Captain Jonathan Bastin sat behind the desk that was, nominally, his when he was on Empok Nor. The Federation had been given a series of suites along one section of the Habitat Ring on the station for use for administering their affairs during their stay. The man seated in front of him was the one who generally sat where the Captain was currently. The Bolian Lieutenant Commander didn’t seem to think anything to be out of the ordinary when he took a seat as if he were a visitor in the space rather than someone who routinely worked in it. It had taken Bastin a second to process his action before they began their catch up brief.
“How have things been progressing since I was last at the station, Commander?” the Captain inquired, having moved on from pleasantries.
“Quite well, Captain,” Cmdr. Zosa said with a smile, “Incidents involving Federation personnel have dropped dramatically over the last month, as people are finally growing used to working with our Cardassian hosts.”
“Any particular incidents that stood out?” Bastin inquired.
The Bolian took a moment to think about the question before responding, “One of the merchant ships was turned away when they refused to be searched by Cardassian authorities. It seems the preliminary docking scanned picked up something that concerned the station’s operations officer, but because the ship had yet to dock, they decided to forgo coming to the station. I made contact with the vessel in question, but the vessel’s commander declined to make a report. It is likely from the scans I was provided by Glinn Ilmok that there were illicit goods smuggled among legitimate cargo. Unfortunately, the goods flagged are only illicit in Cardassian space so there’s nothing we can do with this information on our side.”
“Note the ship’s attempt to bring in goods listed as illegal by our host government and forward that to Starfleet, they have to stop by a Federation station to receive travel clearance into Cardassian space so we can at least check that vessel in the future for whatever the Cardassians might flag and find fault with,” Bastin remarked.
“As you wish,” the Bolian nodded.
“Have we had any run-ins with the Cardassians among our staff?” Bastin asked, moving the meeting along.
“No issues that required major arbitration over, no,” the Bolian said with a shake of his head.
While the statement sounded good on the surface, the Captain still frowned, “Which means there were incidents…”
“Yes,” the Lieutenant Commander said with a hesitant nod, “We had a few issues, but they were handled almost as soon as they happened.”
“Such as…?” Bastin prompted the man for more information.
“Really, Captain, they weren’t anything to take much interest in. Cultural differences, at the end of the day,” the man responded, trying to gloss things over.
“Right,” Capt. Bastin said with a frown, “So give me an example.”
The man sitting across from him started to fidget a bit as he started searching the room for something to focus on other than the person he was seated across from. It started to become apparent that whatever had taken place in his absence had been either embarrassing enough to want to gloss over or it involved some manner of incompetence that the man sitting before him didn’t want to admit to openly.
“Noran,” Bastin said, purposely using the man’s first name, “I can understand being hesitant to report bad news, but it is critical that we address issues, no matter how trivial they seem. We are in a unique position here on this station, and given that our welcome could be revoked for any reason whatsoever makes it all the more crucial that no incident is left under the rug.”
The Bolian sucked in a breath and swayed side to side for a moment before finally responding, “There have been a string of… disagreements between some of our staff and the station personnel.”
“Over what, specifically?”
“Some of our people have been forcibly removed from maintenance areas when they were trying to convert power relays to be compatible with our equipment. A few folks have engaged in… physical debates with some of the Cardassians in the bar…” Zosa elaborated, still being vague in places.
“Did the engineers request permission to perform the conversions, or did they simply take it upon themselves to make modifications without even thinking to ask?” the Captain inquired.
“I… didn’t ask…” the Bolian admitted.
“And these ‘physical debates’, I’m going to assume they were fist fights,” Bastin commented flatly.
The man nodded meekly at the comment but offered nothing in the way of information. Capt. Bastin let out a rather protracted sigh and leaned back in his chair, rubbing the side of his temple in annoyance. There was a limit to the Captain’s patience and somehow the man sitting in front of him had managed to find it. His years as a diplomat had made him a hard man to truly annoy, and this particular conversation had found itself on the short life of ones that had done so.
“I want you to bring me a list of every ‘minor’ incident since I was last on the station. Then I want to see each and every person who has had physical debates with our Cardassian hosts. Once you’ve done that, we’re going to have another meeting… Understood?” Bastin practically growled.
The Bolian leapt to his feet, nodded once, and hurried out of the room to carry out his orders.
Several hours elapsed before a group of men and women began to fill the makeshift lobby area in the office Capt. Bastin had been working out of. The sheer volume of people in the compartment told him that the reports he had just finished sifting through hadn’t painted nearly as good a picture as they should have. Rather than dealing with each person individually, it seemed more effective to address the issue all at once and be done with it.
Pushing himself out of the chair, Bastin walked through the threshold and took a quick head count of people in the room. Most of them wore the mustard color of the Operations division, though a few red uniforms were mixed in the group. The crowd didn’t seem to understand why they were even in the room, indicated by their questions to one another as to what they’d heard was going on.
“If I can have your attention,” Bastin said, his voice carrying a sharp edge of authority to it. Mouths snapped shut and everyone’s eyes drifted toward him. Another person might have shrank at so many eyes suddenly being on them, but Capt. Bastin didn’t so much as blink thanks to years of being stared at during diplomatic functions.
“I would usually ask folks if they know why they were here, but I can already tell from your questions when I walked out that none of you do. It was brought to my attention that everyone here has engaged in physical altercations with members of the Cardassian staff aboard this station. With the sole exception of myself, there isn’t a single person in this room who hasn’t had at least one fist fight, bar brawl, or some other altercation that ended with injuries to both parties,” Bastin announced.
A stir ran through the room as people came to grips with what was being said. Most of them seemed offended that they were being called to task over their incidents with the Cardassians, a few going so far as to voice their displeasure over having to bother being pulled away from their duties. Once the room had gone quiet again, Capt. Bastin continued.
“I’ve read through the reports that were submitted to me from Mr. Zosa. I’ve taken the time to also contact the station’s security personnel about them as well,” Bastin paused as another ripple of commotion rolled through the crowd, this time it was far more nervous than indignant, “And there was a common theme in every report that was given. They all seemed to glaze right over important details. The Cardassians, however, had no such compulsion for omitting them. There were several instances in which the station authorities laid the blame fully on their own personnel, something that no report I received from anyone in this room referenced at all.”
Most of the faces in the room, that was to say those that were capable of doing so, turned a rather light shade of pale as they deduced where the Captain was going with his speech. The protests at the beginning of his address had dried up completely, no one willing to hold onto their stories now that they knew that the Captain had gone well beyond simply looking at things from their own misrepresented perspectives.
“Each and every person in this room has forgotten that they are guests here, that we were sent as an envoy to foster cooperation and mutual understanding between the Federation and the Cardassians. Your thoughtless actions and inexcusable behavior afterward are a disgrace to Starfleet and the Federation for which we represent. I have already routed and received concurrence with my recommendation that you all be removed from your service here and transferred back to posts in Federation space. Your removal will be annotated in your respective records as a punitive reassignment. You are ordered to report directly to the USS Edinburgh, your belongings will be sent to the ship prior to their scheduled departure. At no point are you to return to the station, anyone who fails to obey this order will be arrested by Cardassian authorities and remanded into their custody pending trial for criminal trespassing. You are all dismissed,” Bastin ordered, leaving no room for interpretation.
The gathered individuals shuffled out of the room, soon leaving Captain Bastin alone with Lt. Cmdr. Zosa. The frown he’d worn so often that day reappeared on his face when the man walked up to him. He had been severely disappointed in the man, given that he had displayed so much potential when he was selected to oversee operations in his absence.
“You weren’t excluded, Commander,” Capt. Bastin turned to the man, his frown not leaving his lips as he spoke, “You are being reassigned as well. Your complacency and lack of oversight could have turned this into a far greater issue than it already is. I sincerely hope that you learn from this, if you truly intend to continue along the command career path, and that you never again repeat what you’ve done here.”
“I see…” the Bolian said somberly, “I will take this lesson to heart. Please accept my deepest apologies for letting you down.”
Captain Bastin only nodded to the man, he had no real words in response to his apology. When it became clear that he had nothing further to say, the Lieutenant Commander turned on his heels and departed the space. Another long sigh slipped out of the man as he found himself in an empty room. He shook his head ruefully as he considered that he had just reduced the Federation presence on the station to less than half the numbers they had started with. It was nothing short of embarrassing…