“Please come in,” the voice said after the door chime to her quarters had been activated.
The doors parted to allow the ship’s counselor and chief engineer to enter.
“Chen,” said the former Xenarth queen. “Mister Vej.”
“Please,” the counselor said with a smile. “Plain Vej is more than sufficient.”
Ket jerked her head slightly to the side and then considered the both of them.
“May we sit?” the counselor asked, pointing at seating arrangement near the slanted windows.
“Of course,” she said and took the couch while her two visitors took two of the other seats facing her.
“What, if I may ask, brings you here?”
Chen’s feelers were standing almost fully erect, a sign of his own anxiety which apparently Ket was quite familiar with herself.
“If you are concerned about me, you shouldn’t be,” she said.
“Ket you are actively helping us trying to fight your own people,” said Vej. “Any anger or anxiety you may feel because of this is absolutely understandable.”
The Artisan Queen focused her large compound eyes on the Ulirian
and while he couldn’t be certain, he thought they were mirroring irritation. “People who have cast me out as a traitor. People who do not wish to listen to reason and instead blindly follow a path that is leading to their own destruction.”
Vej nodded. “Yes. But nevertheless your
people,” he said. “And while you may have fallen out of favor with the current leadership, am I not correct in pointing out that you harbor no ill-will or animosity towards your people in general. Towards the very individual Xenarth we will be meeting in battle.”
At that she promptly diverted her eyes, looking off into the empty room instead.
Chen leaned forward. “The captain fully understands your distress, Ket. I understand it. I don’t think anyone on this ship would not feel the way you do now if the situation were reversed. And the captain wants you to know that she is determined to make every effort to use only non-lethal means against the Xenarth.”
“And what if that is not enough?” she said and looked at Chen. “I may not be an expert yet of understanding your people but I can tell what they are thinking. The security chief and the Andorian, they are warriors and they will do whatever it takes to secure victory.”
The chief engineer didn’t have an immediate response and Ket stood from her chair to step towards the window. “I don’t blame them for that. After all I was fully aware of how they would use the information I volunteered when they questioned me. I knew exactly why they wished to probe and study me when I allowed them to do so,” she said. “Perhaps that is why this is so difficult for me. I was almost too eager to let them know everything I knew about the warrior caste and the Xenarth in general. But deep down I knew they would use this to hurt my people.”
“But you also understand that it is not our wish to hurt them,” the counselor said and stood. “In fact by assaulting the Omega particle, we are hoping to avoid a disaster befalling New Xenarth as well as the entire quadrant.”
“And yet I am not allowed to try and talk to them first and attempt a diplomatic solution,” she said without turning to face her visitors.
Chen also stood. “You know this Warrior Queen who I understand is now in charge better than any of us,” he said and took a small step towards her. “Do you really think she would listen to reason? That she would agree to stand down from trying to synthesize the Omega molecule and turn it over?”
The Xenarth did not respond to this and her silence appeared to be an answer in itself.
“You needn’t be here when this begins,” the counselor offered. “We don’t have the time to take you away from here but the captain is more than happy to lend you a shuttle and a pilot to take you to Starbase 10 until this matter has been resolved.”
That caused her to turn to face him. “Run away?” she said. “And what do you suggest I do there?”
“We discussed this before,” Chen offered. “After all this is over the Federation will be very interested to try and open diplomatic channels with the Xenarth. And who better to speak for your people than you?”
Her feeler dropped noticeably. “An outcast?”
“A good-will ambassador,” Vej said.
“And while I cannot join you now, I promise I will come find you after this is over and together I will show you everything you’ve ever wanted to know about the Federation. And we can convince them to make every resource available to try and heal the rift between the Federation and the Xenarth.”
At that the counselor shot the chief engineer a surprised look. Clearly Chen had not shared the promise he had made Ket earlier with anyone else.
She stepped closer to him. “I still want to do that,” she said. “I still want to see all these marvelous worlds that make up this Federation of yours. I still want to try and educate my people and try to make them understand that isolation is not the answer and to embrace the diversity that is waiting right by our doorstep.”
“Then do it,” the chief said. “Let’s do it together.”
Her mandibles closed tightly and then she lowered her head until they rested against her chest. “No.”
She looked up at Chen. “Not like this. I’m not going to run away now that I have betrayed my people. I am not going to turn my back on this assault of yours when I am chiefly responsible for it. I will remain on this ship and watch closely what I have done to my own people. And afterwards, if I can bare it, I will take you up on your offer and go see your Federation,” she said and turned away from her two guests.
It was clear the conversation was over and both Chen and Vej excused themselves before they left her quarters behind.
Once outside the chief engineer turned to look at the counselor. “Will she be alright, you think?”
He considered that for a moment. “You care for her a great deal, don’t you?”
Chen diverted his eyes, saying nothing.
“It’s alright, Commander. Your secret is safe with me but you should be aware that the attraction is plainly obvious and clearly reciprocated.”
He didn’t look at him when he spoke. “At first I thought it was merely biological. Pheromones perhaps and the fact that I have never encountered another race so much like mine and yet also so different. But it is more than that.”
The Ulirian nodded. “And you are willing to give up your career in Starfleet for her.”
He looked right at him when he responded. “For her. Yes.”
Vej put a hand on his shoulder. “She’ll be fine, Chen. It won’t be easy for her to watch us go into battle with her kin, knowing that we’ll use the knowledge we’ve gained from her against them but eventually she’ll come to grips with the fact that it was necessary. Intellectually she already understands this. Eventually she will do so emotionally as well. And she won’t be able to ask for a better guide to steer her through that than you.”
Chen’s feelers peaked up. “Thank you, Counselor.”
He gave the Xindi a warm smile before they headed out in opposite directions. Vej had another patient to see and he was fully aware that his next appointment was going to be an entirely different kind of challenge.
* * *