Wars are glorious. They are huge, banging affairs. Songs and stories are written about them.
But getting to peace is a lot harder, and it often isn't something that people sing about. Schoolchildren might memorize the names of treaties, but no one ever seems to think too hard about when they happened, or who brought them into being, or why they are the way they are.
And that was how Laura Hayes liked it.
She was sitting in the Xindi Council chamber. It was a little warm in there and she was dozing off just a tiny bit. Her PADD skittered into sleep mode and first showed the time – fourteen thirty-one hours and then the date – August the fourth of 2160. Then the PADD began to show family photographs, in random order. There was an image of her late younger brother, Jay, when he was about eleven years old or so, on his bike. Then there was a picture of Doug and Lili Beckett, who weren't exactly family, but weren't exactly not family, either. It had something to do with infinite universes but Laura was an attorney and not a physicist so she just took it all on face value. Doug had been Hayes, but his mother's maiden name – the same as Laura's mother– had been Beckett. He had come over and reversed himself, and changed his life along with his surname. Another photograph was of the Becketts with their young son, Joss and the new baby, Marie Patrice. They were as close to a niece and nephew as Laura figured she would ever get. Then another image flew by, of Laura with her mother, Lena, when Laura had graduated from Law School.
Her elbow was jogged, which disturbed the PADD, thereby ending the impromptu slide show.
"Pay attention," her boss whispered to her. He was an Andorian, T'therin.
"Oh, sorry. Do you think we'll see them, finally?"
"I don't know," he replied, "but I'm hoping. We've had war with them for years and have never seen a Romulan. It seems cowardly and over the top dramatic, if you ask me."
"They can amp up the terror that way," Laura replied.
Ambassador Soval of Vulcan began to speak. "We are gathered here in order to witness the formal engagement of a treaty between our coalition and the Romulans. Representatives of our coalition worlds are grateful to our hosts, the Xindi people." Chara Sika, the Xindi representative – she was a sloth – nodded in acknowledgement. "The Tellarites have suffered more casualties than the rest of us; their representative is Gral. I am, naturally, the representative for the Vulcan people. The Andorian representative is T'therin. And the human representative is Emily Stone."
He paused for a moment and sipped some water. "Today marks a new day for our peoples. We have worked together nearly seamlessly. And the fruits of our labors are obvious, for we have achieved peace on this day. I will now ask our hosts to open up a communications channel with Romulus so that we may formally conclude the peace negotiations." He nodded and a young Xindi Reptilian began to work the communications controls.
After several minutes, the Reptilian said, "Ambassador Soval, Ambassador Sika, I can't get them on the line. Something is jamming the signal."
Laura got up. This wasn't her bailiwick but she was a tad bored and perhaps she could offer at least moral support. She asked the Reptilian, "Are you trying with a visual?"
"Well, yeah," he said.
"Maybe try without it," she suggested, "I'm no technician, but they didn't want us to see them. I know it seems ludicrous, but maybe they still don't want us to see them."
"It is absurd," agreed the Reptilian as he worked the controls. "I mean, I never supported the war between your and my species, but at least we were open about things." He punched button after button, trying a number of different combinations in order to get the blasted thing to work. "And then we were able to end the hostilities a lot quicker, I figure. I mean, I'm no diplomat, or anything."
"I bet you're as good a diplomat as I am a technician," Laura said.
"Touché. But I mean, honestly, people who go to war should be prepared for what happens afterwards, I figure." He listened carefully, holding an earpiece to the side of his head.
"Prepared?" asked Laura.
"Well, yeah. We all gotta live in the same galaxy, right? So unless you commit genocide, you've gotta live with your opponents. Ah, hang on a sec." He turned a lever. "It's staticky, but I think I might have 'em. As per usual, there's no visual."
Soval raised an eyebrow. "Faceless to the end."
"It's rude!" Gral declared.
"Perhaps they are planning a future attack," said Chara Sika. "We must remain vigilant."
"It's possible," agreed Ambassador Stone. She sighed. "My niece is in Science and is in on the NX-01. My son is practicing medicine and is looking to get onto, maybe, a smaller ship as the Enterprise and the Columbia are already staffed. But they're just going to be warriors if this continues. I just want to see young people have their dreams. Constant conflict will derail those dreams, I fear."
"Wait, wait," said the Reptilian. "I have them."
Soval nodded, and a crackling static could be heard, but so could a voice. The voice was most likely not organic. It sounded flat and affectless, and purely mechanical. "Coalition, we have received your terms."
"And what say you?" Soval inquired.
"They are accepted."
"It is customary," Soval said, "for treaty participants to meet in person. It is seen as a gesture of good faith to come out of hiding."
"These are our terms. A meeting is not a part of them. If a meeting is pressed for, this treaty will be cancelled."
Soval looked around and then motioned to the Reptilian to cut the sound. "We will take a vote. Will we accept this final condition?"
"It's rude and upsets the balance. I say no," Gral stated.
"I'll accept it if it gets this damned war done," Emily sighed again.
T'therin said, "On behalf of the Andorian people, I cannot condone another condition. What will be next?"
"Chara Sika?" Soval asked.
"My people are not, technically, a part of your coalition," she reminded him.
"True," he said, "but there are those who hope that this conflict will have convinced your people to join it." He paused. "I am one of those who so hopes."
She looked at him and stroked her grey beard a bit. "I say to accept it. It is a small thing, and so many have suffered for far too long."
"Sir?" the Reptilian asked, "They're hailing us. They're wondering what the delay is."
"I suppose I shall break the tie," Soval said, motioning for the communications to be restored. "We agree to your final condition," he said, "provided that peace is achieved."
There was a ding and the Reptilian looked at incoming communications. He said, "I have a signed copy of the treaty."
"Then we have done it," Soval said, "You will contact the media for the four coalition member worlds and the media for the Xindi people, and tell them that today, August the fourth of 2160, peace was achieved with the Romulan Star Empire." Wearily – or at least it seemed that way to Laura – he sat down, his shoulders hunched.
She hastily tapped out a short message on her PADD. "To Douglas and Lili Beckett – the war is over."
Emily did the same, typing, "To Mark Stone – your life can begin, my son. The war is over."
Chara Sika did, writing to her young daughter, who had barely begun to learn to read, "To Aranda Chara – I am coming home."
And, unbeknownst to them, in the main Romulan government building, a message went out to all of the Romulan people, and even to the subjugated race, the Remans. And it said, "We have been most fortunate, as we were almost done in. But we have survived. The hostilities have ended."