THE QUESTION ANSWERED PART ONE
Planet Cfir had known uninterrupted peace and prosperity for five eras. War was made obsolete and, except within the confines of the Atalaa Ritual, violence unknown. Peace was maintained not by armies and their various deterrents, but by the Collective minds’ virtue and logic.
Oerip stared at the black onaxa statue that symbolized the T’Ming’s commitment to peace. Anger wrinkled her brow. She looked away. Until now her life had been content and full—but no longer. Enlightened by the Rings — their guarded knowledge made privy to her by the tireless efforts of her loyal tutor, Malaa — she found her emotions disconcerted, torn.
“Our past was so debased, so primal,” Oerip said with contempt. “I had no idea of the barbarity.”
Malaa nodded. “Aside from the Doctrinizers, few do, child.” She smiled. “Fortunately, that was during the Pak Tue Era when the T’Ming shattered rival economies, ordained mass genocide and exiled dissentients to the outer planets in the name of peace. I shudder to think what would have happened had not the Overseers created the Atalaa Ritual.”
“Neither they nor the T’Ming had any choice, less they desired extinction,” Oerip replied cryptically.
Malaa raised her right brow, stared at Oerip, but said nothing.
“Don’t be offended, dear Malaa. The ritual presents such an equitable, refined commitment to peace, does it not?” Oerip chastised. “That is, until you discover it is you that must undergo the privilege of enduring the horrors of our race’s inherent depravity. Ah yes, what greater honor than to fulfill one’s onus for lasting peace…or die trying?” Oerip laughed bitterly.
“Child, speak not this way,” Malaa scolded. “I cannot undo what you have learned this day. Ease your pain by viewing your responsibility in the proper perspective: the good it will accomplish, the rewards it will continue to bestow upon our civilization. You must…”
“Malaa,” Oerip interrupted, “do you know how many times I’ve heard this tired old, diatribe?”
“Judging by your arrogance, apparently not enough,” Malaa countered, her wizened expression telling Oerip the reply did not please her. “Logic, dear child, must replace emotion if peace is to supplant war.”
“As proper and correct an answer as ever, dear Malaa, but it fails me miserably. I no longer desire the Attala’s distinction much less its sanctioned violence.”
Malaa’s eyes narrowed. “Child, do not forget the foremost axiom!”
Oerip’s look was disapproving. “I have not! The Atlalaa states leadership’s elemental nature is dualistic: rewarding those who master its complexities and destroying those who do not.”
“And that, dear child,” Malaa said folding her arms, “is why the Ritual’s adjudicators must be one’s virtue, one’s ethics and nothing more.”
Oerip gave a subdued nod.
Malaa’s expression softened. “You must understand if any biological or psychological weaknesses surface during the ritual, your life will be forfeit.”
“I know this now because of the accursed Rings,” Oerip replied despondently.
Malaa’s eyes grew wide, comforting. She approached Oerip and gently placed her hands on her shoulders. “Child, it is critical those of indomitable strength, intelligence and purity meld with the collective mind so our T’Ming’s depravity remains buried.”
Oerip looked sadly into her eyes. “I mean no disrespect, Malaa, but it is I that will be placed in destiny’s jaws, not you.”
“True, child,” she nodded, “but you are the Zacuut Cfir, first-born T’Ming female of the
Darhiir house, Kleemdan Clan, and because you are, do you think I, my staff, would let you fail? Well?”
Oerip shook her head slowly. “No, Malaa. You would not.”
Malaa smiled. “Good. I am glad that you still retain some of your faculties.” She placed her hand softly under Oerip’s chin, lifting it. “Child, you have grown strong within this environment. True, you have not been permitted the joys others your age take for granted, but it was done to insure that you would possess the emotional strength and purity needed to successfully complete the ritual.”
“But the Rings, Malaa? I shall cease to be no matter what the outcome.”
© 2017, Raymond Tobaygo. All rights reserved.
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