Part of Empok Nor: The Grand Experiment

Prisoner Exchange Part 2

Trivas System
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“Legate Aren, your presence is requested in Ops,” the voice of Dalin Nefet pulled the woman out of her thoughts as she sat reading through the material she’d been sent from her Security Chief. Aren set her PaDD down and left her chair, crossing the small distance it took to enter the actual Ops portion of the station. The viewscreen at the opposite side of the compartment had an image of three Federation vessels of various designs displayed. One of them she recognized immediately, as it had been the first vessel to arrive from the Federation contingent several months ago. The others were much larger than the Argonaut, and seemed much more purpose built for the task they’d just come from tackling.

“Hail the lead vessel,” Legate Aren ordered.

Dalin Nefet nodded and called up the communications protocols, sending the desired request. A few moments later, the screen shifted to display the visage of Captain Bastin, their current Federation liaison.

“Legate,” the man said with a nod, “As promised, we are here to drop off the prisoners who survived our raid on their hideout. We have a total of seventy souls aboard who will need to be transferred.”

“It would appear that I overestimated your magnanimity a bit, Captain. I had expected at least two hundred prisoners,” the Legate said with a bemused looked on her face.

“Unfortunately, most of the vessels we encountered weren’t in the mood to go quietly. And while I’m sure it seems strange, I was in no mood to simply allow them to run off to perform more evil elsewhere if I couldn’t capture them alive. First hand experience with being too soft is a great teacher…” Bastin admitted with a slight shrug.

“If I didn’t know any better, I’d almost think you were a Cardassian. That was extremely pragmatic of you, Captain…,” Aren offered with genuine feelings of pride.

“Pragmatism isn’t exclusive to the Cardassian people, Legate. It simply isn’t lauded as highly among Federation peoples,” the Captain said with a tense smile.

“It should be,” Aren said with a bit of a grunt, “But enough of that. We are more than prepared to accept the transfers. Glinn Ilmok will relay docking instructions to you. We’ve reserved the upper pylons for your ships. If you would be so kind as to meet me in my office once the prisoner exchange is completed, Captain, I have some things I would like to discuss with you.”

“Understood. Hydra out,” the man said before the viewscreen returned to the view of the three Federation ships.

“Ilmok, if you would be so kind as to guide the vessels to their respective docking pylons,” the Legate said before turning to Dalin Nefet, “Have Talmet start the transfer process. Make sure he is aware that cooperation with the Federation during the transfers isn’t a choice for him to make.”

“Yes, Legate,” the Dalin nodded, relaying her superior’s message exactly as she’d said it.

Meanwhile, Glinn Talmet was finishing the finer details of the duty rotation for the pending interrogations when a message from Ops interrupted his work. The message contained a transcript of what he had been ordered to do, the verbage used being clear enough that the Cardassian couldn’t help but narrow his eyes at it. The Legate had him pegged, for sure, and understood full well that he was less than enthusiastic about having to cooperate with foreign security elements during the exchange.

The not so subtle reminder that she expected her orders and the intent of them to be followed faithfully and without deviation was not lost on him in the least. As one of the more vocal detractors of the entire ‘cooperative venture’ they’d been shoehorned into, Talent was often on the receiving end of the Legate’s displeasure. The only thing he couldn’t understand was why she hadn’t had him removed.

With his marching orders received, the Cardassian pushed himself out of his chair and grabbed his disruptor rifle, storming out of the office with a sense of purpose and urgency. He motioned for several of his security contingent that were stationed just outside the office to follow him, each of them already armed as was standard practice on the station. None of the Cardassian crew gave it a second thought as they watched the group of armed men march through the upper Promenade, though most of the Federation contingent couldn’t help but stare in confusion at the spectacle.

Two other contingents of Cardassian security officers were already on their way to the docking pylons from other parts of the station, Talmet’s group heading to the pylon that had been assigned to the Hydra. This choice wasn’t something he’d made personally, rather that Legate Aren had already told him that any dealings with the ship captained by their Federation liaison would automatically be his responsibility given his poor behavior upon first meeting Captain Bastin and his crew. The Glinn knew that he was being tested, that any deviations from orders or outbursts from him would only lead to even more humiliation further down the road.

Glinn Talmet stopped in front of the pylon access doors, waiting for the Federation contingent to appear and the large doors to cycle open, allowing the group of prisoners inside of the station. Much to Talmet’s surprise, the Federation officers standing around the prisoners were all armed with phaser rifles, to include the Saurian who was in charge of the ship’s security. His impression of the Federation, in that moment, seemed to be unjustifiably harsh and inaccurate.

“Glinn Talmet,” the Saurian officer said at the head of the group, “These are the prisoners we had aboard the Hydra. Some of them have been less than cooperative during their stay.”

As if to prove her point, one of the pirates made a go at trying to grab one of the phaser rifles from his captors despite being bound by cuffs. The security officer in question seemed to have seen such an outburst coming because the butt of his rifle found purchase in the pirate’s face, knocking him backward while clinging to his now bloodied nose. The Glinn’s eyes narrowed at the spectacle, though in response to the foolishness of the man himself, and not the treatment he’d received for his trouble.

“He’ll be the first one interrogated,” Talmet said, turning to one of his own officers, “Make sure he finds his way to the holding cells in my office.”

“Yes Glinn,” the man nodded.

Talmet returned his attention to the Saurian, “Lieutenant. If you will join us, we are taking this group to the mass holding area for processing.”

Lt. Nieru nodded and turned to her own crew, “You heard him, let’s move this rabble.”

At the Saurian’s words, the Starfleet crew began giving the pirates orders, which didn’t sound the least bit soft or delicate to Talmet’s ears. Even the few jabs in the back with a phaser muzzle seemed to be beyond what he would have expected from Starfleet. Once the gaggle of pirates were fully out into the corridor, the Cardassian contingent fell into the spaces that hadn’t been covered by Starfleet officers already, further driving home the point that the group had no avenues for escape.

During their procession to the mass holding area, several pirates who had not been able to take the hint attempted to break out of their bondage, only to be met with harsh retaliations from both Starfleet and Cardassian officers. One of the burlier men actually managed to break through the circle of officers at one point, only to be ruthlessly gunned down for his efforts. Talmet had expected some manner of outcry when his officer had turned his weapon on the man, only to find that the Starfleet security contingent had looks of apathy if they had any reaction at all.

When they finally reached the holding area and the prisoners were secured inside their small isolation areas, Glinn Talmet approached Lieutenant Nieru, “A word, if I may.”

The Saurian turned to the Cardassian with her head slightly cocked, “Something wrong?”

“No,” Talmet said with a shake of his head, “Actually I wanted to inquire as to why your crew seemed so… disciplined…”

“I don’t follow…” Nieru remarked in confusion.

The Glinn scratched the back of his head for a moment as he mulled over how to explain himself, “Your people didn’t hesitate to knock those vermin about when they got out of hand. I had… it would seem wrongly… assumed that the Federation was against shows of strength such as that.”

“Ah,” Nieru said in understanding, “I suppose the outward impression the Federation gives people is one of pacifism. I have found that to be one of our strengths, actually.”

“How so?” Talmet frowned.

“Just as you underestimated us, so too did the pirates. They assumed that lashing out would be enough to frighten us and allow them to escape our ship. My team is more than capable of answering such foolishness with measured force. I’ve turned my own phaser on several of the ‘vermin’, as you called them, though they weren’t killed in the exchange… They only wish they had been,” the Saurian’s face contorted into what Talmet could only interpret as malice.

The Cardassian looked visibly taken aback by the statement and it drove him into a rather deep contemplation for a protracted series of moments. Lt. Nieru let the man think, waving her officers out of the holding area when they’d finally herded everyone in their respective areas. The Saurian started to make her way out of the compartment herself when Talmet finally came to a decision.

“Lieutenant,” he called out, causing Nieru to turn back toward him, “Would you care to share a drink? I believe… I need to reevaluate a few things and I believe you could be of assistance.”

Lt. Nieru nodded at the man, “I believe I could use something to drink, Glinn. Lead the way.”

As the two security officers made their way to the Promenade, Captain Bastin had made it to the station’s Operations level. Having only been in the compartment once, the Starfleet Captain didn’t feel entirely comfortable being in a place that in most instances he would not be welcome. The fact that Legate Aren had specifically asked for him to be there made it just slightly more tolerable.

“Captain,” Dalin Nefet made her way around the central display to greet the man, “Welcome to Ops. The Legate is in her office and is awaiting you.”

“Thank you, Dalin,” Bastin nodded to the Cardassian, stepping off of the lift after it was made clear that he wasn’t unwelcome. He crossed through the ‘pit’ area and climbed the small set of stairs leading up to the Legate’s office. He’d expected to have to press the door chime to announce himself, but when he started to reach for it, the doors slid open.

“There’s no need for that, Captain. Please, have a seat,” Legate Aren said with a smile as she beckoned her guest inside. Bastin did as he had been asked and crossed through the threshold, taking a seat in front of the woman’s desk. After having been a commanding officer for several years, the Captain had grown accustomed to being on the other side of the desk, finding the current situation more than a little unfamiliar.

“Would you care for a beverage before we begin, Captain?” the Legate asked, though she made no move to get up.

“No, but thank you for the offer,” Bastin replied.

“I had thought you might say that,” Aren smirked, “Which means we can forgo any further pleasantries and cut to the heart of the matter. I would like to know if your crew managed to get anything useful out of your ‘guests’ while you were in transit. It might help to see how their stories change depending on who is doing the asking.”

“I would love to be able to tell you something, Legate,” Bastin said with a sigh, “But the methods that Starfleet authorizes weren’t overly effective in getting much more than names out of the prisoners. And even then I’m fairly certain some of them lied about that. My guess is we didn’t manage to get any of the leadership, at least not on the Hydra. I haven’t gone through all of the reports from the other two ships, but neither seemed to have any breakthrough information since I received both their findings among other routine message traffic, which tells me they likely got more of the same.”

“I had a feeling this might be the case,” Aren said with a nod, “And quite frankly I’m not not surprised in the least. While your methods were much more in keeping with Cardassian doctrines of pirate extermination, your interrogation methods most certainly deviate wildly from our own.”

“I am well aware of that, Legate,” Bastin said briskly.

The woman chuckled, “I have no doubt about that, Captain. You were, after all, old enough to have participated in the Dominion War, even if only just barely.”

“I was still in the Academy during the war,” Bastin remarked, shifting a bit in his seat, “but that didn’t mean I didn’t have ample opportunity to talk to survivors from some of the Cardassian led attacks during the war who managed to escape capture.”

“I see. That would explain why you are so familiar with our methods despite not having been exposed to them in any way,” Aren said with a half-smirk.

“You are fishing to see if we will protest your methods in any way,” Bastin remarked bluntly, “And the answer to your roundabout question is no. Despite your methods being distasteful, your government is within their rights to deal with people from your territory as they see fit. Ideology aside, Federation legality means nothing as none of the people we turned over to you were Federation citizens in any way and I’m not inclined to even attempt to shield people who have killed Federation citizens for their own personal gains from being punished. The morality of what may or may not occur to them once they are in your custody weighs little against the crimes they’ve knowingly committed. It won’t keep me awake at night knowing that they might not have the most comfortable stay in your holding cells.”

“I appreciate your candor, Captain,” the Legate said after letting the man’s statement hang for a while, “And I am happy to hear that we won’t have any issues, diplomatically, because our methods aren’t as… pleasant as your own.”

“Under different circumstances, I might have offered up objections. There may come a day when I do have to raise objections over a difference in ideologies that is not so easily reconciled. Today simply happens to be a day that your particular method of handling these… individuals… doesn’t raise any concerns,” Bastin said with a shrug.

“I will keep that in mind, Captain. And because you weren’t able to extract any useful information from them, I suppose this is where our meeting ends. While I do enjoy your company, I have several matters that I’ve been pushing to the side to attend to our exchange, but I really must get them cleared up. Perhaps we can meet later tonight for a drink on the Promenade, if you are still in the system by then,” Legate Aren said as a means of bidding the man leave her office.

“The Hydra will be docked for a few days while I get with the team I left here and gather their reports. I’ll meet you at the bar if you let me know when you’re free,” Bastin said as he pushed himself out of the chair he’d been sitting in.

“I will. Until tonight, Captain,” the Legate nodded. The Captain returned the nod and made his way out of the office. Once he was out and the doors had slid closed, Aren let out a long breath. The meeting had gone a lot better than she’d hoped. It was obvious that whatever experience the man and his crew had had with their prisoners hadn’t made them overly willing to stick their necks out to spare them any excessive mistreatments from their new keepers. It was a rare moment in which the Cardassian found herself honestly shocked at how flexible Federation morality actually was when faced with circumstances that pushed the boundaries of their idealistic outlook on others. It was certainly a valuable lesson Aren hadn’t ever thought she would learn in such a fashion.