Those Who Don't Remember the Past...

Theed Royal Palace
Naboo

Namiene Tolarri, elected Queen of Naboo, took a deep breath, and then another, as she prepared herself for the imminent audience with Sai Haako, Viceroy of the Free Galactic Trade Union. This was not a conversation Namiene desired, for there was only one thing someone as powerful as Viceroy Haako could want from her, that being to add Naboo to her burgeoning empire. Namiene would not relent, for she had given up Naboo's independence one too many times already, and the Free Galactic Trade Union wasn't nearly as terrifying as the First Order had been.

Indeed, Namiene had been putting off this conversation as long as possible, turning away the initial droid emissaries the FGTU had sent to open negotiations without hearing them out, even when it became obvious that the FGTU was imposing an embargo on Naboo. Thankfully the FGTU's influence had not yet become so great that Naboo could not find other systems to trade with, and for several months a state of largely unacknowledged hostility lay between Naboo and the Trade Union, although Namiene had informed her own Commerce Department to forbid traders from going to FGTU Space for their own safety and had also begun to secretly expand her military in preparation for the inevitable conflict.

That latent conflict had come to a head when a flotilla of FGTU battleships and cruisers had appeared over Naboo in a flagrant display of gunboat diplomacy, led by none other than Viceroy Sai Haako herself. A flurry of transmissions subsequently flew between the Royal Palace and the Viceroy's flagship in which Namiene's presence was requested aboard the flagship, which she declined, and then she invited Viceroy Haako to come to the palace, an offer that was also refused. In the end it was decided that the long-delayed negotiations would be had through an open transmission...

It was this long distance meeting that Namiene Tolarri was bracing herself for now. She liked being Queen, but in situations like this, the burden of the office was almost too much to bear. The course of many people's lives would hinge on the words that came out of her mouth in the next ten minutes. To accede to the Viceroy's demands would be to spit in the face of the men and women that fought and died for Naboo's independence during the First Order's occupation; to tell the Viceroy off would likely result in a bloody war the Naboo could very well lose. A middle path might be ideal, at the risk of her people being gradually subjugated by unfair treaties and trade relations. Either way, nothing good could come of this...

"Are you nervous?"

Dené, one of her royal handmaidens, was making some finishing touches on Namiene's extravagant getup. It was a long held tradition for the monarch of Naboo to wear ostentatious outfits and vast amounts of ceremonial makeup when going out into public or receiving visitors. While Namiene doubted Viceroy Haako would appreciate the artistry and effort that went into her appearance, it still would not due to look anything less than her best for such an esteemed, if malevolent, guest.

"I am," Namiene conceded. "Do you have any advice?"

"These corporate types could sell sand to a Jawa," Dené smiled soothingly, "and this Viceroy Haako is the Queen of the corporate types. If you let her call the shots, she'll pressure you into making a decision you might regret. Stay in control of the conversation, let Viceroy Haako know who is in charge of Naboo, define your boundaries, and don't budge on them regardless of how sweet an offer the Viceroy makes, and you will be fine."

"Thank you, Dené," Namiene sighed, forcing a smile.

"You've got this," her handmaiden replied. "Now show that harpy that Naboo won't bow to her like all the other systems she's bullied."

Flashing Namiene a parting smile, Dené left the Royal Council Room, leaving Namiene alone for a few uneasy minutes until the Royal Advisory Council filed in. They had done as much research and preparation for this event as they could, but as far as Namiene could tell, nobody truly knew what to expect. Little chatter occurred as everyone waited anxiously for the imminent transmission. They did not have to wait long, as the device soon hummed to life, revealing a mottled green face with large, lidless orange eyes on the other end. Truly Neimoidians were not a pleasant looking people, and Viceroy Haako's ostentatious mitre did little to distract from that.

A moment of silence transpired as the two parties observed each other, until at last the Viceroy Sai Haako spoke. "You are a difficult person to reach, Queen Namiene Tolarri," she noted sardonically.

Remembering Dené's counsel, Namiene shot back, "What is the meaning of this outrage, Viceroy!? We have done nothing to merit such an unannounced military visit!"

"Dear Queen Tolarri, this visit would very much have been announced had you bothered to receive my prior emissaries..."

"Droids are not ambassadors, Viceroy," Namiene growled.

"Only because you lack the creativity to see them as such, Queen Tolarri," Viceroy Haako countered dismissively. "In more developed parts of the galaxy, governments would have no qualms with hearing out a droid."

"I would have expected the esteemed Viceroy of the famed Free Galactic Trade Union to possess greater cognizance of the customs of the peoples she was hoping to do business with," Namiene breathed, forcing herself to remain calm.

"I am well aware of your people's remarkable dedication to antiquated traditions," the Viceroy sighed, "so much so that I am surprised that you haven't been replaced by someone younger and prettier yet."

"My people admire my dedication to their well-being," Namiene replied defensively.

"Yes, sacrificing your parents to the First Order for an election-winning publicity stunt truly was a magnificent display of your dedication to your people," Haako acerbically commented.

The Viceroy's statement struck a nerve, offending Namiene so deeply that it nearly took the wind out of her. She could feel her face becoming flush (which would hopefully be concealed by her copious amount of makeup) and her hands trembled with rage. Beholding Viceroy Hakoo's smug visage through the display infuriated her further, and if she could have reached through the image and strangled the vile Neimoidian, she would have.

When she regained the ability to speak, Namiene hissed, "That is not at all what transpired," to which the Viceroy's smile simply widened without saying a word.

"I think she's trying to provoke you," one of the royal advisors suggested.

"You think!?" Namiene snapped, before glaring back at Viceroy Haako and screeching, "What the hell do you want?!"

Leaning back in her chair, Viceroy Haako responded, "Well, since you are asking so politely, firstly I'd like to formally extend an invitation to the people of Naboo to join the Free Galactic Trade Union..."

"Absolutely not!" Namiene interjected.

"Hear me out," Haako chided patiently. Namiene rolled her eyes, but the Viceroy continued her pitch without her permission. "While Naboo is currently very much a backward, agrarian civilization compared to most of the rest of the galaxy, it is also one with splendid natural beauty and a multitude of untapped resources. With significant investment capital and planning, Naboo could achieve one of the strongest economies in the galaxy!"

"No."

"Surely you are not refusing investment capital, Queen Tolarri?" Viceroy Haako protested.

"Not at the price of our freedom, Viceroy!" Namiene declared. "You will not turn Naboo into Coruscant as I live in breath!"

"Again, you display a disconcerting lack of imagination, Queen Tolarri," Haako admonished. "There are numerous stages of development between a rustic backwater and an industrial wasteland that are perfectly desirable..."

"And we have already achieved such without your solicited oversight!" Namiene retorted.

"A number of distressing economic indicators would signify otherwise, your Highness," the Viceroy noted.

"Everyone is struggling economically these days," Namiene riposted.

"Indeed, but member states of the Free Galactic Trade Union are statistically proven to be faring better than the rest of the galaxy..."

"According to whichever metrics support your argument, I presume," Namiene pointed out."

Haako paused. "Can someone such as yourself, Queen Tolarri, who was raised by a wealthy family, who always has had their needs met and has always had access to the finer things in life understand not having enough? Are you truly qualified to declare for your people that they have enough simply because you have enough?"

"Can you?" Namiene challenged, well aware of the hypocrisy of the Viceroy's claims. The FGTU would not care about the lower classes of Naboo, and any so-called investments into Naboo would ultimately primarily benefit the business elite and of course the investors themselves. The massive wealth gap between those possessing the means of production and those they exploited in FGTU systems was quite infamous.

"Unfortunately, yes," Sai Haako grumbled. "The dark emperor and his carrion legions were not kind to my people."

"That's so sad," Namiene replied insincerely, wondering if perhaps the Emperor had actually been on to something.

Unsurprisingly, Viceroy Haako didn't appear too fazed, but her gloating smile had vanished. Before Namiene could figure out where next to move the discussion, the Viceroy continued, "Even if the economic opportunities alone do not appeal to you, the security we offer should..."

"Security?!" Namiene exclaimed. "Do you really intend to invite me into your protection racket as you point your cannons at my planet?"

"Your people have always prided themselves in being the peaceful sort," Viceroy Haako noted. "You have been able to survive with that belief because the Republic, the Empire, and the New Republic fought your battles for you."

"Not all of them," Namiene's Head of Security pointed out.

"Enough of them that you didn't need a large military to feel safe," Haako clarified.

"We felt perfectly safe until you and your flotilla arrived," Namiene stated.

"That is because your sense of security was an illusion predicated on the lack of threats," the Viceroy remarked.

"You're the one threatening us," Namiene reiterated.

"Only to achieve an audience with you, Queen Tolarri," Viceroy Haako explained. "If I had not been the one to shatter that illusion, someone else would have done so eventually."

"And we would have addressed that situation diplomatically as we are this one," Namiene proclaimed. "I don't care what price you ask for or what services you claim to offer, I will not join your Free Galactic Trade Union. We will be happy to have diplomatic relations with you and to trade with you, but we will not submit to you."

Viceroy Haako froze as she appeared to finally appreciate the futility of her sales pitch. Namiene bit her lip in nervous anticipation as she awaited the leader of the Free Galactic Trade Union's next words. Here was where this discussion could get hairy if the Viceroy became inclined to use violence to push her agenda.

"Very well," the Viceroy began. "I had hoped you would consider otherwise; this will make our next order of business... trickier..."

Namiene said nothing as she braced herself.

"... You see, one of my member corporations, Sienar-Jaemus Systems, has recently bought out a long-struggling starship manufacturing company called Nubian Design Collective. Of notable concern is the state of the NDC, now SJFS, North Keren Assembly Plant on your planet."

Namiene pursed her lips, surprised by the Viceroy's concern. "What about it? We will not interfere with that facility's operations as long as they pay the relevant taxes and don't violate environmental and humanitarian regulations, which to my knowledge was not an issue under Nubian Design Collective's management."

"Queen Tolarri, as you will recall, one of the Free Galactic Trade Union's responsibilities to their members is to provide for their security needs, and in this case, Sienar-Jaemus Systems is asking us to help secure their supply lines by providing escorts for their material delivery vehicles. The problem is that the North Keren Plant does not possess the facilities to support the scale of the escort operation Sienar-Jaemus Systems is desiring, and as such we would like to purchase a significant plot of land nearby upon which we can build the facilities to support the spacecraft that will be involved in these escort duties."

Namiene took a moment to ingest the Viceroy's words. "So let me get this straight... you are asking me to grant permission to build a military base near a major population center. I don't see why I should agree to this."

"All involved parties would be very well compensated for this project, numerous Naboo builders and contractors would be hired to construct the site, and another one of my member corporations, Blastech Industries, has considered building a plant on your planet as well and would be more inclined to do so if our escort services were available to them. Such projects would do wonders for your dismal unemployment ratings..."

"Blastech eh? That will really reinforce our reputation of peacefulness that we've strived so hard for," Namiene remarked sarcastically.

"If you desire peace, prepare for war," her Head of Security quoted.

As the Viceroy gestured her head in acknowledgement of her security chief's statement, Namiene threw her hands up in exasperation and exclaimed, "Look, I trust you and your Free Galactic Trade Union as far as I could throw this display. Letting you build a military base here strikes me as a significant security risk, and I will not tol-" Just then she noticed her Economic Development Minister frantically shaking his hands in a negative gesture, and conceded, "and I will review the situation with my advisors and get back to you."

The Viceroy grinned as she responded, "Excellent, Queen Tolarri."

"Is there any other business you wish to discuss?" Namiene groused.

"No your Highness, I think that will suffice, as I too need to review the ground we covered with my Board of Directors," Viceroy Haako replied. "Let us reconvene at this time again in, say, two days time to discuss the flight escort facilities I'd like to construct, and if you wish to reconsider your stance on membership to the Free Galactic Trade Union, that invitation remains open as well. I will be leaving my fleet here with permission to search any suspicious vessels travelling to and from this system to ensure that you do not try anything... unseemly." As Namiene started to protest, the Viceroy growled, "This is non-negotiable. Any fire we take from any of your vessels will be viewed as an act of aggression and will be dealt with harshly. Now, until we meet again, I bid you farewell."

Namiene said nothing and simply dipped her head in acknowledgement as the connection cut off. Leaning back in her chair, she sighed, "Well the Viceroy didn't declare war on us, nor have we signed our lives away to her Free Galactic Trade Union, at least not yet. Silver linings and all that..."

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