It's terrible of me, I know, but I love it when things go awry.
Not big things.
Not "assassin in the middle of my wedding" level things.
But "negotiating and you hit a sudden snag" things.
And boy oh boy, did we hit a snag here!
At least from Kyra's point of view.
From our end?
TFS Enterprise, Titan orbit
“Commander, I have a ship approaching.”
Cass twisted to face Kay.
“Range? Can they see us?”
“No, I doubt they can see us. They’re still a ways off, approaching from the far side of Saturn. I have them on gravitic sensors, at about six light-minutes, and they’re decelerating at one g. Those numbers make them a Copernicus cruiser, most likely, but it’ll be some time before I can refine it.”
“Do you have an ETA?”
“At constant decel, they’ll be in orbit over Titan in twenty point two hours.”
“Good job, Mr. Kay. You have the bridge.”
Cass strode the few paces to Alley’s ready room and signaled to enter. The door slid aside.
“XO?” Alley looked up from her terminal.
“Captain. Tactical’s picked up a ship, probably a Copernicus-class, inbound. Mr. Kay’s still trying to get confirmation. ETA over twenty hours.”
“So they haven’t seen us.”
It wasn’t a question. Cass was always impressed by her captain’s ability to hit on the key tactical point in almost any situation.
“Send the Alexander to the surface to stand by, alter our orbit to keep Titan between us and the cruiser, and put Red Squadron on alert status.”
“Agreed. Make sure Ashlyn knows her pilots get at least twelve hours of crew rest in the next eighteen. Not drills, not tinkering with their birds, and sure as hell not off duty! If they have to get into a furball I don’t want any of them seeing double because they had ‘just one more’ in the lounge.”
“I’ll be clear, Captain.”
“Good. I’ll contact the Admiral. Carry on.”
Cass left, and Alley pinged Kendra’s implant.
Kendra, you busy?
No. Listening to negotiations is like watching flies fuck.
Alley winced. That bad?
Actually, Jill thinks it’s going well. We’re in agreement on most things, just a couple little sticking points.
Have you told them that we found their little antimatter moon?
No. I’m saving that for a hammer, just in case.
In January, the Federation had gotten sketchy information about Titan’s source of antimatter. In one of her last official acts as Minister, Nicole had met with the Ambassador from Titan, asking him questions on the same subject. He hadn’t provided anything solid, but he had mentioned the Colombo Gap, a narrow gap in the inner C ring of Saturn.
When the Enterprise had arrived in Titan orbit, they had taken advantage of their positioning to conduct a thorough scan of the Gap. To the great surprise of the science division, and Cass and Commander Seabolt particularly, they had discovered a moon made of antimatter.
It wasn’t large by astronomical standards, hardly more than a few hundred meters across, but it was a theoretical impossibility.
“This is a matter universe,” Seabolt had explained. “Even vacuum in deep space contains particles of matter. The center of a ring should be the last place any quantity of antimatter should be able to exist!”
Facts trumped theories, however, and the antimatter moonlet was before their eyes. How it got there was a question for astrophysicists to argue about for decades to come.
From a practical point of view, it meant that Titan’s biggest hole card was reduced to a joker.
Well, this may make your day a little more interesting.
I could use some interesting.
There’s a ship inbound. Copernicus-class cruiser from Artemis.
Kendra didn’t blink, didn’t show any outward expression of surprise. She had been an actress for a dozen years, after all, and while she’d never be recognized with an award, she was certainly capable.
Twenty hours, plus.
Already being prepped for descent.
Kendra resisted the impulse to shake her head. No. Get Cass to maintain a lock on us. If we need to, we can teleport up. Shouldn’t need it though, given the timing.
That only works from less than 25 kiloklicks!
And how long would it take to drop into lower orbit?
You have a point. Okay.
I think our hosts will be as surprised as we are. More, probably. Let’s find out!
Back to you soon, Alley.
“Pardon me,” Kendra said, cutting Lusardi off and drawing all eyes to her.
“I don’t like interrupting professionals, especially when things are going so well, but I have a question for President Smith.” At least we’ve gotten past ‘Madame President’.
“How frequently do Artemesian ships pay a call on Titan? Naval ships, that is.”
“Infrequently,” Smith answered with a slight frown. “Every four or five lunars.”
“And you said the last was here less than two lunars ago?”
“Yes, with their Foreign Minister. Their next scheduled arrival isn’t until August.”
“And what kind of ship do they usually send?”
“Generally? One of their frigates.”
“So the cruiser that’s going to be here in time for lunch tomorrow, they’d be a surprise?”
Smith was a politician. Moreover, she was a good politician, having climbed to her position with skill and a reputation for what some would call foolish honesty. She wasn’t good enough to hide the flash of genuine surprise and fear that crossed her face. Still, she rallied gamely, telling the truth without revealing much else.
“We’ve had no information of any such ship.”
“Trust me, it’s there. The question is, what are you going to do about it?”
“You. It’s your world, after all, not mine. We’re guests.” She grinned.
Zeus take it, it might be terrible, but I do love when things hit the fan!
“It’s your play, Kyra.”
Kendra’s use of her first name didn’t go unnoticed.
The grin didn’t fade.
“The way I see it, you have maybe three choices. You can kill us, and then hope to hell the Primus rewards you for your treachery as only she can, assuming my Captain leaves anyone alive down here to collect. She’s not going to take kindly to losing her Admiral plus the two VIP’s she ferried all this way.”
“I’ll have to take your word on that.”
“Second, you can play dumb, hope the cruiser comes in stupid, misses a four-hundred meter starship hanging in high orbit, and try to keep their landing parties from finding out about us. I almost hope you choose that.”
“Because it’ll be freakin’ hilarious. Better than The Man with One Red Shoe.”
“Forget it. If we live, I’ll show you. Third, you can go ahead and sign the draft treaty you three are about five misplaced semi-colons from finalizing and then we back your play.”
“I don’t think the treaty is quite as close as you think it is.”
Time to play my trump.
“Kyra, do you mean your little antimatter moonlet in the Colombo Gap? It’s neat, we’ll give you that, but it’s not a secret anymore. Since it’s the only thing which gives you any kind of value to the Primus, well, if we don’t broker a deal we’re planning to push a few good-sized chunks of ring into it. My science officer thinks the explosion will be visible from Mars.”
Smith visibly deflated. Not much; frankly, there wasn’t much of her to deflate. And it seemed this hole card was less ‘make-or-break’ and more ‘get a better deal’ from her reaction. She confirmed it with her next words.
“Equal representation in the Federation.”
“Equal until a proper political structure is established,” countered Kendra. “At that point, everyone is an equal citizen, not of the Guild, not of Titan, not of Njord or anywhere else. Citizens of the Federation. The government will arise from that structure, nothing more, nothing less.”
“And that’s your final word on the subject?”
“My dream,” Kendra countered. “I want everyone to share in it, but I’ll leave behind anyone who doesn’t want to play by the rules. My rules, that is.”
“She’s not kidding,” Jillian added. “I was on the wrong side of her wife once.”
“And yet you are their representative?”
“I am. She, they, don’t hold grudges.”
Smith picked up the draft copy of the treaty and scanned it quickly. “Very well.” She pressed her thumb against the pickup; the padd chirped and she handed it across to Kendra.
The grin returned.
“I can’t wait to see what you guys can bring to our tech. I’ll bet it’s going to be amazing!” Her thumb pressed against the padd as well.
“Done. Minerva,” she said, ostentatiously tapping the Starfleet delta even though it was no more than a speaker. No point in giving up all the secrets yet.
“The treaty is signed. I’ll upload a copy shortly for distribution to the Q-Net.”
“Very good, Admiral. Captain Martinez is concerned by your continued silence.”
“Ah, shit. Connect me?”
The next voice was outraged.
“Kendra, what the hell is going on?”
“It’s all settled. Details later. Any change in status of our visitor?”
Kendra had to admit Alley could change gears fast. “No, still coming in fat and happy. Can you ask if they’ve received any transmissions? We haven’t picked up any bleed, but they could be using a tight beam.”
“I’ll ask. Kyra?”
The President was already checking.
“No, we haven’t, which is rather odd.”
“Kyra? Since when is she Kyra?”
“Since about three minutes ago. What does this suggest to you?”
“They’re not coming for a social call.”
“I agree, Alley. Let me wrap things up down here and we’ll return to the Enterprise. Cassidy out.” Turning her attention back to Smith, Kendra said, “Like I said, Kyra. It’s your play. We’ll back you.”
“I don’t like they’re coming in silent. I think your Captain Alley is right. What?” she said sharply, seeing Kendra’s grin.
“Martinez. Her nickname is Alley.” The grin faded a bit. “They’re in a Copernicus.”
“That’s one of ours, a Union ship!”
“Which we both know is just a cover for Newling to play with someone else’s toys. And, as of about five minutes ago, it’s not one of yours.”
“They’re not going to know that,” Smith pointed out.
“And we might use it. Let’s see what I remember. Big bastards, over three hundred meters long, four spinal lasers, three forward missile tubes, one aft, and nasty broadsides. Slow, though, and no countermissiles or missile defense. Pity we don’t have any missiles aboard Enterprise.”
“And they’re far too large to land. The atmosphere would tear the ship apart.”
“So what’s their game?”
“They carry the Huygens missiles. Nuclear-armed. The lasers aren’t much threat through the atmosphere, but they could knock out our satellites with them.”
“We can prevent it from getting too bad.”
“I think we have to wait on them. Keep the starship on the other side of Titan, close in so they can’t pick you up on their sensors, which are line-of-sight. They’re not an Artemis ship, so I can’t complain they’re not sticking to the schedule.”
“Okay, then how about dinner aboard Enterprise? We’ll make it a working dinner, get all the paperwork sorted and behind us.”
“That sounds like a good idea,” Smith said. “Guests?”
Kendra thought for just a moment, then acquiesced. “Sure. Husband? Wife?”
“Yes. Husbands and wife.”
“Five. Teen down to two.”
“Bring ‘em. They can meet our hellions.” Kendra’s grin reappeared. “Just warn them not to let ours take them to the gym for ‘Aunt Mikki’s workout.’”
“Unless they know martial arts?”
“Right. Cassidy to Enterprise.”
“Go ahead, Admiral.”
“We’re going to want the Alexander after all…”