Disclaimer : You know the drill...I own nothing, only my sinister view of the world :) and some caracters, and the story, and the idea behind it...The rest, I borrowed it :) and hope they don‘t sue me...
Background : Well, this really is the continuation of another novel, so it would be advisable to read that one first. For those of you stubborn enough not to do so, here‘s a lil‘ summary :
DS9 is still under occupation. The minefield is down, but the Prophets ridded the Federation of the Dominion reinforcements. Oh, yeah, perhaps the most important thing is that Voyager has returned to the Alpha Quadrant. Paris, Tuvok, Data and Crusher are on some sort of special mission for the Federation.
Voyager and Enterprise-E have fought in the battle with the Defiant. When things were running badly indeed for the Feds, some ‚old friends‘ appeared.
And now the Continuation...
Author‘s Note : Again, I have to apologize to all the P/Tlers out there. This one, I‘m afraid, is not really a P/T story either. Perhaps towards the End, but I dunno. But I think there will be plenty of feelings in this one, in other words, perhaps it will get a bit sappy. Or perhaps not. Well, last time we left Picard, hanging out with Sela (I hope you remember her), and Paris being hung out by some Cardassian lunatic. Well, lets see what I got for you this time. :)
Feedback will be appreciated, enshrined, and carefully read! Feel free to write. You liked it? You hated it? You survived it? Tell me about it :) Everything, from praise to scorn, goes to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dedicated to Gene Roddenberry, for having invented Star Trek and making us believe in a better future, as always, and to William H. Keith jr. and Micheal A. Stackpole, some of my favourite authors. Oh, yeah, and to Terry Pratchett, my actual (!) favourite author. Also I would like to thank William Shakespeare, who helped me greatly in my last effort, even if he doesn‘t know it...and to the many poets who will appear in this one...As well I would like to apologize to all those who can‘t stand poems and whom I will bother with lots of them...this time and forever and ever :)
« Five hundred years ago, before the sailing-ship pioneers ventured into great waters, the oceans were an empty space, the only area of the world‘s surface in which men did not deploy military force against each other. In a future war, the oceans might appear empty again, swept clear both of merchant traffic and of the navies which have sought so long to protect it against predators. Yet the oceans‘ emptiness will be illusory, for in the deeps new navies of submarine warships, great and small, will be exacting from each other the price of admirality. »
The Price of Admiralty
« War is not "the extension of Politics by other means". The world would be easier to understand if Clasuewitz‘ famous citation was true. His other formula "the political intent is the reason, war is the means by which this intent is realized" gives us a more precise and complex view of the problem. »
John Keegan, A history of Warfare
Part 2 - The day be ours
Thomas Eugene Paris‘ fingers glid expertly over the shuttles‘ helm controls. Behind him, the seven passengers on board were busy discussing the latest gossip concerning the shuttles‘ pilot, himself. It seemed people could never get enough rumors.
When he checked his console, he noticed an incoming message. ‚Shuttlecraft Ares. This is Caldik Prime Station. You are cleared for final approach on Station. Welcome on Caldik Prime Lieutenant.‘
‚Caldik, this is Shuttlecraft Ares. Beginning landing approach. How is the weather down there ?‘
‚Shuttlecraft, Caldik. Acknowledged, landing approach confirmed. Incoming vector looks good. Weather here is good, Lieutenant, 34 degrees Celcius, no clouds, only some random storms over the landing zone.‘
‚Sounds good, Caldik. Estimated time of arrival, 9 minutes.‘
‚Acknowledged. Caldik Prime out.‘
Tom turned to the tall, dark-haired woman, sitting in the co-pilot‘s chair. ‚Calm down, shenja. It‘s all routine.‘
The woman grunted in response. ‚The last time you said that, baru, you got us caught in the middle of an ionic storm.‘
Tom chuckled. ‚You heard the man, the weather is gorgeous. This is going to be a lovely, calm, flight.‘
Tom started laughing again.
When Major Sela entered the room along with another Romulan female, everybody got to their feet.
Without bothering to greet anyone, Sela walked nonchalantly over to an empty seat, and sat down, casually crossing her arms before her chest, a smirk crossing her unreadable features. Uncomfortable and slightly annoyed glances were exchanged by the present StarFleet officers.
When the other Romulan walked across the room, to stand behind Sela, everybody took his relative place around the table. Picard and both Admirals‘ gazes however, were locked on the older Romulan woman. Picard looked questioningly at his two superior officers. Admiral Haze began talking as soon as everyone was seated. ‚Colonel..Sela.‘ He nodded in her direction. ‚I suppose you know all of the present officers here.‘
‚I don‘t.‘ Sela replied casually.
Slightly taken aback by his guest‘s...directness, Robert Haze raised an eyebrow.
‚Well,‘ he continued. ‚I take it you know Captain Picard and his crew.‘
The look she gave him and Picard was confirmation enough.
‚This is Captain Sisko, and-‚
‚I know Captain Sisko.‘ After a quick glance at her fellow Romulan, she added ‚I have...read about him. No, I would like to know who she is.‘ Katherine Janeway looked in surprise at this woman.
‚My name is Katherine Janeway, Captain of the Starship Voyager.‘
Surprisingly Vulcan-like, Sela raised an eyebrow. ‚The Voyager?‘ she asked calmly ‚Aren‘t you and your crew supposed to be dead then by now?‘
‚We were.‘ Janeway replied as politely as she could. ‚But we are better now.‘
Sela smiled mysteriously. She felt she liked this Human female. She was more direct than the rest of StarFleet.
A bit startled by Sela‘s smile, Janeway continued. ‚This is my first officer Chakotay.‘ When the words ‚First Officer‘ came across her lips, she looked at Admiral Haze. *Some things still have to be sorted out.* she thought.
‚And over here, we have Ensign Kim, and Lieutenant B‘Elanna Torres, my Chief Engineer.‘
Sela practically ignored Chakotay and Kim, only looking briefly at them. But when her eyes met Torres, she mustered her critically. Her gaze rested uncomfortably long on Torres‘ forehead, and everybody in the room sensed the rising tension.
Then, much to everyone‘s surprise, Sela smiled almost sympathetically
at the half-Klingon. ‚Ms. Torres,‘ she bowed her head slightly
‚Colonel Sela.‘ B‘Elanna snarled.
‚How now, Ms.Torres? No blood-oaths?‘ she asked with feigned innocence. ‚No gritted teeth, no clenched fists? No open threats? Not even a few... verbal insults?‘
B‘Elanna stayed calm, as if the Romulan‘s words did not touch her. ‚No.‘ she stated flatly, though, Harry, who sat beside her, could see her tension.
‚And why is that, Klingon ?‘ The challenge in Sela‘s voice was obvious, and contrasted the faint smile on her face. But Torres refused to take the bait.
‚I am only half-Klingon, Sela.‘
For a moment, Sela was speechless. But she recovered quickly. ‚Sounds like the beginning of a wonderful friendship, then.‘ she remarked sarcastically.
‚Indeed.‘ Sela‘s voice was suddenly serious, no trace of the cyniscm distinguishing it was left.
Several seconds passed before, still startled by what had just happened, Admiral Haze spoke again. He looked at the older Romulan standing behind Sela.
‚Perhaps you would now like to introduce us to your assisstant ?‘
‚Actually, I don‘t.‘
The whole table looked at her in surprise. Sela smirked.
‚Romulans do not like giving away informations.‘ she said.
Tom Paris relaxed. The rest of the flight would be routine, he knew. He stretched himself in his chair, ostentatively crossing his arms in front of him, to prove his statement. He felt he began to like this new shuttle-prototype.
‚Relax.‘ He advised the dark-haired woman.
‚That‘s easy to say for you. ETA to landing zone ?‘
‚Barely 2 minutes. We‘re flying at an altitude of 3000 feet.‘
‚Watch your controls, baru.‘
‚I‘m watching them all the time. Listen ; we made it the whole way through without problems. The weather is great, no storms anywhere near. Nothing can possibly go wrong. Why do you hate shuttle-flights that much ?‘ Tom asked. But he regretted the question the moment it left his mouth.
The woman shot him a deadly glance.
‚Have you already forgotten why I was sent to Yarok II ?‘
‚No. No I haven‘t.‘ he breathed deeply. ‚I‘m sorry. I didn‘t...‘ He was interrupted by a mighty roar going through all the shuttle, followed by some rather violent jerks.
The passengers in the rear were sent to the ground, and the same would have happened to Tom, if it weren‘t for the seat restraints. The woman beside him gave him a ‚I warned you‘ look, then focused on her controls.
‚What on earth was that ?‘ she asked.
‚I don‘t know. Sensors show nothing. But we lost the impulse engines and inertial dampeners.‘
Behind him, the engineer team began to work on the consoles.
Suddenly all the controls went dead.
‚What the hell happened now ?‘ Tom yelled ‚We‘re falling like a rock.‘ ‚I don‘t know.‘ One of the engineers shouted back. ‚It appears the new energy-conduits have broken down.‘
‚Can you get engines and controls back online ?‘ Tom asked.
‚No sir. The whole system‘s fried.‘
The co-pilot looked at Tom. ‚And what are you going to do now ?‘ Tom didn‘t bother to answer her. He was already frantically working to get his console working again. When he finally succeeded in doing so, he returned to his seat, and ran his fingers over the controls. ‚Are the guidance thrusters still working ?‘ he asked. ‚Barely. I can give you 30 seconds at most. After that, they‘re probably going to blow.‘
‚Allright. That‘ll have to do it.‘
‚What are you up to Tom ?‘ the woman asked.
‚I‘m going to land this shuttle. Switching to glide-mode.‘
‚Glide mode ?‘ the co-pilot asked incredously.
‚Got a better idea ? We‘re going to crash. We have to control it.‘ Seeing the planet‘s surface coming nearer and nearer, the woman shook her head. ‚Nope.‘
‚Start thrusters on my mark. 3,2,1, MARK.‘
‚Allright, change course to 2-5-3 mark 4-2-‚
A sudden explosion shook the shuttle. Tom‘s display exploded in front of him, and he cried out in pain.
He opened his eyes again, and saw the planet rushing towards them at an incredible speed. The last thing he saw before his eyes closed again was a worried face hovering above him.
‚Tom ? wake up. Tom.‘
‚This is going nowhere!‘ Benjamin Sisko exclaimed angrily.
Sela looked at him, a neutral look on her face.
‚It is? Strange, I thought we were just making progress.‘
‚Progress?‘ Sisko almost shouted at her. ‚The only progress you have made so far is pushing me towards a nervous breakdown.‘
Apparently Sela found that amusing, at least the soft, cynical laughter into which she erupted said so.
Admiral Paris sighed tiredly. ‚Captain Sisko, please take your seat.‘
Reluctantly Benjamin went back over to his place. When he sat, Adm.
Paris turned to their Romulan guest.
‚Major Sela, please. I really must ask you to co-operate.‘
Sela angrily waved him away. ‚This is useless. The reason for the Empire‘s decision to enter the war are totally irrelevant. You humans. You have to make everything so complicated.‘
Torres looked at her. ‚It wouldn‘t be that complicated if you decided to fill us in.‘ she proposed.
Sela scanned the faces of all present officers. She detected exhaustion on each of them. This meeting was now going for over 2 hours, and they were still stuck at the same point.
‚I guess I have to, if I want this to come to a result.‘ She sighed. ‚As you can imagine, our governement has followed the war since it‘s beginning. We have sent out ships to monitor your efforts, the Federation‘s, the Klingon‘s and the Cardassian‘s.‘ She sighed. ‚As you all should know, the Romulan governement has not taken an active part in the war. The debacle the Tal Shiar and the Obsidian Order caused at the very beginning, made us careful. Instead, we preferred to observe. History has taught us not to act rashly, as you might know. We were...concerned about the outcoming of the war. You will have to admit, the Federation was, perhaps still is, on the brink of destruction. And if the information I received from the Tal Shiar are correct, the Klingons already lost too many ships to be an effective allie. They are in essence, retiring out of this conflict.‘ Sela scanned the faces fo the present officers and saw that most of them didn‘t know if what she said was true. When Sela saw the concerned look Adm. Haze gave Paris, she saw her statement proved. Owen Paris on the other hand, kept his best poker-face.
‚And what if the scenario you described were true?‘ he asked. ‚It IS like I said. Fact is, we are convinced that the Dominion will not stop once the Federation is conquered.
And, despite your latest-‚ she paused briefly ‚-victory, the Dominion forces still outnumber you.‘
‚So?‘ Sisko asked ‚What do you suggest ?‘
‚We suggest to reconsider the current political situation between both our gouvernements.‘ The words were spoken rashly, in one breath, but they seemed nevertheless to hover above the conference table, almost palpable.
For a moment, all eyes were locked on the blonde Romulan Colonel.
‚Are you saying what I think you are saying ?‘
‚I don‘t know what you are thinking, Commander...‘
‚Chakotay.‘ Chakotay helped.
‚...Chakotay.‘ she said, her voice sounding a bit annoyed. ‚However, I know what I am saying.‘
‚Are you proposing an Alliance ?‘ Admiral Haze asked incredously.
‚I believe they are. It would be the...logical thing to do,‘ a new voice said. All heads turned around to the door, silently greeting the newcomer. All heads but one. Sela had a feeling she already knew who had just joined them.
It was not a feeling she liked, nor was it particularly good.
Alarms sounded. The lights flickered. People yelled, fearful cries emerged from numerous throats. His eyes still closed, Tom Paris knew they were going to crash. He wondered what had happened. He heard a nearby panel burst, and...
Tom sat up with a muffled scream, tears in his eyes. For a moment he did not know where he was. The disorientation lasted for a few seconds, until he finally remembered. The mission. Being captured. The interrogation. Caldik Prime. The dream. His team-mates. The pain.
He remembered being separated from his team. He vaguely remembered being interrogated. He remembered the pain.
When he looked down on his body, he noticed he did no longer wear his uniform. Instead, he apparently wore some old, used civilian clothes. When his eyes adjusted to the darkness in the cell, he noticed he was alone. When he tried to stand, his legs could not bear him. He heavily stumbled back to the ground.
Slowly, he crawled to a far corner of the room. He pulled his knees closer to his body and began to cry softly.
After a few minutes, he finally drifted off into his sleep again.
‚Ambassador. I‘m glad you could come.‘
All the officers around the table rose to their feet when Ambassador Spock walked through the room.
Only Sela stayed seated, watching the older Vulcan.
Spock nodded at the StarFleet officers.
‚Admirals Haze, Paris. Captain Picard,‘he said ‚it is... acceptable to see you here again, under those circumstances.‘ Jean-Luc smiled. ‚Ambassador.‘
Then Spock turned his head towards the Romulan Colonel, bowing his head.
‚Jolan True Colonel Sela.‘
‚Spock.‘she stated flatly, in a voice that indicated that she could barely live with the fact that the old Vulcan ambassador merely existed. ‚May I ask what you are doing here ?‘
Sisko drew a sharp breath at this obvious lack of diplomacy.
Admiral Haze answered her.
‚I asked Ambassador Spock to assist this meeting. He is something like our expert on Romulan affairs.‘
‚Expert.‘ she stated reproachfully.
‚I have spend more time on Romulus than any other member of the Federation. Since we last met, I have tried on multipel occasions to contact your governement. May I ask why no-one responded to my messages?‘
‚We were very...busy.‘
‚You undoubtedly were.‘
The glances Sela gave Spock could have melten through solid rock, but the Vulcan Ambassador stayed calm. Annoyed and disgusted, Sela turned away to Admiral Haze.
‚So?‘ she asked.
‚So what?‘ replied the Admiral, slightly confused.
‚Is the Federation prepared to forge an alliance with the Romulan Empire?‘
‚You surely understand that I am not authorized to decide that on my own.‘
Sela grunted disgustedly. Humans ! she thought. ‚I understand‘, she admitted ‚With whom am I supposed to negotiate if I may ask?‘ Though, Sela thought she already knew the answer to that one. And she was proven right.
Spock faced the Romulan and began to slowly walk around the table. ‚StarFleet Command has authorized me to listen to your proposal, and, depending on my judgment of the situation, to conclude temporary treaties.‘ He stressed the word ‚temporary‘.
Sela‘s mood sank considerably. Negotiating with a Vulcan could be very tiring. Especially for Romulans. Especially if the Vulcan was called Spock. And the Romulan Sela.
Spock nodded. ‚Me.‘
‚I should have known.‘ she said sadly.
Spock only raised an eyebrow.
Tom Paris‘ sleep was violently interrupted by the sound of a door being slammed shut. Reluctantly he opened his eyes. When, after a few seconds, they adapted to the dim light, Tom saw the figure of another prisoner lying on the floor. It was a woman he noticed. Dark-haired, tall, clad in the same used old clothes he wore. The woman moaned slightly, but Tom was not willing to leave his corner to help the newcomer. The thought simply did not occur to him. Besides, he was too tired and too battered to be of any help, anyway.
The figure suddenly rolled over, and Tom could see something sprinkling in the faint light. A piece of jewelry he thought. Finally, the tall, dark-haired woman abruptly sat up, eagerly rubbing the back of her head. She shot him a glance.
‚No, no, don‘t worry Tom. I‘m fine. Don‘t bother to help me.‘ She remarked sarcastically.
Tom was surprised, to say the least.
‚How do you know my name?‘
‚I‘m not in the mood for your weird sense of humor right now, you know‘ she flipped.
This voice. I know this voice. I know this woman. ‚Who are you?‘ he asked tiredly.
‚Don‘t you know me anymore? Well, I should‘ve known. It‘s been a long time since Caldik.‘
Suddenly, Tom‘s tiredness and his aches were forgotten. ‚Listen,‘ he said defensively ‚I still don‘t know who you are, but how did you know about Cald-‚ He interrupted himself harshly when he noticed the woman‘s ridged nose. The glitter of light transformed into a piece of jewelry, then into something more concrete.
An earring. A very familiar one.
Impossible. he thought uncertainly It can‘t be her. What would she... ‚You? Shenja?‘ he asked incredously.
‚This is outrageous!‘ Sela shouted. ‚You can‘t expect us to let your men invade our ships!‘
‚It‘s not an invasion Sela. They would only be observers.‘
The grunt Sela released showed that she clearly did not believe Picard‘s statement.
Ambassador Spock stood up from his chair and spoke to the table.
‚These negotiations seem to have arrived at a dead-end. It is late.
I suggest we all leave now, and reconveine here tomorrow.‘
‚You‘re absolutely right.‘ Sela said angrily.
Slowly the StarFleet officers began to leave. Sela left the room hastily, but in the corridor she was stopped by a voice. ‚Colonel Sela‘ Picard said ‚One minute please. I want to talk to you... privately.‘ he added, after mustering her ‚assistant‘.
Letting out a sigh, Sela turned, slowly, to face Picard.
‚You seem to know me after all.‘
‚Shenja?‘ Tom repeated, still stunned. ‚What are you doing here?‘ ‚Never underestimate my people. We have the tendency to turn up surprisingly in the weirdest places. Especially me.‘ Tom could not help it. The first genuine smile for days flashed to his face. He laughed softly.
‚I never thought I‘d see you again. I heard you joined the Maquis?‘
‚I did. I didn‘t have any other choice.‘
‚And why are you here?‘
‚What‘s that supposed to mean? Do you think I came here for holidays? I got captured, you twirp!‘ she shouted, her voice though, indicating some amusement.
Tom started to laugh. He almost forgot all the pains and the memories and the interrogations and the dreams and the agony when he reached over to tightly hug the woman. He pressed his head against hers, a smile on his face, and let her cradle him softly.
‚Oh, I missed you too, Laren.‘
Impatiently, Sela nodded to her assistant. The dark-haired woman looked at Picard coldly, then bowed her head slightly towards Sela, turned and left without a word. Sela looked at Picard, her arms folded in front of her chest.
‚What is it Picard?‘ There are more important matters that need my attention‘ she stated abruptly.
‚I...I wondered if you could do me a favor.‘