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The Mirus stood at the virtual podium, a bit nervous and showing more confidence than he felt. He was debating a representative of the Suthidruu, the Elder Worms, with the existence of an entire civilization at stake.

It was getting increasingly difficult for him to remain calm, such was his frustration with the sophistry he was being subjected to. His debate partner had so far used every tricky rhetorical tactic, but without skill and with evident intent to anger him. The Suthidruu was obviously young, possibly just having undergone larval fusion before being given a crash course in sham argumentation.

The Mirus’s well-conditioned mind recognized this, giving him a smile inside as he found his deeper well of patience. He would not be goaded into releasing his darker aspect, the Magnus. That would lead to his own execution here and now and the death of the planet below.

The young Suthidruu “spoke” through its translator, a device sensitive to multiple sensory channels, as it made its final argument for the round. “Do the *squark* sentients below, or my opponent *squeal* believe as we do that *click* paradise awaits them on the other side of this universe of pain and sorrow? *static hiss* For we shall soon send them there to *squeal* submit to judgement by our gods!”

The Mirus smiled inwardly once more, and it showed in his now even more calm demeanor.

The Suthidruu are obviously unfamiliar with Poker, he thought, noting the desperate tone of that last flawed argument. The time he spent looking unflappable was worth it, as his opponent had made his final argument. It too, like all the others made today, would be refuted, and soundly. He quickly analyzed, then evaluated it before clearing his throat and smiling outwardly as well. What little he knew of Suthidruu body-language told him that the smugness of the Elder Worm’s demeanor had worn off in that instant, and it was getting nervous about the consequences for its failure tonight.

“My sentients, how is that a good point, much less even a valid one? I see that it rests on at least three nested and all unwarranted presumptions, that firstly, that there exists an otherworldly paradise for all beings, a view which is neither shared by all beings outside your species, nor demonstrated anywhere in the argument. It is simply assumed as a given! As a nonbeliever of your species’ theological doctrines and with all due respect to the piety of the audience, I must point out that this entire argument rests on a naked ad baculum fallacy, an appeal to force, in a transparent attempt to rattle me and substitute the threat of death for sound logical argument! I’m on to your little game though.”

He continued, his confidence and calm exterior no longer at all feigned…

“Secondly, this argument presumes that all those who die by your preferred means go to this paradise. This presumption depends on the soundness of the first.”

“Thirdly, it presumes that those who transmigrate there are subject to judgement by your gods. This proposition depends on the second and ultimately the first. I argue that the use of such a transparent ruse as the ad baculum fallacy to support the first proposition invalidates the entire chain of presumptions my opponent’s argument depends on, and so this argument is null and void!”

“Even the esteemed members of the audience, you Reverend Adepts of the High Ecclesiastical Council can easily see the value of sound argument in debating these matters. They are not trivial to you, and neither to me, or I wouldn’t bother to argue about them. I repeat: attempting such shoddy argumentation invalidates the assumption this final argument rests on, and that, I think, invalidates any point being attempted. This argument is null, and I move that the resolution fails!”

Yes, he was laying the whole formality and etiquette schtick on a bit thick, but then, that’s how this species normally operated, and he was here to win the assent of the Council in a very delicate situation with high stakes. At least he wasn’t just pandering to them in a deceptive way.

Silence. The audience voted among themselves as to the winner. The debate’s moderator, the Holiest One of the Suthidruu motioned a tentacle to a subordinate, looked at the vote tally, and then spoke through its own translator:

“Tonight’s guest has cleverly seen through our ruse *squeal* and shown great knowledge and understanding of our ways. It has conducted itself well and honorably *squark* *hiss* despite that ruse, and the Council has declared it the winner *click* of this debate. The loser will be subjected to regression to the larval stage and reeducated to serve another purpose, as it has shown itself able, but rash. You may go now, *screech* mammal, and this world shall be spared from razing. We mourn the *hiss*  souls of those who must suffer still in this universe of pain and sorrow. Perhaps *crackle* in another eon we will return to show our love for these unfortunates and send them to paradise. But not while you yet live. Go in peace, Mirus.”

The vault chamber cleared as the Council members left, and reality turned blinding blue as the teleport nimbus carried the Mirus home. Now he had a new story to tell his Emissary. Imegaa would get a real kick out of this.

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