A starship like Eagle functioned very much like a self-sufficient entity which had been designed to spend years operating independently in deep space. The Nebula-class was one of a handful of Federation starship designs which were able to truly fulfill Starfleet’s charter and go where no one had gone before by venturing deep into unexplored territory for years on end. And considering the vast distances that made up the Federation, it was a rare occasion that she returned to her homeport around Earth’s orbit.
Of course Eagle had done little exploring over the last two years. Like the great majority of Starfleet ships, she too had been far too preoccupied taking part in the Dominion War and battling for the freedom of the Alpha Quadrant which had kept her and her crew away from Planet Earth.
In fact as far as Michael Owens could remember, it had been four years since Eagle had made the trip all the way back to the center of sector zero-zero-one. After that long and often excruciating war with the Dominion, many of the crew had jumped at the chance of taking shore leave while the ship itself was due for a major and overhaul at the McKinley Station orbiting Earth.
Presently Eagle was quite literally waiting in line for her turn to get her accumulated battle damage and other required maintenance seen to. Repair stations like McKinley in the solar system and other locations throughout the Federation had been working overtime since the end of the war five months earlier to attend to a battle ravaged fleet.
Owens understood that Eagle had been relatively lucky in that regard. Countless ships hadn’t survived the conflict, casualty numbers were staggering, and many ships which had survived the massive battles against the Jem’Hadar, Cardassian and later Breen forces had been damaged to such a degree that it had been deemed more efficient to scrap those vessels altogether. Eagle had taken her share of damage in numerous conflicts but had been patched up efficiently enough by its crew or nearby outposts to continue her missions. She had however never directly participated in any major fleet actions, such as the devastating Battle of Chin’toka or the Battle of Cardassia.
It wasn’t as if Eagle had not been kept busy over those two, long years, undertaking various missions which in hindsight appeared to have been crucial in assisting the war effort, but Owens sometimes couldn’t help but feel guilty that they had been left out of those larger conflicts when so many had given their lives for the defense of the quadrant.
Twenty-four hours after their arrival at Earth, and while the ship still awaited the opening of its assigned berth at McKinley, the interior of his ship felt like a ghost town as her captain walked its nearly empty corridors during the peak of alpha shift. He knew that more than three quarters of the crew had taken the opportunity of extended shore leave, even many of those who did not hail from Earth were either spending time on the planet or had chosen to travel to other destinations within the Federation core and beyond.
Many members of the senior staff had also left the ship but Michael was surprised to find that at least one person he had expected to take full advantage of being temporarily sidelined on Earth was still on board.
It took two attempts before DeMara Deen responded to the annunicator and she allowed him to enter her quarters.
Even though the youthful Tenarian was currently serving as the ship’s chief operations officer, Deen was a scientist by heart and education and as such her inherent curiosity for everything new and unfamiliar was represented in the way she decorated her quarters. She was a collector and yet had managed to keep her quarters tasteful and uncluttered, with only the most artful or impressive objects on display, such as a light reflecting, spiral-shaped Iconian sculpture, a rare bust of an ancient Tkon emperor, a collection of small Hyterian figurines, a pre-Surak surrealist painting with such bold colors that it would have most likely offended most contemporary Vulcans, and a maroon ceramic vase supposedly crafted by the legendary artist Mark Off-Zel.
Deen herself was sitting on her sofa underneath the large slanted, forward facing window which was so prominently featured in most senior officer’s quarters on this deck. She had her knees up against her chest with her arms wrapped around her legs as she was looking out towards the big blue marble Eagle was currently orbiting.
She turned her head to regard him, a puzzled expression on her face.
“Who’s there?” he said, trying to prompt her.
He sighed. DeMara Deen was a remarkable bright and intelligent woman and often demonstrated a level of wisdom one may have expected from somebody twice her age. And yet the blonde-haired, purple-eyed Tenarian had never fully grasped the inherent simplicity of a knock-knock joke. Michael was determined he was going to make her understand it someday, no matter that he had tried unsuccessfully for the last fourteen years and as long as he had known her.
He held up a padd he had brought. “I’ve noticed that you’re not on the shore leave crew rotation, haven’t even signed up for permission to leave the ship.”
She offered a small smile. “Well somebody has to stay and mind the store. Isn’t that what you like to say.”
Michael took a seat on a chair opposite from her. “What is this really about, Dee?” There was little point to even counter her point, after all she knew as well as he did that while in orbit Eagle could practically take care of herself, and even the few crewmen and officers who had not signed up for shore leave were spending most their off-duty hours planet-side.
She shrugged her shoulders and looked back out of the window.
“I know Tenaria is a long way from here but I’m more than happy to authorize extended leave for you to go home and visit family if you like. We can handle things without you for a while.”
“I almost did go.”
She nodded but kept her gaze glued towards the window. “When I went to Risa. It all went a little crazy and Anara convinced me to take her. It didn’t work out in the end. Things came up and we had to postpone our plans.”
He knew she and her Academy friend Anara Rysil, the Deltan first officer of the Perseus had visited the amusement planet Risa a few months earlier. At the time he had thought it to be an odd shore leave choice for her, considering that she wasn’t really the tourist type, but he hadn’t said much at the time. In fact he had hoped that it would do her some good going to a place where she had to do little more than lay at the beach, enjoy the sun and get her every wish taken care of.
The war had not been good to DeMara Deen. It hadn’t been for any of them, but for somebody like her, who had never truly known war and who had grown up as a pacifist on her harmonious home world, he had feared that she had encountered such violence and brutality over those two years that it had forever changed her optimistic spirit. And for Deen that was what truly defined her as a person, the ability to always see the good in people, to see light when others could only see darkness.
“How long has it been since you’ve been home? Since you’ve seen another fellow Tenarian face-to-face?” he said.
“It’s been a few years,” she said but didn’t make eye contact.
“Exactly. The Tenarian delegation has travelled over a month to get to Earth and I know for a fact that Yeega has already asked about you. He would love nothing more than to see you again. I remember him from my time on Tenaria, he was always a chatty sort. Just the kind of person to catch-up with about what’s been happening back home.”
Deen offered a very little smile. “Yes, he was chatty, wasn’t he?”
“Go down there and meet with him and the rest of the delegation. Be with your own people for a little while. And who knows, maybe you can even book a trip back to Tenaria with them.”
She shook her head and that smile quickly disappeared again. “I just don’t think…”
“You don’t think they’ll be happy to see you again? Have you met your own people? I guarantee you there isn’t a race of beings more welcoming or magnanimous this side of the Virgo Supercluster.”
She shot him an annoyed glance. “Considering that both Earth and Tenaria are within Virgo that would be difficult. And do I even need to point out that most of it remains unexplored. Thereby it is quite possible that there are many, many other races out there which could be much more magnanimous than my people.”
“Well, sure, we could go out there and try to find them, but I think the ones we’ve got right here may be closer.”
“Maybe I beam down to go meet Yeega if you go and talk to your father.”
Michael was taken aback for a moment by the ice tone in her voice which was not like her at all and apparently she had quickly realized how she had sounded herself as she immediately broke eye contact, almost as if she was ashamed of her own words.
“I will,” he said after a moment. “In fact he has already requested that I come see him. Seeing that he outranks me by a few pips, I can’t exactly say no. I already had to postpone my shore leave arrangements because of that. Imagine Tazla Star’s disappointment,” he said, referring to his plans to introduce his rather skeptical Trill first officer to the wonders of Earth’s coral reefs.
She nodded but said nothing as she looked back out of the window, avoiding the subject altogether or that the only reason he had invited Star along was because she had surprisingly decided not to accompany him even though she had greatly enjoyed the last few diving expeditions they had undertaken together.
“Help me understand this, Dee. Your relationship with your people is nothing like what’s been going on between my father and me. In fact it’s the exact opposite. Why are you trying to hide away up here?”
Deen didn’t respond straight away to this. But when she finally turned her head, Michael could see that her eyes had grown wet. “After everything that has happened over the last few years, everything I’ve seen … and everything I’ve done. I just don’t know if they’ll recognize what I have become.”
Startled by this revelation he walked over to her and held her in his arms, a gesture she welcomed as she easily sunk into him.
After the tight embrace, she looked him in the eye. “What if they don’t accept me anymore?”
He wiped away a tear that was threatening to spill out of her eye. “They are like family, Dee. And I don’t care where you’re from, family sticks together. Yours will too.”
She nodded very slowly, apparently starting to believe, or perhaps hope, that he could be right.
She swallowed and then stood from the sofa. “I suppose we’ll find out.”
She was familiar with the human expression of having butterflies in one’s stomach but had never fully understood the meaning of it until today. It was an odd sensation of anxiety and anticipation, bordering on all out fear.
Preparing herself for the upcoming meeting, she had even changed out of her Starfleet uniform and had chosen to wear a more traditional Tenarian outfit, in this case a white and green wrap-around dress which reached just above her knees. She complimented that outfit with a white sun hat which helped keep her inconspicuous among the many locals and tourists who were out and enjoying a warm and sunny Parisian afternoon.
Deen was tempted to spend some time to admire the city as she crossed the impressive Place de la Concorde with its mixture of modern and historical structures. The most noticeable of which was the cylindrical, fifteen-story seat of the Federation government and the president, hovering over the Champs Elysées on four large duranium beams.
But Deen was heading the other way today, passed the two fountains and the Obelisk of Luxor and made a beeline towards the world-renowned Hôtel de Crillon.
Inside she quickly found the ornate reception desk and asked for the Tenarian delegation. The young man staffing the desk didn’t need to look twice to be able to tell that she belong to that same race, if her bright purple eyes and golden locks did not give her away, her unmistakable aura which surrounded her people and who affected so many other humanoids was a dead giveaway.
The man smiled at her and felt noticeably uncomfortable when he had to explain that he had to check her identity first, which he managed to do quickly thanks to her status as a Starfleet officer.
Once the computer had verified her, two burly men in dark suits and wrap-around sunglasses accompanied Deen to the elevators. These men, she realized were part of Federation Security’s diplomatic protection detail. Entirely humorless and completely immune to her charms, they weren’t interested in the least in striking up any conversation after they had verified with compact tricorders and a brief visual inspection that she was unarmed.
She was escorted to the top floor where they came across another four security officers who looked nearly identical and promptly carried out yet another check. Deen took all this in stride, understanding the need for security when it came to foreign delegations, especially so soon after the end of the war. It also didn’t escape her notice that there were no Tenarians standing guard anywhere. She was not surprised.
When she was finally led into one of the larger suites, she felt those butterflies acting up again.
Yeega who had a been a close family friend and who she had always considered as fondly as an uncle, was there to greet her and she quickly realized that he had changed little since she had last seen him half a decade earlier. As was typical for her people, he was tall and statuesque. Yeega was in his mid fifties but thanks the youthful appearance of her species, could have easily passed as ten years younger. His skin was much darker then hers and his golden hair was cut short. His purple eyes sparkled with the same intensity they had when she had been a child and he had read to her from her favorite books about alien races and space travel. In fact it had been Yeega who had awakened in her the desire to travel the stars even before Michael Owens and his Starfleet explorer stumbled over her planet.
“Dee, it is so good to see you again.” He was all smiles as he hugged her tightly and just like that, all her worries seemed forgotten as she sunk into his comfortable embrace like she had when she had been much younger.
He introduced her to half a dozen other Tenarians, a couple of them she remembered as people working with her father who had been a senior government official even when she had been a child. They all sat down in the spacious living area of the suite and began to talk about all kinds of things. Deen was surprised how much she found she enjoyed their company and the stories from back home. She avoided speaking about herself too much, tried to avoid talking about the last two years as much as possible and was relieved to learn that Tenaria, thanks to its remote location, had escaped the war entirely untouched by its violence.
After an hour or so, Deen suggested a tour of the city and Yeega and a few of the delegates agreed. And while she wasn’t exactly a local, she had been to Paris enough times to know of the most popular and even a few not-so-well known attractions.
The imposing Eifel Tower was of course one of their first stops, followed by a visit to the Louvre, and private showings of such masterpieces as Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, Jean-Antoine Watteau’s Nymph and Satyr, Johannes Vermeer’s The Astronomer as well as works from famed abstract expressionist Jackson Pollock on loan from the Museum of Twentieth Century Art in New York, and a number of stunning holo-art spacescapes from Jhothaa Sh'ari on loan from the Royal Conservatory on Andor.
The famous Notre Dame, the Arc of Triomphe and the Champs-…lysées were of course also on the list of must-see destinations but Deen also made some time to take the delegation to some lesser known places like the downright creepy catacombs filled with a seemingly endless amount of exposed skulls and bones, the unusual Defender of Time mechanized clock in which a man seemed to be stuck in an eternal struggle against a dragon and one of Deen’s favorite locations, the Musée des Arts et Métiers, which was filled with a wide collection of scientific and industrial instruments from Earth’s past.
In fact, Deen had always considered Paris one of Earth’s most impressive cities, ever since she had first arrived on this alien world to attend Starfleet Academy and had spent many countless hours here. If she’d had the time and opportunity she would have gladly shown Yeega and his delegation most of what she herself had discovered in the city over the years she had been on Earth. In the end they had to make due with only two days which of course hardly even scratched the surface of what City of Light had to offer.
It wasn’t until the evening of their second day while she was having dinner with him at the glamorous dining room of the Hotel Meurice, overlooking the Tuileries Garden with its considerable collection of sculptures hailing from all over the planet and beyond, that she had felt comfortable enough to broach the subject she had been so concerned about.
And while no member of the delegation had shown any sign of concern for her whatsoever there had been a few occasions during their tour of the city that she had felt a subtle disconnect between her and her fellow kinsmen.
“What did you say this is called again?” Yeega said as he had another spoon of his dish.
She smiled at his enjoyment of the local delicacy. “Soupe à l'oignon or onion soup, very popular in these parts and one of my all-time favorites.”
He nodded and promptly had another spoonful. “I must say the local cuisine is just as impressive as the art and architecture. In fact, if I lived here, I think I would eat this every day.”
“So would I, to tell you the truth. Our replicators don’t really do it justice. But I suppose this is hardly surprising, France is considered one of the greatest culinary locations on this planet.”
He grinned. “I can see why the Federation decided to make it its capital.”
“I always suspected that the food must have played a role in the selection process.”
Yeega wiped his lips with a napkins and uttered a little satisfied sigh. “I’m glad I came here, this is a truly fascinating place. We tend to spend so much time reading and studying about these places but far too rarely do we actually visit any of them.” He took a moment to take in the lavish dining room. “The attention takes a little bit of getting used to.”
DeMara followed his glance and unsurprisingly noticed quite a few patrons who had taken an interest in the alien pair. She had long since grown accustomed to the effect the so-called Tenarian Glow had on many other races, the way it attracted attention and tended to uplift people’s spirit almost automatically. This effect had been even stronger when the entire Tenarian delegation had traveled the city over the last two days, which had caused a number of occasions where people had spontaneously stopped what they had been doing and approached the Tenerians with wide smiles and great curiosity. None of the Tenerians had minded of course and it had led DeMara to once again become convinced that the reputation that Parisians were snobby and standoffish was blatantly untrue
She looked back at him and nodded. “Humans tend to be a friendly people. As are most of the races that make up the Federation. It’s perhaps harder to tell with Vulcans and Andorians, but in my experience, they just show it in different ways.”
“I can certainly understand why you have chosen to come here. There seems to be no better place to learn about the great diversity of the galaxy and the richness of all these cultures. And I say this after only having visited one of the many great worlds that make up this Federation.”
This made her pensive for a moment, as she couldn’t help but think back how close they had all come to losing everything to the Dominion. When she looked back into Yeega’s eyes she immediately understood that he could not possibly fathom such a threat. Tenaria had simply been isolated for too long, experienced harmony for such an extended period of time, it was difficult for any of her people to appreciate what a struggle for survival felt like. It had been difficult for her when she had first left her home. “We paid a heavy price to keep hold of it.”
Yeega could clearly tell that her thoughts had begun to drift to darker places. He reached out for both her wrists on the table, gripping them softly in a common Tenerian practice of showing support. “We all know of this terrible war you and the rest of the Federation have fought. And believe me, your parents and I offer you our fullest support. The things you must have experienced, it is difficult for me to even find words for it.”
She nodded very slowly. “It is more than that. I mean yes, I’ve seen things I would never have imagined growing up. But I’ve also … done things.” She uttered a nervous little laugh. “I guess I don’t really know the words myself.”
Yeega was not deterred in his support. “I will not pretend to believe that I understand any of it, DeMara. I know I cannot. But I want you to know, that whatever you have gone through, whatever it is you had to do in order to ensure the freedom of the people you have sworn your loyalty to, we would never think any less of you. You are and shall always remain a favorite daughter of Teneria.”
She had to free one of her arms from his touch for no other reason than to wipe away a tear that had begun to streak down her cheek. She hadn’t expected this kind of unconditional support and it felt like an unbelievable weight had being lifted from her shoulders. “I … thank you.”
Yeega quickly shook his head. “Don’t be silly, there is no need to thank me. Remember what I told you before you decided to set out onto this journey of yours. Your parents and I knew that this would inevitably change you, but we were also convinced that whatever happened, the core of who you are and where you come from will never be shaken. And that you will always have a home with us.”
She nodded slowly. “You have no idea what this means to me, Yeega. There have been times, not so long ago, when I thought I had lost sight of who I was. When I feared that I didn’t recognize myself any longer and perhaps neither would you.”
“Perish those thoughts, DeMara, I insist. Instead led us enjoy this time we have together, not to mention this wonderful food you have introduced me to.”
She offered him a beaming smile even as she reached for her serviette to wipe her eyes.
Her worst fears had been dispelled. There was no doubt that the violence and intensity of the war had deeply affected her. She had lost people she had cared for greatly but she now also finally understood that no matter how much things had changed, she could remain safe in the knowledge that she was still herself. She had no illusions that this unexpected affirmation would miraculously heal all the trauma she had experienced over the last two years, but it was a step into the right direction. And hopefully a big step at that.
“Now that we’ve covered all that,” he said as he continued eating his soup. “I would appreciate a little advice on what to expect when meeting those Federation officials for our talks tomorrow.”
“I’d be more than happy to help anyway I can,” she said with a smile and began to impart to her old family friend everything she knew about Federation politics and policy only to realize fairly quickly that it wasn’t nearly as much as she had believed.
She didn’t get to see much of Yeega over the next few days, mostly because he had a full schedule of high-level meetings with Federation politicians which kept him busy. It hadn’t stopped DeMara to spend as much time as possible, however, with other members of the delegation whenever they were available, making the best of her opportunity to be with her own people after not having come across another Tenarian for years.
She was pleased to find that they were just as understanding and welcoming as Yeega had been. In fact she wouldn’t have been surprised if Eagle’s resident counselor wouldn’t have considered her reconnecting with her roots as a positive therapeutic step to healing the deep psychological scars she had had undeniably suffered during the war.
She couldn’t remember the last time she had felt this positive about not just the state of her world, but also about herself as well.
While she hadn’t talked much about it, not even with Michael, the truth of the matter was that her life had drastically changed for her over the last few years. Of course this much was true for most people living in the Alpha and Beta Quadrants fighting the Dominion, but it had caught her so completely by surprise, for a long time she had not known how to deal with it at all.
The war had begun to fundamentally transform her from the person she had been, the person she liked and she was comfortable with, to something much darker and cynical. Something she could barely recognize when she looked at herself in the mirror each morning.
It had started, like it had for so many others, with the constant news of yet another lost battle, another world fallen and another piece of territory lost. Then there had been the casualty reports which seemed to grow longer with each passing day until it was almost impossible to go through them without finding somebody she knew.
It had all begun to paint a very clear picture of an inevitable defeat which would mean losing not just people and territory, but their very freedoms and everything else she held dear.
That ever-encroaching darkness had made it more and more difficult to try and see any kind of light to cling on to, to find any hope that in the end things would turn out all right. After all, how could things ever be all right again considering what had already been lost?
She had held out longer than pretty much anyone else on board. She had continued to try to keep that smile on her face, understanding that many counted on her seemingly inexhaustible supply of buoyancy to get them through the worst of times. But even she had to admit that near the end, she could do little more than pretend, and perhaps that was the worst part of it all. That she had become a fake, a dishonest pretender who desperately clung to a lie because she was too scared to admit the truth. Bad enough that she could no longer muster the optimism which had been an integral part of her being, but the war had turned her into a deceiver as well.
Of course the war had eventually ended and not one day too soon. But just when she had thought that perhaps there was a chance for things to finally get better, did fate deliver perhaps the most devastating blow when a very close friend of hers had died in her arms in an entirely needless and preventable death.
That shock had caused her to act out in a most unusual and in hindsight shameful way when she had directed much of her simmering anger and pain towards another close friend while vacationing on Risa a couple of months earlier.
Since meeting with Yeega and overcoming her trepidations about the experience of the last few years having changed her in ways that had made her unrecognizable, she had come to the decision that no matter what she had gone through, no matter how much the events of the war had chipped away at her core being, she was determined to not let it defeat her. She was going to bounce back from the darkest days of her life along with the rest of the Federation.
For the first time in a long time, hope was once more as integral to her life as was the air she breathed, and spending time with the Tenarian delegation was just what she needed to reaffirm this.
So she returned back to her quarters after another day in Paris in high spirits and finding a message waiting for her.
“Who is it from?”
“The message is from Saada Gwacham,” the computer helpfully advised her.
She didn’t recognize the name but she still took a seat by her desk and activated the computer terminal. “Put the call through, please.”
The computer trilled again. “The sender has left no voice message but has requested a call back at your earliest convenience regardless of the time.”
That was a fairly unusual request, DeMara thought, but it clearly meant that this person wanted to speak to her urgently. “Computer, who is Saada Gwacham and what is the local time at her location?”
“Saada Gwacham serves as the Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs and is currently located in Marseilles, France. The local time is 2322 hours.”
It was hardly surprising she didn’t know the name, after all it was uncommon for a high-ranking politician to contact a relatively low-ranking Starfleet officer. It wasn’t difficult to guess what the call was in relation to, she knew that the talks Yeega and his delegation were taking part in where being held in the French port city.“Computer, contact Secretary Gwacham.”
After only a few seconds, the image of a woman of likely African descent appeared on her terminal. DeMara had a hard time placing her age, but judging by the faintest signs of wrinkles on her otherwise flawless skin and the way her short, dark hair showed just a hint of gray, she assumed that she must have been at least middle-aged and that she had come through to Gwacham directly and not an assistant or intermediary. Her eyes were slightly bloodshot, but from the looks of her business attire she was still working, even at this late hour.
“Thank you very much for coming back to me so promptly, Lieutenant.”
DeMara nodded. “Of course. How can help?”
“I’ll get right to the point. I am afraid we’re at a bit of an impasse and would greatly appreciate your assistance. Assistance you would be ideally suited to provide.”
“This is about the Tenerian delegation, I take it? About Yeega?”
She nodded. “Yes. Now first of all let me assure you that my staff and I have the uttermost respect for Mister Yeega and his delegation. As you can imagine in my role I speak to a great deal of people from other cultures and societies, and I have rarely if ever encountered anyone quite like your friend. Your people’s reputation of being gracious and unselfish is well deserved. They have easily charmed half of the Palais de la Concorde. Even the President is quite impressed after just a short meeting with the delegation.”
That caused DeMara to smile. She was glad that her people had made such a positive impression in the Federation’s halls of power. It quickly vanished when she realized that Gwacham had clearly not contacted her because things were going well. “You mentioned an impasse?”
“I’m afraid so. One of the main reasons we have invited your people to join us here on Earth is to discuss our wider Alpha Quadrant security initiative. Now, I won’t be able to disclose many details as they are classified at this point, but sufficient to say that Tenarian cooperation is quite important to ensure the initiative’s success.”
DeMara leaned back in her chair, starting to see why Gwacham had encountered difficulties. “Surely you are aware that my people hold strong pacifistic tenants. If your security initiative involves any kind of military commitment you are probably, as humans are fond of saying, barking up the wrong tree.”
Gwacham quickly shook her head. “We’ve done our research, Lieutenant, we are fully aware of the Tenarian non-violent philosophy. And our proposal does not require a traditional military commitment. It does however require each member to share certain intelligence with everyone else, in this case all we are trying to get the delegation to agree to is that they will allow us to deploy long-range sensor buoys to monitor certain areas in their sector. In fact none of these platforms are even designed or calibrated to monitor Tenarian activity but are only used to detect any possible threats to the Federation as well as to Tenaria.”
“Are these sensor platforms armed?”
“No. And our provision even includes that the platforms may be inspected and operated by Tenaria itself in case there are any concerns about their usage. But even those overtures have been rebuffed. The problem for us is that if we are unable to deploy these platforms, a crucial part of the security initiative, which is to provide an early warning system to a number of Federation and non-Federation worlds in relative proximity to Tenaria is simply not going to be achievable because we will not be able to cover the required amount of space. As you can imagine, after the war, security is everyone’s priority.”
“Except for my people.”
She nodded. “So it would seem. I cannot fully understand it. Everyone would benefit from this and the advantages seem immediately obvious. I was hoping that you would be able to speak to your delegation on this matter.”
DeMara didn’t need to think about this very long. Everything that Gwacham had told her made perfect sense and she understood that sometimes her people had difficulties grasping concepts that related to security and defense. She offered a sharp nod. “Leave it with me, Secretary. If you could send me everything you are able to share with me about this proposal I will make sure to speak to Yeega and make him see the advantages to be gained from this.”
Gwacham offered a little smile, the first one she had cracked since the call had commenced. She tapped a few commands on a nearby terminal. “I have sent you everything I can safely declassify just now. And I’m grateful for your assistance with this. Gwacham out.”
DeMara transferred the data she had received onto a padd for some bedtime reading, determined to have a good long chat with Yeega the following day.
Gwacham had arranged a two-day hiatus to the conference and Deen had taken the opportunity to return to Paris to meet up with Yeega in his suite in the Hôtel de Crillon. As had been the case the other day, Yeega was more than happy to receive her.
She had not given him any indication what it was he had wanted to discuss with her but he was smart enough to figure out that her visit as well as the pause in the talks were no mere coincidence.
Deen who knew that Yeega had taken a quick liking to French culinary delights had ordered two café au laits from the room’s replicator as they made themselves comfortable in the lounge area, sitting on lavishly upholstered chairs. The pleasant surprise showing on his face was proof that he was quite pleased with this latest cultural discovery.
“How has the conferences been so far?” she asked as he watched him sipping on the large cup.
He nodded. “Very interesting. We’ve had the opportunity to meet a great number of different people from various races, both from within the Federation and without. Before setting out on this journey, DeViscus had asked me to ensure to cultivate new relationships with as many worlds as possible,” he said, referring to her father and member of the Tenarian ruling council. “Without wishing to sound boastful, I believe I have been rather successful in that respect.”
DeMara smiled at that, happy to know that her people were making a more concerted effort to take part in the intergalactic community. It wasn’t so much that Tenarians were isolationists per se, in fact her people welcomed visitors to their world with open arms, and yet very few had ever endeavored to leave their world for long periods of time. “I’m glad to hear it.”
“But you feel that I could do more?”
She gave him a puzzled look.
“No need to be coy, DeMara,” he said with a good-natured smile. “I may not fully understand humans and all their mannerisms but I am fully cognizant of Secretary Gwacham’s frustration at our decision to abstain from her initiative. That’s why you are here, is it not?”
There was of course little point in denying it. “Then perhaps you could make me understand your reasoning for this decision.”
He lowered his cup and looked at her. “I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that you would have difficulties appreciating the rationale considering how long you have spent among these people and away from Tenaria.”
She frowned. “I thought you weren’t holding this against me?”
Yeega quickly shook his head. “No, please, I did not mean to imply that at all. What I have said the other day still holds true. And we are all immensely proud of what you have accomplished. Your father and mother both wanted to make sure I conveyed that to you as clearly as I could.”
Hearing that felt good. “Okay, then remind me why you believe what you’re doing is for the best of our people? How can refusing joining an initiative designed to protect Tenaria and possibly the entire quadrant from unknown threats be the right choice?”
“I don’t disagree with the notion of trying to protect oneself from a possible threat. But I am concerned at how these long range sensor platforms could be used for other purposes.”
“Once the Federation has the ability to scan deep beyond its borders, it can use that information to make military decisions,” he said.
“It’s a defensive program,” Deen insisted.
“It is intended as one, yes. But it might as well be used to, for example, plan an invasion of an alien world.”
She looked at him blanked-eyed for a moment. The she began to chuckle. The notion had seemed so ridiculous, it was funny to her. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to laugh,” she said quickly. “But I think your reservations might derive from the fact that you don’t know the Federation very well. Take it from somebody like me who has served within Starfleet for the last twelve years. We don’t plan invasions. Starfleet is primarily an exploratory and defensive organization. Probably more defensive over the last few years, but that was hardly by choice.”
If Yeega had been offended by her sudden onset of bemusement he showed no signs of it. “I am aware of this, DeMara. I don’t think any of us, including your parents, would have been very happy to see you join Starfleet if we thought of it otherwise.”
“I must admit, I’m confused. Aren’t you contradicting yourself?”
He stood to walk over to the tall French doors which lead to a balcony and from which he had a clear view onto the Palais de la Concorde and the seat of the Federation government. “I have studied the Articles of the Federation and the Starfleet Charter and I agree with most of what they contain. I consider them to be remarkable documents considering that they are the guiding principles of what is arguably the single largest power in the both the Alpha and the Beta Quadrants. I believe that the leaders you follow have the best intentions at heart and that they wish to govern by those principles,” he said and then turned around. “But I also believe, as does the Ruling Council, that too much power is dangerous, no matter who wields, no matter how good their intentions.”
She shook her head. “You’re over-thinking this, Yeega. You’re equating a simple defensive program designed to safeguard the Federation and her allies to a philosophical question about the corruption of power. I can see your argument and understand your caution, but this is not the point over which to make it, trust me. Starfleet and the Federation may have been a power to be reckoned with, even though I disagree it should have ever been considered as a danger to the people of this galaxy, but even then that was before the war and the horrible losses that we have taken. Our focus now has to be to protect what is left and to ensure something like this will never happen again. This defensive initiative is an important first step into that direction.”
He offered her a somber nod. “You know that we have all been devastated by the news of the pain and suffering the Dominion has brought onto the Federation and beyond. And let me assure you that I am not on an idealistic quest to preach the dangers of Federation power and influence. You are saying that this is a philosophical question and that is absolutely correct. It is the reason why Tenaria is no likely to ever join the Federation.”
That she didn’t like hearing. After all she had hoped that her people would one day become part of the intergalactic community that she had sworn her own allegiance to. And not just because it wasn’t always easy to be a member of an organization dedicated to protect a coalition of worlds her own wasn’t part of. She truly thought that Tenaria as well as the Federation would only benefit from such a union. But that was a conversation best left for another day. She shook her head. “Nobody has officially petitioned Tenaria to become a Federation member as far as I know,” she said, knowing full-well however that her friend Michael Owens had certainly put forth such proposals to both the Ruling Council and the Federation government after his years spent as a Federation ambassador on Tenaria.
Yeega walked back to his chair and sat. “No, you are correct. I am simply trying to make you understand the philosophical differences that would prevent us from joining the Federation or entering any alliance which could lead to a military purpose.”
DeMara suppressed uttering a sigh. “Fine, I suppose I understand the reasoning for not wishing to become a Federation member, even if I don’t agree with them. But you studied the Federation, you said so yourself. The proposed sensor platforms this defense initiative is looking to deploy have been used in other regions of space for at least a hundred years. And never have they been used for anything other than defensive purposes.”
“You might be right in saying so. It does not however preclude them to be used in other ways.”
She was starting to become frustrated with this argument and fought hard to not let it show. “You said that you are devastated by the destruction wrought upon the Federation and the rest of the galaxy by this last war. Would you not wish to do whatever is in your power to help us—the galaxy—from having to go through something like this again? An early detection system proposed by this initiative would be a good way to do that.”
“Perhaps,” he said as he reached for his cup again. And then looked back at her. “But not at the cost of our own values, DeMara. On those we simply cannot and will not compromise.”
“Even if it could stop another war?” she said perhaps more sharply than she had wanted to.
“A hypothetical war?” he said, as he sipped his coffee, the timbre of his voice refusing to match hers.
DeMara jumped out of her chair, unable to remain sitting quietly. “Your entire argument is based on hypotheticals. The possibility that a defensive detection grid could be used for an offensive reason, the possibility that the Federation will suddenly ignore two-hundred years of peaceful policy and turn into the second coming of the Klingon Empire during its darkest days of expansionism.”
“I am sorry that this upsets you so much, DeMara, I really am. Perhaps I have underestimated how much the experiences of the last few years have changed your perception of the universe. But you must understand that it is not the way I think of the galaxy, nor your parents or the people on Tenaria.”
She simply stood there staring at him without being able to form any words in response to this. Only very slowly did the truth begin to sink in. And in a way it frightened her more than anything else she had feared about meeting Yeega after so many years.
Then she nodded slowly. “I understand and I will explain your decision to Secretary Gwacham. She will no doubt be very disappointed.”
Yeega stood. “I regret this. Please tell her that as well.”
“I also regret that this appears to have angered you.”
She shook her head quickly, trying to dissuade him from believing that it had. “Don’t. I am not angry with you, Yeega.”
He took a step closer to her and reached for her wrists, holding them gently. “Remember what I have told you, DeMara. You will always be welcome back home. In fact I know that your parents are very eager for you to visit at your earliest convenience.”
“Thanks,” she said. “And hopefully I will be able to make time soon but I cannot leave right now,” she added, knowing full well that if not an outright lie, it was most certainly merely a half-truth. “It was good to see you again.”
They parted ways then and DeMara left the suite and headed back towards the transporter hub to return to Eagle.
As she stepped out of the hotel and back onto the streets of Paris, she allowed herself one last look up at the Yeega’s room.
She had been wrong all along. Her fears that her people would no longer recognize her or even accept her after all these years living within the Federation and serving Starfleet, and after being exposed and partaking in battle and violence particularly over the years fighting the Dominion had all been entirely unfounded.
The truth was much worse.
It wasn’t that her people didn’t recognize her anymore but that she could no longer recognize them.