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  • Negotiations

    Dramatis Personae

    PALAIS DE LA CONCORDETASK FORCE 72
    • Admiral Zachary O'Connell (greenfelt22)
      Task Force 72 Commanding Officer
    • Lieutenant Heather Kowal (Stephen)
      Commanding Officer, Law Enforcement Team 72
    ALRAKIS PACT REPRESENTATIVES
    • jata’Uwe Ekzi Megas (aio)
      Sub Minister of State, Wi'u'Kai (Ravagers)
    • Ambassador Hadad (wizardbeard)
      Talarian Representative
    • Ruvan Vik Tov-AA (aio)
      Speaker for the Autarch, Tzenkethi Coalition
    • Thot Senn (greenfelt22)
      Breen Representative

  • #2
    Admiral Zachary O’Connell stood on the bridge of the USS St. John Talbot with his hands clasped behind his back. Throughout his career, he’d been a part of many initiatives, campaigns, and dire situations, yet none of them compared to this. The St. John Talbot, along with the Diligent class USS Galvani and USS Licamm, along with the Defiant class USS Vigilant and USS Mjolnir, was holding the position on the Federation side of the Tzenkethi border, near the Neethia system.

    It was hard to believe that barely three months ago he was sitting in a briefing aboard Starbase 72 when FNS broke the story, announcing the formation of the Alrakis Pact. Along with the surprise was the shocking declaration that the Federation must vacate the Inconnu Expanse, which they’d just discovered in 2387, and they must do so within three months. In the two short years, the Federation had with the region, study after study had been launched, only to be delayed or complicated by the gravimetric distortions within the region, along with other various spatial anomalies. The very presence of the Expanse almost defied every known aspect of astrophysics, xenobiology, and various other sciences. Starfleet simply could not afford to abandon the Expanse now.

    Thankfully, the Federation Council had finally come to a consensus and agreed. It had taken several weeks just to get the Alrakis powers to agree to a conference to discuss the situation and come up with an agreement, conveniently right near the end of the three month deadline. It had come at several concessions on the Federation’s part. Neither side would cross the border. Neither side would meet on a space station. And only specified dignitaries would conduct the negotiations.

    Admiral O’Connell was not among those specified. In a way, he was relieved. Zachary was no diplomat. Even when the Gavarian Exploration Agreement was negotiated and signed, he was not a part of the process. He preferred to be a fly on the wall. After all, such matters did affect him and Task Force 72’s Operations. He preferred to hear these matters for himself and not second hand. Any little nuance was critical in deciding how to move forward, even if everything was perfectly spelled out on paper.

    One particular nuance to note at this point was that the St. John Talbot had been waiting at the border for two days. Tzenkethi patrols had picked them up immediately, and a Tzenkethi border cutter held its position on its side, almost daring the Federation to cross. So, for now, the Starfleet ships and the Tzenkethi just stared at each other, waiting for the next shoe to drop.

    Meanwhile, Lieutenant Heather Kowal, commanding officer of Law Enforcement Team 72, was meeting with two of the detachments she had brought aboard St. John Talbot. The LET as it was commonly known had been tasked to assist in security and VIP protection by Admiral O’Connell. They had just completed setting up a command post within a small cargo bay on the ship.

    “Everything is set up in our command post and we have a good feed to Headquarters,” Heather told them both. “How is your team doing?” Heather asked PO2 Jackson.

    “We have a general layout of the ship and have talked with ship security on assigned roles,” Willie replied. “Still a ton of unknown variables, but we will roll with it as it goes.”

    “When I have more information I’ll pass it around to the team leaders directly,” Heather explained.

    “The command post is active and ready, ma’am,” MA3 Capatosta reported.

    Admiral Malcolm King had finished a tour of the vessel. As the Starfleet Deputy Director of Operations, he was the most senior uniformed member of the ship and it was customary to do tours when on the front line along with other distinguished visitors that were traveling along.

    The Cardiff class was a remarking vessel, billed as a diplomatic courier, yet also possessing an advanced sensor array. The engineers of the class were ingenious. These couriers would be traveling the closest to the adversaries of the Federation, so the sensor array assisted in obtaining scans that would be unattainable from any other ship.

    Malcolm turned to the Captain of the St. John Talbot, “You have a remarkable crew and a fine, vessel Captain.”

    The Captain returned his thanks and Malcolm turned to depart, allowing the crew to get back to their duties. An Admiral on the bridge was always nerve wracking.

    Entering the bridge as she took in the moment of the smell from the bridge. It was quite some time since the last time she served or stood on a starship bridge. Looking at the Admiral, P’niia nodded to his formally. She was there as special advisor of the president and to aid Magnus in his conversation with the pact. Placing her hands behind her back as she had a white with a light blue uniform on.

    Magnus Temple emerged from the conference room he had turned into a makeshift office during the Talbot’s travel to the border. He felt prepared but nervous, and he caught himself wringing his hands as he waited for the turbolift. His head swirled with protocols, talking points, and arguments. He had met with Talarians and Breen before individually, but this was something entirely new. The Pact was holding the Inconnu Expanse hostage - including the many Federation personnel still located within.

    ‘Negotiations can not fail.’ Was the message Magnus kept telling himself. He caught sight of his reflection in a wall console, and wondered if he hadn’t aged several years in the past few days. ‘Negotiations can not fail.’

    Moments later he was on the Bridge. Hands were placed behind his back to stop him from showing any signs of nervousness. The gravely stoic look upon his face was quickly replaced with his more typical friendly smile as he greeted the assembled crew.

    “Admiral, Captain.” He said with a nod. “Today will be a grand day for diplomacy and the future of our relations with the Alrakis Pact.”

    Malcolm stayed silent, even though he wondered who the Secretary was talking to… it almost sounded like he was trying to practice his opening remarks.

    Normally, Amster-Urzon would not have been mulling about the bridge of a starship; he was far more content engaging in conversation about various security related topics, public policy, or political strategy. Those types of discussions were best had not on the bridge of a Starfleet vessel.

    However, given the pending arrival of Alrakis Pact representatives, the Grazerite had lumbered his way to the ship’s command center with the other members of the President’s staff. It was in times like this, sitting waiting for something to happen, that his previous experience working for the Grazerite Ministry of the Exterior came in helpful; often in his early career as a Political, and later Military, Affairs Officer at the Ministry, he’d find himself sitting quietly, digesting information and mulling it over in his mind. He did so now, observing the Starfleet crew performing their duties. It was almost as if the crew was undisturbed by the gravity of what was about to happen.

    “Captain!” called out the Betazoid Ops officer. “Sensors are detecting Breen, Tzenkethi, and Talarian vessels on approach.”

    “Looks like the party’s about to start at last,” Admiral O’Connell remarked aloud, though it was directed at no one in particular.

    Nodding to that “Everything that is said orrr done will have a majorrr effect on the future we are heading to. So let's do ourrr best” She spoke wisely as P’niia looked at Magnus that stood close to her.

    Magnus gave a polite smile, “Negotiations will not fail.’

    Though this was not Zachary’s show, he stepped forward, nodding to the Talbot’s captain indicating that he would take the lead for a little while. “Inform the delegations that we are prepared to receive them. Miss Koval, let’s get our team to the Conference Room. Admiral King, Secretary Temple, Mister Amster-Urzon, Special Advisor P’niia shall we make our way to the transporter room?”

    “Let’s go.” Magnus nodded.

    Nodding to the Admiral as she turns to him with her hands now placed on her back “Please take lead Admiral” P’niia spoke. While she was there to voice a plausible opinion of the president, she would let Magnus take lead on the conversation itself.



    ~To Be Continued in Part 2 of 5~
    Last edited by greenfelt22; 03-10-2019, 10:08 PM.

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    • #3
      Part 2

      Soon the Federation delegation were standing in wait in the Talbot’s Transporter Room for the Alrakis Pact leadership to beam across, and they were huddled in a loose queue of Palais and Starfleet personnel. Magnus found himself at the front of the group, hands still glued behind his back, as they prepared for the imminent arrival of their counterparts.

      “Ready to beam aboard, sir,” Came the voice of the Transporter Chief, breaking into the silence. “On your word, Admiral.”

      “Energize,” King directed.

      In the typical swirl of blue lights, the Alrakis Pact delegation began to appear on the transporter pads from one ship at a time. First it was the Breen representative, Thot Senn, flanked by three guards at their side.

      The Breen Thot surveyed the room, not moving his head from inside the helmet. His heads-up display told him everything he needed to know about the Federation species spread about the room. Were this not an attempt to dissuade the Pact from their goals, Senn would have almost considered this encounter to be friendly. A garbled melody of electronic tones sounded from his speaker, prompting a wearable translator to decode his speech into monotone patterns into a simple greeting: “Secretary Temple.”

      “Thot Senn,” Magnus replied, giving the slightest of bow of his head in the process. Just enough to show respect to the Breen representative without indicating obeisance to him. “We welcome you to the USS St. John Talbot, in this auspicious occasion.”

      Once the Breen entourage was clear of the transporter pad, the Talarians came next. They were clad head to toe in in muted earth tones and sullied browns with only the shapes of their golden insignia setting them apart. As a warrior society that still utilized mounted cavalry and rocket-propelled weaponry, the two Talarians at their ambassador’s side were armed with over-sized projectile weapons. The center Talarian, unmasked and smug, stepped forward.

      “I am Hadad, ambassador extraordinary and representative to the Talarian Commander-in-Chief.” He bowed to Thot Senn, but for the Federation delegation, he had only a collective nod of acknowledgement. “My aides will accompany me.” It was an imperative statement of fact that brooked no challenge.

      There was no question what sort of aid the two men were meant to provide. Their identities were completely obscured due to their black combat helmets and leather gloves, and they did not budge until the tacit order to follow was given. Together the three Talarians descended from the transporter pad and assumed a defensive position near Senn’s entourage.

      “Hadad, welcome.” Magnus said, his tone short and formal.

      Admiral King bowed, allowing Magnus to take the lead with talks. Per the Secretary of Defense, he was just here to answer any questions from Starfleet’s perspective.

      Admiral O’Connell stood in the background, silently watching the event start. From this point on, he would have to remain silent unless he was spoken to. He did, however, catch a stray glance from Thot Senn, whom Zachary had the pleasure of meeting once before. Zachary nodded to the Breen, if only to maintain a friendly atmosphere.

      Zachary then caught Lieutenant Kowal’s gaze and gave her a nod, indicating that she should start escorting the arrived dignitaries to the conference room.

      Heather gave the Admiral a nod and then motioned to the two Masters-at-Arms she’d brought a long to be inside the room.

      Willie saw his bosses nod and he made his way to the door and opened it up. He made sure he was keeping a close eye on the guest bodyguards. Tension was high.

      Once the doors were open and the two MAs were in place she walked toward the front of the door and turned to face the room.

      “If you would all, kindly, follow me to the conference room the proceedings can begin,” Heather announced.

      Thot Senn neither nodded or replied. Instead, he and his entourage simply followed the typical Starfleet goldshirts out of the transporter room.

      Following the cue of his Breen colleagues, Ambassador Hadad raised a fist in gesture to his “aides” and led them out of the room as well.

      Appearing in the room was an odd feeling for the Wi’u’Kai representatives. Though they were knowledgeable in the science of teleportation, they had yet to develop their own, and it was not a comfortable feeling. Standing at his sides were the 3 others in his party. He stepped forward, identifying to those around that he was in charge here.

      “I am jata’Uwe Ekzi Megas, uka’jata’Werwu of the Wi’u’Kai.. You may address me as jata’Uwe, or jata’Uwe Ekzi. This is” he gestured to the Khrenal to his left. “Jata’Uwe Rolova Lontan. The other two are our security detail.”

      “We welcome you to the USS St. John Talbot.” Magnus replied, the smile on his face practically painted on. A diplomat was never encouraged to have personal opinions, regardless of the party in front of them, a fact he was trying hard to remember at this time. He knew what the Wi-u-Kai were capable of, why they were nicknamed ‘the Ravagers’. He would have to put that aside for today, in the name of peaceful negotiations. “The representatives from the Breen Confederacy and Talarian Republic have already arrived, if you’d like to follow them through to our conference room.”

      The advisor of the president kept herself at the side of Magnus. P’niia was there to advise him and voice the opinion that President Bezar might have on certain topics. But Bezar did state to her that Magnus had the lead in this. So she simply nodded out of respect to the delegates that arrived and passed her

      Arriving in the transport of the Federation vessel, even this room as small as it was, it was still chaotic. Stepping down from the platform, the Tzenkethi spoke, the words forced from his mouth.

      “Where am I to go?” Ruvan Vik Tov-AA felt uncomfortable being here, but his Autarch demanded his presence here.

      “Welcome to the Talbot.” Magnus returned with a smile, ignoring the Tzenkethi’s attempts to be rude, “Please just follow this officer to the conference room where the others are waiting.”

      “Very well.” He replied, the very stench of chaos attacking his senses. The stench, however, would soon become more favorable compared to the talks that soon awaited them all.


      ~To Be Continued in Part 3 of 5~

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      • #4
        Part 3

        While the Conference Room was large, the table at which the negotiations would be held was rather small. Four chairs rested on each side. The Alrakis representatives would sit on one side with their escorts either standing or sitting not too far behind them. The other side would be populated by the four representatives from the President of the United Federation of Planets.

        Admiral O’Connell, from his stool placed several feet away from the conference table on the Federation’s side. He did his best to not look like a perched vulture. It was difficult for him to not be involved in these talks. This wasn’t a matter just for Task Force 72, but for the Federation as a whole. So much stood to be lost today, and the slightest error could sabotage the whole thing.

        His slow gait had been called many things: amble, meander, ramble, saunter. At this moment, however, Amster-Urzon felt that roam was the most applicable term. Not all Grazerites ambulated at such a pace, but it wasn’t uncommon; especially when there wasn’t a reason to hurry. He approached a chair, one of the two in the middle, and stood behind it, waiting for everyone else to select their positions.

        Admiral King took his position behind his seat and waited until the senior parties sat down before he took his own seat.

        With all of the guests moving into their various seats and positions around the room LT Kowal motioned to her Masters-at-Arms to secure the room. She moved quietly over to where the Admiral’s stool was and nodded at him as she stood alongside the bulkhead near him. Herself, MA2 Jackson, and MA3 Capatosta would be remaining in the room for the conference with two security teams nearby if needed.

        Thot Senn sat at the table, looking his Federation opposition through the digital viewfinder of his helmet. Grazerite. Human. Human. Caitian. The human majority only supported Senn’s feelings about the Federation. The human species was a menace, their urge for conquest fueling the Federation’s drive for expansion. And what had it brought the galaxy? The Borg. The Dominion.

        A garbled tone emitted from his helmet and was translated by the box placed on the center of the table by his aide. “What does the Federation desire?”

        Magnus cleared his throat and stood from his chair, holding his hands together in front of his body as a gesture of comfort but also formality. He had practiced his speeches for days, as he didn’t wish to be seen holding a PADD or simply reciting lines. This was far too important.

        With a smile, he began, “My name is Magnus Temple, Secretary of the Exterior for the United Federation of Planets. To our gathered guests, it is our deep honour to represent the Federation on this significant day as we formally recognise the inter-planetary coalition known as the Alrakis Pact. The Federation congratulates you on the formation of your partnership, along with the potential peace and prosperity this will bring to the Inconnu Expanse. We recognise your sovereign claim to the Inconnu Region and wish to join with you in ensuring the sector remains stable, viable, and strong. It is our hope that this meeting, on this day, will be written in the history books as the first day in a long-history of mutual respect and cooperation between the Federation and the Alrakis Pact.”

        “We have sought your council in order to quickly resolve any confusion between our great governments, and look to the future as we seek a path forward into a safe and unified Alpha Quadrant.” Magnus continued, nodding his head every now and then, “War has far too often destroyed our livelihoods, homes, and people. Innocent lives are lost when great minds succumb to pointless warfare. We don’t want to go backwards on the progress we have made in recent years. We do not want any Breen, Talarian, Tzenkethi, Wi-u-Kai, or Federation lives lost when there is an opportunity for partnership and respect before us. The Federation is open to all possibilities of diplomatic relations with the Alrakis Pact, and we thank you for gathering today to start that process.”

        With a firm smile, Magnus took his seat again, reaching for the cup of water in front of him and drinking a satisfied gulp.

        Hadad was the first to speak up. “Our position is quite simple, Secretary Temple: Get out. Doing so would be the first step in guaranteeing peace between the Federation and the Alrakis Pact.”

        “We are already complying with your preference, Ambassador,” Magnus replied, keeping his tone cool, “Unfortunately we had a large number of ships and operations in effect at the time of your announcement, and the logistics of removing all those assets from the Inconno Region has been quite significant. But as I said, we are already doing as you have asked.” He shifted in his chair a little. “One of those ship currently returning is the USS Pandora. A little under one year ago, the USS Pandora came across a Talarian ship inside the Carnwennan Corridor which had been attacked by other forces. The Pandora risked their lives to rescue your people and safely return them to Talarian space. May I put it to you, that had the Federation not been present in the Inconnu Expanse at this time, you would have seen total loss of lives from that ship. While we are complying with your request, we remain open to discussing the benefits to our continued presence in the region, under any agreeable terms determined by the Expanse’s sovereign leadership, of course.”

        “The Talarian Republic has seen many changes since Ambassador Sevros and his folly,” Hadad said with a sniff of contempt. “As you can see, we now have plenty of allies; what benefit does the Federation offer aside from that to justify your future incursions?”

        “We may not be your formal allies, Ambassador, but we are also not your enemies.” Magnus replied firmly. “We have no intention of initiating any hostile action against any planet or species in the Inconnu Expanse. The ships that were in the region? The Ark Royal is an Ambassador class diplomatic vessel. The Magellan is a Galaxy-class exploration vessel. The Pandora is a Luna-class science vessel. Our intention with visiting the Inconnu Expanse has always been to explore the region, meet the vast array of different people who live there and wish to make friendly contact, and investigate the scientific phenomena that has so intrigued us all for decades.” He paused, ensuring to look around at all of the Alrakis members. “But the Federation is more than Starfleet. Our combined resources can help deliver trade and economic benefits to the Expanse, tourism and other civilian programs, and access to one hundred and fifty four member states who make up the Federation. If you close the borders of the Expanse without any room for reciprocal relations, you are closing yourselves off to the rest of the Alpha Quadrant. We’ve all seen how detrimental isolation has been for others in the past.”

        The Grazerite kept a poker face throughout, even as he thought about how well Secretary Temple was presenting the Federation’s case. He was a bit hesitant to join the conversation at this point, seeing that his role in the administration was security and his vocal involvement could be viewed as having ulterior motives. It was, however, something he was willing to chance to lend support to Temple’s statements.

        “As Secretary Temple has said, there is a lot more to the Federation. The Archaeology Council, Science Bureau, Department of Cartography, Planetary Development Council...all agencies in the Federation dedicated to peaceful activities. And that’s in addition to the economic advantages of fostering a positive relationship between the Federation and the Alrakis Pact.” He paused, allowing an opportunity for a quick read of the room. “The Federation is a large market that the Alrakis Pact could tap into. Buying and selling goods to the Federation and/or their members could generate significant gains for you all. Likewise, the Federation and its members have resources and products that could be useful to Pact members.”

        Though he would never admit it, trade and economic negotiations were not Hadad’s area of expertise. He looked to the other members of the Alrakis delegation for input.

        Ruvan Vik Tov-AA took the opportunity to speak up. “You have nothing we desire. Your Federation is a chaotic entity, your goods worthless to us. You talk of trade. Let us trade. You and your tumultuous allies stay out of the Inconnu Expanse, and we will not take any ships that venture into our space.”

        The Breen representative remained silent. In the last fifteen years, the Breen had seen two major engagements with the Federation, first with the Dominion War, then second with the Crisis at the Valoris Nebula. In both cases, the Federation prevailed. The mere fact that the Federation was at the negotiating table and not present firing their mediocre phasers and torpedoes told him that the non-slavers were not willing to fight for what they wanted. To the Breen, this meant they had the advantage.

        “Yes, Secretary Temple, let us talk of trade,” the speaker at the center of the table translated. “What is the Expanse worth to you? Your new propulsion drive is a marvelous invention.”

        Magnus demurred a smile, “I am but a diplomat, Thot Senn. I wouldn’t know about propulsion drives. But the Federation is a vast organisation of inventors, scientists, and entrepreneurs. All of which remain open to the Expanse, still, at this time.” He shrugged, “When you take ownership of an entire region, you also take responsibility for every individual planet and system within it. Including their constant need for resources, aid, business, and economic stability or… they fail. The Federation wants the Inconnu Expanse to continue prospering under your leadership, and we want to help you with the burden of supporting all of your planets and systems, many of whom are already exchanging trade and diplomatic relations with us. Let us discuss the possibility of an Inconnu Expanse that remains open to the Federation, and we can find a path forward that sees the Expanse thrive under the Alrakis Pact.”

        Hadad’s face reddened. “You dare insult us! You come to us offering peace, and then suggest we are too weak to protect our own people?!” He pounded the table with his fist. “Would you accept your own offer, Secretary Temple? Would you allow our ships to carouse your worlds in the name of ‘humanitarian aid’?” The words fell off his tongue in disgust. “I should think not!”

        “I merely speak from our own experiences.” Magnus replied quickly, trying hard not to flinch despite the affronts to their furniture. “The Federation has been managing a large number of planetary resources for two hundred and thirty years. We have hundreds of planets under our care across the entire Federation territory and we understand the practicalities required. I have no doubt you can protect your own people, Ambassador, and certainly wouldn’t dream of suggesting otherwise.” The Secretary looked to the room, hoping to find more reasonable minds. “My role here is only to offer an opportunity to maintain the relations the Federation has already established in the Expanse and to ask you on what terms can you see the Federation maintaining access to the Expanse under your sovereignty.”

        Thot Senn, having been seated at the far end of the Alrakis’ side, a vantage point selected by himself in order to survey all involved without having to look back and forth, studied his compatriots and the Secretary’s seemingly steel nerves. The Pact’s resolve was quite firm going into this meeting, and so far it had seemed to only agitate their own selves. Today, the Pact had everything to gain, and the Federation everything to lose. An adjustment in strategy was needed, and quickly. Resorting to the previously agreed non-verbal cues, Thot Senn brushed his left index finger, which had been fitted by a parsteel tip, twice lightly over the table top, signalling to his colleagues that a time for a brief recess had approached.

        “Have you provided any refreshments?” Hadad abruptly asked the Federation delegation. “I would like a beverage and privacy with which to indulge it.”

        “I would also enjoy the opportunity to indulge in a beverage.” jata’Uwe Ekzi added. For the Erganite, used to his homeworld, this room was very dry.

        Magnus immediately stood, indicating his willingness to give the Alrakis members the break they requested. “Of course. If you would all like to follow this officer,” he turned and indicated to Lieutenant Kowal, “to the lounge across the hall. We have attempted to replicate dishes to suit each of your preferences.”

        At the signal from the secretary LT Kowal immediately gave the signal to her Masters-at-Arms. They began to open the appropriate doors and to secure the passageway they’d cross.

        With a fist raised to his followers, Hadad rose from his seat and followed the designated security officer from the room.

        Thot Senn rose from the table. He waited for a member of his entourage to walk in front of him before he started to exit with his other guard behind him.


        ~To Be Continued In Part 4 of 5~

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        • #5
          Part 4

          Once the Alrakis members had left the room, Magnus let out a deep sigh. He turned and sat casually on the conference room table as he looked to the Federation and Starfleet personnel still present. “Well, this has been interesting.” He commented with a slight grin.

          Heather, who remained in the room with her boss, looked to him curious to his own reaction. She wondered what the pact would discuss. Part of her hoped it was a change of heart but the practical side of her doubted it.

          Admiral King looked at the exasperated Exterior Secretary. “Mister Secretary, it seems these ambassadors are merely angered by our presence and I am afraid nothing on our end will change that. I am not a diplomat, yet I would advise retaining emergency humanitarian access and establishing a schedule of observation patrols. The latter was actually done in ancient Earth history when two superpowers inspected each other’s destructive nuclear weapons during the period known as the Cold War under a treaty called Open Skies. If we allowed the Alrakis Pact similar access to the Federation, it could be an olive branch to further negotiation.”

          “And how far exactly are we willing to allow the Alrakis Pact to venture into Federation space?” Admiral O’Connell asked, having joined the Federation delegation at the table. As the head of Task Force 72, Zachary had supervisory access to several sensitive projects. “Vidal Fleet Yards just opened near the Tzenkethi border, and it already has a full production and upgrade line, not to mention our Long Jump assets at Minos Korva, despite its closer proximity to the Cardassians than the Confederacy.”

          “I am also concerned about such an idea,” the Grazerite said, joining the conversation. “As Admiral O’Connell has so clearly pointed out, there needs to be firm and immutable boundaries to what the Pact has access too. And, even then, the risk of espionage is very high. I cannot imagine Starfleet Intelligence being at peace with such a possible threat.” He rose from his chair and plodded towards where Temple sat perched on the end of the table. “I don’t believe that the President would be very settled with such an arrangement either and my recommendation to her would be to not accept such an agreement. Not without guaranteed, fairly immediate, long-term success in maintain Federation access to the Expanse.” He stood in front of Admiral King, held his hands behind his back, and looked the Admiral in the eyes. “Can you guarantee that, Admiral?” He looked to O’Connell next. “Can you?”

          Admiral King looked at the critics. “If we are to gain anything from today, gentlemen, then we may need to give a little. The historical treaty I referenced provided for flight plans being filed far in advance and observers were restricted to that flight plan.”

          Tapping her nail on the table, P’niia was troubled at the direction of this meeting “I got to agree with Amsterrr, President Bezarrr won’t agree which such agreement secretary Temple…” She leans a bit on her elbow and looked at Magnus “We are being baited to theirrr terms, we got to find a counter in some fashion” She narrows her eyes a bit as the Caitian shrugs “Maybe old tactic, but place the ball in theirrr court. Ask what they want from us, aside from us leaving theirrr space”

          “They’ve already demonstrated their awareness of our QSD,” Zachary observed. “It may be one way to find out what they already know, but then again, they might continue their hard line. Do we have any bargaining chips of our own? Aside from offering up tours of Federation space?”

          Taking a deep breath “Neethia System would be an option as a neutral zone. I know Admiral, there is a new immense class in construction due to losing DS7, but if we can bufferrr between the two forces orrr create some airrr then it creates an opening?” P’niia knew it was not a favorable approach but it had some merit.

          “The Neethia System would make a great diplomatic sector,” Admiral O’Connell confirmed. “It will be some time before the base is completed, but we could speed up the inhabitable areas.”

          The Secretary had listened to the conversation, nodding silently. He didn’t agree that they were being baited to the Alrakis Pact’s terms, which had been suggested, as he was only ever giving words of diplomatic significance and had made no concessions to them apart from the vague promises of future relations. But that was how these negotiations went; a back and forth of ideas was shifted through until they found something that worked for them. Or, ideally, worked best for the Federation.

          “Our main goal was to maintain the Federation’s current access to the Expanse.” Magnus spoke up. “Or at the least, increase the time limit placed upon us. If the Neethia System can be established as a stop-gap measure, with potential for a permanent exchange in future, that would give the appearance of our willingness to cooperate.” He paused for a moment, and frowned, “But as they have so-far been unable to gain anything from us, I don’t doubt they’ll come back in this room and attempt to hard-line us further. We will need a suitable response in that scenario.”

          “There’s not much else they can hard line us with,” Zachary remarked. “We’re less than two weeks from the eviction deadline, and aside from them opening fire on our assets still in the Expanse, there’s not much else they can hard line us with.” As he was no diplomat or politician, he looked to the Grazerite and the Caitian for further suggestions.

          “The Alrakis Pact has the upper hand. If we violate their terms, they could seek to exact a cost from us that could involve territorial violations or even firing upon our vessels in our own space,” King noted.

          “We will ensure our people get back safely. That will be our priority.” Magnus replied with a firm nod, “But let’s not lose faith in our position either. These four powers didn’t suddenly stop fighting each other just to start a war with the Federation. They’re spooked and defensive, they’ve come together out of necessity and they will not risk opening hostilities with us. They need to come out of this meeting with a peaceful agreement just as much as we do. That is our advantage.”

          Malcolm stayed silent yet could not help but wonder if the Secretary had even heard them. The Pact had the upper hand. They didn’t even have to sit down at this meeting with them.

          The Grazerite pondered the discussion occurring. “Agreed, Mister Secretary, about the importance of the safe return of Federation citizens. And assets. Still, I remain cautious about their state of mind. They might be new allies, but to assume they are not willing to engage in hostilities could prove foolish on our part.” He looked at the Humans in the room. “There is some Earth idiom about making assumptions, if I’m not mistaken. ‘You know what happen when you assume. You make an ass out of you and me.’ Let’s not be asses,” he offered with a smile.

          His face then took a far more serious appearance. “If, however, they do start shooting, I have every faith that you,” he said looking first to O’Connell, then to King, “will teach them not to do that again.”

          “Sir, if it comes to a shooting war, then the Secretary’s words will ring true and the Alrakis Pact was all for nought. Perhaps that is our play here. We let them know it will take longer for us to leave the sector and if they attempt to force us out, we will defend ourselves,” King thought aloud.

          “Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.” Magnus replied with a dry tone.

          LT Kowal had received notice from one of her Masters-at-Arms that the representatives of the pact were prepared to return to the room. She moved forward from the wall, “excuse me, sirs.” She spoke up loud enough to be sure she got the attention of the room.

          “Our guests have indicated they are ready to return my team will escort them back when we are ready.”

          “Bring them in.” Magnus nodded politely to the Lieutenant, before turning around and placing himself back down in his seat. He took a deep breath and exhaled slowly.

          “I’ll signal them now, sir,” LT Kowal said. She tapped her commbadge and let the team assigned to escort duty they were clear to return. She returned to her position against the bulkhead and near her boss.


          ~To Be Concluded In Part 5~

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          • #6
            Part 5

            Thot Senn took his seat, reassuming his vantage point to observe all at the table. Unbeknownst to all, his eyes darted slightly to the left as he observed Admiral O’Connell return to his seat. He knew of O’Connell well, so well in fact, that of all of the Federation members in the room, Senn trusted the man the least, and respected him the most.

            His eyes soon returned to the dignitaries from the Federation government. As soon as everyone was mostly settled, an assault of electronic warbles and gurgles flooded from his helmet. The crude translator converted this insult to soundwaves as “The Pact will not relinquish its claim to what you call the Inconnu Expanse. We will, however, agree to keep it open to the Federation under terms.”

            “First and foremost,” said Ambassador Hadad who had seated himself in the middle position on the Alrakis Pact side, “is there will be absolutely no colonization or expansion into any Alrakis Pact territory by any Federation subsidiary--not Starfleet, not any of your member worlds, no one.”

            The Wi’u’Kai representative was next to speak. “All Federation traffic entering the Expanse will report to one of our checkpoint stations and be inspected upon its arrival and upon its exit.”

            Ruvan Vik Tov-AA followed. “We also require a data sharing agreement. Any data collected within the Expanse will be presented to the Alrakis Pact at the aforementioned checkpoints. And, as a gesture of good faith, we require the specifications for your quantum slipstream drive at this time.”

            “Finally,” the translator interpreted for the Breen Thot, “your gracious humanitarian relief and aid to disaster areas will be acceptable when needed.”

            Amster-Urzon looked to Temple. As the lead negotiator, it was up to the Secretary to accept or deny. If it were me, the Grazerite thought, I would request time to consider the offer. What Temple would do, he did not know. Obviously, sharing slipstream technology was out of the question.

            There it was. The hard line. It was clear to Magnus that the group had rehearsed their response, likely under direction from their Breen instructor. They were cutting to the chase, to use a well-worn phrase, and now the Federation knew what the Alrakis Pact wanted.

            Malcolm kept a blank expression. Inspections were out of the question as were the specifications to a quantum slipstream drive. The Secretary knew the same.

            The Secretary’s face was a calm, blank expression. He took a long moment to respond, far longer than what was necessary, as he looked to each and every member of the Pact one by one. Finally he leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms. Now the Alrakis Pact would know the Federation’s hard line.

            “It’s a start.” Magnus replied, his tone dry. “We can agree on colonisation restrictions. Our ships will report to checkpoints in the Carnwennan and Inconnu Corridors, however any inspection will pertain to allowing our ships to be scanned by your sensors. Alakris Pact personnel may only board Federation ships if so invited by our crew. Data sharing is acceptable, as long as it is reciprocal arrangement whereby the Federation receives data in response.”

            “As for gestures of goodwill.” Magnus paused, as if deciding whether or not to proceed. But then he silently moved a PADD to the center of his table, while his gaze turned directly and pointedly to Thot Senn. “Sharing undeveloped tech is not possible. However, what we can offer is our latest intelligence on the movements of the Cardassian Union in the Expanse.”

            P’niia blinked for a second there and looked calmly at her side to Magnus. Was he really going to lay down sensitive information on the table?! P’niia was not amused by it, but was not going to show any facial expression on the matter ‘That idiot is going to shove more political drama if the Union finds out about this deal’ she thought. This was going into another political outburst, P’niia knew that for sure as the Breen will gracely accept such offer.

            Malcolm noticed the subtle blinking from the President’s Special Advisor. He was surprised she didn’t know about the arrangement.

            Senn slightly leaned his head to the left, unable to contain his surprise at the Secretary’s offer. The Breen had anticipated the pushback to boarded inspections, and to the propulsion technology, but he had not expected it to be so easy. He did desire a chance to look at the slipstream specifications, but there were other ways of doing so, and the Federation had plenty of targets close by that could allow for that. Senn did however find value in the offering of Cardassian intelligence, even though they already had enough eyes and ears on the new and unwelcome border. “And if there is reasonable cause to board a Federation starship?”

            “What do you consider to be ‘reasonable’, Thot?” the Grazerite inquired.

            If only the Grazerite could see the Breen’s eyes narrow. “Theft. Piracy. Removing citizens of the expanse under the false flag of asylum.”

            “I see,” Amster-Urzon replied simply. He leaned back in his chair and spent a moment studying the Breen across the table. “I am curious, jata’Uwe, how you would determine whether an asylum claim is false or not,” he finally said, directing his comment to the Wi-u-Kai emissary.

            “This is very simple. None of our peoples would claim asylum. Therefore any claims from you, or your ships saying that would clearly be a lie.” She replied. For her people, at least, anyone who did not conform was simply reeducated.

            “I see,” was all the Federation Security Advisor said in reply. She’s lying. But why? he questioned himself. Maybe she thinks that if she says it enough, it will become truth. Or maybe she’s trying to gaslight us. He took a slow look around the room; he needed to get a read on the other Pact representatives. The most obvious path forward, thinking beyond the immediate negotiation, was to find the weak link in the Pact, the member who would more prone to defaulting on the Pact’s alliance. The member who could be flipped. At present, it seemed like the Alrakis Pact was a permanent player in the realm of interstellar politics, but such alliances were, historically, prone to weakening. <b>That</b> was his overarching interest in these meetings.

            “Let’s set aside what jata’Uwe just said,” he vocalized, steepling his fingers, “and I’ll pose a hypothetical. Not that I doubt you, jata’Uwe, but because I like to be prepared. What would happen if someone did request asylum, as unlikely as it might be? I think it is important to consider these sorts of scenarios.” Amster-Urzon looked at Hadad. “What would you suggest be the course of action in such a case, Ambassador?”

            Hadad’s mouth ticked up in a grin that did not touch his eyes. “I would suggest that many Federation citizens may begin requesting asylum within our borders. Particularly prominent members of scientific think-tanks, industrial firms, economic exchange managers, and the like. Would the Federation delegation present today agree to such individuals receiving sanctuary within our borders?”

            “As I said in my opening statements,” Magnus leaned forward as he spoke. “The Federation recognises the Alrakis Pact’s sovereignty over the Inconnu Expanse, and we will not transport any of your citizens out of the region without your express permission. The prospect of neighbourly migration between our territory and yours, is better suited to a formal agreement with detailed processes. Today, we are here to find the terms on which the Federation and the Pact can avoid hostilities and lay the groundwork for future relations.”

            Future relations. Thot Senn considered the future of all relations with the Federation to be non-existent unless the Federation served a purpose. Right now, that purpose was to allow the Alrakis Pact to observe them closely, learn of the enemy and their tactics. During the Dominion War, he had overheard an ancient Terran axiom: ‘Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.’ That would be precisely what he would do. “If your vessels and your Starfleet abide by our conditions, then there will be no reason for hostilities, Secretary.”

            Looking first to Senn and then the others, Hadad nodded. “I concur.”

            “As do we.” The Tzenkethi replied sharply.

            jata’Uwe Ekzi thought for a moment. “I also agree. Let us hope the Federation abides by the conditions. Not that we doubt you, of course.” She let the words hang in the air for a few seconds.

            “Of course.” Magnus replied, the polite smile returning to his face. He gave the slightest of nods to the aides in the room and they immediately walked forwards and dispensed a PADD in front of each of the visiting representatives.

            “In front of you is the draft list of terms we’ve agreed upon today, digital copies will be transferred to your ships upon the completion of this meeting.” The Secretary explained. “I assume we will each need to take these terms to our respective governments for approval. I suggest a window of no more than three months, after which we may reconvene for an official signing ceremony or re-negotiations.”

            Thot Senn verbalized his acknowledgement of the Secretary’s assumption, as well as his confirmation that the Domo would have to approve such an accord. “I will,” the translator droned, “have to take your intelligence to the Domo for verification.”

            “Once the draft terms have been approved by our respective Governments, we can share the intel.” Temple replied firmly. “The Domo will verify the information and we will be able to sign the agreement in good faith.”

            This did not please Thot Senn in the slightest. He did understand Temple’s position as a negotiator, and all Senn could hope would be that the intelligence possessed value and didn’t contain any repeat information that his sources had already gathered.

            jata’Uwe Ekzi picked up the tablet. “This will be transmitted to the esh’Wara jata’Zhe immediately.” replied, as the Tzenkethi delegate merely looked at the device for a few moments and placed it back on the table.

            “However, we should not leave today without something in place,” Magnus continued, picking up his PADD, “I have suggested an interim treaty that will cover us for the duration of the agreement process. This Non-Aggression Treaty states that forces of the United Federation of Planets and the members of the Alrakis Pact agree to a period of neutrality, whereby parties shall not engage in any hostile military action against the other. We also agree to remain neutral in the event of a signatory engaging in military action against a third party. The NAT has a set time frame of three months, unless superseded or cancelled earlier by agreement of all signatories.”

            The Breen Thot eyed the Secretary carefully. Throughout the entire ordeal, the human had seemed to maintain careful control of every action, every word, every expression, every detail. Temple appeared to be nothing more than a skilled diplomat, as one would expect from a person holding his position in the Federation. If all proceeded as expected, the Federation would still be able to explore their precious expanse, and today the Pact had seen to it that the Federation would be able to pollute it no longer.

            Senn picked up his padd and reviewed its contents slowly. The text had kindly been translated by the Federation into what they assumed they knew of the Breen language. The gaps in their knowledge and the many improperly conjugated words gave him little hope of what intelligence the Federation possessed on the Cardassians. “In addition to non-agression, shall we expect that Federation vessels will abide by the colonization, expansion, and inspection conditions we have outlined today? If they will not, then I see no value in such a treaty.”

            Temple mused on the Breen’s suggestion. It had been clear from the beginning that the Thot was in control of the Alrakis Pact’s negotiations; the others were mere seat-fillers to Senn’s performance. He dipped his head slightly in reply, “Our interim treaty can include such terms, seeing as we’re agreeing to them formally in our official agreement anyway. The main purpose is to ensure our two great coalitions cannot be drawn into war while we negotiate peace. There are many people who would rather see the Federation and Alrakis Pact at each other’s throats, rather than at a signing ceremony.”

            Peace, thought Senn. The word was cherished only by the weak. In an imperial sense, peace had its purpose, providing opportunities to learn, reinforce and regroup. In this instance, it would allow the Confederacy to study the Federation more closely than ever before. As for those who would rather see the Federation fight the Alrakis, besides the Cardassians, Thot Senn found himself among that number. One day, they would rid the Expanse of the Federation cancer, reclaim the systems lost to Cardassian annexation, and reassert its claim over the Lagashi and the Valoris Nebula.

            Alas, that day was not today, and Senn would bide his time carefully until then. “The treaty must include such terms, Secretary Temple. It is the only way you will obtain a Breen signature.”

            “Or a Talarian one,” Hadad added quickly, refusing to relegate the Talarians to the position of an afterthought.

            Trying to resist to roll her eyes at this conversation “I think we all can agree that such treaty must come to an agreement from both sides. We hold onto ourrr part of the bargain as you hold onto yourrrs. This is, after all a two way street” P’niia spoke calmly and kept her posture in this conversation that was hopefully drawing to an end.

            “Then we’re in agreement.” Magnus said, in a way that was borderline between pleasant and instructive. “I will amend the Non-Aggression Treaty to include the terms.” He looked down at his PADD and made a few button presses. Having anticipated this outcome, it was a simple matter of copying and pasting the text into the interim agreement. As soon as he was done, the treaty was updated on the other PADDs. “There. Any other issues before we come to a conclusion?” The Dane knew he was tempting fate by asking the question but he was feeling just a little bit unstoppable today.

            Senn looked down once more at the silver device. The crudely translated Breen still offended him, yet his translation of the Terran words was accurate enough for him to verify that there was not any hidden language. He tapped a small sequence of buttons to affix his signature to the end of the document. “I have no issues to present, Secretary.” After all, it was the Federation that requested the meeting, not the Breen.

            Snatching the PADD from Senn, Ambassador Hadad placed his signature as well. He spared no words, as was fitting in what he viewed as a stalemate. The Wi’u’Kai and Tzenkethi members followed suit.

            Malcolm observed the exchange. It wasn’t exactly the scene of the Khitomer Accords, yet it was a start.

            As he looked around the room slowly, Amster-Urzon decided that the negotiations had been fruitful. Yes, a treaty had been tentatively agreed to, but valuable information had been learned as well. He wondered what the Alrakis Pact representatives had learned about the Federation from this engagement. And whether the treaty was going to be enough to successfully maintain détente.

            It came to this agreement, but somehow P’niia didn’t feel as pleased as she had hoped. Sacrifices were made to save the negotiations, yet P’niia wondered if the offer would bite back at them in a later situation. First the Pact, who was going to be next?

            “Well then,” Magnus had managed to keep that smile on his face like the whole operation depended upon it, to the point his cheek started to twinge. There were at the summit, they only had to plant the flag now. He would endure. “It is my honour to sign this Interim Non-Aggression Treaty on behalf of the United Federation of Planets and call this conference to a close. Barring any further developments, we shall meet again in a period of three months to finalise our formal agreement. Thank you for your attendance today and your cooperation towards a peaceful resolution. I strongly believe this was a significant achievement for the Inconnu Expanse and the Alpha Quadrant. I wish you all a safe journey home.”

            The delegates were ushered out of the room first, not by design, but by their request. Admiral Zachary O’Connell watched them leave from the discomfort of his own stool. Today had been productive. While he had been relieved that he no longer had to order the remaining few Starfleet assets out of the Expanse, Zachary had a feeling that this was just but a rough start to even rougher relations with the Alrakis Pact.


            ~FIN~

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