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The Keystone Incident was a crisis on the planet Keystone primarily occurring in the summer of 3280 in which the planetary government of Keystone nearly collapsed amidst a series of coordinated terrorist attacks, assassinations, civil war, banditry, and political upheaval. The crisis began with the assassination of Governor Rufus Tiberius Blackwall at the hands of agents of organized crime, initiating a period of anarchy in which bandit gangs openly attacked local government institutions and buildings, regional governors declared autonomy and raised their own private armies, organized gangs fought each other, and local governors engaged in civil war over resources and territories. The crisis culminated in the coordinated nuclear bombings of several cities on the planet, the hijacking of the defence and communications satellite network, and the de-orbiting of the same satellite network into major population centres.

The incident is not attributable in its entirety to one individual or organization. While the most damaging attacks were the responsibility of Constantine Bronstein, a local leader of a confederation of bandit and pirate gangs, who had unprecedented access to financial and technological resources through decades of subterfuge and corruption,, other factors and individuals were part of the crisis. The precipitating incidents are the results of several groups and individuals competing in an environment of political corruption, rampant urban criminality, and lawlessness in rural or wilderness areas. These rapidly exploded into a violent civil war starting in June 3280, in which some two million people were killed, most of them civilians, and just as many persons displaced from their homes or seriously injured.

While the majority of violence occurred in the summer of 3280, further suppression of rebellious or criminal combatants continued into the fall and winter. The Keystone Incident would not be declared officially over until the transfer of power to the local civilian government in 3281.

Origins

The incident had its roots in the economic and political situation on Keystone, which had developed since its foundation. The planet had been discovered in 2678 and first settled in 2778 with a few hundred explorers and researchers. In 2811 a full colony was established, and its five-thousand person population grew over the centuries into just over a billion inhabitants. The planet was always sparsely populated, with most people centred in the large forts and cities that served as regional capitals. The largest, Lakeside City, was the planet's capital and housed over a million and a half residents. Otherwise, the planet was mostly rural. Over time, a regional culture developed on the planet of what has been termed "plucky self-reliance and self-sufficiency", disdaining outside governmental power. The exercise of centralized authority on the colony was done through an appointed governor, initially an outsider and later typically a local politician. The presence of large agricultural landowners and the self-reliant identity led to the proliferation of intercontinental corporations, foreign corporate influence, and organized crime as political institutions. Poverty was never particularly high, but still affected most rural areas. Affluence accumulated in the big cities, leading to a political culture of corruption. Local politicians were favoured over outside bureaucrats, and often gangsters and businessmen were allied with politicians to serve each others' interests.

These interests often developed into rivalries, which sometimes erupted into violence. The relative lack of Imperial law enforcement devolved policing almost entirely to local departments, many of which reported high rates of corruption and abuse of power. Until the late 33rd century, the status quo was for police to allow organized criminals to operate as they saw fit, so long as violence in the cities was kept at a low level. Truly violent crime originated in the rural badlands, among bandit and pirate groups. These were, however, largely disorganized and roving bands that posed little threat to law enforcement and the planetary government.

However, in the latter half of the 33rd century, certain individuals initiated developments in the criminal underworld on the planet that would completely change the situation. In the preceding century, the McGrady Financial Group had obtained large landholdings which it used as collateral; the company's near-collapse in the early 3220s saw the sale of many parcels of land to keep it afloat, and what remained was consolidated in the transition to the McGrady Corporation. Subsequently in the early 3270s, the interstellar syndicate known as the Fenian Daggers established a presence on the planet's major cities; it is speculated that this was in relation to increased activity and investment of the McGrady Corporation on Keystone. An alleged connection between the corporation and the Fenian Daggers is popularly believed and is a subject of intense speculation by crime historians, though no legal proceedings have uncovered any direct evidence. This presence of 'foreign investors' created tension between the existing political, business, and criminal institutions. The issue had been subject to criticism by returning war veterans in the 3260s and 3270s, as many Keystoners had departed to fight in wars to keep the Empire unified and to reunify humanity under the Republic, and returned to find a home-world very different from the one they had left.

One such veteran as Constantine Bronstein, who had served in the Imperial Army from 3248 to 3264 and become a decorated soldier in the Colonial Wars. It is unknown whether he was simply traumatized by combat or if he had been captured and brainwashed by enemy combatants, but Bronstein returned to Keystone a sombre man. He secluded himself in the wilderness after his return and was not seen for several years. He resurfaced in 3276 to publish a manifesto and declare himself "King of Bandits", professing a radical anarchist program of dismantling the government, secluding and isolating Keystone into a feudalist autarky. He became a wanted fugitive, connected with many acts of violence and sabotage over the previous ten years. He remained at large, and underground, traversing the wilderness and creating alliances between various bandit gangs. While the traditional organized criminal establishment remained in the cities and part of the political corruption, the "Bandit Union" grew in size and technical sophistication. It is speculated that Bronstein may have put hits out on certain political figures, or been otherwise implicated in their assassinations, which led directly to the crisis.

As the 3270s moved forwards, there were increased pressures from the central government on Earth to establish stronger State Security and Union military presences to provide more stability. Increased bandit activity and tension between organized criminal groups were becoming more apparent, and more violent.

Assassinations

Richard Hawking

During 3279 and 3280, several political figures were murdered in an apparent spate of bandit killings. Replacements were nominated and elected on strong anti-crime platforms in special elections. Provincial, district, and county police began a concerted effort at stamping out violent crime. Often these legalised "shoot to kill" rules of engagement when an officer of the law encountered bandits and gangsters. Such moves were questioned by human rights activists, but the results were a sharp decline in marauding banditry. One such advocate and administrator was Prefect Richard Hawking , governor of the prefecture of Dusken. His assassination would mark the beginning of the remaining instability of the crisis; though many details are still classified as part of the State Security investigation of the Keystone Incident, the prefect's death and ensuing trial process of those implicated in his assassination were recorded prior to the civil war phase. A broad course of events can be determined.

In June 3280, a conference of the continent's prefectures was to be held in the city of Hauberk, on the southern peninsula, with a parade to precede the official conference. Prior to the conference, several threats and an attempted attack were made on Prefect Hawking. Security was tightened, but the Prefect's chief of security Julia Bauer went missing two days before the conference was to be held; her corpse would later be found stuffed into a home oven in a high-rise apartment building near the parade route. Surrounding this were increased police investigations into local organized crime, in an attempt to 'clean up' the city due to the media attention that such a conference would garner. An ongoing investigation was being conducted in regards to several unsolved murders in the rural outskirts of the city, spearheaded by then-Captain Aurora Beaumont, head of the metropolitan police's homicide division. Police units conducting these investigations were, on the day of the conference, to be transferred to guard detail for the parade.

On 14 June, Prefect Hawking and his motorcade were attacked by a gunman who has yet to be identified by public record. Smoke bombs were deployed in the street, and a pair of shots rang out in close proximity to the Prefect's vehicle. The motorcade rushed on to city hall, to await medical evacuation to the central hospital. The Prefect had suffered two near-fatal gunshot wounds to the neck and chest. The motorcade, while awaiting the helicopter's arrival, was subjected to an assault by several gunmen in a van, now identified as having been a Fenian Daggers street crew. The crew kidnapped the injured Prefect Hawking and murdered four of his guards. Another man, identified later as Seth Martin Kubrick, murdered two other guards using a high-powered sniper rifle from a "roost" in a distant radio tower where six civilians had been executed. Kubrick was picked up by the van and they departed, escaping the scene of the massacre.

The Prefect was taken to a warehouse in Hauberk's dockside district where he was tortured and murdered, apparently by Kubrick himself. The criminals disappeared for several days, then reappeared in the home of one of the Fenian associates, identified during the police investigation as Michael Francis "Squinty Mike" Foutley. An attempted police raid went awry, leaving four officers dead and Captain Beaumont, who led the raid herself, in critical condition. The criminals were tracked to a warehouse, where a Special Response Team launched a successful raid. Kubrick and Fenian associate Patrick Joseph Brady were critically injured and Foutley surrendered without a struggle. Two unidentified associates fled, one escaping down a maintenance shaft and another out a window. Later investigation determined that the criminal that fled through the window was the one who had fired the initial shots at close range on the Prefect's motorcade; he was referred to by eyewitnesses as "Blue" but otherwise never named or identified. A manhunt was initiated for both. A week later, on 21 June, "Blue" resurfaced and fled in an armed hovercraft, taking refuge in the cavernous cliffs a hundred kilometres north of the city; police reports indicate that he detonated several rigged explosives, causing a cave-in and destroying his hovercraft. He reportedly committed suicide rather than be captured and interrogated; his body was never found, though the destroyed remains of his vehicle and some scorched articles of clothing were later recovered from the scene. Authorities considered the assailant officially deceased.

On 3 July, trial process began for the remaining conscious associate and participant in the assassination, Michael Francis Foutley. However, during the initial stages of the hearing, he was gunned down by an assassin armed with a suppressed shotgun. The assailant fled and has never been caught or identified.

A few days following, Seth Kubrick awoke from his coma, and he was arraigned for pre-trial hearing on 6 July. He reportedly mocked the judge and was to be indicted additionally for contempt of court. He was reportedly offered a plea bargain to turn state's evidence, but he rejected this offer. He later fell ill, and was apparently diagnosed with advanced lung cancer. In the confusion of the later crisis, the trial was placed on indefinite hold. State and medical records show that Kubrick died of cancer, but his body was never recovered after the bombing of Hauberk.

Rufus Blackwall

On 20 June, in a related incident, the office of Governor Blackwall was bombed, his manor home was assaulted by several gunmen, and the governor himself was found murdered in an alleyway in downtown Lakeside City. An investigation launched by the Central Investigations Bureau of the planetary police commission determined several facts for the case: the attack on the manor, which had resulted in the murder of Blackwall's entire family and domestic staff, had been done by professionals armed with machine pistols with very high rates of fire; the bombing of the office had been carried out by a Fenian courier with a contractor-made bomb; and Blackwall had been murdered in the kitchen of a restaurant before being dragged outside and laid in the alleyway.

The evidence seemed to indicate that the Fenian Daggers were responsible for the assassination. The investigation team gathered further evidence over the course of several weeks, and interrogated several persons of interest. Of note was Finn MacDougall, branch manager of McGrady property and business interests on Keystone, and a suspected "chieftain" of the Fenian Daggers. The investigators considered themselves as having enough evidence to indict MacDougall. Included in this investigation team was Sarah Sterling, who had previously served in the investigative team on the assassination of Prefect Hawking; she and the other investigators were never recovered after the nuclear bombings at Lakeside City. In mid-July, the city police arrested Finn MacDougall, who made bail and was released to detention at his home and at his office, his transit monitored and escorted by the police.

Finn MacDougall

However, on the night of 19 July, Finn MacDougall was found dead in his office at the McGrady Building downtown. His death is considered by crime historians to be the end result of a gang war that broke out in the city in late July. Two Russia-Italian criminal gangs, a local ethnically Japanese gang, and the Fenian Daggers fought in the city's streets in repeated tit-for-tat attacks that culminated that night in a bloody shootout at the city's river docks. Almost sixty-five people were killed in one of the largest gang-related killings in the planet's history. A small group of Italian-aligned hitmen assaulted the McGrady Building and murdered the security staff before attacking MacDougall himself. The investigation showed that MacDougall had fought off his assailants with a sword before succumbing to gunshot and slashing wounds from what appeared to be large machetes. The assailants then became engaged in a shootout with the police when they arrived at the scene of the attack, and were all killed. However much the connection between MacDougall and the Fenian Daggers was never proven, the aftermath of his death seemed to indicate so to the public, to historians, and to later State Security investigators.

The aftermath saw the breakdown of the Fenian Daggers. Regional groups or "septs" broke into rivalrous conflict with each other; street gangs who had owed allegiance or alliance with the Fenians broke away from their alliance and fought each other as well. Local captains attempted to keep order, but to no avail. Police and criminal justice systems proceeded to undertake new investigations and arrests; the demise of MacDougall saw an apparent demise in the political corruption that had protected the Fenians. Other criminal gangs maintained their political connections and patronage networks, fending off the same degree of police crackdown. The sheer size of the Fenian presence on the planet made the effort difficult for the regional police departments, requiring assistance from the planetary police commission and from the local State Security office.

However, again according to criminal historians, the crackdown had further results that were unforeseen by the police departments. The disparate street gangs and organized criminals, now without a powerful chieftain, turned to the closest thing the planet had to a criminal overlord aside from Finn MacDougall: Constantine Bronstein. The wide union of bandit and pirate clans and bands had been successful in creating their own order in the rural badlands, and Bronstein had accumulated a great deal of money and resources. The broken Fenians and other street gangs turned to his patronage and hoped for protection against the police.

Terrorist bombings

On August 14th, two nuclear devices were detonated in Lakeside City, demolishing significant parts of the city and killing several hundred thousand people. The attacks were the responsibility of Constantine Bronstein and his bandit soldiers. The weeks prior to the attack were filled with a rise in bandit activity, perhaps as a distracting measure.

Bandit attacks

The bandits had been conducting coordinated raids on towns for several years prior to the attacks on 3 August 3280. The activity increased, however, in July of that year to record numbers. Among the most severe attacks was the Great Fire of Samabama on 13 July, which claimed the lives of 1,134 people in the city of Samabama in Sutherland prefecture. An outlaw known as Roddy Jacobson and his 'Bat Clan' of bandits rode into town, murdered several people, and set numerous buildings on fire with a mass attack of homemade incendiary devices. On 16 July, prior to an impending police raid, the mountain redoubt of the Bat Clan in Jacobson's Hollow was destroyed by extensive dynamiting of the mountains. It is presumed by investigators that it was a mass suicide, corroborated by reports that Jacobson's 'Bat Clan' operated a charismatic cult of cannibalism and human sacrifice dedicated to their leader.

Several other attacks occurred in other provinces, and pirate attacks increased on the high seas.

Bombing of Lakeside City

At approximately 3 minutes past noon on August 14th, two 25-megaton nuclear weapons detonated in the planetary capital of Lakeside City. Investigation by police, military, and State Security teams, including special investigators of the legendary Silver Team, following the incident discovered that one bomb had detonated near a bridge overhanging the lake beaches, and the second detonated downtown in the city university and stadium area. The total fatalities included six hundred thousand people in the metropolitan area, including nearby Cove City. Tidal waves caused by the blast shockwaves flooded towns around Lake Norden. The relief effort was slow and disorganized, as the planetary and regional capital city was completely demolished by the attacks.

Lakeside City itself saw 300,000 deaths, with over 600,000 injured civilians being evacuated in the aftermath for medical attention. Cove City lost around 120,000 people to the blast effects. Around 100,000 fatalities are accounted for as the result of tidal effects on lake towns, and for radioactive fallout on immediate surrounding areas. A further 100,000 deaths can be accounted for in the column of radioactive fallout blown by the wind in a 700-km cone northeast of the city and subsequent cases of radiation sickness, injuries from broken glass, and other effects.

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