Whoso sheddeth man’s blood?
By man shall his blood be shed,
For in the image of God,
Made he man.
Admiral Jellico convened a meeting of most of the Constantinople
’s senior staff. As in most of these staff meetings, Commander Ellison sat on the window side of the conference table to Jellico’s right. Logan and Jeth’ron sat next to him. Lieutenant Commander Kopolev was seated across from those three officers, keeping his expression as blank as possible while wondering why Logan had to sit in on every staff meeting when the commander’s engineering duties were not just limited to one ship.
Logan had recommended Kopolev for the vacant position of chief engineer just prior to the Battle of Three Suns. In the years leading up to the Dominion War, they had served together at Utopia Planitia where Kopolev was a supervising engineer. Gregor knew then that Logan was a stickler for safety protocols, though he wasn’t always looking over his shoulder as he seemed to be doing on Constantinople
“Each of our confrontations with these mines, at least, yields new information,” Kopolev informed the rest of the group. He wanted to assure his colleagues that he understood that lives were lost whenever one of these mines detonated. All he could do was make sure those lives were not sacrificed in vain. “The means in which they draw power from a target vessel, energy emissions, internal scanning equipment. We’ve managed to salvage a few of the destroyed mines and run some analyses on their composition.”
Doctor Samantha Collins was seated behind Kopolev. She had dark caramel-colored skin, indicative of some African ancestry, and long free-flowing dark hair. “The outer hulls are composed of the same organic material as those on Breen fighters,” she said with a slight Canadian inflection.
“Which means they’re susceptible to our radiogenic warheads,” Jellico plainly answered with a light nod. He quickly arched his head to the right to look in Jeth’ron’s direction. “Mister Jeth’ron, begin attaching all the radiogenic warheads we have left to our quantum torpedoes. And instruct the rest of the ships in our wing to do the same.”
“We’re also working on modifying the deflector,” Logan chimed in, “to send out pulses of ionizing radiation hoping that will disrupt the mines as well.”
“And will these radioactive pulses be fired randomly?” asked Collins.
“Most likely,” Jellico replied with a look of confusion. “You’re not usually concerned about these matters.”
“I’m concerned about the long-term implications of flooding an inhabited star system with heavy concentrations of radiation,” Collins explained, even knowing Jellico could not dissuaded from implementing this plan.
Kopolev also had similar concerns. His time on Constantinople
had been rather short, so he largely knew Jellico, by reputation. Since serving as dean of students at Starfleet Academy, Jellico was known as a hard-nosed CO who was intransigent to the point of considering the slightest questioning of his decisions once made, even from a second-in-command, to be insubordination. If he was going to speak up without getting a reprimand in his file, the time was now.
“I have to agree with the doctor,” he said. “Depending on how much radiation we saturate this system with, that would make travel largely unsafe for civilian traffic for years to come. Accurentum-63, for example, has a half-life…”
“The admiral is well aware of the dangers,” Logan interrupted.
Resisting the urge to lunge across the table, Kopolev took a deep breath. “… Has a half-life of seventeen years, and even longer for other isotopes we’ll be employing—upwards of forty years.”
“A number of hospital ships should be arriving within two hours to provide additional provisions,” Ellison assured both Kopolev and Collins. “And our ships will take extra precautions to make sure no radioactive debris ends up in the atmospheres of either of the inhabited planets. And new travel protocols will certainly be initiated after the war is over.”
“What if that’s not enough?” Collins wondered.
“I understand your concerns, Samantha,” Jellico firmly stated. “But we don’t have the time to consider too many long-term hypothetical scenarios. The here-and-now is what I’m most concerned about. And speaking of which, I’ve had a hunch that the primarily Cardassian garrisons dispatched here and in neighboring systems are nothing more than a means of misdirection.”
“Why would say that, sir?” Jeth’ron inquired.
“Think about it. The Kalandra sector has been a jumping off point for attacking Federation core systems ever since the invasion of Betazed just over a year ago. And yet all they can spare now are wings of Cardassian ships along with those pesky mines. And we’ve outmatched them at nearly every turn.”
“Suggesting that they don’t really care about Kalandra anymore,” Ellison offered to finish the admiral’s thought.
“Exactly,” Jellico confirmed, “which why is most of the ships stationed here will be bypassing the Zhamur system for the Tong-Beak nebula. About a dozen squads will remain here and in outlying systems. I’ve spoken with Admirals Dennings and Bellamy, and they’ve agreed to dispatch additional ships to this sector and the nebula. We leave within the hour. Gregor, make sure warp and impulse drives are up to specs. Jeth’ron, in addition to modifying the weapons, place the ship on level-one security alert. Have Lieutenant Neeley see to the distribution of arms to all hands. Dismissed.”
On his way back to engineering, Kopolev caught up Logan in a main corridor. He had hoped to air a grievance regarding the staff meeting in a setting where other senior officers were not listening. Kopolev knew that arguing with Jellico was very often ineffective, but Logan was still out of line for his interruption.
“Do you have minute, Commander?” he quietly asked his superior.
Logan nodded gingerly, as if knowing what Kopolev would say next.
“If I may speak frankly, sir,” Kopolev continued as they continued walking side-by-side down the corridor. “I did not appreciate being interrupted during that meeting.”
“Admiral Jellico does not need to be reminded of what he already knows.”
Kopolev momentarily looked away from Logan and rolled his eyes. “I was simply trying to make the point about the dangers to the inhabitants of this system and of how long that danger could last.”
“Once a decision has been made, there isn’t much point in contesting it, especially with him. I should certainly know since I’ve often put up more of a fight with him than you just did.”
“Then why does he even bother with staff meetings if the decisions are not open to any debate?”
“So we can carry out his orders to the letter.
Kopolev picked up his pace and stepped in front of Logan to emphasize his next point. “I understand completely, sir,” he said, now face-to-face with the commander. “Nevertheless, while you may be chief engineer of this entire fleet, I am still chief engineer of this ship
. Until that changes, my opinions and recommendations carry just as much weight as yours. So it is perfectly reasonable request that I be allowed to finish sentences. Furthermore, I will be filing a formal complaint with Commander Ellison about your consistent undermining of nearly every major decision I have made these last two weeks.”
Logan smirked as if admiring Kopolev’s assertiveness, even to a superior officer. “That is your right,” he confirmed. “Just keep in mind that Admiral Jellico’s style of command is far different what you’re used to at Utopia Planitia. And any argument on your part once a decision is made is, more often than not, futile.”
Logan made a semicircular turn around Kopolev and continued down the corridor. Kopolev just stood still, silently hoping that Logan would be on one of the ships remaining at Zhamur.
“They’ve taken the bait, sir. A significant number of Federation Alliance vessels have departed the Zhamur system to a rendezvous at a point just outside the Tong-Beak Nebula.”
Diralna contacted Yelgrun once the Seventh Fleet withdrew a significant portion of their forces from the Zhamur system. In addition to keeping Gul Latham and the rest of the Ninth Order in line, Diralna had the responsibility of monitoring and decoding enemy communications. Yelgrun had known that Federation fleet commanders would eventually deduce that the constant hit-and-run strikes at the sites of the Battle of Three Suns were a means of misdirection and push deeper into enemy territory. “I am uncertain the exact coordinates,” she continued. “I can decode the message further if you like, though that may take several days.”
Yelgrun smiled, appreciative of his former protégé’s enthusiasm. “That’s not necessary,” he assured her, “but I appreciate your initiative. Have you identified the flagship of the battle group?”
Diralna accessed a data set on her computer terminal, which displayed the general schematics of a Starfleet capital ship on the bottom left corner of Yelgrun’s screen. “From the transmissions we have been able to decode, the flagship is a Sovereign
-class vessel, designation USS Constantinople
.” After she keyed another command sequence, the image of the ship disappeared and was replaced with the image of a white-haired human male Starfleet admiral. “It’s commanding officer is lower half Rear Admiral Edward Jellico. He is an accomplished war veteran and diplomat, having negotiated the original armistice between the Federation and Cardassian Union…”
“I don’t require a full biography,” interrupted Yelgrun. “You’ve done a fine job to this point, Doko’toran Diralna. I just need you to continue to keep Gul Latham in line.”
“And I have been, for the most part, successful in that regard. I am concerned that some of his crew may start an uprising, especially the woman who shares his bed.”
Yelgrun scoffed, indicating his lack of interest in the gul’s extramarital activities as well as amusement that Diralna’s efforts to seduce Latham had been unsuccessful. “Make every effort to curtail any mutinies before
they occur,” he instructed. “I have a little surprise for the enemy fleet. Sadok’toran out.”
Gul Latham viewed the entire communiqué between Diralna and Yelgrun on the wall-mounted monitor in his quarters. Once both of the Vorta signed off, he pushed a button to complete the recording and load it and all the transmitted data onto an isolinear data rod.
“You know what to do with this,” Latham instructed as he handed the rod to Nezhak.
“Of course,” the young woman replied. “I’ll have the contents transmitted on one of the Starfleet frequencies we decoded.”