Et tu, Brute?
S02E01 "Cold Reception"
Location: Starbase 1 - Conference Room
Jian straightened his uniform and pulled on the turtleneck undershirt before he approached the Conference Room on Starbase 1 where he was summoned to meet one on one with Starfleet’s recently appointed Commander-in-Chief, separate from the position of President of the United Federation of Planets though the clout the position carried within the organizational structure of Starfleet was one of great reverence and responsibility. The previous C-in-C had died a treacherous man, later exposed for his involvement in the conspiracy to prevent the Khitomer Accords and the failed assassination attempt on the President’s life. Jiang knew only a little about the legacy of the woman who was Acting C-in-C, having assumed the position after Androvar Drake’s death.
Fleet Admiral Donatella Figueroa was not a household name. She did not command any Constitution class starships and she was not Captain Pike nor Captain Kirk, often considered a footnote in modern Federation historical records, but she had her place in history, and the decorated service record to show for it, a prisoner of war and veteran of the Four Years War with the Klingons as well as a veteran of the more recent Federation-Klingon War, “Fig” as she was colloquially known among senior brass had commanded the USS Musashi and its successor the USS Musashi-A during the 2250s and 2260s. A woman of remarkable caliber who began her Starfleet career as a Yeoman and put herself through the academy and onto the command track.
As a Captain in the prime of her career, she was responsible for the Treaty of Aremens which ended a brief war between the United Federation of Planets and the extremely Xenophobic and hostile Sheliak Corporate. She was cut from the same cloth as some of the greats even if history did not recognize her in the same vein. Perhaps one day, she would be looked back upon more fondly. Jian, however, knew that when those doors opened and he crossed the threshold and took a seat at the table, that he would be face to face with a living legend and as close as he will have ever gotten to meet the President. As C-in-C Fig called the shots on all Starfleet operations and administrative decisions or at least signed off on them. The only individual who had more sway and power over her in Starfleet matters was the Federation President himself.
Jian did not even know exactly why he was summoned to Starbase 1 until only several hours ago. When they informed him that Fleet Admiral Figueroa herself was coming by transport to meet with him personally, Jian was baffled and later felt as though someone was pulling his leg. He did not find it funny. When it was made clear that it was no joke, he became less irritated and more stressed. It was only a short time ago that he was facing a Court Martial because of Colonel Wests’ actions, the same Colonel West whom he had respected and admired, served under as First Officer for a special assignment, and who he had ultimately had a physical altercation with that ended up with Jian sitting in a holding cell on the Navarone as Colonel West sought out to kill the Federation President.
Commander Zhao was unable to stop West, but that did not bring much comfort to Jian. Peace with the Klingons could have been destroyed and taken off the table if West had been successful. Colonel West, Admiral Cartwright, and all of the conspirators involved would have had the Federation deadlocked into a never-ending war with the Klingons and the assassination of the Federation’s President would have given a corruptly stacked Starfleet grounds to invoke martial law by force if they deemed necessary. Democracy would have died that day, and Zhao had been sidelined and benched in the brig.
He had been tossed into the brig of the starship Navarone by West’s sycophant crew, under his charismatic control, and their minds warped by his rhetoric and bent to his every whim and demand. They did not question him, not like Zhao did. Jian knew better. He sensed better, and everything, every fiber in his body told him that West was out of line; however, for one of the very few times in his life, Zhao had miscalculated and made a gross tactical error. He believed that the men and women in Starfleet uniforms would uphold Federation laws and Starfleet rules and regulations. Some may have, but not aboard the Navarone, not under West’s command. Colonel West had been playing chess long before Jian’s assignment as First Officer. West had put into place fail-safes and encircled himself with a Senior Staff that was tightly wound around his fingers that it was as blue as Commander Zhao’s half Bolian complexion. Jian made mistakes in the days and weeks leading up to the day the galaxy stood still, teetering on the edge of chaos, but he also learned that it is extraordinarily difficult to cry wolf when you are surrounded by a pack of wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing and who had so convincingly pulled the wool over everyone’s eyes.
Commander Zhao took a deep breath. It was time to meet with Fleet Admiral Figueroa and discuss his future now that he had been cleared of all charges that had been brought against him as Colonel West’s First Officer. He had more than his freedom now, he was also recognized with the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Christopher Pike Medal of Valor. What more could he be given? What more could they want from him? And why was C-in-C meeting with him in private on Starbase 1? He was as nervous now standing outside these doors as he was standing outside Colonel West’s Ready Room with a phaser drawn ready to kill the man if necessary, to protect the United Federation of Planets from bleeding. The doorway parted in a compressed whoosh and the Fleet Admiral was standing their, hands behind her back as she stared off into space much like Colonel West had been as Zhao abnormally trembling hand took aim with the phaser. At that moment he remembered the words he uttered to himself knowing that he was betraying Colonel West: Et tu, Brute?