Location: Deck 1 - Ready Room
Timeline: Prior to Sword & Shield
With the Pandora still waiting to make the final journey to Federation space, the Captain was keen to ensure the ship was able to receive safe passage to Carnwennan Station. To do so, he needed the expertise of the Pandora's new Chief Diplomatic Officer. After giving the Consul enough time to get settled in, Nyx had sent an invitation to Valriya to meet in the Ready Room.
And Valriya had indeed spent that time settling in. Her personal belongings had finally arrived thanks to the Chief Engineer’s help, and the offices designated to the Department of Diplomacy were in order, having required very little help from herself to get that way. Valriya would have preferred that her assistant Bralay were here to do that part, but Valriya was capable of banal burdens - so long as they were infrequent. All said, she was not anticipating that the day by day responsibilities of a Federation Diplomat onboard a Starfleet vessel docked at an allied station would be particularly excessive. So she was right on time for the Captain’s invitation. Standing statuesque outside the Captain’s Ready Room, Briya gave a quick wave of her palm against a panel mounted in the wall beside the doorway to announce herself.
"Come in," Temple called out as he stood from his seat, ready to greet his guest.
The Risian stepped past the sliding door and into what was essentially the Captain’s office. She glanced around with a quick look of approval as she crossed to the generous desk. Holding a sizeable data slate close to her chest and extending a long arm and lithe fingers to the Captain, she greeted him in her everyday manner, which had a breezy and blithesome quality. “Captain Temple, it is my great pleasure to meet you, and thank you for allowing me the courtesy of settling in before this call.”
Reaching forward across the desk, Nyx took the extended hand and gave it a soft squeeze. He indicated to the chair on the opposite side of the desk. "Please,” he said. “Tell me, what do you prefer in terms of your title?"
She lowered herself down into the chair and there was something both demure and presumptuous in the way she crossed her lengthy legs and rested her interlaced fingers upon her topmost knee. “It is kind of you to ask, but we of the Diplomatic Corp...“ She grinned and corrected herself, allowing for a bit of self-depreciation, “…most within the Diplomatic Corp do not hold too dearly to our rank and title. If you would like to refer to me by either name or office - I would take no offence. Would you like to call me Briya, Sir?”
"We'll settle with Valriya, or Consul for now,” Nyx replied, casually.
“Let it be just so,” she acknowledged with a meagre bob of her head. “And would you prefer that I call you Captain or would Sir be more pleasing?”
"Captain is fine." Nyx shrugged lightly. "My brother was actually in the Diplomatic Corp.”
“Was he really?” Valriya kicked her leg at the knee ever so slightly, like a dog wagging its tail.
“Now he works in the Exterior office at the Palais de la Concorde. Of course, I don't call him anything except Magnus. Or Strudel, which he hates."
“I do not recall making the acquaintance while I was appointed there -by the name Magnus Temple or any other- but the Palais de la Concorde is a commodious and tumultuous place…beneath all the decorum. So you took the Command route while your brother went into conventional diplomacy; both highly respectable life’s work I’m sure.”
"We couldn't be more different, Magnus and I." Nyx nodded, "But I have deep respect for the work of Diplomats, especially on a tour of service like this. We're going to need your expertise."
“Thank you, Captain. In this instance, the word expertise may comprise a touch of flattery, but I am up for the task and accepting of the endorsement. Although to be perfectly fair, I do not know you or your reputation quite so well enough as to accuse you of deploying flattery at first meetings. Perhaps I will reserve my judgement of your abilities in that regard until we have grown more acquainted. Until such time, just so you know, I take no objection to false praise or cajolery and will likely use them both to our mutual ends.” Valriya shifted in her seat and leaned forward. “If I am not mistaken, that will first involve safe passage back to Carnwennan Station then beyond into Federation territory, and from there an eventual confrontation with members of Starfleet’s upper hierarchy, some of whom may have been responsible for both you and I being deployed to this region in the first place.” She briefly hefted the data slate from her lap and indicated it to Nyx. “I have the files and reports you and the crew were kind enough to provide to my department, but they lack…divination. I have found that the most reliable means of achieving one’s goals is to carefully define what the desired outcome should be. So if it pleases you Captain, I would ask that you fill in the gaps with those details of which I may not have been made aware prior to my arrival onboard the Pandora.” Valriya did not want to outright imply or insinuate that there may be security leaks among the crew, but given Admiral Milne’s deliberate efforts towards discretion when briefing Valriya in the first place, it did not feel too bold to assume or hope that Captain Temple had similar such concerns. And if he did, it was possible the reports did not include everything.
Nyx nodded as he listened, "In truth, there are some things I don't quite know myself. We have the former Admiral Thac in our Brig; he was in charge of an illegal research facility known as Pithos. The facility was poisoning the planet it was on, Hesiod, which was inhabited by sentient life. The experiments became so volatile, it began to destroy the station and the planet. We had to rescue the Hesians and move them to a neighbouring world. We arrested Thac and managed to escape with the intelligence from Pithos, which is enough to incriminate Thac and the people he worked with."
“Your presence within the Expanse has proven to be most fortuitous, for multiple parties. About that, Captain; the names in your accounts -Pithos, Hesiod, even your ship Pandora- I hesitate to bring this up, because I am not one to clutter conversations concerning current events with chronicled facts -or in this case myth- but it may be relevant. At the risk of treading anew upon talked out territory, have you given any consideration to the correlation between such designations here within the Expanse, as they relate to the classical myth of Pandora and the ruin of sin and immorality she unleashed?”
Blinking, Nyx gave a small laugh. "I hadn't, no. Unfortunately it doesn't help us right here and now."
Despite the Captain’s quick dismissal of the notion, Valriya felt the mythos of Pandora warranted additional consideration, but Temple was right that it likely wouldn’t give them a leg up in their immediate plight. She made a mental note to look into it further as the Captain shifted in his seat and continued.
“It appears that before he was arrested, Thac sent out a command that initiated the "Stop the Pandora" signal I believe you're familiar with. Thac dragged us to Hesiod in an attempt to escape exposure, now he's using our enemies in the Expanse to prevent us from delivering him to the Federation. I suspect that he knows more than just what went on at Pithos; there must be more operations that he and his associates have been conducting. It's imperative that we get him home to find out the whole truth."
“Agreed, Captain, but may we explore that for a moment? How is it you deem Thac’s truths will be revealed when he has been conveyed safely to Federation space? Surely his code of honour can no longer be counted upon to inspire him to divulge the truth. Are you relying on a court of law to wrench the truth from him? It was my understanding that we no longer know whom we may trust in Starfleet. So what is to stop you from plucking the truth from his mind now, while we are still in the Expanse and Thac remains safely confined to your brig?”
"Fortunately, Thac thinks he knows what's been going on, but he's behind on the news." Nyx shrugged, "He isn't aware of how much we know, or how much data we've been able to locate that incriminates him. Admiral Milne has been leading a special investigation into the Expanse and has been building a case against him and everyone he works with."
“And I have no doubt the results of Admiral Milne’s special investigation will reveal many schemes and names and collaborators, which will be of great use. But as you say, it will unfortunately not help us here and now.” Valriya stared at a pleat of her gown as she toyed with it, contemplating how to proceed. “On the clandestine stint of my trip from Carnwennan Station, I traveled with a strong telepath; Ensign Aenardha Sh'vastarth who is now assigned to your Intelligence department. Have you considered, or would you be willing, to allow Sh'vastarth to conduct a telepathic interrogation of your prisoner?”
Nyx took in the suggestion and gave a slight frown. "I am aware of such practices, but I would require a directive from Admiral Milne to perform it on this ship. To be honest, while I'm sure it would probably provide us with many answers, the ethics of the practice leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I don't wish to compromise our Starfleet principles, even if our enemies have so completely compromised their own."
“To be fair, Captain, different species work under different codes of conduct and we have not firmly established the behaviourisms of our enemies or allies here in the Expanse. It is possible the indigenous species of this region have not compromised their own principles to any degree. But to illustrate my prior point, I’d ask you to consider this; offering up only truths is a key trait of the Vulcans, would you agree? I believe the general consensus among membership within the Federation is that the Vulcans are deemed to be an ethical species, arguably more so because of this penchant for truthfulness. And they can be counted upon to do so even when those truths may be hurtful; much to the dismay of the Diplomatic Corp. So how is it that voluntarily establishing a behaviour of truthfulness is ethical and commendable while requiring it from one’s prisoner is not?”
Like a fast talking lawyer of the 21st century, Valriya immediately held up her hand in abdication. “Forgive me, Captain. If your mind is firmly made up on the matter, it is not my place to posit such interrogatories. We must simply find other methods of capitalising on Thac’s custody, barring Admiral Milne’s directive, of course.”
"I hear you. I want to know every dirty secret he has. But there is a matter of consent and ethics, a line I will not cross," Nyx replied. "I have used Counsellor Kaleri before in determining the emotions of a Talarian ambassador. But that was when the safety of the Pandora was on the line, we had to determine safe passage for the ship." He sighed, "I may take another run at Thac and see what happens. For now, we have a more pressing matter."
Valriya wanted to point out that utilising a ship’s Counsellor to monitor the emotions of a prisoner was not the same as charging a telepathic member of the Intelligence Department to actively interrogate a prisoner; especially when that prisoner was a high ranking member of Starfleet who was almost surely trained to anticipate conditions of incarceration and resist voluntarily disclosing any actionable intel. The methods used by a Counselor and an Intelligence Operative were distinctly different, and the quality and quantity of information received from the prisoner were bound to be worth the additional effort. But Valriya only dipped her head. “Of course, Captain. I only wish to be of service. What is this pressing matter to which you speak?”
"As you are aware, tensions in the Expanse are quite high," Nyx explained. “Katya and Qaraq are leading a resistance against the Alrakis Pact forces still claiming sovereignty over the entire Inconnu region. With help from a small number of local powers, the resistance has managed some significant victories already. They have protected Paradise and the Delavi System, and recruited a string of previously independent trade planets to their cause. During our last visit here, we assisted the Irokari and they have now been able to join the resistance with a large number of ships of their own. The coalition grows, but it is not nearly big enough or organised enough to completely repel the Alrakis Pact from the Expanse."
Valriya regarded Temple with a long look, trying to anticipate the task that was slowing being asked of her. “A strong, stable Starfleet presence here in the Expanse would make the task of mobilising allies more effective, for the Resistance and ourselves. However, the Federation will not formally extend its support en masse while the extent of Starfleet’s involvement surrounding the Hesiod treachery are under investigation. Would you say that is an accurate assessment?”
"Correct, and doing so would only give the Alrakis Pact the act of war they've been searching for. The Federation is unwilling to make formal agreements at this time with a fledgeling alliance." Nyx nodded. "What concerns me currently is that Katya has taken the reigns of this resistance and many are agreeing to join informally, perhaps because of the bigger threat of the Alrakis Pact looming over them. But they have no agreements between each other, no formal bonds or treaties. Yes they're fighting the Pact, but there's nothing stopping them from descending into chaos, overthrowing the leadership, or even choosing self-preservation over helping each other." He sighed, "That is how the Pact so easily claimed sovereignty over the Expanse in the first place; a lack of organisation and genuine commitment to each other. This poses a threat to the resistance's success and the future of the Expanse."
“Captain, I hope we may both acklowledge that the core tactics of diplomacy are to promote favourable outcomes while minimising the appraisal of undesirable truths. In times of peace this involves compromise, concession and commitment to the character of that compact. But the Expanse is not currently enjoying times of peace. And because the Federation has no formal involvement in the events within the Inconnu region, we have no need to establish formal diplomatic channels. Yet here I am. So instead, a member of the Federation’s Diplomatic Corp is dispatched to help stabilise a foreign region by working with the growing Resistance Coalition, with the aim of bolstering their numbers and organising them into a more formidable faction so that they may overturn the region’s standing sovereignty. Is that more or less how this conversation is unfolding?”
"Exactly." Nyx said, "I want you to write up a general coalition agreement that the Resistance could use to formalise their relations with each other. Help to strengthen those bonds. I'd like to give it as a gift for Katya before we leave so that they are in a better position to keep the Resistance going strong while we're back in Federation territory."
“Very good, Sir. Putting together a general agreement for the benefit of those in the Resistance sounds liked an excellent start and I will begin work on that immediately. May I ask, when are we scheduled for departure from Paradise Station?”
“That’s a good question,” Nyx said with a sigh. “We’re still gathering Intel at the moment and recovering from our journey to Paradise. But I do expect us to leave as soon as Katya can give us safe passage. She and Qaraq have a potential plan. The sooner the better, I say.”
Valriya nodded. “Immediately may not be soon enough, but I will make it work.” She uncrossed her legs and ascended from the chair with a grace novel to someone as gangling as herself. “There is one additional question I feel I must ask, though I realise I run the chance of appearing impertinent. With the Alrakis Pact already hungering for war with the Federation, what is the most likely outcome we can anticipate when it is come upon that the Federation, who does not want to get drawn into a war with the Alrakis Pact, has aided the Resistance to uncrown them?”
“The Pact know we are here at Paradise and that Katya is sheltering us for now,” Nyx replied. “But they’ve been unable to turn that into a suitable casus belli as we have been the ones hunted by them. It’s important that any documents we prepare for the Coalition are free from any Federation identifiers, however, to ensure the Pact cannot use it against us or the Federation.”
“It will be just so, Captain,” Valriya responded with another dip of her head, clutching the data slate to her chest again. She moved towards the door and paused. “In the parable, Pandora’s box -which was actually a jar and no box at all- contained much of the wretchedness unleashed into the world. And of course it contained Hope — or so the common conception goes. But being a student of languages and their translations, I found this bit about Hope to be interesting. In the original greek, it is said that only elpis remained in the jar, and in Greek the word elpis means expectations, though it has commonly been interpreted to mean hope. From this, it is unclear whether the storyteller’s original intent was something good or bad. Was it hope in the positive note we give it today? Was it something good or a false expectation? Many feel the latter makes more sense; expectation, envy, spite, revenge - these attributes would seem to linger together in the darkness of a jar more alike. In contrast, why would the gods lock away hope among evilness with instructions that it should never be brought into the world? A box of wickedness with a generous gift at the bottom feels like an emboldened, forward-looking translation. Which may have been the point; I suppose we will never know. What all translations agree upon is that it was Pandora who opened this jar and that the harm she let loose into the world would never be set right.” Valriya flashed Nyx a smile. “Let us take heart that your Pandora offers no false expectations to the renitent Resistance.”
"Thank you, Consul, we're trying to do our best to put everything right as much as we can, as I'm sure you will, too,” He said with a smile. "Please lean on Intelligence and myself if you require any assistance."
“Captain,” Valriya nodded politely, leaving the Ready Room to cross the bridge and into the Turbolift. Inside the lift, she rounded and before the doors closed, flourished her fingers flirtatiously towards a fine young member of the crew who was not keeping his eyes on his console.