The Tribes of Man have a complex relationship with the rest of the Empire. Contrary to popular Imperial holovids that portray the Tribes either as ferocious barbarians or noble, free savages, the reality is that most tribes consider themselves a breakaway part of the Empire. However, most tribes also hold a deep contempt for what they see as a bloated society that fosters weakness and dependence in its people. The lawlessness of the wilderzone is freedom to the tribesman, but anarchy to the average Imperial.
Imperial technology far outstrips what the Tribes of Man have. Imperial military might is far superior to Tribal capabilities. However, the tribes have developed the most mobile infantry in human history. An apt historical analogy for the relationship of the tribes to the Imperial Legions and Navy might be the Apache light horse in the nineteenth century. The advanced nations of Earth at that time could field cannon, mortars, heavy cavalry, infantry, gatling guns, and ironclad naval vessels, as well as far superior troop numbers. The Empire also possesses superior aerospace capability, grav tanks, medical technology, and other advanced technologies. If the Great Human Empire of Terra ever chose to go to war against the Tribes of Man, the outcome would be certain. The Tribes would undoubtedly make the war a bloody, lingering, extremely costly affair for the Imperial Legions, but in the end, they would not prevail.
Hercs still exist in the 40th century, though they have much changed from the 29th century days of Starsiege. Modern Imperial Hercs are equipped with antigrav components and fast-twitch exo-muscle systems of polybraided neurocrystal. They are far more nimble than the antique models, and they wield incredible firepower. However, the most common armored vehicle in the Imperial Legions is the far cheaper and more easily piloted grav tank.
The Empire has a base in the wilderzone, ostensibly to provide Imperial law to the "tribal sector." However, outside the base's immediate zone of control, the Empire has essentially no voice. The Legate, as she or he is called (to reflect a status of ambassador, not governor), offers arbitration services and provides a neutral territory for the Tribes to use for meetings. The Four have a presence on the Imperial planet, though the Starwolf and Diamond Sword groups are merely token emissaries there to observe. The Children of Phoenix and the Blood Eagle compose the main tribal presence here. The Blood Eagle remain unusually quiet, and treat the Legate with courtesy despite having little respect for the Imperial garrison. The Children maintain a strong, diplomatic stance, and offer themselves as advisors on the vicissitudes of the wilderzone.
The Empress The current ruler of the Great Human Empire of Terra is Her Imperial Majesty Catherine Solontha Lewis VI. She is 29 years old, still unmarried and without heir. She is said to be incredibly beautiful, though some stories paint her as tragically disfigured and claim the holos of her unblemished face are fakes. Her nickname among the Imperial military is "The Lioness."
On the advice of the current Legate, Empress Catherine has not demanded tribute from the wilderzone. She reportedly devotes all her energies to battling the Scourge. Many songs and jokes feature the Empress. Only the Blood Eagle and the Diamond Sword tribes refrain from any of the latter. The characteristically calm Diamond Sword have even fought duels against those whose jests portray the Empress in a vulgar or utterly demeaning light.
“"The Empire's soft, all right, but this girl's got claws. Don't insult her name in front of me, hear?"”
Imperial trade is sporadic, since the Tribes of Man have little the Empire desires beyond some raw materials or unusual works of tribal art. Nevertheless, many free traders have vast networks in the wilderzone, doing brisk business between the Tribes themselves and between Imperial corporations and the Tribes.
The Empire is at war. Reports vary, but the Empire apparently struggles against a merciless foe, one that threatens the heart of Sol itself. The enemy is the Scourge, a revolution by humanity's artificially bred servants, the BioDerms. Originally cyborgs created from convicted criminals in the 27th century, BioDerms referred to a vat-grown artificial humanoid by the 32nd century. By the 38th century, genetic engineering rendered form only remotely human. For centuries, they were the slaves of humanity, but finally, under the leadership of an exceptionally charismatic member of their kind, they revolted against the Empire.
The Legate and the Imperial garrison seem calm enough. However, reports from an ongoing trickle of refugees tell a story different than the Imperial media line. The Minstrels sing tales of crushing defeat deep within the Empire, and whisper stories of desperate battle.
The Kepler March
The Tribes consider themselves part of the Empire, but they also resist any incursion by the soft side of Imperial civilization. The Children of Phoenix have skirmished with Imperial troops over the Kepler system and its Starburst jumpgate for centuries. Imperial settlers currently hold the Kepler system, seemingly at the whim of the Children of Phoenix. Given the growing number of war refugees coming into Kepler and the protective stance of the Children's Hell Lantern sub-tribe, some observers argue a quid pro quo has been reached between the Phoenix Prime and the Empire.