Valcarian Foreign Policy
The Imperial Relationship with the Par'tha Expanse
The Empire is vast, and some sectors are more volatile than others. Even with apparent limitless resources, the Emperor can not maintain an iron grip in every single sector. To tighten his grip in troubled sectors, he must loosen it in other sectors that are more secure.
The practice of indirect rule is common in the Core, the hub of the Empire. The local Core governments are permitted to control their own worlds and systems, with a minimum of Imperial interference. Of course, with Valcaria and the might of the entire Imperial Navy a scant few lightyears away, the local governments are all too aware that their freedom has definite limitations.
Because the Imperial star fleet is spread much thinner beyond the Core, simply the threat of force is not enough to keep systems from wandering from the Imperial fold - direct pressure must be applied. Grand governors, governors, and representatives of the military have a lot more authority to step in and take control of a local government. Indirect rule for sectors far removed from the Imperial Center is very rare.
Par'tha Sector has proven itself to be both stable and loyal over time, and it is one of the few sectors beyond the Core to be so trusted. It is largely left to govern itself in most matters. The Empire does not police it nearly as heavily as it does some surrounding sectors, and permits it to maintain its own government, social policies, and military.
This is not to say that the Emperor is casual about ruling this sector. A nominal Imperial rule is maintained - as in other sectors, order is ultimately maintained by the Imperial military, and a political system controlled by a sector Grand Governor and governors assigned to each world. The Empire's agents are active in the sector, ever-diligent for treason and traces of anti-Imperial sentiment. A more obvious sign is the powerful Imperial navy which patrols the spacelanes to protect shipping - and also to remind Par'thinian citizens who is the ultimate master of their fates. However, though the Empire has the final authority, it rarely takes the time or expend the resources to directly involve it in Par'thinian affairs.
Unlike many sectors outside the center of the Empire, the Par'tha Expanse is not an insignificant cog in the scheme of Imperial affairs. It has had a close relation with the Core worlds for centuries, and is a major supplier of raw materials for the Empire.
Ultimately, Emperor Altharra would like to see the sector firmly under his direct control. However, Par'tha is extremely independent and a strong Imperial supporter. Invading by force and deposing its current rulers, many of whom have important connections on Valcaria itself, would create major problems where there are currently only minor ones. That Imperial forces are currently stretched thin is an added complication to the direct approach.
With characteristic subtlety, Altharra has opted for a long-term plan which will bring the sector under his control within another generation. He has already accomplished his first step, placing a grand governor over the sector and appointing governors on each world. He did this in the name of representing Imperial interests, and allayed fears by appointing men and women who are less powerful in Imperial Center than some of the more prominent house lords.
Once Par'tha citizens get accustomed to nominal rule by "harmless" Imperial representatives, Altharra plans to gradually replace them with more powerful leaders who will slowly begin to gather to themselves power now held by the sector rulers. Creating the incidents - such as terrorist strikes, corruption among the local leaders, and the like - that will create the excuse for increased Imperial intervention is a simple matter. At the same time, he plans to blackmail or remove key political or popular obstructionists, while supporting pro-Imperial politicians and organizations.
This is all in the future, however, reserved for a time when all anti-Imperial groups have been crushed and are no longer a threat. For the time being, Altharra has contented himself with planting seeds he can harvest in a decade or two - by initiating cultural and social programs in the sector designed to instill in younger Par'tha citizens a greater loyalty to the Empire, and a weakening loyalty to Par'tha traditions. These programs are still in their infancy, and have yet to bear real fruit, though anti-alien (non-Caraadian and non-Valcarian) sentiments are rising in spots in the Par'tha Expanse. This is the gist of Altharra's plan, one of the thousands of minor plans he keeps in the back of his mind while he attends to more pressing matters.
Though the Empire has allowed Par'tha autonomy for several decades, the relationship is a delicate one. Should some anti-Empire organization begin to achieve a foothold there, the Empire would step in immediately to deal with the threat before it spread, possibly by breaking the Freeworlds and Expanse into two separate sectors.
The relationship, especially with regard to the Freeworlds, is increasingly being undermined by various factions which desire, for their own reasons, to see the Empire play more of an active role in the sector. Other factions want to maintain sector autonomy, and the conflict is bound to break out into the open eventually, and probably sooner than later.
The Imperial Leadership
As in other sectors, there is a grand governor assigned to represent the Emperor in the Par'tha Expanse, and Imperial governors assigned to each inhabited planet. Officicaly, the grand governor and governors have the same power as sector rulers elsewhere in the Empire. But in reality, most are just glorified diplomats with a lower Imperial pecking order back on Valcaria than some of the Par'tha house lords. The governors with any real power derive it from connections with Valcaria.
Many Imperial political officers regard an assignment to the Par'tha Expanse as a reward from the Emperor for a job well-done elsewhere. This is a safe assumption, and certainly there are a few grand governors and governors who make it to the highest levels of Imperial government without learning a thing or two about leadership. However, assuming that the governors and grand governors assigned to the Par'tha Expanse are of the iron-willed and resourceful breed found ruthlessly enacting the Emperor's edicts in the outlying territories of the Empire might be a mistake.
There are certainly capable men among the Imperial masters of the Par'tha Expanse. However, many are buresucrats and the sons of New Order champions who have obtained rank and position through political connections, and have served their entire lives in safe and secure sectors close to the Core. Few have been personally exposed to the more unpleasant sides of Imperial rule - such as the prospect of assassination, anti-Imperial unrest in their jurisdictions, or being required to order extremely unpleasant things done to people to restore Imperial order.
Altharra knows which of his servants are best suited for the dirty work, and assigns them to the sectors where unrest is a chronic or likely problem. The rest, especially those who have the influence and patrons to gain a plum appointment, but not the backbone and common sense to be entrusted with real power in a less stable environment, he sends to safe little sectors where the battle for the Imperial way has already been won.
As far as anyone knows, the Par'tha Expanse is one of those sectors. Only time (and possibly influence from other external factors) will reveal whether he has made a critical error.