Despite the occasional briefings that the pair had gotten from aides throughout the day, neither the President of the Council nor the Federation President really had a clear picture of what was going on above their heads.
Both knew that someone had stolen the Council President's codes and used them to redirect Starfleet ships. Both had heard that they were fighting in orbit.
But neither had known that they sent teams to the surface or what they were doing.
They really had more important things to worry about, to be honest. In the grand scheme of things, dealing with Starfleet ships disobeying orders was a Starfleet issue.
The Council President had changed his codes, so the perpetrator could not do what he did again, and Starfleet Security was investigating, so as far as he was concerned, the matter was under control.
Like a lot of things though, control was not something that was a given, nor a constant. For instance, both Presidents felt that they were in control of the Federation President's office, what with the Federation security and Starfleet security with them.
That quickly changed when twenty of the Salvation's marines beamed in and quickly stunned all the guards. They were then followed by both NEO teams, Ranma, Shampoo, Larson, and Genma.
“WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THIS?!” Nanietta Bacco, the Federation President yelled.
The two flag officers moved towards her desk with Shampoo and Ranma right behind them as the NEO teams set up transport inhibitors around the room. The marines, Ryouga included, moved to secure the security personnel, and seal the doors.
“Madam President, sir,” Larson nodded as he greeted the pair. “I do apologize for having to greet you like this, but we had to speak with you now and it could not wait for the normal procedures to be followed.”
“So, you decided to hold the President of the Federation and the President of the Council hostage?” The Council President, Eli Tre asked.
“While it looks that way, yes,” Genma sighed. “However, when you hear what we have to say, you will understand why we have done what we did.”
Bacco sighed and leaned back in her chair. “Well, since I have no choice, out with it.”
“Ma'am, we have collected evidence that points to a conspiracy between select elements with the Federation and the Vulcan government that has led up to the events playing out today,” Larson explained.
“What evidence?” Tre asked.
“Confessions and logs,” Larson explained.
“To what end?” Tre pushed.
“To cause exactly what is about to happen,” Ranma stepped forward. “War between Vulcan and the Federation, and ultimately the destruction of the Federation.”
Bacco leaned forward. “Wait, you want me to believe that there are actually people inside of the Federation that want to see it destroyed?”
Larson nodded. “Not everyone believes in the benevolence of our mission. Of our goals. Some people believe our very ideals are what makes us targets for races like the Dominion and the Cardassians.”
Larson looked at Ranma before turning back to Bacco. “Others believe in it more than their own lives.”
Bacco shook her head. “I still don't see it. What do the Vulcans have to gain?”
“Most Vulcans don't want to be free of the Federation,” Larson admitted. “Of course, if the Federation killed several million of their people trying to reclaim their planet...”
Bacco leaned back. “This is a lot for me to have to think about.”
“There isn't time for you to think about it, ma'am,” Ranma moved right up to her desk, pushing past Larson. “Millions will die if you allow that fleet to attack Vulcan. The Federation will never be the same again.”
Ranma sighed and rubbed his head. Genma looked at him with concern as Shampoo moved forward a bit. Ranma put his hand out, keeping them back.
“The Vulcan Defense Minister, Saanik,” Ranma finally continued. “He died getting information from Salek to protect our alliance.” Ranma pointed to Kio. “Chief Warrant Officer Yuki lost a good man capturing Salek to protect this alliance.”
Kio looked to Ranma as he continued.
“Take all the time in the world to examine the evidence, Madam President. But please, stop those ships first.”
Shampoo walked up to Ranma who was beginning to slouch. She put an arm around him to help hold him up. “Once torpedo leave ship, it cannot come back.”
Bacco sat in silence for a moment. She then activated her terminal. “Get me Starfleet Command.”
“Right away, ma'am,” a voice replied.
After a pause. “This is James.”
“Admiral, this is President Bacco.”
“Recall the reclamation fleet to their staging positions.”
After a momentary pause, “Yes ma'am,” an obvious relieved James replied.
Bacco turned to Larson. “If I don't like what I see, I will send them.”
“We only wanted you to hear us out.”
Bacco nodded. Genma turned to Larson. “The Salvation and the Infinity.”
Larson nodded. “Oh, could you please ask the Terran Defense Fleet to stop destroying my ships?”
Bacco nodded and started to do some more work on her terminal.
“Ranma,” Shampoo said.
Ranma was slowly falling to the floor. Shampoo was carefully holding him, keeping him from dropping. Genma noticed and moved over to his son.
Rei also noticed Ranma and scurried over, along with several of the marines who could work as medics. Ryouga came over too.
“Ranma?” Ryouga asked.
Ranma has his eyes closed as Shampoo allowed him to go to the floor. Tre activated the communication system. “Medical emergency to the President's office.”
“GET THOSE INHIBITORS DOWN!” Rei barked at her squad. The NEO team quickly went to work as concerned onlookers watched Ranma take shallow breaths.
“Our shields are down,” Makoto reported.
“Armor is failing,” Jansen also added, not so helpfully.
“Keep us moving,” Minako ordered. “Don't let them get a good shot off.”
Ikuhara nodded, but it was a futile attempt. The Salvation was a large ship and was nowhere near as agile as the ships in the Defense Fleet.
Usagi's terminal began to beep wildly as the ship rocked. “We're venting plasma!!”
“We're losing ventral aft armor plating,” Jansen reported.
'Welp.' Minako thought to herself. 'That's it.'
“Abandon ship,” she ordered.
The 'abandon ship' siren began to sound. Kaii, who was beginning to turn away from his station, heard a familiar voice and turned back. He looked and blinked.
“Kaii. Come on,” Minako called as she walked towards the lifeboats.
Kaii shook his head and pointed to the main viewer. Minako and the rest of the bridge crew who had gotten to the turbolift, turned, and watched as President Bacco appeared.
“To the Terran Defense Fleet. Immediately cease aggression against the U.S.S. Infinity and the Romulan ship currently designated the U.S.S. Salvation. This is Presidential Order 726-021 dated 61228.4. Authorization 777-23-Gamma-Zulu-Beta. Acknowledge receipt.”
The message then began to repeat. Makoto ran to her station and smiled. “The ships are breaking off their attack!”
Minako smiled. “Cancel abandon ship. Recover any lifeboats that did launch.”
“Aye,” Jansen said, heading to her station. Minako walked back to the captain's chair and sat down.
'You did it, Captain,' She grinned.
THREE DAYS LATER; STARDATE 61237
In orbit over the neutral planet of Risa were two small task forces of ships. One Vulcan, one Starfleet. In the middle of the Starfleet task force sat Bacco's transport. In the middle of the Vulcan task force, Sala's.
Both groups of ships sat at full battle readiness, each waiting for the other to try and make an attempt to assassinate their leader. If either side was hoping to win any trust points with the other at this conference, it was going to take a lot of work.
Orbiting, cloaked, on the opposite side of the planet was both the Salvation and the Infinity. Technically the Infinity's presence was a violation of the rules of the conference, as she qualified as a battleship, but Larson decided that if she could not be seen, she did not count.
On the planet, Bacco and Sala nodded a greeting to each other before taking a seat at a medium-sized conference table. Sala appeared slightly upset that Bacco had brought Starfleet with her, however.
“I was under the impression that this was a diplomatic meeting, Madam President,” Sala said.
Bacco nodded. “It is. However, Admiral Larson is far more familiar with the evidence we wish to present to you, so I asked him to come along.”
Sala conceded. “That is logical.”
Bacco nodded to Larson, who passed Sala several PADDs. “High Commander, we have obtained this evidence that the Intelligence Minister, Salek, was working with Federation Councilman Zack Young to start a chain of events that would eventually lead to what has happened. The secession of Vulcan.”
Sala started to look at the PADDs. “Which events?”
“The Vulcan ship attacks on Federation vessels. The bombing in Nagoya. The attack on the LDF base,” Larson stated.
“The attack on the LDF base was ordered by Saanik,” Sala stated.
“We do not believe that to be the case,” Larson objected. “Unfortunately, any real evidence implicating Salek's tampering of MoD logs was likely destroyed when Salek blew up the MoI building.”
“Where is Salek now?” Sala asked.
“He is in our custody,” Larson replied.
Sala paused. “Were you also responsible for attacking the prison facility and freeing Saanik?”
Larson nodded. “Yes. We needed his information.”
“And is he in your custody as well?”
“Saanik is dead,” Larson responded bluntly, pushing over another PADD. “He died after attacking my crew and forcing a mind-meld with Salek in order to extract information regarding this conspiracy.”
Sala watched the video on the PADD. His face almost showing emotion as Salek admits to his role in pulling the alliance apart.
“This is very...” Sala sets the PADD down. “...illogical.”
Both Bacco and Larson nodded.
“Councilman Young encouraged things on the Federation side,” Bacco stated. “We failed to trust, and because of that, things got out of hand quickly and now we're in the position that we're in now.”
Sala sighed. “Trust seems to be something we are both short of.”
“The alliance can be saved,” Larson nodded.
“High Commander...” Bacco continued. “I failed to see it before, but it's been made quite clear to me. There can be no Federation without Vulcan.”
Sala looked over the PADDs again. “I shall present this evidence to the High Command. Based on everything I have seen so far though, it appears that the secession was done in haste, and I will put forward a motion to retract it.”
Sala stood. Bacco and Larson stood as well. “The General Assembly has already repealed 77280-G. Your military should be able to confirm that the ships staged at Wolf 3-5-9 are going back to where they were,” Bacco smiled.
Sala nodded, did the Vulcan salute, and began to turn.
“High Commander,” Larson called.
Sala turned back.
“Saanik was no traitor,” Larson said, lowering his head. “He died not only for Vulcan but for all of the Federation.”
Sala nodded. “I will take care of things.”
He did the Vulcan salute again and he and his security detail walked out of the room.
Bacco turned to Larson after Sala had left the room. “It appears you did it, Admiral.”
Larson halfheartedly shrugged. “I didn’t do it alone.”
Bacco nodded. “How is Captain Saotome?”
Akane sat in a chair next to Ranma's biobed, her hand holding on to Ranma's currently female hand. It was the same place Akane had been for the past twenty-some hours since they had moved him from the Federation hospital on Earth back to the Salvation.
Despite both Akane's and the doctor at the hospital’s objections, Larson insisted.
“Ranma will be furious if he's not at the conference,” she remembered him saying.
She knew Larson was probably right. At the same time though, Ranma would not be at the conference. He was still on board the ship, trapped in the induced coma the doctors on Earth had placed him in to allow his body to heal and his brain chemistry to correct itself.
A doctor walked over to the pair as Akane squeezed Ranma's hand.
“You're going to end up like that if you don't at least eat something,” the doctor told Akane.
“I ate,” she mumbled.
The doctor looked at her for a moment. Akane sighed, pointing to a crewman walking nearby. “Ask Ensign Bayh. He brought me a sandwich.”
The ensign, upon hearing his name, turned and nodded.
The doctor smiled at Akane, then began to look over Ranma's bio signs. “Okay then.”
Akane looked at Ranma as the redhead breathed slowly and deliberately. “Is he better?”
The doctor nodded. “Much.” He pulled out a couple of hyposprays. “And while he can't leave yet, I think we can go ahead and wake him up now.”
Akane smiled. Probably for the first time since she heard of his collapse.
The doctor injected one of the hypos, the turned to Akane. “He's going to be very groggy and he's going to need to take it easy for a couple of days once he leaves Sickbay.”
Akane chuckled. “Trying to get him to take it easy is going to be quite a task in and of itself.”
The doctor smiled and injected the other hypo. He patted Akane on the back and walked away as Ranma began to stir.
“Ranma?” Akane asked.
Ranma's eyes slowly began to twitch. His hand then gripped Akane's tightly, a slight feeling of confusion coming over him. Last thing he remembered he was in the President's office.
“Where am I?” he finally asked, slowly opening his eyes.
“You're in sickbay,” Akane replied, trying really hard not to cry. She knew she had to be strong. She had to make sure she did not upset Ranma. She had to make sure Ranma was okay first. She could be second right now.
So many times, Ranma had put her first. This time, the tables would be turned.
“The fleet...” Ranma asked, for once having no concern as to why it was his female voice speaking.
“You stopped them,” Akane responded with a smile.
Ranma allowed a grin to creep across his face. The Captain began to try and sit up but failed. Akane grimaced at the image of Ranma struggling.
“Here,” Akane stated as she adjusted the back of the biobed, moving it from a flat position to more of an upright position.
“Thanks,” Ranma acknowledged. Akane nodded and quickly moved to get Ranma a cup of water, which the redhead drank and enjoyed, as it was the first water he had had in several days.
Ranma was finally beginning to run on all engines again. He frustratedly looked down at his chest, the over to Akane.
“What's the deal?” His raspy female voice asked.
Akane chuckled, still holding back every urge she had to just grab him and cry uncontrollably. “Because of your body chemistry, your female body was able to heal faster.”
Ranma looked at the lumps of fat and tissue that were pushing up his sickbay issue robe. “So, those are actually useful for a change?”
Akane shook her head. “I think we both know you've used those to your advantage before.” Ranma considered objecting but didn't know if he had either a valid argument or the strength to pursue it. “But yes, your change was a big help to you, otherwise we probably have to keep you under for another couple of days.”
“...Another couple of days?” Ranma asked. “How long...”
“You collapsed a little over three days ago,” Akane replied, losing her smile.
“You were being stubborn, pig-headed Ranma,” Akane replied.
Ranma looked at her.
“Your blood pressure was so high that the fact you didn't have a stroke was amazing. Your blood sugar was so low that we are all amazed that you managed to ward off hypoglycemia. The oxygen level in your blood was next to nil,” Akane stopped. She realized that she could no longer stop the tears from coming out of her eyes.
“Akane...” Ranma whispered.
“I'm sorry,” she said, wiping the tears away with one hand. She attempted to pull her other hand away from Ranma, however, he managed to keep a hold of it.
“No,” he replied, tugging on her hand. Akane leaned forward and put her head on his chest, allowing herself to cry further. Ranma also felt some tears come to his eyes as he placed his other hand on her head. He ran his hand through her hair as he inhaled deeply.
“I constantly keep developing this tunnel vision,” he admitted. “I only see the end, never what's going on beside me.”
Akane turned and looked at him. “You were doing what you think is best for the mission.”
Ranma nodded. “I know, but at the same time, I know that I don't have to do everything myself. I guess I am just too much of a control freak.”
Akane laughed. “You?”
“I know, right?” Ranma smiled.
The pair just looked at each other for about five minutes until the sick bay doors opened. Akane sat up and turned to see Larson walk in with Genma behind him.
Genma essentially leaped over Larson but was blocked by Akane.
“You will kill him,” she stated.
Genma whimpered. Instead of the massive hug and Soun style bawling he was planning, he instead gave his now conscious son/daughter a firm handshake.
“Glad to see you're better, Ranma,” he stated.
“Thanks pop,” Ranma smiled. The captain paused for a second though. Something was not quite right with Genma's uniform. He looked to the Rear-Admiral's pips. One... Two... Three?
Rear-Admirals only get two.
“Pop, did you steal someone's rank insignia?” Ranma asked.
Genma scowled. “I got promoted.”
“No kidding,” Ranma chuckled.
Genma shook his head. “I will ignore that disrespect, as it's likely the medication talking.”
Ranma smiled. “Likely.”
Genma smiled at his son as Larson walked up to Ranma. “Ranma.”
“I am very happy you are feeling better.”
“Thank you, sir.”
Larson patted Ranma on the shoulder. “You will be happy to know that Sala is returning to Vulcan to retract the secession.”
Ranma's smile could probably power the ship.
“There are obviously some issues that need to be worked out, but both governments are going to be conducting investigations to try and purge any others who may have been involved with Young or Salek.
“The Sub-Commander who launched the attack on the LDF base was just arrested. He was caught as he was attempting to leave Vulcan. Sala is also planning on pardoning Saanik so that his name and reputation are cleared.”
Ranma continued to smile. “That is great. Saanik was a Vulcan patriot.”
Larson nodded. “Indeed, he was.”
“What's to become of us?” Ranma asked.
“Well, the Romulans want their ship back, so your crew will be transporting over to the U.S.S. Franklin for transport back to Earth. From there, I will be granting you shore leave until Starfleet Command decided whether they will continue the NEO program,” Larson explained.
“There's talk of disassembling my crew?” Ranma asked, trying to sit up more, much to Akane's reluctance.
“There's always been talk of it,” Larson nodded. “Remember how shocked you were at the existence of the Infinity?”
“Some in Starfleet are just that shocked at the existence of a group whose sole purpose is offensive actions.”
Ranma sighed. “Can't you do anything?”
“No, I cannot,” Larson stated. “I have submitted my notification of retirement.”
Ranma blinked. “Oh.”
Larson smiled. “Space is a young man's game; I'm starting to realize. It's for people like you, not for people like me.”
“If this is because of-”
Larson shook his head, cutting Ranma off. “No, no. I know I overstepped my bounds, Ranma. I have made no mention of any of that in my reports. Even the part where you threatened to shoot me.”
Ranma bit his lip. “Thanks...”
Larson smiled. “I just think it's best to end your career with a win, and what better win than this, right?”
Ranma nodded. “Sounds... Logical.”
Larson smiled and gave Ranma a hug, but then paused. “This is far more awkward than it should be.”
The room laughed.
“Be safe, Captain.”
Ranma nodded. “You too, Admiral.”
Larson nodded and walked out the door.