Moving The Pieces
Location: Carnwennan Station
"Such bureaucracy!" Katya complained loudly.
"Yes, ma'am." Mauricio nodded as he tried to keep in step with her long stride.
"Cowardice!" Katya added, pointing a finger in the air at a passing Ensign, who promptly stepped back in surprise. Katya and her entourage were long gone before the Ensign could get a word out in response.
The self-proclaimed Queen of the Expanse, the Anh'Iran leader of Paradise Outpost, had just come from a meeting with Starfleet's Alpha Quadrant liaisons regarding recent events at her station and the region. She had been primarily interested in formalising relations between Paradise and the Federation and gaining some much-needed protection from the Breen. However, she was enraged when it became clear that they were unenthusiastic about doing anything right now. Naturally, the Federation were taking a cautious approach to the Expanse given the tense political situation with the Alrakis Pact, and a long history of the region remaining unstable and unpredictable. Katya had been told that Starfleet could not send in any additional forces to protect Paradise or mount an offensive move against the Pact. This had lead to a rather abrupt ending to the meeting as Katya stormed out of the chambers in disgust, leaving a wake of confused Admirals behind her.
Now they were stalking through Carnwennan Station - the tall, unmissable Anh'Iran woman up in front with Mauricio at her side, and two body guards struggling to keep up. The crowds of people parted ways as she approached, and Katya made no effort to slow down as she headed back towards her guest quarters in furious leaps and bounds. If someone did choose to stay in her path, they would have quickly ended up as road kill on Carnwennan's pristine carpet.
"Starfleet won't act without considering all of the options." Mauricio offered, attempting to counsel his new boss. "And that won't happen without Federation approval."
"Politicians." Katya replied with a loud sigh, "We had a term for them on my planet. I believe in your language it translates to... 'toilet seat'?"
Mauricio laughed out loud. "Sounds accurate. I was never much for the politics myself. But I know tactics, ma'am. The Federation won't send ship fleets into the Expanse if they're just going to be swamped by Alrakis Pact forces. They would have a reason to wait."
"Meanwhile, the people of the Expanse - the citizens who live actually there, built businesses and homes and families - continue to suffer under the Pact's control." Katya huffed. "And now that we're trying to fight for our independence again, Starfleet stays their hand?"
"The Captain... I mean, my old Captain, Temple, once said that the Federation are trying to avoid starting a war." Mauricio added, "Starfleet doesn't fire first."
Katya stopped dead in her tracks and looked to Mauricio, her tattoos flashed vibrantly, "The Breen fired first when they took control of my station. Everything after that has been self-defence!" Her tone was unmistakable and it challenged Arnaldo to either agree or continue arguing to his own detriment.
Mauricio instead nodded firmly. "That's why I'm here, Katya. To help you and Paradise maintain that freedom."
Katya took a further moment to looked the human up and down, before continuing walking - this moment of disapproval in her Chief of Protection faded away as quickly as it had come. She had been so incensed by the Federation's spinelessness that she almost took it out on Arnaldo. She forgot that the former Marine had given up his old home, career, family, and friends, to help out Paradise as she regained control. He had been working tirelessly for her ever since.
"I appreciate your advice, Arnaldo." Katya said with a softer tone. "Forgive my brash words."
"Of course." Mauricio was happy to oblige.
The team arrived back into Katya's guest suites. It was a comfortable but not overly lavish affair - much like a moderately priced suite at Paradise's casino hotel. The accomodation had been pleasant enough, though right now Katya just wanted to get back to her own familiar surroundings after she received that indifferent response from Starfleet. However, Katya was also not one to give up on a fight just yet. She had struggled free from patriarchal oppressors on her home planet, and she had liberated Paradise from the Breen. She was a fighter and a survivor. She just had to move the pieces on the board into her favour first.
Sitting down on the long couch, Katya relaxed back into the soft cushions and began to consider her options. Mauricio stood at attention in front of her, while the guards silently positioned themselves at either side of the lounge. A personal assistant appeared from the kitchenette with a strong herbal drink concoction; placing it down on the coffee table. Katya peered at the mug but decided to wait before drinking.
After a few moments, Katya mused, "What I need is a voice within the Federation on my side. Surely the toilet seats have someone sympathetic to our cause?"
"I suspect not many of them are aware of everything that has happened within the Expanse." Mauricio guessed, given his earlier interaction with Aenardha. "I spoke with a Starfleet officer today and she didn't know the Pandora was actually missing."
"I see." Katya said slowly, a plan forming in her mind. "So what we actually need... is the Pandora?"
Mauricio quickly realised she was right, and he nodded along, "Of course! Only the Pandora can give a full and accurate account of what's happened in the Expanse."
"And once the Federation hear of this, I'll gain the support I need to compel them to act." Katya pointedly added.
"But we'll have to find her first." Mauricio warned, "It's been weeks now since I last heard from Commander Nash, and they still have not returned to Federation territory. Of course, given their last mission, they could still be on radio silence, too."
"You said you knew which region Commander Nash was heading to?" Katya asked, leaning forward in her chair. "The Hesiods?"
Mauricio acknowledged this question with a nod. "Correct. It will take us time to get there."
"Okay, how about we send word to our people on Paradise to start scouting ahead for the Pandora?" Katya said, a smile forming on her lips.
"They can make contact on our behalf." Mauricio smiled too.
Katya emphatically stood and took a single gulp of her drink to finish the whole lot. She looked back to her human counsel and beamed, "Mauricio, we're going to find that ship."
"Agreed." Arnaldo replied firmly. "And the sooner the better."