- Posted On: May 18 2007 11:39pm
* * *
Before him stretched the endless blue of ocean; behind him stretched the boundless green of forest canopy. Below him gleamed the dazzling silver of an artificial Eden, the site of a new and popularly elected capital city, and the future seat of government for the newly renamed Cooperative of Systems.
Banol Tiovata stood on an observation platform floating a kilometer over the city. As he marveled at the beauty of the world that was not his own, the memory of his own world's fate returned to him, and with an agonizing pain that all but paralyzed his body, he reached out and grabbed the platform's rail, leaning heavily on it as all strength left him. Ithor. The word had become holy to him, and though it had been years since Ithor's destruction, the memory of his beloved homeworld still brought him to his knees.
The sound of beeping instrumentation tore through his moment of quiet mourning, and Banol released his grip from the rail, straightening his posture and taking a moment to compose himself. He activated the holoprojector, and the tiny image of a Varn native sprung to life. "How are things?" The Varn asked cheerfully, the smile on his face contrasting with his amphibian features.
"They're beautiful," Banol answered sincerely, a glimmer of joy returning to him.
"That's not what I meant, but it's nice to hear."
"Everything's on schedule and where it should be." The shoreline city of Unity Point stretched from below sea level to well into the nearby forest. It was a tribute to the natural beauty of Varn, as well as a proof-of-concept that artifice and nature can coexist in peaceful, beneficial, beautiful harmony. Banol often found himself overwhelmed by the difficulties of his job, but as he looked down at the half-finished monolith that stood in the center of the city, its obvious Ithorian design brought a tear of joy to his eye. Though it would have been sacrilege to build such a structure on the surface of Ithor itself, the Ithorian-inspired Council Hall of the Cooperative belonged right where it was. The Ithorian legacy of honoring and protecting nature would endure on Varn for as long as the Cooperative stood, and that achievement was in no small part due to the efforts of Banol Tiovata, an herbalist-turned-architect who had found a home among a group of peoples who valued cooperation and tolerance above war and conquest.
* * *
As the Cooperative had struggled to find a unifying identity in its first weeks and months of existence, so had the new government of Varn, and the people who had helped to create it. Varn was still divided into two separate political and governmental bodies; one ruled over the Varn species, and the other over those species who were not native to the world. While it had been difficult initially to determine where one government ended and the other began, a rather open and optimistic decision had been made very quickly. While the sub-oceanic cities were controlled exclusively by the Varn government, and the inland cities were controlled exclusively by the non-Varn government, the shoreline cities which dominated the world became tiny city-states in their own right; the general populace of each city would determine through the election of public servants which of the two governments' jurisdictions their city would fall under. The whole system was a unique shift from traditional party-driven politics, because the parties on Varn represented two separate governments.
By focusing on issues that concerned everyone, like economic growth and environmental health, both of the world's two governments were able to avoid much of the hostility that most political parties generated, and with absolute control over part of the world ensured, the negative effects of "losing control" of the general political arena weren't as severe. Still, problems arose, and issues had to be resolved; the key was to remember that your opponent is also your friend, and harming him will invariably harm you.
Josiah Deccol was staring emotionlessly into the eyes of Vekkis Nost; the power wielded by the two men was a difference of five percent of the general vote, but in most systems, that five percent would be all that was needed to determine the outcome of the meeting. But not here; not on Varn.
"The refineries were bought by my government for the processing of raw materials from the Kauron Asteroids; we own them," Josiah said matter-of-factly, his face still betraying no emotion.
"The city shifted alignment during the general elections; under the terms of the Treaty of Two Nations, as a member-city of the Heirs of Varn, your government can't control any assets of the city, which includes whatever factories you might have bought two days before the elections, when you realized that you were going to lose the city, and we were going to get the tax money from the refineries' revenue." The squishy, aquatic nature of the Varn species made it difficult for most humanoids to read either their tone or facial expressions, but Josiah had spent a great deal of time with this particular Varn in the recent months, and he was fairly confident that Vekkis was enjoying this.
He thinks he's going to win this. Josiah smiled on the inside, but made sure to keep his face impassive. "Sir," One of Josiah's aides whispered into his ear, "perhaps we should concede this particular case. Pick your battles."
Josiah shook his head in frustration, waving the aide away. "I have," He mumbled, "I picked this one. I disagree," He said louder, sitting up straighter and glaring at the President of the Varn nation. "Our laws were compiled from a series of the most successful governments in history." He pulled out a datapad, handing it across the table to his Varn counterpart. "In virtually every one of them, significant concessions were made concerning the difference between owning a location, and owning the businesses within those locations. Several of those instances were between one world and the government of entirely different interstellar bodies. We, on the other hand, are all friends here; there's no reason we can't get along."
"That's interesting," Vekkis said, sliding the datapad back across the table, "but irrelevant. The legal system that the relevant section of the Treaty was compiled from did not allow for such concessions, and actually made a point of warning against surrendering resources to," He paused, and Josiah could just make out the Varn equivalent of a smile forming on the amphibian's face, "potentially hostile and definitively alien organization."
"That hurts; that really hurts." Josiah finally cracked a smile, by now quite in tune with the other being's humor.
"But in the interest of fairness, I move for a joint committee to review the situation and determine the most appropriate course of action."
"Fairness? Hah!" Josiah was grinning broadly now, glad that he could work alongside—and at times like this, against—someone like Vekkis Nost. "Your side gained the majority in the elections; you'd just tell the committee how to vote, and it'd be done. By the way," He added, his voice shifting to a genuinely curious tone, "how'd you manage to beat me, anyway?"
"It was the Ithorians," Vekkis said simply.
"There are barely a thousand of 'em on the planet. I want to know; how'd you do it?"
"Ithorians are environmentalists and pacifists; the first makes them like us, and the second makes everyone else like them. Besides, your rule ended with the pirate takeover of our planet; it's hard to work that into a re-election slogan. But seriously," Vekkis added, shifting to what was definitely a more serious tone, "we'll send the issue in for a full review. There's got to be some way we can work this out so it benefits everyone in the long-term."
"Abstract or concrete?"
"Concrete, of course." Vekkis smiled again, this one looking a little more malicious than the others. "If we send them an abstract version, my guys won't know which side to vote for; you did manage to take a few cities from me in the elections." The way the two talked about cities and votes as if they were pieces on a game board probably would have bothered most outsiders, but the aides and assistants present had been with them since the beginning, and everyone in the room knew that these two beings took their jobs very seriously, and greatly respected the men and women who had chosen to keep them in their respective offices.
* * *
The corridor's illumination strips flickered at high speeds, causing a near-blinding rush of sensory input. The shift supervisor stumbled down the painful corridor, finally bumping into the person he was looking for. "I told you to fix this lighting problem, nerf-for-brains. Get it done or your out of here, for good this time. And for all that's holy, take a bath!"
As the bloated human stumbled back down the corridor, the Ryn worker gave his weary response: "I told you there's nothing I can do. The problem's with the power grid, or maybe even the generator; its outta my hands." He started to turn back around and get back to work, then thought better of it and yelled another comment at his boss, who was still stumbling dumbly down the corridor. "And I tried to take a bath; the refresher's broke. . . again!"
Fifteen minutes later, the Ryn was walking to his boss's office, brushing what dust and debris he could off of his clothes. He supposed that this is what it felt like to go the principal's office as a kid, but he wouldn't know; Ryn education isn't like that of most societies. You learn what you can pick up while on the move, and don't think much about formal education. Not that anyone would have let me in their classroom.
He stepped through the door and was motioned into a seat. "Athan, I've gotten a lot of reports about you. . . a lot of reports about all of you Ryn." The man looked like he was on the brink of a meltdown, and Athan thought the datapad in his hands would explode if he squeezed it much harder. "The guys down below decided to tighten the schedule on us again, and if we're going to get finished anywhere near our deadline, I need everyone I have doing everything they can to make this happen." Athan had heard it a thousand times before, at virtually every job he had ever had. He was a Ryn, which meant if something was going wrong, it was his fault. It was that simple. "That's why I fired the three men who were responsible for the majority of the complaints, which includes your shift supervisor." Athan's eyes lit up, and he nearly jumped in his seat as he straightened from the slouching position he had been falling into.
"Anyway, I need someone to fill that fat tub of lard's position, and seeing as that shift's more than sixty percent Ryn, I thought I'd give you the job." Athan almost fell to the ground when he tried to stand up, finally making it and extending his hand in bewildered thanks. The other man took it and shook firmly. "We've repaired the refresher's in the short-term employee area, and we fixed the power fluctuation that was messing with your lights, so your friends won't have to work with that ridiculous eyewear to keep themselves from seizing."
Athan, speechless, nodded in appreciation, then turned to leave. "You know," The man said again, "We don't usually give supervisor positions to short-term workers. Maybe you'd consider sticking around for a little while longer?"
Athan turned back around, shaking his head. "We don't stick around. We come together, and we leave together, and we always leave soon after we come. Bad things happen when we stay anywhere too long."
The other man shook his head in disappointment, then handed Athan a datapad. "Well, that's your former supervisor's notice; ordinarily, I wouldn't have his replacement deliver it to him, but I think you've earned the right to see that bigoted fool's reaction when he finds out you're getting his job."
"Yes, sir," Athan said enthusiastically, smiling and offering a lighthearted salute, the datapad touching the tip of his hat. As he made his way back to his assigned work area, wondering how he'd pull off this new job, he stopped for a moment and looked out of a nearby viewport. He could just make out a bulk freighter in the distance, descending toward the planet Varn far below. According to the "help wanted" poster that had led him to this job, he was helping to "build a better tomorrow" for that planet, the one he knew so little about. He was working on a small section of one phase of a massive orbital trade and resupply station, which would supposedly be only one of many such orbital structures. If everything happened as it was supposed to, ships like that bulk freighter would be stopping at the station instead of the planet before too long.
A dozen orb-shaped devices with long, trailing limbs flied by the station, only a few meters from the viewport. They were traveling too fast for Athan to make out their features, but he knew from past experience what the self-propelled droids were. Vaguely reminiscent of Imperial probe droids, they were actually the smallest version of new construction droids that had only recently arrived from Ord Cestus, the most recent addition to the Cooperative. Only slightly longer than Athan was tall, in the vacuum of space, and with so many arms, just one of those droids was probably capable of doing the work of an entire team of workmen. Those tin cans are going to put me out of a job. Progress always had consequences. Only those capable of adapting could survive. The Ryn were used to adapting.