It is that very heroic history that worked against Atlantis in the last century, and especially with respect to the Venus incident. It is this author’s considered opinion that the conservative factions which dominated Atlantean political thinking secretly yearn for a return to the Burning Century, when they were the preeminent civilization on the planet, and certainly the only one to hold land on the Homeworld.
Five hundred years ago, the Atlanteans took to the skies and defended our system from intruders. They were the backbone of the alliance that formed around the Homeworld. Solar Flame, and later the Home System Charter, may have had their differences but they accepted Atlantis as the stewards of the Planet. And so they were, for as long as they were needed.
The revitalization of the Planet brought with it a degree of decadence that the self-reliant, heroic Atlanteans were unprepared to recognize, acknowledge, or manage. Soon they had no tides of barbarism to hold back, no hopes and dreams to inspire. Their political existence continued long after their most vital purpose had been made moot. This decadence had affected empires from Rome to America, and Atlantis was to be no exception.
Accustomed to leadership, the Atlanteans were taken by surprise at the Venus disaster. When their vaunted biotechnology left millions to go hungry and brought disease to thousands more, their confidence was badly shaken. You have only to watch the speeches and orations of Advocate Dagert and the rest of his Four and Seven cronies to realize the magnitude of their crisis of leadership.
Four and Seven popularized the independence movement that led to provisional independence and the gradual relegation of the Home System Charter to space-only duties. The lessons of Solar Flame were not lost on the HSC military leadership - they knew that as a culture, they would eventually need planetary space to call their own. But Atlantis overplayed their hand by pushing the HSC off of the Planet. Venus, which Dagert had privately referred to as “our finest colony,” also gained its independence, and the HSC gained a potential ally.
The elections of 2912 exemplified the creeping conservatism that was taking hold of Atlantis. The unwitting empire was feeling its periphery states slipping through its fingers, and it took action the only way it knew how - through bluster and stubbornness. It took almost no effort to get Atlantis into the Canadian War. They were ready to pay the HSC back for its “betrayal”, and they were more than ready to make the Pacific Rim microstates regret their “flirtation with banditry,” as Mau Lau so famously phrased it.
Atlantis had set itself up for failure by picking a fight with essentially the rest of the world. They had all but forgotten how to conduct surface and aerial warfare; their prime considerations had been submarine conflicts and the use of imported orbital automation. Their info-warfare against the Pacific Rim had caused the coastal micronations to radically reappraise their aquatic neighbor. The '60s saw a dramatic transformation of the port cities and docks that Atlantis had visited. Favorable trading pacts were quickly replaced with hard-edged business deals as corporate-backed insurgents replaced missing or shaky Pacific Rim governments. Those that didn’t fall during the war now found it economically necessary (and culturally convenient) to follow the same sharp-eyed, profit-minded transition. Atlantis found itself surrounded in its own waters by some very hungry sharks.
While the HSC all but ignored postwar reparation demands from Atlantis, Venus had been far more successful than any of the conservatives had thought possible. They had wisely avoided the conflict, citing their independence movement and lack of a formal treaty with Atlantis proper. This oversight was the product of arrogant and short-sighted thinking among the Atlantean leadership who assumed to a man that the Venusians would obediently fall into line like programmed golems. More than anything else, Venus’ neutrality saved it in the short term, only to spark the Civil War a generation later.
Venus had been accused of peddling mind control drugs, causing health risks, and secretly trading in flawed biological products and rogue genetic engineering ever since their biotech base had stabilized. This was due in no small part to Atlantis itself, who promoted such stories to peddle its own biotech on the Pacific Rim. Some of these allegations were demonstrated to be true, but none of them were ever proven to be endemic to Venusian biotech culture. Most were simply the result of poor quality control from overly aggressive corporations, and some were thought to be caused by Atlantean sabotage - again, an unproven assertion. But such stories formed the basis for the trade embargo that would lead to the Civil War. Throughout the embargo and later, Atlantis’ greatest mistake was to continue to treat Venus as an unruly dog that had to be brought to heel.
The Canadian War had economically damaged Atlantis and polarized its politics. However, with the internal upheavals being reported today, I can say without fear of contradiction that the Civil War, while bloody and terrible beyond human comprehension, has had one positive effect: it broke Atlantis free of the grip of empire. They would be forced to reevaluate their attitudes toward Venus, to learn to treat it as a fellow sovereign and cultural cousin. I don’t go as far as some liberal wags who have referred to it as the “Venusian Revolution.” I’m satisfied that the pressure, at long last, is off. For Venus, and for Atlantis.