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Raids by Nausicaan pirates continue to disrupt shipping lines on the edges of Federation space. Angry at what they perceive as a lack of response by Starfleet and the Federation government, the Federation Transport Union recommends that its members refuse any official cargos without adequate protection.
This causes a crisis for the Federation government. With so many Starfleet vessels assigned to Romulan and Cardassian relief efforts, the government has been relying heavily on civilian ships for routine deliveries to Federation worlds and protectorates. But the union's action threatens everything from shipments of replicators to Alpha Centauri to emergency medical supplies destined for Rutia IV.
Federation President Nanietta Bacco meets personally with the leaders of the transport union, but the union refuses to budge on what it says is an essential safety issue – too many ships and too many crews have been lost to Nausicaan raids. Presidential aides suggest that Starfleet vessels assigned to exploration and science missions could be rerouted to border defense, but many of those ships are in deep space and it could take them months to return.
Starfleet Command reluctantly agrees to pull back from the Klingon-Romulan border and reassign those ships to patrol the shipping routes. Leaders of some of the Romulan colony worlds howl with indignation that the Federation has broken promises of protection, but those voices are silenced after a sharp rebuke from Admiral Taris. "We are Romulan. We fight our own battles. I would rather see Romulans die with pride in their hearts and swords in their hands instead of mewing for protection like scared younglings."
With the Federation withdrawn from the Romulan border, Chancellor Martok agrees to honor his promise to participate in Federation-mediated peace talks with the Gorn. Representatives from the Klingons, Gorn and Nausicaans converge on Deep Space K-7 for the conference, and the Federation sends some of its most celebrated diplomats to facilitate the talks.
Initial progress appears promising, but two days into the conference an explosive device hidden in a serving cart seriously injures Ambassador Zogozin of the Gorn. The Klingon, Gorn and Nausicaan delegations make plans for immediate departure, but are blocked from leaving the station by Starfleet security, which locks down the station during the hunt for Zogozin's attacker.
Two days after the attack, J'dah, a Klingon with ties to extremist groups opposed to Martok's rule, is found dead. Security officers determine that J'dah was killed by a disruptor blast at close range and shoved out an airlock hours after the explosion that injured Zogozin. If J'dah's body had not snagged on a piece of the station, it may have been lost. Forensic evidence proves that J'dah was the person who planted the explosive that injured the Gorn ambassador, but his killer is not found. Journals left behind in J'dah's quarters indicate that his intended target may have been the Federation negotiation team, who all escaped unscathed.
After the attack, talks between the Klingons and Gorn break down. The Klingons push their advance into Gorn territory, and the Gorn, mindful of the need to protect their homeworld, move ships away from their outlying territories. King Slathis approaches the Letheans for additional assistance, but most outside analysts believe that the Gorn do not have the spare resources to hire Lethean mercenaries and still pay the prices commanded by the Nausicaans for their support.
With the withdrawal of Federation ships from the Klingon-Romulan border, hardliners on the Klingon High Council push for a resumption of the stalled Romulan campaign. Martok and his followers urge caution, preferring to concentrate on the Gorn war and building up the Klingon Defense Force to pre-Dominion War levels.
Rebuffed by Martok, Councilor J'mpok gathers ship commanders loyal to his house and the houses of his allies and invades the Zeta Pictoris System. They clash with a Romulan fleet commanded by Admiral Taris, and the Romulans force the Klingons to retreat. Survivors of the battle report the appearance of highly advanced starships on the Romulan side, but their existence cannot be confirmed. Martok orders Klingon Intelligence to look into the reports in more detail, and the choS battle group is dispatched to investigate.
Federation political analysts say that while the Klingon hardliner's campaign in the Zeta Pictoris system was a failure, J'mpok's point was made: If Martok is unwilling to lead the Klingons into battle there are others who will do so. The High Council begins to divide between those who are loyal to Martok and those who would prefer new leadership.
Taris' victory in the Zeta Pictoris system rallies the Romulans, who have been desperately seeking a sign of their former glory. Rator III is the first to proclaim Taris as the leader of the Romulan Star Empire, quickly followed by Achernar Prime and more than a dozen other worlds. In an address broadcast throughout the empire, Taris says "I am a military commander, and I would prefer to remain so. The seas of politics are rife with submerged hazards and hidden perils, and a wise person does well to avoid them. But my Empire calls and I cannot resist her plea." Taris calls on the leaders of the colony worlds to meet at Rator III to select representatives for a new Romulan Senate and make plans to organize a government and build a new capitol.
A Federation operative inserted into the fleet that departed Romulan space with Sela in 2386 has reported that Sela and her followers have landed on Makar, an M-class planet in the Beta Quadrant with abundant supplies of decalithium and heavy metals. A humanoid race with technology equivalent to Earth's Iron Age inhabited two of Makar's temperate southern continents, but Sela sees the population as an additional natural resource, and within weeks her forces have hundreds of Makarans working in the mines.
The operative also reports that Sela's ship picked up a signal that was similar to the artificial quantum singularities that the Romulans use to power their warp drives, as well as signs of a massive gravitational field. Sela has dispatched two ships to investigate these anomalies.
The Cardassian Detapa Council scores a major victory when it concludes negotiations with Ferengi Grand Nagus Rom for assistance in rebuilding their industrial complexes. Rom will provide the funding to rebuild factories, design houses and replication facilities, as well as returning several valuable jevonite artifacts sacred to followers of the Oralians to the Cardassian Ministry of Culture. In return, Rom receives exclusive trade agreements for Cardassian trade goods once the factories reopen. While Rom is mocked by many Ferengi for his lack of lobes when it comes to business, if the deal succeeds it could be one of the most lucrative arrangements in recent memory.
On Earth, the Federation Supreme Court rules in favor of Phillipa Louvois and the holonovel publishers and programmers she represents, saying that the Acts of Cumberland would not apply to non-sentient holographic or artificial lifeforms. They return the Soong Foundation's class action suit to a lower court to determine what defines sentience in a legal sense. Not content with pursing its agenda in the courts, the Soong Foundation launches a campaign to lobby Federation worlds to add rights for artificial life forms to the Federation Constitution.
Responding to the possibility of Species 8472 appearing in Federation space, Starfleet Command assigns a task force to investigate any possible appearances of the race. A skilled team of scientists, diplomats and security experts will be looking into any signs that the species is in the Alpha Quadrant and formulating possible plans of action. As a start to their research, the team is conducting extensive interviews of the crew of the Enterprise-E, which found the anomalies in the McAllister C-5 Nebula, and former crew members of U.S.S. Voyager, which is the only Starfleet ship known to have definitive contact with the mysterious aliens.
And, citing the success of the extremely diverse crews of the U.S.S. Titan and her sister ships, Starfleet assigns a committee to consider expanding the admission standards at Starfleet Academy to provide more opportunities for races that are formally allied with the Federation but are not full member worlds. "Not everyone knows a Starfleet captain and can get a personal recommendation," said spokesperson Marie Durant. "That doesn’t mean they wouldn't be fine officers."
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