"Captain, I have an incoming message from Dirria ... on a secure channel," reported Gideon.
"On screen," ordered T'Roc.
Gideon hesitated. "It's a secure channel," he reminded her.
T'Roc looked at him and smiled, "I know. On screen please, Mr Flavell."
The image of Dirria dissipated and a Dirrian appeared. It wasn't anyone I knew. He looked cross.
"I had asked for a secure channel," he snapped, looking directly at me.
Oh crikey! I thought. Here we go again. Why can't these people respect the chain of command? I'm just an ensign!
But I didn't have to say anything. T'Roc's hand brushed momentarily, but reassuringly, over mine. It was an odd gesture for an officer to give another, but I was inexperienced. It served to tell me that she understood, that I could relax and that she would take it from here.
"Indeed, and you have a secure channel ... just not a private one. Now, how can we assist you?"
The Dirrian pushed his shoulders back and sniffed indignantly. "We wish to talk with Jenny Terran."
T'Roc waved her hand indicating my presence.
"Alone!" he barked.
The corner of T'Roc's mouth rose as she smiled, and then she spoke politely but firmly.
"And if Ensign Jenny Terran was your officer to command, or if this was a personal matter between you and her, then you could speak with her alone ... but this isn't a personal matter. If it were, you wouldn't require a secure channel. You have business you wish to conduct with Ensign Terran, and Ensign Terran is my officer. That means that you go through me."
The Dirrian opened his mouth to speak, but T'Roc raised her hand and silenced him before she continued.
"At your last meeting with Starfleet on the Drakonia, our people went to great lengths to make you feel welcome, and to respect your customs and traditions. Jenny was particularly instrumental in extending this comfort to you, but she was not alone. Her captain was very accommodating too. More recently, you summoned the Drakonia to Dirria—and it came ... but you sent it away. Your people were very rude to Captain Burrows and to Starfleet—"
"You are demanding an apology!" interrupted the Dirrian.
T'Roc smiled again. "I would not dream of asking for an apology. Unless an apology is given freely, it is worthless. No, all I am asking is that you now show some respect to us, as we continue to show respect to you ... especially under these circumstances."
There was a pause.
"What do you know of the circumstances?"
T'Roc shrugged. "Nothing, but if you have need of a Starfleet vessel, well, let's just agree that you should be charming her captain, not her yeoman."
The screen blanked as the communication was paused by the Dirrian. T'Roc leaned back in her seat and crossed her legs as she turned to me.
"I assume you don't mind if I take the lead on this one?" she asked. There was a note of sarcasm in her voice. Fortunately for me, it was edged with humour, but she wasn't going to be upstaged by an ensign, and I don't blame her. The screen flashed back into life and the Dirrian reappeared.
"The High Emperor requests the presence of the captain of the USS Earhart and her yeoman to dinner this evening. Formal dress is required."
T'Roc tipped her head in acknowledgement.
"We are honoured and will be delighted to attend."