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Storm Front
Posted on May 15th, 2007 by Ian Blackthorne and A.C. Zuriyev

Blackthorne returned to his quarters, finding them much as he’d left them when he had abruptly departed three or four hours ago. He grabbed his robe, still waiting by the bed which he’d been unceremoniously taken from, and walked over to the computer terminal as he put it on. Pajama pants just weren’t appropriate attire for addressing four-star Admirals, not at all. He directed the computer to get Admiral Zuriyev on a secure channel, and poured a gin and tonic while he waited.

A few minutes later, Ian was sitting in front of the screen sipping the drink when Admiral A.C. Zuriyev’s face appeared on the screen. His head was as shiny as it ever was and his salt and pepper goatee was now leaning more toward the salt than the pepper. Upon seeing Ian’s face on the other side of the comm link, he was visibly relieved. “Ian, I see that your crew could not follow orders to sit still.”

“What was that sir? You’re breaking up.” he deadpanned in reply.

Alexi smirked, “Right. Glad to see that you are well. While you were gone, a diplomatic crisis has erupted.”

“My captors said that they were charging us with war crimes.”

“Yes. Watch this clip from the Federation Council’s meeting earlier this evening.” Alexi pressed a button on his desk and waited for a moment.

The right half of the screen was suddenly filled by the image of a robe-clad Machen Bren standing on the floor of the Council’s meeting chamber, addressing the President while pictures of Blackthorne and Shelev were shown on the jumbo-tron. “Behold! Vice Admiral Ian Blackthorne and CommanderTharr Shelev, genocidal terrorists! There will be no peace… while they yet live!” The Council floor degenerated into yelling while the President’s gavel sought to return the room to order. Alexi pressed the button and the clip ended, returning him to full screen prominence.

“Someone should tell him that things didn’t work out for the last ambassador that used that speech,” Ian remarked, referring to the Klingon that had tried to implicate Admiral Kirk.

“Kirk still got demoted,” Zuriyev chided.

“A minor detail.”

“So you say. That planet you were shot down on – Commander T’Kirr sent me every last sensor log from that mission. We have definitive proof, corroborated by theXindi ships present, that there was no civilian life on that planet. Shelev’s decision was brutally effective in a military sense, but not a war crime.”

“Agreed, but I’m not the one you have to convince, Alexi.” Ian sipped at his drink.

“I do not believe they are willing to be convinced. Though it may ultimately prove a suicidal course of action, they appear to desire a war.”

“To what end? They must know the outcome won’t be in their favor.”

“Right now, that is not relevant, even if we had the information to conjecture. Regardless, we must prepare.” Alexi pierced the distance between them with his gaze.

The import of his choice of words was not lost on Ian. “Third Fleet stands ready for your orders, Admiral.” There would be no sleep for him tonight.

“Get as many ships as you can to their borders. We can not not give them the element of surprise – ” Zuriyev was stopped by something flashing red that Ian could see reflected in his eyes. He sat quietly and watched his superior officer’s face for indications of what he was reading, but he already knew. Moments later, Alexi confirmed his suspicion. “They have declared war, citing Atlantis’s seizure of prisoners and hardware, and we have responded in kind.”

Ian took in a deep breath and let it out slowly. “It seems that you were right, they want this. Diplomatically, interstellar law would clearly side with us after we take prisoner the crew of a stealth ship used to kidnap the command staff of a Starfleet flagship. Yet they use the incident as a feeble impetus for war. I can’t help but to wonder why.”

“I would like to know as well, but the reality of this situation is grave and upon us. Third Fleet readiness check, by 0800, and marshal your fleet for combat near theMachen Bren border. They are undoubtedly moving even as we speak. I wager their first target may very well be the Xindi world that you helped colonize. I expect your report by morning.”

“Aye sir.”

“And Ian,” Alexi said with a half-smile, “you take good care of my ship.”

“My ship. Blackthorne out.”

After the comm link went black, Ian began to crowd his terminal screen with star charts, fleet position reports, and other tactical data. He contacted Commander Harper on the bridge and ordered yellow alert until further notice, with no klaxon alarm. Over the few hours left until morning, orders began to disseminate from Atlantis to the other ships of the fleet over highly encrypted channels, dictating several rendezvous points, objectives, and a permanent alert status. His drink sat on the desk, containing only forgotten melted ice.

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