As she strolled from one side of the cabinet room to the other, Natasi Fortan passed between a projector and the screen upon which it displayed its image. As she did, her features -- brow etched with worry, hair shot through with the occasional greys -- were cast in shades of war: fiery red-orange hues of flame, crimson splashes of blood, grey-brown columns of smoke, all from the still image being projected on the screen: of the First Order embassy on Commenor during the riots there.
“What did we gain from this little venture?” asked the Grand Moff as she reached the edge of the frame and turned to face her cabinet. “Casualty reports are still coming in, but any loss of life is unacceptable -- for Commenor,” she added with a derisive sneer. “A jumped-up backwater. We indulged their queen’s delusions of relevance for too long, it seems. But aside from injuries and fatalities -- what did we take away from this?” She gestured to the screen again. “An embarrassing black mark on the galactic stage -- though we must thank our friends the Sith Imperials for their own failure to respond, which gave the galaxy an even more abject humiliation to distract from ours.”
The Grand Moff paced around the table, her footfalls muffled by the carpet. “Certainly our efforts did nothing to shore up our alliance with the Sith Imperials. Although Commenor did help illustrate to me quite clearly that this business of the mandate is folly. What is a mandate that is not enforced but a challenge that will not be answered? We are placed in the unenviable position of either committing blood and steel to enforcing the mandate, or not responding to a challenge and proving ourselves weak and ineffectual.”
Natasi stopped behind the Foreign Secretary’s chair and placed her hand on the man’s shoulder. “It was a bold attempt, Foreign Secretary, but in the end a failure. We will withdraw from this mandate. The Sith Imperials can continue to do as they please on their side of the galaxy, and we on ours, but we will no longer run their errands or enforce their claims. They would not do the same for us.” She frowned gravely, wishing for a moment she could pull the man’s head from his neck, but this wasn’t the place or the time. “Once you have announced that we recognize only our own borders and not the old mandate, you will recall our diplomatic personnel from the galaxy at large. It is time that our focus is on our own affairs. We will honor our commitments, but should avoid further entanglements.”
The Grand Moff straightened and squared her shoulders. “I have heard reports that the self-anointed Steward of the Ren has been captured by the Commenor queen. Unfortunate as it is, it is the policy of this government that his actions were unsanctioned. Unless and until the Supreme Leader directs us to negotiate for his release, it is my position that he acted alone and not as a representative of the First Order, and whatever crimes he may have committed on Commenor are his own affair. It must be made clear that whatever the Knights of Ren are, what they are not are representatives of the Supreme Leader’s Government.”
“Supreme Commander,” she said as she stopped behind the Minister of Finance’s chair, opposite the Supreme Commander’s position. In the light cast by the image on the projector, she couldn’t tell if he was there in body or just in holograph, but it was neither here nor there. “I would like you to draw up plans to have our armed forces recalled to our borders. Border patrols and reinforcement of the home territories should be our priority, rather than any extracurriculars.” Rausgeber wouldn’t like it, Natasi knew, but fortunately, he worked for her, not the other way around.
“Minister Calgar,” Natasi said as she rounded the table to her own chair. She pressed the controls to deactivate the projector, and her features returned to their normal pale Galidraani shade. She sat and looked across at Calgar, perhaps her closest ally in the cabinet. “Any individuals or groups that are under investigation and that we believe are more likely than not to be seditious, front groups, or otherwise problematic, I am authorizing the seizure of real property, physical goods and assets, bank accounts and other financial assets. The one plotting violence should be arrested and dealt with. How the Security Bureau addresses the rest of the individuals I will leave up to you, but whatever you decide, ensure they will not be a threat.”
She folded her hands in front of her on the desk and looked around at her cabinet colleagues. When she spoke her voice was firm but grave. “From now on, the First Order exists for the First Order and no one else. Where appropriate and in the interest of this nation, we will take action outside our borders where we must, at the discretion of the Supreme Leader and his appointed leadership. If you feel that you cannot support this doctrine, I’ll accept your resignation by the end of the week. Any questions?”