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Chapter Notes:

The U.S.S. Hunter has a passenger - the most powerful man in the Alpha Quadrant...


Star Trek Hunter

Episode 22: Sacrifice

Scene 3: Passengers


22.3

Passengers


The all-crew meeting had ended precisely at 4:30 hours, Star Fleet Standard Time (which was set throughout the fleet to correspond with North America Central Time to synchronize with the time at Star Fleet Headquarters in Dubuque, Iowa.)


Commander Kenneth Dolphin stepped through the port airlock onto the U.S.S. Hunter at 14:27 and onto the bridge precisely at 14:29 hours. His acting second officer, Lt. Commander Napoleon Boles, stood up from the captain’s chair. At 14:30 hours, Dolphin took his seat.



“All hands onboard plus three, all moorings released,” Boles reported.


“Ensign Chelna Zusa, take us out, one-quarter thrusters,” Dolphin commanded. He turned to look at his blue 2nd officer. “Plus three?”


Boles looked at Dolphin. “Ambassador Guth, Justice Irons and…”


At that moment the door to the captain’s office opened and disgorged the most powerful man in the Alpha Quadrant – the impossibly tall, thin, white-haired, impassive Ushi Irons.


“Him,” Boles concluded.


“Doctor Dolphin,” intoned Ushi, “I had heard that you take a very disciplined approach to command.”


“Thank you, Esteemed Council Leader,” Dolphin replied. “If you would please give me a minute?”


Ushi brushed his long, wispy white beard to the right, gave the slightest inclination of his head.


“Navigator Auqa’rh’lth,” said Dolphin, “Make our course for Cun Ling. Ensign Zusa, when ready, engage at warp 13.75.” 


Napoleon Boles leaned back against the safety railing that divided the main section of the bridge from the rear stations. He looked up at Council Leader Ushi Irons. “You might want to hang on to something, sir. There will be a little bump…”



The bump from dead stop into recursive warp at factor 13.75 was more psychological than physical. There was a definite feeling in the deck plates, but it was the view of the stars blurring in that particular way that was still disorienting even to the veteran crew of the U.S.S. Hunter.


It almost felt as though the Hunter and its crew were suddenly being extruded deep into space. What was actually happening was the Hunter was compacting spacetime around it, then, by means of the reverse entropy bubble on the backside of the recursive warp field, zipping the damaged spacetime back together.


Ushi Irons took this transition in stride, then turned toward Dolphin and said, “At your convenience, Commander.” He walked back into the captain’s office.


Dolphin stood up. “Napoleon, you have the con.”


“Aye sir,” Boles responded.



Dolphin entered the captain’s office to find Justice Minerva Irons half reclined on the couch. Ushi was standing near the false wall behind which lurked a dormant borg. Dolphin took his seat behind the captain’s desk, not certain if Minerva’s son was aware he was standing only a foot away from a slumbering borg, separated only by a false bulkhead.



“Things look a little different from behind that desk, don’t they, Kenneth?” asked Irons. “It seems there is a bit more gray in your hair than when we first met. It doesn’t look bad on you.”


“We have less than 47 hours to meet Sela’s deadline,” said Ushi.


“Which we will meet with time to spare,” Dolphin replied.


“I remain… curious about your… delivery plan,” Ushi said. “I understand your Ph.D. is in ethics. You appear to be offering a sacrifice.”


“More like sending in a canary,” Dolphin replied.


Ushi’s mother watched their exchange as though she were watching a tennis match.


“A high price for probing your antagonists’ intentions.” 


“A timely and potent demonstration of ours.”


“A heavy weight on narrow shoulders.”


“Tempering a new asset.”



“Would you two cut it out?” Minerva Irons asked in exasperation.



“It remains a topic of unresolved interest,” said Ushi.


“It’s done,” Dolphin replied. “I think Minerva wanted to address our larger issue.”


“I cannot promise the Council will agree to hand over the Al Donovos and Al Jenova star systems to the Romulan Star Empire,” said Ushi. “In fact, I cannot imagine even getting just my coalition to vote for it. I have a hard enough time getting these people to do what they actually want to do.”


“Then you have to make them want to do it, Ushi,” Minerva said. “I think it’s time to tell them about Admiral Scumuk’s research. We now have telemetry of gamma waves working their way through the far end of the Romulan Star Empire…”


“So you want to admit to these secret missions you have been running into romulan space?” Ushi asked. “As long as this information is restricted to the Security Committee, it will remain secure. But once the entire Council is informed, even under strictest secrecy, it will get out.”


“It is going to get out, Ushi,” Minerva replied. “Supreme Commander Sela will make certain of that. Our choice is a stark one. We can either help preserve the Romulan Star Empire, or face open war with them.”


“This course of action would put both Trillus Prime and Betazed within striking distance of romulan aggression,” said Ushi.


“This is one reason why the Ark is only the first of its kind,” said Irons. “By the time we turn those star systems over to the romulans, we can have one of those fortresses in orbit of Trillus Prime, one at Betazed and another within striking distance of New Romulus on Vulcan.”


“Which would put us on a permanent cold war footing,” Ushi summarized. “We would be maintaining the peace through a balance of arms instead of negotiated strategic positioning. It is a very precarious course of action. Everyone will be operating with hair triggers. It would greatly increase the chances of the Federation ending up in an unwanted war with the romulans.”


“Ushi, somehow or another, we have to make this happen,” Minerva said. “I will be promising those star systems to Sela within 72 hours.”



“How about we try using the truth?” Dolphin asked. “I know, it’s a novel concept, but it might make for a refreshing change.”



“I have been a politician for more than 50 years, Doctor Dolphin. I’m no longer certain I even know what that word means anymore,” Ushi observed dryly. 


“We have been trying to protect everyone from the reality that the only force that can provide a future for life in the Alpha Quadrant is the borg,” said Dolphin. “Everyone sees the borg as a death force, but they were actually created to preserve life. The truth is we know dangerously little about the borg. Especially about what has happened to them since Admiral Janeway destroyed their transwarp conduit. One of the few things we do know is that there once was a borg stronghold on the other side of the Dead Zone in the Beta Quadrant, beyond romulan space. We have to get an expedition there. We need free passage through romulan space to make contact. It is also reasonable to assume the romulans know a whole lot more about the Dead Zone, the projected movement of gamma radiation extermination throughout the Alpha Quadrant – all these things – they have to know a lot more about them than we do.”


Minerva and Ushi Irons were just looking at him, so Dolphin continued. “Think about it – the romulans have been building those enormous ships and putting planetary environments inside of them. They’re still dependent on planets, but they are transforming themselves into a culture of interplanetary nomads. Given a few more generations, they could abandon their planet-bound populations and just drift through space, gathering energy and resources from one solar system after another – mining as they go – taking what they want. It has to be what they’ve been preparing for. This is their solution to the Dead Zone. Let them build enough of those ships and they can conquer their way through the Alpha Quadrant, staying ahead of the gamma radiation until they just outrun it.”


“Our plan, on the other hand," said Minerva Irons, "is to preserve all life in the Alpha Quadrant – and as much in the Beta Quadrant as we can. There is no way we can do that without the romulans. We can’t manage the borg and fight a full-scale war with the romulans at the same time."

Dolphin nodded. "Everyone sees the romulans as weakened. But they have never been so dangerous. They’re caught between us and certain death. When the time comes, they will fight like cornered animals. We have to make them believe there is a better way. We have to make everyone believe there is a better way.” Dolphin dropped his fist onto the desk with a thump.


“Ushi," said Minerva, "The romulans could take Betazed and Trillus Prime whenever they want to. Eventually, they will take those planets. It isn’t a matter of if – it is a matter of when. If we can successfully transplant Saketh into the Al Donovos and Al Jenova star systems, it may put off that romulan aggression by as much as a hundred years or more. If, on the other hand, we let Saketh die, the romulans will take Trillus and Betazed. They will need them for their own survival.”


22.3



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