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Office Politics

Posted on Apr 11, 2018 @ 3:09pm by Captain Michael Turlogh Kane

Mission: The Trouble With Triticale


(Continued from "Exploring The Frontier")


Captain's log, supplemental - our arrival on Sherman's Planet has proceeded without a hitch. Although the lifestyle of these frontier people is not exactly what we're used to, I'm confident that this out-reaching to a distant colony world will be most beneficial in securing the Federation's borders...


Location: Port Emily, Sherman's Planet
Stardate: [2.18]0411.1110
Scene: Governor's Mansion Interior

Michael Turlogh Kane followed Dick Chisum into the Governor's Mansion and immediately realised how that was the wrong word to describe the building. A mansion on Earth was very different from a mansion on Sherman's Planet, and Governor Chisum's building was nothing like anything on Earth.

For starters, it was only a fraction of the size. Chisum led Kane into a lobby area, maybe four hundred square feet in area, which was almost entirely constructed of wood. The walls were nicely panelled, the floorboards were sturdy and clean, and the ceiling was painted a pleasing off-white colour, but the construction material used was clear. Large mats and rugs, seemingly hand-weaved, were spread out on the floor. Nearby, a varnished wooden staircase led up to a second floor.

There was a receptionist's desk along the left wall, and there was a woman standing behind it. She had a computer on her desktop, but the thing looked about a century old. The monitor was bulky and cuboid, and Kane's eyes widened slightly when he saw control buttons and slots. No LCARS operation system here. The receptionist herself, a kindly-looking silver-haired older white woman with spectacles and red lipstick that was just a shade too bright, stood smiling at him as Chisum beckoned him forward.

"C'mon now, don't be shy none!" exclaimed the governor. He waved at his receptionist. "That there's Mabel, she keeps all mah paperwork in ordah!"

Kane smiled back at the woman. "Ma'am."

There were two other doors leading off the lobby, but Chisum started climbing up the stairs. "This here buildin' was constructed when the colony got goin' - ooh, like two hunnerd years ago or somethin' - and we ain't done a whole o' much ta expand in the meantime. Bein' governor ain't all that hard, ya see, if Ah say so mahself. Folks 'round these here parts enjoy their freedoms, they don' need a whole lotta governin'."

"That's why I like being in command of a starship," said Kane. He was climbing up the wooden staircase behind Chisum. He could see that, at the top, the landing turned right a short distance before ending in a closed wooden door. "There are orders to follow, but in our own way, we might be more free than someone living on one of the core worlds. I've lost count of the number of worlds I've visited, the different peoples I've met. That's a kind of freedom to me."

"Yup, freedom. Ain't that the best way ta be?" Chisum paused outside the door and inhaled a deep wheeze. He seemed out of breath, and speckles of sweat were visible on his forehead. "Pardon mah lack of fitness, Cap'n Kane. Ol' sawbones down the street says Ah got a congestion in mah friggin' heart valves, or somethin'. Reckon bein' older than Ah used ta be don' help much none neither."

He opened the door to his office and walked in, with Kane following behind. He recognised it immediately - it was the same small room that Chisum and the sheriff had used to contact the ship a few hours ago. The same wall panelling, the same pastoral painting, the same mahogany desk. "Would you like to see Doctor Jos aboard the Phoenix?" asked Kane. "I'm sure there's something he could do for you."

"Ah'll be fine." Chisum slumped into his seat and took a moment to catch his breath. He looked at Kane sidelong. "We must seem quite the sight to y'all, huh? Livin' out heah on the edge o' the Federation, hardly no replicators, jus' livin' by our own graft."

Kane shook his head quickly. "No, Governor. I'll not pretend that this is normal for any Human born on the homeworld, but it's normal for you, and I won't judge anyone who chooses to live on Sherman's Planet. I and my crew are professionals, sent here by Starfleet to deliver your grain. When we're finished, we leave. That's all."

"Well, ain't that grand." Chisum had recovered from his exertions, and he leaned down to one of his desk drawers, producing a bottle of brown-coloured murky liquid and two glasses. "Wet yore whistle with me, Cap'n." He poured out the two glasses and passed one across the desk top. "How much do y'all know about Jim Kirk Day?"

Kane sipped down and sipped the proffered drink. It was heavily alcoholic, not unlike a strong bourbon. Not as smooth as whiskey, but just as strong in the burn. "I'm something of a student of history. I know who James Kirk was. He visited Sherman's Planet over a century-and-a-half ago. Stopped the Klingon Empire, as was, from seizing this world. Kirk is a Starfleet legend."

"An' every year since then we've had us a festival ta celebrate our freedom," smiled Chisum. He was drinking much faster than Kane. "Community gits itself tagether, there's eatin', drinkin', music, games, and merry-makin'. Ah make me a speech an' git some claps. Ain't nobody alive nowadays who was alive back in them days, but some o' their great-gran'childern are. Y'all should listen to 'em. We got us some stories ta tell, ta give thanks that we all ended up part o' the Federation an' not the friggin' Klingon Empire. Good thing too, after what happened ta 'em, huh?"

Kane nodded. "Right." Fifty years ago, the Romulans had finally destroyed the Klingon Empire after centuries of poor relations, scattering the surviving Klingon people across the quadrant. The Klingons had endured decades in the wilderness of stars before returning to Qo'noS. The Klingon Empire existed now only as a name. Their power base was sundered - vast swathes of their former space were being colonised by the Orions and more. Rumour had it that even the Federation was looking to get in on the act, turning long-range observation posts and sensors on systems now uninhabited to check for potential new colony worlds. Soon, Sherman's Planet might not be on the frontier anymore, as the vultures gathered to pick over the bones of the old Klingon Empire.

"Y'all'll be our guests o' honour at this year's Jim Kirk Day," grinned Chisum, "'specially Cap'n Thytos. Her family are kinda local celebrities 'round these parts on account o' her sister with tha singin' voice makin' it big."

"Captain Thytos is also a local celebrity aboard the Phoenix," smiled Kane. It was easy to relax in Chisum's company - the man was enthusiastic and bubbly as the day was long. Kane could see how someone like that might be elected the nominal leader of a planet like this.

"Say, how long did y'all's robot say it'd take ta git all that there grain down here?" asked the governor.

"Mister Byte is a sentient android, not a robot," corrected Kane politely after a moment. "It's true that he was constructed and programmed by Humans, but he is a fully independent and self-aware life-form."

Dick Chisum shrugged. "If Ah built me a farmin' robot and Ah programmed me the farmin' robot to farm mah land, reckon Ah'd own the farmin' robot."

Kane briefly thought about respending, but a conversation on Byte's agency might expose deeper divisions between a conservative frontier world and a more progressive capital society half the quadrant away. Instead, he touched his communicator. "Kane to Byte."

The android replied quickly, but there was a lot of background noise - men calling to one another, machinery clanking, engines running - and its voice was raised. {{Byte here, Captain. I apologise for the noise, but am ready to report.}}

Over the frequency, Kane heard the familiar whine of a transporter engaging. Transport and cargo shuttle flights must already be underway, he thought. "Go ahead, Lieutenant."

{{Am pleased to report that the colony's logistic preparations have been both efficient and comprehensive, sir. I am liaising with Lieutenant Vukovic on the Phoenix to expedite the flights of all six of the ship's cargo shuttles. We are supplementing them with bulk beam-downs of pre-measured quantities of triticale. The grain is then being transferred onto vehicles, and from this location to a number of pre-selected storage silos around Port Emily.}}

Governor Chisum's smile had come back as Byte's praise became apparent. "Ah do declare, Ah am tickled pink!" he grinned.

"How long, Mister Byte?" asked Kane.

{{Under six hours, Captain. I regret that I cannot provide an exact deadline.}}

"Don't worry about it," said Kane, cutting the connection. "There we have it, Governor. James Kirk Day 2433 is a go."

"Hot dang!" Chisum clapped his hands together. "Y'all kin spend the night here in Port Emily, as our guests o' course. Ah'll have all y'all put up'n tha best hotel in town, an' we'll make a great day o' it tomorrah! What'ya say?"

Kane only needed a moment to consider it. "On behalf of my officers, I accept."

"That's it right there, Cap'n!" Chisum poured himself another bourbon and leaned over to top up Kane's glass, but paused suddenly. Both men could hear a commotion taking place down below on the ground floor. Raised voices drifted up through the old floorboards. It sounded like Mabel was arguing with another man, ordering him to stop what he was doing, but she mustn't have been successful, because heavy, booted tramps up the stairs indicated that someone was rapidly approaching the governor's office.

"What in the friggin' hell is a-goin' on down there?" muttered the governor.

The heavy footfalls were right outside, on the landing, and suddenly the door was thrown open. A man was standing in the doorway with a defiant, purposeful look on his face. He was just over six feet tall, with broad shoulders and a stocky build. His skin was coloured a yellowish hue of brown, and his head was shaved and tanned from sun exposure. His eyes were dark, and he wore a clipped beard that began at his ears and grew downward to the base of his throat. He was wearing farmer's clothes - sturdy boots and pants, a light shirt - but there was a badge on his left breast, much like Sheriff Edwards' five-pointed star. This symbol was of a flaming brand - a torch that blazed with a nimbus of fire.

Chisum and Kane got to their feet as the man entered the room. They seemed to know one another well, and the newcomer's eyes flickered between them.

Chisum help up a hand. "Now listen here, sonny, y'all can't just come bargin' in here like that - "

When the man spoke, it was with a deep, rich voice. He turned his eyes on Kane and addressed him. "You are the captain of the orbiting ship? You are the one who brings the triticale grain for the festival?"

Kane looked the man in the eye. He squared up to him. "I am Captain MIchael Turlogh Kane of the starship Phoenix."

The man stared at Kane evenly. "I am Sompek, of the House of K'mpec."

Kane was confused for a moment, then realised that he was talking to a Klingon. He remembered that there was a sizeable minority of Klingons living on Sherman's Planet, descendants of the abandoned occupation force that came here during the the short-lived conflict between the Federation and Klingon Empuire that was ended by the Organian Peace Treaty. The small Klingon invasion force on Sherman's Planet had been too far inside Federation space to be easily rescued when the Organians had become involved in the conflict, and had become Federation citizens in the aftermath of the treaty. In itself, that was not unusual, but the Klingons who had been on the front line of that conflict one-hundred-and-sixty-six years ago had all been Klingons infected with the Augment virus, a disfiguring ailment that had swept through the Klingon Empire in the mid-twenty-second century. Those Klingons bore superficial similarity to Humans, including the dissolving of their distinctive cranial ridges and sharper teeth. Now, Kane was standing before a descendant of one of those Klingons, whose genes still carried the Augment virus and made him resemble a male Human.

"One of our, uh, Klingon citizens," said Chisum awkwardly. "This here's Sompek. He's like the voice o' his people around here, on account o' him belongin' to a noble Klingon house or somesuch. There's always a bit of, uh, tension with 'em around this time o' year."

Sompek glared at Chisum, and Kane could see the anger in his eyes. Kane had had only limited contact with Klingons over the course of his Starfleet career, but he had fought one in a duel once (and lost), and remembered that they were quick to anger if they felt slighted.

Sompek jabbed a finger at Kane. "Every year we protest that this festival is allowed to take place! This year we learn that it is given official sanction by the Federation, when they send a million tonnes of grain!"

"What do you mean?" said Kane.

Chisum came around the table. Those little beads of sweat had appeared on his forehead again. "Well, Cap'n, what I think Sompek means is that - "

Kane held up a hand while eyeballing Sompek. "Please, Governor. I've never met a Klingon that could not speak for himself."

Sompek looked at Kane carefully, then nodded. "We Klingons consider the James Kirk festival to be triumphalist and racist. It rubs in the memory of the Klingon defeat here and celebrates the Human victory. It glorifies military victory over Klingons, and it encourages the Humans on this world to view us as outsiders and aliens."

"Now jus' a goldarn minute!" Chisum stepped forward. "Y'all Klingons live alongside us in peace, ever have done since that friggin' war! Y'all have equal rights under the law as we do!"

"But not equal respect!" snapped Sompek. "Tomorrow, thousands of Human children will be told stories of how lucky they are not to be living in the Klingon Empire! They will hear tales of the days when Klingon warriors walked the streets of Port Emily and oppressed the rightful owners of Sherman's Planet! The idea will grow in a new generation that we Klingons are not as worthy as Humans to live here - that is why we protest! That is why we do not participate! That is why I ask you, Captain Kane, why the Federation endorses this racism!"

Kane thought as quickly as he could, but he was not as fast as these old arguments.

"Y'all have no reason ta feel like that! Y'all kept up yore own culture an' rituals, an' still practice 'em, right? Ain't nobody takin' them away frum ya!" said Chisum forcefully. "Jim Kirk Day is our shared history, all'a ours, includin' yores! By not joinin' us, y'all make yourselves different! Ya know, sometimes it feels like y'all are jus' looking ta git offended, trynna find insults where there's none intended!"

Sompek bristled, and his eyes flitted between Kane and Chisum. "The James Kirk festival needs to be done away with. We are in the minority on this world, and look to Starfleet to protect our rights as citizens of the Federation. What do you say to my request to intervene and ban the festival?"

Silence fell as both Chisum and Sompek stared hard at Kane. For his own part, Kane was torn - he could see the merits in both arguments, but there was no way he could make such a far-reaching decision on the spur of one moment. Besides, wasn't it conceivable that Starfleet had already taken the feelings of the Klingons into account when they authorised the Phoenix's mission to Sherman's Planet?

"I'm sorry, Sompek," he said, shaking his head. "I have no authority to make that kind of decision. My orders were only to deliver the triticale."

"An' don' forgit, Sompek," said Chisum, "y'all Klingons're gonna be gittin' a handout from the same grain what they brought, same as the rest've us. Y'all might choose to thank Starfleet instead o' complainin' ta 'em."

Sompek looked from Chisum to Kane, and his lips curled in disgust. "I can see I am wasting my time. I will be sure to tell every one of my people about this conversation."

He turned on his heel and strode out of the office, his heavy footfalls thumping back down the stairs.

Kane turned to face Chisum, who took a handkerchief from his pocket and mopped his brow. The governor looked sheepish, but shrugged. "What kin ya do with someone like that? Always stirrin' up trouble 'round this time o' year." He walked back to his desk. "Y'all want another drink?"

Kane shook his head. The edge had come off his visit to Sherman's Planet, and there was much to think about.


NRPG: Don't forget about the Klingons living on Sherman's Planet too. They look like the TOS Klingons - superficially indistinguishable from Humans - and practice their own culture. Do you think Sompek has a point, or not?

Jerome McKee
the Soul of Captain Michael Turlogh Kane
Commanding Officer

"He speaks an infinite deal of nothing!"
- Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice", Act 1, Scene 1.117



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