((Prak Zel Assembly Building, Interim Office of the Stratigo))
Herrera: You know, it’s a funny thing, Stratigo, but believe it or not I would have come to meet you on your homeworld if you’d just asked me to. If you were worried about the Vigilant’s systems being compromised then you could quite easily have met me on DS6, sent a courier with a PADD to summon me to Captain Hallam’s office, which we could have commandeered without his objection, and we could have hammered out some kind of a deal that would have led to a more organised Starfleet defence of your capital city while still under the same pretence. Sure, it would have taken a little more to convince me of what you were claiming.
::She blinked at him. Between the slipstream farce and the Senivan abduction, Zehn had only had a few days, at the most, to try to correct all the deeply-rooted intelligence and security flaws on Deep Space Six. Did Herrera truly believe that he and she could safely have shed the guise of antagonism there, without anyone discovering it?::
Herrera: Maybe the ends justify the means, but if we’re going to be working together, however that one will play out, then there are a few things that I’ll be setting straight. You had your turn taking the floor and now it’s mine.
::The floor? There were only the two of them here. Bokzadeshti pursed her lips-- did he think he was addressing the senatorial assembly, again?-- but nodded.::
::Her reaction so far hadn’t particularly impressed him but he could understand why she felt embittered, especially in light of recently discovered evidence. He was prepared to make some concessions, but he was not prepared to continue forward without at least a modicum of respect from her.::
Herrera: First, for reasons you already stated, the virus was left on the Vigilant’s computer systems because I was following orders. Convoluted, confusing orders, but ones that were issued so that we could find out who this mysterious individual within our organisation actually was. The Vigilant was also under surveillance by Starfleet Intelligence. Sure, they might have seen things happening aboard ship but I think we both know it’s unlikely they were focusing on internal sensor logs.
::Bokzadema disagreed entirely. The sensor logs provided context for any number of pure data files stored on the ship’s cores. People might say things they had not bothered to write down, and movement patterns might reveal secrets, relationships, power structures outside the normal chains of command… weaknesses of all kinds. But Herrera had determined to match her own capacity for oration, it appeared, so she sat back and let him wear himself out.::
Herrera: That kind of virus is designed to monitor information of a different kind. Communications, information in the data core. It was Starfleet’s decision for that to be the status quo aboard the Vigilant and everyone aboard ship except our bartender has sworn an oath to serve Starfleet. They did not swear an oath to serve you personally. I’m willing to accept we stumbled into a grey area, that you did not have eyes on anything below deck one and that this is potentially a tenuous line of argument but what I am not willing to accept is the fact that a member of a civilian government thinks that they are within their rights to put a phased surveillance device aboard a Starfleet asset. You are in breach of Federation law, and I think you know that you did something that the authorities could have you removed from power for, even though you weren’t in the hot seat when you made that move. It was a pretty big risk, questionable in the least, and with the potential to sabotage everything you are trying to achieve with this gambit at worst. Getting yourself arrested and slammed in the stockade wouldn’t really have got you very far. In light of recent evidence, I’ve decided that I won’t be recommending that Starfleet send an independent commmittee of JAG officers to review the rest of your practices as Stratigo.
::The comment was a little inflammatory, but Diego felt like most of Bokzadeshti’s had been closer to incendiary. She wasn’t the only one with some power here anyway.::
::The ludicrous gall of him! He had been a Fleet Captain for less than a year. Here, on the thinnest edge of Federation space, he could be said to hold authority over a few thousand personnel, at the very most-- and only if one included Deep Space Six. In contrast, Bokzadema was a Federation diplomat, a valued ally of heads of state across the galaxy, with decades of experience and billions of lives in her care. The Zakdorn Assembly alone, at midday, probably sheltered more people than Herrera could be said to command. Let him knock on all the doors he liked. He’d be surprised at how easily they might freeze shut.::
Bokzadeshti: ::drily:: How extraordinarily magnanimous of you, Fleet Cap--
::Before she could get on too much of a roll, Diego cut back in.::
Herrera: Maybe your sensor device was malfunctioning but, at the point where I had to make a call on whether or not to hand our Zalkonian friend back to his people, I was staring down five Zalkonian interceptors. Those ships are faster than Intrepid-class starships and they arrived in numbers that left us outgunned. Bearing in mind we were dealing with the Zalkonian military who, I think it’s fair to assume, have an understanding of military tactics and slightly more than five ships in their arsenal, I’d say that even if I’d been sat on a Sovereign-class ship they would have made sure there were enough guns on me that I had the same choice. Spelling it out, that choice was giving them back their man, or having my ship blown to smithereens, in which case we would not only have lost a potential source of intelligence but also a good number of trained officers and the Vigilant itself.
Bokzadeshti: ::nodding judiciously:: Oh, I quite agree. Once you had loitered fecklessly around the biological weapons facility long enough to be caught, handing over the witness was your only choice. Splendid work.
::He was prepared to let her comments about his ‘rudimentary training’ go but, before he got to more personal issues, he was determined to set her straight on what now seemed to be a festering wound on Zakdorn pride. The surge in Federation popularity that had followed their stunt in Prak Zel the previous year suggested that it hadn’t been received as such at the time, but it was possible that Bokzadeshti had redressed that in the assembly and turned it into something else.:
Herrera: Moving on to what I see as an important issue for Federation/Zakdorn relations, I want you to know that your interpretation of that strategema game tells me you’re missing the point slightly. We orchestrated that event to illustrate to the Zakdorn public that the Federation is made up of a variety of races, each with unique abilities. Yes, we cheated. That was the point. We showed them that, through teamwork, we can emulate each other’s strengths. There were two more messages that came out of that, though. One was that it took two people, one human with good reflexes and one Rodulan telepath, to equal one Zakdorn. The second, conveniently was that the Federation team beat the Klingon team in a game of strategema, and that should be significant. We exposed the other player as a Klingon operative shortly afterwards, so we didn’t even beat a Zakdorn at the game.
::In other words, the only legitimate complaint that she could have was that they had broken the rules of strategema in a game that did not even include a Zakdorn participant. All of her bluster about the fact they had fouled the waters of Zakdorn politics for ever more amen was just that. Bluster.::
Herrera: I appreciate that you’re unhappy that we took a liberty but we were tasked to do a job by the guy who was in charge of your people at that time. Zakdorn called, we answered, and we did what we were asked to do, because that, Stratigo, is what Starfleet does. By the same chalk, I am prepared to help you with the issues that you brought to our attention, even though I’m still skeptical that we have a widespread problem. If there is even a chance that Zakdorn or any of the non-founder worlds are being marginalised then I will commit myself to getting to the bottom of it, because a Federation plagued with inequality is not the Federation that I swore to protect and serve.
::As this commitment was what she had been trying to elicit from him, Bokzadema refrained from interrupting.::
Herrera: Maybe this doesn’t come out through surveillance devices, but I have principles. I might be a member of one of the races that would stand to benefit from positive discrimination towards founder species but that’s not what’s at the core of the Federation and it never has been. If someone needs to fight to make that true again then I’m prepared to step up, and I would like us to work as allies, behind the scenes, through third parties… however we need to do that. The first step is for me to see what else I can uncover, but there’s no denying we would both benefit from collaboration. That works best for me when I can respect the people I’m working with because it makes it much easier for me to trust them. Without trust, I might as well go this alone.
::It wouldn’t be particularly favourable or fruitful for him to try that and he was sure she was about to point that out.::
Bokzadeshti: You will find my respect easier to obtain once I can see that you have examined the data I have spent months arranging to put in your hands.
Herrera: So then that brings us to a more personal point. Maybe you think no-one cares about one fledgeling first officer having a moment of crisis, but you’d be wrong. I care. He was my first officer and more importantly he is my friend. That conversation may have been professional to begin with but what followed was personal and contained information that I consider to be extremely sensitive. Commander Reinard would be horrified if he ever found out that you’d recorded the entire thing and kept it. Fortunately for you, he won’t ever find out because if he did then I can pretty much guarantee that some kind of legal action would ensue. More importantly, though, if you really are the greatest tactician on Zakdorn I have to question how you didn’t think I would take that personally? I mean, you basically sat there, triumphantly telling me that you had eyes on even the most private of things that had happened in that ready room, chose that conversation of all conversations like you were waving that particular piece of knowledge in my face and expected me to do what? Pat you on the back and say well played? Some things aren’t a game. And if you’re going to stick by the fact that you assembled those scenes at random… well then it looks like a huge dose of bad luck reared up and bit you square on the ass.
::He was just about keeping his temper under control but it was clear that he was not in the mood for being messed about, dressed down or sneered at.::
Bokzadeshti: ::lip curling:: Indeed? If so, it seems that I was not the only one bitten in so sensitive a location.
Herrera: There’s a concept called loyalty that I would assume you’re familiar with. Greir Reinard has my loyalty because he earned it. It’s a powerful thing because it makes people go the extra mile for people or causes that they believe in. You could have my loyalty, Stratigo. There are things about you that I could easily respect and, whether or not you’re willing to believe it, having us work together would be a significant boon for this region as a whole, with immediate benefits for your world. That’s before we get into this investigation. But, so you know, if you decide to play a stunt like that again, I’m done working with you. I’ll take up the investigation and I’ll work with the next leader of Zakdorn to make sure it’s properly followed through… if you’re prepared to trust whoever your successor may be, that is.
::He didn’t know if he was expecting her to be sorry, or for her to apologise. He found the idea of that happening to be a little farfetched. He did, however, want to make sure she received his message loud and clear. If she thought he, personally, was a pawn she could move around on her intergalactic chessboard then she was way off the mark.::
::Bokzadema exhaled. He had nothing to share, then, but a muddle of petulance, vague threats and good intentions. That was what she had purchased with the fifteen minutes she had cleared for him, instead of a report from the Surgeon General. Well, Herrera had achieved one of his apparent goals. She had seldom had cause to regret anything as much as she now regretted sharing with the holoclip of Commander Reinard with the Terran, specifically because it had made him waste fifteen minutes of her day to so little purpose.::
::She flicked a finger off to her left. Sazikht, who had stood behind her, as silent and stoic as the plateau of Prak Zel itself this whole time, unlocked the rear wheels of her chair in preparation to depart. She had to be in Block Six in ten minutes to meet with Emergency Services, and Pelkob would be handing her PADDs the whole way.::
Bokzadeshti: ::civilly:: Publicly, I cannot afford congenial gestures of loyalty and trust toward you, Fleet Captain. Privately, I have already made the largest gesture I can risk, having shared decades of research I have never entrusted to anyone else, in the hope that you will prove worthy of the respect you claim to seek. Yet you seem to have very little time, thus far, for the actual problems I am trying to bring to your attention, even though they are the primary reasons any trust or loyalty or respect-- beyond that normally in place between Federation member worlds and Starfleet-- might be relevant.
::Sazikht wheeled her over to a position next to the door, where she waited, in a clear invitation for Herrera to leave.::
Bokzadeshti: Perhaps we will be able to speak to more purpose when you have acquired some greater familiarity with the situation. I hope some members of your crew find time to try the temtetkash at the dining establishment I mentioned on Deep Space Six. Until then, you will excuse me.
::If she was going to summarily dismiss him then he wasn’t going to answer her. Diego stood from his seat, turned his back and walked out into the corridor, leaving the contemptible, farctate old woman to go and make someone else’s life miserable. As much as she liked to talk to him as though he was severely lacking in grey matter, he felt as though he may as well have gone and yelled off a cliff top for a quarter of an hour. He’d understood her points and he understood her motivation. He even understood her negative critique of his command history. What he didn’t understand was where her blatant, irrefutable need to feel like she was in a position of superiority in any given situation came from. Maybe it was those divorces listed in her personal history?::
::Either way, he would investigate what she had told him. He would find out more information and he would get to the bottom of it. With a little luck, he would prove her wrong but, irrespective of what the investigation turned up, when he did put together a dossier? He had a good mind to make her beg him to be allowed to read it.::
A joint post by
Fleet Captain Diego Herrera
Deputy Commandant: UFOP: SB118 Academy
EC: Captain At Large
MSNPC Bokzadema Bokzadeshti
Stratigo of Zakdorn
as simmed by
Lt. Dueld taJoot