Spiritum – Chapter Twelve

12.

Chancellor Heruun found a special kind of peace in the V-space that she never experienced anywhere else. Every time she entered the abyss it was as if she’d died and the pains of existence had been washed away. No more politics, no more tension and strife, and no more dealing with the Strama. For a fleeting, exquisite moment she felt like she was truly free. But as always, the feeling promised to be temporary, especially at the sight of the Iringroat Chancellor standing opposite her.

It was he who called them there at such short notice, wishing to speak only with them and insisting the impromptu meeting be kept a secret. They stood in a close triangle, joined also by Chancellor Kel’jung. The Volhollon Chancellor seemed oblivious as to the reason for his calling them there but Satrisella had been confident of it from the moment the invitation arrived.

“Thank you both for meeting with me at such short notice”. The words came out in an awkward stutter, like the mere act of thanking someone was uncomfortable for him.

“What do you want, Uhrun”? Tussek demanded. The Iringroat Chancellor wasn’t well-liked among his fellow councillors, and most weren’t shy about making their feelings clear.

He hesitated, quite uncharacteristically. “Well I’m sure I’m not the only one deeply concerned with the outcome of our previous meeting”.

Satrisella rubbed her forehead, annoyed, “That’s correct. Why did you summon us here”? She’d been in the gardens, enjoying a nice cup of Shamji with the children and the pets when she was informed of the message. It irritated her to be forced to leave them to attend to whatever Uhrun wanted to whine about. She’d already endured a tiring day of dealing with her own government. It was always annoying when work cut into her much-needed private time.

“I am sure also that we are all very much concerned with the actions of Chancellor Calsen”, Uhrun continued, only irritating Satrisella further. She already knew what he wanted, and didn’t appreciate having her time wasted.

“Get to the point, Uhrun”.

He glared, clearly not happy with the reception. “I wanted to know, doesn’t anybody else think Chancellor Calsen’s actions pose significant danger to the rest of the Confederacy”?

“Of course we do”, said Tussek. “We could end up in a war with the Imperium and the Aq Quhn Ran Asten if we’re not careful. We already discussed this”.

“No! Not that. Something else. Something that wasn’t discussed”.

“Well what is it? Spit it out already”.

“As you said, we are in danger of ending up in a war with both the Imperium and the Aq Quhn Ran Asten as a result of what Chancellor Calsen has proposed but there is another danger that presents itself as a result of this. I mean, what’s to stop the humans from forging an alliance with the Empire for their own benefit rather than that of the Confederacy? With the Aq Quhn Ran Asten on their side they could take over everything. They could enslave or destroy us all”. Satrisella could only shake her head. She’d known this conversation was coming, ever since the end of the previous meeting. No one trusted the humans but none less so than the Iringroat, understandable given the history between the two species.

Tussek sighed. “So you dragged us here to discuss conspiracy theories. You’re too paranoid, Uhrun”.

The Iringroat Chancellor’s eyes bulged with anger. “These are not paranoid ramblings. We all know the humans have and always will put their own ambitions before the needs of all others. I see nothing to suggest this time will be any different”. The perception that the humans were ambitious and treacherous was one that had endured throughout galactic history though Satrisella saw no evidence to suggest any treachery on Chancellor Calsen’s part.

“And I suppose we are to ignore you own biases towards the humans and their interests”? she asked. With their sovereignties situated right beside one another, squabbles between the humans and Iringroat were near-constant, and that was before considering the fact they were at war thirty years ago, a fact many on both sides had yet to forget.

“I admit my kind’s history with the humans does mean that I am biased. But I swear to you both I am here acting purely in the interests of the Confederacy”.

Of course you are, Satrisella though. It didn’t take a mind reader to know his true intentions. “And I suppose also that is why you chose to wait until now to raise the issue? I’m sure Chancellor Calsen would have some objections to these accusations”.

“Calsen is intelligent and a skilled manipulator. She’s more than capable of swaying the opinions of… some of the other councillors. Not to mention that Vice-Chancellor she’s leaving in charge in her stead. He’s an ambitious one, greedy too, and dangerous, especially without her to hold his leash. You mark my words, that human is going to be trouble”.

“So you decided to speak with only us about the issue”. The Volhollon, with the largest and strongest military in the Confederacy, the Treen, the species behind more scientific and technological innovations than the others combined, and the Iringroat, who just happened to be the Confederacy’s wealthiest species. They were known as the Big Three. If each of their strengths were to be combined it would make for quite the alliance.

Uhrun didn’t answer, though he needn’t have. The silence spoke volumes. “Are you buying any of this”? asked Tussek.

Satrisella looked to Uhrun. “Suppose you’re right. What do you propose should be done about it”?

“We represent the three strongest species of the Confederacy”. He paced the V-space as he spoke. “Between the wealth of my kind, the intellect of yours, Chancellor Heruun, and the strength of yours, Chancellor Kel’jung, the potential for an alliance between our three species would be almost unlimited”.

“We three form an alliance and wipe out the humans”, Satrisella interrupted, tired of all the pussyfooting. “Before turning on the rest of the Confederacy. That’s your plan”. Uhrun stared at her as though she’d read his mind.“Stop wasting our time, Uhrun. That is what you really want”.

“The humans are dangerous. They already caused the destruction of the Collective and the enslavement of people from all our species. In time, they will do the same to the Confederacy, unless we stop them now”.

“The Imperium doesn’t represent the entire human race, Uhrun”, Tussek pointed out.

Uhrun’s patience seemed to reach its end. “My kind fought the humans for the best part of a millennium. It doesn’t matter whether they’re from this faction or that faction, they’re all the same. They’re snakes and they will always put their own interests above the interests of the Confederacy. You only have to look at history to see that. How many wars have they started? How many atrocities have they committed against our kinds? How much more blood does this selfish and irresponsible species have to spill before we do something”?

“And how many wars has your kind started, Uhrun? How much blood has the Iringroat spilled over the past millennium”?

“I won’t lie and say my species is completely innocent. We’ve done terrible things in the past but I assure you my interests here are purely in safeguarding the Confederacy from the threat posed by the humans”.

Satrisella had long grown tired of the conversation, and wanted only to see it end. “These are the most precarious times the Confederacy has ever faced. Every member of the council recognizes how vulnerable we are, and how our vulnerability with only grow if we start fighting each other. Any infighting would be disastrous for the Confederacy and would certainly provide the Imperium with the perfect opportunity to conquer us. I am certain no member of this council would ever believe their sovereignty could survive without the support of the others”.

Uhrun shot her a disdainful look. “The humans are not to be trusted, Chancellor Heruun”.

“The Last War is over, Uhrun. It has been for over thirty years. It’s time to let go”.

“You try telling that to the families who lost sons, brothers and fathers. Are they supposed to just let go? Am I? After everything I lost”? Uhrun raised his right arm a little. Satrisella understood. “I fought the humans in the Last War and I lost more than just my arm to them. I lost so much more. You people never saw what I saw”. The Last War: the final major conflict between member states of the Galactic Collective before its collapse, namely the humans and the Iringroat. Nobody was quite sure how it started, but it all centred on the Shurisa star system. The Humans and the Iringroat had never been particularly friendly; they’d fought plenty times before. But then both species tried to colonize the same system at the same time and the tensions boiled over yet again. It would take the fall of an empire to convince them to cooperate again.

“I’m sorry for the losses to both yourself and your people, Chancellor Suhyur. But it still doesn’t justify what you propose, or provide any evidence to support your allegations”.

“Even if the humans did want to oust us, why would they wait until now to do so”? Tussek asked. “Why wait until now to propose an alliance with the Aq Quhn Ran Asten? Why not form one in secret? Why not even join forces with the Imperium to take over the rest of the Confederacy? If the humans had any intention of betraying us, why would they wait until now”?

“The delicate state of the galaxy provides ample opportunity for betrayal, Chancellor”, Uhrun answered.

Satrisella had had enough. “The humans have far too much to lose from betraying the Confederacy. Attempting to remove the other states would only make them more vulnerable to invasion from the Imperium or the Aq Quhn Ran Asten. There is no evidence to suggest Chancellor Calsen has any ulterior motives for proposing an alliance with the Empire, nor any to suggest the humans have any intention of betraying us. However, I am frankly inclined to believe there may be more to your motivations than the mere protection of the Confederacy. There will be no alliance between our three species beyond what we already have”.

Uhrun’s eyes burned liked hot coals. Clearly, it had been a very long time since anybody told him no. He looked to Tussek. “What about you”?

Tussek shook his head. “I agree with Chancellor Heruun. This discussion is absurd and a complete waste of our time”.

“I don’t think I could have put it better myself. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have more important matters to attend to as I am sure both yourself and Chancellor Kel’jung do also. There will be no further discussion of this topic, both now and at any future meeting of the council. And finally, I promise you this, Chancellor Suhyur, any hostility from one sovereignty toward another without good reason will be met with severe reprisal. I suggest you keep that in mind”.

“The humans are not to be trusted”, Uhrun growled. “Some day you will come to see that. I suggest you keep that in your mind, Chancellor Heruun”. With the push of a button, he was gone.

Satrisella hit the button in front of her and was once again surrounded by the white walls and floors that only reminded her of the stresses she spent every day wishing she could escape from. She stepped out of the glass chamber, having endured all the nonsense she could in a day, then went to the transparent wall at the far end of the room. The sky was a watercolour of oranges, reds, blues, and purples. Just as how the V-space never failed to bring peace, so too did the vistas of Citera although not to as great an extent. The views of the transports sailing across the painted sky and the pods streaming between the skyscrapers usually went a long way to calming her nerves, but Uhrun’s proposal left her rattled in a way she’d never quite felt before. The meeting replayed in her head. Satrisella couldn’t help but think of the possibilities. An alliance between their three species would indeed be formidable, the potential for discovery and innovation practically limitless. She also didn’t trust the humans despite what she told Uhrun. Just because there was no evidence of treachery here didn’t mean they were above scrutiny. The humans had been a source pain for the galaxy for over a millennium, her people included. But alas, her kind would likely lose far more than it would gain if they were ever removed, like any other sovereignty. She hoped this would be the end of the matter, but Satrisella knew the Iringroat Chancellor too well. This wasn’t the last they’d hear of his “plan”.

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