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Old May 5 2013, 09:29 PM   #73
Rear Admiral
Re: Dark Territory: Shadow Puppets (Revised)

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Imperial Romulan Warbird Ra’kholh

Commander Volok sat quietly among the destruction he had caused. He wore a blood green sleeveless robe, the mourning tattoos etched along the length of his arms. Cross-legged, his hands resting on his lap, he tried to concentrate on the single candle burning on the makeshift table he had reconstructed. The room was dimly lit and heavy with shadows.

Despite the vast differences between the Romulans and Vulcans, both peoples still found value in meditation.

However no peace came to him this night. He was so close to achieving everything that he had worked for over the last several years: a new position of authority and respect among his peers and revenge against Samson Glover and the Federation.

But he couldn’t uncoil the knot of fear that had coiled in his stomach. Things were going too well and that made him suspicious.

Plus Centurion Gakket had not reported in when he was last scheduled to, and Patrin was cautious to contact the man. He didn’t know if Velen had someone tapped into the ship’s communications.

He tried to tell himself that it was nothing, that Gakket was wisely avoiding radio silence until he returned to the cosmopolis with the prisoners and the Iconian device. Volok was certain that the man would discover the true nature of the weapon Glover was carrying, and the old Tal Arcani operative was just as equally certain that the depth of the discovery would overwhelm the self-important subordinate, giving him delusions of grandeur that Patrin would be pleased to dispel.

His ears twitched right before the door chime trilled. “Enter,” he said. He maintained sitting with his back to the door. There was a sharp gasp behind him.

“Commander,” the young woman ventured. Volok’s features scrounged up in displeasure. He blew out the candle.

“Lieutenant Vahen,” he replied. “I did not call for you.”

“I know…sir, but I thought…” the woman let the statement dropped.

“You thought to interrupt my meditation,” he said before standing up. He ignored the creaking of his joints. He turned to glare at the woman.

“That was not my intention sir,” she said hurriedly. She chanced quick looks around at the chaotic condition of the room. To her credit she had hidden most of her fears well.

He snorted, “Too much like your mother,” he shook his head, a glim of wistfulness and disappointment filled his eyes, “She died well against the Klingons,” he nodded with grim satisfaction. “And you do her memory no honor by cavorting with our enemies.”

“Grandfather,” the woman heatedly began, but stopped herself and cooled considerably at his glare. “Commander,” Vahen corrected herself. The woman looked down, “Lt. Jonda was a comrade-in-arms. Both of us shed blood at the Battle of Minos Korva. Both Romulan and Federation wounded convalesced together.”

“I am aware of that,” Volok replied, “But the war is over.”

“Is it?” The woman pondered, finding the courage to look up at him again. He smiled. The woman did favor her mother, who had resembled his wife. Gracefully tapered ears, small pert nose, green-blushed cheeks, thin lips. Patrin had never loved Nimara, but he had done his duty, as was befitting his station.

He had married and he had produced children, but he had never been able to love them as he should. Volok had provided for them, and for a time he had brought them wealth and glory. At one time he had thought that enough. He had hoped that the accolades could fill the void in his heart for them, that it would provide them some sustenance.

But ultimately he failed them in that as well. When the Tal Arcani was dismantled, his wealth and lands had been seized, and his family name had been besmirched.

Nimara had divorced him to stanch the damage and many of his children and grandchildren had disowned him. Patrin’s only consolation had been that his marginal favorite, his eldest daughter Turi had died years before, defending the empire against Klingon savages.

And now Turi’s daughter stood in his quarters. Arrue had never forsaken him, and yet he often treated her like worse than his enemies. Granted enemies were supposed to be lulled into a false sense of security and non-threatening family members didn’t deserve such consideration.

Still, Arrue’s loyalty had to account for something, did it not? “Arrue,” he said, softening his voice and his bearing. “You must be cautious in how you are perceived. There are always eyes looking at you, observing you to see if there are any weaknesses they can exploit to get to me.”

“I am aware of that Commander,” Vahen said tightly.

“Also,” Volok said, “You must be cautious around these Starfleet officers. They are our enemies. They have already worked to remove us from our rightful control of Cardassian territories and they will not rest until we are removed from Benzar as well and confined behind their Neutral Zone.” The woman nodded, but Patrin could see by the dull glaze forming over her eyes that she had grown tired of this oft-repeated admonition.

Volok sighed, “Be more circumspect if ever you encounter this Jonda again,” he warned. “This whole situation on Benzar might end badly and we must appear loyal to the Star Empire without fault.”

“Sir,” Vahen asked, her eyes going wide, “Are we going to war with the Federation?”

“That is up to the Federation to decide,” Volok replied, “It is not war we seek, but merely our rightful place in this universe.”

“Which includes Federation territory?” Arrue was skeptical.

“We liberated the Benzites,” Volok’s response was testy, “And we are their guests.”

“Our rather we are on Benzar at the behest of the new planetary leaders, who came to their positions once many of their predecessors met untimely ends.”

“War is hell,” Volok nodded sagely.

“Of course it is Commander,” the engineer added, her tone belying her words. Perhaps there could be a future for Arrue in the Tal Diann after all, Volok surmised. She wasn’t as wide-eyed as he had been led to believe.

“You will share dinner hour with me,” He announced. The woman’s eyes brightened and her ears perked up at the news. It was the first dinner invitation he had offered to her since had Ra’kholh reassigned as his flagship.

Deep down he had known that the reasons he had done so was to be closer to Arrue, and Patrin was doubtlessly sure that the sharp young woman also figured that out. But that desire had never punctured into his conscious thought process until now.

“I am honored Commander,” Vahen bowed.

“Grandfather,” he acceded, with a curt, respectful head nod. “I think you have earned the right to call me such.”
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