Captain Kinsho stood at the head of the table, on the right of the table were the Kalmose council members. On the left of the table sat the leader of the Kalvade population with two advisors. It had taken a couple more back and forths and an engineering delegation down to their planet as well to encourage them to sit at the table. Across from Kinsho sat the two scientists that were on the ship for the first ever faster than light trip of their species.
“I’m glad to see we’re all seated at the same table,” Kinsho started.
“You didn’t give us much of a choice,” The Kalvade leader bit back at him before looking over at the council across from him, “how much poison have these insipid people already planted in your brains?” He shook his head, a scowl adorning his face.
Kinsho gave a small frown but otherwise made sure his face didn’t show any other emotions, “I can assure you, this is the first time all of us meet face to face. The transport was arranged by my senior staff, just like with yourself.” He motioned towards Trincard and Mindartis, “The representatives of Kaldial are the only ones we’ve had extended interactions with.”
“The Union is curious to hear about Kaldial’s intentions, and their requests.” The council leader interrupted the back and forth between the Captain and the Kalvade leader.
“Well, the Union will have to suppress their curiosity, won’t they?” The Kalvade leader retorted through gritted teeth, “What I want to know is what’s stopping you from turning all of our planets into a nuclear wasteland.”
“Do you think I’d go through all the trouble of getting you here and around a table, supplying you with some much needed aid, and the expertise from my officers if I planned on wiping you all from existence?” Kinsho shook his head, his eyes dropping towards his hands, looking at the plasma burns and other scars visible on the backs of them. “Never mind, I’ll tell you exactly why.” He looked back up and faced the Kalvade leader, “Because violence only begets more violence. The United Federation of Planets is only too aware of this truth. The planet I’m from is called Bajor, it was occupied by another species for over fifty years as they stripped it of its natural resources, ruling with an iron fist.” He stared at the Kalvade leader now, “we fought, tooth and nail, for all 50 of those years until the price was too high for them to stay.” His eyes focused on the man in front of him, unblinking, “You think I don’t know about fighting? About wanting to be free? About getting back to the people that were doing the ruling? I get it, I get all of it.”
The Kalvade leader wanted to intervene but Kinsho slammed both hands on the table, and then leaned forward, “Do you know what else? The first assignment I got out of the Academy? A relief mission to the home planet of the very same people that had killed my father. That had destroyed huge swathes of natural resources in my province.” He had gotten up out of his chair, “and when I was down there I had those feelings, about how easy it would be to just get back at them. Just turn a blind eye. Just make them suffer as we did.” He took in a deep breath and sat back down in the chair, “you know what I did instead?”
The Kalvade leader sat and stared, unmoving.
“I volunteered for a second tour there,” Kinsho looked across the table, “the suffering needed to stop somewhere.” He pointed at the two scientists, “these two have set their differences aside. They worked together and they achieved something that in the history of your planets nobody has been able to do on their own. They travelled faster than the speed of light. Not to outdo each other, not to find quicker and more efficient ways to kill each other, no. To find help. To take the gamble that there was somebody out there willing and able to help them. Someone willing to sit down at a table with everyone here and do what was necessary to stop the senseless fighting.”
The union chairman nodded, “it has been a long time since we sat at the same table.”
“If you think that this little speech changes anything about our situation then you’re wrong,” The Kalvade leader had his arms crossed, head slightly cocked, and he was visibly clenching his jaw.
Kinsho shook his head but before he could speak Mindartis stepped in, “This isn’t going to be solved with speeches. But it’s also not going to be solved by bombing.”
The Kalvade leader turned to face the scientist, “Don’t think for a minute that I’ve forgotten your betrayal either.”
“Betrayal?” Trincard moved to put his arm in front of Mindartis, “We did what we were assigned here to do. We made scientific strides. For the betterment of all. Look at him! He’s from a planet light years away. You wouldn’t be able to get to his planet with your ships in the next 200 years.”
“Stay out of this,” The Kalvade leader looked at one of his security escorts, “arrest that woman.”
Suddenly everyone in the room that had a sidearm raised it, including the Starfleet security officers that had been assigned to this meeting. The Captain immediately stood up and put out his hands, “Stand down! Everyone. Nobody is getting arrested by anyone!”
“You don’t make the rules here, Federation! You can’t stay here forever.” The Kalvade leader stood up now as well, “the only reason I’ve come here is to be able to look the Union in the eyes and tell them that our own scientists are working out exactly how they did it, once we have this engine for ourselves we’ll make ships so that there will no longer be a respite in the assaults.” He looked around the table, his advisors standing up now as well. Heads held high, avoiding eye contact with anyone, “we will bring Kalmose to its knees, there shall only be peace once the Union is dissolved.” He pointed at the council member on the very edge of the seating arrangement, “and don’t think that we take our eyes off of you.”
A small smirk formed on the council member’s face, “we only need one moment.”
“Stop it,” Kinsho tried to interject.
“Oh, we’re stopped.” The Kalvade leader walked away from the table and out of the room.
Kinsho stood there, mouth slightly ajar, leaning on the table with locked arms, “that went a lot better in my head.” he gave a sheepish smile towards the Union council members.
[USS Isoroku, corridor leading to senior crew quarters]
The corridor was empty, Shairo was exhausted from the day on Kalmose. She could feel the physical and mental strain in her bones as she dragged her feet in the direction of her personal quarters. As she rounded the corner she saw someone sitting on the ground in front of her room. It only took two more steps to realise it was Liliah. She opened her mouth to speak, but the words got stuck in her throat for a second too long.
Liliah looked up at the sound of someone approaching, “You!” She scrambled to get up from the floor, clearly lacking the grace or balance one would expect from a top ranking fighter pilot. She put her hand on the bulkhead to keep standing upright.
Shairo had grown up in a bar owned by her parents, she recognised a belligerent drunk when she saw one and slowed her pace to keep a distance between them, she closed her eyes for a moment to push away the thoughts of wanting to just step in and take a long shower, “What’s going on Liliah? Are you alright?” She slowly stepped closer, reaching out a hand.
The Trill fighter pilot pulled her shoulder back to avoid being touched by Shairo, “No, you don’t get to confront… comfort me.” She shook her head, the corridor spinning in response to the sudden head movement, “I was perfectly happy in my cockpit,” she snickered a bit at the word, “it was my world. My everything.”
“You should sit down, come let’s go inside,” Shairo looked around the corridor, it was already late in the shift and most senior officers would’ve returned to their quarters before. She wondered how many had seen here out there, “I’ll get you something against the alcohol.”
“No! I like the alcohol! I want to keep the alcohol!” Liliah leaned back against the wall, staring up at the ceiling, still uneven on her feet, hands now by her sides, on the metal surface of the wall.
Shairo moved past her and opened the door to her personal quarters. The surface of the dining room table covered in isolinear chips and a torn apart PADD, “Don’t mind the mess,” she motioned for Liliah to step inside and immediately put a hand under her arm to help her keep her footing as they both went inside, the doors closing behind them with their Starfleet patented hiss, “let me get you some water at least.”
Liliah made a throwing away motion before her hands searched through her pockets, not finding what she was looking for, “Crap, I left it… be right back.” She tried to get up but Shairo immediately pushed her back down into the seat.
“I’ll get it for you.” Shairo walked back to the doors and looked around the corner, a small glass bottle of whisky, half full, lay on the floor. She grabbed it and took it inside, “first you’re drinking some water.”
“I don’t need water! I don’t want water. Water…” Liliah seemed to roll the word in her mouth a bit, as if tasting a new dish, “I came here to tell you I hate you.”
Shairo nodded, got two glasses of water from the replicator, and brought them over to the seating area of her quarters, holding it in front of the Trill until she accepted it from her. “That’s not really nice.”
Liliah took a drink, her face crumpled up and she looked at the water in the glass, “You broke me.” she lowered the glass to look at the Orion engineer, “they tell you ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you more strong’, stronger,” another sip of the water, “well I’m not killed. I’m still here. Not dead.” She suddenly threw her hands wide, water gushing over the rim of her glass with the motion, “Still here, not killed!” The bravado deflated as she slammed the glass back on the table, a huge exhale followed and her shoulders slumped, “I feel so damn weak? Never felt so fragile in my life.” Her eyes started to well up, her breathing became uneven, “It’s all your fault.” The words came out hesitant and soft.
“You and I both know that’s not true, Liliah,” Shairo took a moment to see if calling her by her first name did anything, but there wasn’t a negative response, “I can’t imagine what you went through, if I never experience that it’ll be too soon.” She put her own glass of water on the table and leaned forward from her seat and put a hand on Liliah’s knee, “I didn’t break you, didn’t hurt you, I’m just the person that ran the diagnostic.”
The warmth of the hand on her knee spread through Liliah’s leg, hearing that broke what last resolve she had and tears started running down her face, a loud sob followed, “I can still hear them in my head.” The words came out barely above a whisper.
Shairo leaned forward and wrapped her arms around Liliah, “we’ll figure it out, everything will be alright.” She held Liliah close to her as the Trill started to sob more uncontrollably.