© 2007 MultiMapper
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Edited by The Radio Rancher

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Chapter 22

"You surprised me with your reaction when you realized that I carry the knowledge and experience of the former Holy Ones." Tyce said timidly.

"Well, I guess if I'd just been around Humans all the time I might think that it was really weird or something, but I've been studying about the things that Vulcans can do with memory transference and I understand how it works... well, basically." Vincent said as he led the way down the catwalk.

"Among my people it is very rare to find a person with the gift. It took Austir nearly ten years to find me. When I reach the age of eighty years I will begin the search for the next Holy One." Tyce said distantly.

"Wow. The memory transfer thing isn't a big deal to me, but you knowing what you'll be doing seventy or eighty years from now is a little freaky." Vincent said with a smile.

Tyce smiled at Vincent and said, "I agree."

"Would you guys like to get something to eat?" Vincent asked as he turned to face the pair.

"Yes. If it wouldn't be an imposition." Tyce said quietly.

"It's no problem at all. You've seen where I work, now I'll show you where I eat." Vincent said with a smile.

Tyce nodded his agreement and waited for Vincent to lead the way into the turbo lift.

"What about you Audge? Are you hungry?" Vincent asked with a smile.

"The rations should be saved for those who are operating the ship." Audge said quietly.

Vincent rolled his eyes and said, "You're the protector of the Holy One. Not only should that give you the right to eat, but I think you should be able to ask for seconds if you want."

Tyce smiled and said, "I agree with our host. If you are hungry, you should eat."

"If that is your wish Holy One." Audge said reverently.

After the trio boarded the turbo lift, Vincent said, "Engineer's Mess."

Tyce giggled at the sensation of the turbo lift moving.

Vincent smiled at his enjoyment.

When the doors opened, Vincent led the way toward the Engineer's Mess Hall.

"Audge, if you'll pick out the stuff you like, I'll carry your plate, then when we've got yours, I'll go back and get mine." Vincent said cheerfully.

"I couldn't ask you to do that for me." Audge said humbly.

"You didn't ask... and neither did I. You can't load a plate and carry it with one hand, so I'm doing this for you. Get over it." Vincent said sternly.

Audge nodded hesitantly.

Tyce giggled, then said, "I like the way you deal with people. It's very straightforward and honest."

"Yeah. Honesty. That's what I'm going for. If you'll grab a plate, you can choose whatever you like from the food they have made here. There are salads over in the cold case and drinks at the far end of this line." Vincent said as he picked up a tray and a plate.

Tyce picked up a tray and a plate to follow Vincent down the line.

"Audge, bring your good arm over here and pick out what you want to eat. Just put it on the plate." Vincent said as he stood aside.

Audge looked over the hot food selections, then hesitantly scooped some macaroni and cheese onto the plate.

"Yeah. I like macaroni and cheese too." Vincent said with a smile.

Audge smiled at the statement, then placed a country fried steak on his plate.

"Those things are breaded and look a lot bigger than they really are. If you're hungry, you'd better get two." Vincent said seriously.

"Thank you. I will." Audge said timidly and picked out a second steak.

"What is this?" Tyce asked from behind Vincent.

Vincent turned and said, "Those are stuffed pork chops. They're really good."

Tyce put one on his plate, then started looking at the other selections.

"Audge, that white gravy is for the steaks. It just makes them taste even better." Vincent said seriously.

"Should I get that too?" Tyce asked as he watched Audge ladle the gravy over the pair of steaks.

"Well, since you have a stuffed pork chop, you'll probably only want to get one. But yeah, I think you'll like it." Vincent said happily.

"Which vegetable would you recommend to go with this food?" Audge asked hesitantly.

Vincent looked over the selections, and said, "I think these green beans look pretty good. The corn on the cob looks good too, but you'd probably have a lot of trouble with that using one hand."

Audge pointed to the pan of green beans with question.

"Yeah, that's them. I think you'll like them." Vincent said with a smile.

"How do you have so much fresh food so far from home?" Tyce asked as he took a small spoon of each of the vegetables.

"Some of the food is kept in stasis coolers to keep it fresh. Other things are made in the protein processors." Vincent said as he moved Audge's tray to the next line of food.

"So you have a device that creates food?" Tyce asked with interest.

"Kind of. The computer has something like a recipe that it follows to take the protein and change it into regular food. It can make things like soups and sandwiches and probably that gravy really good. But there's some stuff it can't make so we carry that stuff with us." Vincent said as he watched Audge pick out three different types of dinner rolls.

"My people could do so much with this technology." Tyce said in thought.

"Hey Audge. Save some room for the salad." Vincent said with a smile.

Audge nearly ran to the next line to see what other selections were available to him.

"I'm guessing that you have a food shortage on your ship." Vincent said speculatively.

"I really don't know." Tyce said quietly.

Vincent sat Audge's tray on the salad line for Audge to add his selections.

"My priests have protected me from so much. I really don't know everything that was going on. I only know that many sacrificed their lives to keep me safe." Tyce said quietly.

"Then they must have thought you were worth it. I guess the best way to honor the ones who died to protect you is to prove that they were right." Vincent said seriously.

Tyce nodded his agreement, then smiled when he saw Audge's tray filled with food.

"We can come back and get more if you're still hungry." Vincent said as he lifted the tray.

Audge hurried to get a bowl of orange Jell-O before Vincent could move the tray away.

Vincent smiled at the move and led the way to an unoccupied table.

Vincent placed the tray on the table and asked, "What would you like to drink?"

Audge looked at him with question.

"I tell you what, I'll get you something and if you don't like it, you can have something else." Vincent said with a smile.

Audge hesitantly nodded.

"I will come with you. I did not get a drink." Tyce said as he placed his tray on the table.

"Okay". Vincent said with a smile.

* * * * *

"Hi Vincent, I thought you'd be working now." JonJon said as he approached the table.

"I've been assigned to show these guys around the ship while they're visiting with us. JonJon, this is 'The Holy One of the Okudai' and Audge, his protector. Guys, this is JonJon, one of my best friends." Vincent said happily.

"It is nice to meet you JonJon. Since Vincent claims you as his friend, you would be welcomed to join us if you like." Tyce said quietly.

JonJon looked at Vincent with question.

"Yeah, there's one open spot. Grab it." Vincent said happily.

"Thanks. I'll be right back." JonJon said quickly and hurried away.

"Is he a crewman like you?" Tyce asked with interest.

"No. JonJon and a bunch of other people on the ship right now are moving to a new colony." Vincent said seriously.

"What is the purpose of their colony?" Tyce asked curiously.

"I don't understand what you mean." Vincent said as he turned his full attention to Tyce.

"Among my people, colonies are established when there is a need to be away from the home world. Usually it has to do with a differing philosophy. The people in the new colony are free to live with their own 'different' philosophy while the homeworld maintains the old ways." Tyce said in thought.

"Oh. I guess that's a good way of doing it. What was your colony like?" Vincent asked casually.

"It's an old colony. My people are united by the belief that every citizen has the responsibility to participate in the government. When there is any decision that needs to be made, our entire colony is encouraged to vote on it." Tyce said quietly.

"That sounds like a lot of work. But I guess it would be good if everyone understood what was happening in their local government." Vincent said, then smiled as JonJon approached with a plate of food.

"I'm glad they have stuffed pork chops today. They're my favorite." JonJon said happily.

Tyce cut a piece of his pork chop and cautiously took a bite.

Vincent watched carefully, then smiled as he noticed Tyce's pleased expression.

"Aren't they good?" JonJon asked happily.

Tyce nodded, then cut another bite.

"So did you and Cyril come up with a job?" Vincent asked hopefully.

"Yeah. He said that he woke up this morning with so many things to do that he didn't know where to start. So if I want, I can be his assistant and help him keep organized and do stuff for him and things like that." JonJon said happily.

"That sounds great." Vincent said with a smile.

"Yeah. And he said that when we get to the new colony, that if he likes the job I'm doing and if I still like doing the job, then I can keep on working for him there." JonJon said with a peaceful smile.

"That's great." Vincent said with contentment.

"And he likes Fizgig and said that Fizgig can come to work with me." JonJon said with a big smile.

"That sounds perfect." Vincent said happily.

"Who is Fizgig?" Tyce asked cautiously.

"Oh, that's JonJon's dog." Vincent said as he turned his attention back to Tyce.

"Dog? I've heard the word but... it has no meaning to me." Tyce said to JonJon with regret.

"If you'll tell me where you'll be, I'll bring Fizgig to meet you." JonJon said peacefully.

"We'll be in Deflector Control at least for a little bit." Vincent said seriously.

JonJon nodded, then thought to ask, "So what were you guys talking about when I interrupted?"

Vincent thought for a moment, then said, "The Holy One was just telling me about his colony. He said that it was founded because the people wanted to live differently than the people on the homeworld. Was Kimber anything like that?"

JonJon thought for a moment, then said, "Yeah. I guess so. Kimber was supposed to be like taking a step back from all the technology of Earth. We had stuff like the power station and our clinic was really good. But we didn't have a lot of video games or televisions or radios. I mean, we had terminals to get news and keep in touch with people back on Earth. But we raised animals and grew vegetables too... It was nice."

"It sounds nice." Tyce said with a gentle smile at JonJon.

"How are you doing Audge?" Vincent asked with a smile.

"I think I took too much." Audge said with a regretful look at his plate.

"If you're done, I'll get rid of your plates." Vincent said quietly.

"No. It would be wrong to waste this wonderful food. It was my own fault for being greedy." Audge said in an ashamed voice.

"It won't get wasted. Leftover food is deconstructed and returned to the protein stores." Vincent said seriously.

"So the food that he did not finish will be used to create other food for someone else later?" Tyce asked in wonder.

"That's right. We're on a starship so we have to be careful about wasting stuff like food and water." Vincent said seriously.

"My people could benefit so much from this technology." Tyce said absently.

"Then why don't they?" Vincent asked curiously.

Tyce looked at Vincent for a moment, then said, "Because we do not want to lose our culture. We do not want to become blended with the other worlds of the Federation and lose our identity as a people."

Vincent looked Tyce in the eyes and said, "Then I guess that I'm an example of what you don't want to happen to your people."

"No, I didn't mean you..." Tyce said quickly.

"I'm a Human who was adopted by a Vulcan Clan and married a Vulcan woman. Vulcan is my home even though I wasn't born there. My kids will be Vulcans by law, but they will be half Human." Vincent said simply.

"I'm sorry Vincent. I didn't mean to offend you." Tyce said quietly.

"I'm not offended, but I don't think I agree with what you believe." Vincent said carefully.

"It is not proper to speak in such a way to 'The Holy One'." Audge said in a tone of warning.

"Really?" Vincent asked as he looked at Tyce.

"Among my people, it is forbidden." Tyce said hesitantly.

"Then how do you have discussions or settle disagreements?" Vincent asked curiously.

"I decide what is right. There is no further need for discussion and everyone agrees." Tyce said frankly.

Vincent thought about the statement for a moment, then asked, "So, if your priests lie to you to 'protect' you from the truth and you don't allow anyone to tell you their side of the story, how can you make good decisions?"

"I don't understand what you are asking." Tyce said slowly.

"If you're the one who decides what is right, you need to have all the facts to make a good decision. But it sounds like the important facts are being kept from you." Vincent said in thought.

Tyce considered the statement for a moment, then slowly said, "There is some truth to what you are saying."

Vincent's eyes became distant as he said, "I bet that way way back in the past, the Holy Ones lived with the people and understood their problems and what they needed."

Tyce looked at Vincent with surprise at the statement.

An alert klaxon sounded, immediately stopping all conversation in the mess hall.

"Battle stations. All hands. Battle stations." Sounded over the comm.

"Come on guys. Just leave your plates. We need to get to Deflector Control." Vincent said as he stood.

"I'm going to get Fizgig in the observation lounge." JonJon said quickly.

"Good idea. It might get scary and it's best if he's not alone." Vincent said as he hurried toward the nearest turbo lift.

* * * * *

The various people on the lift called out many different decks.

"Deflector Control." Vincent called out, followed by JonJon's "Deck J, Dorsal."

"Do you believe we are in danger?" Tyce asked quietly from Vincent's side.

"No. But Thaelan might need my help if Darin isn't back." Vincent said quickly.

As soon as the lift doors opened, Vincent said, "Come on guys."

Vincent, Tyce and Audge hurried down the catwalk to the door to Deflector Control.

* * * * *

"Where do you need me?" Vincent asked as he hurried into the room.

He was relieved to see that Darin was already sitting at station one.

"Take station two." Thaelan said immediately.

"You guys can sit there if you want." Vincent said as he pointed to the auxiliary stations.

"It appears that the enemy ships have returned to finish what they started. We have moved to block them from firing on the Dorsa." Thaelan said gravely as he watched his readout carefully.

"How many are there?" Vincent asked as he worked his controls.

"Three. They're maneuvering to get into position." Thaelan answered as he watched his screens carefully.

A beeping from the main console drew everyone's attention as Thaelan examined his readouts.

"We are attempting to extend our shields to protect the Dorsa." Thaelan said in a voice of deep concentration.

"They're not going to hold up very long like that." Darin said as he ran through his systems checks.

"The secondary system is still active and ready to switch over at your command." Vincent said as he verified his readings.

"Lieutenant Bowers has assumed control of the main and is aware of the secondary system status." Thaelan said as he watched the board carefully.

"What are the ships doing?" Darin asked with concern.

"The ships have positioned themselves in such a manner that we cannot block them from firing on the Dorsa." Thaelan said with a note of panic in his voice.

"What do they want Tyce?" Vincent asked quickly.

"Me. Dead." Tyce answered honestly.

"But why? Why are they willing to stand against a Federation starship to kill you? What will they gain if you're dead?" Vincent asked firmly.

"All hands. Brace for impact." Sounded over the comm.

"Hold on." Vincent said, then noticed that Audge was having difficulty holding on to the counter before him with one hand.

Vincent ran to Audge's side and held him tightly as he gripped the counter firmly.

The ship rocked with the impact of weapon's fire.

"Tyce! What do they want?" Vincent asked fiercely.

"They want Okuda to join the Federation." Tyce answered reluctantly.

Vincent looked at Tyce with disbelief, then tightened his grip on Audge when the ship was jolted again.

"Can't we talk with them? Isn't there some way to end this without anyone else dying?" Vincent asked desperately.

"I can't! Austir declared that the people of Okuda would not join the Federation. He was right. Within a dozen generations we would become little more than a forgotten culture. I must defend my people's right to exist." Tyce said imploringly.

"I think I understand." Vincent said in a speculative voice.

"You do?" Tyce asked with surprise.

"Yes. I think I do. Like I told you, I am a Vulcan. Even though I am of the Human species, I am a Vulcan citizen. I survived the Ordeal of Maturity to be declared an adult by Vulcan law. I had my marriage arranged by my family elder just like it's been done for thousands of years. I have a telepathic bond with my wife because it's part of Vulcan tradition. I respect the ancient ways of Vulcan and live by them. If I found out that there was a group trying to get rid of the ancient ways of Vulcan, I would fight to defend them because, in my heart, I am a son of Vulcan." Vincent said firmly, then looked up at the sound of phasers firing.

"Without our traditions, my people will lose faith in themselves. Without that faith, our civilization will lose it's identity. How can you deny your own culture to take on the culture of another race?" Tyce asked in confusion.

"Because it's my *choice*. Given the choice, some of the Okudai might decide to explore other cultures and adopt their ways, but some would hold to the ancient ways because they believe they are worth preserving. If you take away that choice, then is it really faith?" Vincent asked seriously.

"One of our attackers has been disabled." Thaelan called out as he kept his focus on the main.

"Tyce. You can end this. You don't have to agree with them, but I bet that if you would agree to let them speak and really listen to what they have to say, you might be able to work something out... I don't know, maybe start a colony on the edge of your system where the citizens are allowed to have contact with outsiders." Vincent said quickly.

"Will you take me to the captain?" Tyce asked in thought.

"I'll race you to the turbo lift." Vincent said as he released Audge.

Tyce stood and began to walk toward the door.

"Will you guys be okay without me for a few minutes?" Vincent thought to ask as he released his hold on Audge and helped him to stand.

"You will do more good by ending this fight than you would by helping here." Thaelan said firmly.

"We'll be back soon." Vincent said as he hurried out the door.

* * * * *

"Captain, may I bring 'The Holy One' on the bridge to speak with you?" Vincent asked from the door of the lift.

"Yes, of course, but we are a bit busy at the moment." Captain Byrne said in concentration.

"If you will open a transmission to the lead vessel, perhaps I can end this." Tyce said as he walked confidently onto the bridge.

"Lieutenant Patterson, open a channel." Captain Byrne said immediately.

"Stay out of this Federation vessel. This is an internal affair of the Okudai people." A shadowed man said in an angry voice.

"I am not on the ship you are attacking. You will gain nothing by the destruction of the Dorsa." Tyce said as he faced the screen.

"YOU'RE ON THE FEDERATION VESSEL!?" The man screamed with disbelief.

"Correct. My hosts have suggested that if we speak, we might be able to come to terms." Tyce said seriously.

"This is a trick! There's no way 'The Holy One' would associate with outsiders or talk with those who disagree with him." The man said suspiciously.

"That has been the tradition. But it has been brought to my attention that without dialogue, there cannot be true agreement. If you will cease your hostilities and select a representative to speak for you, we can meet and possibly come to some sort of agreement." Tyce said calmly.

"I don't trust you." The man said cautiously.

Vincent leaned close to Tyce's side and whispered, "If they don't trust you, maybe they'll trust Captain Byrne."

"I am sorry to hear that. I may be your adversary, but I haven't given you reason to mistrust my word. I suppose it doesn't matter... Will you trust the captain of this Federation vessel?" Tyce asked seriously.

The man considered for a moment, then said, "I will."

"Captain, if this gentleman will agree to a cease fire, will you also?" Tyce asked calmly.

"Yes. Of course." Captain Byrne said immediately.

"Thank you Captain. Please relay instructions to my people and we will make every effort to behave in a reasonable manner." The man said respectfully.

"This is my first officer, Commander M'Butu. He will coordinate the arrangements with your people. I look forward to meeting you in person momentarily." Captain Byrne said seriously.

"As do I. Treifa out." The man said with a gentlemanly bow before the screen went blank.

Tyce's eyes went wide when he heard the name.

"What's wrong?" Vincent asked quietly.

"I can't believe I didn't recognize him... This man, Treifa, nearly twenty years ago he was a priest to Austir. There was a time when they were friends." Tyce said uncomfortably.

"Maybe you can be again. If you'll listen when he talks, maybe he'll be willing to do the same." Vincent said hopefully.

"Holy One, the arrangements have been made. If you'll follow me, we'll go down to the transporter room to meet our guest." Commander M'Butu said as he gestured toward the turbolift.

"Do you want me to go with you?" Vincent asked in a whisper.

"Yes. I'm counting on you to remind me to really listen during this negotiation. I'm out of practice." Tyce said with a smile.

"Audge and I will make sure to keep you on the right track." Vincent said with a smile at Audge.

Audge's eyebrows went up in surprise for a moment, then he nodded his agreement.

* * * * *

As Vincent walked into transporter room two, he noticed that Rad was on duty.

"This is another one of my friends, his name is Rad." Vincent said happily.

"Nice to meet you. Cool nightgown." Rad said with a playful smile.

"Um, Rad. This is 'The Holy One' of the Okudai. He's their most respected holy leader." Vincent said cautiously.

"Oh..." Rad said hesitantly, then smiled and said, "Well, it's still nice to meet you."

"I like you. You're funny." Tyce said with a genuine smile.

Rad looked down at his console and said, "If we're all ready, the Mingot is signaling ready to transport."

"Energize." Commander M'Butu said formally.

The sparkle of three transporter beams appeared in the chamber.

"Captain, I'm detecting concealed weapons on two of the subjects transporting in." Rad said with concern.

"Can you bring the third out of transport and hold the other two?" Captain Byrne asked seriously.

"Yes sir." Rad said, then keyed in the commands on his console.

A single man resolved into being on the center transporter pad.

After a moment to look around, Treifa asked, "What is the meaning of this?"

"These men are carrying concealed weapons. We can either bring them out of the transporter and disarm them or send them back. What is your preference?" Captain Byrne asked without accusation.

"Bring them out and I'll tell them to leave their weapons here. Will that be acceptable?" Treifa asked seriously.

"Ensign Radovanovich, please disable their weapons and have security join us before you bring them out of the beam." Captain Byrne said simply.

"I give you my word Captain." Treifa said firmly.

"You have attempted to bring concealed weapons onto my ship. Please forgive me if your word doesn't inspire my complete trust." Captain Byrne said seriously.

Treifa reluctantly nodded at the statement.

Two security officers walked into the room and stood at attention.

"You already met Lieutenant Simms, that's Ensign Barnhill. She acts tough but she's really nice." Vincent whispered to Tyce at his side.

"These gentlemen have concealed weapons. Their weapons have been deactivated, but they may still pose a threat." Captain Byrne said to the two security officers.

Treifa moved aside as the two officers approached the transport chamber.

"Here they come." Rad said as he completed the transport.

When the transporter beams cleared, both men surveyed the room.

When they spotted Tyce, they simultaneously raised their weapons and pulled the triggers.

Audge and Vincent moved as one to step in front of Tyce to shield him with their own bodies.

"Treifa, you're welcomed to come with us to talk or you may return to your ship. Those two are not invited to stay." Captain Byrne said and turned to walk out of the room.

"You can't go with him! He's the oppressor of our people!" One of the men called out as Ensign Barnhill blocked him from walking out of the transport chamber.

Rad quickly initiated the force field around the transport chamber and contained the two men.

"You heard the Captain. Send them back." Commander M'Butu said with a look of disappointment at the men.

Rad nodded, then worked the controls to establish contact with the Mingot to link with their transporter.

* * * * *

"Treifa, I am Tyce." Tyce said firmly as they walked out of the transporter room.

After a hesitant moment, Treifa said, "Your predecessor would only allow me to address him as 'Holy One'.

"Austir was quite old and set in his ways. I am still young enough to be flexible... to a point." Tyce said carefully.

"Does that mean that you're willing to let the people of Okuda join the Federation?" Treifa asked hopefully.

"Conference room one." Captain Byrne said when everyone was on the lift.

"I am not quite that flexible. But my hosts aboard this ship have suggested that there might be a possibility for negotiation between us. If you can also be flexible, we might be able to find some common ground." Tyce said carefully.

The lift doors opened and Captain Byrne stepped out.

"If you will please take your seats we may begin this process." Captain Byrne said seriously.

Tyce took a seat. A moment later Vincent and Audge were sitting on either side of him.

Captain Byrne took his seat at the head of the table and waited as Commander M'Butu and Treifa walked around the table to sit opposite Tyce.

"Treifa, please tell me what you wish to gain by having the people of Okuda join the Federation." Tyce said firmly.

"Advanced methods of food production, medical advances, new technology... basically, a future for our children." Treifa said seriously.

"The future I want for our children is one of knowing who they are as a people. I want the children of Okuda to be proud of who they are and be able to trust in the traditions that have served our people for a thousand years." Tyce said carefully.

"There is little consolation to know that you come from a proud, old people when your belly is empty. It's of little comfort to a child to know that he is of pure blood when he's watching his mother die from a disease that the Federation has been able to cure for a hundred years. The traditions that served our people a thousand years ago in our ascendance provided a perfect way of life... a thousand years ago. Today, the governing class has all the wealth and power and the common man has nothing. You worry about preserving our traditions for the next generation, but there may not be a next generation if the social issues that are plaguing the working class aren't addressed." Treifa said passionately.

"Is it really that bad?" Tyce asked with concern.

"Yes. Well, not everyplace, not yet. But the poverty is spreading as greed and corruption overtake the governing class." Treifa said seriously.

Captain Byrne quietly said, "Treifa, I'm sorry to tell you that the Federation will be of little help in this circumstance."

Treifa looked at Captain Byrne with question.

"It sounds like what you have is a fundamental problem in your government. Membership in the Federation might be able to give some superficial aid to your people for a short time. But if the government is corrupt, then whatever help we offer will eventually be absorbed by corruption and it wouldn't surprise me to find that your people end up worse off than when they started." Captain Byrne said frankly.

"Which is why we need to overthrow the government and start off with a new system." Treifa said firmly.

"Then you're trading one set of problems for another. Don't you remember your history Treifa? When we overthrew the feudal lords to become a democratic society, we treated our elected leaders like royalty and within two generations were in the same state that we had started in." Tyce said seriously.

"Perhaps it's not the system of government that is at fault, but the leaders that you've chosen?" Captain Byrne said speculatively.

"When I return to Okuda Prime, I have the authority to call for free elections. We can change the government from top to bottom if I call for it." Tyce said frankly.

"But who will replace them? You're just trading one group of corrupt politicians for another." Treifa said in defeat.

"Why don't you run for election Treifa?" Vincent asked curiously.

"There's no way I could be elected. The politicians spend millions to spread their lies and convince people to vote for them. The only reason I have ships is because the politicians don't want the 'Holy One' to stir things up." Treifa said seriously.

"So it *was* Malif's people who set this up?" Tyce asked in confirmation.

"Not really. Malif is just a pawn. The people who are really in charge run both political parties. No matter who wins, they still come out on top. If you were killed, then their puppets could petition to join the Federation so their masters could increase their power base beyond our system." Treifa said gravely.

Tyce shook his head as he said, "I had no idea it had gotten so bad."

"How could you know? You live in your grand tower with your priests to protect you from the ugly truths. The sad thing is that the people really are devoted to you. They love and trust you and are convinced that your every word is the law." Treifa said imploringly.

"I'm beginning to see that. I'm just not sure how to change things." Tyce said speculatively.

"Are you allowed to tell your people who you would like them to vote for?" Vincent asked quietly.

Tyce and Treifa looked at each other for a moment, then Tyce said, "Six hundred years ago a Holy One endorsed a candidate for the presidency. That president was elected in eleven consecutive free elections, and the last time he didn't even run for the office, the people wrote him in and elected him by popular mandate. It was decided at that time that the Holy One should refrain from endorsing any candidate. It subverts the purpose of an election by influencing the will of the people."

"But if the will of the people is to have a fair and working government, then aren't you just guiding them in the right direction to get what they really want?" Vincent asked curiously.

"Crewman Winters, we are here to arbitrate, not influence." Commander M'Butu said firmly.

"No Commander. He's right. If there were ever a time when I should use my position as Holy One to help my people, this is it." Tyce said seriously.

"I think I agree with you... but what about the Federation?" Treifa asked hesitantly.

"Crewman Winters had a thought about that... why don't you tell him Vincent?" Tyce said with a smile.

"Um... yeah. I was just thinking that since you guys already set up colonies for people who want to live differently from the people on your home planet. Why don't you set up a colony that is allowed to deal with the Federation? That way you can see how it works and if it causes any problems before you decide if you want to join the Federation for real." Vincent said cautiously.

Treifa thought about the suggestion for a moment, then said, "It sounds like a reasonable compromise. If I could get the Holy One's endorsement on the idea I know I could get my people to go along with it. They'll be climbing all over each other to join the colony."

"I'm afraid that won't work." Tyce said seriously.

"Why not?" Treifa asked cautiously.

"Because, if we can come up with a plan to make this work, I expect you and your people to be running for every public office that they can possibly fill. With a little hard work and my endorsement, every one of them should be able to be elected... Well, except for those two who tried to shoot me. I don't think I want to endorse them." Tyce finished with a smile.

"Don't worry about them. They are willing to fight and die for the benefit of our people. Once they see that you're really trying to provide a better future for us instead of trying to keep us in the stone age, they'll be your most devoted followers." Treifa said with conviction.

"Perhaps. But I'll still feel better knowing that Audge is by my side to protect me." Tyce said with a smile.

Audge looked at Tyce with surprise.

"This trip has shown me that I don't need someone to protect me from the truth, but I do need someone to protect me. Audge, if you'll be willing to serve, I would be happy if you would consent to be my personal security guard from now on." Tyce said with a smile.

"I would be honored 'Holy One'." Audge said reverently.

"Good. Then your first duty as my personal security guard is to call me by my name. I don't like the idea of being called 'Holy One' in my own home for the next eighty or so years." Tyce said with a smile.

"Yes, of course Tyce." Audge said shyly.

"Very well then. It appears that everything has been resolved." Captain Byrne said happily.

"Not quite everything. I think this may take a good deal of explaining on my part before 'The Holy One' will be safe among my companions. But it does sound like a good beginning." Treifa finished with a hopeful smile at Tyce.

"And the Dorsa is far from being ready for the trip back to Okuda Prime." Commander M'Butu said reluctantly.

"Mere details. The most challenging part has been accomplished. We've sat down and come to an understanding. All the rest of it is just means to accomplish what has been decided here today." Captain Byrne said happily.

"I think I agree with you Captain." Treifa said with a smile.

"As do I." Tyce said happily.

"Treifa, I understand that you will need to return to your ship and discuss what has been said here with some others. Perhaps you would care to invite one or two others to join us for a meal this evening so they can see for themselves that everyone is in agreement." Captain Byrne asked hopefully.

"I would be honored to attend. And I will notify my guests to leave their weapons behind this time." Treifa said with a barely contained smile.

"I believe that would make the evening run much more smoothly." Captain Byrne said with a considering look.

"We could also invite Captain Marr." Commander M'Butu said speculatively.

Captain Byrne nodded his agreement, then asked, "Is there anyone you would care to invite Holy One?"

"Yes. My High Priest Oluf. Although you shouldn't expect him to be very good company. He's about to find out that his job description has drastically changed." Tyce said with a smile.

"And of course Crewman Winters will be attending as your cultural liaison." Captain Byrne said with a fond smile at Vincent.

"Thank you Captain. Although I did not agree with my priest's request for Crewman Winters to be my guide, Vincent has been a great help to me. Thank you for assigning him to accompany me while I am visiting your ship."

Vincent smiled happily at the praise.

"Captain, would it also be possible for Ensign Thaelan to join us for dinner? I believe it would be fitting for him to be present since he was a member of the last Federation delegation to visit Okuda Prime." Tyce said in careful thought.

"I was not aware of that. Yes, it sounds fitting that Ensign Thaelan should be invited to join us." Captain Byrne said happily.

To Be Continued...