This portfolio originally appeared in Jump Point 9.8.
“I’ve never been more nervous. Our network of activists had been completely betrayed, forcing us to flee as Advocacy agents began their raids. I knew some of my friends had made it to Xi’an space, but others just disappeared. People assumed the Messers got them, but I also heard stories of smugglers selling them to the Banu. Still, I had to risk it. Anything was better than one of the Messers’ re-education prisons, so I climbed into that smuggler’s crate and they sealed me up. Next thing I know, some Xi’an was shaking me awake. First one I’d ever met, and I, ah… well, I screamed because it was all very shocking. Then I just broke down and cried because I knew I was finally safe.”
- August Dunlow, Crusader Industries Founder
August Dunlow’s vivid firsthand account of fleeing the UEE is one of many that appear in The Bremen Beltway; a book that brilliantly mixes interviews, journal excerpts, and declassified government documents to illuminate the extreme measures used to smuggle activists, journalists, opposition politicians, and others in and out of the Messer-controlled UEE. While the regime made escaping the empire a difficult and often dangerous proposition, one method would come to distinguish itself as the most secure and significant. Nicknamed the Bremen Beltway, the route is not only believed to have smuggled out more people than any other but was instrumental in quickly returning hundreds of significant anti-Messer activists once the revolution began. Their timely return proved key to organizing the various planets to finally topple the totalitarian regime.
Though over time the journey became best associated with Bremen, the route actually runs through five systems: Bremen, Nyx, Tohil, La’uo (Virtus), and Ē’aluth (Eelaus). Bremen earned the namesake because it was the starting point within the UEE and the only system travelers knew about prior to their trip. Strict security measures meant the only information travelers received was a time and a set of bespoke coordinates within Bremen. Arrive there safely and smugglers would provide sleeping pills and a cramped smuggler’s crate. Meanwhile, high-ranking members of the Bremen Defense Force (BDF) would secretly ensure the smugglers could avoid security patrols by the UEE and less sympathetic BDF members while crossing the system and making the jump to Nyx.
Though Levski’s residents also yearned for revolution, they sadly were unable to offer permanent harbor for the revolutionaries fleeing through Nyx. Leaders of the People’s Alliance gladly offered up Levski as a stopping point for refueling, but with significant portions of the old mining facility still badly in need of repairs and life support systems already overtaxed, they were unable to support a larger population at the time. So, most smugglers working the Bremen Beltway hurried through the system to get to Tohil.
A Perry Line system meant to act as a buffer between the two species, Tohil instead drew them together. Tohil became the main exchange point between Human and Xi’an smugglers, who were now tasked with safely transporting the refugees into Xi’an space. Smugglers on both sides nicknamed this meeting point the “Tohil Trampoline,” partly because handoffs often happened on large botanical biomasses floating in Tohil III’s oceans. These exchanges proved so safe and reliable that Xi’an Emperor Kr.ē and Terra Senator Terrence Akari met on Tohil III in 2789. The meeting produced a peace accord that was narrowly approved by the UEE Senate but never signed into law by Imperator Messer XI. Still, the passing of the Akari-Kr.ē Treaty exposed the Messer regime’s waning control over the Senate.
Despite being a part of the Perry line, Tohil’s remote location, combined with mounting economic pressures, kept the Messers from stationing soldiers in-system. Instead, UEE security relied on a vast system of sensors and periodic patrols from fleets stationed in Oya – obstacles easily avoided by seasoned smugglers on both sides. The UEE Military, primarily worried about a large-scale Xi’an invasion, believed these lax security measures were permissible because the system could only be reached through the unclaimed and almost empty Nyx and two other Perry Line systems. The first being Oya, where the closest UEE troops were stationed, and La’uo (then known as Virtus), a system considered inhospitable due to the expanding red giant at its center. That also made the system the ideal next leg of the Bremen Beltway.
The UEE treated La’uo like a Perry Line system in name only. They didn’t bother to patrol or place more than minimal sensors there since those heading to the UEE still had to pass through Tohil. The Xi’an freely roamed the system with little fear of running into a UEE patrol. That meant once in Xi’an hands, travelers on the Bremen Beltway were considered safe and secure. Most were woken, helped out of the smuggler’s crate, and placed in “Humanized” quarters for the remainder of the voyage.
Still, the Xi’an knew how politically dangerous it would be if the Messer regime ever learned of UEE refugees being given diplomatic sanctuary. For political cover, they smartly exploited a culture difference that took advantage of how little Humanity understood their species. In practice, this meant only Xi’an pirate gangs could transport, house, and care for the UEE refugees. That way, if ever discovered, the Xi’an government could truthfully claim that the scheme was carried out by “pirates,” a loaded phrase for both species. The Xi’an knew that Humans considered “pirates” outlaws that acted outside of the government’s purview, and that Humanity didn’t yet know that some “pirates,” like most other criminal organizations, were officially sanctioned by the Xi’an government.
Though UEE forces never ventured as far as La’uo, the Xi’an deemed it unwise to keep refugees there and instead moved them into the Xi’an Empire. Most ended up on pirate-controlled space stations retrofitted for Human occupation in Ē’aluth (Eelaus system). Upon arrival, the refugees would be interviewed by Xi’an officials who were collating data on the current situation inside the UEE. Once released, the refugees could socialize, strategize, monitor UEE news via remote spectrum relay, and more. Encrypted comms could also be sent on rare occasions, as a separate data running pipeline was established to smuggle messages into the UEE. Aboard these space stations, refugees recall comfortable living quarters and a willingness by the Xi’an to adjust conditions and amenities to better suit Human needs. The Xi’an learned much about Humanity during this time and subsequently used those lessons to improve the appeal of ships, foods, and other products now widely available in the UEE.
Years would pass. Some UEE refugees grew restless being confined to a space station and would make the harrowing journey back home, but most were determined to stay ready to aid regime change when the time was right. That patience paid off when the fateful Massacre of Garron sparked riots across the empire. Sensing the fires of revolution, the Xi’an reversed the Bremen Beltway to expedite the return of important refugees to the UEE. Their timely and surprising arrival amidst the uprising cemented the revolution and directly led to the eventual overthrow of the Messer regime.
The Bremen Beltway can be considered key to helping topple the Messer regime and bringing the Human and Xi’an species closer. Together, sympathetic members of the Bremen Defense Force, kindhearted Human smugglers, and loyal Xi’an pirates acting as government proxies created the safest escape route between the two empires. The Bremen Beltway proved that the two species could work together, and that the universe could be better because of it.