Continuing our series on the setting for Shot Heard Around the Universe is a look at the world of Kentai, one of the oldest colonies in Beyond Sector.
The Sovereign of Kentai can trace his lineage back unbroken through dozens of generations to a time when his ancestors were rulers on Earth. When news broke that the Earth was dying, one of those ancestors decided to travel to the stars with his loyal subjects and seek out a new world they could rule over.
The people of Kentai revere their leaders as literal divine beings. All authority derives from the Sovereign, and his or her word is law. Ministers are appointed or dismissed at the Sovereigns pleasure and any decision they make may be overturned on a whim. Every citizen of Kentai is raised from birth knowing that their life will be spent in the service of a greater power, and they are fanatically devoted to their work.
Military service is deemed the highest possible form of service, and accordingly the Kentai Grand Fleet is the largest and arguably the most potent local force in Beyond Sector. While technically the Sovereign maintains a Prime Minister and even an elected body to advise him, in practice his closest advisors are all senior military officers.
The Kentai Empire (as it was then known) expanded rapidly on acquiring Jump Drive technology. The Kentai cultural dedication to their Emperor quickly set the trend for their interactions with other worlds. First contact between Kentai and Matisse took place when a Matisse trade ship jumped into Kentai space, seeking new markets. The Kentai were most pleased to receive this tribute from their Emperor’s new subject, a notion which greatly offended the freedom-loving Matisseans. The situation quickly escalated when the traders were executed for insulting the Emperor, and the first of many Kentai-Matisse wars began.
The bitter rivalry between Kentai and Matisse has been the defining fact of pre-Imperial history in Beyond Sector. Periods of détente where the conflict was limited merely to diplomatic manoeuvring, espionage, and mutual trade sanctions were frequently interspersed with outbreaks of war. Matisse and Kentai both maintain large and powerful navies, and it is highly likely that either one of them could have unified Beyond Sector under their leadership. Unfortunately, their mutual rivalry has instead blighted the growth of the sector.
The declaration of the Reunification War shocked the people of Kentai not because a new power had arrived on the scene, but because some interloper dared to call themselves Emperor, the equal of the Kentai Sovereign. The world was whipped into a war frenzy, and the entire Grand Fleet was dispatched to bring these upstarts to heel.
The Battle of Highguard was the largest single engagement of the war, as the massed Grand Fleet attacked the Imperial 8th Battle Fleet. The Kentai attacked with a savagery that surprised the advancing Imperial forces, who had been briefed to expect only light resistance. The Imperial Navy suffered heavy losses, including the battleships Cleon’s Fist and Nuevo Cadiz. It was not enough. Imperial forces rallied, with reinforcements from the 6th Fleet and Task Force Burrows jumping in system to join the fight. Most admirals would have ordered a retreat at this point, but Admiral Yamato instead ordered the Grand Fleet to press the attack into railgun range. After the first pass, the Imperial Navy had lost three more battleships and countless smaller escorts. The Kentai Grand Fleet had functionally ceased to exist. Highguard is preserved as a war grave to this day.
When news of the scale of the disaster reached Kentai, whispered rumours indicate that the Emperor briefly suffered a breakdown, roaming the halls of his palace demanding that Yamato give him back his fleet. Acting in his name, his ministers ordered a crash re-armament programme and began fortifying the whole planet. Much of the population was armed and given basic training to resist the occupation which would surely follow.
The Imperial Navy was stung by the losses inflicted by the Kentai and had no intention of carrying out a costly occupation. They opened negotiations with a stinging orbital bombardment. In line with Imperial Navy doctrine, the first wave of attacks destroyed the Kentai Emperor’s Winter Palace, and the memorial at the landing site of the original colony ship. When no surrender was forthcoming, the fleet devastated the industrial cities of Kyogu and Panmun, causing hundreds of thousands of civilian casualties. It was at that point that the Kentai Emperor emerged from isolation and in a planetwide broadcast, announced the unconditional surrender of his world.
The terms of surrender were harsh. Heavy reparations were demanded to pay for the lost Imperial ships; strict limits were placed on the size of the Kentai Fleet; and worst of all, the Emperor had to renounce his imperial title and swear fealty to the Terran Space Empire. This last clause almost scuppered the peace talks and remains a sore point to this day. Rather than officially adopt a lesser title, the Kentai refer to their leader as the Sovereign. Whenever he or she must have an official title (for example, at official functions), the sovereign uses one of their lesser titles as a courtesy title – usually, Baron Panmun.