The Corporate Wars began in A.Y. 4705, which Konilic Phillips announced a merger with Mee-Apostraphe-M, which would have placed them in a position to dominate the other groups. By this time, the 17 remaining distinct mega-corps of The Corporate Era had, through a series of alliances, mergers, and acquisitions, coalesced into just five groups(though still with independent boards). The merger would have made the new corporation the largest and most powerful, and would have placed them in a position to dominate the entire region.
- 1 Operators
- 2 Opening Salvos
- 3 Battle of Cantilever Station
- 4 Policing Action
- 5 Justice
- 6 Aftermath
- 7 Commentaries
The war was fought between four separate organizations.
- KPMM - though not formally named as such until late in 4706, the merger between Konilic Phillips and Mee-Apostraphe-M formed KPMM. They were the largest, and had the most advanced fleet. The other three were, in some quarters, regarded not so much fighting with each other as against KPMM.
- Mabach Consortium - Mabach had six other mega-corps allied with it and flying under the same banner. Though these were all independent companies, they shared war materials and their ships were largely derived from the same technologies. Infighting was still rampant, and hampered the war effort.
- Beaver Collective - so named for an unfortunate acronym formed by the five corporations that made it up. The Beavers were regarded as the opportunists, who sought to gain control of resources and strategically important solar systems. While not overly hostile, their plan was to allow the other groups to eliminate each other, then declare themselves a sovereign state which would allow them to claim their newly acquired territories as spoils of war.
- 3M - comprised of the three remaining mega-corps, it was strictly a mutual defensive pact. They did carry out attacks on the other corps, but only in an effort to harass and cripple the war effort, and in preemptive measures against invasion.
It is difficult to trace the Corporate Wars to any one inciting event. The corporations had been at each other's throats for centuries by then, and while all-out war had never happened before, fighting was an almost constant reality.
It is generally accepted that the attack on Mogru Hub was the first real 'battle' of the war, when forces of Konilic engaged with warships from six other consortia. The station was destroyed utterly and ten thousand civilians killed, but no ships were lost. This was still regarded as the turning point, as the attack on a 'neutral' space station and trading hub signaled the end of co-operation.
Battle of Cantilever Station
By A.Y 4707, Cantilever Station was in a very despicable state. Only about ten percent of the total area was still habitable, and maintaining it had become impossible. Its proximity to Mabach Prime still assured it great importance, so the Consortium was putting in significant efforts to keep the place operational.
While Cantilever's orbit was mostly stable, about once every fifty years it encountered a tricky gravitational interaction between the fifth and sixth planets. In the past this had been corrected by the station's artificial gravity, but with the huge drain on resources fighting the Coporate Wars, the Consortium had been unable to complete the necessary repairs. Without the correction, Cantilever risks colliding with Mabach Prime, an inhabited world with roughly eight billion residents (all employees of the Mabach Consortium).
Mabach Consortium was thus forced to bring the bulk of its fleet to the Mabach System to engage in a gravity tractor operation and correct the station's orbit. Along with them, they were joined by ships from Subtria, Kongo Gumi, and Mikaa Combine, which had gathered to defend the delicate operation. The newly christened KPMM saw the well-publicized event as an opportunity to strike a single, decisive blow.
KPMM Attack Force
KPMM prepared for the attack by refitting as many of their outdated and surplus warships as possible, and moving these into strategic zones where a security presence was more important than actual fighting strength. They then gathered over two thousand ships for the assault on Mabach. The plan, which would not be made public until after the war, was to attempt nothing less than the complete and utter annihilation of Mabach Prime by disrupting the gravity tractor maneuver and causing the station to fall on the planet. If the operation failed, the fleet was also armed with tens of thousands of N1.5 warheads, which would be used in an act of corporate genocide.
In addition to the KPMM ships, a secret alliance had been made with Beaver Coalition granting them exclusive mineral rights to the Mabach and surrounding star systems in exchange for participating in the attack. This remained secret even to the Mabach Consortium. The Beavers brought five hundred additional warships to the fight, though these were smaller and less well-armed than KPMM or Mabach's ships. However, as they planned to attack on an entirely unexpected axis, they felt the advantage would be theirs.
Unannounced to KPMM, Mabach was aware both of the impending attack and of the plans to disrupt the tractor operation, and prepared a powerful in-depth defense. KPMM had more ships, but Mabach's were better. They had additionally developed space mines and orbital weapons platforms, which they were able to deploy in huge numbers. While the new KPMM could bring as many as 2,000 ships to the battle, they were confident that the 750-ship strong force assembled, backed by 400 orbital platforms, 20 battle stations, and a billion mines, would be enough to hold the line.
Mabach had anticipated KPMM's attack down to the hour. The gravity tractor operation on the space station was set to last seventy-two hours, the final twelve of which were the most important. Since the dates and times for this event were public knowledge, Mabach rightfully reasoned that KPMM would launch its offensive at the beginning of that twelve-hour window. As speculated, H-hour began within minutes of the reasoned time. The first wave of ships dropped out of FTL directly into a minefield. Drop coordinates for a dozen of the battle groups had been gained through espionage, and allowed the ships to be destroyed immediately upon arrival with no chance to raise shields or warn the ships behind them.
However, KPMM had anticipated a strong defense, and had commmitted the bulk of its fleet--especially its nearly invincible capitol fleet--to a direct assault. The much larger, slower battle ships left FTL well outside Mabach's defensive rings, and despite heavy resistance, were able to push forward. At H+5 hours, KPMM ships breached the second defensive line and attached the sixth planet.
At H+6 hours, the Beaver Collective arrived, from the opposite end of the solar system. Mabach's lines were weakest here, the Beavers easily broke through and began dropping dirty bombs (containing depleted radioactive elements) on the heavily populated second planet (then on the far side of the sun from the Mabach Prime). The second planet, called Miristead, was not actually owned by the corporations, and had been an independent government before the war began, though was under de-facto corporate rule by then. Five hundred million civilians died in or the in the immediate aftermath of the assault.
With Miristead attacked, Mabach was forced to pull ships off the line for a desperate defense, which in turn allowed KPMM to break through the lines and clear a path for the assault on the tractor operation. While most of Mabach's warships were involved in this, any disruption in the operation (such as ships breaking off to fight) would lead to the destruction of Mabach Prime.
At H+11 hours the the first tractor ships were forced to break off and mount a defense. The operation was still four hours from completion, so the line only had to be held for so long. Mabach's CEO John Powers (who directed the defense) would later comment that "A mere sixty minutes stood between us and the largest mass-death in history".
Peace Keepers Arrive
At H+11 hours, with 1 hour remaining on the tractor operation, both sides' high commands detected a new group of signals dropping out of FTL. The fleet that arrived was comprised principally of Crimson Blade warships, but was accompanied by Alliance regulars, Runarins, and vessels from over a hundred Alliance member worlds. The MK'Harens also contributed six battle groups, but despite revisionist claims, none engaged directly in combat.
The Crimson Blade warships immediately took up a position between advancing KPMM forces and the tractor operations. The Alliance, meanwhile, was spread through much of the field. Along with the ships were an inordinate number of communication and control vessels, which began broadcasting stand-down orders on all frequencies. The message was simple: any corporate ship that did not immediately power down its weapons would be subject to the full force of the Alliance. While the Alliance ships themselves were not on their own a serious threat, the presence of Foundation-built super-capitols gave the words significant strength.
Despite the warnings, KPMM pressed the attack, and were able to bring a crushing blow to the tractor operation. This was only accomplished by several score KPMM destroyers and cutters making suicide runs against the Mabach cruisers pulling the station. For their effort, the Crimson Blade destroyed most of the KPMM ships. Though in the aftermath it was claimed they were merely "caught in the crossfire", over two hundred Mabach cruisers were also destroyed by the Crimson Blade. These were ships, upon the failure of the tractor operation, set out to take revenge - in defiance of the stand-down order. The directives had been very clear: their Coalition was on no one 'side', but were there to put a stop to the fighting.
With the gravity tractor operation interrupted, Cantilever Station was left on a collision course with Mabach Prime. Some ships broke off to attempt rescue of civilians, others attacked KPMM ships in retribution, and some even turned their weapons directly on the Crimson Blade. The blade fought off any attackers and began broadcasting clearance orders, even using their super-capitols as "tacklers" to knock ornery ships out of the way.
At H+13 hours, the Bladers completed clearing a swath of the battlefield in time for the arrival of a WorldCraft Terraforming ship. Larger than the station itself, the ship set a tractor beam and towed Cantilever into the outer solar system. The station was set on a fast, eccentric orbit, ensuring it would not again become a danger to the inhabited inner planets.
The battle at Cantilever lasted for 76 hours and ended with a full-scale planetary invasion of Mabach Prime. The senior leadership of the Consortium managed to escape shortly after the station was taken under tow, having kept a small force of reserve ships planet side exactly for this purpose. This allowed the war to continue for another two years, while Mabach Prime was eventually subjugated fully by the Gudersnipe Foundation.
Since the corporations were not governments, no formal declaration of war was ever made. However, since their actions were resulting in the blatant loss of human life on a major scale, the Alliance declared a "police action" be undertaken to subdue and disarm them. Most of the heavy lifting was done by the Crimson Blade, who for once were being employed as actual mercenaries. The Alliance did not want anyone responsible to escape justice, so early on it was made clear that amnesty would not be given for ships that surrendered. The Foundation made a counter-offer, promising the crews would be spared, and that any captain who requested it would receive, quote "A full magazine and some privacy" if they laid down arms peacefully.
The actual fighting was over within two years. Crimson Blade battle groups were far superior to the sub-dreadnoughts being fielded by the corporations. In addition to all the obvious advantages (range, firepower, sensors, supply lines), Crimson Blade admirals had far and away superior tactics at their disposal. The corporations were dismantled systematically, first their ability to construct new ships, then replacement parts, then their supply lines. Many ships were captured when they ran out of fuel. Others surrendered to avoid starvation. There were no more major battles fought; after Cantilever everything else was effectively a clean-up action.
What followed was the largest manhunt in history. Though they could not be tried for war crimes, the leadership of the corporations was plenty guilty of many civilian atrocities. The security forces in particular were in quite a lot of trouble. Though the Alliance had not been able to enforce the laws, many of the weapons being carried by the ships were patently illegal, and using them could be considered a capitol offense.
Still, most of the senior leadership of the corporations escaped justice. They had constructed a network of secret bunkers and safe houses, and many were able to live out their days on distant worlds. The highest-ranking official caught was Mabach Constrium CEO John Powers, who evaded capture for ten years before turning himself in. It is suspected he was offered as a sacrificial lamb to divert attention from other executives. Indeed he did turn himself in. Powers was found guilty of crimes against humanity (the first such time a civilian was tried for this) and hanged. There is some suggestion he was spared, but no proof was ever made public.
The punishments for the Corporate Wars created a very interesting dilemma. In traditional warfare, lower-ranking officers and enlisted soldiers are typically given a "pass" as they were simply following orders. The Rules of Organized Warfare offered them certain protections that were regarded as sacrosanct. For example, no soldier had ever been tried for killing an enemy combatant.
But the nature of the corporate structure stripped away all of these protections. Corporate Security were legally considered private citizens, meaning that killing an enemy combatant was in reality an act of murder. The legal ramifications were staggering, especially when it was pointed at that the Dragoon Lancers of the Crimson Blade should also technically be regarded as civilians. However, the Foundation, while not touting itself as such, is largely considered to be a sovereign entity and thus affords its soldiers the same protections as any nation. One key element brought up in several trials is simple designation: 'Corporate Security' called their people 'guards', not soldiers.
The trials were long and very complicated, with few cooperating witnesses. The biggest challenge in determining culpability lay in the simple fact that no crime of this nature had ever taken place. Eventually, the courts applied the statutes applied to space piracy. Namely, if a ship fires a weapon aggressively upon another ship, then everyone onboard that ship at the moment the weapon is fired is considered culpable for the crime. If a death occurs, everyone onboard is not an accessory to, but in fact perpetrator of murder. This meant that virtually every security guard who served aboard a starship during the war was considered a murderer. Most of the non-officer corps of security personnel still received comparatively light sentences, if for no other reason than to reduce the number of prisoners that would have to be kept.
The caste system proved to offer some protection to the rank and file. Laborers and workers, since they had no decision-making power within the corporate structure, were given exemption from prosecution except in certain circumstances. For the majority, anything they did as part of the job to contribute to the war effort was excused, though exceptions were made for civilians working aboard security vessels (under the piracy statutes), and those who had participated in the ground campaigns during the war.
A large number of the 'scientist' caste were tried, with some even executed. Culpability for them hinged on whether they knowingly contributed to war work, even though most were unaware that what they were doing could be considered a crime. Many were given suspended sentences as they were needed to help rebuild after the war, and those who co-operated were even later pardoned.
Of greatest importance, of course, were the executives. In the end, every corporate executive who was captured received either life imprisonment or the death penalty, depending on a number of factors. Security officers were given similar similar treatment; and it was ruled that any captain who fought in the war could be executed at the court's decision. Most of the highest-ranking officers in the security service received the death penalty.
Only about one in four executives was ever brought to trial, and their punishments were severe. Only one member of any corporate board of directors was ever capture, John Powers, the rest are thought to have escaped justice, living out their days on remote corners of long-forgotten worlds. It is, however, common knowledge that the Assassin's Guild, under the direction of the Gudersnipe Foundation, continued to aggressively hunt the executives for decades after.
Two years after Powers' death, the Alliance declared that all remaining corporate executives still in hiding could lawfully surrender themselves for trial, and that the death penalty would be removed from consideration for those that did so. Any who did not surrender were officially marked for death.
About seventy years after the end of the Corporate Wars, a memoir was published by a man known only as "Marty". Marty claimed that, in his youth, he had worked within some of the most secretive locations of the Assassin's Guild. Most of the book was about the things he saw, but one passage did gain notoriety: "About 30 years after the war ended, i was replacing a light fixture, and my eyes happened to fall on what appeared to be a leader-board. I recognized identifying marks belonging to particular assassins, as well as the names of several defunct mega-corporations. There were tally-marks next to the assassins names, and pictures of corporate staff, some with red marks across them.". The guild never publicly acknowledged that "Marty" even existed, and many speculate his memoirs were a hoax. One popular theory is the entire book was written by the Assassin's Guild itself, who wished to reveal some inside information without actually revealing it. In any case, even if Marty published his memoir's posthumously; the guild at the time had access to Necromancers.
There was, however, one further public comment made. In the early Fifth Age, long after any normal person who fought in the wars was dead, it became known that certain prominent members of the Assassins' Guild who were still alive had been active and participated in the manhunt. One such assassin was questioned about the possibility of corporate executives having escaped justice. He replied "I suppose it depends how you define 'justice'. A lot of them certainly got away from the courts.".
In addition to the 17 mega-corps, 5 nations (all Alliance member worlds) and one militia group participated in the war in direct military fashion. Unlike the corporate security, these soldiers were given the same protections afforded to combatants, with the exception of actions considered war crimes. In all 177 officers were indited and sentenced, however there were no executions. 100 were formally charged by the Alliance and pardoned, 42 were given lighter sentences by their own governments, and 34 were jailed; sentences ranged from 4 to 25 years. Only one, captain Brock Tarly, received life imprisonment.
Because the corporations did not adhere to the Rules of Organized Warfare, the death toll was catastrophic. Believed to be in the trillions, it was at the time one of the most heinous crimes ever imagined. Because it was not a typical war between nations, everyone directly involved was deemed culpible. This in turn gave rise to The Prison Generation" Fully 30% of the population served some sort of jail time as punishment for crimes committed during the war, with at least 10% receiving either life sentences or the death penalty.
It is very important to note that the power-imbalance between the corporate warships and those of the Crimson Blade is not nearly so one-sided as the lay-person is lead to believe. In point of fact, the corporate warships could very easily out-gun anything in the chronically under-funded Alliance space navy. The corporations were able to build some of the most advanced and powerful fighting machines of the era, and could have been matched only by a few very large nation-states, and of course the Foundation.
The key limitation lay in FTL drives. Nowhere in corporate space did there exist an FTL Fabrication Facility; and despite all their accomplishments, the corporations did not have the connections needed to buy large, fast, military-grade FTL drives. The only existing supplier for such a commodity was the Gudersnipe Foundation, who had agreements with the Alliance to sell only to government. The price tag associated with such things further made it impossible.
The largest corporate warships, built with domestically-produced small FTL drives, were roughly equivalent in size to a Foundation Cruiser. At the time they were at least equal in armament, and while some of the components did not meet the same rugged specifications, it was very probably that, in an evenly-matched fight, a corporate battleship could hold its own against a Crimson Blade cruiser.
The problem(for the corporations), was that cruisers were only the fourth-largest capitol ship in the Foundation's arsenal, and sub-dreadnought in type.
The second issue was one of logistics. Corporations could produce N-type weaponry, but only at very considerable cost. This made them expensive to field and even more expensive to fire, and heavily limited the supply available to each ship. In general, a corporate warship might only carry about twenty N1-tipped missiles and a maximum of two N1.5s. While these would be ship-killers in the multi-megaton-range, a good defense was difficult to overwhelm. The corporations had only about as many weapons as were in inventory when the war began, with very few being produced during the duration and none after the third year. This meant they had to be extremely sparing and cautious with their larger weapons.
By contrast, Foundation ships of the era could easily carry hundreds of nuclear-tipped weapons and fit as many N1.5s as the mission called for. Moreover, they could re-supply expended weapons with comparative ease.
In summation, the Foundation simply had bigger ships, more of them, and more weapons.
Human Rights Violations and Crimes Against Humanity
In the centuries following the Corporate Wars, quite a lot was made about the inaction of the Foundation and Alliance; their unwillingness to deal with the conditions being suffered under corporate authority, and their slow response to the war. A few important counterpoints:
- The Foundation is not, as many claim, responsible for policing space. While they do so to a large degree when it aligns with their interests, their abilities are limited. Mostly, the Foundation operates by exerting economic pressure to curb behaviors they dislike and to improve working conditions for the common man. In the incident of the corpocracies, it happened in a region of space which, at the time, the Foundation had no influence. For the Foundation to gather a fleet, cross the galaxy, and start shooting people, would have been just as illegal as what the corporations were doing.
- When the Foundation DID become involved, they did so at the behest of the Alliance, and were paid for their involvement. It is one of the few large-scale mercenary contracts actually carried out by the Crimson Blade.
- The Alliance, which is responsible for policing space, was placed in a very precarious position. Firstly, by the time the serious human rights violations began to take place during the corporate era, the corporations were already fielding warships more powerful than anything the Alliance had at it's disposal. The regular patrol ships were too small and under-gunned, and the equivalent capitol ships of the era were outdated and woefully behind the technology curve(historians who write about the ASN of the era joke that "They didn't plan obsolesce, they just built them that way from the start".
To intervene on such a large scale, the Alliance would need to gather a coalition fleet, drawing on warships from the member worlds. While this is relatively easy to do in times of war, it wasn't technically legal to do so for a policing-action. Similarly to the Foundation, to gather a fleet of sufficient proportions and begin a shooting war, would not have been plausible.
- The corporations were operating within a tricky legal grey-area. The Alliance has laws. The Foundation has laws. The Corporations... had rules. Simply put, the corporations were not sovereign entities. What took place in the company towns was happening on company land. Under normal circumstances, the last should have been part of a larger nation-state which was in turn part of the Alliance, but the corporations were allowed to colonize and build entire company planets outside the jurisdiction of any known government. While the way the lower-level employees were treated was a very clear and obvious human rights violation, it was a very difficult one to punish given the laws of the time.
- Intervention was not slow - this has perhaps been the most salient point of the whole sordid affair. It is easy for armchair historians writing centuries after the fact to claim the Alliance dragged it's heals. But this ignores that, due to the tricky legal problems as covered in the sections above, they had no authority to intervene until the large-scale conflict began.
When it did, the Alliance then had to deal with the massive logistical factor. While the region known as Corporate Space would later become a thriving part of joint-space, it was at the time a very remote and inaccessible region very far from the major centers of power. The ships the Alliance did have in the area were no match for the corporate warships. The larger capitol ships(which were still inadequate but more capable) were stationed much further away. Further, the member-world capable of fielding large ships were also at considerable distance. Then there is the logistical factor; the Alliance needed to stage supplies necessary for the campaign, and with so many different types of ships involved, this presented an enormous challenge.
The Foundation, while similarly lacking resources in the area, was in a much better position, and could have responded faster. Much was made at the time about the legality of it, but the simple fact is there was a lot of political posturing going on within the Alliance. Essentially, it was going to be a police action, it was going to involve a coalition fleet, and several politicians were happy to let millions of people die before they let the Crimson Blade head off to the fight early. The Foundation was tactility forbidden from making a move until the rest of the coalition was ready.
At the time, it was reasoned that if allowed, the Foundation would seize control of an economically important region, and initial efforts were made to prevent their involvement entirely.
Over a hundred years after the end of the Corporate Wars, it was revealed that the agreement between the Alliance and the Foundation had the Crimson Blade do the entire job for the sum total of 20 GATE credits. Further, due to a lost bet, the carrying Pendragon was required to make the payment in cash to a Dragoon Lancer who won a contest. The details of this contest were thought lost for many years, but Foundation records indicate it may have been a wet t-shirt contest. While GATE credits were in very common circulation at the time, as part of the agreement the Pendragon was first made to visit the base currency exchange and show identification. There are rumors the payment may also have included a twelve-pack of beer.
In the years following the war, the Foundation was quite vocal in its condemnation of the corpocracies, as well as drawing attention to the high standards of living enjoyed on worlds it controlled. The corporations had long painted the Foundation as their enemy and competition, but the reality was quite simple: the Foundation exists for long-term stability, the corporations existed to make money. After A.Y. 4709, one of them still exists, and the other does not.