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Part of USS Hydra (Archive): Making Our Presence Felt

Jumping at Shadows…?

Near the Amneth Nebula, Cardassian Space
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Captain’s Log, Supplemental. Our small task force will be entering the area near the Amneth Nebula where the pirates we’ve been sent to remove are located within the next few hours. There is, however, something that has been on my mind the last few months that I can’t help but point out. The lack of response from the Cardassians seems a bit contrived to me, which lends credence to the idea that perhaps there’s more to all this than I originally suspected. It is my sincere hope that I’m just being overly cautious…

Sitting behind the desk of his new ready room, Captain Jonathan Bastin was currently gazing at the display floating in mid-air containing the visage of the Legate commanding the Empok Nor station. The two of them had already exchanged the pleasantries that were normally expected of people of their respective stations and were finally getting to the point of the conversation.

“I received the report you sent via your staff here on the station. I’m more than a little surprised that the Federation is dealing with these pests in such a showy manner,” Legate Aren said with a smirk on her lips.

“The level of response on our end isn’t nearly as concerning to me as the lack of response from your own, given that their activity hurts your own people as much, if not more,” Bastin retorted with a look of displeasure on his face.

The Legate’s smirk faded as she shifted a bit, “You are correct, Captain. However, I have no ships at my personal disposal to send. As you are certainly well aware, I am operating in a vacuum out here, both literally and figuratively. I’ve sent reports to the Council, of course, but their resources are as always tied up with keeping the Central Command in check.”

“While I can appreciate that the Council and Central Command are at odds with one another in the political arena, I would have thought that protecting your citizens and your interests would transcend those sorts of conflicts, at least in short bursts,” Bastin said with a frown.

“Were the Legates of Central Command able to take anything beyond their blind thirst for power and rigid adherence to the ideal of Cardassian superiority into consideration, you might very well be right. Unfortunately for all our sakes, this is not the way they seem to operate. For all we know, letting pirates raid the Federation border suits their aims just fine, since it can be used against the Council and their call for brokering peace,” Aren said frankly.

“And that,” Bastin said with an exaggerated sigh, “is exactly what I’m worried about. Even if we manage to wipe this particular cell of pirates out, there’s no guarantee that others won’t pop up later. And politically speaking, our expedition might look good for the Council in the short term, since it can be used as fodder to support their assertions that a cooperative relationship with the Federation is possible when our interests align, that doesn’t mean that the Central Command won’t try to point at a resurgence of piracy at another point along the border as fuel to their own ends.”

“And you expect that the pirates will somehow resurface at some point to harm our position, is that what I am to gather from that statement?” the Legate asked with a raised eyebrow.

“If Central Command isn’t lifting a finger to prevent the attacks now, and you believe that because it doesn’t fit their agenda they won’t bother, it would stand to reason that any reappearance would only serve their political purposes,” the Captain remarked with a slight shrug.

The Cardassian took a moment to mull things over before she remarked, “The only way it wouldn’t serve their purposes is if they were somehow involved in more than just complacency.”

“Is that a possibility?”

“I can’t say it is so far-fetched an idea as to be completely outside of the scope of what is possible. Would that be my first guess? Probably not, given that the current Legates in power have little to no love for pirates to begin with. It is likely that, should they reappear, Central Command will dispatch ships of their own before your government can pinpoint their stronghold and crush them in a much larger show of force. That would go much further toward solidifying their position should they mop up the mess the Federation failed to,” Legate Aren said in response.

“I suppose we can only wait and see…” Bastin grumbled.

“Yes…” the Legate nodded, “Well, for what it’s worth, I do wish you luck in the coming skirmish… though I really don’t believe you will be needing it.”

Bastin straightened a bit in his chair, “Thank you Legate. I’ll let you know how things go once it’s over. Bastin out.”

The image of the Cardassian was replaced with the Federation logo before the holographic display shimmered away, leaving the space in front of the Captain unobscured. Bastin sank backward, his mind no less at ease than when he started the conversation with the Cardassian. There was something gnawing at the back of his mind about the entire exchange, and the more he replayed the conversation he’d just had in his head the more he didn’t like what had transpired.

“Commander Yuri, report to my ready room,” Bastin said after taking almost five minutes to ruminate about the situation.

Given that his First Officer was on the bridge, it only took her a few seconds to appear through the doorway separating the two compartments. It only took a moment for her to slide into a seat situated in front of the desk Bastin was currently sitting at.

“How’d your conversation go?”

“Not how I was expecting,” Bastin replied to the question after a brief moment.

When Cmdr. Yuri tilted her head slightly in confusion, the Captain went on to explain, “I was hoping for some concrete denials or to be dismissed out of hand for my little theory… But neither occurred. I felt as though I was putting forth an idea that she simply hadn’t considered yet, and while she wasn’t giving it any immediate legitimacy I got the impression she might actually investigate it on her end.”

“And what theory would that be?” Yuri prodded.

“That the Cardassian Central Command might have more to do with these pirates than simple complacency. But how far it might actually go is up in the air. From what the Legate explained to me, most of the Central Command leadership takes a fairly hard view of piracy, so they may not be the party responsible for the attacks outright…”

“But they could be,” the woman finished off his sentence.

“Yes…” Bastin nodded with a frown, “And if what Legate Aren said wasn’t true, that they aren’t nearly as intolerant of them or have gone so far as to organize these pirates themselves…”

The First Officer folded her arms and gave the man’s word some thought before sighing, “As much as I don’t want to admit it, I just can’t see them doing that. It isn’t worth the backlash if someone finds out the connection. Deliberately ignoring the problem… sure, I can get on board with that idea no problem. I might even be willing to believe that they created situations that the pirates couldn’t pass up on. But them being a tool for the Cardassian military? It just seems a bit too far of a stretch given how proud Cardassians are and how intolerant they can be with outsiders meddling in their affairs.”

“You think I’m reading too far into this then?” Bastin asked.

“I don’t know if that’s the phrase I would use,” Yuri shrugged, “But I certainly wouldn’t make that big a leap just because Central Command hasn’t handled the problem themselves. In fact, I’d be more shocked to see them respond since most of them have been on the opposite side of Cardassian space trying to expand in the other direction away from the Federation. It makes more sense that they just can’t be bothered with people who aren’t hurting their own interests at the moment.”

The Captain leaned back and looked up at the ceiling for a long moment before letting out a rather protracted sigh, “I suppose having dealt with the Cardassians a few times prior to this makes me overly skeptical of deeply complicated machinations. I almost can’t envision them doing something so straightforward…”

“A bit of cultural bias, I’d say,” Yuri smirked.

“That’s fair, I suppose…” Bastin agreed without looking back down at the woman.

“It’s not as if I’m upset at you for being weary of Cardassian plots, Jon. I’m just saying that they can’t all be manipulative shadow brokers hell bent on subverting every system in sight. They can be straightforward too…” the woman said, her smirk evolving into a teasing grin.

“I guess…” Bastin shrugged and finally looked at his First Officer, “Thanks for listening to my half-baked ideas, Rena.”

The woman let out a hearty laugh, “That’s what I’m here for.”