Saffron drops back into real space at the edge of Umoja’s solar system. They approach on impulse, and as they get closer, Imogen’s homeworld reveals itself to be a blue and green world with swirling white clouds. The dark side is lit only sparsely; Umojans have few cities, and most of the land is kept as nature preserves. Certainly the planet is far more lush than any they have flown into in Dominion space. There are a few starports down on the ground, and a station orbits the planet at a significant distance from the surface. Lilly is surprised that there is no orbital defense platform; important Confederate worlds certainly had them, and this is the seat of Umojan power. She wonders if maybe there is one, but Umojans have worked out how to cloak an entire platform.
Once Saffron is close enough, Umoja Traffic Control pings the ship. “This is planet Umoja of the Umojan Protectorate,” a calm and level voice announces. “We would love to welcome you to our space,” the adjutant adds soothingly, “but due to Dominion travel bans, we have to be very careful about who we let in. Please, can you forward your environmental certification before landing on the planet?”
“Understood,” Lilly replies. She looks at Imogen, eyebrows raised in question.
Umojans are serious about protecting their environment, some might even say paranoid. The Earth that everyone originally came from was ruined in a lot of ways, and they have resolved to prevent that from happening to this planet. “All incoming vessels need to have documentation that they don’t pollute too much,” Imogen tells Lilly. “We have to send them the environmental safety specs for the ship’s emissions.”
Lilly steps over to the computer console and starts flipping through files, trying to find something appropriate to send over. Of course, the directory that is supposed to hold the environmental cert is empty. Imogen frowns at the news and joins Lilly at the console. “Well, we have sensors. Do we have any readings on consumption versus output? Maybe we can just assemble that into a presentable form.”
Lilly pulls up those screens, which show some pretty inconvenient numbers. “Saffron definitely pollutes,” she says.
“Please submit your Umojan Protectorate Environmental Certificate as soon as possible,” the adjutant prompts. “Your ship needs to meet the transmitted specifications.”
“Uh, it does not,” Lilly reports back. “Please advise.”
The adjutant politely requests that they acquire the appropriate certificate and gives several locations at which that can be accomplished. There is one in the Kel-Morian Combine, which is three weeks in the opposite direction, and there is one at the space station orbiting Umoja. Probably there used to be some in the Dominion itself, but certainly none are open there during the blockade. The space station here is considered not part of Umojan space even though it orbits the primary planet. “The exostation is outside Umojan protection, but we do maintain a consulate there. You are advised to land there at your own risk,” the adjutant cautions them. The exostation is there as a convenience to travelers, but the Umojan government does not maintain it. Several businesses on-station conduct the necessary environmental inspections, though. “Non-citizens will need to acquire a visa for entry and state their purpose, as well,” the adjutant concludes.
“Thank you, sir,” Lilly replies, not realizing she is addressing an AI of some kind. She cuts the connection and turns to Imogen, who is heading back to her room. “Do you want me to go to this station?”
“Wait for just a second,” Imogen instructs Lilly. Then she steps into her room, closing the door behind her, and makes a call.
“Ah! Imogen! Did you make it yet?” Uncle Leo asks upon answering.
“We’re above the planet, but it’s a Dominion vessel and doesn’t have any of the right certifications. Do you have any contacts on the exostation that will make things run a little more smoothly for us?”
“Contacts on the exostation? You know, I’m very busy right now…”
“You’re busy?! I thought you needed me there,” Imogen snaps at him.
“You’re out in some kind of Dominion ship? Oh I see, that is a bit of a problem, then. Probably spouts all sorts of foul gases. Let me try to directly connect you to one of my colleagues. I did some work with Remí. He was able to get a cert through in a hurry. Let’s see…”
Static fills Imogen’s ear, followed by a series of tones, and then a mild voice declares, “We’re sorry. The number you are trying to call is unavailable.” Imogen frowns. “Your radio waves have not been environmentally certified by the Umojan Protectorate. We take our environment very seriously in the Umojan Protectorate. Please show more consideration before broadcasting your radio waves.” The frown turns into a sigh. Saffron is polluting the electromagnetic spectrum here, as well as the exosphere.
Imogen returns to the central hub and tells Lilly to put into the exostation. “We’re going to ask around for someone named Remí who might be able to make this go more smoothly for us,” she says.
“Cool,” Lilly acknowledges. “I’m not sure if I would be able to spoof that thing,” she adds, “but if things don’t work out with this Remí, I’m willing to try.” It is one thing for Lilly to forge a Dominion ID when she already has one on hand, like she did for Malorn, but a completely foreign document would be more difficult.
“Noted,” Imogen says. “But we’re not starting with cheating. First let’s just see what’s necessary.” Imogen needs to get to the planet’s surface for her brother’s sake, and she is not willing to jeopardize that by lazily cutting corners. Her motivations here are not something she has shared with Lilly yet, though. For starters, Imogen has very little actual information on the situation. But also, she has learned over their time working together that if it is not tactical, animal, or vehicle, Lilly does not seem to have much interest in the finer details of what is going on. “Head to the station, and we’ll figure out what we need to do,” is all Imogen says.
“Got it,” Lilly acknowledges, complying without question.