Thanks, as always. Yeah I like how both see how much trouble Santiago is probably in, but sometimes desperate situations call for desperate measures. And I did want to contrast-or maybe not contrast-the Federation political leaders' take on the Benzar situation to the Continuing Committee. I see both angling for position. We'll see who wins.
This revised story is turning into a rewritten one it seems. But I'm just realizing how much I could've done or should've done with the first version.
Imperial Romulan Warbird Ra’kholh
En Route to Dominion War Memorial
Procurator Harmost placed his hands against the curving port window, his breath clouding the window. “Even though I’m looking at it with my own eyes, I can’t believe it,” he said, mystified, as he turned to look at the ship’s commander with gray eyes hard as rocks. The olive-skinned, smooth-paned man stroked his pointy graying beard. The columns of medals running across the torso of the man’s close-fitting new-style black and silver uniform, clinked slightly from the gesture. “And I can’t believe I went along with it.” He grinned.
Patrin Volok shrugged, his lips curling into a small smile. “You are still in amazement, and you are the one who got this authorized from Romulus, just imagine what the Federation officials will think.” He got up from his chair and strode over to where the squat, swarthy Romulan stood. Volok loomed over the man, but Harmost didn’t seem bothered in the least by the height difference.
Volok glanced out the window at the other three Norexan-class warbirds, the best warships in the Imperial Fleet, escorting the Dominion battle cruiser. Volok had convinced his old ally Harmost to back him on this, and though the man had had doubts, he had supported him.
And now a Dominion warship would be returning to the Benzar system for the first time since they had been repelled by Romulan forces. The Mandukar, Sseikea, and Rihanh all shared Ra’kholh’s sleek, dark brown, feathered plating. With fixed-wings flaring out and the bird-shaped primary hull sloping down like an actual bird-of-prey, the Norexans looked as lethal as their weapons complements proved. Their predatory appearance was likely to wreak psychological havoc with any enemy, and Volok hoped their appearance at the Benzite border had let the Dominion know just how unbowed the Star Empire remained.
Harmost, and then their superiors in Ki Baratan, had come around to Volok’s thinking on the matter, as he suspected. “The Vorta on that ship will see how strong the Empire remains and that will make them think twice about warring against us again, or even attempting to use their Changelings to subvert our government.”
There had been scant evidence of Changeling infiltration in the higher levels of the Romulan government, at least not to the degree that the Founders had been able to replace the Klingon general Martok, one of the Chancellor’s chief advisors. The highest imposter uncovered had been Tal Shiar Colonel Lovok, and he had led the Tal Shiar to its most embarrassing debacle ever.
To that Volok would’ve raised a glass of Kali-fal. He had spent the last several years imprisoned by the Tal Shiar, the victim of a brutal bureaucratic rivalry.
Once he had been the head of the Tal Arcani, Romulan military intelligence. He had built the organization up to rival the Tal Shiar, and it was something the veruuls could not abide.
So they had plotted against him, engineering his downfall and absorbing his bureau into the auspices of the Tal Shiar.
Despite the destructiveness of the war he was thankful for it. Volok would’ve never seen daylight again if his services had not been needed. Due to the damage wreaked by the Lovok impersonator, the military had petitioned the Senate to create a new military intelligence unit, the Tal Diann, once the war had started.
Stretched thin, and preoccupied as it were with the war effort, the Tal Shiar had not been able to stop them. Further, Volok wondered if its current chairman, Koval, simply didn’t harbor the enmity towards him that Chairwoman Helanor had.
Once released, Volok had worked with then General Harmost to make the Tal Diann an effective organization. The biggest feather they had plucked had been securing the Benzar System. For his efforts, Harmost had been made procurator, the military governor of the system.
For his loyalty, Volok had been made Harmost’s aide-de-camp. “You know it isn’t the Dominion I’m worried about,” the procurator admitted. “Since the war they have largely stayed within the Gamma Quadrant, massaging their wounded egos.”
“I know it is Starfleet that concerns you,” Volok said, and the military governor nodded. “But bringing the Dominion to this ceremony will certainly rile Federation officials present and remind the Benzites who liberated them, and who did not,” the commander punctuated the comments with a chuckle.
“Yes,” Harmost joined in the laughter, “and when they see the Dominion vessels escorted by our finest warships it will remind them who still defends them. A brilliant bit of stagecraft,” the man said. He smiled morphed into a glum expression. “It is only unfortunate that I won’t be here to see the plebiscite.”
“I know,” Volok clamped the man on his shoulders. “But Ki Baratan doesn’t think having a military governor roosting above Benzar from Merria space station is a good image to project.”
“Be careful with my replacement,” Harmost leaned forward, his medals clinking again. Though Volok routinely swept his ship for listening devices, one could never been too careful or cautious. Harmost lowered his voice, “Livana Velen is no mere civil servant,” he warned.
“She’s Tal Shiar?” Volok surmised, and not surprised when Harmost gave an affirming nod. Volok’s jaw twitched with anger. “They have to have everything, don’t they?” He asked, not hiding his disgust. He glared out at the Sseikea, which bore Velen, the new liaison to the Benzite provisional authority. Volok guessed it would be bad form to order his weapons officer to blast the warbird into space dust.
Harmost nodded, “Perhaps it is a good thing I am returning to Romulus,” he reasoned. “The Tal Diann will need a strong advocate there if it is to survive.”
“I agree,” Volok said, clamping the man’s shoulder again.
“And you will need to remain here, keeping an eye on the Tal Shiar,” the procurator said. “We’re not going to give up this prize travit.”
“I won’t let the Tal Shiar get the best of me again,” Volok seethed.
“A promise I intend to hold you to,” Harmost declared. “If you can’t outmaneuver the Tal Shiar then what good are you to me or the Tal Diann,” the procurator said, with customary bluntness. It was an unusual trait for a man of his station and Volok often wondered how the man had staved off execution or permanent exile for so long while still employing it.
“All the information I have on Velen will be waiting in your quarters,” Harmost added. “I suggest you peruse it before we arrive at the memorial.”
Volok was not a man who liked taking orders, at this stage of his life and career, but he knew good advice when he heard it. He wanted to be as well versed in Velen’s history as he was in that of Captain North and the Starship Rushmore’s other senior officers. It made verbal combat so much more satisfying when he held all the cards and knew which buttons to push.
Further, he needed some privacy to check on other matters, ones that Harmost knew nothing about, and would likely floor him as it would the Senate and the praetor once they came to fruition. While Harmost was preparing to enjoin a battle with the Tal Shiar, Volok was already beyond them, or soon would be.
He longed to take a step onto a larger stage, while also tying up loose ends and avenging his fallen love Turi. Volok had renamed this vessel Ra’kholh, “avenger”, to honor and remind himself of that goal. Soon he would be able to do all in one fell swoop and in the process elevate the Star Empire to heights often dreamed of but seldom realized.
But first…he had to play the role expected of him, to engage in some verbal sparring, some confounding mind games with enemies foreign and domestic.
“As always, your words burst with wisdom,” He said, drawing a cynical laugh from Harmost. Volok gave a short, dignified bow. “I shall devour the information like a roasted rack of hlai.”
And then I shall devour my enemies, Volok added in thought.