STRESSFUL TIMES: CONTEMPLANYS HERMI

4, Ode to an Ideal

The quiet hostility mollified Garm better than any diplomatic appeasing. Almost immediately, the anger subsided.

"So you haven't told Palpatine?" He wanted to be sure.

"No."

"And Amidala? Because if you've told her, you might as well have -"

"You seriously underestimate the two of us, Garm," snapped Bail. "Our loyalties are with the Chancellor but we are still independent thinkers."

"Amidala is Naboo and so is Palpatine. You've been allying yourself with them ever since you came to Coruscant."

Bail's lips thinned. "Garm, you are entitled to your own theories but I am not hear to lobby for votes. I'm here for the truth. Speak plainly, have you decided to secede?"

Garm felt another flash of irritation. Where did Bail Organa come from, asking him to speak plainly? It was Bail who was perfecting Palpatine's own brand of sugar-coated politics. Garm had never felt the need to disguise his opinions. It was a Corellian characteristic and he was proud of it: speak your mind; at best if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything.

"Needless to say," Garm said, plainly. "you did not major in Military Legalistic in your Academy. Contemplanys Hermi means ..."

"I know what it means. What I want to know is why you are taking that option at all. Do you expect me - or anyone else for that matter - to believe that you are sitting on the sidelines because you are not considering allying with the Separatists?"

"Corellia has always been a pacifist, isolationist Sector," murmured Garm.

"Until their non-pacifist, non-isolationist Senator was appointed," retorted Bail. "Tell me, Garm, where exactly do your sympathies lie in this secession matter?"

Garm looked up at the plant again. When he spoke, his voice was suddenly serious. "Dooku's arguments are very solid."

Bail breathed visibly. "His arguments border on treachery."

"His arguments border on ambition," Garm corrected. "And so do the arguments of the members of the so-called Loyalist Committee and that of every other major and minor player in the Senate including yourself and our beloved Chancellor. Our fellow lawmakers are corrupt and acquisitive; the Republic is rotting from its apex. Dooku's philosophies are self-serving but they are by no means unfounded."

Bail breathed again. "So you are seceding?"

"We are doing nothing of the sort. We are - or rather, we are going to - leave you guys to clean up your own mess. Corellia is not interested in being dragged into a bloody dispute in order to satisfy the power lusts of Dooku or Palpatine."

Bail laughed unpleasantly. "And, do you honestly think the Separatists are going to allow you to sit on the fence? Do you think that all the systems that have seceded of recent months are doing so because the persuasiveness of Dooku's philosophies?"

"Thank you for your concern," Garm replied sarcastically, at the same time wondering if Bail's accusation was entirely unfounded or whether it was based on something else uncovered by Alderaan Intelligence. "But we can take care of ourselves."

There was another speculative silence. He could practically see the wheels turning in Bail's head as the younger man prepared another argument.

"We are doing everything we can to prevent this conflict from becoming military," he said ponderously. "Between the Alderaanian Diplomatic Corps and Amidala's Campaign Against Republic Militarization, it is very likely that no widespread galactic war will occur."

"Amidala has been exiled. The Vote has been postponed indefinitely until her return and the Campaign has been stalled as well. Do you really think these are more than mere coincidences?" He glanced at Bail to catch the other man's reaction.

"Of course, they are not!" snapped Bail. Garm's eyebrows went up ever so slightly. The times when his counterpart from Alderaan lost his temper were few and far between. "Do you really believe that a group of miners from her country planted a bomb on her ship because of refugee land allotments!"

"So, you think it was the Separatists that engineered it," sneered Garm. "How convenient."

"You've been paying too much attention to Count Dooku's speeches," Bail said coldly. "He was once a Jedi you know. His powers of persuasion far supersede any of ours."

Garm couldn't help it. He laughed. "That is damn right. 'Cos it seems to me that neither of us is going to bend anytime soon. But what else is new, huh Bail? The taxes Alderaan wants to up are the ones Corellia wants to drop; your Bill for Education reform is counter-productive to our Institutional policies... And even when we don't know how it's going to effect the other, we just join the opposition out of habit." He felt his eyes crinkling.

Bail managed a small smile. "Politically, we've never stood on the same side of the white chalk." His expression became earnest once more. "But this is not just about politics. It's about the freedom of the people of the Republic - the people of Corellia - your people. It's for our system of democracy as we know it. Dooku is not going to be satisfied with preaching sedition and political secession - "

"He's not?" Garm murmured. "You know this for a fact."

Bail gave him a level glance. "I tell you this on good authority."

That hardly impressed Garm. He might have still been lying. But Garm's instincts did not think so. But in the end, it did not make any difference.

"Bail," he said, heavily and the tone of his voice told Organa that he had made up his mind. "I could spin you some yarn about giving me time to think things through then I'll tidy up my affairs and send down our statement from Corellia ten days later. But, I respect you too much for that. I've made my decision about this matter. And I'm not going to try and persuade my Government into doing something that all my guts are telling me not to." He reached over and clasped his friend's shoulder firmly. "Contemplanys Hermi, my friend. We are not going over to the bad guys. We just want to sit back and watch how things play, alright?"

"And join the winning team?" Bail said calmly but his face was closed.

Garm sighed. "Corellia is not Alderaan. We have different standings, different priorities in the Republic. We can't afford to..." He drew another deep breath. "But I'm wasting both our times trying to convince you, aren'I. You have already made up your mind."

"You give me no reason to change it, Bail said plainly.

"Woe betide me if I attempt to knock you off your high horse of righteousness!" Garm replied cheerily. "All I ask is that you do me just one favour. Will you give me your word as a Prince," - he smirked - "that this matter will remain under wraps and all your little people will keep their traps shut until we Corellian decide to air our own dirty laundry."

Bail's face closed even further. Garm held his breath.

Then the Viceroy of Alderaan bowed stiffly. "You have my word, my old friend." He turned sharply on his heel and walked away.

A few minutes later, Garm heard the doors of the greenhouse slide open and shut. He was now entirely alone in a house full of plants.

My 'old' friend. It was not subtle. It had not been meant to be. But Bail had given him his word and that was all that mattered. Garm switched on his COM and called for his private vehicle; then he pulled out his datapad and scrolled down his appointments. He had an early meeting tomorrow with the Representatives from Pandora. The sooner he closed that deal with them and terminated Corellia's connection with Inner Core worlds, the better.

He had a job to do.

But the Corellian Senator remained a little longer in the Greenhouse and watched the plants wave in the small breeze.


Fin.

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