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[2008: JAN-FEB] The Prime Directive: A Bedtime Story


James T. Kolk
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The Prime Directive: A Bedtime Story

The Secret of Where the Ferengi Really Got the 'Rules of Acquisition'

by Jackford B. Kolk

"Once upon a time, there was a primitive race full of anger and hatred. They--"

"Did they live in castles!?" The child interrupted, excitedly.

"No," the father said, "They lived in houses filled with things that no one wanted."

"Oh," the child let out, obviously very disappointed.

The father smiled, amused by his daughter's fascination with castles, and continued. "Most people in this primitive race, despite their unusually large auditory organs, were not very good at listening. They fought over silly things, like who should eat first at meals, or who had a right to this heap of junk or that heap of junk, or which half of the population should get to wear clothing. Pretty soon they started killing each other over such things."

"Ooo! With swords!?"

The father sighed, pretending to grow impatient. "No. With whips and projectile weaponry."

The girl cooed gleefully and began making noises that she decided sounded like whips and guns.

Calming her down with a simple hand on her shoulder, he tried to bring her attention back to the story. "One day, a few of our people--"

"How many?"

"A lot."

"How many is that?"

"I don't actually know."

"Oh."

"Now, where was I?"

Sheepishly, "One day, a few of our people..."

"Oh yes. Thank you." He cleared his throat and began again. "One day, a few of our people wandered into the star-system and began observing the primitive species. They were horrified at how ruthlessly they slaughtered each other day after day. For days and weeks, our people debated about what should be done with the horribly violent race. Some said their brains should be altered to make them peaceful, but then they wouldn't have been themselves anymore. Others said they should be put to sleep and spread to planets all over the galaxy so that they couldn't hurt each other anymore, but that was going to be too much work. Still others said they should just be squashed like bugs, but that was precisely the type of behavior that we were trying to discourage in the primitives, so those who wanted that were banished from the assembly and forced to live out mortal, corporeal lives on a small planet called Qo'nos."

"So, they weren't squashed like bugs? My friend Hannai's father told her this same story and she said the people who wanted to squash them like bugs were turned to mortals and then squashed like bugs."

"Hannai must've been mistaken. No one was squashed like bugs."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes."

The girl sighed. Her father was never any fun. He was always trying to teach her "valuable lessons" with his stories instead of making them truly adventuresome. She was entirely sure that real history was much more interesting.

"Now... When all of the options had been considered and the possible outcomes projected, it was decided that the council would choose the most promising of the species, lure him into a secluded area, and then they would send someone to teach him how to lead his people. So one night, one of the primitives followed the trail we had laid to a moonlit hill in the rain. It always rained on their planet, you see. So much so that one of the things they always fought over was what kind of rain they were going to get the following day. But on this hill, we had stopped the rain, and the primitive stood, hunchbacked and cautious, looking at its limbs in any and every way that it could. It was trying to figure out why it wasn't getting wet anymore. In order to keep from confusing him, our chosen representative--"

"Father, why don't you ever use names in your stories?"

"Because... Well, I don't know. I guess because my father never used names in his stories."

"Do you always do things the way your father did?"

The man thought for a while. He had never considered that question, but it was a good one. "Yes, I guess I do."

"That's boring."

The man couldn't help but laugh at that. The universe was alway much simpler to her than it was to him. "Alright, I'll try to give them names from now on."

"Good. What's the primitive man's name?"

"Um... I believe his name was Gint."

"Ew. That's an ugly name."

"Yes, well, that one I didn't make up. Anyway, the Organian representative," holding up his hand, the father stopped his daughter from asking for his name, "we'll call him Pajor, made himself look like one of the primitives and gave Gint a book called, 'The Rules of Equitability,' and told Gint that if he lived by the rules in the book and taught them to others, he could bring peace to his planet and become a great and beloved leader."

"What kind of rules were in the book?"

"Oh, things like, 'Do to others what you would want them to do to you,' and 'To get what you want, sometimes you have to give the other person what they want.'"

"Were all the lessons you teach me in this book?"

Smiling, he said, "Yes."

"That's dumb."

"Is that really what you think of the lessons and stories I tell you?" he asked, giving her a look that said, "I love you, but I'm also disappointed in you."

"... No."

"Well, Gint did think the rules were dumb, and he also never trusted anyone who gave him things for free. So he took the book home and rewrote it with new rules. His rules were altogether different than ours. He wrote, 'Treat people in your debt like family... exploit them,'" the girl gasped at that, but the man continued, "and 'A man is only worth the sum of his possessions.' Then, when he had a lot of rules written in his new book, he decided that he would start sharing his rules with other primitives, but only one at a time, so that they would keep asking for more. The first thing he did was declare peace with all his enemies and then asked them to come to a certain place. The next day, when his enemies were in the place, he and his friends snuck in, killed them, and took everything they'd had. Then he told his friend his first 'Rule of Acquisition,' which he called the 162nd Rule: 'Every once in a while, declare peace. It confuses the heck out of your enemies.' After that, once a week he would stand on a big stone and tell whoever came to see him one new Rule. Of course, he also made everyone who listened to the Rules give him pieces of a useless metal called Latinum, which he told them was the most precious and valuable thing on the planet. Of course, since everyone was giving it to him, he quickly became the richest and most powerful man on the planet. He even gave himself the title, 'Grand Nagus,' which means 'Owner of All.'

The father then paused to let his daughter think about what he'd said so far. She soon looked very confused and asked, "Is that it? He makes his own rules and becomes 'Owner of All'?"

"That's the end of his role in the story. Yes."

"So... you're saying that the moral of the story is... ignore what you've taught me and make my own rules and... I'll become Queen of All Organians??? That doesn't sound like you, Father."

He laughed again and then explained. "No. You see, in the end, an uneasy peace was achieved on the planet, which was called Ferenginar. But in centuries to come, the primitives there learned to leave their world and began exploiting other peoples. If we had let them be, they might have destroyed themselves, and all the pain and sadness they caused on other worlds might never have happened."

"Oh."

"You see, we believe, now, that the universe tends to work itself out as it should, and even if we mean to do good to less advanced peoples, we can't guarantee that it will be for the best."

"So we do nothing?"

"That's right."

"But... if we hadn't given Gint the book, he and all the little Fer... Fereng... Ferenginarians--"

"Ferengi."

"He and all the Ferengi would've died!"

He quietly looked into his daughter's eyes, and then nodded solemnly.

"What if the universe wants to use us to help primitive peoples like the Ferengi? Shouldn't we trust that it can balance our involvement too?"

Edited by Lt. Jack Kolk
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