Jane Kato stared out of the window as Vesta-One descended down through the atmosphere of the Planet Meridia in the Magnus system. She was due to meet with the system's prime minister, Jacquez Lefevre, to discuss and come to a consensus on what to do with the refugees from the Vesta system. Kato already had something of a conclusion, which was there was little that they could do, at least at the moment.
It had been strange looking at the planet from orbit. The surface was almost entirely covered in ocean, with few sparse landmasses. As they drew closer towards the largest of the small continents, the vast ocean grew less daunting, and before long, they were landing at the spaceport. As the Vesta prime minister departed her ship, she was surprised to find the Magnus leader stood there waiting for her with two security officers by his side.
"Hello, Ms Kato," Lefevre greeted. "I thought I would greet you personally to the Magnus system, to Meridia and the capital city, which funnily enough, is also called Meridia."
Kato shook his hand. "Thank you," she said. "I just wish my first visit here hadn't been due to my system being lost to an alien aggressor."
"My condolences and sympathies on that."
Kato nodded. "It's been difficult."
"I can understand. I'd be lying if I didn't say I've had quite a few sleepless nights since Vesta was taken," Lefevre said. "Actually, that's a lie. Every night since has been sleepless."
"I'll take you to the car. Don't worry, there's enough room for your security personnel."
She followed him towards a limousine. Lefevre opened the door for her, and she climbed in, followed closely by him then their security.
"We're heading to the capitol building," Lefevre informed her as the car set off. "I have already arranged rooms for you and your security team. We have also arranged somewhere for your pilots to stay while they're here."
"Thank you," Kato said.
Lefevre looked to her security. "We have located what family members we could."
"Is my family here?" Gareth asked him. "Gareth White."
Lefevre took on a grim expression. "Sorry, but the Evacuation cruiser holding your family never arrived. It also had some of Admiral Rice's family on it. In fact, it was mostly military families on there."
"And it never arrived?" Kato asked.
"No. We think the Sovereignty either captured or destroyed it."
Gareth and Macario looked down at their feet. Neither of them wanted to think of the possibility that their loved ones were dead. Gareth himself wasn't married, but his brother was, and he had a family. To think that they and his parents were gone wasn't a pleasant thought.
Macario, on the other hand, was married with kids. He was barely managing to hold on. He rested his head in his hands, trying desperately not to break down. Callie rested her hand on his back to comfort him but said nothing.
"I requested that a battle group be sent out to search for them between here and Vesta," Lefevre said. "But Admiral Parkinson, the one in charge of system defence, doesn't want any ships to get too close to Vesta, for obvious reasons."
"I take it they didn't find anything?" Kato asked quietly.
"We don't know yet," Lefevre told her. "We'll know when they report in."
"When will that be?"
"Another few hours, I should hope. If not, then… Well…" He trailed off, and Karo knew why. If they didn't return then, they would have likely been destroyed.
"Do you have a total tally of how many refugees got out of Vesta?" Kato asked him.
"Not yet. It's difficult to sort through, there's so many. We don't have a place to even put them all. We're going to have to process as many as we can and have them sent elsewhere. This system isn't equipped to deal with such a sudden and huge influx of people."
"No system is," Kato pointed out.
"I guess not," he agreed. "Don't worry, we'll figure something out."
"At this point, I think the best thing to do would be to ask other systems to take refugees in."
Lefevre agreed. "That would be best for them. Right now, there's a lot that are still stuck on transports at the spaceport."
"They should be easier to move," Kato said. "I want to make sure that we put families together, this includes extended families. It will take off some of the stress if there are familiar faces around."
"Agreed. We should probably wait till we're in my office before we discuss this any further."
"That will be this afternoon. I want you and the others to get settled in, first."
"I would prefer if we got right to it."
"I know, but there is someone I think should be present."
"You'll find out at the time," he told her. "We're only a few minutes from the capital building."
Admiral Okiro passed Captain Alexandria Alison a cup of herbal tea, as the two sat in the giant mess aboard Orbital station.
"Thanks," she said.
"So, how're you and your crew holding up?"
"Apart from the fact that we were stuck here, while aliens attacked our home?"
"It must've been tough," Okiro said.
"Yeah. Not as tough as my ship being decommissioned."
Not as tough as being there, I can assure you, Okiro thought. "Do you know if you're getting a new one?"
"Apparently yes. Beyond that, I have no idea what type, class or anything. I could find myself commanding a gunship for all I know."
"If they did, then it would be a waste."
"Perhaps," she mused.
"How're the crew holding up?" Okiro asked her.
"Pretty much everyone lost someone on Vesta or Bharata. Some have been obsessing over the confirmed survivor lists, though they aren't able to update them reliably. At least not quickly."
"It'll settle down. Kato has been sent to Magnus to assist."
"That's not a job I'd want to be stuck with. Dealing with thousands upon thousands of frightened refugees and broken families."
"You know what happened with the other ship we sent with you, the Dunkirk?" Okiro asked.
"You don't know?" Alison asked in surprise.
"No. I've been too busy to check."
"Both ships are being decommissioned, both mine and the Dunkirk. I would go check to see if your ship, Arcturus isn't on the list as well."
"There's a good chance it is," Okiro mused. "I'll have to look into it. I'd hate to have three crews out of the fight."
"I know that I'm being given a ship. Or at least that's what I was told. As to whether it's true, I guess I'll just have to wait and see." She looked Okiro in the eye. "What about you, Sir? How are you holding up with what happened?"
"Honestly, I feel a bit like an outsider."
"I didn't have any family in the Vesta system. They moved to Earth after we took it back during the Pavoran war. In a way, my family have been dead to me for fifteen years."
"We're over Earth right now," Alison pointed out. "Maybe you should go and see them?"
"The kids'll be grown up, and my wife might have found someone else. I don't want to just drop in. Not after so long. It wouldn't be right."
"Fifteen years is a long time. They might want to see you. To know that you're okay. What happened to the Vesta system is being plastered all over the place, on every news outlet, everywhere. But so far there's little info on who made it out."
Okiro sighed. "I'll have to think about it. We left on bad terms. I wanted to stay in the Vesta system, and she just wanted to get out of there. I felt that I had an obligation, more to Vesta than to my own family."
"I'm not going to say that I understand that mentality, Sir. It must have still been a hard decision."
"It was," he fully admitted. "To this day, I wonder if it was the right one. Too late to change it now, though."
"But not too late to try and make amends," Alison said.
"I'm not sure if it's even possible. I made my decision, and I have to live with it."
"We all make decisions we have to live with, Sir. Everyone has regrets over things they have done or things they didn't do. We have to learn to move past them, and if given a chance, to make things right. Your ex-wife is down there. Don't let the chance to see her and your family again pass you by."
Okiro nodded. "Maybe you're right."
"So, you'll go see her?"
"If I have time. I can't just go gallivanting off to see family, no matter how much I want to."
Alison visibly clenched her jaw. "Sir, if I may."
He tipped his head. "Go on."
"Make the time," she said firmly.
"If I'm allowed, I will."
"It might not seem like it, Sir, but you're respected. You ask, and they'll let you go."
"You wouldn't think so," Okiro mused. "Not the way the Vesta defence fleet was left to decay."
"No, perhaps not," she accepted. "But that was during peacetime. When the guns start shooting, they look to you, because of what you managed at Vesta during the war."
"You have a lot of confidence in how they see me. I'm not sure they share it."
"You were in a meeting with the Pavorans. How many admirals were there again?"
Okiro smiled and nodded. "You actually have a point there."
"Of course I do, sir."
Okiro stood up. "Well it's been good talking to you, but I must be off."
"You too, sir."
Jane Kato stepped into Lefevre's office after a few hours settling in. She had been given a tour around the capital building and even the gardens. Already, despite it being only a short few hours, she felt more welcome here, than she had done on Earth, where she had felt almost like a prisoner.
Prime Minister Lefevre rose up from behind the desk, and the two shook hands, before seating themselves.
"Would you like a drink?" Lefevre offered.
"I would actually. A coffee, no milk, sugar or anything else."
He picked up his phone. "I would like four plain coffees in here. Thanks."
"My deputy and Major Thomas should be arriving shortly."
"Yes, from the Arcturus. She arrived in the system a few hours ago and has landed on Meridia."
"Oh, I see."
A minute later, a young man brought in the drinks, placing them all on coasters on the desk.
"Thanks," Kato said.
The man nodded and promptly left.
"Let'' hope the two others get here before their drinks are cold," Kato commented, as she picked up her mug.
"I was told five minutes, so they should be walking through the door at any moment."
"Let's hope because I want to start our discussion."
"As do I," Lefevre agreed.
There was a brief knock at the door before two people walked in. The first was a man in a suit and tie, the second was in marines armour.
"Rufus, this is Jane Kato," Lefevre said.
Jane shook his hand. "You must be the Deputy Prime Minister."
"That is correct. Do you know Regina Thomas?"
Kato shook her head. "We haven't met," she said, shaking Major Thomas's hand.
The two others sat down and retrieved their drinks.
"So, let us begin," Lefevre said. "First on the agenda, is where to put all the refugees. We simply don't have the space to put tens of thousands of people, even for the interim."
"What about Magnus station?" Kato asked.
Rufus spoke up. "Not the ideal place."
"Why not? It's the biggest non-planetary population in the Union. And from what I hear, it's set up for relief efforts."
"It isn't equipped."
That came as a surprise to Kato. "It isn't? So, what is the plan, then?"
"We're having most of them moved and spread out among the other systems."
Kato nodded, "As I suggested earlier. I wasn't certain the other systems would go for it, though."
Lefevre smiled. "It was a good one. The Hawk system has agreed, the others not so much. I would like to send some to the Val system, as they're a fledgeling system, but I have no idea if it would even be safe. The enemy might attack there."
"They're going to attack everywhere at some point," Kato pointed out. "What about the Alliance?"
"No one's attempted to contact them as far as I know. Both systems, Bakalar and Ibarra are still picking up the pieces from the Pavoran war last I heard. Unlike us, they were almost completely decimated. We would have to discuss that with Earth as I'm in no position to do anything regarding them."
"They're probably in no position to do anything anyway," Renata commented. "As you said, their military was wiped out by the Pavorans, and those that remained have no interest in rebuilding it. They simply want to be left alone."
"Like the Pavorans did," Lefevre said. "But we could try asking them for help."
"Another thing we would have to discuss with Earth," Kato said. "Not our place to communicate with foreign powers."
"But there's no harm in discussing it," Renata said. "For now, they'll have to stay on the transports."
Lefevre nodded. "Unfortunately, they will. There are already delays on space flights due to the refugee problem, and it's causing people to grumble."
Kato rolled her eyes. "Spoilt, that's what they are. Delays are going to happen, given the circumstance, they should know this."
"You'd think," Rufus agreed. "But people only care about themselves. They don't want to be held up, not for anything, even when people are fleeing for their lives."
"Well it's tough shit, isn't it," Kato said in frustration. "They can complain and stamp their feet all they want. There's going to be delays in flights, it can't be helped."
"We know," the DPM said. "That's just how it is."
"So," Lefevre said, leaning back in his chair, bringing the discussion back on topic. "How do we identify and register all the refugees quickly?"
"That's the question, isn't it," Kato said. "And not an easy one to answer."
"No, it's not," Lefevre commented.
"What I do know, is that families must be kept together," Kato said. "I'm stressing this point because it is important."
"Of course," Lefevre agreed. "I wouldn't consider separating them to even be an option."
"Good, because it isn't."
Lefevre looked to Renata. "You're family came with you, correct?"
"Do you want them sending to Earth?"
"I'd prefer it if I was near them for the time being."
"All of them, even your sister's family?"
"I'll have to ask her. If she wants to leave, then I won't stop her."
"Then there's the Rice family," DPM Rufus said. "They have relations in Somnium."
Kato frowned. "How do you know that?"
"A Senator Donna Rice contacted us," Rufus explained. "She's the younger sister of your Admiral Alexander Rice."
"Never knew he had siblings," Kato mused. "I guess they're heading to Somnium, then?"
"Most likely, yes," Lefevre said.
"It would be a good idea to contact their Prime Minister, Alice Jenson, try and convince her to take some refugees off of us," Kato suggested. "If the Rice's are off to Somnium, then we should try and send others too."
"Let's hope the other systems agree with sharing the burden," Rufus said.
"They'll have to," Kato said. "This is a Union problem, not just a Vesta and Magnus issue. It affects all of us."
"I suppose I should make the call," Lefevre said. "Get Prime Minister Jenson's impression on the idea."
"Let's hope she's agreeable," Rufus mused.
"I'll just have to lay on the charm," Lefevre said with a smile.