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The Blockade of Ceres
The events that would become known as the Blockade of Ceres began when the Martian Congressional Republic moved to strike back at recent OPA aggression. The OPA had bombed a peace summit between Mars and Earth. Brutally successful, it led to the deaths of many senior members of both administrations and prompted special elections in both governments.
Acting on reliable intelligence, the MCRN ordered a fleet to blockade the station, stopping anyone from arriving or departing. This effectively brought the Belt to a total standstill, due to the nature of Ceres as the major shipping hub for the outer planets.
The arrival of a Martian fleet caused widespread panic and chaos on the station. Most spacefarers scrambled to reach their ships while the mood of the crowds turned ugly. It didn't take long after the docks were locked down for widespread rioting to break out. Some genuinely wanted to protest Inner aggression, others were opportunists seeking to loot and damage whatever they could. Lone Martians and Earthers became easy targets for groups of angry thugs.
UN naval ships issued an immediate recall to all personnel while preparing to launch from the station. Most captains were on edge, unsure if the Martians were going to open fire on them. A significant number of UN personnel failed to reach the ships before they launched. As a result, Marine volunteers established several holdouts along the docks, fortifying themselves with barricades. They offered a potentially safe haven for any UN soldiers or sailors still trapped on Ceres. Anyone approaching holdouts was given one warning before being fired upon.
Martian boarding parties began to methodically search every ship between the station and the fleet. Most ships yielded after a warning shot across their bow from a Martian warship. Several OPA operatives were shot or captured by Marine search parties. UN ships kept a wary distance, not intervening but prepared for any MCRN aggression.
On station the local OPA cells had began to have some success directed (directing) the mobs and rogue gunmen towards a common enemy, the Inners (specifically the armed squads of Martian Marines now roaming the docks and working their way through the station). Larger amounts of irregulars began to assault UN holdouts, overrunning some of the smaller ones through weight of numbers or exhausting their munitions. For civilians fleeing the chaos it was a dangerous game of cat and mouse, stalking the empty bloody corridors to avoid trigger happy Inners or OPA lynch mobs. Several ship crews were forced to open fire on desperate individuals trying to commandeer passage off station. Most sealed their hatches and tried to ride out the storm.
UN and MCRN intelligence operatives used the anarchy as a cover to deploy with several teams moving to extract or rescue informants and vital intel. One such extraction of a MCRN agent led to a tense stand off with UN ONI officers.
The holdout at berth A90 would become infamous. Under heavy pressure from OPA forces, it took heavy losses with every officer and senior NCO killed or incapacitated. The survivors brutally executed a Belter civilian at the holdout after he was discovered to have OPA tattoos. The holdout was nearly overrun by a subsequent OPA assault, saved at the last moment by a timely UN gunship strike and the intervention of a combined UNMC/MMC force.
As this was taking place, several ship crews banded together in an attempt to flee the violence. Breaking into the maintenance tunnels, a team of belters from the known pirate vessel the Saxon managed to locate and assist the crew of a recently stolen vessel, the Albatross. Eager to escape the station before being implicated in the bombing, the crews laid low until the Martians withdrew and promptly departed, heading for separate destinations.
The station itself took several months to recover. Infrastructure had been badly damaged, and business owners were reluctant the begin trading again, seeing many of their customers as those who had looted their shops during the worst of the violence. The public image of Star Helix was also severely tarnished as they not only did little to stop the outbreak of riots and violence, but even contributed to it, at least according to reports from locals.
Shipping has resumed and the local authorities have reasserted control over the station, its docks are open and accepting arrivals, if you would like to visit Ceres please contact your local tourism provider or shipping union representative.