A Coalition of the Compassionate: The Few Who Make a Difference (Dornea)
Posts: 791
  • Posted On: Oct 21 2017 10:45pm
Dornean System, 25 ABY
Dornea, Naval Command HQ
Following the Battle of Dac, Dragon-Coalition War

“Her Highness requires an update.”

Karls Ta'ront, commander of the Dornean Navy, grunted in discomfort. “They're still leaving. The Dragons still won.”

“That's that, then. Nothing to be done about it.”

The smug bastard. “Not now, no.”

“Not ever, General.” The other man rushed toward Karls, forcing him to turn his attention away from the tactical map and toward the potential threat. But there was no threat. Of course Jeeb D'kast posed no threat. “It was a losing war, and they lost it. We could have lost it with them, but we didn't. We survived. We endured.

“We.

“Stayed.

“Strong.”

General Ta'ront shook his head, turning away from the coward. “It's only a matter of time, Minister.”

“We repelled the Empire,” he said, again with that smug ignorance of a man who had never seen war. “We will repel the Dragons as well.”

“We had allies against the Empire. Now there's no one left to stand with us against the Dragons.” Ta'ront thumped the representation of Dac on the readout.

“All the more reason we shouldn't be antagonizing them now!” The minister closed his hands around the edge of the table, nodding to himself as he pretended to take in the information on display. “The Coalition will be on its way, the Dragons will claim Mon Calamari, and independent worlds like ours will be left to their own devices. It's really a rather favorable outcome, all things considered.”

He was the worst kind of a coward: one who pretended to be a fool so he wouldn't have to face the truth of his own nature.

It was too late now, though. Dac could not be saved. The Coalition would withdraw and wither further, no one brave enough to stand with them against the Dragons. It was too late now; there were no moves left to make.

“Tell the President that I'm returning the fleet to normal defense posture. I'll not exercise my discretionary authority in this regard, per her request.”

Minster D'kast smiled deviously. “She'll be most pleased.”

“You'll make sure of it,” General Ta'ront muttered as the other man walked away.

* * *

Saari Ha System, 26 ABY
Bimmisaari, Tower of Law
Refugee Service Special Meeting, Exodus of the East

There were quite a few big names crammed into the little office. President Shan wasn't here, what with his ongoing defiance of Regrad's Exodus plan, but he'd sent a delegation stacked with his heaviest-hitting representatives to make sure everyone knew he wasn't playing around. The delegation from Kegan, the main focus of this meeting, was rather small, but given their people's history and political proclivities, that wasn't unexpected. Bimmisaari Elder Taima Tolen was alone, curious since Ambassador Rosh had some experience in these sorts of things and was usually quite skilled at worming his way into any dealings that even tangentially related to his duties. On available space alone, his absence was looking to be a good thing.

And then there was Ambassador Erek Joron sequestered off in the corner, eyeing everyone with a healthy helping of distrust. Officially, the Eastern Parliament was backing Regrad's Exodus plan, and this meeting was shaping up to be a major hindrance to that effort. It was Erek's job, as unpopular as it may be, to see what he could do about derailing them.

“Well, if that's everyone?” Elder Tolen eyed Erek, as if expecting he was about to call in a squad of provincial troopers to round them all up.

“By all means,” Erek said, gesturing to the Elder's guests. “Don't let me stop you.”

“Ahh, in that case,” she returned her attention to the Refugee Service delegation, “as representative of the Law Elders of Bimmisaari, I do hereby call this meeting to order. Now, I think you have something for me to sign?”

The vaguely squid-looking fellow at the head of the Refugee Service team shuffled forward and produced a datapad. “Of course. Here it is.”

“Wait, what?” Erek was out of his corner, pushing past a pair of Kegan delegates to get a look at the pad. “What's going on here?”

Elder Tolen had just finished her signature, and gave the pad a quick shake in Erek's direction.

The fancy new commlink/datapad/mini-projector in his pocket buzzed, and he fished it out with a growing sense of unease.

“God, I love this new Salvation network!” Elder Tolen professed as she offered her datapad to the head of the Kegan delegation.

Erek fumbled with his gadget for a second, selecting the new file and flipping on the tiny projector to display its contents. The wall of shimmering text that sprang up in front of him only exacerbated his concerns. “In accordance with Coalition House Bill 227-39A, and with recognition of the powers vested in the Coalition Refugee and Relief Service . . .” He was muttering quietly to himself, trying to figure out why the formatting was so official-looking.

“There you have it, Elder Tolen,” the Kegan delegate said, handing the pad back to one of the Refugee Service people. “All done?”

“What?” Erek dropped his hands, the hologram deactivating as he pocketed his gadget. “What the hell is going on here!”

“The Refugee Service is expanding its housing operations to volunteering Coalition worlds,” the Refugee delegate said.

“The people of Kegan will host a population of short- and mid-term refugees totaling up to seventy-five percent of Fwillsving's total refugee population, beginning immediately,” the Kegan official said.

“And we're funding it,” Elder Tolen announced, standing up as she fixed her attention on Ambassador Joron. “The Exodus will not happen. High Commissioner Shan will not evacuate the Refugee and Relief Service from Fwillsving; the Kegan Planetary Defense Force will not comply with the Prime Minister's retreat order; the Law Elders of Bimmisaari will not recognize any federal or regional sanctions placed on Coalition member governments for failure to comply with the Exodus. We aren't going anywhere, and there's work to be done.”

“This is insane! Elder Tolen, my own homeworld, Teth -”

“Oh, don't pretend that Teth is anything like the rest of the worlds declared in the Exodus!” Tolen was mad, pounding her fists against her desk, quite an unusual display for a pathologically peaceful Bimm. “Teth was never going to be evacuated, and you know it! Sure, the Eastern Parliament may have pulled out for a while, hells, they may have even stayed gone if they found a cozy enough new home, but Teth was never going to be abandoned to the Dragons. Setting aside the logistical nightmare of moving the Dac refugees again, the industrial infrastructure of Teth is far too valuable, and its defenses are far too substantial and integrated, to ever even consider pulling out for real.”

She paused for a moment, her brow furrowed as she stared at the ambassador. “What, you think that because we don't approve of your wars, that we can't recognize the simplest, most obvious strategic facts? No, no; nobody's going anywhere, and there's work to be done.”

Exasperated, he tried again. “And what about Kubindi, and Tammar?”

“They don't want to leave their homes any more than the rest of us; they'll end up on our side of this, and sooner than you think.”

“Elder Tolen, I can't -”

“I don't expect you to stand with us, Ambassador, so run along and tell your masters how this will be.”

She was pointing at the door. The look she gave him told him it wasn't a suggestion. As he shuffled out of the room, still unsure exactly what had happened, his general unease began to crystallize into something else. He began to realize, more certain with each step away from the office, that the entire meeting had been arranged specifically so he would attend, specifically so that he would find himself stunned and disoriented, so that he could be shooed away in disgrace before the very parties in that room, so that this moment, this very moment, would happen.

Elder Tolen wasn't defying the Exodus; she was mocking it.

And Erek Joron had just been made her messenger boy.
Posts: 791
  • Posted On: Feb 24 2019 8:02pm
Dornean System, 27 ABY
Dornea, Dornean Defense Command
Rise of the Reavers, Year of Cataclysm


“Status.” It was an order, not a statement.

The sensor operator understood the general's “high alert” idiosyncrasies quite well, of course, and responded accordingly. “Single object, Outer Defense Zone. Cross-section is small, probably unmanned.”

“Dragons?”

“Unconfirmed, but improbable.” The young woman turned to regard the general. “It arrived by hyperjump, and is performing generalized active scans of Dornea and the orbital infrastructure.” He liked to be addressed directly when a junior officer was offering an opinion or personal assessment.

“A scout, then.”

A new notice on the screen required her attention. “It's pinging the near-world nav buoys, General. We're getting a transponder signal, low-power but standard formatting.” She could feel the pressure of his gaze behind her. “Sir, it's identifying itself as a Coalition vessel.” She suppressed a sigh of relief, but swore she felt the air behind her ripple with the general's own released tension. “Should I alert the Senate?”

“No. There's no need for that. Not yet.”

After a moment of silence and no new behavior to report from the probe, the young officer ventured a look over her shoulder; she wasn't used to indecisiveness from the general.

He bristled at her unexpected attention, then ordered: “Log it as an uncategorized, unscheduled non-hostile interaction in the outer system.”

It was unorthodox, to say the least, but it wasn't illegal. At least, she didn't think it was . . . “Yes, Sir,” she acknowledged as she turned back to her station.

“And hail it. I'll take the reply in my office.”

“What if there's no reply, Sir?” Her hands paused before striking the final confirmation key. “Sir?” She looked back just in time to see the door slide shut.

* * *

Kegan System, 27 ABY
Kegan, Refugee Service Regional HQ
Rise of the Reavers, Year of Cataclysm


There was shouting. There was a lot of shouting. Also, something smelled. Was that . . .

Oh. No. It was just something one of the aliens was doing. Ambassador Erek Joron picked his way very carefully through the writhing mass of shouting, flailing, colorizing, and smelling aliens who had managed to find all sorts of novel ways to display their discontent without formally violating the rules governing the Refugee Service's Special Grievances office.

They were pressing in on him, not recognizing him but recognizing that he was new and that he was official, which meant that maybe they could get something out of him. He wasn't here for them, though. As he squeezed his way into the little side office that had been closed all day, their “boos” intensified and a fresh wave of stink washed over him. Just as his shoulder cleared the narrow opening, something metallic clanked against the wall, thrown by an angry refugee.

He shut the door and didn't look back. What he did see, though . . .

“Elder Tolen?”

The Bimm Law Elder smiled broadly from her booster seat behind the human-sized desk. “Ambassador! So good to see you!”

“It is? I mean, really? Umm . . . what are you doing here, exactly?”

“Oh.” She smiled again, leaning back, her hands falling off of the table because her arms were too short. “I see. You were expecting a local official.”

“It's a madhouse out there, Elder Tolen. I need to speak with the official in charge immediately. Immediately!”

“You're in the right place.” She spread her arms out wide, welcoming his scorn.

His brow furrowed, and he took a seat, more to give himself a second to collect his thoughts than to get off his feet. “I'm sorry; have you transferred to the Refugee Service since we last spoke? I wasn't aware of any sort of change . . .”

“Oh nothing like that,” she dismissed the notion with a wave of her hand. “I'm still with the Bimm government; still head of the Finance Ministry. It's just . . . well . . . you see: they're ours now.”

“Who?” Erek ventured cautiously.

She leaned forward, a hint of mischievous intent coloring her face. “The troublemakers.”

Erek pointed at the door, through which the muffled clamor beyond could still be heard.

“Not just them!” She leaned back again, hands sliding from the table, again. “All of them on Kegan and Fwillsving, plus . . . hmm . . . 'problematic populations' to come. We've been using Salvation to crunch vital statistics and anticipate special needs, cultural mismatches, general unpleasantness, that sort of thing, and the sample set's big enough now to return some pretty spot-on results, so going forward, we're just going to use existing placement procedures to funnel all these problem folks straight to Special Services centers on Bimmisaari.”

“There are no Special Services centers on Bimmisaari,” Erek pointed out. He was feeling more and more like she was screwing with him all over again.

Tolen smiled again. Definite mischief. “There are. And there will be more. We have a plan.”

* * *

Dornean System, 27 ABY
Dornea, President's Office
The Return to Dac, Year of Cataclysm


The Dorneans weren't like other cultures. Their genetic heritage traced back to semi-aquatic mammaloids who protected themselves from predators on both sea and land by a combination of ingenuitive construction and exploitation of the natural terrain. Staring out of the window at the crisscrossing forest of metal spires that formed the perimeter of the government complex, President Mego D'kast pondered on how this age of war had brought her people back to their roots.

Meetings of this sort on other worlds would be conducted a hundred floors higher, not nestled two-thirds of the way toward the bottom of the towering edifice to their culture's endurance. Not her people, though; not the Dorneans.

For the Dorneans, the power position wasn't the height from which one's domain could be surveyed; it was the fortress from which siege could be endured. This was who her people were; cautious, protective, and ever-vigilant.

“It's beautiful,” the President said, breaking the silence that had lingered too long. She turned to face him, finished with that moment they'd shared of the blue sky above the wall and the imagined world obstructed behind it. “It has to be protected.”

The words were carefully chosen, and she could see from General Ta'ront's reaction that he understood their intent. “You aren't even interested in my perspective?” he asked.

She cocked her head, her attention drifting down to the desk between them. “I'm quite familiar with your perspective, General.”

“With respect, Madame President, there is more to be said. Much more.”

“More?” Her head shot up, eyes locking on the General. “More than the thousand page briefing filed by the Ministry of Defense with the Dornean Congress? More than the Three hundred page 'special report' you personally delivered to the Defense Oversight Committee? More than the seventy page 'letter' you wrote me, personally? More than the hundred-some-odd hours of my schedule you've consumed over the past four years, arguing your case at every opportunity?”

“Yes,” he said simply, straightening slightly in the face of her hardening tone.

“We outlasted the Empire, General Ta'ront. We outlasted the Dragons. We'll outlast the Reavers, and this Dominion, and whatever other would-be tyrants rise and fall in the years to come.”

“Those are the Minister's words, not yours.”

“I can't speak them any better,” she bristled. Her brother wasn't the greatest Dornean to ever live, but he was a good man who had served his people and his world dutifully.

“Madam President, your brother is a coward.” The general was choosing this moment, then, to cross that line. “He mistook my caution for the same, and I allowed it for the strategic opportunity it might provide in the future, but we are far beyond that now.”

“Minister D'kast holds considerable influence in the Congress,” she said, as if it were some sort of rebuttal. It rang hollow in her own ears, and she regretted saying it immediately.

“He's the King of Cowards, then.” He wasn't letting up, approaching her desk and planting his palms on the edge. “He destroyed the good name of General A'baht when the galaxy needed us most, and he is seeking to do the same with me now, when we are needed again.”

There was no need to bring up the unpleasantness with General A'baht! “Your concern is with the safety of Dornea and it's people, General. You forget that, and that is why -”

“No, Ma'am. No. It is my only concern, my only concern!” He pounded his fists against the desktop, backing away to show that he understood the gesture had gone too far. “The Empire is far from dead. The fate of the dragons is unknown, and possibly even beyond our understanding. You say we have 'endured', that we've 'outlasted' our enemies? The Dominion conquered Coruscant. Coruscant!” He jabbed a finger in the air, pointed at her. “We have lived in peace and security off the blood and sacrifice of our betters for too long! We cannot simply cower here, waiting until there is no one left to die in our place!

“You have a blind spot for your brother, Mego; don't let it block your view of who we truly are, of what we must do for our people.”

She was shaking her head, not meeting his gaze. “We thought that we could change the galaxy once. Our arrogance almost cost us everything.” She had been one of them . . . one of the believers, and it had cost far too much.

Finally, she met his stare. “Who are we pitiful few to think that there's any difference to be made?”

“We are good! We are brave, and strong, and resilient, and good!”

Ta'ront was as cautious as any Dornean, but once his path was set, he was ferocious in its pursuit. She had always admired that about him, but then he had never decided to make her an enemy before. “And which combination of those admirable traits will save your children from the war you would bring to our world?” She dropped her head again. It hurt, almost too much, to call out his saber rattling, but it had to be done.

“Conquerors don't stop until there are no worlds left to conquer, Mego. I don't know if we can make a difference with the Mon Calamari; I do know that we can't without them. That's the only choice we have to make, and you're the only one who can make it.” He turned and headed for the door.

“How long do I have?” She asked, somber.

He froze at the doorway, his hand on the activator, but he didn't turn around. “You misunderstand. This isn't my last appeal to your better nature; this is his preamble.”

The door slid open and General Ta'ront stepped aside to reveal . . . a human!

“Forgive me, Madam President.” His voice was crisp and firm, his attire formal but suggesting no particular station. “I regret the circumstances of this meeting.” His skin was the color of brown coral, his eyes a matching hue, but . . . there was something off about them. They were unmoored, insincere?

Shifty. “You're the man who has convinced the protector of Dornea to abandon his people?”

The human wore a sneer masquerading as a smile. He took a cautious step into the room, looking to General Ta'ront for permission to proceed.

Well, he wasn't here to kill her, at least.

“Madam President, my name is Erek Joron, and while my formal title is Ambassador of the Eastern Coalition Parliament, the multi-Provincial refugee status of the Calamari System's population has allowed the Eastern Parliament certain . . . leeway, in regard to loaning assets to the Dac Council. In short: I'm here to restore the goodwill between Dornea and the united populations of Dac.

It was suspicious, to say the least. “If you're a representative of the Council, then perhaps you can explain to me why they wouldn't contact me directly, should they wish a renewed relationship with our people? Has their regard for us fallen so far that we are no longer deemed worthy of their attention?”

He seemed caught off-guard by her expressed insecurity. “Madam President, I must confess that my familiarity with your world and its people is limited, but from what the general tells me alone, I'm sure that you can appreciate how difficult and . . . delicate . . . so much of diplomacy is. Whether it's with foreign powers or with our own . . . internal divisions.”

“I have no interest in involving Dornea in the Coalition's internal politics,” the president said shortly.

“Well that's unfortunate, because I am very interested in involving Dornea quite extensively in the Coalition, as a member world, meaning everything about your government would become a matter of our internal politics.”

She snorted, hoping the human understood it for the sneer it was. “Whatever recovery your Coalition has made of late, there is no place in it for Dornea. It's too late for that now.”

The human smirked, and there was a brief exchange of glances between him and the general. “I'm not clear on what sort of ties your government keeps with foreign powers and other worlds these days, Madam President, and worlds within the former domain of the Black Dragon Empire tend to lack HoloNet access, but are you aware that Minntooine has joined the Coalition?”

“No. Your point?”

The ambassador frowned, glancing at the floor before looking back up to her. “Well, I was part of the delegation sent to make contact with the Minntooine government, and there was a particular moment in that first meeting that gave me some pause at the time, and that I dare say has made me a better diplomat for having experienced. You see, the leadership misread our intentions, they thought we were planning to help them force the Dac Council to recognize their people and give them representation on the Council. They thought we were agents of the Coalition's West, or the Cooperative, working some nefarious scheme in which they were merely a pawn.”

“That's a lovely story,” she said sarcastically.

“The truth of the matter, Madam President, is that the Dac Council sent us in their name. They wanted reconciliation. They wanted unification. They wanted Minntooine to join them after so many years in isolation.”

“I'm sure their shipyards and kelp farms and vibrant ocean world had nothing to do with that,” she deadpanned.

“My point, Madam President,” he began, withdrawing a datapad, “is that whatever you think of me right now, I know you're wrong, because you've definitely misunderstood why I'm here.” He handed her the pad, and she started reading.

The other two stood in silence for a few minutes, waiting for her to get deep enough in to understand what she was reading. Then, when she was fully absorbed, General Ta'ront said: “You keep saying that it's 'too late', that there's 'nothing to be done now'. But you're wrong. You're so wrong.

“This isn't the end, Mego.

“This is the beginning.”
Posts: 791
  • Posted On: Nov 13 2021 12:36am

Kegan System, 28 ABY

Kegan, Coalition Refugee and Evacuation Service Planetary Headquarters

Present Time

 

The spartan, metallic platform was one of those deployable, pre-fabricated, reusable things of the sort that was becoming quite common within the Refugee Service. It could seat just over one hundred fifty humanoids in economical, relatively comfortable chairs of like design, but its current occupants numbered just under one hundred, including some very decidedly non-humanoids of varying shapes, sizes, colors, and . . . viscosities. A soft hum filled the quiet air, marking the invisible mag-con dome that separated the climate controlled structure from the open skies. The gentle forward tilt of the structure allowed for an unobstructed view of the lowlands stretching out from its hilltop vantage.

 

In view of the gathered guests, rising from the farm plains that stretched out to the horizon, was a sprawling cityscape scarcely seen in the galaxy's long history. The construction was too advanced, too sleek and shimmering with the composite materials of a technologically sophisticated society, to warrant so many stubby little buildings spread out over so large an area. Most detail was lost at this distance, but the colors and contours of the structures bespoke a like design and, perhaps, some unseen hand at work in their organization.

 

A diminutive little creature ascended the shallow steps at the front of the platform, wearing a loose-hanging robe that marked its planet of origin for anyone familiar with the dress of Bimmisaari. Scarcely a meter tall, the elderly female had the appearance of a tiny human, her long, gray hair secured neatly in a bun high and back on her head. Her stage was rather short as well, meant to do little more than designate the point of focus for the audience.

 

As she took her place at the miniature podium, the old, tiny woman offered a warm smile. “Honored guests, I am Taima Tolen, Deputy Commissioner for Special Placement.”

 

Before she could proceed, a creature with a passing resemblance to a Hutt interrupted in a deep, bellowing voice. “Deputy Commissioner of what?”

 

Ahh, of the Coalition Resettlement and Reintegration Service,” she offered amiably.

 

Isn't that one based out of Chalacta?” a middle-aged human man with a pot belly asked from near the front of the gathering.

 

No,” a vaguely fishy alien said from the other side of the platform, a few rows back. “The High Commissioner is Chalactan, but their HQ is on Sneeve.”

 

Close enough,” the man said, shrugging, “but what I want to know is: how'd a Law Elder of Bimmisaari get to be Deputy Commissioner of an organization that your government payed to make somebody else's problem?”

 

Taima perked up a little bit, happy that some of the people in the audience already knew who she was. “I resigned from my position as a Law Elder in order to accept this position; however, your information on Bimmisaari's relationship to the Resettlement Service seems to be lacking in substantial details.”

 

Such as?” he prodded.

 

She smiled sweetly, making a point of fiddling with the datapad on her podium. “I'm sure that those misconceptions will be cleared up in the course of my presentation.”

 

Well then by all means!” he exclaimed, leaning back in his chair and gesturing for her to proceed.

 

As I was saying, as Deputy Commissioner it is my honor and pleasure to welcome you all to Kegan, and I thank you for answering the Coalition's call.”

 

A furry humanoid held up a long-fingered hand. “We haven't agreed to anything yet,” the creature said in a deep, guttural voice.

 

Of course,” Taima acknowledged, “but your presence alone shows an openness on the part of your worlds that is to be commended. The refugee crisis emanating from Reaver Space is the single, largest humanitarian catastrophe in galactic history, and I know personally that many of you here today represent governments that have already committed substantially, and independently, to various forms of relief.”

 

By the Nine, if this is a fundraising pitch . . .” The comment came from an orange-skinned near-human at the back of the gathering.

 

Fine,” Taima threw up her hands, huffing in exasperation. “No speech then. No planned remarks. Let's just get down to it: the city behind me houses fifty million sentients who don't want to live in the Coalition, people who fled to Coalition space to avoid the Reavers, but do not wish to be subject to Coalition law. There are three other cities arrayed around this lonely hill of similar size; that's two hundred million souls, all in view of a perch scarcely ten meters up this hillside, at the top of the compound behind you.

 

This is Refugee Administrative Zone 0001, designated by a Cooperative Guardian in the early stages of implementing Kegan's refugee relief plan. The leading zeroes are not superfluous: we just broke ground on Administrative Zones 3017 through 3064. We've started doing them in batches, because we can, and because the refugees aren't stopping any time soon. Now, the individual cities range substantially in size, so to be clear: Kegan currently houses more than ninety billion non-Coalition refugees. They're divided into short-term and mid-term populations; the short-term are cycled out on average within two weeks, but in not more than two months; the mid-term stay anywhere from three to six months, mostly for medical, psychological, or cultural placement needs. Any refugees with special needs that cannot readily be met on Kegan are transported to my homeworld of Bimmisaari, where they meet with other Special Placement refugees from Teth, Fwillsving, Deyer, and some straight out of Reaver Space. We take everyone with special atmospheric and climate needs, as well as those with overriding cultural or psychological concerns which make them incompatible with generalized, humanoid residence.

 

The Bimm operation is a joint program between the Refugee Service and the Resettlement Service, with about forty percent enrolling in Coalition Citizenship programs, twenty percent seeking special long-term foreign residence status, and the remainder a fluctuating combination of individuals awaiting placement outside of the Coalition and those stranded with no known suitable long-term residence.”

 

Damn,” the pot bellied man said. “That sucks.”

 

Yes,” Taima said curtly, turning her head in his general direction but not looking directly at him. “It most certainly does. Bimmisaari is nevertheless committed to ensuring the highest quality of life possible for the portion of the overall population that is least served by the Coalition's generalized refugee and resettlement programs. We are proud of the work we do, and are happy to open our home to those who cannot find suitable accommodation elsewhere.”

 

That's real sweet,” the pot-bellied man said. “Is now the part where you tell us that these people are our problem too?”

 

No,” Taima shook her head. “No, I wouldn't say that, but I am asking you to help us. I am asking you to work with the Coalition to place as many refugees who do not wish to reside with in the Coalition as possible. I am asking especially for assistance from those of you who represent worlds with atmospheres, ecologies, and social orders which differ markedly from generalized humanoid standards. This is not a fundraiser. This is a call to action. It is a plea, on behalf of hundreds of billions within the Coalition now, and uncountably many still beyond our borders who are awaiting only the chance to escape from their current hells. Will you work with us to save these lives, and the lives to follow?”

 

The pot-bellied man shifted in his seat. “Are you really so desperate that you've resorted to begging? I have to admit: I've been impressed by what I've seen of the Coalition's refugee relief efforts, but if this is your play – begging a hundred near-strangers to rescue you from the madness you've gotten yourselves into – well, huh, that's giving me some pause, Deputy Commissioner.”

 

Taima smiled, drumming her fingers on her tiny podium. “I'm the second ranking official of one of the Coalition's two largest civilian agencies. I'm here, at Refugee Administrative Zone 0001, because someone somewhere thought the most-senior member of this particular project should give her speech under the shadow of the Refugee Service's Planetary Headquarters. You're here, because someone had to end up here instead of at one of the other thousand Refugee Administrative Zone coordinating facilities that's giving one of these presentations.” She smiled again. “This isn't a sign of desperation from the Coalition because our plan has failed, Mister Ambassador. This is our plan. We have entreated thousands of worlds to join us in our endeavor. We will continue to ask thousands more. These people need homes, and with or without you, we will find those homes for them.

 

It's what we do.”

 

* * *

 

Calamari System, 28 ABY

Dac, Council Chamber

Present Time

 

This Council did not fall silent.” The voice came from nowhere, from everywhere. “Dac was not emptied.” It was deep and full, with a faint drawl that had the effect of bleeding the words together. “We remained.” There was a kind of thud that accentuated the end of the sentence.

 

Everyone present understood to which “we” the speaker referred. “We survived. We waited. And finally, you returned to us.”

 

Thud. Thud. Thud. Cracks formed in the floor of the Chamber, rapidly branching out from an impact point near the center of the Chamber. They struck the edge of the floor, where the Chamber transitioned to stadium seating, then doubled back, covering the floor in fresh, thin lines even as the original branches of cracks widened, revealing that the floor wasn't breaking at all; it was merely the opaque lining that had been set beneath a layer of transparisteel. Below the transparent floor, now in full view of the Council members arrayed around them, three Whaladons floated gently in water deep enough to appear black.

 

A Council gave voice on Teth.” A gentle green light emitted from a device on the jaw of the largest Whaladon, indicating it as the speaker. “That Council soon found refuge on Minntooine. That Council, in time, led you back here.

 

This is not that Council. This Council did not fall silent. This Council did not withdraw. This Council endured. The ice melted, the seas calmed, and those of us who would not leave this world, this birthplace of our races, we found cause together to live on. The Dac Council did not leave its home in the face of calamity: it transformed itself.”

 

From below, dim and distantly, something moved. Then the waters beneath the Council Chamber were a torrent of motion, a pink-and-white flurry that weaved seamlessly around the whaladons. “For the first time in the history of this Council, its membership is open to all the sentient races it would govern.”

 

The flurry calmed, and the individual forms of the tiny, tentacled Moappa came into focus. They were lashed to one another, head to tail in long chains, which wound into the deeper water, concealing whether they formed one continuous coil or several separate lengths. They continued their motion, slowly now, their bodies pulsing a gentle white light. Then several appeared at the back of the Chamber's seats, inside of the large water columns which followed the curve of the domed ceiling. Seemingly decorative, the columns now revealed their true function as the “seats” for the Moappa members of the Council.

 

The creatures swam in their chain-formations up each column, coming together in a small water globe at the top of the Chamber, the creatures wrapping around one another and forming a kind of knot.

 

We are divided,” a new voice said, “by so many pains”. This voice was different; it didn't emanate from the Chamber's hidden audio systems. It came from within, within the minds of every creature present, projected by the collective conscious of the Moappa swarm.

 

The Whaladon spoke again. “The history of Dac is one of strife between our many sentient species. It is a history of betrayal, abandonment, and distrust. It is dotted, here and there, with reconciliation and unification, but so often only in the face of grave and common threats. Even now, so many of us gather here only for fear of what is to become of us should we stand alone. It is an understandable fear, and an understandable response.

 

But I must ask you to set aside your fear. Mon Calamari and Quarren, holdouts and returners, natives and immigrants all: we are more than our fear. We are more than our wounds, than our distrust, than our past wrongs. Let this new Chamber and this new Council usher in a new age for all our peoples. Let it bind us to one another as never before. Let its waters wash away our strife and doubt. Let this edifice stand, now and forever, a proclamation of our singular will and decree:

 

Dac Lives!”

 

* * *

 

[center]Epilogue[/center]

 

He wanted to hate it. He really, really did. But he just . . . couldn't.

 

It was too damn incredible! This Council – this Dac Council – was astounding. He'd never seen so many aliens at the reins of power before. Even the Ryn Fleet had its share of humans in the higher ranks of their crazy government. Teth had played its part in all of this, of course; it was probably fair to say that this couldn't have happened without Teth and the rest of the East committing so fully, but even so: this wasn't the East's victory. It was Mon Calamari's.

 

Or “Dac's”, he supposed he should be saying.

 

Whatever.

 

They had done this. That was the point. Those people had made this a reality, not him. All of them, working together, spinning their webs, scheming and dreaming and dealing. He could have fought them. He could have. He might have even won. He might have even stopped them. But why? What for? Who would that help? What kind of monster would that have made him?

 

The East was changing, that much was sure, and Erek Joron . . .

 

Well, Erek Joron was just going to have to change with it.