Starfleet Command
San Francisco, Earth

"Captain," the Andorian security officer said, almost apologetically. In his blue-skinned fingers, the young thaan carried an empty hypospray, fitting with a clear vial.

Reilly Carroll didn't sigh as the hypospray was pressed to his shoulder, but it was an effort not to. He understood the necessity of blood screenings, particularly here, in the heart of Starfleet Headquarters, but over the past few weeks he felt as though he'd had more blood drained from his body than his veins actually carried. Regardless, he understood that, far beyond the security necessity of blood screenings, they allowed the Federation to believe that something could be done to prevent changeling infiltration; they allowed Starfleet to be seen to be doing something.

The brief coup orchestrated by Admiral James Leyton and a cabal of Starfleet officers had put Starfleet officers on every Earth street corner, but even Carroll, left security-minded after years in intelligence and special operations, had found those measures too draconian, even in the face of the threat posed by the Dominion.

Finally, the officer took away the hypo and studied the vial. There, Reilly saw, was a thimble-full of his blood, thick and red as any other human's. If he were a changeling, so the theory held, that blood, separated from the primary morphegenic matrix of his form, would revert to the amber, gelatinous liquid that made up a changeling's body.

After studying the blood for a few seconds, the Andorian smiled. "You're all clear, sir. Welcome to Starfleet Headquarters."

"A pleasure to be here, ensign," Reilly acknowledged, inclining his head.

The officer directed him towards a desk further in the cavernous lobby, where a group of uniformed personnel were directing incoming guests to their various destinations. Starfleet HQ was an expansive citadel of jealously guarded buildings proximate to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Though Carroll had visited headquarters many times over the course of his career, and had, of course, spent four years at Starfleet Academy further around the Bay, he was still flummoxed by the ever-changing layout of the place.

He stood, currently, in a marble-floored lobby, centred around a multi-sided. The flags of various Federation members hung from the high walls, and as he crossed the marble, he walked over a mosaic of the stylised delta that had been the sigil of Starfleet for over a century, and of the United Earth Space Probe Agency before it.

It was mid-morning in San Francisco and the lobby was crammed with people from all over the Federation, most of them dressed, as he was, in Starfleet uniforms. He had decided to wear the more formal uniform option, with the entirety of the jacket's mid-section given over to displaying the red colour of the command division, as opposed to the more common variant on display around him, with black mid-section and coloured shoulders.

"Reilly Carroll," he said, as he approached the desk.

The Deltan woman behind the desk, who wore a uniform identical to his though coloured operations gold, examined the readout before her. Reilly had no doubt that a whole bank of scanners had just run a deep-tissue scan on him, and had already confirmed that he was who he said he was. He knew that, on the screen before her, all of his vital statistics were being displayed; his name, rank, height, weight, security clearance and, for all he knew, his kindergarten art projects.

She seemed somewhat surprised by what she saw. "Welcome to HQ, captain," she said, at length. She pointed towards the bank of turbolifts set against the far wall from the entrance. "You're just in time. Your briefing is set to start at ten hundred."

Reilly blanched. He'd arrived in the Sol system late the night before, and he'd spent his first night back at his homeworld visiting a few old friends on Starbase One. He'd imbibed a little too much, and overslept, missing the transport he'd intended to catch. Not an auspicious start, but he was thankful to have arrived on time anyway.

"Admiral Ross is waiting for you," the Deltan explained. "Just take the leftmost turbolift."

"Understood," Carroll nodded, and headed to the turbolift the woman had indicated.

An armed guard, a Caitian, stood beside the door, and he noticed that it was the only door that was guarded and the only one that wasn't opening every few seconds to disgorge passengers and admit more.

"Lieutenant," Carroll said as he approached, but the Caitian made no move to stop him and simply nodded as the door opened automatically for Carroll and permitted him entry.

With a brief rush as the car he had stepped into accelerated downward, Carroll found himself confused. News of his promotion to the rank of captain had come through a month earlier, and he'd had three weeks to tie up his duties aboard his old billet, the U.S.S. New York, where he'd served as executive officer, and to train his successor before being shipped back to Earth to receive his new orders and official notice of his command. This was fairly standard stuff, of course; why then, should his meeting at Starfleet HQ be held in one of the secure meeting facilities beneath Starfleet HQ itself?

The car was descending rapidly into the crust beneath San Francisco.

The ship he was due to take command of, he knew, was currently undergoing the last phases of an extensive refit at the Utopia Planitia Yards in orbit of Mars. An Akira-class starship named Trinity, he'd spent the last few weeks, between the last of his duties aboard New York, researching the ship's history in-depth and familiarising himself as intimately as he could with its specifications. In fact, he was due to catch a shuttle to Mars immediately after the conclusion of this meeting to see it for the first time.

His goal, in Starfleet, had always been to reach the admiralty as quickly as he could. In the Academy, during his doctoral studies, he'd always been identified as more of a long-term, strategic thinker. Even as a security officer, first just another Academy-fresh grunt with a phaser rifle, and later as chief security officer aboard Starbase 37 and the U.S.S. Roosevelt, he'd been more interested in astropolitics than in the day-to-day nitty gritty of starship life. He'd taken an extended leave of absence from Starfleet as a lieutenant and been attached to the non-Starfleet intelligence agency Federation Special Operations, a secondment that had ended up lasting five years.

He'd returned to Starfleet a lieutenant commander, but he'd found that, after commanding and organising missions as a floating black ops operative for FSO, he no longer had the taste for tactical. He'd transferred to the command track, and been made joint second officer/tactical office of the U.S.S. Endeavour, before becoming the executive officer when his predecessor had retired to his homeworld, Vulcan, presumably to take up a position with the Vulcan government.

Four years aboard Endeavour had dovetailed into a three-year hitch aboard New York; he'd never really connected with the captain, who had, rightly, seen him more as a rank-climber than a dedicated officer, though Carroll prided himself on his dedication to duty. Perhaps, in the end, the captain had simply been distrustful of a former FSO operative on his ship.

At any rate, the expected promotion to captain had not come fast enough. Carroll had agreed to a five year tour of duty, and had been overjoyed to learn that his first command, far from the light cruiser he'd expected, would be a top-of-the-line Akira-class starship, one of the new workhorses of the Federation, slowly replacing the decades-old Excelsior- and Miranda-class vessels that had dominated the ranks of the fleet for going on eighty years.

After what seemed like an eternity, the turbolift stopped and the car's doors opened onto a small, utilitarian lobby. An officer in an admiral's uniform stood nearby, talking to a dimunitive woman that Carroll recognised immediately.

His eyes widened. It had been seven years since he'd spoken to Akiko Kato, but there she was, dressed in a uniform coloured sciences blue, her long, silky black hair tied back. After their escape from the Romulans, she hadn't said two words to him; after the mission, they'd studiously avoided speaking to each other, and completely fallen out of contact.

She spotted him, and informed the man she was speaking to of his arrival, but turned and left without even looking at him again.

Reilly was stung by the snub, but not surprised by it. Seven years had allowed the wounds done on that day in the Neutral Zone to fester, and the rift that had developed between them would never be healed.

"Captain Carroll," the man she'd been talking to said as he turned and crossed to Reilly, hand outstretched.

"Admiral Ross," Reilly responded with a smile, taking the older man's proffered hand. Admiral William Ross was one of Starfleet's most respected mid-ranked admirals, and after Leyton's humiliation in the aftermath of the failed coup, Starfleet's brightest rising stars. Carroll had done some work with him while with FSO, and the two men had developed a strong working relationship.

"How does that fourth pip feel?" Ross said, his tone gently mocking.

Typically, Ross was a stern, stone-faced figure, but he had moments of genuine humour. Reilly responded with a smile, but he suddenly felt self-conscious of the fourth solid gold pip on his collar, indicating his promotion from commander to captain. "Feels pretty good, sir. Though, I have to admit, I thought being a captain would finally give me some insight into how you guys in the brass organise things."

"Oh?" Ross asked, lifting an eyebrow. "What do you mean?"

"We're in a secure bunker for a briefing, admiral," Reilly reminded him, counting on their prior relationship to dispel the faint note of insubordination in his tone.

Ross nodded, his smile dying away. "A precaution we needed to take, captain."

Reilly was taken aback. "Sir?"

"Your first mission is one of utmost importance and secrecy," Ross told him, "but you'll find out more about that in a few moments. Come on, we're only waiting for one more person."

Ross led Reilly through the small, unadorned lobby into a large briefing room. In the centre was a long, lozenge-shaped table, ringed with about fifty seats. Only half these seats were filled, and most of those sitting were facing a raised section of the table where a group of flag officers Reilly recognised immediately were seated. The first he recognised was Admiral Marta Batanides, a high-ranked Starfleet Intelligence officer. Beside her was a slight Vulcan, Admiral Sitak, and beside her was the enormous figure of Leonard James Akaar, the exiled Capellan teer named for two of Starfleet's greatest heroes.

Ross and Carroll headed for this section of the table, and Ross took his place beside Akaar. To Reilly's surprise, Batanides waved him over.

"Weclome, captain," she said with a smile, indicating the seat beside her. Reilly took it, and looked out over the gathering of officers. Most of them were of flag rank, though there were a few notable exceptions; most particularly, he saw, Akiko Kato and a dark-skinned young woman he recognised, thanks the raised, bony protusions on her forehead, as a Haliian.

"It's good to be here, admiral," Reilly said, smiling in turn at her. He and Batanides had developed a strong rapport while he was still at the Academy, a cadet geared towards astropolitics and intelligence work. It was her recommendation that had led him to his work with FSO.

"A little intimidating, I'm sure," she said, fixing him with one of her trademark armour-piercing stares.

He laughed off that suggestion. "Not intimidating, admiral. Just confusing."

Marta shot a look at Ross, who was now talking to Akaar. Sitak was going over a padd on the table before her, and most of those in attendance were talking quietly. Reilly shot a look across the table at Akiko Kato, who was staring off into space, studiously avoiding his gaze.

They'd been such close friends years before, lovers on and off. Though he thought of her only rarely, he missed her more than he'd like to admit.

"Yes, well," Batanides said, breaking through his brief reverie, "certain events in the wider galaxy have conspired to bring us here this morning."

Reilly frowned. "I don't understand, admiral. Trinity's not scheduled to be relaunched for another month."

Batanides cracked another smile, this one conspiratorial. "We'll have to see about that, captain."

Before Reilly could ask what she was talking about another officer entered the briefing room, a slight blonde woman in a red admiral's uniform. She took a seat facing the raised section of the table, which surprised Reilly; he recognised her immediately as Admiral Alynna Nechayev, one of the most respected officers in Starfleet. As she sat, Batanides gestured to a waiting officer.

From the corner of the room, a stocky woman in command red with the three solid gold pips of a commander, spoke up: "Ladies and gentlemen, if we could all take our seats."

The general hubbub fell silent, as those still standing went to find their individual seats. He tried to make eye contact with Akiko Kato as she adjusted her attention towards the raised section, but she avoiding him.

"Ladies and gentlemen," Marta Batanides said, standing immediately, "because there are so few of us today, I think we'll dispense with the standard pleasantries. Admirals, in case you're unfamiliar with the more junior personnel in the room, may I present Captain Reilly Carroll."

She indicated Reilly, who stood briefly.

The gathered admirals regarded him somewhat coolly, but he wasn't surprised; he'd made a career of keeping his head down, and though he'd had some contact with the brass, he'd largely avoided coming across any of their radars. Covert ops didn't have the highest of standings among Starfleet's brass, William Ross and Marta Batanides notwithstanding.

Batanides moved on. "Akiko Kato, M.D., who holds the rank of lieutenant commander."

Akiko still didn't look at him as she stood to introduce herself to the gathered brass.

"Finally, Lieutenant Aquiel Uhnari, on detached duty with the diplomatic corps."

The Haliian stood, inclining her head. Reilly didn't need to be empathic to recognise her discomfort. She was only a lieutenant, after all, and she'd probably never seen so many admirals gathered in one place before.

"I shouldn't have to tell you all that this is briefing classified. Top clearance only. Need to know basis."

Reilly blinked. He'd known he was coming to Starfleet to receive a briefing about his first assignment as C.O. of Trinity, and he'd been surprised to see so many of the top brass present, but a top clearance classified briefing? He wasn't worried about the classified status, per se; he had clearance as high as anyone in this room, and had been privy to information even beyond the purview of Admiral Batanides.

Batanides straightened her uniform jacket.

"Two months ago, the Nikiian monarchy collapsed after more than a decade of sustained revolutionary action," Batanides said, taking her place beside the podium. "In the wake of the abdication of the monarch, the Supreme Iilni, a Nikiian word roughly equivalent to 'king' or 'chief', a revolutionary government took office. Representatives of that government then began a clandestine discussion with Federation representatives, via diplomatic back channels."

Reilly was confused; he knew of the Nikiians, a species who had carved out a small fief for themselves along the Klingon-Federation border. The Klingons had left them alone, for the most part, and the Iilnis had never had much time for the Federation. They'd kept to themselves, with a military strong enough to repulse any aggression, from the Klingons, from the Orions or from any other hostile power in the region.

He'd also known of the revolution being waged against the current Iilni, who had ruled with an iron fist for forty years. He'd run a few operations in Nikiian space in his time, mostly to root out Orion pirates or rogue Klingons who had taken refuge there.

He supposed that he was as close to an expert as the Federation had on the Nikiians, considering their largely xenophobic attitudes over the last hundred years since first contact. He'd had no idea, however, that the revolution had been successful, let alone that they'd ousted the Iilni himself. From the looks of surprise around the table, he saw that he wasn't alone; by contrast, Akiko and the Haliian, Uhnari, looked completely unperturbed.

"Why clandestine?" Admiral Nakamura spoke up from further along the table.

"Put simply:" Batanides began, "the Klingons."

Reilly nodded, understanding. Suddenly, parts of the puzzle were falling into place. Over the last months, relations between the United Federation of Planets and the Klingon Empire had become increasingly strained, and if the Klingons learnt that the Federation was getting into bed with a small power on their shared borders, they might be driven to take action.

Batanides went on. "Since the abrogation of the Khitomer Accords, the Klingons have been gotten more and more aggressive. We've seen them move against the Archanis Sector, against Deep Space 9. The collapse of the Nikiian regime would play right into their hands."

"The Nikiians have kept their independence from the Klingons by virtue of their defense force, and an understanding reached between the Iilnia and the Klingon High Council," Akaar intoned, speaking for the first time.

Batanides nodded. "Now that the Iilni is gone, there's nothing to stop the Empire from abrogating that accord as well, except for the Nikiian military."

"Which is where we come in," Ross said. "The Nikiian military's position is… precarious, at best."

"And why's that?" a Saurian admiral Reilly didn't recognise spoke up.

"It doesn't exist," Ross said simply. Reilly blinked. When he'd been in Nikiian space seven years ago, he'd come into contact with the Nikiian military, and even though their ships hadn't been quite up to current Starfleet spec, the largest of them would have put up a reasonable fight against an Excelsior-class starship.

"Then how…?" Nakamura began, but Ross cut him off.

"The Iilni recalled them to the home system to hold off the advancing revolutionaries. Most of them switched sides. When he realised he was going to lose, he remote detonated the fleet. All of it."

Reilly felt his jaw drop, and saw his expression reflected in the aghast faces of the officers around the table.

"God damn," Akiko Kato said, speaking for the first time. Again, Reilly couldn't help but wonder why she was there.

"An accurate assessment, Doctor," Sitak said, arching an eyebrow in that Vulcan way. "Three starships are currently holding position near Nikiian space, should the Klingons learn that the Nikiians are undefended."

"Which ships?" the Saurian asked.

"The Prokofiev, the Budapest and the Soval," Sitak said, expressionlessly. "Captain zh'Raazn of the Budapest is in overall command of our forces in the sector."

"What are their orders?" a new voice asked, and Reilly's attention was drawn to Nechayev.

"They're to stay outside Nikiian space, unless the Klingons cross the border," Sitak said, "at which time they're to make best speed to the Nikiian homeworld and hold position until such time as reinforcements can arrive."

"Why aren't they in Nikiian space now?" Nakamura asked.

"Again," Batanides answered, "the Klingons."

"We don't want the Klingons provoked into an all out invasion of Nikiia. What we need is for the Nikiians to ask for Federation assistance, like the Bajorans did after the Cardassians pulled out," Ross explained.

"We don't think this is another Bajor, do we?" Carroll asked, speaking for the first time.

"How do you mean, Captain?" Batanides asked.

"Bajor is quickly becoming our first line of defence against the Dominion, and against the Cardassians. Are we thinking that Nikiia could become our first line of defence against the Klingons?"

"An interesting analysis," Sitak said, eyebrow arching once more.

"I have to question the strategic value of aligning ourselves with yet another war torn world," Nechayev said, "especially at a time when we are facing so many threats. If Nikiia were to become the first line of a defence against Klingon aggression, it does not have the infrastructure of even Bajor; they had Deep Space 9 and a small, but tenacious, defence force of their own. Nikiia, clearly, does not."

Reilly had to agree, but he noticed that Aquiel Uhnari, the young Haliian, seemed visibly discomfited.

Batanides said "The Federation Council has decided to extend our assistance to the Nikiians, if they should ask for it."

"And have they asked for it?" Reilly asked.

"Indeed," Batanides said, looking to him. "They have. Which is where you come in."

Reilly was unsettled. "Admiral?"

"We're assigning Trinity to Nikiia, at least temporarily."

"Openly?" Nechayev asked.

Batanides nodded. "Trinity is currently undergoing a complete refit and overhaul at Utopia Planitia. Captain Carroll has recently been assigned to command her. As you all know, she's an Akira-class vessel, one of the fleet's new workhorses. I think there's no better way to telegraph to the Nikiians, and to the Klingons, that we're serious about defending them and that we're serious about gaining a foothold in that part of the quadrant."

"You don't think the Klingons will respond?" Nechayev asked.

"Of course they will," Nakamura said, as if it were a foregone conclusion.

"They can't," Reilly said, simply, and all eyes turned to him. "If you'll forgive me, Admiral Nechayev, Admiral Nakamura, but if I can pre-empt Admiral Batanides' answer, I think that the Klingons can't move against us at Nikiia."

"Why not?" Nechayev asked.

"They're overstretched," Reilly said, simply. "They're in Cardassia, Archanis. They don't have the resources to send against us at Nikiia."

"That's our read on the situation exactly, Captain," Ross spoke up. "You've been assigned to Nikiia because you've spent time in the sector and because you spent several years on Qo'noS at the embassy."

Ross didn't mention the work Carroll had done for Starfleet Intelligence and Federation Special Ops when he'd been attached to the embassy's security force. "Yes, sir," Reilly nodded. "The Trinity should be ready for launch within the month."

Here, Ross' usually grave face took on a small, mirthless smile. "You're launching at the end of the week, Captain."

"What?" Reilly exclaimed, not even bothering to be polite. He hadn't visited the ship yet, but he knew that she'd be lucky to get out of spacedock, let alone make it to Nikiia.

Sitak answered him, obviously unimpressed by an outburst too emotional for his own, very human standards, let alone her far more exacting Vulcan sensibilities. "There's a time-sensitive component to this. Budapest is a new vessel, but both Prokofiev and Soval are more suited for reserve duty. We need a more powerful starship on-station as soon as possible."

"There's more than that, however," Akaar spoke up, before Reilly could ask what good a starship still in need of refit could do. "The new Nikiian leader is dying."

Reilly was taken aback. "Sir?"

"The leader of the revolution, who has taken over from the Iilni as head of government, is dying," Akaar explained. "The Nikiians are keeping the new government together with their bare hands. If he dies, the world will collapse into conflict all over again. It'll be all too easy for the Klingons, or the Romulans or the Tholians or even the Gorn, for that matter, to move in. I'd like to invite Lieutenant Uhnari to speak now."

Akaar returned his massive frame to his seat, indicating the young Haliian.

She stood, and cleared her throat. "I've been assigned as the liaison between the group of Federation officials dealing with the Nikiians and Starfleet Command," she explained, nervously rubbing the pronounced forehead ridges endemic to her species. "The Nikiians don't have the medical infrastructure, following the outgoing Iilni's scorched Earth campaign, to treat President Luuga's illness."

"That's where I come in," Akiko said.

"Yes," Uhnari agreed. "Dr. Kato has spent seven years with the Interspecies Medical Exchange. She's spent time on Andor, Delta IV, Sauria, Pacifica, Risa, Antede III, Gemworld and even on the Klingon homeworld."

After a brief sojourn into the Romulan Star Empire, Reilly thought to himself.

"As such," the Haliian lieutenant went on, "she's one of Starfleet's foremost experts in applied xenobiology."

"What about one of the ships already on station?" Nechayev asked, giving voice to Reilly's own thoughts. "If Trinity isn't meant to be launched for another month, what can she do that Budapest can't? Or the Prokofiev or Soval, for that matter?"

"Her refit has included an extensive upgrade to shipboard medical facilities," Reilly said almost automatically. On the long trip back to Earth, he'd memorised Trinity's refit schedule, and maintained regular contact with the Bolian engineer in charge of the project. "But I don't have a chief medical officer yet. Nor do I have a chief engineer, or an operations officer."

For the first time, Akiko looked at him. Without smiling, she said "Chief medical officer, U.S.S. Trinity, reporting."

Now it was Reilly's turn to raise his eyebrows.

"Both Doctor Kato and Lieutenant Uhnari have been assigned to your crew, for at least the duration of this mission," Sitak said. "Doctor Kato will, as she has explained, be acting as your CMO. Lieutenant Uhnari will be liaising with the President's staff."

Reilly couldn't help but frown. He'd been friends with Kato for years, since they'd served together as young officers aboard the U.S.S. Gorkon, off and on, but they hadn't spoken since their mission to Romulan space. To have her, all of a sudden, on his senior staff? He'd never even heard of this Lieutenant Uhnari, and her performance in this briefing had been less than confidence-inspiring. Still, if Sitak, Akaar, Ross and Batanides had approved the posting, Reilly was willing to go with it.

"That still leaves me with a few key positions not filled," Reilly said, "and a ship that's not finished. My XO and second officer are still at their current postings, and are not due back to Earth for a few more weeks.

"Commanders Kaine and Day are being rerouted to the Nikiian system They'll meet you there. And quite apart from that," Batanides favoured him with a wry smile, "we have faith in you, Captain."

"Surely a Galaxy-class starship would make more sense, or even the new Enterprise," Reilly said, still confused. "They'd have the appropriate medical facilities."

"Yes," Ross agreed, "but how do you think the Klingons will react to a fully-armed Galaxy- or Sovereign-class starship right at their borders?"

"Regardless of fleet readiness, the Klingons would act," Sitak said. "With extreme force."

"And Nikiia would suffer for it," Reilly said, finishing her thought.

"That's correct." Batanides finished. "Captain Carroll, you have your orders. You're to report to U.S.S. Trinity one week from today to officially receive command, and make best possible speed to Nikiia. There, you are to help establish a Starfleet presence and provide support to Doctor Kato in her attempts to save the Nikiian President. Ladies and gentlemen, that concludes this briefing. I remind you, it is classified. Dismissed."

As the assembled officers began to disperse, Reilly moved to talk to Akiko Kato, but she was headed for the door, and Reilly found his way blocked by Aquiel Uhnari.

"Captain," the young Haliian offered her hand.

Reilly almost hesitated to take it, remembering that the natives of Halii had a limited touch empathy, but shook her hand regardless. "Good to meet you, Lieutenant."

"I'm sorry we didn't have a chance to meet before this," she said, "but it'll be a pleasure to join your crew, even if only temporarily."

Reilly was listening, but noticed with disappointment that Akiko Kato had already left. "Thank you very much, Lieutenant."

"I also wanted to let you know that I've got experience in the operations position aboard a starship," she said, smiling sweetly. "If you can't find an operations manager before we leave Utopia Planitia next week, I'd be happy to take the position."

Reilly found himself pleasantly surprised by her offer, and revised his assessment of the woman upwards. "Lieutenant Uhnari, I have a feeling we'll be working together closely on this mission." He offered her his arm. "Shall we get a drink? I know a place in Berkeley."

Uhnari grinned. "Yes, sir."

She took his arm, and they set off for the turbolift, but Reilly couldn't shake his discomfort. This mission was not off to the best start.

A/N: This chapter references a great deal of Star Trek lore. A bit of background: as of the fourth season Deep Space Nine episode 'Way of the Warrior', relations between the Federation and the Klingon Empire have become hostile. In the DS9 two-parter 'Homefront'/'Paradise Lost', Benjamin Sisko's mentor, Admiral Leyton, launched an abortive coup to gain control of the Federation. This story takes place a short while after that coup. Admiral Ross was a prominent recurring character on DS9, Alynna Nechayev appeared in TNG and DS9, Nakamura appeared in TNG. Leonard James Akaar was seen as a baby in TOS: 'Friday's Child', and has become a prominent recurring character in Star Trek novels over the last ten years or so. Marta Batanides was introduced as an Academy friend of Jean-Luc Picard in TNG: 'Tapestry' and subsequently established as a high-ranking Starfleet Intelligence admiral. Aquiel Uhnari, who is going to be a major character in this story, appeared in TNG: 'Aquiel'.