The Von Shrakenberg family owned Paderborn Chemicals, a medium-sized corporation specializing in providing specialized materials to a variety of military contractors and civilian manufacturers. Originally headquartered on Earth, they moved to Avalon following the impact of the Bug Meteor in 2198. It was during the evacuation of Earth that young Erich von Shrakenberg was born in a spaceport passenger terminal while his mother was waiting for her turn to board a shuttle to an evacuation transport. He thus considered himself to be the last citizen of the Federation to born on humanity's ancestral home.
The Von Shrakenberg family long had a tradition of only the eldest son of each generation inheriting control of the family company and the bulk of the family forturne, with the heir's younger siblings instead joining the Military (originally that of Germany, later that of the Earth Federation once it was founded). In obedience to this tradition, young Erich attended the New Tereshkova Academy on Avalon, where he became lifelong friends with Terry Carter. Erich was commissioned as an Ensign in Earth Fleet upon his graduation, and family connections and actual talent ensured he rose fairly rapidly through the ranks. He went through several tours of duty as bridge officers of various ships, as an engineer on a frigate, and as executive officer on the EFS Nagoya, under the command of his old friend Terry Carter. While aboard the Nagoya, he fought alongside future Vice-Admiral Gabriella Munoz in support of Arthur Clarke's second assault on Wilke's Star in 2236.
EFS StornowayEditIn 2242, Erich served a one-year tour of duty as commanding officer of the EFS Stornoway, a Rota-class Fleet Destroyer which had been rebuilt as the testbed for an experimental Graviton Cannon weapons system. While early tests were promising, the technology was never put into widespread service. it was during this early testing that a supposedly lifeless and uninhabited asteroid which was destroyed as target practice was discovered to have been being used to store several thousand staked and unconscious Vampires. It was never discovered who was behind this apparent attempt to keep a secret army in storage, but during the investigation Erich was the target of an unsuccessful assassination attempt by unknown persons. The investigation was turned over to the relevant authorities, but the trail eventually ran cold and no arrests were made. Around this time, the Stornoway destroyed the Enoch Navy light cruiser ENS Lilith, which had violated Federation space in the Hrothgar system, and which had fired on the Stornoway after Erich refused a face-to-face meeting with the Ghoul captain of the ship. On both the Stornoway and his next command, his executive officer was his cousin, Johanna Ingolfsson.
EFS SchaumburgEditIn early 2243 Erich was given command of the EFS Schaumburg, a Niteroi-class light cruiser, and sent to join the patrol picket in the Rios system. While investigating reports of smuggling, the Schaumburg was attacked for reasons never adequately explained by the EFS Enforcer, a patrol frigate under the control of Earth Federation Internal Security. The Enforcer was destroyed in the battle, but before the incident could be adequately investigated, the Schaumburg was caught in the first Jurvain invasion of Rios. Von Shrakenberg sent a commandeered civilian freighter on a collision course with the jump gate through which the main fleet of Jurvain invasion transports was then passing, destroying transports carrying about a quarter million Jurvain ground troops. With their ground force gone, the Jurvain Battle fleet was forced to withdraw, but not before being bloodied in a three-way space battle between Grand Council Loyalist, Auntie Sarah's TI rebels, and Jurvain naval forces. The badly-damaged Schaumburg limped back to Avalon for repairs. For his actions at Rios, Von Shrakenberg forever earned the racial enmnity of the entire Jurvain species, and they began calling him simply "The Gatecrasher".
EFS BenedictEditErich Von Shrakenberg next was given command of the destroyer EFS Benedict as flag captain to Commodore J.J. Adams' task force, which was sent to make a deep-penetration raid against TI rebel forces in the New Madrid system as part of Task Force 23. Although the raid was successful in destroying the captured Star Control Ship EFS Jutland and badly damaging the defensive battlestations, return fire from those battlestations destroyed the other three ships of the flotilla and badly damaged the Benedict. While limping to the rendezvous point for pickup by a ship with a gravity drive, the Benedict was attacked by a lone Ro'Kor-class Battlecruiser of the Jurvain fleet, eager to get revenge on The Gatecrasher for what he did at Rios. His ship crippled and impossibly outgunned, Erich agreed to surrender himself to Jurvain custody if they let his ship and crew escape. While making a spacewalk from his crippled ship (the shuttle bay and all docking points were too damaged for transfer that way), Erich snuck a fusion cannon warhead along in his "luggage" which had supposedly contained human food and clothing for his use during his captivity. Throwing the bomb package into the airlock of the Jurvain Battlecruiser, Erich pushed himself away but was not able to escape the fireball. Exploding within the hull of the ship and thus behind all its defensive shielding and armor, the bomb so crippled the Battlecruiser that it could do nothing more than try to ram the Benedict, which was unsuccessful due to the belated arrival of the EFS Vanguard, their pickup vessel. Erich himself suffered from radiation sickness as well as losing both his left arm and right leg to shrapnel from the explosion. During his subsequent convalescence on Avalon, both were replaced with limbs from a clonesicle his family had kept in storage since he was a small boy.
Prop For PropagandaEdit
During his convalescence, Erich became even more of a pawn in larger political games than usual. He was trotted out for a series of stage-managed press conferences, designed to use his heroism and success in battle against overwhelming odds to bolster both the Grand Council Loyalist cause, and the political fortunes of Grand Fleet Admiral Kristen Vorheis. He was also directed to work with a fleet-assigned ghostwriter to put together a quickie autobiography, which was titled "It Doesn't Take A Hero" over his vociferous objections, Erich not having been a fan of the famous autobiography by pre-space general Norman Schwarzkopf. Also during this period, Erich's mind was manipulated by InSec mind mages, without his knowledge. Their intent was to implant a series of post-hypnotic commands to interfere with any subsequent political maneuvering he might be inclined to make on behalf of Admiral Vorheis, who at the time was competing with InSec commandant Rashid King for the post of Marshal of the Federation. Although Erich was consciously unaware of these activities, his unconscious mind plauged him with vivid dreams of assassination attempts and other nightmare imagery.
Mission To MarsEdit
Promoted to Commodore after his actions in New Madrid, Erich was attached as a staff officer in the operations department of Task Force 54, commanded by his uncle and longtime patron, Admiral Karl Von Shrakenberg. Shortly after arriving at his new assignment, he recieved a secret message from Grand Fleet Admiral Kristen Vorheis which triggered the aforementioned post-hypnotic commands. Before he could act on them, however, his uncle burst into the room with a friendly Mind Mage from amongst the ship's Tech Infantry Marine complement, and they restrained Erich and removed the implanted commands. The secret message had countermanded his original orders, which had been to bombard both Mars and Earth from orbit until the Resistance surrendered the system, and instead authorized him to enter into secret negotiations with the Resistance leadership to persuade them to rejoin the Federation. Recovering from his mind rape, Erich helped craft the revised battle plan that went disastrously wrong and ultimately cost Karl Von Shrakenberg his life. Erich himself was forced to abandon ship after the task force flagship was ambushed and destroyed by Horadrim warships under the control of Internal Security, who were secretly aiding and controlling the Resistance movement that had colonized the Earth system.
Working With The Resistance, ReluctantlyEdit
Landing alone via escape pod on Mars, he was met by Lwan Eddington, who revealed to Erich the extent of InSec's support for and control over the Resistance movement. Together, they convinced the Resistance admiral who had defeated him, Chuck Coppinger, to cooperate with them in the successful attempt to capture a damaged InSec warship which was being repaired after the battle in a Resistance-held shipyard over Mars. In exchange for their help in capturing the ISS Canaris, the Resistance Admiral agreed to release several of Erich's fellow officers who had been captured after the battle, and transport them to Avalon, where Erich planned to confront Rashid King with the evidence of his treachery before the entire Grand Council. Admiral Coppinger agreed because he was eager to end InSec's controlling influence over the Resistance, and figured whatever happened after King's accusation, the resulting Chaos would do more damage to the Federation than merely holding a few dozen Earth Fleet officers prisoner.
Battle of AvalonEdit
Returning to Avalon aboard that captured Horadrim-built ship, Erich attempted to confront InSec commander Rashid King for his actions aiding the Resistance against his own government. This accusation, leveled in front of the Grand Council itself, was what triggered King's unsuccessful Coup d'Etat, during which King was killed by Xavier Pollos, and those few Grand Council members not killed by King, were instead killed by Andrea Treschi, who had fought his way into the Council Chambers with a squad of Raptor troopers, ostensibly to save them from King's coup. In the middle of this chaos, Auntie Sarah's rebels launched an invasion of Avalon, and no sooner had Erich escaped the firefight in the council chamber, but he was commandeering an assault transport, the EFS Caporetto, and taking it into the thick of the space battle. He used its drop pod launchers to lay an improvised minefield in the path of the incoming rebel fleet, and the damage caused by this attack was instrumental in the failure of the invasion to make a practicable beachhead on Avalon. After the Caporetto was destroyed by enemy fire, Erich's escape pod was picked up and he was given command of the Third Battlecruiser Squadron, aboard his new flagship, the EFS Repulse. From aboard the Repulse, Erich took over command of Home Fleet after communications with Admiral Vorheis on the ground were cut off by enemy sabotage of communications towers near the capital, and Fleet Admiral "Ragin' Reese" Jamison was killed aboard the EFS Ares. Erich organized a series of spoiling attacks along the flanks of the enemy fleet by small detachments of Gravity Drive-equipped starships jumping rapidly in and out of hyperspace, taking advantage of how well-surveyed the Avalon system was to almost replicate the tactics of the Horadrim Tunnel Drive ships that had defeated him at Mars. When the rest of the fleet proved unable to effectively take advantage of the openings this tactic provided for him, Erich switched tactics. He brought his new battlecruiser squadron to the New Paris jumpgate under stealth mode, and got close enough to force the surrender of the two Akagi-class heavy cruisers the rebel fleet had left to guard it. With the gate safe to travel through, he put through an urgent call for reinforcements. All that came through was a single Carrier squadron under the command of Commodore Joseph Smythe, the rest of the fleet preferring to sit the main battle out. Smythe and Von Shrakenberg joined forces, but before they could advance, the rebel fleet commander, Admiral Danielle Twedt, was blackmailed into withdrawing her forces by Samuel Wall, who went on to order Smythe to wipe out the retreating fleet. Erich volunteered his flagship as a sacrificial unmanned drone, which was set on autopilot to jump into the system too close to the New Paris jumpgate just as it activated to let the Rebel fleet retreat through it. The resulting interferance of their gravity wells caused the jump gate to explode, taking most of the Rebel fleet with it. Erich and his crew returned safely home aboard one of the cruisers they had captured earlier, on the way narrowly avoiding getting into a friendly-fire incident with the EFS McInerny, aboard which his old friend Xinjao O'Reilly was returning from the Phoenix system following his capture by the Christian Federation, sabotage of their fleet and shipyards, and subsequent violent escape during which he killed both their top deputy military commanders. Erich was subsequently promoted to Rear Admiral and given command of what little remained of the Home Fleet at Avalon after the battle, with his new flagship the EFS Zeus.
The Reluctant AssassinEdit
Erich's appointment to head Home Fleet was, obviously to even a political neophyte like him, fraught with political implications. With the Grand Council dead, many political players were trying to move into the subsequent power vacuum, including Grand Fleet Admiral Kristen Vorheis, Erich's boss as head of Earth Fleet. Lacking political ambitions of his own, Erich was forced into backing Vorheis' grab for power, being sent by Earth Fleet Intelligence to find and kill Samuel Wall, whose actions in manipulating both sides during the Battle of Avalon had offended Erich's sense of honor. Erich tracked him down at a beach resort on Avalon, and demanded he return to his previous exile and retirement from politics. When Wall refused, he called down a Kinetic Interdiction Strike upon the resort and tried to teleport out via transit beacon. But his correspondence link failed to operate, and Wall whipped out his own signalling device and had both of them teleported to a mansion in the capital city instead. There, Wall tried to talk Erich into joining his conspiracy to rule the Federation, but Erich angrily refused. Erich grabbed a heavy iron poker from the fireplace in Wall's living room and savagely beat Wall to death with it, throwing his conspiracy into chaos.
(To Be Continued)
Moon Over My Hammy ActingEditSeveral inconclusive battles later, Erich was sent to finish what his uncle had started and wipe out the Resistance movement on Earth once and for all. Given command of a Star Control Ship armed with a Gravitic Ram and a fleet to support him, Erich invaded the Earth system for the final time. Although his flagship and most of his support ships were destroyed in a mutual-annihilation battle with the defending Resistance ships, Erich completed his mission to use the Gravitic Ram to fatally weaken the physical structure of Earth's moon, then ram a damaged battlecruiser into the core of the moon at a high fraction of the speed of light, shattering the moon so that the fragments would rain down upon the Earth and render it once more uninhabitable. Erich went down with his ship, perishing in his final mission.
Behind the ScenesEdit
Erich Von Shrakenberg was the Player Character of Martin Hohner for Season 4.2 (when his name was still spelled "Eric") and later for Season 4.3 as well. The spelling change was due to, when Season 4.3 came around, Martin not being able to remember if he used the original Gaelic-flavored spelling or switched to the more Germanic-flavored one, and assuming he'd done the latter. Oops. He was named for a character in the Draka novels by S.M. Stirling, a sympathetic character who nevertheless worked for an irredeemably evil organization. Some aspects of his character were also inspired by the Honor Harrington novels of David Weber. His Actor Avatar is Jurgen Prochnow, specifically in his role in the so-campy-its-actually-fun Wing Commander movie.