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Ch 3 : The Meeting of Heroes (or Villains) [ Day 1 | 1500+]

[ Corridor Outside Conference Room | D. 1 | V. 1 | 1500hrs ] ATTN: @Brutus  @Stegro88  @GroundPetrel  @P.C. Haring  @Nolan   @Juzzie   @Eirual @Tae @Nesota Kynnovan @AbsintheDeux

Taking one last moment to collect herself, Natalie looked at her reflection in the refresher alcove attached to the Captain’s Ready Room. Her hair was in place, done up in a sensible bun. Her uniform was in order, and she’d reviewed the talking points long enough. There was no point in waiting any longer. Security had already notified her that Martok and his escort had arrived. She had debated meeting the man in the transporter room. Still, she had demurred in favor of remaining on station at the bridge until they arrived, instead entrusting Lt. Commander Akoni to the task.

Exiting the Ready Room, she entered the corridor around the bridge module and swiftly took her place at the doors to the conference center. She noted the presence of two diplomatic department members assigned to the meeting. She had limited experience with both, though she was aware of the Caitian Diplomat as Lt. Madsen had been using the Ensign as a diplomatic gopher across the Helmet.

A quick glance swept over them both, and finding nothing amiss in their bearing, the XO simply offered them a tight, quick smile before turning back to face the corridor, knowing she had scant minutes, if that, before their guests arrived.

[ Petty Officer 2nd Grade Abel J’olan ]

J’olan nervously tugged at the cuffs of his long sleeves. During the upcoming meeting, he would be sitting at the conference room’s monitoring station, meaning he wouldn’t likely be called on to say anything, but he would also be in the presence of high-value individuals. It’d been so long since he’d been given this type of task that he felt more than a little out of practice. But he was grateful the CDO had granted him this opportunity, even if his stomach was currently turning circles.

“They’re here.” L’Nari’s voice whispered low near his ear, pulled J’olan from his thoughts, looking up just in time to see Lieutenant Commander Akoni with a contingent of security personnel come into view.

“Game faces people,” she added, straightening up her shoulders and affecting a look of calm confidence that she wasn’t entirely sure she felt. In the wake of Akoni, she could see the muscled figure of the Chancellor of the Klingon Empire, head of the House of Martok, and hero of the Dominion War. No pressure at all she told herself.

”Chancellor. Welcome back to the USS Theurgy. It is an honor to see you again, though, as always, we could but wish for better circumstances.”

“To meet an ally tested in the fires of battle on the eve of another great battle is cause for celebration, Commander, not solemnity.” Martok bared his teeth at the redhead and the officers close to her in a Klingon gesture of bravado. “My people are eager to end the reign of those SI'neyq for good. No matter what it takes, we are here to ensure their destruction.”

Well, she couldn’t argue with that and dipped her head in agreement. ”I concur. Time is of the essence. Please proceed into the conference room and make yourselves comfortable. Though I do request that none of our guests carve their name into the tabletop with their d'k tahgs this time.” She flashed them a toothy grin and got a set of deep belly chuckles in turn as the party moved past and into the conference room.

[ Ensign Brad Bennett ]

He hadn’t meant to lurk in the corridor, but it certainly felt like he’d been lurking. Waiting until the Klingons and their aides and the bulk of the diplomatic department moved into the conference room, Bennett moved forward before the commander could likewise follow.

“Commander Stark,” Bennett fought the urge to blush under the beautiful woman’s scrutiny once he called her attention to himself, “I have an urgent update from the Intelligence Department.” Handing over the PADD of data, he glanced into the conference room at the men and women getting themselves seated before verbally adding. “We believe those sensor shadows reported a few hours ago are the beginning of hit-and-run tactics that others in the region have reported. We’re uncertain now if the Mo’Kai rebels are behind this or if it is someone else.”

Lucky for Ens. Bennett, Natalie was oblivious to the Ensign's internal struggles to maintain calm around the brunette Martian. She might have been horrified or flattered if she had the knowledge, but she didn’t and thus was unphased by any potential awkwardness. She took the PADD and looked over it as she listened to his report, a frown forming on her lips with every word. The news wasn’t great, but not liking the news didn’t change the news.

”Well, that ups the stakes some,” she concluded, handing the PADD back to the Ensign. Whether it was Mo’Kai or perhaps Romulans or even Orions inserting themself into the sector, Natalie couldn’t know. But she could do something about it. ”Very well. I’m going to be preoccupied here for the next little bit. Relay the following orders: Have Operations boost our sensor gain and extend the net as best as possible. Tachyon surges at random intervals. They know what to do. Interface with the Chancellor's flagship and suggest they do the same.” She waited until the Ensign nodded his understanding and added, ”Have the fighter screen mix up their patrol route. Prep a fast flyover of the last noted disturbance. See if we can shake something out. Other than that - maintain yellow alert. Dismissed, Ensign.”

With that, Stark turned on her heels and moved into the conference room. As the doors slid shut behind her, Ens. Bennet heard her say, ”If we are all ready, let us begin...”

Bennett made eye contact with J’olan, giving the aide a subtle thumbs-up as he passed by to follow Stark’s orders. Despite not being a pilot, Bennett would much rather be in the flyover than in that room right now.

[ Chancellor Martok | Conference Room ]

The young female commander made a brief speech of sorts to start the meeting, and before any of the other officers, especially those of a diplomatic nature, deemed it fitting to add in more useless prattle, Martok knocked his knuckles against the table.

“We are here because we want to eradicate the Infested from our people and prevent further incursions of their kind into the Federation. They have proven themselves capable of twisting even the strongest of alliances into potential bloodbaths and have no honor. The coming war cannot have quarter. We cannot waste time looking to ‘save’ those whom those snakes once inhabited. If we give into the Federation's tendency for compassion at this time, they will spread further. They know our weaknesses almost better than we know them, and they will prey upon those weaknesses.”

He paused, pleased when his men and even a few of the Theurgy crew nodded in agreement. The more highly ranked officers, those more skilled at hiding their true feelings, merely stared at him, waiting for him to finish.

“Empress Donatra is not someone to be trusted. She cares nothing for the Federation and despises my people. This alliance can only be temporary, and it would be foolish to think otherwise. Once this battle ends, we have no lofty goal of having open borders and trading with the Romulans. It is not in their nature to trade openly or share sincerely. Praetor Tal’Aura is no better, and the she-wolves are both baying at the moon for blood, destroying their people in the process. In this, I can empathize. My own people are still divided because of those traitorous Mo’Kai.” He scoffed. “But at least I don’t have a she-wolf nipping at my heels.”

Natalie took a moment to cut in at that point, careful with her words to avoid stepping on the Chancellor's heels. At the same time, she felt a need to channel the distrust and potential bloodlust. 

”While we may be fortunate to ring some longer good out of this moment, these talks with Donatra, one I would welcome if only because it would be one less knife at my back, Chancellor Martok is right. We have a common enemy. The infestation that worms its way, duplicitous and honorless, into the halls of power across our corner of the galaxy. From the highest chambers to the lowest chasms of society, they have wormed their way into attempting to use our own flaws against us. But we have faced a threat like that before. Many of you are brave survivors of the Dominion War. We know how to stamp out that kind of threat.

“So yes. We’ll strike a bargain with Donatra. We worked together to defeat the Changelings. This threat is greater. Make no mistake. They aren’t just replacing people, they are usurping their very being. We cannot allow that to spread any further.”
She felt a cold fire in her gut as she spoke. These were impassioned words and ones she wasn’t entirely comfortable with. Not that she was saying them. But that she meant them. Her better angels were taking a back seat.

“Usurping or otherwise, we will not hesitate to use deadly force against anyone seen as a foe.” One of Martok’s chief aides leaned forward and growled his contempt. “We have no way of separating the snakes from their hosts and we cannot waste time in trying to figure that out in battle. So,” he wagged a finger towards the Starfleet crew, “if you have any desires to save those who’ve been overtaken, you best have people dedicated to finding out a way of doing so that can be shared across borders because until then, our policy is death, immediate and complete.”

Martak watched with vague amusement as the chief diplomat, if he remembered correctly, one of Colonel Hauq’s Starfleet contacts, squirmed in her seat and leaned forward to speak.

“You cannot be faulted for such a stance, especially considering how high up the Infested infiltrated before their truth was made known. We are still ferreting out those in Starfleet and, more recently, we have suffered from an attack from the Infested using Praetor Tal’Aura as a puppet. We will not seek to impose misguided morality upon you in a time of war,” Martok let out a breathy snort, watching his aide relax a bit at her words. “However, our science department is working on that very thing, learning how to separate the host from the parasite, and once we know how we will convey that to you and all the Federation.”

His aide nodded to Martok, signaling his satisfaction with the answer. The Chancellor looked at the rest of his aides, curious who else would speak up. He’d given them leave to speak their minds as openly with these Starfleet personnel as they had with him prior to arriving. He knew that there was at least one more matter…

“We don’t want any Romulans on our ships,” one of the captains in his armada said, breaking the momentary silence. “While we may be making a deal with them to fight a common enemy, they have proven themselves duplicitous enough over the years to merit such caution. Starfleet crew with proper clearance and accompaniment by KDF personnel may come aboard, but no Romulans. Period. If the Romulans have something to convey to us, they may do so through your people.”

Well, that will complicate matters a bit, but I’m honestly not surprised, the young Commander thought to herself, nodding slowly in acknowledgment of the words. ”In principle, that is acceptable. As you are undoubtedly aware, my crew consists of a few Romulan ex-patriots who have earned honorable commissions within Starfleet. I expect you to extend the courtesy to them that you would any other Starfleet officer with the appropriate clearance. But we will handle any direct physical contact with Donatra’s personnel and keep them off your ship.”

Natalie fixed the Klingon who had made the statement with a level look, jaw set, and placidly folded hands in front of her, as if daring him to counter her corollary agreement to his demands.

The chief diplomat leaned forward again, seeking to draw attention to herself as she spoke, “There will be a casual meal planned after Empress Donatra arrives.” She waved a hand to encompass the group. “Where we can all mingle and assess and begin the alliance, even if it is temporary, on equal footing.”

“Equally uncomfortable on this ship.” An aide grunted under his breath in Klingon. Martok snorted his amusement, not disagreeing with the statement but careful not to publicly condone it either by commenting on it.

“Very well, let us know the time.” The meeting over, Martok cleared his throat, nodding to his aides. They wisely stood and waited for him by the door. Using his body to create a semblance of privacy, he turned in his chair and leaned closer to Stark before he spoke.

“I will have my aide send what information we have on an encrypted channel, but I have reason to believe that there is a saboteur among our forces.” He shook his head at the commander when it looked like she wanted to say something. “We don’t know if it is one of those damned snakes, a remnant member of the Mo’Kai, or someone else, but we think that they will see to destroy our efforts to make an alliance with Donatra. As such, we need your people to look into the matter.”

The day just kept getting worse, and there was little she could say to make it better. Sensor ghosts, negotiations, and now potential saboteurs in the Klingon contingent. Given the serious nature of what was about to unfold, the negotiations Martok outlined...well, it made sense that someone would try to throw a wrench into the works. ”Consider it done, Chancellor. We’ll need access to your logs and ships, but we’ll do our best to be discreet about the subject. If it is our infested enemy, we can expose and deal with them now. And if it is one of the more disaffected members of Mo’Kai,” here she paused and allowed her expression to grow cold. ”They have attempted to test themselves against my mettle before and suffered the consequences. They are welcome to try again. The results will be the same.”

While Martok spoke with the commander, Colonel Hauq shifted away from the rest of the delegation to intercept the one officer in the room he’d had the most run-ins with, and not all of them particularly positive.

“Lieutenant Madsen,” Hauq gestured for the diplomat, or rather bedlam incarnate, to come closer once the meeting officially adjourned. “I am uncertain if I should bring this to your attention or to another department.”

The woman’s body immediately tensed, an almost predatory alertness dancing at the edges of her gaze as she stepped closer. “Whatever it is, you can tell me. I will relay it to the correct people if necessary.”

“Indeed. Senator Ath’aK Noggra seems to have lost his daughter.” The diplomat’s eyebrows rose in mute question. “Although he hasn’t stated it outrightly, he seems to be blaming his alliance with the Chancellor for her disappearance. There are murmurings that he may distance himself and remove his forces from Martok if she cannot be found unharmed.”

“I see. That is indeed something that bears looking into. To be clear,” Madsen’s lips pulled upward in a half smile, “so we don’t have yet another misunderstanding, are you asking Theurgy to look into this covertly, freeing your people up to deal with other issues, or are we working on this jointly?”

Hauq sighed. “While it seems to be an internal matter, I felt it could do with an outsider’s perspective because of the upcoming council meeting with that Romulan leader. As you said, we have many other matters to attend to that are truly internal, and, frankly, the disappearance of a nobleman’s daughter is the least of our concerns.”

The woman laughed, swatting Hauq’s shoulder without warning. “No, we bleeding-heart humans will chase our tails looking for a lost targ, eh?” When he didn’t share her laugh or smile, she sobered, clearing her throat. “Send me what intel you have on the matter, and I'll consider looking into it. I’ll contact you if anything comes up that we can’t handle, at least not without causing you more stress.”

“Lieutenant, if you are not already aware of how stressful your mere existence can be on any system of government or protocols, then you have deceived yourself mightily.” He gave her a semi-formal bow, then turned away to file out with the rest of the Klingon delegation.

[ Lt. Enyd Isolde Madsen ]

Enyd rolled her eyes at the man’s departure, more amused than miffed—no point in trying to deny it when what he said was true.

“Commander,” Enyd crossed the room to stand next to the commander once Martok left with his aides, “One of my contacts in the KDF just brought some interesting leads and will send more intel later. I think some of it my department could take care of, but much of it, in my opinion, is better slated for Intelligence.”

”Oh great. You’ve been dragged into the cloak-and-dagger back channel mess as well? Something else?” Stark asked, then realized that wasn’t exactly the most tactful response considering she was the ranking officer aboard. Sighing, she put a better face on the subject.

Enyd nodded. “Since Pierce is away, who is the acting lead in Intelligence? I can have all the intel I get sent on to them.”

”Junior Lieutenant Dantius, if I recall,” Natalie said after a moment of reflection, pleased that she was able to remember the name. Another connection formed in her mind, recalling a conversation she’d had not terribly long ago that involved - indirectly - the intelligence analyst (and possible spy - she never did check to confirm that). Red creeped across her cheeks and down the back of the neck as Natalie remembered how very descriptive Lillee had been about her paramour and covered it with a small cough. ”Somewhat junior for the position, but Intelligence is spread a bit thin. The truth is, I have another matter I need them to poke into. Martok thinks he has a saboteur, and we’ll need to start a snipe hunt to find it. Maybe we’ll get lucky, and it’ll all be related.” Somehow, Natalie very much doubted that.

I’ll inform the Lieutenant of whatever details you pass along.”

“Very well,” Enyd smiled at the commander, “thank you for taking the lead. Technically, you had no choice, and it comes with the territory of the rank. But, truly, thank you. Please let me know if you need anything else or want me to take care of it before Donatra’s forces arrive.”

”I’m sure I’ll come up with something to keep you busy, Lieutenant. Not that you aren’t already,” She pursed her lips, longing for another cup of coffee and likely a dose of painkillers for the headache she could feel blossoming behind her eyes. ”Just keep the Klingons from causing any further problems before the Romulans show up. I need to go talk to Ops and see if they found anything on the raiders we’ve possibly been picking up. Good luck, Lieutenant.”

OOC: This post opens up the availability of a number of story prompts noted here ( that may be pursued with writing partners following the Ch # S  [ Day #  | Time  ] Title (story prompt title) for these supplemental threads. Stay tuned for another JP for Donatra’s arrival!


Re: Ch 3 : The Meeting of Heroes (or Villains) [ Day 1 | 1500+]

Reply #1
[ Corridor outside C.O. Ready Room | D. 1 | V. 1 | 1900hrs ] Attn:  @Stegro88   @GroundPetrel   @P.C. Haring   @Nolan    @Juzzie    @Eirual @Ellen Fitz

The Romulans had come into formation only a few minutes prior, arriving late by the Klingon’s standards and just on time by the Romulans, leaving the Theurgy crew with the first of many potential diplomatic obstacles.

[ Crewman 1st Class Kass Lourdes ]

“Please don’t fuck this up,” Kass groaned to the security officer standing close by. “Romulans aren’t known for their sense of humor.”

Petty Officer First Class Peter Hildebrandt chuckled, “Neither are diplomats.”

They both turned at the sound of rapidly approaching footsteps, sharing mirrored expressions of mild disappointment and intrigue when they spotted Ensign Bailee Gutierrez from the Intelligence Department hurrying towards them.

“Have they arrived yet?” She heaved a sigh of relief when both men shook their heads. “Is the commander inside?” She gave another sigh when they nodded. “I’ve got a report for her.” Guiterrez didn’t wait for a response before she pressed the button and waited for the command to enter. “Commander Stark, we have more reports on the Mo’Kai rebels gathering forces in this region, and our contacts on Qo’nos have stated that there have been some violent altercations in the past few hours. Colonel Hauq, our main liaison with the Klingon intelligence group, believes several covert cell groups are readying for a full-scale attack.”

Looking up as another woman in a red tunic entered the door, noting the rank, Natalie Stark sat up a little straighter and was about to speak when the Ensign rolled into her report. Whatever the martian might have been about to say died on her lips as a frown flashed across her face. Just what I did not need, not now, she thought to herself and resisted the urge to run her hand over her face. Instead she took a deep breath and let it out, reminding herself that she could focus on one thing at a time, honest. It could happen. She’d done it before. Tackle this just like any other problem. Treat the symptoms of the system failure and then go after the source. Reroute then engineer.

”If the Colonel has actionable intel on specific locations, we can afford to send a few of our fighters out to deal with the issues. They’re already on wider screen patrols to sniff out potentially cloaked interlopers. I know we need as many people on hand as we can here, given that we are hosting both our ‘guests,’” such a polite way to describe two groups that would often as not rather kill each other than look at each other, despite their history of collusion in the past. ”But ask security to see if they can round up a strike team just in case we need to send back up. And have medical ready to lend aid as well.”

Given their need to stay where they were for the moment, Natalie could only do so much. Ordering the Helmet into an engagement right now was out of the question.

[ Lt. Enyd Isolde Madsen ]

For the first time, Enyd cursed that her only real interactions with Romulans had been with Romulans, who’d bucked the norm and decided to strike it out on their own. Even before she’d joined Starfleet, Enyd had taken great pains to study up on the Romulans, ever fascinated with those distantly related to her. Granted, her Vulcan ancestry was much “closer” than her Romulan ties, but that hadn’t stopped her ferocious desire to understand these people.

But none of those studies and, certainly, none of her interactions with Valyn, Hirek, or any of the other Romulans onboard Theurgy had prepared her for Empress Donatra and her attache. While not quite Vulcan aloof as they’d stepped off the transporter and fell into step behind her, Enyd leading them toward Stark’s ready room, they certainly hadn’t been anything more than alert. Enyd had known better than to force familiarity with them, instead relying on civility and efficiency to guide her words and actions. But even then, it was quite obvious from the way Donatra looked at any passing crewmember, her attache members as well, that she loathed standing on this ship, despised having to make this alliance, and could not wait to return to her own people.

Stopping just shy of the C.O. ready room, Enyd’s hand dropped back to her side when the door swished open, and an Intelligence aide stepped out. The woman’s amber-colored eyes went wide with shock, and she froze.

“Ensign, we’ve come to see Commander Stark.” Enyd tried to coax the woman into action with her words, but when the ensign continued to stare at the Romulans as if she were prey in the sight of predators, Enyd reached out and lightly pushed at the ensign’s shoulder. “That’ll be all.”

The ensign squeaked some sort of answer before scurrying along the corridor's edge, quickly disappearing from view. The passageway clear, Enyd gestured for the Empress and her attaché to precede her into the room where Commander Stark had already waited. Coming in on their heels, Enyd got a faceful of Romulan uniform, glancing up at the towering woman serving at the Empress’s guard with an apologetic smile. She hadn’t realized they’d stopped just inside the room or that they had no notion to go ahead and sit down.

“Commander Stark, Empress Donatra and her attache wish to speak with you regarding the details of their presence here.” Enyd finally skirted to the front of the group of six Romulans. “Please,” she nodded to Donatra, “have a seat, Empress Donatra.”

Enyd waited until the Empress did just that, moving with a confident sense of regality before she dared to take her own. Most of the Romulans would remain standing, but the three heads would be able to sit for the meeting at least.

“I cannot wait for speeches,” Empress Donatra sneered at Stark when it looked like the woman was ready to say something. “We will abide by no Klingon on our ships, and only those Theurgy crewmembers cleared by our security and, with express permission from their superiors, may come onboard our vessels for specific missions. We will not take orders from a Klingon, nor will we take orders from you.” She curled her upper lip. “Any intel that is provided, we will choose to respond to as we see fit for our people.”

Commander Stark would have liked a moment to breathe after having dismissed Ens. Gutierrez with new orders to counter - in as limited a capacity as they were able - the machinations of the dissident members of House Mo’Kai, said commander was not afforded that opportunity. The Ensign hadn’t even fully made it out of her Ready Room when the delegation arrived, and Natalie was forced into action, standing swiftly, but she prayed, not in a fashion that looked to terribly rushed, before she offered her own brief welcoming statement and echoed Lt. Madesn’s entreaty to sit. She too waited until the Empress sat, before resuming to take her own chair, and glancing about at the escort accompanying the Romulan head-of-state before turning her focus to the woman in question.

What she got had her raising an eyebrow in an almost Vulcan fashion and fighting off the urge to chuckle. She was fairly certain that would not go over well. She’d spent more than a bit of time individually with various Romulan members of the crew after the one joint meeting had gone poorly, to try and get a better understanding of the situation with the Empress and any insight they could offer. Additionally, she re-read the mission logs of the Enterprise and their encounter with then Commander Donatra during the Battle of the Bassen Rift. Plus her own studies at the academy, taking every class offered on Romulans, given her then roommate.

All in all the woman did not disappoint.

”Then with your leave, Empress, I’ll skip the welcome speech and dive right into the heart of the matter, much to my speech writer's dismay.” There was no speech writer, but some poor sod from Madsen’s department was going to have a fit over this. ”I have no intention of giving you or any of your ships orders. I remember how things worked during the Dominion war. That is what I am seeking from you here and now. That level of cooperation. It is what I expect of you. It is what I expect of the Klingons. And it is what I expect of my crew. We have a common enemy. We deal with it, together. That is in our best interests. A massive war on the scale of The Dominion War, or greater, is not to the benefit of any of our peoples.”

Natalie held her gaze for a moment, all the while praying that the other woman would not realize just how damned terrifying her mere presence was. It was everything she could do not to visibly gulp under the stern glare of the Empress. Some might claim the woman was an upstart but from where Natalie sat, she held the reigns of power quite convincingly. Remember, this is the one that is on your side. Finally, she allowed herself the smallest of smiles.

”As for your stipulations regarding the Klingons, it may amuse you to know that they had the exact same stipulations regarding their ships, my personnel’s ability to board them, and a distinct lack of desire to allow any of your people aboard their vessels.” That was perhaps a bit of a jab at the other woman, flaunting the similarities between her demands and the Klingons but it got the point across. ”Thankfully for all parties involved, the Theurgy stands ready to serve as a neutral party between your two peoples. With all due security checks and authorizations and pre-screenings prior to boarding, for whatever reason, either of your parties may need to be here, and of course, to facilitate any meetings between your respective groups. I will expect that your people continue to behave themselves with the same restraint and decorum that they are currently exercising here and now.” That was delivered with a level gaze to every Romulan in the room that was not the Empress, ”And I have already communicated similar expectations to Chancellor Martok’s party.

“In exchange for such cooperation, I will offer full access to all our current knowledge about the infected threat, their behaviors as we have currently observed, what machinations we have discerned, and the countermeasures we have currently developed. We will, as stated previously, facilitate any...coordination of joint efforts against our common foe. My ship will serve as the bridge between all involved parties. No one has to talk to anyone they do not wish to. And I’ll even do my best to keep the speech making to the bare minimum required to satisfy the diplomats we’ve all brought to the table.”

Donatra sat mute for a moment after Stark finished. It was difficult to determine her exact emotions, or at least any emotions, aside from resigned animosity and general disgruntlement.

“We will comply within the parameters of the agreement so long as it benefits the Romulan Star Empire. You may not look to us for aid in recovering your reputation or place among your own people, and neither may you look to Romulan space as a safe haven for respite. So long as my people remain divided in loyalties, it is not a place for an outsider to intrude upon unless they wish to seek their end.”

”That is all I ask. This alliance is one of necessity. I have no illusions to the contrary. But aiding each other is in our best interest. Stamping out this threat to the wider galaxy is a task we must bend our wills to.” She thought of missions currently underway within Romulan territory and decided she would skirt the whole topic of outsider intrudance into their territory and political instability. ”And with all due respect to your rank and position, Empress, I doubt very much that even if you put in a kind word for us when the dust settles, that it would help over much. Nor do I wager that the backing of the Klingon Chancellor himself will change public opinion. I harbor no illusions of a hero's welcome when this is all done. I’m not fighting to salvage my reputation or secure my freedom.

“I’m here, now, fighting because it is the right thing to do. Because there is too much at stake not to. Even when we succeed against this invasive threat to our galaxy, I very much doubt my ending will be a happy one. But sometimes that’s the sacrifice that honor demands be made.”

It was not an easy thing to admit that dark-held belief that even if they won, Natalie had no future in Starfleet. She’d be lucky to be allowed to walk away when it was all over, or so she imagined. Too much blood had been spilt already. But perhaps acknowledging that would buy her some credit with the Romulans, a people who understood doing what was honorable even at the cost of their own life.

Sensing the end of the meeting and a desire for further private discussion between leaders, Enyd gave the Empress a formal nod and acknowledgment. Then she turned to give a mirrored one to Stark as she stood. “I’ll escort the attaches into the adjoining room.”

The attaches left the room only after another firm glare from the Empress confirmed this was indeed what she wanted. The Romulan leader waited until the door swished shut before she spoke again.

“My…” Empress Donatra tilted her head to stare at the woman who’d been her shadow all the while, “aide, Jaeih T’haelaa,” a smirk touched the edges of her lips at the word, “has something for your Intelligence department.” Donatra nodded to her “aide” before returning her hardened gaze to the commander.

The statuesque Romulan woman who, up to this moment, had been Donatra’s powerfully built shadow, shifted out from behind the Empress just long enough to hold out an isolinear chip toward Commander Stark.

“Your people will want to investigate this.” Her voice was like blades on silk. “The suspects outlined on the chip are all currently onboard Theurgy, helping to prepare for the dinner with the Klingons.” She inclined her head toward Donatra before adding. “We thought it would make this job easier.” She dropped the chip in Stark’s hand and stepped back behind Empress Donatra, resuming her silent but deadly persona.

The Starfleet commander reached out and took the chip from the statuesque woman with a slow nod, turning it over in her fingers after the other Romulan let it go. She wasn’t about to drop this into a file reader right then and there - not even Natalie was that naive, though by the same token she did not expect the claimant to the throne of Romulus to be so gouache as to hand over a virus out in the open. These people had tact, after their own fashion. She was unsure who would be more upset by the information on that chip - her intelligence department, or the Klingons’. Placing a private bet with herself, she nodded again to each woman in turn. ”I thank you both for your time. I will see to it that this acted upon swiftly. And I will arrange the aforementioned data packet with Intelligence to be delivered at your convenience. Madame Empress.”

Donatra fixed Natalie with one more piercing glare before standing. She didn’t bother with a respectful nod of acknowledgment before sweeping from the room, nor did her aide. There was nary a pause in her trajectory as she blew through the adjoining room, the rest of her entourage falling into step without a word as she blitzed by. From their general demeanor, it seemed they were all of the same accord: the more distance between themselves and the Theurgy crew, the better.

OOC: This post opens up the availability of a number of more story prompts noted here ( that may be pursued with writing partners following the Ch # S  [ Day #  | Time  ] Title (story prompt title) for these supplemental threads.

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