The Federation diplomatic team wasn’t aboard as they should have been. Intrepid
had been assigned at the last minute and was already late picking up the Royal Family. A detour to collect the diplomatic attachés would have added three days to the trip, a delay that X’Gaf had declared intolerable. Nor did his Majesty travel with aids or ambassadors of his own…he detested speaking through subordinates, especially when abroad.
So once again, here Aubrey sat, facing down the ruler of an entire world while trying to justify policies and decisions made far above him. And he didn’t have the luxury of switching on the monitor to let Brandies or the Federation Council placicate his Majesty’s ruffled feathers.
He took a calming breath. “Your Majesty, you heard it for yourself; the admiral was just as surprised by this development as the rest of us.”
X’Gaf was unmoved. “Or so it appeared. But you military men are skilled at deception.”
It was at this point that Aubrey’s conciliatory bearing started to crack. He glared back, showing irritation for the first time. “So you believe I’m deceiving you as well?”
“Perhaps not intentionally. But you may not be privy to what your superiors know. Either way, Starfleet has yet to fully secure our trust.”
That declaration uncorked a well of emotion in the usually unflappable starship commander. He had almost come to grips with the tribulations of the war, but the death and anguish that had plagued Intrepid
’s post war missions in the Gamma Quadrant were wounds yet to heal.
“Yet to fully secure your trust?’” The captain echoed contemptuously. “So it means nothing to you that untold thousands of my colleagues gave their lives to keep the Alpha Quadrant out of the hands of a brutal regime? And by the way your Majesty, those sacrifices were also for worlds not aligned with the Federation at the time----like your own.” The words oozed out of him, slow and frigid. “You don’t trust the military hierarchy? You hate duplicity and propaganda? You despise a government that uses force against its own population? Then I don’t think you’d fancy living under the Dominion.”
Something about Aubrey gave X’Gaf pause. His anger wasn’t the flash of heat or the blustering that he was accustomed to. Instead, the captain was emitting cold fire, his blue eyes narrowing with a sort of ruthless detachment, like a pair of gun sights that had just resolved their next target.
While X’Gaf was far from being intimidated, it was enough to break the momentum of his diatribe and make him reconsider his approach. Predictably, one of his father’s cautionary aphorisms chose that moment to resurface: A noble tongue can smite a thousand swords or smite a thousand lives, so wield it with care.
It occurred to him that on this day he was still in need of his late mentor’s counsel.
“I may have overstated my concerns, captain.” X’Gaf said, his timbre noticeably softer. “I did not mean to cast disparity on all of Starfleet. While I stand by my reservations, I could have chosen my language with greater care.”
Ever so slowly, sunlight pooled back into Aubrey’s predatory expression. Once he was ”fully human” again, he put out his signature half-smile. “It was I who should apologize. My outburst was inexcusable. You’re a visiting dignitary, the leader of an entire race, which is facing a probable invasion on your own soil. The burden of good behavior falls upon me, not you.” He shrugged disarmingly. “Sorry your Majesty, I’m afraid I make a lousy politician."
X’Gaf stood, causing Aubrey to follow suit. “And you have no idea how refreshing that is. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve been absent too long.”
“I’ll keep you updated on reports from Virgo One.”
X’Gaf bowed slightly. “And I will do likewise with any briefings from N’Skatia.”
To Aubrey’s immeasurable relief, the imperial ruler of N’Skatia ducked under the doorframe and exited the room.
Remembering his need of a proper fitting uniform, he circuited the desk.
Well, at least that bit of unpleasantness is over with and we’ve gained some mutual respect for one another. After this, I doubt I’ll have to butt heads with the Royal Family again.
Jason Aubrey walked out of the room, not realizing just how wrong his prediction would turn out to be.