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Unwitnessed, Unratified: What We Do

Posted on 05 Mar 2024 @ 4:19pm by Lieutenant Commander Maurice Rubens

Mission: M4 - Falling Out
Location: Montevideo, Earth
Timeline: April 6, 2385 - The Morning after the Attack on Mars
3114 words - 6.2 OF Standard Post Measure

Last Time on Unwitnessed, Unratified:

Chapter I: A Good Day, a Bad Day

The wind and rain stopped around midnight, but the cool autumnal air it brought lingered when Rice rose before the sun. Rafaella, still laying under the blankets, never shifted. Her chest rose and fell with the long breaths of sleep.

Rice glanced at the clock on the nightstand: a red 4:22 a.m. greeted him. He’d been lying awake for nearly two hours, unable to stop the worries from encroaching on his sleep. What would the dawn bring?

He slowly, quietly, pushed himself out of Rafaella’s bed, realizing only standing there in the nude that all his clothes had been strewn around her apartment. In the darkness, he felt around with his feet, only finding a sock and his underwear. Giving up on the rest, he slipped the underwear on and padded into Rafaella’s living room, silently closing the bedroom door behind him.

He turned on a lamp on a small side table underneath a large window. The light illuminated a small apartment room, with its matching red chair and couch, and, other than the table, lamp, and a small bookcase crammed with hardback volumes, little else. The carpeted floor gave way to the tile of the small bright kitchen with a few pots of fragrant herbs dashing the space with green and a square table with two chairs. The bedroom and bathroom were the only other rooms. It was simple. Cozy.

Rice spotted his other sock haphazardly wadded up on her sunflower yellow dress which she’d tossed on the floor. He picked up the dress and carefully smoothed it out over the back of the couch, before finding his slacks wadded up in a pile under the table, he slipped those on and returned to the window. He switched off the lamp, so he could see outside without the light’s reflection bouncing his own image back at him.

A four-story apartment across the courtyard sprang into being. In more than a few of the windows facing this way, he could see cold blue light emanating from windows and sliding patio doors. Rice needn’t wonder, he knew where the light came from: holographic viewers projecting images of a burning Mars. Newscasters would be repeating themselves for the umpteenth time or throwing in a nugget of new information. If they were to keep going for days, or months, or years those nuggets they tossed out would begin to mean something more; a bigger picture would slowly emerge.

They wouldn’t, Rice knew. Eventually they’d move on to other matters. But even if they were to report for all that time, the bigger picture wouldn’t matter.

Diplomats whirled through space not of their own creation. Politicians provided the gravity that would dictate their orbit and today, long before they even had a complete understanding of what had happened, those politicians would begin to build out the playing field everyone would occupy. It would be messy and, Rice intuited, and it would be different from how it had been.

He felt her arms wrap around his chest and her head lean against his back. Raefella’s skin and breath are warm, causing Rice to feel the morning chill more acutely than he had before. After years of flirting with her, but never really knowing much about her beyond her coffee shop business and love of bright colors, he’s surprised by how quickly the boyish crush has deepened. It’s only been hours since they sat on the beach considering the present; it’s only been hours since they made love and fell asleep. Now she feels like a missing puzzle piece in his life.

“What are you doing up?” she asked, fighting back a yawn.

“Couldn’t sleep,” he replied.

Rafaella kissed the back of his neck. “And standing in the dark staring out the window seemed like a better option than snuggling up?”

“I didn’t want to wake you.”

“You failed miserably.”

“I can see that.”

She looked over his shoulder out the window and saw the other windows and the light inside, just as he had. “It reminds me of the attack on Earth during the War. No one could sleep for weeks after that. Where you here for that?”

Rice shook his head.

“Where were you?”


“Studying or something?”

“Healing.” Rice didn’t talk about the war much – he’d been a stupid, ignorant kid when he’d joined up – and said even less about his time in the recovery center on Vulcan. He’d only been allowed there because his great-grandfather was Vulcan and they wanted to test to see if Vulcan psychological healing techniques would work on those who weren’t full-blooded. It had, but it had been an extremely trying time with its repeated mind melds striking at the core of him, pulling up memories he hadn’t even remembered.

Yet, he found himself telling Rafaella everything. By the time he was finished, the sun was beginning to unfurl its golden hues on the eastern horizon. They sat on her couch with two cups of coffee.

“When does your shop open?” he asked when she sat in silence staring at him as if seeing him for the first time.

“One of my baristas should be there now,” she said, glancing at the clock. “I should be there, too.”

“I’ll get dressed and head into the office. I’ve got work to do.”

“On Mars?”

“No. Cardassia. I think it's a good time to remind people that ours aren’t the only tragedies in the universe.”

“It’ll be hard for people to remember that, I think. Sometimes we can’t see past the end of our noses.”

“Yeah,” Rice replied. He knew that, of course he did, but. But. “We’re the Federation. We don’t run from adversity and we don’t turn our backs.”

Her bright smile lit up her face and Rice soon found himself grinning back. He would do anything to see her smile. “How long do you think you’ll be here then?”

“Weeks. Months, maybe.”

“Where are you staying?”

“There’s a hostel for visiting Diplomatic Officers a few blocks from here. I have to share a room.”

“If you have to share a room, why not share one with me?”

Rice didn’t even have to think before his reply. It was a nonchalant, “Okay,” but his heart was shouting Yes. A thousand times yes,

.: [[Exterior Department, Late April]] :.

Chaos seemed to have descended on the Exterior Department’s campus with dizzying speed. No one seemed to know what was going on with the Romulan relocation and aid work anymore. Some units of diplomats pressed on with what they’d been working on prior to the Martian disaster; others seemed to stop work completely.

None of it was helped by the fact that weeks had gone by since the Mars Attack. Recovery efforts were still being beamed from the planet to holoviewers in a non-stop stream and many questions remained unanswered, although it was quite clear that the fleet of ships being built to ferry the hapless Romulans away from the supernova’s blast radius was all destroyed.

Gossip dominated the campus. Rumors swirled, more numerous than the rock pigeons who nested on the buildings’ ledges and foraged for dropped morsels in the streets and squares. Then the grumbles started.

While Rice was walking through the campus to a meeting with a 21st-century historian with an expertise in technology, he overheard numerous conversations.

“I heard Starfleet is refusing to bring out old starships from mothballs.”

“Oh? I heard the opposite. I heard they were giving them to the Romulans.”

“The Secretary was in a meeting with the President all night last night arguing. Starfleet Command wants to pull our support for some of the refugee camps along the Neutral Zone. She might resign over it.”

“Starfleet is giving the orders now. We might get folded up into their Diplomatic Corps for the duration of the emergency. I don’t want to take orders from some admiral who doesn’t know diplomacy from a hole in the wall.”

There’d always been competition between Starfleet, who’s fingers dipped into so many cookie jars – science, diplomacy, security, engineering, and medicine – and the other departments of the Federation who only oversaw one of those core fields, but his colleagues’ tilt to voicing hurt and anger at Starfleet, as if the president and Federation Council played no part, made Rice feel self-conscious. He believed in the Fleet’s mission, and trusted it would try to do the right thing. He was, after all, still an officer and had spent a decade in uniform.

As he walked, he resolved to keep focused on forging the agreement for green energy for Cardassia; that, at least, would keep him away from the tempest brewing.

.: [[Rafaella’s Apartment, the middle of May]] :.

“It’s unusually cold.” Rafaella put down the book she’d been reading, sat up so her head was no longer resting in Rice’s lap, and tightened the shawl hanging around her shoulders. She leaned back.

“Mmm.” Rice was reading his PADD. About what he hadn’t said, but she was sure it was work.

She’d notice that as the news about the Federation pulling back from helping the Romulans broke a few weeks ago, he’d thrown himself into his work with even more gusto. Rafaella understood the importance, but not his sudden desire to be finished with it. Him finishing this work made her uneasy. Through they’re whirlwind romance, they’d never once discussed what came after. His posting, after all, was on Cardassia and she had no desire to leave Earth.

“Why are you working all the time? I feel like the honeymoon stage of this relationship lasted for only a couple of weeks.”

RIce sighed, not lifting his eyes from the PADD. “Is this our first argument boiling up?”

“Only if you want it to be.”

He paused, thinking (as if arguments could be good things!), and then put down the PADD. “Short answer: politics. We’ve got to get this done before…before the Romulan thing is completely wound down.”

“Isn’t it already?”

“Yes and no. It takes a little to wind down the operation. There were some active rescue efforts going on, some aid already on its way to newly settled colonists. That kind of stuff. Politicians are laser focused on that, but as soon as it’s truly done, then they’re going to come for everyone else.”


“They’re not satisfied. The whole thing was about resources and if the more established colonies were getting their fair share. So, it’d take an amazing act of courage and political know-how to steer the Council to return Cardassian aid to pre-Romulan mission levels. I’m betting just the opposite happens: they’ll decide that Cardassians have more in common with Romulans.”

“What do Cardassians and Romulans have in common?”

“They're old enemies.”

.: [[Zermat's Office, Department of the Exterior, early July]] :.

“By the gods. Frost this morning. We’re in the tropics, not the subarctic. My flowerbed is in a state,” Zermat grumbled as he let his coat crumble onto the floor of his office. There was nowhere else to put it. The closet-sized space had lost what little space it had to clutches of PADDS, hastily tacked up bulletin board filled with notecards scrawled with ideas, and the other person who sat hunched over a PADD. “How long have you been here, Rice?”

“I don’t know.”

“When did you get up, man?”


Zermat shook his head. “Beautiful woman to wake up to and you still crawl into this place. I thought you’d at least have a hangover. You heard the news yesterday.”

“The Council is voting today and not until…” Rice glanced around to look at the time. It was 8 a.m. according to the clock. “Not for another five hours.”

“You think we can finish in five hours?” the Bolian asked incredulously.

“Four hours. We should give ourselves some time.”

“Okay, four hours?”

“I’ve reviewed our text again this morning. I woke up Gilly in Legal who reviewed it and gave it the thumbs up. There was somebody on the Cardassian desk at four this morning, and I forced them to review it and sign off on it. It may have been a little above their head, but it follows the rules. Cardassians have signed off on it, as have the Bolians, and our new friends with their green technology. Bare minimum, but desperate times and all that.”

“The Secretary or undersecretary still need to give their blessing, and they’re in Paris trying to stop all of this. Have you thought of a way around that predicament?”

Rice glanced up and smiled deviously. “I’m interpreting the Out-of-Office rule liberally.”

The Out-of-Office rule - or officially Rule 212-B - stated that if the Secretary and Undersecretary were unable to respond to critical emergencies anyone at the rank of Ambassador or below could make unilateral decisions. It was meant for events like a comet streaking toward a planet, or a war breaking out in some corner of the galaxy at the same moment the Exterior’s brass were dealing with equally critical matters (or if both were hit with buses crossing a street) at the exact same moment. It wasn’t meant for finalizing trades.

It was the actual text of the rule which Rice was twisting this morning. ‘Critical emergencies’ was how the rule was written, nothing more and nothing less. He could construe that this trade agreement had more riding on it than just some green energy going to Cardassia, ergo it was 'critical' in the current circumstances.

To himself, he readily understood how thin his argument was, but he didn't find himself feeling guilty at all.

“They won’t like it,” Zermat protested. Who they were, the Bolian left undefined. Rice knew, as well as he, that they could be anyone from Federation Council members to the heads of a variety of departments who will have been essentially cut out of a process they’d normally have been involved in, especially one as sensitive as a trade agreement with a new warp-capable species. They may very well be everyone.

“They don’t have to like it. They just have to follow through, which they will. Even the Federation Council’s hands will be tied. They won’t have enough political juice to stop it after the bruising everyone’s taking to pass this fuc…” Rice bit back his anger; it wasn’t helpful and he’d spend the next hour in a rage.

The majority of the Federation Council who were going to vote for the thing were poo-pooing the idea that the bill targeted the Cardassian rebuilding by saying that it was a simple recalibration of resources to Federation colonies along the Cardassian border. He’d actually heard one Council member say in an interview that it would help Cardassia more to have barely any Federation assistance in the continued rebuilding of their world.

He stood up. “I’ve got to get a hold of Dae-Jung. God, I hope he's in his office."

“Are you out of your mind?”

It wasn’t exactly the phrase Rice had hoped Dae-Jung would utter when the younger man had finished explaining the plan. “You know as well as me that if we don’t do this they’ll open those mines again and undo almost a decade of work and then some. It’ll be an ecological disaster.”

“It will also throw a spanner into any goodwill left with the Council majority.”

“What goodwill? Have you read the bill? They mean to strip out any support for Cardassia in…” Rice glanced at the clock. …two hours!”

“I’ve got more to offer, but If I do this the President would be forced to fire me,” Rice’s gaze didn’t flicker, and Dae-Jung realized, “You already knew that.”

Rice shrugged apologetically. He knew it as soon as he realized it was the only way. A sacrifice needed to be made. “It’s not like I’m only asking you to sacrifice yourself. They’ll send me packing just the same as you. Back to the Fleet, who’ll probably put me on an ice planet to monitor quasars and galactic dust. The only negotiating I’ll be doing is with boredom and the will to go on.

“On the other hand, if we don’t do it…” Rice repositioned himself a little closer to the view screen and began to push his case, “You and I know this is bigger than just power and ecological disaster to one continent. A green energy system could start to heal Cardassia Prime physically and bring joy back to the Cardassian people. Half the reason they’re miserable is because they’ve spent generations on a diseased world of their own making. Heal the world, heal Cardassians. They’re turning their backs, Dae. They’re…This is what we have to do. We have to.”

Dae-Jung closed his eyes. His entire career had been spent on Cardassian matters. He’d been a junior member of the team that negotiated the end of the last Federation-Cardassian War and the Dominion War. The rebuilding efforts had been the crown jewel of his professional life, the ambassadorship the reward for never losing faith in Cardassians to turn to peace. This was not just a planet to him, not just a posting: it was everything to him.

A small voice told him there was more he could do yet, even when the Council passed that monstrosity. He could find a way, a chink in the armor of the legislation that he could exploit and keep the aid flowing. It was the small work that made the difference, after all. It was the efforts that went unheralded that lay the groundwork for a brighter future.

Now with his young friend staring earnestly at him, a realization dawned and it’s truth pained him. He was tired, so very tired. He had nothing left to give.

“Send me the agreement,” Dae-Jung said, “I’ll sign under the Rule 212-B.”


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