Literary Challenge #42 : I Am the Legacy of Romulus
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Join Date: Jun 2012
05-02-2013, 02:06 PM
Here is my second entry, thanks to the relaxing of the 'one post' rule. Enjoy!
He ran through the back alleys, the darkness of night as much something he craved as dreaded. Between the tall buildings and puddled streets, he desperately fled a doom that only nightmares could justify.
Jumping over a fallen pile of debris, the man stumbled and fell as he landed. His hands slid painfully on the durastone pavement, and his head stuck one of the waste receptacles that had been carelessly left just beyond, causing his cry of pain to be lost in the clatter of metal impacting the ground all around him. In terror, he scrambled blindly to an alcove and pressed his scraped hand to his mouth to keep from screaming, looking back the way he had come.
From a distance that was hard to judge, he heard the electronic pulsing that marked the Watcher, and knew the time granted by his chaotic dash through the city had only delayed the pursuit. The machine would not stop, and would continue searching methodically until it picked up his specific DNA trail. Then it would come like death itself, which it was.
Taking a brief moment to gasp precious air, the man felt as though his chest would burst from the hammering of his heart. Pressing his free hand to it, he begged the Five for a moment of rest. His thoughts spun with the lightheadedness of oxygen lack, and the building against which he leaned was all that kept him from toppling over into the mud and grime. As he sat, he thought about what he had seen.
As a trained Science Officer for the High Command, he had never once doubted he would find a place in the Fleet. After all, officers such as he were the eyes of every ship, the ones everyone turned to when something new needed explaining. However, the great number of officers seeking any posting and the smaller number of ships available worked against him, and he had found himself cast out of the Military shortly after his graduation from the Great Hall. And Rator III was no place for a
without a duty to perform.
He drifted among the civilians, trying to find employment but learning very soon that he had not received training for any of the work expected of that level of society. The various lounges and drinking centers had provided both a place to watch the periods pass and a quick means for reducing his credit supply to almost null quantity. At length, his ragged clothing and long hair made him indistinguishable from the various other outcasts and
that survived in the cracks between the monumental buildings of the capitol, just another unneeded and often intoxicated waste of the Empire's space. He knew his life had descended to a level below that where his family could help him, where even speaking to him would cause a loss of face to the others in their tier of society. He would not bring down them as well, and he resigned himself to the fact that there was no farther he could fall.
Until the night he stumbled back to the junkyard that served as his home to witness something far worse. There, in the center of the stacked bins of recycling metal, he had seen the black assault shuttles of the Tal Shiar parked in a ring around the huddled forms of the others who lived there. Ten of the feared secret police were holding them by their arms in the floodlights of the vehicles, and the man carefully concealed himself from sight before they noticed him as well. Raids and arrests had increased recently, and this seemed no different than others he had heard of.
Until the Tal Shiar produced strange dual-pronged hypos the man recognized all too well and began injecting the prisoners. Immediately, they began to convulse, their skin turning grey and their mouths gaping. As he watched, their eyes seemed to lose focus, and their struggles became only twitches. And when the Tal Shiar told them to stand and board the shuttles, they did so as though they were nothing more than androids.
The man knew what he had seen, and it filled him with unprecedented fear. That the Tal Shiar would use Borg technology was something whispered among candidates at the Great Hall, but he had never imagined they would begin using the Borg assimilation process on other
. It was simply beyond conception, a violation of everything the Empire had stood for since the beginning of the Glory Road.
In his shock, he had revealed his position, and the Tal Shiar had not been slow to attempt to silence him. The frantic escape he had accomplished had kept him alive for several days, but they had dispatched a Watcher now. The robotic hunter units moved on anti-gravity units and had become a too-familiar sight in recent months. The man-sized machines emitted a pulsing electronic shriek that told all that this was a servant of the Tal Shiar, and interfering with it or trying to aid the target of these units would be a lethal mistake. The Watchers were the ultimate proof that the secret police wanted someone found and executed, and they performed their task with mindless dedication.
With that thought, he heard the Watcher coming closer, and he stumbled back to his feet. The repeating, upward-screeching tone was also a message to the target, letting them know their hunter was closing in, and often pushing them into panicked mistakes or complete insanity long before the final confrontation. As a trained officer, he did not panic, but that did not mean fear failed to grip his very being. He had seen what the robot had done to the drinking center where he had attempted to hide after his discovery, and knew that if the machine gained sight of him, it would be enough to end his running. Plasma beams traveled slower than light, but not
slower. Certainly faster than his muscles could propel him.
He chose a stairway going down, and leapt them with fear-weakened haste. This section of the city held many ruined buildings, and he knew his best chance would be the abandoned concourses below ground level. The city had grown too fast after the Hobus incident, and much of the undercity had been built and then left to fall apart. Sensors were mostly a luxury in the sections no one had a use for, and this offered a chance to escape.
As he touched the bottom and stood bent over catching his breath, he stumbled again and collapsed in a heap. Escape? To where? The Tal Shiar controlled the entire planet! He might make it to a sublev and then ride to another city, but they would simply be waiting for him there. If he tried to pass into the limited wilderness still left to exist, they would still come with their Watchers and shuttles, if the wildlife didn't end his flight first.
It was hopeless, and he simply did not have any more strength to push further.
"You really need to stop being so fatalistic. It's going to get you killed one of these days."
The voice startled him so violently that he scrambled back on his hands and knees until he could see the man standing over him. The
was middle-aged, and wore a Centurion's uniform, but the casual stance of the man seemed out of place for a soldier. More, the eyes of the stranger seemed a mixture of foreboding and sarcasm that further eroded the image the uniform was meant to convey.
And hadn't the old sublev platform been empty a moment before?
"You people always make noticing the obvious seem like an accomplishment worthy of the Praetor's Citation." the stranger said in a mocking tone. "I expected better of you, Citizen Tosik. At the very least, a 'who are you?' or 'why do you say that?'. Aren't Science Officers supposed to be nosey?"
Tosik blinked as his mind made several connections despite his shock. In a shaking voice, he asked "Who...are you?"
"Well, that's better. At least you know when to take a hint." the stranger looked over at the stairwell as the sound of the Watcher increased. "Which is more than I can say for some things around here. Maybe I should just leave and let you two work out things on your own?"
!!" Tosik half-screamed, choking on the word as he realized it would only bring the robot faster. "Please! If you can do something about that thing, then do it!"
"Oh, maybe I will. As a favor to that meddlesome Captain. Always getting into trouble, that one." The stranger seemed to consider Tosik "Not that I enjoy the idea. I've enough to do without stepping into the affairs of your little Empire."
"Please!" Tosik brought himself to his knees, summoning his strength and calming his voice as best he could "Keep them from finding me!"
The stranger gave Tosik a half-grin that any
would have known. It was the same one the superior in an agreement gave to the inferior when it was known the later could not refuse the offer about to be made. "And if I do? What do I get out of it? What would you do for me?"
Tosik swallowed, knowing his next words would determine his fate. "Anything."
The stranger's smile bloomed to full satisfaction. "Done!" and he raised his hand. Snapping his fingers, there was a bright flash and...
Tosik found himself kneeling before a startled woman. While his own shock mirrored hers, he saw that she did not jerk backwards involuntarily as he did, but merely stepped backward slightly in what he noted was a small room with a central control pillar. He knew this room, had dreamt of it for years.
He was on the bridge of a warbird!
The stranger was seated on a nearby railing, in a posture that was anything but proper. He gave an elaborate bow to the woman. "
. I present you with your new Science Officer."
The woman turned her gaze to the stranger, her eyes becoming slits. "
! What is this? Another of your games?"
"Oh, hardly. This fellow just told me he'd do anything to escape the foul, evil clutches of the Tal Shiar, and I just couldn't help but notice your ship is one crewman short." The man raised one eyebrow in a way that made him seem almost Vulcan. "That
why you're still in dock, isn't it?"
The woman nodded slowly, never taking her eyes off the man. "Leaving aside the fact that it was your own actions that cost me my Science Officer, I don't see any reason to trust that was your reason in coming here. You've never had our best interests in mind before. Why this man? Why my ship?"
The stranger leaned forwards, his previous levity gone in a flash as he locked eyes with the woman. "Because this ship has a very important role to play in the events about to play out, and that role is not to be sitting here for the next three months while the High Command decides which of its officers to punish by sending them to you. So I decided to both pay off my debt to you, and get you back where you belong."
The woman regarded Q for a moment before turning back to Tosik. "I expect my Subcommanders to follow proper decorum. You are..." she glanced at his ragged clothing for a moment before finishing "...out of uniform."
At her hand motion, a Centurion came forward and guided Tosik to the nearby turbolift. As the doors closed, he heard the one called Q say "You Romulans. Always so concerned with appearances! I understand now why Q spends all his time among the Humans. And these
The Centurion gave a short bow to Tosik as the lift descended. "I am Centurion First Rank L'voss. Welcome aboard the warbird
. It appears you will be joining us?"
Tosik nodded distractedly, his mind sharpening as it hadn't since...well, since he had lost his dream of serving in the Fleet. This was a
class warbird, a relic of the days before the Klingons had provided new designs for the
to adapt. Its single plasma torpedo was still a fearsome weapon, and he knew many of these ships had received extensive refitting with singularity drives and more current technology.
He looked at the Centurion, and noticed the uniform did not match what he expected. The man wore clothing more of what Tosik would have thought of as frontier gear than a ship's uniform. With a sinking feeling of dread, he asked "You are not part of the Imperial Fleet, are you? Are you...Tal Shiar?"
L'voss shook his head. "We serve the Republic. The Tal Shiar are not welcome among us. Does this upset you?"
Almost sagging against the side of the lift in relief, Tosik said "No. No problem at all. Whatever this 'Republic' is, it sounds like someplace I would not mind living at all."
L'voss nodded as the lift arrived and the door opened. "I will make the data files available to you, as you will be our new Science Officer, should my Commander so approve. It will be good to have a full crew once more." He gestured and escorted Tosik down the corridor beyond.
As they walked, Tosik realized he was standing straighter, moving with more confidence. He felt as if he were coming out of a long, dark storm into the day beyond. He felt...
...again. With a purpose, even if only a temporary one should the Commander not chose to accept him.
Stopping at a door, the Centurion palmed the control pad. It opened to reveal a small but well-kept cabin. "This will be your quarters. The replicator will provide you with a suitable uniform. When you have finished refreshing, notify me, and I will take you to see my Commander. No doubt she will wish to speak to you at length."
Before he stepped into the room, he gave the soldier a frank gaze. "The Commander. She seemed very unimpressed with that 'Q' person. Even though he obviously has some impressive abilities that I've never seen the like of. She has encountered him before?"
"We have suffered his presence on this ship several times." L'voss grimaced "The last time, he sent us all into the middle of a temporal loophole that had us eating the same meal over and over. That's what caused our previous Science Officer to leave the ship."
Tosik stared in shock as the Centurion held the door open for him, his mind trying to sort and understand all the ramifications of what he had just heard. He shook his head in amazement. "And this does not cause her to treat him with caution, at the least? I thought she was about to order him shot!"
L'voss gave the impression of a shrug, even though his military discipline kept anything so crude from the soldier's actual conduct. "I understand my Commander was a
before assuming command. No doubt communing with the Five on a daily basis made other celestial beings...mundane."
After a moment, Tosik stared back into the room before him. Once he stepped into that room...
...he knew the reality of where he was would finally settle on him. There in the room ahead lay the future, and in a flash, he saw it before him. He would do as instructed, find the uniform of a Subcommander and go see the Commander. She would offer him a position aboard, and he would accept, starting his own Glory Road with this ship and crew. He would find challenge and terror, joy and tears, and the satisfaction of performing his duty. He would face his deepest fears, be tempted by his farthest dreams, and called to account for his actions before his superiors.
Most of all, he would have
With no more hesitation, he stepped into the room.
Last edited by danqueller; 05-02-2013 at