by Michael E. Lloyd
Chapter 21: Council of the Regions, Dome
Long before these latest events on Earth, a further special session of the Council of the Regions had been invoked on the place the Mater called Dome.
It was the Utor Party which had again insisted upon the meeting, relishing the new-found but probably only short-lived voting power and influence that had become theirs after the recent, peremptory inter-regional negotiations on Ovanavo’s security.
The inescapable regime of public exposure and scrutiny which was the way of all things political and social on Dome would ensure, quite soon, that this temporary imbalance was automatically redressed, and the embarrassed Ovanavons would then assume again their just place in their world’s order. But for the time being, they had the marginally upper hand, and were classically exerting a small degree of mild Doman selfishness.
This extraordinary session had been scheduled to take place somewhat later than this Doman day. But the very early return of one of the five star-craft had prompted its immediate convening, and that unforeseeable event had become the first item on the agenda.
The Council President’s face was long as she silently shared the news.
‘The crew of Star-craft Two have returned safe and well, but with very disappointing results.
‘Their voyage to the second of the recently discovered radio sources, or New Worlds, was not a lengthy one, by comparison with most of the other Missions of Exploration. But if they had met with any degree of success, we should not yet have been welcoming them back.
‘From the moment of their arrival there, however, everything was inauspicious.
‘Although the star-craft’s stealth systems and radimote technology functioned perfectly — which is excellent news in itself, of course — the crew quickly established that the surface temperature on New World Two was considerably lower than here on our own ever-cooling home. It does not necessarily follow that this should pose a major problem to our Mission Imperatives, but in practice the lives of the inhabitants of that world are, unsurprisingly, geared exclusively to shelter and physical survival — our own likely fate in times to come, unless and until we make a glorious escape — and this has allowed no opportunity for more advanced political and technological societies to develop there.
‘Hence no “information base” exists for us to consult and exploit for the purposes of geological exploration, and it follows that we have no need to probe the integrity of the populace or its leaders in order to establish the probable degree of truth of such stored data. Of course, our other Imperatives then naturally fade into irrelevance.
‘In short, although the crew found the inhabitants to be reasonably trusting by nature, and clearly unable to pose any practical threat to the mission, the Captain made the relatively quick decision — which I applaud — to return and allow her resources to be better deployed on some other immediate contribution to our own schemes for survival.
‘Let us hope that the continued absence of the first-launched star-craft, which should now have been on station at its own New World for some considerable time, augurs potentially better news for us all. And that the three longer-distance voyages will, far later, bring other glad tidings. We shall at once advise each of them of these developments, by Special Communication, and reaffirm the huge importance of their missions.
‘So, we can now move on to the original impetus for this latest special meeting ...’
* * *
The leader of the Utor Party was concluding her strongly pondered speech.
‘Thus our motion makes two simple demands of the Council.
‘Firstly, we require the Acquisition of Gold to become the highest priority of all four ongoing Missions of Exploration, with all gold so obtained to be divided equally between the raw material inventory of the inter-regional star-craft building programme and the Ovanavo Regional Development Fund.
‘Secondly, we desire that, in the case of gold alone, the method of settlement with any New World should not be the exchange of other metal and minerals. No, it should be the provision to the controlling species of focused, insight-enabled recommendations for change, or the actual execution of specific changes on their behalf, for the purpose of resolving any significant problems presently inhibiting the stable development of their civilisation. We consider this approach to be both cost-saving and appropriately munificent.
‘And now, since we can all clearly see that a satisfactorily broad opinion in favour of both propositions has been reached, we commend our motion to the House for the formality of the vote.’
The President rose.
‘Once again I am very disappointed. Once again I find a marginally adequate proportion of you to be in favour of the latest Utor Party proposal. Once again I see the hint of intimidation in the hearts of many — and I urge you not to let that monster take hold. And once again I feel I must exert my right and my responsibility to encourage a final reconsideration of your positions.
‘The original, unexpected security perturbations in Ovanavo coincided remarkably with the mission launches, did they not? And although the compromises quickly and necessarily reached with the Utor Party gave it only a small boost of voting power, that was enough to allow it to force the first emergency debate so soon after the departure of the five star-craft.
‘The actions of the leaders of that party are, in my view, not in accordance with our usual spirit of collaboration and consensus, nor do they appear to take proper account of the developing climatic crisis facing us all. We all know that to everything there is a season, and that this little power play cannot endure. But for now, it poses a significant risk to us all.
‘I therefore suggest a compromise amendment to the Utor Party motion.
‘Let our Captains by all means offer (but not insist on) payment in wisdom and assistance for any New World gold we might harvest — indeed, let them be encouraged to give such aid for free, out of the goodness of their own hearts, if time and priorities permit.
‘But while I acknowledge that present circumstances here oblige the star-craft construction programme to agree to share any such gold equally with the Ovanavo Fund, I cannot countenance the gross elevation of that metal above all the other commodities we seek. Our urgent needs are far broader, and such abrupt changes of Council policy indicate a mood of instability and selfishness which deeply concerns me, at a time when solidarity and magnanimity should be our true watchwords. Let us therefore retain the current mission trading protocols and priorities.
‘I call on you to vote for my revised motion ...’
The President could not of course disguise her mild pleasure at the small but crucial improvement which her heartfelt plea had achieved.
‘The count of your votes for my proposal stands at exactly one below the minimum required. I hereby cast my own, rarely-needed, weighted Presidential vote, in favour of it. No doubt there will be an immediate appeal and further representations from the Utor Party. We are listening, madam ...’
‘Thank you, madam. We have heard you. House, your final re-voting, please ...
‘No change. The amended motion is carried. I shall sign new Captains’ Orders at once, and the next set of carrier pigeons will then be programmed and launched — with the exception of CP22, of course.
‘I remain extremely dismayed at this whole turn of events. May we not live to regret these decisions ...’
Copyright © 2008 by Michael E. Lloyd