| Dictated by Ensign Anen Sonbef to Lieutenant Commander Lara Godolphin, 2386. |
Sonbef: Well where to begin? Well I suppose the beginning, which actually is farther back than anyone can possibly remember. So for time immemorial, the Laudeans have had a strong tradition of Oligarchy and social stratification. It varied from place to place. In some places it was benign, the monarchy and nobility were still running the show mind you but it wasn't oppressive. That's the way it was like in Bryque. Of course I'm never really sure if I remember that correctly. Part of me sees what the revolutionaries saw, a degrading and vile system of oppression, and part of me sees something anachronistic but not worthy of the response it received. My memory has a split personality you see, and it is perhaps the greatest liar you will ever meet.
Godolphin: It's fine, go on. Tell me about the aristocratic life of Bryque.
Sonbef: It was... bright, a bit casual actually. It's a tropical place and the center of tourism on Til'ahn so you can't draw tourists if they have to worry about protocol. No, the classes mixed pretty freely; the beaches, the clubs, the resorts, they blended people together well enough, sometimes along financial standing of course but that didn't always line up with one's social class.
Godolphin: So Bryque was pretty liberal then?
Sonbef: I think it's a relative word and 'moderate' would be more apt, but I suppose so. Nobles and commoners alike were always raised to believe in community and cooperation and we never had any of the stirrings or revolts other Kingdoms had. The Empress was one of the most popular royals in planetary history, she was beloved by all. Everyone got along, or so it seemed.
Godolphin: But I suppose they didn't.
Sonbef::: Long pause.:: You know my brother would call them 'malcontents', students and others who had been exposed to dangerous ideas and revisionist works that sought to undermine the social order. Provocateurs and agitators, twisting the minds of the people to turn them against us. In a way he's certainly right, Bryque didn't need a revolution, it needed reform, though I guess that's something a Noble would say.
Godolphin: Go on...
Sonbef: Well my father was Grand Vizier and in possession of a somewhat minor sympathy to calls for reform in the wake of First Contact. His own family were commoners, from Damodara, but had been raised to nobility a few generations before, in return for services rendered to the Court. He thought he could control the Revolution in Bryque, but in doing so he overstepped and caused a landslide of public disapproval.
Godolphin: And that's when it started?
Sonbef: And that's when it started. At first it was just extremely vocal demonstrations on the beaches or in one of the squares of Maahes. The Military was filled with reactionaries though and they felt the need to clamp down hard. I think my father agreed, though if he had known the scope of what they had planned, I don't think he would have gone along with it.
Godolphin: What happened?
Sonbef: I was there that night, when the troops entered the First Square. I was friends with some of the Revolutionaries and it seemed like they just had ideological concerns, as much as they talked a big, fiery game, I don't think they really wanted what was to come. They didn't mind my presence and its not like anyone could have picked me out of a line up. I think they were grateful for my support actually. I had my father's ear, that was useful to them.
Godolphin: But something happened that night, you mentioned troops?
Sonbef: Yes, the military entered the Square to disperse the protestors but it didn't end well. I think someone threw something and when the soldier flinched or something, he shot off his rifle and the beam hit someone, killing them, or so I was told. For a moment there was silence and then all hell broke loose, for the next three weeks the city was ablaze and the military was forced to retreat.
Godolphin: What did you do?
Sonbef: Well needless to say I was no longer welcome among my former friends, and the streets were no longer safe for anyone, so I went home to the Palace with everyone else of a certain rank.
Godolphin: And what was it like there?
Sonbef: :: A short laugh.::... terrifying? Huddled together for over two weeks with only a few guards between you and a murderous mob. They attempted an evacuation about a week in, but the shuttles were shot down on approach. Tragic for the pilots but it did embolden the military to resolve to take back the city. It took a while for them to regroup though and in the succeeding two weeks there was nothing, nothing but fear of what might come. :: Pause.:: I try not to think about it.
Godolphin: Obviously you escaped.
Sonbef: It doesn't seem quite so obvious and clear when I look back on it. After the military tore through the city to reach us, you can imagine that all us wanted to get somewhere safe, even if we hadn't fully comprehended the danger before, we certainly did now. With communications restored there were reports coming in from all over the planet of every kind of brutality towards those either in support or linked to the monarchy in some way. They didn't seem to care who they were, it was a slaughter irrespective of social class and one's... :: pause.:: ...age.
Godolphin: Are you saying they killed children?
Sonbef: :: Long pause.:: Yes.
Godolphin: So how did you get off world then?
Sonbef: There were a lot of ships still in orbit, not ours but those who had come to trade, trying to buy up large parts of a new and emerging market. Many of us, weeks before, could sense what was coming, my mother included, and she had arranged for ships from several Houses of Betazed to come ferry us there, at least temporarily. Betazoids have their own aristocratic structure and we had been assured of its stability, so it seemed natural. Thousands of nobles and those either loyal or otherwise associated with the monarchies descended on Lokesh City, where the main spaceport was. We were fortunate, we were on one of the first transports to leave. My mother didn't want to go, but she knew she had to, and certainly didn't want to leave my father behind.
Godolphin: Your father stayed behind?
Sonbef: Yes, the Empress felt it unwise to abandon her people and in her loyalty to the people, many decided to stay loyal to her and try and weather the storm.
Godolphin: But the rest of your family left?
Sonbef: My immediate family yes. For the next few weeks we were on that transport and reports kept coming in, they were sketchy when they talked about the political situation in details but one detail they never got wrong was how many people were being killed. Apparently when they stormed the space port in Lokesh they received the manifests of all Nobles and their allies who had left. Our names were put on Lists of Émigrés, which were death lists, with orders to in turn 'harass' our remaining friends and family.
Godolphin: So how did it end?
Sonbef: I arrived on Betazed and over the next few months and weeks we heard about the tail end of the Revolutionary violence and the forming of a new democratic government. During that time we learned that the Palace of Maahes had been stormed in the last days of the Revolution, and almost everyone who hadn't fled...
Godolphin: And your father?
Sonbef: :: Brief pause.:: Likely dead, along with many other relatives.
Godolphin: But you can't be sure?
Sonbef: I'd rather not open a Pandora's Box of possibilities, "if", "perhaps", "not for certain". It's been six years, we would have heard if he had survived. The reason they never found his body is that most of them were unidentifiable afterwards, and after that orgy of violence, many of the bodies were lost.
Godolphin: :: Long pause.:: So how do you feel about it all?
Sonbef: How do I feel? :: Long pause.:: Nothing especially. My old life is gone, it won't come back, it can't come back. Nothing can be as it was before.
Godolphin: Do you think it was justified?
Sonbef: :: Long pause.:: I often remember, when I am asked this question, of our housekeeper. She was a woman who had been in service to us all her life. Minimal schooling, she didn't have much of a life outside our household, not that I saw, though I don't think I was meant to. I remember such dedication, such kindness of the soul, to people she never knew by name, and who never treated her like one ought to treat another being. She didn't have much of a life, and it saddens me when I think about it, having to live your life by such protocol and formality, and being in the inferior position. :: Pause.:: And then I think of Grand Duke Anil. He was a Govindan Lord who was but six at the time of the revolution. He was a child, barely more than an infant and they killed him, along with his two sisters. He was a noble, an aristocrat, and therefor, he was a target. They strung his body up on ramparts afterwards, for all to see.
Godolphin: How awful.
Sonbef: :: A laugh.:: Yes, yes how awful. :: Long pause.:: I don't know if it was justified, when you think of the slaughter, no one can justify that. :: Long pause.:: I just hope that it was worth it. I don't live on Til'ahn any more, I don't know what it's like. I don't know if it was justified Commander, I just hope they got what they were looking for.