Location: qi'tOk, Qys'taah City
Timeline: MD 4, 1932 local
SomIn regarded Lonus easily and chuckled. "Were I anyone else, that would be cause for concern. But as you can see I've surrounded myself with those capable of defending themselves and, if necessary, me. Though our friends in the future have managed to blindside me a few times," he paused and considered, "I've had mysterious benefactors help out that I've never quite been able to see."
The corners of Lonus' lips curled in a small, knowing smile. "Silence speaks loudly to those who listen."
"And there's been a lot of that lately," SomIn smirked.
"We have strong reason to believe your mysterious benefactors sent us." Lonus leaned forward, lacing his fingers on the table. "We're here to assist, but we're fresh to this reality and flying blind. We need a sitrep only you can offer. We need everything you have. Leave out nothing, even the details that don't make sense." He paused and emphasized, "Especially the details that don't make sense."
"There are a lot of powers moving in this timeline behind the scenes," Somin confided. "Not just myself, but the Klingon Council, the Pact, the minor powers and the major. Our challenges have been to keep it all together and to fulfill our mandate of survival and," he turned and regarded Thess, who gave him an almost reassuring nod and a small smile, "and to put the Emperor back on the throne and destroy the current council." He looked at Lonus. "You know what that'll do to the Accords and the balance of power as soon as it happens."
"It'll be glorious." Lonus dropped his gaze in thought. He considered telling SomIn about how his plan unfolded in the other reality. About how SomIn restored Emperor QeylIS to his throne and Te'Q revived the heraldic Order of Segh'etlh to once again play their role in arbitrating disputes between the Great Houses. It struck him that history from another reality might only confuse and distract at a time when clarity and focus proved most vital. That thought gave Lonus pause.
I'm distracting myself with comparisons. This is a different reality with its own rules and a unique future. It's like any other living thing. I need to keep track of other realities to piece together this gigantic conspiracy, but Spartan is my reality now, my home.
Lonus suddenly envisioned this reality as a bullied, tormented innocent, and he stepped in to drive the bullies back long enough to allow the innocent to grow and learn to defend itself.
The moment of clarity of purpose struck Lonus suddenly, unexpectedly, and its simple truth left him distracted until a telepathic prod caught his attention.
~They're staring,~ Spartan's voice felt dry with a tiny, dancing dust devil of amusement.
"So they are." Lonus peered up from under his brow with a crafty smile on his lips. "Sorry, I had a Thess moment."
"While I am sometimes stunned by the complexities of the Universe," Thess replied dryly, "I have the good grace not to be caught doing so in a meeting with my conspirators."
"Sure you do," Lonus beamed playfully. "You call it 'wise, silent strategizing' but I digress. Let's start with House qIlS and work our way out across the connections. You mentioned putting QeylIS on the throne and mysterious enemies supporting the High Council."
"The future enemies seem to be working against us," SomIn replied. "They give strategic information to the Council to prevent us from succeeding in some key operations. They use local agents, who we've been curtailing, but they continue to defuse our efforts. Yet, it seems, for some reason they can't see Spartan very effectively, and when they move against you, they create a huge splash and seem to hope to catch you in it."
"That might make them vulnerable," Anzio mused, "more visible, easier to catch out."
"Yes, but not for us," Lonus paused. "No matter our technological edge Spartan is only one ship. If we're to succeed we must help this universe defend itself and that means helping them learn to detect and fight these 'future enemies', not just their local agents."
"And you find yourself in a tight position," Thess commented. "Our own hidden benefactors are playing in this battle as well, though they move more subtly and with more causality to our mutual opponent's effect. And then there's Starfleet, who keeps trying to get at your technology to defend itself against the Pact, not understanding the bigger threat because it's too large for them to see."
"The benefactors will play their hand when they're ready," Lonus smiled inwardly knowing the Q'lrn. "Right now the opposition is organized and has a head start against us. We're prepared to play our role and you know the lay of the land, so to speak. What needs most to be done?"
"Get the Accords involved and show them," Thess said distinctly and enunciated carefully, "without being obvious about it, how much we need to pool our resources. Make them more open to the idea of advances while the qIls," he nodded to SomIn, "deal with the Council and the Emperor."
Kestra stood to the side of the conversation, allowing Riss to wrap around her arm and nuzzle into the uniform that Artemis had given Kestra. She listened to every word that was being said as she seemed to focus on her Windblade.
Lonus pondered Thess' idea and smiled. "Provide the demand and the market for your product? I think we can manage. What else?"
"I'm," SomIn paused, and then continued, "'disturbed' by things I sense towards the center of the galaxy, spinward. That needs to be assessed, and we don't have any transwarp or slipstream ships."
Lonus nodded slowly. Something jumped immediately to mind, but given how things have changed in this universe it would be foolish to act on assumptions.
"We'll definitely look into it," he promised. He cast a glance between Thess and Somin. "What about the Romulan Imperial State? If we're heading spinward, we might as well take care of any pressing business you have there."
"You already know what's going on in there and probably with greater detail than we do," Thess told Lonus, expressing confidence in Spartan's knowledge in a way that didn't give Lonus the ability to dissemble without looking like he was blatantly lying about it. "Things appear to be coming to a head, with a third movement backed by the Pact calling for Unification, which is ultimately what Donatra wants, though unlike the Pact she would play the martyr and allow herself to be taken and executed."
"I believe that's a waste of good material," SomIn said pointedly. "She has the ideals for what she wants to do, but it pains her when anyone in the Imperium is killed or injured in this struggle. She requires the same sort of ruthlessness or a determination to bear the pain to see a better future for her people, unified and stronger. She isn't quite there yet," he added with a slightly regretful note, "but I can See that it can be fixed, if we can intervene. Or, rather, you."
"Consider it done." Lonus nodded. "Where do you want her once she's safe?"
"I See her here, with us, working with us and learning about waging war more intelligently, keeping losses to a minimum, and going after her real enemy." He gave Lonus that direct and slightly angry look that meant he had determined a course of action. "Once the Rihan are in control and can hold themselves away from the Pact, they'll need allies to keep it that way, and in that, they can find them in the Accords."
"Through House QIls," Thess added with a grin, "of course."
"Of course," SomIn replied, not even glancing at Thess.
"A sound plan." Lonus pondered loose ends like buying time for Donatra to be safely away from the Star Empire and Pact assassins. He passed the challenge through his link with Spartan and allowed him to disseminate the knowledge to those in their crew who needed to know.
"Donatra is going to need cover to make this work. We can handle it, but if you have a preference, now is the time to mention it."
~Why not the truth?~ Kestra cocked her head to the side. ~You are trying to protect and teach her what she needs to know to better the lot of her people.~ She looked at each of the men in turn before turning back to Riss as though she had never spoken.
"Unfortunately, if Spartan was to tip its hand that it was responsible for her rescue, the Pact would come gunning after the Accords," Thess replied with a slight sigh, as if he was delivering necessary but painful bad news. "Thus, she needs to disappear or be switched with someone that can be counted as her, unless," Thess paused and looked at Lonus with an interested expression, "you don't plan to officially ally yourselves with the Starfleet..." he paused, pondering something.
SomIn too appeared to be chewing it over. "What if you applied for protectorate membership with the Federation?" he asked Lonus almost coyly. "Your homeworld would be Spartan, you'd be accorded protection and could release or refuse information and technology as you wished."
Lonus' eyes lit with interest at the idea. "It would solve a lot of problems with very little work on all sides. Our technology gains protected status, we can travel freely in Federation space and dock at stations for intel sweeps -- I mean supply layovers. Oh..." he looked to the ceiling with glee, "diplomatic immunity! President Bacco will LOVE this. Nechayev will have a cow, and we have the means to watch her. I'll order popcorn for the crew."
"Thess," Lonus turned to the Deltan, "what's involved in applying for protectorate status? How plausible is this idea?"
~Wouldn't they want to have access to Spartan and his technology?~ Kestra asked, cocking her head to the side curiously.
"They can 'want'," Thess replied with a slightly impolite smirk, "but Federation law is very clear on this point, and breaking it is not just a diplomatic issue but could start an intra-Federation civil war with a protectorate. The first time the Federation invades a protectorate's sovereignty or carries out an intelligence operation against them, they lose all of their credibility and member worlds will suddenly erupt into discord." He shook his head slowly. "No, Starfleet isn't that stupid. Despite some of their gigantic mistakes, they don't deliberately defecate where they eat."
Kestra let out a harsh snort as she gave Thess a droll stare. ~ Then they are much more intelligent in this place than the last.~ She gave Riss a tender scratch on the head.
Lonus listened carefully, appreciating Kestra's innocent questions. Twice now she led the discussion to important places. He looked up. "Thess, you're the senior Federation diplomat present. When do you advise we make this move for protectorate status? I'm plotting Spartan's course in my head. Earth and Romulus are roughly equal distance from this side of the Empire."
Anzio frowned. "Without an actual world, protectorate status might be difficult. My people were never able to get it," he said, "for just that reason."
"The situation is different," Thess replied with a little moue of sadness. "Your people became sentient in another timeline, and in this timeline you are unique. We are in an age in which artificial life forms are accorded the same rights as those who are born. In these cases, these individuals don't have a homeworld of their own and yet they have those rights, so Spartan, who has something Starfleet wants and the Federation needs, will likely find a way to make that happen." He cocked an eyebrow and looked to Lonus. "I can file your request with the Federation Council and the Department of Member Application as soon as I get back someplace in person. I suspect the process will be fast-tracked even though there will be considerable debate in the Council."
"You will need to appoint a diplomat," SomIn added quickly, and Thess nodded slowly before adding, "Someone who can be on-site and push the agenda, create alliances and is politically..." he considered momentarily, "'active'."
Lonus considered the challenge posed by Thess' request. The command staff was already stretched perilously thin, and of the new personnel passed muster to serve, so far none of them were fit to serve as bridge officers.
Spartan's unique origin and appearance mandated that bridge officers either originate from their home reality or they served under bridge officers until command staff felt they were ready for promotion. That day might come, but not today. Spartan needed an ambassador capable of taking on both the wily and experienced councilors of the Federation, as well as ferreting out and neutralizing agents on the council working the agenda of the dimensional insurgents.
The more he thought about it, he needed a Duelist with the political acumen of Thessyr Tal. He considered Linneas, but he did not want to take Linneas off of the president. He considered his cousin in Sickbay, a fellow Telpherion and a Duelist, but he was medical specialist, not a politician. He suspected Azuria could perform adequately in the role, but that took Lonus back to how short-staffed the bridge stood already. Lonus considered going. He was a duelist and if he assigned all of the knowledge and experience Thess shared with him to a sliver Lonus could do the job.
The first issue was leaving Spartan. If the Spartan could not do without the spare bridge crew they had, how could Lonus justify leaving the ship? He already leant his slivers across Spartan's systems to help the others. His leaving would make their jobs harder in a time of danger and it would leave Spartan directly exposed.
The second issue was playing into the hands of the bad guys. They knew Lonus well from his contact with Jellico, Nechayev, and his tour of the ship with President Bacco. Nechayev and Section 31, backed by the insurgents, would most certainly pounce on the opportunity to capture, if not assassinate, Lonus under trumped up charges and/or a bogus escape attempt. It would be a repeat of the play they used against Empress Donatra. It made no sense for Lonus to go. How would the Q'lrn handle something like this?
Lonus tapped that side of his psyche that remained in constant contact with the psinet, as well as the racial memory he carried in his DNA. A typically Q'lrn answer came to him.
Life exists everywhere.
Of course life existed everywhere but how did this statement relate to what he wanted? The Q'lrn said as much through silence as words.
His crew was short-staffed. He could not afford to leave nor could he spare to assign more of the senior staff to away missions. If only he could be in two places at once - and then it hit him. He had been and recently. Could this be the answer he needed?
He mentally called up what composed a diplomatic delegation appealing to the Federation Council and tapped Spartan, whom he knew shared his every thought.
~How quickly can you grow a diplomatic delegation of biotics and windslithers?~
~Assuming the slithers aren't 'real' and are also biotic, essentially remotes for the biotics that will comprise the delegation,~ Spartan paused, ~three standard days. If you want 'real' slithers then the biotics need to be real and independent, which I can do, but Rensh is best with handling the engramatic harmonics. It will take at least three weeks.~
Lonus mulled over the thought. ~Start on the basic units for a standard diplomatic delegation, and once I have the team assembled allow them to customize their dopplegangers. We'll tackle the windslither issue as we go.~
~Do you mean to have full-time riders in those biotics, or allow the biotics to operate independently?~ Spartan clarified.
~You know what biotics are likely to face in the Council.~ Lonus asked. ~How well can independent biotics handle it?~
~That depends on what they’re loaded with and what parameters we set for them,~ Spartan replied. ~Remember, in the Unity and the Alliance of our time, non-born are accorded the same rights and responsibilities as the born-life. We have the engrams of dozens of beings considered to be very skilled in their fields, specifically for training new crew and to load into biotics when and if needed. If Riders aren’t required, that frees us up to continue our missions. In addition, without reliable psinet access, or unless I remain in relatively close proximity, we don’t have the bandwidth to project Riders very far.~
~We never know what we're facing out there. It's best they operate independently,~ Lonus accepted. ~I want the biotics programmed with engrams taken from volunteers from the qualified diplomatic, security, and intelligence personnel as well as the senior staff, including me. The biotics need to be able to respond like us, considering what they're likely to face.~
~Indeed,~ Spartan replied, and turned to alert Medical of the needs as he activated the requisite gene-pacs and sent them to the genesis pods.
Lonus flicked his blue gaze to Thess. "Arrange a secure comm channel with Kin'Za and let us know when you want our representative to show up."
"As soon as you can get them there," Thess replied, eyes showing him he had sensed the protracted communication with his ship.
"I'll arrange the signal through Kin'Za," SomIn replied. "Once he has the encryptions and the rotations, he can give them to your Intelligence and Strat Ops Officer." He nodded to Anzio.
Anzio returned the nod, making some notations on his PADD to follow up with Kin'Za.
"Then is there anything else we should cover now?" SomIn asked, looking around at the guests.
"We have a solid plan of action," the exotic commander replied in the negative. "If you don't mind, SomIn, my officers haven't taken a break since we started our mission. We can use overnight shoreleave for senior staff and resupply for Spartan."
"I'll alert the members of the House to be gentle," SomIn grinned as he replied, "with your crew and, of course, our Industrial replicators are yours. Do you have a list...?" he asked which, Kin'Za, help up a thin-padd wand.
SomIn quirked an eyebrow and gestured and Kin'Za moving slowly, handed it to him. SomIn looked at it for a second then pulled the two halved of the long cylinder apart and exposed the interactive millimeter-thick flexible panel that displayed and allowed touch. He scanned the contents quickly and held it up, closed and looked at Lonus in obvious question about if he could keep it.
As a casually dismissive hand indicated for SomIn to keep the gift. They traded not a word but Lonus knew that SomIn could back engineer that padd for considerable advancements in technology. Linneas left an identical padd for President Bacco to find "accidentally on purpose." It served just as well to leave the QilS with a specimen to examine.
"Well then I expect your senior staff to join me for dinner tonight," SomIn stated and rose, signalling the meeting was adjourned. "And I'll make sure my Ops Commander relays transport coordinates to come down and be retrieved from."
"Thank you, SomIn," Lonus rose with him. "We look forward to joining you."
"I think you'll actually enjoy it too," he grinned, not mischievously but actually pleased. "Something for everybody at dinner you know."