Captain Dranke stared at the spacecommand extension center which had changed substantially from the last time he was here. Ed was by his side. He had been a revelation. Galactic politics was not really about right and wrong. It was about what worked. And what did not. It was a sobering thought.
Ed had been very talkative on the way back to Earth. He pattered on about the Hnnesset and its role and the individuals running it. It was extremely ad hoc, and that troubled them both. Sette and Kell just listened as Ed revealed all he knew about its workings. The stories were fascinating. There were so many different types of aliens! Just to accommodate them all, the Hnnesset had changed over time. And now the original intention of the founders was lost to them. It had become a political animal. Whoever had the winning vote could make decisions which impacted all beings who were linked to the Hnnesset. The Jexx were an outlier. They wanted to have autonomy, and their paranoia helped in driving them to extremes.
Other living beings stayed away from the Hnnesset. They had self-determination. But they did not have the technology or the power to make a difference to the overall setup. It was depressing in a way. Ed felt that the system was democratic, but unfair. There had to be a better way.
As Dranke was ruminating on their discussions, the Raven was preparing for docking. The spacecommand module rotated slowly to maintain the artificial gravity inside. The darkmatter starcraft matched the spin and slowly it seemed to be stationary as its relative velocity reduced to almost zero. The extruded docking tube locked on and Dranke and his crew strode into the passenger area of spacecommand. Since they were not military anymore, they were ushered into the a waiting area. It looked very plush and comfortable. Not at all like the cramped military quarters and meeting rooms which Dranke remembered.
Settle and Kell were taking in the sights. It was a different world as a non-military person. The lounge was bedecked with "Support our military" messages and posters. Advertising. Sette snorted with derision.
The General walked into the lounge, looking very refreshed. He grinned at Dranke and the others. He raised an eyebrow when he noticed Ed. They followed him to a private conference room, where he hugged them all "Great to see you folk, you are a sight for sore eyes". Dranke nodded to them all as they fell to ease and relaxed as the General continued " We have been following you and getting your updates". His eyes twinkled. You had a lot to report, and we had a lot to disseminate. Some of the information on the Jexx and Hnnet is invaluable". Ed smiled, looking much more natural than what Dranke remembered.
Dranke told the General of his impressions of the Jexx and how they felt excluded from the Hnnesset and galactic matters. The General soaked it all in. He was filing it all away. The General also had news for them "The Leader has been appointed head of the Hnnesset. I believe he wishes to do away with it and create it as a one person system, with the rest of the Hnnesset as advisors and ministers." Ed was staring away, but Dranke nodded. The politics of the system did not interest him, but the impact could be immense. The General understood "It will make little difference to you as a trader Dranke, but it is likely to streamline decision making. Or make it less democratic, depending on your point of view". Dranke understood. He was suddenly very glad that he was no longer in the military. He was a trader and a spy. And as such he was his own boss. His team looked at him. He felt a kinship. They had all made their choice, and from the way things were panning out, it was the right choice.
Without giving anything away, Dranke and the General went into a private office for a secretive debrief, while the others were left waiting in the conference room. In a few hours, they were back in their ship and preparing for departure.
Sette went upto Dranke and asked if there was something she needed to know. He smiled sadly "Not really. From now on, we will go dark. No coming back to spacecommand anymore. We are on our own".
The Raven slid into the inky darkness of space as the cycle of shiptime started to accomodate her crew. It seemed to be the end of an era. Hopefully, it was the beginning of a new one.
----- The End -----