Formation of the 18 Colonies (Part 2)
With Bagwell City reaching a population of nearly two hundred thousand in three years, expansion raced ahead full sprint. Fifteen ship building companies opened their doors in Bagwell City, along with twenty-five thousand new companies building ships on Earth. Every business with available capital spent excessively for the dual benefit of being on the cutting edge and of finding new resources.
By 2910, eighteen planets had colonies of varying sizes as well as countless outposts for mineral harvesting. Though the planets were settled, they were still mostly extensions of Bagwell City since food, resources and a majority of manufacturing tools were imported through the city from Earth. The inter-dependence of the planets was to be sorely tested in the coming days.
In the last month of 2910, an unexpected solar flare wiped out all automated charting bots and early warning systems. Two weeks later, a massive meteor storm-swept through Bagwell City’s drop zone, curling around the planet and bombarding the unpopulated side.
For four weeks, Adrien Donjou, the unofficial head of Bagwell City, sent requests to Bulwark for food. His requests were denied. In the third week, when it became clear that Earth would not send relief, Donjou implemented drastic cuts to rations. Another week passed till first estimates from planet based scanners showed the meteors would continue at least 3 more months. Adrien Donjou sent one final request to Earth. The request was denied and he boarded a ship and flew through meteors for the E-prop.
He somehow survived and made it to Earth, where he pled and threatened for Bulwark to do something. An excerpt from his now famous speech is below.
“When men cower behind the word “impossible,” dreams turn to nightmares. When “impossible” causes the death of another human, nightmares turn to reality. If Earth fails to act now, when starvation stares down its 18 colonies – my friends and family – your nightmares will be haunted by the reality of our deaths.”
~ Adrien Donjou, 12-30-2910, Speech before Bulwark General Assembly
The speech was leaked to the public and it was later calculated that within six hours, one-quarter of the globe had watched Donjou’s appeal for assistance. Assistance is what he received. Countless corporate sponsors, as well as billions of individual donors fitted out a fleet of twelve freight carriers with food and supplies. Thousands of pilots volunteered to return with Donjou; eleven were chosen.
Witnessing the global outpouring of support, the General Assembly called an emergency session that night and passed an immediate measure of support. By the time they adjourned, Donjou and his small fleet of heroes were racing for the E-prop; if they could reach the dock before it popped, they would avoid a three-day wait.
When the ships dropped out of Fate Wait four weeks later, they clustered together and made for Bagwell City. Three ships were destroyed by meteors, but their flattened frames shielded the remaining nine which safely arrived.
Donjou was greeted by a ghost town on his arrival. The relay repeater, which was mounted to the E-prop, had been swept away by the meteors. No one in Bagwell City was aware of what transpired on Earth; no one knew supplies were inbound. He also learned something even more incredible. Though already low on supplies, the people of Bagwell City scraped together shipments of food and sent it to the outer 17 colonies.
After the meteor storm passed, Earth re-established contact and poured in supplies. The damage was done, however, and the colonies voted to establish a monarchy, entirely independent of Earth’s influence, and Adrien Donjou was the first king. All future negotiations between the colonies and Earth would be handled by him.
Earth rejected the colonies’ right to autonomous rule and sent delegates to demand that Adrien Donjou publicly denounce the position. Far from complying, Donjou refused to allow the delegates permission to land. They were forced to return to Earth. Bulwark was infuriated and sent two warships in the early part of 2911. They forced a landing, stormed the city, and took Donjou prisoner to face charges of treason on Earth.
The charges were never made. Public outcry on Earth forced Bulwark to back down. The colonies were also threatening to suspend all mineral shipments, forever, unless Donjou was returned immediately. After three tense days, Adrien Donjou was again on his way to the colonies. When he arrived, there were loud calls for an immediate separation from Earth, barring essential shipments.
In his first public speech as king, Donjou rejected these demands but, at the same time, he laid out a plan for the colonies to provide for themselves. Panache was pinpointed as a planet with fertile soil capable of growth which needed to be exploited. The effort was begun with enthusiasm. Within two years, Panache was supplying enough food for the 18 colonies, with excess. In wake of the meteor famine of 2910, laws were passed that no food could ever be sold to Earth. At the time, the law was symbolic, but now it carried weight, and none of the excess was exported.
His vision was rewarded with a concerted effort over the next 30 years to create a self-sustaining economy. The efforts were so successful that by 2933 analysts calculated only half of the colonial economy was supplied by Earth.
Displeased with the extreme, anti-Earth approach of the colonies, Bulwark reacted when Adrien Donjou proposed the implementation of a colonial security force. An embargo was placed on weapons of any kind. Donjou responded with a scathing speech to Earth about their heavy-handed approach and openly questioned what gave them the right to dictate policy in the 18 colonies. The speech resulted in an expansion of the embargo to include minerals needed for weapons like: metal, carbon elements and chromic acid (required for weapon-grade metal purification).
Instead of backing down, Donjou escalated the tit-for-tat and called for a vote to separate in all but commercial trade from Bulwark’s influence. The vote passed with 87% support. When asked if separation from Earth was Donjou’s plan from the beginning, he refused to answer. Historians have combed through every correspondence to find some clue as to his intentions, but the only definitive fact that can be gleaned is that he was completely disgusted by Bulwark’s refusal to prevent mass starvation. It’s probably fair to assume, but not definitively known, that this event shaped his future actions.
Again, “Dirty Merchants” resurfaced and transported the banned substances through the embargo and, again, Earth branded them pirates. It’s a testament to their efficiency that the embargo remained in place for over a hundred years, yet the effects were never felt. The weapons were designed by the thousands of engineers and scientists sent by Earth in the early settlement days. When the embargo was finally lifted, the Dirty Merchants didn’t disappear but formed a secret group which we now know as the Emporium.
The first test of the monarchy came in 2987 during the dust storm on Wakowee. Adrien Donjou ordered marines to clear civilians from the storm’s path and take them into orbit. Several families refused to move and opened fire on the marines. The marines returned fire and, in the end, thirteen miners and two marines were dead. The clash became known as the Dust Bowl Conflict. When the king gave his speech, he called a moment of silence for “the fine duster boys and their sacrifice.” The name stuck and marines have since carried the nickname “Duster Boys.”
King Adrien Donjou died the next day at the age of 132.