Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 572
# 21
12-12-2013, 05:08 PM

Behind her protective visor, Samantha's eyes are angry. "These people need more help than I can give them here," she snaps.

I look down at the pitiful figures lying on makeshift beds in the shelter. The Vulcan scientists have evidently done what they could, and Samantha has added devices of her own, supporting them and monitoring their life signs... and it's pretty clear that this isn't enough. Two of them, especially, are lying very still, with grey waxen faces - if the monitors didn't say so, I wouldn't believe they were still alive.

Samantha follows my gaze. "Those two need urgent therapy, and possibly lung transplants. There's no way I can do that here. Even if I could set up a sterile operating area, another tremor would be disastrous. I know you can feel those coming -"

"Not far enough in advance," I say. "I'm sorry."

Samantha nods. She shifts her visor with one hand, and I can see where Vulcan blood has caked on her fingernails. Some of the injured have been bleeding freely - too freely. "Even a light tremor would stir up too much of this damned dust," she says. "I don't know what to suggest."

"We'll have to bring the Spirits of Earth down into the atmosphere," I say. "Land her, or just hover her over the camp. At that close range, we can be certain of getting a transporter lock. Or we can use standard shuttles to ferry the critical cases to sickbay."

"It's one hell of a risk," Samantha says. "Spirits of Earth may have wings, but she's a starship, not an atmosphere craft. Especially not this atmosphere."

"She flew atmospheric on Gimel Vessaris," I point out, "and that was with heavy battle damage, even. I think she'll do fine here." I rub my forehead. "The question, of course, is whether T'Nir and this Stiak will let us do it. In the meantime, let me get this set up, it might help." I turn my attention back to the force field generator, which should block the worst of the dust from the shelter. "Klerupiru's setting one up in the sleeping hut," I add.

Samantha is already absorbed in the readings from one of her patients, but she asks, "Why did you bring her along, anyway?"

"Klerupiru? She's a tech expert as well as a computer whiz."

Samantha shoots a glance at me. "That's not the only reason, is it?"

"No," I admit. "I wanted our High Admiral along so I could keep a close eye on her. And - well, I like Klerupiru, and I admire her abilities, and I would even, personally, trust her... but you have to admit, she's got finely honed criminal instincts. And I thought those might come in handy, for keeping that close eye on our Romulan friend." The force field emitter goes live with a hum and a click. If I've tuned it right, small high-density objects - like dust particles - will just bounce off the field. It'll make some difference to the quality of the air.

It is tested immediately, as the door of the shelter opens. A figure stands in the entrance, mummified in protective wrappings. "Director Stiak has returned." T'Nir's voice. "He requests an immediate conference with you and the High Admiral."

"All right. Let me just check -" The force field seems to be holding. Little motes of golden light are flickering around T'Nir, as it repels the drifting dust. "That's good, for the moment, at least. Samantha, sing out if you need any help. I'm on my way."

In the short time we've been here, the camp seems to have got worse; the light is dim, the dust-drifts thickening. As T'Nir leads me across to the next hut, I realise the simple explanation: night is falling. The only light, soon, will come from the reflected glow of the lava fields, over the horizon, but still entirely too near to us. In the dim troubled light, the encampment looks like some relic of a destroyed world, half-covered by the sands of time.

There are lights inside the domed hut we reach: Klerupiru has restored the camp's main power systems, at least. I step inside, and wait as T'Nir unwinds her outer garments. My uniform, at least, repels the worst of the dust... though I will need hours in the sonic shower to get my hair clean again. Beneath all the wrappings, T'Nir turns out to be a small, slender, Vulcan woman, almost fragile in appearance. There is certainly a brittle look to her fine-boned face... though that might just be down to the tension of the situation.

Two others are standing at a work table; Valikra is one, the other is a medium-tall, heavily built Vulcan male with a handsome, thoughtful-looking face. "Director Stiak?"

He nods. "Vice Admiral Shohl. I am glad to see you - on the whole."

"We're trying not to be a mixed blessing, sir. But your injured need treatment, and my doctor tells me she doesn't have the facilities for it here."

"Human inefficiency," says Valikra with a sniff.

"No," says Stiak, "no, I do not believe it can be that. The circumstances are difficult, I appreciate that. But the work had to continue."

My antennae twitch at that. "Had to?"

"Yes. I believe it is now complete - or, at least, complete enough that nothing is to be gained by remaining." He indicates the work table with a wave of his hand. "See for yourself."

There are rows of objects on the table, box-like things with rounded tops, about a dozen of them. There is some sort of writing on them. I frown. Valikra looks just as puzzled. "What are they?" she demands.

"Solid evidence of a nearly forgotten episode of history," says Stiak. "Data records of the Hegemony."

My frown deepens. "I never thought the Gorn Hegemony got anywhere near here," I say, "and that script looks like some sort of ancient Vulcan to me."

Stiak does the eyebrow-quirk thing. No Vulcan is ever too tired, too hurt or too demoralized to do the eyebrow-quirk thing. "Not the Gorn Hegemony, Vice Admiral. The Hegemony of Bresar."

"Well," I say, "I'm afraid that's a completely forgotten episode as far as I'm concerned."

"Bresar," says Valikra thoughtfully. "I have heard the name... I can recall no more."

Stiak nods. "Prior to the Time of Awakening on my planet, there were any number of warlords and faction leaders in conflict on Vulcan. It was a troubled time - as I'm sure you are aware. A little over two thousand years ago, though, there was a brief spell of peace and unity, when one leader became dominant over all the others. His name was Bresar... and surprisingly little is known of him beyond that."

"He is a semi-legendary figure," T'Nir chimes in, "like, perhaps, Napoleon or Alexander on Earth, or... I cannot think of an Andorian equivalent."

"Andorian history is pretty sketchy, sometimes," I say. "Maybe... one of the Thaba kings?"

"Perhaps," says Stiak. "In any case, most of what we do know about Bresar comes from the writings of his detractors. It was a warlike time, and his hegemony was not imposed without bloodshed - though, once established, I believe it to have been a time of peace. The histories tell us, though, that it was finally overthrown in a destructive rebellion, but Bresar himself declared that, since the Vulcan people did not welcome his rule, he would depart and try his luck elsewhere." He points to the table again. "We believe that this is where he tried it."

"This must have been pre-warp, though, even for Vulcan, surely?"

"Yes. The technology existed, though, for sublight flight at relativistic speeds. The journey from Vulcan to Chara is a matter of only a few decades, most of those being eliminated, even, by the time dilation effect. We think Bresar landed on this planet as a man in late middle age, no more than that. As for his subsequent history, his attempts to settle here, and why they came to nothing - well, we believe these records will tell us."

"I have reconstructed the data formats used in Hegemonic times," says T'Nir, "and will now be in a position to test my theories on these data storage units. It is best, perhaps, that I do so in a stable environment, such as that aboard your ship."

"Before the Time of Awakening," says Valikra. "Before Surak. That means that Bresar unified Vulcan... before the Sundering." Her eyes are alight with strong emotion.

"That is correct," says Stiak.

"We must talk more of this," says Valikra. "This has - potentialities. As a symbol, as a historical memory...."

My combadge chirps at me. "Shohl."

"Sir." Klerupiru's voice. "The IDRA supply drop has passed the tropopause. It should be making planetfall within the next five minutes. Do you want to be at the arrival point?"

"I'd better be," I say. I look at Stiak. "If you'll excuse me, Director, I think this supply drop needs my attention. Once we've got the capsule open and delivered the urgent necessities, we can talk some more about getting you and your discovery off this planet."

"Of course, Vice Admiral," says Stiak gravely. "Thank you for your patience and your efforts."
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 572
# 22
12-12-2013, 05:12 PM
Valikra waited until the sound of the Andorian's footsteps had quite died away before she said, "There is more, is there not?"

"I beg your pardon, High Admiral?" said Stiak.

"There is more. An Andorian is not sensitive to these things, but I can feel it." She leaned forward, her eyes intent on Stiak. "Listen to me. I am looking for something, and I think - I think - I may now have found it."

Stiak looked back at her, steadily, unemotionally. "What are you looking for, High Admiral?"

"A symbol - something to rally around. Something we both can rally around - Vulcan and Romulan alike. Do you not see? This Bresar united Vulcan before the Sundering. When we were all one people. We can be one people again, this proves it. This proves it."

"The records tell, no doubt, a fascinating story -" T'Nir began.

"But the records are not the whole of the story," Valikra interrupted. She did not look at T'Nir - her attention was wholly on Stiak. "I can feel that it is not. Do you deny it?"

Stiak hesitated. He took a deep breath. "No," he said, "I cannot, in honesty, deny it."

He reached into his clothing. "The last tremor opened another chamber," he said. "I did not record what I did in there... it was a tiny, tiny room, empty save for one thing." He took out a cube of crystal, yellow and carved with a multitude of facets, that seemed to flicker with a light of its own.

"A katric ark," Valikra breathed.

"Yes," said Stiak. "I have touched it, I know.... It contains the katra of Bresar himself."

There was a dreadful hunger in Valikra's eyes. "I did not know it," she said, "but that is... precisely what I have been searching for. Let us discuss this further."
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 572
# 23
12-13-2013, 05:19 PM

I pass unnoticed in New Romulus Command, too. It is a pleasant enough place, more like the head office of some commercial concern than the centre of a military power, and it is always busy, and far more impressive-looking officers than me are striding urgently about at all times. In among these people - who are, no doubt, every bit as busy and important as they look - it is easy for me to be overlooked.

I find the intelligence officer in the room next door to Admiral Kererek. The window looks out on the vistas of Mol'Rihan; the day is a fine one, and the hills seem to roll like great waves beneath the pale mauve sky. Mol'Rihan, our adopted home, is a lovely world, in its way. And a world full of threats and secrets - but what world is without those?

"High Admiral Valikra i-Taronat tr'Damasau," the intelligence officer says thoughtfully. His name is Sharukh, he is Reman, and he wears a cowl and goggles against the light. His function is to collate information from sources in the Star Empire's remnants, and he has a name for efficiency, among those of us who know how to learn such things.

"What do we know of her?" I ask.

"Little enough," Sharukh replies. "She was with the Unificationists, at one point... she left their ranks over some doctrinal issue. Now, her power base seems concentrated on the military outpost at Porruma VI, with the fleet vessels based in that system." He leans forward, taps at something on his desk console. "I have had reports on some of her ships... they are widely dispersed, many of them operating in Federation territory, even in the Sirius sector itself. She is rated as a low threat probability simply because her forces are so widely scattered. And she is not Tal Shiar, though we believe she has a working relationship with some Tal Shiar officers."

"If she did not," I muse, "she would be vulnerable to attack from her own side."

"The impression I form," says Sharukh, "is that the High Admiral is her own side. Her alliances, if any, are short term and for immediate purposes only. Her political views appear to be uncompromising... this seems to have been the reason for her departure from the Unificationists. She would call for direct action, in ways they could not or would not agree to. Of course, this was many years ago, and people change...."

I frown. "What is the reason behind the dispersal of her fleet?"

"Ah," says Sharukh, "now that is novel. Her ships have been reported, time and again, in the context of rescue, relief and other humanitarian operations. This is, apparently, their main reason for being in Federation space. A matter of... public relations."

"Making herself popular, by helping the Federation?"

"One specific part of the Federation. Vulcans. Her ships have orders, it seems, to help Vulcans in distress."

"But if she is no longer a Unificationist -"

"Unificationism is... or was... a radical political movement," says Sharukh. "In such movements, the goals may be held in common by all, but there may be considerable dissension as to methods. Valikra was an ardent supporter of Reunification, and impatient with the evolutionary methods espoused by D'Tan and Ambassador Spock. She favoured a faster and more aggressive approach."

"We are hardly in a position to be aggressive towards Vulcan," I point out.

"We are not. D'Tan's methods, frankly, seem the best way, to me. Though there is potential for friction, even so... this matter of Jouret, now, that alarms me."

"So," I say, "what do you suppose the High Admiral's strategy to be? To make herself indispensable to the Vulcans, and thus make her way into their councils? Or is it all a deception, using this - aid effort - as a cloak for espionage?"

"I think the only person who could answer that question is High Admiral Valikra herself. The impression my agents have is that she is sincere. Very sincere. Perhaps too sincere."

"A fanatic."

"Conceivably. But a well-organized one, with strength of will and no small ability. Porruma VI and its neighbouring worlds are... well run. They have not suffered excessive deprivation, their local problems have been met and resolved. I suspect the Tal Shiar sees her as a useful pawn... a proxy ruler whose private kingdom fits neatly into their overall plan. Porruma VI is well run, it will no doubt be equally well run as a Tal Shiar, Elachi or Iconian fiefdom. Where Valikra would be, in that eventuality, is another matter."

"She does not have the resources to stand alone against the Iconians?"

"We do not know if anybody has those resources. I doubt Valikra does, though."

"I see... or, rather, I do not. Valikra is significant, this I know. But I do not know, yet, why or how."

"I would be... interested," says Sharukh, "to know your sources for this information."

"They must remain private. If I am indiscreet in any way, those sources will... dry up."

"You can disclose nothing?"

"If I told you - here in the heart of New Romulus Command, in a place free of spies and sensors and recording devices - what my sources are; if I were even to whisper a name in your ear or let you read it silently from my mind... those sources would know, and would be silent forever after. Sometimes, I am frightened by what they know." I sigh. "And sometimes, I am irritated by how little they choose to tell me. Thank you for your help, Sharukh."

"I will note that this Valikra may need closer attention. Thank you, T'Laihhae." He smiles, a terrifying sight. "Let us hope that this matter becomes clearer, in time."
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 572
# 24
12-14-2013, 11:00 AM

"Bringing her in now, sir." Anthi Vihl's voice is crisp and correct over the com link. I look up, into the troubled sky.

"OK," I say, "see you soon, then. Shohl out." I turn to my companions on the ground. "Bring those force field emitters to maximum. There's going to be a lot of dust kicked up when the RCS thrusters cut in."

Klerupiru makes the necessary adjustments, and the air sparks as the force fields gain power. There's already a visible ledge on the ground where the emitters are holding back the falling dust. One of the Vulcans, Stileg, helps.

I look up again at the sky, but I'm looking in the wrong direction. I feel, more than see, the shadow fall over me, and when I turn, Spirits of Earth is there, through the clouds already, gliding through the troubled air towards the ground.

I suppose I'm used to the 871 metre bulk of the King Estmere; I always think of Spirits of Earth as a small ship. But she isn't, seen in absolute terms - especially seen from underneath her as she's coming in to land. Her huge wing blots out the murky sun as it sweeps overhead, and I hear and feel the vast dull rumbling in the air as she passes through it.

I wait for the blast and the dust storm, but there isn't one. The ship just settles, slowly, to the ground, perhaps her own length away from the encampment. I hit my combadge.

"Down and secure, sir," says Anthi's voice. "Landing struts deployed, opening the ventral hatches now."

"Did you just dead-stick that landing?" I demand.

"Antigravs only, sir," she replies. "I thought it best to minimize the disturbance to the dust."

I shake my head. "OK. Let's get this show on the road, then. Everything ready?"

"Operating rooms are prepped for surgery now. We have AG float pallets in the airlocks, ready to take the critically injured to sickbay. I have the IDRA people here, too -"

Faintly, I hear a voice saying, "Although she nearly didn't, I almost had a coronary at that landing!" A familiar voice - Koneph Phoral, Osrin Corodrev's chan-partner. I repress a grin. "We'll have a chat later on about standard landing procedures." And the only words I'm going to say will be along the lines of "good work, Number One", because she's right, the last thing we want to do is drag those casualties through a howling dust storm. "Let's get to work. Secure the injured first, then evacuate this facility, completely. I think Stiak will finally let us do that, now."

As if on cue, I see Stiak emerging from his hut, followed by the tall striking figure of Valikra. I head for them. Valikra turns her head to survey the Spirits of Earth, and gives a minimal nod, as if the ship meets with her approval - just. Stiak seems preoccupied with something.

"Vice Admiral," says Valikra. "We are ready to depart."

"We're getting ready to move the injured," I tell her. "After that, we can get everyone else on board. I take it that's still the plan?" I turn to Stiak. "Director?"

"Yes," he says. His eyes seem unfocused. Perhaps he's lost in thought - he seems the type.

"We shall depart as soon as is convenient," says Valikra. "And I must return to the Raven's Heart and set some matters in train. You are privileged, Vice Admiral Shohl. You have been present at a moment of history." And, with that, she sweeps past me and stalks towards my ship.
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 572
# 25
12-14-2013, 11:02 AM
The atmosphere in the Andorian ship was frigid. T'Nir turned up the heating in the cabin as high as it would go, but it took a long time, even so, for the chill to leave her bones.

Still, she thought, we are safe now, rescued, and on our way home. She had watched through the porthole as Spirits of Earth lifted off. The Andorian pilot was not good enough to take off without engines, she thought with a sly internal smile. The encampment had vanished in a massive cloud of dust as the Spirits of Earth's thrusters had fired; by the time the dust had settled, they were already so far away that there was nothing of the camp to be seen.

No matter. We know where it is; we can come back, if there is need.

Now, there was a need for something else. T'Nir sat on the bed, facing Stiak, who was in a chair, and lost in thought.

"We must talk about some of my findings," she said.

Stiak looked up at her. "Specify."

"I have begun the deciphering of the data records. My assumptions concerning the format have proved to be correct."

Stiak smiled. "I expected no less of someone of your talents."

Despite herself, T'Nir smiled back. Then her face fell. "The historical records I have so far discovered seem to support the historical statements of some of Bresar's detractors."

"In what way?"

"I have discovered references to certain events which we had presumed hitherto to be fabrications of Bresar's enemies. The destruction of L'seiran, the death march from Akaal to Shi'kor, the massacre of the Stiralians - all these must now be viewed as historical events, in the light of contemporaneous evidence to that effect. These documents were written by Bresar's own supporters."

"That is... a working hypothesis, certainly. It will no doubt be verified in time."

"There is more. It points to a systematic program of atrocities. It is possible, Stiak, that the historical Bresar is actually a worse tyrant than his opposition pictured him. It seems that, in some instances, he left no opponents alive to make records of his actions."

"We must view Bresar in his historical context. Many of his actions would seem repugnant, even unthinkable, to modern Vulcan sensibilities. We should not, of course, condone such acts, but we must not judge by our own standards. To do so would make us poor historians."

"There is, of course, a further source of information." T'Nir raised her dark eyes to meet Stiak's. "The katric ark. The remnants of Bresar's own consciousness - if it is Bresar."

"It is Bresar," said Stiak.

"You have communed with the katra?"

"I have."

T'Nir took a deep breath. "Will you permit me also to commune with the katra?"

Stiak shook his head. "Not at this time. You are not trained in the required mental disciplines. The katra of Bresar is... an intense experience. This is for the reasons that have already been stated. His mindset, his mode of thought, is quite at odds with modern sensibilities. Without proper training, it is unwise to attempt contact." He shifted in his chair, a little uneasily. "If you acquire the necessary training, then of course I will permit it."

"Did you permit Valikra to commune with the katra?"

"No. Valikra has no training, and she lacks the required psychic faculties for successful communion. Her interest in the katra is purely political and symbolic."

"I fail to see what political use could be made of this discovery."

"Valikra is a romantic, I think, beneath that stern exterior. She believes that Bresar may serve as a symbol of Vulcan and Romulan unity. I suppose, in essence, this is an admirable aim."

T'Nir shook her head, decisively. "Not if Bresar was really the sort of person depicted in these records."

"We must study the records further, and come to a better understanding. And we must also study the katric ark."

"Will you permit others to commune with the katra?"

"Of course. There are a number of persons with the required mental discipline that I wish to see. I hope to bring contact with Bresar's katra to as wide a range of people as possible. It is not my wish to conceal anything. We will build up a complete picture of Bresar's life and activities, as far as our records will take us. It is possible, I suppose, that this may conflict with Valikra's aim of presenting Bresar as some sort of legendary king over all the Vulcans - but that is Valikra's problem, not ours. I am not a politician."

T'Nir smiled. "I am relieved to hear that." She extended her hand, fingers outstretched. Stiak reached out his hand in return. For a while, they sat there, touching fingers, by the light of Chara as it dwindled in the viewport.
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 2,454
# 26
12-14-2013, 12:38 PM
Oh, Stiak. Stiak, Stiak, Stiak. You poor naive fool. You really should watch some old Earth movies. When you find the ancient artifact that contains the katra of the powerful, possibly mad leader - you leave it alone. It's Belloq and the Ark all over again!

"You're as crazy as the people on Twitter!" - Samuel L. Jackson
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 572
# 27
12-15-2013, 01:03 PM
Well, not everyone's genre savvy. (I never understood why Babylon Five didn't have standing orders to shoot archaeologists on sight, for example.)

Is Stiak insufficiently genre savvy? Wait and see.
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 572
# 28
12-15-2013, 01:05 PM

Ysrip is on the bridge, at the engineering station. At first, it was a relief to have him there, instead of Ahepkur and Ada sniping at one another. But he is studiously avoiding Tallasa's gaze, and Tallasa is studiously avoiding his, and one way or another, the social temperature on the bridge has dropped to the point where it makes Andoria look tropical. */*inaccurate---local environment within standard parameters*/* - oh, learn to appreciate metaphor, you Borg twit.

"Oh, for God's sake," I say, finally, "just ask her about it."

"Sir?" Ysrip turns his carefully blank face to me.

"If it's bothering you, wondering why Tallasa doesn't have a family name, just ask her about it. Clear the air. It's never bothered me, so I've never asked. I know it wasn't her fault, whatever it was, and I know I can trust her with my life and with whatever's left of my sanity -"

"Thank you, sir," says Tallasa.

"- but obviously it worries you, so just ask her."

"Of course," Tallasa's voice takes on a sharp tone, sharp enough to cut me, "I might not choose to answer."

Ysrip looks, uncertain, from me to her. His antennae are twitching like crazy. "I appreciate that the first officer is a member of Starfleet," he says, "so I have to assume that she is not guilty of any moral turpitude -"

"Oh, hell," I say, "you shouldn't assume that, I'm a member of Starfleet."

"To be fair, sir," says Tallasa, with her I am going to be fair even if it kills me face on, "moral turpitude is not your problem."

"Right. Right. I know what my problems are. Could make you a list, if we've got enough paper."

"It is a matter of - tradition," says Ysrip. "I was brought up, I suppose, to believe that those without a clan are - are outcast, faithless, not to be trusted."

"So was I," says Tallasa, in a voice cold as liquid helium.

"I realize it is an unreasonable prejudice on my part," says Ysrip, "and - and I ask your pardon for it, Commander Tallasa." He really does look bothered. There may be hope for him yet.

"Tylha Shohl didn't seem anything like as worried, when she met you," I say to Tallasa.

"Vice Admiral Shohl did not have a traditional Andorian upbringing," says Tallasa. "I did. Mr. Ysrip did, too. I don't blame you for your feelings," she says to Ysrip.

*/*species 4644 cultural influences lead to interpersonal friction---subsume both entities into collective---direct neural communication resolves all personal differences*/* - oh, that isn't true, Two of Twelve. We're in direct neural communication, and I hate your Borg guts.

"Antietta III," Tallasa continues, "was supposed to be a colony world, and a shipload of hopeful colonists, mostly Andorian, set out to make new lives there. There was no such planet. They found themselves, instead, taken by the Orion Syndicate. Some of them survived and found their way to freedom. They had been duped and sold into slavery by an Andorian bond-group... which now has no name. This group had speculated, wildly and illegally, and had arranged this deal with the Syndicate to recoup their losses. When it came to light... those who were my mothers took their own lives in shame; he who was my chan-father died fighting the law officers who came to arrest him; he who was my thaan-father - chose to live on, if you can call it living, in ignominy and shame. My sister and I had no idea of our parents' crimes... but we bore their name, and we lost it when it was taken from them."

"But -" says Ysrip. "Surely, for the innocent - there is recourse, there are routes to - to adoption, say, by another clan -"

"No," says Tallasa, vehemently, her face twisted with emotion. "We swore, Jhemyl and I - we swore, we would never take honour as, as charity. We would redeem ourselves, make our own honour. That's why we joined Starfleet. Both of us."

"I... see," Ysrip says, slowly. "You have... chosen a difficult course, Commander Tallasa. But I have to respect you for it." He frowns. "I'm sure I've heard of the Antietta scandal... I thought it was longer ago than -"

"Oh, that's my fault," I say. "Tallasa is about twenty-four years older than she looks. Time warps. She was with me on the Merlin, when we got flipped into the future by the Stygmalian Rift. Third time, for me... I'm close on two hundred years older than I look. Well, on a good day." Then I add, "Thank you, Tallasa."

"You're welcome, sir," Tallasa says grimly.

There is, otherwise, still a silence on the bridge. I'm hoping it's a slightly less awkward silence, though.

In any case, it's broken by the comms ensign saying, "Incoming transmission, sir."


It's never a dull moment, clearly, in this patrol sector. We're detached from Sixth Fleet, for the time being, and operating independently in the margins of Centauri sector space - close enough to the Romulans to be worrying. If you worry about Romulans. Of course, I do worry about Romulans. What did they do to get a separate species number from the Vulcans?

Right now, though, I've got a lot more pressing reasons to worry about Romulans than that. I stare pensively at the dots on my screen, trying to sort them out into some sort of coherent shape.

"Well," I say aloud, "if you're determined to blow a warp coil, this is clearly the right time to do it."

*/*inaccurate---mechanical failures are always to be avoided where possible*/*

Yes, well, quite. Leave it to the Borg to state the bloomin' obvious. "What have we got here, anyway?" I ask.

"Vulcan science vessel VSS Linshal, down with a warp engine defect... but our hail is from Commander Utia aboard the RRW Red Talon, and the third ship is a Romulan Imperial, the IRW Makret," Tallasa reports. "It looks like the Imperial ship has come to the aid of the Vulcan, and the Republic vessel is... objecting."

"Just like us and the Lyrane Star and the Callasthae," I say. "What is it about Vulcans and damaged warp drives this week anyway?"

"I doubt, statistically, that there are any more distress calls than usual," says Saval. "However, they are... obtruding rather more on our attention."

"The Republic commander is hailing again," says the comms ensign.

"OK, let's have 'em. On screen."

The Red Talon's commander is a female Reman */*species 3784*/*, all bony skull and dramatic eyeshadow; her face looks sour, and not just naturally sour - something is really annoying her. "Veronika Grau, commanding the USS Falcon, call me Ronnie, everyone does. What's up?"

"We received a distress call from the Linshal just over twenty hours ago," the Reman replies. "When we arrived, this - vessel - was already in attendance. They will not respond to our hails, and we have every reason to fear their bad intentions."

"Well, I can see your point - sort of. But what are they doing? What are you doing, come to that?"

"The Vulcan commander, Dr. T'Met, says that the Romulans are engaged in repair operations. We can hardly open fire on them in those circumstances. But they have to be up to something -"

"OK," I say. "You've talked to the Vulcans? And they say there's nothing wrong?"

"And there was no solid evidence that Dr. T'Met was speaking under compulsion. But she must have been," Utia spits. "I can conceive no other reason why anyone would trust these - these -"

"Romulans?" It must be a hard life, being a Romulan. Here they are, going about selflessly doing good, and all they seem to get in return is questions about their ulterior motives. What have they ever done to make people so suspicious of them? Besides the merciless warfare, the sneak attacks, and the alliances with some of the most evil powers in the galaxy, that is? Maybe you answered your own question there, Ronnie.

"OK," I say, "maybe we'll try hailing them, see if they'll talk to us. Maybe we'll try hailing the Vulcans, too, and see if we can spot any disruptors pointed at their heads. Mind you... this wouldn't be the first time we've run into Roms with orders to help ships in distress. Someone over on the Imperial side seems to be trying a PR exercise."

"PR?" Utia looks lost.

"Public relations. You know, trust the Tal Shiar, they are all sweetness and light really, that sort of thing. Don't believe it? No, neither do I, really. Face-ache." The comms ensign looks up. "See if you can get some response from either of the other ships."

It doesn't take long before two more faces are up on my screen. The Vulcan captain is a quiet, sleek, self-satisfied looking type, the sort of scientist who's doing pretty well in academia on the whole. "We are no longer in need of assistance," she tells me. "Our warp coils were damaged by a sudden surge in the gravitational anomaly we were surveying. Subcommander D'kalius, however, has been able to fabricate replacement components, and his engineers are fitting them and carrying out final tests as we speak. We expect to be under way again within eight hours."

"The HBW Makret is under orders to render assistance where necessary," says D'Kalius. If T'Met looks like a Vulcan stereotype, D'Kalius is a Romulan one, thin face, burning eyes under craggy brows, the works. "We did not choose to respond to the aggression of the so-called Republic -"

"Whoa, whoa," I say, "back up a bit. What's an HBW? Sounds like some sort of novelty pencil to me. Your transponder code gives you as IRW Makret. Did someone graffiti your hull or something?"

"Under orders from our high command," D'Kalius says, "we are now a warbird of the Hegemony of Bresar navy. The transponders will be amended to reflect this as soon as is practicable."

"The what?" Of course, I knew the Romulan Empire was splintering and faction-fighting, but this is a new one on me. */*no referents found in local storage---connection to main data archives not available---reconnect---priority---reconnect---reconnect*/* no, thank you.

"The Porruma star system," D'Kalius says, "has announced its affiliation to the Hegemony of Bresar, a political unit of the planet Vulcan."

"OK," I say, "now you're just getting me even more confused. And I start off most days confused, so I don't like it when people confuse me more. Vulcan? What's Vulcan got to do with it?"

"The Hegemony of Bresar was a unifying authority on Vulcan," D'Kalius says, "and our commander has decided that, for formal purposes, it is to be revived. At the moment, Vulcan is of course only its symbolic capital." His dark eyes smoulder. "At the moment."

"Uh, T'Met, do you know anything about this?" I'm feeling increasingly lost. I glance at Saval, but he looks lost too.

"Subcommander D'Kalius has explained some of his reasoning," says T'Met. "His commanding officer is, apparently, keen to effect some rapprochement between the Vulcan and Romulan peoples. To this end, she has taken advantage of a recent archaeological discovery - which sounds fascinating, and I am determined to learn more - to proclaim the revival of the Hegemony of Bresar." She does the Vulcan eyebrow thing. "It is, at least, an intriguing development. And if the Hegemony's ships and officers are all as helpful as Subcommander D'Kalius, it may prove a positive one."

"Not too helpful with the Republic, though," I say to D'Kalius.

"We do not acknowledge the legitimacy of the purported Romulan Republic."

"Might be an idea to acknowledge their hails, though. At least in time to stop them shooting at you. Incidentally, what's going to stop the Tal Shiar doing the same, when they see you flying with this HBW tag on?"

D'Kalius leans forward so that his face fills half my screen. "Let them try," he hisses. "So-called Republic, or Tal Shiar... let them just try to shoot at us." And, with that, he cuts the channel.

"Well," I say, a bit blank. "The Hegemony of Bresar certainly knows a good dramatic exit line when it sees one."

T'Met looks unimpressed. "These factions come and go within the Romulan body politic. I agree, it seems unwise of them to announce the movement so... brazenly."

I nod. "They can call themselves the Hegemony of Bresar if they like... they can be a Hamlet pencil, 2B or not 2B... but the Tal Shiar will have a lot of names for them, and they'll all have a subtext of 'fire at will'. If I were you, Dr. T'Met, I'd get my warp drive repaired, thank them nicely, and warp off in the general direction of away, before the shooting starts." I sigh. "I'll talk to the Reman commander, I think I can promise it won't start right here and now."

But it's going to start. Sometime soon, it's going to start.

*/*emergence of new factions provokes conflict and resistance to change---counterproductive internecine conflicts reduce efficiency and weaken governance and control structures*/*

It's never a good sign when Two of Twelve agrees with me.
Join Date: Sep 2012
Posts: 1,412
# 29
12-15-2013, 06:34 PM
The internal dialogue between Ronnie and Two of Twelve, even more than usual, makes me laugh. Thanks, Shevet, I definitely needed the laughter. Makes me wonder who could out-literal-minded who in a conversation between a Vulcan and a Borg drone. Keep up the great work.

Originally Posted by shevet View Post
(I never understood why Babylon Five didn't have standing orders to shoot archaeologists on sight, for example.)
The Doctor doesn't seem too thrilled about them either:

Doctor #10: "Oh, you're not archaeologists, are you? I laugh at archaeologists."
River Song: "Professor River Song. Archaeologist."

Last edited by philipclayberg; 12-15-2013 at 06:55 PM.
Survivor of Romulus
Join Date: Aug 2013
Posts: 4,660
# 30
12-15-2013, 07:49 PM
Originally Posted by philipclayberg View Post
The internal dialogue between Ronnie and Two of Twelve, even more than usual, makes me laugh. Thanks, Shevet, I definitely needed the laughter. Makes me wonder who could out-literal-minded who in a conversation between a Vulcan and a Borg drone. Keep up the great work.

The Doctor doesn't seem too thrilled about them either:

Doctor #10: "Oh, you're not archaeologists, are you? I laugh at archaeologists."
River Song: "Professor River Song. Archaeologist."
Love 10th Doctor. David Tennant pwns. Liked River Song at first, hated her when she got Sue-d.

Also, Shevet: I love this, especially Captain Grau. Can you point me to her backstory? Her shared consciousness is something that I'd love to see the story behind.

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