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Cptn Swain

A Gathering At Midnight


July 26, 2388 -- Earth

Lake Como was quiet in the darkness. Cool mountain air drifted down from snowy peaks. Fireflies danced in the late summer.  Nan Bacco smiled, she would miss Earth, she considered for perhaps the first time since she’d taken the Federation presidency. It had never felt like home, but now in the waning days of her presidency, she realized that like so many others it had captured her heart.

She glanced away and back towards a small villa; the final aeroshuttle had arrived and Cal would be coming to collect. Sighing, she took a final breath of summer and headed back down a cobblestone path. 

Cal met her at the doors. He wore the same frown as always, though now she noticed something else, thought she couldn’t place it. “That’s it,” he said, “Swaggert is here now. They’re all waiting in the den. I had Maurice get them settled in with refreshments.”

She nodded.  “Good.”

“Are you sure this is a good idea?”

“No, but it's the right thing.”

Cal’s frown broke. “I guess you really don’t have any plans to ever run for office again.”

Nan laughed and patted her old friend on the shoulder, squeezing gently as she passed by and into the villa.  It was nearly midnight local time and the small romanesque villa was still save for muffled chatter coming from behind heavy double doors, each carved with the likeness of several Roman gods and goddesses.

“Madame President,” a plain-clothes Starfleet security officer from her detail who was guarding the doors said as he opened the doors.

She glanced towards him with a smile before taking a deep breath. “Into the lion’s den.”

The room, like the rest of the house, was decorated in a style meant to evoke the long dead Roman Empire. Waiting for her, were the four leading candidates to replace her. It was, she realized, the first time she’d actually been in the room with all of them at once.  Nearest to her, Hajer Somak looked over as the doors opened.  At nearly 130, the Catullan male’s once purple mane had faded to a regal silver and he seemed to enjoy his role as the elder statesman in the race.  Across from him, the final arrivee was pacing. Nan sighed. 

William “Bill” Swaggert. If you were writing a political character for a holonovel from human history, you wouldn’t do much better than just modeling him. Young, charismatic, and extremely handsome. He was, Nan considered, almost too perfect. If she were twenty years younger and single, she might even consider him attractive -- until he started talking about politics, anyway. 

At the other end of the room, Salyet of Vulcan and Rydra Thallis were making small talk. Nan wasn’t actually sure why Salyet was running, if she was being honest. As Vulcans went, she was something of a wallflower. Sure she’d been part of three different presidential administrations in the past, and had been part of the Vulcan delegation to Earth for nearly half a century, but outside of the Champs d'Elysee, she was virtually a non-factor. 

Rydra, however, was a rising star in Federation politics. The purple-skinned Osadjani had made a name for herself as an outspoken critic of both Nan’s and the preceding Min Zife administration's efforts to rebuild Starfleet following the Dominion War. Earlier, she had been a passionate advocate for the Bajorans and a strong critique of Federation policy towards the Cardassians. Though she’d been a continued thorn in her side, Nan had always found her to be fair and forthright. 

As all four finally turned towards Nan, she motioned to the security officer to let the door close. She wondered when the last time anyone in the room had been alone at a meeting without an aide. Smirking she made her way over. “Thank you all for coming,” she said. “I know it’s late and I am sure you’re all wondering why you’re here.”

Saylet, surprisingly, replied first. “It is a curious situation we find ourselves in, Madame President.”

Before Bill could chime in, Nan resumed. “What I am about to tell you cannot leave this room. And if it does, well... I will make it my personal mission to assure that the campaign responsible doesn’t win the election.”

“I thought you weren’t taking sides,” Bill said smugly, “that’s what you keep telling all the papers anyway.”

“And I am not,” she gave him a cold glance. 

“I assume,” Rydra said, folding the upper most of her two sets of arms, “that if the President is going to all the trouble of meeting with us all, at midnight, in some tiny house away from Paris that it’s a matter of state importance?”

“That is correct.”

Hajer leaned forward, putting his glass down on a coffee table. “Alright.”

Salyet added her agreement before Bill finally agreed as well. 

“In 48 hours I will be making a major announcement concerning a future Federation member and the Cardassian Union, after which you will be free to discuss the issue with the press freely. I am telling you all this now so that you can be prepared. The decision has already been made.”

“Which future Federation member, exactly?” 

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William “Bill” Swaggert’s question hung heavy in the low-lit parlor of the Lake Como villa where the four main candidates to replace Nan Bacco waited to hear the answer from the outgoing president. Nan tilted her head slightly. 

“Not the Bajorans,” she said finally to a collective sigh of relief. Though tensions between the erstwhile enemies had eased significantly since the end of the Dominion War, there was little news that should would have pulled them together at such a late hour that could involve them both and not be in the “terrible, no good, in fact very bad” category.  Of course, Nan considered, it didn’t make the news she was about to deliver much better, either.

“Then who? There are dozens of worlds in the candidate process,” Rydra Thallis said, waving her lower pair of arms while gesturing quizzically with the uppers. “And if it involves the Cardassians...”

Nan held up a hand. “The Elasian Confederation and the Cardassian Union have agreed, in principle, to the transfer of matériel, ships, and technology.”

“The Elasians?” Hajer Somak’s thick brows were pointed upwards enough to give the Vulcan across the room a run for her money. “How much are we talking here.”

“Nearly all of their recently decommissioned vessels. Roughly a hundred or some small patrol ships, sixity or so destroyers, thirty to forty light cruisers of an older model, and another thirty to forty of a new design, and roughly twenty or so heavy cruisers. In addition to torpedoes, shuttle and fighters, personal disruptors, and other items.”

“You’ve got to be kidding,” Rydra said, flushing dark purple. “You seriously let this happen?”

Nan frowned. “I didn’t let anything happen. We only found out about it a few hours ago and the agreement has already been made in principle. At our behest, they have agreed to allow me to announce it.”

“For once I agree with Rydra,” Bill said sharply. “You seriously can’t be thinking of letting this go forward. Do you have any idea what the response from the public -- for our allies -- is going to be Nan?”

“Just how did you find out about this anyway?” Rydra cut in before Nan could reply. “Did they just drop by your office and say, oh by the way?”

“We intercepted a communique...”

“You were spying on diplomatic channels of Federation members?” Rydra’s ears were flaring. Nan had never seen her be so vehement. 
Nevertheless, Nan took a deep breath and reminded herself to remain calm. Counting backwards in her head, she started again after a moment. “Firstly, the Elasians aren’t Federation members yet. Second, we intercepted a message sent in the clear by the Cardassian government to an unidentified third party that is helping finance the deal.”

“You have to stop this thing Nan,” Bill said, his voice rising. Though he wasn’t as animated as Rydra, he was clearly more than a little upset by the news. 

“I thought I was pretty clear, Senator, that I didn’t ask anyone here for policy advice. The Federation Council has reviewed the situation and came to a decision that we cannot politically or legally interfere.”

“What do you mean we can’t politically interfere,” he replied back. “The Elasians are up for Federation membership, and the Cardassians are still virtually dependent on our aid. See this is what I am talking about...”

“I hate to agree with him,” Rydra interjected. “But there has to be some way we can intervene. Legally, aren’t the Cardassians bound by the Bajoran Accord...”

“Oh, they were. They were. Until Madame President over here threw them out to get...”

“Bill,” Nan said, letting just enough of her annoyance come through. “Shut up. First, the Lahore City Agreement didn’t change any of the statutory requirements on the Cardassian military. Secondly it actually formally spells out that they can’t use any of the money we give them through the reconstruction fund for military expenditures.  You can say whatever the hell you want on the campaign trail, but I’ll be damned if you’re going to condescend to me like that.”

After a long moment of interminable silence, Salyet of Vulcan spoke up.  “Then, I assume that if the Federation Council has approved, that the purchase agreement is within treaty restrictions?”

Nan was grateful for Salyet’s level headed presence. Taking a deep breath first, she nodded. “Yes, they will still be compliant with total force levels.”

“And the Arcadia Agreement only specified that the Elasians would disarm, but didn’t have any stipulations on what they did, right?” Hajer asked, respectful as always. 

“Correct. Our previous technology sharing agreements with them do require that any offensive weaponry or other advanced proprietary Federation technology be removed before they could transfer the ships to a third party.”

Rydra had calmed down, at least based on the position of her ear flaps and more muted purple color. “Still,” she said, “why can’t you use political pressure to slow the process down? You said the Council has already decided to move forward? Why were those meetings held behind closed doors and off the public record? You’ve said yourself sunshine is the best disinfectant.”
“We can’t just go telling sovereign nations what they can or can’t do,” Hajer said. “Can you imagine the outcry from the Tellerites or the Caitians if we told them they couldn’t do business with other people?”

“Neither of them are selling weapons of war to an aggressive species who, just a decade ago, brought us to the brink of galactic annihilation.”

“Rydra’s right. The Bajorans, the Klingons, the Romulans? You think they’re just going to stand by and say ‘well I guess the Federation Council approved,’ and ‘we couldn’t possibly upset the mighty Elasian Confederation, whatever would we do without them!’ Come on, madame President. You have to see what a problem this is going to be, not just for you but for whichever one of us inherits this mess in six months.” 

“I do,” she said. “Believe me, nothing you’re telling me isn’t something I haven’t already strongly suggested to the Council. The Cardassians have every right to defend themselves, but this is going to be a mess.”

“So why is the Council going against you?”

“One of the things you’ll have to learn if you’re lucky enough to have this job,” she said with an almost wry smile. “Is that just because you’re the President, doesn’t mean you can ignore the Council.”

“You mentioned,” Salyet interjected again, “a ‘third-party’ brokering the agreement and helping to finance the purchase. Who is it?”

“We don’t know.”

Bill couldn’t hide his exasperation. “What? How is that possible. Didn’t you ask them?”

“We did. Both the Elasian and Cardassian ambassadors refused to tell me. Intelligence has a few leads, but nothing solid.”

“The Ferengi?” Hajer offered. 

“Possible, but Intelligence is still working through everything,” she said with a heavy sigh. “Anyway, now you know. I will be addressing the Federation General Assembly in forty-eight hours. After that you’re free to address the situation as your campaigns see fit.”

“Thank you, Nan,” Hajer said. “For the heads up. We’ll have a lot to talk about soon.”

Bill simply glowered.  

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