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Nov. & Dec. Winner: Sins of the Mother


Saveron
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((Sulu Auditorium, Starfleet Academy, San Francisco))

It was an impressive space, he had to admit it. Even if it was familiar and familiarity bred contempt, the design of the auditorium was sweeping and majestic, capable of housing hundred in its seats and with the kind of carefully arranged acoustics that rendered the PA system and microphone all but unnecessary. That didn’t mean that Admiral Adrian West was particularly looking forward to having to spend the next hour or so sitting in it.

At least these days he got a front seat, and with a nod to his colleagues he lowered himself into a seat between Admiral John Matthew Everington II and Admiral Tolira sh’Hail. He gave the Andorian tactician a polite gesture of acknowledgement as he parked himself with the kind of noises his father used to make getting in and out of his armchair of an evening, and yawned behind his hand.

“First one to fall asleep buys the first round.” Everington leaned over and murmured.

“Push off Jack, those odds are rigged.” West snorted in amusement. Everington grinned and ran a hand through his snow-white hair.

“I seem to recall you giving one of these debates, many moons ago. With Admiral Saito presiding.” He pointed out.

“Mmm hmm.” West grunted. “And I’m sure she slept through the whole fething thing.”


“Ladies, Gentlemen and other genders not otherwise covered, welcome to the 123rd Annual Graduands Debate, where two of our best performing final-year cadets debate a controversial topic of our times.” Just incase anyone didn’t read the instructions.

Standing on a box at the central podium Admiral Heraan glowered from under his bushy brows at the assembled cadets and officers, pausing for a moment to glare at two old codgers in Rear Admiral’s pips in the front row who were chuckling at something.

“As most of you know I like a good argument,” the Tellarite stated the obvious, “but they foolishly won’t let me participate in these things any more! So instead I give you our top ranking final year cadets. From the Command stream, Cadet First Class William Bourke, and from the Tactical stream, Cadet Vanyeris.”

The two cadets took to the stage to polite applause. Will Bourke was a tall, muscular Terran man with rough good looks, sandy hair and an easy smile which he flashed at his classmates in the audience. Vanyeris was a petite Vulcan female with waist-length black hair that she wore held back with a metal headband, and bright green eyes. She carried herself with the dignity of Vulcan reserve as the two took their seats.

“An argument’s no good without something worthwhile to argue over,” said Heraan, “and the topic of today’s debate is ‘We Should Come In Peace’.” There was a polite murmur of anticipation from the audience. “Cadet Bourke will take the Affirmative.”

Heraan ceded the podium and a first year Cadet moved his standing box so that Will Bourke could take his place at the podium.

“Sirs, ma’ams, fellow cadets and citizens of the Federation.:: Bourke began, flashing his smile and leaning in to the microphone. “The United Federation of Planets is built on the premise of peace. Cooperation between her member species is what makes the Federation not only strong, but a bastion of liberty, sentient rights and equality in the Galaxy. When the first five founded the Federation it was built on these principles, and it is our duty to uphold them and to carry them to other species; potential new member nations.”


“The dream is strong in this one.” Admiral Everington murmured laconically, watching Bourke expound on the virtues of Federation with hope in his voice and stars in his eyes.

“Mmm hmm.” West grunted, watching the proceedings with a somewhat dubious expression. “With any luck that dream won’t be dashed too quickly.”

Everington gave him a dry look. “I’m sure we were like that once.”

“Pfft.” West snorted. “We were never that young.”


“Peace allows cooperation, peace brings growth and prosperity and a better life for all who partake in it. If we uphold the rights of all sentients to live free from fear and hardship, to grow to their full potential, then we must reach out to our brethren with the olive branch, not the sabre. With every new member planet the Federation grows in potential, which is why in every new First Contact situation, we must ensure that we come in peace. To do otherwise is to rob ourselves of our future brothers. Thank you.”

Bourke sat down and Heraan nodded to Cadet Vanyeris who made her way sedately to the podium and paused to scan her audience before beginning.

“Admirals, Ambassadors, Officers, fellow cadets; citizens of the Federation.” She began. “‘We must come in peace’.” She let the words hang there for a moment. “As my honoured fellow cadet has so eloquently expressed, the ideal of peaceful cooperation and prosperity for all is the basis on which the Federation was formed; but it is just that, an ideal. And it is not an ideal which all species share.” Green eyes scanned the crowd. “Whilst it would be preferable to always welcome new species with welcome arms, we would then leave ourselves open in turn. Consider the Borg, consider the Dominion. Not all species will come to us in peace and so we must be cautious. Peace is always to be held in preference, but we must be prepared to defend it from those who do not respect it, lest we leave our own peace open to exploitation. And so I say, we must proceed with caution; we cannot always afford to come in peace.”


As the Vulcan woman spoke Admiral West leaned slightly towards Admiral Everington and spoke out of the corner of his mouth. “I have to admit I wondered how she was going to tackle that one.”

Everington nodded slightly. “Difficult. Vulcans are some of the biggest proponents of peace in the Federation.” He agreed.

“They’re also the Universe’s best Devil’s Advocates.” West observed dryly. His comment was rewarded with a chuckle.

"Yes, we should retain peace as the ideal, for without our ideals and principles the Federation has no basis. But we must be cautious of those who would not treat us as we would treat them. Whilst it would be preferable to come in peace, ultimately we should proceed with caution."

The audience started to murmur as Vanyeris left the podium but died down as Cadet Bourke returned. His smile this time was less bright and somewhat more condescending. “The Borg, the Dominion.” He paused. “My fellow cadet resorts to scare-mongering. Yes there are aggressive species out there, governments who might seek to do us harm, but we cannot colour the multitude of new alien civilisations with the one applicator. The Federation is comprised of one hundred and fifty member governments, across thousands of stars, all living in harmony. How different would the map look today, if we had not approached those new peoples in peace?” He shot a look at Vanyeris.


“Don’t get personal.” Admiral West muttered under his breath.

“Surely not.” Everington commented. “This is supposed to be entertaining.”

“These two don’t get along very well.” West said.

“Why? They’re not even in the same stream.”

“History.” And even when Everington gave him a pointed look,West declined to elaborate.


“One hundred and fifty member governments, ladies and gentlemen.Yes other species have approached us aggressively, and at times we have had to defend ourselves. But I invite my fellow Cadet to provide us with an example of when, in the history of the Federation, it has proven a mistake for us to approach others in peace.”

With a confident glance at the Vulcan woman now rising from her seat, Bourke resumed his own. Vanyeris took the podium, her stereotypically neutral expression betrayed nothing. She didn’t look in Bourke’s direction but rather at the audience in front of her, and spoke a single word with perfect diction.

“Khitomer.”


A murmur rose again from the audience.

“What is she getting at?” Everington hissed.

“Shh!” West snapped.


“The Khitomer Accords.” She said again. “An example where the offering of peace was a mistake.” She might have been reading a computing manual for all the inflection in her voice, but her careful diction carried. “The Klingons and the Federation had been at war for generations until the Klingon moon of Praxis exploded, crippling the Klingon energy supply and endangering life on Qo’no’S. For the Federation it was a reprieve, but that was all. As Cadet Bourke so strongly advocates, when the Klingons solicited an olive branch, we extended it. We acted on the assumption that, at the end, their values were our values and they would honour the peace as we would. History has shown us our forefathers’ mistake. Even now the Klingons worry our borders. That is our reward for the fact that we came in peace.”


As Vanyeris sat down the murmur in the audience grew until Admiral Heraan had to call for silence from a side microphone.

“Thank you everyone! Controversial topics are chosen for a reason, it makes for a livelier debate! And it is just a debate. Cadet Bourke your closing comments please.”


“You're sure she’s not a Romulan?” The comment earned Admiral Everington a dubious look from Admiral West. “I mean that’s not exactly a party line, and shouldn’t she be called ‘T’Pren’ or something?”

“She’s following orders.” West shrugged. “And she’s some ethnic minority from Han-Shir, there’s a few of them in the Fleet.” Though by all accounts they weren’t always easy to work with. “Still…”

“What?”

There was a long silence from West, but Everington kept looking at him. Eventually he spoke. “Does the name Bourke mean anything to you?”

“It’s pretty common Westy.” Everington protested.

“How about Yeoman Bourke? From the Enterprise-A? Bells starting to ring?” He growled.

“You mean he’s...?”

“Grandson.” West confirmed.

“But surely she’s not...”

West just nodded. He was watching with a sour expression as Heraan shout down the noisiest in the audience so that Bourke could reply. Everington forced a more jovial tone into his voice. “Still, you can’t punish the son for the sins of the father.”

“It’s not the father I’m worried about.”


Cadet Bourke took the podium for the final time, and his charismatic smile was nowhere to be seen. He seemed to take a moment to collect himself before finally offering a smile that West thought looked about as geniune as his great-grandmother’s teeth.

“I hadn’t known that Vulcans had learned how to joke.” He began. “I asked for a mistake and my fellow cadet gives me our crowning glory. When else has so unlikely a peace been achieved against such great odds, and to such great mutual advantage? The Federation border secured by an alliance with an old enemy, an end to attacks on Starfleet ships, stations and colonies? Because of the Khitomer Accords we have been able to focus our attention on progress and growth rather than an arms race. The Klingons fought at our side against the Dominion. We have hosted officer exchanges and gained new insight into each other’s cultures, which can only bolster understanding. How can any of this have been a mistake? I tell you that Khitomer was a success. We must come in peace, because that is the only way forward. Our forefathers were willing to forget the past and deal with the Klingons as they wanted them to deal with us; and because of their foresight and open-mindedness, we have enjoyed a lifetime of peace.”

Bourke sat down with a sense of finality and to a smattering of applause which died away as Vanyeris rose to her feet. She returned to the podium with the same dignity with which she’d approached the whole proceedings.

“A life-time of peace.” She echoed in the same calm tones. “A Terran lifetime, perhaps. An Andorian lifetime, or a Tellarite one. But not a Vulcan one. Not a Romulan one. Certainly not an El-Aurian one. It is all too easy to view the future in short terms, to forget our children's children and drown out those who urge caution and a long-term view, to our detriment. For, as Terran’s say, the leopard does not change it’s spots.” Those green eyes scanned the audience again. They were listening, though few seemed to be finding the experience entertaining.

“Peace with the Klingons gave both sides time to focus on other things.” She acknowledged Bourke’s point. “The Federation focused on growth, on development, on research, on exploration. The Klingons focused on rebuilding their world and then, their military fleet. And with their military capabilities rebuilt, they were in the perfect position to take advantage of the misfortune of others.” There was an edge to her voice.

“Where the Klingons in their plight were offered the olive branch, following the Hobus Supernova they have offered the Romulans only the predator’s teeth. The Federation's own borders have not been spared; every opportunity they have to bite the very hand that fed them they take. Yes, the Khitomer Accords have been proven a mistake; the Klingons are not to be trusted."

The words echoed through the silence, and through the years.

“That’s not true!”

The perfect accoustics of the Sulu Auditorium carried Cadet Bourke’s voice without the need for any amplification. The murmuring audience was stunned into silence as, it seemed, was Cadet Vanyeris.

“You cannot believe that!” Bourke insisted, advancing on the podium. His face was red. “It’s people like you who would sabotage the peace that we live in. People like you who undermine all that we strive for, and damage countless lives in the process. Do you even hear what you’re saying, or did you learn to parrot it all on your mother’s knee?”

The mutter of the crowd was rising as Bourke broke protocol. Vanyeris raised one cool eyebrow at him.

“Did she even think, when she acted? Did she even care how many deaths would be on her hands? How close she came to sabotaging the peace process?” Bourke demanded. “Did she spare one single thought for the boy left orphaned when she shot his father? I never knew my grandfather!” Suddenly he seemed to realise where he was, pointing an accusatory finger in the Vulcan woman’s face with everyone in the audience as witness. Rather than back down he turned and raised his hands to appeal to those there. “Did the traiterous Valeris even comprehend how everything she did went against everything we stood for, how she could have destroyed the soul of the Federation?”


The audience stared in stunned silence, all except Admiral West who got to his feet and, sighting on the tech up in the gallery, made furious throat-cutting motions. Shut it all down, now! On the stage Bourke seemed to realise that everyone was just staring at him, and his hands started to lower.

The PA system went dead, but the Auditorium didn’t need it, the acoustics were too good. Unperturbed, vanyeris clasped her hands behind her back and addressed Bourke directly, her flawless diction carrying over the stunned crowd. “Following the Hobus Supernova The Klingons invade Romulan space in the Romulan’s moment of need.” She said, every word distinct. She started to walk a slow circle around Bourke. “They prey upon them like animals. ‘No hand that does not hold a blade’.” She took another step. “They invade our allies and possible future Federation members on Duronis II.” Another step. “They attack the USS Drake at Gateway Station, and attempted to mine the USS Avandar.” Another step. “Finally, they occupy Thracian space, requiring the intervention of Starfleet to prevent the subjugation of millions of sentient beings.” She stopped walking.

“Are these the actions of a people who seek peace?” She asked Bourke, whose face had gone from red to white. It was a rhetorical question. A moment later and she spun on one heel to face the stunned audience.

“My mother knew exactly what she was doing, she simply had more foresight than most. 'Klingons cannot be trusted'. In light of these most recent events, I ask you to ask yourselves an honest question.”

“Was she wrong?”

-------------------------------------------------------------------------

Lieutenant Commander Saveron

Chief Medical Officer

USS Mercury

Edited by Saveron
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