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Sept/Oct Runner-Up: Diplomatic Impunity (or 'The Tribble with Trou


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Diplomatic Impunity

or The Tribble with Troubles

The battered, over-full leather satchel hit the floor with a thud as the door slid shut behind him and Ramsey heaved a great sigh of relief at finally coming home. The problem with being Professor Ramsey Bakewell, Xenosociologist extroirdinaire – he mused as he kicked his shoes off and shuffled into a pair of well-worn slippers – was that he was always being asked to speak, mediate, advise and intervene at all manner of conferences, peace talks, negotiations and so on. Which was all very flattering and of course the opportunity to assist in preventing inter-stellar war and such like was never something he was going to refuse, but it took up so much blasted time.

The lights activating as he moved through the apartment, Ramsey headed over to the replicator for a mug of coffee to help him think. He had a new nutrient formulation to try that might just be the answer to the particular problem that he’d pondered for so long, turning it over in his mind on the trip back rather than worrying about whether the Bajoran Kai found his tie with the dancing Orionese slave girl on it to be in poor taste. There were far more important things in life, and this little problem was one of them.

If a Tellarite diplomat offended the Arkonian Ambassador, it was probably because the Ambassador was looking to be offended, not because Tellarites were particularly argumentative. One of the reasons that he went to conferences such as this most recent one was to get that particular point across to the Federation's diplomats. It was one thing to be the Ambassador to a particular species, to learn their culture and fit in almost like a native, but it wasn’t practical for members of the Federtion as a whole, across hundreds of species and thousands of cultures, to learn them all. What was practical was to take a pragmatic view to inter-species relations, which was where his three Golden Rules had come from.

Pulling a micro-PADD from his pocket, he checked the hastily scribbled formulation that had been vouchsafed to him by the Andorian Ambassador's sub-Secretary, and cross-checked it with his own fastidious notes on his personal computer. He absently set the mug down upon a haphazard stack of e-books, the top volume being the latest Mills and Boon. It made interesting reading; the culture of his own species was weird enough, never mind anyone else’s.

‘Be polite, be well behaved, be prepared to give the benefit of the doubt.’ That was how they taught his Rules in Federation Schools, and in Starfleet. That was of course the sanitised version, approved as being politically correct by the establishment, which just showed that they had missed the point entirely. Apparently ‘don’t be rude, don’t be a [...], don’t go looking for trouble’ had not been found acceptable. But that was the core of the issue; if someone wanted to be offended, they would find a way. If someone really wanted to start a war, they would find a way to do that too. And if you had to walk on egg shells around others the whole time then eventually something was going to go 'crunch'. No, the way forward was to establish a robust and tolerant relationship, where you didn’t get upset with someone over using their fingers to eat their dinner, just because your people didn’t. Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations as the Vulcans liked to say. Splendid people, if they’d only develop a sense of humour.

Sighing, Ramsey took a meditative swig of his coffee and regarded the now modified formulation. Would it have the desired effect? The problem was, there really was only one way to find out. Just as, when you sat down to the negotiating table with no real knowledge of the intentions of one’s alien companions, one simply had to make one’s best effort, one’s best guess and be prepared to stand by one’s convictions; what ultimately came of it was beyond one’s control. So, in the end, was this. Once one accepted that one was a mote in the universe’s eye, everyone had their own agenda and Murphy was a prat, it was much easier to take a relaxed attitude to existence. One focused on the differences that one could make, and didn’t sweat the big stuff. And wore loud ties because one could.

The small stuff now, that was where one could make a difference. Forgetting his precariously balanced coffee, Bakewell uploaded the new formula to his pocket PADD and shuffled back to the replicator. Feeding the formulation in he keyed the appliance's operation and watched as a dish with two pale brown pellets appears in the machine’s output. Would they be the answer that he was seeking? Only time would tell.

Picking up the dish he wandered to one of the back rooms where a faint cooing rose suddenly in volume as the lights went on. Here they were, his pride and joy. Never mind sycophantic diplomats and arrogant Ambassadors, this was where things got serious.

Balls of short fluff, long fluff, spots and stripes milled in cages and sang their brain-melting song. Tribble hybridisers became immune to the effect, or they stopped. Or their brains dribbled out of their ears. Ramsey didn't really hear it any more.

The thing about Tribbles was that, unlike alien species, one had to be very precise when dealing with them. Too much food and they cloned themselves exponentially; too little and they went dormant. But just enough and the right kinds and they would hybridise with each other. The nature of native flora of their homeworld was the subject of great conjecture, as people like Bakewell studied and theorised and strove to find the right formulation to accelerate their hybridisation efforts. Such formulations were often jealously guarded and carefully traded. His was good, but he hoped this might be better. It might just be the key.

There, in a cage near the back, nestled two tribbles that might just hold the answer. The long sought after Angora White, a long-haired pure white tribble. One was long-haired and predominantly white with a few black spots, the other was medium length and pure in it's lack of colour. The difficulty was combining the traits in the right combination. Highly inter-hybridised, these strains weren’t the enthusiastic breeders that their wild-type cousins could be, and this pair wouldn't breed at all. The Angora Pied with the minimum spotting had never bred, and if he could persuade it he might just crack the Angora White for good.

Reaching in, Ramsey dropped one pellet in front of each tribble, watched as each seemed to wake and undulate forward to take its food which disappeared underneath the fur to be consumed. The offering was at least appreciated, as each sang contentedly.

Now was the worst part, of course. Now there was nothing that he could do but wait and see what happened. See whether he might, in a few months time, have something worth taking to the next Combined Tribble Fanciers Association Annual Show.

He supposed he might as well read that treatise from the Cardassian Senate Committee for Federation Relations in the meantime.

Written by

Lieutenant Commander Saveron

Chief Medical Officer

USS Mercury

Edited by Saveron
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