“Flag of Allegiance”
Shawn H. Golley
All rights reserved by the author
Note: the prologue will make MUCH more sense having read Allegiance. Since only 3 other people have read that, I'm putting it as an optional prologue at the moment, until and unless I find a better solution.
Note #2: There will occasionally be pieces of information in brackets. This information will be provided in the final draft. Technical difficulties are preventing me from accessing my background notes for this universe, so... Kind of like the disappearing socks, I guess.
The Great Hall of the House of the Conclave was the largest structure in Nawa-Garan, the capital city of Waskal-Nawa. A stone structure erected in the days of Mawwak, shortly after the civil war, it stood for nearly two millennia as a pillar of the traditions of the Wasson people.
The central space of the great hall was given over to a single room, large enough to hold a thousand Wasson comfortably. This served as the location at which all formal events were held.
Curving along the inner wall of this room was another, smaller room, dominated by a large stone table that was adorned with the emblem of the Confederacy etched into it.
At the table sat nine people, each the representative from one of the nine brotherhoods, engaged in formal debate.
“Ataangaran was established as a prison planet,” Deru/span, representative of the [Xth/st] Brotherhood, said when he had been recognized to speak. “This small rebel faction should be put down and the planet should return to that service.”
Bakan/atti, the First Brother and moderator of the formal debate, motioned for Hoin/raas, representative of the Sixth Brotherhood, to speak.
“Might I remind you, Brother, that Ataangaran was established primarily as a border outpost following the Core-Wasson war a century ago, so that we could better keep an eye on the meddlesome Humans. Its prison planet status was merely a front for that purpose, to give us the pretense of legitimacy over the Humans' more blatant 'colony.' “
“Might I remind you all,” said Sixth Brother Flerann after being recognized by Bakan/atti, “Those 'meddlesome Humans' were partially responsible for the overthrow of official military presence on Ataangaran. They are a force to be reckoned with.”
“I do not see,” said Eman/hail, representative of the Third Brotherhood, “How a few lucky breaks on the part of the Humans can merit 'a force to be reckoned with.' “
“Devastating the primary guard outpost with no apparent intrusion? Disabling the space elevator? Sending the transit station hurtling into Gaaften-A? Are all of these just accidents, then?”
There were murmurs of assent throughout the room. When Flerann finished speaking, a silence fell over the room as each Brother pondered the best course of action.
The Wasson Confederacy of the Nine Brotherhoods dated back to the reign of the third and final emperor of Waskal-Nawa, the Wasson homeworld. When Emperor Mawwak died, he bequeathed his empire to all of his nine children, who spent several years in civil unrest, until his eldest son, Mawwak/stivel, brought his eight siblings together, dividing up the then four planets among each of them and requiring that they meet once a Waskal-Nawa year to discuss matters concerning all of the worlds.
The first formal Conclave meeting was held in (602 <Earth>) at the departure of the eight youngest siblings from their birth world, and continued without interruption until the present day. Each Brotherhood (taking patronage from Mawwak himself, the glorified forger of an empire) and beholden to each offspring, was represented by the Brother (or sister), the ordained head of that branch of the race.
In addition to the nine formal representatives of the brotherhoods, there were also representatives from the military as well as several small interest groups seeking to advance their own agendas. For all their strict adherence to the traditional customs of their past, the Wasson were a diverse people. These representatives rarely spoke, however. They knew their place, and were primarily present to observe, to stay informed of what the Conclave was doing, as they each represented the highest levels of authority in their respective realms of command.
“They are a nation in reconstruction. A century without freedom has stripped them of their identity.”
“A century without freedom? We're talking about criminals here! Ataangaran was established as a prison planet.”
“Initially, yes. But let's face the facts. We've been (shluffing off) our political enemies and rebels there for the past fifty years. And over the last two or three years, there's been an influx of non-Wasson 'occupants. ' We're not talking about hardened criminals here. Many of these people are completely innocent, they just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Deru/span knew more of the truth of that statement than Flerann. He had been contacted by Thaan more than six years ago. She saw in him a lust for power akin to her own, and they had agreed to help each other achieve their respective goals. It was he who had put Thaan in touch with Mogtai of Ataangaran. In turn, Thaan had introduced him to Iragon. While Deru/span's partnership with the rogue had been brief, he had been able to make contact with a variety of people throughout the Wasson underground as well as with certain members of the Araan priesthood. In the four years since his contact with Iragon, he had not only managed to develop a power base that rivaled that of Bakan/atti.
And letting an Ataangarani representative into the Conclave – at all, much less as a full member – would expose the truth of what had happened – and most likely of who was responsible, which would undermine all the work Deru/span had put into building up his reserves for the time when he would be ripe to seize power.
He did not want power for its own sake – not like that foimmo Thaan. He merely saw the Confederacy for what it was – a backward, incompetent political entity that stood no chance of long-term survival when put up against the likes of the Araans, Iragon, or even Thaan. No one else seemed to see that.
At last, Bakan/atti spoke, his voice declarative. “We do not have all of the information that we need in order to make an informed judgment. Therefore, we will send an envoy to Ataangaran and that envoy will report to us what they observe, what they learn, and whether they believe Ataangaran merits inclusion into the Conclave.
“Deru/span, Flerann, and Hoin/raas , you will journey to Ataangaran to make the formal assessment on behalf of the Conclave. “Might I remind you all that this is a weighty task, and must be undertaken with extreme care. Try not to let your predispositions guide your observations. You are representing the Conclave, not your individual brotherhoods. This task is of great import. I dismiss you all now. Go, make preparations. As soon as you are ready, depart.”
Shortly after its liberation, leaders of the various brotherhood segments had gotten together and divided Ataangaran into nine subdivisions, mirroring the tradition of the Conclave. Not all planetary governments operated in this way, but the Provisional Senate had thought it a good idea to establish a more traditional form of governance. The Ataangarani citizens had seen enough change thrown their way already.
The problem then remained: what to do with the non-Wasson. Ataangaran now supported a large population of Humans dumped there for some unknown purpose.
Lester King, a native of Saulen, had been on Ataangaran for six months prior to its liberation. He’d been aboard a transport headed for Asterion when someone – they were never told who – boarded their ship and redirected it to Ataangaran.
The survivors from the Igdrasyl had formed a close community when they’d landed, and King had quickly risen as one of the group's leaders.
“We received a communique from the Conclave this morning,” Perata said. “They're sending representatives. They wish to see what we have been able to do in the eleven(?) months since our liberation.”
“Excellent,” Karan/zhan asserted. The large Wasson sat next to Perata, and looked twice as big compared to her small form, especially by Wasson standards. Around the remainder of the table sat Wencessia Atreus, a Human who had been captured by the Wasson while attempting to sabotage one of their power plants on (world).; Skon/keras, a political prisoner who had been exiled to Ataangaran nearly fifty years ago, Himmel/ibet, (MORE LATER)
King was pleased with the diversity of the council. When the Senate had initially formed, many Wasson had tried to (get it) to be comprised solely of Wasson, but he and a number of others had made the case that there was a large enough population of Humans to warrant representation.
The problem now was that there seemed to be a divide between the Humans and the Wasson – and the major tension between them was the Wasson's insistence that they petition the conclave for membership. He understood his fellow Humans' desire to remain independent from alien oversight, but at the same time, he saw how membership as a formal Wasson brotherhood would help the planet. They would be able to participate in decisions that affected the whole confederacy. And the large percentage of Humans on the planet could influence decisions in such a way as to avoid conflict with Earthcore. That argument was what had won the agreement of the Wasson. That didn't, however, mean that everyone was willing to pursue membership. There was still a large faction of Humans opposed to formally becoming citizens of another species' government. [How are they going to react when Earthcore breaks up?]
“What do they want to see?” Atrius asked. “And more importantly, what will we let them see?”
“We will let them see whatever they want to see,” said Skon/keras. “it is vital that we show them the true state of affairs, not some pretentious(?) picture of idealacy.”
“I concur,” said Perata. “We are not a traditional, dare I say, obedient group. They will either accept that or they will not. But it would be wrong to deceive them – to make them think we are something that we are not.”
“What harm would it do if it got us membership?” Himmel/ibet asked. “Let them realize how different we are after we've gained a voice. Then they'll have no choice but to deal with us.”
“Your logic is twisted, Himmel/ibet,” Karan/zhan said. “It is true that no member of the nine brothers on in the conclave can be dismissed unless it is approved by that brother's constituency, there is no precedent for a brotherhood beyond that, and there are absolutely no precedents for a brotherhood beyond the ninth. They can, and probably will, make up whatever rules they please.”
“Then we must demand equal status as a full, unimpeachable brotherhood,” [Human] said. “All nor nothing.”
King, who had remained silent for some time, spoke up. “That won't do us any good. Yes, if they grant us full membership then we're all set, but if they don't, then we're screwed. Better to accept limited membership now and work toward full status later. Once we've got our foot in the door...”
“How are we to know that limited membership will do us any good at all?” Atreus asked.
“Because, even if we have a silent representative, which is the worst they can do to us,” Perata said, “We are at least aware of what the Conclave is doing and can take appropriate actions here. I would find it likely that they will grant us a formal membership, however, which is far more effective, even if our representative cannot vote. At the very least, they can bring up and/or address issues that are important to us Ataangarani.”
Perata's logic made sense to King, but he could see in the faces of the other Humans that they were still not satisfied. The Wasson's expressions were much more difficult to read, but after nearly a year of working with them, he had begun to discern some of them. Himmel/ibet in particular, looked aghast that anyone would suggest breaking the traditional structure of Wasson government. After all, the nine-brother Conclave dated back to the nine children of Mawwak and Oban/etti, the founders of the confederacy.
[Other Wasson] spoke, “Whatever we decide to petition the Conclave for, they still must observe us, and I see no reason to hide anything from them. They are the ultimate judges of our worth as a society, and they should see that society in all its truth, be it good or bad. Hide nothing.”
There were nods of agreement around the room. The council rarely voted formally on any decision. Instead, they worked to areach a majority, or better yet, a consensus. This made Senate meetings often lengthy (awk) but it strengthened the cohesion of the team and ensured that each Senator was given equal consideration.
“I do have one concern with the impending visit of the Conclave representatives,” Perata said after (someone) had recorded the group's decision. “The Order. We've all been hit at least once over the last three months, some of us more than that.”
King smiled inwardly. Perata's province had been one of the most frequent targets of the Order's terrorism, and she had glossed over that fact, raising the issue without sounding as though she were pleading for assistance or complaining about the frequency of attacks. It took real skill to do that.
“I was under the impression, said Himmel/ibet, “That internal defense matters would be left up to the governors of each respective province. Am I mistaken on that issue?”
The briefest flash of a grimace crossed King's face, but fortunately no one seemed to notice. In the same manner Perata had manged to bring up her own issue by presenting it as a global one, Himmel/ibet was telling her that it wasn't a problem for the Senate. King spoke up, directing his words to Himmel/ibet, “That may be. However, Perata's point seems to be geared more in the direction of how it will affect the visit of the representatives. It's a valid point, and, in fact, is probably going to be the single largest obstacle to our admittance. If we can't control our own citizens, then how are we fit to govern ourselves?”
“Well, we'll just have to show them that we can.”
The House of State for Third Province had originally been a guard outpost much like Solis I. It hadn’t been utilized until after Ataangaran’s liberation, but had been quickly set up to facilitate the formal establishment of the province.
“Have you had any difficulties with the Humans?” Hoin/raas asked Perata as they walked through the first-floor corridor toward the exit.
“Not really,” Perata responded. “There are some who are still opposed to the government we’ve set up, however, they are a small fraction of the population. The majority of people are content to live as best they can. Our main obstacle is infrastructure. We’ve had to begin from scratch, and we have had limited synthesizer resources until recently.”
“How has that changed?” Hoin/raas asked. They made their way out of the complex and traveled along the makeshift road leading into the newly reconstructed town.
“We’ve spent a good proportion of our current stockpiles on developing methods of acquiring more raw materials. We have had access to satellite imagery that was current eleven months ago, and we’ve used those to determine the best locations to extract the materials.”
The road curved around a number of ramshackle buildings constructed with materials that appeared to be salvaged from spacecraft. Several walls had large dents in them that, as Karan/zhan had explained upon the committee’s visit to his province, had belonged to the spacecraft that had deposited the latest groups of “prisoners” on the surface.
A crowd of people were gathering up ahead. Curious, Hoin/raas directed their progress in the direction of the throng, which was quickly growing. Hoin/raas spotted Flerann and then Deru/span near the back of the group.
“What is going on?” Hoin/raas asked as they approached.
“They’ve blocked the street,” Flerann said. “They haven’t said anything at all, just impeded anyone's progress.”
“Has this happened before?” Deru/span asked, more than a touch of scorn() in his voice.
“There have been expressions of dissent, yes,” Perata said cautiously. “We are aware of a particular dissident group calling themselves The Order who have been particularly active, but, so I have been told, their existence dates back to before Ataangaran’s liberation.”
“Have you taken any measures to curb their efforts?” Deru/span asked.
“We have been working with the Brotherhood to determine how best to deal with them,” Perata replied. “The problem is that the only time we get a glimpse of them is when they ‘perform’ publicly.
“Have you had any support from any ex-military personnel you have encountered?” Hoin/raas asked, his tone implying more that he wanted information than an accusation of failure.
“Most ex-military personnel are members of the Brotherhood,” Perata said. “Karan/zhan himself was a member.”
Perata noticed a slight quivering in Deru/span’s tusks at the mention of this fact. She wasn’t sure of its significance, but she knew that it was somehow important. She made a mental note to bring it up to Karan/zhan once the Conclave representatives had left.
“And there is no formal military presence here?” Deru/span asked.
Deru/span let out a sound of disgust. He indicated for Hoin/raas and Flerann to accompany him a little ways off. Perata waited quietly as the three representatives conversed in hushed tones. She noticed the crowd becoming more and more restless. This was the major road through the province, and its blockage would set just about all the province’s projects back if it wasn’t cleared soon. Perata was nothing if not a stickler for efficiency (awk).
A little ways off, the three representatives from the Conclave of Brotherhoods stood quietly discussing the latest developments.
“I do not like the fact that there is no military presence here,” Deru/span said. “It is evident that this so-called government cannot control its own people, and there is no method of enforcing any of their policies, much less if something undesirable happens. Like now.”
“They do have a method of enforcement,” Flerann said. “Perata stated that the Brotherhood was responsible for the maintenance of order.”
“The Brotherhood is being misused,” Hoin/raas said. “I am perfectly willing to allow some flexibility in the policies, especially with the large number of non-Wasson here, but one thing I will not tolerate is the absence of the Brotherhood as the governing body. It (spits?) on everything we as a civilization hold sacred.”
“But there’s no way around that. Never before have there been so many non-Wasson cohabitating with us. There are bound to be some changes taking place (awk).”
“We can discuss those more, philosophical,” Deru/span spat the word, “issues later. We cannot permit them entry into the Conclave, regardless of their other policies, without at least some formal military presence. If nothing else, we would be abandoning them.”
Hoin/raas nodded his tusks in agreement. Flerann looked distracted. The other two representatives glanced in her direction, then listened, as it appeared she was doing. Someone had begun to speak loudly, addressing the crowd.
“There is no precedent for us! We are the bridge, and we will burn all who dare to try and dominate us! We are (unique)! The forces of oppression and tradition must be scourged!”
A tumult of noise erupted from the crowd as they responded the speaker's statement. Many denounced him, demanding that he be removed as an obstruction. Others shouted in agreement. Hoin/raas glanced in the direction of Perata, but she was no longer there.
Perata raced the three hundred meters back to the House of State. Another large chunk on synthesizer resources she had invested in was a communications device for each member of the brotherhood in the province. It was one of the first steps agreed upon by the Senate to improve the defense capabilities of the provinces.
But, of course, she had left hers sitting on her desk. She had expected a quick, uneventful tour of the province – the tours of the fourth, sixth, and seventh provinces had only taken a couple of hours each and there had been no hint of any trouble. The one time they needed to call on the brotherhood quickly, there would be a delay. Perata cursed herself for her (?). She dashed into her office, grabbed the transmitter, and pressed the appropriate buttons, then spoke quickly, summoning the nearest brotherhood members to the site of the disturbance.
By the time she had finished the message, she was nearly to the edge of the crowd once more. She made her way toward Deru/span, Hoin/raas, and Flerann.
“We will not stand for it! Ataangaran is ours! And we will die to keep it that way!”
A shout arose from the crowd as the pontificating man did something Perata couldn't see. The crowd began surging back, more screams erupting from the frightened onlookers.
There was a blinding flash of light, more screams, and a concussive blast that sent even those on the edge of the crowd to their knees.
Perata collapsed to the ground, her vision consumed with vertigo, her ears deafened by the sound of the blast. When her senses restored themselves a few moments later, she looked about her. Flerann was clutching her left arm with her right. From what Perata could tell, it had been dislocated, one of the most painful injuries a Wasson could experience.
Within three minutes, the first members of the Brotherhood arrived, carrying a variety of riot control equipment. Perata directed them to the center of the blast.
One of the Brotherhood members made his way toward the two remaining Conclave representatives. Deru/span looked coldly at him. “You're too late,” he said.
Sergeant Snyll Maad, Chief Intelligence Officer of the Earthcore Nova Cruiser Mandrake, sat down at his desk and activated his holographic display. He brought up the news (awk). An article from the Wasson news nets caught his attention, and he tapped the display command.
Another riot occurred on Ataangaran yesterday when a proclaimed member of The Order terrorist organization sent a grenade into a crowd gathered outside, killing eleven and injuring thirty-six others, including Sixth Brother Flerann who was part of a diplomatic envoy to the former prison planet.
Political specialist Eben/holden had this to say, “Clearly the citizens of Ataangaran don't want outside influence. There have been discussions in the Conclave about admitting Ataangaran as a member. This kind of attack shows the citizens' reluctance, dare I say opposition, to this idea.”
In related news, the head office of the Military has announced today that they will begin stationing troops on Ataangaran, both in a defense capacity as well as part of a new recruitment and training initiative. Six thousand troops are expected to arrive on Ataangaran over the next standard month.
This did not sit well with Maad. It seemed that once again, Ataangaran would become the focal point of another major political crisis. After all, it had been Ataangaran that had led Philhower and his squadron the the Dracon Action and the prevention of Thaan's forcible takeover of Earthcore.
And now it seemed that the same type of power play was being made, this time with Ataangaran at the center of the storm that was fast approaching...
©2005 by the author