PROLOGUE

"Take a look at this." Truman Howes spun his computer to face Saavik, his first officer here on the Armstrong. "The Dulkkia sent new requirements for the conference. Command has given this to us. We're the closest to their homeworld other than the Leyte who's already there."

"The changes?" Saavik asked.

"The biggest one is no Starfleet personnel can represent the Federation."

She raised her eyebrows. "That is an issue. We have no civilian diplomats on board any more than the Leyte."

"Because the Dulkkia looked forward to meeting people in Starfleet. The problem is, the two officers who beamed down to the surface got caught in lies. Idiots. The Dulkkia wonder if they were ordered to lie, and of course, they don't trust anyone in uniform now."

She scrolled down through the latest requests. "It is interesting that the Dulkkia believe civilians do not lie. However, whether this is naivete or a statement on their civilization is immaterial for this moment. How will we answer these modifications?"

Howes rubbed his forehead a few times. "They're scrambling to get two ambassadors or other civilians with experience, but it'll be days. So, Command is asking if we can get two people, preferably not far from our flight path. They're asking everyone and we'll pick them up."

"Requirements?"

He scrolled down and highlighted the right section. "Two civilians. Outgoing, independent, quick witted, experienced like I already said – you see the list. Why? Know somebody?" He chuckled and then realized Saavik was serious.

Of course she is. "What is it?"

She re-read the same lines and then searched for other terms. "It does not prohibit using people who previously served in Starfleet."

"People who left the service," he muttered before he looked at her with the same curiosity. "You do know someone."

"I do."

But Howes knew enough about Saavik to know something was wrong. "What is it?"

She instead replied, "They meet the qualifications. In fact, they exceed them."

What's going on? "Who are they?"

"Lauren Warfield and Lynne Hoskins. Their last ship was the USS Rider. As you know, I was first officer under Captain Dannan Stuart."

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