Chapter II – Diplomacy
Chapter II – Diplomacy
“Young lady, I don’t think you have the first idea of what you’re talking about. This bill has already been delayed far too long and your childish reasoning will not stop it from passing at this time.”
Ayers Durane, Chairman for the Committee on Military Affairs for the planet of Alderaan was growing very weary of hearing Planetary Senator Amidala’s arguments. This was supposed to be a simple bill that would fly through the Committee with the same token resistance given to all the other bills like this one. If she was looking to make a splash as the youngest Planetary Senator to throw a hissy fit, she was well on her way.
“Chairman Durane, I am sure that the Republic has excellent reasons for wanting to expand the size of the Alderaan garrison for a fifth time in the past two years. I’m sure they are anxious to explain to us exactly why they need all this space when not one company of soldiers has been added in thirty years. But the citizens that I represent and even Galactic Senator Palpatine…” the Chairman cut her off with a wave of his hand.
Ayers Durane picked up a small tablet and examined it for a moment. “I see that Senator Palpatine has made his wishes clear in the Galactic Senate on Coruscant.”
He put the tablet down and rubbed his eyes wearily. “This is not Coruscant. This bill is a merely giving the garrison an additional 1.2 million square feet and I see no reason to involve Coruscant in what is clearly an Alderaanian matter. I think we should now move on to other business,” Durane’s voice was rising with his temper.
“Senator Palpatine and I have spoken on several occasions and I assure you we will not let this egregious desecration stand. In the meantime, it is true that he is on Coruscant but I,” she added proudly, “I am here. I do hereby move that an investigation be launched immediately and an Investigatory Sub-Committee be established to determine the nature of this and all previous expansions.”
Amidala finally sat down and began silently praying for courage. This was her last ditch effort to stall the bill in the Committee.
“Such a motion will not be tolerated!” Chairman Durane was on his feet now. “It is outrageous to question the Republic Armed Forces. I refuse to permit such a…” but a voice coming from the floor stopped him.
“I’m sorry Chairman, but any motion made by a senator must be addressed,” Senator Bail Organna said, rising from his chair. He quietly added, “I do hereby second the motion,” and he threw a smirk of satisfaction toward Senator Amidala.
“Very well,” the Chairman growled before slowly sitting down.
“All supporting the motion say ‘aye’,” every senator but Amidala and Durane rose and said “Aye”. The Chairman desperately looked from face to face for any possibility to dismiss this girl and her ridiculuous motion. “All opposed say ‘nay’.”
A thunderous silence filled the room.
“That was some impressive maneuvering, Planetary Senator,” Galactic Senator Palpatine’s holo-image looked pleased. “The Chairman and I go back to my first term and he is not an easy man to out-fox. You have bought our cause much needed time.”
“This motion is more than a stall tactic, sir. There’s simply no need for a garrison housing a few hundred troops to demand more of the Shining Star of the Republic. I wish Senator Bolet were here. I’m sure he would know what else I should be doing to stop this,” Amidala looked out the window that the pristine sky.
In life, Senator Arden Bolet was a rare titan in Alderaan politics. His father was a senator, as was his father before him and his father before was the first Regent to inhabit the Orbital Mansion. His family name was as legendary as the Organna Royal Family.
But it was Arden who shone brighter than any of his family while he was in office. He introduced staggering reforms that helped transform Alderaan into the clean and beautiful paradise that the people now enjoyed and made the planet an ideal destination for families across the galaxy. It was he who first sparked the movement toward a military free Alderaan.
Padme Amidala had been all but adopted by the aging senator and she learned about politics from the master as his Chief of Staff. When he was tragically killed in an accident at his home, the entire sector of space mourned his loss, but none took it harder than she did. She had lost a mentor, a father figure, and the only true friend she had. Now, she was alone.
“Now now, you can only win when you’re looking three moves ahead, not three moves back. See what else you can do to raise public awareness against the garrison and I’ll continue my efforts here on Coruscant. If you need anything from me, anything at all, please contact Felic, my assistant, and he’ll give you any help you need,” Palpatine ended the transmission.
Padme leaned back into her chair. Moments where she could sit and relax were becoming few and far between. She thought she knew what “busy” was when she was the youngest Chief of Staff in Alderaan’s history. Now, as a senator, her schedule went from busy to nearly impossible.
A drawback to being the youngest person to reach this level was that she was forced into situations where she had to stare down Magistrates, Senators, and even Regents she had grown up hearing stories about. Every one of them had written her off as an “upstart”, someone who was only there out of luck or charity and filling the shoes of a giant. But they had all learned that her sharp tongue and keen wit ensured she was able to play with the big boys.
“Senator, Mr. Derttick from Alderaan Today wants to have a word, on the record, about your investigation,” her aide buzzed in. The constant interruptions were no help to the loneliness that tormented her.
It seemed that she was destined to be alone. It was odd how her success in the political world brought her never-ending attention from the media and constant interviews across the planet. But at the end of the day, regardless of how many contacts she made, how much networking she did, she ended each and every day alone in her quarters staring out her window to the snow-capped mountains beyond.
Padme heaved a sigh. “Please remind him that I have twenty-six hours just like everyone else. Express my apologies and ask if I can contact him tomorrow after I meet with the garrison’s commander.”
Padme looked up at the gates that towered above her while she waited for the security detail to finish the sweep of her vehicle. The garrison walls were white, gleaming, and spotless, much like the architecture of the rest of the city that she admired. But unlike the rest of the city, she learned to loathe the ion cannons, the constant, never-ending watch the security cameras held on the populace, massive gun emplacements, reinforced gates, and the armed soldiers that were behind the walls.
As her transport sped down the tree lined avenue toward the Bolet Administration Building, she recalled how when she first stepped into her office she had dreamed of having this meeting. If she could convince the Garrison Commander, even a little, that the expansion was not necessary for so small an army, it would pay for itself ten-fold in political capital and publicity.
When she exited her transport, she was stunned to see twelve Republic Soldiers, in two columns of six, waiting to receive her. They all stood at attention in immaculate gray uniforms as she walked past them. She never expected such a large escort for just one meeting.
“Welcome to Republic Garrison Three-Two-Eight, Planetary Senator Amidala. We are here to escort you to the general’s office,” an enlisted man that waited for her by the building’s doors had to be over two meters tall, but did not move or even look at her as he spoke.
“All of you are needed to escort one bureaucrat?” Amidala asked.
“I just do as I’m told, ma’am,” the soldier gave half of an arrogant smirk.
“Wipe that smile off your face soldier, unless the idea of keeping a general waiting amuses you,” Amidala turned to face the doors and began walking.
The soldiers formed columns on each side of her as the marched into the building. The noise that twelve pairs of boots made marching in time down the stone corridor was impressive. She was more impressed with the intimidation tactic that was being used against her.
“Senator Amidala, it’s a pleasure to have you here at last. When I had heard of the death of Senator Bolet last year, I was crushed. He was a tremendous friend and ally who shall be missed for generations,” the Garrison Commander gave her a warm smile and motioned for her to sit down, but there were warning bells in Padme’s mind. The tall, bald man had a gleam in his dark eyes that showed a trace of malevolence. People had been underestimating her since Day One and clearly this off-worlder would be no different.
“General Tarkin, thank you for seeing me. I have admired your career and how quickly you’ve been able to maneuver through the trenches of military bureaucracy. All twelve of the soldiers you sent to escort me were most courteous. The moments where I felt like I was under arrest were brief,” Senator Amidala smoothed her dark blue skirt beneath her and sat down.
“I understand you’re concerned over our presence here,” Tarkin ignored her remark.
“Let me assure you that our presence is simply to observe the population and ensure that the peace is enforced. We will never undertake offensive actions while I am Garrison Commander,” Tarkin showed his practiced smile.
Padme looked around at the numerous awards and letters of commendations on the wall. She had to tread carefully with this man. He was an outsider, but a decorated and successful outsider who knew the language of politics.
“General Tarkin, I am greatly relieved by your statement. However, it sounds exactly like the words of your predecessor, and the one before him, and the one before him. The people of Alderaan have never been concerned with ‘offensive’ actions. We simply don’t understand why one of the smallest garrisons in the Republic needs yet another expansion. The few regiments under your command hardly justifies one-fourth of the space you have and now you are asking for more. We are a peaceful planet that has never caused the Republic any grief. We…” Tarkin cut her off.
“Take care with how you use the word ‘we’, Senator. There are many on this planet that are grateful for our presence. They believe that it is simply because of our presence here that peace has been able to be maintained on this planet as long as it has. If we packed up our Enforcement Squads and left, the planet would certainly fall into chaos and all that Senator Bolet dreamed about would lie in ashes,” he rose from his chair.
“The needs of the Armed Forces of the Republic are complex and there are many activities that require us to use as much space as is necessary to maintain peace, order, and justice throughout the galaxy. I doubt that a young lady like you would understand such military matters.”
And there it was. Within ten minutes, he had dismissed her. Padme decided that the time for niceties had passed.
“General Tarkin, this is hardly the untamed Outer Rim! This installation has grown to an immense base five times its former size and not one Republic soldier has been added. What reasons were we given for this sudden and massive seizure of private property? None. When we protested, we were ignored. When we asked for an explanation, we were dismissed. Now there is a growing movement to remove the garrison permanently from our planet. The people are looking to me to spearhead this movement and I have gladly accepted. The people…” but Tarkin cut her off again.
General Tarkin’s eyes grew cold as he fixed a steely gaze upon Padme that made her feel very small. “You mean that your ‘peace loving’ people of Alderaan are starting a movement? Really Senator, you’ve been leading these people for all of four minutes and you know them so well? This garrison has been here for generations and I’d be willing to bet that there are far more people that are grateful for the Republic than revolutionaries like you. Choose your next words carefully, Junior Senator. The Republic does not look kindly upon treason from children.”
Padme responded by rising from her seat. “Listen Tarkin, regardless of my age, I am a Planetary Senator and I do represent a growing segment of the public who are sick of people the Republic sends to bully us around and insist this is for our own good. I don’t appreciate closed-mindedness nor do I appreciate someone who thinks that the more weapons, troops, and war machines that are on a peaceful planet the better. This is not your playground nor is it your stepping stone to becoming a Moff, this is my home. If you don’t heed the words of the people, you’ll be made such a fool that no one in the Republic will let you command a company of cooks,” Amidala was shaking slightly with rage.
It took a few, silent moments for her to realize what she had just said.
Although she had risen and leaned toward him, Tarkin had not moved at all. He sat motionless in his chair with his fingertips pressed together.
General Tarkin’s benevolence melted from him in a matter of seconds.
“Use caution, Padme. The Republic takes all threats against it seriously while I do not take moronic comments seriously. I am not a Jedi Master, but I assure you that my resolve is just as strong. I will cooperate with this investigation you’ve proposed as much as the law will allow.”
A small smile appeared. “However, if there as many people as you claim who are opposed to our presence, we need to make sure the safety and peace is not disrupted by such…agitators. Perhaps I shall begin by increasing our surveillance of the people you represent. After all, tactful negotiations like these can only proceed so far.” He picked up a digital tablet and turned his chair away from Padme.
The meeting was over. Senator Amidala seriously thought about whirling his chair around and continuing their “tactful negotiations”, but took a deep breath to calm herself. There was nothing further to be gained here. She stepped around her chair and left his office, the guards waiting to escort her back to her transport.
“Show’s over, boys,” Amidala told the smirking guards. “Thankfully it takes twelve of the Republic’s Finest to make sure that a girl can’t get herself into trouble.”
After Senator Amidala had left his office, General Tarkin sat and thought for a moment. He had known generals who were brilliant tacticians, tremendous strategists, and could inspire troops to follow them into any slaughter. He was present at battles where the carnage was unimaginable and watched old friends commit themselves to battles with a fierceness rarely seen.
Tarkin enjoyed combat of a different sort. His arena was the political arena. His idea of a lopsided victory was one where he trounced his opponent with a subtle point of logic in a debate and watched them stand before him and attempt to stammer out a pathetic rebuke.
This girl was apparently nothing special and Tarkin couldn’t quite understand what Bolet saw in her. She was too young and inexperienced to be an effective Planetary Senator. However, there was fire in her and a passion that could rouse the mob if needed. Given ideal conditions, she could turn public opinion toward her.
Tarkin stood and began pacing in his office. He passed by pictures of him shaking hands with every mover and shaker in the Republic. His career included networking with Senator Palpatine, Chancellor Valorum, even the Jedi Master Mace Windu. You couldn’t have too many allies in a fight and this was a fight that needed to stay quiet until they were ready. If this girl began to bring too much attention to Alderaan too soon, his position would become untenable.
“General, Galactic Senator Palpatine is calling,” His aide buzzed in. The man was nothing if not punctual.
“Report, General,” the senator commanded.
“You were right; Amidala will be perfect for our purposes. She’s a hot one which should serve us well. I have to wonder if having her expose us at this time is wise. Our expansions have served our needs in rebuilding the Republic’s military, is now the time to have it revealed?” Tarkin asked.
“She is exactly what I need at the time I need it. A self-righteous attitude matched with a ‘cause’ she thinks is worth fighting for. We have done much to help restore the military to its proper glory. When I deem it the proper time, I will allow her to expose our installation and when she does, she will set of a chain of events she will no longer be able to control,” Palpatine said. “The new equipment should help speed up production prior to this child’s great triumph, I want it installed immediately.”
“The equipment is being installed even as we speak by our best technicians and should be operational within twenty six hours. I have no doubt that when Amidala learns of this, her protests will be heard ringing through the halls of the Galactic Senate itself,” Tarkin allowed himself a small smile as Palpatine terminated the transmission. The self-righteous ones are always terribly predictable.
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