Interstellar War is a rather organized and well regulated process. The number of inhabitable worlds in the galaxy is extremely limited, so early in the colonization process, The Church refused to bring Capital Ships to enemy systems. Without the ability to bring large attack fleets to an enemy’s doorstep, surprise attacks on weaker enemies have become nearly impossible.
As a result of The Church’s edicts Star Systems must now petition for the right to make war against an enemy. This process usually takes months to even years before The Church gives its formal approval, and delivers the notification of intent to the other party or parties in the war. The opposing parties will start with Church monitored negotiations, that typically end with some sort of capitulation of resources to the stronger party. Only on the rarest of occasions do the opposing parties actually engage in conflict.
In the event of an actual war, all parties fleets are brought to The Battleground to conduct their war. All sides of the conflict will have significant intelligence about the size and composition of their enemy’s fleets, as the pre-war negotiations can take anywhere from a few months to a year. The Church will place the two fleets at opposite ends of the System from each other, and in a very formal manner, pronounce a beginning to hostilities. Once the actual fighting begins, it is relatively short, usually no more than a few days. The Church observes from its Cathedral Station in the System, and records the event so all other Systems can be made aware of exactly what happened. Until one side surrenders The Church remains completely neutral, but upon the capitulation of a side The Church immediately demands the cessation of hostilities. The Church then steps in, and removes all of the functional ships from the System, and returns them to their home System.
Regardless of how the capitulation moment is brought on, either through the initial negotiation process, or after war, once one side surrenders the next step if the payment of reparations to the victor. The settlement of reparations is a much more one-sided negotiation, with The Church deciding what the appropriate level of losses should be. Typically the losing nation can expect to pay enough money to replace their enemy’s ships lost in war, and somewhere between 10 to 30 percent of their GDP for the next few years. Very poor systems often have to cede a percentage of their exports, and their people to the winning side, when they do not have enough money to pay their full cost. The people transferred are typically taken from Labor Enclaves, and are chosen at random. All sorts of rumors exist about the true “Randomness” of these selections, and often revolve around how local members of The Church feel about the individuals selected. Those persons transferred to another system are called Reparation Servants, and their future prospects are very bleak. They will be transferred to the winning sides Labor Enclaves, and be put to work on the absolute worse jobs within them. They are treated like slaves by their hosts, and can expect to even be bought and sold on markets in some Systems.
A footnote about war: The standards above only refer to war between two Systems. War inside of a system is no different than in the past. Rebellions and Coups happen more frequently than most System Lords would like to admit, and the outcomes of such events can take years to finish. The Church often does not take a side in most of these events, except to acknowledge a winner once one side prevails.