"Passing 3000 megajoules!" Sora shouted with excitement as she studied her instruments.
"The polaric field is stable. Plasma transfer proceeding exactly as predicted. Your modifications worked!" Jedras exclaimed.
"I told you," Laria said with a grin as she stared at the viewscreen. A stream of burning plasma was being pulled out of the protostar and right into a collector mounted on their lower hull.
"We can power millions of homes with free, clean energy with this technology," Sora said happily. "This could change everything…"
Her happiness was interrupted by a chirping alarm.
"The capacitors are overloading again," Jedras said nervously. "Attempting to compensate."
"Reroute auxiliary power to the field emitters," Laria said joining him at the control console. "We have to stabilize them before the temperature climbs over 6000 degrees Kelvin."
"Temperature at 5600 degrees and rising!" Sora shouted.
"It's getting too hot!" Laria replied. "We have to shut it down."
"We can't!" Jedras said. "If we shut off the polaric field while the collectors still contain plasma, it will burn through the outer hull of the ship like cardboard."
"Dammit," Laria said shaking her head. "The field is about to collapse!" She tried to think of something. "Sora! Can you purge the collectors with a gravometric inversion from the deflector?"
"I don't have that much power! The auxiliary circuits are already overloaded." An even louder alarm echoed through the laboratory. The computer spoke:
"WARNING: temperature at 5900 degrees. Overload will occur in ten seconds…"
"We have to do something!" Jedras screamed.
"Overload will occur in five…four…three…two…"
A bright flash lit up the entire room indicating that the polaric generator had exploded. The world froze around them. The three scientists hung their heads low.
"By the Prophets," Laria muttered shaking her head. "Computer, end program."
The laboratory disappeared into the orange and gray grid pattern of the Pershing's holodeck.
"I don't understand it," Jedras said in disbelief. "Everything was working perfectly."
Laria walked over to a control panel on the wall an examined the data from the simulation.
"It wasn't the polaric generator," she said shaking her head. "Look here," she said pointing to a screen.
"The warp core power transfer grid couldn't keep up the demand. There's a large drop off here when the field climbed to full power. You needed another 1.7 Terawatts of energy to keep the field strength above the danger limit."
"1.7 Terrawatts?" Sora said hopelessly. "Only a capital ship could generate that much power."
"Containing high energy plasma in the volumes we're talking about isn't a mom and pop operation," Laria replied shaking your head. "Take this data to the Romulan Science Ministry. When they see your theory is sound they'll give you a vessel that can handle it."
"How little you know of the Science Ministry," Jedras said taking a seat against a wall. "It was everything we could do just to get a Cardassian State Reserve vessel."
The doors opened and Tigranian walked in. He furrowed his brow when he saw Laria with the two Romulans alone on the holodeck.
"I hope I'm not interrupting anything…" he said staring straight at her.
"No Sir," Laria said shaking her head. "Just running a few simulations. I think Dr. Vran and Dr. Talv's experiments can be successful. They just need a more powerful vessel to help."
"In any case," Tigranian said turning to the Romulans. "I have just been informed by Starfleet that the Cardassian State Ship, Yodorost, will be rendezvousing with us the day after tomorrow. You're going home."
"Thank you, Captain," Jedras said climbing to his feet. "That is good news."
"Yes, good news…" Sora said sarcastically.
"Lieutenant Tigranian, may I speak with you?" Tigranian said.
"Yes Sir," she said skeptically. "It is getting quite late, I think we have done all we can tonight."
"I'll have your escorts take you back to your quarters," Tigranian said to his Romulan guests.
"I guess we should pack," Sora said shaking her head. "Soon, we'll be back in Paradise…"
"Sora…" Jedras grumbled.
They departed back towards their room. Tigranian motioned for Laria to walk with him. As soon as they were alone in the corridor, Tigranian turned to her.
"What the hell are you doing?" Tigranian asked his wife angrily.
"Helping two fellow scientists solve a problem that has the potential to help billions of people," she replied without regret.
"You mean billions of Romulans," Tigranian replied angrily.
"I didn't realize there was a difference," Laria said flashing him a judgmental look. He stopped and turned to face her.
"Do you remember why there is a fuel shortage in the Romulan Star Empire?" he asked clenching his jaw. "Because the slaves that the Romulans were beating and starving to death in the mines were freed by the rebellion we helped start!"
"And I am very happy that they are free, Daniel," Laria replied. "However, we both know that the people suffering the most are innocent civilians caught in the middle! If Jedras and Sora can make this process work, all that suffering ends!"
"Do you really think so?" Tigranian asked shaking his head. "Because if the Romulans find a new source of energy, I think that means that they'll bring their fleet back to full strength, hunt down Rellas, kill Crestia's mother, and then turn their attentions to destroying the Federation and the Klingon Empire. Then, the suffering will just be beginning."
Laria looked at him.
"Daniel, I understand how dangerous the game we're playing is. However, if you're asking me if I'm willing to stand by and let billions of innocents die…"
He rubbed his eyes.
"I sympathize with the civilians, Laria," Tigranian replied, "but that's how change happens. If we don't keep the pressure on the Romulan Empire, it will only become more dangerous. We can't let up until the government reforms or collapses."
"By then it could be too late!"
"That's the risk we have to take, L," he said.
"Daniel, tell me one thing," she said briefly shutting her eyes. "Are you letting your personal feelings cloud your judgement here?"
"Excuse me?" he said angrily.
"Are you taking your hate for the few and transforming it to hate for the many?"
He gritted his teeth and almost lost his temper, but at the last minute, he gained control of his emotions.
"My…personal feelings about Romulans definitely help color my perspective," he said clenching his jaw. "However, I also understand the bigger picture. I understand what Romulans do to their captives. Alex, taught me that. I understand what the life of a slave is like under the Romulan yoke. Crestiataught me that. Selonia certainly helped…" he said pausing to check his anger again. "I also understand that Romulan civilians might not be so innocent. They have tacitly supported the crimes of their government for centuries. The Star Empire has no incentive to change until it is forced too.
I hope Rellas destroys every single target of military value from here to Remus. I hope the diplomatic pressure that the Federation and the Klingons keep putting on Romulus forces their oppressive government to collapse into ashes, and I hope something far better for all people emerges to replace it. To make that dream happen, it might be the Romulans' turn to understand what it's like to be cold, hungry, and afraid for a change.
I don't care if you want to make friends with those scientists. I don't care if you spend time with them, tell jokes over drinks. By Gre'thor, I don't care if you invite them over to our quarters for dinner. However, you will not assist their experiments or further their research in any way. Am I clear, Lieutenant Tigranian?"
Laria stared back at him in shock.
"Is that an order…Sir?" she said with an icy glare.
"Yes it is," he replied.
"In that case…Sir…" she said accentuating the word by stiffening her spine, "I think I will see if Alex and Annabeth could use some help with the baby tonight. Have a good evening."
She turned and walked away.
"Laria," he said calling after her. However, his wife turned a corner and was already gone.
Tigranian leaned against the nearest bulkhead and rubbed his eyes. Finally, he turned and walked to his quarters alone.
"Can you believe him?" Laria said bouncing Max up and down. "Trying to justify xenophobic racism to me?" Surprisingly, Max remained calmly asleep in her arms despite her angry tirade. "Hell, I know that the Romulan government is all criminals. What they did to you, what they did to Daniel, what they did to Crestia. But if we let ourselves descend to their level, we're no better than they are. Am I right?"
Alex and Annabeth exchanged nervous glances with each other on the couch. They both took a deep breath and remained silent.
"Well, I'm right, right?" Laria asked suddenly standing still. Max began to stir and she began to rock him again. "Guys?"
"Do you want the short answer of the long answer?" Annabeth asked.
"I want the right answer," Laria replied.
"Well, in that case…" Alex said reaching for a glass of wine.
"You're wrong, Laria," Annabeth said.
"What?" she said staring at them with a completely deadpanned expression.
"No one wants to see innocent people suffer," Annabeth clarified.
"But you cannot separate what the Romulan government is doing from their civilians in this case," Alex said. "If you help those two scientists solve the energy crisis, it takes pressure off their government, which will give them more freedom to continue their crimes."
"So, we just do nothing?" Laria asked incredulously.
"No," Annabeth said shaking her head. "We offer to help, but in ways that won't assist the Romulan government or the military."
"They won't accept Federation food aide!" Laria said. "Jedras and Sora told me it would make the Romulan government look too weak."
"Then, that's on them," Alex said. "I saw plenty of civilians working in the prisons on Romulus and Remus, Laria. Do you know what they did when they saw a captive suffering?" she asked becoming more serious. "Not a damn thing. They were just happy it wasn't them."
"What about the Romulan civilians who were happy to see Dan fight in the arena? The Romulan civilians who worked in the slave markets?" Annabeth added. "Do you think they bear any responsibility?"
"Of course they do, but I still feel dirty about doing nothing to help when I know I can. It seems unethical," Laria said looking out the window towards space.
Annabeth took a deep breath.
"Would you be upset if someone tried to help the Cardassians when they were occupying Bajor?" she asked. "What if the Federation helped them free up enough troops to put down the Resistance?"
"The Occupation was different…" Laria said.
"How?" Alex asked.
Laria looked like she was about to speak, but suddenly didn't have answer to give them.
Alex got up and walked over to Laria. She placed an understanding hand on the Bajoran's shoulder.
"I can understand why you're angry at the situation. It just means you're a good person who wants to find a way to take care of others. However, I think you should listen to Dan on this one."
"You're more than welcome to spend the night here and let things calm down," Annabeth added. "But I think you should talk to him in the morning."
"Ok…" Laria said suddenly feeling very guilty about how she talked to Tigranian. Alex and Annabeth turned to head towards their bedroom, but Laria suddenly sniffed the air. She detected a foul smell coming from the baby in her arms. "Umm, guys? I think he just had an accident," Laria called out to them.
"Clean diapers and wipes are under his crib," Annabeth said without turning around. "Consider it practice for when you and Dan decided to pop one out."
"Really appreciate you staying here and helping out with Max," Alex said disappearing through a door. "Be careful, he tends to pee on people."
Laria looked down just as Max started to cry.
"Oh, shit…" Laria grumbled.