July 21, 2184
Noburo Ishikawa leaned forward, his elbows on the table in front of him, his fingers laced together. He spoke with careful, textbook correctness: Terran was his second language. His colony, New Tokyo, had Japanese as its native speech, one of only two Colonies to officially retain an Earth continental language (the other, Churchill, spoke English).
His mind wandering briefly from Ishikawa’s presentation, Charles Safreth thought idly that it was ironic, as the Colonies established their independence from Earth and the Terran Federation, that one of their defining identity markers might turn out to be a language called “Terran,” an invented tongue created as a sign of the Federation’s unity. It never caught on down on the planet, where the old continental languages remained in place through force of tradition, but as the official language of aerospace traffic control, most of the Colonies spoke it from their beginning.
Mentally giving himself a shake, Safreth forced his attention back to his Secretary of State’s speech. Ishikawa was winding down.
“In summary, in declaring our independence the Colonies have only made a statement of principle. Before we can even begin to make that principle a reality, we face many complex questions in deciding what independence even means, in a modern context. It has been a century since an independent nation existed. There is no longer a system of international law within which independence can be defined by diplomatic recognition or jurisdictional boundaries. So it is not just a matter of facing whatever action the Terran government takes against us, in order to establish our claim to independence as a fact. We must also define what that independence consists of.” He indicated his close by unclasping his hands and leaning back from the table.
“Thank you, Secretary Ishikawa, for a valuable analysis.” In truth, Safreth had been rather bored by the presentation, full of elaborate reasons why what he thought simple was actually very complicated. Feeling the need to establish some focus without directly contradicting the new Secretary of State— and also bearing in mind that the Newsnets were watching— he chose his words with care. “In the near term, I believe one principle should guide us through these many decisions: whatever helps us keep our citizens safely in their homes, where they’ve voted to remain, is what we’ll do. That may not always be the same as what would be best for establishing our legal status long term, but there will be no long term if the Terran government manages to shut us down. Countering whatever they try is our first and most urgent priority.”
Tajana Walter, Secretary of the Treasury, signaled for the floor. “On that priority, one of the first things we have to do is protect offworld assets, those held by our citizens as well as businesses. One of those international systems Noburo mentions as no longer in existence is a banking and financial system capable of dealing with separate currencies, or assets held under different jurisdictions. Right now, all money is expressed in Terran credits, and every fraction of a credit anyone owns, anywhere, is recorded in the financial nets under Terran jurisdiction. The Federation government can freeze it all with one executive order. Probably confiscate it almost as easily. You might think it would be easy to say ‘Well, we won’t be buying products from planetside anyway, and we can issue our own currency to use among ourselves.’ On one level, that is what we want to do— but it won’t be easy, it will be disruptive, and we can’t just do it by waving a magic wand. We need to get an independent financial net set up, and as many of our citizens’ assets as we can sheltered within it, as soon as possible. We’re probably lucky that Monroe favors blunt instruments in trying to shut us down. If he’d thought of this before sending the military to try and force us out, he could have crippled our economy in ways that would be fatal. He still can, if we don’t act fast.”
“Apart from the electronic transfer of funds, the physical economy also needs attention,” Karl Parisi, Secretary of Economic Development, added. “It’s a common misconception— one I think most offworlders would tell you if you asked— that our economy is based on selling manufactured goods from the freefall industries back to the planet. That’s not it. The industrial platforms are owned by private corporations, most of them global in scale, and our economy is based on most of our population being employees of those companies. Manufacturing is indeed our economic base, but even there we are, at present, inextricably tied to the Earth. If we hastily try to cut those ties, say by nationalizing all the industrial platforms, we’re shooting ourselves in the foot. The offworld population is forty-six million, compared to ten billion on the planet. Try to turn our economy entirely inward means shrinking its size so drastically it would be as destructive as Monroe freezing all our assets. But if we keep them operating, and get the industries on our side— offer favorable terms for their operation under our jurisdiction, while making clear than ongoing conflict with the Earth would likely prevent them from operating at all— well, that could easily substitute for the diplomatic recognition that newborn nations of the past relied on.”
“Didn’t Monroe cut off all shipments of materials offworld?” Aaron Hayes, Secretary of Lifesystem Engineering, asked.
“No,” Karl answered. “Shipments to the Colonies themselves, yes. Everything that would go to your department, yes. That’s what you’ve been dealing with, setting up the Colonies to be self-sufficient in a lifesystem sense. But the automated ships carrying raw materials to the industrial platforms, and manufactured goods back down, those have continued. And we want them to.” He looked toward Safreth. “Mr. President, our economy depends on the freefall industries, and there’s no way to escape that in the short term. But it doesn’t have to be a vulnerability. That can be a weapon on our side. The entire industrial base of human civilization, with only trivial exceptions, is up here where we can control it— if we make sure it keeps operating.”
“If Monroe thinks of that, he’ll move to shut it down as soon as he can,” Safreth said.
“He can’t, without wrecking the planetside economy catastrophically.”
“Would that stop him, though?” Lauren Cummings, Secretary of Defense, joined the conversation. “Monroe’s administration is so focused on us that he’s let the economy tank already: and the worse it gets, the higher his opinion polls climb. Crazy as he is, he’s got the planetside population convinced that everything that goes wrong is our fault. He might relish the opportunity to wreck things even worse.”
“He might,” Karl said, “but there’s people who know better, and a lot of them in positions of power. The influence of global corporations has been a source of political controversy for centuries, even before unification, and whether you think that influence is a good thing or a bad thing, it’s a power that does exist. A power we can have on our side, if we play our cards right.”
There was a brief silence, then Safreth observed, “It helps us if Monroe tries to shut them down, so long as we can show we’ll keep them open.” He glanced around the table. “Secretary Cummings, I think we have the first strategic priority for the new military you’re going to build.”
TO BE CONTINUED