A Way to End the War
Episode 3: Foxes and Henhouses
Location: Diplomatic Center, Starbase Arcadia
Timeline: MD 2, Evening
The diplomatic hall was packed. Ship captains, admirals, ambassadors, soldiers. It was a diverse group who occupied the insides of the ornate chamber. It wasn't entirely clear from first glance that this was a war council, instead of a gala.
Charlotte Reynolds stepped into the chamber, straightening the front of her uniform jacket to look a bit less ruffled. She turned to her XO and replied quietly. "I wonder why the Admiral chose this location."
Maralen frowned, but it was as much for what she said as for the dress uniform. He hated these things; they were constricting and matted down his fur. As to what she'd said, he could think of several reasons, but since he knew that Haster was infected, he could not begin to guess at the motivations of the parasite in this. "Appearances?" he guessed quietly, leaning over to speak so only Charlotte could hear him. "Maybe she wants to avert suspicion for as long as possible?"
Charlotte nodded. “Make everyone feel important and they’ll question you less. It’s definitely a possibility.”
After a moment, they spotted Captain James and Commander Gallagher, milling about the crowd. Charlotte gestured to Maralen to follow and then approached them in faux-surprise. "Fancy seeing you here!"
"Captain Reynolds" Summer beamed, her fake persona to the fore. "Lovely to see you again! How are things on the Defiant?"
"Pretty calm at the moment. The Admiral scheduled Defiant for a baryon sweep, so we've just been on the station," Charlotte said, matching the mood. "Speaking of the Admiral, have you seen her yet? I wanted to check in with her about our progress."
"No not yet. She has not come in." Summer replied, having made a careful study of those around the room.
Maralen had followed her, shifting his appearance to give the impression of being not only completely at ease but even pleased to be here and to see the commanding pair of the Artemis. He did not say anything as he did not need to but smiled and nodded to each.
A commotion near the front of the room drew eyes in the direction of the large windows overlooking the industrial portion of the base. There wasn't much to see other than large mechanical bay doors. However, Charlotte soon spotted the source of the commotion. The stark white and black Admiral's uniform stood out among the grey officer dress uniforms and the more vibrant tones of the civilians. Whatever this was about, it was about to begin.
The Admiral took a position on a slightly raised platform. The room fell quiet. "Honored Guests, I would like to welcome you to Starbase Arcadia. I only wish the circumstances of your visit could be more pleasant."
"I'm sure that many of you have heard that we have a plan to win the war. You were misinformed. It is not just a plan. It is a reality. Here on Arcadia, we have been toiling away for months on the solution to our problems. And finally, it is complete." The Admiral paused, and a murmuring filled the room.
"You see, the solution was in front of us all along. But it had been tarnished in our minds by the work of greedy men. However, through meticulous work, the idea has been recovered and redeemed into something befitting the Federation." Haster gestured to an Operations officer standing on the side of the stage. He entered a series of commands into his pad. For a moment, nothing happened.
And then it did.
The massive doors slid open in front of them opening to what appeared to be a large dark docking bay. Then all at once, the lights came on.
Inside the hanger hung a truly massive craft, in the shiniest silver hull many of them had ever seen. It easily was twice the size of Defiant. Running lights activated to reveal its registry.
NCC-1918. USS Indomitable.
The hull configuration was immediately recognizable to Charlotte, and she assumed others in the room. It was, for all intents and purposes, a refined version of the rogue USS Vengeance that had cost so many lives. A tarnished idea indeed. For those who couldn't see it, a large hologram version appeared in the center of the room.
Haster continued. "Guests, we have completed construction on our greatest hope. A vessel specifically built for just this occasion, a war with the Klingons. Evil men used this craft to lead us into darkness. Now, it will lead us into the light of peace."
The room was filled with uncertain murmurs, but they ultimately gave way to applause.
"Now, I'd like to introduce the mastermind of this project and commanding officer of the USS Indomitable, Brigadier General Rebecca Javier."
A stern marine woman took the center stage waving at the crowd and smiling coldly. Chris immediately shot Summer a look. They were more than familiar with Javier. She had been the Marcus-worshiping Marine who'd taken the war games a bit to seriously back before Defiant had left spacedock. He'd thought she'd been reprimanded or worse. Instead, she now stood freshly promoted as the commander of her idol's vessel. "What the hell is she doing here?"
Summer's gaze narrowed at the woman with intense dislike.
"And why the hell is that ship commanded by a marine?" Charlotte pitched in quietly.
"This is why you should have allowed me to kill the bitch" Summer murmured from beside Chris.
Chris simply nodded. “I stand corrected. I definitely should have let you kill the bitch.”
Charlotte looked between them. “I’m sorry I’m not read in on this. Who is she and why do we hate her? And why is she in command of ‘that’ ship?”
“She’s a xenophobic Marine we ran into once,” Chris said, cutting it short. “Let me say this. If she’s in command, it’s very bad news. Hell, she doesn’t even need to be infected to be a problem.”
Maralen picked up on the hostility around him easily enough, without his psionic talents. His fur fluffed slightly, but thankfully it was hidden beneath the damnable uniform. He did not know this particular woman any more than Charlotte did, but the idea of a Marine commanding a ship meant that all forms of Federation decency were about to go straight out of the airlock. The fact that Captain James identified her as a Xenophobe did not help his thoughts any. Once she was done with the Klingons, who would she go after next?
"I hope this isn't the start of a very bad road for the Federation." he murmured to his captain.
"Can I kill her now?" Summer asked casually. "Won't take much. I took that bitch's officers down once before. And this time, I am at full health. So she should be a snap."
Maralen looked over at Summer. His calm had been put back into place, and he said softly, "I wouldn't recommend such an action here and now, Commander. Too many eyes who might misunderstand the reasons for your action." He could not give her orders and was not presuming to do so. He was merely offering calm advice, an anchor of calm in what could easily become a very volatile situation.
On stage, the woman began to speak as the applause dropped. “Thank you, Admiral. The Indomitable and her crew will do you proud. And if all goes well, the Klingons won’t know what hit them.”
Charlotte gritted her teeth at the thought of the parasites in control of such a powerful vessel. “And neither will Starfleet...”