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Quality in Rifts: Remembering Pete Overton

Quality In Rifts: On Being a CS Solider

By Pete Overton

37. Let's go to this Chi-Town everyone keeps telling us about. They sound like good people.
-- Famous Last Words from Rifts Players

1. So what if not all CS troops are evil, shoot them anyways.
-- Things To Remember When Playing Rifts

This is an out-of-character treatise on playing a CS Solider. Unlike Mr. Siembieda, I do not consider all of the Coalition as an inherently evil thing, and I disagree with a lot of his views as archaic and out of date. The 90s seems to be about ambigious evil, grey villains, and so forth, so in that spirit, I made my Coalition much more grey, and so therefore it requires a little explanation.

The Coalition is founded on the perpetuation of humanity in a time where humanity seems to really be at risk. It's essentially a giant drama about war and human nature, and so it is logical that it would be taken to extremes from time to time, but Mr. Siembieda has taken it to too much of an extreme, making it almost self-parodying. Much like the mechanics of his system, it needs modification. The Coalition is, as far as North America goes, humanity's last, best hope for peace (Yay, B5 rules :). I mean, let's face it, try a little thought exercise on what North America would be like without the Coalition! Admittedly their policies AS WRITTEN CANONLY are warped, but applying a little common sense straightens it up and seems to create the air of ambiguity when it comes to the Coalition.

Their deeb policy, for example (deeb = D-Bee = Dimensional Being), as written is essentially to purge them a la Nazi Germany, which again is more for melodrama than for actual realism. In actuality (in my game, caveat) they don't tend to bother deebs who don't make a lot of noise -- that is, if you live peacefully away from the Coalition and don't bother them, you will be left alone in turn. Attract their attention and they may decide to deal with the problem. This leaves both the flexibility and realism that the Coalition doesn't want a war coupled with a still rather darker sort of atmosphere about them.

Now, admittedly the core of the Coalition, Prosek and his little gang, *ARE* fairly evil, but they see their actions as necessary for the survival of humanity, and I am sure you can come up with all the justifications you like for it -- if not, watch a Jerry Springer episode on the KKK and write down what they say. :P I am not defending the fact that they exterminate deebs, I am defending the fact that what they are doing if what they believe humanity needs, so as they say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and this is a case of that. But make no mistake, they are all cold, calculating men who dominate, but are the best thing North America has at the moment as an alternative to extinction. I would imagine this is what keeps Lazlo from wailing on them covertly. So the best thing to ask a revolutionary in Rifts Earth when they are attacking the Coalition is, "What happens after you win?" Nothing gets a more puzzled look than that, as one of my players from a few years back found out when he was asked that by me portraying a moderate CS Soldier. The fact is that a lot of people in North America can't see the forest for the trees when it comes to the Coalition and it is usually only the mercenaries who see the necessary evil of the Coalition.

Now, despite the huge long essays in the canon books about how to justify playing a CS Soldier, it is actually something more simpler than that. If you take this view that the CS is about the only thing standing between humanity's ruin and survival, it becomes quite easy to sign up for the military, since you will be safeguarding your friends and family. Surprisingly little indoctrination is needed for most volunteers of the CS Army, who know the simple fact that if the Coalition falls, North America falls. The chain of command is what keeps the CS Army being a cohesive unit and enlisted troops and officers alike are told to absolutely not break the chain of command, especially after the tragic events of the Juicer Uprising. This being said, most officers of Captain and above do tend to think for themselves, but they are usually given broad mission parameters ("Relocate this deeb village") and then they are given broad discretion in how to complete that mission most efficiently, and THAT is where the confusion about the "evil" CS comes in. Individual officers are simple humans and they have their own attitudes, motivations and such, and they bring that to their job. As long as they fall within mission parameters and don't overtly disgrace the honor of the CS (more on this later), they are usually left to their own devices.

The CS is not quite as disgustingly uniform as is presented for our benefit in the books. Contrary to popular belief, the CS Army DOES NOT like torture and brainwash out any nonstandard thought. Indeed, a lot of the Army are regular people who don't want to cause any extreme bloodshed at all. This is the secret to surviving in the Coalition Army as a humanitarian -- As long as your job is not affected by your beliefs, your beliefs are ignored. Indeed, many regular grunts in the Army are somewhat moderate in that they will judge on a case-by-case basis on deebs and monstrous-seeming enemies. Like the Coalition itself, they don't want any more shooting than is necessary, since when the shooting starts, the life gets put in danger really quickly. Admittedly, there are segments which revel in the war and are somewhat loco in the first place, and they usually end up in Special Forces. But as a whole, the Army is no more evil or sadistic than any previous army in history. Atrocities are common to ALL sides in a war.

Admittedly, keeping the unwashed masses ignorant is more a means of control than practicality. As I said earlier, the core policymakers are the Prosek family and their cronies, so obviously the CS is not a perfect society, and they are well aware that democracy and education at this point in their history would destroy their society, and whether it would arise again or not is still in the air. The use of symbols replaces the written word in public, and signs and symbols are used to mark doors and so forth in pretty much any place that a sign would be necessary. It's a perfect compromise so that they can both be kept out of the loop and be able to find the bathroom. :)

Their policy on mages is perhaps one of their more justified policies. After the Federation of Magic attacked in 12 PA, people were panicked and demanded protection from them. The problem with mages is that they are quite adept at appearing as mundanes, and that fear was tapped to catapult the Psi-Net program into prominence. Almost uniformly, CS troops have a hatred of mages that is perhaps justified, especially considering the fact that a lot of mages go progressively insane according to canon Rifts (which I disagree with partly but that's another file). The fact is that mages tend to have a shoot first and ask questions later policy on them, and each is considered guilty unless proven innocent. Ironically, a mage who is proven innocent will be released the majority of the time, although there is no accounting for pivate citizens wailing on them while the troops conveniently had their backs turned. It's a tough call because they are still human and if they sit down and talk to you, you'll realize that. But indoctrination states that magic is like a corrupting virus, and it spreads as the mage gets more powerful until he is lost to the corruption. Few CS troops ever get to sit down and talk to a mage, however. It's a strange situation and can be as uneasy as the civil war with Quebec.

Psychics are another thing, however. There is a duality on the topic of psychics in the CS. The CS basically states that psychics are a useful mutation of humanity which can be tragic but when properly tapped, they can be stunning resources. What this means in English is that psychics who are under our control are fine, all the rest are trouble. Psi-Stalkers in particular are treated as fond allies, as they can sense psychic and magical users. Rogue psychics are given no mercy and no chance for redemption, especially if they have committed crimes against the Coalition, but if they find a psychic with a pliable enough mind or find them young enough, they will seize the psychic and send them to Psi-Training and harvest them as useful assets. A more interesting problem is Dog Boys, who some consider as loveable partners and others as pets, and others as cannon fodder. It is very subjective but most are uniform in their hatred of runaway psi-hounds or feral (free-born) psi-hounds. They are usually given no mercy, and much like a pit bull who mauls a child today is put down, Dog Boys are treated equally the same, once spoiled, forever lost.

Some of the biggest problems arise out of CS troops fighting other humans. The lowest problems arise with bandits and mercenaries, who by nature of their actions invalidate their humanity in the eyes of most CS troops. Easier than those are the people who have been corrupted by magic elements, such as Tolkeen, or by technological elements, such as cyberpsychotics. Up the scale to other organized kingdom troops, who may merely represent another viewpoint rather than a significant threat. However, most soldiers can justify this by duty and see them as the enemy and get by it no problem. The latest and most serious problem is that of Quebec, for that is a civil war and they are very, very messy indeed. However, some CS troops qustion the wisdom of saving humanity by exterminating undesirable humans. They wisely keep their mouths shut and do their jobs, but they are usually the ones who drop out at the first opportunity (honorable discharged). Monsters who eat children are easy to kill, but ex-CS troops who disagree with their Emperor are another matter. It will be interesting to see how they pan out.

It is also subjective to each MOS (Military Occupational Specialty). Your typical Line Infantryman will view the world differently than the SAMAS pilot. CS Rangers tend to be the most permissive and humanitarian, given their long periods away from CS installations. Line Infantry tend to have the most rigid mindset about nonhumans, and Special Forces are almost computerlike in dealing their missions, although they may suffer fallout afterwards from it, conscience depending. Coupled with their backgrounds and psyche, the whole range of possible attitudes exists in the CS Army somewhere. But the golden rule remains -- don't ask, don't tell. Do what you are ordered to do without many problems and you will be fine.

What does happen when a CS soldier is too vocal or refuses orders? That's another file...


Another thing to consider is that the CS is one of the few stabilizing forces in Rifts Earth that is left. People take their security very seriously, and I don't just mean personal security, because they have been made acutely aware that their *race* is at risk in this war. When such a fundamental truth as the inevitability of humanity is put to the test, people will surrender to a lot of things that they would never otherwise do. This is one of the fundamental reasons that the people who live under the CS don't rise up in popular uprising. Think about it.

Your entire race is put in question and along comes this great army who fights the foul beings from the Rifts. Sure, one of your friends might disappear in the process, but the fear in your lives is more or less eradicated. They claim to withhold knowledge for everyone's benefit, explaining that mass consumption of knowledge was what caused the first great disaster. Besides, you don't need to know about geophysics, you need to know about the latest farming techniques and make children for the CS Army to liberate Earth.

It seems ludicrous to us in the here and now, but in that situation, you cannot underestimate the lengths that people will compromise to believe in the stability of order. Popular dictators are arguably the most effective political forces and Prosek has a whole lot of material to draw upon to make himself look good. Like it or not, the Coalition can indeed create order from the chaos and indeed it is arguably their primary goal. People can believe in the CS if nothing else and that is their true power, the faith and hope of millions of humans lost in a world of chaos.

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