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Psi Phi's Star Trek Books Database

Notice: Use of undefined constant title - assumed 'title' in /home/davidh/ on line 444 Articles of the Federation

Previous: Engines of Destiny
Next: Death in Winter
Star Trek: The Next Generation
Mass-Market Paperback / June, 2005

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Written by Keith R.A. DeCandido

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Nanietta Bacco, newly elected president of the United Federation of Planets, wondered what quirk of fate had led to her being at once a person who despised meetings with a fiery passion, yet who also wanted more than anything else to go into the world of politics--a profession that was approximately ninety percent meetings.

She sat behind the large desk in the presidential office in the Palais de la Concorde in Paris on Earth. The desk was made out of a hard, lightly patterned material known as salish, native to Atrea, which had been brought to the Palais by President Amitra and left behind when she'd declined to run for a second term. Her successors, Jaresh-Inyo and Min Zife, had both used different desks, but Nan had always been fond of the feel of salish--it had the sturdiness of metal and the romance of wood--and so she had had that desk put in when she'd taken office. The desk had a rotating holographic image of her daughter, Annabella, as a girl, of Annabella as an adult with her husband and children, of just the children, and of Nan's own parents on their wedding day on Cestus III a hundred years ago.

Behind her--in fact, all around her--was a panoramic view of Paris. The office was a half-circle, with the entire curved part of the wall taken up with a window that showed the River Seine, the Tour Eiffel, the Bâtiment Vingt-Troisième Siècle, and of course, the Champs Elysées, which ran under the cylindrical fifteen-story structure that housed the nexus of the Federation government.

"The Deltan ambassador keeps insisting that they can handle it, and Eleana's backing her play. They don't want interference."

Seated on either the large sofa parallel to her desk or the several chairs that formed lines perpendicular to both ends of that sofa were several of Nan's policy advisors, as well as Esperanza Piñiero, her chief of staff. The comment had been made by Ashanté Phiri, one of Esperanza's four deputies. All four deputies were in this meeting, along with Ashanté's husband, Fred MacDougan, the head speechwriter; the secretary of the exterior, a taciturn Rigellian named Safranski; and Admiral William Ross, who served as Starfleet liaison to the president.

Esperanza said, "They've also been going at it for a month, and they haven't gotten anywhere. I think we need to bring them here."

Shrugging, Ashanté said, "Then they'll just yell at each other here."

Z4 Blue, who had, after a great deal of wheedling and convincing by Esperanza, given up a forest quadrant governorship on Nasat to become a deputy COS, spoke from his specially modified chair. "There's a big difference between arguing on some moon in the Delta system and arguing in the Palais. Here they're under the gaze of the council and the president."

"And the press." Another deputy, a hyperactive Zakdorn woman named Myk Bunkrep, leaned forward in her chair, so much that Nan feared she would fall out of it. "I can talk to Jorel," she said, referring to the press liaison for both the president and the council, Kant Jorel, "get him to have some reporters 'accidentally' stumble in on their meeting, or ambush them as they come out of the transporter room."

Ashanté rolled her dark eyes to the ceiling. "Yes, that guarantees that they'll be friendly and open to a negotiation."

"They're already disinclined to talk." Myk blew out a breath through her mouth, wedged as it was between the thick folds of cheek skin that was peculiar to Zakdorns. "Why not take advantage?"

"Hold on a moment." Xeldara Trask tugged on one of her oversized earlobes, as she always did before she said something, a habit of the Tiburonian's that Nan found irritating. "Why are we even having this discussion?"

Nan smiled. "I've been asking myself that question for the last five minutes."

Most of those present chuckled--Myk being the exception, as she never quite grasped humor, her one character flaw, as far as Nan was concerned--and then Xeldara said, "I'm serious, Madam President, why don't the Deltans just use another water reclamation system? I can't imagine that the Carreon's is the only one available."

"It's a time factor," Esperanza said. "Traditional systems will work eventually, but their water will be irreversibly contaminated by that time. They've been staving it off, but--"

"And the Carreon system--" Xeldara started.

Ashanté finished the sentence. "--will work ten times faster and clear their entire water table of the toxins the Jem'Hadar put in."

Again, Xeldara tugged on her ear. "All right, then, we stick them in a room."

Esperanza looked at Nan. "What do you think?"

Nan let out a long breath. "I think that a month ago, I said that we should bring them here and lock them in a room until they starve to death, and you people told me to give them a chance to hash it out first. Well, I gave them that chance, Delta's water is getting worse, and we're all a month older. I think we've all learned something from this." Nan grinned. "I'm right, and you're all wrong." Again, the soft laughter. "I think the next four years'll go a lot more smoothly if everyone gets that through their heads."

"Absolutely, Madam President," Esperanza said in her usual deadpan.

"What's next?"

Ross leaned forward in his chair. Nan had mixed feelings about Ross. A decorated Dominion War hero--he led Starfleet's forces on the front lines--his support during the campaign had made a huge contribution to Nan's victory. But Nan also knew the real circumstances under which Min Zife had resigned--and Ross's role in that. At first she had resisted making him the fleet liaison, but Esperanza reminded her of the old adage about keeping friends close and enemies closer. Nan wasn't sure which Ross was--yet--but it was best to keep him in the Palais to be safe.

"The U.S.S. Io has reported in with a first contact."

"That worked out?" Esperanza said.

This was the first Nan was hearing of this. "First contact?"

"Yes, ma'am," Ross said. "The Io is one of the new Luna-class ships. They made contact with a world called Trinni/ek. They're quite an advanced species and they'd like to start diplomatic relations. According to the report from Captain T'Vrea, they aren't native to that world--they colonized it a few millennia ago when their homeworld became uninhabitable."

"Do we know why it became uninhabitable?"

Ross shook his head. "That information's been lost to antiquity, though their best guess is that the sun went nova. But they were very interested in what T'Vrea and her people told them about the Federation, and they're interested in starting diplomatic relations."

Nan looked over at the secretary of the exterior. "What do you think, Safranski?"

The Rigellian shrugged. "The initial reports seem promising. I haven't had a chance to go over them in full yet. I was waiting for your recommendation."

"I can't recommend anything until you write me a report."

Fred spoke up. "For what it's worth, Madam President, I think we should push for this. A first contact and a possible new ally will be a huge PR victory for us. All anybody's been talking about for the last few years are the Ontalians and the Selelvians and the Trill--we need something that shows us reaching out and welcoming someone in for a change."

Nan nodded. "All right. Safranski, get Esperanza that report by the end of the day."

"Of course, Madam President."

She looked at Ross. "Anything else Starfleet-related I need to know about?"

"Nothing major, ma'am. The Phobos had to be recalled to spacedock."

"Again?" Esperanza asked. "This is, what, the eighty-first time?"

"The Sugihara is studying a neutron star in Sector 109-G, Starbase 10's reporting some indications of Borg remains along the Romulan border, the Enterprise is investigating reports of Breen incursion in Sector 204-E, and the Hood's found some ancient machinery on Gorak IX."

"What kind of machinery?" Esperanza asked.

"Captain DeSoto's report wasn't specific."

"Well, find out--it's been my experience that ancient machinery tends to activate and turn everyone on your ship into newts if you're not careful."

Nan tapped her fingers on the salish desk. "I'm a lot less concerned about a ship full of newts than I am about the Borg."

"The indications are remains, ma'am," Ross said in what the admiral probably thought was a reassuring voice. Then he smiled. "We've found remains like that in several other places, here in the Alpha Quadrant, in the Gamma Quadrant by the Defiant, and by Voyager when they were in the Delta Quadrant. I don't think it poses an imminent threat."

Nan found herself wholly not reassured by Ross's words. "Yeah, well, keep an eye on it anyhow, just for my peace of mind. The Borg have attacked this solar system twice already, and I don't think the third time will be the charm."

"Yes, ma'am."
"Anything else?"

"Council appointments," Esperanza said.

Nan nodded. "All right. Admiral, Safranski, thank you both. I'll expect to be hearing from both of you by the end of the day."

Ross and Safranski both rose from their chairs and said, "Thank you, Madam President." As they departed through the left-most of the three doors into the office, which took them to the turbolift area, their footfalls barely registered on the dark green carpet Nan had installed in place of the white carpet that Zife had favored. The other two doors led to the waiting room--which was how people generally came in--and to Nan's private study, respectively.

"Right." Ashanté pulled a padd out of her pocket as soon as the door shut behind Ross and Safranski. "We've got openings on judiciary, government oversight, and interplanetary commerce, and that, in turn, may create more openings."

Esperanza asked, "What've you guys come up with?" Nan knew that Esperanza had assigned Z4 and Ashanté to make a list of recommendations for all three seats among the current crop of councillors.

"Judiciary's Artrin," Z4 said.

"Definitely," Ashanté added. "He'll be ratified in a walk."

"For government oversight, we were thinking of either Sanaht, Jix, or Quintor."

Nan stroked her chin. Those three represented Janus VI, Trill, and Antede III. Sanaht, a Horta, had served in the council for over seventy-five years, but had always avoided high-profile sub-councils. The others were comparative newcomers, having joined the council three and seven years earlier, respectively.

Shaking her head, Esperanza said, "Not Jix."

"Why not?" Z4 asked.

"Because she's only been in the council for three years, and the reason she got appointed is because the last one resigned during that parasite mess. I don't think that's the right person to put on government oversight. I don't think Sanaht is, either."

"I disagree," Ashanté said. "Sanaht's perfect. Everyone on the council respects him."

Xeldara smiled. "That's because they're afraid he's going to eat their chairs."

Returning the smile, Ashanté said, "The point is, he'll be ratified easily."

"Easy appointments would be nice," Esperanza said, "but we need a hawk. Quintor's the right one for the job."

Ashanté's smile fell. "Esperanza, we can't afford a floor fight over appointments. Quintor's spent the last seven years pissing off everyone else in the council chamber. Besides, it's not like it's a major sub-council, it's government oversight. What do we need a hawk there for?"

Nan spoke before Esperanza could reply. "Because the last president resigned."

The office grew quiet. Nan exchanged a glance with Esperanza. Unlike everyone else in the room, the two of them knew the real reasons why Min Zife, his chief of staff, and one of his cabinet members resigned, and it had nothing to do with the realities of managing the Federation in the wake of war, as his resignation speech had oh-so-nobly assured. They had secretly armed Tezwa, an independent world on the Klingon border, putting those weapons in the hands of a lunatic prime minister who'd used them on a Klingon taskforce and a Starfleet vessel. Zife had known of the weapons but hadn't warned the Klingons or his own people about them, and then he'd tried to cover up the crime before he'd been discovered by Starfleet. If the real reasons had gotten out, government oversight would have roasted him for lunch--right before the Klingons declared their right of vengeance and made war on a longtime ally who'd lied to them and whose depraved indifference had led to the dishonorable deaths of thousands of warriors.

"What about interplanetary commerce?" Esperanza asked, signaling that the discussion on government oversight had ended.

"That's easy," Ashanté said. "We promised that seat to Beltane during the campaign in exchange for her support. That's not the problem."

"Hang on," Xeldara said, tugging her ear. "Is she qualified?"

Z4 made a tinkling noise. "Overqualified. She was the leader among Elaysians for expanding the mandate of the trade agreements on Gemworld. Frankly, she should've been on commerce years ago."

Ashanté sighed. "But that opens up a seat on technology. Z4's about to tell you it should be C29 Green--"

Z4's antennae twirled outward. "It should be C29."

Rolling her eyes, Ashanté said, "He can't even operate a padd without three aides giving him a tutorial, and you want to put him on technology?"

"He oversaw half a dozen technology initiatives on Nasat. He's right for the job."

Esperanza asked Ashanté, "Who do you prefer?"

"Almost anybody else."

A warning in her tone, Esperanza started, "Ashanté--"

"Severn-Anyar, Govrin, Gelemingar, or Nitram."

Nan knew that the councillors for Grazer, Pandril, Gnala, and Bre'el IV were all qualified, but she was surprised at one name missing. "What about Jix? We're not giving her judiciary. Why not put her on technology?"

"She's not as qualified as C29," Z4 said.

"Aside from C29, all the choices are good ones, ma'am, including Jix," Ashanté said, with a glower at Z4.

Running a hand through her paper-white hair, Nan said, "Give Sivak full reports on all six of them--I'll make a decision by the end of the week."

Fred said, "Ma'am, I don't think we should wait that long. I think we need to have Jorel announcing all your appointments in the next day or two, and you should be available to answer press queries soon after that."

Myk leaned forward. "Besides, with Tantalus coming up for review again, we need judiciary--"

Nan held up a hand. She had a shuttle trip to Luna this evening, so she could look over the recommendations then. "Fine, fine, I'll decide by the time I get back from the moon tonight--make sure Sivak gets 'em before the shuttle takes off. Anything else?"

Xeldara tugged on her ear again. "I think we need to talk about the travel office again."

Nan rolled her eyes.

Esperanza quickly said, "I think we've covered that."

"I don't think we have, Esperanza." Xeldara leaned forward. "Jorel told the entire press room that the president was meeting with Archpriest Tamok. Ambassador T'Kala assured us up, down, backwards, and sideways that she'd arranged with the council travel office and with what was left of her government to get Tamok here. And what happened? He never left Romulus--he didn't even plan to come to Federation space to meet. It made us look like idiots when we hadn't been in office for five minutes. There need to be some kind of consequences."

Nan let out a long breath. "We've suffered the consequences. The press laughed at us, T'Kala looked like a devious schemer out to make the Federation look bad--which puts her in company with every other Romulan politician I'm aware of--and we apologized."

"The people in the travel office--" Xeldara started, but Nan refused to let her repeat herself. Xeldara had been bringing this up in every meeting since it happened, and it was wearing on Nan's last remaining nerve ending.

"I'm not about to fire people for honest mistakes. This wasn't the fault of anyone in the travel office, and I'm not about to make scapegoats out of them. We screwed up, we said we screwed up, and even if we didn't, lots of other people were standing in line to tell us we did. We try to make some kind of restitution now, it'll look petty. Given a choice between looking stupid for trying to do something right and looking nasty for doing something wrong, I'll go with option number one. What else?"

"Ma'am, I think--"

The nerve ending finally snapped. Nan glowered at the Tiburonian. "I know what you think, Xeldara, I've been listening to what you think for the last month. Say it again, and you can explain it to the press when you announce your resignation as deputy COS."

Esperanza stood up. "I think we're done."

"Damn right," Nan muttered.

Fred, Ashanté, Z4, and Myk rose from their chairs. After a moment, Xeldara did, too. Each of them said, "Thank you, Madam President."

"Xeldara," Esperanza said, "wait in my office, all right? We need to go over some things."

She nodded. "Sure."

When they were all gone, Nan fixed Esperanza with a cheeky grin. "Can I assume the 'things' you're going to go over are when to shut the hell up in a meeting with the president?"

"Don't worry about it."

Nan laughed. "I'll take that as a yes." She got up from her chair and looked out at the vista of Paris. "Look at that."

Esperanza moved to stand next to her. "Look at what?"

"That." Nan pointed at the Champs Elysées. "You know, until the seventeenth century, it was just fields. Then Marie de Medici made a tree-lined path. It was named after the Elysian Fields in Greek mythology, which was where good people went after they died. By the eighteenth century, that path was a fashionable avenue--Marie Antoinette used to stroll it with her friends all the time."

Esperanza smiled. "Was that before or after she ate all the cake and got her head cut off?"

"Not sure, but I'm guessing before."

"Right, because she wasn't doing much walking after the decapitation."

"The point is--"

"There's a point?" Esperanza grinned. "Trying something new, are we, ma'am?"

"Hush, you. The point is that the Champs Elysées has remained Paris's main thoroughfare for seven hundred years. The Louvre, the Hôtel de Ville, the Arc de Triomphe, the Bâtiment Vingt-Troisième Siècle, the Place de Cochrane, they're all here. The Tour de France has been run here for centuries, every parade in Paris comes down here, and it's on this very spot where the Traité d'Unification was signed by all the governments on this planet two hundred and fifty years ago."

Esperanza was still grinning. "Ma'am, I could've sworn you mentioned a point."

"Try a little patience, Esperanza, they keep telling me it's a virtue."

"We're politicians, ma'am--both patience and virtue tend to get in the way of the work."

Nan chuckled. "The point is--it's all because some rich woman who lived in a monarchy decided she wanted a place to walk. From that came this."

"It's my hope, ma'am, that we'll do a little better than the de Medicis. Or Marie Antoinette."

"We can learn a lot from Marie Antoinette. For one thing, I'm coming around to the idea of bringing beheadings back. Did you know that during the French Revolution almost three thousand people were executed via guillotine on the very spot this building was constructed on? You think if we put Artrin on judiciary, he'll support that?"

"Probably not, ma'am."

"Too bad--still, it'd make the meetings go faster."

"No doubt, ma'am. Is there anything else?"

Nan stared at her chief of staff. Though she saw a woman in her early fifties with olive skin and raven hair tied back in a severe ponytail, Nan couldn't help but see her as an infant, born to Nan's two best friends back on Cestus III, Victor and Nereida Piñiero. Their daughter, named with the Spanish word meaning "hope," had gone to Starfleet Academy, had a distinguished career until the end of the Dominion War, then resigned her commission and returned home. While there, she'd convinced Nan--who had been planetary governor for seven years and had had no ambition to be anything more than that--to run for president. That opportunity had come sooner than expected with Zife's resignation, and Nan knew that she wouldn't have stood a chance of even being seriously considered as a candidate, much less a winner, without Esperanza.

"Nah, that'll do for now. Oh, I want Jorel to tell the press what we're doing with Delta and Carrea. In fact, have him do it before we tell the ambassadors."

"They'll be pissed that we didn't talk to them first."

Nan shrugged. "They're already pissed. Besides, I've found that if you eliminate the talking-to-them-first stage, the whole thing goes a lot faster."

"Which explains some of your loopier decisions back on Cestus."

Grinning, Nan said, "Yeah."

"Thank you, Madam President."

Esperanza left, and Nan hit the intercom that put her in touch with Sivak. The elderly Vulcan--he was over two hundred--had organized Nan's affairs for the past three years on Cestus, and she often wondered how she'd managed to survive without him prior to that. Not as often, she thought with amusement, as Sivak himself wonders it.

"Sivak, what's next?"

"As I informed you before your senior staff meeting, the next item on the agenda is your security briefing. Admiral Abrik, Captain Hostetler Richman, and Secretary Shostakova are waiting. Madam President, I once again would like to make my offer of several Vulcan techniques that enhance the memory--"

Nan let out a long sigh. "Shut up and send them in, in that order."

"Very well, Madam President."

Sometimes Nan also wondered how she managed not to kill Sivak.

The door opened to reveal an elderly Trill man in severe civilian clothing, an elegant young human woman wearing a Starfleet uniform--four gold pips and a gold collar indicating a captain in security--and a short, stout human woman from the high-gravity colony of Pangea dressed in the bulky one-piece outfit favored on that world. They were, respectively, Jas Abrik, a retired admiral who served as her security advisor; Captain Holly Hostetler Richman, the liaison to Starfleet Intelligence; and Raisa Shostakova, the secretary of defense.

Raisa and Holly approached the sofa, while Jas made a beeline for the chair next to the one modified for Z4's use. Since this was a smaller gathering, Nan moved out from behind her desk, intending to sit in the chair opposite Jas.

As they came in, she said, "I'm an old woman with a weak heart, folks, so please don't tell me that another major power in the quadrant has fallen."

Holly smirked. "Not since the last one, ma'am."

"That's a relief."

The two women sat on the sofa. Holly, who was tall with long legs, sat ramrod straight, her feet planted comfortably on the floor. By contrast, Raisa had awful posture, even though she was in a lighter gravity than she was accustomed to, and she sat hunched on the sofa; her lesser height meant that her feet were dangling over the edge of the couch, looking just like Nan's youngest granddaughter, an image that Nan hoped she would one day cease to find amusing. Besides, it wasn't especially fair to Raisa, who may have looked like a little kid sitting in a high chair, but who in fact had coordinated the planetary defenses on Pangea during the Dominion War and had been responsible for the upgrades to those defenses that had kept that planet from suffering the same fate as Betazed and several other Federation worlds that had fallen to the Jem'Hadar.

As for Jas, he sat on the edge of his chair, as if expecting to bolt any minute.

Regarding the retired admiral, Nan gave him a smirk of her own. "Expecting to run a race, Admiral?"

"No, ma'am," Jas said in a subdued voice.

"Then relax, will you please? You look like you're about to jump on a grenade."

"Yes, ma'am." Jas moved back slightly in his chair.

Nan sighed. Dealing with Jas Abrik had been awkward from the beginning, as he had been the campaign manager for Nan's opponent during the election. However, Jas also knew the real reason why Zife had resigned, and in exchange for not revealing that information--thus plunging the Bacco administration into a war with the Klingons before they'd had a chance to change the color of the carpet--Esperanza had offered Jas the position of security advisor.

In that, at least, he had proven to be competent. He'd been in Starfleet for decades, and that experience was now being put to good use.

Leaning back in her chair in the vain hope that it would inspire Jas to do likewise, Nan said, "I'm gonna go out on a limb here and assume that we're starting with the Romulans."

"Good guess, ma'am." Holly held up a padd and started reading from its display. "Outpost 22 along the Romulan Neutral Zone picked up a ship heading straight for it from the Miridian system in Romulan space."


Holly hesitated. "In a manner of speaking."

Nan rolled her eyes. "What the hell is--?"

"The outpost's sensors read it as a Shirekral-class vessel."

That got Jas's attention. "What?"

"My history of Romulan ship registry's a bit rusty," Nan said dryly.

Jas was back to the edge of his chair again. "Madam President, the Shirekral-class vessels haven't been in operation since the late twenty-third century."

"Earlier than that, actually--this one still has an ion drive." Holly gave Nan a firm look. "Ma'am, vessels of this type were common during the Earth-Romulan wars of the twenty-second century--but all the ones that were still in active service in the late twenty-third century had their ion drives replaced with the singularity drives that they still use."

"All right," Nan said, "so we've got a bunch of Romulan soldiers on a ship that was obsolete a hundred years ago."

"Actually, ma'am, that's not what we have. First of all, no Romulan soldier would be caught dead on a ship that old--even with the military in the mess it's in right now. Also, we've been able to make a general lifesign reading on long-range, and every indication so far is that the ship is full of Remans."

Nan blinked.

Raisa shot a look at Holly next to her. In a voice that had a trace of a Russian accent, she said, "Repeat that, please, Captain."

"The outpost's long-range sensors are picking up Reman lifesigns--and only Reman lifesigns."

"Hell." Nan let out a long breath. "What do you think, Holly?"

"I think they're refugees."

"That's a stretch," Jas said.

Holly glared at the security advisor. "They're heading straight for Outpost 22, Jas, and they're doing it at warp three-point-one-two, which is faster than those ships are supposed to be able to go. Twenty-two is in the middle of nowhere, but it's also the closest Federation station to the Miridian system. No way that it's not their intended destination. The chances that they're heading toward it by coincidence are infinitesimal." She turned back to Nan. "Madam President, it is my opinion that these are Remans who will be requesting asylum in the Federation."

"I believe that Captain Hostetler Richman is correct, Madam President." Raisa leaned forward, her feet now touching the floor. "I believe these are Reman refugees."

"Based on what?" Jas sounded annoyed. So was Nan, but for different reasons.

"Because Remans have never operated in Miridian. They have not had to. It is a system that was taken by the Romulans approximately fifteen years ago."

"Okay, I'm missing a step here," Nan said. "What does that time frame have to do with anything?"

"It is not the time frame, Madam President, my apologies--it is that the Miridian system has an indigenous life form that has provided the slave labor that, in other parts of the empire, has traditionally been performed by the Remans. Since Shinzon's coup, the Miridians have also risen up, and with their infrastructure in tatters, the Romulans have been unable to quell the uprising."

Holly picked the ball back up. "We've been getting reports of the Miridians creating a kind of underground railroad--supplying ships and methods of getting out of Romulan space."

Nan nodded. "That explains the clapped-out ship." She thought for a moment, then looked at her secretary of defense. "Raisa, what do you think?"

"We must turn them back."

All three of the other people in the room looked at Raisa with shock. Nan snapped, "Excuse me?"

Before Raisa could answer, Jas added, "Assuming these are refugees--and I'm not a hundred percent sold that they are--we can't turn them back."

"We have to turn them back," Raisa said in a hard voice.

"How the hell can I justify that?" Nan asked incredulously. "How the hell can I tell people fleeing Romulan oppression--"

"They are not fleeing Romulan oppression, Madam President."

Nan frowned. "Don't be ridiculous, of course they--"

Holly's eyes widened. "She's right, ma'am, they aren't."

Looking over at Jas, Nan asked, "You want to interrupt me, too?"

Jas pursed his lips. "Ma'am, they're right. All Remans residing in Romulan space currently live under the protection of the Klingon Empire."

"What do you--" Then Nan put it together. "Oh, dammit."

Raisa put her hands together in front of her chest. "If we grant the Remans' request for asylum--"

"Assuming that's what it is," Jas added.

Knew he'd get his interruption in there somewhere, Nan thought irritably.

Nodding to Jas, Raisa said, "Assuming that, yes, then we will be violating our treaty with the Klingons."

"Unless we clear it with the Klingons first," Holly added.

Nan snorted. "Want to lay odds what they'll say if we ask?"

"No, ma'am."

"Yeah, me either." She shook her head. "How long do we have?"

Holly frowned. "Ma'am?"

"How long until that ship reaches the Federation border?"

"Eight weeks, ma'am."

Nan opened her mouth, then closed it, then opened it again. "Eight weeks?"

"Yes, ma'am. They'll be in communications range in six weeks." Holly's lips curled up a bit. "Those old ships are very slow, ma'am--and the outpost sensors are very good."

"Apparently." Nan sighed. "All right, fine, keep an eye on it, maybe get a Starfleet ship over there just in case."

"Yes, ma'am."

Raisa put her hands down on her lap. "Madam President, I believe you should speak with our ambassdor to Qo'noS."

Jas rolled his eyes. "What the hell good would that do?"

"To take the High Council's temperature, so to speak. It is possible that they will be willing to let us take some of the Remans off their hands."

"They won't." Jas folded his arms. "And the new ambassador won't have any clue what--"

Nan took some pleasure in being the interrupter this time. "Ambassador Rozhenko has lived in the empire for the last six years. It's worth talking to him, anyhow."

Shaking his head, Jas said, "It's a waste of time."

"You've made your feelings abundantly clear, Jas," Nan said witheringly. "What else?"

They went over security concerns regarding various other governments. Nan was distressed to learn that Orion Syndicate and Ferengi pirates were still harassing the relief ships to Cardassia Prime. She had thought that problem was solved, and that Starfleet had driven off the privateers. Apparently not, she thought with a sigh.

Holly's last report from outside the Federation involved the Tzenkethi. "Our listening posts along the border have picked up some chatter about one of the Tzelnira's children being sick."

Jas added, "The Tzelnira are--"

"The appointed ministers of the Tzenkethi government serving under the autarch, yes, I know, Jas." Nan glowered at her security advisor. "My son-in-law was a relief worker during the Tzenkethi War."

"I'm sorry, ma'am, I didn't--"

"It's not like you see me every day or anything," Nan said dryly, "but I would think you'd have figured out by now that, if I don't know something, I'll ask."

Jas didn't sound in the least bit contrite when he said, "I did say I was sorry, ma'am."

Nan stared at the old Trill for several seconds before turning back to Holly. "Sick with what?"

"We don't know, ma'am. We're not even sure it's true, but there's been a lot of similar chatter."

"All right." She smiled. "If that's the worst we're hearing out of Tzenketh these days, I'm just gonna count my blessings. What else?"

Copyright © 2005 Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved.

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