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Old January 15 2013, 02:08 AM   #16
Rear Admiral
Re: Dark Territory: Shadow Puppets (Revised)

Gibraltar wrote: View Post
This was an intriguing look into the power structure of the Romulan government, and the machinations they're willing to employ in order to exploit this potential advantage.

Unfortunately for them, Starfleet Intelligence and Section 31 are willing to play just as dirty.

Great stuff!

I wanted to take some time to flesh out what the Romulans were thinking, to help lay out the stakes better, at least for me as I'm writing the story.
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Old January 16 2013, 01:20 AM   #17
Rear Admiral
Re: Dark Territory: Shadow Puppets (Revised)

************************************************** *************

Astral Eddy
Cargo Bay

Captain Ronzek loomed over the third stasis tube, glaring down at the insensate Bolian within it through its transparent covering. Despite heavy intoxication as well as the sedative he had laced the alcohol with, Magen had still been conscious.

And she had put up enough fight to give Ronzek and his men a few bruises. He shook his head, both amazed at Bolian physiology while also chastising himself for not knowing that beforehand.

When they entered the room, the woman had been clutching the empty bottle, which she promptly flung at Dorq, knocking the unprepared Chalnoth to the ground the second the heavy bottle connected with a loud thunk against his temple. Surprisingly the bottle didn’t shatter against his duranium-thick skull.

That had been the Bolian’s best move. Once on guard, Ronzek and his men wore her down and then the captain cuffed the back of her head, being careful not to kill her. It was not what some of the men wanted after she had wounded their pride, but they weren’t paying for her or the others.

Even unconscious, the woman had a determined look on her face, as if she were struggling in her dreams. He pondered who she and the other two men really were. No one went through this much trouble, or spent this much coin, on simple businessmen.

Ronzek entertained asking the woman he would hand them off to for more information, but quickly disabused himself of the idea. He wasn’t getting paid to ask questions, he was getting paid to make a delivery.

And once that was done, he had other deliveries to make. He glanced at the room full of similar tubes, each with a body resting inside. Unfortunately for Gabler and company, the Astral Eddy had been such a cheap ride not merely because it was meant to be their last, but also because Ronzek had another deal to deliver living beings, no questions asked.

So he didn’t have time to ask questions about Gabler even if he wanted to. Time always was, and always would remain, money. And Ronzek had precious little of either.
************************************************** **************
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Old January 19 2013, 11:02 PM   #18
Rear Admiral
Re: Dark Territory: Shadow Puppets (Revised)

************************************************** **************

The Great Comet
Merria Cosmopolis

High Commissioner Selene McCall polished off her Red Torian, shifted the jutting shoulder pads of her burnt orange blouse and slid off the bar stool. Plopping down a sizable tip to the pleasant Bolian barkeep, McCall turned toward the exit.

Selene knew that she should’ve called her superiors as soon as Sterqil waddled away. She was damn certain that he had already woken up his betters on Romulus. But she hadn’t made it this far in her career by being rash or acting on emotion, despite her fire breathing reputation.

The commissioner had needed time to think, to figure out how best to spin her faux pas so that it not only didn’t cost her job, but also could arm the President with a credible explanation for her comments.

She knew that her delay would draw criticism, some harsh, but she was going to get pilloried anyway. At least now she felt better about going into the arena.

Head held high, she made sure a confident expression was on her face as she entered the corridor. She knew Romulan eyes were everywhere, and they doubtlessly were watching her body language, her facial tics to see if there were any more vulnerabilities they could make hay of.

Selene didn’t plan to give the pointy-eared bastards the satisfaction. So wrapped up in her own confidence, she bumped into a passing Benzite. “Excuse you,” she snapped, grimacing at the harsh tone. The last thing she needed was to look unkind to some random Benzite, when she was already on shaky ground.

The younger woman quickly glanced around, before apologizing. They both recognized each other at roughly the same time. “Commissioner Morah,” McCall said contritely, coating her voice with an apologetic tone, “My apologies,” she added with a quick nod.

“No,” Morah’s smile was nervous but forgiving. “I can understand why you might be a bit…short-tempered,” the Benzite said after pausing to search for an appropriate term. It wasn’t one Selene would use, but she decided not to press the issue. “Things didn’t go well in council chambers today.”

That’s an understatement, McCall thought, but sagely kept that to herself. “Yes, it wasn’t the outcome I had hoped for, but I can safely say that the Federation stands ready to assist the people of Benzar at this crucial time.”

Morah’s smiled widened, “Thank you,” she said, grasping Selene’s forearm and squeezing it tightly. “Some of us have not forgotten the benefits of Federation membership, and those that have might be surprised once the final vote tallies have been counted.”

Selene smiled, heartened by the woman’s reply, even though she was still smoldering over Morah’s silence during the chamber debate. However, she had been in galactic politics long enough to know that sometimes discretion truly was the better part of valor. “I will keep that in mind,” McCall replied, pumping the woman’s forearm in a similar manner.

Morah broke the hold, glancing quickly around again her before she gave McCall one last short, anxious smile, “Have a safe journey back to Earth, I know that it is beautiful there this time of year.”

Actually it’s pleasant every time of year now thanks to the weather control system, Selene thought, but she kept that idea to herself too. “I hope to see you again Commissioner Morah,” she said instead. “Perhaps as Benzar’s next Federation representative,” Selene couldn’t help but add, hoping that that possible carrot might compel her to be more vocal in defense of the Federation.

“You are quite relentless,” Morah replied, slowly shaking her hairless head in what Selene hoped was admiration.

“I didn’t get to where I am without being so,” McCall answered without artifice. Her Benzite counterpart nodded with understanding.

“I shall keep that in mind if we ever meet again,” she said, bowing once more before she backed away and merged into the sea of bodies ambling about, looking for some distraction. Selene pondered the woman and her odd behavior. Clearly she had been distracted, and obviously in a hurry, the commissioner surmised. Yet she had stopped to engage her in a bit of polite conversation, but just enough to mollify Selene in case she took offense to a quick hello and goodbye. She didn’t know where Morah was heading at just this instance, but if the woman played her cards right, she could very well be an ambassador or serve on the Federation Council.

Speculating on the other woman’s rise inevitably brought Selene back to her own precarious future. She eyed the inviting entrance to The Great Comet. Another drink was a tantalizing option….

But she got over it.

McCall hunched her shoulders, accepting that her ‘fun’ had just ended, and it was time to face the music.
************************************************** ************

Monet Room
Palais de la Concorde

“So, what are we to make of all this?” President Martin Santiago stifled a yawn. Though it was the middle of the day, the man had just returned this morning from a week-long campaign swing of the Rigel System. Before he had swept all of the Rigel planets, and now he was running neck-and-neck with retired Admiral Satie.

Just his showing up there had been perceived as a growing sign of his weakness, of “Santiago fatigue” as some smarmy Federation News Service pundit had termed it. It had caught on and bedeviled Martin more than he cared to admit.

He just wished sometimes that he could thunder at all of the critics and naysayers, to remind them that if not for him a shapeshifter or Gul Broca might be lording over the Palais.

Of course he couldn’t say that, it would be seen as unseemly, as politicizing a great tragedy, Martin knew. But he still couldn’t deny his temptation to set the complete record straight. And of course he could barely cool his thrusters before another contretemps demanded his immediate attention.

“We are waiting to hear from High Commissioner McCall,” Fleet Admiral Bullock said, a deep scowl on his square-jawed face. “It is highly unusual that she hasn’t contacted us yet.”

“Is it possible that something has happened to her?” Defense Secretary Gravisca grumbled. The Tellarite seemed almost eager for an affirmative response, too eager. Martin rubbed his tired, red eyes. He was through with war and he wished that everyone else felt the same. He didn’t upbraid the woman though. Without her, he knew that the war would likely have been lost. Gravisca had been one of the most influential voices pushing him to build up Federation forces in the event that a peaceful solution could not be found with the Dominion.

Now that the war was over, Santiago wondered if Gravisca was amendable to peacetime. Despite her loyal service, she was on his list to be replaced once he had secured a second term.

“Well, we do know that the Romulans have captured and brainwashed Starfleet officers before,” Security Advisor Hetal’laal’ak said, as dour as ever. “It is not outside the realm of possibility.”

“But it doesn’t make much sense,” countered Chief Fondok, the Starfleet Intelligence honcho. The wiry Saurian often seemed to delight in pushing his Ariolo counterpart’s multiple buttons. “The Romulans have no need to go to such drastic measures, at this point, especially over something so trivial. Why would they roil galactic opinion against them? And let’s be honest here, galactic opinion, even among many of our citizenry are on their side in this matter.” The Security Advisor merely looked down on the smaller man, with a baleful yellow gaze.

“Which doesn’t make much sense to me at all,” Deputy President Urrexta chimed in. The Coridanite woman was unmasked within the private office, her complexion a fulsome gray. “I don’t see how our own citizens could agree with the Benzite’s seceding from the Federation,” she shook her head in bewilderment.

“Right now, I think people are tired, they’re scared, and resources are scarce,” Santiago said, “They are more concerned about their own planets, their own homes and families,” he added, his heart pinching at the memories of so many scarred people and planets he had seen on his campaign tour.

“Which is why that nutjob Satie is even still in this race,” Urrexta sniffed. “She’s playing to people’s fears, not their hopes.”

“And it is working,” Santiago said glumly. He had long ago decided to hold nothing back from his team, especially in the Monet Room, which had served as the war room where they had successfully conducted the conflict against the Dominion. In this space, Martin chose not to sugarcoat or spin anything. “I want this problem gone,” he stated, his weariness almost overtaking him. “So what McCall blew off some steam? I don’t get why the Continuing Committee called our ambassador to their chamber to demand an explanation.”

“Praetor Hiren is maneuvering,” Fondok surmised, “solidifying his hold over the empire at our expense. It could be nothing more than saber rattling.”

“Or it could be a lot more,” Hetal’laal’ak gravely intoned. Gravisca nodded in agreement. “Do any us really think that Hiren is going to let Benzar go? There’s too much at stake for him to do so. Losing Benzar could be fatal to him, literally. Even if the Benzites vote to remain in the Federation, the praetor will likely ignore it, and seize the planet and system by force.”

“Yes,” Gravisca couldn’t help butting in, “And all this false outrage about McCall’s comments will likely be his excuse to claim that it was us who subverted the will of the people, not the other way around.”

Martin sat back in his chair, mulling all of the comments. He sighed, “Damn it Gravisca,” shaking his head sadly, “I think you are on to something.” The president made a mental note to remove Gravisca from his chopping block.

“Before we crystallize the Secretary’s summations, I think we should wait to hear what Commissioner McCall says,” Admiral Bullock suggested. “I want to hear her take on things.”

“So do I,” Santiago said, his frustration mounting, “And she better have a damn good excuse why we heard all of this from T’Selda and not her.”
************************************************** *************

Last edited by DarKush; January 19 2013 at 11:45 PM.
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Old January 19 2013, 11:46 PM   #19
Rear Admiral
Re: Dark Territory: Shadow Puppets (Revised)

************************************************** **************

Presidential Office
Palais de la Concorde

As if Providence heard their pleas, High Commissioner McCall had contacted them before the meeting ended. Martin had allowed his team to ream her a little before he had called the meeting to an end.

Despite his anger, Santiago did think that McCall simply misspoke and that the Romulans were twisting her words out of proportion. He didn’t think her actions should result in dismissal. Though he was the only one from the meeting that felt so, with even Fondok and Hetal’laal’ak both agreeing that she should be fired.

Santiago had settled on a reprimand. He had to remind everyone that these were extremely stressful times, and mistakes were going to happen.

Settling into the large, straight-backed leather chair, the same one President Ra-ghoratreii had used, Martin tried to heed his own advice. Failing, he waved a hand over the companel inset into his desk. Tapping in a special code, a small holographic image appeared above the smooth surface of the desk after a few minutes.

Garth Logan, his Chief of Staff, smiled at him. “How was Rigel?” He asked. Very astute, the man’s smile was quickly replaced with a look of concern. “This isn’t about the campaign.”

Without preamble, Santiago recapped McCall’s diplomatic mishap. “I don’t think this is anything to be overly concerned about,” Logan replied, with practiced reassurance.

“You know damn well, I’m not concerned about her statement,” Martin smoldered. “I’m concerned that if that if your plan goes awry, it will give the Romulans all the ammunition they need to take Benzar by force.”

“Then you needn’t concern yourself,” Logan’s voice dripped certainty. “The plan is going well…according to plan. We’ll get Benzar back, without a Reman refugee problem. Plus, the controlled damage that will result will make the Benzites more reliant than ever on the Federation. It will be hard to rail against the people giving you food and electricity.”

Santiago’s stomach roiled, his guilt gnawing at him. “How can you be so blasé about this?” He thundered, using his anger to stanch his unease. “And how could I have signed off on this?”

“Because you are a realist,” Logan said, this time holding the unctuousness, “You always do what you have to do, what the Federation requires. That’s why I supported you for President. Some called me a traitor to my class,” he paused, to scoff, “for supporting a peaceful dove. But I knew that though you desired peace, you were no pacifist.”

Martin touched his bubbling stomach. What the man said was true. Though his enemies had charged that he was an appeaser; a man who wanted peace at any price, that truly had never been the case for him. His record had showed that, but who cared about a candidate’s record these days?

“You knew that the Benzites needed to be reminded of what their ‘liberators’ were truly all about, and that a planetary emergency would unmask their totalitarian bent,” Logan continued, “You were right to sign off on this, don’t lose sight of the goal.”

“We should at least bring the rest of the war council into this,” He said, referring to his unofficial name for the advisors he had just assembled.

Logan shook his head, “The less who know about this, the better,” he declared, “Plausible deniability.”

“I understand,” Santiago murmured. More loudly, he added, “How many lives do you estimate this will cost again?”

“Enough,” Logan replied, “enough to secure the peace.”

“God I hope so,” Martin said before cutting the link. He spent the next half-hour at his desk, his head in his hands, wondering how it had all gone so wrong.
************************************************** ******************
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Old January 20 2013, 05:46 AM   #20
Rear Admiral
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Location: US Pacific Northwest
Re: Dark Territory: Shadow Puppets (Revised)

Yeah, Santiago’s made a deal with the Devil here, and it’s going to cost a lot of lives.

Pity the Benzites, caught between the post-war Federation and Romulans…
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Old January 20 2013, 05:07 PM   #21
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Re: Dark Territory: Shadow Puppets (Revised)

Interesting juxtaposition between the Romulan and the Federation leaderships. They're perhaps not quite as different to each other after all.

And good Lord, Santiago has really taken the Federation down a dark path. I knew that Section 31 had their fingers all over this but the Commander-in-Chief himself? Good thing there's an election coming. Not sure if Satie would play this any better though.
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Old January 21 2013, 08:07 PM   #22
Rear Admiral
Re: Dark Territory: Shadow Puppets (Revised)


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
Observation Lounge
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.
************************************************** **************
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Old January 22 2013, 12:25 AM   #23
Rear Admiral
Re: Dark Territory: Shadow Puppets (Revised)

************************************************** *************

IRW Sseikea

Though the ship’s commander had graciously offered her the command chair, Livana Velen thought it best to conduct her conversation in the stateroom, away from observant eyes and ears.

Her Tal Shiar background it appeared was the worst kept secret in the Benzar system, but she wasn’t going to feed into the speculation by taking up the obsequious ship’s master on his offer.

“Liaison Velen,” the alabaster-hued female Vorta nodded in respect. “I am heartened that you give audience.” The woman’s holographic likeness was being projected by the holographic nodes in the bulkhead above. The photonic Vorta stood in front of the commander’s desk.

Livana nodded back in return. “Hereth,” she said after a moment, the lack of an honorific made the name come out awkward. “I will have you know that I am not the highest ranking member in this contingent. Procurator Harmost is the senior official.”

“I am aware,” Hereth’s smile was nervous. “I am also aware that the procurator is returning to Romulus while you are leaving it.”

“Yes,” Velen said slowly, not sure where the woman was going.

“You would have a better grasp of the political situation in Ki Baratan,” Hereth ventured. Velen looked at her stone faced. The Vorta’s smile widened.

“I assure you that I am not seeking any sort of damaging information,” the woman said, and now Livana’s guard was way up.

She narrowed her eyes, her face taking on a stern cast. “So what are you seeking?” Hereth’s complexion turned ashen as she realized the seriousness in Velen’s tone.

She hunched her slender shoulders and spread her hands. It was a very Terran gesture. For some reason, that made the woman a bit endearing. “I merely thought this would be an opportune time to gauge how the Senate might feel about opening trade relations with the Karemma Foundation.”

“Ah,” Livana breathed.

“You were a trade representative for several years, if I am not mistaken?” Hereth asked, a chagrinned expression wreathing her features.

Velen nodded. The woman had read up on her official bio. She was impressed, but still very wary. “I was, but I switched to civil administration.” She nodded, as if recalling memories. “I felt a change was in order.”

“I…can understand,” Hereth brightened. “Do you still keep abreast of trade discussions in the Senate?”

“Of course,” Velen said. She leaned forward. “I thought that the Karemma Foundation was not part of the Dominion.”

Hereth nodded in appreciation. “Very astute,” she granted. “We are closely allied and do receive a share of the profits on certain ventures.”

“And I’m assuming one of those would be whatever you wish to propose to the Senate?”

“Correct,” the Vorta smiled. “Before the…unpleasantness, the Karemma were engaged in a lucrative tulaberry trade with the Star Empire. We would like to restart that relationship.”

“I see,” Velen said, nodding in understanding.

“I can assure you that you anyone who helps us reestablish ties would be adequately compensated,” Hereth added.

“Are you referring to a bribe?” Livana snapped.

“Oh no, no,” Hereth held up her hands again. “Merely a…consultant’s fee.”

Velen relented. “I see,” she said, mulling it over. After a few seconds, “I’ll talk to my contacts on Romulus. You will have an answer before you return to the Dominion.”

“Thank you,” Hereth bowed before Velen cut the link. Livana sat alone in the dimness pondering the conversation, looking for all the angles, trying to explore all the things that weren’t said, or that were insinuated or implied. She also wondered how the deal might help her.

Once she explored the conversation thoroughly, she sent out an encrypted message. She waited several seconds before the holographic projector wavered back on. Chairman Koval sat behind his large, impenetrable desk. The lordly head of the Tal Shiar was dressed in a simple gray tunic, a stream of ancient Romulan script running down one side of its seam. The disease eating away at him had not stopped since last she saw him. One side of his face appeared palsied.

Velen sat up, not stopping herself from blinking in surprise. “Chairman Koval?” She was glad that at least she didn’t stammer. “I wasn’t expecting you.”

Koval gave her a half-smile. “I know you weren’t. What do you have to report?”

Livana relayed the conversation with the Vorta, Koval nodding along as she spoke. After she was finished, the chairman coldly intoned, “It could be an attempt for them to sneak Changelings into the Empire or to poison us with contaminated food.”

“Or it could be sir,” she slowly ventured, “an attempt to shore up a war torn economy.”

“Ours…or theirs,” Koval darkly teased.

“Our economy remains as strong as ever,” Velen piped up. Koval’s light laughter was like sprinkling glass.

“You were always good for the pat answer, the safe answer,” the chairman said, and Velen wasn’t sure if she detected admiration or nausea in his voice. Maybe it was a bit of both. “I will discuss this trade matter with the Commerce Ministry, after a thorough in-house review.”

“Sir, I promised a reply before the conclusion of this memorial ceremony,” Velen said, even though she didn’t want to.

“Now why would you do such a thing?” Koval’s eye drooped lower.

“Perhaps I was possessed by the spirit of cooperation embodied by this memorial,” Livana offered. The chairman’s laugh was deeper this time, throaty.

“You are most intriguing Livana Velen,” Koval said, “Tell them that we will consider their proposal. That is as good as they are going to get at the moment, and if they are serious about reestablishing trade ties that will suffice.”

“Of course,” Velen nodded.

“Now,” Koval said, shifting gears, “For the real reason I sent you to the Benzar System. Have you found new information about Volok yet?”

“No sir,” Velen said. “I have begun inquiries, but nothing as of yet. The soldiers under his command remain loyal to him.”

“It was a mistake allowing so many of the ships and crews that liberated Benzar to remain as part of the occupation force,” Koval shook his head in disbelief. “Granted, it was good for the optics, to ensure compliance from the Benzites, but at the same time it inculcated loyalty to Harmost and Volok.”

“The procurator will soon be returning to Romulus,” Velen offered, “and Volok will be isolated.”

“Yes, but isolated with sufficient soldiers and arms to make a mess of things if we try to dispatch him with force,” Koval pointed out. “Or a clumsy assassination.”

“But sir, you authorized his release from prison,” Livana said. Koval grunted.

“At the time I saw no need to keep a talented officer like Volok imprisoned while the empire was at war. Plus his sentencing was part of my predecessor’s vendetta. She had won, Volok’s Tal Arcani was dismantled, and he had lost his general’s rank and his freedom. He wasn’t a threat to me at the time I made my decision.”

“You are concerned about the Tal Diann?” Velen asked. Koval’s slack cheek twitched as he glared at her.

“Don’t presume,” he warned. “I hadn’t expected this Tal Diann to be able to pull off something like the liberation of Benzar. Its prestige is growing in the capital while our noble service is being blamed for every insurrection from Abraxas to Unroth. The latest rumor is that Praetor Hiren is going to appoint Harmost to the Continuing Committee.”

“Making them our equal?” Velen was stunned.

“No,” Koval shook his head, his voice dark, his eyes burning coals, “Never our equal.” Livana sat back and processed the information that her superior had just given her. The Tal Arcani and Tal Shiar had waged a long, at times, bloody feud, leaving only the empire the poorer for it.

Velen wondered, but would never voice, if the Tal Shiar chiefs made the disastrous decision to invade the Dominion in part to outdo the rival Tal Arcani. Subsequently, the Tal Arcani’s fall had been a palliative to take away some of the ache of losing so many ships and men, and prestige, in the Omarion Nebula.

She didn’t think the empire needed another dangerous, deadly distraction that would pit its best minds against each other while doing nothing to stop the real enemies within and without the empire.

“Your mission is vital,” Koval intoned. “I need you to continue trying to find out what Volok is up to and undermining him at every turn. I will handle Harmost.”

“It will be done Chairman,” Velen declared, though she had no clue in Erebus how she was going to pull it off.
************************************************** ************
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Old January 23 2013, 10:14 PM   #24
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Re: Dark Territory: Shadow Puppets (Revised)

It wouldn't be a Romulan story without some good old fashioned power plays. And nobody is more infamous for those than the Romulans and their various spy agencies. If they just focused half the energy they dedicate to trying to undermining each other on actually working together towards a common goal, the Romulans would be a real power to be reckoned with.

Of course they'd also no longer be Romulans.

Great stuff.
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Old January 30 2013, 04:08 PM   #25
Rear Admiral
Re: Dark Territory: Shadow Puppets (Revised)


Thanks so much for your comments. A long while ago I had toyed with using the Tal Diann, which I got off of Memory Beta. But I decided to create my own Tal Arcani. Since I got rid of them in "The Needs of the One", I decided to just go with the Tal Diann instead of resurrecting the Tal Arcani. I do like that you enjoy all the Romulan power plays. I do enjoy writing the Romulans and political stuff in general.

I would also like to thank new United Trek member Bry_Sinclair for the use of the Fenarians.

To CeJay and other readers,

Real world concerns might impede my ability to complete this story in a timely manner unfortunately. I do remain committed to it though because I'm curious to see how it will turn out. Thanks so much for your support so far.

************************************************** *************

USS Rushmore
Observation Lounge

“Our latest reports are that the Romulans will be here within twenty-four hours,” Captain Dylan North said, not holding back his annoyance.

“They sure are taking their sweet time getting here,” Chief Engineer Miranda Drake griped. Dylan shared her sentiment, but kept quiet. He didn’t want to darken the mood of his senior officers any more than he already had. “I don’t know if it’s the Romulan way of having a good time, floating in a graveyard, but it certainly isn’t mine.”

North winced at the woman’s bluntness as memories of the battle Rushmore had survived here flashed through his mind. It had been here, in this debris strewn patch of space where the Eleventh Fleet had made its last stand. And it had also been here where the Romulans began their successful push on to Benzar.

Unable to stop himself, the captain glanced out of the nearest port window. Large, artful tractor beams had captured the assembled wreckage and formed it into a large ball, the size of a planetoid. The debris, both Starfleet and Dominion, would hang there for perpetuity, a graceful monument to the horrors of war. Lessons, unfortunately, that were already being forgotten.

“It does seem a bit ostentatious,” Dr. Zammit said, flicking one of his long, pointed ears, one of his tics. “The Romulans really want to show who really is in charge of this system.” The Bzzit Khaht medic’s ears drooped in response to his own statement.

“Don’t give up the apparition yet Zam,” Commander Nandel entered the conversation. North smirked at his coffee brown Halanan first officer. The woman was always trying to put a positive spin on things, even if she did sometimes didn’t get Earth idioms exactly correct.

One of his few regrets was that once he had secured command of Rushmore, he fought to elevate her from the senior operations officer to the executive position. Her optimism had helped get him through the war, and it continued to help him now.

“The plebiscite could still turn out in the Federation’s favor,” Nandel pointed out.

“Not with the latest news out of Benzar,” groused Security Chief Torkill. The silver-eyed, scaly Fenarian flashed one row of his double set of sharp teeth. “The Romulans are making the most out of the diplomatic snafu, using that to turn the Benzites even further against the Federation.”

Dylan couldn’t help sighing. The fierce Fenarian was correct. From the Code 43 message that he had shared with his seniors, the Romulans were already angling to weave High Commissioner McCall’s rash, yet harmless, comment into a diplomatic nightmare. The captain didn’t think that much would come of the statement itself, yet the Romulans were going to wring all they could out of it, distracting the President and Federation Council, playing the aggrieved party, and demanding an apology.

And it would surely make the anti-Federation forces on Benzar even stronger in their opposition to a return to normalcy.

“President Santiago does have the right to declare martial law on Benzar,” Operations Officer Baran M’Brey pointed out. All eyes turned to the golden furred Alshain female. She took the increased attention with her customary aplomb. “If my reading of Federation law is correct, the President can declare martial law on a member state, a political subdivision of a member state, or in any political subdivision of the Federation. The president could just do that and be done with all this business.”

“That might be how they do things on Alshain Proper,” Science Officer Jonda teased, “but this is a democracy.” The lupine sniffed at the purple-haired Catullan and then rubbed at her muzzle as if she had picked up a bad scent. Jonda chuckled before finishing his thought. “If the president took such action it might boomerang against him. If anything it would show that we are not confident in our institutions and it would erode trust among the other member states.”

“Good points,” North nodded with approval.

“Yes, but I could’ve done without the history and law lessons,” Lt. Commander Drake said with a smile and a playful eye roll. “I almost dozed off, just like back at the Academy.” Everyone chuckled or lightened up, and the captain gave the raven-haired woman a warm glance. The levity was just what everyone needed.

“I was thinking that the Romulans’ late, and what appears to be grand arrival, could also have more to do than riling us,” Torkill surmised, as he tapped a blade-like fingernail against his chin. “This show of force could also be for the Dominion, to revel in their defeat.”

“And it would also remind the Benzites who ‘saved’ them, yet again,” Drake rolled her eyes, this time for real. The Fenarian nodded curtly, flashing a feral smile.

“You must be psionic,” Torkill said, “because I was about to say the same thing.”

“Or maybe you two are just starting to finish each other’s sentences,” Jonda said, a devilish twinkle in his eyes. North frowned. It was largely known across the ship that Torkill and Miranda were involved. However he didn’t need Jonda bringing that up such personal matters in a meeting. Unfazed, Drake laughed while Torkill hissed, a touch of red accenting his brown, grooved face.

The captain scowled at Jonda. The Catullan science officer gulped and then shrugged. “Sorry sir,” he sheepishly replied.

“I think it’s time to call the bell,” North replied, standing up with a loud grunt. He looked over his staff once more before dismissing them.
************************************************** *************
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Old January 30 2013, 05:43 PM   #26
Rear Admiral
Re: Dark Territory: Shadow Puppets (Revised)

************************************************** **************

Astral Eddy
Cargo Bay

Captain Ronzek covered his disquiet with an annoyed expression. Six verdant shafts of light appeared before him, resolving into the pallid, misshapen forms of Reman soldiers. Their skintight, iridescent uniforms played tricks with the ceiling lighting.

He placed his hand over the pistol hanging from his hip and his other men did likewise. They were all hard men, picked especially for the task, yet Ronzek could literally drink their fear. Ronzek had felt a twisting in his stomach as soon as the Romulan ship had decloaked. He hadn’t expected the Romulans. Granted he hadn’t known who or what to expect since his contact had been in shadow. He had been mildly relieved that a female had showed up in the command chair once communications had been established.

Ronzek had found his counterpart to be awfully young, even if she was commanding a decrepit ship, relatively speaking. However she had proved the right identification and Ronzek had lowered shields, ready for the Romulans to take their cargo away and give him his credits.

He hadn’t expected them to want to inspect the merchandise. But what choice did he have but to let them do so. He wanted, needed, the money, and despite the age of the D7 cruiser it could still slag his ship.

Interrupting Ronzek’s reverie, one especially tall Reman stepped forward, looking down on him with hooded, obsidian eyes. Ronzek held his ground.

“This is highly unusual,” he snapped, reminding himself of the gray-skinned creatures’ servile status. He thought it might be best to act like who he was, the master of this ship. “Why did your ship commander send you to carry the cargo back to his ship? The transporters could’ve done that easily.”

The Reman merely glanced at him. Ronzek gulped, glancing around at his men for reassurance. They were restive, their eyes shifting, their hands flexing over their weapons. The six Remans were a quiet, morose lot. From what the Corvallen could tell, none of them were carrying any weapons, and that made him more frightened.

“The stasis tubes,” the Reman’s voice sounded like rock being grounded into dust.

“There,” Ronzek pointed to three tubes that had been laid out like caskets in the center of the cargo bay. Perhaps it was the captain’s imagination but it felt like even the engines had stopped thrumming as the sextet made a slow walk over the tubes. He heard every footfall.

The creatures bent over the tubes while the lead one pulled a boxy device that been clipped to his belt. Ronzek stayed his men as the tree-like Reman turned away from them and waved the device over the tubes.

After a few seconds, he slowly tapped a command into the device. A static-filled voice issued forth. “Are they the ones we are looking for?” Ronzek frowned. Despite the interference he noted that the voice was male. What happened to the female?

“Yes,” came the monosyllabic reply. The room briefly filled with the whine of a trio of transporter beams and the tubes were whisked away. Ronzek’s stomach started unclenching, expecting more beams to take the Remans off his ship.

“Have fun,” the man aboard the Romulan vessel said. Ronzek looked at his men and they had similar confused expressions. Have fun? What was he talking about? The captain wondered, not liking it one bit.

“What is going on here?” Ronzek forced himself to step forward. “I want my payment.” The Reman loomed over him and simply smiled, with teeth as sharp as star points.
************************************************** ************

Imperial Romulan Cruiser Aidoann
Command Deck

Centurion Gakket had resumed his chair. Lt. Didia had resumed her post as soon as the Astral Eddy had lowered its shields. Gakket had been waiting to spring his little surprise on the Corvallen, to give him a true taste of Romulan craftiness.

The bridge filled with the sounds of the Remans tearing through Ronzek and his crew. There was clanging, shouting, a lot of shrieking and crying. He could tell that the pirates were trying to defend themselves, but it was to no avail. The centurion chuckled to himself. The rest of the Astral Eddy’s crew was completely unaware of the carnage happening in their cargo hold.

The Remans were good, efficient killers, about the only compliment that Gakket could give them wholeheartedly. Not one member of Ronzek’s greeting party had been able to alert their compatriots. Astral Eddy floated before them, a fat hlai primed for slaughter.

Yet the centurion had to rein in his desire to blow another ship to atoms. He had ordered N’Clado to find the Starfleet officers’ personal effects.

He smiled as Ronzek screamed, the information he sought spraying from his lips like a geyser. Afterwards, there was an abrupt, wet thunk, and then silence.

It would only be a matter of time now before Commander Volok had both the Starfleeters and whatever technological device they had brought with them. He had promised Gakket a promotion aboard a real warship, maybe even one of the new Norexans.

There was nothing the centurion wouldn’t do to restore his honor, and now the possibility to do that was just moments away.
************************************************** **********
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Old January 30 2013, 08:24 PM   #27
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Re: Dark Territory: Shadow Puppets (Revised)

As much as I do enjoy reading about the Romulans, I'm an incorrigible fan of Starfleet crews so I really liked the interplay between the Rushmore characters.

And then there are the Remans. Straight out of a horror story. That's what that felt like. Almost made me feel sorry for the double crossing mercenary captain.

Not happy to hear about potential delays with this story due to pesky real life considerations. But oh well, that's how things go.
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Old January 31 2013, 02:58 AM   #28
Rear Admiral
Re: Dark Territory: Shadow Puppets (Revised)

Thanks CeJay,

For your comments and support. I'll keep posting as long as I can, when I can. Glad you liked the intro of the Rushmore characters. It took a little longer than I expected to bring them into the story.

************************************************** ***************
Ministry of Security

Though T’Prell was authorized to beam directly into the offices of the V’Shar, she decided to take the ambulatory route. A flowing burgundy ceremonial robe covered her form-fitting ocean blue jumpsuit, a nearly unseen color on the largely desert world. She placed a burgundy scarf against her nostrils and lips, squinting her eyes as a spray of sand washed over her. Rarely did she visit the capital city anymore and she wanted to take a few moments to gaze up at the sand-brown spires grasping for the heavens.

She also wanted to get a handle on her emotions. It would not help her case if her emotions got the better of her. She had struggled with trying to affect the frigid mien of so many of her people, but it was difficult, especially with thoughts of Samson even now resurfacing.

Her worry for him had only increased since their last night together. She had once shared his mind, and would forever carry a part of him with her. She knew how much this mission prickled his conscience, no matter how coarsened and realpolitik Samson thought the war had made him. She knew the real him, she had seen the inside of his heart.

And T’Prell knew this mission would poison that heart, perhaps to such a degree that Samson would be lost to her.

The Ancient Ones and other gods had largely been forsaken by her people after the advent of Surak, but T’Prell had never found much comfort in Vulcan logic. So she had spent hours each day at the Temple of T’Panit, praying to both the Vhorani and the Inner Chorus that they would speed Samson home safe and soon. T’Prell wasn’t too picky about which deity was real or greater, her faith was all encompassing.

She chuckled a bit at the memory of all the raised eyebrows from the temple’s denizens. It was obvious that they had forgotten what a temple was for.

Warmed a little by the thought, T’Prell breezed through the unguarded entrance. She knew that her person had already been thoroughly scanned and her identity confirmed by discreet monitors. If something had been amiss, she would have been met with by automated defenses and then a real greeting party.

Since everything was in line, the woman strolled through the long foyer and into the main, bustling lobby. Taking on a stern countenance, she arched her back and intimated the coldest of her colleagues.

She knew it would be impolitic to smile or wave at familiar faces, so T’Prell gave curt nods of acknowledgment. Stepping into one of the empty lifts, she gave a vocal command. There was a brief pause, as she was scanned again.

Since she wasn’t vaporized, T’Prell guessed she was still a member in good standing. The lift whisked her to the Security Minister’s office. The receptionist waved her in and before T’Prell knew it, she was sitting down in a straight-backed chair, facing Satok, who served both as the Security Minister and the head of the V’Shar, Vulcan intelligence.

The broad-shouldered man wore a subdued gray jacket, with one line of ancient Vulcan script running down from the left shoulder. He regarded T’Prell with a cool expression. “It is agreeable to see you again Operative T’Prell.” He had been at the head of the V’Shar for nearly a decade, and so far had only a lick of gray at each temple.

She nodded, “It is agreeable to see you again too Minister Satok.” He motioned to an empty teacup. His own was filled with relen tea, its rich scent curling pleasantly into her nostrils. The two teacups, along the accompanying dishes and spoons were the only items on the man’s immaculate, blood green d’mallu wood desk. Despite the temptation, T’Prell declined the offer for a drink. She took a seat across from the security minister instead.

“Before your arrival I checked your schedule,” Satok said, and T’Prell didn’t have to believe in fabled Vulcan veracity to know that the security minister had done so. “You are not scheduled to return to active duty for another 300.8 hours.”

She dipped her head in acknowledgement. “I’ve come to ask a favor Minister.” The man’s jaw twitched, and his right eyebrow almost broke free of his face it raised so high.

“And what favor might that be?” Satok asked.

“I need passage,” T’Prell began slowly.

“To the Benzar system,” the man finished her sentence. Now it was T’Prell with the rogue eyebrow.

“How did you guess?”

Satok’s lips were almost touched by a smile. “We are aware of Admiral Glover’s excursion to the Benzar system.”

T’Prell wasn’t shocked, though she wondered how much the V’Shar really knew about the horrific weapon Samson carried with him. Not wanting to tip Satok off and make things even worse for Samson, she nodded. “Then you know that Samson will need my assistance.”

“Ousanas Dar is most capable,” Satok replied evenly. “He served with distinction in the V’Shar.”

“While I’ve lived on Romulus and other empire worlds in the last twenty years,” T’Prell countered. “Mr. Dar has barely stepped foot on Romulan soil since his defection. I know contemporary Romulans, plus I’m not one of their most despised exiles. Ousanas is very capable, but he isn’t as knowledgeable about modern Romulans as I am.”

“I think you overstate your anonymity,” Satok said. “Don’t underestimate the Tal Shiar or the nascent Tal Diann. It is in part because of your frequent visits to Romulus, under various guises and often without extensive cosmetic alteration, that we placed you away from the Romulan front during the war. We didn’t want you running inadvertently into someone who knew you to be someone else.”

“As you’ve stated before,” T’Prell got out, and this time without clenched teeth. At the time, and still, she had felt that decision had been illogical. With all of her knowledge and contacts in the Star Empire, her natural territory should have been there during the war, helping defeat the Dominion from the shadows.

“The situation that Admiral Glover is operating in is tenuous at best,” Satok continued. “It would not be fortuitous to have a V’Shar agent captured in Benzar space, especially if the admiral’s mission is unsuccessful. You no doubt are aware of the special animus that some among the Romulan ruling class reserve for Vulcans.”

T’Prell nodded, conceding that point at least. “I won’t get caught,” she flashed a winning smile. Most other Vulcans would’ve been offended by her display of emotion. Satok was nonplussed.

“Think of it this way,” she proposed, taking another tack, “Both Starfleet Intelligence and the V’Shar both want the admiral to succeed. By inserting me into the Benzite system I can provide the support to make that occurrence more likely.”

Satok nodded, and tapped his fingers together as he pondered her words. T’Prell patiently waited him out though her stomach was somersaulting. Finally the man said, “I will talk with colleagues in Starfleet Intelligence and Starfleet Command.”

T’Prell knew not to press it further. “Thank you Minister,” she said. Understanding that the meeting was over, she stood up.

Satok’s stare stopped her in her tracks. “Don’t get captured.” Though the words felt vaguely threatening, T’Prell sensed the concern underneath. “I advise you not to leave the planet in the meantime,” he paused, his expression darkening, “The sequence of recent events suggest that you will be journey to Benzar soon.”
************************************************** ************
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Old February 4 2013, 02:04 AM   #29
Rear Admiral
Re: Dark Territory: Shadow Puppets (Revised)

************************************************** ***************
Merria Cosmopolis

“Lt. Commander Meldin, I demand to know the meaning of this?” High Commissioner McCall shot out of her seat as soon as he entered the room. Glancing at the two muscled guards flanking him, Meldin wanted to ask her the same question.

However, the woman’s slightly disheveled appearance and bleary eyes told him that she had been roused from sleep like he had. The whipcord thin Romulan male sitting behind the room’s sole desk, stood up as well. He tugged on his the front of his slate gray tunic, adorned only with an avian insignia of position along his left shoulder blade.

The man was a quaestor, the Romulan equivalent of a constable. The quaestor slid an amused look at the flustered, florid McCall before speaking, “I am Quaestor Helved, and I apologize for disturbing your sleep.” The commissioner harrumphed before folding her arms and plopping down in her chair. Meldin expected her to start pouting next, to complete the caricature of a spoiled child. Yet she denied him that sense of completion. The woman glared at Helved.

“Do you know who I am?” She flared. “And how much your leaders are not going to appreciate your mistreatment of a person of my station.”

By now Helved had also sat down and had offered a seat to Meldin as well. The Benzite hadn’t wanted to take it, until he was roughly nudged by one of the guards.

Sitting reluctantly, and with both guards looming behind him, Meldin watched the hoverball game of hard eyeballs exchanged between the quaestor and the commissioner. “It is regrettable if you were mistreated,” Helved finally conceded. “If you make an official statement, I will make sure those who are to blame are thoroughly disciplined.”

“That sounds more like it,” McCall said, smirking in triumph. “You still haven’t explained why you have brought me or the lieutenant commander to your office.”

Helved’s fingers formed a steeple and his eyes grew hooded under his heavily ridged brow. He motioned at one of the guards. The man left. Moments later, a new figure, with a lighter step, and an alluring scent entered the room. Intrigued, Meldin half turned in his seat.

A petite Romulan female strode in. She was dressed in a dark brown uniform, bisected by a black harness. Her smooth olive complexion was accented with a healthy green flush. Her glistening black hair was cut in a shorter style than even most Romulans wore. She held a personal access display device in her black gloved hands.

Except for Amanisha, Meldin generally wasn’t drawn to non-Benzite females, but he had to admit this woman was very comely. And perhaps what both interested and chilled him most was that her verdant eyes held no pity. Helved half stood out of his seat and gestured at the woman as she came to a crisp stop in front of the desk and between Meldin and McCall. “Major Vorot of the Tal Shiar,” he said, not hiding his disdain.

The woman gave him a mirthless, small smile, “The Quaestor is displeased by my presence,” Vorot began. “But it is certainly not an indication of his ineffectiveness,” she said, “quite the contrary.”

Helved, back in his chair, said nothing. He clearly wasn’t convinced. “When matters of national security are concerned, the Tal Shiar are duty bound to act.”

Meldin’s heart thudded. National security? “What are you talking about?” McCall demanded, though the Benzite heard a strain of concern in her voice. Vorot looked at them both, as if studying them, but Meldin couldn’t help but feel she was toying with them as well.

“Both of you are acquaintances of Commissioner Morah,” Vorot said. It wasn’t a question.

“What are you talking about?” McCall asked, her voice limned with anxiety. “I just talked to the woman briefly a few hours ago. Whatever she’s done I had no part of.”

Emotionless, Vorot said, “Commissioner Morah is dead.”
************************************************** *************

Château de Saint Brisson
Residence of Presidential Chief of Staff

The woman was waiting for him in his living room. Garth Logan had just stepped off his personal transporter pad, eager to relax with a glass of red wine, when he sensed a presence in the darkness.

His muscles coiled, as his eyes narrowed, adjusting to the darkness rapidly, thanks to genetic enhancements. Despite the Section’s avowed mission to protect the Federation and preserve its ideals, the Directorate wisely wasn’t above skirting or breaking those laws when they conflicted with the mission, ergo ignoring Federation legal bans on genetic engineering.

He saw a slender figure, sitting calmly in his recliner. “Lights,” he ordered, still tense. The room’s lights came on. A fair skinned Kamorian smiled thinly at him, her large, widely spaced eyes brimmed with bemusement.

“Eleuth,” Logan said smoothly, as if her appearance wasn’t expected. “I am flattered that you chose to visit my domicile, but usually I conduct business in my office.” The dark-haired woman was dressed in civilian clothes, with no sign of her rank or her true loyalties obvious.

“I would think Mr. Logan that you wouldn’t want me to visit you in your office, since those visits are matters of public record.”

“Of course,” Logan said, “Care for a drink?” He made to go for his dining area. His fingers still twitched, a mere flick away from activating the fold-out disruptor attached to his wrist.

“The Corvallen freighter should have made contact with the Benzite resistance by now,” she said. “Yet we have not received word from them…or you.”

“I’m sure you are aware that things generally don’t on a clock work schedule, especially when you are dealing with the vagaries of space travel.”

“Not good enough,” Eleuth sat up in her seat, her eyes boring into him. “Not when Special Affairs provides you one of the most devastating weapons in our possession. You certainly didn’t think we wouldn’t keep tabs on it, or you, did you?”

“I expected as much,” Logan said. He shrugged. “I have not received acknowledgment of receipt yet,” he admitted. “I’m not concerned about it…yet, and neither should you.”

“That’s cold comfort,” Eleuth said, “and nothing to take back to my superiors.”

“I would remind them of why they agreed to this idea in the first place,” Logan offered. “Even now the Romulans are trying to manipulate our representative’s innocent remark into a declaration of war, and many Benzites believe them. They won’t be so receptive once Romulan jackboots begin to grind them into the dust.”

“So you say,” Eleuth said, her huge eyes filling with doubt.

“And let’s not forgot who is entrusted with your precious Iconian device,” Logan pointed out. “Samson Glover and Ousanas Dar have successfully infiltrated Romulan territory on more than one occasion. They are patriots through and through, the best of the best.”

“No one is disputing their patriotism or competence,” Eleuth allowed. “But the odds stacked against them are formidable.”

“You should gamble more,” Logan smirked. “If you’re busy tonight, perhaps a jaunt over to Las Vegas?”

Eleuth was not amused. “As soon as you make contact with Admiral Glover, let us know.” She stood up. He moved toward the door to let her out. “I’ve got my own way out.” She smiled, before tapping a device clipped to her belt. She disappeared in a flash later.

“Personal transporter,” Logan nodded, very impressed. He would have to recommend that the Section steal one of them from Special Affairs.

Finally alone, Logan sighed, but it brought him no comfort. Despite his feigned nonchalance, he should’ve heard from Madsen by now. If nothing else, the woman should’ve checked in. He didn’t want to give his doubts and fears free reign, but it was coming to that point.

He wasn’t so much worried about Special Affairs and Investigations. There were some murky things going on within that organization but nothing that gave Logan much concern. He was more troubled by when his own people would visit and demand answers.

Skipping the wine, he hustled to his personal alcove beside his bedroom. Activating his personal subspace communicator, Logan feared that one man might know the answers for Madsen’s disruption in her reporting schedule.
************************************************** **************
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Old February 8 2013, 03:03 AM   #30
Rear Admiral
Re: Dark Territory: Shadow Puppets (Revised)

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Imperial Romulan Cruiser Aidoann
Control Central

His finger tapping increased with his impatience. Centurion Gakket forced himself to remain seated. N’Clado and the other savages were taking longer than he had suspected. The Corvallen freighter was only so big. The drab brown vessel hung placidly in space before them, its exterior doubtlessly shielding the horrors going on within.

“What’s taking them so long?” He grumbled, his frustrations finally escaping his lips.

“Perhaps the ship’s crew is providing stiffer resistance than anticipated,” Decurion Aemilius chimed in from the weapons console. Gakket didn’t know what to make of the man’s comment. Was he insulting the Remans’ fighting ability or criticizing Gakket’s decision to send only a handful of Remans aboard the Astral Eddy? Or was he doing both? One could never be sure about the man.

Gakket turned around half-way in his seat to glare at him. The rangy weapons officer wisely kept his eyes downcast, supposedly glued to his terminal. Aemilius wanted the command chair, and though that would normally raise Gakket’s ire and his disruptor hand, he would be happy to hand over this command to the striving subordinate.

The centurion said nothing and contented himself with burning disruptor holes into the Decurion until he started to fidget. Satisfied that the pecking order had been reestablished, Gakket turned back around in his seat.

Several more minutes passed before Oallea grumbled, “Receiving an incoming communication sir; audio only.”

“Put it on speakers,” Gakket ordered. There was a touch of static and then the bridge filled with N’Clado’s basso voice.

“We have recovered the contents from the passengers,” he replied.

“About time,” Gakket huffed, “Prepare it for immediate beam out.” N’Clado complied, responding moments later with the exact location for the items. “Commence,” the centurion ordered.

“Awaiting orders,” N’Clado stated.

“Has the entire crew been neutralized?” Gakket asked.

“Yes sir,” N’Clado answered.

“Good work,” Gakket allowed, nodding. He stood up and strolled to the weapons console.

“Decurion, you’re relieved,” he ordered. It took Aemilius a second too long to hide his displeasure. Gakket soaked it in before completely forgetting the man.

“Oallea,” he called. The Reman promptly left his post at the operations station. He stopped with a hard slap of boots in front of Gakket, his coiled frame at enviable attention.

“At ease,” Gakket waved. “I want you to assume the weapons console.”

“Sir?” Both Aemilius and Oallea said at almost the same time. Gakket smirked. The question had an angry, indignant air with Aemilius, but with Oallea, the single word was filled with confusion and a hint of suspicion.

“You heard me bug!” Gakket snarled, though he really wasn’t upset. In fact, he was quite enjoying himself. Without further protest, the Reman assumed Aemilius’s post.

Nodding with satisfaction, the centurion said next: “Now destroy the Astral Eddy.”
“What about the Remans?” Aemilius asked. Gakket sniffed.

“A small loss,” he shrugged. “Oallea,” the centurion called again, limning his voice with threat. “Activate the magnetic pulse. I want them to see their deaths coming.” The Reman hesitated just a second more before he released a coruscating white sphere of devastation upon the doomed Astral Eddy.
************************************************** ************
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