Chapter 15

Archanis IV

The City of Ashburn

Time: 823 PM

The official meeting between the Psi-Corps members and the local government wouldn't happen until morning however the unofficial meeting between the Earth Alliance survivors of the Springfield and the Farlin happened about an hour after the Earth Alliance officers and personnel were settled into their rooms at the hotel. The Archanis Hills hotel was a mid-sized affair with more than decent accommodations. Sinclair was pleased, finding it to be very Earth-like, something his mind expected of course, but his heart hadn't been quite prepared for it although he was adjusting. Federation Earth had been a magnificent, but somehow alien copy of the real thing. But here, it was like visiting home. The stars were different and the flora and fauna obviously alien but the place felt like something Humans built – which of course they had – for the most part. Two Earths: the same, but different. Honestly, it was confusing as logic warred with his emotions concerning the incredible changes that had happened in his life these last few months. The universe had opened up and he had no idea of where things were going. The events were starting to come to the fore, demanding the attention he'd suppressed more or less since this whole journey began. He needed some air and about to put on a jacket when someone knocked at the door. David Sheridan and his son John were there with their jackets on and when they saw him with his on as well they smiled knowingly.

"We were going out for some air and take in a few quick sights," the older Sheridan said. "Like to come with us?"

"I was just thinking about that myself, sir," he answered quickly.

He grabbed his keycard and followed them to the elevators. Amazingly, and typically none of them felt a thing as the lift took them to the first floor. Reaching the main lobby, they exited and of one accord went straight to the bar.

"Gents," David said, "a couple of our citizens wanted to meet with me a local restaurant, tonight. They did not sound happy." He looked at them both as if begging for moral support of friends and family. "Might as well get this show started. I don't know about you but I need a drink."

Jeffery exhaled nosily, having thought of the same thing. All three of them ordered at the bar. The barman quickly prepared their drinks and the three of them sat nursing them, enjoying the moment before they started to talk.

"I was barely inside my room before I started getting calls from the Earth Alliance refugees here. They wanted to talk and talk now." He took a sip of his scotch. "I compromised and asked them to send a small group for now and we'd have the full meeting tomorrow around noon. Apparently, there's a lot of apprehension about our presence and why we're here."

"Okay, that does not sound promising," John said as he took a drink of his own.

"Yep. It was enough so that a few of them wanted an ad hoc meeting tonight, not tomorrow.

"Ah." Jeffery nodded, understanding now. "They want to know if we're going to try to force them back."

"Apparently," he said. "I told them as civilian refugees from an Earth Alliance colony, I would talk to them about coming home but we're not here to force them to return if they don't want to go back." He took another sip. "I don't think they believed me."

"Some of them will undoubtedly want to return," John said. "But I can certainly see why a lot of them wouldn't."

"Home is home," his father countered. That was the official stand by Earth Alliance whether he agreed to it or not. "Think about it," he said. "Look around here. They call this a colony! Not like the colonies at home," he said stating the obvious. "You've read the reports. They have their own homes here, their own land, plenty of space to stretch out. Peaceful next door neighbors with superior technology. No worries about life support failing, no fears of food shortages. No fears about the Minbari coming to kill them all. If they go home, where are they going to go, back to Earth? They're pioneers! They left Earth because they wanted to start somewhere fresh in the first place. Why should they want to go back?"

"Personally, I'm agreeing with you, son. But," and here he huffed, "it's my job to try to convince the civilians to return to Earth Alliance territory. Things have changed. Nobody here or at home believes that the Minbari have a snowball's chance of surviving the next two weeks. Everybody knows that this war is effectively over with the exception of the mop up, and people are starting to look forward to the future now that we're not facing extinction. That's why our government sent me here. As for the military here, Earthforce policy is clear on this matter. They are to return to Earth Alliance be debriefed, finish their tour of duty and they can do what they want. The civilians though are a different story." He paused for a moment to take in the scenery and to take another sip. "We're afraid of a hemorrhaging of Earth Alliance citizens."

"Senator, the allure here is strong," acknowledged Sinclair, "and to say that I'm not tempted to stay for a while myself would be a lie. It's like Lefcourt said. There's newness here, a vitality that we don't have on Earth Alliance which begs the question, why don't we? With respect, exactly what are we afraid of?"

"Explain, please."

"Sir," continued Jeffery, "as we've discussed on the ship on the way here. What happens when the war is over? People are going to compare how Mars here is a free, independent world while ours is basically a corporation puppet. You know what's happening there. The people have very little independence and most of them have very little respect for Earth Alliance and ties to Earth in general. The corporations are bleeding the citizens there dry and the government has done nothing to stop them. I won't even touch the Mars stance on the war."

"Plus, several of the colonies were destroyed by the Minbari and we weren't able to stop them."

"We couldn't have stopped them in time, you know that," David protested.

"True, but it's the perception that you're about to confront here, sir."

"Thanks for the headache," David mused.

"You're welcome, dad," said John with sympathy. He was glad that he wasn't in charge of this.

"Sorry, sir," Sinclair added.

"Thanks," the senator said while he took one last gulp, finishing his drink. 'Oh-uh'. Standing up, he winked to the other two. "Time to get this show started."

At the same hotel another group of Earth Alliance representatives were preparing for a meeting of their own. Both psi-cops Alfred Bester and Roberta Yang were sitting quietly in Toni's room waiting for her to finish reading Arati's report. From the look on her face, Arati's seminar on Earth hadn't gone as well as expected with the other-Earthborn telepaths, not even close. It was to be expected but still came as somewhat of a disappointment. Her mental shields were up so she was sure that Alfred and Roberts hadn't picked up on the details, although she was positive that some of her emotions had leaked. Both officers, at their level of sensitivity would have noticed such a thing.

"Arati's communiqué isn't the best of news," she told her fellow telepaths.

All three of them were in their uniforms even though they had been in the hotel for about four hours. Point in fact, was that they had determined that they would appear in Psi-Corps uniforms for the duration of the trip. It would serve to remind the blips where their allegiance should be and that no matter where they were the corps would always find them and protected them even if they didn't know that they needed it. Human telepaths were apart from mundane and it was time for the runaways to be reminded of that fact. Too bad the Humans of Federation Earth were so behind in those essential lessons, but it would only be a matter of time before they came to realize the truth for themselves.

"I take it that her lecture didn't go as planned?" asked Roberta.

"No, it didn't," Toni confirmed. "The Human telepaths there weren't as receptive as we originally believed they would be. They've been contaminated by their culture and their associations with alien telepaths. That's going to be a problem down the road, especially with the Betazoids. According to Arati, when she saw them, she was sure that they were Humans but they weren't."

"They look that close to Human?" asked Bester? "I knew they looked similar to us but I didn't know they were that close."

"The Betazoids aren't part of the Federation although there are talks going on between the two nations and the rumor is, is that they may well join," Roberta added.

"They may well be a problem that we'll have to deal with one way or another in the future," Toni said. "Roberta, I know that you've done some investigations on them but Arati stated that these aliens are a threat to the Human teeps on Fed Earth. They might well subvert our people here if we don't do something quickly if it's not already too late."

"How much of a threat are they to us?" asked Bester. "They're telepaths. The might have more in common with us than the mundanes."

"You might think that, but apparently they have had their telepathy longer than we and there's a whole world of them. They don't have any rules or regulations other than what they chose to at any given moment. They scan any time they feel like it. Yes," she grimaced. "I can see the Federation mundane becoming weary of Betazed very quickly. The Vulcans are one thing but a planet of telepaths could very easily take over the Federation. Then what happens to Alliance Earth when they come for us?" Irritated, she stood up and started pacing. "Plans within plans would be ruined and Earth would become wearier of us than they already are. We're not ready, yet."

"Yes," Bester said, "that would be a problem. You're suggesting that the Betazoids could influence these children and then send them back as moles to spy on us. Attack us from within."

"This is what the leadership believes," she acknowledged. "It's a scenario that we don't need. That's why all of the refugees, mundane and teep alike, have to be returned home. We have to stop this now. No more blips or even mundane should be allowed to come here. I don't care about the mundanes as much but Corps is mother and father and we can't have blips stealing ships trying to come here. The political and long-term damage to the corps would be catastrophic. When we see them tomorrow, we will make them return home, no matter what. We won't allow these people to keep them. They're family."

"We still have the Federation rules to worry about."

"This isn't a Federation world," Toni countered. "It's an independent colony with their own rules. If we convince the leadership then we get our family members back. I can't see the colonists wanting telepathic refugees walking among them. Their high-minded values are one thing, but they're just like the mundanes at home. I'll just appeal their natural fears and let nature take its course."

The three people, two women and man, who entered the hotel, were immediately noticed by the senator's group. What had been noticeable by the trio was the way the entered and instantly started searching the crowds. All of them were business-like in appearance and there was an air of not tenseness, but apprehension surrounding them. It wasn't hostility as much as a preparation of war.

Thank God for the scotch.

Three pairs of eyes locked onto him. David sighed, put on his best political demeanor and headed towards the guests. The Indian woman he judged to be just barely younger than his son, unhesitatingly walked towards him and with a strength that surprised him, vigorously shook his hand, pumping it like it was a jack hammer. Her gray eyes stared into his as if searching to understand the nature of his soul. He found himself looking back into her eyes and thinking the same thing.

"Hello, Senator Sheridan?" she asked.

He nodded. "Yes," he confirmed. "And this is my son Captain John Sheridan and Captain Jeffery Sinclair," he said as he pointed them out to her and her associates.

Her look of suspicion faded somewhat after a second. "Hello, I'm Captain Deborah Salti and this is my former first officer Allen Ranonsky. And this is Gregory Wolfman, the president of the Earth Alliance farmer's association of Archanis IV representing the colonists of the former Eighth colony." She paused for a second. "I'm sorry," she said. "I didn't mean to approach you like this, so soon. But, I – we, all of us have been anticipating this visit for a long time." She looked at him. "Senator, we're not going to be forced back."

"Captain, please call me David." She nodded. "I'm not the enemy here."

"And please call me Deborah," she said. "I know that, but we've heard rumors since Earth Alliance representatives have arrived." She smirked apolitically. "News travels fast around these parts."

"I can see that." And he did. Besides him, John and Jeffery were stone faced. No help coming from there for the time being. "Can we talk over dinner? There's a lot to discuss and we might as well do it while we eat."

"Since Earth Alliance is paying for it, why not?"

"…We were on the Springfield for thirty nine days," she said. Deborah had stopped eating for a second as the memories flooded back. "The Minbari had destroyed the colony habitat and the small domed colony, wiped out all of the civilian transports and military ships except my ship the Springfield, Rutledge, and Dandridge. We jumped to hyperspace and still the Minbari followed us. That's when we were pulled into the hyperspace passageway. You don't know what it was like," she whispered. "We were pulled along, with no control for twenty-seven days. I thought sure that we'd we lost in there forever. It may have been better for us if we were because the Minbari were still behind us, just within sensor detection range. We couldn't stop, we couldn't turn. We couldn't fight back. After twenty-five days, my ship was starting to break down. Life support wasn't designed to handle the number of passengers we had for so long. Food was dwindling; the water recycling system was breaking down. People were getting sick. Long term weightlessness syndrome was starting to affect many of the people. We were cramped and scared, David. We lost the Dandridge in hyperspace before we hit the passageway. Something must have blown, maybe an engine. We never knew." She was quiet again for a moment as she relieved those memories. Allen grabbed her hand gently as struggled to keep from shaking. David recognized signs of post traumatic stress syndrome as did John and Jeffery when he saw it. He could only imagine what the woman and her crew had been through during those terrible days. "As captain," she continued, "it was my responsibility to try and keep my passengers, my crew and my ship safe, but we didn't know where we were. We didn't have the slightest inkling of how lost we were, only that the Minbari were still coming."

Allen stepped in and picked up the conversation. The way he did it brokered no argument from Deborah, his protectiveness of her shining for all to see. "Those were bad times, Senator. In the while in the passageway, the only think we could do was to go with the tide. We had shut down the thrusters because they were useless and we needed to conserve fuel as much as we could until the time we needed it, if at all. Sensors tracked nothing, but a sort of reddish tunnel just barely visible to the naked eye. Like I said sensors didn't see anything at all." He looked around, staring at the senator and Earthforce officers. "But around day nineteen, some of the passengers started seeing things. We thought that there was something, some type of new hyperspace effect or condition starting to go around at first. One kid thought she saw a three ships outside, half visible, pass us." His voice lowered significantly as he looked at the three men. "She described a Federation starship. I wish I had that girl's memory," he said. "She was able to draw all three of them from just a few seconds of sight before they faded away. One was a Starfleet ship, the other was Klingon and the third was a Minbari heavy warship. She drew this in detail, took her two days and showed it to Thomas Norton, our second officer. He would have dismissed it if it hadn't been for the Minbari warship image. That shocked him. It was definitely a Minbari warship. We know them as Sharlins now. But it was different and so were the Federation and Klingon ships. They looked bigger and more advanced. Anyway, we had to be careful and kept it quiet. We were already at the edge and didn't want a panic on our hands. We discovered that another crew member had seen them too but hadn't said anything until almost a week later when we had encountered Starfleet. Remember we never knew what Fleet and Klingon ships looked like, never even imagined something like them."

David and John each turned stone-faced mirroring each other. Jeffery paled as he listened remembering his trip though the passageway.

"It's impossible," John whispered.

"I agree," said his father. "But they did see them. It's the same thing."

"But it was a different passageway and a different time. It can't be the same."

"What are you mumbling about?" asked Deborah not pleased at being left out but at the same time dreading the answer.

Allen and Gregory perked up even more waiting for an explanation. David nodded to John.

"What we think your passenger and crewmen saw was something that we encountered in our trip here," he said. "We encountered those ships in the transit-way. But the problem is that we were in a different one and that happened a bit more than a year after you arrived here."

"Wait, there's more than one?"Gregory asked.

David nodded. "At least two, maybe three that we are aware of." His eyes narrowed. "Something's going on. The time difference is too great and both we and Starfleet believe that someone or some-thing is allowing us to see and talk to those ships among other things."

"Wait, wait, wait!" Allen all but screamed. "They're real? You talked to those ships?"

"Yes," confirmed Jeffery, who was still somewhat shaken by his experience. "I'll just say that some higher power is manipulating our meeting with the Federation and the others."

"I knew you weren't going to give us details," Deborah grumbled.

"Sorry," said the senator apologetically. "But as I think about it, it seems that there are forces out there that wanted us to meet."

"Which gets us back to our discussion," Allen said. Interestingly, the African American man had never removed his hand from his captains' and she had made no effort to make him do so. "The passageway ended as quickly as it had begun and the instant it did, we powered up the jump engines and the two of us transitioned into normal space. Of course we had no idea of where we were. There were no planetary systems within sensor range but we had to run. We knew that the Minbari were still behind us. The rest is history."

"History still in the making," Gregory added. "We were convinced we were going to die. Imagine our surprise when we found out we were going to live. We came here and nothing's been the same since."

"But this isn't your home," David said. "The war is ending and we will need able bodied individual back to rebuild. We need you and the colonists to return so we can began to rebuild again. We're stronger with you than without."

"With all due respect, Senator, you have lost your mind if you think we're going back," Gregory replied. "There may be a few of us who might answer your call but the far majority of us and that's two thousand three hundred of us plus a few newborns have no intentions of going back."

"Earth Alliance with the assistance of our allies is developing the capability of protecting all of our colonies. You never need to fear being abandoned or ignored again."

"That's not the point!" snapped Gregory. A gentle touch by Deborah and the big blond calmed down. "There's no such thing as independence at Earth Alliance. That's why my family and I decided to leave Earth in the first place."

"That's not true," Allen countered. "Earth had its problems but it wasn't as bad as you're making it."

"Yeah," he said slowly. After a moment: "maybe I'm exaggerating a bit. But I had to admit that my eyes were opened when I made it to the colony." He shook his head. "I wanted to be a part of something new. Being out in space, on a new world, it was a dream. Earth Alliance turned that dream into ashes," he told them sourly. "We didn't have any rights at all. The corporations controlled everything: the air, life support, food, everything. The corporations were bleeding us dry and while we sweated our lives away trying to terraform. EA did nothing about it, barely acknowledge that we existed. But," he added, "they didn't forget to collect taxes."

"You're accusing all of EarthGov of not caring for you colonies," the senator snapped defensively. "That's not true. We did everything we could, under the circumstances to make sure all of our colonies were safe and secured."

"I understand that," Gregory said. "I know how dangerous the Minbari were, however that doesn't negate the fact that every colony with an orbital habitat, or in domes, had to pay for our oxygen, then pay taxes on that, pay for our food – and I'm sick of algae by the way – then the three extra taxes that we had to pay on top of the sky high prices for the food in the first place. The colonists had to sign contracts not to have children while we were trying to terraform the planet and we understood that, but the tax to renew said contract every year was unfair. Then those who could have children were charged so much that they almost went into dept."

"I agree," David answered. "There are several senators and legislators throughout EarthGov that are trying to change those rules. But you are right; we're trying to slow the excesses of the corporations down. But space travel and existence costs money and the corporations are in the business of making money and are spreading it around liberally to maintain their positions. You know the rest. I think we're succeeding however it's going to take time and effort on both EarthGov's and the colonies to make those necessary changes. That won't happen if people like you leave us. We're stronger with you than without. It's a cliché, I know but it's nevertheless true. "

"My generation will be dead and gone before you're able to make an effective change, senator. I've been here for what…a year and a half? I can speak for the far majority of us that came here in saying we don't want and are not going back."

David knew that it wasn't going well. Gregory was apparently adamant in his position and he could understand why. "Earth Alliance needs you and your expertise especially now that you've had hands-on experience living on a new world using techniques and technologies we've only dreamed about less than two years ago. Think about it, with everything you've learned, you'd be, frankly, invaluable. We need those very things you're seeing and doing right now."

"Yes, I think we'd be important to Earth Alliance, right up until the corporations get their hands on us and squeeze us dry trying to develop patents. Look at Mars. That's the first most important colony you have." David noticed that the man hadn't said 'we' but 'you', a further indication of the growing distancing between the refugees and the Earth Alliance. "The Marsies are treated like second step children. They can barely make a living between the lack of political freedoms and the corporations bleeding them dry. And then," he added, "look at Mars here. Big difference," he said slowly.

"We can do the same thing at home, given a bit of time. The Federation influences have been felt and we can see the future of what's coming. The Minbari war is weeks away from being over and then the EA will explode like the second coming with the new technologies coming from the Federation and their allies."

Gregory was shaking his head now, as was Allen. Deborah remained silent. Technologies may be available but EarthGov is a long way from changing," he countered. "We saw Dr. Khali and we listened to what he said, very carefully. I think he represents many of EarthGov's views."

"With respect, senator," said Allen. "We can all see the handwriting on the wall. When the war is over, EarthGov is going to have a hernia trying to compete with the Federation. They're already jealous, and we've seen some of the hostilities broadcasted by ISN."

"Wait, you get ISN all the way here?"

"Of course, "Allen said. "The transit way sends the signals clear as day," he frowned. "And that's another strange thing. We're getting ISN less than three days after transmission. It shouldn't be possible but it is. Something is boosting the power of the reception faster than possible even in subspace."

"Then you have an idea what's happening. You and your people could go a long way in quelling some of their fears."

"It's not fear, sir. It's jealously. Most of us have decided not to go back. This colony isn't a Federation colony. It associates with the Federation but is an independent colony with the rights to govern ourselves," he pointed out, smiling viciously as David and the others got his inferred message. "Most of us have settled here, made friends with the neighbors, made friends with a few rocks, or should I say, rocklings, or maybe rockettes," and here he smiled. "We have our own land and homes, and the pregnancy rate has sky-rocketed." He looked at David. "We have a couple of sixty year old women having babies! The life expectancy here is one hundred thirty with fertility to our mid-sixties. That's how much more advanced it is here. Granted, it's not perfect but it's like heaven compared to where we came from and," he continued, "how we got here in the first place. We don't even g mind the teeps as much." He smirked, as did Allen. "When you have aliens like the Tellerites as neighbors, you kind of change your perspectives a bit about people. I don't like people looking into my mind, but I not that overly worried about it. They have to live, too."

"Yes, I know that it's tempting," David said, "but does everyone agree with you?"

"Most people do," Deborah said. "Allen is joining Starfleet and so are a few others."

"But, he can't," blurted David. He turned to Allen. "You're an Earth Alliance citizen. The Federation has no right to induct you."

Allen sighed. This would have come up sooner or later and it wasn't just him but several others were contemplating the same thing. "I'm not Earthforce, I am not deserting. This is not a Federation colony per se. They don't have to submit to Earth Alliance demands and that's what they are! The last time I checked I was part of an Earth Alliance that had rights, with freedom to do what we want within the rules set down by the laws of our government. I never said that we couldn't leave Earth Alliance if we wanted to. Up until recently, there was no need to exercise that choice. But now…"

"What about the soldiers?" John asked. There was a dark undercurrent to his voice. "Do they feel the same way?"

"Well, from what I've heard, most of them want to get back into the war and go home, now that they have a chance to be able to fight back effectively," Gregory answered. "Some of them were really badly injured. The survivors, some of them, well won't be useful in the war – that's almost over, by the way. A few of them will be more than glad to go home and get their families and come back when everything clams down. A few have made tentative lives here knowing that they would have to go back. But when we get back tonight, I'm going to tell them that coming back here may be harder the second time than it was the first."

"I am trying to convince you to return home, not force you," countered the senator, although it 'did' sound like it. It was good that Lupinsky was here. Let him deal with the soldiers, he thought.

"Glad to hear it," intoned Gregory. "However," he continued slowly, "some of our government officials won't be as opened-minded. And what about the teeps? Do they even have a choice?" He allowed that question to hang for a moment before he continued. "Things are changing. All of us here know that. The peace to come may be worse than the war."

Yes, David thought glumly. They were probably more right than they knew. He definitely wasn't looking forward to the town meeting tomorrow.

The next afternoon, it turned out that less than fifteen percent of the over three thousand plus refuges, minus the Earthforce survivors who had no intentions of abandoning their commitments to Earth Alliance would be convinced by the senator and others to return. There were those who couldn't make the adjustment at the colony. The changes were too radical, to different from what they were used to and were eager to return. But they were in the minority. True to Gregory's pronouncements, to the chagrin of some of the Earth Alliance delegates, most had decided to stay and make a life already being established on Archanis IV. General Lupinsky had little difficulty with the healthier members of Earthforce and securing transportation from Starfleet to get them home wouldn't be a problem.

That wouldn't be the end, but only the beginning.

MSI Hall, New Trent province, sixty kilometers from Ashburn

"Ladies and gentlemen, please," said Governor James L. Peterman, "the conditions of this meeting were made clear. The delegation doesn't feel comfortable meeting with you without representation from the Federation and Ashburn being present." He was surprised at the almost open hostility by Earth Alliance specialist Toni Williams. The others weren't nearly as hostile, merely somewhat aloft but he could almost understand that. Being Earth telepaths, he could see how they would have a need to distance themselves from others in order to keep their own peace of mind so to speak. However there was another matter had given him some concern over this entire meeting.

His talks with the young people from Earth Alliance Earth had disturbed him on a visceral level. Anupe Singh the designated speaker for the fleeing refugee telepaths had painted a picture of what he considered a nightmare society. She had spoken of forced marriages, intentional isolation from 'normal' people, forced drug use for those choosing not to join the Psi-Corps organization, being second class citizens in a free society. It had sounded like flights of fancy and even exaggeration but it disturbed him. Those thoughts were brushed aside when the few local telepathic colonists had confirmed the truth.

Once more, the governor had thanked whatever powers were looking over them by making his particular colony multi-species. It was an experiment that would be studied over the generations, but in the here and now, so far he had judged it a success. Six different sentient species living on one planet and war hadn't broken out yet. He had been most worried about the Tellerites and their rather aggressive attitudes but they had turned out okay. The Vulcan and Andorian settlers got along for the most part – and it helped that the Vulcans preferred the desert regions while the Andorians congregated near the arctic poles, but still – those people had gotten along better than the Human folks initially had. The telepathic refugees and Earth Alliance colonists were initial very weary and yes he could say it, afraid of one another. This probably would have continued if it hadn't been for the interaction with so many other species, and talks giving them a new perspective. That exposure was having positive results but all of the fear and anger had just rematerialized in the form of the people from their homes.

"We understand your concerns, governor, but this is Psi-Corps business and our responsibility. As I've said before, these refugees are dangerous. They hijacked a spaceship, endangering the crew and themselves while breaking Earth Alliance rules and regulations. They have no controls protecting you and your people and themselves from one another. They have no families here and if they had no respect for the law at home, then they will not have any respect for your laws either. The children were effectively kidnapped by Anupe, Louis and the other adults. They need to be returned home to their families and people who will care for them, despite their rebellious and dangerous actions. They have no respect for the rules of Earth. How will they have any at this place?"

"I don't agree with your assessment of the situation," Peterman said. "But I will allow you to speak to them under supervision of the Fed representatives and my people. Whatever they decide, I will abide by their decision."

"You have no idea what they can to you and your people, especially Louie or Louis as you call him," Toni insisted. "We are his family and we can do that. He's more dangerous than you know. Around him no one with have any privacy. He needs to be contained. I have the full weight of Earth Alliance behind me on this matter. They need to be returned to their rightful home. They are dangerous."

"I've heard that he has an equally negative view of Psi-Corps," James said dryly. "Yes, I've talked to him. When your meeting is over, I and my council will look at the arguments on both sides and then I will make by decision. But be warned, Miss Williams, they've done nothing wrong here on this colony. They have made friends here and we are not under the jurisdiction of the Federation. What they've told me and from what I've seen from your ISN has not filled me with confidence so the burden of proof will be on you to make your case against these children. Under those circumstances, if they wish to stay, I will not hesitate to allow them to do so."

"Then I hope that you will make an informed and wise decision," Toni said, "one that you won't regret in the future."

"Excuse me? Was that a threat?" the governor asked. There was a dangerous glint in his eye and telepath or not, Toni recognized it for what it was.

"Not at all, Governor Peterman," Toni quickly answered. "My concern is for the safety of the colonists here. I met no disrespect, implied or otherwise."

"I'm glad to hear it." Peterman was smiling now, as if the implication had never happened.

Toni mentally chastised herself. It wasn't her intention to antagonize this mundane on his home turf. However this mission would be more difficult than even she had anticipated it would be. The blips here were just the tip of the iceberg. If they were successful then hundreds, maybe thousands of blips and potentials could conceivably run to the Federation and their allies, effectively bleeding Psi-Corps of their best and brightest of their future. It wasn't only the teeps but the mundanes as well that would suffer. After the war, she could see hundreds if not thousands rushing to this new Promised Land. Arati's communiqué had already hinted as such.

Her additional meetings with the Human telepaths of Fed Earth and their alien associates hadn't gone well. They were too indoctrinated with Federation ideals and had no understanding of family. Earth Alliance telepaths were family if nothing else and only by remaining within the family could they survive to grow stronger. This place was too dangerous with its multitude of alien telepaths interfering at any given second. Any thoughts of converting the few Human telepaths of the Federation and bringing them into the Psi-Corps would be an exercise in futility despite what the Office of Home Affairs thought. In fact, it might well be dangerous in the long run. This was only her opinion, but one she would stress when she got home. These people mixed with aliens too freely to understand what it meant to be a truly Human telepath. That knowledge was rapidly being lost for them.

By Psi-Corps own rules, she couldn't directly scan the Humans or aliens around here without their permission, but she didn't need to, to see the hostility of the governor. She didn't know where she went wrong but it had to be something she said that got him so hostile against her request. She wished she could scan him to find out what she had said that had angered him so.

A half hour later, everyone had finally reached the hall for the conference. Three representatives of the blip hijackers had taken their seats opposite of their Earth Alliance counterparts. The first and one sitting closest and across from her was Anupe Singh, also from India. There was a higher average number of telepaths from India, most likely because of the huge numbers. Arati was an example of that. Next was Louie Beckmann, sitting down and smirking at Bester and Roberta who in turn was frowning at the young man. Lastly was nineteen year old Theresa Copella, a blip strong enough and smart enough to evade Psi-Corps pursuit for years. All three were resourceful, but it was Louie that she and the Psi-cops considered a true threat.

'You could have gone so far,' transmitted Toni to him. 'Look at you now, hiding in a foreign land pretending to live a 'normal' life. You've lost everything.'

Louie frowned. 'I had no intentions of becoming what you wanted me to become, following your rules like some type of servant for the greater good. You're a fool, Toni. You have no idea what our glorious leader have planned.'

'They are doing what is best for Psi-Corps," she countered. 'That's all I need to know.'

'We're here to take you back,' sentBester. 'You should have known that there's no place where you can run and hide that we couldn't find you - traitor.'

'Traitor? Because I didn't want to be a cop like you, hunting down people who didn't want to join the 'extended family' or be drugged into a stupor for the rest of their lives because they could read minds? I was there, remember? What you couldn't control you destroyed in the name of the almighty family values.'

'That's not true. There are rules that needed to be obeyed. You could have worked within the system to change it instead of becoming a blip, running until the time we would find you.'

'Change from within?' He smiled. 'Keep believing that, all of you. Working to get teeps away from you and your influence is the best thing that I could have done.'

'You disobeyed the rules and you'll be punished,' Bester transmitted.

'You were always a true believer, weren't you Bester? Going to become one of Psi-Corps glorious leaders one day?'

'Enough.'

"I believe we all know each other,' Toni dryly announced. "So there's no need for further introductions. "Anupe Singh, Theresa Copella, Louis Beckmann. You've been charged with kidnapping and hijacking. Because of these charges we are here to return with you to Earth Alliance where you will be brought to justice for your crimes."

Several of the Federation and local officials looked at one another for an instant but said nothing.

"May I speak?" Anupe asked. The Archanis official Kurt Conwell nodded. "We came to the Federation seeking asylum from the oppressive rules and regulations of Psi-Corps. Forced marriages, being forced to always wear gloves in the presence of normal Humans, being taken from our homes, and generally remain nothing more than second-class citizens on Earth. That is Earth Alliance's Psi-Corps."

"You hijacked a ship, marooned the crew. Ran though a Minbari blockade in hyperspace with innocent children onboard to get to unknown territory, was almost destroyed by a Federation starship possibly placing your blood on their hands," Toni said. "Granting asylum was ill-advised for such criminals and their victims."

"We were running with the children to keep them from falling into your hands," Louie said matter-of-factly. "These teenagers didn't want to leave their homes or take telepathic dampening drugs as the law demands, laws that Psi-Corps has encouraged at every turn. They weren't kidnapped as you keep alleging; they were running to get away from you! Our explanations were clear and truthful as acknowledged by Captain Madge Sinclair. Under her investigation and authority, she believed that our request for asylum was a legitimate concern. When we arrived here, the officials here also recognized our claims and allowed us asylum here."

"You influenced them with lies and your abilities," Toni snarled.

"Not true," Anupe said. "The Federation has telepaths and the technology to discover if we were lying or not. They believed us. The fact that they agreed with us gives legitimacy to our cause. And, now he was smiling. "Do you think we could have stolen a ship that large without Earthforce being aware of it even during a time of war?"

Toni's intake was sharp as she followed his logic. He and the others had had help. The ship hadn't been hijacked or stolen. It had either been 'donated' or voluntarily borrowed specifically for Louie and the blips and that revelation worried her. The underground was far more extensive than they first thought. It would have to be rooted out and crushed as soon as possible. Louie's casual mention of them was an indication that they were becoming strong enough to come out into the open. There was an involuntary flash of hatred. The federation presence did all of this.

"And how well will that action be taken by the Federation, the same people you're trying to ingratiate yourselves to?" asked the irritating telepath guessing, instead of reading what Toni had to be thinking about. "If you do this, you'll be proving to them the worst of Psi-Corps. Don't think you'll be able to hide it. It'll come out no matter what you do and just to let you know, the underground is larger than you've assumed." The cat was out of the bag now and there was no use hiding the fact.

"Long before the formation of Psi-Corps there have been those whom have tried to hurt us, kill us, abuse us, subvert us for their own uses. We needed to protect ourselves and Earth Alliance agreed. We formed Psi-Corps out of necessity. It means survival for Humans telepaths everywhere," and here she stressed the word 'everywhere'. That's why we're more than just an organization to protect telepaths. We're family. Telepaths, Human telepaths," she corrected, "are the prop – responsibility of Psi-Corps and Earth Alliance and the Federation will respect our rules and regulations."

"You almost said 'property', didn't you?" accused Anupe. "We are people, not Psi-Corps property!"

"No, you're not. You're family," Toni said, pointedly ignoring the looks of astonishment and embarrassment shown by both Bester and Yang. "We are not the enemy. We are the means for the survival of a new species of Human. As you know, all new species are dangerous to those they will eventually replace. Non-teep Humans are afraid of us not because we we're dangerous, but because we're a threat to you. We mean no harm but we are young and threatened with extinction by the people who produced us."

"Lady, you're nuts," pronounced Louie.

"No," Toni huffed. She stood up. "I merely understand the truth of the situation. The political damage is done, ladies and gentlemen," she said addressing the officials listening intently at the meltdown in progress. "Earth Alliance and the Federation are rushing headlong towards a precipice. The war is almost over and already we're beginning to suffer schisms between our two peoples. The Federation, by letting these criminals, and that's what they are, thumb their noses at the duly established laws of Earth Alliance, you will be condoning their actions. No matter how altruistic it may seem, these Earth Alliance citizens had flaunted the law, taken under-aged children away from their families fragrantly violating dozens of laws and have quite possibly damaged these children by taking them away from the only institution that can help them in their long-term development. And," Toni continued, "if you allow them to remain, this will be only the beginning. Thousands of people will illegally flock to the Alpha quadrant, causing strains between families and our two governments that no one can accurately predict. I request that you stop this leak now before more damage is done. Return these people to their rightful homes and families. This goes for the non-telepath refugees, too. They survived the Minbari but they need to be returned home where they belong. The Federation is already strong and getting stronger. We, on the other hand are recovering from a war we were losing. With your help we have survived and we know our enemies can't hurt us anymore, but we are still weak and incidents like this can only make our people weaker. I therefore implore you to return these people to their rightful places so that they can be properly cared for by people who love them and can provide the care and training they so desperately need. I also ask that those responsible are returned so that they can be tried for their crimes." She sat down.

Now Anupe stood up. "Since she addressed you in such a manner, I feel that I should do the same. This Psi-Corps representative speaks about family, about being protected and cared for, so you must ask yourselves the question, 'why did we run in the first place if Psi-Corps is such a beneficial, loving family-oriented organization it claims itself to be'? Why were we so desperate to get away from Psi-Corps that we acquired a ship to travel over seventy thousand light years through unknown and hostile territory just on the chance that we might a place where we could be free just to live out normal lives? I am not saying that Earth Alliance isn't a democracy. There are many good things that we've tried to achieve and I will admit that the government has excelled in fairness to its citizenry –as a whole. However as the Psi-Corps representative has said, all things are not fair. Because of an accident of genetics we are feared, hounded and discriminated against, treated like second class citizens. Whether we are man's next step in evolution as Toni and the others are implying or just a variation of Humanity that occurs more commonly these days, we don't know. What we do know is that exploitation can occur not just by regular Humans or as Psi-Corps calls you, 'mundanes'," and here she stopped for a moment savoring the glacial stares coming from both Psi-cops and their leader, "but by fellow telepaths. What you may know is that children who have the gift develop the traits around puberty. Children with family members who are telepaths are especially watched and all children in Earth Alliance are required to take tests to determine if they are telepaths at the age of fourteen. Those that test positive are either removed from their families either at their requests, by the 'suggestion' of Psi-Corps and the government or they are forced to take telepathic inhibitory drugs to suppress what is to us a natural sense. These drugs are debilitating, much like anti-depressive drugs with the same negative side effects. The person who take the drugs for the rest of their lives, are never the same afterwards and that alone cause's fear on both sides and is a great intimidating force among our people. Better to join 'family' than to become a burned out drug users with a higher than average suicide rate. Those that choose Psi-Corps are 'indoctrinated' into the family and eventually their real family becomes irreverent. When they're old enough then they are matched with someone in order to produce a stronger teep, I'm sorry, a telepathic trait. They have no choice in the matter, either. It doesn't matter how strong or weak the trait, they are conscripted into Psi-Corps or forced to take drugs."

"You make us sound like some type of cult," hissed Toni. "That's not true!"

"If it quacks like a duck… I don't know what else to call it!" Anupe hissed back. "Some of us choose a third alternative," she continued, "we run. Sometimes the children are sent with people who try to protect them from the mercies of Psi-Corps and our own government. That's what happened to myself and a few others; hiding on one of the smaller colonies until Psi-Corps came looking." She smiled sadly. "That was our life. We were perceived as threats and that was enough to condemn us."

"You were never condemned, merely misguided by people who didn't have your best interests at heart," countered Toni. "The Federation may seem like a dream to you but they have rules designed to keep both themselves and others safe from negative cultural influences. It is called the Prime Directive which is and I quote here is also known as General Order One, 'prohibits Starfleet personnel and spacecraft from interfering in the normal development of any society and mandates that any Starfleet vessel or crew member is expendable to prevent a violation of this rule'. Your presence here interferes with the normal development of Earth Alliance society and by their own laws you must be returned or they face the consequences of said law that they are obligated to enforce. And you're and enhanced Human not part of the Federation. They have rules against that as well. Another reason why you will have to come back," she finished.

"Not correct, Specialists Williams," Lieutenant Commander Joanna Watley, part of the Starfleet delegation sent to observe the hearings, said. If looks could kill the look that Toni sent her way would have burned her alive. Joanna didn't notice or did care, either way, she continued. Your statement about Starfleet is valid, but the Federation itself is not obligated to follow the rules of Starfleet's Prime Directive although we are encouraged to always be mindful of the Directive. Therefore, you can't use the Prime Directive as an example. The Federation will not turn these people over to you because of your misinterpretation of that law. Furthermore, this is an independent colony in association with the Federation. They have their own laws, rules, and regulations independent of the Federation. And you alluded to rules against genetic manipulation of Humans on Earth. As I understand it, there is no direct evidence of any form of genetic engineering involving telepaths and you aren't from our Earth, therefore you are not subject to the rules involving genetic engineering as related to Federation Earth. Yes, it is a sore point with us, but your particular situation would not be part of that mandate. For example, Human telepaths on our Earth are not under the jurisdiction of the genetic enhancement rules.

"Thank you for that clarification," Toni said icily.

The meeting continued for another three hours.

Later that evening at the Archanis Hills hotel, Alfred and Roberts still in full uniform, sat at the bar nursing drinks. Most people ignored them although a few looked at the curiously. Wearing gloves at the bar was wasn't a usual thing to see. Not knowing what it meant was another sore point for both telepaths.

"That was a disaster. If I hear the word Federation again tonight, I think I will throw up," Bester grumbled. "At least the Senator got a few of the mundane to come back." He took a sip as a comfortable silence settled between them of a few moments. "I bet this sets us back years. Arati should have been here instead."

Robert was shaking her head slowly. "She had just as much trouble on that Earth as we did here. These people and their attitudes are much too different than what we're used to. Our initial plans to bring in the Earther teeps into the family are useless. That difference is further than I originally anticipated. From what Arati said, the telepaths here should probably be prevented from coming to Earth Alliance Earth. They're just as bad as everyone else around here. Especially with their attitudes and alien influences,"

"Not to mention their breeding with alien races."

"I really don't see that as a real disadvantage, Roberta," said Alfred after a few seconds. "If it improves the gene pool and increases the genetic traits without damaging us, I don't really have a problem with that. Those Betazoids look so close to Human it's hard to believe otherwise. What I do have a problem with is how to control things if that were to occur. They may look like us but they are not Human and I could see us being overwhelmed by their influences."

"That's the point," Roberta said. "We can't encourage those aliens to come to Earth Alliance specifically Psi-Corps. They would subvert us and our cause."

"They are an unknown."

"Exactly, one we don't want and don't need right now. I can foresee so many problems it's not even funny. Look at this place. It's a new war just starting."

Bester simply nodded. "Toni's approach to this meeting caused us to lose. Too many secrets came out and I'm sure Starfleet is wary of us now."

"This was a glorious failure," Roberta whispered. Telepathically see added to her comment. 'Too bad we couldn't just sanction them.'

"Yes, too bad. I see a change in policy concerning runaways trying to get here.'

'For the best.'

'Yes, for the best.'

Anupe Singh Theresa Copella= Teenager

Most of the thirty-nine people were children. Only one other, Louie, was older than she rating p12 PsiCorps specialist Toni Williams, Psicop Alfred Bester and six Federation personnel Roberta Yang

d Officer Yoriko Taganawa Earth Force survivor from the Farlin

total of three thousand five hundred fifty-two people in both fleeing vessels. A hyperion was destroyed evac pods were destroyed only four survivors on The Farlin Earth Alliance vessel Springfield, a civilian transport

Amistad, Amistad

Debra Salti, Thomas Norton, and Yoriko Taganawa

Captain John Sheridan and Captain Jeffery Sinclair

Telepath escapees: Amistad, Amistad originally called the Hands of Fate and changed when they hit the Alpha quadrant. Twenty nine year old Anupe Singh eldest Theresa Copella= TeenagerMost of the thirty-nine people were children. Only one other, Louie, was older than she rating p12 Archanis IV. That's where most of the people from the Springfield are settled."Thirty-three of war. So far, I have not said what colony the colonist, refugees and telepaths are on. Four telepaths Alfred Bester and his co-worker Roberta Yang. Psi cops Arati Metha Psicorps # 1 Toni Williams psicorp # 2 "I'm Madgaline Sinclair, Captain of the Saratoga."