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Part of USS Atlantis: What Price for Peace and Bravo Fleet: The Lost Fleet

What Price for Peace – 12

Handyl Dryf, The Maze
March 2401
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“Well well well,” Commander Grel said with a growing smile as he stood, approaching the Starfleet officers that had just entered the private room. “This is a pleasant surprise!”

Handl Dryf prided itself as a station that catered to business needs of all sorts and one of those was private and discreet meeting rooms. The Maze was one of those establishments, with numerous entrances and exits around the segment it was in on the torus, allowing visitors to come and go and making it very difficult for outside observers to deduce who someone might have been there to see. As such it made a perfect place for a discreet meeting between officers of the USS Atlantis and members of the Romulan Republic.

While the corridors had been well-lit and tidy, Mac and Velan hadn’t seen a single other person outside of their guide as they passed a collection of unmarked locked doors through winding passages that at times felt like they were looping back around on themselves. No doubt a security precaution to help with the privacy of visitors. The meeting room that they’d been shown to was also extravagantly well appointed, with two comfortable if not lavish couches, a coffee table between them and side tables for visitors to make use of. The only electronics in the room looked to be a series of climate controls and a call button to summon forth a member of staff. There wasn’t even a wall panel to emulate a window or act as a screen, giving the room a real bunker meeting room vibe.

The impression of privacy for clientele if not the reality of it.

“I’ll echo that sentiment,” Mac said as he grasped Grel’s arm in greeting, then found himself pulled into a brief hug before being turned loose.

“And this must be the mad bastard that went for a spacewalk while your ship was under fire!” Grel announced as he turned on Velan, again shaking his arm before pulling him into a hug with a laugh. “It was a shame I couldn’t meet you both in person last we met but we did have places to be.”

“Lieutenant Commander Ra-teshi’mi Velan,” Velan confirmed with a genuine laugh. “Not exactly my smartest idea ever, but it did work.”

“I’ll say!” Grel said. “Oh, the shock it must have been when those old platforms fired up on those Imperial bastards. That you got them working in the first place is a testament to Starfleet engineers, but to then replace the control feed for them in the middle of a fight. Brilliance!”

“Well you’ve got us here now, let’s see if we can’t make up for that, shall we?” Mac asked. “I’ve already asked our guide for drinks and nibbles, he said they’d be with us in a few minutes.”

“Excellent!” Grel said, then waved his arm to indicate the empty seat opposite where he and his off-sider had been seated. “I trust I’ll get to meet Captain Theodoras in person as well this time?”

“I’d wager on it but she is somewhat busy right now. And you and I did most of the liaising over Daloon before you had to leave, so thought a familiar face wouldn’t be amiss. No doubt you saw the other Romulan ship in the vicinity, yes?”

“It is hard to not notice a D’deridex-warbird flying the Free State flag. They haven’t exactly sent their most modern or capable of ships have they?” the Romulan woman answered as everyone sat down. “Sub-Commander Kendris,” she identified herself as. She was from the look of her a tall and muscular woman, dark of skin and hair colour in contrast to eyes verging on bright amber. “It is somewhat questionable if either the Republic or the Free State would have sent representatives if each knew the other was going to be here.”

“My executive officer,” Grel stated Kendris’ position for the Starfleet officers. “Commander MacIntrye, XO of the Atlantis and Commander Velan, Chief Engineer,” he continued with a quick introduction since Kendris had identified herself. “Introductions out of the way, veiled diplomatic unhappiness stated, appeasing statements passed around, declarations of how we’re just the playthings of our political masters, statements about how we’re going to make this work anyway, everyone has now played the game, yes?”

Both Mac and Velan just stared at Grel, neutral expressions bordering on controlled shock, as Kendris turned on her superior with a look that bordered on murderous. Then she relaxed with a shrug and slight smile. “I like playing the game. Keeps us ready for when we have to deal with politicians.” And then to demonstrate she was seemingly cut of a similar cloth as Grel, sat back and truly relaxed into the couch.

“Well my stereotype of Romulans has been shattered,” Velan quipped. “No staring of daggers, veiled threats or superiority complexes. And straight to the point as well.”

“Refined complexes,” Grel answered. “I know I’m better than any Free State officer and can recognise Starfleet can train officers that are so mad I have to respect them.”

“And inspire their own officers to go and fight Klingons,” Kendris added.

“I stand corrected,” Velan said with a slight nod of his head.

“So, while we wait,” Mac cut in, “Commander? Last we spoke you were just a Sub-Commander.”

“Turns out infiltrating the forces of three warlords and working to break up their operations gets you noticed and promoted for your troubles.” Grel chuckled lightly. “And bringing the Admiral Ketterac back in one piece each time helps too.”

There was a polite knock at the door, then another before the door to the meeting room slid open and a diminutive Ferengi pushed a cart in. A couple of bottles of a bright blue wine, four glasses and a mixed platter suitable for the assembled guests to The Maze was quickly removed from the cart and set upon the coffee table before the porter left, not a word said during the whole exchange. As the door closed Kendris produced a small device from a pocket of her uniform jacket and set it down on the table, tapping a single button on it and holding her hand up while a red light on the top blinked a few times before switching green.

“Clear,” she said, the previously held-up hand going for one of the wine bottles and starting to pour drinks for all.

“Right,” Grel’s tone had shifted noticeably from his formerly gregarious and extroverted ways to a more serious one. “So, my superiors sent me here to assess a request for Romulan assistance in light of this so-called Breen border raid that your Starfleet Command has declared to be a minor incident but which your Admiral Beckett, Fourth Fleet Intelligence Director, is calling a Dominion invasion. Have to say, I do find it odd that Starfleet Command and one of its fleet commands are both saying different things at the same time and in such opposition to each other.”

“You and me both,” Mac replied, then nodded to Velan, who produced a small holoemitter and set it down on the table as well, bringing it to life over the platter. The Deneb Sector took shape between the two parties and showed the current extent of Dominion attacks and suspected occupation. “Just from the map alone, this isn’t a Breen raid.”

“The Breen aren’t in the habit of declaring formal wars either,” Kendris said as finished handing out the drinks and then sat perched on the edge of the Romulan couch, eyes fixed on the holographic map. “This could be a full-scale war from the Confederacy.”

“Perhaps. But why are they using Dominion ships and in such quantities?” Mac waved a hand near the emitter and a handful of windows popped up, visual feeds from ships that had engaged Dominion vessels, sensor readouts in infoboxes confirming the ship as what they appeared to be. And one highlighting the quantum irregularity in the Dominion ships. “You can’t fake quantum scans like this. Not across hundreds of ships and so consistently.”

“What’s the leading theory?” Grel asked directly.

“The Dominion Lost Fleet. The one that the Prophets made disappear while in transit.” Mac stared at Grel, looking the man straight in the eyes and willing him to accept what he was saying as the truth as he knew it.

“But in the Deneb region? Not Bajor? Or the Gamma Quadrant?” Grel asked but didn’t wait for answers. “Right, brief me on how bad the situation is. Even if it turns out to be some Breen push, committing the Republic to the defence of the Federation commits the Federation to the Republic in return.”

“Honestly Commander, I’m not sure it does.” Mac waved, making the map and windows all disappear. “This is a Fourth Fleet issue at this point. Starfleet Command isn’t doing anything.”

Kendris’ eyes narrowed as she looked back and forth between Mac and Velan, clearly reading their expressions. “If there is no reciprocation from the Federation, why should the Republic risk itself?”

“They’ll be reciprocation with Fourth Fleet,” Velan said, leaning forward. “Besides, we’ve shown we’re good for it already, yes? Helping keep Velorum from falling into total anarchy, stabilising it until decent chunks of it were able to willingly join the Republic and prevent any possible shooting wars between the Republic and Free State.”

“And Captain Theodoras has personally asked me to convey that she’ll be able to put Republic officials in contact with a receptive House Lorkoth diplomat. As a border house of the Klingon Empire, surely building a bridge there helps alleviate some of the Republic’s defensive issues.” Mac watched Grel but caught Kendris’ expression first out of the corner of his vision.

“The one that your Commander Gantzmann beat up?” she asked. “Could be useful sir.”

Grel nodded, his mouth a tight, thin line at this point. “So we can’t trust Starfleet Command, but we can trust the Fourth Fleet?” He shook his head unhappily.

“You can trust Atlantis.” Mac locked eyes with the man once more as he said that.

“You did the right thing at Daloon,” Grel admitted. Then just faintly the corners of his mouth curled upwards. “Right, show me how bad it is. If I’m going to sell my superiors on this, one way or another, I’m going to need to know something at least.”

Nearly an hour later, the platter well gone, the wine barely touched thanks to the sombre mood, Velan reached out to shut off the holoemitter for the last time. “So yes, the last intelligence we had was Endeavour Squadron making for Izar. Of course, all of our intel is day or so old at this point, since we’re just sitting here pretending to be making repairs, not in an active warzone.”

Kendris was staring hard at the Efrosian engineer, her amber eyes squinting at him. “Are all Starfleet engineers so well versed in strategic matters?”

“Just those with ambitions of one day commanding their own ships,” he replied with an easy smile. “And I am the ship’s second officer. Kinda part of my job to know what’s going on.”

“Huh, I thought that was Commander Gantzmann,” she said, then looked back to Grel. “We’ll have to update our data.”

“Indeed,” the Romulan Commander said.

“We’re stretched thin and Dominion forces could push through in any number of places.” Mac pushed the conversation back to the topic at hand. “The Lost Fleet was thousands of ships and most of them are still unaccounted for. Once they show up the entire sector could be lost if we don’t get reinforcements.”

“An attack like that couldn’t be ignored. Starfleet Command would have to respond.” Kendris stated. “But by then the Dominion would be dug in, started repurposing Federation facilities for manufacture. It’d be their occupation of the Union all over again.”

“And if these are Dominion forces out of time, then a solidarity display might be enough to convince them to actually listen to us when we try and tell them the war is over.” Mac tried his best to convey the urgency of the matter in his tone. “A united show of force, a counterattack to get their attention and bring them to the table, is a bargain price to pay compared to a resumption of the Dominion War and potentially years of conflict again.”

“The Federation could take the Lost Fleet by itself if it came to it.” Grel stated the fact and watched as Mac conceded it with a nod. “But Starfleet would be weakened, distracted. Any number of Klingon houses, if not the Empire, might look on the Republic as a tasty meal to be had. The Free State too. And with your own existence versus a neighbour’s in the balance, you’d have to choose your own. We’d have no allies.”

“Sounds like you know how to sell this Commander,” Kendris said.

“Damn straight I do. Best way to make sure your friends are around to help when you need them is to help them out when they need you.” Then he leaned forward and looked straight at MacIntyre. “The fight between Gantzmann and Hor’keth – Klingon diplomacy?”

Mac grinned and nodded his head. “He said he’s bloodbound to follow Gantzmann’s lead. Has thirty or so ships to his name nearby he’s bringing forward.”

“I can’t promise that many ships. The Republic Navy isn’t the bottomless pit of warbirds the old Star Empire used to be, but I’ll scare up what I can. Some hospital ships, a repair ship or three, the most modern scout ships I can get. Reman commandos?” Grel went for his wine glass, barely sipped at over the briefing, lifting it in a toast. “To secret alliances formed in the dark, may the knife they forge be sharp when brought into the light.”

“Cheers to that,” Mac and Velan both said to the clink of glasses. “To kicking the Dominion’s ass a second time.”

Comments

  • Excellent Romulan-ing! I love how they feel both very Romulan but also very Republic, with a certain streak of liberal pragmatism. No good deed goes unpunished, and Atlantis can call in old friends with whom they've earned trust. I like the negotiation offering some potential future friendship with Hor'keth (important), but ultimately the Republic just can't offer all that much. It makes you wonder if this is the best use of the Atlantis gang's time? And yet this is also the easiest negotiation they've had. Good stuff!

    June 16, 2023