Main Bridge, USS Valiant
En route to Romulan Neutral Zone
Captain’s Log, stardate 66478. The Valiant is en route to the Romulan Neutral Zone after receiving a subspace transmission from Vice Admiral T’Sai at Starfleet Command. It appears that one of our ships, the U.S.S. Nightingale has suffered a navigational error and entered the Romulan Neutral Zone. By the terms of the treaty made after years of conflict with the Romulans, this may be considered an act of war, especially now. The Romulans have already red on the Nightingale, crippling her on the wrong side of the border, and claim the crew are now prisoners of war. As the nearest ship to this critical situation, we have been ordered to assist the Nightingale and defuse the situation whatever way we can.
This could not have come at a worse time for both the Federation and the Romulans. Following the Hobus disaster, relations are delicate at best and intelligence has indicated that the Romulans are looking to blame the Federation for the loss of their homeworld, Romulus.
We are under orders to not enter the Neutral Zone under any circumstances from Admiral Hughes. I can only hope the Romulans are feeling charitable enough to let us beam over to the Nightingale and rescue the crew.
Tannen sat back in his seat and sighed. Along with the communication from Admiral T’Sai, he had sent over a copy of the distress call from the Nightingale. Tapping a button on the console of his chair, the fuzzy image of a dishevelled Starfleet Officer aboard a badly damaged bridge appeared on the screen. The audio crackled.
“This is Commander Alison Lewis of the Federation starship Nightingale. A navigational error has caused us to enter the Neutral Zone and we have exchanged fire with a Romulan warbird. Captain Blake was killed in the attack and we have lost main power. Warp drive is offline and ships systems are down but life support is good and holding. Repairs are underway but we have lost most of our engineering crew. The Romulans are claiming we are now prisoners of war and insist they will take us to Rator III for trial once their ship is repaired. We don’t want to give in to their demands, but we also don’t want to start another war. Starfleet, please advise.”
Looking over the bridge crew of the Sovereign-class vessel, Tannen could see the wave of surprise spread from crewman to crewman. There was something about this that he had expected somehow. It was only in recent memory that the Romulan-Federation relationship had begun to warm, though there were still groups and individuals on either side that could not accept things were changing. Tannen was one of those people. Romulans, to him were deceitful, paranoid, and spiteful creatures. Hobus, while not caused by the Federation, would only serve as a justification for the Romulans that were left to retaliate.
“Thoughts, Commander?” he said, turning to his first officer, Commander Aylen Branson.
“A precarious situation, to say the least, captain,” Commander Branson let out an audible sigh of frustration. “On one hand, we should do everything we can to help the Nightingale. On the other, we don’t want to start a war with the Romulans. Especially not now; their government might be in chaos, but their military seems more organized and ready than ever. However, I don’t think there’s a problem with us throwing a couple scans into the Neutral Zone for the Nightingale once we arrive,” the first officer suggested with a smirk.
“ETA, Ensign S’rell?” asked Tannen.
“We will reach the edge of the Neutral Zone in approximately 2 minutes, captain,” the ensign replied, her Caitian tongue adding a slight hiss to her words.
“There’s certainly benefits to being that close to the Neutral Zone,” the captain continued, “Any information on what the Nightingale was doing prior to their navigational issue?”
Before Branson could answer, the Caitian ensign at the helm interjected, “We’re now entering visual range, captain.”
“On screen, maximum magnification,” Tannen commanded.
The viewscreen switched from the warped starfield around them to that of the Nova-class Nightingale, showing significant damage to it’s outer hull with lights flickering in the windows across the ship, with a backdrop of a blue-green Romulan Warbird in a similar state. It looked to Tannen as if the Nightingale, small as she was, had given as good as she had got.
“Looks like a hell of a fire fight,” first officer Commander Branson commented. Turning in her chair she ordered, “Try and hail the Nightingale.”
Lieutenant Commander Rayah responded, “We’re actually being hailed, commander. By the Romulan ship.”
“Certainly didn’t expect that, captain,” Branson said with her head turned towards her commanding officer.
“That makes two of us, Aylen. Let’s play this carefully,” Tannen paused, he was entirely unprepared for this turn of events, “We need to convince them to allow us to beam aboard the Nightingale,” he turned to the Valiant’s Bajoran tactical officer and nodded.
Now the image of the Nightingale changed to that of a dark haired Romulan woman, clad in the uniform of an officer in the Romulan Star Empire. There was a definite air of arrogance about the woman on the viewscreen, one that Tannen had assumed was true of all Romulans.
“Greetings. I am Captain William Tannen, of the United Federation of Planets starship, USS Valiant,” Tannen stood and took several steps closer to the viewscreen before continuing, “We are responding to a distress call from a starship that has strayed into the Neutral Zone as a result of a navigational error.”
“I care not for your excuses,” the Romulan Commander, Mheven, crassly yelled at the view screen from her dimly lit command center. “That ship is my property, and its crew are going to be taken to stand trial for war crimes against the Romulan Star Empire. Perhaps this will be a lesson to your Federation that unauthorized entry into the Neutral Zone will not be tolerated.”
Tannen clenched his jaw in frustration. Typical Romulan nonsense he thought to himself.
“As I said, Commander, there was a navigational error that occurred, causing the Nightingale to stray into the Neutral Zone. This was an unfortunate mistake as a result of a malfunction, I’m sure you can understand that? I’m not sure such a malfunction constitutes a war crime.”
“A Federation vessel crossed into the Neutral Zone!” the Romulan commander slammed her fist onto the arm of her command chair. “That is an act of war and will be treated as such! If we choose to claim the vessel and crew to try them for war crimes that is our prerogative to defend ourselves! We were also well within our rights to defend ourselves from a Federation vessel crossing into the Neutral Zone, and will do the same if your vessel does as well. If your Federation can’t abide by its treaties then the Romulan Star Empire will not sit idly by.”
Commander Branson leaned into her captain’s hear so that the Romulan couldn’t overhear them and whispered, “Something is up, but we should request permission to beam over to the Nightingale. Even if we let her take it, the ship needs extensive repairs to be warp capable.”
Tannen nodded before he responded to his Romulan counterpart, “Commander, both ships appear to be damaged. From the look of things, the Nightingale isn’t going anywhere fast. Our sensors show that its warp engines are offline. At least let us tend to our wounded and repair the ship so that we can get it out of the Neutral Zone, before this incident escalates further. The Valiant will stay in Federation space, we will beam a team over to enact repairs and aid the Nightingale’s medical staff. When complete, our team will return to the Valiant.”
The officers on the bridge exchanged a handful of nervous glances. They’d been serving aboard the Valiant for the last eighteen months together, but there were still times that they couldn’t yet read the captain or his motives particularly well. On this occasion, they were shocked that Tannen would just give up Starfleet crews as prisoners of war.
The Romulan commander raised an eyebrow before capitulating, “Very well, captain. But only medical and repair personnel, and no crew are to leave that vessel. Once we have repaired our vessel, I’m still taking that ship and its crew back to Rator III with me. Is that understood?” Mheven’s condescending tone was unrelenting.
“Understood. I’ll keep you updated,” Tannen said with a nod before the communication was ended. He turned to Branson, “Commander, you’re with me. You too, Rayah. Let’s get the chief and doctor too and meet in transporter room 3.”