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Chapter 7: Junkers

Breathe deep - suck in the smoke, the sweat, the stink - that's the smell of Junker power.

Plutocrat Adrikus Claudio, to a VASA delegation

The Junker Sector

Through the pollutant haze of the Junker Sector the furnace lights of vast factories and manufactories flicker, the filth-streaked dome habitats of the labouring poor loom, and the collective despair of hundreds of millions permeates the heavy air - as palpable and unhealthy as the factory soot that coats everything here in a grimy film. At first glance the Junker Sector of Iskandria Minor appears little different from the thousands of other worlds built on the Junker model of heavy industry and collective exploitation and, for the millions that live and die here as slaves to the Junker cause, there is no difference.

But the Plutocrats of the Junker Sector themselves are a different breed of ruler from the mysterious Senate of Ironglass, or the autocratic Proconsuls of most Junker colonies. They have grown fat on the wealth available on Kyklops, and have channelled their profits into enormous private compounds and walled villas, as well as the cutting edge of brutal Junker entertainment: the arenas and pleasure domes that serve rich and poor on both sides of the Junker border. And, just as the Iskandrian Junkers have learned from their neighbours, it seems their neighbours have learned from them - as can be seen in the increasingly Junker-like character of certain sectors of Iskandria Minor bordering the Junker Sector.

Perhaps the greatest industry the Junkers of Iskandria engage in is the recycling and processing of old star ships. The reclamation of ships is a highly dangerous and laborious process that often proves more expensive than simply mothballing old vessels when undertaken by the safety and pollution conscious Viridians and VASA, but the Junkers are masters at cutting corners...and ignoring casualties. As a Gateworld Kyklops is uniquely and conveniently situated for all manner of traffic, and many independent worlds gladly sell their old ships to the Junkers for a pittance. These old ships, many of which began life centuries ago in Viridian or VASA shipyards, are crashed in the shallow shelf-like seas to the north of the Junker Sector. This space ship graveyard is a vast section of murky ocean, called the Iron Sea after the soup of pollutants that colour it. Here, droves of labourers break down the once mighty ships with unsophisticated cutting tools and hydraulic rams. This has proven a great source of raw materials for the ever-efficient Junkers, and the estimated fatality rate of one death per six minutes is something barely noted by the Plutocrats that have a monopoly on the business.

The natural terrain of the Junker Sector also lent itself to the unusual fortifications of the sector. Much as VASA maintains an Inner and Outer City, the Junkers fortified the heights of the northeast with a massive wall called the Ferrus Vallum Maximus, enveloping Regio Primus in which they have located their most important buildings and industries, including the Senatorial fortress of the Turris Obsidio, Legion barracks, and the Great Arena itself. The vast sloping wall of Ferris Vallum Magnus was built to create massive cliffs of steel-reinforced plasticrete that follow the entire coastline of Regio Navalia and Regio Ostia and the southern border of Regio IV. In the earliest stages of Junker occupation of Iskandria it was widely believed that the greatest threat of invasion was from the seas - specifically the large civilian fleet of commercial fishing vessels maintained by the Viridians which, it was insisted by the Junkers, could be turned into troop carriers at a moment's notice. These fortifications have proven especially useful now that the Koralon rule the seas of Kyklops, for the Junkers are better protected than any other power against sea borne assault. Many of the crude howitzers and mortar pieces that once lined these walls later found service with the Gladiator forces that were the first wave of Junker aggression in the Free City.

Now much of the Junker Sector has become a barracks for the housing of the hundreds of thousands of newly raised Legionaries, men and women taken from their jobs and homes and impressed into the military. A quick surgical implant, the assignment of a cheap uniform and weapon, and a week's drilling are all that the majority of native Iskandria Legionaries receive before they are asked to march into the NZ to confront the other powers of the Tripartite Alliance, as well as the alien Koralon.

The Junker Legions

...he drank greedily from my canteen and told us of the attack, how the aliens had surrounded and annihilated his cohort and those not killed had fled into the rubble. Then he spoke of how he had been a labourer at a bauxite plant, and one day when his shift was out the workers had been herded into mobile surgery stations and given neural spikes. We were horrified as, in mid-sentence, the man's head erupted in a sickening spatter of blood and bone - he must have come within range of one of the Lictors on the bridge.

R. Habel Qveton, Notes on the Iskandrian War, p. 357

The Junkers aren't known for their cooperation; in fact they have a reputation for obstinacy that has made them a thorn in the side of most Tripartite initiatives since the moment of their inception. However on Iskandria the Junkers have shown themselves more than willing to play by a set of rules not their own, with a few minor exceptions, and Ironglass' representatives on Kyklops have been among the most fervent in the enforcement of the various Partition Treaty protocols; so much so that members of the Agency of Assessment bemusedly refer to the Junker's term as leader in that body's rotational restructuring as 'the Holy Inquisition'.

If one subscribes to the holo-serial view of the Junkers as an irrepressibly belligerent hive of mindwashed drones marching lock step toward galactic dominion then their posture on Kyklops may indeed seem puzzling. But the truth of course is far less dramatic and a good deal more complicated, and it should be obvious to anyone who has made a careful study of the Junkers that there are enormous economic, political, and strategic reasons why they, more so than any other Great Power, have adhered so tenaciously to the Partition Treaty in past centuries. Though it should be remarked, lest we completely forget the contempt for the intergalactic order that lies at the heart of Junker political philosophy, that their aggressive opportunism following the Syntha penetration of the neutral zone is of the worst and most destructive kind - in short more of what humanity has come to expect from the Ironglass Imperium.

But this rapine comes at the end of centuries of peace on Iskandria in which the Junkers proved themselves strong supporters of the Tripartite Power imposed order. The key reason for this was the dynamic nature of the city and its inhabitants, the pieces of an economic and intellectual powerhouse very alien to Junker sensibilities. Viridia and VASA have many such worlds, and Iskandria for them was merely one more strategic appendage that had the bonus of paying good dividends. Not so the Junkers who, in acquiring a slice of Iskandria, gained a window on another world, a world of high-technology and free flowing information flushed with material success and home to every product and service imaginable. While the Junker's imposed their own brand of totalitarianism on their sector, they never sought to purge the character of the city completely, recognizing the opportunity in their situation as inheritors of a modern and progressive city built along the lines of their rivals, the arguably more successful and resourceful empires of Viridia and VASA.

Not only did the Junkers take advantage of this new position to absorb, or steal, new ideas and technologies, but also to introduce the people of the Free City to a piece of Ironglass culture, and turn a tidy profit in the process. The great arena complexes and pleasure domes that dominate the Junker Sector offer a taste of brutal spectacle and illicit thrills that cannot be had anywhere else. While the wealthy and sophisticated may spend their time in the upscale venues of the Triad's Floating Worlds, there are many, especially among the labourers of Iskandria Minor, who increasingly find their fun in the murder sports of the arenas or the perversity of the domes, where all manner of illegal and inhumane vices may be pursued away from the laws of Iskandria. This lawless zone has proven a valuable commodity to the Plutocrats of the Junker Sector, bringing not only wealth but influence - many a political deal has been brokered with the outside world in an arena skybox, and much leverage has been extracted from the supposedly 'private' encounters of the domes. For a nominally sealed empire, these borderlands offer a rich opportunity for politics and profit.

Strategically, of course, the Junkers were in the same situation as the other powers, perhaps even in a seemingly worse position militarily since they rely on sheer numbers to wage conventional warfare as well as to keep their massive population in line. But this is deceptive. The Junker's great strength is their ruthless exploitation of the populace to provide military manpower and material, and this they can do with an efficiency and alacrity rivalled only by the Syntha. While the Partition Treaty limited the amount of soldiers and the number and type of armaments available to them it said nothing about neural spikes - and these exist in the arsenals of the Junker Sector in the hundreds of thousands. Little wonder then that the Junkers should gladly agree to limit the size of their forces when, with a quick and simple involuntary surgery, whole legions can be created out of the raw material of the urban poor, of which there are a great many in Iskandria Minor.

This, of course, is exactly what happened. While the Gladiators were dispatched to loot and sow mayhem, the Legions were mobilized. Press gangs roamed the streets, soldiers cordoned off entire hab-complexes while surgery stations were erected overnight in areas of high population. Tens of thousands found themselves enrolled in the Legions in the weeks following the Syntha invasion, quickly spiked and taught the coercive military discipline of the Junkers, supplied with a cheap blade or gun and amour, in less time than it took the Viridians to set up their recruitment stations, or VASA to work out the complicated terms of its partnership with the Triads. While the IDF involved itself in bloody battles in the neutral zone and VASA committed itself to besieging the spaceport, the ranks of the Legions swelled. Now the Junker Sector and outlying districts are something of an armed camp, well garrisoned against a sea-borne Koralon invasion, and poised to move even further into the neutral zone should the opportunity arise. The Junkers, in a short space of time, have managed to build by far the largest cohesive fighting force on Iskandria - it seems all those years of good citizenship have finally paid off.

The Junkers at War

Move forward, ignore losses, and force the enemy into battle for only when his soldiers die and his armies collapse can you count yourselves victorious. And remember always that battle is a meat grinder - and the winner is the one that brings the most meat.

Praetor Aemellius Lukan, Instructor-General of Ironglass Military Academy

The Junker's two-pronged strategy for the prosecution of the Iskandrian War bears all the hallmarks of the Junker genius for opportunism and dissembling that has enabled a people with little wealth or natural resources to build a vast intergalactic empire. The time and chaos afforded by the Gladiator attack on the NZ allowed the Junkers to raise an enormous Legionary force and conquer large swathes of Iskandria Minor before any reinforcements had arrived to aid them, and their reliance on stockpiled neural spikes and arms to create an army almost overnight ensured that not only did they maintain the legality of the Partition Treaty, but that they would greatly outnumber the forces of every other member of the Alliance except for the Syntha who, for once, were more flagrant in their disregarding of Tripartite niceties than the Junkers themselves.

The rapid Junker successes quickly stalled into a quagmire, as the Legions became embroiled in heavy fighting with Syntha to their south, Koralon to the west, Triads to their rear, and renegade Gladiators bands seemingly everywhere at once. A joint Viridian and VASA expedition launched almost immediately after Operation Arkadian Dawn has also brought them into conflict with these powers in the Acreus Sector, and it is thought that some of the losses sustained by the Legions in the southwest were due not to alien or Syntha aggression but clandestine VASA raids.

But the Junkers also received large reinforcements with the Operation Arkadian Dawn, including much needed weaponry and material (including over half a million neural spikes), as well as their own equivalents of CLAU battlesuits piloted by a veteran ex-legionaries. Now, while the Iskandrian Legions entrench themselves in massive fortified barracks in sectors such as Sun City and Fors Mathori, the experienced off-world Legions have been thrown into the battle for the centre of Iskandria, rolling over much of the Syntha or Koralon held regions of the Eith Sector. Only the unexplained destruction of the Mornac Robcerc Farspanner prevented the Junkers from surging across the Ophidian Straits into Iskandria Major.

The unwieldy mass of the Legions has proven a difficult opponent to fight on the urban battlefield for, although relatively sluggish, unresponsive, and poorly motivated, the sheer numbers the Junkers have brought into the NZ has insured that they are the dominant force on Iskandria Minor. Already they have shown a desire to establish a toe-hold on their sister continent and, if past Junker actions are anything to go by, the Ironglass Imperium rarely relinquishes ground it has paid for in blood. Thus far Viridia and VASA have been reluctant to criticize Junker conquest and looting, being glad of any pressure exerted against the more pressing dangers of the Koralon and Syntha, but both share the fear of what unchecked Junker expansion and militarism will mean for Iskandria should the present crisis be averted. The Iskandrian War shows no signs of stopping.

  • Junker Landscape 1
  • Legionary
  • Praetorian