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A Second Opinion

Posted on Wed May 13th, 2020 @ 6:16pm by Lieutenant Seleya Qellar PhD & Commander Jacob Kane

Mission: In the Family
Location: USS Athena - Captain's Ready Room
Timeline: MD-4 (evening)

ON:
The return from the surface had been rapid. Hasty, even. When Kane had arrived back on the bridge the tactical officer had informed him that the oncoming ships from Paratus were barely managing half impulse. That meant they had two hours before those ships arrived.

He studied the tactical data on a PADD. Barely the size of two runabouts put together, these Paratan defensive ships were barely worth a dime compared to Athena, but that was what bothered him. Clearly these new ships were outmatched, but they weren't intending to target the Starfleet vessel; the hidden colony of exiles was almost certainly their aim. Defenseless and huddled together in a cave on the moon.

Kane had two choices: Either do nothing, and let those people on the surface die, or intervene to defend them - and potentially end any negotiations before they began.

With Taeler unreachable on the surface of Paratus, he needed another opinion. Someone with a different perspective. And that was why he'd paged his Chief Engineer.

Seleya arrived promptly, wordlessly entered the room, and took a seat opposite the commander without being invited or prompted to do so. She'd been on her feet all day, anticipated this would be a long conversation, and didn't intend to get through it without at least some basic comforts.

"Forgive my forwardness, captain, but may I trouble you for a glass of water?" she asked, sounding wearied for effect. "It's been a trying day."

Kane nodded, motioning to the tiny replicator on the far side of the room. "Help yourself."

He waited for her to return. "Lieutenant, I realise this is unusual, but I find myself in need of an added source of wisdom. Given your unique history and background, besides the fact that my XO is currently indisposed..." he didn't need to completely explain. He put the PADD down on the desk and took a breath. "I find myself caught between a rock and a hard place. In two hours I need to make a decision, and to be honest I'm not certain what choice to make."

Seleya drank some water in earnest; she'd spent the better part of the day working to keep the Glory's reactor from going critical next to them and felt a little dehydrated from it. She knew as much as the rest of the senior staff about their mission here, but she suspected there was more at play than what was on the surface. And who knew what she'd missed while she was in the workpod, so she used a leading question to draw out more information.

"A choice about the two Paratan factions?"

"Yes," Kane answered bluntly. "On the one hand we have Paratus, a potential Federation member world on the cusp of formalising their membership. On the other, a group of exiled Paratan men who see themselves as freedom fighters against the tyranny of their government's oppression." He paused. "And now the Paratan Queen has followed us here to the location of that defenseless hidden exile base, where her forces are poised to destroy them completely."

He sighed, pouring a glass of water for himself. "I can either do nothing, which would satisfy the Queen but condemn dozens of people to slaughter - an end I don't feel like they deserve. Or, I an intervene to protect them...probably ending the membership talks for good, but stopping a brutal suppression of freedom." He folded his fingers together. "Thoughts?"

"Both factions are conniving and duplicitous, and they're dragging the Athena into their political machinations as a pawn," Seleya said matter-of-factly. Despite being 'just' an engineer now, she'd found it difficult to drop her interest in politics. It was in her blood. So, she'd admittedly been following the Paratan situation a bit more closely than the average crewman...

"If you help the lunar rebels, the royalists will claim it's an attack on their way of life. As far as all parties are concerned, you'll be responsible for dissolving negotiations with the Federation and the royalists can go back to purging dissidents. The lunar rebels will gain credence and legitimacy from your interference - morality will be on their side - and they'll intensify their campaign.

"If you help the royalists - and non-interference is helping the royalists - then you're allowing a minor political faction to be eliminated and central power consolidated. The fact that we knew nothing about the lunar rebels prior to entering the system suggests it must be a movement in its infancy, when it's easiest to eliminate before they acquire any momentum. Momentum you'd be denying them by allowing the royalists' alpha strike."

Kane nodded. Her suppositions were correct. They'd been rolling around in his head for the last half an hour. "I've been re-reading the articles of the Prime Directive. We're not supposed to interfere in the internal affairs of a non-member world. But by our very presence here in orbit of the moon we've already interfered and caused the royalists to locate their enemies, therefore I think I would have precedence to act..."

"Not interfering seems like the Starfleet method of doing things, and the most likely way of successfully concluding our mission objectives. It's easy to paint the lunar rebels as the aggressors. But more importantly, the entire thing is an internal matter, so you would be sacrificing some principles to save others," Seleya continued. "I believe these smaller decisions are distractions from the bigger picture: the Paratans maintain policy that is fundamentally incompatible with the Federation's core principles. So, if command is pushing for membership as the preferred outcome, we have to ask why."

"It sure would be nice if the Federation Ambassador wasn't in a coma and could tell us," he sighed. "Any replacement is weeks away, far too late to make a difference." He leaned back in his chair. "From my understanding, the reason our Ambassador was sent here was to break down some of those differences and guide their ruler to a place where she might agree to the Federation charter. But this feels more like a family dispute rather than accession talks. A brother and sister arguing over legitimacy."

"And a planetary government out of alignment with Federation principles," Seleya added. Over her glass of water, she asked, "Do you really feel the ambassador could have brought about such sweeping, revolutionary cultural change in a matter of weeks?"

"Not sweeping. Not revolutionary. But enough to get them over the line?" Kane shrugged. "I don't know what her strategy would have been, but she came with a reputation for getting results."

"I think the queen is playing you - all of you," she said. "At this point, suppose she agrees with and signs all the ascension documents. We already know she doesn't agree with them, otherwise we wouldn't have these lunar rebels in the first place. She holds them off long enough for the Federation Council to ratify the documents, and then what? Suddenly, the threat to her government is no longer an internal matter. It's a security threat to a Federation member world. Goodbye, Duke Alonso."

"You think she's using the membership negotiation as a political cover?" Kane leaned back, pondering. "If you wanted to large-scale purge a small group of people, you'd need a big distraction for the population. Such as a grand event welcoming them into a union of planets. Meanwhile you take the undesirables out back and put them down. All the while your new benefactor pats you on the back."

"If you play your cards right," Seleya said. "And count on the expansionist drive of the Federation to keep them from looking too hard at things."

"Well, I can't allow the principles on which the Federation was founded to be compromised. I simply won't." Kane's posture changed. He sat upright, an idea forming in his mind. "Lieutenant, what's the status of the SS Glory?" he inquired. "I think I have an idea."

"Serviceable, though I'd hardly call it optimal. We've sealed off the portions where the outer hull has been compromised and repaired most of the primary systems," Seleya said. Looking quite amused, she asked, "Planning on crashing it into the palace?"

"Not exactly." His lips narrowed into a little smirk. "The Glory is not a registered Starfleet vessel. It's the personal property of Ambassador Hortensia. Technically speaking, it's not officially a Federation ship at all. If it were to, say, beam up a number of male Paratans from the surface of a moon...I mean, theft of personal property is a little beneath our concerns, right?"

"Yes, but is aiding and abetting?" Seleya asked. "I must say, commander, I'm surprised you're keen to intervene. It might all blow up in your face. I speak from obvious experience when I say that lending support to an active rebellion doesn't always go as planned."

"One day you'll have to tell me more about that 'obvious experience'," he remarked dryly. "And things blowing up is one thing I actually can handle." He rose from his desk. "Send a communication to the crew over on the Glory, make sure she's capable of handling an influx of personnel. And Lieutenant? Thank you for your honesty. It goes without saying that I value it in every one of my crew."

Seleya almost seemed surprised to hear herself laugh. "Mark this as an historic moment - a human thanking a Romulan for her honesty."

"You wear that uniform, it doesn't matter what species you are," Kane retorted. "We're serving a shared objective; agree or disagree, honesty among my crew is important. Remember that."

"As you say, commander," Seleya acquiesced.

"Good. Let's see if this one ends with me shooting someone in the head again..." he said quietly, rising from his desk to indicate that their meeting was over. This could either go incredibly well or incredibly badly, he knew. Interference was banned for a reason. But he hated being played, and if Seleya was correct then they'd been used as pawns in the Queen's game. He wasn't about to let that go.

OFF:

Commander Jacob Kane
Commanding Officer
USS Athena

Lieutenant Seleya Qellar, PhD
Chief Engineer
USS Athena

 

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