“Sir, we are approaching Trafalax 3 now,” Lieutenant Kolle said. On the viewscreen was a small gray-brown rocky planet, mottled with white patches of crystal formations. The Rigelian Science Officer began her scans of the formations, looking for the highest concentrations of tritanium.
“Put her into a standard orbit,” Captain Trox ordered, a bit wearily. While his mission to locate resources to help rebuild the Federation was important, it was not nearly as action-packed as fighting the Heralds. Still, with the war over, perhaps he might be the first host in some time to last more than a year. His symbiant had three different hosts in the last two years.
“Captain, I am detecting a Klingon vessel already in orbit,” Lieutenant Commander Rochi said, brushing back a strand of auburn hair that had fallen over her face, “The designation is I.K.S. Leng.”
“Hail them,” Captain Trox paused for a moment as Ensign Plag, his Ferengi communications officer, opened the channel, “This is Captain Trox of the U.S.S. Madrid.”
“I am Ka’ar, son of Muuda, captain of the I.K.S. Leng,” Growled Captain Ka’ar, “What is your purpose here?”
“Long-range scans detected concentrations of tritanium ore. We planned to survey the planet with the intent of building a mining facility.”
“We had the same intentions,” Ka’ar barked, “But we discovered this planet first and claim the mineral rights.”
“Actually, this planet was first surveyed in,” Trox glanced down at his console,”2407 by the U.S.S. Belize. Therefore we claim the mineral rights.”
“We were at war at the time, we don’t recognize your `rights’,” said Ka’ar, becoming visibly agitated.
“Under the Discovery clause under our articles of alliance, we-“
“I do not bargain like a Ferengi,” said Captain Ka’ar, cutting off Trox. Ensign Plag tried to keep his face neutral but could not help but squirm a bit in his seat, “Depart the system or we will open fire.”
“You would break the Alliance and bring us to the point of war over some ore?”
“This is not about ore! This is about honor!” Captain Ka’ar cut the channel.
“Shields up,” Captain Trox sighed, “Red alert.”
“Sir, they are not powering weapons,” said Lieutenant Koll-fleck.
“What?” said Captain Trox, “These are Klingons, why aren’t they attacking? Target their disruptor banks.”
“Target locked, sir, ready to fire on your command,” Lieutenant Commander Rochi said, “They are targeting our phaser banks as well. But they still aren’t powering up weapons.”
“Evasive Maneuvers. Attempt to break their lock,” Captain Trox said, “Most of their weapons are forward facing, try to get behind them.”
“Aye sir,” said Lieutenant Kamr, the Bolian Flight Controller. He eased the Madrid into a tight spiral at one-quarter impulse.
“They are turning to follow us, sir,” said Lieutenant Commander Rochi, “Weapons remain locked, but they still aren’t powering them up.”
“This is no good,” said Captain Trox, “We are allies, we shouldn’t be fighting each other. Ensign Plag, hail-“
“Incoming message from the Leng, sir, requesting a private channel,” said Ensign Plag.
“Good timing. In my ready room.”
Captain Trox walked into his room and sat down, and flipped on the screen. An attractive Orion woman filled the screen.
“Greetings, Captain. I am Commander Gatar, First Officer of the Leng,” said the lovely Orion woman. Trox was grateful they were talking over the comm. The allure of Orion women was legendary.
“Greetings, Commander. To what do I owe the pleasure?”
“I have called to negotiate for the mineral rights to this planet,” she said.
“I think your Captain already made his position pretty clear.”
“I’m not sure he did. We desperately need that tritanium ore to rebuild our fleet.”
“As do we,” said Trox.
“Clearly. But we also do not want to start a diplomatic incident.”
“Then why was your Captain so hostile?” Trox asked.
“You must understand the political situation. The Empire was devastated by the Iconians. And now that the threat is over, many subjects have begun to question the Empire’s participation in the Alliance,” Gatar said, “They have begun to wonder why our ships sit in drydock while Starfleet’s ships are repaired. They worry that we are falling behind the other powers, that we will become easy pickings.”
“We have been nothing but fair. The Alliance was even commanded by a Klingon General.”
“Yes, I know. And the leaders know. But many of our people are still suspicious of the Federation. And our structure is not like yours. A Captain who shows weakness is making himself a target for assassination.”
“Well then why are we even talking?”
“Despite the display on the open channel, Captain Ka’ar would like to reach an equitable solution. We both need the ore, and we are supposed to be allies, after all.”
“Well then,” said Captain Trox, “This sounds like a task for the diplomatic corps.”
“You know how long those channels take. It could be months before they are done squabbling. And our peoples need that tritanium now,” Gatra said, “Besides, I know you are authorized to negotiate under circumstances such as these.”
“You have a point,” Captain Trox considered for a moment, “Well, perhaps we could establish a joint mining operation. And split the ore evenly.”
“We were going to propose something along the same lines.
Only, we would like to receive one kilogram of ore more than the Federation each year.”
“One kilogram? What difference could that possibly make?”
Gatar averted her eyes from the screen briefly, embarrassed but trying not to show it, “It’s a matter of honor, Captain. If we receive more ore than you, Ka’ar can call this a victory, to the crew and to the council.”
“A hollow and contrived victory.”
“To you, yes, and perhaps even to me. But to a Klingon, the spoils make the victor. It costs you nothing, but the crew and the High Council will see that Ka’ar and the Leng intimidated you into submission and accepting the lesser share.”
“When the truth is that you and I did the real work by negotiating a deal.”
“Just like a Ferengi?” Gatra averted her eyes again, but there was a sardonic glint to them, “The real work here is that you will accept ‘defeat’ in the name of galactic peace and harmony. The cost is paltry, compared to the gains.”
Trox sighed, “Why do we always have to be the ones to take the high road?”
“Because you are Starfleet. That’s who you are.”