2949 Queen of Marduk.
Marduk is one of the few star systems in the human sphere with a system-wide unified government. The system was taken into possession by the Marduk Colonial Corporation (MCC) in 2647 and then was colonized with great effort. Over the course of 300 years, the political system took many turns, from a colony run by corporate management to a self-governed parliamentary republic, then a direct networked democracy, an influencer oligarchy and at last effectively a monarchy.
Early on the Marduk Colonial Corporation installed radio buoys throughout the system that communicated their ownership to any newcomer. Actually, there is no interstellar law that would allow a corporation to claim sovereignty over an entire star system. Such was neither possible under the law of the then still ruling Interian Empire nor within the legal framework of the Solar Coalition. Nevertheless, MCC claimed to own the system with all planets enforcing their opinion vigorously. New immigrants had to submit to MCC rules. If they did not do so voluntarily, they were forced to comply or fought uncompromisingly. For this purpose, MCC maintained a small flotilla of mobile weapons platforms relying primarily on long-range missiles for power projection.
Usually, newcomers to sparsely populated star systems do not expect to get into territorial conflicts with earlier settlers. Star systems are so large that new settlers can easily set up their colony almost anywhere without disturbing others. Besides the rare habitable planets, there are countless asteroids and moons of gas giants where enough space and resources are to be found. Modern technology can make these objects habitable with beehive habitats, surface domes, and open areas on otherwise inhospitable celestial bodies. Even thousands of independent settlements usually do not get in each other's way. Therefore, new arrivals do not expect any resistance. Furthermore, they are neither willing nor equipped to fight for their new land.
In the Marduk system things were different. The dominating company held up its claims by force. After a few incidents where MCC fired at unruly newcomers, independent settlers avoided Marduk. After all, there were plenty of potential systems where no one was acting as top dog. Most of the emigrants from Sol did not have a specific system in mind as their destination. They primarily wanted to get away from the Sol system which lacked free attractive spaces. At this time, all celestial bodies and larger moons within Saturn's orbit had already been taken possession of. Only the outer rim still offered plenty of space. In other words: if you did not want to see Sol only just as the brightest star in an eternal night, you had to submit to some authority. Since many were leaving the Sol system to gain sovereignty, submitting to MCC rule was not an option. Therefore from 2680 on independent settlers basically ignored Marduk. So, the Marduk Colonial Corporation had achieved its first goal.
In the middle of the 27th century humankind looked already back at 100 years of interstellar colonization. Settlers tried many different approaches. Some set up shop on planets, others on smaller celestial bodies. Some built habitats in space while others preferred solid ground. There were all conceivable forms of organization. There were successes and failures. Some colonies prospered; others could hardly survive. There were so many activities and approaches that patterns began to emerge. One clearly visible trend made it clear that human interstellar expansion was chaotic. At the beginning of the emigration wave, many had dreamed of a politically unified human sphere. Some had wished for a federation, others for an empire. But in fact, the expansion was completely unplanned and uncontrolled. Not even individual star systems were united. A common political organization of all systems settled by Humans on an interstellar level was out of the question. Some people began to worry that humanity would not be united enough to be able to stand up to other interstellar powers if that should ever be necessary.
Some of these people decided to do something about it. The Marduk Colonial Corporation was formed specifically with the intent of establishing a strong politically unified star system. The Marduk system was then supposed to become the nucleus of a later interstellar empire. But these were distant dreams. First, they had to establish and maintain dominion over a single star system. Then the system had to be populated and an efficient interplanetary economy had to be created. This seemed feasible with the appropriate financial outlay. Though, it was clear from the beginning that this enterprise would be expensive and that it would take a long time.
At the time of the MCC founding, most of the 20 billion people in the Sol system live in reasonable prosperity. The average standard of living is much higher than at the time of the first moon landing. Measured in terms of energy use (solar and fusion), resource consumption (strip-mining and asteroids), and labor output (upgrades and automation), the standard of living is now 10 times higher. And there are 10 times more wealthy people. The total productivity of the Sol system in materials and services is therefore about 100 times larger than in those days. In such a wealthy society, there are untold riches. There are old fortunes that have been growing for centuries. And there are new entrepreneurs who have taken advantage of the boom of the last decades serving a gigantic market. Some of these people are incredibly old. They now live in full-prostheses or as pure software constructs. They plan with a long time horizon not expecting a short-term return. With their investment in the MCC, they want to be among the founders of an interstellar empire. They dream of an empire. But even if it does not come to that, their investment buys at least the rule over whole continents with billions of inhabitants. Some people invest a significant part of their gigantic fortune to be among the initial shareholders.
Thus begins the Marduk Colonial Project, a project formerly known to insiders under the secret working title: Terran Empire of Marduk.
The Marduk Colonial Corporation has much more resources than most self-financed emigrant organizations. It does not just fund a single settlement with some orbital infrastructure, as is usually the case. Rather it plans to establish hundreds of outposts spread throughout the system featuring open areas on surfaces and a solid interplanetary presence. From the beginning, MCC also has a military component. The military is to ensure sovereignty and system unity.
The scale of the Marduk Project needs millions of people. And unlike most other emigration projects, the Marduk Project does not require settlers to contribute themselves financially. All necessary equipment and transportation are provided by the MCC. A marketing campaign mobilizes emigrants. It is the largest, longest, most expensive, complex, and influential marketing campaign ever.
A synthesis of Babylonian mythology and Roman tradition is the guiding principle for the marketing effort. The Babylonian component serves as the basis to address the "book religions" from traditional Islam and Catholicism to Caliphatism, and "Reformed United Christians in Space". The Roman republican element with an emphasis of Roman "virtus" is used to addresses a wide range of libertarians, minimalists, individualists, Euprepeists, and Yksityis followers. The Roman imperial connotation targets adherents of hegemonic ideologies that do not identify with the rather loose Solar Coalition of the modern Sol system.
Marketing agencies use this toolbox to construct a public image that is supposed to be positively perceived by as many of the Sol system's subcultures as possible. A hierarchy of campaigns provides each subculture, each religion, each ideology with appropriate memes to prepare the market. Personalized memes are then iterated aiming at individual members of target groups. The Marduk Colonial Corporation builds on latent desires and dissatisfactions to direct them toward participation in the Marduk Project as a solution. It uses state-of-the-art memetic techniques to penetrate the ubiquitous meme-filters. Personnel for key positions is recruited by all means possible from a pool of candidates. In isolated cases, the project even resorts to 0-day exploits in common meme-filters. Recruitment of the normal work force uses basically the same techniques, only with somewhat less penetrating power and without illegal meme exploits.
When the influx of independent settlers dries up because of the MCC's claim to power in the Marduk system, MCC ramps up recruiting through its image campaign. This is slower at first than the recruiting for other colonial projects, such as Rama, where there is an unregulated influx of immigrants. On the other hand, the MCC's way of selecting a population is more structured and, on average, of somewhat higher quality. Obviously, the MCC leadership is planning for the long term.
In 2647, after decades of meme-campaigns, technical preparations, and infrastructure setup, the transfer of personnel begins. Over the next several decades, millions of people and gigatons of material are transported to the Marduk system to kick-start the economy.
As part of the human sphere, Marduk is subject to the dramatic developments of the local sector. Early on the Kelrec blockade interrupts the volume transfer of personnel for several years. In the early 28th century during the First Kisor War, Marduk is cut off from the Sol system for 20 years. During this time, the economy stagnates. On the upside however Marduk, like other colonies, uses the time to consolidate and become economically independent from Sol. After the war, the human sphere enters a century of prosperity and Marduk continues to grow rapidly. In the 29th century, 200 years after its foundation, Marduk is already a regional power whose fleet is instrumental in defeating the so-called Pirate Kings.
Then, with the storm of the techno-barbarians beginning, interstellar trade collapses. Marduk is affected just like any developed system of the human sphere. But unlike most other star systems, Marduk is never occupied by barbarians. Even in the 30th century, as the Sol system does succumb to foreign rule, Marduk remains independent and relatively strong. Alliances with neighboring star systems contribute to keep the techno-barbarians at bay. However, alliance commitments are tested several times and Marduk must send fleets to defend allies, support guerilla warfare in occupied systems, and attack techno-barbarian strongholds. Yet, during this long and difficult period, the United System of Marduk succeeds in keeping its interstellar neighborhood mostly safe.
In total, three centuries pass. At the beginning, the system is run by the Marduk Colonial Corporation. But simulations and historical experience show that rule by a company becomes oppressive and unstable over time. Therefore, a transition to democracy has been planned from the beginning. However, human history also shows that even democracies do not function smoothly over the long term. Democracies do deform. Constitutions are reinterpreted and legal views can be changed beyond recognition. Sometimes interpretations can be reversed even though the original constitutional text remains unchanged. For this reason, the democratic form has been intended to last as long as possible. After democracy, a feudal phase has been planned, which would again be replaced by a democratic renaissance. And then, after several hundred years, during which time the political system would develop and change, Marduk would be supposed to make the leap beyond its own star system.
In 2680, after 30 years, the Marduk Colonial Corporation is split up and stripped of its executive privileges. A parliamentary legislature and an executive headed by a president take over the task of running the state and the star system. Yet, the real power in parliament still lies with the original shareholders because the seats in parliament represent territories divided among them. Instead of being elected representatives in parliament are drawn by lot among "eligible" citizens.
Initially only territorial owners are entitled to hold office. They represent real territories on planetary and asteroid surfaces. Over the following decades, and especially in times of crisis, calls for more democracy are to be heard time and again. In response, the eligibility to hold office is gradually expanded. Owners of artificial and virtual territories become also eligible, for example the builders of large space habitats, holders of mining rights, owners of intellectual property, managers of frequency spectra, and producers of network constructs. After 100 years the right to hold public office is even extended to tenants of large properties and licensees of usage rights. Since licenses and leases are unlimited in time and also inheritable, leaseholders have basically the same rights as the actual owners.
Through this construct, the original shareholders retain their sovereignty over territories while still being able to sell usage rights and thus jump-start a lucrative real estate and rights market. This process could be reversed by reinterpreting the constitution, if necessary, to take power back to the original shareholders, though.
The requirements for public office are further reduced and then virtually removed altogether at the beginning of the 29th century. At the end of the process, all conscious individuals are eligible for office including other species, children, software constructs and AI (in physical bodies over 20 kilograms), and fellow beings with higher cognitive abilities (like terrestrial primates). Though every thinking being is eligible, not all citizens are capable of holding office themselves. Therefore, some are represented by their guardians like children and less intelligent co-beings.
Dissatisfaction with economic conditions after the stock market crash in the mid-29th century leads to constitutional reform. All those previously entitled to hold office thus become themselves entitled to vote on all issues. Voting rights can be delegated on a topic-by-topic basis. For some time, a vibrant "liquid" democracy ensues.
It does not take long for many people to delegate their vote to others claiming to represent their interests. Thus, opinion aggregators emerge, first managed by committees and then by their chairpersons. These aggregators effectively form the first chamber of a two-chamber system. The original parliament of those drawn by lot turns into the second chamber. It still must approve laws while losing the right of budget and legislative initiative.
The opinion aggregators soon come under the financial influence of the old – and still very rich – shareholders and of the new money-aristocracy, effectively becoming agents of their sponsors, while rhetorically and memetically pretending to represent the interests of the voters. Politics turns into a constant struggle for attention, for memetic superiority, for funding, and for the number of delegated voting rights among aggregators and those striving to become aggregators.
By the early 30th century, the democratic facade of the aggregators is crumbling. After nearly a century of constant economic problems and outside threats, voters primarily want to be protected. A majority of the public regards ongoing aggregator misconduct, insider trading, corruption, and manipulation of the "liquid" democracy operating system as less important than their protection from internal and external threats. This allows politicians to push the boundaries of decency. By and by the system becomes corrupted to a degree not envisioned by the Marduk plan. The early removal of the Marduk Colonial Corporation from power was particularly intended to prevent such a development, now a corrupt system is emerging, nonetheless. The state of democracy is worrisome, but on the other hand, the situation opens a path to the feudal period planned all along. To this end, the combined economic power of the original shareholders supports a charismatic presidential candidate who is elected on a protectionist and xenophobic platform.
President Nid Pana manages to be re-elected several times despite countless scandals. During his terms, individuals from the old and new money-aristocracy assume the role of opinion aggregators. Finally, a constitutional reform establishes the Assembly of Aggregators as a permanent Senate and shifts the election of the president from the parliament of randomly selected citizens to the new assembly. The same reform package also strengthens the power of territorial owners over licensees and tenants. Licenses and leases, previously unlimited in time, must now be confirmed by the owner for each transfer, including for resale and inheritance. What seems to be a minor change is in fact a switch from a legally secured licensing system to arbitrary fiefdom, in other words, the beginning of feudalism for Marduk.
In 2949, President Pana suffers a fatal accident. His daughter Malikatun takes office. She has been in politics for 50 years and has been the president's right-hand woman for 12 years. The last six years she served as vice president making her the legitimate successor. Malikatun headed the constitutional reform commission, and her winning personality contributed significantly to the overwhelming success of the constitutional referendum. Ever since the referendum she is regarded the mother of the constitution.
As president, she is re-elected several times, just like her father. After the first 20 years of terms, regular reelection by the Senate becomes a formality. In the mid-31st century, the election must be deferred during a foreign policy crisis. The 31st century being a difficult period, one crisis is followed by another. Years later president Malikatun herself puts the election on the Senate's agenda. Based on this precedent, from then on, the presidential election by the Senate takes place on the proposal of the president.
Malikatun does not appoint a vice president for a long time. According to the constitution, the president is to nominate a vice president then to be confirmed by the Senate. However, the constitution does not specify a time period for the process. After a 70-year term, she names her son Tiberius Pana as vice president resigning shortly thereafter. Tiberius is confirmed by the Senate.
President Tiberius reigns for 120 years. He does not seek re-election.
The president of Marduk is now an absolute ruler while the feudal system unfolds in the Marduk system.
Malikatun is considered the founder of the dynasty.