Dark Territory: Shadow Puppets (Revised)

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction' started by DarKush, Jan 6, 2013.

  1. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Feb 5, 2006
    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.
  2. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Nov 18, 2005

    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.
  3. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Nov 18, 2005

    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.
  4. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Feb 5, 2006
    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.
  5. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Nov 18, 2005

    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.
  6. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Nov 18, 2005

    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.
  7. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Feb 5, 2006
    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.
  8. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Nov 18, 2005
    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.”
  9. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Nov 18, 2005
    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.
  10. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Nov 18, 2005

    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.
  11. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Feb 5, 2006
    A lot of interesting things happening.

    T'Prell joining the fray might come to late for Dar and Glover's mission the way things are going.

    And curious to see the Department for Special Affairs involved in things. God only knows what their game is.

    Gakket definitely made my list of people I hope will not survive this story. What an ass. But me thinks something happened on the Astral Eddy he may not yet know about. At least I hope so.

    Really enjoying this revision a great deal.
  12. Gibraltar

    Gibraltar Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Sep 25, 2005
    US Pacific Northwest
    The Romulans executing their Reman soldiers along with the pirate ship (and making one of their number carry out the order) was especially cold blooded.

    I’m continuing to love the plots-within-plots at work here, with the web of deception and cross-purposes growing ever larger.

    Satok allowing T’Prell to become involved is very risky, but weighed against the possibility of Samson’s mission failing (or worse yet, being publically exposed) it’s understandable why he made that decision.

    Terrific re-working of this tale and I’m eager for more! :techman:
  13. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Nov 18, 2005
    Hey guys,

    As always I always enjoy hearing what you think. I'm glad you like how cold blooded and sadistic Gakket is being and the other deepening intricacies. It's funny but I hadn't intended to rewrite as much of this as I have done thus far. Glad you are liking what I've done so far.


    Dominion War Memorial Observance Station
    Benzar System

    Captain Dylan North hung back in the corner, clutching a barely touched glass of Evoran pinot. He never had been one for social gatherings, and he hated the newer dress whites. They punched up at his shoulders and felt tight around the middle.

    Dylan wanted to blame that on the tailor instead of his haphazard gym schedule as of late. The clinking of glasses and the din of engaged conversations was starting to make his head buzz. On one level he should be glad and proud of his crew that they were getting along amiably enough with the Romulans and even the Vorta sent from the Dominion. Commander Nandel was holding forth with the porcelain-skinned Hereth at the moment, both women all smiles.

    There was a lot he could learn from them still, the captain realized. “Captain North,” Dylan winced at sound of the voice. “Why are you, ‘squirreling’ yourself away?” Commander Volok cut through the crowd, the smirk still slashed across his face. “Isn’t that the proper idiom, ‘squirreling’? Isn’t that a reference to some Terran mammal?”

    North forced himself not to roll his eyes. Instead he remembered his drink and took a sip to collect his thoughts. He appraised Volok. The sharp-eared Romulan looked resplendent in his neatly trimmed black and silver uniform, barely a touch of gray in his black hair, which made the captain like the man even less compared to his own weathered appearance. The Romulan similarly sized him up, and Dylan tried not to suck his stomach in or puff up his chest, though he had an instinctual need to do so.

    “Isn’t this a grand affair put on by our Benzite hosts?” Volok gestured to the large spread of dishes and beverages from across the quadrant and beyond. The Benzites had prepared something for every palate.

    “It is,” North wanted to keep it short, and hopefully the Romulan would get the hint.

    “A shame that with all the effort that the Benzites put into this feast, into that memorial that the only ship Starfleet could spare was a frigate,” Volok’s smile turned nasty as he leaned forward, his words aimed like an honor blade straight at Dylan. “I mean, it goes to show how unimportant the Federation considers Benzar if they couldn’t send the Enterprise or one of the more important ships.”

    A vein along Dylan’s jaw line throbbed and he clutched his glass so hard that he thought it would break. His mind flashed back to all of his colleagues who had died defending Benzar against the Dominion, including Captain Larpek. Before he could stop himself, North jumped into the delighted Romulan’s face. “You listen here, you green-blooded…” the captain snapped.

    “Captain North, is everything okay?” He calmed slightly at the sound of Barya’s voice. The Birthing Technician thankfully entered the conversation. Unfortunately she brought two others along with her. While Barya had a sympathetic expression, Administrator Malmak, the Benzite in charge of the memorial, was scowling at him. The other tag-a-long was admittedly attractive dark skinned Romulan woman with a bemused gleam in her eyes.

    Though the Romulan wore civilian clothes, North spotted the disciplined, military way she carried herself that belied her civilian appearance.

    “Everything is fine Technician Barya,” Dylan said tightly.

    “This site is supposed to be a place of reflection to commemorate all who gave their lives here,” Malmak chided both men, though the captain felt it was really more directed at him. “This is not the place to re-air old grievances or new ones regarding Benzar’s sovereign status,” the self-righteous man concluded.

    The captain’s face flushed hot at being talked to like a grade-schooler but he wisely kept his mouth shut this time. Volok had gotten the reaction he wanted and that made North feel even more indignant.

    “Please forgive Commander Volok,” the Romulan woman said, and Dylan caught a welcome glimmer of displeasure in Volok’s eyes at the interjection. “Perhaps he was not aware of the sacrifices that you and your crew made for Benzar, saving the lives of many of its citizens. Without your efforts, it would take that much longer to rebuild Benzar.” She gave Dylan a curt bow. “We are all in the debt of the Rushmore and its fine crew.”

    Dylan could never say again that he had never met a Romulan he didn’t like. He replied with a terse nod, and a more welcome smile. “I don’t believe I’ve had the pleasure?”

    The woman reached out her hand, Earth-fashion, “I am Livana Velen,” she added, “The new liaison to the Benzite provisional authority.”

    “So, the Romulans are removing the military from control of Benzar,” North observed, staring with relish at a now perturbed Volok.

    “Yes,” Velen said, “The Senate thought it was best that the military get back to doing what it does best, which is not run civilian governments,” Velen slid in her own honor blade.

    “I understand that sentiment,” the captain grinned.

    “Excuse me,” Volok replied with more ice than a Breen snow storm. He stiffly exited the group. Once Malmak saw that the second Earth-Romulan War wasn’t about to ignite, he folded back into the crowd. A relieved Barya followed. Velen stuck around.

    North noticed that Velen’s glass was almost empty. “Care for another?”

    She pursed her lips, considering the offer, “How about what you are drinking?” He held up the violet colored liquid. “What is that?”

    “Its Evoran pinot,” North said, “This is my first taste of it. It’s not bad.”

    “I’ll try it then,” the woman replied, “I trust your judgment.”

    “Dispatching Volok and then trusting my taste in wine,” Dylan grinned, “I think this could be the start of a beautiful friendship.”
    Dominion War Memorial Observance Station
    Benzar System

    Lt. Torkill thought it would mollify him when most of the Romulan warbirds that had escorted the Dominion ship had peeled off, cloaking before heading to parts unknown. One Norexan-class warbird remained in orbit, and he hadn’t been too circumspect about checking it out through the station’s large viewing windows.

    It was a sleeker engine of death than the hulking D’deridex-class, though both ships shared an avian design. The Fenarian would have loved to get a chance to explore the ship, but better yet test it against Rushmore. True his vessel was only a frigate, but it still packed quite a wallop. Plus Torkill was confident in his martial skill against any foe, short of a Borg cube. And he was certain that he could inflict maximum damage on even one of those before they vaporized him to bits. Torkill was certain he would never, or could ever, allow himself to be taken by the Borg and corrupted by the machines.

    The wreckage floating beyond the warbird reminded him not just of the war, but of his first real taste of starship combat, during the most recent Borg incursion. He had been on the Kuvak at the time. The Miranda-class ship had been disabled fairly early, during the fleet’s failed attempt to stop the Borg in the Typhon sector.

    While attempting to restore ship’s systems, Torkill had had to listen helplessly to the audio coming in from multiple ships as the Borg tore through on its way to Earth.

    He had made sure he wasn’t so useless against the Jem’Hadar, whenever he had had the opportunity to face them. Though now, after the war was nearly a year old, Torkill felt an odd affinity for the few Jem’Hadar who had accompanied their Vorta liege.

    Though they wore their standard gray uniforms, with the tubules sticking from their pebbled necks, the warriors were sans weapons. And they looked as awkward and out of place in the new era of peace as Torkill felt.

    Though the old castes had faded into history Torkill still gravitated to his traditional warrior breeding. And with the Jem’Hadar actually being bred for war, this new era must be hell for them. He grinned, liking the thought of the horn heads suffering.

    “Misery loves company,” he grumbled.

    “Inside voice,” Miranda nudged him.

    “What?” He asked, momentarily confused.

    “You’re vocalizing your thoughts again,” she said, smiling.

    “I am?” He asked, not quite believing her. She took a sip from her wineglass before answering.

    “Yeah,” the engineer said, chortling. “Like you always do.”

    “My apologies,” he said, with overt formality. Torkill looked around furtively, “Did anyone hear?”

    “No, I don’t think so,” she said, “besides they probably wouldn’t know what you were talking about anyway, unlike me.” The woman said with confidence. Torkill wished he could sweep the human into his arms and mount her on the desert tray, protocol be damned.

    Miranda purred deep in her throat and shivered slightly. She subtly, yet suggestively, bumped against him. Maybe Jonda was right about them being telepathically linked, Torkill wondered. They certainly felt as one during their lovemaking.

    “Perhaps we can cut out of here early,” he leaned down, rasping his voice in her ear the way he knew she liked.

    “Not yet,” she said, her voice suddenly distant. The woman was looking toward the center of the room, at the captain.

    “If the captain wasn’t a bonded male, I would think he might be having the same thoughts we are,” Torkill said with amusement. The captain was getting on famously it seemed with a comely chocolate-hued Romulan female, her coloration not far off from Torkill, even though it was scales and not flesh which covered his body.

    “I hope the captain watches himself,” Miranda said, less enthused. “These Romulans can be quite deceptive.”

    “Said by the person who is a Romulan expert,” Torkill jested. Miranda turned on him, a flash of anger in her hazel eyes. The Fenarian took a step back. “What’s wrong?”

    “Nothing,” she replied abruptly, scowling at the captain and the Romulan. “We just don’t need any more diplomatic incidents,” she said. “The Romulans have already tried to make hay out of that commissioner’s comments. The last thing the Federation needs is for them to besmirch the closest thing we’ve got to a hero of Benzar.”

    “Well, if it were some other man I might be able to empathize with you, it’s the captain you’re talking about,” Torkill said, not hiding his confusion, over the woman’s statement or her change in attitude. “He is as sturdy as they come. No Romulan intrigue could shake him.”

    “Don’t be so sure about that,” she cryptically replied. “We all have our breaking points.”

    “What does that mean?” Torkill asked.

    “Nothing,” she huffed.

    “No,” the Fenarian wasn’t ready to let it go. He had caught the scent of something and like any good predator he wanted to see it through to the prey waiting at the end. “That wasn’t just nothing. What are you referring to?”

    “Just drop it,” Miranda snapped. “I’m leaving,” she declared, pushing her glass into his stomach. He barely caught the sloshing glass, which unfortunately splashed on the midsection of his dress white tunic, coating it with a deep red, dripping smear.

    Uncaring, Miranda added, “And I’m leaving alone.” And she did just that, leaving a dumbfounded Torkill holding her drink.
  14. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Nov 18, 2005

    Dominion War Memorial Observance Station
    Benzar System

    “Now that’s interesting,” Dr. Zammit said, sidling up to Lt. Baran M’Brey. The relatively smallish Alshain glanced down at the relatively diminutive Bzzit Khaht. His hands were full, one carrying a glass of water and the other a tray with shaka, a native Bzzit Khaht dish. The Benzites had seemingly done an excellent replication of the blue moss.

    “What are you talking about Zam?” She asked, good-naturedly, not worried about the man’s superior rank. Zammit was the only officer she had met in either Starfleet or the Alshain Starforce that felt it was actually insubordinate to refer to him by his rank.

    “Didn’t you just see the way Commander Drake blew out of here?” The medic inquired. M’Brey looked at the exit and instinctively inhaled, seeking out her scent. But the woman had already crossed the threshold and her smell had been lost among the mélange of body odors, the medic’s included.

    Adjusting to life aboard a Federation starship, first as a wartime exchange officer and then as a full-fledged member of the crew after her defection, Baran’s sensitive olfactory glands at times had been pummeled by the myriad odors of multiple species.

    It had gotten so discomforting that Commander Nandel had recommended that Dr. Zammit come up with a solution. Of course, before he could apply the treatment, M’Brey had had to withstand the doctor’s strong musk.

    The stench came from the sponge-like glands covering the man’s body. He explained that Federation scientists had developed a counteragent, an aerosol spray that mitigated the smell, and which Zammit used quite liberally.

    While it mollified most other species, the foulness was still stomach turning for her, though Baran had learned to quell her gag reflex. And she was grateful for her fortitude, because the medic was an excellent conversationalist and quite a fount of information.

    “No,” She shrugged, “So?”

    “Lover’s spat perhaps?” The man’s yellow-green eyes lit with curiosity.

    “Between you and Jonda, I don’t know who the bigger gossip hound is,” the Alshain replied with a smile.

    “I’m surprised that you didn’t hear that heated exchange?” He asked. M’Brey playfully flicked one of his long, pointed ears, though careful to keep her claws retracted. “We don’t all have ears like yours.”

    He harrumphed and then pointed at the lupanoid’s own drooping ears, “Speak for yourself,” he retorted, before laughing.

    “I’m sure I’m not the first person to advise you not to eavesdrop,” M’Brey chided.

    “I wish that my hearing was that good,” Zammit frowned, “But I only caught an elevation in their voices and then saw Miranda leave in haste.”

    “If you are so curious, why don’t you just go ask Commander Drake,” M’Brey suggested, “Or better yet, how about Mr. Torkill?” Both looked at the hapless, flummoxed man, standing alone in the middle of the room. Baran felt pity for the man. He looked as out of place as the Jem’Hadar present, all clutching filled glasses that they would never drink.

    “I don’t think so,” the medic smiled, “I like ingesting shaka not being turned into it.” The two officers shared another laugh.

    “So, there isn’t any scuttlebutt about trouble in paradise is there?” Zammit pressed gently.

    “I recommend you check with Jonda,” M’Brey said. While she found some non-Alshain courting rituals and socializing intriguing, bewildering, and sometimes amusing, she merely liked to listen and not participate.

    Despite her recent defection over the atrocities the Exarchate had committed against the Tarlac, Ellora, Ba’ku, Son’a, and Munzalans, M’Brey missed her people, and she missed serving in the Starforce.

    However, the actions of her former government had made a return to the Exarchate and Starforce untenable so now she sought to make a new life among aliens. It could be trying at times, but her conscience demanded no less of her.

    “Where is the good Mr. Jonda?” Zammit asked, standing on his toes to look around some of the taller guest. “I don’t see his familiar shock of purple anywhere?”

    M’Brey sniffed again, and shook her head, “I’m not picking up his scent,” she said, shrugging, “Odd that he would be missing any party.”

    “I know,” Zammit nodded in agreement before shrugging, “Oh well, maybe he just went to the refresher?”

    “Perhaps,” M’Brey acknowledged, “Which isn’t a bad idea now that you’ve mentioned it.”

    “I wouldn’t want to hold you from the tug of nature,” Zammit said cheerily. While M’Brey was sure that consideration was involved, she also knew that the medic realized that there hadn’t been much information she could provide him.

    After saying parting words, the Alshain strode toward the exit. She paused at the door and looked back. She saw that the medic had already insinuated himself into the conversation ongoing between Commander Nandel and the Vorta.

    M’Brey shook her head in bewildered amusement. Life in the Federation was going to be interesting indeed.
  15. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Feb 5, 2006
    North isn't exactly hero material, is he? Or maybe he's exactly the right kind of hero. The one who lets his actions speak for himself. He sure is no diplomat as he aptly demonstrates here.

    Thankfully the smooth (and likely untrustworthy) Velen comes to the rescue before matters get out of hand.

    I'm enjoying getting a closer look at this crew with all their individual particularities. There is little you do better than create compelling characters and starship crews.
  16. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Nov 18, 2005

    Both Dylan and Velen are full of surprises is all I'm going to say.


    Imperial Romulan Cruiser Aidoann

    Samson Glover threw a hand over his eyes. The white light stabbing into them was nearly as painful as his headache. His mind felt sluggish and his mouth was drier than a Vulcan desert. His stomach quivered and the old man grimaced, remembering the last time he had been hung over. But he hadn’t drunk that much, Samson thought. However, he hadn’t checked the alcoholic concentration either, he realized. Plus, his tolerance had never been high.

    Comprehending why he felt like he had been hit by a shuttle, it didn’t account for the intense light digging into his sockets. “Where…” he couldn’t finish the question, with his throat and tongue feeling like sand paper. Perhaps this was more than a simple case of overdrinking.

    “Welcome back to the land of the living Admiral Glover.” A disembodied voice said somewhere above him. Samson’s heart stopped.

    No one aboard the Astral Eddy knew his true identity. For someone to refer to him by his name and former title, it meant that the mission had failed and that either he was a prisoner or had been rescued by Starfleet.

    If that was the case, what happened to the others? The question jolted his heart. The man sat up, his lethargic muscles protesting. He squinted, “Where…who…” he attempted to inquire.

    “Lower illumination,” the voice said. The lights dimmed to a comfortable level. His eyeballs still hurt, but Samson used them anyway. The room was small, unadorned with thick shadows pooling at each corner. The ex-admiral looked up and saw a cone of light beaming down directly on him. At almost the same instant, Samson realized he was sitting on a floor, the thrumming of a singularity engine rumbling beneath him.

    “Romulans,” he muttered, his stomach knotting in fear. Glover had been on enough Romulan vessels during the war to know the unique vibration of their main propulsion system.

    “Very good Admiral,” a man emerged from the shadows. The Romulan was dressed in dark-gray uniform with a harness running from his left shoulder. He was well-built and would be considered handsome by most humanoid standards. But that attractiveness was marred by a predacious sneer. The admiral eyed the rank insignia glinting on the left side of the man’s black turtleneck.

    “Centurion,” Samson rasped. The man nodded appreciatively before coming to crisp stop in front of him. The admiral noticed that the man carried no weapons. Obviously he was a confident sort.

    “Excellent,” the man’s sneer lengthened, “Of course I should’ve expected nothing less from the estimable Admiral Glover.”

    “Who?” Samson asked. The man laughed.

    “I’ve seen you in person,” the man shook his head, “During the war, on Outpost 23. I was part of Admiral Lendak’s security detail.”

    “I see,” Samson said, nodding as he searched his memory for the man’s face. He shrugged after a few seconds, recalling nothing. The admiral saw no deception in the man using that as the identifier.

    “You really should have done some reconstructive surgery,” The Romulan suggested. “Your face is more famous than you might think.”

    “I’ll keep that in mind,” Glover said, not being able to hide the droll. “Perhaps you could drop me off at the nearest Starbase and I’ll see to it immediately.”

    The Romulan laughed again. “I admire your courage human.”

    “Thanks…I guess,” Samson replied. He tried to sit up, but the man placed a firm hand on his shoulder and kept him on the ground. “If we are going to hold hands, I would at least like to know your name?”

    “Centurion Gakket,” The man almost gleefully replied, “Of the Tal Diann.” Samson’s heart froze again. Gakket took pleasure from the look of unbidden distress on the man’s face. “Though I wondered what could be so special about you and your compatriots-no one told me the truth-I understood it all after I inspected your stasis tube. Once I saw that it was the famous Samson Glover among the personages, it didn’t take much to figure out who the Romulan with you was…”

    “Where is he?” Samson demanded, “And the Bolian?”

    “They are alive,” Gakket said, “Though it took everything within me not to gut that traitor Ousanas Dar once I realized who he was. Of course you would never venture back into the Empire without your pet Romulan.”

    “Benzar is not part of the Star Empire,” Samson forced himself to say it reasonably.

    “Not yet,” Gakket smirked. “But that is only a matter of time. The Benzites revere us, especially Commander Volok, the Liberator,” the man paused, his eyes boring into Samson. The admiral cursed himself, the mention of his old enemy’s name had made his countenance recoil.

    “So, the rumors are true,” Gakket surmised, “You and the traitor had a role in Volok’s imprisonment,” he fished, but this time Glover wasn’t biting. “He wants you for revenge, don’t deny it.” Samson kept his silence.

    “But,” Gakket began, walking around the man, “Why would you traipse willingly into Volok’s trap?” Now back in front of Samson, the Romulan leaned down, almost nose to nose. “Why did you come? Why are you here? And how did Volok know where to capture you?”

    Samson glanced down, refusing to answer the man’s questions. Though his mind reeled with questions of his own, chiefly how did Volok know they were here? If he did know, Samson wondered how many other Romulans knew, and what they would do about it. Though he didn’t want to, the admiral had to face the reality that a traitor in the Federation, someone either in Starfleet Special Affairs or Starfleet Intelligence was in league with Volok, and/or the Tal Diann.

    None of those prospects boded well for the Federation, not to mention the likelihood that Samson would never see the outside of this cell alive again.

    “Suddenly taciturn, I see,” Gakket remarked, resuming his full height. “Of course I have ways to make you talk, and I’m guessing that the commander won’t be too upset with me as long as there are pieces of you left for him do with as he pleases.”

    The vise on Samson’s stomach had tightened to a painful degree, but he summoned an impassive look on his face as he glared back at the centurion. “Do your worst,” he challenged. It was rash, perhaps immature, but the admiral would rather give into anger than fear at the moment.

    Gakket nodded appreciatively again, “I shall,” he promised, “And first with the female.”
  17. CeJay

    CeJay Commodore Commodore

    Feb 5, 2006
    Not. Good.

    Somehow I hope Glover and company have an ace up their sleeve here. I can't yet see how but I am an optimist.
  18. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Nov 18, 2005
    Thanks CeJay,

    Yeah, it's not looking good for the home team right now. I was so busy writing stuff for the other characters that I almost forgot that this is supposed to be a Samson story and wanted to throw a scene in there to remind me of that. Putting him in some real danger should also keep me focused on figuring out a way for him to get out of it.


    Dominion War Memorial Observance Station
    Benzar System

    Lt. Commander Miranda Drake’s cloud of frustration lifted as she caught the Romulan Volok and Lt. Jonda in an animated conversation. The animation was coming all from the Catullan science officer, as was his wont, while the Romulan rigidly stood close by.

    Debating a nanosecond or two over what she should do, the engineer headed toward the odd twosome. The Romulan stiffened slightly, his tapered ears no doubt catching her approach. Volok turned smooth, a practiced smile on his face. He dipped gracefully in respect, “Commander Drake,” he said with such familiarity as if they had been working together for years.

    Miranda forced herself not to curtsey. “Commander Volok,” she looked around him to Jonda, and acknowledged her science officer.

    “Commander,” Jonda’s smile was far more genuine, though tinged with nervousness.

    “You two seem to be engaged in quite an interesting conversation,” she threw out her hook.

    “Ah yes, Mr. Jonda was telling me about the mechanics of the forcefield holding the debris in a globular formation,” Volok said, nodding with appreciation as he continued, “A most complicated, and admirable process.”

    “Agreed,” Drake said, warming to the subject. She had spent hours poring over the schematics of the memorial and had been eager to ply its creators with questions. The best part of this whole affair thus far had been meeting some of the engineering team. She wished she had one or more on the Rushmore. Not to knock her team at all, but such engineering skill was something rare, even in Starfleet.

    Miranda had already determined to try to recruit a few of the Benzites for the Corps of Engineers and hoped to put a bug in their ears about it before the Rushmore disembarked. “Ah yes,” Drake began, “I was speaking to Planner Felnis about…”

    “My apologies,” Volok said, a remorseful expression wreathing his features, “But I am fatigued. I had actually been planning to retire to my vessel before I encountered Mr. Jonda,” he said.

    “And you know how I am,” Jonda said, with a sheepish shrug. “I guess that the commander had enough forbearance to tolerate me going on one of my tangents.”

    “It was a fascinating tangent,” Volok declared.

    “I see,” Drake said, her eyes narrowing slightly. Something was going on between the two men, and it had little if anything to do with engineering small talk.

    “If I might take my leave?” Volok asked, though he had already stepped away from both Starfleet officers. Before Miranda could reply, the Romulan headed in the direction of the transporter rooms.

    She waited until she thought he was safely out of earshot and then leaned close to Jonda. “What was that about?”

    “Just idle conversation,” the Catullan smiled, but now the gesture didn’t feel so warm. It felt artificial, chilly even. “Nothing to concern yourself with Commander.”

    “I can order you to tell me,” Drake’s voice hardened.

    “Yes, you could,” Jonda replied, unfazed, “though I think you would disappointed with the result.”

    “What is that supposed to mean Lieutenant?” The engineer asked, not hiding her exasperation.

    “That when you look for shadows, you’ll find them,” Jonda said, shrugging, “An old saying among my people. I think that everyone is so uptight, on edge, and that’s not any way to be. We won the war, all of us together, we should be allies, and it’s time we started acting more like that. Step one, is treating the Romulans like fellow sentients.”

    “How we treat the Romulans isn’t the issue,” Miranda rejoined, “It’s how they treat us.”

    “Fair enough,” the science officer sighed, “Perhaps we change that by engaging them in dialogue.”

    Drake shook her head sadly at the younger man, “We’ve been trying that for years,” she replied wearily. “It hasn’t worked yet.”

    “Doesn’t mean we should stop,” Jonda replied earnestly. Drake tried not to laugh at the man’s idealism. She would have liked to think that she had been that fresh faced once. She clapped the younger man on the back.

    “No it doesn’t,” she conceded. She sighed, feeling more relaxed. The fog hanging over her had lifted. She canted her head to the side as the din from the gathering came through the closed doors.

    “Have you forgotten that a party is going on?” She teased the science officer. Jonda smiled.

    “Of course not,” he said, gesturing at the door. “After you commander.”

    “No, you first, I insist,” Miranda replied with a chortle. Jonda acceded to her wishes. Though she wasn’t as keyed up, the engineer still felt uneasy about the furtive conversation. She hated to admit that she didn’t quite believe that Jonda had been completely honest with her, and at the moment she preferred to keep her in front of him.

    Imperial Romulan Warbird Ra’kholh

    The engineer knew to be waiting for him when Commander Volok appeared on the transporter pad. He stepped off it and imperiously passed the penitent Lt. Vahen, without even glancing at her. He couldn’t prevent himself a small smile of triumph as he caught the woman’s flinching from the corner of his eye. He would deal with her later, or not at all. It depended on his mood. Volok had learned long ago that the anticipation of punishment was just as effective, or more so, than the actual chastisement itself.

    Volok strode down the corridor, not even acknowledging the rapidly saluting officers he brushed by. Once inside his private quarters, behind the safety of sound proofed walls, he bellowed, unleashing the full weight of his fury.

    He had kept it pent up too long and now, out of sight, he tore through the room. Rending chairs and tables, upturning the sofa and smashing mirrors, Patrin superimposed a face over each item he demolished.

    Ripping his skin on jagged wood and twisted metal, the sight of his own blood empowered him on to more destruction. His boot smashed the glass coffee table top and he imagined it was Velen’s face he was pulverizing. How dare she interrupt his parley with Captain North. He was just about to get the rash human to commit another faux pas in front of the Benzite elite.

    Word of such uncouth behavior on the part of North would’ve spread throughout the Benzite punditry and from them to the lower masses. It would’ve been one more finger pulled away from the Federation’s grasp on Benzar.

    But the arrogant Velen had to interject, her desire to engage in internecine bureaucratic warfare had been more important to her than luring the Federation into another diplomatic blunder.

    Were the Tal Shiar really so frightened of the Tal Diann that they wanted Benzar to slip from the Star Empire’s clutches?

    The idea of such selfishness enraged him further. After razing nearly every other standing thing in his room, Volok turned to his personal terminal. He blinked several times, in rhythm with the soft green light emitting from the computer. In his fugue he hadn’t noticed it before.

    His curiosity reined in his anger, and Volok stalked over to the terminal. He activated it and listened to the encoded audio message. Reaching back for his chair, the commander felt empty air. Turning around, momentarily confused, he gasped at the trail of destruction he had just created.

    It shook him that he had just done such a thing, that he had allowed his temper to rule him so. The chair had been a casualty, so Volok hunched over the screen and tapped in the proper authentication sequence.

    Minutes later a peeved Garth Logan glared at him. “Where have you been?” The tousled hair human demanded.

    “I didn’t know I had a Terran nanny,” Volok snapped back. Logan opened his mouth to retort and then closed it as he gave Volok a thorough once over. “What happened to you? You look like you just survived a row with the Yan-Isleth.” Volok patted down the wild strands of hair. He did nothing about the blood smeared across his cheeks.

    Volok snarled at the mention of the Klingon Chancellor’s personal bodyguards, the supposedly fabled Brotherhood of the Sword. “What do you want?”

    “You know what I want,” Logan said, not backing down. “Has the package been delivered to you?”

    “Yes,” Volok nodded, “All three, nice and tied with a bow, according to my subordinate.”

    “Excellent,” Logan said, pausing as he considered his words, “Did your subordinate report anything unusual about my contact?”

    Ah, Volok realized, his smile widening. He might not be able to strike at Velen…yet, but he could take down this toadying human. “You wish to know the status of the…Steadfast, is it not?”

    “Yes,” Logan said slowly, his eyes hooding with suspicion.

    “It and her pilot are space atoms,” the Romulan boasted, “and not only do I have my prisoners, I also have your Iconian device.”

    “What?” Logan spat, and Volok laughed.

    “Did you seriously not think that I didn’t know about your other mission, the one that would deliver the Iconian device to Benzite insurrectionists?”

    “How is that…how could you?” The human was so livid, his face beet red, that he couldn’t even formulate a full sentence. Volok wondered if that is how he had looked just moments earlier.

    “The Tal Diann has eyes everywhere,” he boasted. “And on behalf of my organization and the Star Empire, I thank you for giving me the means to not only to affect my vengeance but also to crush the rebellion your Starfleet Intelligence is aborning. If I was a citizen, President Santiago would have my vote.”

    He gave a full throated laugh at the man’s face contorted with fear. “Yes, I know who you are and who you work for, Mr. Logan. Did you really take me for such a fool? And if you did, guess who is the fool now.” With a deep satisfaction, Volok disconnected the link, leaving the dumbfounded, outmatched man to stew in the hell of his making.
  19. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Nov 18, 2005

    Château de Saint Brisson
    Residence of Presidential Chief of Staff

    Garth Logan paced the floor of his private office, his arms locked behind his back, his mind constantly replaying the conversation he had just had with Volok. How was it possible? He maddeningly pondered. How had the Romulan outthought him?

    How had he made Logan look like a fool? Was it Eleuth? Visala? Or some other hole in his plan?

    Even Madsen didn’t know about the true contents in Glover’s case. If the Tal Diann had captured and tortured her, it would’ve been to no avail. She couldn’t have told them anything.

    Somehow he had been outmaneuvered, and it roiled him greatly. Stopping in front of his desk, he slammed his fists onto its unyielding surface. His knuckles cracked and the vibration shook both his arms.

    His pain receptors had been reduced since the accident that had once scarred most of his body. However he remembered the special agony that one Section 31 operative, the mysterious Morgan, had inflicted upon him once for overstepping his bounds. Logan shivered at the thought of how the Directorate would deign to punish him once they found out about his side deal with Volok.

    Losing the Iconian probe was bad enough, but how he lost it could cost him such torment that death would be a mercy. He looked up at the ceiling, saying aloud, “Now would be a good time to give me some advice,” the man implored. There was only silence.

    Sighing, his whole body deflating, Logan began to think of the best way to salvage the situation. Swallowing his pride, he moved around his desk and sat down. Activating his personal computer and gritting his teeth, Logan made the call, “Admiral Visala’s office please.”
  20. DarKush

    DarKush Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

    Nov 18, 2005
    Author's Note: I decided to change the name of Fleet Captain Walker and the Monarch that was briefly mentioned in the first scene of this story. I saw that killing Walker and destroying Monarch will be a continuity problem for Star Trek Pytheas stories. So I'll change the character's name and ship for the finished work. I think most people get by now anyway that this is a much different story than the original version of Shadow Puppets.