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Ripples On The Water

Posted on Wed Mar 10th, 2021 @ 1:25am by Captain Kathleen O'Shea & Commander Andrew Matheson

Mission: The Black Rose of Winter's Embrace
Location: Captain O'Shea's Office
Timeline: After Monotany's Break, same day

As ordered, Andrew reported to Kathleen's office suite for the previously discussed tasking from the operations meeting earlier that day. He saluted Kathleen after entering the office suite. "Reporting as ordered, Captain. Am I lucky enough to have had you take me up on my proposal to open an embassy on Wrigley's Pleasure Planet, or is there more likely something else on your mind?"

Kathleen 's smile was a bit forced in appearance, but was genuine enough. "As intriguing a thought as that is...not to mention tempting, there are other concerns at the moment that need tending to." She indicated that he should take a seat. "This may take a bit to get through, and I think you might want to be sitting when I outline this task for you."

Andrew took the indicated seat, recognizing the dual nature of the smile and grateful he had had the foresight to bring a large mug of tea with him. Upon taking the seat and a sip of the tea, he looked over to Kathleen. "As long as our new Chief Intelligence Officer didn't write the brief, I suspect I'll survive." He had the same sort of forced smile on his face, but his eyes seemingly hardened into obsidian for a moment before he closed them. One deep breath later, and when his eyes opened they were back to friendly, easygoing Andrew. "Sorry, ma'am. It's been a day."

Kathleen smiled, but it was...well, forced in appearance. "I understand, trust me. And I'm sorry, but I am about to most likely take it down a notch further."

Andrew nodded. "Rank hath its privileges, ma'am. What concern landed on your desk that is now about to become my concern?" His face settled back into a pleasant, ready-for-business expression. He knew that whatever came next, unpleasant as it might be, it almost certainly wasn't going to be anything personal. And that would be a relief after the recent conversation with Rosaleen... Oy, that was going to take some unpacking.

"A mining agreement dispute has gotten ugly, and we have been asked to mediate. The Longoree are the controllers of the asset. The petitioners are..." Kathleen actually paused and sighed. "..the Cardassians."

"The Cardassians." It was a tribute to Andrew's long career that the phrase came out as calmly as if they were discussing a mildly interesting interstellar phenomenon. In his mind, a large, ornate wall was hastily assembled slab by slab. "From what I remember from working with them on the Treaty of 2370 and bearing in mind the masterclass they would have gotten from the Founders... I'm guessing the dispute hinges on an interpretation or two that means one thing to everyone other than a Cardassian mind, and the ugliness comes from the average Cardassian mining force being better trained and better armed than an exceptional Longoree defense force." He let out a deep sigh that laid bare some deep frustrations in his soul. The Cardassians. At least it wasn't the Borg; that negotiation would be impossible, this one would just be a pain in the ass and a bigger pain in the liver.

"Well, if it helps there was an agreement reached...at one point. Then the Longoree backpedaled and got greedy. They decided that they would up everything. Lease terms, number and type of personnel, types of equipment...even the uniforms that the Cardassians would be required to wear on planet. To be honest, a lot of it seems to be absurd posturing. But...it's their planet and minerals."

Andrew chuckled. "If it's not the Cardassians changing the terms, that helps. I'm assuming the Longoree aren't allied to any major power, because the Cardassians know we wouldn't interfere with the friendly ones or intervene in the unfriendly ones. I'll do my research, figure out who gets to mind the store here since it can't be Arianna, and go from there." He looked over to the captain. "I'll need to see the petition itself; knowing the Cardassians it's almost certainly in perfect order, but I can read up on the Cardassian running point on this as part of my research."

Kathleen smiled. "I must say that you are taking this better than I expected. Now then, I'm afraid that I have one more surprise for you. As we have so many of our regular personnel tied up on the mine camp mission, I really only have one choice as far as a pilot and assistant to send with you." She looked directly into Andrew's eyes as she spoke. "Rosaleen will be accompanying you for the duration of the talks."

Andrew tried. Before God and heaven, he tried. He held the captain's gaze for one long breath, then two, then three... but finally, he had to look away. "I know better than to argue with you once your mind's made up, Captain, but in full candor, Commander O'Donnell's presence is very likely to cause complications in the completion of this mission. Not through any fault of her own..."

He tailed off, took another steadying breath, and looked back up at Kathleen. "I'm starting from a bad place with this mission. I don't know if I ever told you that in the middle of the Protectorate bullshit blowing up all over us, my wife - ex-wife, now - formalized our divorce?"

The room warmed a bit and Kathleen's features softened. "No, you haven't. I'm so sorry, my friend."

Andrew nodded. "Thank you, but at the time the roots of it were a couple decades in the past. Back in '68, when I was one of the junior diplomats working to formalize the DMZ, there was a small planet in the middle of the area. It was uninhabited except for a couple of mining settlements from Cardassia; there were no other higher lifeforms on the planet. However, since it was in the proposed treaty area, it had to be catalogued. The glinn overseeing things there was a silver tongued devil par excellence, and basically interfered without interfering in everything the survey team was doing. My ex-wife was an exobiologist on the survey team, and she found rather compelling evidence of higher intelligence in one of the bacteria that seemed to thrive on the mineral deposits."

He steadied himself with a deep breath before continuing. "I was serving as liaison between the team and the Cardassians. I had to report her findings, which pissed the glinn off no end because the Prime Directive concerns would have raised hell with the mining operations. Four days later, the convenient accident in the mines which almost killed the entire survey team and destroyed the best physical evidence of Rachel's suspicions..." He took a pull of his tea.

"Everyone survived, thankfully, though everyone had their environment suits breached. That meant direct exposure to the bacteria. One thing we didn't know about the bacteria was they were cytotoxic to humanoid stem cells. Rachel was three months pregnant at the time; we lost the twins a couple of weeks later and, as I was roundly accused of in my last conversation with her, we lost the marriage that day too because I had to keep working on my god-damned diplomacy to make the universe a place where things like that couldn't happen to other people, and wouldn't stop to care about her..."

He took another deep breath. "Anyway. It's twenty-five years later, and it's a different situation between me and the commander. But me being in the middle of another Cardassian mining dispute with people I care about potentially in harm's way..." He looked squarely at Kathleen, the eyes hardening. "You're ordering her onto the mission, Captain; I won't fight it. We've almost lost her once because my head wasn't in the game, so you can be damn sure I will have my head on a swivel to keep her safe. I can't guarantee what other parameters of the mission will or won't get shot to hell in the process if it comes to that."

He stood up with an oddly mixed aura of resolve and resignation, expecting that everything important had been said and noting that he was in danger of being less than five minutes early to his next meeting. "If there's nothing else, Captain, could you send the petition over to my PADD so I can take a look at it?"

Kathleen quickly typed a few commands into the terminal on her desk. "Done. And Commander...if you need anything, and I mean anything, let me know and it is done. I wish you all the luck. I know how hard this is, but I firmly believe that you are the only one that can pull this off."

Andrew saluted and looked down at the PADD in his other hand as he turned to leave. He made it a few steps to the door before he stopped and turned back to Kathleen. "Apparently that glinn I mentioned is now the gul in charge of the team that sent the petition for mediation. I'll make a note in my log so you have it on record if they complain about the Federation's lack of respect in selecting a representative to handle this petition, and I'll brief Rosaleen directly so we can get on with getting this over with as soon as possible."

Some quiet part of his mind held his decorum upright until he got back to his office, at which point the duffel bag he was using to improvise a speed bag took one hell of a beating.

Captain Kathleen O'Shea
Commanding Officer
Starbase 80

Commander Andrew Matheson
Chief Diplomatic Officer
Starbase 80

 

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