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Artem Yuryevich Meshcheryakov PhD (born 16 July 3238) is a Terran colonial politician, businessman, university professor, and former soldier who is currently serving as Planetary Governor of Keystone. He was elected in 3282 as the first elected Governor of the planet in over three centuries, and won re-election in 3288.

Prior to election to public office, he was an Associate Professor at the Keystone Institute of Technology, lecturing on applied physics, ballistic science, and forensic science. He also managed a consulting firm, A.M. Ballistics, LLC; he consulted law enforcement agencies and private groups on ballistic data analysis, provided through his ballistics laboratory located on the KIT campus. He assisted in the solving of several high-profile criminal cases, including the assassination of Prefect Richard Hawking of Dusken in 3280. Prior to his education and academic career, he was a veteran of the Great War, having served in and briefly led the legendary Lonely Hearts.

Following the Keystone Incident, Meshcheryakov entered himself as a candidate in the planetary gubernatorial election. He campaigned through 3281 on a platform of reducing corruption, supporting local business and industry, increasing agricultural exports, and restoring peace to a planet torn by civil war, terrorist attacks, and rampant banditry. He won a plurality of votes in the election on 5 January 3282 and was sworn into office on 12 January 3282. His government consisted mostly of technocrats and educated professionals, and fulfilled most of his reform promises. He was re-elected in a landslide in 3288 to a second, and again in 3294 to a third.

Early life

Artem Yuryevich Meshcheryakov was born on July 16th, 3238 to Yuri Vasilyevich Meshcheryakov (b. 3201), a rancher, and Anna Nikolaevna Mironova (b. 3212), an air traffic controller, in the city of Hammond on the planet Keystone. His father pushed Artem from an early age to enter the family business and learn his trade. His mother, frail of health, died when he was 7 years old in 3245. His parents bore a few children before and after Artem's birth, including two daughters (Anastasia, born 3231; Yulia, born 3235) and a son (Anatoly, born 3241).

Artem Meshcheryakov was home schooled much of his life, and learned the trade of animal husbandry and basic business practices from his father. Living in the provincial wilderness on his family's ranch, he also learned horseback riding, archery, and how to use firearms. The latter of which would come in handy during his later military service. At age 17, he enrolled at Fort Dusken Community College in its agricultural sciences programs, but after taking an astrophysics class--reportedly he misread its name in the directory for "agrophysics"--he took an interest in the physical sciences and changed his major to physics. He graduated in 3258 as an Associate of Arts in Physical Sciences.

Military service

After graduation, he returned to his father's ranch to help with tending the livestock and taking care of the property. However, in August of 3258, his father suffered a heart attack and almost died; he received medical attention in time, but was severely weakened. His sisters took over management of the ranch. In December, at the urging of his father, he decided to take time out of his family life to enlist in the military, as his father had done in the colonial militia. On 9 February 3259 he went to the Fort Dusken recruiting station and enlisted in the Terran Imperial Army. He reported for basic training at Fort Hill, Keystone and was transferred offworld to Walden for Infantry School and Harsh Environment Training. His prior experience with firearms and horseback riding gave him preferential selection into the elite Imperial Army Cavalry Corps. In 3260, he was deployed to 1st Platoon, C Company, 505th Dragoons of the 12th Guards Cavalry division in the Outer Colonies with the rank of Specialist. Initially assigned as an assistant gunnery specialist, he became responsible for assisting the platoon Master Sergeant with maintaining the unit's weaponry and keeping stock of its armoury. In 3264, the 12th Guard Cavalry was mobilized for police action in the Perseid Frontier, and Meshcheryakov was reassigned to a rifle squad under Sergeant Edward Malcolm Pepper. He was shifted in rank, though within the same pay grade, to the rank of Corporal and given command responsibility over the squad's fire-support team.

Meshcheryakov was present for the unit's many exploits over the years, and its transformation in the famed Lonely Hearts squad. In September 3265, the Great War began and the 12th Guards Cavalry was mobilized for immediate deployment, first seeing action against the Soviet Republic in December at the Battle of Kalabaska. Meshcheryakov's squad was the only one in C Company that survived intact, which earned them their moniker. The unit earned several commendations for gallantry for the battle, and Meshcheryakov earned the Bronze Star and the Close Combat Badge in Silver. Meshcheryakov and the 12th Guards Cavalry were garrisoned at Kalabaska from March to August 3266. For eight months afterwards, they were redeployed for policing duties on various other worlds in the end-stages of capture. In May 3267, they were deployed as part of a large task force to capture the Khoz System. Along with two Marine divisions, and another fourteen reinforcing Army divisions, the 12th Guards Cavalry were landed on the surface of Khoz Prime. The Battle of Khoz turned out to be one of the largest battles of the Great War, with Khoz Prime being the locus of the battle. The fighting lasted six months, during which the 12th Guards Cavalry at first encircled Soviet forces but then themselves became encircled. Meshcheryakov served a hundred consecutive days on the front lines, earning several decorations including the Silver Star and the Infantry Assault Badge, as well as a higher grade of the Close Combat Badge.

On 4 November, he and the Lonely Hearts were tasked with re-establishing communications with the 503rd Artillery Battalion. Meshcheryakov, with his extensive scouting and wilderness skills, took point alongside Specialist William McGrady and blazed a trail for the unit through the forest, tackling both dangerous wildlife and enemy bushwhackers. Along the way, they assisted Army forces in City Zone 231 in breaking through Soviet patrol lines, and again Meshcheryakov's marksmanship proved vital; he recorded no less than twenty confirmed kills while in City Zone 231, in spite of an injury from an enemy laser weapon. However, half of the squad died in the city, including Staff Sergeant Pepper. He designated Meshcheryakov as the squad's new commanding NCO. The order was confirmed by Brigadier General László as the remnants of the squad were departing the city, and Meshcheryakov was promoted to Sergeant. He led the squad through their trek through woods and open plains to the 503rd Battalion's base, engaging enemy armoured and mechanized forces despite being grossly outnumbered and rescuing a wounded soldier of the 503rd, Meshcheryakov's later wife Sergeant Aurora Beaumont.

The Lonely Hearts joined the 503rd Battalion's assault on a Soviet fortification, and Meshcheryakov distinguished himself in combat and in leadership during an infiltration of the fort's powerplant. Upon return to base on November 9, he was awarded for bravery and meritorious action, earning the Distinguished Service Cross as well as the Close Combat Badge in Black and the Infantry Assault Badge in Gold. He was further decorated with a Wound Badge and recommended for reassignment away from the front lines. In January 3268 he was reassigned as a staff NCO to Company C headquarters, and was promoted to Sergeant First Class; he was made responsible for training and evaluation of 1st Platoon's soldiers. He worked extensively with Staff Sergeant Beaumont, who had been assigned as commanding NCO of the Lonely Hearts unit, to promote his former squad as the battalion's première recon unit.

The Battle of Khoz was declared over on December 25, and the 505th Battalion remained as a garrison unit until the 12th Guards Cavalry shipped out in February 3268 to continue operations against the Soviets. Meshcheryakov saw combat four more times between February and December 3268, and was wounded three times and earned the Iron Cross; for his staff role, he was awarded the War Merit Cross with Swords. He was promoted to Master Sergeant and then First Sergeant in late 3268 and integrated into the 505th Battalion staff as NCO-in-chief. However, nearing the end of his second tour of duty, he chose not to re-enlist and was honourably discharged in January 3269.

Education and academic career

Following his discharge from the Army, Meshcheryakov returned home to Keystone. While serving as a staff NCO, he had begun taking online correspondence courses for the Keystone Institute of Technology, a prestigious engineering and science university in the city of Hauberk. Upon his return, he began attending classes on-site, from 3269 to 3274. He earned a degree as a Master of Science in Physics in the spring of 3274. Continuing studies after the summer, he earned his Ph.D. in Ballistic Sciences. Using veteran's benefits, he was able to pursue his graduate and doctoral studies at no monetary cost.

During this time, he periodically did consulting work for the Imperial government as an independent contractor, usually in the field of ballistic science education and applied science for military and State Security personnel. The income from this made him an affluent man, and he settled in the city of Hauberk to take a job as an Assistant Professor at KIT, teaching theoretical and applied physics. His old army acquaintance, Aurora Beaumont, moved to Keystone and lived with him for several years after her discharge from the Army. She acquired a job in the Keystone colonial police force, as a patrol sergeant for the Hauberk Metropolitan Police Department. She rapidly rose to become a police lieutenant, and then earned a promotion as the desk captain of the Homicide division. However, according to local news reports, she and Meshcheryakov had disagreements regarding their careers and domestic life, and Beaumont moved out to live on her own in the city.

Dr. Meshcheryakov received a promotion as an Associate Professor in 3278 and began teaching within his speciality, educating students in ballistic sciences, forensic sciences, and astrophysics. He also started his own consulting firm, A.M. Ballistics, LLC in 3277, using the Meshcheryakov Ballistics Laboratory at the KIT campus and hiring through a competitive student internship program. Through this company, he provided consulting services to law enforcement agencies, private investigators, and various private individuals and corporations on ballistic and forensic data analysis. The Hauberk metro police had a shortage of in-house staff educated in the physical sciences, and lacked sufficient facilities for analysing ballistic data; they began to regularly utilise the services provided by Dr. Meshcheryakov, who gladly charged a discounted fee to law enforcement officers.

In, addition, he came to own a one-third share of the Meshcheryakov Ranch along with his sisters in the mid-3270s. His youngest sibling, Anatoly died in a barn fire in 3272. His father died of a second heart attack in 3273. The combined incomes of his consulting work and ranching investments made for him a comfortable life.

Keystone Incident

In the summer of 3280, the infamous Keystone Incident wracked Meshcheryakov's home planet with civil war. In June, Meshcheryakov worked with Captain Beaumont to solve the high-profile murder case of Prefect Richard Hawking, who had been shot dead during a parade through the Hauberk civic district. Not long after, the governor of the planet, Rufus T. Blackwall, was assassinated in the planet's capital of Lakeside City, which became a hotbed of violence and gang warfare. Bandit and pirate groups became highly active in the rural and coastal regions. Planetary police forces instituted a crackdown on organized crime and banditry alike, the response to which was one of the most heinous terrorist attacks in human history. Nuclear terror bombings obliterated Lakeside City, Grady Bay East, Grady Bay West, and Fort Hill, and significantly damaged the cities Hauberk, Port Graymoor, and MacArthur Point. Over 80% of the planet's communications and defence satellite network de-orbited and crashed into major cities, though Hauberk was largely untouched by the satellite attacks. Over a million people were killed in the combined attacks. Regional governors cordoned off their provinces and bandit lords staged a mass insurrection, effectively turning the provinces into feudal domains with no central government. Widespread violence by insurrectionist bandits, provincial governors-turned-warlords, terrorist cells, and local armed militias would cause ten million deaths by the end of the conflict.

All through this, Meshcheryakov had evacuated to the rural outskirts of Hauberk Province, along with an injured Aurora Beaumont. Travelling to Hammond, he allowed his ranch to be used a refugee centre, providing medical care, food, and shelter for hundreds of rural people affected by the catastrophe. After Security Forces and a Naval orbital fleet put down the insurrections, executed the feudal warlords, and provided supplies to the planet's populace, Meshcheryakov moved back into Hauberk with Captain Beaumont. Using his personal fortune, he assisted the general relief effort in the city and raised funds for the reconstruction of the water treatment plant and port district--the locus of the city's nuclear attack. The relief and reconstruction as a whole was coordinated by Beaumont, appointed Metro Police Commissioner for the duration of the emergency. In all, the relief effort in Hauberk was considered a critical success, as casualties were limited to around 18,000 people killed and wounded. This was a stark contrast to the disaster in the Lakeside City greater metropolitan area, where over 500,000 people were killed and 720,000 people were injured by the effects of two megaton-yield nuclear weapons.

Following the relief effort, Meshcheryakov settled down with Beaumont, with whom he had rekindled a relationship, and the two moved into Meshcheryakov's family ranch in the rural farm-belt between Hammond and Hauberk. He fathered twins by her; a son, Dmitri, and a daughter, Andromeda. He reconnected with another old army friend, veterinarian Dr. Daniel McRogers, and settled back into an academic career.

Political career

In December 3280, the interim planetary council for Keystone announced that it would approve a general, planet-wide, free election for the office of Planetary Governor. The election would be held in January 3282, providing any willing candidate ample time to submit their names and be approved by the council and by State Security authorities, and campaign publicly for the office. Gradually, State Security Forces removed themselves from Keystone, ending the quarantine and general occupation in March 3281. Some forces remained behind to secure the peaceful transition to civil government.

Meshcheryakov considered entering the race as soon after the proposed election was announced, on the suggestion of Dr. McRogers. With friends in high places from his consulting work and a strong local reputation in the South Norden region as a philanthropist, Meshcheryakov began considering a political campaign. Before even submitting his name to the planetary election commission, he organized an exploratory committee to determine if he would even be viable as a candidate. Online polling showed good results, that a man of his description would be amenable to at least 20% of the voting population in the office of governor. After public revelations of Governor Blackwall's corruption in the course of the State Security investigation into the causes of the Keystone Incident, the public was leaning towards candidates of integrity, honesty, and legitimate success. He submitted his candidacy in early January 3281 and was approved by the planetary electoral commission by early February. He was notified the next morning, and began preparations for his campaign.

Fundraising events and press conferences consumed much of his time over the course of the next year, and Meshcheryakov took a sabbatical from teaching to focus on his political campaign. The Meshcheryakov campaign was endorsed by many government and business figures from Hauberk and Fort Dusken from the continent of Nordendusk, Port Glimmer in the Oka Islands district, Sutherland, and Lakenhold. Some opponents speculated that he had used connections from his ranching business and law enforcement to bully people into endorsing him, but he rebuffed every accusation. The accusations backfired on his opponents, making them appear bitter and sinking to personal attacks to win the race.

Meshcheryakov campaigned as a political outsider and an anti-corruption moderate, appealing to conservative, liberal, and nationalist elements of the electorate, as well as to those wary of politicians. His platform included reducing corruption in the planetary government by prosecuting officials who had embezzled, extorted, and blackmailed citizens under the Blackwall administration. When challenged during a debate by candidate Raikov that he would bankrupt the government in the process, he contended that he would rather that than turn his citizens over to State Security. Post-debate polls showed a spike in approval for Meshcheryakov's campaign, attributed to many people being dissatisfied with the military occupation.

Quips aside, he further campaigned on economic reform to increase agricultural exports, support of local businesses and industry, and on distributive land reform. The terrorist incident had left the planet's economy in shambles, and Meshcheryakov touted his successful business career as experience for fixing Keystone's fiscal and commercial issues. As the year went on, his ratings in the polls went up, attracting moderate and conservative voters with his campaign promises on strengthening the economy. In a field of no less than six primary candidates, he was third.

As late as October the polls were led by former Lieutenant Governor Jacob Bonner, who was then under investigation for corruption-related charges. The investigation had been put on hold due to Bonner's candidacy. Bonner ran as the "establishment" candidate, supporting the strong corporate presence of the McGrady Corporation and other "big business" companies and tougher laws on criminals to erase the bandit threat. Bonner led with 23% at the monthly polls. Second in the lead was an immigrant Japanese-Colonial businessman Yoritomo Manzō, with 21.5%. Meshcheryakov maintained a solid third place at 20.5% until two months before the election. Candidate Yoritomo dropped out of the race, conceding that his platform was roughly the same as Meshcheryakov's, and gave Mescheryakov his endorsement and financial support.

In the 5 January election, Meshcheryakov won 36% of the vote. The rules established by the Planetary Electoral Commission held that a simple plurality would secure the election, with no need for a second, runoff vote. Bonner received 26% of the vote. Gennady Raikov, an anti-business agrarian conservative, won 18% of the vote. Lutz Constantinovich Popov, an agrarian radical candidate, won 11% of the vote. And 'family values' conservative Lev Baku won around 8% of the vote. Several minor candidates split the remaining 1% of the planet's voting population.

Meshcheryakov would be, by statute, sworn into office in a week's time. Subsequent to the election, police investigations provided overwhelming evidence of Bonner's committing electoral fraud crimes and bribery in addition to his existing corruption charges. He was arrested by State Security officers and deported to Earth for trial. Bonner would be tried in September 3282 and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Candidate Yoritomo resumed his business career.

First term

Meshcheryakov was sworn in on 12 January, 3282. He began his term by directing the reconstruction efforts. In re-situating the planet's administrative capital to Port Glimmer in the Oka Islands, rather than his residence of Hauberk, he successfully deflected accusations of favouritism. New construction began on the governor's mansion, creating hundreds of jobs for out-of-work youth on the island; a planet-wide program was started two months later with the purpose of constructing other massive public works projects, employing millions of unemployed and displaced people. The program was funded partly by the Union Labor Service, a central government agency under the Ministry of Labor for providing funding and manpower for public works programs on other worlds. Meshcheryakov's government worked with diplomatic service liaisons to establish a locally-managed, autonomous public works agency that nonetheless received half of its funding from the central government. The Keystone Works Projects Agency employed millions of people and built up Keystone's electricity, highway, and space launch infrastructure.

In 3283 his administration began a project of land redistribution. With the cooperation of the central Ministry of the Interior, the Keystone Rural Development Agency was established with the purpose of purchasing land held by offworld companies and selling it to the Keystone citizenry, as well as providing mortgage loans to Keystone citizens to enable purchasing of rural property. The KRDA successfully enticed many citizens to purchase their own homes and expand local land ownership; it was especially beneficial for the thousands displaced from Lakeside City in the aftermath of the nuclear attacks, and made many urbanites into first-time home owners. Some of this was accomplished through Central Government funding through the Ministry of the Interior.

While pursuing this divestment of foreign land possession on Keystone itself, his government provided tax breaks to local businesses. This expanded to include interstellar corporations whose headquarters were based on Keystone, with Jensen and Company being the most notable beneficiary of these incentives. Jensen and Co. are among the largest providers of quality cybernetic products in the Outer Colonies, and also possess some consolidated interests in entertainment, pharmaceuticals, and real estate; maintaining its investment in Keystone provided the government with significant revenue. Small decreases in this revenue were deemed better than the complete loss of it.

His early administration was marred by the Battle of the Seraphim Grand in late November 3284. Over two thousand people perished in a space pirate attack on the Seraphim Grand Orbital Resort, a combined hotel, casino, and shopping centre located in Keystone orbit owned and operated by Jensen and Company. The decision of the Jensen and Company board of directors to rebuild the resort in Keystone orbit was seen as a landmark event in Keystone's relations with the company, and maintained the commercial presence of its entertainment and orbital real estate investment in the planet's economy.

By 3287 the public works projects in building up the planet's space launch infrastructure began to pay off. With nearly doubled space launch capability, the planet exported much more agricultural product. The initial decrease in efficiency from the diversification of the planet's arable land came to be offset by the competitive agricultural market bringing forth a wider selection of cash crops. In addition, the expanded self-sufficiency of the homesteaders created by the KRDA programs decreased the proportion of the Keystone government budget allocated to welfare programs. The proportionality of these effects were to increase over time during Meshcheryakov's administration.

Throughout his first term, he conducted a series of examinations and inspections to reduce waste and corruption. High-level civil servants, administrators, and prefects were dismissed or reassigned. Those incapable of being dismissed immediately were placed under government investigation. Despite his railings against the State Security occupation, he invited State Security agents to conduct these investigations. Many thousand of local government officials were put on trial for corruption and found guilty, thereafter being terminated from government employment. Meshcheryakov used his powers of executive gubernatorial privilege to commute their sentences from life imprisonment to ten years, in a deliberate gesture of clemency. He was keen to avoid any implication that he was using State Sec as a "secret police" for his administration, which didn't stop critics from making claims of such. His government was public regarding the limited role of the State Security investigators in fighting corruption in the planetary government.

He prepared for re-election through 3287, and was again opposed by Gennady Raikov and Lutz Popov, both of whom represented radical and conservative facets of the agrarian political faction once more. Meshcheryakov's broad appeal, successful policies in growing and rebuilding Keystone's economy, and program to "clean up" government won him large sections of the electorate, including much of the agrarian faction. He won the January 3288 election with 78% of the vote. Candidate Raikov received 11% and candidate Popov received 9%. Some other minor candidates split the remaining 2% of the vote.

Second term

Meshcheryakov began his second term with the continuation of his existing rural development and infrastructure policies. However, early in his second term the Union was plunged into war; the Extragalactic Exploratory Fleet was attacked during an expedition to the Large Magellanic Cloud in April 3288. War was declared and the Ministry of War began a general mobilization and conscription was accelerated. With a major training facility and military base in Fort Dusken, Keystone became an entry point for several Army enlistees and draftees for basic training and for some stages of advanced or individual training. Between 3288 and 3292, over four million soldiers arrived on Keystone from other star systems for training.

As governor, Meshcheryakov resisted or delayed the attempts of the Central government to accelerate conscription on Keystone and to nationalise the planetary militia for active service. He made public statements regarding the situation, promising to prevent the draft by any means at his disposal. His approval ratings increased slightly during this time, rising to 86%. It is almost certainly due to his public statements being perceived by the independently-minded colonists as protective of their interests.

However in September 3289 he was forced to comply with the conscription orders, or otherwise face legal action by federal prosecutors and investigation by State Security; as a governor of a federal colony, he did not have the same leeway and autonomy as the state chief of a member world. The Keystone colonial government could, at any point, be federalised if the actions of the local government became rebellious or treasonous. The 394th Cavalry Division, a locally-recruited Army reserve unit, was called up for active duty. Around 600,000 Keystone citizens were conscripted between 3290 and 3296. Meshcheryakov saw his approval rating plummet to 57%, the lowest they had ever been. His approval remained in the low sixties throughout the rest of his second term, driven by popular anger at conscription and particularly at his perceived hypocrisy at backing down to Central Government orders.

Despite his drop in popularity, his administration continued with its programs and produced unprecedented levels of prosperity for its colonists. Purchasing power increased dramatically as more and more people became semi-independent homesteaders and local business flourished.

Governor Meshcheryakov faced significant opposition and challenge during his second reelection campaign. The conscription crisis had severely hurt his credibility and popularity. He managed to win by a much lower margin, at only 56% of the vote. His main agrarian opposition in the previous two elections, Gennady Raikov, achieved 39% of the vote, primarily on an anti-conscription platform. The other 5% was split between almost a dozen lesser candidates.

Third term