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Old June 2 2012, 02:36 AM   #28
Rush Limborg
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Re: Star Trek: Our Sacred Honor--A Tale Of Captain Ezri Dax

Thank you both!

And now...the next witness....


Star Trek: Aventine
Our Sacred Honor
Chapter 7



“State your name, rank, and position for the record.”

“Samaritan Bowers, Commander, first officer, U.S.S. Aventine.”

“Place your left hand on the panel, please.”

As the computer rattled off everything, Sam Bowers looked about him, at the President, and the different members of the Council. His focus rested on Gleer…and he mentally prepared himself for a face-off. He considered himself a very disciplined individual indeed—possessed of an inner order worthy of a Cardassian, if he said so himself—and he’d made it a point to inject some of it into the Aventine’s crew, much to the constant chagrin of Ezri Dax.

He could face Breen, or Romulans, or Klingons, or even Borg—without batting an eye. But politicians…they were a class by themselves. They were worse than the most hard-nosed admiral. Especially if they made no pretense at manners, knowing that they had nothing to lose from behaving like a spoiled four-year-old.

“Commander,” said the bailiff, “Raise your right hand.”

Snapping back to the present, Bowers did so.

“Commander Bowers: as you sit before this hearing, do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you, what higher power you might answer to?”

“I do.”

“Thank you, Commander….”

“Commander Bowers,” said T’Latrek, “As the executive officer under Captain Dax, it is your duty and obligation to constantly hold her actions and decisions accountable, and to point out any viable alternative—effectively, to be, as your race puts it, a ‘devil’s advocate’?”

Bowers couldn’t help but smirk at that. “That is correct, Councilwoman.”

“In your professional opinion…how effective have you been in carrying out those duties?”

“Oh…I’d say I’ve done pretty good.”

T’Latrek raised an eyebrow. “Could you specify?”

Bowers nodded with a smirk. “Yes, Councilwoman.” He leaned forward a bit. “Captain Dax and I are very different, as far as command styles are concerned. I like to consider myself as the quintessential ‘by-the-book’ commander. Every procedure, every ritual, every drill under my watch is performed to the letter as regulations demand. I believe that discipline is everything, as far as efficiency is concerned. I recommend you ask our crew for confirmation.”

A brief chuckle was heard across the room. Bowers saw Ezri roll her eyes with a smile, while Dr. Tarses just shook his head in amusement.

“And…the Captain?” asked T’Latrek.

“She prefers an atmosphere of familiarity, and camaraderie. Though she is very businesslike on duty, she makes it a point to interact with the crew as much as possible, taking part in recreational events, and so on. At one point, she actually chewed me out because my love of discipline resulted in everyone in the rec hall snapping to attention when she entered the room.”

T’Latrek’s eyebrow shot up again. “Indeed?”

“Yes—I admit I can get a little…overzealous at times.”

Ezri and Simon shared another chuckle at this.

“But in summary,” Bowers continued, “I’d say we’re a good balance for each other. We…hold each other in check, as it were, so efficiency and trust are both kept at a maximum, simultaneously.”

“I see,” said T’Latrek. “Now…in regards to her command decisions, I trust you apply a similarly high standard of adherence to regulation.”

“Absolutely.”

“Thus, you regularly remind your captain of which regulations and laws her actions may possibly tread upon?”

“Of course.”

“Including the Starfleet and Interstellar Rules of Engagement?”

“Absolutely.”

“Now…in your opinion, how do you feel Captain Dax regards these Rules?”

“The captain has a great regard for life, Councilwoman. She makes it a point to avoid conflict whenever possible, and in such situations when she is forced into conflict, to resolve it as quickly and totally as possible.”

“That may be so, Commander…but that was not what I asked.”

Bowers leaned back, and replied, “Captain Dax knows and understands the spirit of the Rules of Engagement, Councilwoman. She takes it as seriously as you and I do.”

“And what of the letter of the Rules?”

“She follows them as well as any other starship captain—as well as, say, Picard, or Riker.”

“But she does not follow them in every instance?”

“Councilwoman…in my expert opinion, no one can follow the exact lettering of the Rules of Engagement in every single instance.”

“Oh?”

“Rules written so specifically can rarely, if ever, anticipate every single situation. That’s why the Articles of Federation and the Starfleet Charter are written in such general terms, based on principle, rather than specifics.”

“But you claimed earlier that you consider yourself ‘the quintessential by-the-book commander’.”

“That’s correct.”

“How do you reconcile that belief with the statement you have just made?”

“Councilwoman…just because I understand that there are situations which the rules don’t anticipate, it doesn’t mean that I don’t make every possible effort to make sure that the rules are being applied whenever—for lack of a better word—‘humanly’ possible.”

If T’Latrek were amused, she gave no indication of it. “I see. Returning to the previous subject…during the incident in question, did, in your opinion, the letter of the Rules of Engagement apply?”

“To an extent.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean that the incident provided us with contradictory scenarios, as far as the Rules were concerned. On the one hand, the vessel in question did not arm weapons—and the Interstellar Law, recognized by both the Confederacy and the Federation, forbids attacks upon vessels which have not taken such a hostile stand.”

“And on the other hand?”

“From the Starfleet General Order 12 Rules of Engagement: On the approach of any vessel where communications have not been established—Starfleet safety-of-personnel requirements indicate that said vessel—”

At this Gleer broke in, “This is all very fascinating, but we are not looking for a recital of regulations—”

Bowers raised his voice over the Tellarite’s, “—said vessel should be treated as potentially hostile until proven otherwise…and in consequence a standard defensive posture should be adopted.”

Standing at the podium, President Bacco sighed, and remarked in a tired voice, “Councilman Gleer has not been recognized by the chair as of now, and therefore has not been given permission to interject or to question the witness.”

Gleer responded with a huff, but nothing more.

Bowers felt his smirk widening. Despite his sense of discipline, he couldn’t help himself as he asked T’Latrek, “I wonder, Councilwoman…why your colleague was so afraid of what I was about to say?”

The Vulcan councilwoman turned to Gleer, who was shooting a dagger-like gaze at Bowers. A chuckle was heard—from among the Council. It was clear that, despite Gleer’s alleged influence…there were quite a few members who enjoyed the idea of his embarrassment.

President Bacco sighed, “Commander Bowers—I would appreciate your keeping yourself in line.”

“Yes, Madam President—my apologies.”

T’Latrek turned back to him, and said, “Returning to my questions, Commander…as far as your analysis as a first officer is concerned…did Captain Dax, in your professional opinion, adhere properly to the Rules of Engagement?”

“Yes. Her actions were perfectly in line with Starfleet protocol.”

“And Interstellar Law?”

“Her duty, first and foremost, was to defend innocent lives—lives under her protection.”

“With respect, Commander—that was not my question.”

“She adhered to Interstellar Law as far as she believed she could. If she were to go out of her way to follow it any longer…she feared she would be risking a massacre—and be guilty of neglect in her duties.”

“Thank you, Commander—but I believe we may allow the captain to speak for herself, in time. In your professional opinion, did Captain Dax preserve and adhere to the Rules of Engagement—Starfleet and Interstellar—to the best of her ability, or did she not?”

Bowers sighed, paused for a moment, and replied with a firm, certain tone, “Yes—to the best of her ability.”

“And were you in her position…would you have done the same?”

“The details of my actions might have differed a bit…but yes. I would have done the same.”

“Thank you, Commander—that is all from this councilwoman.”

No sooner had she said this, than the light from the console at Gleer’s seat flashed on, indicating his desire to be recognized to speak.

Bowers noticed the president tighten her lip in apparent annoyance, but she said, “The chair recognizes Councilman Gleer of Tellar.”

Bowers straightened up. Well—better to get this over with sooner rather than later….

“Commander Bowers,” Gleer began, “You mentioned that, as first officer, it is your duty to point out alternative courses of action for your captain to take.”

“That’s correct.”

“What alternatives did you offer Captain Dax at the time in question?”

“For one…establishing a tractor beam, to lock on to the ship, prevent it from nearing the colony, and possibly board it.”

“And why didn’t she decide on that course of action?”

“The shields on the vessel were up. We couldn’t get a lock quickly enough.”

“What do you mean, ‘quickly enough’?”

“Well, it is possible to re-calibrate the tractor-beam emitter to lock on despite shields…but our tactical officer indicated that it would be impossible to do so in time to protect the colony.”

“I see…but I assume your firing on the vessel depleted the shields of power?”

“It did—but by that time, it was too late—locking on a tractor beam would not have prevented the ship from attacking the colony. It was now-or-never. We had to destroy them.”

“You assume.”

“Excuse me, Councilman?”

“You couldn’t have simply…disabled their weapons?”

“As they did not slow down upon entering their system—it was concluded that they were engaging in a kamikaze attack.”

Gleer stared at him. “A…kamikaze attack.”

“Yes, Councilman.”

“Forgive me. That sounds very…difficult to believe.”

“I’m sure it is. But the ship was overpowered—enough that a crash into the colony would have killed all the inhabitants. I assume you’ve viewed the ship’s records from the Aventine?”

I am the one asking the questions, Commander.”

“I know—I’m just trying to see how much you know, so we can build from that.”

To his considerable credit, Gleer kept his composure. “Of course I have, Commander—as have ever member of this body.”

“Well, then—”

“The Confederacy has claimed that it was a cargo vessel, carrying supplies to the Tholians, which had wandered off course due to an accident—and that the crew panicked upon seeing the Aventine, and tried to flee. The recordings don’t necessarily dispute that claim.”

Excuse me? You’re either blind, or just trying to pull a fast one. “With all due respect, Councilman…the Confederacy’s report is factually incorrect. The vessel gave no indication that it was civilian.”

“Frankly, Commander, I wonder how you define ‘indications’, as far as that is concerned. You admit the weapons were not armed—and the ship therefore was not hostile to the Aventine.”

“Correct, however—”

“So you conjure up this story of a ‘kamikaze attack’, to justify that in the heat of the moment, your captain violated the Interstellar Rules of Engagement, twisting Starfleet General Order 12 to suit her purpose, and attacking a civilian vessel without provocation—”

“Now wait just a moment—”

“Commander Bowers…I am sure you of all people, proud as you are of being ‘by-the-book’, understand that those Rules exist precisely to prevent such things from happening!”

“With all due respect, Councilman…the idea of a civilian ship—which was already heading on course to the colony, when we encountered them—”

“So you assume.”

“—the idea that they were somehow pulled off course, and ran off panicking in a direction which just happened to head directly to said colony—not changing their heading, but following their original course—to be honest, that sounds a lot harder to believe than a kamikaze attack.”

“So basically, what you’re implying, Commander—is that your personal judgment, and the judgment of your captain, supersedes the rules, and that the two of you…are above the law!”

“No, Councilman—that is not what I am implying.”

“Well, then…?”

“I am saying that all actions point to that ship having hostile intent, whether it charged weapons or not.”

“Oh! Well then—why don’t we simply throw out the rulebook, and put you in charge of writing a new one! To be perfectly honest, Commander, this—”

“Councilman Gleer,” President Bacco interrupted, “Will you kindly refrain from injecting your rhetoric into this hearing? You have been recognized in order to ask questions of fact to the witness, not to badger him with accusations.”

“With respect, Madam President,” said Gleer in a tone that to Bowers conveyed little, if any, respect, “This is a matter of what we are allowing Starfleet commanding officers to engage in, and exactly how the sort of thinking embodied in this man, and his captain, could well become cause for a diplomatic incident even more serious than this!”

Nonetheless…” said the president, “The time for ‘interpretations’ will come later. If you have nothing further to ask the witness, I suggest you allow your colleagues to speak in your stead.”

Gleer paused, as if weighing his options. Finally, he seemed to calm himself down, as he asked, “Commander Bowers…exactly what caused you to assume that the vessel had hostile intent—regardless of the fact that its weapons were powered down?”

Bowers fought to keep his triumphant grin internal. The politician already knew the answer—he just had to ask something to save face.

“Again,” he said, “General Order 12: On the approach of any vessel where communications have not been established…said vessel should be treated as potentially hostile until proven otherwise, and in consequence a standard defensive posture should be adopted.”

Gleer nodded. “And in your expert, professional opinion—there was no proof otherwise?”

“None whatsoever. Their com systems were functioning—they could have contacted us at any time.”

“And again—the Breen claim that the crew had panicked, causing them to not answer any hails—”

“Councilman…I don’t believe for a moment that that was the case. And to be perfectly honest…I’d be very surprised if anyone here, who has consulted the records, believes that, either.”

Gleer looked as if he was about to give a retort…but managed to compose himself, and said, “That’s all, Commander.”

Somehow…Bowers didn’t feel so triumphant anymore. He stared over at his captain. I don’t like this.

Ezri stiffened. It looked as if she didn’t like it, either—probably for the same reasons.

Somehow…Bowers got the feeling that, the president’s warning notwithstanding…Gleer was saving the bulk of his venom for one person—and that, of course, was the captain herself.


* * *
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