"...Well, this certainly reminds me of home." Rachelle quietly said as she stepped into the foyer of the Azulvistan embassy. Empty as it was, she quietly wondered if the dark-paneled wooden walls were just for show, standing out in sharp contrast to every inch of the rest of the station's metals and high-quality carbon fiber. Admiral Briganto nodded, staring up at a television screen showing thousands of soldiers marching down an avenue alongside troops of people on...
Well, she wasn't sure what they were, but they made her think of hoverbikes of some kind.
The Basque Commandant, meanwhile, seemed entirely uninterested in any of the propaganda, merely standing rigidly at attention by the door, clad in a pressed-and-fitted steel grey uniform, much like the darker blue one the admiral wore. At the head of them all stood Rachelle, clad in a more civilian suit, the very same she wore onto the station, a badge of the European flag prominently displayed over her right breast.
Approaching the doors at the end of the foyer, she cleared her throat.Let's hope my Iberian languages are up to standard.
"Excuse me! I am Rachelle Livrémont, High Representative for Foreign Affairs of the European Union! I am here seeking a formal diplomatic contact!" She said, speaking in fluent Portuguese, before quickly repeating the same in Spanish.
The Azulvistans had been informed that foreign diplomats were arriving, and had prepared in turn. Alfonso stood at the head of the trio, resplendent in his navyman’s outfit, medals shining on his breast, sword at his hip. Next to him stood Admiral João, a much more stern-faced individual, and to Alfonso’s other side was Maria, the only one of the trio dressed in a business suit rather than a military one, and holding an epad in her hands.
The Admiral perked up at the Portuguese usage, but it was only when she had finished in Spanish that Alfonso responded. “Greetings, Rachelle! I am Duque Alfonso Leoncio Alvarez De Caravajal of Verauga, the formal representative for the Gran Republic here in the Meeting Place. It is a pleasure to meet you, and may I say that your re-introduction to the galactic scene was certainly, well, a scene!” He chuckled to himself, before reaching into a breast pocket and drawing out a fat cigar.
“May I interest any of you in one before we get to business?”
"Ah, well -- that was our intent!" Rachelle smiled, , briefly giving Alfonso a once-over, before glancing back toward Liére -- the woman clad in steel-grey dress. "I don't partake, but Commandant Amenábar does, I believe. Liére?" She asked, and the woman stepped toward, hands folded behind her back at full attention.
"When I get the chance," she said, moving to hold out her hand, "...which, tragically, isn't very often."
Alfonso plucked another cigar out, setting the first between his lips as he retrieved a pocket clipper. It snicked
twice, once for the one in his hands, once for the one in his lips, the second for the one between his fingers. He handed it over, then replaced the cutter with the lighter, sparking it to life and offering the flame towards the Commandant.
“So. The Federal European Union.” He said slowly, once smoke was rising into the air. “I, and the rest of my nation, was under the distinct impression that the European Union formally dissolved in 2279.”
“We have records of an attempt
to dissolve the European Union around that time period, but our records also indicate that the attempt failed.” Rachelle replied, briefly casting a glance back at the Commandant as she idly puffed away at the cigar.
“If I were a betting woman, I’d say the truth is most likely somewhere in between. We believe
we were one of the entities most prepared for the evacuation, for example, based on our records, but data from that time is incredibly fragmentary.”
“We believed something similar. Our colony fleet was equipped with so-called Gaia Seeding technology, designed to build a world up from its base components. We have yet to see another colony that has used the same, or even similar methods.” He turned on his heels, guiding the visitors deeper into the embassy. “So, what was it that brought you to our doors? A friendly hello, or something more?”
“Meeting the neighbors, first and foremost,” Rachelle said, nodding once. “We’ve been informed of the PUNT already, and have expressed that we will be engaging them at the earliest possible opportunity, and with the remaining two-thirds of our fleet once they’re fully mobilized. Furthermore, beyond that, we wanted to reach out to you regarding the possibility of rehabilitating the European landmass,” she paused, briefly glancing back at the Admiral.
“Fully mobilised?” João looked surprised. “You’re going onto full war footing to take care of New Terra? Even with our reports we didn’t think it necessary to go to more than partial mobilisation. Their bark will no doubt be worse than their bite- we have been fighting for centuries, with the largest natural-born military the galaxy has seen. They…” He swept a hand dismissively. “Will be brushed aside.”
“...And, well, I’d be remiss not to ask about the status of the Catholic Church in your nation on behalf of our own Catholic population. Our Archbishops would no doubt have many
questions for you, being that they’ve been without a proper Pope for centuries.”
Alfonso guided the group through to a meeting room, still richly paneled, the face of some old Patrician staring down at the group. Coffee was delivered before they’d even had the chance to take their seats and ashtrays sat before the smokers. “La Doctrina
has, by all accounts, differed slightly from the teachings of the Church prior to the fall, but… The Church has been fascinated by the idea of reconvening a papal conclave. I believe they desire to see it ‘done properly-’ in Rome.”
"Ah, well," Ibrahim interjected, sharply clearing his throat. "If I may reply to your earlier point, sir, yes, you may be correct that New Terra will be easily swept aside -- but when it comes to fascists such as them, we do not like to leave any room for error -- and more importantly, we do not intend to merely defeat them. We intend to annihilate their military and permanently disable their capacity to wage war, and to erase their ideology from their populace. Thus, full mobilization is not only safer, but ideologically necessary."
"...Well-put, Ibrahim." Rachelle nodded. "As for the Conclave, our Catholic population has been waiting for exactly that opportunity. I imagine there may be some territorial claims to resolve to Europe as a whole, but, generally speaking, we would prefer to share it, and Terre
itself, though only after surveys to see if anything sapient has survived. We've already picked out a handful of survey sites -- isolated mountain valleys, extensive cave systems such as the Mammoth Caves, et cetera, et cetera. That said, I can't imagine that restoring Vatican City or at least hosting a Conclave there will post much threat to whatever populations might still exist on Terre
." She continued, gingerly reaching down to take a cup of coffee in hand and sip away at it. "Presumably, doctrinal differences between our altered strains of the Church could be worked out at such a Conclave?"
“Bold words,” Alfonso remarked. As they said on Old Earth, “you can kill a man, but you can’t kill an idea. Any ideology that has survived the stars and the centuries will likely not see itself quashed by military force. If anything, it seems more likely you’ll only create martyrs. Our goals when it comes to New Terra are far less lofty.” He set the cigar down to smoulder while he sipped his coffee.
“Terre.” He noted. “Francophonic. I see the EU has kept that particular habit around… A brief note on territorial claims- the Senate has already declared the Iberian Peninsula to be of special interest to Azulvista, along with the territories previously belonging to Mexico and Brazil. I imagine you have little interest in the latter, but it bears mentioning.”
The topic of a religious convention might have to wait until there were a few actual priests around.
"In the latter, no -- but in the former, yes. We don't have any particular interest in the Americas, beyond potentially helping to rehabilitate the landscape, free of charge, so to speak -- but a significant portion of our population has Iberian heritage. That said, as I've touched on, we don't make exclusive claims to most of Europe, even where we do make some claim -- aside from a few Federally-owned locations." Rachelle explained.
"When it comes to the PUNT, though, our goals are quite non-negotiable, and our intent is to make it absolutely clear that their ideology is a completely unproductive failure that is utterly non-viable in the ultimate long term. To correct the failures of policy in stamping out Nazism in the wake of the Second World War. We do not -- and will not -- offer amnesty to war criminals."
João and Alfonso shared a look. Fanatics.
They couldn’t even see the hypocrisy of their words. So obsessed were they with a war over six centuries ago that they had forgotten that their own system of government was what had rendered Earth impotent to solve the looming crises that had eventually doomed her.
“Well, moving on from our warlike neighbours and our varying opinions on how they should be crushed, I assume you have much to ask us beyond matters of a higher power?” A plume of smoke poured from Alfonso’s mouth, making it only a few inches before the room’s air filtration pulled it away.
"We do," Rachelle nodded, her expression shifting to a diplomatic smile as she realized that, in fact, the Ishtari had probably been correct about the ineffectuality of the Azulvistans. If they wanted to achieve their war aims, they'd have to strike the PUNT hard – and faster than anyone else.
"We're interested in setting up a limited cultural exchange program with your nation, put simply, especially considering our shared origins. In particular, we have a special interest in traditional arts, music, and culinary arts – especially the kind that were lost in the evacuations. Put simply, we want to reconstruct what was lost, and we think you're the people for that. Additionally, we'd like to offer our scientific aid. Our terraforming and environmental rehabilitation programs, if you don't mind me saying so, are top of the line, as if our medicine – and those are technologies we don't like to hoard."
“We’d be happy to participate in cultural exchanges- perhaps we could even arrange for a visa scheme, to allow a limited number of our citizens to provide expertise in relevant fields? Terraforming technology could be of use, but I would have to defend the ability of Azulvistan medicine- I am sure if you wished to collaborate with our mathetes, you would learn much as well.”
Now it was Maria’s turn to speak up. “Additionally, Azulvistan businesses are eager to begin working in foreign markets. We have everything from raw materials to luxury goods to provide- including more of the wonderful Cuban-style cigars that the Commandant is now enjoying.”
"Oh, we wouldn't mean to insult your doctors, of course -- but everyone can benefit from medical exchange, especially in extended contact scenarios. Terraforming technology, however, is a technology I assume you understand, will require plenty of preparation and care, but it's something you have to get quite capable at when you've been preparing for the next several tens of thousands of years of population growth." Rachelle smiled warmly. "Ecological preservation and restoration, too -- though the issuance of visas is something I can personally speak on in greater detail at a later date."
Rachelle paused, smile taking on an even softer, almost apologetic shape. "Now, while we are more than open to trade, we are, fundamentally, a post-scarcity, moneyless society. Now, that certainly doesn't preclude trade, but your point of contact would be the Directorate-General for Economic and Industrial Affairs, and through them, if you so choose, our various Industrial Groups."
There was another shared look between the three Azulvistan diplomats. A slight shifting in their chairs.
This was not going to be an easy relationship.
The Fires Are Lit: New Terra
A message had punched through the many, many layers of bureaucracy. It had come from on high, cleaved through the red tape, and been seen and heard by all within the military. The A.F.U was marching to war. All departments had made ready, the economy stoked, its bloated nature put to the test as it churned out the machinery of conflict.
There was no warning from the Meeting Place. They had declined to participate in that particular experiment. Their gateway powered up, and one by one, ships set out, some together, and some to far-flung corners of the galaxy. This was to be a true alpha strike.
The First Galactic Conflict began.