Portfolio: Bremen Defense Force

Writer’s Note: This portfolio was originally published in Jump Point 4.10.

With the launch of the UEE’s “Militia Mobilization Initiative,” the role that militias play in protecting the Empire has come front and center. The current directive aims to help arm civilian militias, so they can protect their homeworld and system against Vanduul incursions and outlaws. One system where militias have played a prominent role for centuries is Bremen — home to the famous Bremen Defense Force, which is the longest constantly active militia in the UEE.

Bremen was a relatively quiet and safe frontier system following its discovery in 2441. That all changed with the onset of the Second Tevarin War. The armadas of Corath’Thal utilized insurgency tactics to wage an unpredictable and shifting war against Humanity. With little idea as to where or when they might attack next, the UEE needed to raise a massive and expanding force in order to protect the populace, one that they struggled to properly feed. It was then that the fertile soil of Rytif (Bremen II) became the main producer of rations for UEE forces.

With this responsibility came both great wealth and an unexpected degree of danger. Bremen’s location meant the chance of a Tevarin attack was relatively low, but residents still noticed an uptick in Human threats. These outlaws were smart enough to avoid targeting military convoys, instead concentrating their attacks on civilians enriched by the system’s booming economy.

Philippe Lattimore almost lost his life in one such outlaw attack. The spry octogenarian was a veteran of the First Tevarin War who attempted to reenlist in the Navy when the second one began. After his application was politely denied, Lattimore took it upon himself to patrol the system. He spent his days responding to distress calls and meticulously documenting his experience. One day he answered a distress call only to be overwhelmed by outlaws still picking apart their latest catch. He barely survived the attack and although it was a close call, it didn’t deter him. In fact, it only made him more resolute to stop what was happening in Bremen, and he realized one thing: he wasn’t going to be able to do this alone.

In 2605, Lattimore met with Arcturus Koerner, Rytif’s largest landowner and de facto governor, to ask for funds to create the Bremen Defense Force (BDF). Legend has it that Lattimore spoke, uninterrupted, for over an hour about his recent experiences. He presented the detailed reports he had compiled while on patrol, highlighted the system’s current crime stats, and argued that it was vital for the people of Bremen to stand together to keep their system safe. Once done, Koerner only had one question, “How much do you need?”

Weeks later, the Bremen Defense Force was up and running. Under Lattimore’s leadership, the system’s crime rate was quickly cut in half and remained that way for years to come. Being a member of the Bremen Defense Force became a major point of pride for those ineligible or unable to fight for the UEE Navy during the war. A proud tradition that carries over to this day.

Peacetime Problems

Following the end of the Second Tevarin War, the UEE armed forces’ demand for foodstuffs from Rytif was greatly reduced, yet the landowner collective known as Bremen Mills didn’t slow production. They had become an economic powerhouse in the Empire’s grain market, and had quickly shifted their focus to supplying food for the public. Security for these food shipments were of the utmost importance, and Bremen Mills quickly realized that subsidizing the Bremen Defense Force was cheaper than hiring full time private security forces.

This arrangement worked relatively well until the grain market crashed in 2640. Bremen Mills suffered a severe financial hit and was forced to cut funds to the BDF. In addition, millions of jobs related to the grain market were lost, and Bremen saw its population dwindle. Suddenly, the BDF was on a precipice. Lacking funding and losing members, many thought it didn’t have a chance to survive.

Though he had stepped away from running the militia’s day-to-day operations due to failing health, Philippe Lattimore once again got heavily involved to save the BDF. He made appeals to private citizens to donate time or equipment and called upon local businesses to provide financial support. Now, more than ever, he argued, Bremen was in need of a strong militia to protect its people during the insecurity of these tough economic times.

Many resisted until in 2642 the Advocacy’s Travel Safety Advisory System (TSAS) upgraded the system’s threat level to “Medium,” its highest threat level to date. Worried that Bremen’s safe reputation was on the line, the public and private sector rededicated themselves to ensuring the system’s security. Since the Bremen Defense Force was already so deeply ingrained, the powers that be figured it would be quicker and cheaper to get it running at full capacity rather than expanding Rytif’s anemic police force.

Public and private funds once again were funneled to the BDF and a widespread ad campaign to recruit volunteers was kicked off.

Some balked at the system’s main defense force not being a wholly government-run operation, but it was impossible to argue with the results, as the system’s threat level soon dropped back to its previous level. This action also reinforced the tradition of Bremen relying on militias instead of normal police forces for their security. This was a unique practice when compared to other systems, and one that revolutionaries would eventually take advantage of to help bring down the Messer regime.

Revolutionary Road

Over the years, a number of other militias rose to prominence in Bremen, though none ever achieved the sophistication of the BDF. The system’s reputation for being relatively safe persisted and remained a point of pride. It was only because of this that the Messer regime didn’t insist that a more centralized, and controllable, security apparatus be installed. With the rising Vanduul threat on one front and the cold war with the Xi’an on another, the Messer regime didn’t see a reason to change a system that was working for them. Yet, it was the Bremen Defense Force’s decentralized nature that allowed anti-Messer activists to exploit it to their benefit.

According to reports released during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the Messers ran several concurrent operations that implanted loyal agents into the militia to monitor its activity. The militia stayed non-committal to Messer regime policies and deflected pressure to take sides on anything not directly related to Bremen. They changed their motto to “Bremen Above All,” and instructed volunteers to not discuss Empire-wide politics while on duty. To avoid like-minded individuals consistently pairing up, patrol partners were randomly selected at roll call.

Actions like this helped the militia maintain their autonomy through the centuries of Messer rule. As the tide of public opinion turned against the despotic rulers, a brave faction within the BDF, unbeknownst to other volunteers, began to use the cover of the militia to smuggle anti-Messer activists through the system. This activity reached a fever pitch following the Massacre of Garron II in 2792.

The events of this time in the militia’s history were captured in The Bremen Beltway, a harrowing account of what it was like to work this part of “revolutionary road.” The book compiled interviews with former militia members and anti-Messer activists, journal excerpts, and declassified government documents to paint a picture of the extreme danger involved with smuggling revolutionaries through the system. Most of the activists were first smuggled from their system of origin into Xi’an territory and eventually into Nyx. That made Bremen the port of reentry into UEE, and a particularly perilous part of the journey. Without this secure gateway back into the Empire, many believe the overthrow of Imperator Linton Messer XI would not have happened nearly as quickly as it did. This only highlights the importance of high ranking BDF officials guaranteeing the revolutionaries safe passage through the system.

For nearly three and a half centuries, the Bremen Defense Force has been the standard that all other militias are held up to. Comprising a coalition of dedicated volunteers and funded by both public and private interests, the BDF has placed the security of their system above all else. When RSI looked to include militias in the design process of the Polaris, the BDF was their first call. Militia members consulted on the design and were among the first to purchase the new capital ship for their fleet. BDF officials can’t wait to put the Polaris to use, in the defense of the system they believe is their responsibility over anyone else to protect

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