May 12-22, 2184
“We’ve gone to a popular vote to endorse each step, right back to the Continental Referendum two years ago.” Safreth paced his office, too agitated to settle down behind his desk. “I don’t want to break that precedent, especially now. But we can’t wait six weeks to respond to this. Monroe ordered the Terran Military to open fire on civilians, on our people, just for wanting to stay in their homes. He implicitly ordered his own troops to mutiny against their officers if they didn’t go along. He deliberately tied to set up a bloodbath, and we’re dusted lucky he didn’t get one. We cannot let that pass. Monroe has the backing of his cabinet, of the Parliament, and according to the opinion polls of a solid majority of the planetside population. It’s no use pretending we have any place in the Terran Federation any more.”
Arthur Norris remained calmly in his chair, watching the governor pace. “I agree, but if you want to put this to another referendum, we’re still stuck with the Charter requirement for a minimum six weeks between announcing a special election, and election day itself.”
“We’ve been stomping on legalities since we had the vote to reject evacuation,” Safreth answered. “There’s no practical reason why we couldn’t set up the election program and have it running on the Colony nets by tomorrow.”
“No practical reason, but every ideological reason,” Norris said. “We’ve stomped on Terran legalities as they turned against us. Start stomping on the Colony Charter and we lose legitimacy as the Colonial government— we’re looking to declare independence, not anarchy.” He called up a calendar on his screen, and counted down the display with one finger. “Besides, there could be a political advantage to the required delay— six… seven weeks from now, seven and a half, we could have the election on the Fourth of July. We’re a North American Colony, that would have some resonance. Independence Day. Could provide some enthusiasm.”
Shook his head, and waved off the idea. “Whatever enthusiasm we have isn’t going to be about honoring bits of our Terran heritage. Anyway, that’s the problem— if we need to raise enthusiasm, it means we’ve already missed our window. The enthusiasm, the outrage, is right now. Today. While people are still thinking about what might have happened.” As if he’d run out of battery power, Safreth suddenly stopped pacing and collapsed into the chair behind his desk. He leaned forward on his elbows, rubbing his eyes. “Dust! Talking about what might have happened— can you imagine if Monroe hadn’t shot down Armstrong’s idea about sabotaging the lifesystems? We weren’t prepared for that. We could be sitting here planning evacuation instead of independence.”
“Do you think Armstrong would have really done it?”
“Yes.” Safreth lowered his hands. “I’ve talked to him over and over these last few months. I know him. He never agreed with Monroe, but he was no mutineer. Given a bloodless way to complete his mission, he’d have done it without hesitating. It was only being forced to start killing people that made him finally refuse.”
“Then I guess we are lucky Monroe didn’t go for it.” Norris shook his head. “Bit of a puzzle, that. Why nix a plan that would have worked, in favor of a fight he had to know his troops would lose?”
“Monroe wanted the violence. Wanted to put video of it on the newsnets, to keep people angry and keep him in power, keep them from realizing he has no actual plans to govern the Federation.”
“But does that make sense? Up until then, every indication was that Monroe’s a true believer in his Born-to-the-Earth stuff, that the Colonies are destroying the planet by siphoning off its air. As scientifically bogus as it was, he and his party really believed it. He should have jumped at the chance to force us down. Propaganda videos or not, why pick a plan that’ll kill people and fail over one that’ll succeed without killing anyone?”
Safreth shrugged. “Why does he keep talking about red lights and shadows in his latest speeches? Maybe he’s just gone nuts. I don’t really care what goes on in Monroe’s head, or any of the rest of the planetside fanatics. The Terran government crossed a line. It’s time for the Colonies to get out.”
Norris leaned back in his chair, folding his hands. “If you want to move now, with all the present outrage behind you, then forget calling another referendum. Take it to the Colonial legislature.”
“I’d rather not go that way, we’ve gone out of our way to confirm every move with a popular vote.”
“But this time you’re not asking for the population to express their opinions on a course of action, you’re proposing an actual change in Star City’s legal/governmental status. That’s basically a legislative function.”
“Legal technicalities, over something that’s illegal to begin with?”
“Again— independence, not anarchy. Let it be an act of the Colonial government operating within its own proper channels— if not Earth’s. Hold a special election to ratify the move with a Charter amendment later, if you want history to stamp it with the popular seal of approval.”
“How did it come to this?” Safreth slowly shook his head. “Two years ago Taylor campaigned against me for governor by accusing me of disloyalty to Earth over the continental referendum, and I was insulted. Not just officially, for campaign purposes, I took that as a personal insult. Now here I am.” He was silent for a long time, staring vaguely at the walls of the governor’s office. Finally, he said, “Get the legal team to draft a resolution. I want to submit it to the Legislature for a vote by the end of the week.”
* * *
In a special session on Sunday May 16, 2184, after a brief debate with no voices speaking in opposition, the Star City Colonial Legislature voted unanimously to declare independence from the Terran Federation.
A hundred years previously, in the midst of the Unification War, the Federation was created with the express purpose of forming a single government for the whole human race, in hopes that once the Allies achieved victory in that war, no war would ever again occur. As a government so conceived, it effectively ceased to exist on that day in mid-May— although years more would pass before the Federation itself recognized the fact.
Star City had taken the lead throughout the crisis, ever since the 2182 election when the Continental Referendum was defeated and Alexander Monroe elected president. Now, the other Colonies again swiftly followed its lead.
On May 17, Promise, New Athens, and Marta declared independence.
On May 18, Aurora, Gandhi, Nova, Orion, Delta, and Shuraku.
On May 19, Prometheus, Churchill, Atrides, Polar Star, and Lincoln.
On May 20, New Tokyo, Uplift, New Washington, and Copernicus.
On Friday May 21, Einstein, Galileo, New London, Marshenko, and Atlantis.
Less than a week after Star City’s declaration, all twenty-four of the Offworld Colonies recognized as states under the Terran Federation had declared their independence.
Events continued to move almost as rapidly as the initial wave of independence declarations. Representatives from all twenty-four Colonies met in a convention aboard Aurora, the first O’Neill Colony to be constructed, the following week. The convention discussed plans for the unification of the Colonies into a new offworld nation. Much of the required framework already existed: it had been prepared for the anticipated offworld continental government. Two years earlier the referendum to form the new Continental Directorate passed by large margins in the vote of every Colony, but lost due to the far larger planetside population voting against it. Now, Colonial voters would get their way.
On June 16 the Convention formally submitted to the Colonial Legislatures its proposal for the unification of the Colonies under a government structured as a Continental Directorate. The only opposition, from some pundits and politicians, centered around the lack of many of the provisions of the Terran Constitution in the design of a simple directorate. The Convention continued in session to discuss how to adapt the Terran Constitution to their new, offworld nation.
On June 23, with an amendment attached that the unification would not take effect until a final Constitution was available for ratification, the Colonial Legislatures approved the proposal.
The Constitution finally submitted was an almost word-for-word copy of the Terran Constitution, with a few exceptions. It made adjustments for the fact that the new nation would have only one “continent” and therefore combined the offices of President with Continental Director, and the Parliament with the Continental legislature. Reacting to the current crisis, it severely limited the President’s authority to declare emergency powers, requiring the ratification of a majority of Colonial governments to grant such powers, rather than granting them automatically without a veto. And it included in the Table of Rights a provision that no agency of the government had authority to order an involuntary evacuation of any Colony or smaller orbital platform.
On July 12, the Colonial Legislatures again voted to ratify the new Constitution, at which point the earlier vote to accept unification in principle also took effect.
History has lost the information on who designed it, but a flag for the new UOC was unveiled in a ceremony on the same day, in the Sunside Dome District of Star City. It depicted twenty-four stars for the twenty-four Colonies, arranged reflecting their positions in Earth orbit, Lunar orbit, and the L4 and L5 points.
The name of the new nation was the United Offworld Colonies.
TO BE CONTINUED