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Saturday, December 16, 2023

Extremus: Year 70

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The honeymoon period is over. Tinaya and Arqut have to set aside the fact that they’re married now, and focus on the new age that is hopefully dawning. She has completed her proposal for a new official form of government. It’s not going to be a radical departure from the way things already are, but it’s a pretty big change from what’s currently in the law books. No more First Chair, no more Second Chair. The line that separates the civilian passengers from the crew is going to be blurred, with each branch working together to support each other’s needs, and to work towards the betterment of the ship. Most vessels do it more like this, which is understandable thanks to their short trip times. There’s no reason for a full government when the journey is going to take a week or two. At that point, only the safety of everyone on board matters, and the crew is there for that. Extremus is going to be here for a total of 216 years, so it made sense to do it differently. But it doesn’t have to be that way, and if the others in charge start to listen to Tinaya, it won’t be for much longer.
She has distributed the new plan, and given everyone a week to look it over by themselves. The council members, high government offices, and executive crew members were strongly discouraged from discussing it with each other in the meantime, so everyone can be on the same page during the official discussions, but they surely broke this unwritten rule. They’re all here in the meeting room today, listening to Tinaya speak on it herself, and then they’ll go from here. She doesn’t just rehash what’s already in the written proposal. She gets into why they should do this, and how it would make things better and easier for everyone. They have some concerns. One of them is secrets and compartmentalization, and the other is the balance of power.
The current council leader is named Millaray Addison. “This is a quick timeline. You want us to change everything about how we run things in only three years? Forgive me, under three years, since we’re already in the middle of Year 70.”
“I felt it was important to begin the transition before I have the chance to run again for my final term. It would be very easy for someone in power to make a plan to abolish their own position when they won’t be holding onto it much longer anyway. That is why I will be stepping down at the end of my third term. I mean that no matter what. To show you how deeply passionate I am in favor of this change, I will not have a fourth term, regardless of what we decide about our future in the coming months.”
Lataran stands. “And what of me and my position? Would you have me step down as well?”
“The captaincy does not go away in my proposal,” Tinaya assures her.
“This is true,” Millaray agrees. “Why is that? Why lose the Chairs, but keep the Captain and Lieutenant? Is it because she is your friend?”
“In order for the crew to run smoothly,” Tinaya begins, “it must be at least partially militaristic in nature. No military in the universe could survive as a democracy. Someone must be in charge; at the top of the chain of command. The civilian government, on the other hand, would work just fine with a council. It already is. You make more decisions than I do on a regular basis. All this proposal does is make that official.”
“Well, it does more than that,” Council Leader Addison contends. “There are virtually no procedures for passing legislation.”
“Yes, there are,” Tinaya argues. “Everything will be a referendum.”
“Right.” Millaray quite nearly rolls her eyes. “Referendums, where everyone votes. Would that not become tedious and overly complex? There’s a reason why we have a representative government. You vote for the people who make decisions for you. That is how the common man’s voice is heard, not literally one by one. What you describe here would be cumbersome. How do you expect to pull it off?”
“I don’t expect to pull anything off. I will not be involved,” Tinaya promises. “It’s very important that I lose all semblance of power here, or it will appear selfish and self-serving. I’m afraid, if you agree to this, you would have to deal with everything yourselves. The way I see it, drawing up these plans is how I contribute, and now that it’s done, my part should be too. I don’t mean to sound like I’m abandoning you, but I really think that this won’t work if there is any hint of impropriety. Lots of great First Chairs have served fewer than four terms. Well, I suppose there have not been lots of us at all, but you know what I mean.”
Consul Abdastartus Sievert is a quiet man; one of those people who only speaks when it’s necessary, and when he feels that it is indeed the case, he’s always right. When it looks like he’s about to say something, most people know to shut up and let him do it. He’s been leaning back in his chair, but he sits up straight now. The room falls silent. “I appreciate the sentiment, First Chair Leithe. I think we all do. However, you will forgive us for finding the prospect of losing your input permanently to be...unsettling. You have birthed this project, now you must raise it.”
“Now, hold on,” Millaray interrupts. “We’ve not agreed to anything...”
Consul Sievert holds up a hand to quiet her. “Everyone has been discussing this plan since she first sent it to us. Don’t think I’ve not heard. We all have questions, comments, and concerns. The plan needs tweaking, and then no matter what, we will decide upon it by referendum. The Extremusians will have their chance to speak, and we’ll hear anyone who wishes to vocalize their opinion before the vote. Referendums are not difficult these days. We’re not going to use paper, for heaven’s sake. A more fair democracy is well within our reach on a logistical level. But there is one major thing that needs to be changed before we get to that point. Someone needs to be in charge of making sure it works. They need to keep up with the maintenance.” Some people wear watches, while others were wristbands. The former is good enough in most cases, but for those who deal with documents, like the consul, they prefer to have a large screen, especially since their documents are sensitive, and holograms would not be appropriate in mixed company. Consul Sievert swipes up on his to cast a document onto the main screen for all to see. Addendum Two Forty-Nine, Reinstatement of the Superintendent.”
The Superintendent is the so-called god of this universe, and if he exists, he has nothing to do with this. The Superintendent of Extremus, on the other hand, was a short-lived position given to a man who turned out to be a traitor. The ship did not launch with a superintendent, and it has not had one since, but it remains an option. Tinaya considered including it in her original proposal, but she was pretty sure that they would ask her to do it, so she intentionally left it out. Now it seems there’s no way around it. “I don’t think that’s necessary,” she claims. “The system is based on the greatest number of voices for the greatest common good. No one needs to be at the top.”
“That’s not what a superintendent does,” Lataran reminds her. She’s right, and Tinaya knows that. Like the superintendent of an apartment building, her job would be to fix issues as they come up, not to make decisions. But that’s not really what happened when Calixte Salmon held the responsibility. Not only did he actively endanger the safety of the crew and passengers, but he was found to have abused his power on a regular basis. There is a lot of historical stigma attached to it now. “I second the Consul’s motion. The proposal outlines what we need to do to make the transition. It doesn’t account for everything. It can’t.”
“If everyone feels that way,” Tinaya begins, “then give me another month. I’ll add whatever needs to be added to make it work on its own. It should be a well-oiled machine. That’s the whole point. If anyone’s going to be superintendent, then why change anything at all? Why not just redefine the First Chair’s purview?”
“Because that’s a different meeting,” Council Leader Addison says. “I didn’t spend all this time reading the document you prepared, only to have most of it erased in favor of simply rewriting your job description.”
“So you believe in this proposal?” Lataran asks her.
“I never said that I didn’t,” Addison replies. “I just want to make sure we get it right. This is a good start, First Chair Leithe. It needs work.”
“I agree.” Well, Tinaya does agree, but maybe not to as high of a degree as the Council Leader is implying with her tone.
“Is that what we’re doing here today?” Lataran questions. “Are we just deciding whether we should work on this further? If that’s what’s happening, then let’s stop arguing, and actually get to it. Nothing we do with the framework has to have any bearing on how the ship is actually run, because nothing’s happening yet. We’re just sharing a document.” She’s right about this too. This is only the beginning.
“I suppose we’re here to discuss whether we even want to keep discussing it or not,” Addison determines.
“Anyone who is adamant that we should put the kibosh on this project right now without any further discussion, run to the other side of the room, and tap the back wall with your left hand,” Lataran suggests.
Addison sighs. “That is not how we do things here, Captain.”
“That’s the way I do it,” Lataran jokes under her breath.
Tinaya can’t help but smirk at the remark.
“All right. Here’s how we’ll move forward,” Addison continues. “You’ve all had time to look over the proposal, but you’ve not necessarily put down any notes. Everyone here will do that over the course of the next...shall we say, two weeks. Submit your input to First Chair Leithe, who will take our suggestions under advisement, and draft a new version. She’ll then resubmit it back to us, and we’ll take another week to look over the improvements. That is when we will reconvene, and discuss any persistent issues. Also at that meeting, we’ll talk about how we’ll continue on from there. Everything make sense? Good, let’s go to lunch,” she says before anyone has a chance to respond.
The next couple of months are grueling. Everyone on the council picks apart every word Tinaya wrote in her proposal, and tries to come up with something better. Whenever she starts to think that maybe they’re happy enough with it, they find something else to change. They go through this a few more times until the final document resembles the original one more closely than it does any of the other versions. Her first ideas turn out to be the best. Except for the superintendent part. They do end up putting that in there. It doesn’t specifically say that Tinaya has to be the one to do it, but the whole population of the ship is going to vote on it next year, so she fully expects them to ask her. She needs to find them an alternative. She’s about ready to retire.

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