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“Sir,” Rhys said, and Keyla nearly slumped over her console in relief. She shot a look at Joann and saw her shoulders relax almost imperceptibly in her uniform. The tension in the air had calcified since Captain Lorca had departed and now the bridge felt as if some invisible layer had crystallized over the bridge, muted and stifling. Rhys’s strong, clear advice had broken that layer like a spoon through crème brulee.

Keyla’s stomach squawked and shuddered. She wanted crème brulee.

“Yes, Lieutenant?” Saru replied, sounding slightly startled.

“Repair crews report we have re-established main power to primary systems. They should come online--“ As if on cue the bridge came alive around him: consoles, systems, controls all alighting as if the great ship was taking a deep breath.

“Say the magic word,” Airiam said, earning her a bemused look from Saru before he returned his attention to the expanse of bridge before him.

“Excellent. Ensign Lupori,” Saru said to the backup science officer, “bring sensors online and scan that asteroid. I want to know if the captain and his counterpart are indeed the only ones down there. Lieutenant Airiam, make preparations to employ the DASH drive, should we need it.”

“Um, sir,” Rhys said tentatively. “Shall I target the enemy vessel?”

Shit! We still gotta kill the Romulans! Keyla had forgotten about the order at some point in the last hour. Probably when her stomach began complaining and she’d begun daydreaming about sauerbraten. Instinctively, she looked at her console and mentally plotted the best attack vector.

“Do not, Mr. Rhys. Run the scan first.”

“But our orders…”

“I’m aware of our orders,” Saru said with the peevishness he would reserve solely for Burnham when they were all aboard the Shenzhou. Keyla couldn’t hear it without feeling a stab of sympathy. Now, though, the tone with run through with iron. “But the fact is, we have all drive systems online, allowing us to leave immediately if necessary. We can attack and destroy the Romulans whenever we wish.”

“Aye sir,” Rhys said, slightly chastened.

And don’t you forget it! Keyla mentally appended.

“The scan, Ensign?”

Lupori answered, “Yes sir…lifesigns: two. One human, one non-human not in our database. Presumably Romulan.”

“Well,” Saru said, “it seems the Romulans showed good faith, at least to some extent. Let’s just hope the captain can rise to meet them in negotiations.”


“So,” N’Vel said, before polishing off her drink and placing the cup on the bedside table, “have we reached a diplomatic solution?”

The human captain eyed her wolfishly. “I’d say we both reached something.”

“Indeed,” she stretched out, feeling the tickle of the frictionless sheets against her bare flesh. She had known, of course, that there would be sleeping quarters on the station--support missions were often weeklong assignments--but it was just good luck that the technician assigned here was using the place as a romantic getaway. Instead of a regulation cot, there was a spacious bed with luxurious appointments and accoutrements--all of which, the human captain had enjoyed and deployed with surprising proficiency. “It seems our positions were closer than we initially thought.”

“Maybe there’s hope for relations between our people after all,” he said and finished his own drink.

“That’s better left to the diplomats. This was a meeting of warriors in battle of another sort.”

He laughed. “Is that a Romulan saying?”

“As a matter of fact it is. You don’t have something similar in your own language.”

“Not that I’m aware.”

“Pity. That’s one area where we’ve bested you.”

“I’d say you bested me a few times already,” the human smiled.

“But you were a tenacious opponent,” N’Vel whispered, then leaned in and kissed him. His tongue met hers, and she felt the response arc along the length of her body. Her hands gripped his unyielding biceps, and she lay back, pulling him atop her when her communicator shouted from someplace on the floor.

“Admiral!” S’Tonn’s voice, tinny as it was emanating from the small speaker, killed her lust as cleanly as a blade to the throat. “The human ship appears to have regained power! Shall we initiate?”

“Bloody hell,” N’Vel muttered as she rolled off the high mattress and rooted through the pile of their entwined clothing, searching for her communicator. Finding it, she keyed the mic. “S’Tonn, stand down! We’ve just about reached a compromise. Something acceptable to both parties.”

Very acceptable…” the human said. N’Vel glared at him. He smiled tauntingly back at her.

“Yes, Admiral. Does this mean your last order is superseded?”

N’Vel pressed her hand to her forehead. “Yes, S’Tonn. Stand by for further orders. Take no action against the Federation vessel.”

“Yes, Admiral. S’Tonn out.”

She closed the link and dropped the communicator. The human captain had rolled on his side, propping his head up on his elbow, and was surveying her nude body with nakedly predatory gaze.

“You ordered your crew to self-destruct of we regained power?”

N’Vel sighed. “Well if I had known we’d be doing this…

“It’s okay. I ordered my ship to fire on yours--Damn! I better contact them. Can you find my communicator over there?”

“What does it look like?”

“Not like yours.”

N’Vel found the device and tossed it to him. He caught it. “So,” he said, “have we reached a compromise?”

“Contact your ship,” N’Vel said and climbed back into the bed. “Then we can seal our compromise.”

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