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The Political Theatre

Posted on May 30, 2019 @ 11:53pm by Captain Michael Turlogh Kane
Edited on on May 31, 2019 @ 3:14am

Mission: Last Days of Empire


(Continued from "Looking Back Through The Years, Part II")


"You have not experienced Shakespeare until you have read him in the original Klingon."
- Chancellor Gorkon, The Undiscovered Country


Location: London, Earth
Stardate: 2.190530.1600
Scene: The New Globe Theatre, London

Michael Turlogh Kane's attention was diverted from the play by the disgusted sigh of the nearby Ferengi. It was not the first time that the diminutive troll had vocalised his displeasure at the action on the stage, but this particular exhalation, half-whistled through jagged and misshapen bodkin teeth, was enough to get Kane's attention and make him divert his gaze from 'The Merchant of Venice' to one seat in front and to the left of him.

His complanion didn't seen to have noticed. Kane's childhood friend - one Ronan Finn, likewise a Thomond ex-patriate - had been the one to invite him along to tonight's performance at the New Globe, mentioning that he had gotten his hands on some prime tickets. That part had been true enough - both Ronan and Kane were sitting in the second row of one of the upper boxes, stage right, looking down on the groundlings and the stage - but Ronan had not mentioned that there would be other people nearby. Specifically, a Ferengi couple, male and female, that were also occupying the box.

The New Globe Theatre was an exact recreation of the original Globe Theatre, demolished some seven hundred years ago. The original Globe had been owned and operated by an acting and writing troupe named The Lord Chamberlain's Men, the most famous of whom was the famous Human playwright William Shakespeare. In this building's predecessor, some of the most profound works of theatrical art in the English language had received their very first public performances, including the play Kane was watching.

'The Merchant of Venice' told the story of a Venetian merchant named Antonio who, due to the actions of forces he could not control, was forced to default on a loan from a moneylender named Shylock, the surety of which was a pound of his own flesh. When Shylock came looking for his pound of flesh, a court hearing was called to determine the legality of the collateral. The climax of the play was an impassioned speech by Antonio's wife, Portia, imploring Shylock to have mercy on Antonio and to forego the terms of the loan.

The place was full, and Kane had made sure he was standing out by wearing his dress uniform jacket - one of the new off-white designs with a thin red band across the chest. There were no other Starfleet personnel in the audience that he good see, but there were several hundred other people here, the majority crowded around the stage, standing and watching as they would have in Shakespeare's own time. The upper boxes were likewise full, and filled by a ticket lottery to ensure equity of distribution.

Orbiting somewhere high above, the Phoenix rested in Spacedock, a skeleton crew manning her critical systems. All the senior officers were scattered to the four winds, awaiting their next assignment. Although Kane was wearing his communicator on his left breast, it not so much as twitched for the past couple of days, and he didn't expect it to today. Spacedock engineers would need some time to run an extensive series of tests on the ship's propulsion systems following Dr. Eden's failed experiment.

On the stage below, the Duke of Venice had just called the court into session. Antonio was there, resplendent in a brightly coloured doublet that did not match his worried expression. Shylock stalked the edge of the stage, voluminous black robe and long white beard lending him a sinister aspect. And entering from the opposite side of the stage came Portia, dressed up as a young man, ready to defend her husband in the guise of an attorney-at-law.

"I am informed thoroughly of the cause," said Portia, addressing the Duke. The actress playing her had lowered the tone of her intonation, trying to diguise her voice as male. "Which is Antonio here, and which Shylock?"

Both actors playing those characters stepped forward, one from each side of the stage, with the Duke's bench and Portia in the centre - a classic scene with traditional direction. Kane glanced back to the Ferengi in front of him - he was picking his teeth with a fingernail. His female companion noticed, and nudged him in the ribs. The Ferengi put his hand down.

"You must be merciful," said Portia to Shylock.

The old moneylender shook his head. "On what compulsion must I? Tell me that!"

The Ferengi grunted, nodding his head. "Quite," he muttered. "Rule of Acquisition number sixteen."

The Ferengi's wife sighed.

Kane glanced at Ronan and nodded towards the Ferengi. Ronan smiled and nodded, indicating that he, too, had observed their box companion's ire. Ronan leaned forward. "August company," he whispered, nodding towards the Ferengi. "Do you know who that is?"

Kane frowned. "No," he whispered back. "Should I?"

On the stage, Portia stepped forward and began to speak. It was the climactic speech of the play - the 'Quality of Mercy' speech, and the actress was standing right in front of the entire audience, projecting her voice around the theatre as she impored Shylock to change his mind and not to take a knife to Antonio's flesh in lieu of the loan payment. "The quality of mercy is not strained. It drops, as the gentle rain from heaven, upon the place beneath it. It becomes the throned monarch better than their crown or sceptre - those things show the force of temporal power, attributing to the awe and majesty wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings, but mercy is above this sceptred sway. It is enthroned in the hearts of kings, it is an attribute to God himself, and earthly power does then show like God's, when mercy does season justice."

Ronan grinned. "That right there is Ambassador Grok and his wife Belari. He's the Ferengi delegate to the Federation Assembly."

Kane raised an eyebrow. Grok was a famous Ferengi politician, one of old Grand Nagus Rom's right-hand men. Although Ferengi society had changed a lot in the past fifty years - women were now liberated, free to earn profit, and could wear clothing - it would still take a couple of generations for true equality, as older generations with sticky opinions passed on. From what Kane understood, Grok was a superb financiel administrator who had risen to one of the top positions in the Ferengi Commerce Authority before being hand-picked by the Grand Nagus to be the Ferengi delegate to the Assembly. Grok was known to be a loud voice for change in that body, arguing that membership of the Federation Council needed to either be expanded or drastically reformed in order to ensure diversification of power across the upper echelons of Federation politics. There were rumours that Ferenginar would win a seat on the Council elections happening on Vulcan at the end of the week - if so, then Grok would be in for a new job sometime soon.

"He doesn't seem to be enjoying the play," whispered Kane. "Politics on his mind?"

Ronan shrugged.

On stage, Portia turned to Shylock and hit the high point of her speech. "Therefore, Shylock, though justice be *thy* plea, consider this - that, in the course of justice, none of us would see salvation. Instead, we do pray for mercy, and that same prayer teaches us all to render the deeds of mercy. I have spoke thus much to mitigate the justice of thy plea, which, if thou follow, this strict court of Venice must needs give sentence against Antonio there."

"My deeds upon my head!" exclaimed Shylock. "I crave the law, the penalty and forfeit of my bond!"

"Have you been watching the FedCom opinion polls?" whispered Ronan. "Everybody is saying that the Assembly is going to sweep the board clean and install a whole new bunch of planets onto the Council. Those that they *can* elect, at any rate."

Kane frowned. The Federation Council was composed of fifteen worlds, drawn from the ranks of the Federation Assembly, and acted as an upper house of government. Three of the members of the Council were permanent ones - Vulcan, Andor, and Tellar - and the other twelve were elected by the Assembly. Earth used to be a permanent member, but lost its status as both a permanent member and the capital world following the reforms enacted in the wake of the Neo-Essentialist crisis and the destruction of Paris. The Pangeos Pathways scandal at the beginning of last year had resulted in a widespread clamour for change, and there was every likelihood that change was coming. "You mean we might lose our seat? But there's never been a Council without Earth as a member."

"Times change, my friend. History is made every day," winked Ronan.

"My God," muttered Kane. There was an apocryphal curse, purported to be Chinese, that wished the recipient to be alive 'in interesting times' - and this, he supposed, was an interesting time. Was the twenty-fifth century going to see such a drastic reformation of the Federation?

On stage, Portia had called Shylock's bluff. After seeing a copy of the bond that Antonio had signed, she had seemingly agreed that Shylock could have his pound of flesh, but just as the moneylender was whittling his knife and Antonio was preparing for death, Portia called his attention to a new interpretation of the loan conditions.

"This bond does give thee here no jot of blood!" she said, holding up the paper like a proclamation. "The words expressly are 'a pound of flesh' - take then thy bond, take thou thy pound of flesh, but, if in the cutting of it, thou does shed one drop of Antonio's blood, thy lands and goods are, by the laws of Venice, confiscated unto the state!"

As Shylock remonsrated and protested, Kane watched Grok shake his head and cluck his tongue. "Number forty-eight," the Ferengi murmured. When the Duke agreed with Portia's interpretation, Grok threw his hands up in exasperation. "Number thirty-three!" His wife shushed him and patted his arm as Kane and Ronan looked on with bemusement.

The audience seemed appreciative. Outwitted by Portia, Shylock withdrew his case calling for Antonio's flesh, and she was revealed to her delighted husband. All ended well, and when the curtain fell, they gave the actors a standing ovation - everyone, that is, except Grok, who rolled his eyes and chuckled out a conversation with his wife. Kane's couldn't hear them over the din of the applause, but it was obvious that he was complaining about the play.

"Go ahead and introduce yourself," said Ronan. "He'll want to meet a Starfleet captain. No harm in networking."

That got Grok's attention. "Yes!" he suddenly exclaimed, turning around in his seat. "I may as well greet the two Hewmahns who have been talking about me, quite literally, behind my back, hmm?"

Kane stiffened in his seat. Ferengi hearing was incredible, and now he had been caught red-handed gossiping. He shared a quick glance with Ronan and stood up to greet the Ferengi, even as the applause died down and people began to leave the theatre.


Location: New Alexandria, Giza Nebula asteroid belt
Scene: SFI Operations Hub

Rear Admiral Charles Koniki was not a man who possessed an especially sunny disposition, but today his glowering features were ever darker than usual. His immediate staff had kept their interactions with him short and to the point, lest whatever was troubling him boil over into harsh words. Here, in the very heart of the gigantic asteroid that was New Alexandria, there were not very many places to escape to.

Koniki felt justified in his ire, however. One of his starships was missing, now overdue by almost a week, and in the murky world of intelligence gathering, that usually meant that something had gone drastically wrong. The USS Satet, the base's Luna-class transport ship, was supposed to have made rendesvous with the USS Horus five days ago, but nothing had been heard from her. Given the sensitive mission that the Satet had embarked on, Koniki felt that his worry was well sustained.

He crossed his legs, then uncrossed them. He drummed his fingertips on his desktop, then folded his arms. Finally, in frustration, he got up out of his comfortable chair and began to pace the room, putting his hands behind his back. Paul Harris, the CO of the Horus, was on his way up to brief him following his ship's return to New Alexandria, and Koniki wished he'd just get here now.

There were rumours coming out of the old Klingon Empire. Ever since the Klingons had returned to their homeworld forty years ago, they had been engaged in a great rebuilding effort, constructing their society to match their old traditions of martial honour, but the rest of the quadrant had not been idle while their empire had been sundered by the Romulans. The Orions, operating now under the Syndicate as a centralised government, had colonised several class M worlds that were former Klingon planets - not only had this besmirched Klingon honour, but the Orions had rebuffed several Klingon diplomatic overtures to return their former colony worlds. With the Klingon Great Houses all at one anothers' throats, relations between Rigel and Qo'noS were at an all-time low.

The door chimed, and Koniki snapped his head around. "Come."

The door hissed open, admitting Paul Harris, the captain of the USS Horus. Harris was a well-built, middle-aged white American man who knew his business well and was always on-point. Right now, he was carrying a PADD under his right arm, and his face was grave.

Harris stopped in the middle of the floor and stood to attention as the door closed behind him. "Admiral."

"Captain Harris," said Koniki. He leaned against his desk. "Let's not waste time. The Satet is not with you."

Harris proffered the PADD, and Koniki took it, placing it on his desk. "My report, Admiral. You are correct - the Satet did not appear at the rendesvous point. The Horus remained there for two days before I ordered us to return to New Alexandra. During that time, we conducted several long-range scans for the Satet, hoping to pick up a message buoy or some indication of her approach, but I regret to inform you that we found nothing."

Koniki sighed. "Damn." He indicated the PADD with a thumb. "I'll read it momentarily, but what is your appraisal? Do you presume the Satet to have been destroyed?"

"I don't think so, sir." Harris had not moved from his position of attention. "None of our scans picked up any debris that could be the Satet. However, I feel it necessary to report that our scans did detect increased numbers of Orion and Klingon starships moving in the boundary zone between their two power centres. Not solo ships either, but squadron formations."

Koniki frowned. "Those Klingons are a long way from their nearest supply bases."

"Yes, Admiral. And in numbers, too. I know what it looks like, but we couldn't be sure at the distance we were maintaining."

"A shitstorm. And I sent the Satet into the middle of it," sighed Koniki. "Wonderful."

"We have the Satet's last known location. We could mount a rescue operation," suggested Harris. "The Horus could - "

"No, Captain," said Koniki. "The involvement of Starfleet Intelligence must be kept quiet. If open warfare has finally broken out between the Klingons and the Orions, then we're going to need more muscle than we have at New Alexandria. An altogether different approach is needed." He straightened up. "I will give your report my full perusal, Captain Harris. Return to your starship and await further orders. You're dismissed."

"Admiral." Harris clicked his heels, and turned and left the room.

Koniki slowly sat down at his desk. An altogether different approach, he had said, and he already had an idea of what that meant. Sometimes the drawn sword made a better weapon than the knife in the dark, and if Harris' report was accurate, then none of the starships assigned to New Alexandria could be relied on hold their own inside a potential war zone.

No, he mused, there was only one dreadnought in Starfleet.

Settling on a course of action, Admiral Koniki opened a channel to the Head of Starfleet Operations. There was some groundwork to be done before the rescue operation could be launched. In the meantime, he just hoped that the crew of the Satet, wherever they were, could last long enough.


Location: London, the New Globe
Scene: Theatre box, as before

"Ambassador Grok, I apologise if I spoke out of turn," said Kane. "My ship has just put in to Spacedock, and my friend and I were catching up on politics."

Now that the Ferengi had turned to face them, Kane could see that Grok nonetheless had, despite the lack of an aesthetically pleasing demeanour, a friendly face. He looked to be somewhere in Ferengi middle-age, with deep brown wrinkles under his eyes and around his earlobes, but his smile seemed genuine below his bright blue eyes. The hairless dome of his head reflected the theatre's ceiling lights.

Grok was smiling. "That's quite alright, Captain - ?"

"Kane. Of the Phoenix. This is my friend, Ronan Finn."

"Ah!" Grok exclaimed. "Yes, of course! I had read on FedCom that your ship had returned in-system. A pleasure to meet you both!" He indicated the woman to his side. "My wife, Belari."

Kane bowed. "Madam." Belari was quite diminutive by Ferengi standards. She looked to be around the same age as her husband, but where he sported a rather plain business suit, she had adorned herself with quite an impressive array of jewellry, ranging from ear-rings, a necklace, and a sparkling selection of finger-rings. She had also seemed to have picked up some interest in Terran fashions, wearing a tasteful bronze-coloured long dress that nicely complemented her skin colour.

""Much of what your companion told you is correct, Captain Kane," said Grok. "The Council election will, I hope, result in the sweeping clear of the old order, and the installation of new and diverse voices around that table."

"Might Earth lose its Council seat?" said Kane.

Grok's eyes twinkled. "Possibly. Would that disappoint you?"

Kane stiffened his posture. "It might."

Grok chuckled. "I would love to play a game of poker with you, Captain Kane. You have a politician's ability to disguise your true intentions. Perhaps you will enter politics when your Starfleet career comes to an end?"

"Perhaps," said Kane neutrally.

"Well, then, allow me to be frank with you. Although I say that is possible that Earth will lose its seat, I personally would be surprised to see it happen. Earth is one of the linchpins of the Federation, despite its downgraded status. In the two-hundred-and-seventy-three years since the founding of the Federation, Earth has built up a network of alliances and log-rolls in the Assembly that make its position an exceptionally strong one."

"That's good news," said Ronan with a nod.

Grok held up an orange hand. "But it still possible. As Terrans, it will be difficult for you both to understand, but each one of the permanent members of the Council - Vulcan, Andor, Tellar - stand a greater chance of being elected to the higher offices of our government, yes? This fact makes the Council fundamentally undemocratic. It was no accident that former President Sardak found no difficulty in assembling enough support to strip Earth of its permanent status - that move instantly gave dozens of other Assembly members a chance of gaining that seat. You see, there are several Federation member worlds who would dearly love to have a greater say in the major policies of the government, and who feel that they deserve a pull on the reins of power."

"Such as Ferenginar," said Kane pointedly.

"Indeed," nodded Grok. "My people are already running the Department of the Treasury. I put it to you that a Council seat would be adequate recompense for our efforts in keeping the economy buoyant."

There was nothing really to say to that. Kane smiled politely. "I wish you good luck come election day, Ambassador Grok."

"Thank you, Captain Kane." Grok took his wife's hand. "I must depart now - I am bound for Vulcan in the morning. My best wishes to you both, gentlemen."

The two Ferengi moved between Kane and Finn and out into the hall, leaving two bemused men in their wake. Kane was conflicted - Grok seemed like an ambitious man, but there was no denying that the Ferengi's analysis was accurate. Could Earth really lose its seat in the Council election? The outcome was out of Kane's hands - out of anyone's hands except the member worlds of the Federation Assembly - but the thought of it made him pause.

One thing was for sure, the Federation times were changing.


NRPG: If you want to influence the result of the Federation Council election (which I will write in my next post or two), do drop me a line. Also, I changed/modernised some of the Shakespearean dialogue. Also also, sneak preview of next story!

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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