Chalacta System, 28 ABY
Chalacta, Front Steps of the URCS Senate Hall
When President Borosh took the podium, he did so flanked by a mixed contingent of over a dozen Chalactan and Sneevel senators. The awaiting crowd, massive and split down the middle into “natives” and “immigrants” by a barricaded wall of URCS federal police and Cooperative Defense Force Guardian peacekeeper droids, quickly fell silent, their nervous energy palpable.
With the eyes of nearly nine billion Coalition citizens falling on him from the Two Worlds of the United Republic, the president of this patchwork nation began. “A little over a year ago, Senator Brand and I ascended these very steps side-by-side, committed to enlisting the support of the United Senate in a humanitarian campaign to integrate billions of refugees from Reaver Space into the Coalition, and to do so by offering our own lands not as refuge, but as home to them.
“We could not have then imagined the success of that campaign, still ongoing in the face of a Reaver threat whose end is nowhere in sight. Projections from the URCS Social Services Administration, the Coalition Resettlement and Reintegration Service, and the Eastern Provincial Salvation Network all agree: within six months, the combined population of Chalactan and Sneevel residents will be exceeded by the resettled population. As that population grows, the United Republic's policy of granting Coalition citizenship to these people while maintaining their status as 'foreign residents' within the United Republic's jurisdiction has been met with increasing criticism.
“Our successes thus far would have been impossible without the continued and extensive support of our Cooperative allies, whose experience repatriating billions of Coalition refugees from the former Onyxian Commonwealth has been invaluable here, both preserving the United Republic's existing economic viability within the East, and raising the standard of living for our new residents above the threshold set by the Refugee and Evacuation Service. They have consulted with us as the Senate has sought a policy solution to this disparity in population and political representation, and the possibility of instituting a Cooperative-style partition of the two populations with separate, fully-fledged representative governments has been considered exhaustively over the past months.
“Today, it is my duty and my personal joy to inform you all that the United Republic of Chalacta and Sneeve will not be partitioned from the resettled population; it will be combined with them. National elections will be held on time and without special circumstance, and all Coalition citizens who are residents within the borders of the United Republic will be eligible both to vote and hold public office.
“Our two worlds are not lands of division and strife: this is one land of hope and compassion, where time and blood have proven that we are truly stronger together. These Two Worlds are our people's birthrights, and as we have shared them with one another, we now share them with you.”
* * *
Buchich System, 28 ABY
Buchich, Foreman's Office
“What are you doing here, High Commissioner?”
“As head of the Resettlement Service, it's my duty to ensure that all aspects of the Dac Restoration remain on schedule,” Brand answered coyly, not meeting the Foreman's gaze.
“You've made Buchich a rich world again, Commissioner. You've also, incidentally, safeguarded my position as its leader.”
Brand shrugged, glancing to the side at an aquarium made to look like a viewport, giving the whole room a sense of being submerged. “We could do worse for a business partner, I'm sure.”
“You're a pragmatist, Commissioner, like me. We understand the necessities of this age, the things we are sometimes required to do, for the greater good.”
Brand's eyes darted to the Foreman, to this alien outsider he thought he'd figured out. “I'm sure I don't know what you mean,” Brand answered, wary.
“I'll say this about you: you make good on your promises. It's amazing what one can find out about a man such as you with a simple HoloNet connection.”
Brand tensed slightly, ready to spring into action. There were worse outcomes available than the one in which a Coalition official strangled a foreign head of state in his own office.
“You single-handedly rebuilt Chalacta and Sneeve from two nations locked in perpetual war, into a unified, major player in Coalition politics.”
Brand relaxed. So he didn't know. “You give me far too much credit,” Brand said, feigning sheepish embarrassment.
“You would like me to believe that . . . and everyone else, too.”
This man was dangerous. Foreman Tarn was too good at feeling out the truth.
“So I ask you again, High Commissioner of the Coalition Resettlement and Reintegration Service: what are you doing here? What do your clever machinations want with my world?”
“I think I made myself clear enough last year, when I told you to take what you could get from us for as long as we had use for you.”
“Yes, yes,” Tarn nodded, a peculiarly human display for the Quarren-centric alien. “You told me exactly what I needed to hear, to do exactly what you wanted me to do. You salvaged the situation quite expertly, given the bright-eyed ineptitude of your companions. I'm asking you now for the truth, Commissioner; I'm asking you to stop playing games with me, and let us get down to business.”
Tarn wasn't the only one who could ferret out the truth. Brand had been dropping by Buchich off-and-on since the deal was struck, making sure everything was in order, that the Foreman was as happy as he could be with the progress of the deal, putting pressure on the appropriate Coalition officials to make sure everything stayed on schedule and that Buchich was given no reason to back out of their agreement. He'd hoped that at the end of the Dac Restoration project, he might have drummed up enough goodwill to renegotiate the contract with Buchich, supplying a new generation of Mon Calamari Shipyards with local resources and thereby increasing the regional security of the Coalition. His involvement in a deal like that would earn him serious support in the new administration on Mon Calamari, and ensure he'd have the kind of power at his back that he'd need to keep the Coalition moving in the right direction.
This was something else though. Tarn was fishing for information, and Brand could only speculate on the reason why. “I've come a long way in a short time, Foreman. Only a few years ago, I was a senator within a totalitarian regime, a token for representative government under one of the most oppressive dictators in this quarter of the galaxy. Now I'm the head of one of the most powerful organizations in the Coalition, with the support of worlds and governments across the galaxy. I told you the Coalition wouldn't compel your assistance because it 'doesn't do that kind of thing', but let me be clear: it should.
“You were right about my pragmatism, Foreman Tarn. We are in the midst of a galaxy that is tearing itself apart at the seams, facing dangers never before seen. The Dominion destroyed Varn and struck at the heart of the Coalition's military capacity: the Azguard homeworld. The Coalition was only just on the brink of war with the Confederation, the Empire is tearing itself apart with no indication of what will be left when the dust settles, or where their allegiances lie. And no appreciable progress has been made against the Reavers, even though they continue to spill out into new territories across the galaxy.
“So why am I here? I don't know anymore. I have so much work to do, and you've stopped being worth my time.”
Brand turned and left the office, and Foreman Tarn found himself alone, king of a world that meant nothing to the coming wars and offered nothing against the horrors that would be left in their wake.
He opened the drawer of his desk and retrieved the datapad tucked inside, staring at its blank screen and pondering its contents, willing himself to make an impossible choice.
The commlink in his hand clicked on. It was time.
* * *
This was the best. The best!
Rosh was one of three “honored guests” present, allowed to participate in this because of all his people had done for the Restoration of Dac. There was still a long way to go, to be sure, but this was a planet that dared to hope again, and that made little Rosh the Bimm smile.
The Mon Calamari Republic had been a founding member of the Coalition. This planet had served as that Coalition's capital until wartime necessity required the Coalition House of Representatives to move to a more secure location. Its loss in the Dragon War had all but crushed the Eastern Province, sapping their resolve and undermining the fundamental principles on which the Coalition had been built. To see it alive again, to see it on its way to a once-lost beauty, was truly inspiring.
The fate of this world had once been thought to herald the Coalition's fate. Then it was lost, and the Coalition had found a way to survive and grow again, to take on the great burden of Dac's displaced people and give even them a reason to hope once more. The Coalition had found itself stronger than the fate of any one world, and with that strength it had returned to Dac to give it and its people the fate that they deserved.
That decision had made them all stronger. The great edifice to the Coalition's potential that was being erected here was far beyond anything the East could have imagined when they first agreed to support the Dac Return.
It wasn't all sunshine and . . . whatever Dac has for roses, though. Rosh had quietly passed off an offer from the new Dac Council to Foreman Tarn of Buchich a little over a month ago. He'd thought maybe the Foreman was coming around, as the old Quarren had seemed moved somewhat by learning that Minntooine had not only joined the Coalition, but committed itself fully to the Dac Return. With all of the progress the unified Quarren and Mon Calamari had made in establishing this new government, it was hard to believe that the Quarren of Buchich still distrusted the motives of their former leaders.
But there'd been no reply from Buchich. Maybe one day, maybe soon. But not today. Not when it mattered the most . . .
Rosh's commlink beeped in his pocket, and he apologized profusely as he fumbled around, trying both to excuse himself from the booth full of “outsiders” and fish the commlink from his ceremonial robes. “Go ahead,” he said after he made it into the adjoining hall, glancing either way as if afraid he might still be disturbing someone.
“Message from Buchich, Foreman Tarn,” the synthesized voice of Rosh's diplomatic droid informed him before playing the brief audio clip: “'We're in. Have a seat ready for us.'”