H. Maximillian Kruger
|Hans Maximillian Kruger|
|Place of birth||Unknown, Border worlds|
Free Republic of the Landreich
Free Republic of the Landreich Navy
|Years of service||2634|
|Commands||Landreich Sector Fleet|
|Battles/wars||Battles of Hell Hole|
Battle of Earth
Battle of Landreich
Battle of Baka Kar
|Relations||Margaret Kruger (ex-wife)|
Kruger's early life was tinged with disappointment. He joined the Sarn Consortium to escape a drunken father after being rejected by the Confederation Academy, but fled Confederation space after gunning down a Sarn son in a bar fight. His next job was aboard the independent merchantman Phantom, best known from an infamous run-in with a Kilrathi border patrol during a cross-border smuggling run on 2634.121. Facing two frigates and the better part of a Kilrathi fighter squadron, Phantom launched a nuke mine which destroyed one frigate. The other hit Phantom as she jumped with a seeker missile salvo that killed all of her crew except Kruger.
After repairing Phantom, now renamed Lazarus, Kruger briefly went into business as an independent privateer, during which time he ferried a ConFleet infiltration squad led by Commander Winston Turner into Kilrathi space and helped discover the Kilrathi fleet poised to strike the Landreich. Following Lazarus's return to Hell Hole, Kruger was drafted into the Landreich Militia, and commanded a Landreich "frigate" at the Battle of the Hell Hole, helping to repel the Kilrathi invasion force. Kruger's ship was shot down during a follow-up raid on Fawcett's World, the only survivors being Kruger and his executive officer. Kruger managed a series of guerrilla raids which threw the local Kilrathi administration into chaos before stealing a frigate and escaping back to the Landreich.
There are several somewhat contradictory accounts of Kruger's subsequent career. One holds that he had been assigned to a ConFleet colonial squadron as a destroyer captain, and deserted said squadron (with ship), when its commander, Kruger's old Lazarus consort Vance Richards, ordered a withdrawal from the Landreich under "strategic necessity". Under this account, Kruger and his crew once again led the defense of Hell Hole, and then pursued the fleeing Kilrathi through twelve jump points, where he was again shot down and led a raiding campaign until being rescued by an allied privateer. The second account places him in the same Home Guard squadron, but aboard Richards's flagship, the cruiser San Jacinto. This account has Richards chafing with his colonial command, the final straw coming with the infamous withdrawal order from ConFleet HQ. Kruger, in this version, led a mutiny to depose Richards, hijacking San Jacinto, and leading the Landreich to victory in a three-year campaign against local Kilrathi.
By all accounts, Kruger's actions made him a hero throughout the Landreich sector. He was elected President of the Landreich, establishing the Free Republic and declaring its official independence. By 2667-68, the Republic encompassed eight major colony worlds spread across seven parsecs. As President of the Landreich, Kruger's policy was one of stolid self-reliance, fiercely defending Landreich sovereignty against all outsiders, Terran or Kilrathi.
The Confederation-Imperial armistice of that period threatened this fragile equilibrium. Kruger — as well as many other Colonials — was intensely suspicious of the peace, and especially the Kilrathi motivations for it. His skepticism was shared by some Confederation Fleet officers, who organized a "Free Corps" mission of volunteers, built around several recently decommissioned escort carriers, led by Geoffrey Tolwyn and Kruger's old nemesis, Vance Richards, now commander of ConFleet Intelligence.
Although intended primarily as a cover for Richards's intelligence-gathering activities, when decisive proof was discovered that the Kilrathi did intend to restart the war, Kruger refused to release the carriers and Free Corps from Landreich service, instead personally leading them as part of the Landreich Sector Fleet from his flagship Blitzkrieg in a madcap defense of the sector, losing one carrier, Gallipoli, a frigate, and corvette in exchange for a Kilrathi carrier and two destroyers.
By then, the Kilrathi offensive had penetrated through to Sirius, and Geoffrey Tolwyn, who had escaped the Free Corps and was now overall commander of the Confederation Fleet, had retreated to Earth. Kruger's intentions at this time are unclear — five Kilrathi carriers still threatened the Landreich and the Free Corps escort carriers composed the bulk of his fighting strength. A last-minute harangue from a young Free Corps captain appears to have swayed him into assisting the Confederation at Earth, which he did in his typical flamboyant fashion — racing at flank speed through multiple jump points, and saving Earth from a Kilrathi cruiser squadron which had just bombarded Earth's moon and several of her major cities.
Kruger's actions made him the hero of the hour, and won him assistance from a Confederation squadron when Kilrathi raided the Landreich the following year. The Kilrathi flagship, KIS Karga, was crippled by two ConFleet cruisers in a follow-up action and left for dead.
The Kilrathi War ended several months later, with the destruction of Kilrah, but Kruger, perhaps still cautious from the similar peace treaty signed little over a year previous, continued to run the Republic on a war footing, driving away many of his friends and political allies, such as Landreich Councilman Daniel Webster Galbraith. When Karga was discovered eight months after the Landreich battle, badly damaged but mostly intact, Kruger's decision to salvage her in the furtively named Project Goliath, further ostracized him from his own government.
When the full details of Project Goliath were revealed to the Landreich government in a closed-council session, Kruger's career appeared to be finished. Kruger was roundly condemned and subjected to a vote of no confidence. It is possible that the Landreich president could have escaped this disgrace by counter-publicizing the presence of Vorghath, a Kilrathi warlord dreadnought, but Kruger, quixotic as ever, decided this would only cause unnecessary panic. Instead, Karga, largely repaired and renamed Mjollnir, was sent, under false auspices and with the assistance of Prince Murragh, to destroy or cripple Vorghath, while Kruger took the bulk of the remaining fleet to Ilios to counter any Kilrathi incursions. His gamble largely went in his favour, with the Vorghath successfully neutralized and the plans of the rogue Kilrathi warlord, Ragark, thrown into disarray. A last-minute sortie by Task Force Ilios rescued Mjollnir from Ragark's vengeance.
Although Kruger survived the vote of no-confidence and was reinstated as Landreich President, none of the underlying issues that had sparked the row were resolved. Kruger continued to run the Landreich in an increasingly belligerent fashion, and from 2671-72 a brief war was even fought against the Confederation. Though Kruger remained in power, and assisted the Union of Border Worlds during that fledgling nation's conflict with the Confederation, the near-dictatorial power he had held over the government for almost twenty-five years was finished.
Kruger remains one of the most colorful and controversial leaders of his time, second perhaps only to Admiral Geoffrey Tolwyn. His killing of Venela Sarn, for the latter's attempt to murder a barmaid, demonstrated early on a willingness to take on whoever and whatever, regardless of personal safety, to realize his own concept of justice. The same could be said of his mutiny while in Confederate service, and of the quasi-wars he led against both Kilrathi warlords and the Confederation Fleet. This same standard of personal justice could manifest itself as a dictatorial streak, which could be seen in his battles with the post-Kilrathi War Landreich Council, or when, while President, the many times he personally led the Landreich Navy into battle in the vanguard.
"He knew now that, like a lotus addict, he'd willingly seek the moment out, again and again, no matter what the risk . . . A line of challenge had been crossed, and the crossing had been remarkably easy."
Jason Bondarevsky, ex-Free Corps Volunteer and Landreich Commodore, was narrower and less sanguine in his assessment:
"He says the President of a frontier republic doesn't have to worry about protocols or formalities or little things like running the nation. But if that's the case, you'd be reading history books about Thomas Jefferson taking personal command of the Intrepid the day Decatur went into Tripoli harbor to burn the Philadelphia. The man still has the mind of a destroyer skipper trapped in the body of a head of state."
Behind the Scenes
Kruger appears in Fleet Action, Action Stations, and False Colors, and is mentioned in Star*Soldier. The disparity between his estrangement from the Confederation, as well as his name, comes from the first two novels and is partially resolved in the third, in what is an apparent retcon by author Andrew Keith.