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Old November 3 2011, 05:11 AM   #109
Rush Limborg
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Re: Writing Challenge- The winning entries.

October 2011 Challenge: "Star Trek: Section 31--'Of Mastery And Fate'"

Submitted for the Challenge theme: "Reconciliation" (Special Thanks to Gul Re'jal, for this opportunity.)

By Rush Limborg


Author's note: How far is one willing to go, to gain what is, arguably, rightfully theirs? What is the line one will establish, to never cross--or is there a line?

What are they willing to give up--and what does it say about them, the decision they ultimately make?

This tale is about a certain individual from Deep Space Nine's final season...and how he came to answer those questions for himself. But was it worth it?

It's been a while since I've done a tale consisting of only one scene--a dialogue between two characters. That was my first-ever Ezri tale, "Of Power And Passion".

It was fun--though I personally found myself almost psychologically drained, by the end--it was rewarding, but exhausting. Such, I think, is what happens when you write a tale with no chapter breaks, no scene breaks...no breaks, period. Thus, I haven't done it since...until now.

I hope you guys love it!

Note: this tale heavily references the events of Mike and Andy's Section 31 novel, Rogue. This tale is, in part, my attempt to reconcile how the Bureau was depicted in that book (frankly incompetent) with the disturbingly efficient organization they were frankly supposed to be, from the beginning.

Word count: approx. 3,509.

Enjoy!


Star Trek
Section 31

"Of Mastery And Fate"



Romulus

Federation Standard Year 2374

* * *

Koval looked out from his office, upon the night skyline of Ki Baratan, capital of the Romulan Star Empire. Standing there, he considered all he had achieved…and all he had yet to achieve.

He was the chairman of the Tal Shiar—truly, as far as he was concerned, the most powerful position in the Empire. And yet…there were those who failed to acknowledge that simple fact. For he, with all his power—all his influence—he had been so insultingly overlooked by the Continuing Committee.

What was the reason again? That he was “too unorthodox”?

As though that should be a valid argument, considering what he commanded.

Unorthodox, indeed.

It was so…so very exasperating, to find one’s influence curbed by lesser Romulans. His service had been such that it would clearly overshadow the record of each and every one of the Committee—each and every one of the Senate, in fact. Especially the record of…

He forced down what emotion arose within him, at the mental invocation of the name: Kimara Cretak.

The woman, now a Senator, to whom he had once given his heart. But then…her maddening idealism—her unbridled patriotism—it had led her to condemn him, and to dismiss him. Thus, she had made it a point to push for a veto to his every appeal for appointment to the Committee.

Not that she was the only voice, of course. There was the failure concerning Chialos IV—and how that which he had hoped to attain for the Empire had been lost, through the somehow unanticipated meddling of one Captain Jean-Luc Picard. The scenario worsened, of course, when it had become apparent that Koval’s handing over of the list of Tal Shiar agents working within Federation space to that human agent…was therefore all for naught.

Such had given Cretak’s arguments further credence, among the Committee—and had severely diminished any chance he possessed of attaining that which was rightfully his.

Such was his career. Such was his fate…to be forced to submit to the will of lesser Romulans.

“Nice view, isn’t it?”

Koval turned—and fought to reveal no reaction.

A man—human, it looked like—sat at the desk, leaning back in the chair, the tips of his fingers pressed together. He was dressed completely in a black material. His face was filled with lines…his hair blond, and cut short.

He did not appear threatening, as of yet. Thus, Koval did not bother to pull his disruptor. The chairman was curious, however, as to how this man had managed to evade all the security measures in place to prevent exactly this sort of thing.

And so, Koval said, “I would ask how you managed to enter this office.”

The man smiled. “You would ask. I wouldn’t answer.”

“I suppose not. In that situation…my next action would be to ask who you are.”

“And that, I would answer.”

“Who are you, then?”

“The name is Sloan, Chairman Koval,” the man replied.

“Sloan?”

The man nodded. “Sloan.”

Koval walked over to the desk, looking down at the man, staring at him without words.

The man—Sloan—stared back at him, showing no fear…no sign of intimidation whatsoever. Koval admired that, as he admired the man’s audacity in somehow entering the premises without detection…and in choosing to sit in Koval’s own chair. Nonetheless…

“Mr. Sloan,” Koval finally said, “I would assume that your appearance involves…important matters of serious concern.”

Sloan nodded. “Correct.”

“Therefore…I would also assume that propriety demands that you relocate yourself to another seat.”

Koval leaned forward. “I also demand it.”

Sloan replied with a silent chuckle, which to Koval’s sensitive hearing would signify contemptuous amusement. But he then rose to his feet, in a pace indicating he was in no hurry…and walked over to a seat on the opposite side of the desk, where he sat, returning to his former posture.

Koval took his own seat, and leaned back, pressing his fingertips together in a posture which may have been a mirror image of Sloan’s. Whether it was or not…it was of little concern to him.

“Well, then, Mr. Sloan,” he said, “What brings you here, to Romulus?”

“First, let me ask a question, to help answer yours,” Sloan replied. “Are you aware of what I am?”

“A human.”

“Beyond that, of course.”

“Of course. Assuming you are referring to your occupation…I would assume you are an agent of Starfleet Intelligence?”

“Close…but no cigar, as we humans say.”

Koval resolved to show no frustration at the man’s evasiveness. “What, then?”

“Come now, Chairman—I’m sure you are aware of our existence. You’ve dealt with us before, haven’t you?”

“Have I?”

Sloan waved to the desk table…and Koval noticed for the first time that there was a standard Federation Starfleet padd in front of him. Curious, the chairman picked it up, looking at the face of the man on the screen.

It was another human—but his hair was of a more red shade. He was dressed in the uniform of a Starfleet officer, with the rank of commander.

And Koval recognized the man right away. Not that he would reveal that to this man sitting across from him.

He looked up. “Who is he?”

“Cortin Zweller.”

“Oh?”

“He conducted an exchange between the Tal Shiar…and our organization. I seem to recall…it involved your handing over a list of your agents in Federation space, in exchange for our organization ensuring that the Chialos system would join the Romulan Empire.”

The man paused for a moment, as if to let the information settle, and asked, “Now, do you recall?”

Koval set the padd down as if it were irrelevant to him.

“What if I did?”

“If you did…you would know what I am. But—I’ll save you the trouble of continuing this little game which would get us nowhere. I am part of the organization of Section 31. As you are no doubt aware…we are effectively the Federation’s counterpart to your Tal Shiar—or to the Cardassians’ Obsidian Order.”

“The obvious difference being, of course…that your organization cloaks its own existence.”

Sloan smiled. “Now, you’re catching on. As to why I’m here…let me ask you another question, Chairman.”

“Yes?”

Sloan leaned forward. “How long has it been since a Romulan of your position has been denied a position on the Continuing Committee?”

Show no reaction
. “What is the purpose of your question?”

“Oh, just…if it’s not too bold of me to notice, I…understand you’ve been, for lack of a better word—snubbed. Disregarded by the Committee…by the Praetor himself…and for what? They don’t trust you? Oh, come now—when has that ever stopped the Tal Shiar?”

“What is the purpose of your question?” Koval asked again.

Sloan stared at him for a moment, and asked, “You know what your problem is, Koval?”

Koval decided to ignore the man’s use of given names. “Enlighten me.”

Sloan leaned back again. “You assume too much—about yourself.”

“Oh?”

“You think—as so many others in your position of power tend to think—that you’re the master of your personal universe.”

“What do you mean?”

“You think you are—or should be—the one in control over your position…your fate…your life….”

“Are you threatening me, Mr. Sloan?”

“Oh, not at all, Chairman. I wouldn’t…dream of threatening a man so…comfortably seated in his own position.”

“Then what is your intent?”

“My point, Chairman, is simply this: no one is the master of their universe—personal, or otherwise. Regardless of how high your position is…you will always have to rely on someone for that kind of power. In fact…” he smiled again, “I would say that the higher one’s position…the more dependent one becomes—on people, on circumstances…or in this case, on fate.”

He stopped there, the smile still on his face. His eyes seemed to be watching Koval…as if judging his reaction.

Koval met his gaze, and asked, “Fate, Mr. Sloan?”

“That’s right.”

“I assume, Mr. Sloan…that you are referring to yourself.”

Sloan spread out his hands. “Perhaps I am. Let me put it this way, Koval…the moment you cease to think of yourself as the master of your universe—the moment you finally begin to understand the scope of your dependence…is the moment the power you imagined yourself to have…becomes real.”

“Oh?”

“Once you truly understand the nature of dependence—how powerful it really is…that’s when you can use it, to your advantage.”

Koval leaned forward, slightly. “A most…interesting point, Mr. Sloan.”

“It’ll become even more interesting, Chairman, when I prove it to you—with the help of our…mutual friend.” Sloan waved a hand in the direction of the padd, and the face of the red-haired human.

“Zweller?”

“Zweller.”

“What of him?”

Sloan’s smile turned bitter, as he replied, “He put himself into a situation where…he became a liability to the Bureau, and the Federation.” He shrugged. “He became, to be honest…an employee we had to let go.”

Koval raised an eyebrow at this. “As it seems to be relevant, at present…what was his crime?”

“Crime? No, it wasn’t a crime, per se. Suffice it to say we simply removed him from any opportunities to…exercise his incompetence.”

“Incompetence?”

Sloan leaned forward, growing serious. “You remember the Chialos system, of course—and the deal?”

“You informed me, yourself, a short time ago.”

“So I did. And to be blunt…that was a bad deal. For the Bureau, I mean.”

Surprising…
“Indeed?”

“Oh, we certainly got…‘bailed out’, by one Jean-Luc Picard, and his ilk, but…the truth is, Koval, Mr. Zweller hastily agreed to a deal which gave us far less than it would have given you—had Picard not interfered.”

“And yet Picard did interfere. Unless, of course…you are simply attributing such to good fortune.”

“No, as a matter of fact, I’m not. The only reason Picard—and an admiral lady friend who’s long since proven herself to be…irrelevant—the only reason they kept you from your reward…was because they stumbled upon our existence. Because someone—” Sloan tapped the padd with Zweller’s image, with his forefinger, “—had assumed himself to be the master of his own universe. He thought he knew more than he did. And so…his assignment was compromised—in more ways than one.”

“I see,” Koval replied. “However…I find it most interesting that he would confess to such a mistake—assuming his superiors would take it as you do.”

“I was his superior, Chairman. And he didn’t confess. But do you really think I wouldn’t have looked at all that happened concerning Chialos…or put two and two together?”

“I would imagine not.”

“Of course not. And if you knew Zweller…you’d know he isn’t the kind of man to admit to a mistake like that—because, like I said…he considered himself the master of his universe. And if you know that…you’d also know that there was no chance he was going to let himself learn from that mistake…because, like I said, he wouldn’t admit to himself that it was his mistake. And do you really think I’m going to allow that kind of liability to remain out in the field?”

“I see. Quite an interesting tale, Mr. Sloan.”

“Then you understand my point.”

“I suppose. I believe, as your race would say, ‘Pride goes before destruction…’.”

Sloan nodded. “‘…a haughty spirit, before the fall.’ Which brings us back to you. That incident damaged the Bureau, to be sure—albeit temporarily—but from what we’ve seen, it’s damaged you even more…because you didn’t get what you wanted.”

“Go on.”

“Because you, as far as the Praetor was concerned, failed…it prolonged your ascension to the Committee even more…am I correct?”

Koval resolved not to satisfy him. “Go on.”

“Let me ask you this, Chairman…what are your chances of gaining that position now…without outside help?”

Koval paused, staring at him. Sloan met his gaze, his face unreadable.

At last, Koval spoke. “What do you propose?”

Sloan’s smile returned. “An alliance, Chairman—of sorts. It will take time, but…well, I have some contacts here, on Romulus—some in the Tal Shiar, in fact. They inform me that the greatest obstacle to your desired position is…being considered to become the Romulan representative for the Alliance fleet at Deep Space Nine.”

“You propose an assassination?”

“Don’t be ridiculous, Chairman—nothing that overt. I’m just saying that puts her out of the way, for a while. In the meantime…the Bureau can arrange things, so that it’ll be easier for you to attain that position—against what objections she might have.”

Koval leaned back in his seat. “Mr. Sloan…your proposal is most intriguing. However…what motive would I have to agree to your proposal—to, as you would put it…place my ‘fate’ in your hands?”

Sloan’s smile grew, as he leaned back in turn. “Two things, Chairman. First…you wouldn’t have tried to deal with us before, had you not been aware of our standards of efficiency. In fact, I’d wager you were amazed at what Zweller was allowing you to get away with.”

“Perhaps. And the second?”

Sloan steepled his fingers. “Let me put it this way…you didn’t really expect us to believe that Vice Admiral Fujisaki died of food poisoning—did you?”

Show no reaction.
“I beg your pardon?”

“The deputy chief of Starfleet Intelligence—dying of something so…trivial? On Earth, mind you.” Sloan chuckled. “Very clever, Chairman, I’ll give you that.”

No…reaction
…. “I am unsure whether to be amused or honored, Mr. Sloan—that you would attribute such an occurrence to my efforts.”

“Of course. Let me add, though…it wasn’t too hard to narrow down the list of suspects—for the Bureau, anyway—once we knew what to look for.”

Koval said nothing.

Sloan leaned forward once again. “Now, Chairman…if you truly want that position on the Committee—and if you’re willing to accept that we may be your only chance to achieve it—you’re going to have to be prepared…to go all the way.”

“All the way…?”

Sloan nodded. “Because if you think we’re going to let you make a mockery of the Bureau a second time…you’d better think again. If you try—we will expose your involvement in Fujisaki’s death. Then, you can bid any hopes of achieving your rightful place in the Empire a fond farewell. Do you understand?”

Koval’s fight to show no reaction somehow became more difficult. If this man really did have the evidence he claimed…than Koval would have no choice but to comply.

How humiliating. The chairman of the Tal Shiar, submitting to
blackmail? This is unheard of! It is almost insult added to injury, this promise of “reward”. Even were he to succeed, and were I to attain the seat I so desired—the threat would still exist…and always would exist.

But on the other hand, were Sloan deceiving him about the “proof”…the insult would be far greater.

The audacity with which he came—as if he truly
did hold an advantage over me, of such a magnitude…but then, perhaps such was merely to sell the deception. What would it mean?

Whatever his decision may be…it would bring with it, a significant risk. The question was…which risk would be greater?

He met Sloan’s gaze…and it was in that moment—when he saw the look of satisfaction in the man’s eyes, that the chairman realized that, by his hesitation alone—whether Sloan had possessed proof beforehand or not—Koval had given him what confirmation he needed.

But if he has no proof…he could not use my reaction alone.


And yet…

Sloan rose to his feet, nodding. “I understand, Chairman. It’s quite possible that, were I in your place…I might have made the same decision. I don’t blame you. As I said…it’s very difficult to admit that you’re not the one in control.”

Such audacity…but this is as if he
is deceiving me.

However…
regardless of my decision, he would be victorious over me, were he in possession of such evidence. Thus, he simply could not care, either way…hence, his rampant self-confidence.

Sloan shrugged, and said “Take care, Chairman.”

You must make a decision. Let him leave—or shoot him, whichever you prefer—and leave yourself to fortune. Or submit to whatever demands he will make—and reap the benefits…and the curse.


Sloan turned to go, heading for the door—

“Mr. Sloan.”

Sloan stopped. He turned to Koval, his face expressionless. “Chairman?”

Koval rose from his seat, meeting the gaze of the human clad in black. They stared at one another, for what seemed like an eternity. Koval felt his hand hovering near his holstered disruptor. It would be so simple…Sloan was so clearly unarmed—helpless.

The human was composed…relaxed, as if the disruptor meant nothing to him. The look on his face was one of serene acceptance—acceptance of whatever decision Koval would make.

It would have been far easier, had Sloan been tense…afraid.
Koval’s eyes scanned the human for a moment longer. And then…he relaxed his arms, and sat down. When he opened his mouth to respond, the words that he spoke…were words that he had never, in his darkest nightmares, allowed himself to imagine uttering.

“What do you want from me?”
__________________
"The saying implies but does not name the effective agency of its supposed utopia.... 'Needs and abilities' are, of course, subjective. So the operative statement may be reduced to 'the State shall take, the State shall give'."
--David Mamet
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