Michelle, like many people in the Star Kingdom, had found the idea of adding that many voters with absolutely no experience in the Star Kingdom's political traditions alarming. Some of those alarmed souls had been none too shy about calling the Talbotters "neobarbs," which Michelle, despite her own concerns, had found decidedly ironic, given the fact that Sollies routinely applied that pejorative to the same citizens of the Star Kingdom who were now using it about someone else. Yet even those who would never have dreamed of using that particular term, and who were prepared to accept that their new fellow citizens would have the best intentions in the universe, had to wonder if those new citizens would have time to absorb the instruction manual before they tried to take over the air car's controls. And, of course, there was always the concern — the legitimate concern, in Michelle's view — of what destination a bunch of voters from outside the Manticoran tradition might choose for all of them.

            There'd been concerns on the Talbott side, as well, and not just from people like Nordbrandt. Or, for that matter, like Stephen Westman, although from what Michelle had heard so far, Westman seemed to have seen the light. Those with the deepest concerns appeared to have been worried about losing their own identity, although what many of them — especially among the Cluster's traditional power elites — had really meant when they'd said that was that they were worried about losing control.

            In the end, however, the Constitutional Convention here on the planet Flax in the Spindle System had worked out an approach that actually seemed to satisfy just about everyone. Nothing could have satisfied absolutely everyone, of course, and some of the local potentates — like the oligarchs of New Tuscany — had opted out in the end and refused to ratify the new constitution. And, to be perfectly fair, it was unlikely that anyone was completely satisfied with the new arrangements. But that, after all, was the definition of a successful political compromise, wasn't it?

            Of course it is, she thought. That’s one reason I’ve never liked politics. Still, in this case I’ve got to admit it looks like something that will actually work.

            For all intents and purposes, the approved constitution had established what bade fair to become a model for future annexations. For example, the political future of the systems which had fallen into the Star Kingdom's sphere in the now defunct Silesian Confederacy was going to have to be resolved eventually, and it looked like Talbott was going to be the example for that resolution, as well. Assuming, of course, that it actually worked in Talbott's case.

            Instead of adding all of those systems, and all of those voters, directly to the Star Kingdom, the Flax Constitutional Convention had recognized that the sheer distance between the planets of the Cluster — not to mention the entire Cluster's distance from the Manticore Binary System — would have made that sort of close, seamless integration impossible. So the convention had proposed a more federal model for the new "Star Empire of Manticore."

            The Talbott Quadrant was a political unit consisting of the seventeen Cluster star systems which had ratified the proposed constitution. It would have its own local Parliament, and after a certain degree of bloody infighting, it had been agreed that that Parliament would be located here on Flax, in the planetary capital of Thimble. And when it came to electing that Parliament's members, the Quadrant franchise would, at the insistence of Prime Minister Grantville's government (and Queen  Elizabeth III), be granted on the same terms and conditions as the Star Kingdom's franchise, which had probably had quite a bit to do with New Tuscany's decision to go home and play with its own marbles.

            The Quadrant and the Star Kingdom (which some people were already beginning to refer to as "the Old Star Kingdom," even though Trevor's Star and the Lynx System had scarcely been charter members of the original Star Kingdom) would both be units of a new realm known as the Star Empire of Manticore. Both would recognize Queen Elizabeth of Manticore as Empress, and both would send representatives to a new Imperial Parliament, which would be located on the planet of Manticore. An imperial governor would be appointed (and there'd never been any real doubt about who that would be) as the Empress' direct representative and viceroy here in the Quadrant. The armed forces, economic policy, and foreign policy of the Empire would be established and unified under the new imperial government. The imperial currency would be the existing Manticoran dollar, no internal economic trade barriers would be tolerated, and the citizens of the Talbott Quadrant and of the Star Kingdom would pay both local taxes and imperial taxes. The fundamental citizens rights of the Star Kingdom would be extended to every citizen of the Talbott Quadrant, although the Quadrant's member planets were free to extend additional, purely local citizens rights, if they so chose. The new imperial judiciary would be based upon the Star Kingdom's existing constitutional law, and its justices would be drawn, initially, at least, from the Star Kingdom, although the new constitution contained specific provisions for integrating justices from outside the Old Star Kingdom as quickly as possible, and local constitutional traditions within the Quadrant would be tolerated so long as they did not conflict with imperial ones. And every citizen of the Quadrant and the Old Star Kingdom would hold imperial citizenship.

            Although the Star Kingdom of Manticore had always eschewed any sort of progressive income tax except under the most dire of emergency conditions, the Old Star Kingdom had agreed (not without a certain degree of domestic protest) that imperial taxation would be progressive at the federal level — that is, the degree of the imperial tax bill to be footed by each subunit of the Empire would be based upon that subunit's proportional share of the entire Empire's gross product. Everyone was perfectly well aware that that particular provision meant the Old Star Kingdom would be footing the lion's share of the imperial treasury's bills for the foreseeable future. In return for accepting that provision, however, the Star Kingdom had won agreement to a phased-in representation within the Imperial Parliament.