Obsidian Command

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No Harm in Talking

Posted on 01 Oct 2023 @ 2:31pm by Commander Calliope Zahn & Lieutenant Commander Maurice Rubens
Edited on on 01 Oct 2023 @ 3:17pm

Mission: M4 - Falling Out
Location: Obsidian Command, Promenade, The Grotto
Timeline: M4, MD2: 1920 HR
1742 words - 3.5 OF Standard Post Measure

The Grotto’s dining area was designed to feel like it was on the water, even a light breeze moved through the space pushing the wafts of odorous plants into Brigid Harshman’s face. Like smoke from a campfire, the effect was less than pleasing. The establishment apparently prided itself on creating the illusion of space and environment, but all the effort was for naught. This was supposed to be one of the finer dining establishments on the station; to her, it came off appearing like one of those gaudy dinner theater restaurants in Florida. She half-expected a singing waiter.

Instead, it was staffed by people who looked like they’d been thrown forward from the Belle Époque. The maitre d’ even had a waxed mustache and their waiter was named ‘Henri.’ She examined the electronic paper-like menu (she could forgive them for not actually printing the menu as paper would be hard to come by out here) and held it up for the waiter to take, “Beef wellington. A glass of the ‘49 Brunello di Montalcino.”

Gordon was a little slower to order, taking time to ask about the soups. He’d had something of a sensitive stomach of late and had some regrets following the pork decision aboard the Cassio the previous night. He listened with his head inclined as Henri described the options and settled on the potato leek soup and a shrimp platter for his main. Henri recommended a wine to pair and Gordon agreeably went with that and a simple “Thank you,” to the young man.

“They’ve gone to some trouble for a nice atmosphere,” he said, absorbing the surroundings. “I rather hadn’t even expected this station to have been beyond the repair stage, and here they are with all of these amenities running smoothly. Starfleet has always been very impressive at organizing resources.”

“Indeed. I’ll have to congratulate the Admiral on getting this station up and running. I was half-expecting it to be almost devoid of life outside of the crew messes. Has it been a while since you visited the Federation border?

“In any official capacity, yes. I’ve spent time traveling mostly with family and acquaintances the past ten years or so. Occasionally the department asks my advice on a matter or I help with a contact.”

“Hmm. Ah. The wine.” Henri expertly placed the glasses on the table, checked once more with the pair and then vanished. She begrudgingly admitted to herself that the staff was well trained.

Swirling the red wine around in the glass, she held it up to her nose. The aromas of fruit and vanilla rose pleasingly from the glass and she took a small sip, letting the tannins sit on top of her tongue.

“I happen to have a nephew serving here, I will have to call on him as well.” Gordon volunteered, still reflecting on his growing family as he started on his wine.

“My two brothers live on Alpha Centauri with their families. They chose to remain safely ensconced in our family orchards. I see them when I can, which is not often.”

“I hope you find the chance to visit more. Too long between and you can become a stranger.”

“Maybe one day, but my duties take precedence.” She spun her glass on the table once and then cut to the chase. “I don’t mean to be rude, but why did the Exterior send you?”

Gordon sighed. “The department has been run a bit thin on resources and personnel. When they told me of this mission and the need for someone immediately available, I volunteered.”

“I hope you don’t take offense, but I was disappointed with your appointment. There are a dozen others I expected to be here. I half expected the Secretary herself for such a serious matter. What the Exterior is advocating is war, after all.”

“That is quite the leap of logic, although the most obvious take. It would have helped to have known some time ago about their movements.”

Now it was Harshman’s turn to sigh. “I will admit that Starfleet made a mistake by not declassifying the Pyrryx earlier - I have told the C-in-C as much - but I don’t see how this would end any other way now. They’re a ruthless species. Just a few were able to overpower a Marine unit, as well as several starships including the Sunrise. I’ve looked at those logs and they are a nightmare. Almost as bad as the Borg. At least as bad as the Dominion, both of whom I faced off with.”

Gordon nodded along, not disagreeing one bit with her assessment. “It is unfortunate we can’t know more of their motives and the internal workings of their empire. They are the ones most glaringly absent from the table, so we must construct from what we can to determine what to expect from them. We’ve only just begun the talks. I am hopeful that something will present itself along the way.”

“I wish I shared your hope.” She honestly did. It gave her no great pleasure to watch a species wiped out by an oppressor. But you must know the Fleet is spread thin. It was over twenty years ago now, but the Borg and the Dominion nearly shattered us. Today, we’re missing a whole generation of starship captains and flag officers. And ships. Thousands lost and just when we got our feet under us, the Romulan relocation effort sapped more strength. Then the Mars attack and the loss of thousands of our brightest engineers.”

“I’m aware,” Gordon said, his own eyes softened with pain and loss of friends and contacts within the fleet and the struggle of the civilian population that dealt with dominion occupation in his former colonies. “And I’m also aware that helping halfway is often worse than having extended no assistance at all. I’ve seen the failings of such good intentions.”

The Admiral held up her hands as if to say, ‘there you go.’ “So, you see the trap. I don’t want to see a species wiped out, but the Federation is made up of almost two hundred species. If we try to help them, we could be putting everyone at risk.”

“It is imperative we keep that in mind.” Gordon agreed.

“Ambassador! Keep it in mind?”

“Yes. As we weigh the possibilities.”

Harshman leaned back in her chair and crossed her arms. She’d thought she’d managed to get through to him. “All the possibilities lead to the same place. Starfleet has gamed out several ways to take on the Pyrryx since we became aware of them, but there’s no answer short of throwing out convention and ripping up several treaties.”

“The Grazerites are close on a countermeasure for subspace weapons. Perhaps it’s a bit of a race that can be won outside of the lost Mars laboratories. Starfleet might find more solutions looking to the hundreds of worlds she’s guardian of.”

“The Korinn aren’t talking about getting help next week or next month or next year. They’re talking about tomorrow. They want a commitment now. The last I saw of their tests, the Grazerites are at best a year away from any working model.”

“It’s true. The results are preliminary, and even if it could be expedited, the means to manufacture and dispense them likely to be more complicated. I only mean that I’m not prepared to shut down the Korinn request before we take a full account. And we should look further into our resources, even support from outside of Starfleet. To the member worlds themselves, or perhaps abroad.”

“Abroad? Did you have someone in mind?”

“The Romulans, for one.” Gordon knew the Romulan efforts were a hot button topic for Harshman. She was known for being a prime denier of help on the border. “I know what you are going to say. They are even in worse shape than we are. But the threat is shared with their region of space as well. They may have something to offer.”

Harshman scoffed. The Romulans, the authors of much of the Federation problems? “They’re in no shape. The Free State controls less than half the Star Empire’s former territory and they’re the successor state we recognize. If we were to try and lash together an alliance from the warlords who control the rest it would make the Free State suspicious…ack!...They’re Tal Shiar through and through. Our relationship is always on the rocks.”

The Klingons, she knew, were in worse shape than the Federation. Not because of some damned rescue operations, but because of Chancellor Torg’s anti-Federation policies, ill-advised war with the Gorn and Romulans, and a civil war that continued to rage in some sectors. All of which meant an alliance with them was out of the question. She was glad Gordon didn’t bring them up; it was more of a non-starter than the Romulans.

“I anticipate further inquiry of the Korinn, as well as the Sunrise survivors and those on the Pathfinder expedition now that we have heard the Korinn’s initial plea. Ncube and I will prepare for the next discussion. New lines of inquiry may prompt new variables your strategists may not have had at their disposal, either in favor of support for the Korinn, or further clarifying the proposition as ill advised.”

“There’s no harm in talking,” Harshman said slowly, unconvinced that any new variables would change her line of thinking.

“Never any harm in talking,” Gordon said.

Henri arrived with the plate, adroitly moving around the table and serving his customers before disappearing once more. Harshman picked up her fork and knife and cut into the warm golden pastry crust that wrapped her steak. “Your nephew, what does he do?”

“Grand-Nephew, actually. Richard Stillwell.” Gordon stirred the soup. “He’s a member of station security. A quiet sort of fellow, but wise for his age, in my estimation.”

“My husband was in the Security Corps.”

“Was he?”

“Long ago. We always talked of having a family, but it never came to pass. He was killed early in the Dominion War. Could you pass the salt and pepper?”

Gordon took his time to use each and pass them to her in turn.


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