Starbase 72 - Minos Korva System

The Bargain

Posted on Tue Jul 16th, 2019 @ 8:10pm by Vice Admiral Falco Tauvits

Mission: Tales from the Corridor

‘It could be worse,’ said Merit. ‘We could be in a Union prison cell.’

Jaria couldn’t disagree. While staring at bare, metal walls for weeks on end had done her mood no good, at least the starbase brig was well-lit, at least she got three square meals a day, and at least she’d even seen legal counsel. Federation custody was far from the worst fate she could have anticipated.

It was disconcerting, though. The half-Cardassian woman wasn’t sure how many weeks they’d been locked up since the USS Independence had brought them in to custody at Deep Space 10. And since they’d been transported from the cells of the old Cardassian station - which was to the relief of everyone - she had no idea exactly where they were.

‘We’re not out of the woods yet,’ Jaria said, leaning against the cell wall and closing her eyes. ‘I expect the Union will still try to extradite us.’

And it would be her fault. She was the one who’d surrendered back on Mantiak III, when Commander Rourke had convinced her that if they stood down, they’d be let go. Instead, he’d thrown her in a cell and they were destined to be charged with three counts of kidnapping Starfleet officers. It was vastly superior to the former crew of the freighter Narstronn being surrendered to the Cardassian Union on charges of terrorism, of being members of the proscribed terrorist group ‘Hand of Damar’, but none of it was freedom.

When there were footsteps outside the cell, Jaria didn’t pay them much attention. Security staff came and went down in this brig, especially keen to keep an eye on the dozen or so Cardassian terrorists they had in custody. She didn’t think it was time for food, but a patrol of a bored guard wasn’t unusual. As such, she only realised she had a visitor when she heard an officious clearing of the throat, and her eyes flew open.

‘Miss Jaria.’

At first glance, the portly Tellarite didn’t much look worthy of her concern. Then she noticed the four pips on his collar, and sprang to her feet. ‘Yes?’

‘I’m Captain Barl.’ He looked her up and down, and she knew she wasn’t what he’d expected. Nobody had anticipated the leader of this band of Cardassian terrorists to be a lanky half-Bajoran.

‘Are you our new legal counsel?’ He was far too high-ranking for that, but it was the only thing that made sense.

‘Not exactly.’ Barl’s dark eyes roamed from her to the rest of the former crew of the Narstronn. ‘You’ve made quite a ripple, Miss Jaria. You and your band. Travelling the Gavarian Corridor, marauding the ships and operations of the Cardassian Union.’

‘There are a lot of people who think the Corridor is a place they can live without the Union dictating their lives. We just try to protect that dream.’ Jaria knew she sounded tired. She didn’t expect Starfleet to understand that sometimes rules and laws needed to be broken; that systems were the problem, not the solution, in her corner of the galaxy.

‘And yet your “Hand of Damar” has been accused of terrorist attacks, of destruction of infrastructure and racking up a body-count that includes civilians -’

‘The Union has pinned actions on the Hand which we had nothing to do with, the attack on Blyyzen Base included. And even if you don’t believe that, my ship and my people were nowhere near the base. You might want to blame the Hand for it, but you can’t blame us.’

‘No,’ Barl said softly. He watched her for a moment, then looked down at the PADD in his hand. ‘I have here the report from Commander Rourke. How you protected him against abuse from your own crew. How you surrendered rather than risk further loss of life, to Starfleet officers as well as your own number. I am inclined to believe that you are sincere in your ideology, Miss Jaria.’

She raised a ridged brow. ‘And what ideology do you think that is, Captain Barl?’

‘Preserving the freedom of those in the Gavarian Corridor from interference by the Cardassian Union. The Union has been beating the drums of war again, and been eager in Starfleet’s absence to assert its dominance in the Corridor. Despite treaties.’

‘To say nothing of regression of liberties in the Union itself,’ Jaria had to spit.

‘Allegedly,’ Barl said. ‘I leave those accusations, those wholly internal matters, to our diplomats. But what happens out in the Gavarian Corridor can hardly be decided by diplomats, can it?’

She tossed her hands in the air. ‘It’s not decided by us, either, now. Or is that your plan for our legal defence? A righteous ideology?’

‘Oh, no. If this comes to trial in any court, Cardassian or Federation, you and your crew are all guilty, Miss Jaria. That question isn’t about if you’ll be imprisoned, it’s about how long and in what condition.’ Barl’s deep-set eyes locked on her. ‘And that does nothing for your cause, does it?’

‘It’s a bit late to worry about that. And I don’t know why you worry at all.’

‘I worry a great deal,’ said Barl. ‘I worry about the actions of Cardassian forces in the Gavarian Corridor. I worry about them over-stepping their bounds, I worry about their violation - or bending - of the treaties which govern us all. I worry about much that happens out of sight of Starfleet.’

‘Then send more Starfleet ships.’

‘I was thinking of branching out, actually.’

Jaria tensed. ‘Which division did you say you were from, Captain Barl?’

‘I didn’t,’ said the Tellarite. ‘But I’m not here to talk about your trial. I think it’d be a great loss if this got that far.’

‘What do you want; for me to give you what information I can on Cardassian movements in the Corridor in exchange for a lighter sentence?’

Barl waved a hand. ‘I don’t care what the Cardassian Union did in the Corridor a month ago. I care about two things: what they’re doing tomorrow, and how to stop them tomorrow. So in that, you and I share a motivation, yes?’

Her mouth had gone dry. ‘Yes.’

‘And if you weren’t in this cell; if you and your crew were back on the Narstronn, you’d carry on with that cause, yes?’

She met his eyes, and finally she knew what this was about. ‘Yes.’

‘Of course, your old ship is in the hands of the Union. So even if there were some accident as your crew were transported for trial, even if you happened to slip Starfleet custody and return to the Gavarian Corridor to continue your work against the Cardassian Union, you’d still need a vessel. Equipment. Supplies.’

Jaria drew a deep breath. ‘That sounds expensive.’

And Captain Barl of Starfleet Intelligence smiled a smile that made his tusks glint in the dim lighting of the Federation cell block. ‘When it comes to people who share my motivation, my cause, my priorities, Miss Jaria,’ he said softly, ‘Bargains can be arranged.’