“Penny for your thoughts, Captain.”

Va’kel Shon looked up from his PADD, turning to face his Chief of Security with a smile. “Sounds like you’ve received another holo-chapter from Captain Paris, Lieutenant. I haven’t heard that kind of slang since my last trip through a Captain Proton adventure with him.” He motioned for the Caitian to join him at his table. “And were the forces of Doctor Chaotica vanquished once more?”

“Sadly, no,” Kyona said with a twitch of her whiskers. “Duty called me to Shuttle Bay 2. Some of our… smaller guests were using some fire suppression equipment as imaginary ‘phaser rifles’ during a lively skirmish.”

“Any casualties?”

“Only one, sir… my tail,” she winced as her captain arched a single eyebrow in response. “One of the Na’kuhl youngsters gave it a good stomping when I broke up their wargames.”

Shon grinned and took a sip of his raktajino. “The perils of Starfleet diplomacy, Lieutenant. I trust Doctor Savel set things right?”

Kyona nodded in reply, stirring her Risian tea somewhat absently. “That he did, although he couldn’t resist another very logical recommendation for the use of an armored tail sheath while on duty. Ugh… you’d think Starfleet engineers could fabricate one of those that didn’t itch so much!”

Shon chuckled, taking a moment to look out of a nearby window in 10 Forward. “I’m glad there weren’t any other incidents. Starfleet’s walking a fine line with the Na’kuhl these days… now more than ever, we need to be a shining example here on Enterprise. We need to show them the Federation isn’t their enemy.”
“More trouble on Earth, sir?” Kyona asked. “Surely the Council knows better than to risk the wrath of Ambassador Lwaxana Troi!”

“Despite the Ambassador’s... inspired efforts in recent Council sessions, the Na’kuhl situation remains deadlocked. The emergency support measures are being held up in committee.” Shon grimaced for a moment, his displeasure at the report quite clear to his fellow officer. “In spite of that, we’ll still be transporting our Na’kuhl guests to Betazed as ordered. On that measure, Ambassador Troi was victorious."

“We take our victories where we can, Captain,” Kyona said, softly. “Iconia taught us that lesson well.”

“One of many, and not all of them for the better,” Shon paused, lost for a moment in thought. “In many circles, the unity we found in the war is giving way to isolationism, xenophobia… things I thought were long behind the Federation.”

“Surely, President Okeg will be able to lead the Council to reason on this,” Kyona asked, a hint of worry in her tone. “I realize that Councilman Ferris has considerable sway, but...”

“But Ferris has a lot of powerful friends, both on the Council and in Starfleet Command. And right now, those are the voices speaking loudest on this matter,” Shon replied. “To them, the Na’kuhl are a dangerous unknown… even a threat. Until recently, they led a life of isolation; diplomatic envoys from the Federation were turned away at every turn. They see that as hostility, and are slow to trust as a result."

 “Aren’t there questions about their connections to the Breen and the Tzenkethi as well?”

“There are, but they’re all based on hearsay… there’s no confirmed intel linking them to any of our enemies,” Shon took another sip of raktajino. “Still, these are the kind of suspicions that are being twisted into facts in the court of public opinion, if not the Federation Council.”

“And what of the other Alliance members? The Romulans… the Klingons. Where are they standing on the matter?”

“The Romulans are sympathetic; more than any of us, they know the pain of losing a star and finding a new home. But they suffered heavy losses in the war, and were barely established on New Romulus to begin with. They simply don’t have the infrastructure to accommodate thousands of Na’kuhl… they’re having a hard time feeding themselves lately.”

“And the Klingons?”

“The Klingons,” Shon smiled bitterly. “The Klingons are welcoming the Na’kuhl with open arms… so long as they come ready to work… to fight… to serve the Empire. It’s the same on Cardassia Prime, I’m told.”

“But the young… the elderly and the infirm? Those not built for war or hard labor?”

“The requirements are the same for all, and no exceptions are made. You can imagine why some Na’kuhl are reluctant to receive such hospitality.”

Kyona frowned, her ears folded back as she took in the news. “There are a number of inhabited systems near the Na’kuhl… where do they stand?”

Shon gave the younger officer a calming smile as he recalled the status reports he’d received earlier in the day regarding the Na’kuhl situation. “Well, the Ferengi are offering their assistance… their incredibly valuable assistance, if the reports are to be believed.” His smile faded.

“As always, if you have the latinum, they have the time,” Kyona growled. “Otherwise, move along.”

“It’s not all bad news, Kyona,” Shon replied. “Quite a few of their neighbors are doing all they can to help – the Trill, the Lukari, the Denobulans. There was a little hesitation from the Bajorans until Kai Kira took a… personal interest in the matter.”

“Not a woman I’d want to cross,” Kyona smiled. “Is it true the Klingons have a song about her?”

“I couldn’t say,” Shon replied. “Considering her tenure on DS9, it wouldn’t surprise me in the least. Ambassador Worf speaks highly of her, to be certain.”

Kyona grinned, in the feral way that unnerved those not familiar with Caitians. She took a sip of her tea and wrinkled her nose.

“Hsssht! Cold! Perhaps the galaxy is letting me know it’s time to get back to work.”

 “Or back to fighting Doctor Chaotica?”

She grinned again, whiskers twitching merrily.

“Someone has to get Captain Proton out of that deathtrap. Might as well be me.”

“As you were, Lieutenant.”

“Thank you, sir. Good night.”

As Kyona made her way out of 10 Forward, Shon called up the Na’kuhl reports on his PADD once more. “We have to do this right,” he thought as he finished his raktajino. “We have to represent the best and brightest of the Federation to the Na’kuhl… to outshine the darker fears surrounding us all. For us, as well as for them.”

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