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Emperors of the Rule of Man: Michael I

Chancellor Admiral Michael Kieran O'Connor
born -2170, ruled -2137 to -2108, died -2108.

The scion of an old Navy family (one of his ancestors commanded the Starleaper in the first Solomani interstellar mission, while another was the famous Manual Al-Badawi, hero of the 8th Interstellar War). Michael was born on Varward (capital of the Expanses Province) to Governor-General Kieran O'Connor. Kieran later became Chancellor to Empress Teresa and Emperor Yakov before retiring in -2145 (the position of Chancellor was created in Teresa's reign to head the imperial bureaucracy).

Michael had meanwhile joined the Navy, and won fame when he led a punitive strike against the Vargr in -2148. His rise was predictably rapid, and he was appointed Vice-Chancellor in a surprise move by Yakov in -2140 at the exteremely young age of 30. As Vice-Chancellor during Zhiang's short reign, he was largely responsible for the day to day running of the Imperial Court as well as deputising for the Chancellor as head of the bureaucracy, titular control of the military remained with the Chieft of Staff. His undoubted talent attracted powerful patrons, notably Admiral Hielenna Coulescu (a powerful faction leader within the Council of Noble Officers and commander of the Hub Fleet). His arrogance made him many enemies.

Shortly before Zhiang's death, Admiral Coulescu prevailed upon the ailing Emperor to name Michael as his successor. Michael replaced Admiral Tomute Nkueme, then Governor-General of Dingir and the Rim Province. Nkueme later proved to be a focal point for dissent within the Rule of Man. Michael ascended the throne as the sixth Emperor of the Rule of Man in -2137 upon Zhiang's death.

As Emperor, Michael stepped up the pace of reform, particularly in the old Vilani regions of the empire. The powers of the three great Vilani bureaux were further diluted in -2128, when their administrative functions were detached and transferred to the provincial governors.  From this point on, the bureaux would function as strictly commercial entities. In exchange of pledges of loyalty (and significant levies to the Navy), the Lancians and Darmine were granted increased autonomy. Several Lancial officers were promoted to senior naval posts, and a native Darmine was named Governor-General of Ilelish Province.

From -2125, Michael faced increasingly vocal opposition from the rimward sections of the empire, where the worlds of the old Terran Confederation continued to have difficulty in adapting to their vastly reduced influence in the Rule of Man. Led by the flamboyant Governor-General Nkueme, they demanded the same concessions granted to the Lancians and Darmine. Nkueme was dismissed from his post in -2120, but continued what had now become a personal feud against the Emperor. He called Michael's legitimacy as Emperor into question, and claimed that Zhiang had been coerced into changing his successor. Faced with rising discontent in the Rim Province, Michael angrily ordered a crackdown in -2118. Warrants were issued for the arrest of Nkueme and his senior followers, as well as other known dissenters (including the rights activist Academician Valentin Sakharov). Nkueme avoided arrest, and spent the next four years on the run from the authorities.

Meanwhile, the discontent in the Solomani Rim had turned ugly with the outbreak of widespread rioting at Assumption Day (a commemoration of Hiroshi I's coup in -2204) celebrations on Dingir. The riots were suppressed, but at considerable cost of life and property. Michael prepared to declare martial law on key worlds in the province, including Dingir, Agidda and Terra. By this time however, he was also faced with opposition from large sections of the Council of Noble Officers. Much of the council maintained ties and sympathies with the old confederation worlds, while Michael's arrogance and stubborness had alienated others.

The crisis escalated to the point where large sections of the Fleet were thought to be close to mutiny by late -2117. Faced with likely rebellion and civil war, Michael was forced into an embarrassing backdown and compromise. Under the Rim Autonomy Decree of -2117, the worlds rimward of Diaspora Province would be granted considerable local autonomy, including the power to levy taxes on and regulate interstellar trade. In return, they abandoned their more extreme demands, including veto powers over the Imperial succession and the right to raise their own navy. Additionally, the powers of the Governor-General of Rim Province were downgraded - to the point where he became little more than the commander of Imperial Naval forces in the province.

The compromise was ratified in -2113, and led directly to the formation of the Terran Mercantile Community in the following year. Although the emperor was left free to concentrate on the vast majority of Imperial territory coreward of the Rim Province, the compromise represented a significant defeat for Michael, and left him embittered. He became more and more reclusive from this point onwards, content to rule the empire through his Navy and his bureaucracy.

During the last years of his rule the Vargr began stepping up raiding activities from their bases coreward of the Rule of Man. These raids culminated in the Battle of Muurim in -2109, when Admiral Severin Estigarribia (later Hiroshi III) struck at and destroyed Vargr fleets massing outside the frontier.