Returning through Alpha Centauri
3 July 2166 AST/25 January 2381 ST-3 Calendar
“Soleta, come in.” Slyperia was brushing aside a bit of silvering hair, frowning at it, as if slightly irritated at the continued progression of the hairs. “Ah, but I am becoming an old woman so fast.”
“if I understand Taloran lifespans correctly, present technology allows that you should not be concerned about dying of old age for at least another one hundred and fifty standard human years, and two hundred would be equally likely. That is almost an entire Vulcan lifespan.”
“That’s accurate. I’m only about six hundred by the human count,” Slyperia answered. “But that still means I lost an eighth of my life to sitting on the sidelines.”
“Surely it wasn’t lost, Admiral.” Soleta seemed curious by the divergence.
“I gardened. And I danced, but I was getting too old for that toward the end. We are a very energetic species, when it comes to dancing. It gets harder for old women to keep up. Ah well, I’m just musing; truly an old Admiral, with too many memories and concerns, and perhaps a bit wry in my allowances, Soleta, that my hair has kept from silvering for so long only because of the lack of stress, and my long-found wish of returning to command has, of course, restored the process.”
“It is a scientific fact that some signs of artificial aging are common in Starfleet Captains of human origin. I believe Captain Picard was most notorious for this, having lost his hair when he took command of Stargazer and subsequently the baldness not further progressing.”
“Interesting that you mention him,” Slyperia answered. “Come, sit, you must have something on your mind, though I imagine it is not about the commander of Sisko’s reserve.”
“That was Enterprise at Mutara, then, Admiral?”
“The forensics from the logs suggest so. He made a very good fight of being on the receiving end of our reserves. So, what did you want to talk about?”
“Captain Picard, actually—after a fashion,” Soleta answered. “So your belief was inaccurate.”
“What about him.”
“I received a contact from a friend. A Thallonian friend.”
Slyperia’s ears shot up. “They are virtually our enemies, Commander. It is commendable of you to immediately report this. What was the contents, and how does this relate to Captain Picard?” She certainly did not drop the second thread.
“It is a letter from one of our enemies. My former Executive Officer, Commander Shelby.”
“Ah! An encouragement to defect. Well, that you’ve told me about it immediately is sufficient to dismiss any concern for your position you might have. I will deal with any questions that arise if the communication was detected, Commander.” A pause, and the tilt of her ears that was reflected, Soleta could observe by now, showed some bemusement. “I hope your former executive officer is well.”
“She is.” Soleta handed the piece of paper over. “It was not an inducement to defect. She was relaying a message from Captain Picard, Admiral. To you. The message is, as you can see, an appeal to your honour for the sake of establishing a system of exchange of prisoners and regularization of conflict by the Geneva Conventions.”
Slyperia took the letter at once, looking over it smoothly. “Through the offices of the Red Cross of the Union of Free Worlds, a Habsburg ally in CON-5,” she observed. “That really is a very excellent and reasonable suggestion from the man. I am impressed. And we rather need a prisoner exchange more than they do. We are gravely lacking in trained officer personnel, and our losses at the start of the war cannot be easily replaced; further, even all the hired officers like myself aren’t sufficient for the crewing of the new ships obtained from foreign sources.
“Very reasonable.” She sat the letter down. “I will push very hard with the government to accept this. I am quite glad that your connections allowed for the progress of this letter to me, Soleta. It is the sort of thing that makes war livable, and it assuages the basic dignity of all in combat.”
“It does, and the second part of the message confirms that it is accurate and sincerely intended,” Soleta replied.. And handed over a second piece of paper. “This is my hand decoding of the hidden message from Captain Shelby, which itself reproduces a message from Captain Picard himself. It uses a cipher we had available for these kinds of communications if we were captured or in some other inconvenient position—an idea of Captain Calhoun’s—for the days when were all the crew of the Excalibur. And the contents are yet more interesting.”
Slyperia took the letter swiftly, sometimes squinting at the Federation standard English she had flash-learned through her wetware.
Slyperia settled the letter down, her ears showing consternation with her face a mask. “Commander Soleta, do you intend to show this letter to anyone else? Say, anyone from Starfleet Intelligence?”Admiral Mhanahkhiu,
Commander Starfleet First Fleet,
From Jean-Luc Picard,
I send this message to you in a state of hope. I recall my first visit to contact the Taloran Star Empire in the CON-5 universe most fondly. Humanity had long, even in supposedly enlightened times, held itself out as unique. The general dominance of humanity in the wider cosmos of universes spoke to those who would hold humanity superiour to other races.
In the Taloran conquest of Earth as part of the establishment of one of the largest polities known throughout the cosmos, and then the judicious ruling thereof as fair feudal overlords, I saw both a repudiation of these dangerous thoughts and a common strain with a tradition we recognize as humane and just in its own way as sure as the love and morality of the Matter of France, the Matter of England, of Chaucer and Roland, are recognizable as expressions of human feeling which remain true despite how far our methods of social organisation have changed.
I have no doubt, and would never presum e to doubt, that you are any less honourable than the Lady Halsina, Marchioness of Sapai, who entertained me and my officers during our embassy to your territory in CON-5. The absolute nature of a Taloran oath and the resolute goodness you hold to accompany hand-in-hand the keeping of oaths is something I was left with no doubt of from my visit.
In my time as Arbiter of the Succession of the Klingon Star Empire I learned to appreciate thoroughly the power of honour, loyalty, and oaths. Though the Taloran custom holds to warrior virtues in the nobility, I understand, too, that you regard peace as the preferable condition in an ethical society and a Godly society in the way that the Klingon Lord of a High House does not. I therefore come to you with the words of the Prophet Eibermon, ‘it is far better to build even an outhouse than to sack a dozen cities’. The sentiment that the creation of better things for the living, is greater than war, is one that we dearly share, and is, I believe, reflected in the ethos of the oaths that you took in your service to Starfleet.
It is on that matter that I would speak with you. I do not believe that the Alliance for Federation Unity appropriately respects those oaths, and that you have undertaken to uphold them sincerely in their totality in a way that the likes of Admiral Milano has not. I would therefore hope to hold your ear for further conversations, as we discuss matters of prisoner exchange and adherence to the Geneva Conventions, so that you might at least—even if we are to disagree—understand my own perspectives on what those oaths mean, and how it is our shared duty now to uphold them.
“Good. I believe the Captain is wrong…” She drummed a finger against the table. “But I think this line of communication is very important to keeping this war humane, and I don’t want it sundered by involving Starfleet Intelligence in it. So please keep it quiet. We will forward the version without the decoded portion, only, for my advocacy of those proposals. And we will keep this line with Captain Picard open.”
“Admiral,” Soleta answered, very, very levelly. “I believe you are doing the right thing.”
Slyperia allowed a bit of mirthless humour. “Good, because I know I am. Yes, keep this line open for me, Soleta.”
“You have my word. With your permission, Admiral?”
You are right about one thing, Picard. Milano IS something of a Creature.