July 21, 2184
Charles Safreth, Interim President of the newborn United Offworld Colonies, watched the agenda items scroll across his handscreen and tried not to let his uneasiness show.
It was a terrible disappointment to feel this way. During that amazing week in May, when the Colonies declared independence one after another, he’d been celebrating.
He wasn’t sure when he’d come to see offworld independence as his goal. Two years ago, during the campaign to reorganize the offworld population as a continental directorate, he had no thought of anything but establishing the Colonies’ proper place within the Terran Federation. When President Monroe and his Born To The Earth party came to power, and starting trying to force the abandonment of the Colonies, his goal was only to ride out the crisis, keep the Colonies afloat until the next election, when (hopefully) saner heads would prevail. As Monroe’s hostility escalated over the course of those two years, there was no single moment Safreth could point to when he realized a complete break was the only way. He came to it gradually.
But come to it he had. By the time of the abortive military takeover of the Colonies he was pushing hard for Colonial independence. When it came, he’d been nothing but delighted.
Now, he was nothing but worried.
He glanced again at the agenda, then tossed his handscreen to the table and looked around the room. Three people looked back at him. Five more looked out of screens placed on the table: they hadn’t traveled from their home Colonies yet.
Along the walls of the room, a few reporters from the newsnets looked on, amid a scatter of cameras transmitting the meeting to all twenty-four Colonial legislatures and whoever else might want to tune in. Safreth took a deep breath and began.
“Welcome to the first cabinet meeting of the provisional government of the United Offworld Colonies. I believe I can call it that, though technically the cabinet will not take office until August first, as stated in the Transition Plan approved by the Colonial legislatures. Until that date, Vice President Cutter and I are the entirety of the provisional government. I hope none of you expect to take that as a reason to go on vacation for the next ten days: we need to get to work getting our new offworld nation functioning, right now.
“We’re going to have two big jobs for the duration of this administration. The first is to help shape what the permanent government will look like. With only a few adjustments, the Transition Plan simply adopted the framework for the continental directorate we campaigned for two years ago. I think we all know it’s inadequate for a fully independent national government. The blunt fact is that we don’t know what we’ll really require: there’s been no such thing as an independent nation for a hundred years, since the end of the Unification War, and there’s never in history been an offworld nation. We’re in new territory, and when the full-term administration, and Colonial Congress, are elected two years from now I want them to inherit a working system.
“I want to introduce the five people I’ve appointed to the cabinet positions called for in the Transitional Plan. None of the five have arrived in Star City yet, but they’re joining us over com. First, Noburo Ishikawa of New Tokyo will serve as Interim Secretary of State. Noburo’s served in that post for his Colonial governor’s office for the last ten years— and three governors. Second, Tajana Walter of Atrides will be what the Transition Plan calls ‘Comptroller,’ but since we are now to be a national government, I think Secretary of the Treasury will be the correct term. She is also taking on a job she’s handled at the governor’s level. Working closely with Tajana, Karl Parisi of Marshenko will be Secretary of Economic Development. Karl has headed the combined Offworld Chamber of Commerce for six years. There’s going to be a lot of work to do in his department: our entire economy is based on the freefall industries sending their products down to Earth, and we have to assume that’s at an end. Irving Miller of Promise will be our new Attorney General, after eleven years as a prosecutor in Promise’ criminal justice system. Finally, Martina Blackbourne of Churchill will be Secretary of Offworld Infrastructure, after nine years as her Colony’s Chief Engineer.
“Besides these five, my office has already delivered to the Colonial legislatures a proposal for the creation of two additional cabinet-level departments, and the two individuals I’ve nominated to head those departments are here with me now. Subject to the legislatures’ approval, they’ll round out the provisional cabinet. Aaron Hayes has been the head of Star City lifesystem engineering for fifteen years, and for the last two he has led the cooperative effort of all twenty-four Colonies to keep our lifesystems running in the absence of supplies from Earth. Turning our lifesystems into a permanent, self-contained system is going to be an ongoing project of utmost importance, and rather than have that continue as a subordinate division within Colony Engineering, I propose a new Department of Lifesystem Engineering. This new department will obviously share a great deal of jurisdiction with Martina’s infrastructure department, but I think the importance of the project will justify its elevation to cabinet status.”
Safreth paused, looking around the room. Mostly screens, mostly remote viewers. Vice President Cutter, Aaron Hayes, and his final cabinet appointment were the only ones physically present.
“My second proposed new department has to do with the second of the two tasks the provisional government will certainly face. Down on Earth, President Monroe and his Born To The Earth party have come to power by blaming us for the ongoing environmental crisis on the planet, and demanding that the Colonies be abandoned. Despite the lack of scientific merit for the claim, his popular support is strong. Desperate populations on Earth are looking for a scapegoat, and according to planetside polls every time Monroe has escalated his attacks on us, his popularity has risen. He’s cut off our lifesystem supplies, embargoed trade and travel, and this past May he ordered Terran military forces to attack our civilian population, seize control of the Colonies, and forcibly deport the survivors back to Earth. We know from the testimony of the Terran commander, Warren Armstrong, that Monroe explicitly intended for there to be violence. Even if our people had submitted willingly, there were covert orders to open fire. Monroe wanted a bloodbath.
“We cannot expect him to stop. We only escaped the May attack because Armstrong and other officers refused to open fire on civilians, and stood down. We cannot allow ourselves to be unprepared again.
“The Transitional Plan makes no provision for a Colonial military. Therefore I have proposed to the Colonial legislatures the creation of a Department of Defense, to include funding for both personnel and equipment necessary to establish a suitable offworld military force. And I have nominated Lauren Cummings, presently chief of police of Galileo, as Secretary of Defense. Both her record and her reputation show she is eminently qualified for the position. She’s already joined me here in Star City, and we’ve been conferring about plans for the last couple of weeks.
“I urge the Colonial legislatures to approve this proposal in time for Secretary Cummings to take office with the rest of the cabinet. We can’t wait on this until after the Earthers’ next attempt at force.
“Now.” Safreth picked up his handscreen and scrolled to the top of the agenda. “Let’s get to business.”
TO BE CONTINUED