Chapter 2, part 2 Leaving her office, Ezri walked out into Ops. “You said this was urgent commander?” Megan, who manned the situation table, nodded. “There's a subspace message broadcasting on all frequencies which is coming from Breen.” “On screen,” Ezri said, her eyes drearily focused upon the viewscreen, which was mounted on a wall some metres above the floor, several metres in front of her . The broadcast showed Fellet Jret standing rather imposingly in his office. A helmet covered his face and he wore a body suit similar to that of a thot's uniform, though its design appeared far more elaborate and stately looking. To the Federation, in this message I have recorded, the language is in the style of Federation Standard for ease of your comprehension. For too long have the Breen stood passively by while the Federation expanded and encroached upon the confederacy's territory. This will not continue for any longer, and we will not tolerate Federation interference in strictly Breen matters. Of all the entities the Breen have encountered, the Federation must be the most insidious and evil of them all. Without weapons it conquers races through their charm and values, it moulds races and twists their cultures to something conforming to Federation principles. The Federation has attempted to do this on the Breen race however it will fail. To stand up against such a corrosive force, the Breen were in need of an ally, someone who hated the Federation just as much as we do. As of three days ago the Breen Confederacy and the Romulan Star Empire formerly signed a defensive pact, rights of passage through our respective territories, and trade rights. Unfortunately a stretch of Federation territory, filled with a smattering of outposts and worlds, is a barrier between the Breen and Romulan territories, and for the sake of trade it would be far more convenient to go through that territory than around it. The Federation would never allow this in a devious attempt to strain the new pact between the Breen and Romulans. However I give to the Federation an ultimatum. You are to relinquish the territory I mentioned-the exact sectors of which are given in this message-and to allow the Breen and Romulans to divide this territory fairly between ourselves. Failure to do so will result in the following consequences: firstly all 36 prisoners from the Federation delegation will be killed. The camera turned to the right to reveal Kira and Amir, both of whom were unconscious and badly beaten. A Breen soldier each supported Kira and Amir respectively. It took all of Ezri's willpower not to grimace as the camera then focused on first Amir's face and then Kira's face, before reverting back to Jret. The far more serious threat the Breen Confederacy will carry out is an invasion of Federation territory. Together with the Romulans, we will inflict devastating damage upon key Federation worlds: Bajor, Trill, Vulcan, Andoria, Tellerite, and even the much vaunted Earth. Tens of billions of civilians will die, and their blood will be on the Federation Council's hands for not complying with reasonable demands. I finally address this to both the Federation and the Klingon Empire as a warning to them. With the pact between the Breen and the Romulans, both races will grow stronger, until our power is far greater than the Federation and the Klingon Empire combined. We will become the dominant power in the Alpha Quadrant, and in the long term, history will remember the glory of the Breen Confederacy, and Romulan Star Empire, long after the Federation has turned to dust! The message ended. Ezri’s relief at knowing that Kira and some of the Federation delegation were alive became quickly replaced with more apprehension. So the Breen really were working with the Romulans, and the stakes were raised even higher for Ezri. If the Romulans attacked DS9, then the Breen would attack from their border, causing a chain of events leading to a full-scale war in the Alpha Quadrant. Megan was the first one to speak, and end the stunned silence. “At least we know Kira and Mr Amir are still alive.” Ezri ignored her dark thoughts and switched back to thinking about the present situation. “Commander, any change to the status of the Romulan fleet?” “Nothing, they're staying put...” said Megan. “Captain,” said Max, “we're being hailed from the Romulan flagship, it's general Keelin!” This was the last thing Ezri needed, rather brutally she forced her brain to crank up into her diplomatic mode. “On screen,” she calmly ordered. Once more Keelin was sat in the commander’s chair of his flagship. Furthermore, he brimmed with confidence as if he were in a position to boss Ezri around. “Captain, have you reached a conclusion regarding the demands I gave to you?” “I need more time to think about it-” “Stop delaying!” said Keelin angrily, cutting straight through Ezri. “Perhaps if I explained to you the reasoning for the demands, it may help you to reach a decision?” Ezri half-expected Keelin to threaten her and the station, but this took her a little by surprise, and she fought to keep her composure straight. “If we're going to talk about such matters, then we are doing so in this station's wardroom...” She stared confidently back at Keelin, daring him to protest. “Agreed?” “Agreed,” said Keelin finally. “I'll arrive in ten minutes time.” “Remember the shields will only lower when all of your ship's disruptor banks and phaser banks have been powered down,” warned Ezri. “Of course...” replied Keelin, a somewhat wounded expression formed on his face, whether fake or not, Ezri couldn’t tell. “But do you really think I would stoop that low?” “General, I have no idea what you are capable of so I wouldn't know...” answered Ezri lightly. “We follow the same procedure, any slight deviation on your part and this station's shields will be raised, regardless of whether your ship is in the shield's perimeter or not!” The channel closed from Keelin’s end, which was Ezri's cue to head for the turbolift. “Mr Paulson, please escort general Keelin to the wardroom when he arrives at docking port two.” Feeling a sense of déjà vu when Paulson arrived onto the turbolift with her, Ezri told the turbolift where she wanted to go… This whole situation verged on turning into something crazy. Admiral Ross recently told her that the Federation Council hadn’t managed to formerly contact the new Romulan government because of its silence. So here Ezri was, the Federation’s only informal contact with the Romulan government. The sooner the Romulan government broke its diplomatic silence the better, because Ezri then hoped that Keelin would leave, as she assumed Keelin’s sole purpose for arriving at this station was to informally contact the Federation on behalf of his government. It smacked of a very odd arrangement, though Ezri reasoned it must have been something to do with the coup, and possibly Praetor Toshen’s way of contacting the Federation while he consolidated his new-found power. *** Ezri stood by one end of the wardroom's briefing table waiting for Keelin to arrive. This meeting with Keelin would be interesting to say the least. However what troubled Ezri was the lack of news regarding the Romulan government formerly contacting the Federation. It seemed Keelin was a messenger, a messenger apparently under Praetor Toshen’s orders… DS9 had now become the focal point of some kind of intrigue and power struggle between the Federation and the Romulans. Everything inside of Ezri told her all of this would inevitably end badly for her and the station. The door to the wardroom opened, and Keelin walked in, like Ezri he was armed with a disruptor. “Captain, I am getting a little tired of your delays...” Ezri walked towards him, keeping her face as neutral as possible. “Delays...” she muttered with some sarcasm, before continuing on. “Keelin you claim these demands are for maintaining the Devron treaty and keeping peace in the quadrant. And yet when I carefully analyse them, these demands amount to little more than extortion! You would ask the Federation to hand over sectors 1334 to 1341, and sectors 1232 to 1245.” “Territory which is sparsely populated,” said Keelin rather arrogantly, “and there are many empty sectors in between. If you hadn't got there first, there would have been a border between the Breen and the Romulans, and a three way intersection of where the tip of the Ferengi Alliance, the Breen Confederacy and the Romulan Star Empire would have met!” The time for pretence and hiding ones intentions was over, so Ezri decided to candidly reveal to Keelin her position on the whole matter. “Do you realise that the Federation would never agree to those demands! The number of sectors lost would amount to one tenth of the Federation's territory, gone!” “Territory which has some relay stations, starbases and occupied worlds,” replied Keelin angrily, with each word his voice steadily rose and his hostile glare intensified. “You claimed a lot more territory than was appropriate, and simply placed Starfleet stations and outposts to stake your claim to star systems, nebulae and various expanses! You don't even conquer, you simply impede other interplanetary states ability to expand!” “There is a clear difference between expanding territory and conquering it!” said Ezri loudly, returning Keelin's glare. “Really?” challenged Keelin. “Your omnidirectional expansion threatens both the Breen and my people.” “Your demands will never be agreed to!” retorted Ezri, and she was on the verge of shouting. Now Keelin started leering at Ezri, he seemed to be enjoying every moment of the meeting. “Oh you won't agree to them, but Starfleet Command and the Federation Council will agree...” “Otherwise it's war?” finished Ezri, though she sounded calm her insides were fuming. “Precisely,” said Keelin, smiling one devious and wicked smile. “And in such a war, you would lose a lot more than some sparsely occupied territory. Many of your key worlds, Earth, Vulcan, Andoria, Trill, Bajor, Bolarus, Tellar, would come under attack. You think that Breen raid on Earth during the last months of the Dominion war was bad? Just wait until there are Breen or Romulan armies on your precious Earth...” Ezri ignored Keelin’s threat and responded in like kind. “With the Klingons at our side, Starfleet could push your armies back to their borders.” “Yes you could do that,” admitted Keelin, in that moment his bravado faded. “But the civilian deaths would mount so high, in there tens of billions, and the destruction so great, it would be a very bitter victory.” “The Romulan Empire couldn't support such an endeavour, you can barely feed your own people!” ”But we are desperate,” said Keelin through clenched teeth, staring at Ezri with intense fervour. “And we have nothing to loose, whereas you do! Because of that you will settle for peace and a little humiliating compromise, rather than all out war.” “You don't want peace!” Ezri spat out bitterly. “Even if the Federation agrees to such demands, where will it stop? Whatever stipulations, clauses and terms would the Federation have to further agree to, just to preserve the peace?” “Can't you see it?” she asked Keelin a little desperately, as her anger faded. “War is inevitable if you and the Breen keep pressurising the Federation like this.” “If any war were to happen, then it would be through your transgressions, not ours!” hissed Keelin, he went as far as to jab his finger forward against the top of Ezri’s chest in an angry way. Though Keelin towered over Ezri, she squared up to the general, batting his hand out of the way feeling incensed by his physical posturing. “You claim the Federation has more to lose? Well it will be your people starving when the Federation inevitably cuts off the food aid we give to your state.” Keelin then backed just a little away from Ezri, as he seemed to realise that he could not intimidate this woman. “You don't understand captain, the Breen/Romulan pact will make both sides stronger, and through it the famines in the empire will finally stop.” Ezri sighed, and she shook her head, before moving some paces away from Keelin. “The Federation could have helped you resolve the famines, we could have given you so much more…” She turned around returning Keelin's harshness with great somberness. “But you consistently refused to take our helping hand.” The look on Keelin’s face turned positively obstinate. “I have nothing more to say to you captain. Tell your Federation that it has seven days to comply to these demands, otherwise there will be war.” With a great angry aura, Keelin marched out of the room, leaving Ezri to wonder just what diplomatic means remained to prevent war. She felt adamant that the Federation wouldn’t agree to the Breen and Romulan demands, but if such an outcome occurred, then her station would be the first Federation position to be attacked should a war take place. The most alarming thing was Keelin lack of bluffing. Ezri had studied similar Federation encounters with the Romulans, and always the Romulans were bluffing or looking for a fight but backing out at the last minute. This confrontation felt completely different. She could sense the confidence in Keelin, a confidence which stemmed from the fact that the Romulans were now allies with the Breen. Ezri saw it as a potent union, one were even the combined powers of the Federation and the Klingon Empire might not be enough to stop it… Ezri would be reporting all of this to Starfleet, though she could almost hear admiral Ross’ answer; the price was too damn high for peace.