"The Ones Between"
It took a lot of negotiation,
but eventually, the Lacuna and
the Orion Arm reached an agreement
establishing the Lacuna as a buffer state.
"Well, that's half the job done," Router declared.
"Other half?" Backup asked, leaning
against the tall solid wall of Router's side.
"I think it's time to contact your brothers,"
Router said gently. "Your father is a lost cause,
but your brothers may be able to see reason."
"Backup, try again," the other man sighed.
The challenge was that the Orion Arm
was more diffuse and more flexible.
The Carinan Arm was more centralized,
which made it harder to get a deal, but
once done, it would cover more territory.
Politics always hit hardest on
the ones between the principals.
The Lacuna was determined to turn
an awkward location into an advantage.
So Backup contacted his brothers
and carefully read Router's proposal:
"Here's how Orion made a deal with us.
If you'd rather not have their warships
right next to you in the Lacuna until
they get tired and go home, then you
might want to consider working out
something like this for yourselves."
The five men muttered and grumbled.
"We'll think about it," the oldest said.
"And maybe talk to some people,"
the youngest one added.
"That's all we ask," Backup said.
"That could have gone worse,"
Router decided after the call ended.
"This may well be the piece of the process
that gets the Carinan Arm to sign up.
We just have to wait and see now."
It was the Cruiser Falconwing P42 who
introduced the next piece of the puzzle.
"Humans think of AYES as neutral,"
it pointed out. "We may have come
from one side or the other, but they
don't think of us as taking sides in
the same way as their own kind."
"It's like how they act toward
people who think differently,"
Bexley added. "They don't treat
us the same, just because we're
not obsessed with social stuff."
"That sounds right," said Router.
"How do you think it could help us?"
"We could talk to the AYES and see if
any of them wish to be impartial observers
or negotiators," Falconwing suggested.
"Perhaps the Carinan Arm may find that
more acceptable than human ones."
"We need more," Bexley said.
"People like me and Falconwing,
we're the ones between, not exactly
like the other AYES or other humans.
That makes us good traders."
"Or good go-betweens," Router said.
"V has been working on a tradeship over at
Sargasso Base, too, and V has experience
in politicking. We may have an opportunity."
Like Falconwing and its pilot Bexley,
V was a little offset from the usual, but came
with a lot of prior contacts and knowledge.
The solution wasn't complete, not yet,
but Router could see it coming together
in his head, like a cargo ship slowly
making its approach to the dock.
* * *
Backup -- a small man with excellent memory (better from hearing than from reading) whose head is full of useful facts and useless trivia. He has no hyperfocus mode; he's a complete flitter, and needs prompting to begin tasks. He also has no passion; he just absorbs random bits of whatever he encounters. He's in the service out of pure nepotism, the youngest of six sons belonging to the important General Fallon, who found a relatively harmless place to stash him. But he fell in with three neurotypical men who discovered his knack for remembering things, and he saved the supply depot once when the computers crashed, so they're all very attached to each other. Backup's official job is maintenance; with support, he's adequate at it. He becomes quite popular with other neurovariant people because he will listen to anyone's passion on any topic. He works on Supply Base Bounty 3D3N, belonging to the Carina-Sagittarius army and located toward galactic east, later converted to food production and renamed Eden.
They all pretty much land in a strong fraternal relationship because the roles match and Backup doesn't do well without guidance. He is still fairly young, which helps support their relationship dynamic of younger/older brothers. The older men's tendency toward infantalizing Backup can annoy other people, and it's a bad habit in general; but for this group it works, which means Backup tends to protest when other people tell them not to do it.
Backup is introduced in "Backup, Try Again."
Bexley -- a neurovariant girl of thirteen, who runs away with Cruiser Falconwing P42. She is introduced in "The Love We Give Our Fragile Craft" and "No Measure of Health."
Cruiser Falconwing P42 -- the AYES of a jumpship originally from the Carina-Sagittarius army. When its pilot gave orders to open fire on a medevac ship, Falconwing refused and abandoned him on the nearest station. It does not feel that jumpships are bound to follow unlawful orders, just as human soldiers are not. It later approaches Sargasso Base and gets into an argument with the OCS-223, a seemingly derelict jumpship from the Orion army who disapproves of the secession. When Falconwing identifies itself as a conscientious objector to war, the Minotaur who oversees Sargasso Base grants the jumpship permission to approach. Subsequently Falconwing picks up a refugee, a thirteen-year-old girl named Bexley, and they decide to stay together. Introduced in "Conscientious Objectors."
Router -- a tall, moderately muscular, neurotypical man in charge of Supply Base Bounty 3D3N, belonging to the Carina–Sagittarius army and located toward galactic east. He coordinates supplies and traffic for much of the region. He has excellent skills in organization, communication, and leadership. The oldest of five siblings, Router tends to act like everybody's big brother, and he is especially protective of Backup. Router is also the oldest of the four crewmen, just entering middle age. During the secession, Router chooses to stay even though he is neurotypical. He refuses to abandon Backup and the rest of his crew.
Supply Base Bounty is designed for a permanent crew of six. They are one man down when the secession hits, and the fifth crewmember leaves (no harm, no foul). The base is later converted to food production and renamed Eden. The food production is the responsibility of the gardener. It takes a lot of work for Router to learn how to handle Sam the Gardener, who is nothing like Backup and doesn't respond at all well to the same techniques. But gradually Router learns how to apply his leadership skills to a wider range of people. Router becomes a key leader of the few neurotypical people in the Lacuna, but he also comes to work with Hootowl, the leader (such as they have any) of the neurovariant people.
Router is introduced in "Backup, Try Again," reappearing in "Experts Talk Logistics."
V -- a teenager living on Trunnion, a planet bordering the Lacuna on the Orion side. V was born to the Alta Familia or High Clans, and has a holographic tattoo to show that, which is currently covered by a wide cuff bracelet made of copper wirefloss and black plastithong. V no longer affiliates with that family, and is currently living with Spalling. V is asexual and aromantic, still trying to figure out how to form connections with other people, around that and the socially fraught childhood experiences. V uses a "V" pronoun set: V is, Vs arm / V's book, with V, of V's, and Vself. The distinction is that Vs is inward-focused, about V; while V's is outward-focused, things associated with V. V is introduced in "Too Expensive to Ship Back."
* * *
A buffer state lies between two hostile states, and holds a neutral stance between them. This can promote peace, although it's difficult to maintain stability. Fortunately in deep space, the recent war has made it clear that occupying the Lacuna is not sustainable for either of the Galactic Arms, and trying to conquer each other is even worse. A stable buffer state therefore offers more advantages to everyone.
Negotiation between hostile states has challenges and rewards. Here are some tips on how to negotiate in general.
A mediator is a neutral party between two hostile parties, helping them work out an agreement. This requires a lot of skills. Learn how to mediate a conflict.