Literature > Watchers on the Walls

'Watchers on the Walls of Paradise'

Admiral Constanza Q. Stark is widely regarded as one of the greatest High Guard Chiefs of Staff ever to serve in the position. During Stark's tenure, a fleet depleted and demoralized by a diminished threat and popular opposition rediscovered its sense of purpose. Stark is widely credited with anticipating the rise of unforeseen threats in the face of High Guard withdrawal from its traditional responsibilities, and restructuring the force to reflect the asymmetric nature of these potential threats and contingencies. The following are selected excerpts from Stark's first address as Chief of Staff to the graduating midshipmen of the High Guard Academy in 9764 CY. Some have noted that Stark's words seem eerily prophetic in light of the surprise Magog attack on Brandenburg Tor just two years later.

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It is with a great sense of history and pride that I come before you today as the High Guard inducts you into the ranks of its elite officer corps. I cannot help but be humbled, standing before this crowd of thousands - with countless more watching from remote locations around the Commonwealth - and realizing that I stand in the midst of greatness. You are the best and the brightest of a hundred thousand worlds, beings for whom service is more than civic virtue and sacrifice, more than an abstract notion of selflessness. For the officers of the High Guard, service and sacrifice are tangible things, more precious than gold, because we pay for the right to claim them with our sweat, our blood, our tears. We are the watchers on the walls of Paradise.

Some have argued that the time has come for the watchers to climb down from the walls, that Paradise is secure - indeed, that Paradise is diminished by our very presence. How can we claim to live in an age of freedom and enlightenment, they ask, when our planets crawl with armed troops, when our skies are filled with ships of war so formidable not even the stars themselves are immune to their wrath. They point to our guns, our bombs, our anachronistic uniforms, our strange traditions, our rigid hierarchy and they ask what relevance these things have in a universe at peace with itself.

And some in the High Guard have argued that these people deserve to reap what they sow. That perhaps the dissolution of the High Guard, like a wish made to an angry djinn, will show them just how tenuous their Paradise really is. They point to the universities, the research centers, the museums, the Conclave and they call them luxuries, taken for granted by an ungrateful populace. They ask how long these things could abide without the strength of the High Guard to ensure their survival.

I am here to tell you that both of these arguments are misguided, that there is another way. There is a middle path, a road we must take that can preserve the noble tradition of the High Guard as an instrument of peace and maintain the security and stability of the liberties System Commonwealth citizens have enjoyed for 10,000 years. It is a hard road, fraught with change and peril, but at the end of that road we can leave the Systems Commonwealth better and stronger than we found it. We can make it a finer place.

As is usual, these grand pronouncements are more easily articulated than implemented. And I am sure you are asking yourselves: How do you propose to get us on that road, lead us down it, bring us to this happy future? I answer your question with a pearl of great price - an insight so pure, so fundamental that it forms the core of every great victory and every bitter defeat:

Watchers on the Walls of Paradise: Part II



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