Trischi Palace, Valera, Talora Prime
Taloran Star Empire
Taloran Home Universe
5 April 2166 AST
28 October 2380 ST-3 Calendar
Two members of the secret service detail, only, were allowed into the room itself. The others were left uncomfortably staring across at their counterparts. The room was very large, and normally intended for banquets, but it was not entirely empty, now. There was a band of youths playing soft music in the far corner, and numerous attendants and servants. Only one small round table was set, however, and entering from the far side of the room was the Empress, leading in a figure who had no doubt become very familiar to Dale, lurking in the shadows, but to whom he had never had a chance to speak or interact much, her position being very limited in the formal ceremonies before. Jhastimia Rulandh was present nominally simply to serve as a 'second' across the table from Julia, a hostess as it were, to make up for the Empress being unmarried.
The room itself was stone with a high column-supported and arched roof, with the columns being more delicate than usual, and inscribed in pictograms in something vaguely resembling Egyptian fashion. The walls were covered in paintings rather than tapestries, and there was one wall which was done up in the style of a fresco but was instead an immense mural, which attracted immediate and tremendous attention.
It was surrounded by a single line of studded rubies, apparently to accentuate the title of the piece, which was 'The Wine of Violence' and marked prominently below it in Taloran, and, surprisingly, an English placard had been added. It showed a great gathering, the blue haired and blue eyed figure of an average-sized Taloran male at the head of the table, regal in his bearing and dressed in armour even while eating, with a red cape. To his right hand was a tall woman dressed in yellow and blue robes, red hair, lavender eyes. The two were pointing in cool contemplation at the severed head of a Taloran male, ears savagely cut off to disfigure the visage even in death, held on a platter by a tall, feminine-like figure, dressed in a red and, to Talorans, black uniform, strangely ugly, hair stiffly pulled back and Dalamarian in ethnic appearance; darker skin for a Taloran, more pasty than translucent in its white, while a more normal feminine figure with pink hair in the same dress presented the head with a crisp and slight smile of sheer malice, a crazed look in her eyes. To the left side of the great male figure, two perfectly identical women, half-naked and wrapped with their arms about each other, hair green and eyes orange, raised a boisterous toast to the main figure, and he, in relaxed conversation with the female to his right, clearly ignored them, and the toast.
But the rest of the room did not. Even as a nude girl of some considerable youth gyrated in the background to the assembly of a flute band, and the servants came and went, there were nine more figures at the table. Eight were male, and of these, seven of them faced their sovereign with gleeful and boisterous expressions, their glasses raised, sloshing the alcohol in them, something like wine enough to translate it as such but not quite, more a liqueur, one of them with another of the female-like figures tangled around him on the broad couches at the table they set, also raising a toast, and quite naked enough to reveal that they were not women but eunuchs who had developed the height and features from a youthful castration. The eighth raised his glass, but absent-mindedly, his eyes appraisingly on one of the serving girls, more concerned with his libido than the bloody toast to their sovereign's having obtained the severed head of one of his foes. The Ninth figure, however, served to be the focus of the piece. She did not raise her glass in toast like the others, but stared into it with a dreadful expression, half fury and half resignation, drumming the fingers of her left hand on the table while her right was clenched in her lap, head turned away from the disgusting spectacle. She was tall, and she was Dalamarian.
The arriving Empress and Jhastimia themselves turned to gaze at the excellently done, fully realistic and lifelike mural for a long while, seeming to invite Dale and Julia to do the same, though it was given with a certain long and considerate look by Saverana, before she stepped over to Dale directly rather than sitting. "President Dale, do you know about what this painting portends?"
"I've seen some of the figures, or rather ones like them, on other works of Taloran art I've seen, but I'm afraid I don't know the specifics," he replied to her.
"The Wine of Violence was commissioned by the First Empress to show the moment where the severed head of Valera's prior husband was delivered to the Tyrant Moloyr. The principle figure is of course the Marshal Taliya, reacting, with her morality, in disgust, while the other eight Marshals of the Tyrant celebrate, only Retgari not completely given over to the moment, the incestuous twins of the Tralvian family, one the favoured wife of the Tyrant and the other his Exchequer, egging them on, while the pagan philosopher Bylyhka and the Tyrant amuse themselves with the finer features of the dead man, coolly ignoring the toast. It is a contrast between different forms of evil and wrong, from minor to hideous, with the disgust of the moral amongst them. And it was thought a suitable piece for a banquet hall, to contrast between the reserved and moral customs of Our own dynasty, and that of what preceded us."
"It does its work well," Dale remarked. "Moloyr is often compared, in Human terms, to Alexander the Great. Of course, Alexander's death was far less dramatic than Moloyr's, and today has little religious connotation."
"I think the closest comparison, at least for Christians, would be Nero," Julia added for him, showing that she was hardly worse off than her husband when it came to learning.
"The one Roman Emperor," Jhastimia observed abruptly, lavender hair done up only lightly to contrast with the severe Imperial Style of Saverana II. "Quite possibly. Moloyr, however, remains a unique figure. Would you like to sit? Dinner will be served shortly."
"Certainly," was the reply, and they all went to sit down. This was, surprisingly for those unexpecting Taloran protocol and formality, the first time in Dale's month-long stay on the Taloran homeworld that he and the Empress had met in a completely informal, business manner like he was long accustomed to with other heads of state. After a week of almost non-stop parades and formal reviews and inspections and gift exchanges, followed by weeks of speeches and tours and dinners leading up to a formal address to the Convocate of Nobles and the formal "signing" of the general agreement with the Talorans (divided as it was, legally, among several treaties known collectively as the "Intuit-Wells Concordat", reflecting the leaders of the two negotiating teams, Princess Jhayka itl dhin Intuit and Alliance Foreign Minister Peter Wells) where Dale penned his name and the Empress placed her seal upon it. It had been exhausting at times, demanding great patience and accordance with strict protocol, leading up to the treaty signings and a formal exchange of awards which had necessitated by Taloran custom, Robert and Julia receiving a Taloran award referred to as the Order of the Shattered Crown, and in turn the Empress being formally presented with the Medal of Freedom (to justify it under the terms of the Medal's requirements, Dale's staff had used the Gilean Crisis and the Taloran government's role in insisting upon relief of Kalunda being given priority and in their following support against efforts to be harsh to the Gilean native populations by the other states).
The Empress and Jhastimia were dressed in full dress uniform, which to them was a considerable step down from ceremonial court dress, which frequently featured heavy quantities of medieval body armour. They set, arranged in such a way that Julia was to Dale's right and Jhastimia to Saverana's; the two rulers faced each other across the table, and it certainly gave the impression of the rumours which all the trying in the world could not prove or deny, that they were lovers, yet the relationship seemed a wholly unnecessary one in that case; they could quite legally be married, and were of a perfectly suitable match for each other. It was heightened by the way that Jhastimia introduced all of the dishes to the Dales, and in Taloran custom, the conversation, with the Empress almost entirely silent, was simply over works of art and how the Dales had enjoyed the city so far, light bordering on inane. It was only when main course was finished and dessert was served that Saverana began to speak in a cool and deliberate way, dropping, however, her use of formal plural pronouns which for Talorans was only done in formal situations. "Did you know, President Dale, that your late book on naval strategy and interstellar operations has a Taloran edition which was published a year ago?"
"I had heard something to that effect from the Naval Institute Press, who hold the primary publishing rights to it," Dale replied while Julia gently enjoyed the dessert. "I admit I'm surprised at how widely it sold. And just when it seemed it'd sold enough, I was elected and an entire new edition was printed."
"I composed the preface for the Taloran language edition," Saverana explained after a moment. "Under a pseudonym, of course. It is broadly recommended for all officers of the Imperial Starfleet and the Navies of Grenya, the Concordat, Jikar, and Dalamar and the new colonies, that I have authority over. I take the work with considerable regard, and I am surprised that you yourself were surprised at its success. It is an immediate classic of modern operations, and we regarded it as such from the start. You must remember that, now that we are together here, the treaties have been signed, and as per the agreements with the IUCEC, all of the bulk data has already been exchanged with the central institutes, the first teams of scientists for cross-training have been dispatched... I can confide to you that we were terrified of the Alliance. To us, no position of strength or equality was possible between a nation which did not have interuniversal drive technology and one that did. Working out these treaties has allowed us to function as equals and friends, very important considering that we regarded the strategic operations your nation, with you at its helm and interuniversal drive on your ships, were capable of, as being a basic threat to the fabric of the Empire. It was my decision that the appropriate response to this was engagement with your State, despite all the fears and doubts this entailed. I consider that act, with its result now at hand, to be the most important of the decisions I have made for the sake of my crownlands and vassals."
Dale was admittedly surprised at the revelation of the Empress' interest in his work, though her commentary on the pre-treaty situation was not far from what he figured. "We're familiar with the concerns of great powers suddenly thrust into the Multiversal era. Not all have handled it as well as the Empire, and I'd like to say I feel the same relief at the treaty as you do. You feared us for our IU drive, while my own security advisors had nightmares about your empire and the Habsburgs combining against us out of fear of our more idealistic citizens. The important thing, of course, is that the Empire and the Alliance are firmly dedicated to peace and prosperity, and the interstellar trade that fuels that."
"As for the book.... when I wrote it, I wasn't just an admiral articulating strategic theory and the base of interstellar naval power through modern and historical example." He put his utensil down into the dessert he'd been working. "I was also a concerned father afraid of losing his daughter because the people in charge, and the public in general, had little idea of the folly they were pursuing in naval policy, and the very real consequences they'd have for us all."
Saverana seemed very curious at that, her ears flexing intently as she looked across to Dale. "Could you elaborate on that, President Dale? I'd like to know the specific circumstances, rather than the general bad examples of the work, which brought it to fruition in the first place."
After finishing a bite of dessert, the fruit taste rather welcome and enjoyable, Dale went into some of the specifics of the naval policies of the Plotinikov Administration and the member nations of the Alliance, who had at the time failed to make up for that weakness. Bad force strength, a lack of strong adherence to naval tradition created for the 'Alliance Space Force', a foolish attempt to concentrate on lighter vessels that, while capable of protecting the spacelanes from piracy or other such threats, left them woefully unready to deal with an enemy with heavy fleet elements if such a war should happen.
Julia sat and listened patiently, seeing that Jhastimia was listening though possibly not as intently as the Empress, who seemed genuinely thrilled at a chance to discuss naval policy with Dale.
"My allusion to the errors of fascist Italy in Universe AR-12, during the Franco-Italian War, were of particular use given that the Plotinikov Administration was pursuing a generally effective policy on Army forces; the Italians had the better army, overran half of France, and almost took Paris.... but the French Marine Militare, being the superior force, tore apart their space empire and the Italian war machine faltered on land from a lack of funds and resources from colonial sources," Dale said as conclusion to his list. "Nations get wealthy from interstellar trade, and acquiring resources from asteroids and other planets that aren't always in abundance on Earth or in the Sol System, but without a powerful navy to protect their trade routes and to ensure the flow of these resources, that strength is hollow. All star nations are, by their very nature, the equivalent of a thalassocratic state, that is, a state that commands only maritime territories, their very existence reliant upon sea power. In our case, space naval power. Only by having such power can a star nation, or a star empire, actually exist and thrive."
"Then what is your opinion on the fundamental failure of the United Federation of Planets, which at one point possessed in active duty and reserve or mothballs a fleet of almost eighteen thousand ships and whose power could arguably be compared favourably to the British of our shared CON-5? They now face a long and uncertain contest with a dedicated group of rebels who have stripped them of a significant portion of their most economically productive colonies, and the war, being an ideological one, will certainly last to the bitter end." No, the Empress wasn't stupid, and Jhastimia was now very interested, for this touched on current policy and events.
Dale smiled thinly at that. So far the Federation Civil War had managed to stay firmly in the background, despite the failure of the De Silva Resolution in the Council. "The Federation's difficulties are not simply linked to naval policies or defense policies as a whole, though they certainly played a part, but rather also to domestic policies that have been going on for the past seventy years, and as one of the few universes to not practice anti-aging medicine, that's a couple of generations easy for most of their races. Given my knowledge of the Federation, and my dealings with them as a policy maker and advisor... their failure stems from domestic problems, the onset of a socialist welfare state in their core worlds, and the inequity of political representation among their worlds. Productivity in their Core Worlds has declined dramatically in the past seventy years while their welfare system's demands for material and funds has grown much larger. Their only recourse was to tax, in increasingly heavy amounts, the semi-autonomous states in the Federation known as charter colonies who have no representation in the Federation Council, an arrangement those worlds only accepted because the alternative, cutting the size of Starfleet, would have left them unprotected from attack."
"Unfortunately, years after this set in, newer political ideologies in the Federation's leadership led to Starfleet being cut anyway, and being further undermined by fanatical pacifism, which rendered this deal null and void. So now the charter colonies, having become the wealthiest and most productive worlds in the Federation, have to deal with up to half of their production being diverted to the Federation Core Worlds to maintain welfare benefits they are not permitted to enjoy and even their defense is not guaranteed, in their eyes, due to the pacifism of elements of the Federation ruling party, which has already, in the past, abandoned charter colonies to attack and outright conquest."
"Now, Majesty, imagine the situation. To the people of these charter colonies, they have to pay exhorbitant taxation for benefits they will never enjoy and to people who, having promised to defend them, have made it adamantly clear they probably will not do so or will cede those worlds to the alien threats that they fear in the first place. Since the Dominion War the only major change, aside from a resurgence in the pacifist numbers after the Borg Scare temporarily diminished them, has been a group of militarists who want to go even further and turn the entire Federation into a fascistic, corporatist state where individuality is discouraged and everyone has to work for the sole benefit of the State. They might want to get rid of the welfare state that has led to this problem in the first place, but to the average citizen of a charter colony, who I think is little different in outlook or desire from any of my citizens or your subjects, the cure that the Association for Federation Unity represents is worse than the disease."
"Now, that this civil war has happened now has surprised many of my policy-makers as well as other experts. We thought the Federation might sputter along for another few decades before the charter colonies declared enough is enough. But given the situation that developed on Pacifica, and the Federation's reaction to it, I can't be in the least surprised that we've come to this point."
"The decline and danger to the Federation now seen is due primarily to their domestic policies, and their failed attempt to create a widespread welfare state. Everything that has followed since - the rise of the fanatical pacifism espoused by Deborah Miller, their wars with their neighbors that demonstrated the weakness of their naval and foreign policies, the rise of Virshk and the AFU - can be blamed on that one fundamental mistake. The Federation's idealists in the post-Khitomer Accords era overlooked the sad fact that a lot of people, if they didn't have to work to survive, would not work, or at least not as well or as productively, without some kind of social or cultural pressure to do so, and the Federation never adequately developed such pressure. Virshk is the first to propose the development of such pressure, but using the force of the State to create it and maintain it, which is far more dangerous than a long-standing social tradition against idleness. And those policies lead us to where we are today."
"Your people seem particularly against the Federation, President Dale," Jhastimia said softly, blue eyes alert. "Will you intervene? This is a serious consideration, as the Federation seems to be going through a natural and inevitable period at the terminal point of decay in such a society. We do not object to Virshk and his political faction, insomuch as we maintain relations with the United Federation of Planets, from a governmental standpoint... Sometimes a harsh purging is required to cure an ill body, President Dale. He does seem to offer that, and war provides innumerable excuses for the regimentation and repair of a society through harsh measures which would otherwise be impossible to implement."
"Personally, though my dear Kavrila is correct, I do not find Virshk to be anything other than a second-rate demagogue, and his means of obtaining power are irregular. However there is the real issue at hand of your response to the conflict, which I suppose it is suitable to discuss."
"The only way I can see the Alliance intervening in this conflict, Majesty, Your Grace, is if the Federation commits an act of war against the Alliance, or if it does something so perverse, so odious, and so shocking as to invite the outrage of all civilized nations and governments of the Multiverse, and in such a condition I don't think any state would be in opposition to intervention," Dale answers tactfully. "As for my people being against the Federation, that's a matter of history. The Federation has treated us rather unfairly in their propaganda over the years, and even when it seemed we had finally became close and were moving on to a better relationship, they stabbed us in the back and attempted to undermine our war effort against the Dominion when they were overruled by the coalition that we led in that war. When President Mamatmas died, the Federation slighted us by not even sending their Ambassador to his memorial service, the only major state not to do so. And during the Dominion War, many of our people got to know some of the people who are now fighting the Federation, and close bonds were formed. Aside from that.... as I said before, one side wishes to force the other to work as helots for their own pleasure, the other simply wishes to have the freedom to enjoy the fruits of their own labors, and nevertheless for years attempted to make their relationship with the Federation work, to show faith in it. That many of my citizens show sympathy with the Colonials and against the Federation is not surprising."
"Of course," Saverana answered, "the law remains on the side of the Federation. I will outright now say, however, that the decision of a certain individual named Slyperia, lately an Admiral in the Imperial Starfleet responsible for the outrageous Istegard Incident, was not sanctioned by this government in taking up Federation employment, and we do not regard her behaviour as acceptable. It never has been, for all that she is a good Admiral and student of the Countess of Kriesdihl."
"Your Serene Majesty, the Istegard Incident?" Jhastimia seemed alarmed.
"I believe it is time for us to explain that in the same way that the Alliance has been very open about the threat from the Borg," Saverana answered. "Especially since Slyperia, Countess of Ughamir, has now taken up Federation service and therefore made herself an interesting person to the Alliance, whose intelligence services," Saverana had an amused look, "Will probably find out much better about her regardless. Istegard is an open secret at best."
"Your Serene Majesty," Jhastimia acceded, falling silent.
Having observed the interplay, Dale already suspected that Bronson knew fully whatever this "Istegard Incident" was, given that even after leaving AID for the Security Advisor post Bronson still remained close to Intelligence with White Eagle being his chief of staff, in military parlance. That said, he found it interesting that Jhastimia was so concerned about talking about it, and that it was considered of such gravity as to equal the Alliance sharing its intel on the Borg with the Taloran Empire.
"President Dale, consider this confidential, though communicate it to your advisors as you wish," Saverana began very levelly, on what was clearly a serious issue. "But several hundred years ago by the human count, when my grandmother was still fairly new to the Imperial throne, a minor colony world on the outer fringe named Istegard was invaded by an alien species, or force of species, calling themselves the Oh-han-kha-lee. In those days, to protect the Empire, we had a policy of the leaders of minor colonies saying, in such a circumstance, that they were the last survivors of a species decimated by internecine warfare, while trying to do everything possible to contact the Empire. This would give us advanced warning before having a new enemy come down on our heads, and give us time to prepare a response which would be overwhelming and unexpected, if the story was bought. With this race, however, it led them to conclude that the survivors were of a mad species, and sought to engage, we posit, in genetic tinkering to 'fix' us. Minor colonies can be founded by innumerable people. Control over them is rare, and they are easily lost. So for a considerable number of years, this colony simply vanished.
"This species.. Systematically modified the population, modifying their gene-pool and manipulating them with a large number of abilities using a sort of advanced, inherent bio-crafting of an order of magnitude unfathomable to us. They forced them to breed with each other in programmes to increase their numbers, and bring their genetic mix into that of the broader genetic knowledge bank of the Oh-han-kha-lee. Resistance was extensive, particularly from the ruler of the colony, the Baroness of Istegard, who was never once broken to their programme while nonetheless maintaining her story. In the meantime, the entire surface of the world was re-ordered on Oh-han-kha-lee principles so that all life-forms were absorbed into their genetic knowledge base, and the resources of the world used to create a series of living world-ships out of the surface of the planet, which ultimately would have lifted off, containing the modified Talorans and the original inhabitants, to spread on slower-than-light courses throughout the galaxy.
"Now, of the whole species, this has happened thousands and thousands of times over tens of thousands of thousands of years, and it was argued by the Baroness of Istegard in Slyperia's presence that most of the time these 'trades' had been mutual; she felt much remorse, even though she refused to bow to them, to misleading them to take this tack. For, by now, Slyperia was the commander of that expansion sector, a major new government formation, and the strange developments had been uncovered and documented. Her response was to completely cleanse the surface of the world, burning it down to the bedrock, and destroying or contaminating with long-term nuclear particles every single habitable system. She destroyed the organic ships of the Oh-han-kha-lee and she completely exterminated such of our subjects which survived among them, perhaps curable of their mutations and perhaps not, but nonetheless worthy of the attempt. And she did this all immediately, without permission or consultation. She likewise sent out sweeps and scouts which accounted for twenty-six of their worldships in deep space and irradiated and destroyed another system that they were found present in, in the area. Around the same time three nearby worlds suffered attacks of spores from orbit which caused strange and progressive mutations in the plant and animal life. Significant areas of valuable land were irradiated on these planets and some thousands of people in the affected areas killed outright. It was believed that this was a counterattack by the Oh-han-kha-lee, but the connection was never made precisely sure. The Admiral of Ughamir was sacked for the extremity of her measures due to the protestations of the Baroness of Istegard, who committed suicide after these actions... A very grave thing, so sinful a way to die, which influenced my grandmother to believe her story to some extent. Slyperia, however, she has...
"A vocal following in the Starfleet of those who say that as the pupil of the Countess of Kriesdihl she acted with speed and decision to save the Empire from an impossible plague which is, as we speak, spreading throughout the Empire by slower than light ships, almost undetectable in deep space, as they are made up of organic compounds. Their adherents have secured such large expenditures in civil defence as you may notice, particularly in the colonies. I have always attempted to remain balanced between both sides, for there are also those who assert that, as the Oh-han-kha-lee ships never once returned fire and their actions, according to their own claims, were in the best interests of the colonists as they believed them to be, that Slyperia waged war on a completely pacifistic species incapable of violence, or, according to their own claims to Slyperia before she destroyed their ships, even of lying."
The Dales listened to Saverana explain the entire thing. "I will, of course, only share this with the Alliance Security Committee under secrecy, under what we refer to as Silver Level classification - the highest, I assure you. We may even see what we can do about scanning for such vessels in deep space, and share that technology or process with the Empire to aid you in locating any of these 'Oankali' and ascertaining their motives. As much as it would mean to destroy Admiral Slyperia's reputation, I sincerely hope that they are not aggressive as she feared. A war with such a capable species would certainly be devastating."
Inwardly, Dale found himself with another fear. Would such an aggressive woman, capable of widespread killing like that (even if under circumstances she thought necessary), merge well with the AFU's newfound militarism? Would she do the kind of thing that would enflame the Alliance citizenry, make them even more virulently anti-Federation, and perhaps drag the Alliance into the war? It was a very... uncomfortable thought, given how aware Dale was of the cost of Alliance intervention in the Civil War in foreign relations with other powers.
"Certainly," Saverana agreed. "Though in her performance with the Federation I am quite sure her particular organizational genius will show itself in good stead. Speaking of which, President Dale, I must warn you that my disapproval does not extend to minor officers on half-pay who wish to risk their lives for the sake of glory and combat experience. My issue with Slyperia is because she has both, and this is simply her desire to be back into the saddle, rather than the understandable and traditional practicing of half-paid officers seconding themselves to foreign powers. I trust this will not be an issue? It is an internal conflict, and customary law does not forbid this."
Dale had already heard of this, and remembered hearing comments from Princess Jhayka's entourage to a similar effect. "I understand this practice occurs often in the Taloran Empire," Dale answered, "and so I have no immediate complaint. My only concern, Majesty, is that among the Alliance it may be misconstrued as your government privately supporting the Federation, and given the anti-Federation sentiment that is in the majority, it would have a negative effect on our relations. We generally do not have such a thing as placing officers on half-pay reserve for long periods of time, so your practice is not as widely known. At the very least, I suspect it may only intensify efforts in recruiting Alliance citizens, including war veterans, for the Colonial war effort."
"I don't see why our governments need to let that interfere with average business, though," Julia added, wanting to get into the conversation. "Though I am curious, Your Majesty, as to how your allowance would extend to any Taloran officers who find the Federation odious and would instead support the Colonials?"
"No, though of course it would be impossible to stop them," Saverana answered. "but the Federation is a recognized state; the Colonials are not. For what it is worth, we will extend no lines of credit or other aspects of formal support to the Federation. They shall obtain from this country, as has always been our policy, only what they can pay for from our private individuals and business in hard currency. We have no interest in the war which would bring us to prevent this trade... Or, most importantly, to facilitate it."
"Such measures should, at least, reassure our people as to your general neutrality," Dale answered, not remarking on the Empress' expression of a likely unenforcable ban on Talorans aiding the Colonials. He had not said so, not directly, but he supported them just as heartily as most of his citizens, having had ten years of time spent in the upper echelons of the Alliance Government to understand the debasement and foolishness of their system, as well as the education and beliefs to abhor the AFU's proposed 'alternative'. "I have, of course, signed an Executive Order forbidding military equipment from being sold to the Colonials, as had been done up to the point of the Pacifican Crisis exploding, and while I have not explicitly banned exports to the Federation, they have not bought military equipment and it has not been offered. I do not think they are fools, and they know most of our military equipment providers will not sell if it results in popular outrage being reflected in the Council."
"Then what will you do if the Federation orders trade with the rebellious colonies to cease? They have it in their power to make such a formal request, as they remain the legal controllers of the territory. That could spark a crisis in your relations with other powers. I will not be bothered by your ignoring such an order, for generally speaking in the Taloran tradition, trade decrees must be enforceable to be binding, and that is certainly not enforceable. However, others do not impose such a standard.."
"My advisors are already preparing various routes to take," Dale responded, not hiding anything but also not quite sure there was anything more to share. "It's quite clear, to be frank, that my people would never permit it, not just out of sympathy for the Colonials, but because our ST-3 holdings especially trade heavily with the worlds that have joined the Colonial cause and to cut off their trade would be economically painful, perhaps disasterous in a few cases. The Federation has not done so, not yet, I think because they know it's unenforcable at current and that it would only hurt them with a number of powers."
"States have gone to war to protect their economic interests on innumerable occasions, President Dale," Jhastimia spoke. "What will you do if the central government crushes the opposition to it? You will surely lose your trade ties with an autarkist regime such as the AFU at that point, and your economy will suffer accordingly."
"Yes, I am aware of that, and I wouldn't be truthful if I said some of my advisors have argued for more active measures to be taken because of it," Dale answered, "But on the other hand, even if the AFU wins the war, they will only do so by devastating the most productive worlds in the Federation. Even if they successfully get the Core Worlds to start working, I doubt they'll have the production means to satisfy the lingering welfare demands - which will not go away overnight and which they must meet to keep their support from evaporating - and to rebuild and restore the production of the conquered worlds, especially when you consider the likelihood that Colonial defeat would mean millions of refugees fleeing to avoid persecution or trial, refugees that would include the skilled workers and managers needed to rebuild. In such a situation, they need someone to trade with, and given the policies of the Romulan Empire, the Klingons' lack of an export surplus in many kinds of goods, and the collapse of the Ferengi Alliance.... that leaves extra-universal sources, and we happen to already have long-standing trade links. Yes, in the future there could be trouble with with the AFU, victorious in this scenario, but for now, there won't be, and it would grant time for our member nations and worlds with trade ties to diversify and protect themselves from the impact. Provided, of course, that the AFU doesn't give in to its revanchist elements and attempt, at an interval where we seem preoccupied, to try to nullify the Treaty of Saint-Germain or demand the reintegration of Nova Savona into the Federation."
"Certainly we would see the movement of major elements of your fleet there at the appropriate juncture in the conflict to obviously not indicate any desire to intervene," Saverana answered. "As for the present, I would suggest that you use some care in the situation. Allowing your citizenry to be inflamed will certainly bring you on a course that it does not appear you wish to go down, and the better for it, for of late there have already been numerous wars and dissensions in that universe which are a detriment and distraction to all of international commerce, though we certainly understand that the very decayed state of most of the polities in ST-3 demands a disproportionate focus from your government, and, often, responses which in other parts of the multiverse are completely unnecessary. We do not consider the survival or death, prosperity or humiliation, of any state in that universe to be in our interest. However, the forms of international law.. Should certainly be maintained in your dealings thereof."
"The Alliance is committed to upholding international law, Your Majesty, and short of the proposed circumstances I mentioned before, my administration will not intervene and will work to ensure the citizenry of the Alliance do not go too far in their support for the Colonials." It was easy to say, of course, but not so easy to do. For years the Federation had sowed itself badly into the minds of the Alliance populace, and what that reaped could be dangerous for everyone. He had already heard of the failure of the De Silva Resolution and that the Democrats, aligned with the ST-3 Federalists and other parties, were resolutely blocking any attempt to limit or stop wider trade to the Colonials (Though not charity, Dale agreed with Alexandria Verdes that de Silva had erred in writing his proposal too generally). When he returned to Washington he intended to take immediate charge of the situation.
Of course, he also had to agree with her about ST-3. It was a terrible mess of a place, with governments run by everything from lunatics to ideological extremists to religious fanatics, with a very peculiar concept of diplomacy and a very backward approach to war, at least until the Alliance arrived on the scene.
"We appreciate the effort, President Dale. Circumstances sometimes force the hand of peoples, but in this case principled neutrality in the internal conflicts of others remains the most rational course. We will, of course, use our diplomatic influence with the Federation government, which for various reasons is not inconsiderable, to encourage them by all means to treat the population of the revolted Colonies, including their military personnel, by the same standards as those of foreign powers, even though they are entitled to do otherwise. We will exert pressure in this direction, in an affair that we otherwise have no interest in, for the sake of making your government's task easier by avoiding any developments which could cause popular outrage among your people."
"The aid of the Taloran Empire in trying to keep that situation stable is welcomed," Dale added. "Perhaps, if the two sides get tired of the fighting, they might even be convinced to accept Taloran mediation, as I doubt that Alliance mediation will be acceptable, and given their discontent with the Saint-Germain Treaty, Minbari mediation may also not be deemed acceptable."
"We would of course be pleased at providing such an arrangement, given the opportunity," Saverana answered. "For the moment, however, the drums of war have sounded, the guns have been arranged, and blood will decide the issue, as it usually does. I believe, however, that as far as the relations of our governments and how this issue affects them are concerned, we have settled things quite amicably, and made our positions clear in a positive manner."
"I believe so as well, Your Majesty," Dale replied, and for the brief time left in the private meal, the conversation turned to other, lighter matters.
They were on the ride back to the Harbor Palace, where Saverana had arranged for them to stay while on Talora Prime, when Julia looked to Dale and asked, "Well, it could have gone much worse. Seems to me that she's saying she's okay if we intervene as long as we do it for a good reason."
"While warning about her desire for neutrality," Dale added. "Yes, it was altogether a good evening. With the treaty signed, relations with the Talorans should improve steadily, barring any problems related to this Admiral Slyperia acting up while in a Starfleet command."
"What are you going to do about the volunteers on our side?" Julia asked.
"Try to get the public to remain calm and not interventionist," Dale answered. "The war has dampened enthusiasm for that kind of intervention, but unfortunately this isn't just any state we're talking about; it's the Federation. They're so hated now that if not for the War having given everyone their fill of 'I regret to inform' letters I think I'd be dealing with a demand to intervene, not simply refusal to forbid trade with the breakaway colonies. As for the volunteers, there are laws to stop them, not that I expect it to work. I don't know if I have the strength, politically, to stop them. De Silva proved that." Looking out at the brilliant night skyline and towering apartment buildings of Valeria, he added, "Just have to hope the Colonials win big, I guess, win big enough that the Federation has to give in, and this whole mess can get over with." And with that said, he went silent for the rest of the trip.
”A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air.” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt
"No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism." - Sir Winston L. S. Churchill, Princips Britannia
American Conservatism is about the exercise of personal responsibility without state interference in the lives of the citizenry..... unless, of course, it involves using the bludgeon of state power to suppress things Conservatives do not like.
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