Elder of the Conclave (cont.)

[I’m back! This is a continuation of this story. I doubt I’ll return to this little universe, at least for a long while, but I fell out of the habit of writing for awhile and wanted to get back into it with something relatively easy. It’s good to be back]

“How is this not a declaration of war?” Premier Asam growled, leaning over the table, staring incredulously at her Foreign Minister, Giermond.

“Comrade Premier, please understand,” Giermond said, rubbing his temple through his veil. None of them had slept much the previous night. Reports had been sporadic at first, but by morning local time, the only communication out of the Niyati system had been a civilian interlink clogged with terrified personal messages and cries for help. Asam and her Presidium had already been awake, waiting for news on the Gorgon Fleet, but that had been forgotten with the arrival of the Verid Citadel.

Giermond continued, “To say the Verid have a government at all is misleading. They have a legislature and an executive, but the posts are largely ceremonial at this point, filled only by tradition. Whatever power they have is nominal at the best of times. In all likelihood, the Basilica of Verimos has no idea this Citadel has entered our space.”

Asam leaned back in her chair and threw up her hands, “So you’re telling me; a Verid citadel, with all the armament needed to wipe a mid-sized star system clean of all life, can park itself in our territory, but don’t worry, it’s not a declaration of war because they’re not taking orders from anybody.”

“That might be the best case scenario,” Haga Druge, her Chief of Staff grumbled, “Our best projections suggest a mobilization of Verid forces against us is one of the scenarios that likely starts the dominos falling. The Marrikese will make their move in the immediate aftermath, and once that happens…”

“Alright,” Asam waved them down, “So what do we have to do to make sure this isn’t a prelude to full mobilization? Who do we talk to?”

“Normally,” Giermond blinked the tiredness out of his six eyes, “We would ask the Verid Ambassador to the Conclave, but they haven’t sent us one in almost two years.”

“Then who was at my inauguration?” Asam asked, blinking confusion, “Somebody from Verimos congratulated me.”

“Ah, yes. That’s Cassalius. He lives at the embassy,” Giermond opened his arms as if that explained everything.

“He ‘lives at the embassy?’ What does that even mean?” Asam was angry enough to let her voice rise.

“He was the ambassador about 70 years ago,” said Giermond.

“And what, he just never left?” Asam asked, incredulous.

“That’s fairly accurate, Comrade Premier,” Giermond said nodding.

Asam adjusted her veil and forced down another growl, “So there’s nobody currently representing the Verid government on Rymus?”

“Cassalius and a few of his aides are the best we can do on that front. It’s not good, but it’s not nobody,” Giermond offered, “But there is another problem.”

“Oh good, we didn’t have enough of those,” Asam closed her eyes, “Lay it out.”

“Our ambassador to the Basilica of Verimos hasn’t been accepted yet either.”

“We sent them months ago! What’s the holdup?” Asam asked shaking her head.

“Well apparently, our Ambassador has to be formally accepted by their legislature, but their body hasn’t actually convened with a quorum in…well I don’t actually know. Years probably.”

“So they’ve got nobody officially here, and while we’ve got somebody officially at the Basilica, they can’t be bothered to show up to meetings of their own government!?” Asam asked in utter disbelief.

“The Verid have…,” Giermond sighed, looking for the right words, “I guess you could say they’ve been experimenting with Anarchy as a political system.”

Asam slumped back in her chair, feeling a pain behind her eyes rising to the forefront. She let the Presidium sit in silence for a moment, consulting their mobile platforms and reading the latest reports out of Niyati.

“Our remaining garrison have succeeded in militarizing the functioning civilian interlink, Comrade Premier,” Haga said finally.

Asam nodded. There was that at least.

“Here is what we’ll do,” she began, “First, get me Cassalius. He may not have any real authority but he’s the closest we have. Second, get word to our ambassador, tell them to start raising hell however they can. Bang pots and pans together if they have to but get the attention of somebody over there and demand a formal response to this tragedy. Be sure to call it a “tragedy” too. Haga’s right, if the Verid go to war over this it may be the end for us all, so we can’t back them into a corner. We call it a “tragedy,” an accident or whatever, maybe the Citadel reentered real space too close to the fleet by mistake. But we make it clear we hold them responsible…tell them we want an apology. Next; Haga, how long will it take us to get a new fleet deployed?”

“Without a receiving warp gate to manage the transition back to real space…,” they consulted their MP, “Six weeks.”

“See if we can cut that time down any. In the meantime, get in touch with what’s left of the local Niyati fleet. I want them reorganized and ready to fight as soon as possible.”

“Comrade Premier,” Giermond was shaking his head, “You can’t seriously be suggesting we attack?”

“That’s exactly what I’m suggesting,” Asam said, crossing her legs and arms, “I’m hoping it won’t come to that of course.”

“The admiral themself said-” Giermond began.

“-A war with Verimos would be catastrophic,” she finished for him, “But if this Citadel isn’t taking orders from Verimos, then as far as I see it, it’s a pirate ship. And we’re well within our rights to sink pirate ships.”

“The Lintang and Estrella Guards Fleets would be more than a match for a single Verid Citadel,” Haga’s determined grin was visible through their translucent veil, “Seven weeks to get them both to Niyati. Five or Six if we push it.”

“Do it,” Asam stood, and the Presidium stood with her, “We won’t attack unless we’ve exhausted our other options. I want Cassalius here within the hour and a progress report from Verimos an hour after that.”

“Yes, Comrade Premier,” the assembled beings said almost as one. Asam walked out of the room through a side door whilst the other members began to speak amongst themselves. One of her bodyguards gestured behind her, and she turned to see a small drone approaching her.

“Minister Eagna,” Asam said, greeting the virtual presence device, “Something else on your mind?”

“Just public opinion, Comrade Premier,” the AI said through the drone, “There are few Verid living within Conclave space, but those that do are likely to receive increased hostility when word spreads about the loss of the Niyati fleet.”

“A fair point,” Asam nodded, “What do you suggest?”

“Media blitz. Remind people that the Conclave does not belong to one species and that the Verid who live within it are a part of it. The usual buzzwords: unity, togetherness, friendship, that sort of thing. Cynical as it may sound, people could do with a reminder now and again.”

Asam nodded, “I suppose we could, comrade. I suppose we could.”

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