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Live Well

Posted on Mon Nov 2nd, 2015 @ 7:16pm by Lieutenant Commander Vanora Stele

Mission: Heart of Stele
Location: Elas
Timeline: After "Anticus"

On a Monday, Tang Stele passed away, with his wife, Vanora, at his side.

The doctors would tell her afterward that he had suffered multiple massive aneurysms and corresponding strokes that led to complete brain death. But Vanora knew better. As always, Tang was doing whatever he could to protect her. Despite whatever limitations he was dealing with, he knew that there was no good end to his story, not after the brain damage he had suffered. He had let go, in order to let Vanora go.

Vanora knew this because he had told her this, in a dream, immediately before he left her for the final time. She would forever remember his last words to her not as her name, shouted in a moment of anguish on the floor of her mother's sitting room. Instead, she would remember his last words as those he spoke directly to her mind, before she woke to the beeping of the biobed, alerting the hosptial that Tang's last moments had arrived.

He looked as beautiful as the day she had met him, tall and handsome, hair stylishly fashioned and face a sea of calm amidst a busy marketplace on an outer Human settlement. Only this time, the last time, they were not surrounded by waves of people, by the shouting of merchants and the clamor of commerce. This time, it was only him and her, alone, and nothing else. Neither bright light nor shadow. Just them.

She had wanted to tell him that she had missed him, that her life had been always missing its most important part since he was taken away from her. She had wanted to tell him that he was her everything, the best thing that had ever happened to her, and that he made her whole. She had wanted to tell him that she loved him more than the universe, more than her own life.

He heard her say all of that without her uttering a single noise, and he smiled in acknowledgment, conveying to her in the simple expression that the same was true for him. He reached out a hand and touched her cheek, and opened his mouth to speak to her once more.

"Live well, my Heart."

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There would be trials, but Elasian society had already issued its own verdicts. The media images did not do justice to the wrath of the mobs that descended upon the chambers of the Council of Nobles, and upon the main barracks of the Timariot. Public denouncements of Chief Livia of the Augusta came rapidly, but they were not sufficient to satisfy the outpouring of anger at this betrayal of Elasian honor. Computers and records were raided, and anonymous informants spilled all of the details of secret laws, secret police, and secret prisons.

As for Livia herself, only Starfleet Security was able to save her from public lynching.

By Tuesday evening, there had been one riot, two public protests, and six public duels of honor. Though the Council of Nobles had immediately revoked Livia's emergency amendment to the Law of Succession, a new problem had arisen for heads of the Elasian clan, the problem of guilt by association. If Livia of the Augusta was corrupt and abusing the Timariot for her own personal schemes, who was to say that all council members were not taking the same liberties with their power? The entire institution of nobility was called into question. The long-dismissed movement of Representativists, who had called for the end of nobility ever since ascension to Federation Membership, gained momentary celebrity as they called for an abolition of the Council and the creation of a new, elected parliament.

In response, a great deal of rapid introspection occurred within the noble houses. Some of this happened under broad daylight and out in the open, as it was in the case of the five public duels. Of the chiefs who had been involved in steering the Timariot toward unchecked and covert powers, not all had heirs such as Helen, who had been unaware of her mother's participation in the creation and use of the intelligence department and elite units. Of the five heirs who publicly challenged their own mothers in order to redeem the honor of their clan and title, it was popularly considered that the majority knew of, and were perhaps even involved with, the illegal conduct, and that the duels were efforts to cover up their own complicity. Future investigation would undoubtedly reveal at least some of the truth in those cases, but for the time being, the dismissing of their own chiefs was seen by most Elasians as appropriate efforts to clean up their own clans.

The results of the five duels were typical for Elasians, with four ending in death and one in a severe maiming; in all but one, the heir and challenger defeated their parent. The one exception was in the duel between the heir and the chief of the Baetulo, the clan of the prison guard Sir Ammon who Vanora had encountered at Beta Base. Chief Diana managed to best her daughter, Myceana, with a fatal dagger blow to the heart. Diana was arrested immediately after the duel by Starfleet Security, as was the only other surviving chief facing a duel, the defeated and maimed Chief Rivia of the Cannae. The seventh noble who sat on Livia's secret committee, Chief Janissa of the Ninon, had fled Elas. Council members who had not participated in Livia's committee, but who were aware and possibly active in the formation and maintenance of the Timariot intelligence and strategic operations departments, appeared to escape immediate, Elasian justice.

By Wednesday, the Council was proposing various reforms, most prominently by the outspoken new member Helen of the Augusta, and the Representativists were struggling to keep up popular support. It appeared that Elasians were on a preliminary basis satisfied with the blood that had been spilled as penance for the Council's misbehavior, and by most evaluations, the vast swath of Elasian society preferred reform to revolution. It was, after all, Elas, where tradition was revered.

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In the end, Livia had half succeeded; she had finally killed Tang after failing for four years. But in all other aspects, she had fallen short; her grandiose plans for Vanora to lead a more powerful Augusta and a more influential Timariot had fallen apart, and the supposedly "weak" Helen was now one of the most vocal and respected voices for reform among the Council of Nobles. And under her guidance, Sir Ajax, Vanora's brother who was also for the moment free from his mother's shame, had taken command of the Augusta Timariot and was conducting a complete floor to ceiling internal investigation to root out any operatives that may have been involved with the secret Timariot departments. The Augusta were thus simultaneously tarnished by the stains of Livia's reign but hopeful for a true redemption in the eyes of Elas.

Vanora had not seen either Helen or Ajax since the funeral. She only realized much later that both of them had respectfully honored her request that attendees wear white, the traditional funeral color for much of the Earth nation of China. There was a brief but polite offering of condolences by each of them. Unlike the first time she had thought she'd lost Tang, however, this time she did not have the feeling that this was merely a formality, from either of them. They had seen her loss, and recognized what, from their point of view, she had given up in order to save their clan. Their early departure was of necessity, given the work they both had to do.

With the exception of her baby sister Peri, the commander of the USS Banting, all of Vanora's siblings and her father were in attendance, as was Tang's family. Tang's family was small, and they did not follow the old traditions, so they approved of Vanora's request to bury Tang on Elas. Most of them she had met only once before, at their wedding on Earth, but they were all overwhelemed and emotional when they saw her again, calling her their daughter and family, and they cried with her at the wake. A safe distance away, of course.

Tang had always wanted to properly return to the ground from which all life arose, and in respect for his wishes, he was buried under a sapling on a side of a grassy hill. The sapling, a redwood from his native Earth, would merge with his essence, and serve as both his headstone and his extended life. No one lived forever, not even redwoods, but the tree would last many Elasian lifetimes, and Vanora finally had a proper reason to return to Elas regularly.

 

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