New Xenarth, 2372
“You ... you suggest these machine people, the Borg, would threaten us with extinction once more?” said the clearly agitated Worker Queen once an assistant had confirmed to both her and her fellow Aggregate member that the Borg vessel had in fact entered orbit moments ago.
Terrence Glover leaned in closer to Donners. “You know that there is a word for what you’re doing here,” he said in a whisper low enough that it would not be overheard by the others. “It’s called gunboat diplomacy.”
“I’d call it a good bluff.”
“This is insanity,” said the Cleric Queen who was now pacing in front of the Aggregate chairs nervously before she looked back to the Starfleet delegation. “You said it yourself, we no longer have the ability to create the Xendaru particle, you’ve seen to that. What possible reason could these Borg have to invade us now?”
“These Borg?” Maya said. “Probably none. But these are not the ones you should be worried about. There are billions of other Borg out there and as you have already learned, they will stop at nothing to get their hands on the Omega particle. And yes, you’re right, you no longer have the ability to create it. For now. But a hundred years ago, after you turned down our offer of friendship, you were in a much similar situation. Back then it also appeared that you were no longer in a position to create that which has led to your near undoing three times now.
Think about what’s best for your people. Are you really willing to risk making the same mistakes you’ve made before and invite your doom a fourth time? You may be determined to swear of Omega now, but so were your predecessors a century ago. All it takes is another unexpected change in your leadership or perhaps a rogue element within your society to start all this over again.
There is an old saying among my people. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. I’m imploring you to learn from your past and choose a different destiny for yours.”
For a moment nobody spoke as Donners’ words were slowly being digested by the two remaining rulers of New Xenarth. Maya could tell that she was making inroads and certainly Liphra appeared to give her arguments due consideration. She couldn’t quite tell if this was because of her oratory and argumentative skills or because of Hugh’s Borg vessel looming in near orbit.
“What would you propose?” the Worker Queen said and immediately received an angry look from her fellow queen in response. She chose to ignore it.
“A Federation protectorate status lasting for at least the next five of your years,” said Amaya. “The Federation would pledge to defend you against any foreign enemies during that period and in turn be allowed to monitor and study your world, from orbit or via a medium-range observation station if you prefer, to learn more about you but also to ensure that no new attempts are made to create the Omega molecule. After those five years we’ll make a mutual decision on the shape the relationship between your people and the Federation should take.”
“And you would agree not to directly interfere with our affairs?”
Maya offered a smile. “As we learn more about you, Queen Liphra, it is my hope that you will also learn more about us. And contrary to what you may have seen us do recently, one of our most valued directives is not to interfere with the internal affairs of other races.”
At that the Cleric Queen offered an angry hiss. “You truly expect us to believe this after you all but went to war with us and killed nearly three hundred of our soldiers?"
Maya cringed inwardly at hearing that figure, the first time since the conclusion of the assault mission that she had been given an indication of the destruction she and her team had wrought on the Xenarth. She was well aware of the number of people she had lost but she had not learned of the casualties on the other side. She managed to keep her outward appearance focused and confident but not without effort.
Surprisingly Liphra responded before Donners had the chance. "Our commanders did advise that many more of our soldiers survived thanks to the Federation troops employing non-lethal force."
The Cleric Queen dismissed this with a quick wave of her lower arm. "What is of consequence is that we were heinously attacked and Xenath blood was spilled. It does not matter if we lost three, three hundred or three thousand."
Donners aimed her steely eyes on Nadelphi. “As I said before, I greatly regret the loss of life on both sides, but make no mistake, if you threaten not just your own world but the entire galaxy the way you have done with the Omega molecule, there are no lengths we are not prepared to go to in order to stop you. But that is all. We would happily offer you advice or assist you at your request but we will make no effort to otherwise interfere with your people.”
The Cleric Queen was not appeased. “Your words sound hollow to the God-Mother and to me as well,” she said and then turned to leave the chamber.
But she left alone. Liphra remained in her seat and even the guards stayed in place, almost as if they had been swayed by the argument of these foreigners.
As the Worker Queen made not comment about her colleague’s departure, Maya continued as if nothing had changed. “There is only one matter we’d have to clarify before we can agree to proceed with what I have proposed.”
“What would that be?”
Maya tapped her combadge. “Donners to Agamemnon
. Beam her down, please.”
Within a moment a column of bright blue, shimmering lights gave way to the form of Queen Ket, coalescing between the Starfleet delegation and the one remaining member of the Aggregate in attendance.
The guards tensed at seeing the former Artisan Queen appear.
The Worker Queen stood but then raised her two upper arms to indicate her guards to remain where they stood. Then she addressed the newcomer. “Ket.”
Donners stood as well. “As part of the deal that comes with your Federation protectorate status, I formally request that all charges against Queen Ket are dropped in light of the new evidence presented here today that clearly demonstrates that she has acted only in a manner to protect the Xenarth people from the dangers of the Omega molecule which could have lead to the entire destruction of this solar system, had it not been destroyed.”
Liphra nodded. “The circumstances appear to warrant such action.”
Ket lowered her head gratefully.
“And if I’m not mistaken, after the death of Queen Klestra, the role of Supreme is due to fall onto the Artisan Queen,” said Maya.
The Liphra looked at the Starfleet captain with surprise evident even through those big, round compound eyes. Either surprise at her intricate knowledge of Aggregate affairs or perhaps because she herself had not considered this until that very moment.
“Is this not correct?” said Maya, putting on her most innocent face.
“No,” said Liphra, “you are not mistaken. The Artisan Queen must be the next Supreme. The law demands this.”
“What about Nadelphi?” Glover said. “Will she accept this as well?”
“The Cleric Queen believes in the law as I do. She will not choose to defy them,” said Liphra and then looked back at Ket. “Supreme,” she said. “I stand ready to serve you and the Colony. What are your orders?”
Ket needed a moment to come to grips with the new role which had been bestowed upon her so suddenly, apparently never having expected that an Artisan Queen would hold such power in her lifetime. “Perhaps our first course of action should be to speak to the Cleric Queen and make her understand the new path the Colony has embarked upon. It won’t be an easy task but I am sure you are up to it.”
Liphra jerked her head to the side in acknowledgment. “I will see to it straight away,” she said and then turned to leave the room and find the infuriated Nadelphi to clue her in on the developments which had transpired in her absence.
“I have to say,” said Vej. “That went much easier than I expected.”
“You call this easy?” Chen said.
“Try negotiating anything with a Tellarite delegation and we’ll talk again,” the counselor said with a little smirk.
Ket approached the Starfleet team. “Captain Donners, I would like to once again offer my gratitude to you and all your people for what you have done for mine as well as for me personally. I may not be proud of all my actions but you have shown me that ultimately they were necessary for the good of the Xenarth and the galaxy as a whole.”
“It is us who should be thankful, Ket. Without your help things could have been much worse than what they turned out to be.”
“Do you think you’ll be alright?” said Glover. “Will the Aggregate and the rest of your people follow you and accept you as their Supreme?”
“I do not believe it to be easy. We will have to tread very carefully. Over a hundred cycles ago the Colony was nearly torn apart by civil war brought on by very similar circumstances. It will take all our efforts to prevent a similar disaster to befall us now and to be honest I am not certain if I am the right person to lead my people through this.”
Donners offered an encouraging smile. “In my experience, those most convinced of their ability to lead are usually the least qualified.”
“There are notable exceptions of course,” Glover said.
“In any case, there is much work for me to do in order to prepare the Colony to accept the friendship you and the Federation have offered. And there are many changes I would like to propose to make Xenarth a fairer and more equal society.”
Maya nodded. “If you ask me, I couldn’t think of a better person for the job.”
Ket tried a little nod to show her appreciation. The foreign gesture was jerky but it communicated her sentiment sufficiently.
“And you will remember my other request,” said the captain of the Agamemnon
“Of course,” she said. “It shall be my first formal act in my role as Supreme.”
“I truly appreciate that,” said Maya. “I guess in that case, there isn’t much more to do than to wish you the best of luck. And regardless of how things will go with your people and the Federation, I want you to know that you will have a friend in us.”
“And you in me, Captain.”
“Sir, with your permission, I’d like to stay a few more moments to speak to Supreme Ket,” said Chen.
Vej immediately threw the chief engineer a concerned look, fully aware of the promise he had made to the Xenarth earlier.
Donners clearly suspected something as well but did her best not to let it show too much. Instead she looked back at the new leader to the Aggregate. “If it’s alright with your host.”
“Very well,” said Donners and then tapped her combadge. “Agamemnon
, two people to beam back on board. Please beam Captain Glover back to Cuffe
They offered their last goodbyes and then the Starfleet delegation save for Chen dematerialized.
Ket dismissed the guards before she turned back to the Xindi engineer. “When we first met I certainly didn’t expect things to develop in such a manner.”
“None of us did.”
“I was all but ready to leave my people behind and make peace with the fact that I might never see my home again. And now I have become the leader of my people,” she said as she slowly moved closer to the Starfleet officer.
His mandibles curved slightly in an approximation of a smile. “I suppose that would be a little bit of an adjustment for anyone.”
She tilted her head slightly as if she didn’t quite understand.
“Humans tend to call this irony,” he explained. “It is difficult to fully understand but they use it quite frequently. It involves saying one thing and meaning the exact opposite.”
“Humans are strange creatures.”
“That they are,” he said and then after a moment: “I suppose our plans to travel the galaxy together, to guide you across the many worlds of the Federation has been delayed due to recent events.”
“So it would seem.”
“But this mustn’t mean we have to go our separate ways again,” he said. “I could remain here. Perhaps represent the Federation as you convince your people to embrace your new protectorate status.”
“I sincerely wish this were possible,” she said and her feelers noticeably drooped, mirroring her saddened state. “But I cannot imagine my people being ready to accept a foreigner, a Federation representative no less, to live among us so soon after what has happened. The Colony has always been aggressively xenophobic and it will take a great amount of work and effort to make them change their ways.”
Chen looked obviously disappointed by this and it appeared Ket wasn’t quite able to bear to see him that way. She turned away as she spoke again. “I have so many ideas for my people, Chen,” she said as she slowly walked along what remained of the mural covering the walls. “A society which no longer fears or wishes to dominate the galaxy that surrounds us. A society where male and female colonists have the same rights and the same chances. A society where any member can aspire to hold any position and occupation regardless of which caste they were born into. A society which will chose its leaders instead of them being appointed by old-fashioned laws,” she said with a voice which didn’t mask her euphoria and then turned back to the Xindi. “And one day, sooner than later, I hope, we will be just like those Federation worlds you spoke of. Still true to our own culture and traditions but also progressive and forward-thinking and perhaps even ready to become a member of your great Federation.”
Chen took a step towards her. “Noble ideals all.”
“And we can make them reality.”
“But I would be a distraction. I understand.”
She approached him again until they were mere inches apart from each other. “I wish to remake this world into a place that will welcome any visitors with open arms. Including you.”
“Then I shall await that moment with great anticipation.”
Both their heads tilted forward and towards each other until their antennae touched and intertwined and they shared with each other something that went far beyond what words could ever convey.
They enjoyed the experience to the fullest as they both understood that it would be a long time until they would be able to ever do so again.