Canopus Station
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All In Good Faith

Posted on Fri Sep 4th, 2020 @ 12:49am by Captain Benjamin Ingram Dr & Lu'kat

Mission: S2:2: Best Laid Plans
Location: Captain's Office
Timeline: MD1: 16.15

Lu'kat had finished his work of the day. He had gone over to the station's docking bay to personally oversee Cardassia's take of the mining operations in the nearby asteroid field was fairly distributed to the cargo containers destined for his homeworld. Usually this process ran smoothly on its own, but Lu'kat made a point of random visits to keep the Starfleet crews on their toes, in case any one was thinking of skimming some cargo of the top, or, worse, filling it with low quality ore instead of the agreed on high quality one. Having ensured the Cardassian Union of another profitable shipment, he made his way to Captain Ingram's office to have a much needed and overdue talk.

Ingram's office door opened, revealing the glass walls overlooking Station control, as well as the smooth polished desk. Ingram was stood by a small side table, pouring a measure of Kanar into a glass alongside his own snifter of brandy.

"I hope you don't mind, but these little visits have become something the station administrative staff have begun to take notice of," Ingram capped the bottle, looking at the thick treacle-like fluid. "Enough so that there's a macro in the station's citizen monitoring program specifically setting off a ripple of warnings when you pass into the command levels."

He picked the glasses up and returned to his desk.

"Not quite 'hail the conquering hero', but it's as much fanfare as my staff can provide given their workload," Ingram went on, placing the glass of kanar down in front of the second-best chair. "So, another container of refined titanium to add to the parking swarm past the outer marker. You do know, until we are able to produce our own Phase Space Accelerator travel is strictly one way? Stacking up the material wealth of a small star nation hardly seems prudent."

Lu'kat seated himself on the second-best chair in the room and graciously took the glass of kanar. Taking a sip, he commented: "ah, the 2327 vintage, you know your kanar well, Captain". Taking a moment for the taste to be fully enjoyed (the first sip was always the best), he continued: "As you would know well by now, as opposed to some other ...guests... on board this station, I hardly require a fanfare to announce my presence everywhere I go, though I do appreciate your attempt at humour."

He took out a data padd and typed some commands in it, before handing it to Ingram. "This here is a list of all commodities so far reserved for delivery to the Cardassian Union. As you can see, it's starting to become quite the build-up, and growing as we speak. Once two-way travel becomes a reality, the profits would more than double the Union's annual trade income with just the first shipment alone. Indeed, it does not seem prudent at all, given the ever-present risk of theft. How fortunate for us to have Article 5, paragraph D in our contract with Starfleet that states it guarantees the safety of the goods and will re-imburse the Cardassian Union fully, if something were to happen to it."

"Yes. As I recall that little proviso took quite a bit of finagling to get into the final wording of the agreement. But there it is, in black and white," Ingram smiled and sipped his drink. "You are, of course, more than welcome to over look the arrangements made for the security of your allotted cargo. Automated sensor drones, port authority skiff patrols, as well as being under the guns of the Shore Battery."

He set his glass down.

"Of course, given that we are the only presence in Messier 4 at the moment, Starfleet does have system defence and explorative programs to pursue as well as its guardianship of your precious metals and industrial gems." Ingram smiled. "Of course two-way travel would be greatly expedited with a production rate of the supercapacitor material needed for Accelerated construction that could be less accurately described as 'sedentary'. But given the secretive nature of the materials fabrication, and it being a wholly Cardian Union endeavour, we can't offer technical expertise to our allies."

Lu'kat listened as Ingram announced his own agenda items for this moment. Good, the Cardassian thought, precious time is so often wasted on pleasantries .
"Which brings me to why I had requested this meeting, Captain. As much as I, personally, see the benefits in two-way travel between home and Messier 4, we must be sure to safeguard it from the Myriad, or any of the other powers in this cluster. I'd rather not think of the implications of such technology in the hands of these beings, not only for our peoples, but for all beings in the universe."

He paused, as his mind went back to when the Dominion sent its armada through the wormhole near Bajor, plunging the entire Quadrant into a devastating war. It had been Cardassia's undoing... It was nothing short of a miracle that his people had managed to rebuild as quickly as they did. But had they learned from their past mistakes? Lu'kat was not sure if he wanted an answer to that question.

"Unfortunate business it was, how your Starfleet Officers were discovered snooping around on the Myriad vessel. Highly embarrassing as well. I surely hope they weren't acting on your orders? I have to give our Myriad guest credit for taking it so lightly, though I'd be unsurprised if this little manoeuvre will cost us in the future... Guaranteeing the safety of Cardassian goods is one thing, Captain. I've seen your defences and know what they can and cannot do. Can it defend Cardassian goods against theft and sabotage? Yes, most definitely. However, can it withstand a sustained full scale assault by a Myriad or Concordance armada? No, it cannot."

Lu'kat paused as he saw the creases in Ingram's frown deepen, if only slightly, and only for a nano second. It was enough.

"Oh don't get me wrong Captain, a strong defence is only as good as the commander organising it, and you are very good, I'll grant you that. But I have no intention of accelerating construction of the super capacitor that allows two-way travel, only to have it snatched away by our... 'friends'. What guarantees can you give that ensure the safety of the Phase Accelerator once it is completed?"

Ingram bridled at the jab, but smiled through it.

"Given this Station is still standing after a year, having faced off an incursion of Reka, I'd have thought our pedigree was already established. Add into that the Shore Battery station's littered across the moon system of Tangerine Dream, now augmented by on station starfighter support and the arrival of Task Force Hecate, I think you'll find we're more than up to the task. Besides, I'm sure you're eager to return home to Cardassia at some point with the spoils of your travels," Ingram mused. "After all, without a means of reimbursing your government for its aid, surely there are others in the Cardassian Union who might seek to use that deficit to their advantage? A sitting government in debt to the Federation? How...unseemly."

Some part of Lu'kat always loathed negotiations. The road to consensus (he preferred that term as opposed to 'compromise') was a long arduous road that each party took to seek maximum gain and profit to themselves, while aspiring to minimise that of their counterpart. His counterpart sitting across the table was very familiar with that road. Though Lu'kat knew that road as well.

"Overconfidence Captain", Lu'kat replied, "has been many a man's undoing. Defences can be breached. Computers can be hacked. Loyalty can be betrayed. So many variables to keep in mind. And so much to be lost, if any of them are miscalculated."

He tought on Ingram's other comments, how little the Captain knew of Lu'kat's past and reasons for him being here. "My personal goals are inconsequential. I go where I can serve the Cardassian Union best." And what had that gained him?
"I leave the matter of debts to the politicians and the financial experts. I merely operate within the substantial budgets they have authorised. Debts are a reality of any government. Despite our successes in the past decade, it can be generations before the final scars of the Dominion War are finally healed, if ever. The Klingons, the Romulans, even the Breen still claim hefty reparations for the damages suffered in the War. In the total picture a little added debt to the Federation is but small change, compared to the long term gains yielded upon the successful completion of this Long Jump Project."

"In conclusion, Captain Ingram, this Treaty with the Myriad is of great importance, to yours, to mine, to theirs. It will concern many of the variables I earlier implied, and enshrined in this Document, they can be a source of stability and confidence, as opposed to the risks they pose now. It will only be after the signing of such a treaty, safeguarding Federation and Cardassian interests, that I will consider speeding up deliveries of the materials needed for the Space Accelerator on this side."

"The Treaty with the Myriad is something that has to be seen and debated first before it can be enshrined. So let us not get too excited just yet," Ingram smiled. "And remember, going home is a key goal of the Long Jump Project"

Lu'kat frowned at Ingram's comment which stated the glaringly obvious. All parties involved would have a minimum of demands and concessions without which a Treaty would never get to be signed in the first place. Lu'kat's job was, next to ensuring a proper level of guarantees of peaceful co-existence, to ensure Cardassia's interests were adequately, if not prominently enshrined within it.

"Indeed it is, Captain. And the Treaty has the potential to either significantly speed up reaching that goal, or delay it. We just have to work hard towards the first outcome, and do everything we can to prevent the second. Therefore, Captain, despite my awareness that I am not in any position to ask anything from you, I do very much desire you to share any intelligence this little escapade with your Engineers will undoubtedly have gained you, such as intel about the..., how did you phrase it? A Luminal Cartographer?"

"I can promise you pictures and detailed set of guesswork as to its functioning, but as for more concrete and actionable intel, you will have to get in line with every scientist on this station," Ingram said. He then tapped his fingers. "You would, of course, inform me as a treaty partner if you had been contacted by the Myriad? It would not be beyond the realm of possibility for them to offer all parties in a joint negotiation the ability to undermine their fellows."

Lu'kat's lips thinned as they almost formed what could in the remotest possibility be interpreted as a smile, and that only with a near infinite amount of the wildest imagination. "But Captain Ingram, if I didn't know any better I would have assumed you just attempted humour twice now, were it not that I know you to be someone never to be facetious when matters of importance are at stake. Something that I do so very much appreciate."

The Cardassian pressed the fingers of his two hands together so that they formed a triangle, tapping his chin, as if in deep contemplation for a moment. Then: "while you are completely within your rights to be of a suspicious mind when it comes to my employers, surely my actions since my arrival on this station has assured you that I strive only for the success of this mission and with it, the continued safety of the Alfa Quadrant." He paused for effect.

"To that end", Lu'kat continued, "I will admit your suspicions to be well-founded. Haztor did indeed contact me and handed over a data chip which he said contained information on something called a Luminal Cartographer."

How else would Lu'kat have known of its existence? It's not like he'd bugged the Captain's office, how could he? He was a former Obsidian Order operative, however shortly, yes, but not a miracle worker...

"No doubt he had hoped I would have kept it secret (as such assumptions are usually quickly made about my people) until such time I could smuggle it or its contents to Cardassia, and potentially flood the whole Union's computer network with Myriad software, as your engineers have haphazardly done here, forcing the whole system to have to be rebooted from its root. Amazing no more damage was done, réally Captain, your crew has to be more careful, that's two major slip ups in the same amount of days..."

He held up his hands, showing them to be empty. "As I understand it, all the information stored on your data chip was lost. How fortunate that I was cautious, and that I kept mine secret, kept it safe. Now we know by which trick Haztor tried to fool us. But I don't think he had counted on what I am about to do next."

With a flick of his wrist, the data chip containing all information on the Luminal Cartographer appeared between the thumb and index finger of his right hand. Almost in slow-motion, he moved his arm forward toward Ingram, as if to hand over the chip.

"With an adversary as powerful as the Myriad or the Concordance we cannot afford to be divided amongst ourselves. The Dominion War was proof of this, and that was child's play compared to what we face here today.... Allow me to work alongside your scientists and engineers to safely extract the great wealth of information that is contained within this small device. We would be starting a new chapter of cooperation between our factions in this post-Dominion War era. The United Federation of Planets and the Cardassian Union standing united against the might of the Myriad, working together towards progress and protecting the Alfa Quadrant from those that would seek to harm it."

"Huum...Starfleet and the Cardassian Union have worked together on similar projects in the past. The Bajoran Wormhole Communications Relay is one such project that springs to mind, apart from the Long Jump Accelerator. I can only see the benefit of closer cooperation for us, given we are both stuck here until we make good on our commitments," Ingram said with a smile.

"So," Lu'kat said, sitting back in his chair now, "you agree? The data chip in exchange for my active involvement in uncovering its secrets?"

"To a point. The chip stays on this station, in quarantine, and is investigated in an air-gapped network. If you want to spend the time and energy to bring a choir of Cardassian information specialists to the Messier 4, by all means do so. But the chip does not leave, or does it get copied. We...share, custody as it were," Ingram said, saying the word 'share' with distaste.

"But Captain Ingram, that sounds perfect. And you need not worry about having to deal with more Cardassians on this station, I am quite up to the task myself, and look forward to working with your team." Giving the Captain a respectful nod, he made to leave. Just before he exited the room, he turned around. "I'll push my superiors for a speeding up of supplying resources for the Phase Space Accelerator. I trust your faith in Canopus's defences is well-founded. If not, Prophets help us..." And with that the Cardassian returned to his office.


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