Blake: The Tholians aren't the issue at hand. They have always been on the border. And Starfleet has always talked about sending more ships. We do not have control over either of them, and we never will. And honestly, neither of them have ever been a primary concern for us. The Shoals, the Coalition, have. And what we've done over the last few days alone has eased the Marshals' job thrice over — so why are we considering racing after more?
Rahman: Because that's what you do when you're the top dog. The apex predator.
A perplexed frown passed over Blake's eyes as she watched Roshanara stand at her viewport, gazing into the stars.
Rahman: Our power out here comes from perception. We may be aboard the strongest ship in the Shoals, but you know the reality as well as I do: we can't be everywhere at once. Up until now, though, a pirate captain would still be hesitant--dare I say, respectful? They'd have to make that gamble: would it really be worth it to risk losing everything--their ship, their freedom, maybe even their lives--for a simple score?
oO Nothing about our being here awards us power. Oo
Blake's fingers dug deep into the back of the chair, a shadow cast over her eyes. Her captain turned, her face unrecognisable.
Rahman: But now, someone out there is trying--no, succeeding! At showing that the odds are more in their favor than we like to suggest. Frankly, they've forgotten the fear of risking a confrontation with Starfleet. And it's our job--my job--to remind them.
Blake: I'm asking you to take the wins we have. Not stop, no, but to space it out until Veritas is back at full capacity. I want us to be on the same page, and right now, something doesn’t feel right with you.
And it wasn’t Blake’s position to pry into that, but given their current condition (which was overall okay, if not a little bruised — a danger in the next inevitable fight — she couldn’t risk operating blind.
There was silence between them, the captain regarding her first officer — while her first officer tried to understand her captain's words. Rahman gestured to the seat Blake had been leaning against (a show of goodwill, maybe), as she took the chair next to her.
The captain's chair remained empty on the other side of the desk, nothing more than a symbol between them. It embodied all the inequity Blake didn't agree with, but all the values Rahman represented.
Rahman: Do you remember about a year ago, during a shore leave, when I was attending an engineering conference on Esperance with Teller?
Blake: I remember you leaving. Teller came back... a little more odd than usual.
Rahman: He was still a wide-eyed lieutenant junior grade, and I'd invited my former first officer Kinan Venroe along.
Hardly surprising. Venroe was a bootlicker on her way to a cushy desk job on a starbase somewhere, but she earned her ties to the people she worked with. Blake held no ill-will toward her; Venroe knew what she wanted and how to get there, and she had sacrificed nothing untoward to do it. It was just... Blake couldn't relate to her ideal job.
Blake: She was your first XO. It's not surprising you two wanted to catch up.
Though why Teller was involved, she wasn't sure. As Rahman nodded and leaned back, Blake was stuck on how Teller could conveniently slot himself into events one wouldn't ordinarily associate with the engineer.
: Yes, well, it was all supposed to be a simple trip. One day, after we'd finished a bit early with the conference presentations that morning, we all took a private yacht to do a little gormagander-watching. To make a long story short, we were soon attacked by pirates and captured
Blake: Esperance is... on the border of the Shoals. You had Marshals and Starfleet to step in...
Her frustration at the lack of immediate response from either party settled in. But it wasn't part of Rahman's story.
Blake: What happened?
oO Why didn't you tell me? Oo
Rahman: It was only through a rather far-fetched plan of Teller's to "play the part" of a pirate identity that they'd mistaken him for that we managed to get out alive.
The XO sighed, both of relief and a mild annoyance — but it was Teller. The man had earned himself several free-passes from questionable tactics just with his work during Limbo alone.
Rahman: My point is, you're right, something might not feel right with you because this isn't just about doing my duty as the Starfleet captain tasked with keeping this region safe. It's also personal.
Blake finally looked back to her captain, green eyes meeting.
Rahman: That experience taught me that pirates are a scourge to civilized space trade and travel. There's only one thing they respect, and that's force. You cannot negotiate terms with wolves. You must establish dominance.
It was a deeply disturbing attitude. No two people were exactly the same. Groups, crews even, had similar modus operandi, but this all-or-nothing attitude could cause catastrophe if taken too far.
Did Blake agree pirates were dangerous? Of course. She liked to say the reason for her carrying the Aquila and not a standard phaser was purely because of Sabor's death, but even if he was still alive, the amount of times a Veritas officer had their phaser stolen while on active duty by locals on Shadow's Edge would be enough to shock most officers into at least reconsidering their armament.
Violence perpetuates violence. And while Blake could hardly sit there and consider herself a pacifist with how much combat she'd engaged in, she did at least try talking first. Negotiation had won her a lot of allies, in the Marshals, in Starfleet, and even with pirates.
((Flashback — Pinator Bay, Shadows Edge, 239409.21))
Cakapunnual's cliff edge was a familiar spot for colony members to take a seat on and watch the sunset. It was a few minutes out from the main drag of the unconstructed area, out of the way and fairly secluded.
These things were actively working against her. Captain Rhys Pine, a pirate of the Shadow's Teeth, was backing her to the end of the cliff with a raised disruptor. Sweat dripped from his forehead, brilliant blue eyes wide and blood-shot — telltale signs that not all was as it should be.
One more step backwards, and she’d learn how to (very briefly) fly. Not exactly how she wanted this day to go.
Blake: Pine, listen to me. *You don’t want to do this*.
Pine: Marshals *killed my crew*! You deserve this.
Which would be mildly logical if she *was actually a Marshal*.
Blake: You’re not thinking straight! I can help you track down who killed your crew, but you *have to put the disruptor down*!
Pine: You’re lying!
Blake: You’ve been *drugged*. Put it down, and I’ll prove it to you.
Pine's knuckles went white around the grip of the phaser. The sun was setting on Blake's back, casting a shadow larger than herself, reading the man's feet. He shuddered, sucking in a heavy breath through grit teeth, ripping his disruptor through the air to point it at something else, anything else. Like a mad-man without a cause, he dropped to his knees, fingers raking through Cakapunnual's gold-stained dirt.
Relief flooded her lungs, and she approached him with cuffs in hand. She kicked the disruptor away as she latched his wrists together.
Pine:::whispering:: Help me.
He'd been right.
Marshals had indeed killed his crew. They'd seen his ship, tagged it as persons untoward, and went against Benjin Ranjoes. Such were the dangers of life spent in fear on a in the space around a planet dominated by the domineering. Ranjoes was working on it.
The response had been 'fair's fair'. Pirates attack marshals, marshals attack pirates, and so the cycle continued. But they had a law, they had a way of doing things, for a reason. Emotion, personal vendettas — they never fit into that. This is why some Starfleet personnel either compartmentalise their Starfleet lives away from their personal lives, or like Blake, they give up their personal lives completely.
Pine got to walk away with his life — had Tydo, G'var, or anyone else been where Blake was standing, he'd be maimed or worse, words ignored and taken as nothing more than mindless ramblings of a pirate trying to keep his life. Even Shrmoa, Veritas' ex-CMO, had urged her to write Pine's words off as "delusions from a drugged man".
Not to mention: Starfleet were not the police force of the Shoals. This was a trap easily laid out by the position of power Starfleet held above civilian institutions, the very thing Blake detested. It was why she'd thrown herself into working with Caide's Rangers — Caide had made their role explicitly clear: Starfleet were there, on growing colony worlds, as a guide, not as commanders.
Rahman believed force, dominance, was the only way to deal with pirates. Simply speaking, force had almost resulted in Blake's being blasted off a cliff edge.
Blake: I won't stand by and watch you do that, Roshanara.
It's not how they do things. It's not how Blake does things. But before Rahman could respond, a call from the Bridge interrupted them.
But this wasn't a conversation that could be concluded quite so quickly.
Tbc . . .
LtCmdr Sky Blake