Barcla the Hoard sped off home to his large palace on Tattoo One, whilst away in their remote corners of the Galaxy, the people of Standardia, Bacchanalia and Elysium got on with their lives, making flags, drinking beer and gardening.
A few days after his arrival home, Barcla was relaxing in his throne room, surrounded by his menagerie of acolytes. He was approached by his creepy-looking steward.
"Master, there is a visitor at the gate."
"A mysterious figure in an enveloping hood?"
"Is there any other kind, Master?"
"No, I suppose not."
"He says to tell you that ‘Nathan is come'."
"Nathan?! Fool! Why did you not say so at once?! Bid him enter!"
The hooded figure entered Barcla's throne room and a hundred eyes of all sizes and species gazed upon his entrance. He was backed by two henchmen similarly cloaked and, it would be safe to assume, armed to the teeth and prepared to die in the defence of their leader.
"Master West. You are welcome to my humble abode. Pray, be seated," cooed the Hoard.
The figure sat, but remained hooded. His guards sat down amongst their host's followers in such a way that each could watch the other's back and both cover their master.
"Refreshments for my honoured guest!" called the host to his servants. "And another giant fly for myself!"
He turned to the dark robed figure.
"You are well, Nathan?"
The figure nodded slightly.
"You will be pleased to hear, Nathan, that our plans to dominate the galaxy have begun satisfactorily."
"Your plans, Barcla."
"Nathan, you are my oldest and most trusted business partner."
"You need me because you know that your appearance is so repellent to most sentient beings."
"Don't hold back, Nathan, be honest."
"You are a fat slug, Barcla."
Barcla looked reprovingly around at his court as if blaming them for not telling him about his appearance.
"Where is your ambition, Nathan? You and I together can dominate this galaxy. You may be the front man, I care not."
"Many planets are in a dreadful financial position. The Empire as a whole is in a dreadful financial position. Planets are in debt, the Imperial government is in debt and charging everyone else high taxes, corporations are in debt and many individuals are in debt. Everyone is in debt. It is a frightful mess. You and I, my dear Nathan, should run the Empire."
"They are in debt to us, Barcla, us and the other Credit Masters, Hoshbacc, Aitchbos, Floyd Trusab..."
"Exactly! It is absurd to have the galaxy ruled by an Emperor who does not understand the Source, my dear Nathan. You and I do, as indeed do these others. We should run the Empire, or do you want to wait until someone else gets the idea?"
"Quite. There is talk of rebellion on certain planets. I know, I started it."
"Most planets could not afford to rebel. As you say, they have no money!"
"Unless I agree to extend them some credit, which I have."
"What? To end up deeper in debt. They'll still have to pay it back in the long run!"
"Yes, in the long run, but I've never met a government yet, rebel, Imperial or otherwise, that is interested in the long run. In the long run, we are all dead."
"Who said that?"
"I just did. The point is, are you prepared to finance the Empire when it wants to borrow more?"
"I am not sure that the Empire is interested in increasing its borrowing at the moment..."
"No, but it soon will. When this rebellion breaks out, the Empire will lose the revenues from the rebel planets and will need to increase its military expenditure. It will have to borrow."
"Yes, of course... and I have shipyards lying idle."
"Yes, I acquired them from a defaulting borrower after the last war."
"I see, so when the Empire borrows credit from you to build them a fleet of Star-cruisers, they will pay you to build them and then repay you the loan that they borrowed from you pay you for them?" mused Barcla impressed.
"And you call me unscrupulous!"
"No. I called you a fat slug, Barcla. So how do we acquire control of the galaxy?"
"Once this rebellion begins, Nathan. Neither side will want to risk defaulting on their loans and they will be desperate to maintain their credit systems to pay for armaments and personnel. So quite simply, when they want to borrow, we make it clear what we want them to do, without denying them the chance to do any actual fighting, of course. As their debt deepens, we gradually buy up control of their operations in exchange for more credit, and not just the civilian utilities, but territory, resources, the whole range of government run services, customs services, internal security services, the penal system, until in the final instance we even buy out their armed forces. Then when we own everything, we can control everything.
"Now, Nathan, I've talked to those plantary governments who are most likely to rebel. You are close to the Empire. Do we keep it at that or go halves on each other's portfolios?"
"It might be better if we keep our interests separate, and I rather think that we shall not need a front man. We do not need an overt presence. All this will work better if people are unaware of what we are doing. Let them think that their governments still run things, especially those planets with elected ones. Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes its laws."
"Who said that?"
"I just did."
"Nathan, you are a man after my own heart! Yes. Now, we should ensure that our lending retains a rough parity. We do not want one side to gain military superiority over the other. I've made an initial advance to the rebels of five billion. That'll get them going. Then I won't lend them any more until you start lending to the Empire. Agreed?"
"Yes, I agree on that."
"Good. Here have a fly? Oh no, you don't, do you? Sorry. Now there is another thing, when this war does break out, it's going to get rather hot in various Imperial and rebel planets. Which ones, of course, it will remain to be seen, so I fancy a nice little hideaway, myself, I don't know about you."
"Yes, a cosy little planet well away from things on which to see out the war."
"But there are no decent planets available. Any that are inhabited by intelligent races are not for sale, and those that are for sale are either uninhabitable by organic life forms or are just too underdeveloped to be comfortable."
"Ah, yes, but my dear Nathan, have you not heard of Restricted Planets?"
"Yes, peopled by fools and dreamers, largely harmless, but of little use to the Empire. They are colonising some of the more remote planets of the Outer Rim. It is quite easy to see what the Empire's plan is for these. They grant these settlers a lease for, say 99 years, without conceding ultimate sovereignty, then when the planet is reasonably developed, the Empire moves in and takes control. The Empire just limits their technology to that which does not give off any sort of radio-magnetic energy which, of course, would be easily detected by Imperial Patrol Ships or monitoring stations.
"One of these planets, I now have in my power. In six standard years or so, it shall be mine entirely, and even before that I should start to be able control its affairs. I know of two others of these Restricted Planets. These ones are proving rather more problematical. I could do with your advice on dealing with them. In exchange, I shall give you the name of one of them."
"How many do you need?"
"How many do you, need?"
"It's nice to have a spare, just in case."