Part of Empok Nor (Archive): The Grand Experiment

Prisoner Exchange

Trivas System
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Previously, on the USS Hydra…

“It’s about our prisoners,” Bastin said flatly, “I wanted to know if the Cardassian government wished to detain them for prosecution for their crimes against your people or if you wanted the Federation to take custody of them.”

The Cardassian frowned at the question, though only for a few seconds, “I will have to contact the Council and see if they wish to pursue this. While I have little doubt that they could be made into very convincing examples, I don’t know if there is enough of a benefit to actually take on the logistical burden that would create. After all, this station isn’t one that exists outside of certain circles at the moment.”

“Yes… I can see where that might present some issues if prisoners were to just suddenly appear from parts unknown to the general population,” Bastin nodded to himself.

“I will run this by the Chairman and see what she has to say. Give me an hour and I should have an answer,” the Legate remarked.

“Very well. I’ll stand by in this area until you contact me. Until then, Legate.”

When the image of Captain Bastin disappeared from her screen, Legate Sela Aren brought up the secure communications protocols and sent a priority message straight to Cardassia Prime. While Legate Aren had no illusions that Chairman Ila Rekal would be the one to answer the call initially, she was certain that her information would prove important enough to get through to the leader of the Detapa Council eventually.

As predicted, a young Cardassian male’s face appeared on the screen, his demeanor rather tense without the Legate having to say a thing. It was obvious he was one of the civilians on the home world that had no love for Cardassian military personnel no matter who they aligned with ideologically.

“What can I do for you, Legate?” the man asked with poorly contained disdain.

“I need to speak to Chairman Rekal regarding a matter that the Federation has brought to my attention. If you would kindly route my call to her, I would appreciate it,” the Legate said as pleasantly as possible.

The man on the screen scoffed at her request, “What is the message? She doesn’t wish to be disturbed.”

“Really now?” Aren said, steepling her fingers in front of her, “Then I suppose when the Federation decides they don’t wish to wait any longer than they already have for our answer, you can be the one to explain to her that our delay in response was because you didn’t understand the gravity of my contacting her from a secure location that doesn’t official exist to relay this information despite it being against standard protocol because it was just that important that a decision be made quickly… you won’t be the least bit upset at handling the diplomatic fallout it causes and the possible losses to the Union, am I correct?”

“Losses? What losses?” the man asked, his face contorting with doubt.

“Valuable intelligence, for one. A loss in confidence from the Federation over our domestic affairs… since they had to clean up a mess we weren’t capable of dealing with ourselves… Or were you unaware that there was a Federation task force currently in the Amneth Nebula?” the Legate said, a smirk tugging at her lips.

Her conversation partner in the moment looked suddenly panicked, as if the information she’d just relayed to him was far outside of his scope or ability to process. It took him several moments of what Aren could only guess was some internal weighing of options before he finally came to some manner of decision.

“I will ask the Chairman if she is available, please stand by,” the man said before the screen went dark.

Aren’s smirk evolved into a full on grin of accomplishment as she waited for the underling to carry out her request. She hadn’t thought it would be so difficult just to speak to her superior, since Rekal has been the one to send her out to Empok Nor in the first place. She wondered to herself idly if she would have as much difficulty relaying messages of an important nature throughout her tenure on the station. As her ruinations continued, the screen flashed back to life, the face of a very familiar Cardassian woman dominating her view.

“Legate Aren,” the Chairman said with a thin smile, “To what do I owe the pleasure?”

“Our Federation compatriots,” Aren responded to the question glibly, “They have cleared out a pirate’s nest and are asking if we wish to receive and punish the prisoners they captured ourselves or if they should take them to Federation space. Given the potential intelligence we could gather as to who is organizing their little attacks, I thought it best to see what you thought of us taking custody and extracting viable intelligence rather than allowing the Federation to take them out of our reach.”

Rekal sank back in her chair as she mulled over the question. The Legate knew the potential gains from such a course of action were nothing to simply pass up because logistics would be difficult. And the fact that piracy had been affecting not just their relations with the Federation but the Cardassian economy just as it was starting to recover, letting a chance slip away of getting to the bottom of who might be orchestrating such an embarrassing series of events would be well worth the time and effort it would take to pry the information from a few pirates.

“Was this something you requested of them?” Rekal asked after a long pause.

“Actually,” Aren couldn’t help but chuckle, “Captain Bastin is the one who asked me. I believe his background as a diplomat has worked in our favor for once. While it is immensely difficult to pry information out of him, he is surprisingly thoughtful in ways I don’t expect. I had known his small task force was headed for the Amneth Nebula, but it hadn’t occurred to me that prisoners would be taken, given that it was a punitive force.”

The Chairman nodded, “Yes, the Federation is much more inclined to take prisoners even at the worst of times. In this particular case, it would appear that their proclivities could work to our advantage. I will arrange interrogators to be dispatched. I’m sure your facilities can hold them until they arrive. If you wish to, you can have your staff ask questions of their own, gather some initial information and we can compare your findings with what the team I send your way uncovers. Inform your Federation contact that we will accept custody, Legate. And thank you for bringing this to my attention.”

“Of course, Chairman. I’ll see to it at once,” the Legate nodded her head in farewell before cutting off the secure link. Almost as soon as the communication was completely cut off, the Federation seal appeared on her screen and blinked over to the face of the man she’d just been talking about.

“Captain Bastin,” Aren said with an accomplished smirk, “We will accept custody of your prisoners here on Empok Nor. Please bring them to us with all due haste. We will make preparations to accept them immediately.”

“That was fast…” Bastin said with a hint of surprise in his voice.

“It would appear that the issue you managed to handle has lit a fire in the Council, and they wish to do their part to see that the root cause of these attacks are dealt with. Our improving relations with the Federation are of much greater importance than you seem to realize,” the Legate said as she leaned back in her chair.

“It would appear so,” the man nodded, “We will depart for Empok Nor shortly. We should be there in a few hours.”

“We will be ready for you, Captain,” Aren said with a smile before cutting the link.

With only a few hours to spare, Legate Aren pushed herself out of the chair she was sitting in and walked out into the Ops compartment. She scanned the room and found her Operations Chief at her console.

“Glinn Ilmok, I need you to start converting some empty cargo areas into holding cells for prisoners we have incoming. Plan as if we will be getting at least two hundred. We can always reconvert the space if we don’t need it. Also, inform Glinn Talmet of the inbound prisoners and tell him I want a plan drafted as to how he will handle their interrogations. We will be getting assistance from Cardassia Prime, however it will take time and we have been encouraged to get preliminary information from them so that they can compare it to their own findings,” the Legate ordered.

“As you command,” Ilmok nodded, abandoning her post and boarding the lift to head down to supervise the conversions personally.

Aren turned to Dalin Nefet, “Prepare the station to receive at least three Federation vessels. I don’t see them bringing all of their task force with them, but it’s better to be prepared in case they do. We’ll also need to set up guard shifts once the prisoners arrive. I’ll let you decide how that rotation will work. Just have a report to me within the hour.”

“As you wish,” Nefet nodded, bringing up the personnel roster on her console to start making her list.

Legate Aren smiled to herself as she watched her crew leap into action. With the feeling of satisfaction fresh in her mind, the woman returned to her office to continue the tasks she’d abandoned to deal with the situation that had dropped figuratively into her lap.