Location: Boston, the Gateway to the Galaxy
Re: "Bread" (Feb/Mar 2013 Independence challenge)
“For our allies,” President Archer stated, “I suppose it’s a little strange to be showing you some of our many faiths. But we decided on this for a reason.”
Ambassador Soval rose. “Unlike in many other cultures, humans do not have just one belief system. Rather, there are several, some of which are represented here this evening. Wars have been fought over these religions. Yet they survive.” He sat back down.
Representative Gral got up. “These faiths – many of which are conflicting – have made peace. Let us hear from them.”
“In my faith,” stated a representative Catholic priest, “we were originally persecuted for our beliefs. When the religion was very young, it was nearly wiped out, as Christians were thrown to lions.”
The Caitian representative asked, “Lions?”
President Archer smiled a little. “They’re felines, Representative Gopalahr.” A nod to his aide and the young Vulcan man showed a PADD to Gopalahr.
“A few centuries after we were persecuted, we turned around and did it to others,” the Catholic priest confessed. “During a time period referred to as the Inquisition, heretics, both real and imagined, were often burned to death. Jews and Muslims were slaughtered for our view of piety.” He sat down.
The Imam got up and picked up the thread of the narrative. “My faith,” began Mahmout, “it was also both the persecuted and the persecutor. It depended, often, upon location and the date in history. We conquered much of a continent called Europe. In part, the Inquisition was in response to that. And there were innocents, too, who were killed during the Christian Crusades. Those were brutal times.” He sat down, shaking his head a little.
Other representatives of the Earth’s religions stood and offered what was essentially testimony of how they had treated other faiths, or they had been treated. Finally, it was Leah’s turn to speak. “The Jewish people have often been a paradox. We refer to ourselves as the Chosen People, yet that seems to have created so much resentment over the millennia that we often wonder whether this being chosen business is at all positive. And we have been conquerors, and slaveholders, and annexers of territory. We have neither a monopoly on suffering, nor on causing it. Our hands are far from clean.” She, too, sat down.
President Archer again spoke. “I know that this may seem strange, but we are showing you our many faiths, warts and all, as a way of demonstrating to you that we understand differences. And we understand ideologies and even a bit of fanaticism. As we have gone into the greater community of space, we have learned that that fanaticism, and those kinds of ideologies, and certainly there are differences, and all of these things are out here. They are all magnified when we have misunderstandings. It is painfully easy to lose our way.”
He paused and cleared his throat a bit. “But these faiths also do an enormous amount of good. They were the first of our philosophies, and often were the very beginnings of our sciences. They were our first charities, and our first governments at times. Even during the harshest of times, such as during our Third World War, they were often our only social safety net. They offer comfort to the bereaved and can provide a basic moral path for the unsure. And they have even adapted over time, and have learned to embrace not only each other, but even the skeptical agnostic and the fervently nonbelieving atheist.”
He paused again briefly. “We offer then as a snapshot of our evolution as a civilization and as a symbol of our adaptability as a people.” He looked around the room, as there were not only the member states’ representatives, but there were even people there who represented other species that had not yet joined their new alliance. “We also offer them up as a means of communicating to you that we are open to working with people at all stages of development. We want you to know that space is not a monolith. It is not all about humans, or Vulcans, or Andorians, or Tellarites. The Federation is not in the business of making the galaxy just like the Alpha Quadrant. Daranaeans aren’t going to be chastised for not being Caitians. Enolians are not going to be persecuted for failing to be Xyrillians. And the Xindi will not face destruction because they just aren’t Denobulans. We have set aside our internal differences, but we also celebrate them. We have not forgotten them. And we feel, truly, that they should be celebrated rather than swept aside.”
His eyes scanned the room, taking in a Calafan representative, a Takret, a Tandaran, a Vissian and more. “Our differences are our strengths. Together, I am certain; we will be greater than the sum of our parts. On behalf of all of us – on Earth, on Denobula, on Tellar, on the Xyrillian home world, on Vulcan, on the Caitian home world and here on Andoria, we offer a myriad of opinions and cultures. All are important, and all are to be maintained. We are strong together, as we celebrate infinite diversity in infinite combinations. And I thank you.”
The shuttle bay was quiet. The two of them worked together, with Leah on her back, working on the underside of one of the shuttles. “Hand me that spanner,” Leah commanded as Josh stood nearby and pretended to take notes on his PADD.
“Uh, sure. Listen,” he began, “I wanna thank you for including me. Izo is, well, let’s just say of the four of them, I put him at number three for my choices to become the next Emperor.”
“I take it Arashi is number four,” she murmured as she worked.
“You got it. I bet he’d set up listening stations and hidden cameras. About the only reason we don’t have those now is the Empress doesn’t like a record of when she makes her conquests.”
“Right. You got a preference between Kira and Jun?”
“Not particularly,” he admitted. “Kira is at least a little bit influenced by MacKenzie, but he’s a bit of a wimp. If the Empress gets her hooks into the Romulan Star Empire, I doubt he’d be able to hold it.”
“Perhaps. Hand me the magnetic wrench.”
“No, to the left. Your other left.”
“Oh, uh, yeah. As for Jun, he’s kind of a wild card. I think he’d –”
The door swished open and he immediately stopped talking.
There were two people coming in – the day shift pilot, Shelby Pike, and the Chief Engineer, Frank Ramirez. They didn’t see Josh and Leah, and looked around furtively, and then kissed.
From their hidden vantage point, Leah and Josh exchanged a look.
“I wish we could meet more openly,” Shelby breathed.
“C’mon,” Frank encouraged, “the shuttles are clear. We can do it in one of ‘em.”
“They aren’t clear,” Josh announced, showing himself and drawing his phaser.
“Oh!” Shelby exclaimed. “We didn’t know.”
Leah got up and came over. “Listen, you’re not exactly being careful about this.”
“Don’t tell her,” Frank requested. Nobody had to be told who that was.
“You owe us,” Josh declared, resheathing his phaser.
“What is it that you want?” Shelby inquired, stepping a little closer to Frank and putting a hand on his arm. Frank was taller than Josh, but Josh was armed.
Leah thought quickly. “I, I wanna get out of here. We’ll stay quiet, but I’ve gotta get off this boat. I don’t wanna be eighty and have Izo Sato leering at me. I hardly know why he’s bothering.”
“I think he’s looking for someone who’s easy. He seems to need a success,” Shelby mused. Leah shot her a look, so she added, “Hey, I’m not the one who’s really thinking this.”
“And you?” Frank asked Josh. “You looking to head out, too?”
“I dunno. But I’m not getting any younger, either. At some point, I will probably get dumped on some rock. I’d rather at least get my choice of rock. Maybe this can be a test run for that.”
Shelby and Frank moved over to the side. He quietly said to her, “This might be a way for us to figure out our own endgame. I’m not interested in dying here.”
“I feel the same,” she replied. “But I say we only do it if we can learn something, and turn it to our advantage. If we get in trouble, I’m not taking the fall for either of ‘em.”
“Agreed,” He murmured, “I’ll take a risk, sure, but I’m not sticking my neck out for them.”
“A practice run, huh? Well it might not just be a practice run for you. Huh. None of that’ll be easy,” Shelby said more loudly as she and Frank returned to where the others were. She paused for a moment, and then added, “But it’s not impossible.”
“A shuttle could, I dunno, crash. It could be cover for all sorts of things. There are all kinds of ways for things to … fail,” Frank thought out loud.
“Where are we going next?” Josh asked.
“Orders came down today,” Shelby reported, “We’re going to Andoria for a hunt before heading to the Romulan Star Empire.”
“We can work with this,” Leah decided. “Let’s get there – I’d estimate two days?”
“One and a half if we go full-tilt,” Shelby stated. “And we all know she’d rather go full-tilt.”
“Okay,” Josh said, “we got less than two days to plan this.”
“Why are you two working together, anyway?” Shelby inquired.
“We’re members of the same tribe,” explained Josh. “There aren’t a lot of us left. My, heh, my mother sent me a last message last week, before she died. She said I should look out for anybody in the tribe.”
“That explains it, then,” Leah murmured to herself. Josh had never taken an interest in her well-being before.
“The Empress’ll put it all together, you know,” Frank cautioned. “Well, don’t look at me. Even if Shelby and I stay quiet, someone else is bound to figure all that out.”
“Then we’ll have to create a diversion, or some sort of a pretext,” Leah mused.
“The hunt,” Josh decided, “that’ll be the cover. Plus it’s cold there. That’s gotta be good for something.”