Mazianni is a term used in C. J. Cherryh's science fiction Alliance-Union universe. It refers to the military starships and their crews who remain loyal to their commander, the charismatic, ambitious Conrad Mazian, when he renounces his allegiance to Earth.
The ships began their existence as the Earth Company Fleet. Initially these were armed exploration vessels, but became a 50-ship force of purpose-built FTL starships tasked with enforcing Earth Company policy across the immense area through which humanity is now scattered, and to regain control of the star stations. The discovery of habitable planets (first Pell's World, and later, Cyteen) has drastically altered the pattern of ship movements, and has freed the spacers from dependency on Earth as a source of terrestrial materials and goods. Older stations near Earth have collapsed as their populations rush to the stations near these new worlds; a dissident faction has begun to form its own centers of population and government at the far end of the outward expansion. In the long Company War between Earth and the breakaway Union, the original 50 ships has been whittled down to 15 patchwork ships with waning loyalty to an increasingly indifferent Earth by the beginning of the novel Downbelow Station.
Losing a war of attrition, Mazian devises a subtle, dangerous plan to establish a firebreak between Union and Earth. Implementing his strategy costs five of his ships. When he launches the Fleet for the last critical attack, he is forced to abort when he receives a message from a high Earth Company official, announcing peace negotiations and ordering him to stand down. The Fleet retreats to Pell, less one more ship.
At this point, Mazian makes the fateful decision to rebel and attempt to take over Earth itself. Downbelow Station ends with his (implied) failure, and the defection of one of his most senior captains, Signy Mallory, and her ship Norway to the newborn Merchanter's Alliance, based at Pell. The remaining ships, outlawed by all three major powers, return to guerrilla warfare: hit-and-run raids and preying on merchant ships for replacement personnel and equipment.
At least three subsequent merchanter novels mention the Mazianni. In Rimrunners, Keu's India is trapped while trying to refuel at the Thule star system and is either captured or (more likely) destroyed by Norway. At the end of Merchanter's Luck, Tom Edger's Australia is forced to evacuate a little-used station by Norway, supported by the armed superfreighters Finity's End and Dublin Again. Tripoint however hints at a more promising fate for at least part of the renegade Fleet: a distant, habitable planet has been discovered and a new colony is being secretly built there by a faction of the Fleet that has opted to give up piracy as a means of survival.
The ships of the Mazianni, like their counterparts in the Union military, can be likened to a combination of current-day battleships and aircraft carriers. They are well armed and can fight on their own, but also carry "rider ships" to augment their firepower. The latter are short-range, intrasystem vessels, incapable of interstellar flight on their own. In Downbelow Station, Norway has four of them. Also notable is their immense acceleration advantage over merchanters and other non-military ships.
It is explicitly stated in some of the more-recently published novels that there are Earth Company fleet crewmembers who served prior to the launching of the Fleet carriers; this is made possible by time dilation and "rejuv" (rejuvenation therapy), a medical treatment that extends life. In Rimrunners, a Loki crewman claims to have served on a sublighter (a ship incapable of "Jump" FTL starflight). Others are recruited, voluntarily or not, from "merchanters" (interstellar traders) and "insystemers" (spaceships incapable of interstellar flight). Signy Mallory is an example of the former, Bet Yeager (from Rimrunners) the latter. Lastly, there are survivors of lost Fleet ships. For example, Norway has crew from Brazil, Italia, Wasp and the jinxed Miriam B.
A carrier's crew includes space marines who are equipped with armed and armored suits, similar to those in Heinlein's Starship Troopers. Rimrunners describes them and their capabilities in some detail.
- Cherryh, C. J. Downbelow Station, DAW Books, 1981.
- Cherryh, C. J. Finity's End, Warner Aspect, 1997.
- Cherryh, C. J. Merchanter's Luck, DAW Books, 1982.
- Cherryh, C. J. Rimrunners, Warner Books, 1989.
- Cherryh, C. J. Tripoint, Warner Aspect, 1994.
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