Note: I'm a fiction writer, but I don't usually indulge in fan fiction. It's not my thing, but the last week I got sick and had a little Enterprise marathon and found an interesting little time period I wanted to expand upon. Shran is one of my favorite characters on the show, so I wanted to write a story about his suspicious nature, and how he has good reasons to be suspicious. Vested Interests Historical note: This story takes place in 2151, just prior to the events of “Shadows of P’Jem” When it came down to it, maybe Shran really had nothing to do with this. Maybe he could put aside the notion that he simply “lost control” of what was happening, because the truth was that he never actually had any control. Whatever was going to happen was going to happen anyway, especially since the Imperial Guard decided to “throw” him out of the loop for the time being. A very short time being, he was promised. So, stuck in his office on Weytahn in no official capacity despite the escalating conflict there, he helped himself to a drink. Something hard, because even the usual ale wasn’t going to cut it this time. Nothing from his own planet would do the trick, but that Yridian the Kumari encountered on the outskirts of the Xryllian system hooked him up with something syrupy and quite vile, called kanar. So, even if this abrasive Cardassian beverage didn’t do the trick, Shran could at least give himself credit for trying. Shran knew next to nothing about these Cardassians, save for the fact that they A.) they had an empire, apparently, and B.) they sold this kanar stuff in tall twisty bottles which resembled Lurian hourglasses, so Shran suspected that as he got further and further down a bottle that time was somehow running out. Why was a case of this kanar stuff so cheap, considering that the Yridian told him that their “little empire” was quite a distance away. Were they isolationists? What’d they make this stuff out of, to get get that bitter yet musty flavor? For his part, Shran had no real interest in other cultures, save for the deep-seeded fear that these Cardassians might use drab first names like “John.” Even on his own ship, he’d never be able to smuggle this kanar through the security on Andor, so he casually told General Th’lotc that he’d resume his post on Weytahn until this whole P’Jem thing blew over. Yes: blew over. Th’lotc had spent the last nine months measuring himself for admiral’s uniform, so he gave himself permission to believe that it would all just of blow over within a month and that Shran would be back commanding the Kumari shortly. Shran, on the other hand, believed that this would turn out to be yet another in a long line of so-called “public relations nightmares,” and that this was going to get worse before it got better. He took his post on Weytahn to in order to get out of dodge, to not be anywhere within two sectors of Andoria or P’Jem during all of this, but he also knew the Vulcans well enough to believe that they’d use this incident as an excuse to send some more forces back here. So much the better, he thought. He wouldn’t mind shooting at some nameless Vulcans for the time being. They had nothing; their claim on Weytahn was baseless. There was nothing gray about it. Tholos got back to this office later than Shran expected, and before he could get his first words out, Shran brushed his hand in the air in a “save it” gesture. Shran didn’t want to hear the latest reports; after all, he was officially on leave for the time being. Shran took another bottle of kanar out and set it on the table. He wordlessly told Tholos to have a seat. After all, it wasn’t like Sopek and his forces just outside the compound. At least, he didn’t believe so. Unlikely. Tholos downed his glass like it was a shot. “I’ve read the reports,” he said. Great. Here we go. “You know Captain Telev? I’m sure he’ll come right back here when the mission is over. He’ll want to gloat, he’ll want to take all the credit.” Shran tried to seem indifferent. “I heard.” “You should have been allowed to see this through.” Tholos let his voice trail off. He always spoke in a cold tone, as if he could see the tricks that everyone else - except those he respected - would miss, and considering that Shran himself was probably the only person Tholos truly respected, it was clear that he was trying be careful with what he said and didn’t say. “We’ll let the Imperial Guard handle this, Tholos.” Shran could see it. He could see the response forming in Tholos’ lips. We are the Imperial Guard. And P’Jem was our sector. We should have been allowed to finish this. But if there was one trait that Tholos had that Shran respected it was that he was real careful. He was careful in what he said, and even more careful with what he implied. His most trusted officer would only ever say so much. “Telev won’t have much to brag about my friend,” Shran said. “He can’t just bombard the place. The diplomats roughed out a timeframe.” “What?” Tholos' tone was curt. He blurted that out as if he was offended. It was as if the tidbit of information Shran was providing him was just as useless as Archer’s tidbit about how seventy percent of all of Earth’s lifeforms are, in fact, simple bacteria…. Speaking of… Shran still didn’t know what the point of that little spiel was. Bacteria. Balls of string. Canton, Ohio. Tycho Brahe. Duels over math equations. Shran tossed back another glass. It still made no sense - not in context, and not outside of it either, as far as Shran could tell. What? indeed. “An hour,” Shran said. “The Imperial Guard agreed to give the Vulcans one hour.” He held up the now-empty bottle of kanar but knew that Tholos didn’t have anything resembling an imagination connected to his antennae at all, so he wouldn’t make the whole Lurian hourglass connection unless Shran spelled it out. And it was about here that the two comrades drank an entire glass of this alien beverage at the same time. They tapped glasses a few times during the night as they worked their way through more of those twisty bottles; this was not a night to sleep. Th’lotc made this really simple. Once Captain Telev returned to Weytahn, Shran’s leave would be over. Despite the temporary shuffle, Telev’s ship, the Etmere, had jurisdiction in this sector, while the Kumari was stationed closer to home. At warp six, it would take an Andorian battlecruiser two days to make the trip form P’Jem to Weythan, and Shran suspected that Telev was in no hurry. Those two days and their respective nights went by slowly. Shran was alert throughout, his antennae rotated in forty-five degree arcs before he’d have to sleep. The first night he got an hour’s rest. The second night he got less. It seemed that everything else that was going on was unimportant, that it could all be tabled until Telev returned. Shran didn’t like dealing with Telev, but he wanted the scanning device that Telev had, and he wasn’t going to relinquish this office until he got it back. Telev was, of course, snarky about the whole thing. “I’m glad to see these walls didn’t cave in on you during my absence. I figured by the time I made it back here, my star-charts would be sadly out of date and I’d be beaming down to Paan Mokar.” Shran didn’t think Telev’s “humor” was all that funny, as it was clouded in arrogance, so when the captain was done with the “pleasantries, Shran’s antennae kind of drooped down near his forehead in disapproval. Telev knew that Shran wasn’t going to fill him in on anything he might have missed, so he turned his attention to Tholos, who merely shrugged. “We achieved a great victory,” Telev said. “And the Vulcan’s are starting to figure out that diplomacy is pretty much useless at this point. We called the shots at P’Jem, and we will call them here as well. They didn’t resist at all at P’Jem. There’s nothing left. The monastery is gone. The surveillance station was obliterated with a single photon torpedo” Though Telev was talking to Shran and Tholos, it (up to this point) sounded more like he was rehearsing for a big speech, or going through a dry run of what he would tell Th’lotc. But Shran’s antennae went straight up when Telev actually went off-script a bit and asked him a question. “Was wondering, Shran, how you managed to get such a level of detail. I am actually impressed. We were able to carry out a precision operation.” And it was right then that he took out a circular sensor device from his belt. A Vulcan imaging device. “Did you steal this? How many Vulcan’s did you kill to get this? How did you know what would be on it?” Shran shot a glance at his lieutenant, and, after a beat, they both rose to tehir feet at the same time. “I relinquish Weytahn to you, Captain Telev. This terminal…” and he gestured to the desk computer “has all of the tactical updates of Vulcan troops within two hundred miles from here. I do believe that covers the entire terra-formed area.” “Indeed, it does, Commander,” Telev said. And here, Shran started heading for the door, followed by Tholos. But when he got near Telev, he stopped. He wanted it. He wasn’t going to leave without it. “My ship did a full scan,” Telev said. “The Kumari is not in orbit.” Shran chuckled. “Of course not. I’m not in command of the Kumari, not at the moment.” Telev was really wracking his brain on this one. “The general told me that we’d be back at our respective commands after the P’Jem situation was taken care of.” “I’m sure he did.” And Shran extended his hand. Telev smiled, and, with a glimmer of respect in the gesture, he set the scanner in it. “So are you going to tell me how you got this level of detail?” Shran sighed. “I’d been to that monastery on four separate occasions. I knew the Vulcan’s had been using it as a cover up to spy on us. I knew it all along. The general knew it too.” Telev’s antenna started to droop, and it looked as if the tips were going to point down to his own ears. “You still haven't told me how you secured that scanner.” “He doesn’t need to,” Tholos said, and each word trailed off from the one before it, as if he was humming some kind of sinister-sounding piece of music. That was that… the word “dismissed” didn’t even come up. Shran simply left. He suspected he’d be back at Weytahn within a year, especially with how things were going; the incident at P’Jem would only make the Vulcan’s more aggressive and certain about their claim on this rock, and Shran would probably warp his ship back here to bail out Telev when it got to that point, but he had something more pressing he had to deal with, something he wanted to put behind him. Shran was about to get the chance. That ship, Archer’s ship, Enterprise, was only three sectors away, at Coridan. The Weytahn/ Paan Makor situation was straightforward compared to what the Vulcans had going on at Coridan. Shran had heard that the government there was corrupt enough to let the Vulcans in so they could plunder that world’s dilitium resources before anyone else. If only Archer knew how complex all of this was going to get. Really, it didn’t matter what Archer knew. If he planned on visiting the capital, he likely wouldn’t make it that far before the rebels would strike. Shran knew a certain Yridian information dealer and smuggler who knew the Coridan trade routes: it was the same one that had contacts in the Cardassian Empire. Shran was hopeful that none of these Cardassian contacts went by the name “John.” Or “Tucker.” He perished the thought pretty quickly. It was called the Cardassian Empire, after all. Surely, being an Empire, the people in charge actually knew what they were doing. .