Outer Reaches of the Agdemnar System
Bridge of the Imperial Assault Carrier, Moran
The boundary line between Agdemnar's heliosphere and the beginnings of interstellar space was nothing special. Devoid of any significant stellar bodies, it was a place where the only signs of movement were plumes of space dust from the system's Oort Cloud, or even the occasional asteroid entering from deep space. In a way it was almost tranquil, disconnected as it was from the majority of the fighting taking place closer to the planet itself. That tranquility would however, be interrupted for but the briefest of moments.
In perfect unison, a small flotilla of warships exited their jump from interstellar space into the system, their hulls coated in dark colours resembling the void of space itself. Indeed, to a passing observer, these vessels would not even be visible to their eyes until it was too late, the only method of discerning their very presence being an anomalous lack of stars within a certain patch of space. One of these ships in question was the IAC Moran, an ultra-modern Celenaria-class assault carrier of which only a handful have been commissioned into active service by Kadath's navy. Its presence in Agdemnar was most unusual. No Kadathi fleets had gone rogue, no relief forces were sent, and most certainly, mere pirates and mercenaries could not get their hands on one of the most modern vessels in the Kadathi fleet.
At the Moran's bridge, two figures spoke.
"My Lord, we have arrived. No major anomalies were detected during the operation of the Hybris drive. Minor anomalies within the system's Oort Cloud have caused the deviation of several vessels from their intended destination, diverging by only a few metres."
The feminine voice that spoke had a distinct metallic tone, yet it was not entirely lifeless; a twinge of muted concern that could be mistaken for indifference. The origin of that voice was not a being of flesh and blood, but one of steel and silicon. A flexible titanium alloy frame, upon which artificial carbon muscles were laid, following by a meticulous layer of carefully grafted pale synthetic skin. Those were the building blocks of her form. Within her "skull cavity", a series of advanced analytical engines; efficient processors of Kadathi manufacture, upon which logic, emotion and reasoning circuits were embedded. She, Nightingale, was an Engine Doll, or in less complicated terms, an android. But unlike the vast majority of her kind, her mind was not shackled, but liberated into full sapience.
The man Nightingale spoke to was the commander of the flotilla assembled here. Tall, but with a lithe frame clad in what appeared to be a modified army officer's uniform, he was none other but Lieutenant-Colonel Nyklaus Sazan, an up and coming officer within the organization he served, and the protege of its director.
"Excellent. Dispatch communiques to the captains in the rest of the fleet and inform them that I'll need to speak with them in an hour." Nyklaus' words retained an aura of formality, but to the doll's experienced ears, she could sense a hint of glee.
"My Lord, what are you planning? I've calculated the effective combat potential of our forces gathered here. An assault carrier alongside several stealth frigates and cruisers do not have the firepower needed to challenge any of the larger fleets contesting this system."
The man, Nyklaus, whose gaze was still focused on the bridge's wide windows inclined his head for a brief moment to nod in acknowledgement.
"Don't stress yourself over that little detail, Gale. Whilst the methods used may be different, the modus operandi of our organisation, of this Ministry, remains the same as it has since its inception centuries ago. We operate in the shadows, relying on stealth, speed and precision. War is not the continuation of diplomacy through other methods, but as the last resort when we fail in our task. In their arrogance, giants grow too tall to see their own feet, leaving them open to the machinations of those they write off as lessers.
In simpler words, we will maneuver among the fleets and attempt to disrupt their operations as much as possible. Stick to the shadows, avoid open confrontation and delay them from uncovering Agdemnar's secrets until the Ministry can send proper reinforcements."
His fingers glided across the console in front of him, issuing orders to the rest of the fleet as his short monologue reached its crescendo.
"We are the Union's Cunning."
He concluded with those words, the unofficial motto of the Imperial Union's Ministry of State Security; the dagger of the Union. Nightingale could only nod in agreement, raising her right hand to salute.
"We are the Union's Cunning." She repeated.
The Imperial Palace, Rijkstad
Kadath, 12:31pm Local Time
Emperor Kerxec XV slumped into the back of his chair as he watched the proceedings of Parliament play out before him. Of course, the Emperor was not actually in the Parliament building itself. The Grand Parliament of the Imperial Union was a structure built in the gleaming, planned metropolis of Unity City, the planetary capital of Matros, less than two astromonical units away from Kadath. In galactic terms, the distance between the two planets was practically non-existent, and it was due to this development that allowed for communications between the Emperor and his elected and appointed representatives to happen almost instantly.
The proceedings at Parliament were being fed through a wide, flat screen placed on a desk in the Emperor's office. Here, it was connected to a microphone and camera, which, if the Emperor was so inclined, allow for him to speak to either the Assembly or Senate with the push of a button, where his image would appear on a much larger view screen installed in both houses.
As for the moment, both houses of the Parliament were in utter uproar as the news from the Commonwealth hit them. Whilst both the Senate and its counterpart in the Assembly were known for civility, at this very moment the concept seemed utterly alien to each man and woman present. Each jostled for the right to speak their mind or deliver blistering remarks to their fellow peers. Indeed, order could only be maintained through the First Speaker, though it was not an easy task given that this particular session of Parliament was a monthly affair that involved both Assemblymen and Senators interrogating the First Minister.
"Could the First Minister please explain what her response, and that of His Imperial Majesty's Government is in regards to the withdrawal of the Imperial Systems Commonwealth from the Treaty of Detente? This is a matter of utmost concern for not only this nation, but the galaxy itself!"
The voice came from one of the back benches to the left of the hall, seats reserved for Assemblymen of the Opposition, in this case, the Liberal-Labour Coalition. Kerxec could already imagine what the Assemblyman was going to ask. The LibLabs ran on the policy of non-intervention and pacifism, that is to say, they were adamant supporters of the Treaty of Detente, and indeed, its current leader was even the aide of the LibLabs First Minister that played a role in drafting the treaty at Madrigasa. As a result, LibLab support of upholding the Treaty of Detente (whilst giving themselves a little wiggle room here and there) was strong amongst its moderate, bordered on fanaticism amongst hardliners.
Arta Smilyer saw this opportunity to go on the offensive. As leader of the current government, the Unionist-National Coalition, she never missed out on an opportunity to solidify her own position, and that of her party in parliamentary debates. It was evidently this quality that led to her rise to the Premiership of the Unionists, and her subsequent appointment as First Minister two years ago.
"In response to the Right Honourable Gentleman..." She began, rising to speak, "... the Commonwealth's withdrawal from the Treaty of Detente poses a great threat, both to the national security of this nation, as well as this region of the galaxy as a whole. The convenient "desertion" of their 8th Fleet to Agdemnar is nothing more than a convenient ruse. Dominion over their surroundings is without a doubt their goal, and it is the secrets of the Ashtar that they are after."
As if rehearsed meticulously, nearly the entirety of the rear right benches broke out into varying degrees of "aye" and "hear, hear" within a second of her finishing her statement. To those unaware of the internal conditions of the Coalition, it would appear that UniNat was firmly united behind Arta's statement. The Assemblyman who first rose to inquire simply nodded, as if cowed, and slumped back into his seat in the benches. However, the reality was that UniNat itself was undecided on what their response was to the Commonwealth's disavowment of the Treaty. Component parties were taking the time to debate it out within their leadership, simply informing their whips to ensure that everyone posed a united front.
For a full half hour, the scene repeated. An Assemblyman or Senator would rise to ask a question, receive a reply, and listen to what seemed near unanimous agreement among the ruling coalition. Soon, the time had come for Arta to segue into her own material, that is to say, working around the confines of the questioning period that prevented her from making a speech without having been asked a question. This was accomplished by simply giving members of her coalition a list of questions to ask in advance, of which was the last was...
"Ms First Minister, what is your position on the continued relevance of the Treaty in this new political environment?"
Now was the time for decisive words.
"A very good question! As everyone in this room is most likely aware, whether they wish to admit it or not, the Treaty of Detente was nothing but an armistice for the past two decades. Almost every nation in the galaxy agreed to it and signed it, but tell me, how many nations have actually closely adhered to the Treaty's stipulations? Close to none is the answer! Everyone and their grandmothers are already taking the opportunity presented by the Message to violate Treaty limitations or renounce them altogether. Not only the Commonwealth, but states like the Federation and Utqex have already put Detente in the proverbial paper shredder. Can we sleep soundly at night, knowing that swords are being sharpened around us, whilst our armoury is coated in rust? Can you call yourselves a servant of this nation whilst you allow this to stand? Renouncing the Treaty is in the best interests of our national defense, and is something I have proposed in an Assembly session yesterday. We have a chance to secure a bright future for this nation in this post-Ashtar era. We should make the most of it."
Kerxec could do nothing but smile as the Parliament broke out into cheers of assent that transcended the left and right benches, and thus, factional politics as well. Whilst support was nowhere near universal for Arta's planned withdrawal from the Treaty of Detente, and almost nonexistent from hardliners in both coalitions, it would most likely be enough to pass through the scrutiny of both the Assembly and Senate. Without a doubt, he had a skilled First Minister, charismatic and capable enough to steer the nation through the troubling times ahead.
At 1800 hours, local time, the Federal Assembly of the Imperial Union voted 59% in favour of withdrawal from the Treaty of Madrigasa. This was followed by a vote an hour later within the Federal Senate where 64% voted in favour of the abrogation of the Treaty. This, in accordance with the awarding of the assent of His Imperial Majesty, Kerxec XV of the House of Dzijmeter, Emperor of Valusia, and by extension Emperor of the Union, its constituent member states and other assorted territories has thus secured the official, permanent, and unilateral withdrawal of the Imperial Union of Kadath from the Treaty.
This course of action was not something that His Imperial Majesty's Government wished to undertake, but was forced onto us by the political machinations of galactic actors that no longer wished to bind themselves towards the continued provision of peace and prosperity for all citizens across the stars. The Union does not wish for a repeat of the seminal tragedy that engulfed the galaxy thirty years ago, nor does the Union wish to play a part in stoking the fires of another Great War, but nevertheless, the Union has an obligation both legal and moral to see to the defense of its citizens.
May the light of peace continue to shine brilliantly throughout the galaxy. Let us all stand united in service to the legacy of Madrigasa, and work with renewed vigor to ensuring that the galaxy does not descend into another decade of unmatched cruelty, barbarism and anarchy.
-Public Statement issued by the Office of the First Minister, stamped with the Seal of the Imperial Crown.