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Diplomatic Entreaties

Posted on Fri Nov 29th, 2019 @ 3:39pm by Az'Prel & Commander Rita Paris & Lieutenant Commander Mnhei'sahe Dox & Lieutenant Commander Sonak & Artan Pirate Helev t'Liun
Edited on on Sat Nov 30th, 2019 @ 2:43pm

Mission: Neutral Zone Neutrality
Location: The Golden Ghost
Timeline: 2296

Parked on the Romulan designed, Artan run T’liss class Bird of Prey known as the Golden Ghost, the Runabout Selune was powering down in the landing bay. At the helm of the Hera’s stealthiest shuttle, freshly minted Lieutenant Commander Mnhei’sahe Dox was running through the shutdown sequence. It had felt particularly good to get to just fly a ship, even for the short jaunt from the Hera to the Ghost. It was a simple pleasure for the young woman, pulled between worlds.

On the Runabout was a small team from the Hera preparing for the upcoming mission. Dox, Commander Rita Paris, Lieutenant Commander Sonak, and the Vulcan freedom fighter from a mirror universe, Az’Prel, all were there to be taken to a hidden colony world deep in the Romulan Star Empire. A colony of reunificationists known as Mol Krun’chi. As she enjoyed those last few moments where she could pretend she was just a pilot again, Dox took a breath. She was a Starfleet officer, but she was also a Romulan. A Rihannsu citizen by birthright, and the granddaughter of a powerful woman in the Imperium.

The elder Senator Verelan t’Rul, Dox’s grandmother, had passed a motion in the Romulan Senate to begin the first steps towards the notoriously xenophobic and secretive government accepting it’s citizens that wished to reconnect with their Vulcan roots and philosophies. Towards reunification. At present, it was a simple motion to offer protection and support of those colonies and help nurture their growth, rather than stamp them out as threats to the stability of the Star Empire. It was a step that was both small and monumental at the same time. And it was a step that would involve cooperation between the Empire, the Vulcan government, and the Federation.

Lieutenant Commander Sonak had been chosen to represent the interests of Vulcan in this matter, while Commander Paris would represent Starfleet in the talks. But it had fallen to the granddaughter of the Senator to speak both for her Grandmother and the Imperium. It had fallen on the narrow shoulders of the young woman who was not a diplomat to suddenly become one, and open communications with the colony.

Standing up from the powered down and secured runabout’s Helm, Dox could feel that the Golden Ghost had jumped to warp. A natural pilot, she could feel the shift in the deck plates and the hum of the ship’s engines. They were on their way and the time for waiting and delaying was over. Letting out that long breath with a light sigh, Dox adjusted her crimson Starfleet uniform and stepped back into the hold and picked up her simple shoulderbag and addressed the others. “The ship is secured and her computers and systems are locked down on our codes and voice recognition.”

"Excellent," Commander Paris replied. "I need to go have a word with the captain and make some arrangements. In the meanwhile, settle in, people. Miss Az'Prel, once we're assigned quarters, a full security sweep of them if you please. It's not that I distrust our hosts, but I have faith in the Tal'Shiar to attempt to sabotage these talks any way they can, and we'll not be caught unawares. Mister Sonak, if you would be so kind, if any tight-beam transmissions are sent from this ship, I want to know about them and I want to know the contents, without alerting our hosts. Miss Dox, Mister Sonak, you're with me."

''Acknowledged,'' Sonak replied in his familiar monotone.

"Aye, Commander." Dox replied with a more relaxed tone in her voice than she had a moment ago. Rita being on top of things gave her a bit of comfort in the moment.

Moving into the starship which was of her own era, with which she had grown familiar in a recent journey to Romulus itself, Paris considered her position and how she planned to approach the topic with Doctor t'Liun. This was a delicate matter, but one that would need to be broached- for while Paris was still keeping some of her own cards up the sleeve of her anachronistic minidress uniform, she also needed the cooperation of the vessel's commander.

"So I gather that this vessel is essentially under your command, Miss Dox?" Paris ventured as they walked.

Blushing ever so slightly, the legal status of the Ghost was a detail she was slightly uncomfortable with, but her voice remained steady as she replied, matching step with Rita's pace, as she had long ago learned to do without a second thought. "Apparently, yes. I received a personal message from Maenek t'Liun saying that she and the crew put it to a vote, and decided that the Ghost should be under my Barony in the Artan fleet."

"Good. That will come in handy if we encounter resistance. The good doctor has been kind enough to cooperate, and I feel that will likely continue," Paris spoke quietly as they strode the corridors of the old vessel. Years of partnering with Vulcanoids had left her accustomed to speaking in quiet, conspiratorial tones for privacy, as she expected sharp hearing from those pointed ears. "But I feel better knowing we have a recourse if you need to pull rank. Given whom we are opposing and the nature of their tactics, I expect there will be one or more individuals on this vessel who will have been bribed, coerced or brainwashed into betraying our position once we arrive, so we're going to operate from that supposition. Hopefully, Doctor t'Liun will see this as a sensible precaution rather than an affront to her honor and that of her crew. Thoughts?

"I agree. From my own experiences, the Tal'Shiar certainly like to work as many angles as possible. As you've said before... circles within circles." Dox replied thoughtfully as she continued. "As for Maenek t'Liun, I don't know her that well, but within those bounds, I believe her when she pledged her support to us and me. I think she wants reunification to happen, and she's... reasonable. I'll make cooperation an order if I have to, but I don't think we will have to."

'We'll soon see..." Paris muttered as they approached the bridge. The aged Romulan T'liss class was far fewer decks that a Federation vessel, so fewer turbolift rides. But it paid to move with Paris' martial pace, as it ate ground and got one where one needed to go in short order.

Entering the bridge from the port-side entrance as the typically paranoid Romulan design eschewed doors behind the Captain's chair, there wasn't the guard presence one would find in a real Romulan ship of the line, but there was one security guard at the doors that immediately recognized Dox and Paris and nodded to approve their entry.

The bridge itself was fairly small. An octagon-shaped chamber with an empty captain's chair at the center, rear and a number of standing stations near the walls, but not build into the bulkheads. The general aesthetic was lots of light gray metal, touches of classic coppery orange accents that contrasted from the modern workstations that had been installed, mostly all shades of dark green.

While the Golden Ghost was a ship from the same era as Rita Paris, her technology was completely up to date. At the security station, the ship's commander, Doctor Helev t'Liun, was going over a report from the officer on duty as she turned to notice the officers at the door.

The Ghost's Doctor and reluctant commander looked up and raised her eyebrows as the thinnest of light smiles as she acknowledged the ship's new occupants and walked over. "Commander, Baroness. Welcome aboard. I regret that I was unable to greet you on the landing deck, but there was ship's business to attend to."

Before she could get any further, Dox interjected politely but firmly in a calm tone. "Thank you, Maenek. However, as I'm here as a Starfleet Officer, I would ask that you address me by rank while I'm aboard, Thank you."

"Ahh, yes. My apologies Lieutenant Commander. I do know a thing or two about being addressed incorrectly, as half the crew can't quite stop calling me 'Riov' here." t'Liun added with a slight nod. "That said, I and this crew are at your disposal. How can I be of service?"

Sonak then spoke, his steely grey eyes unblinking.

''It is customary, regardless of actual rank, to refer to the master of a ship as Captain. This avoids confusion as to who aboard is actually in command.''

The Vulcan knew with how important this was with a culture thriving in intrigue and priding itself for discipline and it's sense of duty and honor. Thus, he made it perfectly clear who was.

"Well, I still don't have to like it." t'Liun said with a wry smirk. 

"If we may, I'd like a word in private, Doctor?" Paris asked with a professional smile and a slight tilt of the head. She knew the woman from their previous adventure together and had established a good working relationship. But this might strain that relationship, as Paris understood implicitly. So she was proceeding cautiously, and diplomatically.

"I suspected you might, Commander. The conference room is prepared for our... official meeting. But for now, let us adjourn to the executive office." T'Liun raised an eyebrow slightly and gestured to a door next to the door they had entered through. As she did, she turned to the officer at the security station. "Erei'Riov, you have the bridge. Mind the ship."

Stepping through the door, the room was a small, windowless office with a thin shelf coming off the bulkhead that could be scarcely called a desk, with a modern computer terminal fixed to it. There was one chair behind the shelf and a long bench for seating across from the desk. Turning to stand by the desk, the door closed behind the group as they came in and t'Liun pressed a button on her computer and there was a light hum heard.

"Sensor jammer to ensure privacy activated, Commander Paris," T'Liun said, her demeanor taking on a slightly more professional tone. "Your word?"

"I would not presume to know your crew, your policies nor would I wish to impugn your honor, nor that of your crew nor any member," Paris began, hands open, palms upturned. "However, the Tal'Shiar are devious, and will literally stop at nothing to sabotage this mission- either by preventing it from coming to pass, or destroying the colony after we depart. Thus why the Hera is leading their tail on a decoy mission, and why we have enlisted your aid."

"However, paranoia pays off when dealing with such organizations, and I wanted to be clear with you that my people will be independently monitoring for transmissions, in an attempt to ensure that the position of the colony is not betrayed in any way. As this would appear to be a lack of trust in your crew and by default you, I wanted to be clear about this from the outset. Coercion, brainwashing, and blackmail can make the most virtuous among us act against our natures, and while I sincerely hope that I am wrong, and that our mission will go smoothly, there are four thousand colonists and the potential for a better future on the line here." Having made her point, the Commander added, "If this offends you, I do apologize, but I would hope you would recognize the necessity."

For a moment, t'Liun simply looked at Rita with a seemingly neutral expression and there was a lingering silence before she replied. "So, your... presumption is that either myself or someone on my crew may have been compromised by the Tal'Shiar to betray the mission?"

"I am not offended, Commander Paris. It is a possibility I do not like to consider, but what I like cannot be a deciding factor in such things. Though we've had no new crew transfers in 4 months, we restocked at the Artan fortress shortly after you last disembarked leaving us a narrow window of potential vulnerability. As a result, I have already run several security sweeps and we are monitoring for any potential signals." T'Liun replied with a thoughtful expression. 

"The ship is currently transmission blocked with internal shielding, and we are monitoring regularly for any attempts. All outgoing communications can only be made with my own command codes or under order of Bar... Lieutenant Commander Dox. As such, It would be impossible to..." she continued with a concerned tone before Dox cut her off mid-sentence.

"With all due respect, Maenek. My mother got a coded transmission off of a D'deridex class Warbird completely undetected that made it possible for you all to rescue me in the first place." The young, recently promoted officer said with a critical tone and a stern expression. "We cannot leave any potential avenue unexplored. Any potential spies may already have found workarounds you can't foresee. Our presence changes that. This is a necessary precaution."

Pursing her lips slightly, t'Liun nodded as she replied. "Of course, you are both correct. And you show me respect by bringing this to me."

Thinking for a time, Sonak now addressed the Romulan Doctor as much as his crewmates.

'Any emission from the ship might be used as a message carrier or to mask one; from navigation lights to the engine output. I would recommend to monitor any and all external emissions of any nature from the ship for whatever could be resembling a repetitive or irregular pattern. The first could be a beacon, the other a coded transmission. I would assume masking our warp and impulse signatures are already implemented. Again, I would suggest also to distort them. If they are used for covert communication, that distortion will also affect any embedded transmission.''

Listening, t'Liun's face betrayed a bit of surprise at Sonak's observations, making it clear without saying so that she hadn't considered any of those possibilities. But after an instant of letting her emotions show, she resumed her neutral expression and verbalized her thoughts. "I will... implement monitoring for these potential venues of transmission immediately, Lieutenant Commander. Thank you."

Turning and angling his head slightly, the Kolinahr faced Dox.

''There is also one other possibility; telepathy. Granted, telepaths capable of contact over interstellar or even merely planetary distances are rare; but they are not unheard of. With your permission, I could attempt a periodic telepathic sweep of the crew to determine if this is occurring.''

Now it was Dox's turn for her face to betray some surprise as she realized that when Sonak had spoke earlier of calling a ship's master 'Captain' regardless of actual rank, he might have been referring to her as he was now asking for her permission to implement another security measure on the Golden Ghost. The young Rihannsu Starfleet officer knew that Rita must have caught her surprise as Rita could always see through Dox's best poker faces and the red-headed Rihannsu hadn't even tried here. But after a moment, she composed herself and thought on the content of Sonak's comment and request, uneasily.

Thinking on it for just a moment, she knitted her brows. "I assume you can do this without, in any way, infringing on their minds or you wouldn't have suggested it. As long as that's the case, I have no objections. I doubt that they would have a telepath of that level of power at their disposal or Rendal would have used that against me, I would think. Her obsession with getting secrets out of my head was her primary reason for kidnapping me, to begin with. Still, no proverbial stone unturned." 

"A logical assumption, Captain," he agreed, moreover compounding his previous comment."Nevertheless, this does not remove the possibility that they may have since acquired that kind of resource, be it only to monitor our position."

Dox blushed at the title, but she knew she had the authority to make that order as the Golden Ghost had been placed under her command as an Artan Baroness. She also wanted to not alienate Maenek t'Liun in doing so, and made sure to ask with polite deference. "Maenek... do you have any objections?"

Looking over at the slightly older Rihannsu doctor and reluctant commander, Dox expected to see resistance or even envy at Sonak calling her 'Captain' and at her flexing that authority. But instead, the young Starfleet officer saw the slightest of smiles that she couldn't quite peg just yet. "If you feel this is a prudent precaution that will not be an infringement upon your crew's rights, then I fully approve."

"There will be no disturbance nor intrusion," Sonak assured them both. "My telepathic abilities are far from returned to their former level, but I can still feel telepathic emissions when in proximity of either emitter or receptor of such transmission. much like you can hear a conversation nearby. I will only need to make rounds on the ship. if there is a telepathic link active near my position, roughly the same distance as earshot, I will sense it and locate it. Of course, it is crude and limited, but in our present endeavor, little is still better than nothing."

"Excellent." T'Liun nodded, allowing herself to smile openly. "Then we have plans in place to ensure the success of our mission and the safety of the colony. I welcome any further measures or would like to hear any further concerns you may have, Commander Paris."

"My concerns I have voiced, and we have shared with you, Doctor. As for measures, the less spoken of them, the better. I simply wanted to be honest and straightforward with you to make you aware... now that we've accomplished those and we are all in accord, we proceed from here," Paris explained, deliberately holding back her contingencies. "When it comes to matters such as this, it has been my experience that the less said, the better. I wanted to offer you the courtesy of being frank with you, and making you aware of my position. That has been accomplished, so now we begin our journey to Babel, such as it is, and we do our best to approach an accord between alienated peoples. Standard Starfleet stuff... even if this is somewhat momentous given the peoples in question."

"Indeed, it is. This could be quite the step forward for my people. And one we all here have long worked for, Commander. As such, I hope you will forgive any... enthusiasm that leaks out on my part in these proceedings." Standing, Maenek t'Liun nodded and tugged on the hem of her tunic as she replied to Paris. "I have arranged for yourself and Commander Sonak to have the same, shared accommodations as on your last stay with us. I can show you to your quarters, and we can meet with this... Lieutenant Oulette from the Persephone that beamed over as a so-called independent observer, who should be waiting in the conference room."

"Who?" Paris asked with an upraised eyebrow.

Pulling out the PaDD that she seemed to have almost perpetually in her back pocket, Dox called up the file for the mission that she had submitted before the rendezvous. “Miss Az’Prel informed me a bit about her. Lieutenant Ayamo Oulette. A Vulcanoid Rigellian Intel Officer with the U.S.S. Persephone. Specialties in Klingon and Cardassian codebreaking and linguistics.”

Handing the PaDD to Rita, the young pilot continued. “Az’Prel mentioned to me that she found the assignment as… illogical. Her gut was telling her that something was amiss, and Az’Prel rarely references her ‘gut’ as a cause for concern. As I understand it, Admiral Forsyth wanted a set of eyes and ears independent of the Hera’s command structure to observe the proceedings, though nothing in her service record seems to make her an ideal candidate. At least as an observer.”

''On the contrary,'' Sonak objected. ''To have a truly impartial view, an observer with no direct contact and interest with the situation is most desired. As an intel officer familiar with the intricacies of language and encoding techniques, her expertise would allow her to discern hidden patterns in communications; undoubtedly useful when delicate diplomatic contacts are concerned. Moreover, being a Vulcanoid hybrid, she embodies what the Rihansuu must know and expect of what the Federation is truly about.''

Nodding, Dox looked at Sonak, who's logic was, as always, unimpeachable. “True. And it's not as if I have anything in my own service record that makes me an ideal diplomat. That said, Admiral Forsyth, during my debriefings on Earth, let me know that she had a full investigation performed on the Persephone and her crew after Rendal told me they had a spy on her and that the ship was cleared.”

Continuing, Dox knitted her eyebrows slightly. “However, with Az’Prel expressing and almost emotional level of concern and considering the potentially volatile nature of what we’re doing, I asked her to confer with my mother and get whatever information was above the board on Lieutenant Oulette. Unremarkable career. She’s been on the Persephone for nine months. No incidents of note, up or down. Almost too uneventful. But nothing to point to as problematic, which in and of itself has me admittedly nervous.”

Sonak nodded as if he had expected this reaction.

''Given the current situation and the people involved, emotions will be flaring, and doubt present on all sides. We cannot ignore them, but we must not let them dictate our decisions and actions. That being said, she is an unknown variable in this equation. She needs to be monitored.''

"In that we agree, Mister Sonak. I was attempting to make this mission a secret one, and the addition of an unknown officer from another ship entirely is not only suspicious, but immediately violates the secrecy of this mission. With that said, it places us on that much higher a state of alert to be aware and looking for betrayal and subterfuge." Paris heaved a sigh at that, shaking her head. "Diplomacy is always fraught with perils, but this mission seems particularly and specifically perilous given the forces arrayed against us. Treaties and alliances and diplomacy are built on establishing mutual trust, and it seems in that regard we are already carrying a debit on our end, before we even encounter one of the negotiating parties."

Listening, Dox couldn't help but feel out of her depth as she thought of the situation and the nearly four thousand lives that could be in danger if they failed or if they led a spy to the Mol Krun'chi colony. The pressure was staggering, but it was a responsibility she had chosen to accept and couldn't back out of even if she had wanted to. And in truth, she didn't. She wanted to see this through in spite of the pressure being put on her inexperienced shoulders. 

Thinking of all that, she paused for a moment after Rita's last comment and took a breath, working her confidence back up. "I suppose our next step now would be to have that meeting and get an idea of who this person is, beyond supposition and concerns. Diplomacy, it seems, will be starting up here." 

“Well said, Miss Dox. Doctor, could you make arrangements for a room, or would you prefer we use this one? Mister Sonak, I assume you are available as an observer as we take the lead on this one?” Paris understood the command structure at work here, but she was the mission commander, so the success or failure of the mission was in her hands. Thus despite it being Dox’s starship command, Paris was still issuing orders in her usual polite 'request' style.

''Acknowledged, '' the Vulcan answered. ''If I may suggest; if at any point you deem it relevant or useful, do not hesitate to remind this... observer that I am better versed and efficient in mind-meld techniques than any other Vulcan currently alive.''

He paused before adding:

''This is not a boast of course; only a statement of fact, if such fact appears relevant to our mission.''

"Of course, Mister Sonak- Vulcans have no ego, thus do not boast," Paris agreed with a close-lipped yet bemused smile. In Sonak's case, after all, it was completely true, and she knew for a fact the man never boasted- he only stated fact and observation.

For her part, Dox was more than happy to defer to Rita's 'request style' and turned to Maenek t'Liun to allow her to answer the golden clad Commander's question. With a raised eyebrow, the Rihannsu doctor nodded. "Until you have vetted her to your satisfaction, I'd prefer that she not be this close to the bridge. That said, we have a conference room prepared on deck two. Upon her arrival, I had her escorted there where she should be waiting, Commander Paris. All should be prepared."

Then the Doctor turned back to the crimson-clad Lieutenant Commander Dox and nodded with the slightest hint of that grin she seemed to like to let slip out from time to time, "With your approval, of course, Captain."

Blushing slightly at the light emphasis on the rank Sonak had insisted on using for her in this unique scenario, Dox pursed her lips uncomfortably and nodded with a half-lidded expression. Dox couldn't tell if t'Liun's smirk was approval or sarcasm or both, but she replied regardless. "I do, Maenek. Thank you. If you will lead the way, please."

With just a bit more of a less guarded smile, Maenek t'Liun gestured to the door and nodded. "Excellent. If you will follow me, then. We can manage one more bit of diplomacy before our mission truly begins."

"Let us take a moment to strategize first... I suspect if we do this right, we may be able to turn this situation to our advantage..." Paris proposed.


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