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Ele'er sat impatiently on her stool in the learning room. Mother was late, of course -- she always was late for their learning sessions, which meant they ended later, which meant that Ele'er was always late for sky-singing. Ele'er hated being late for sky-singing because it meant she couldn't go through the warm-ups, and when she couldn't go through the warm-ups, she sang poorly, and the songleader gave her that disapproving look. Ele'er would explain that Mother had been late with her lesson and that it had been important, but the songleader never cared.
Mother finally transported into the learning room in a shimmer of light. Ele'er knew she'd used a transporter because she was running late.
"I apologize for my tardiness," Mother said, pulling a padd out of a pocket in her cloak and sitting on the larger stool that faced Ele'er's. While they were both seated, Mother remained on a higher plane by sitting on her taller stool, reinforcing her position as both parent and teacher. Ele'er started to remind her that she'd be late for sky-singing, but Mother didn't give her the chance. "Today's lesson will involve the politics of the Federation."
Ele'er felt the folds of her skin tighten. She hated when the lesson involved politics.
"We are going to observe the Federation News Service, because they have a segment called Illuminating the City of Light."
"That's a stupid name," Ele'er muttered.
"What was that?" Mother asked tersely.
Sighing, Ele'er enunciated the words this time. "It's a stupid name."
"It is not at all a stupid name, Ele'er." Mother folded her hands on her lap, which meant she was going to start quizzing her daughter. "What is the seat of the Federation government?"
Ele'er sighed. "Earth."
"More specifically, please."
"A city called London."
"Wrong, Ele'er." Mother made a note on her padd that Ele'er assumed was a demerit. "It is in Paris, in a building known as the Palais de la Concorde."
Though Ele'er was tempted to point out to Mother that she had no need to know the differences among the many cities of a planet that (its role as the seat of the Federation government notwithstanding) was light-years away from Bre'el IV in terms of both distance and relevance, she knew that it would probably just result in another demerit.
"What is the name of the native population of Earth?"
"Human." That was an easy one.
"And what is the nickname that humans have for Paris?"
Ele'er felt her skin folds tighten again. "I don't know."
"The City of Light."
"Do the other cities on Earth not have light?"
Mother made another note on her padd; Ele'er feared another demerit. "Of course they do, don't be absurd, Ele'er. Now then -- "
This time, Ele'er saw where Mother was going with her questioning. "This FNS segment discusses the goings-on in the Federation government in Paris?"
"That is correct."
"So the presentation's purpose is to provide insight into what happens in the City of Light -- which is why it has that name."
At that, Mother put her fists to her chest, with wrists crossed -- a gesture of respect and gratitude. "Very good, Ele'er." She made some more notes on her padd. "Now, then, we will watch."
Mother removed a control from her cloak and pressed a button on it. The emitters located in the walls lit up, and five figures seated at a desk appeared in the middle of the learning room. One of them was a Bre'ella like her -- Ele'er thought he looked familiar, but she couldn't place his face, though his cloak's red color indicated a high office.
The images were frozen. Mother asked, "Can you identify the species and sexes of the people sitting with Councillor Nitram?"
Councillor Nitram, of course, Ele'er chastised herself. She was grateful that Mother's phrasing of the question -- assuming that Ele'er knew Bre'el's representative on the Federation Council -- had saved her the embarrassment of admitting that she hadn't recognized him.
Ele'er peered at the images. Such identification quizzes usually were the purview of biology lessons, not political ones, but it was characteristic of Mother to throw in queries from other disciplines to keep Ele'er on her toes.
The one on the far right with the dark skin looked like she was a native of Earth, so Ele'er pointed at her and said, "Human female."
"Correct." Mother made a note on her padd.
Next to the human was Nitram, and next to him was a female with spots encircling her face just under her hairline. Ele'er knew that there were two species with that characteristic, but she couldn't remember either of them. Taking a wild guess, she said, "Betazoid female?"
"No. That is a Kriosian female, though I would have credited you if you had said Trill, since you have never seen this segment and are not aware that its host is from Krios. The next one?"
This was a person with blue skin and no hair. She remembered that Andorians had blue skin. "Andorian chan."
Mother's lips pursed for the first time since she arrived, which meant her displeasure was even worse. She made several notes on the padd, and Ele'er feared she was setting a record for demerits this lesson. "No, that is a Bolian male. Andorians have antennae."
And I was so proud of remembering the Andorian genders. Ele'er tried not to sigh.
"The final one?"
This last one she knew: "An Efrosian male."
"Very good. I will now play the recording of the show, and you will watch it. When it is over, I will quiz you on its contents. If you have a question at any point, I will pause the recording and you may ask."
Ele'er stared intently at the hologram.
The Kriosian woman spoke when Mother started the playback. "Good evening. This is Illuminating the City of Light, I'm your host, Velisa. It has been two months since Federation President Nan Bacco took the oath of office, after winning a close election against Ktarian Special Emissary Fel Pagro. Tonight on ICL, we'll be examining President Bacco's first eight weeks in office. Is she taking the Federation in a new direction after seven years of Min Zife? Is she simply treading water? Or is she floundering on the galactic stage?"
Velisa started introducing the panel, starting with the Efrosian and going down the line.
"With me tonight to discuss these issues are Ra-Yalix, a foreign policy advisor for Presidents Amitra and Jaresh-Inyo; Sovan, the chief Earth correspondent for Bolarus and You; Federation Councillor Nitram of Bre'el IV; and retired Starfleet Admiral Taela Shanthi. Welcome, all of you."
Each of the panelists made some kind of acknowledgment. Shanthi bobbed her head once, Sovan muttered something Ele'er couldn't make out, and Ra-Yalix smiled. Nitram, naturally, brought his fists to his chests, as was proper.
"Admiral Shanthi, how do you feel Bacco is handling the Romulan crisis?"
The human woman folded her arms on the desk in front of her. "I believe that the solution that was brokered by Captain Riker of the U.S.S. Titan was one that will eventually lead to stability in the region."
"And I think you're out of your mind," the Bolian said.
"Sovan -- " Velisa started.
"No, Velisa, this is ridiculous. The Romulan Empire's a disaster area. Most of the senate was assassinated by a Reman, who later got blown up by Starfleet, and now you've got fifty factions vying for power, and what's Starfleet's brilliant idea? Bring the Klingons in."
Ra-Yalix spoke up then. "The Remans wouldn't accept being a Federation protectorate, Sovan. What else were they supposed to do? The Remans engineered a coup d'état on a scale unseen in recent history. With Shinzon and most of his inner circle dead, they don't have the resources to govern themselves, but they were hardly about to go back to being slaves."
"I'll grant you that," Sovan said, "but to give them protectorate status under the Klingons?"
Shanthi scowled. "The Klingons will do what they promise. They will ensure that the Remans are given the opportunity to determine their own fate. They will also focus the warring factions among the Romulans."
Sovan made a snorting noise. "Romulans and Klingons being angry at each other has always been a recipe for disaster, not peace."
"I have a question," Ele'er said. Mother stopped the playback. "Who are the Remans?"
Mother made a note on her padd. "Where is the seat of the Romulan Empire?"
"What is Romulus's sister planet?"
Ele'er's skin folds tightened. "I did not know it had one."
"It does. It's called Remus, and on that planet live a mutated offshoot of the Romulans, who serve as slave labor. Or, rather, they did until a Reman named Shinzon engineered the elimination of the praetor and the ruling senate. Then he was killed, and that left a power vacuum in the empire."
"I understand." Now what everyone was saying made more sense to Ele'er. If the government fell -- if, in fact, two governments fell in succession -- that would leave the Romulan Star Empire in chaos.
Mother resumed the playback.
"We're getting off the subject a bit," Velisa said.
"Not really," Sovan said, "because my problem isn't with the solution that Starfleet came up with, it's that Bacco agreed to it without any hesitation or consultation."
Shanthi shook her head. "That is incorrect. Ambassador Spock spoke before the council in order to -- "
Sovan laughed. "Ambassador Spock? First of all, Spock hasn't been a proper ambassador for ten years. He's been living on Romulus on an unsanctioned mission -- "
"Actually, the mission was sanctioned," Ra-Yalix said. "The council endorsed Spock's endeavor to achieve unification between the Romulans and Vulcans."
"And never mind the fact that Vulcan is part of the Federation." Sovan shook his head. "That doesn't make him the right person to consult on this solution, if you ask me. Plus, what about the fiasco with Tamok?"
Councillor Nitram said, "Ambassador T'Kala was responsible for deceiving the president and the council into believing that Archpriest Tamok was coming to the Federation for an audience with us."
"Yes," Sovan said, "and a consultation with an actual Romulan spiritual leader might've been a bit more useful than one with a rogue ambassador with an agenda."
"Sovan -- " Ra-Yalix began, but the Bolian would not stop talking. Ele'er found him to be very rude.
"Instead of listening to other viewpoints, she just trusted Spock and some captain. Bacco is letting Starfleet do all her work for her."
Before anyone could respond to that, Velisa said, "One element of government that Starfleet has no jurisdiction over is that of appointments to the various sub-councils. Councillor Melnis of Benzar will be retiring at the end of the month, which opens up his seat on the judiciary council. Councillor Nitram, whom do you think President Bacco will appoint to that seat?"
Nitram paused before speaking. "I would not presume to speak for the president."
Ele'er thought that was a stupid thing to say. Mother, however, was nodding in approval. He's being asked his opinion, Ele'er thought. Why will he not give it?
Velisa tried asking a different question. "Do you believe that Councillor Melnis's replacement will simply take the seat?"
Shaking his head, Nitram said, "No. Councillor-Elect Linzner does not have sufficient experience in jurisprudence to hold that seat. If he is selected by President Bacco, he will not be ratified by the council. However, I do not believe that President Bacco will do so. But I cannot say whom she will choose."
Sovan smiled. "It'll be Artrin. He's been making his feelings known on that subject for years. Every time the judiciary council hands down a decision, Artrin goes out of his way to comment on it. He had a distinguished career as a magistrate on Triex for ninety years before he was elected councillor."
"I agree with Sovan." Ele'er was surprised to hear those words from Ra-Yalix's mouth after their argument over the Romulan discussion. "The only reason why Artrin wasn't put on judiciary in the first place was because a seat wasn't available when he became a councillor six years ago. Melnis's retirement changes that."
"There are other qualified candidates," Nitram said. "Councillor Eleana has the necessary expertise."
"I actually agree," Sovan said, "but I don't think Bacco will have the courage to make so controversial a choice. Eleana has taken any number of unpopular stands regarding criminal rehabilitation, facilities maintenance, and security protocols. She voted against blood screenings every time it came up prior to the Dominion War. She held minority opinions on most matters before the council, and I just don't see Bacco putting her in so strong a position as one on judiciary -- in fact, I don't see the council approving her even if Bacco does put her up. Artrin's record is more middle-of-the-road, and he has the public profile. The council won't have any problem with him. Bacco can't afford a difficult appointment. She's going to have a hard enough time."
Velisa stared at the Bolian. "Why do you say that?"
"Bacco was elected in a very swift campaign with very little time for the voters to get a chance to know her, unless they were already familiar with her record as governor of Cestus III -- and even then, it's not much. Zife's second term saw one problem after another, from the collapse of the Trill government, to the gateways and Genesis disasters, to the brief war with the Selelvians and the Tholians, to the problems with the Ontailians, to Tezwa -- culminating in the first presidential resignation in the Federation's history."
Shanthi spoke for the first time in a while. "While I agree that President Bacco has large shoes to fill, I also believe that she will adequately fill them. I am familiar with her record on Cestus III. She was faced with an immigration crisis when they took in refugees from the Cardassian Demilitarized Zone, and she also weathered a Gorn attack on the planet during the war."
"I don't disagree that she made a good planetary governor, under some unique circumstances, but my point is that she's got to work with the council. Both Zife and Jaresh-Inyo were councillors who were elected president. Amitra was a cabinet member for three presidents before getting elected herself, and all the presidents she served under worked in the Palais in some form or other before being elected. Bacco's the first outsider in a long time to actually win an election."
Ra-Yalix laughed. "It doesn't hurt that nobody from the Palais ran in this election. The only candidates were a Starfleet admiral, a special emissary, and a governor."
"Which is," Velisa added, "the first time that no member of the Federation Council participated in a presidential election in a hundred and fifty years. But then, this was a unique election."
"I have another question," Ele'er said. Again, Mother paused the playback. "Who did you vote for, Mother?"
Mother did not answer for several seconds. Then, finally, she said, "It does not matter."
Ele'er hid a smile. That means she voted for Pagro. Ele'er hadn't paid much attention to the election, since she was not old enough to vote, but she did know that the last president resigned. Ele'er wasn't entirely sure why. She supposed she could ask, but she decided she wanted to see more of the conversation first.
Velisa continued when Mother restarted the playback. "One thing that is not unique is the current situation between the Deltans and the Carreon. Ra-Yalix, how do you think President Bacco should be handling the situation?"
"While I confess to admiring the president's stated desire to see the parties work out their differences themselves, I'm afraid that any optimism in this regard is probably...shall we say...unwarranted."
Nitram asked, "What is wrong with allowing Delta and Carrea to settle their differences internally?"
The Efrosian chuckled. "Because it's unlikely that this time will be different from any other. The animosity between Delta and Carrea dates back to long before Delta joined the Federation -- the two nations tried to colonize the same worlds when they first went out into space. The Carreon have been careful to limit their aggression since Delta became part of the Federation, but they've never been willing to give in."
Shanthi added, "I was stationed near Delta IV when the Dominion attacked it. It was that attack that resulted in the poisoning of Delta's water table, which in turn led to the breakdown of their water reclamation system, which was not designed to deal with the impurities that the Jem'Hadar introduced with their attacks. Although they were able to purify the water for a while, those measures broke down when the Dominion poison adapted. Other worlds have supplied water as a stopgap, but sooner or later, Delta must have use of its own water."
"The point is," Ra-Yalix said, "that the president is going to have to step in soon, because these two planets aren't going to talk to each other except to make threats."
Ele'er hated to admit it to herself, but she found the discussion fascinating. In fact, the only thing she didn't like was Councillor Nitram's near-total silence. She felt that the representative of her world to the Federation Council should be more willing to speak. Maybe he shouldn't be obnoxious the way that reporter is, but still...
Velisa looked around at the panel. "So, to conclude, how do you think President Bacco is doing in her first two months?"
Ra-Yalix said, "I think she's proceeding with caution for the time being, which is prudent. Once she gets the lay of the land, as it were, she'll be fine."
Sovan shook his head. "Caution is the worst approach she can take. The people need a leader who can fill the vacuum left by Zife, and move the Federation past the Dominion War and its aftermath. She won't do that by treading lightly."
Nitram simply said, "I look forward to continuing to cooperate with President Bacco on an agenda that will do as Mr. Sovan says -- move the Federation forward."
Shanthi leaned back in her chair. "I think she has done a fine job and will continue to do so."
"Well, thank you Sovan, Ra-Yalix, Councillor Nitram, and Admiral Shanthi. Good night, everyone."
Mother turned the viewer off and looked at her daughter. "Do you have any questions?"
Ele'er smiled. "Yes -- can we watch this again the next time it is on?"
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