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Jan-Mar Winner: My Brother's Keeper


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The stars sparkled brilliantly overhead, their cold light crystal clear in the thin atmosphere of the world on which they stood. A sharp, cold wind blew, ruffling hair and heavy fabric meant to ward off the chill. Two figures stood upon a hill overlooking a plain, sillouhetted against the glowing horizon that heralded the coming of the sun.

"I admit it, I never thought I’d see it happen.” One of the figures said. Her dark hair flowed down to the sharply squared shoulders of a heavy jacket that narrowed to a trim waist, padded trousers and high boots with gleaming buckles.

"May I enquire as to the reason for your doubt?” The other asked. Tall and spare, clad in heavy, flowing robes embroidered with geometric patterns. He turned to look at his companion, the growing light outlining sharp features.

She met his gaze for a moment, her frown stark against the light of promised dawn, before she looked once more out over the valley below. “Because it faced so much opposition; from both sides.” She said plainly. So much so that it was a miracle it had come to pass; perhaps it said something about those determined few who had argued for it.

"Yet it was the most logical and expedient solution.” He pointed out, followed her gaze. Below them on the dry plain squatted an orderly collection of pre-fab buildings arranged around a central space which was currently occupied by a large variety of crates containing all those things the new colony would need to get established. The buildings were furnished and ready for habitation, and beyond them fields had been mapped out for farming.

"Not everyone’s as fething obsessed with logic as you people.” The woman grumbled.

“Indeed, yet logic has the advantage of being undeniable.” Her companion pointed out, a dry tone in his voice.

“’You can agree with me, or you can be wrong’ eh?” She paraphrased. “You have no idea how annoying that gets.”

He didn’t deign to respond. They watched the sun crest the distant hills in silence until her communicator sprang to life.

*\/* “Subcommander Tayel to Commandant Loran.” *\/*

She activated her communicator. *\/* “Loran here, are we on schedule?” *\/*

*\/* “Yes ma’am. The first transport shuttles are dropping out of orbit now. ETA on Outpost One is 08:75 local time.” *\/*

*\/*”Understood. I will meet the shuttles.” *\/*

*\/* “Yes ma’am. Tayel out.” *\/*

As the communication ended a small dot became visible above the horizon, against the light of the morning sun. It was shortly followed by several more. “Well, this is it, there’s no turning back. No second thoughts, Ambassador Saveron?” She asked her taller companion. The growing light from the rising sun cast shadows off the V-shaped ridge above her upturned brows, highlighted a pointed ear and warmed her sallow skin.

“None, Commandant.” Her pale faced companion confirmed. They spoke an ancient language his people called Traditional Golic Vulcan. Now primarily a ritual language it was never the less the only tongue they truly had in common, and had become a lingua franca in the negotiations. He considered her question before raising one upswung brow. “Should there be?” He asked, curious. The freezing wind picked up, stirring his dark hair and nipping at his pointed ears until he raised the cowl of his robes.

“There are plenty of people who would baulk at having their ancient enemies as their neighbours.” She pointed out, a dark amusement in her tone. Beneath her boots the dry rock crunched and crumbled as she shifted her weight; the cold air didn't bother her as much.

“You were never our enemies. The Star Empire made war with the Federation at times certainly, but Romulans and Vulcans are ‘two sides of the same coin’,” that was an expression he’d picked up from spending too much time around aliens, “we are kin.”

The Commandant of the new Romulan colony snorted. “There are plenty of people on both sides who would hate to hear you say that.”

Saveron shrugged. “There is no logical reason to perpetuate disagreement for it’s own sake. Your people were in need of a new homeworld; t’Khut was already being terraformed.” The course of action had been logical, at least to some. Alas that even amongst a people who prided themselves on their adherance to reason, there were those who could not let go of old wounds.

She snorted and stalked off down the slope of the hill towards the settlement. “It was being terraformed by Vulcans for Vulcans; there were plenty in the Vulcan High Council who didn’t want to give it up, didn't want us living in the same system.” She pointed out. It was all working too well, surely there had to be a catch somewhere. She had an instinct for upcoming trouble and it was telling her it would be there in spades.

Both of them were breathing noticeably in the very thin air, although given the greater oxygen affinity of cuproglobin they could both compensate acceptably. Any red-blooded visitor to t’Khut would require tri-ox injections or an oxygen mask until the atmosphere thickened. It was enough that the first hardly Romulan souls could make planetfall.

“The alternative would have been accepting you as refugees onto t’Khasi, and other Federation worlds.” He pointed out, using his people’s name for their own planet. “Would you have found that preferable?” He enquired.

“Scattering the remaining Romulans across Federation space until we lose our cultural identity? We could never have condoned that.” Loran shook her head. “There are plenty who say that we should not condone this.” She said, gesturing around them.

"Indeed. You could, of course, settle on a planet outside of the Federation.” Saveron pointed out evenly as they walked, their footfalls waking little puffs of dust from the dry ground.

“And be picked off slowly by the Klingons, the Breen and whoever else sought to take advantage of the catastrophe?” Loran retorted. “That’s not much of a choice.” And that was what those of her people who did not desire to go down in a blaze of glory had needed to face.

“Yet it is a choice, one which you have been free to make.” The Vulcan responded placidly. “Freedom to choose includes taking responsibility for the consequences of your choices.” It was an aspect of freedom that some preferred to forget. “Here you are safe, you may gather as many refugees as you will, and providing that you adhere to the laws of the Federation you may construct your society as you see fit.”

“There are many who will not want to have anything to do with the Federation; who blame your people for not stopping the destruction of Romulus.” She said darkly.

“I cannot comment on the issue.” And he would not. He hadn’t been on Vulcan when he decision to send the red matter ship had been made. The Romulans claimed the Vulcans could have sent the ship sooner; the Vulcan High Council maintained that it was a miracle that they had the appropriate technology at all and if the Romulans hadn’t been so busy expanding their Empire they might have turned their attention to defusing the stellar bomb sitting on their doorstep. All couched in appropriately logical and diplomatic terms, of course. It was an argument that Saveron, well aware of Loran’s penchant for playing Devil’s Advocate, did not care to get into.

There were still remnants of the Romulan Star Empire causing trouble beyond Federation space, determined to live in remembered glory and make their mark out there somewhere. But there were just as many who preferred not to go down fighting, who chose a chance to live and raise their children in peace.

For all her internal conflict and the conflict of her people, Loran was one of them. “It’s going to be strange, seeing Yel and t’Khasi in the sky.” She commented idly. Yel rising was a sight her people hadn’t seen for two thousand years. “The ice asteroids will continue to be brought, won’t they?” She asked suddenly. If the mining droids stopped bringing the life-giving water, the colonists would be doomed.

“All terraforming efforts will continue as per the accelerated schedule.” Saveron assured her.

T’Khut was the smaller, cooler twin of t’Khasi or Ti'Valka'ain to use the ancestral term; the planet that aliens called Vulcan. It had been a Class G world with a thin, carbon-dioxide atmosphere that the massive algal tanks fed with asteroid ice water were converting rapidly into oxygen and sugars that could be used as a food source. Hardy plants from a variety of sources were beginning to be established by the environmental engineers, and a precious few Romulan plant specimens were housed in a large glass-house laboratory until such time as they could be introduced into the environment. Over time the water would keep arriving, the atmosphere would thicken and the world would warm. It would be a temperate world, much like Romulus had been, one day.

He wondered whether it would be possible to ever fully satisfy Loran’s suspicious nature. “The water reservoir for Settlement One has been completed and tested. The asteroid processing and water tanker station is in orbit and will be turned over to Romulan control once sufficient staff have been trained in it’s usage. Survival supplies have been provided, and industrial replicators are inbound on the next equipment shipment, along with further agricultural and building supplies.” Saveron ticked off the most recent developments. “You may do with them what you will.”

“What we will.” Loran echoed as they reached the level ground at the foot of the hill. “Will we really be left to our own devices? To live as we have lived?” She asked him. “We left for a reason; we will not become Vulcans!” She insisted! There were many who maintained this was a front by the Vulcans for a staged cultural assimilation.

“Affirmative. Romulan culture is now endangered and must be preserved. You may control who does and does not enter your world. As a people you have as much right to freedom, peace and prosperity as any other.” He replied.

“There are many who wouldn’t agree.” She pointed out. Plenty of people and indeed whole species had reason to hate the Romulans.

Again Saveron shrugged. “This is not their system.” He said in turn. The decision had not been one made by the Federation as a whole – though they had condoned it. Since the planet with within Vulcan space, the act of gifting it had belonged to the High Council. Reparation for past wrongs perhaps? Or one step towards cultural assimilation, as Loran feared?

“There are plenty of Vulcans who wouldn’t agree either.” She insisted. “Why did you champion our cause?” She asked suddenly, curious, turning to look at him.

He gave her a long, thoughtful look from grey eyes. “Because I believe that all sentient life has the right to exist, to live and to grow, in accordance with it’s own mores and free from fear or persecution. Because one cannot hold an entire race accountable for the actions of a few of it’s members. Because, if the tables were turned, I would want the same to be done for us.” He told her honestly.

It still didn’t make sense to Loran, raised in a militaristic society. “Don’t you worry that we could become a threat to you?” She asked as, in the near distance, the first refugee transport touched down on t’Khut soil at the edge of the settlement.

Saveron stopped where they stood, not intending to enter the new settlement at this time. He wondered for a moment whether Loran's people would ever trust his, and whether they would ever be trusted in turn. However he refused to be drawn on any personal concerns. “We are protected by Federation treaty.” The Vulcan replied simply. “This world will prove challenging enough for you that you will not need to seek challenge beyond. It is not a kind world, but it is livable.” Much like t’Kashi itself.

Lorna snorted and shook her head, took a few steps further then paused and looked around her, taking in the dusty hills, the pre-fabbed settlement and the first settlers disembarking. “I still don’t understand why you did it.” She called back. “There’s two thousand years of bad blood between our peoples. If the tables had been turned we would not have done the same!”

Saveron regarded her solemnly for a moment, looked over at the new settlers and back again to Loran. “That is, perhaps, the greatest reason why we did.”

Edited by Saveron
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