Forward

Politics is unique among the Valkyrie episodes in that it is not one, but five different stories. As I wrote Politics more and more scenes and characters tried to find their way into this story and putting them all in the same text would have made for a rather jumbled, ill-paced read. So I turned most of the ideas that wouldn't fit in the main text into short stories. While each of those short stories could have been published as a stand-alone piece, I offer them here as part of Politics, as Politics and its companion stories share many elements of setting, theme, and background events.

There are two ways to access the short stories:
At the end of four Politics chapters there are links that will take you to one of the short stories, at the end of which you will find a link that takes you back to the next chapter of the main story. Links are placed so that, when read that way, the events of all five different stories unfold in chronological order.
But if you would rather read Politics first and bother about the short stories later you get that chance too. At the end of Politics there are links to each of the short stories, including a few notes that explain when the events covered in the short stories take place.

 

Prologue – November 29, 2372

 

“I take it by now you are all well aware of the situation in the Talkha sector,” Admiral Fairchild opened the meeting of Starfleet’s Joint Chiefs of Staff. It was a rhetorical question. The meeting had been scheduled on short notice, but none of her colleagues would go into a JCS conference ill-prepared if they could avoid it.

Admiral Fairchild looked across the small round table Starfleet’s highest ranking officers used for private meetings when neither guests nor aides were present. “Admiral Ayala, you requested this meeting, so why don’t you start?”

The Efrosian admiral cleared her throat and looked from face to face. She had become Chief of Interplanetary Affairs only a few months ago. While no stranger to the workings of Starfleet’s upper echelon she was still not comfortable initiating a debate among the Joint Chiefs, but today she felt compelled to do so.

“I am sorry if this sounds uncharacteristically blunt for a diplomat, but I can think of no other way to say it.” Ayala took a deep breath and exhaled noisily. “Captain Veal has gone too far. We should not tolerate her behavior. I don’t care how many moons she blows up as long as they are uninhabited, but taking sides in a coup on a neutral world, even sending armed troops into Talkha’s capital - that’s too much.” She clenched her fists and the sudden fire in Ayala’s eyes surprised all of her colleagues. Even the always stoical Sortek, Chief of Strategic Operations, half-raised an eyebrow, which was a noteworthy occurrence.

Admiral Sortek

“Can you imagine what other neutral worlds will start to think after this incident becomes public knowledge? They will start to wonder when Starfleet will change their government to suit our needs. Can you imagine how much work I have ahead of me to convince them that we will not send in troops any time someone inconveniences us?” The Efrosian calmed down a bit, now that she had gotten out what she needed to say. “I know Veal had the legal authority to respond to a request for assistance by the Talkhan government, but the way she did respond is unacceptable. This must have consequences.”

Admiral Avanessian slammed his hands on the table and halfway rose from his chair to lean across the table. “And what would you suggest the consequences should be? Do you want us to come down on one of our captains for acting on the authority Starfleet invested in her? What kind of signal do you think that will send to our officers?”

“Of course I do not want that. But you must understand my position. If we do nothing it could hurt our position among many neutral governments, especially the smaller ones at our borders, whose only regular contact with the Federation are Starfleet ships passing through their sector.” The Efrosian admiral shook her head. “I think we should get Veal away from trouble spots for a while and start an inquiry into her conduct at Talkha. If that inquiry clears her of any misconduct matters little, as long as it takes a while. That should give me time to deal with any diplomatic consequences of her actions and it should go a long way to teach Veal that she should think twice before she resorts to violence again.”

“I am not sure about the inquiry idea,” Admiral Yen Tsu said, “but we could get the Valkyrie away from the border for a while. I have so many exploration and research tasks on the backburner that I could keep a Galaxy-class ship busy for a few centuries.”

Admiral Yen Tsu

The beginning of a smile played around Admiral Fairchild’s lips. Yen Tsu knew very well that Starfleet could spare little resources on scientific endeavors, but he was still the Chief of Research and Exploration. It was only natural that he would jump at a chance like this. “I’ll keep it in mind.”

The Commander in Chief turned to Sortek, the Vulcan Chief of Strategic Operations. “What do you think we should do, Admiral?”

“We do not yet know what consequences Captain Veal’s actions will have for Talkha and our foreign relations. It would be illogical to act with undue haste.”

“Right!” Admiral Avanessian blurted out. “Right now the Talkhans are in the middle of getting everything sorted out. It’s only been two days since that attempted coup. Besides, we only have preliminary reports and to me those reports suggest that Captain Veal had every right to act the way she did.”

Admiral Fairchild looked from face to face. “Admirals Sortek and Avanessian have raised a good point. We simply don’t have enough information yet.” She leaned back in her chair. “Admiral Ayala, while I can understand your concerns, and sympathize with your position, I think we should not act until we see the bigger picture. I will keep your suggestions in mind, but until we know more we shouldn’t do anything. Waiting a day or two won’t change our options and it might give us the time we need to prepare a wider range of responses.”

Elinor Fairchild rose and motioned towards the door. “Now, shall we start our weekly briefing with the Security Council?”

*****

Arkady Avanessian downed his drink in one swift gulp. “What’s wrong with Ayala? I thought she’s experienced enough not to panic so easily!” He refilled his glass and fell into the chair behind his office desk, nearly spilling his bourbon. “Tell me again why she made the JCS?”

“Relax,” Admiral Fairchild softly replied. “You know as well as I do why she is so worried.”

Admiral Avanessian raised the glass to his lips, paused, and finally took a small sip. “Yes, I know. It’s the bloody elections.”

“Yes.” Elinor Fairchild sipped her drink and shivered as the whiskey burned its way down her throat. “There is just too much talk about withdrawing our forces from the frontier to strengthen the defense of the core worlds.” She took another careful sip and looked out the window. A slight drizzle had started to fall and splattered against the window of her friend’s office.

“There are a lot of independent worlds on our border who like to have our ships around. Even one Starfleet ship in their sector does a lot to deter pirates and smugglers and other criminal elements. If we withdrew our forces from the border, these worlds would be on their own. But they are caught between a rock and a hard place, as many of them have their own internal problems. If they start to believe Starfleet is about to get involved in their politics to set up a buffer zone around the Federation border, how favorably would they look at us?”

“Right,” Admiral Avanessian consented after a few moments. “And with some Council members advocating a complete withdrawal from several sectors, I can’t blame the border worlds for being afraid. Still doesn’t explain why Ayala panicked so much. She’s a diplomat. She ought to be able to deal with this kind of situation.”

“I wish I could agree with you. You know that Ayala joined the JCS only after Admiral Ghertza retired. He was in favor of the Valkyrie project and Ayala wasn’t. It was one of the few things they couldn’t agree on. Still, he picked her as his successor and we both agreed with him. And, as you said, she is an experienced diplomat. Her opinion of the Valkyrie may be quite different from ours, and may have clouded her judgment, but she is still caught in a difficult position.”

Admiral Avanessian sighed mightily. “You are right. What I really don’t like about it all is that Ayala may actually have a point. Veal has acted on the authority we have vested in her, but for once she may not have acted in our best interests - even if I would have done the same in her place.” Avanessian took another sip of his drink. “So, what do you propose we do?”

“I think we should do what we always wanted to do, place the Valkyrie in the thick of things and let Veal get on with her job. For now the situation along the Romulan border seems to have stabilized. Therefore we should keep the Valkyrie at the Cardassian front a while longer. Even if the situation in the Talkha sector turns out for the best, we still have to deal with the Cardassians.”

“And Veal has already achieved two victories against them,” Avanessian acknowledged. “Perhaps you are right. Regardless of how the situation on Talkha turns out, we should show everyone that Veal’s main job is to defend our border, not draw up new ones.”

 

CHAPTER 1

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