“Permission to come aboard.”
Amaya Donners rolled her eyes when Terrence Glover stepped off the transporter platform before she had even had a chance to respond to his request. It was a mostly outdated naval tradition which barely anyone took seriously any longer but the barrel-chested starship captain didn’t even pretend to care. She had no idea why it annoyed her, after all she had gotten quite used to Glover’s ways while she had served as his father’s adjutant and first officer.
“Granted,” she said quickly but of course by then he already stood in front of her.
“I have to give it you, Maya, you don’t exactly believe in taking things easy, do you? Most shakedown cruises don’t involve starting an intergalactic incident,” he said with a big smile, revealing a row of brilliantly white teeth which stood in stark contrast to his dark skin.
“This mission wasn’t my idea,” she said, sounding more defensive than she would have liked.
“Of course not. We go where we’re told,” he said. “And from the looks of it you may have managed to defuse this situation by talking the Borg and the Romulans into a meeting. That was an interesting approach.”
She smirked at that. “You mean talking instead of shooting? That a new concept to you, Captain?”
Glover pretended to look hurt. “Ouch. Is that the kind of thing they say about me behind my back?”
“You don’t want to know what they say behind your back,” she said and pointed at the doors.
“And I couldn’t care less either,” he said and stepped out of the transporter room.
Within moments the two starship captains were walking down the corridor side-by-side. “Commander Toreth and Hugh have been in the observation lounge for ten minutes. I’m not entirely comfortable with letting them wait so long,” she said.
“Trust me, it’ll soften them up a little to be kept waiting,” he shot back.
“Or it could make them more belligerent,” Maya said. Glover had suggested the tactic of keeping her guests waiting for the meeting to start as she had found herself taking cues from the more senior officer even if she didn’t agree with them.
They stepped into the turbolift. “Deck two,” said Donners.
“Our first priority will be to get the Borg to back down. I’ve reviewed the Enterprise
logs regarding this Hugh character and I think you were right in appealing to his common sense. He just might see reason once more and agree that pursuing whatever crazy mission he’s on is only going to get him and a whole lot of others killed. The Romulans are going to be tougher,” he said and reviewed a data padd he had brought with him. “I like what you did when you put down your foot in regards to Iota Crucis. And you were absolutely correct, it’s our system and we’re not giving it up because some civilization has decided to make it their new home. Toreth may have been willing to take on Agamemnon
over this but I’m sure she’ll think twice now that Cuffe
is here as well.”
The doors to the turbolift opened and Maya showed Glover to the doors leading to the observation lounge where the Borg and Romulans had gathered. They stopped short of entering.
“Lastly of course we have to deal with this Omega molecule and something tells me we don’t have the time for the Volta
and her fancy scientists to get here and take care of this for us. So we’ll need to take the initiative, track down any traces of this thing and wipe them out. According to my science officer we may be able to achieve this by –“
“Hang on,” said Maya who wouldn’t have been able to get in a word edgewise if she had let him carry on. “You briefed your crew about Omega?”
Glover shot her a perplexed look. “Of course. Some orders are just too stupid to follow, even if they come from the old man,” he said with a grin. “Don’t tell me you managed to keep it a secret.”
Maya was visibly relieved at the other captain’s admission. The thought that he had also disregarded the Omega Directive, at least the part of not sharing any knowledge with his crew came as a huge weight being lifted off her shoulders. She had hated the idea of starting her first command disobeying orders. “Let’s just say I’ll be standing right next to you at that court martial.”
“It won’t come to that, trust me. End of the day we’re out here having to make difficult decisions. It’s us and nobody else. Not my dad and certainly not the brass at Starfleet Command.”
Maya nodded along slowly.
“Tell you what, we’ll figure out how to deal with Omega after we’ve dealt with the Romulans and the Borg. I think we’ve left them smoldering in there just about long enough,” said Glover and turned towards the doors.
“Captain,” she said before he could slip into the observation lounge.
He turned and sighed heavily. “You really need to start calling me Terrence. I’ve put up with the captain business for the last two years because I outranked you. No more excuses.”
She nodded her assent. “I’d like to head the talks if you don’t mind.”
The look on the other captain’s face made it clear that he did.
“It’s was my idea,” she said. “And it’s my ship.”
“I have more experience here, Maya and I’m the more senior officer. It really should be me.”
She took a step closer to him. “No offense but if it had been up to you we wouldn’t even be having this meeting right now. And about experience, I’ve spent the last four years getting people to change their minds on a regular basis as your father’s adjutant. I think I can handle this.”
Terrence still didn’t look convinced but Maya could tell that he wished to avoid pushing the issue. She couldn’t blame him for that, the last thing they needed was to start fighting over who should be in charge. Starfleet regulations were not as clear on the subject as she would have liked. Agamemnon
was arguably the tactically superior vessel and therefore overall command of any joint operations should have fallen to her but with only having been in the big chair for less than a week, Starfleet Command would have undoubtedly backed Glover in this situation.
Judging by the hard expression on his face, he was convinced that he was the right man for the job.
“Just give me a chance to talk them down,” she said. “One shot, that’s all I’m asking for, Terrence
His facial features softened. “I see what you’re doing.”
She shrugged her shoulders innocently. “Your idea,” she said with a smirk.
“Yeah and if I had known you’d use it against me I would’ve thought twice about letting you go to first-name basis,” he shot back. “Fine, you take the lead for now,” he added and pointed at the doors.
Maya aimed a wide grin at the man. Sometimes all you needed to defuse a tense situation was a little bit of charm, she thought. Donners quickly wiped that smile off her face as she stepped through the doors, fully cognizant that it would take much more than that to get the Romulans and the Borg from starting a war.
The male Romulan officer who had accompanied Commander Toreth onto Agamemnon
was out of his chair the moment Maya had stepped foot into the briefing room.
“This is outrageous,” he said immediately. “You’ve been keeping us waiting here on purpose. This is entirely unacceptable.”
“My apologies, Subcommander …?”
“Rekar,” he shot back. “And I do not accept your apology.”
But Donners turned to look at Toreth instead who had remained in a semi-relaxed posture in her chair with a lopsided grin on her lips.
“You must forgive Mister Rekar. Tal Shiar officers are infamous for their impatience. You’d think an intelligence officer be able to show more restraint.”
Rekar shot a vile look at his superior, communicating his displeasure at being denounced by one of his own, before he quietly took his seat again.
By the time Maya took her seat at the end of the table she thought she had already figured out the Romulan’s game plan. Toreth had used her own man to voice her displeasure for being kept waiting but then sacrificed him openly to show her determination not to take any prisoners. And if that was true for her own people, this was devastating news for her enemies. Maya couldn’t help but admire the bold gambit. But she also thought that the tone of her voice had been a little sharper than it had to be, possibly hinting towards the fact that she wasn’t in fact particularly fond of Rekar.
Maya gave the woman a sharp nod in acknowledgment and then glanced towards her left were the two Borg sat. It took some serious willpower on her part not to be visibly discomforted by sitting at a table with the two cyborgs whose race had been responsible for the deaths of so many of her fellow Starfleet officer and countless more civilians. She had to make an effort to remind herself that these were individuals now and no longer connected to the Borg Collective.
Hugh appraised her coldly. “It occurs to me, Captain, that you are merely attempting to avoid the inevitable by delaying these very talks on which you have insisted. I assure you that my patience is quite extensive considering the great reward which my mission offers me and my people.”
The same however could apparently not been said for the former drone sitting to Hugh’s left. The man looked impossibly younger than the Borg leader himself and he seemed to almost fidget in his seat as if he had never been in a chair before. And while Maya figured that that was completely plausible, she had a feeling that his agitation was not solely due to the unfamiliar furniture.
She shot a quick glance to the two doors leading out of the observation room she found guarded by a set of a security officer and one Marine each. It had been Texx’s idea to mix up protection assignments and to prove to their reluctant department heads that if their men could work together there was no reason that they couldn’t.
Under normal circumstances Maya wasn’t a great proponent of armed guards but right at this moment their determined faces and ready weapons actually put her at ease.
She let her gaze wander across the table and made eye contact with their other guest, Queen Ket, who she’d asked to attend. She had fully recovered from the injuries she had suffered during the battle and now sat next to Glover who had taken the head of the conference table at the opposite end.
“Again, I’m sorry to have kept you all waiting. There were some details we had to consider before we were able to begin,” she said.
“Details on how best to convince us to give up our claims here and leave everything to you, I take it,” said Toreth even while she didn’t give up her calm posture or dropped that dangerous little smile.
“Contrary to what you may believe, Commander,” she said. “The Federation is not here to stake any kind of claim. Certainly we are happy for the Xenarth to continue to remain were they currently are.”
“You’re contradicting yourself, Captain,” said Rekar. “Not too long ago you were willing to go into battle over this system.”
She fixed him with a stare. “Don’t make the mistake of doubting our resolve here,” she said and shot a look at Hugh as well. “While we respect the Xenarth’s sovereign right to chose their allies we cannot allow a permanent Romulan presence in a Federation system. I cannot imagine that you’d be willing to start a war over a system with limited strategic value and few resources worth mentioning.”
“I have no interest in this star system or the people who have made it their home,” said Hugh. “If you wish to battle amongst yourselves for control over it than that is your business alone.”
“Last time I checked, Borg, you are in this system as well. If you wish it or not, you are involved here,” said Toreth.
“Our only interest is to procure Particle 010. Once it is in our possession we will leave this system at once.”
Maya noticed Ket’s mandibles and feelers twitch nervously. “Your people came for our world before. They destroyed everything we’ve ever built along with billions of us. Your attack on our home, if it can be called that, is the only reason for our presence here now. And now you want to make us believe that your only design for what is left of the Xenarth Colony is this particle?”
All eyes in the room turned to look at the Artisan Queen.
Hugh appeared surprisingly sympathetic. “There are no words I could offer that could give justice to the horrors the Borg have been responsible for. All I can assure you is that my people and I are nothing like the Borg who destroyed your world. We are not driven by the singular mind of the Collective. We are individuals and we do not wish to harm anyone.”
“A Borg with a conscience,” said Rekar dismissively. “Now I’ve heard it all.”
Hugh ignored the statement.
“Hugh, I believe what you say about not wishing to hurt people and not being driven by the Collective anymore. But how is your seemingly tenacious pursuit of this particle any different to what the Borg did to the Xenarth all this time ago?” Maya wanted to know.
“We may no longer be Borg,” he said. “But there are still certain overarching desires we are simply unable to ignore. Particle 010 is the closest thing in the universe to total perfection and complete harmony. Its power could bring order to the chaos that has been created since we were cut off from the voice of the Collective. And it is more than that,” he said and then stopped himself as if he was thinking of the right words to describe what he was trying to say. Ultimately he just shook his head. “I am unable to put it in a way that could make you understand. This pursuit, for us it is simply beyond logic or reason. It is something much more unquantifiable.”
“Almost sounds as if you are on a religious quest,” said Terence Glover.
The former drone considered that for a moment. “I have studied the concept of religion and spirituality in various cultures and I have never been able to fully understand the concept,” he said. “But you might be correct. I cannot explain to you adequately why we pursue Particle 010. All I can tell you is that we must.”
Glover and Donners exchanged a concerned look across the table, both of them fully aware how difficult it would be to argue against a religious motive. It would throw reason and common sense right out of the airlock.
“A Borg cult that has rediscovered its spirituality is all really interesting,” said Toreth, “but it doesn’t alter the simple fact that the legitimate government on Xenarth has chosen to become a Romulan ally. Therefore everything owned by the Xenarth, including this particle, is now under Romulan protection.”
“And you seriously believe that you would be able to protect it?” said the younger Borg. “You wouldn’t survive five minutes in a battle with us.”
Maya tensed as the hostility in the room was becoming more palpable.
“Perhaps not,” the Romulan subcommander said with a self-satisfying smirk. “But our fleet will arrive here shortly and then you will find yourself in a much altered situation, I promise you that.”
“Then we must act now,” said the Borg and stood from his chair with surprising swiftness.
The armed guards responded instantly. In an unspoken agreement the two security officers quickly stepped closed to Donners and Glover to protect the high-ranking officers while the Marines kept their positions but drew their weapons to target the potential threat.
Donners waved them all off. “Don’t let them rush you into a decision you might come to regret,” she said urgently. “They know that if you attack now, we will not be able to stand on the sidelines. And in a battle between us and you, nobody is going to come out on top.”
“Goval, calm yourself,” said Hugh, addressing the other Borg.
“Why should I?” he responded. “This talk is pointless. We are so close to obtaining Particle 010 and we shall not be denied now. We cannot.”
Hugh’s influence on the other Borg seemed limited, Maya quickly realized, as the one called Goval did not return to his seat, preferring to hover over the other people in the room menacingly and keeping the Marines and security guards on high alert. “Talk is never pointless if it can avoid conflict,” she said but found that she sounded lame even to her own ears now. The truth was that she was nowhere close to having achieved what she had hoped for.
Hugh looked at her and for a moment she thought that maybe he was getting ready to make a compromise. As it turned out it wasn’t the one she had hoped for. “Allow us to obtain 010,” he said. “In return we will offer you our assistance against Romulan designs on this system. If we join forces they would not risk going into battle against us both.”
Rekar tried to stand as well to protest but Toreth held him down by gripping his arm. Then she focused a deadly stare at Donners. “But you cannot do that, can you, Captain?” she said very methodically. “Because the truth you haven’t revealed here yet is that you couldn’t care less about this system or the Xenarth even if you pretend otherwise by having this convicted traitor to her people join this farce. The truth is you are only interested, as are we all, in this magnificent particle. You want it for yourself,” she said, apparently reading the Starfleet captain like an open book now. Then she quickly shook her head. “No, that’s not it, is it? You just want to keep it out of our hands. Don’t you see, Hugh, it is the height of Federation arrogance and moral corruption. They talk about peace and cooperation but all they are truly interested in is to maintain the status quo,” she said, keeping her laser-like focus on Donners as she spoke. “Tell us it isn’t true, Captain. Tell us you are not here to destroy this particle at any cost rather then have it fall into your enemy’s hands.”
Maya knew past a shadow of a doubt that no matter what she’d say next, Toreth had already made up her mind. And why not? After all she had been absolutely correct about her mission and the Omega Directive.
“Listen to me,” she said. “What we call the Omega molecule is powerful beyond even our understanding. Beyond yours,” she said and looked at a self-satisfied Toreth. “Beyond that of the Xenarth,” she added and shot a quick glance at Ket. “The Borg nearly wiped out an entire race to get their hands on it and who knows how many others they have done the same to,” Maya said and looked at Hugh whose facial expression had become difficult to interpret. “You want the truth? The truth is that no matter your intentions, by obtaining the Omega molecule and trying to utilize it for practical applications you risk not just your own lives but those of countless others in the galaxy. One misstep and you could destroy the very fabric that holds the universe together.”
This time Rekar did jump to his feet. “I’ve had it with your haughty condescension,” he shouted. “Admit that your only interest is to destroy the particle.”
“It’s the only way,” Maya said.
“No,” Hugh shouted as he left his chair so swiftly it fell over. “I will not allow it.”
That’s when the red alert klaxons came to life, startling the already agitated occupants in the observation lounge even further.
The words that followed were the kind that no starship captain ever wanted to hear, especially while away from the bridge and entirely ignorant of the events that had led to this particular moment.
“All hands, brace for impact.”
Donners had just enough time to hold on to the table which turned out to be for naught as she was ripped out of her seat a moment later. Gravity went haywire and she found herself flying across the room and right towards an unyielding bulkhead.