Sarafand, takes a temporary hit but is drawn back up by the rearmament program the following April.

January 22: The UNSC Navy launches a handful of precision orbital strikes on Eridanus, but these are mostly symbolic rather than effective. The UNSC is stretched thin combating piracy and shoring up other discontented colonies, and is unprepared for a large scale campaign.

April: The UNSC commences a massive rearmament campaign, in part as a response to the Eridanus Rebellion, and in part to stimulate the galactic economy which is still anemic at this time.
The rearmament spurs a commodity boom, which greatly benefits Vesta, in particular Massilia Corp. The gap between the North and South of Vesta widens even further.

July: Unfortunately, the news of rearmament is undermined by a greater intensification of the piracy problem. Pirate attacks push further into the Inner Colonies and occur with greater frequency. ONI reports that Watts' is supplying the pirates in order to turn UNSC attention off of himself. The UNSC builds up, fights piracy, and tries to blockade Eridanus for the remainder of 2511 and the entirety of 2512.

February: Drawing from the lessons learned from the Inner Colonies War, the UNSC cautiously begins its campaign to settle the Eridanus Rebellion. They employ novel tactics, notably dropping ODST Special Forces in remote areas to coordinate with local anti-Militia factions. In the two years since his coup, Watts had been busy persecuting pro-UNSC groups. The ODSTs prove effective at exploiting native discontent with his regime.

April-June: After the ODST's "softening" operation, the UNSC Navy launches its full scale effort to retake the errant colony. After two weeks of orbital bombardment, over 300,000 Marines land on the surface, mostly around Elysium City. Coordinating with the ODSTs and the local forces already on the ground, the city falls swiftly. By the end of June, every major urban center is secured. Watts, however, is not found.

June 8: The Southern Presidium of Vesta strongly condemns the UNSC's conduct in the war, in particular the orbital bombardment, which caused relatively high collateral damage.

June-December: The UNSC Military Command on Eridanus finds governing the now basket case economy and defunct government of Eridanus to be exceptionally difficult. Meanwhile, bloody reprisals are carried out across the colony in Watts' absence, and Marines are frequently caught in the crossfire. ODST teams tirelessly search Eridanus for Watts to try him for war crimes, but discover that he was able to slip through the blockade just prior to the invasion. Bombings and guerilla attacks continue all year.

July 5: Vesta falls victim to the most daring piracy attack in space-faring history. The space station which connects Massilia's twin space elevators is raided by heavily armed boarding parties. Millions of credits worth of goods are stolen, and millions more worth of damage is inflicted upon the station. 68 people are killed in the raid, and three high-value Massilia Corp executives are kidnapped for ransom. Two are later recovered at a high price, but the third is never found.

July 6: President of the Northern Republic Idris Kisangi rails against the South for endorsing the war criminal Watts, whom he holds responsible for the attack. He petitions the UNSC Navy for more protection, as the Vesta Accord forbids the colony to maintain any combat ships.

July 7: Southern Premier Karl Lammert inveighs against Kisangi for what he calls a violation of Perry's constitution. In a speech attacking the North, Lammert says, "You invite the lion to protect the coop from wolves." Kisangi responds by proclaiming Perry's constitution "long dead," offending many in both the North and South.

July 28: A UNSC Frigate, the Revenant, enters the system at the request of Kisangi to protect the colony from pirate interlopers. The South cries out in anger. "You may wish destruction upon yourselves," Lammert says, "but we live on the same world. Our fates are tied. You cannot unilaterally endanger our freedom and expect no response."

September 4: President Kisangi seeks to regularize relations with the UNSC further, and to make the new security arrangement official. He requests an "observer seat" on the UNSC Council, an arrangement that would give the Northern government permanent access to the UNSC's decision-making apparatus without actually becoming a member of the Council. Once again, Lammert rails against Kisangi. Kisangi insists he has no interest in joining the UNSC, but he never once directly talks with Lammert.

November 12: After extended debates in both institutions, both the UNSC Council and the Northern Council ratify the arrangement. Southern Premier Lammert equates the arrangement with the North joining the UNSC, saying that he will not tolerate the UNSC leering hungrily over the border. Northern intelligence agencies report mobilization efforts across the South.

November 14: President Kisangi very publicly announces a recruitment drive. The North's armed forces are small and poorly equipped, despite good economic fortunes. As part of the security arrangement, Kisangi purchases old equipment and vehicles from the UNSC.

December 24: The Christmas Eve bombings. A Christmas parade in Massilia is bombed, killing over three hundred and wounding over one thousand. A Southern based organization called the Black Hand claims responsibility, and in a statement they demand the North cut all ties with the UNSC. Kisangi vows retaliation.

January 6:
Northern Legion Special Forces conduct operations in Paredes, a small university town just across the border in Talavera. Twelve suspected members of the Black Hand are seized in the messy raid, which results in the deaths of three Northern soldiers and 12 civilians and police officers in Paredes. Both the Southern Presidium and the government of Talavera condemn the operation, calling it an act of war.

January 11: The government of Talavera and the Southern Presidium reach an agreement whereby the Southern armed forces can encamp on Talaveran soil. A Southern army of around 60,000 marches into Talavera city and sets up base there. Kisangi calls this an "illegal annexation" that violates the unwritten agreement of maintaining Talavera as a demilitarized buffer zone between North and South. His protests are ignored.

January 12: Northerners living or vacationing in the South begin to leave en masse as tensions escalate.

January 20: A Northern Legion army of 150,000 marches across the Talavera border, occupying several strategic approaches into Sarafand, including Paredes. Refugees flee south to Talavera City. The annexation is mostly peaceful, though there is some talk of looting. The governments of the South and Talavera accuse the North of unprovoked aggression.

January 24: Premier Lammert delivers a fiery speech in the Presidium, proclaiming the differences between North and South to be irreconcilable. He paints a gloomy picture of the UNSC using the North as a launchpad to "conquer the last patch of sovereign soil left in the galaxy." He says that all ties must be cut with the North, starting with the Plains' two space elevators, which he announced will be nationalized by the end of the year. He also instructs all Northerners remaining in the South to leave as soon as possible.

February 3: After a relatively close vote in the Massilia Council, the North declares war on the South.

The Northern Federal Republic (or, simply, the North)
Population: 85.5 million

The Northern Federal Republic has a relatively centralized federal government. The executive, headed by a president who is directly elected after a set four year term, is robust, assuming a large share of power. Over foreign policy, the president is supreme. The president is not a member of the legislature, but neither is he separate from it. The president makes regular appearances in the Council and frequently meets with its members. The president resides in Government House in the capital, Massilia.

The legislature is bicameral; the Council is proportionally representative, while the Senate is only partially representative. The number of senators apportioned to each state is arrived after a complex equation that generally gives smaller states disproportional weight. The legislature is primarily concerned with revenue bills. The legislature also holds the power to veto any presidential act, but the requirements are strict and convention has limited these vetoes to only a handful in Northern history. The Council is located in Massilia

Compared to the South, taxation is quite high and the government is commensurately larger. Public services are quite extensive, if not as extensive as on much of Earth and Reach. Nonetheless, the Northern government regularly reports large surpluses. Part of the reason for these savings is derived from the fact that the North has historically maintained a small and, by UNSC standards, low tech armed forces.

Silesia (pronunciation: sie-LEE-zhah)
Population: 26 million

Silesia is located on the leeward side of the Northern Highlands, which does much to shape its climate. The prevailing southeasterly wind gets super-chilled over the high altitudes of the mountain range and sweep down persistently on the state. In the rain shadow of the Highlands is a 250km band of inhospitable terrain known as "Death Alley." It is intensely cold, bone dry, and is home to only barefaced grey rock. Death Alley culminates in the Bohai Ridge, a mountain range that bifurcates the state in two along a northwest/southeast line and separates Death Alley from the coast.

Coastal Silesia is temperate, warmed by its proximity to the ocean. Summer in coastal Silesia can be pleasant, but its long winter months are still extremely cold. Its mountainous terrain is covered in a thin soil which is home to forests of hardy boreal trees. Coastal Silesia is relatively dry and has a meager population of brooks and small lakes. However, it is home to one of the longest rivers on Vesta, the Ravenna River. It originates from the Davenport Glacier to the northwest, an enormous polar icecap that partially melts each summer. The river is thus highly seasonal, flooding each summer and transforming into a shallow band of frozen ice in the winter. The annual flooding has carved a valley across the state, right up until the mouth of the river at Tarim Bay. The state's capital, Massilia, is located at the mouth of the Ravenna River.

The economy of Massilia has long been dominated by commodities, due to its unique access to the riches of the Northern Highlands. Silesia was chosen as the base of Massilia Corp because the northwest section of the mountains had the most accessible mineral wealth. Since then, the company has expanded its operations across the huge mountain range, though Silesia remains the main beneficiary of the activities.

Silesia has a manufacturing sector, though it is relatively weak compared to Sarafand. Also, as the home of the Northern Council, Silesia has a large public sector, with more government jobs per capita than any other state. Mainly, though, like all Northern economies, Silesia' economy is service-based. Silesia has the largest economy of any Vestal state, and boasts the second highest per capita wealth. It hosts, by a wide margin, the largest number of Vesta's top 100 corporations, including its flagship firm, Massilia Corp.

Almost none of the original settlers of Silesia were either veterans or refugees. As such, the state has never had any deep attachment to the idea of independence or any great sense of enmity towards the UNSC. Rather, most were simply pursuing work, which instilled a deeply capitalist culture and an obsession with progress. The Southern Presidium is almost universally seen as a band of backward obstructionists.

Silesia plays an integral role in the North's distinctive culture. The state hosts Vesta's most prolific and profitable film studio, Potemkin Studios, and is home to a great many movie stars. Many television shows are also shot in the state, particularly the capital, and residents across the planet and beyond are familiar with Massilia's skyline and major attractions.

Capital: Massilia (pronunciation: mass-ILL-ee-ah)
Population 12 million

The capital of Silesia is Massilia, sometimes known as Massilia City or Massilia Metro to distinguish it from its namesake, Massilia Corp. Massilia is situated at the mouth of the Ravenna River, on the northeast edge of Tarim Bay. Much of Massilia is built along the Ravenna River Valley, making it long and narrow, except where it spills out into the western plains at the estuary. The valley is flanked by craggy hills, which captures the cold southwestern winds and makes the city almost perpetually windy and cold.

Massilia is very densely populated, as the narrow space of the valley puts real estate at a premium. As such, Massilia is dominated by skyscrapers and looming apartment blocks. For the most part, the city is elegant and well constructed, though the northern end of the valley, known as Sackville, is a notoriously crime-ridden, low class area.

Massilia is host to the headquarters of Massilia Corp, the company which gave the city its name and established its good fortunes. Massilia Corp is by far the largest corporation on Vesta, and is a well known name even offworld. Of course, the solid majority of its income comes from the wealth of metals and other minerals found in the Northern Highlands. However, as it has expanded over the years, it has branched out through its subsidiaries into retail, manufacturing, and information services. It employs more Vestals than any other single institution, including the government.

Massilia is also home to the Northern Council, located on the banks of the estuary. Finally, Massilia's Taiga docks are home to one of Silesia' three space elevators.

Madurai (pronunciation: MA-djur-ie)
Population: 17 million

Madurai is situated on the windward side of the Northern Highlands, which sets its climate distinctly apart from Silesia. Warm, moist southeasterly winds keep Madurai quite warm despite its latitude. Madurai's landscape was roughly hewn from the retreating glaciers of Vesta's last prolonged ice age. It is covered in craggy valleys, steep moraines, and deep lakes. However, its thin soil makes the terrain ill-suited for agricultural needs. As such, much of Madurai is covered by pristine temperate forests, which are home to Vesta's most successful population of introduced wildlife.

Madurai is quite isolated geographically. The vac-train to Silesia must curve far north to avoid the crushing and sometimes unstable weight of the central Northern Highlands. The southern approach to Guilin is impassable, as the coast of the Northern Highlands is sheer and treacherously rocky.The volume of traffic is insufficient cause for the expensive proposition of building a vac-train tunnel. As such, all passengers or cargo heading south must go by either air or sea, or take the circuitous land route via the west coast.

Initially, Madurai was in contention to be the base for Massilia Corp, which fuelled initial settlement of the state. However, when it was found that the northwestern section of the highlands offered the most easily accessible yield, Madurai became a backwater.

This changed under the leadership of Larissa Vertova during her stint as governor 2436-44. She invested greatly in Madurai's universities, believing there was a lack of good schools on Vesta. Her efforts were rewarded by an influx of students who were offered generous incentives to stay. The results were slow but palpable, as more and more young, intelligent people were attracted to the state. Madurai is currently well known as a high-tech economy, home to software designers and chip manufacturers. Madurai is even home to a company that manufactures parts for slipspace drives, Vesta's only.

Finally, Madurai is well known for its banking sector. Vestal banks have always been anchored on the stable mineral wealth of Vesta, and the deft leadership of Madurai's financial elite has brought several of its banks to especial prominence. In fact, from the wreckage of the 2506 crash, Madurai's solid banks have become stronger than ever. Madurai's largest bank, the Bank of Morena, has even become a minor but important player on the galactic stage.

Madurai's culture is largely similar to Silesia, as her settlers were neither veterans nor refugees. The people of Madurai mostly see the UNSC question as an economic one more than anything else. However, Madurai tends not to be as combative as Silesia when it comes to dealing with the South. Madurai's Councilors criticized President Harris for his handling of the Mazhar affair, and more recently urged restraint during the buildup to war in 2514-15. This state likes to think of itself as a more refined version of Silesia, as it boasts the highest per capita post-secondary education rate of Vesta. However, the two states are more similar than they are different, both driven towards greater integration with the UNSC for economic purposes.

Capital: Morena (pronunciation: more-AY-nah )
Population: 7 million

Madurai's capital Morena has been hailed by many as an architectural marvel. It began with Larissa Vertova's program of revitalization. She wished to beautify the capital to make it the beacon of modernity on Vesta. Vertova began a tradition of one-upmanship among leaders at various levels in Madurai, each wishing to put their unique stamp on the city. It is elegantly planned, with open green spaces and artificial waterways separating gleaming spires and sprawling low-rises. The city is much more spread out than Massilia, but it is serviced by a universally praised metro transit system.

Sarafand (pronunciation: SARE-a-fand)
Population: 21 million

The geography of Sarafand varies widely, though it can generally be divided into three distinct zones. Northern Sarafand is quite cold, rocky, and is sparsely populated. Secondly, there is inland Sarafand, which lies in the rain shadow of the Northern Highlands. It is also sparsely populated. It is not nearly as cold as Death Alley, though, nor as barren. However, it is very dry, and home only to shrubs and grasslands.

Temperate Sarafand is concentrated around the shores of the Amber Sea, so-called for the way the sun reflects off its surface around the silt shallows that extend for miles. Southern Sarafand is very hot and quite dry, receiving little rainfall for most of the year. Winter is the wettest season. Most of coastal Sarafand is quite flat and the soil is good.

Sarafand's economy is dominated by the manufacturing sector. Sarafand, always in the shadow of Silesia, at last found a place for itself in the middle of the 25th century as a manufacturer. It began with fairly low-scale goods, though it grew to become much more intensive. Currently it is well known as a manufacturer of low-tech electronics, heavy machinery (including agricultural machinery, which it exports to the South), and automobiles. Sarafand is also home to Sai-ngam Industries, Vesta's largest arms manufacturer. Its most lucrative venture, however, is shipbuilding, which is conducted primarily by its flagship manufacturer, Intera Industries. Intera mostly builds small private ships, though recently it has began constructing large cargo vessels. No Vestal company currently builds slipspace drives, however—these advanced drives are assembled on Earth or Reach and then married to their designated ships in the space docks that orbit the planet.

As with all Northern economies, though, Sarafand is a majority services economy. However, it does engage in some primary economic activities. The extreme south of Sarafand lies just within Vesta's equatorial band and is quite arable, though agricultural output is limited compared with the Plains of Greve. Nonetheless, while Sarafand is a net food importer, it is able to provide for 80% of its own food requirements.

Sarafand's main primary exports are wood and stone. The Northern Coast of Sarafand is covered in forests of tall redwoods that fetch a high price as a luxury building material. Further, the rocky northern region is home to many types of desirable stones, including large marble deposits. Most lucrative is a type of obsidian particular to Vesta, which is highly sought after across the galaxy.

Sarafand is much less culturally homogeneous than either Madurai or Silesia. Its initial settlers were concentrated along the border with Talavera and were mostly veterans rather than refugees. There was some contempt for the UNSC, but some lingering strains of loyalty also. The people of Sarafand have always been somewhere in the middle concerning the question of unity, strongly desiring independence while still favoring close relations with the UNSC.

The people of Sarafand have a reputation of being aggressive, impatient, and energetic. These traits do not always translate well into politics, particularly when dealing with the intransigent South. Both President Harris and President Kisangi were natives of Sarafand, and both pursued a "bare-knuckled" approach to the South. However, these traits have made Sarafand a powerful and fast moving economy.

Capital: Piraeus (pronunciation: pie-RAY-us)
Population: 8.5 million

Piraeus, the sprawling capital of Sarafand, is regularly listed at the bottom of Vestal cities in terms of livability. Built on a plain overlooking the Amber Sea, Piraeus has grown in fits and spurts, depending on economic conditions. This has led to haphazard planning, with areas that were once desirable becoming enveloped by the ever-expanding industrial parks that spring up with startling speed. The city's population is unstable, and is often home to many temporary workers seeking employment in its factories. Piraeus also tends to become unbearably hot in the summer. Perhaps as a result of these various factors, Piraeus has by far the highest crime rate of any city on Vesta.

Odessa (pronunciation: oh-DESS-a)
Population: 8 million

Odessa is a peninsula that juts off the mainland into the ocean and bounds the Amber Sea in the north. Odessa has two distinct climates. Its southern half, facing the Amber Sea, resembles a slightly cooler version of Coastal Sarafand. It's temperature is heightened and regulated by the warm Touros Stream, an ocean current originating off the coast of the Southern state of the same name. Its soil is deep and rich and its terrain is mostly flat. The northern half, facing the vast Murman Sea, is much cooler. Its terrain is mountainous and rocky. The difference is most notable in its vegetation: the slopes of the northern mountains are covered in spindly pine trees, while the south is blanketed in forests of sturdy oaks. Odessa receives a fair amount of precipitation, considerably more than neighboring Sarafand, and is home to Vesta's largest and deepest freshwater lake, Lake Trasimene. The land around the lake features Odessa's most arable soil.

Unlike the other original four Northern states, Odessa began as a primarily agricultural economy. It has the North's most suitable soil and climate for the purpose. While the South produced mainly tropical cash crops, Odessa focused on staple crops like cereal products and root vegetables, though it is also well known for its orchards of apples and peaches. Odessa still grows these crops in high volume, though the process is now highly mechanized and it occupies only a small proportion of the population. However, agriculture still accounts for a not insubstantial 3.5% of economic output, far higher than any other Northern state. The greater part of this output is focused on its distillery and brewing industries, which produce beer, whisky, and vodka.

However, as with its neighbors, Odessa is currently a service-based economy. It is the mainland North's only popular tourist destination, even attracting Southern visitors who tend to view the North with disdain. It has beautiful walking trails through its idyllic oak forests, punctuated here and there by sleepy hamlets or cattle ranches. Odessa has also established itself as a cultural center, producing many television shows, movies, and popular periodicals. Nonetheless, Odessa has the North's lowest per capita wealth.

Odessa is unique amongst the Northern states as it was originally settled mainly by refugees, a trait it holds in common with the South. Its people were initially as virulently anti-UNSC as any Southern state. Political and economic integration with its neighbors eventually tempered these feelings, yet Odessa remains the North's greatest skeptic. It is the only Northern state where the cult of Perry is still alive and well. Mostly, Odessa prides itself on neutrality, and their Councilors tend to be the voice of conservatism in Massilia.

Odessa calls itself the cultural center of the North, a claim likely recognized only by Odessits. However, it is home to both of Vesta's most famous novelists, Sophia Hamilton and Hsu Lin. Further, it has a sizeable entertainment industry and hosts Vesta's most read magazine, the Vista.

Capital: Antalya (pronunciation: an-TAHL-ya)
Population: 2.5 million

Antalya is built on the headland of a peninsula that juts out into the Amber Sea, surrounded on three sides by water. It is very low density and is home to a great many public parks. Its streets are lined with its broad-topped oak trees, which mostly cover its low-rise buildings with foliage. From the air, one can see only scattered sections of the city amidst the leaves. For this reason, Antalya is known as the Emerald City. Its largest and most visible building is the sprawling marble complex that is the Odessa Museum, Vesta's largest.

Aleppo (pronunciation: a-LEP-oh)
Population: 10 million

Aleppo is a continent sized island on the opposite side of Vesta from the mainland. It is approximately the same size as Australia, but longer and narrower, stretching from the equator in the south to around 600 kilometers from the Parseta Peninsula in the north. Aleppo thus has a very diverse geography. Its bulbous southern extremity is tropical and is home to Vesta's largest rainforest. Introduction of fauna to the tropical climate has had mixed success, as zoologists have struggled to find a balance. Efforts have been somewhat more successful on Greater Corcyra, the island off Aleppo's southwest coast. The island is a wildlife preserve assiduously protected by Aleppo's legislature, and for the past twenty years has been host to a stable ecosystem. Lesser Corcyra, the smaller island to the west, has been designated by the Aleppo legislature as a hunting reserve.

The northern section of the island is dominated by Mount Deshat, a 17,000 foot inactive volcano. The soil around the volcano is quite fertile, especially on the southern and western slopes, and is mostly used for farming. The northern coast of Aleppo is much colder than the rest of the island, as it cooled by the northern ocean currents. Its soil is also much rockier. As such, the northern region is mostly home to coniferous trees rather than people. Cool northern waters often brew hurricanes when they meet the warmer water of the Touros stream. Modern climate control technology reduces these maelstroms to mild storms by the time they make landfall, however.

Aleppo has a fast-growing and diverse economy. Its settlers believed that they would not be able to compete head on with the South in agricultural production, so they found a niche they could specialize in, finding crops not commonly grown on the Plains. Genetically modified tobacco, which has seen a reemergence in popularity over the past century, is Aleppo's most lucrative agricultural export. Aleppo also grows large quantities of soybeans, coffee beans, and medicinal plants, such as opium poppies, cannabis, and aloe. Aleppo's other major primary economic activity is fishing. The warm southern ocean especially has proven remarkably amenable to aquatic life. Aleppo Scallops are particularly desirable, both on Vesta and abroad.

Tourism is a small but growing industry in Aleppo. Its southern shore boasts warm, sandy beaches that offer a Northern alternative to the famous resorts of Guilin. Its most popular tourist spot, however, remains Lesser Corcyra, whose game attracts hunters from across the colony.

Of course, most of Aleppo's wealth is generated through services. The state is notable for its robust marketing agencies, which represent a wide variety of Northern and Southern companies alike. Finally, Aleppo is also home to specialized high-tech industries, such as computer-chip production and AI software. Vulcan Industries, Earth's biggest AI producer, has offices in Taras, the state's capital.

Aleppo was not one of Perry's original states, joining the North in 2460. During the initial colonization effort, the island was left almost completely untouched, as Perry wished to concentrate on settling the mainland. The first major migration to Aleppo began in the mid-2420s, mostly Southerners wishing to escape the increasingly partisan political atmosphere. Aleppo became a romantic ideal to many, the true realization of Perry's dream, and immigration increased. However, Northerners and even off-worlders soon followed as the island became richer. When Aleppo began considering statehood in 2459, there followed fierce debates over whether to join the North or South—the North won out by the slimmest of majorities, 51%. As a concession to the other 49%, Aleppo retained more independence than any other Northern state. As a matter of both constitutional constraints and convention, the Northern Council typically does not meddle in Aleppo's internal affairs.

Since 2460, Aleppo has had a population explosion, surpassing every Southern state and even Odessa in numbers. Most of the new residents are off-worlders, who have little attachment to the mainland's politics and its ideological battles. As a result, Aleppo tends to opt for neutrality, and even harbors many with Southern sympathies.

Capital: Taras (pronunciation: TAHR-ras)
Population: 3 million

Taras is located directly south of Mount Deshat, overlooking the Southern Sea. It is built on the north side of Guanabara Bay on very hilly terrain. Many of the ridges surrounding Taras offer stunning vistas of the city, and a famous photo of the city at sunset from one of these peaks has been adopted as the unofficial image of Aleppo. The city is relatively dense, but buildings must go through a stringent approval process, keeping the city tasteful and beautiful. Taras is sometimes called "The City of Beaches," as pristine sandy shores have been kept meticulously clean by city legislation. The beaches are busy year round, as the city and its waters are always comfortably hot.

Parseta (pronunciation: par-SAY-ta)
Population: 3.5 million

Parseta is a peninsula that extends from the northern pole into the Northern Ocean. It forms the western perimeter of the Murman Sea, lying 4,600 kilometers west of Silesia. The extreme south of the peninsula is temperate and is mostly covered with thick boreal forests. It is the resources of the inhospitable north that attracted people to the region, however. The rocky, mountainous expanse of north-central Parseta is home to an extremely rare crystal vital in the production of AIs and other high technology. The mountains are also home to other valuable resources, most notably titanium and gold, which it has only recently become economical to mine. The northern section of Parseta is relentlessly cold and barren, its only wildlife hardy crab grass, moss, and insects.

The economy of Parseta is built around mining. Its crystal reserves are comparatively large and fetch an extremely high price on the galactic market. For thirty years, geologists have projected that its crystal reserves will be depleted, but new deposits continue to be discovered. Its more conventional mineral wealth, long known to Massilia Corp, has only recently been tapped as a result of its investment in the crystal operations.

However, Massilia Corp has recently founded a subsidiary based in Parseta that manufactures AI storage devices using the crystals mined in the peninsula. While the company, Lamia Inc., had a shaky beginning, it is now an appreciable exporter of low-cost data crystals for dumb AIs.

Parseta's abundant natural wealth, its successful high tech industries, and its small population give it the highest GDP per capita of any Vestal state.

Parseta was completely uninhabited until the mid-2450s, when a Massilia Corp survey team discovered the elusive crystal deposits deep beneath the snow-capped mountains of the polar regions. Initially, immigrants were northern miners looking for work, but as the operation expanded, a greater number of off-world settlers arrived. However, its close Northern ties and economic incentives (almost all of Parseta's products are exported off world) drove the state into the arms of Massilia. Its councilors aggressively push for closer ties with the UNSC, and its attitude towards the South is generally disparaging.

Capital: Kura (pronunciation: KYOO-rah)
Population: 2.8 million

Kura is situated at a high latitude, not far from the arctic circle. It has cool summers (average highs of around 17 degrees Celsius) to intensely cold winters (average lows of around -30). Winds tend to be high, especially in the interior. It also has a large variation between day and night. In midwinter, day lasts only a little longer than 3 hours, and perpetual twilight is common for much of the year.

Kura is extremely dense, and most of the city is connected by an extensive network of pedways and underground passages. It is also well serviced by a public transport system, so that no Kuran need brave the winter air when traversing the urban area. Kurans are quite proud of their chilly city, however. The city's most prominent skyscrapers feature dazzling lightshows along their sides to entertain commuters on the pedways during the dark winter months. Also popular are ice sculptures with internal organic lighting, which are particularly prevalent during Christmas. Kura is sometimes known as "The City of Lights."

Northern Highlands
Population: no permanent residents, 100,000-250,000 temporary

The Northern Highlands is a colossal mountain range that formed as the result of a continental collision approximately 200 million years ago. The Northern Highlands are actually distinct geographical entity from the Southern Highlands, despite their seeming continuity. Its lowest point within its periphery is 5500m; its highest point, Mount Diran, is 23,000m, over 2.5 times the height of Everest. It is relentlessly rocky and steep, extremely cold, and has very low levels of oxygen.

Buried beneath the Northern Highlands is one of the richest finds ever discovered. It is home to large deposits of many valuable metals and minerals. Its richest are most accessible along the relatively low (5500m-7500m) northwestern ridge adjacent to Silesia, which is where Massilia Corp initially expended more of its efforts. Since then, Massilia Corp has expanded its operations into the treacherous central regions, continuing to mine vast quantities of riches more than a century after colonization.


The Northern Highlands have no permanent residents, but as many as 250,000 workers occupy the rugged terrain at any one time. The work is hard, dangerous, and unrelenting—shifts commonly last twelve hours. Workers must wear oxygen masks at all times when outside. Miners are brought in teams for four to eight months at a time, living in cramped bases during this time. These mining tours, in which thousands of workers live together in confined quarters for months, has produced a sort of military culture. Miners tend to be highly fatalistic, darkly humorous, and often have a strong sense of loyalty to their fellows.


The Southern Union of Sovereign States (or, simply, the South)
Population: 22.6 million

The South is far more decentralized than its Northern counterpart. Most of the power lies with the states. The Presidium is mostly the united foreign policy apparatus of the Southern states. The Presidium's executive is fused with its legislature—its premier is the head of the party with the most seats in the legislature, which in every election since the schism has been the Vesta Party. The Presidium is a unicameral body that operates on Parliamentary principles of party discipline, essentially making the head of the Vesta Party an elected dictator over his limited jurisdiction.

Taxation is mostly conducted by the states; the Presidium taxes are far lighter than the national taxes in the North. Barracas, the poorest state, pays almost no tax to the Presidium—the Plains of Greve pays the most. The majority of these revenues goes towards maintaining the Southern Armed Forces, which are proportionally much larger than in the North but in absolute terms is still considerably smaller.

The Plains of Greve (pronunciation: GREV-ay)
Population: 9.5 million

The Plains of Greve have been described by many as a geographical miracle. Roughly the size of the Earth nation of India, the Plains are remarkably flat over a very large geographical area. Like many states, the Plains' climate is dictated by Vesta's southeasterly trade winds which bring warm, moist air over the land. This moisture is released over the highlands to the north as the air rises and cools. This continuous pattern has resulted in a great number of rivers that flow through the flat terrain of the Plains, providing ample irrigation and arable sediment. These conditions make the Plains naturally suited to large scale agriculture.

Despite the regularity of the climate and geography, there are some regional variations. The South, and in particular the southeast, generally receives less direct rainfall than the north. As such, different crops tend to be grown at different latitudes. In addition, the extreme southwest region of the state features the Plains' most notable anomaly: rugged, hilly terrain. This area has the Plains' rockiest terrain, its most shallow soil, and its coolest climate.

Approximately one third of the Plain's economic output is based on either agriculture output or agribusiness related industry. The state's highly fertile soil produces vast quantities of cash crops year round. The Plains' greatest products include citrus fruits, bananas, pears, sweet potatoes, maize, pineapples, guava, mangos, melons, coconuts, cotton, sugar cane, cocoa, spices, peppers, tea, and a wide variety of nuts. It also mass produces several varieties of spirits, notably rum, tequila, and brandy. Even more profitable is its livestock industry, from which huge amounts of beef, poultry, pork, leather, and dairy are extracted.

Since the latter half of the 25th century, much of the Plains' economic output has been controlled by agricultural firms rather than citizen farmers. The process has become increasingly mechanized since then, using cutting edge technology and genetic modifications to increase the land's yield to titanic proportions. This produce is cultivated far more cheaply than on either Earth or Reach, and most of it goes towards feeding the insatiable appetites of these two worlds.

The Plains also have a robust service sector, which accounts for most of the rest of its economic activity. Attempts at manufacturing, particularly by Massilia Corp's subsidiaries, have mostly failed. The Plains does have a growing food processing sector, in which it packages its produce for greater profit abroad. Only a handful of these agribusinesses are locally based, however—most operate out of neighboring Guilin.

The Plains of Greve, colloquially referred to as "the Plains," has long claimed the mantle of Perry's legacy. Certainly, as Vesta's largest agricultural producer, the Plains developed more in line with Perry's vision than the North did. However, Touros has challenged the Plains of Greve on these grounds, claiming that the state has been taken over by corporate interests. Indeed, the only large scale independent holdings left in Greve are confined to the cooler, rockier southwestern portion of the province.

Nonetheless, the Plains remain the South's largest province by a considerable margin, and its Councilors are the most vocal advocates for Vestal independence. Almost every Southern president has come from the Plains, as do most of its diplomatic corps. Finally, despite the great advances made by the north, the image most off-worlders have of Vesta remains the flat expanse of the Plains. Products like the Vestal Orange, a bittersweet blood orange grown exclusively on the Plains, have become so popularized on Earth that Vesta remains in the minds of most a strictly agricultural planet.

The Plains have an uneasy relationship with Guilin. Most of the large agribusinesses that profit from the produce of the Plains are based in Guilin, leading some brazen politicians to label the neighboring state a "plunder economy." Many are also resentful that Guilin hosts the presidium, despite the fact that the Plains have a larger population and a bigger economy. While most people of the Plains view their relationship with Guilin as a rivalry only, some view the state as being little better than the North.

Capital: Greve (pronunciation: GREV-ay)
Population: 1.3 million

Greve has been called by some disparaging visitors from Touros the "schizophrenic city." Various governments have envisioned different things for the city. Height restrictions have been imposed and rescinded at different times during Greve's history, leading to some very out of place skyscrapers that tower over the otherwise flat cityscape.

The city is quite warm and humid and changes little from season to season. It is home to a great many elegant parks and public commons. The Greve River flows through the city, and relaxing next to the broad, placid river is a favorite pastime of many.

Touros (pronunciation: TORE-ohs)
Population: 5.5 million

Touros is dominated by two distinct landscapes. In the rain shadow of the Southern Highlands lies Vesta's biggest and hottest desert, called La Cola del Diablo, or the "Devil's Tail." This long and narrow desert closely hugs the northern slopes of the Southern Highlands, resulting from the intensely hot equatorial temperatures and the lack of moisture from its leeward position. This desert is subject to nearly constant foehn winds, which can often and suddenly develop into strong gales. These gales cause intense sandstorms, kicking up dust clouds which can be almost 2 kilometers high. Usually the sand settles in the semi-arid foothills that separate the desert from the coast, but powerful storms can push the dust to the sea and beyond, sometimes threatening crops. La Cola del Diablo is utterly inhospitable, and is home only to snakes, scorpions, and adventurous tourists.

Coastal Touros is wetter and has a more moderate temperature, but it is still quite dry and its soil is neither as deep nor rich as is found in the Plains. The northern coast of Touros has the state's most productive farmland. Despite its relatively close proximity to the equator, the moderating effect of the Touros Stream, the eastern foehn winds, and careful climate control gives northern Touros an approximation of Earth's Mediterranean climate. Past the Ponto do Seixas, the cape which forms the southwestern enclosure of the Amber Sea, Touros becomes much drier and hotter.

Touros is also an agriculturally based economy, though it grows different crops than are found on the Plains. Northern Touros produces the state's most lucrative crops. Its biggest exports are grapes and olives, particularly the finished products of wine and olive oil, respectively. Northern Touros produces a large volume of wine, which, due to its typically small scale vineyards, is usually marketed as high quality. Touros is also Vesta's largest exporter of wheat, and features a respectable brewing industry. Touros is also well known for its peaches, plums, dates, oilseed, honey, and tomatoes, all of which are harvested in large quantities. Like the Plains, however, its livestock prove the most lucrative. For this purpose, the grasslands of the dry southern region serves adequately.

Touros is a much smaller and poorer than the Plains of Greve, though its wealth is spread more evenly. Its soil is poorer and its people have proven stalwart against corporate expansion. The state government is openly hostile to big agribusiness, and a great deal of public revenue is spent subsidizing independent landowners. As a result, its per capita wealth is considerably lower than the Plains, and much lower than the Northern average.

Modern Touros culture holds that the people of the Plains are apostates, having sold themselves out to corporate interests. Touros remains a land of mostly citizen farmers along the lines of Perry's vision, even though its agricultural output suffers as a result. Indeed, many of the plots of land originally parceled out by BAUCOM are still intact, in stark contrast to Greve. The people of Touros are as devout in their belief in Vestal Independence as the people of Greve, but tend to be less vocal about it. Perhaps as a result of their lesser influence, Tourosians tend to be much more insular than their Plains counterparts.

Capital: Daesan (pronunciation: die-SAN)
Population: 400,000

Daesan is situated on a flat stretch of land on the coast of the Southern Ocean. The city is built mostly of bright white sandstone mined locally. It is well known for its vibrant culture, its many festivals, and its generally laid-back atmosphere. Much of the city shuts down for three hours at midday for an extended lunch. Daesan is also well known for its unique architecture, which is an elegant blend of Asian and Mediterranean styles. Additionally, unlike Greve, Daesan has rigidly upheld its height restrictions, giving the glistening white city a charm that is appealing to many Northerners. Daesan is very hot and dry and almost perpetually sunny. Its shores are quite rocky, and its beaches are famous for the quiet "clicking" sound of pebbles being overturned by the waves.

Guilin: (pronunciation: GWEI-lin)
Population: 5 million

Guilin is a geographically diverse state situated on the windward side of the Southern Highlands. The state has three distinct regions: the Bay Area, the highlands, and the south. The Bay Area, which in fact includes two separate bays, the Bay of Capri and Cochin Bay, is tropical. A very dense rainforest closely hugs the coastline before devolving into hardier spruce trees further north. The moist southeasterly winds meet the rapidly rising slopes of the Southern Highlands, giving the area unusually high precipitation.

To the north and east of the Bay Area are the highlands, mountainous and rocky terrain, home mostly to spruce trees and wildlife. The highlands feature a number of fast flowing rivers popular among extreme kayakers. This area also features Vesta's largest waterfall by volume.

The south of Guilin is much drier than the Bay Area but still tropical—specifically, its climate is classified as tropical wet and dry. It is very hilly, but its features are rounded and the area contains good soil. The hills gradually die off to the south as the land meets the Plains of Greve. The region is well irrigated by numerous rivers that flow from the north.

Guilin has the most developed economy of any Southern state. It is service based, and its business class enjoys close ties with the North and even, to an extent, the UNSC. The majority of the agricultural firms that operate in the Plains of Greve are in fact based in Guilin. They handle the export of the Plains' produce to the markets of Reach and Earth, profiting greatly from the trade. The economy of Guilin is dynamic and fast growing, though in comparison with the North is still quite small.

Guilin has some agricultural activity, taking place mostly in its southern region. Its products are mostly the same as are grown in Greve, but they are grown on large private estates and are claimed to be of superior quality. The state is also Vesta's largest exporter of cherries—one boutique company packages them in chocolate and exports them as high end delicacies known as Guilin Cherries.

Tourism is also a big industry in Guilin. The state receives more tourists than all other states combined. Its southern region in particular has a pleasing climate and pristine beaches, though the island of Capri, the middle island in the chain that exists within the Bay of Capri, is also a popular spot. The state's warm southern area is also host to many cottages, condos, and estates of wealthy Northern citizens.

Although Guilin is home to the Southern Presidium, its people are the most divided on the issue of the North. Unlike in the Plains or in Touros, the debate is mostly between elites rather than originating from the grassroots. The intellectual community tends to favor independence as a point of principle, proving to the galaxy that the colonies do not need the patronage and protection of the UNSC. The business community, on the other hand, favors closer ties with the UNSC and the North for economic reasons. The majority of the citizenry, however, tend to be uninvolved with the debate, avoiding the attendant acrimony and enjoying Guilin's high standard of living.

Given its close ties with the North and relatively placid populace, Guilin may seem an unusual choice for the seat of the Southern government. It became so through accident. The Plains of Greve naturally assumed they would host the Presidium, but Touros resisted fiercely and Barracas viewed the Plainspeople as smug and arrogant. Guilin was chosen as a compromise.

Culturally, Guilin is split in two halves. Clearwater and much of the Bay Area is as fast paced and urban as any area in the North. The south is more traditionally Southern, its rolling hills dotted with small towns and large estates, and life tends to be more relaxed.

Capital: Clearwater
Population: 2 million

The city's name may change with the speaker, but it is most commonly referred to in its English translation as Clearwater. Clearwater is situated on the mountainous coast of the Bay of Capri, on land once overrun by rainforest. As it is, the city is still surrounded by the lush rainforest that covers much of the Bay Area. The city receives and inordinate amount of rainfall, usually over 400 centimeters annually. One of the effects of this is almost perpetual cloud cover. Clearwater receives fewer than 50 sunny days annually; even when it is not raining, the city is typically wreathed in fog. Clearwater was named by an optimistic early settler of the region, who noted how clear the water of Capri Bay was when the skies were clear. The name is now a running joke among residents of Clearwater who explain its origins to disappointed visitors. "Well, when the skies are clear…"

Like Kura, the city is connected by an extensive underground city, though it is to protect its residents from the rain rather than the cold. Its cityscape differs strikingly from any other Southern city. It is quite dense, featuring modern architecture and skyscrapers. It is the headquarters of many of the South's biggest agricultural firms. It is also home to Vesta's second largest medical research center, and its schools produce some of the best doctors the planet has to offer.

Barracas (pronunciation: ba-ROCK-us)
Population: 2.5 million

Barracas is the southernmost state of Vesta, hugging the curve of the terminus of the Southern Highlands. Western Barracas is quite dry, as it lies in the rain shadow of the highlands, but it is not like the desert found in Touros. Mostly it is home to scrub and grassland and of little economic value. A few hamlets can be found on the southwestern coast, but for the most part it is quite desolate.

Most of the population is located on the windward side of Barracas, which is subtropical. The terrain is very mountainous and rough, however, and only select portions of it are good for farming. Mostly, the land is covered in sprawling deciduous forests. Its climate is very wet, and while hot in the summer time the region cools considerably in the winter. Snow is extremely rare in Barracas, but winters are very rainy and almost perpetually foggy.

Barracas is, by a wide margin, the poorest state on Vesta. It has few natural resources, and attempts at developing the economy have proved largely fruitless. Over 95% of Barracans pay no tax to the Southern Presidium. The majority of economy activity is generated by citizen farmers, as in Touros. Since 2482, when the South's first space elevator went up, Massilia Corp has invested in Barracas, harnessing its relatively cheap labor. Barracas now produces several simple products for the company, including machine parts, agricultural equipment, and textiles and fabrics. Also important is its forestry industry; Barracas trees are tall and sturdy and make serviceable building materials.

Barracas very nearly did not exist. In the initial division, Perry split the land that is now Barracas between Touros and the Plains of Greve. Its population was very small and its economic potential very slight. However, its small band of settlers fought fiercely for their own state, and Perry had little choice but to relent.

This spirit lives on in the hearts of many Barracans. They are a very independent people, and only marginally less resentful of the Southern Presidium than they are of the UNSC. The cult of Perry is alive and well in Barracas. Its Councilors rail endlessly against the North and what they see as a perversion of the South. This fiery spirit does have its uses, though: Barracans make up a disproportionate percent of the South's armed forces.

Capital: Changsha (CHANG-sha)
Population: 200,000

Changsha is the smallest Vestal capital. Until about 25 years ago, it was even smaller than it is now, little bigger than the rest of the towns that dot the hilly Barracas landscape. Massilia Corp's investment in the region and the rise of the manufacturing sector has since fuelled a modest urbanization of the state. The original city center has a quaint, small town charm, but has since become engulfed by more industrial architecture and cheap tenements that have sprung up in recent decades. The city is surrounded by dense forest. It is quite hot in the summer, but due to its high elevation and relatively low latitude, its winters are very cool. Snow is exceedingly rare, but heavy rain and thick fog are common in the winter months.

The Southern Highlands
Population: 200,000

The Southern Highlands are a mountain chain that bifurcates the southern half of the Vestal supercontinent. The Southern Highlands are a narrower and smaller version of its northern counterpart. Its highest peak, Mount Shira, stands at 6700m, and most of the highlands are considerably shorter than that. Nonetheless, the Southern Highlands have a huge impact on the geography and climate of the South. The moist, warm southeasterly winds hits the Southern Highlands and dumps large quantities of rain over the land. The leeward side is dry, windy, and intensely hot; La Cola del Diablo is the most obvious manifestation of this effect.

The Southern Highlands feature three natural valleys that are used as overland passages between North and South. By far the most heavily trafficked is the Veijle Pass. It offers the shortest route between the Plains and regions further north. It is home to both vactrain tubes and open highways. Most traffic flows between the Northern and Southern provinces, but also notable is Tourosian produce, which must travel through the Pass to reach the Plains' two space elevators. The Vejle Pass is warm in the summer, but winters and springs bring large quantities of rain. The other two valleys, far less traveled, are the Valley of Silla, and the southernmost Koppen Pass.

Most of the Southern Highlands' population is concentrated around the Vejle Pass and is primarily service based. The Pass is home to many small mountain towns and ski resorts, and the area has recently cultivated a small but growing tourist industry. These small settlements tend to be low-tech and are built using granite mined locally, giving them a charm appealing to some Northern visitors. Vejle Pass towns like Cedar Gables have been increasingly admired for their postcard-worthy vistas.

A smaller but notable portion of the Southern Highlands population live on the mountain slopes just north of the Plains. While the soil is rockier and the climate is cooler than is found on the plains, the area is nonetheless home to several fertile river valleys that feature private estates that produce mostly for local consumption. The one notable exception is rice, which is grown in great quantities and is exported for sale abroad.

The population of the Southern Highlands has always been very small, and the area remains a territory rather than a state. As a result, the area has no Councilors with voting powers in the Presidium. Nonetheless, the region sends observers to Clearwater who have historically been quite influential.

Despite the fact that much of their economy depends on the North, the Southern Highlands tend to be avidly pro-independence and anti-UNSC. The people of this region are very proud and vocal about their politics. Like Barracas, the Southern Highlands supply a disproportionate amount of soldiers to the Southern Armed Forces.

Capital: Vejle (pronunciation: VAYL)
Population: 45,000

Vejle is a small city nestled in the mountains just southwest of the Vejle Pass. It is situated only a few kilometers off the main highway that leads south into the Plains of Greve. Like the towns of the Pass, Vejle prides itself on its lack of modern amenities. It is constructed largely of the dark granite found commonly through the Southern Highlands. The city is quite warm all year round, though its winters are particularly wet. The city's largest structure is the Lourdes Stadium. Despite its small size, Vejle is the hometown of an unusual number of Vesta's best athletes.


Talavera (pronunciation: tal-a-VEER-a)
Population: 2.5 million

Talavera is the smallest Vestal state. It is long and narrow, bounded in the east by the Southern Highlands and in the west by the Amber Sea. Talavera is the linchpin between North and South; any person or product travelling across the continent must pass through Talavera. Sarafand borders the state to the northeast, while Touros sits on its southwestern border.

Talavera's coastal plain extends about 150 kilometers inland from the Amber Sea, but after this the altitude rises rapidly into the Southern Highlands. Like Touros, Talavera has an approximation of a Mediterranean climate, though moist air from the west prevents Touros-like desertification. Indeed, the state is home to many rivers, most notably the Almeida River, upon which the capital is built. The Almeida neatly bifurcates the state into north and south. The river originates well into the Highlands; its upper section is quite treacherous and difficult to cross. On the coastal plain it is more placid, but it is still wide and deep.

Like most states in the southern portion of the Vestal mainland, Talavera was initially dependent on agriculture. Since then, however, Touros and the Plains of Greve have both out-produced Talavera, pushing its agricultural industry into the background. Currently, Talavera's biggest agriculture-related industry is its distillery business, which produces large quantities of rum. Like neighboring Touros, it also produces wine, and specializes in sparkling varieties.

Talavera is a highly urbanized, service-based economy. It has a very limited government, with no sales tax and very low corporate and income tax. For this reason, it is home to a disproportionate number of businesses. Also of note are its universities, which are well respected even off world. The cyclical surge of youth plays an important role in the Talaveran economy.

Talavera was the first region to be colonized by Francis Perry and the BAUCOM, and for 29 years it served as the seat of the planetary government. As such, the cult of Perry is perhaps stronger here than anywhere else. However, the people of Talavera tend to have a different interpretation of his message than their Southern counterparts. Rather than viewing him as a militant freedom fighter, they see him as advocating the most conducive route to peace. In his time, that meant independence from the UNSC. In recent years, however, Northern appeals to unity have resonated with a greater number of Talaverans.

Talavera has combated a potential slide into irrelevance by becoming a cultural center. Talavera boasts numerous arts colleges that are the most respected on Vesta, even attracting some offworld students. Talavera has a vibrant theater and opera scene, is host to Vesta's most influential fashion scene, and is home to more artists than any other state.

Capital: Talavera City
Population: 1.6 million

While it is sometimes called Talavera City in order to distinguish it from the territory, usually the city and the state are taken as one and the same. As the city is home to around two thirds of the state's population, this is well founded.

The city was the original planetary capital before the North/South schism of 2444. It was also the home of Francis Perry from his days in BAUCOM to his death in 2437. His effect on the city is found everywhere: the city's largest and most respected university is Francis Perry University. His likeness is to be found in hundreds of statues and posters. Even the cityscape is a tribute to Vesta's founder. Perry personally took part in the design of Talavera's Council Chambers, which was adorned with a large dome. Taking it as precedent, architects from the founding to the present have added hundreds of domes to Talavera's distinct skyline. Also like the Council Chambers, much of the city is constructed with limestone or stucco colored in muted pastel hues.

The Vestal Civil War:

February 3-4: Preliminary bombing campaigns take place overnight beginning on the 3rd. Northern bombers are outdated and relatively few in number, however, and their pilots are inexperienced. The aerial bombardment has little effect.

February 5: Ground forces move south through Talavera, heading towards the Almeida River. Resistance is light, and no Talaveran town resists the Northern forces. The first major action of the war takes place the evening of the 5th at Cueta, a small town in the mountains above Talavera city that offered the only other major crossing along the Almedia beside the capital. Northern forces are repulsed and the bridge is successfully destroyed.

February 6: Northern forces commit to Talavera City, entering the section north of the Almeida around noon. Fighting is intense, as Southern forces are well dug in. Northern soldiers get bogged down in house to house fighting. Northern politicians forbid the army from indiscriminately shelling the city.

February 10: Northern Legion forces methodically move up the bank of the Almeida, threatening to encircle Southern positions in the city north of the river. Southern forces break through the incomplete encirclement and cross the last remaining bridge across the Almeida. The fighting is intense, but Southern forces successfully exfiltrate and destroy the bridge.

February 12: Legion attempts to establish a crossing at Talavera City are rebuffed.

February 14: A Legion effort to establish a crossing upriver from Talavera are sabotaged and the engineers are ambushed. Local spies are suspected.

February 17: Legion forces at last establish a cross, well upriver of Talavera City. They meet heavy resistance in the hilly terrain while travelling northwest, failing to reach the capital.

February 23: Northern politicians consent to a bombardment of Talavera City at the urging of the generals. Under cover of heavy shelling, Legion forces finally cross into to southern portion of the city. Fighting is intense, as the Southern forces have been fortifying their positions for weeks.

March 15: Generals urge for reinforcements, as the Legion advances block by block through the city with high casualties. The reserves had been called up, but they are poorly trained and ill prepared. The original plan had allowed for six more weeks of training.

March 29: In testament to the North's logistical prowess, an expedition of nearly 80,000 is assembled in only two weeks. The relieving army, composed mostly of reservists, crosses the Amber Sea and lands to the south of Talavera City in a maneuver called Operation Sledgehammer. The amphibious landing goes off nearly perfectly, but the reservists form an imperfect encirclement. Northern intelligence reports that men and material continue to enter Talavera City for weeks after the Sledgehammer.

April 5: Another bomb is detonated in a shopping mall in Massilia, killing dozens.

April 23-28: A Southern relieving army attempts to flank and dislodge the encircling Northern army. The battle is close-run, but the larger and better supplied Northern force eventually triumphs. The relieving Southern army retreats weakened, but intact.

May 1: Around 25,000 haggard Southern survivors finally surrender in Talavera City. They are exhausted, hungry, and almost every one of them is injured. The Northern army, now numbering 300,000, regroups and consolidates their hold on Talavera.

May 3: Black Hand gunmen shoot up Intera Industry Headquarters in Piraeus, before blowing themselves up when emergency services arrive.

May 9: Northern intelligence indicates that the bulk of Southern forces are regrouping along the Pass of Vejle, in order to guard the Plains of Greve and Guilin. As such, they send a detachment of approximately 70,000 to seize lightly defended Touros and so secure their Eastern flank.

May 9-21: The so called "Stroll Through Touros." The state falls with scarcely a whimper. A small skirmish outside Daesan is the largest action of this campaign, but the city falls after only a day. Legion forces reach the border of Barracas in less than two weeks.

May 19: The bulk of the Northern Legion begins their trek through the Pass of Vejle. Initial resistance is light, but weather conditions are adverse—the Pass is extremely hot, humid, and rainy.

May 21: The Legion's advance through the Pass grinds to a halt as the South launches a counter offensive. The Southern forces had long ago built defensive positions along the Pass and a network of tunnels that honeycombed its steep slopes. Southern forces strike at several chokepoints, rendering superior Northern armor useless.

May 22: In a bid to relieve the beleaguered forces in the Pass, the Legion forces in Touros are ordered to cross the Southern Highlands in order to draw some of the Southern Army away from the Pass of Vejle. The 5th Infantry Division detaches from the main body of troops in Touros and splits in two, one half proceeding through the Valley of Silla, the other through the Koppen Pass.

May 23: Halfway through the Valley of Silla, the Legion forces are ambushed by Southern forces. The area had been extensively mined and pre-sighted for artillery fire. The brigade withdraws under fire, sustaining heavy casualties.

May 24: The Koppen Brigade completes its journey relatively unmolested, but finds itself isolated. High Command orders the Brigade to dig in, and so establish a foothold east of the Highlands.

May 25: The bulk of the Touros forces move south into Barracas. They vastly outnumber the defenders, and quickly push through.

May 27: The Koppen Brigade comes under heavy attack. They repulse the initial waves, but are in danger of being encircled. At nightfall, the Brigade's CO orders a withdrawal back through the Koppen Pass. They take heavy casualties as they fall back. Of the 5th's original 12,000 man strength, only 5,000 are still combat effective. The media dubs it the "Lost Division."

May 28: Fighting in the Pass of Vejle intensifies. Southern SAM sites effectively blunt Northern air superiority in the confined fighting space.

May 31: After making rapid progress, the Legion forces in Barracas get bogged down in the mountainous, densely wooded terrain of the eastern half of the state. Guerilla fighters effectively slow the advance.

June 8: A massive explosion rips through downtown Massilia, killing more than 80 people. Some hardliners call for martial law.

June 17-19: Legion forces in Barracas reach the outskirts of Changsha. Fighting among the densely packed buildings proves harrowing. In a decision that will later be called a war crime, High Command approves the shelling of the city. By the 19th, more than 75% of Changsha is rubble.

July 22: Legion forces in Barracas finally push through the state and enter the open plains at the feet of the Southern Highlands. With their left flank exposed, the Southern forces holding the Pass of Vejle pull back and retreat into the Plains of Greve. They take heavy casualties in their hasty withdrawal, as they are now exposed to the North's airpower. A holding action at the town of Vejle saves the Southern army from total annihilation, but the town and its garrison are almost entirely destroyed in the fighting.

July 26: The two Legion armies begin a simultaneous invasion of the Plains of Greve. Despite general demoralization, they advance quickly across the flat terrain.

July 29: The final major battle of the war is fought thirty kilometers northeast of the city of Greve. On the Plains, the superior numbers and mechanization of the North allows them to trounce the diminished Southern forces. The army is promptly flanked and encircled. The generals on site wish to crush the surrounded enemy, but High Command orders them to offer terms. After their surrender, the Southern army is mostly finished. Legion forces reach Greve by midnight of the 5th.

August 4: A daring raid is made on a mining camp in the Northern Highlands by Southern paramilitaries. 29 miners and 12 private security contractors are killed deep in the mountains of the North. Sabotage of equipment and facilities costs millions of credits.

August 8: Legion forces begin their advance into Guilin. The terrain of the southern end of the state is hilly, and a few defenders doggedly stick around to stall the juggernaut advance. Most resistance is merely pushed aside.

August 14: Legion forces mass outside Clearwater. The Presidium finally offers unconditional surrender, and Legion soldiers enter the Southern capital without a shot fired. President Kisangi declares victory, and assures Southerners that the Presidium will retain sovereignty over the South, and the Legion will remain only in a transitional capacity.

August 16: Massilia and Piraeus are bombed simultaneously, resulting in over 60 casualties. The celebratory mood, already muted, dies completely.

August 17: Premier Lammert announces that he is stepping down. Most Southerners believe that he was coerced into doing so, and no longer see the Presidium as legitimate.

September 7: Massilia is bombed again. To the present date, bombings in Northern cities occur on average 4 times per month. Massilia is the site of approximately 70% of the bombings.

September 9: After weeks of trying, the Presidium again fails to meet a quorum, as legislators refuse to recognize its legitimacy. The Presidium closes indefinitely.

December 6: A Legion convoy traveling through the Pass of Vejle is ambushed by partisans. 12 soldiers are killed in the attack.

December 8: A bomb is detonated just outside Legion headquarters in Daesan, killing 20.

December 15: A patrol is attacked in the Southern Highlands region, killing 4.

December 28: In the largest action since the war, Legion forces storm an insurrectionist stronghold in Barracas. 19 Legion casualties are reported against 76 hostiles killed.

Rebel attacks continue throughout the new year, along with bombings in the North.

February 21: The immensely unpopular President Kisangi is ousted decisively in the Northern elections. The Liberal Party candidate, Katherine Walker, wins with nearly 60% of the vote on the promise that she will end the war. Notably, she tries to distance herself from the UNSC in her speeches.

May 6: A large scale assault is conducted on one of the Plains of Greve's space elevators by Southern partisans, doing severe damage to the monolithic structure. Walker's credibility takes an early hit as the insurrection appears to intensify.

President Walker orders a reorganization of the Legion's forces in the South. Rather than having a centralized command run out of Clearwater, the South is divided into zones that roughly coincide with the preexisting state boundaries. Each zone is responsible for all activities within its boundaries, and can respond more quickly to local emergencies. The plan has some early success, but the insurrection doggedly continues. Bombings in Northern cities continue unabated.

This year is marked with failure. Building on some successes from the previous year, President Walker pushes the various Southern factions to reconcile and form a cohesive government. Unfortunately, there are no longer any sources of centralized power in the South. The people of the Plains are especially belligerent, refusing to speak with the other states and demanding only that Northern forces leave. An April convention in Clearwater to try and reconstitute the Presidium comes to nothing, and is interrupted with violence. The South is now ruled by the Northern occupation forces and local governments.

The latter half of the year is even worse. After ebbing in 2517, the insurrection regains steam over the summer of 2518. Attacks on Legion troops are a near daily event. President Walker announces that a draft may be called to make up for recruitment shortfalls and a rapidly deteriorating situation.

Meanwhile, bombings in the North are still a common occurrence. The three largest cities—Massilia, Piraeus, and Morena—are in a state of semi-martial law. Heavily armed police patrol hub areas and man intrusive checkpoints.

January 15: For the first time, the city of Taras is bombed. A bus explodes in the city's downtown area, killing 46. Support for the war had always been weakest in Aleppo, and now it plummets further.

March 3: President Walker announces a limited draft. As per the 2460 agreement, Aleppo is exempted. Nonetheless, the announcement disturbs Aleppo and infuriates every other state.

March 19: President Walker releases the year's budget. The Northern Federal Republic, which had long run impressive surpluses, is now deep into deficit spending. Aleppo legislators express discontent at funding a war they want no part of.

April 9: A report released by Northern intelligence services indicates that an increasing number of insurgents are not Vestal natives. Many killed or captured insurgents are identified as mercenaries with ties to the rebellious Outer Colonies.

May 18: Taras' subway system is bombed, killing 95. A secondary explosion kills 33 emergency personnel.

June 10: A prominent Senator from Aleppo, Li Chen, defects from President Walker's Liberal Party and joins the hitherto minor Democratic Aleppo Party. He announces his intention to break Aleppo away from the Northern Federal Republic and so become an independent state.

August 5: Legion forces commence a major campaign to root out insurgents from bases in Barracas.

August 13: PRESENT DAY.


Invasion (February 3 – August 14, 2515):

Northern Legion: 33,461 killed, 156,513 wounded.

Northern Civilians (bombings): 462 killed, 1,763 wounded.

Southern Armed Forces: 60,000-70,000 killed, 250,000-350,000 wounded.

Southern Civilians (Disputed): 90,000-250,000 killed, 200,000-1 million wounded.

Insurrection (August 14, 2515 – Present):

Northern Legion: 21,516 killed, 146,775 wounded.

Northern Civilians (bombings): 8,560 killed, 29,734 wounded.

Southern Partisans (Disputed): 50,000-200,000 killed, 200,000-600,000 wounded.

Southern Civilians Disputed): 100,000-300,000 killed, 300,000-900,000 wounded.

Total (February 3, 2515 – Present):

364,000 – 984,000 killed, 1,284,785 – 3,384,785 wounded.