Transfer of Power

Thanks to Saxon Hawke and Layla Saitana for their written material.
The original posts are here.

Intaki Prime – South Hemisphere – Drahaana City
Eionell Estate

Her eyes kept darting to the amused smirk on Bataav’s face, visible just to the side of her reflection in the mirror. “What?”

“Nothing,” he answered, breaking into a full grin. “Just you, standing there fussing about yourself. Do you get like this before leading a roam too?”

Sakaane laughed. “This is totally different!” She finished arranging her hair, pinning it into an elaborate knot with locks cascading out of it in soft curls around her neck and shoulders. Satisfied, she stepped back and turned to face him. “How do I look?”

He came near, resting his hands on her waist. She wore a crimson velvet corset and black slacks with a lightweight overrobe to cover her arms. The robe was long and open, black with the same color red accents and a smattering of silver stitching to compliment her simple jewelry. “You look lovely, Madam President,” he said quietly and leaned toward her.

She smiled, flushing at the use of the title, and smoothed her palms over the dark red fabric of his embroidered kurta. Like her robe, the long shirt was lightweight to help him stay cool in the warm Intaki weather. It covered black trousers. “We’re a matched set,” she murmured, tilting her face up to his.

“Tut tut,” Aranza said, coming into the room. “You two have no time for that, else you’ll be late!” She smiled as she approached them, handing Sakaane a datapad. “Don’t forget your speech, Khasri. The car is ready as well.”

“Thank you, Aranza.” Sakaane accepted the datapad with a smile and eased out of Bataav’s arms, catching his hand with hers as they filed out of the bedroom.

At the door, Aranza bowed respectfully to them both before ushering the couple into the waiting hovercar. “Safe journey, and best of luck tomorrow.” She waved goodbye and then disappeared into the house.

Bataav took the controls and the car sped away from the Eionell estate. Sakaane was silent, flicking through the datapad. After a while, she tossed it onto the dash and leaned back against the seat.

“How long to get there, do you figure?”

He shrugged. “Not more than an hour at best speed. We might be a bit early. Nervous?”

“A little. Mostly just from knowing I’ve not spent much time with him before. Not like this anyway. But I’m looking forward to it.”

A long stretch of silence fell between them. Then Bataav heard her murmur, “A private dinner with the Suresha.”

He chuckled. “You’ll do fine.”

Intaki Prime – South Hemisphere
Intaki Cultural Center

The evening light was very red against the walls of the Intaki Cultural Center by the time their car coasted to a stop in the lot reserved for guests of the Suresha. Sakaane gazed up at the building as she exited the vehicle, her hand trailing behind for her datapad. Then, glancing down, she decided to leave the pad and locked it in the glove compartment instead. Tomorrow’s ceremony would be soon enough to share it.

Bataav offered his arm to her. “Ready? We’re to meet Saxon in the dining hall.”

She nodded and slipped her hand into the crook of his elbow as they set off. The halls of the center were quiet, with only a few students and staff still milling about as the dinner hour approached. Glancing around, Sakaane was satisfied to find she easily recalled features and the overall layout of the building despite it being only her second visit. The study she’d undertaken in December along with the full walkthrough to tend to security matters in advance of ILF’s anniversary celebration had been worthwhile.

I wonder how often I’ll spend time here now.

“You’re quiet,” Bataav said as they rounded a corner. The aroma of cooking food grew stronger.

“Just thinking. A lot has happened in the last year. Two promotions…the convention. The election. Defense of Prosperity Station…the wars the corp fought. The anniversaries. Our friends who left… Everything with Mammal. Mom.” She squeezed his arm. “And us. That was the best part.”

Bataav smiled and linked his arm with hers as they walked. “It’s definitely been an eventful year, both for the corporation and for us. You’ve been the highlight for me too, kainta.” He leant closer and kissed her forehead before holding open a carved wooden door in front of them.

They entered the dining hall and paused to look over the spread of tables. An acolyte approached and bent into a bow before saying, “You must be the Suresha’s guests. Please, come this way. He is waiting for you.”

After stopping by the kitchen to check on meal’s preparation, Saxon made his way to the dining hall. As Suresha, he had his own table secluded behind a lattice screen. Large and round, the table had enough space to seat ten people comfortably and more if need be. With only three places set, Saxon thought it seemed ridiculously large. Still, he was mindful of the cult of personality that surrounded his office.

Although he would have gladly sat in the student dining area, taking whichever seat was available, it was not appropriate. His position dictated that he stand apart. How many times had he overheard students speaking of him in hushed and reverent tones? “The Suresha” was something more than just a man and Saxon felt the burden of it upon him. He knew full well that he was just a man. His knees hurt in the morning, his back ached at night. He worried about his corpmates and his children and that worry showed itself in the grey hairs taking up an ever-increasing area at temples. But the Suresha would feel none of these. He was carved from stone by the force of the Ida and stood resistant to all challenges of man and space.

And, Saxon mused, he at his dinner at a huge table hidden behind a screen. At any rate, it would serve as a good first lesson to Sakaane. As president of IPI, should would be eating her fair share of meals at large tables. And many of them would be behind closed doors and away from the sight of the “little people”. He wondered if she knew the world she was stepping into by accepting the nomination for the office? If she was aware of the people who would be knocking on her door and of the machinations they would employ.

And, Saxon mused, he at his dinner at a huge table hidden behind a screen. At any rate, it would serve as a good first lesson to Sakaane. As president of IPI, should would be eating her fair share of meals at large tables. And many of them would be behind closed doors and away from the sight of the “little people”. He wondered if she knew the world she was stepping into by accepting the nomination for the office? If she was aware of the people who would be knocking on her door and of the machinations they would employ.

Before he had too much time to dwell on the matter, Saxon heard Sakaane and Bataav being escorted in. Welcoming them with a warm smile and a bow, he motioned for them to sit on the large soft pillows ringing the table.

Namas, Suresha,” Sakaane said as she returned his bow with one of her own. “Thank you for having us.”

Despite the realization that meetings of many different types were held in the cultural center, the table was nevertheless larger than she expected. As she navigated its circumference Sakaane noticed how its shining wood surface was well cared for. Here and there the edge eased to a rounded lip, worn smooth from many hours of contact with representatives of all flavors in New Eden. These places, too, were polished and clean, adding character to the table rather than diminishing it. As she sat down the question of who had last occupied the pillow and whether she might meet that person someday soon flitted through her mind.

She smiled. Now that she was here, the anxiety and pestering doubts she’d felt in the car had fallen aside. They weren’t gone, but were simply content for the moment to see how her first steps on this path would turn out, leaving her with a strange sense of calm. Never could she have imagined this was where she would end up when she left Intaki to enroll in the academy all those years ago. Back then her choice had been motivated by a desire for revenge. In the Intaki Liberation Front under Suresha Hawke’s guidance she had found a better purpose, something wholesome to be devoted to and strive for. She wondered if he knew the effect he’d had on her.

Now a new chapter with ILF, and IPI, was about to begin, and Sakaane looked forward to it.

Saxon waited for the others to choose their seats before taking his own. Almost immediately the acolyte who had been waiting silently in the shadows arrived to set down the drinks.

The first, in an ornately decorated bottle of hand-blown glass, contained a local beverage made from a blend of citrus fruits. It was not fermented and popular among those who do not imbibe alcohol. An imported Gallente wine was also served.

Knowing the Suresha’s preference, the acolyte served him the juice and then waited for some indication from the guests.

“Do you have much experience with public speaking?” Saxon asked Sakaane.

Sakaane gestured for the juice and thanked the acolyte as he poured for her. Then, to Saxon she said, “Not exactly in the manner you refer to. But before I became a pilot I was a musician and singer, and often performed in front of audiences of various sizes. In that sense I’m no stranger to having countless eyes staring at me with great expectations, or even great disgust if they found my songs not to their liking.”

“It’s been my experience that public speaking in the political realm is equal parts ideology and theatrics,” Saxon said, allowing himself a slight smile. “I’m sure you’ll do fine.”

As the acolyte finished serving the drinks and departed, two more arrived at the table. The first set down a small plate in front of each of the diners. The plates were made of bone porcelain, ornately painted in a geometric pattern common several centuries ago among artisans in Intaki’s northern regions. The plates had been chilled and rapidly began to collect condensation from the humid jungle air.

Following close on the heels of the plate-bearer came the second of new acolytes. She carried a large tray covered with an array of cut fruits. Laid out with an artistic flourish, the tray was a collision of colors ranging from the deep crimson of the Chrumba melon to rich azure of the Kaafa, a fruit whose soft flesh is contained in a rock-hard shell that makes extracting it intact something akin to a magic feat. Various berries and citrus fruits added to the rainbow hues.

After making their deliveries, the acolytes disappeared once more.

“It’s interesting that you say you were a musical performer,” Saxon said, selecting a few pieces of fruit from the tray. “Layla Saitana of the Intaki Resource Allocation Group had a similar career before becoming a capsuleer. Have you had a chance to meet her?”

Shaking her head as she served herself, Sakaane said, “I’ve not. In fact, for all intents and purposes I’ve met no one from the alliance save our fellow ILF pilots. The only exception would be Garysson Clear of Clear Labs. He and I exchanged greetings via FreeIntaki just recently, following the election. Oh, and I’ve had incidental contact with Melibeus, although the last time was quite a while ago.”

She paused to sip her juice and sample the fruit. “This is delicious.” Then, after chewing thoughtfully, she added, “Interaction is something I want to work on. An alliance containing members that exist as strangers to one another is, to my mind, hardly an alliance at all.”

Bataav thanked the acolyte for his fruit and took a sip from his drink, listening as the others chatted. As he replaced his glass he nodded to Sakaane’s comment.

“The alliance is a quiet one. In all my time on the council I’ve heard very little from the others except when a new corporation wishes to work with us.

“And that might have certain advantages,” Sakaane said. “Seen from without, a quiet alliance could be unnerving. No one would know exactly what we were up to. But from within… It should be a different story.”

As Saxon was about to reply, he was interrupted by a commotion coming from the other side of the screen separating his area from the larger dining hall.

“But, madam, you can’t go in there right now,” an acolyte was pleading. “The Suresha is not receiving visitors at this time.”

“I’m sure he’ll be more than happy to see me,” a woman’s voice replied brusquely. “He’s never turned me away before.”

The trio behind the screen could hear the sound of rapidly approaching footsteps as a panicked-looking acolyte appeared.

“Sir, there’s a…woman here to see you,” he said. “She is rather…insistent.”

Before the acolyte could say any more, the woman in question stepped up behind him. She was tall for a woman, but her height was far from the only thing to make her stand out. She wore a thin-strapped tank top and form-fitting leather pants that accentuated her athletic figure. Her hair was an unnatural shade of red and shaven into a Mohawk that stood up at least six inches from her scalp. Her makeup was a shocking combination of pinks, blues, and purples and as a finishing touch the woman had added a variety of piercings to her ears and lips.

“So, Saxy, what do you say?” the woman said with a smile. “Can a girl get a bite to eat in this place or what?”

Saxon motioned for her to sit and waved the acolyte away.

“Sakaane, Bataav, allow me to formally introduce you to Layla Saitana,” he said. “Layla, we were just talking about you.”

“Namas.” Despite her best effort, Sakaane’s lips curved into an amused—and somewhat chagrined—smile at Layla’s use of “Saxy”. She watched as Layla sat down; the IRAG CEO seemed to be exactly how her public profile depicted her. Satisfied, Sakaane nodded to herself. She’d spent some time looking up the CEOs of the IPI member corporations and hoped she would get to meet each of them in time.

Waiting until after an acolyte had produced a plate and drink for Layla, Sakaane said, “Suresha Hawke was telling me how you and I have a common interest, that of music. Do you have much time for it? Your responsibilities as CEO must keep you busy.”

Layla laughed out loud as she poured herself a glass of the Gallente wine. She threw back the drink and filled a second glass.

“Surely you’ve noticed that my corporation has only two members,” she said. “And, to be honest, I haven’t talked to my business partner in months.”

Layla grabbed a handful of T’laack berries from the tray and popped them into her mouth.

“But to answer your question, no, I don’t spend much time with music anymore,” she said, swallowing the last of the berries. “I still sing, but only for my own enjoyment. When I tried to sing as a profession, I got to see the ‘verse, but I also witnessed the things people are willing to do to each other; to lie, cheat and steal for a few quick bucks.”

The smile had faded from Layla’s face, as she appeared to be thinking about some past event. She snapped back to the present and laughed again.

“Fortunately, I met Saxy and he showed me that there is still some good out there,” she said with a wink at her host. “A few years ago he needed a partner to found his new alliance and he helped me set up IRAG as an investment house.”

“Yes, I had noticed,” Sakaane responded lightly, deciding to move on. Layla’s moment of reminiscence, although different from Sakaane’s experience regarding her music, nevertheless hit close to home and she could appreciate if the woman didn’t want to talk about it.

“You say you haven’t heard from your partner in a while? That is a little troubling, to be honest. Tell me, other than participating in council votes, how does IRAG contribute to IPI? What investments are you handling for the alliance? Do you have plans to expand your corporation?”

Layla took a moment to study the woman seated across from her. She couldn’t decide if the question was a sincere one or if it was a challenge. Her first instinct was to respond with a verbal challenge of her own. Had they not been seated at Saxon’s table, she might have done just that.

Instead, she picked up a palm-sized quaavi fruit and took a rather savage bite, all the while keeping her gaze locked on Sakaane’s eyes. When she’d swallowed she replied, “I keep a portfolio of shares in various corporations throughout the cluster. The dividends are held or used to purchase market items to sell at the Intaki trade hub.”

Layla looked at Saxon, scanning his face for a sign of what he might be thinking.

“As for growing IRAG, I don’t see a need to,” she continued. “Stephin is an agent of AncientGuardian and answers to him. I answer to Saxon. Anything else we would do would likely be duplicating what ILF is already doing anyway.”

Turning her attention back to Sakaane, Layla took another bite from the quaavi fruit, pausing midway through to suck a large slurp of nectar that beginning to run down her hand.

“But I guess that’s true of most of the IPI corps, isn’t it?” she asked.

Sakaane watched Layla watching her and noted her body language.

“Please don’t misunderstand me,” she said when Layla finished speaking. “As president I must know how all the pieces of the alliance fit together: the status of member corporations, how they contribute to IPI, and so on. There is a lot for me to learn, so I’ll ask direct questions for expediency.”

She paused to take a drink. “As to duplicating ILF’s efforts… If you feel you don’t need to grow IRAG, that is your prerogative, of course. Growth is something I’d like to work on for the alliance overall though, as it’s in our best interest to increase our numbers, and thus resources, where warranted.”

The remaining juice left a thin film of residue on the inside of Sakaane’s glass as she swirled it slowly. When she spoke next her voice was light and thoughtful. “IPI by nature should be a collection of like-minded individuals and groups working toward some common goal. In that sense, some duplication is inevitable, and even required, to ensure the health and success of the alliance. So, I think any given member corporation should never feel they can’t expand their operations simply because it might be something ILF is already doing. They may have new ideas or methods everyone can take advantage of, which is worth fostering collaboration and cooperation for. And in the end, the more activity that takes place within the alliance, the better the outcome should be for Intaki and her people.”

“I think we’re all in agreement that we’ve come together for the betterment of the Intaki people,” Saxon interjected, motioning with his left hand to an acolyte standing just beyond the screen, out of sight of the others.

Seeing the signal, the acolyte and his comrades sprang into action, serving the main courses. The guests were treated to a variety of Intaki dishes, including not only those common to the homeworld, but also several that had originated when Intaki settlers discovered new flora and fauna on their colonial worlds.

Conscious of the unexpected tension between Sakaane and Laya, Saxon was careful to steer the remainder of the evening’s conversation to more neutral topics.

When the last of the meal’s dishes had been removed, Saxon stood and bowed to each of his guests.

“Thank you all for joining me, you honor me with your service and your presence here,” he said, extending a hand to help Layla to her feet. Saying their goodbyes the couple made their way out of the dining hall and into the darkness of the courtyard beyond.

The next day presented a familiar sight: a crowd of people gathered in front of the temporary dais with its podium. Sakaane had spent some time mingling with them, but as the hour of her speech drew near she’d withdrawn to a quiet, shaded corner.

The datapad in her hand was dark. She’d rehearsed so many times now she didn’t actually need the pad but carried it out of habit. Her lips moved slightly as she ran through the speech one last time while gazing steadily out at the people, watching them enjoying each other’s company. A few cast curious glances her way, and she smiled upon making eye contact, but her mind was on the words.

Finally, it was time. She drew a deep breath, held it, then exhaled slowly, taking one last moment for herself to think about when she’d last been on a stage. Back then, she’d been an independent performer relying mostly on word of mouth, the local media, and luck to hopefully get a break and make a name for herself. Back then, her family had always been among the modest crowds she drew. As she stepped back into the sunlight, immediately feeling its warmth, and crossed the short distance from the tree to the dais, she recognized today was a completely different kind of performance in front of a totally different kind of crowd, but nevertheless missed that her family wasn’t there to share it with her.

Sakaane placed the datapad gently on the podium, then sipped from the glass of water an acolyte had thoughtfully provided. The crowd stilled. She began to speak:

“Suresha Hawke, members of the Intaki Liberation Front, honored guests… Prosperity.” She let the word hang for the span of several heartbeats before continuing. “It is a word that means a successful, flourishing, or thriving condition, especially in financial respects. It means good fortune.

“I’ve had the good fortune to be elected president of the Intaki Prosperity Initiative by my peers. I want to thank each of you for your faith, trust, and support in me. It is an honor and a privilege to accept this position from Suresha Hawke and continue his good work with the alliance. I also have the good fortune to fly with many talented pilots, some of whom ran against me in the recent election. I’m proud to call each of you my friend.” She looked to Bataav and her fellow ILF pilots, and those she knew from other organizations, and suddenly realized that although her blood relatives were gone, she wasn’t actually alone. “You have become my family and I could not have come this far without you.”

Gesturing to encompass everyone present, she went on. “We have the good fortune to live and work in close proximity to one of the most beautiful planets in all of New Eden: Intaki. The gardens in which we stand today are testament to the incredible beauty the homeworld offers. Likewise, many of us have the good fortune to have been born here, or can trace our lineage directly to Intaki. Or if not here, then to nearby colonies: Dubaana, Ud’har, or Rohaanar to name a few within the Intaki sovereignty. We also have the good fortune to share our homeland with those who have come to Intaki from afar, whether to learn our ways or contribute constructively to our society’s wellbeing.

“Two years ago this January 31, the Intaki Prosperity Initiative was born. Its mandate is to promote peace, economic development, and prosperity for Intaki and the surrounding systems. To this end, let me express gratitude and congratulations to everyone who has, to date, dedicated themselves to this directive and cared for and supported the alliance’s development.” Her eyes moved from person to person. “You are the people who want to help create a better future for Intaki. You aspire to an Intaki where everyone can succeed, where excellence and opportunity coexist, and the people are free from the burdens of piracy.

“Achieving prosperity should not be a quest to seek an advantage for one group over the other, nor to create prosperity for some by impoverishing others. IPI’s purpose must be to provide a framework in which all in Intaki can benefit; in which inequities can be addressed; and in which all our people can prosper, thus building a structure of mutually beneficial, win-win and all-dimensional cooperation. The alliance should support the local communities and families that work so hard to care for each other. It should look to its members for assistance, resources, and friendship. IPI should also defend the rights of law-abiding citizens and promote Intaki values and interests at home and abroad. To achieve this end, we must move forward with great determination, courage, and energy, and pursue proactive policies that add to the alliance’s development.”

Pausing, Sakaane sipped from the glass again. Her heart pounded, not because she was nervous, but out of excitement and enthusiasm. She leaned forward slightly.

“However, there is more to be done. The stability and security of Intaki, though greatly improved from years past thanks to the efforts of the Intaki Liberation Front, Ishuk-Raata Enforcement Directive, and others, remains uncertain in the face of the ongoing Empyrean War and persistence of Serpentis and unsavory capsuleer organizations. Achieving prosperity depends on the ability of our forces to stand with one another and with our allies to defend the Intaki sovereignty from those wishing to inflict harm, take resources of which no ownership is granted, and otherwise create chaos and disorder for the people who call this area home. This principle of collective defense should always be a core task for this alliance. And there should be no doubt, in any of our member corporations, about that shared commitment.

“The strongest expression of our sovereignty and desire for prosperity comes through presence and actions, not words. We need to adapt our alliance to effectively protect Intaki’s population against these threats and carry out our business in the local economy. Member corporations should heed the call to promote prosperity and security in Intaki by being in Intaki, if not all of the time, then at least the majority of the time. Around this core principle all members should be united.

“We must strengthen our defense. We must strengthen our cooperation with each other. And we must strengthen our partnerships with other alliances.” She smiled warmly. “None of this will be possible without you. With you, I want to make the Intaki Prosperity Initiative a success story we can be proud of and which the people of Intaki can embrace with confidence. I look forward to the meaningful support of all our members, new and old, to fulfill the mandate envisioned two years ago at the alliance’s birth, that is, to create a more prosperous future within the Intaki sovereignty. Thank you.”

Sakaane stepped away from the podium, ducking her head with thanks as the audience applauded and the attending media snapped photos. With her speech concluded, there was nothing to do now but stride forward and see how things turned out.

Descending the stairs, Sakaane moved into the crowd to greet her friends and supporters, and begin her term as president of the Intaki Prosperity Initiative.