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March to the Drums

<Location: Gamma Quadrant, former Dominion Frontier>

The Cardassian Galor cruiser Ingervolk fell into two distinct pieces as it was bisected by the unrelenting assault of focused solar energy, creating what was the most powerful weapon currently available to man. Only the most advanced metaphasic shielding would have had a chance to blunt the blow of the solar onslaught. Ingervolk had none.

All told, the engagement, if it could be called that, lasted exactly :35 seconds. The technology was officially dubbed “Star Lance”, and used Iconian gateway technology, trans-subspace communications, and small, nearly autonomous satellites; dubbed “transmats” by the design team. The process was simple enough.

One transmat lens was placed in a star's plasma sphere, bathed in solar matter and energy. The companion to that lens, hidden under reverse-engineered cloaking technology, was placed at a location of Starfleet's choosing, and the Iconian gateway was opened. An invisible, unstoppable weapon, that could be deployed almost instantaneously. In and of themselves, the Star Lance lens satellites could easily be deployed by nearly any starship. Starfleet Operations favored the smaller, more nimble Akira class, with it's highly developed sensor systems.

On board the USS Chimera NCC-65550, the rocky Rigelian visage of Amarak grinned. “Another one down.” He said. Next to him, on the Akira's compact bridge, his Andorian first officer nodded in agreement. On the other side of Amarak, his Vulcan Political Officer also nodded in agreement. “I'll prepare a dispatch for Intelligence if you like Captain.”

“Hrmm.” Amarak grumbled in assent.

The Andorian XO raised her eyebrow. What the Political Officer was proposing was a distinct break in protocol, and far beyond the duties of the position. Political Officers were essentially intended to be diplomatic and media consultants for captains whose own expertise might not include political awareness, but as with most things, roles changed and evolved over time, and in the current political climate, Amarak's XO knew enough to understand that keeping her mouth shut, lest she end up in someone else's cross-hairs. Instead, she focused on the here and now. “Ops, begin transmat recovery.” She said.

“Belay that.” Amarak interrupted. “We'll leave the lens on station, just in case.” Then, Amarak looked at the screen ahead. “Helm, set course for the Bajor wormhole.” He ordered. “Time to get back to friendly space.”

<USS Republic, Docked at Starbase 39 Sierra, Present Day> Kimberly slumped back in her office chair. Roth-Dorian pinched the bridge of her nose, wishing her headache would go away, but it was unrelenting. She looked at the queue of unanswered messages from her husband, recently retired Admiral Tom Dorian. “Retired” was a bit of a misnomer. As good as Tom Dorian was at navigating the political reality of the Kostya administration, he'd apparently said the wrong thing, in the wrong meeting on the wrong day, and the boss didn't like it. As president of the Federation Council, technically, Vladimir Kostya was NOT in charge of Starfleet's management of personnel or assets. In reality of course, Starfleet's upper echelon, while still career officers, were very much political appointees. While things were done with the full approval of the Starfleet Chief of Operations, the almost universally obnoxious and disliked Kaito Fakunaku, it would be a mistake of the highest order, to not realize that any orders to Starfleet came directly from the President. Tom Dorian had been fired. In addition, he'd been frozen out. Friends refused calls, former colleagues wouldn't even acknowledge knowing him, and then there was ISN…

Almost immediately, the hit job started. Tom was out, and everything he'd ever done was being re-cast as a comedy of errors which were finally coming to light and being “corrected” by this current, most noble and forthright administration. Tom Dorian was the latest body on the heap. He was floundering, looking for a lifeline, and Kim Roth realized that she didn't want to give it to him.

Again and again, she ran the scenario in her head, constantly asking the question: “And then what?”

Scenario 1: Kim goes to her husband's defense. “And then what?” She gets tarred with the same brush. Then she's out, and just as useless as Tom was becoming.

Scenario 2: Kim left Tom to his own devices (which she suspected he would prefer), but she'd then have to be the woman married to 'that former admiral'. “And then what?” It was only a matter of time before life and home became untenable. In truth, it was very nearly there now, but Kim refusing to help Tom would hasten the inevitable.

This then led to Scenario 3: End it now. File for divorce. “And then what?” “Then, you can get back to business.” She said to herself. Throughout her career, Kim Roth had made a habit of making a 'tough call'. Doing it once cost her a ship, and nearly cost her the rest of her career. Now, it was going to cost her a marriage. It was a tough call, but it was easier than doing nothing,

Kim tapped a series of keys on her workstation, and affixed her digital signature to a set of divorce papers she hadn't had the nerve to sign until this moment. The computer chirped in response. “Well, at least that's done.” Kim said, resigned, but not an ounce relieved.

On cue, the door chime hit. Kim huffed and rolled her eyes. “Of course.” She mused. Then she cleared her throat. “Come.” She said. The hatch slid open and Nat Hawk stepped in.

“Bad time, Cap'n?” he asked.

“Aren't they all?” She shot back. “Better now, for the moment.” She added. Kim took up one of the PADDs on her desk and handed it to Hawk. “Though, for you it might be a little worse.”

Nat scanned the orders on the PADD, detailing the arrival of a civilian VIP, by direct order of the Starfleet CSO. The assignment was intended to help paint Republic, and by extension Starfleet, be portrayed as the heroes the Federation needed at this “time of renewal” as the president's office had taken to calling it. Republic and her crew were to be media darlings; and the one telling the story was Leah Warner. “Oh, Hell.” He sighed.

Kim regarded her XO for a long moment. “Problem?” She asked. She knew that Hawk and Warner's relationship had ended, but she wasn't privy to how or why. Nor did she want to know. Nonetheless, it was clear that Warner had meant a lot to her second in command, and she needed to know what she was dealing with.

“Not for me.” Hawk said. “It's just of all the people in all the places.”

Roth nodded. “She's Jack Warner's daughter.” Kim commented. “Connections matter.” “Tell me about it.” Hawk agreed. He shook his head slightly. “I'll get her squared away, Cap'n.” he said. She won't be a problem. For either of us.”

“Here's hoping.” She said with a nod. “Dismissed.”

<Federation Council Chamber, Sol III. Present Day> “So, you WON'T assist us?” The plea came from R'shown, a Caitian delegate to the assembly. “Rules of the Federation charter clearly state that…”

The object of the Caitian delegate's questioning was Ross DeBeers, one of several delegates from the host delegation of Earth. DeBeer's was a barrel-chested man, with a bald head, and a small, round face. He looked at the feline speaker with barely concealed disdain. “I understand what the charter says.” DeBeers retorted. “I'm simply saying that you are exaggerating the need to the point that our aid…whatever it is you really want… would be wasted.” He said. “You, like many of the Federation's member worlds, are not contributing nearly enough, for all the 'aid' you're asking for. We have our own, more pressing concerns to deal with” He said.

The exchange continued like that for some hours. At each turn, justifications continued. Reasons for refusing aid were in equal measure short-sighted or mean-spirited, and it would be clear to any impartial outside observer that the Federation was fast becoming an organization of mutual aid and protection in name only.

<Office of the President of the United Federation of Planets, Geneva, Sol III. A Few Hours Later> Malia of Delta IV regarded the crowd of media professionals around her with the careful eye of a predator seeking out targets. Kaydon Lira of the Betazed-based Fusion Foundation had just leveled a rather serious accusation at the Kostya administration. Malia was in the middle of damage control…again. The Deltan leveled her gaze a Lira. 'A handsome, if unremarkable man.' she thought, and began constructing her latest creation of 'feasible alternatives'.

“Honestly, I think that's an over-simplification, Mr. Lira.” She said calmly. “The individual delegates can state, move, or believe whatever they like.” She said. “It's true that President Kostya has an agenda.” She admitted. “All politicians do. However, he simply does not meddle in the affairs or opinions of individual delegates from individual planets.”

The reply was simple enough. Even accurate, but it was nowhere near the truth of what Kostya's 'Home Rule' policies were doing to the Federation. One by one, little by little, Kostya, and the members of the executive branch he'd appointed, had begun chipping away at most of the norms that had gone unspoken for hundreds of years in the Federation. Things that were once thought 'impossible' or 'just not done' were becoming commonplace, in the name of putting power back in the hands of the ruling bodies of individual worlds, under the auspices of populism and direct democracy.

They'd already achieved quite a bit; weakening the position of Telar, Betazed, Trill, and several other 'out of touch' worlds, who coincidentally didn't contribute as much in the way of manpower or expertise to Starfleet even the Vulcans, who had originally opposed Kostya's plans when he first assumed office, had been maneuvered into accepting that there was: “A certain logic” in the periodic redistribution of resources”. Now, even they, one of the founders of the Federation, seemed able to do little else than observe it's collapse with scientific detachment.

Still, it was Malia's job to, from time to time, put the best possible face on things. A job she was happy to do. “In any case, what you're suggesting is illegal AND unethical. If you're looking for a story, might I suggest that you turn your considerable talents to uncovering just what a hash the Caitians have made of their own affairs, to the point of needing so much 'emergency aid' in the first place.” Malia paused for effect, then slipped her glasses off of her face, placed them neatly into her breast pocket, and closed the deal. “I'm afraid that's all I have for today, my friends. We'll do this again tomorrow.” Malia turned and walked from the dais of the briefing room.

No sooner had the doors to her office closed then she jabbed a finger at her workstation. “Come on, Oliver, pick up.” she fumed.

A few seconds later, the face of Oliver Rhymer, chief legal council to the president flickered in to life on her comm link.

“Mal…Malia? What is it? I'm on Proxima and it's…late.”

“I've had it Oliver!” She yelled. “If you can't get that fool we work for to keep a tighter leash on his band of chirping hyena's…”

“Barking.” Rhymer said. “Hyenas are like dogs. They bark, they don't chirp.”

“Stop ruining my tantrum!” She shot back. “If Kostya can't keep his people from saying the quiet part out loud, then you'll have to find someone else to clean up your messes.” Malia said. Her usual charm and melodious tone was all gone.

“I know,” Oliver agreed. “but don't worry. In a few days, your friends in the press corps will have plenty to ask about other than which delegate said what. We've got it covered.”

“You'd better.”

<USS Republic, docked at Starbase 39 Sierra. 0730 Local time.>

Leah Warner shifted her weight as she stepped into Republic's gravity from the gangway. She was almost surprised at having to duck a bit to clear into the space. Then again, Luna class starships were far smaller then the expansive Galaxy or Sovereign classes she'd seen before. As she moved, she fished her ISN credentials out of her pocket and scanned ahead of her to see who might be waiting. A trio of ensigns, all in operations gold were seeing to the hustle and bustle on the deck. One of them, a young skinny human female with close-cropped red hair and a freckled face stepped up to greet the reporter.

“Ident, please miss…”

As Leah passed her card forward a voice from farther inside the ship, and out of her past, rang out. “Leah Warner.” Nat Hawk said as he strode up next to the ensign. He looked at the junior crewman for a moment. “I got this one, Ford.” He said.

“Sure thing, XO.” She nodded, then she looked at Warner. “Welcome aboard Ma'am.” She said, as she made good her exit.

“She's nice.” Warner said.

“She's new.” Answered Hawk. “And too young to be anything other than polite.” He gestured forward to take Leah's bag, but she shied away.

“I've got it.” She said. “You look good.” She forced a smile.

“I look, like I look.” Nat winked, “but I'll take what I can get.” They walked a few feet down the corridor when Hawk addressed the elephant pinned against the bulkhead. “I called. A bunch.” He said.

“I know Nat, but…”

“Don't say 'it's complicated.'” he warned.

“It is. You know that.” She paused and sidestepped closer to the bulkhead to let a group of crewmen pass. “It's the job.”

“Right, sure. Okay.” Nat relented. “You could have let me know you were comin' is all.” He offered. “We coulda, I don't know…”

“Nat.” She said flatly, “there is no 'we'. Not anymore.”

Hawk waited a beat before continuing. “That's pretty clear just now.” He admitted. “Look, if this is 'cause of yer dad or somethin'…”

“It's not dad.” Warner said. There was an edge in her voice that told Nat to be cautious. She doubted he heard it. “There's…someone else.”

Despite himself, Nat felt his temperature rise and his temper flare. “Well.. that's not… I mean, Okay. Whatever. It's fine.” Clearly, it was not.

“Look.” Warner said. “I need to check in with your Political Officer, but are we going to have a problem here?” She asked. “This is my job you know.”

“Don't start none, won't be none.” Hawk retorted. “Commander Meridian is in the mess.” He said. Then her turned away slightly and stepped ahead of the reporter. “This way, Miss Warner.”

<Starfleet Intelligence Hub. Location: Classified.> Sutek of Vulcan looked at the data streaming across his screen like chess pieces. “Dominion incursion unopposed.” He noted. “Caitian unrest seeded. I calculate an 87 percent chance that hostile action against the Tholian Assembly will be met with untenable resistance. Advise against. The Breen Confederacy is a more plausible target, but operations in the Alpha quadrant present many additional variables. “The formal annexation of Bajor is advised, contingent on pacification along the Romulan and Klingon borders. Deploy forces as indicated. Report ends.” His system ended the recording, and chirped the signal that his analysis had been sent to Vladimir Kostya.

<Office of the President of the United Federation of Planets, 24 hours later> “No,” Kris Chris Kostya said. “I don't WANT to wait. We have the ultimate weapon…to win ANY engagement, and you're telling me we can't USE it? That's NOT what we planned.” He thundered.

“Neither is moving before we're ready.” Ben Maxwell said. “Just a little more time, Chris, we're close.” Kostya's nostrils flared. “Bullshit! We're losing. The Gorn still have Cestus, and the Klingons are THIS close to expanding again.”

“No they're not.” Oliver Rhymer said. “That's just what Jack and his people are putting in the news feeds to help keep your numbers high.” He said.

“Well we still have to DO something.” Kostya said. “I ran on strength, and…we're not WINNING anything!” Both Ben Maxwell and Oliver Rhymer rolled their eyes. Apparently, it was gong to be one of 'those' mornings.

After a beat, Kostya switched tracks. “What about internally?” He asked. “I need something we can talk about.”

Oliver Rhymer leaned in a bit. “Relax Chris.” He said, trying to calm the president. A few moments later, there was a chime at the door of the conference room slid open. Stepping in was the tall, thin frame of Kaito Fakunaku, Chief of Starfleet Operations. His face had a smug look, but that soon vanished as he felt the tension he'd just walked into. “Sor…sorry I'm late, Gentlemen.” He offered meekly. “Affairs of state and all that.” The Admiral moved quickly but awkwardly to the only open seat around the table. Mercifully, his place was far from Kostya's end of the table.

Rhymer turned his head toward the new arrival. “Good to see you, Kaito.” He said, forcing his charm to try and ease the tension. “Actually, your arrival is perfect.” Rhymer chimed. “The President was…hoping that you might bring some…actionable intelligence.”

“Action..uh…” Kaito fumbled with the PADD in his hand scanning the screen full of bulletins quickly. “Well, naturally.” Kaito said, nervously buying time. “Let's see…” his voice trailed off. “No, no, don't think so… definitely not there.” He shook his head. “Oh!” Kaito's eyes flashed with excitement. “Here's something… Gravimetric sheering on Sutter's Moon.” The admiral opened the file and read the brief his staff had prepared. “Seismic reactions…tidal shifts…crop failure…” Fakunakue's face genuinely brightened as he continued to list calamity after calamity. “Yes, Sir,” he said, looking at President Kostya. “That's just the sort of operation we can use.”

Kostya frowned. He'd always hated relief missions, even when he was a line officer. A waste of resources and effort. Better to cut your losses so that the whole remained strong than to try and save people who would only become dependent on you anyway. “For God's sake,” he said sourly. “Why?”

“Because.” Rhymer chimed in. “It will look fabulous when Starfleet, and everyone's favorite ship of heroes ride to the rescue.”

“Republic.” Kostya spit out.


<Deep Space Nine, Lower Docking Ring, Present Day.> Victor Xavier Virtus pulled his hooded cloak low over his face, cursing again his genetic misfortune at this moment to be just a bit too tall. It was hard to blend into the crowd when one literally stood out. Virtus scanned the list of arrivals to DS9. “Sprock!” He cursed. “No friendlies at the moment. Victor decided to move farther down the corridor toward Quark's bar. Before he got five feet further, there was a shout behind him. “Victor Virtus!” The voice came from a tall, powerfully built lieutenant in operations gold. He was flanked by two more crewmen; ensigns by the look of them. All armed with phaser rifles. “You are hereby under arrest for desertion and theft of Starfleet property!”

Virtus leaned forward and broke into a run weaving in and out of the clusters of people on the promenade. He'd calculated the odds that he'd be fired on to be extremely low. The comforting surety of math was pushed out of his mind however, as a phaser beam lanced past his shoulder. Alarms blared, and all up and down the promenade, shop-keepers and artisans began pulling down shutters normally reserved for closing time. Virtus' long legs took the three half-steps in front of him in one leap, then panted his foot and pivoted hard to his right.

His shoulder brushed past the attendant standing guard at the Temple of the Prophets. “Sorry.” he said to the surprised cleric. An instant later, Virtus slammed headlong into Captain Kira Nyres. 'Right on time.' Virtus mused.

“What the Hell?” Kira spat.

Virtus looked up, giving the captain a cautious smile. “Good Morning, Captain.” He said quickly but calmly. “My name is Victor Xavier Virtus…”

Kira rolled her eyes. “I know who you are doctor.”

“…and I am formally requesting political asylum on Deep Space Nine.”


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current_story/march_to_the_drums.txt · Last modified: 2020/09/27 18:45 by site_admin