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Vacuum Behind the Claw

by Pete Gray

After some close rereading of Regency Sourcebook, I've come to the conclusion that the most likely conflict in the wake of the Zhodani collapse will be between the Regency and the Aslan Hierate.

While it is true that the Zhodani collapse will create conflict among the human client states, it is unlikely that these wars will spread beyond Far Frontiers or Yiklerzdanzh sectors. And whatever attempts will be made at poaching on Zhodani territory will be accomplished by the client states attempting to curry favor and influence among Zhodani factions, rather than wasting their troops on a headlong assualt.

The Regency-Aslan conflict is a leftover from the fait accompli of 1132. The fait accompli worlds are controlled by traditional Aslan governments looking for an excuse to break away from the Regency. And most of their Hierate clansman are not content with the current status quo, either. The Hierate bears reluctance towards reclaiming former homelands, because it is easier to claim developed worlds than it is to rebuild their old ones from scratch? Whatever the reasons, the more hot-headed clans, remembering their previous successes against the old Domain, will argue vehemently that the collapse of Zhodani power gives the Hierate an oppurtunity to become the preeminent power behind the claw.

Their argument is that the Regency has a divided attention, much as it did in 1119, spending most of their efforts and time concentrating on the Quarantine to trailing. Their assertion is that the conditions for a successful war are even more ripe now than they were in 1119, since they no longer have to fear the Regency possibly allying itself with any other Impi faction or the Consulate. Many of the Fait Accompli worlds are located beyond the extent of Aslan control before 1131; since few of these worlds have contigous links with the Hierate, their independence makes it necessary for surrounding worlds to be captured as well, giving Aslan more territory than they did before the Collapse. With the Regency still chained to their precious Quarantine, the Aslan can recreate the strategy that brought them so much success before. The Regency will have a catch-22 choice between accepting further Aslan claims, or by neglecting the Quarantine and pursuing a war. And the Aslan are happy with either outcome, as they don't have the numbers of ihatei they did before, but they now have a lot more military assets on this side of the Rift.

So from 1203 onwards, Aslan on fait accompli worlds will attempt to provoke the Regency government into exceeding or undermining its authority. They'll begin to import large numbers of their clansmen as the manpower for a successful rebellion, and to provide the first waves for invasion of neighboring worlds.

What will suprise the Hierate, however, is that they that this war will be a disaster. Because the Hierate is misreading the Regency. This isn't 1119, and this isn't the Domain of Deneb anymore. In fact the Consulate's collapse will free the Regency as much as it will the Hierate. And even more to the cats' dismay, their enemies have been waiting and preparing for this eventuality.

The Regency has decieved its neighbors about the nature of its predicament and its objectives. The armed neutrality that it pursued made the job easier. In the game of credibility, your enemies perception of your strength is your best weapon. Your real strength is less important, and therefore more easily conserved, than the impression of strength you create.

The real reason for the Spinward Accords, then, was to buy time for the Regency. Their real objective is the military reconquest and economic recovery of the former Imperium, and they will allow nothing to interfere with that goal. Consequently, the Regency has been in an extended military build-up since the late 1120's that dwarfs even Lucan's faction in size and potency. In the 1130s the Regency was vulnerable to an invasion of its borders, and the detente with Zhodane was important solely for deterring Aslan aggression; otherwise the Regency was well aware that the Consulates problems and the Regency's real objectives made them unreliable allies.

And the Regency used Aslan aggression as a lever against the Zhodani and the Human client states. On it's own, such divide and conquer neutrality would have eventually collapsed; at some point the Regency would not find an ally to align themselves with. But as long as Virus was a threat, the Regency had a lever against predatory warfare BTC. In fact, Virus has been their main ally. Neutrality had another silver lining: it kept the military from squandering resources and manpower on sideshow operations among their neighbors.

Hidden within this careful diplomacy was the acceptance that eventually one or more of the Spinward States would drop pretensions, and war would be unavoidable. The Regency has prepared for a war with the Aslan since the Accords signing, if only as a contingency. But without the Zhodani card to play anymore, the likelihood of war is very high. When Norris said in the 1120s (MTJ2 if I remember right) that a military solution was too simple, he meant that the Domain didn't have then the military and diplomatic resources to win such a conflict. That is no longer the case. The Regency can now fight a two front war against both trailing threats and an Aslan invasion with equal aplomb.

The Regency wanted to concentrate on its war effort, and so it played the weakling, threatening to align with this power against that power. The Aslan, then, have a distorted view of their chance for military success. And while it seems to them that they have the initiative for starting a war, the Regency understands Firukhte quite well, and may actually be using their feigned weakness as a means of subtly provoking their neighbors into waging a war of aggression so they can decisively slap them down once and for all.

The Regency has a number of reasons for prosecuting a war against the Aslan.

First there's territorial integrity, and the elimination of the fait accompli governments. The Regency wants to reunite its citizens on those worlds with the fellows, and perhaps lower Aslan cultural chauvinism a peg or two.

Secondly, the Regency wants the Tlaukhu to concentrate ONLY upon reclaiming their former territories across the Rift; the current council is composed of Aslan more interested in defending or extending their possessions within the former Colonies and its surrounds.

Thirdly, the eviction of the Tlaukhu eliminates a dangerous nuisance BTC, preventing mischief when the Regency begins moving the bulk of its forces into the Imperial Wilds. The Regency doesn't want Aslan invasions into the former Consulate and its sphere, or any other territory, in their absence.

Fourthly, a military defeat will finally inject some humility into the Hierate. The Aslan have never been emphatically rejected by a neighbor or enemy, having historically few opponents with the means to resist their power. It would be good for the Aslan to learn that there are limits to their power, and that using other species property and land to solve their ihatei problem invites retaliation from its current owners.

Finally, the Regency wants to create a lasting diplomatic covenant between Hierate and the Fiyfiyalr, making the Tlaukhu extend the Peace of Ftahalr to ALL Aslan clans, not just those few that existed back then to sign it.

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