Starship Reykjavík – Domum Soli


Rear Admiral
Rear Admiral
* * *

Starbase 19
Tellun System
January 12th, 2323 - Stardate 4154.1

Commodore Nandi Trujillo’s temporary office was situated just off the Tactical Holography Bay, the large compartment aboard the station dedicated to real-time tracking and display of the fleet formations participating in the strategic and tactical exercises being held here.

She stood, facing the officer in front of her desk, her features locked in an artfully neutral expression she saved for dressings down.

Trujillo was in her late forties, her below-shoulder-length black hair streaked with the gray that had begun to appear in her twenties. She possessed a broad, expressive face with a generous mouth and piercing brown eyes. Throughout the years some had incorrectly misinterpreted her features as suggesting softness, but the flinty eyes served notice of the strength and determination that lurked just below the surface.

Captain Henri Maurice Laurent stood at attention, yet somehow still managed to convey his disdain for his present circumstances. Of French ancestry, he was of average height, but carried himself with an aristocratic bearing that grated on Trujillo’s nerves. He had well-kept wavy brown hair, hazel eyes, and nose that proved distinct without being either sharp or prominent. In his early forties, Laurent’s hair had not yet begun to gray or, Trujillo suspected uncharitably, was being artificially colored.

The man’s duty uniform was immaculately tailored to his frame, with every emblem, pip, squeak, and ribbon in its proper place. The professionalism on display with his uniform did not extend to his demeanor, however, and Laurent’s facial expression was one of boredom mixed with studied insouciance.

Laurent was the commanding officer of the Atlantis-class starship Kotarbiński, a deep-space exploratory cruiser.

She mustered her most diplomatic mien, gesturing for Laurent to be seated across the desk from her. “At ease, Captain. Please, make yourself comfortable.”

Whatever else might be said of Laurent, his manners were impeccable, and he waited for his superior to be seated before lowering himself into his own chair.

“Admiral Phoung wishes for me to convey his displeasure with Kotarbiński’s performance in this morning’s simulated attack on Objective Sigma,” Trujillo began. “Your ship broke formation and nearly collided with the Lo’Oako and Virgil. You then abandoned your assigned target and made an unauthorized attack run on another squadron’s objective.”

“I did, sir,” Laurent confirmed in his accented Federation Standard.

“May I ask why?” she inquired in a level tone, masking the edge that fought to claw its way into her voice. Trujillo prepared to dissect his responses with analytical intensity.

“It caused confusion among the threat formation, sir,” Laurent explained. “They were unprepared for the maneuver and lagged behind in their efforts to counter my sudden course change.” He motioned with his hands, using them to demonstrate his unorthodox move. “The target was caught unawares and neutralized with little difficulty.”

“Squadron Three’s target was neutralized, Captain. Again, that was not your group’s objective. The threat forces guarding your squadron’s objective gained a tactical advantage over Squadron One when you broke formation and scattered your fellow ships with your unauthorized maneuvers. Squadron One suffered losses and was forced to retreat with Squadron Two covering their withdrawal.”

Laurent sat back, masking his agitation with a well-worn neutral expression that he was rumored to save for just such occasions. “Commodore Anderberg’s tactics were predictable and uninspired.”

Trujillo secretly agreed with Laurent’s assessment of Anderberg’s tactical acumen, but that was not the point.

She merely sat in silence, studying him as Laurent grew increasingly uncomfortable.

“With respect, Commodore, I know how to fight my ship. I have proven that on multiple occasions,” he blurted finally, unable to stomach the lingering quietude.

“In one-on-one engagements, absolutely you have. You and your crew have proven wily opponents to any number of threat vessels since you took command. That, however, is not the point of these exercises, and you know it. Your ship has been assigned to patrol duties for the next eighteen months. We both know you’d much rather be out exploring, but this rotation it’s your turn to guard the ramparts…”

He opened his mouth to interject, but she held him at bay with a raised hand.

“Captain, I have to know that I can trust you to do your part in any fleet or task force formation. I can’t have you running off to play Captain Kirk because your commanding officer’s strategy or tactics aren’t inspiring enough for you. In actual fleet formations, the kind of stunt you pulled this morning gets people killed unnecessarily.”

Trujillo held his gaze until he dropped his eyes, the defiance there flickering and dying in the heat of her stare.

“You are an able starship commander, and in the coming months and years you will undoubtedly have ample opportunity to cement your legacy as such. Though you may believe starship combat is a minor province in the overall makeup of a CO, a captain’s inability to operate successfully in a cooperative formation is more than sufficient grounds for relief or transfer.”

Laurent’s hung head jerked up at this, his eyes wide.

“There are other branches of Starfleet where captains are needed, of course. Command of a star-station, for instance, or chief of operations on a starbase? The administrative challenges of that position are formidable. Or perhaps a sector commander for Starfleet Logistics, overseeing the escort of convoys of merchant traffic to and from our more vulnerable ports?”

Laurent blanched, his hands tightening on the armrests of his chair. “That… will not be necessary, Commodore. Your point is taken. I will conform to the designated fleet formation tactics going forward.”

Trujillo sat back in her chair. “I’m pleased to hear that, Captain. I am certain Admiral Phoung will be similarly delighted.”

She stood, and Laurent rose as well.

“Thank you for meeting with me, Captain Laurent. You are dismissed.”

He departed without another word, his pride still warring with his sense of duty.

Trujillo watched him go, feeling an odd sense of kinship with the man. Not terribly long before, Trujillo would have been a prime candidate for just such a stern talking to. She pondered how quickly and dramatically situations could change.

After his departure, Trujillo remained standing, rolling her neck around and trying to release some of the stress of the past week. Her leadership of the Strategic and Tactical Exercises Conference was her first major flag-level assignment that did not involve command of an active task force. The administrative burdens of such a high-level exercise and the planning necessary to bring together dozens of vessels for a week and half of grueling simulated battles had been daunting, but she had found herself invigorated by the challenge it represented.

She began to collect her few belongings in preparation for her return to her ship which was at station-keeping near the starbase. The door chimed, and Trujillo tensed, expecting a second round with the willful young captain.

She was surprised to instead find the austere form of Vice-Admiral Obynaov Ch'thannak standing on the other side of the transparent door panels.

Trujillo mustered a genuine smile and welcomed the older Andorian flag officer inside. “What a pleasant surprise, Admiral. What can I do for you?”

“I was already planning on coming to see you today,” the tall Andorian officer said, “but as it happens, in addition to my other reason for visiting, I now have a new assignment for you.”

Ch'thannak was a towering figure, rail thin and possessing a commanding bearing. His face was a collection of deep lines and wrinkles which attested to his decades of service far more than did even the ‘fruit-salad’ of ribbons and citations affixed just below the combadge on his maroon wraparound uniform tunic.

Trujillo set down the case she’d shouldered in preparation for departing the office.

“Sir? The STEC doesn’t conclude for another week and a half.”

“Yes,” he said with a curt nod of acknowledgement. “Regardless, this situation and these orders take precedence. Commodore Anderberg will be taking over for you.”

She gestured to the sitting area, a couch opposite two comfortable chairs, with a low coffee table between.

Before they could be seated, Ch'thannak stooped to set his briefcase atop the table between them. He opened it and retrieved a small case. He assumed a formal posture, and Trujillo followed his lead, appearing bemused.

“I know you eschew accolades and crowds, so I’ve done you the courtesy of presenting this in private.” He opened the case to reveal a pair of gleaming objects within.

“For your innovative and aggressive engagement tactics employed against the Tholian incursion in the Longlax-Teko system, a battle which undoubtedly saved countless lives in preventing a larger conflict between the Federation and the Assembly, Starfleet Command is proud to present you the Grankite Order of Tactics, Class of Excellence.”

He turned the case towards Trujillo so that she could see the medal contained within. Alongside it sat a small accompanying trophy for display in her quarters or ready room.

Her expression grew pinched, and she raised her hand as if in a warding gesture. “Sir, respectfully, I cann—”

“You will,” Ch'thannak said forcefully, cutting her off as his antennae twitched with irritation. Then, in a gentler tone, he added, “This award also symbolizes the sacrifice of all those we lost in that battle, Nandi. To refuse it is to tarnish their memory, and I know you would never do that.”

Her hand dropped to her side. “No sir,” she agreed. “I wouldn’t.” She reached out for the box taking him from him almost reverently, moving to place it into her carryall. “I will make sure to display this in a prominent, visible spot, Admiral.”

“You had best,” he confirmed. “You most assuredly earned that, Commodore.”

She turned back to him. “You said there was other business, sir?”

“Yes, another outbreak of piracy.” He gestured to their seats and sat down, with Trujillo following suit.

He opened his briefcase yet again, retrieving a bottle and gesturing to the glasses sitting on a shelving unit next to the office desk. Trujillo obediently rose to collect two glasses, returning to eye the bottle appreciatively.

“Pappy Van Winkle?” she appeared openly skeptical. “They haven’t bottled that in centuries.”

“True enough,” Ch'thannak affirmed, carefully opening the bottle. “This particular gem was confiscated from an Orion border runner, along with a dozen crates of Ae’leric-vintage Romulan Ale.”

Trujillo smiled broadly. “Rank hath its privileges, eh?”

Ch'thannak poured two measures and handed a glass to Trujillo. “This bottle is my belated gift to you for your promotion. Of course, I was selfish enough to wait to present it so that I could have a taste.”

She raised her glass, holding the liquid up to the light. “How old is this, sir?”

“Two hundred and sixty years, Commodore. It was casked two months before Earth’s Third World War. The bottle is replicated, as the stuff was still in its oak cask when it was seized.”

Trujillo’s jaw dropped, causing Ch'thannak to smirk. “I never would have allowed you to open it!”

His smile broadened, his white teeth striking against the contrast of his blue skin. “I know. Drink up.”

“Salud,” she said, touching her glass to his before taking an experimental sip. A deep sigh escaped her as the warmth of the alcohol infused her senses. “It’s as good as I’ve heard… better, in fact.”

“I’ve also kept a bottle of the Romulan ale for you to present to Admiral Saavik. You’re one of the few who know her tastes.”

She cradled the glass protectively, examining her superior. “What aren’t you telling me?”

He released an appreciative grunt at her keen observation as he settled back into his chair, swirling the whisky in his glass. “Both bottles are also my apology for putting a burning drum of yerrth dung in your lap.”

“My new mission? The piracy?”

“Yes, the piracy. Though I’m fully aware of how much you enjoy a good scrap with marauders, this particular group is as troublesome as they come.” He removed a small holo-projector from his briefcase and activated it via an accompanying data-slate.

The image of a 22nd century Klingon Raptor-class warship took shape in the air between them.

“These raiders are employing retrofit Orion and Klingon vessels, many of them well over a century old, but boasting serious upgrades to their weapons, shields, and structural integrity.

“This particular ship attacked one of our Starfleet flagged deuterium carriers some four-point-two parsecs spinward of Starbase 71. The CO of our ship was tempted to laugh when he realized the age of the Raptor. That reaction changed abruptly as soon as the vessel opened fire.”

“Packed a punch, did she?” Trujillo asked with an ironic frown.

“Indeed,” he continued. “She’s obviously been substantially upgraded. The ship-to-ship battle was over relatively quickly, with most of the cargo ship’s phaser banks knocked out within thirty seconds of the first shot.”

The image shifted to show an internal corridor adjoining an airlock. Several Starfleet crew members armed with hand phasers and rifles stood ready to repel boarders. The airlock hatch exploded inward, showering the corridor beyond with ricochetting shards of super-heated metal that scythed down several of the defenders. Armored figures rushed through the smoking breach with surprising speed and agility, cutting down the stunned survivors of the explosion with precise blasts from disruptor rifles.

“Good Lord,” Nandi murmured with evident surprise, “that was fast and efficient. They’d put our Marine Recon and our Special Missions teams to shame. You don’t typically see that kind of skill and precision from pirates.”

Ch'thannak enhanced the image, zooming in on one of the attackers. The person was clad in hardened, mat-black, articulated body armor with a helmet that completely obscured their facial features. The individual was wielding what appeared to be a Romulan disruptor rifle. A pistol-style disruptor was fastened to one hip, while an incongruous sheathed short sword was fixed to the other.

He drew the image back to its original magnification then switched the view to an adjoining corridor. The attackers surged into the passageway, darting and feinting with almost preternatural speed, blasting the defending crewmembers with their rifles or cutting them down with their swords.

Again, Ch'thannak zoomed the image, focusing on the bright blade of one attacker’s sword in hand, the weapon glinting in the reflected light from the corridor overheads.

“Do you recognize it?”

Trujillo, an ardent student of military history, practically goggled. “It can’t be.”

“But it is, nonetheless,” Ch'thannak countered.

“I’d thought they were Romulans, given their speed and armament,” Trujillo said, still trying to wrap her mind around the implications.

“No, the disruptors are Rigellian knock-offs of Romulan weapons. The sword, of course, is a—”

“Gladius,” Trujillo provided. “Carried by Roman legionaries on Earth for centuries.”

Ch'thannak gave a curt nod, “And wielded to this day by the legionnaires of the improbable world of Magna Roma.”

“They have FTL capability now?”

“So it would seem. Intel guesses they’ve purchased their ships from Orion or Lissepian intermediaries dealing in castoffs from Klingon breaking yards.”

Trujillo sat back, appearing confused. “But what the hell could a technologically undeveloped planet like Magna Roma have that the Orions or Liss—” she trailed off, her eyes widening. “Oh, dear God… slaves.”

The Andorian nodded slowly, his dour frown matching her own. “Yes, unfortunately. Slavery is still widely practiced on that world. They have more than enough enslaved peoples and political prisoners to sell many off-world to the Syndicate and others. We also believe the Orions discovered sizeable deposits of latinum on Magna Roma. They tried to hide the value of the mineral from the empire, but it appears the Magna Romanii sniffed out their duplicity. The Romanii are now effectively filthy rich and have begun using that wealth to purchase advanced technology. They’ve gone from the equivalent of late 20th century Terran technology to the 24th in the space of a few decades.”

Trujillo reached forward to access the display control tablet, playing back the initial fight at the airlock and watching from several different camera angles as the Magna Romanii swept through the ship. “None of that explains their raw speed and power. I don’t care how sharp their blades are, they’re practically cutting our personnel in half. I could understand doing that with a long sword or a Klingon bat’leth, but a short sword designed for slashing and stabbing? Are their armored suits powered?”

Ch'thannak reached out to tab the console’s interface. “Well spotted, and no, their suits are believed to be simple non-powered body-armor. As it happens, the attackers were unable to take the ship due to the captain engaging security lockouts, and they murdered him when he refused to give up the codes. They killed the rest of the crew then abandoned the ship, probably planning to destroy it, but the cruiser Çatalhöyük arrived and they were forced to flee.”

“Çatalhöyük let them get away?” Trujillo asked, a hint of disapproval in her tone. “That doesn’t sound like Abe Amaechi.”

“The ship had red-lined her engines getting there and Captain Amaechi was left unable to pursue. They tracked the Raptor to the Vimra Cluster and lost her in the congestion near the trade stations.”

“So, we still haven’t identified the base of operations of the attackers?”

“No, but our forensic examination of the deuterium tanker turned up some rather startling results.” The image shifted again, displaying a double helix of humanoid DNA, several segments of which were highlighted and labeled. “Blood and tissue residue were left behind,” he explained. “Genetic analysis of those samples indicated that the attackers were of human stock but had significant alterations to their base genetic sequencing.”

Trujillo’s eyes closed and she emitted a heavy sigh. “Shit. Augments.”

“Yes,” he confirmed. “As yet we don’t know if they stumbled upon that technology themselves or with the assistance of outsiders, but that’s just one of the mysteries here we hope you and your people will be able to solve.”

“Well, this just became much more complicated.”

The old Andorian smiled thinly. “Which is why we’re sending you. You and your squadron have proven adept at this sort of thing, and you just so happen to have the only Magna Romanii officer in Starfleet as one of your senior officers.”

She was openly dubious. “You know what they did to him, sir? What he was subjected to by his own people?”

“I do, in fact. Hopefully, Lieutenant Helvia won’t have to set so much as a foot on that blighted world again, but he’ll prove an invaluable resource in helping you understand how his people think and act.”

Trujillo took a long sip from her glass of priceless whisky, lost in thought.


She started, her reverie broken. “Sorry, sir. I’m just trying to figure out how I’m going to tell Mister Helvia we’ll be visiting his homeworld.”

“Be direct,” he advised. “His people supposedly appreciate frankness.”

Her answering smile was equally thin and without humor. “When in Rome, eh, Admiral?”

* * *
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As I was reading this, I was thinking about Helvia and the phrase: "You can't go home again."

Heh, so admittedly I got a sneak peek at this one, but I didn't see the whole scene. This is beautifully done. I love the interaction between Trujillo and Ch'thannak. I love Andorian characters because I feel like there's a broader sense of personality beyond what we've seen in Star Trek, so far. I'm really eager to see how Helvia's going to react to the news.
I particularly enjoyed the interaction between Trujillo and Laurent - strong enough to get the young captain's attention, not to harsh to blunt a promising career. Nicely done.

An interesting premise. I've been interested in your take on Magna Romanii since you introduced Helvia.

Thanks!! rbs
* * *

Lieutenant Titus Helvia entered her ready room at the commodore’s beckoning. He came to attention, was ordered at ease, and sat when instructed.

He was a towering slab of humanity, a man whose uniform did little to hide his especially well-developed musculature. He was tall, just under two meters, and his blonde hair was shorn stubble short. He had a heavy brow, deeply set blue-grey eyes, and a pronounced jawline.

Despite the fact that he was her Security/Tactical Officer and an expert in hand-to-hand and close-quarters combat, Helvia was also one of the gentlest human beings she had encountered in her career. He could break you in half almost effortlessly, but he would feel genuine regret for having had to do so. If he could avoid physical violence when restraining someone in the line of duty, he did so.

Trujillo leaned in, placing her hands atop the desk, fingers intertwined.

“There’s no easy way to say this, Lieutenant, so I’m just going to come out with it. Due to a series of raids by pirates believed to originate from Magna Roma, our squadron is being ordered to investigate. Part of our mission profile is to ferry an ambassador to your homeworld and attempt to open a diplomatic dialogue with their government. If that mission isn’t successful, we’ll be forced to hunt down the brigands and either capture or destroy them.”

Helvia digested this in silence for a good ten seconds before saying, “I understand, sir.” His expression had not changed one iota.

“I wanted to tell you in person, rather than have you find out in the midst of a senior staff meeting.”

“I appreciate that, sir.”

An awkward silence followed.

She observed him closely and refused to allow the following hush to prompt inanities to fill that silence.

Trujillo cleared her throat, “As we’ve discussed previously, Lieutenant, I can only imagine the horrors you survived on that planet. There is no reason whatsoever for you to set foot on Magna Roman soil during this assignment.”

Helvia appeared to be choosing his words with care. “I appreciate your consideration, sir. However, if duty demands it, I must and will fulfill my obligations by beaming to the surface. I presume we will be sending a security escort with the ambassadorial party?”

“Oh, most assuredly.”

“Then it would be appropriate for me to accompany them. I cannot hide aboard the ship in orbit and expect my subordinates to take my place.”

She nodded. “Thank you. I trust you to know your limitations.”

Helvia glanced down at the five golden links of chain that he wore just beneath his Starfleet emblem combadge. He had received special dispensation from Starfleet to wear the symbol, the mark of the outlawed Children of the Son, a religious sect deemed apostate by the Magna Romanii government.

“It would be prudent for me to remove this prior to any contact with the Romanii, sir. It could result in unnecessary… tension during any encounter.”

“Fuck their feelings, Lieutenant,” Trujillo said in an even tone that nonetheless startled Helvia. He had seldom heard her use profanity. “These people just slaughtered a ship full of Starfleet personnel. I’m not especially concerned with their spiritual hangups.”

The merest hint of a smile tugged at the corners of the man’s mouth. “Understood, sir.”

“If, at some point during this mission, you change your mind about contact with the Romanii, please let me know. You will serve just as ably at my side as an advisor on local customs and potential strategies. The mission is my priority, but I also wish to honor your experiences… your losses… at the hands of these people.”

Helvia leaned forward, his inscrutable expression yielding somewhat to allow a sliver of discomfort to bleed through.

“Again, I’m touched by your consideration, sir. I find it necessary to point out that where this planet is concerned, I am as much victimizer as victim. I owned slaves before my family’s downfall, and I killed any number of good men and women in the arena during my time as a gladiator. I am not an innocent in all this. Magna Roma extracts a price from all its people, be they high-born noble or the lowest slave. If not for the collapse of my family’s political fortunes, I would have remained a wealthy dilettante, playing at sword games and drinking myself into oblivion.”

Trujillo took a moment to absorb that admission. “I believe I understand, Mister Helvia. Thank you for your candor. Nevertheless, my offer stands, should you feel you need it.”

Another awkward silence followed.

Trujillo sighed, then stood, prompting Helvia to rise. “You’re dismissed, Lieutenant.”

As Helvia exited, the ship’s executive officer, Commander Jadaetti Davula entered, a data-slate in hand.

The Bolian woman was of average height and had cobalt blue skin that seemed somehow even more prominent due to her baldness. A cartilaginous bifurcated ridge ran down the centerline of her body, dividing her facial features. Unlike some ethnicities on her world, she lacked the horizontal lines radiating outward across the top of her head from that central ridge. She had an open, expressive face, and bright hazel eyes.

“What do you have, Commander?” Trujillo inquired.

“Sir, we’ve received our departure orders and all ship’s personnel have been recalled from the starbase. However, we’re still missing our ambassador. Commander Glal mentioned that they were old friends, so I asked him to go and retrieve the ambassador. That was over two hours ago, and now Glal isn’t responding to comms.”

Trujillo had just resumed her seat, and she stared up at her XO, blinking. “You sent Glal… to locate the ambassador?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Ambassador Dax?”

Davula cocked her head, smiling uncertainly. “Yes, sir. Am I missing something…?”

Trujillo dipped her chin, wincing as she rubbed the bridge of her nose with her thumb and middle finger. “I’m sorry, Commander, this is my fault. I should have warned you in advance.” She presented a pained expression to the Bolian woman. “I’ll need you to go and get them. Find the loudest, grungiest, most disreputable spacer bar on the station. That’s where you’ll find them. They are likely exceedingly drunk. If you end up needing a security team, call me directly and I’ll arrange it. Do your best to keep it quiet, whatever happens.”

“On it, sir,” Davula said smartly, turning to attend to the duty immediately.

“Well,” Trujillo remarked to her now otherwise empty cabin. “We’re off to a great start.”

* * *

There was a round of applause as Lieutenant (junior grade) Rachel Garrett entered the briefing room. The unanticipated attention caused her to blush fiercely.

The woman was still in her early twenties and had recently allowed her shoulder-length reddish dyed hair to revert to its natural, darker auburn color. She stood approximately one-point-six meters in height, and carried herself with a serious bearing that belied her age. Garrett had a willowy neck leading to a well-defined chin, a pert nose, dark brown eyes, and sensuous lips gracing a mouth that while rarely seen to smile, on those occasions did so with radiance. The collar of her uniform undershirt and shoulder flash were the gray of the Sciences division.

“Congratulations on your first formal published paper in the Journal of Federation Astrophysics, Lieutenant,” Trujillo said, stepping forward to shake the younger woman’s hand.

Davula, standing next to the commodore was next in line to offer her compliments. “It appears all our time spent nosing around in nebulae and planetary rings finally paid off for someone.”

Garrett offered one of her uncommon smiles in response as she shook Davula’s hand. “So it would seem, sir.”

The rest of the senior staff offered similar tidings, proud that one of their own had distinguished herself and their ship so notably.

Trujillo called the meeting to order and took her seat, with the others following suit. The conference was broadcast via comms to Reykjavík’s escort vessels, the Akyazi-class scout Gol and the Miranda-class light cruiser, Zelenskyy, for the benefit of the senior officers of those ships in their own briefing rooms.

Seated next to the commodore in the space normally reserved for the XO was Ambassador Curzon Dax, one of the Federation’s foremost diplomatic experts. A member of the Trill species, Dax was a joined being, a humanoid paired with a slug-like symbiote that not only shared consciousness with its host, but which contained the memories of all its previous hosts. This gave the joined individual several lifetimes of knowledge and accumulated experiences.

Curzon was approaching his late fifties, a tall, thin man with a shock of unruly, tightly curled brown hair that was only now beginning to gray and recede. A pattern of dark blue spots began at his temples and ran down the sides of his head and neck, disappearing beneath the high collar of his Nehru-style tunic.

His features suggested a mischievous nature, and Dax was widely rumored to be a larger-than-life figure, boisterous, flamboyant, and occasionally arrogant. He was an inveterate gambler and ladies man, seemingly a throwback to the machismo of earlier centuries. He was undeniably brilliant, one of the Federation’s top negotiators, typically dispatched to flashpoints across the quadrant to represent the Federation’s interests with often antagonistic foreign powers.

“For those of you unfamiliar with him, I want to introduce Ambassador Curzon Dax. The ambassador has been assigned to assist us with our mission to open a diplomatic dialogue with the Magna Roman government.

“Our primary task will be to stop this recent wave of piracy through diplomatic channels, if possible, and by force if necessary. Our secondary mission is to try and uncover how the Romanii came to possess the genetic engineering expertise necessary to create Augments.”

Trujillo nodded to Dax, inviting him to speak.

“It’s my honor to assist you in this endeavor,” he said in a deep, resonant voice. “This was an unexpectedly rapid deployment for me, so I’ve not yet had the opportunity to brush up on Magna Romanii culture, languages, and history, but I’ll be using our transit time to rectify that deficit.”

Dax looked around the table, committing the faces of the senior officers to memory. “There are some new faces since I was aboard last. Two years ago, then Captain Trujillo and Reykjavík came to my rescue when I was taken hostage during negotiations on Ardana. I know what this crew and this ship are capable of, and I could not have asked for a more able vessel from which to operate.”

Nodding in the direction of Helvia, Dax continued, “My part in our assignment will be to try and negotiate an end to these undeclared hostilities with official representatives of the Magna Romanii. For all we know, these pirates may be unaffiliated with their government, though I suspect that only a planetary military organization would have the resources to operate these vessels and have access to augmented soldiers.

“Let’s hope they are amenable to diplomacy, as the alternatives would be most unfortunate. There is also the possibility of influencing them through their relationships with intermediary species such as the Orions who are likely responsible for equipping them with their ships and more advanced technology.”

“Agreed,” Trujillo said. “We’ll have eight days in transit, during which we’ll need to prepare multiple contingency plans for a variety of potential outcomes."

Lieutenant Jagvir Shukla, the ship’s turban-clad Sikh Operations officer, gestured his desire to speak and Trujillo signaled her consent.

“Sir, when you say, ‘by force if necessary’, what exactly might that entail?”

“If our diplomatic overtures are rebuffed, we will track down and either seize or destroy the Magna Romanii fleet, such as it is.” She turned slightly in her chair to lean forward, forearms atop the table. Her face remained carefully neutral, but her brown eyes sparkled with an intensity born of profound anger. “They’ve attacked and seized several non-aligned vessels in recent weeks and have now attacked two Federation freighters in short order. In their most recent raid, they murdered the entire crew compliment of the deuterium carrier Mosinee. Forty-two of our brothers and sisters in uniform butchered as they fought hand-to-hand to defend their ship. That’s an act of war.”

Dr. Bennett raised a hand, prompting Trujillo to acknowledge him next.

“Sir, based on the reports I’ve read, the Romanii have achieved sufficient advancement in medical knowledge and technology to have successfully altered their genome. Granted, there’s a substantial difference between basic gene editing and the level of enhancement we’re talking about with augmentation as we understand it. Based on the scans of the tissue samples I was provided by Starfleet Intelligence, it appears a higher level of technical expertise is at work here. The sophistication of these augmented genetics bears greater similarity to the work of Dr. Arik Soong of the 22nd century than that of the researchers in the mid-20th century that produced Earth’s first generation of so-called Supermen.”

“You suspect alien influence, Doctor?” Davula asked.

“I do. Unless we arrive to find that they’ve made some incredible advances on their own in the medical sciences, I can’t realistically attribute this level of work to them.”

“Sir, I—” Garrett began, then blanched when she realized that she had not asked for, nor received permission to speak.

Trujillo waved her off, “Out with it, Lieutenant.”

“Well, I…“ she paused, looking down the conference table to where Helvia sat, as silent and impassive as statuary. “I’m sorry, sir, it’s just awkward talking about a people in broad generalities when one of them is in the room.”

Trujillo cast a glance in Helvia’s direction. “Any objections, Mister Helvia?”

“None, sir,” he replied with what looked suspiciously like the hint of a self-deprecating smirk.

“Okay, then,” Garrett began. “I’ve been looking up everything we have on the Magna Romanii, to include Enterprise’s original contact reports. The most comprehensive information I’ve been able to get my hands on has been the debriefing of Mister Helvia’s family after they were granted refugee status by the Federation.”

Trujillo nodded, “I’m sensing there’s more?”

“Yes, sir, on multiple fronts, actually. Firstly, I stumbled across scholarly citations indicating that the Federation Cultural Contact Survey Group had a covert sociological survey team embedded on Magna Roma for over two decades, most of the 2270’s and 80’s. I’ve made multiple attempts to get access to their mission’s extensive database, but all records are listed as classified by the order of the Federation Science Council.”

Trujillo appeared nonplussed and threw a look in Davula’s direction. “Commander, given that you’re our First Contact expert, how unusual is that?”

“Highly, sir,” Davula replied, her eyes widening as she considered the ramifications. “I could see Starfleet Intel compartmentalizing certain information about advanced near-peer technology, but at the time of that cultural survey the Romanii were at the equivalent level of Earth in the late 20th century. And for the Science Council itself to lockdown the comprehensive findings of a decades long survey mission… it’s nearly unheard of.”

Trujillo typed notes into her data-slate atop the table. “I will find you some answers, Lieutenant.” She looked up, focusing on the young science officer again. “You said multiple fronts?”

“Yes, sir.” Garrett made another furtive glance down the table at Helvia. “To be perfectly blunt, sir, the more I dig into the little available information I can access, the less sense the overall picture makes.”

Trujillo redoubled her focus on Garrett. “Meaning… what, exactly?”

“Nothing about that planet or it’s people makes any logical sense, Commodore,” Garrett said, evident frustration bleeding through in her tone. She looked guiltily towards Helvia. “I mean no disrespect, Lieutenant. I’m speaking from a purely scientific standpoint; I’m not disparaging your people’s culture.”

Trujillo looked towards Davula, then shifted her eyes back to Garrett. “Explain.”

“The planet itself is nearly identical to Earth. Not only its overall mass, gravity, and atmospheric composition, but the land masses and oceans show only a sixteen percent variation from Earth’s physical layout. That’s not just improbable, it’s statistically impossible.”

Shukla smiled uncertainly at Garrett’s seeming outrage with the planet’s improbability before realizing what he was witnessing was genuine professional ire. He sought to offer an explanation with, “Enterprise’s science officer cited Hodgkin’s Law of Parallel Planetary Developme—” he began, only to have Davula try to interject.

Garrett waved them both off impatiently. “Respectfully, Hodgkin’s Law is a theory observing generalities among humanoid civilizations. It’s concerned with social and cultural attributes, not the physical composition and comparative geology of planets. Commander Spock later recanted his application of that theory in his subsequent after-action reports.”

Trujillo observed Garrett quietly for a moment, having never seen her this professionally flustered. “What are you trying to say, Lieutenant?”

“As unlikely as this sounds, sir, every standing theory I’ve come across trying to explain the existence of Magna Roma and its people has crumbled with shockingly little scrutiny. Some researchers early on hypothesized that perhaps an alien species abducted Romans from Earth millennia ago and seeded them on a planet they terraformed for just that purpose.”

“That’s the theory I’m most familiar with,” Trujillo said. “You’re saying that doesn’t hold water?”

“Not a drop, sir.”

Trujillo brought her hands up off the table in a gesture of abeyance. “Let’s put a pause on this for a moment, Mister Garrett. I fully intend to hear you out, but let’s finish our mission brief first.”

Garrett nodded weakly, appearing deflated, her anger abating. “Of course, sir. I apologize.”

The remainder of the briefing went by the numbers, with recitations of departmental readiness, logistics updates, and navigation information on the region surrounding the fourth planet of System 892, also known as Magna Roma. The viewscreen was activated and the senior staffs of both Gol and Zelenskyy offered similar reports.

Trujillo concluded the briefing, terminating the transmission to the other ships and dismissing the rest of the senior staff. She indicated that Davula, Helvia, and Ambassador Dax should remain.

“Okay, Rachel. You have my full attention. Please tell me what’s got you so upset.”

Garrett took a steadying breath, determined to rein in her roiling frustration. “Commodore, I’m a scientist, trained in the scientific method and qualified in data analytics. Every time I dive into the information available on this planet and culture, the prevailing theories fall apart like day old sandcastles. I’m looking at reports that read like fiction, as if the scientists writing them just… gave up… took the easy way out and decided to offer up the most ridiculous, unsupported drivel to explain away all the inconsistencies they encountered.”

The young science officer toggled the LCARS interface set into the tabletop in front of her, calling up a representation of Magna Roma on the briefing room’s viewscreen set into the bulkhead. “Let’s take that theory you cited, sir, about ancient aliens abducting Earthers from in or around Rome two millennia ago and transporting them to a terraformed duplicate Earth. Given that the Magna Romanii are genetically identical to Terran Humans, if you took a sample group of let’s say five hundred people and plunked them down in roughly the same spot on Magna Roma, we can easily calculate the population growth that would be expected.”

Davula smiled slightly, nodding. “The numbers don’t add up, do they?”

“Not even close, sir,” Garrett agreed. “By now, their population should be somewhere in the vicinity of two-point-one billion, once we factor in a lack of genetic variety in a homogeneous population, ecological impacts, localized overpopulation stressors, disease rates and endemic warfare. The actual population of Magna Roma at present is hovering somewhere in the vicinity of six-point-three billion. “

“And if that’s what happened, how do you explain all the other racial and ethnic groups we know to exist on Magna Roma, just as they do on Earth? Did our mystery aliens abduct hundreds or thousands of people from every racial group on every continent, and drop them onto the analogous regions on their duplicate Earth? This supposedly happened what, less than twenty-five hundred years ago? So, well within recorded Human history. How is it that we have no stories or fables about the night people disappeared from cultures all across the planet?

“Alternately, I’ve found no evidence of any historical documentation from Magna Roma indicating people waking up on a suddenly depopulated planet.” Garrett turned to Helvia. “Lieutenant, growing up, were there any historical accounts or fables about ancient Romans waking up to find most of the population of the city of Rome missing?”

Helvia shook his head. “Not to my knowledge, no.”

Garrett pointed to the screen as she focused on Trujillo. “And what about the animals? Millions of species of animals and insects, all completely identical to those on Earth, to include fossilized skeletons of the same extinct species that evolved on Earth and then went extinct. You're telling me whoever terraformed Magna Roma went to all the trouble to infuse fossils into the rock strata?"

Trujillo was on the cusp of replying when Garrett abruptly continued, "And that’s just one of nearly a dozen different crackpot theories that have been generated over the decades. None of them stand up to any serious scrutiny, making me wonder what the hell the Science Council could be hiding.”

Trujillo nodded slowly. “I’m beginning to understand your frustration, Lieutenant. I’ll pull some strings to see if I can get that data declassified so you can have access to it.”

“Thank you, sir.”

Trujillo looked from Garrett to Davula, a former science officer herself. “You two are my science cadre, and you’ve never let me down. I want to know everything there is to know about this planet and its people by the time we arrive. Forget everything Federation science thinks it knows; I want the two of you to start from square one with Mister Helvia’s assistance.”

The two women departed with Helvia, leaving Trujillo alone with Curzon.

The older man smiled at her, his eyes twinkling with merriment. “A genuine mystery, eh? As if this assignment weren’t complicated and delicate enough already.”

She shook her head fractionally. “Leave it to Starfleet to give us only half the critical information we need because some bureaucrat someplace likes keeping secrets for secrecy’s sake.”

Curzon’s smile expanded. “It’ll just make our success all the sweeter, Commodore.”

“I hope to hell you’re right, Ambassador. We have far too many blind spots where the Romanii are concerned, and in this kind of scenario, blind spots get people killed.”

"You're an incorrigible pessimist, Commodore, do you know that?" He noted with a laugh.

"I'll celebrate when the job's finished," Trujillo countered. "If we somehow pull this off, you and Glal can save me a spot in that ratty spacer's bar you two so adore."

* * *
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Ooohh a delicious little mystery about the Magna Romanii.... And buried in layers of official secrecy and official pseudoscience. Very nice premise. This is going to be fun! Even more fun for the presence of Curzon (can't help hearing Rene Auberjonois as he was the only one to play a version of Curzon).

Thanks!! rbs
Loving how Rachel has grown so much since her introduction both in her role and her comfort in voicing her ire with everything that doesn't make sense about the Magna Roma people.

One query: You mentioned Curzon's joined status, but it wasn't common knowledge until later on, was it? After the Odan Incident? Although admittedly, perhaps Nandi became aware during the last mission Dax mentioned they had together...

Eager to see where this is going, my friend!

Even more fun for the presence of Curzon (can't help hearing Rene Auberjonois as he was the only one to play a version of Curzon).

Me too!!
One query: You mentioned Curzon's joined status, but it wasn't common knowledge until later on, was it? After the Odan Incident? Although admittedly, perhaps Nandi became aware during the last mission Dax mentioned they had together...
I'd always been of the impression that the Enterprise crew's ignorance of Trill joining was somewhat retconned by DS9, given that Sisko clearly knew of Curzon's joined status. Perhaps it's something the Trill kept quiet, and if so, we might surmise that the information was pertinent enough to be disclosed ro Trujillo and her crew during Curzon's rescue on Ardana.

Thanks for commenting!
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I agree with Sam. "The Host" made it extraordinarily dangerous for joined Trill (case in point, not being able to be beamed) to operate in space above/beyond that usual norm of danger. I think it's kind of unfeasible for someone to eschew the transporter 100%. Even Pulaski tried and she needed it to survive in "Unnatural Selection," that wasn't anything more than a preference and not biological requirement.

Also: Spots > Ridges :biggrin:
* * *

City of Rome, Magna-Roma, System 892

The office of the First Consul was decorative and ostentatious, befitting the ruler of a planetary empire. The room sat high atop a tower overlooking the Forum, with the Curia and the Temple of Saturn just visible from this vantage. This building was a recent addition to the skyline, one of the only glass and tritanium structures that had been allowed within this meticulously curated ancient city.

The sky was hazy, the clouds heavy with the ash thrown up by Mt. Vesuvius some two-hundred kilometers distant. Even the nearby Mt. Terminillo smoked menacingly, though it had yet to erupt thanks to the intervention of the Lissepians and their geo-stabilization technology.

Hrabanus Macer, First Consul of the Roman Empire, entered the chamber, escorted by four lictors, two proceeding, and two following him.

He was of average height for one of his species, clad in a light tan tunic and pants under the purple edged ceremonial toga praetexta of his office. His face was narrow, almost hawkish in its angular intensity. His light blue eyes appeared to move constantly, indicative of a mind in continuous motion, and the crest of white hair limning the sides of his head spoke to decades of service to the empire.

The Orion envoy acknowledged Macer with a deep bow. “First Consul. Thank you for seeming me on such short notice.”

“Ahmet-surah Vantiquis, welcome,” Macer said in a conversational tone. “To what do we owe the honor?”

Vantiquis, a large, thick-necked Orion noble with emerald-green skin and sporting a jewel-studded skullcap, turned from his inspection of the capital city. He was clad in a sleeveless shirt and vest made from the finest Tholian silk, the garments appearing to change both their color and texture depending on the light and from which angle they were being viewed.

“The Lissepians are leaving,” Ventiquis announced without preamble.

Macer, to his credit, appeared surprised at this news. “What? Are you referring to their diplomatic or trade delegations?”

“All of them,” Vantiquis clarified. “They’ve evacuated all their personnel from their embassy on the surface and from your Stella Gradus station. All their ships will be gone from your system by this time tomorrow, First Consul.”

Macer gestured to the chair across from his large and ornate desk, his expression now radiating curiosity and concern. “Please take your ease, Ahmet-surah. Can you explain this sudden exodus?”

The Orion stepped before the desk but did not sit. He hooked his thumbs behind the decorative breastplate woven into his tunic. “Despite our warnings, your military has continued with its raids on shipping in this and adjoining sectors. Despite our explicit caution not to do so, your ships attacked multiple Federation trade vessels and have now drawn the attention of Starfleet.”

“I fail to see the problem,” Macer said with a dismissive wave. “We haven’t had dealings with the Federation in more than five decades, and even then, the worst they could do was cause the lights to flicker.”

Vantiquis frowned, irritation shimmering at the edges of his features. “The Federation is not just a single planet, First Consul, but an alliance of worlds, hundreds strong, and presently expanding at an alarming rate. Their Starfleet numbers in the thousands of vessels. In your last encounter with them, their laws forbade any obvious interference in your society, and so tied their hands. Those laws no longer apply.”

Macer turned in his chair to fill two glasses with diluted wine from a decanter, sliding one of them across the desk to Vantiquis. “What has changed that nullifies these laws they seemed so wed to last time?”

“You were, by their standards, primitives, and they were worried about polluting your society with knowledge of other species and the wider galactic community. This is their so-called Prime Directive. The moment that we and the Lissepians made formal contact with your people, that cultural contamination became irrevocable and voided their Prime Directive.”

Macer took a long draught of wine, while Vantiquis’ sat as yet untouched. “What will they do?”

“Hard to say, First Consul. They are dispatching a squadron to hunt down your ships. I would guess that your vessels, few as they are, will be confiscated or destroyed. They will likely attempt to open negotiations with you, as that is their way.”

The consul sat back in his chair, examining the Orion over the lip of his chalice. “You know this how?”

“We have operatives within Starfleet,” Vantiquis replied. “Not as many as we would like, but sufficient to give us some measure of forewarning when Starfleet moves against our interests.”

“What can we do to defend ourselves?”

“Against a Starfleet squadron? Not much, I’m afraid. This is why we warned you to leave them be.”

Macer tapped at a small, desktop computer. “What if we were to accelerate our purchase and refit process with your people? We could bring more ships online prior to their arrival.”

Vantiquis shook his head. “It would ultimately make no difference, and it would implicate my people far more than is wise. Your people have been piloting spacecraft for a little over two decades, while Starfleet itself is nearly two centuries old. Even if you were to somehow overwhelm their first squadron, they would simply send a full fleet the next time. I told you, their Starfleet dwarfs even the collective might of all the Orion Houses.”

“We needed those ships,” Macer said, an edge creeping into his voice. “The Federation trade ships were massive, larger than anything we’d previously seen.”

“As we have explained; we can provide such transports, it will simply take time for our dockyards to expand their existing operations to provide the vessels you require, First Consul. We were also planning on subcontracting with the Lissepians and others to meet your quota.”

“It was too few ships, and too long a wait. You well know our requirements.”

Vantiquis nodded. “I do, just as I know full well that you need the Lissepians and their geothermal regulators and seismic dampers. With their departure, who will operate these advanced systems?”

“You have scientists, do you not?” Macer snarled as the consequences of the Romanii’s recent actions settled upon him.

“Not enough, and certainly too few in the areas of geology and terraforming. That’s why we invited in the Lissepians, if you’ll remember.”

Macer scowled into his cup. “May I assume that we cannot expect military assistance from the Orions?”

“Open warfare with the Federation?” Vantiquis scoffed. “No. Dead men and prisoners enjoy no benefits of latinum, women or wine. We are businessmen. We have few soldiers, as we typically hire mercenaries when open force-of-arms is needed.”

Macer looked up, his eyes gleaming. “Yes, good. Mercenaries then. We’ll pay handsomely, and the Orions will be awarded a finder’s fee for facilitating the transactions.”

“Such actions will only forestall what is to come, First Consul,” Vantiquis warned.

“The empire’s fate has turned on such moments many times in the past, Orion.”

Vantiquis radiated somber acceptance. “This was avoidable, First Consul. We asked you not to provoke the Federation or the Klingon Empire. What was so unclear about our warnings?”

Macer closed his eyes briefly, exhaling. “Our Consectetur... they have become increasingly difficult to manage. They have a habit of exceeding their mandate.”

“We warned you about that, as well. Superior abilities and intellect breed superior ambition. You’ve fallen into the same trap as so many species before you.”

The Roman leader finished his wine and glanced at his computer terminal. “I have another meeting in just a few moments, Ahmet-surah. Please convey the particulars of whichever mercenary groups you contract with to our military liaison. I will confer with the Senate over providing the necessary funds.”

Vantiquis bowed. “As you wish, First Consul.”

As he departed the office, Vantiquis weighed the dangers of remaining entangled with the Magna Romanii against the vast profits he and his house were squeezing from this venture. Three decades of commerce with this increasingly blighted world had made him wealthy beyond his wildest aspirations, but even he shrank from the idea of a direct confrontation with the Federation Starfleet.

Just a little longer, he told himself. Desperation breeds profit, and Vantiquis was determined that the impending collapse of this world could provide his house with the riches and leverage to become a leading power among the Syndicate.

* * *
Sounds like the superior are getting a little big for their bridges. And it also sounds like the Magnii are getting sucked dry.

Very rich vein here - loving this story! rbs
I love this perspective shift to show the Magna Romani side of the equation. It's important to illustrate in order to present the stakes in a clearer method. Also, given that the Orions are involved somehow makes this a layered story for Reyky to uncover later on.

Keep up the amazing work!
I am absolutely loving this story and how you are exploring an entirely unexamined part of Trek lore. I'm really looking forward to your ideas on the parallel world mystery, and it will be very interesting to see how the Magna Romanii deal with a Starfleet that isn't hamstrung by the Prime Directive. Plus, the Orions are always fun. :D
I love this perspective shift to show the Magna Romani side of the equation. It's important to illustrate in order to present the stakes in a clearer method. Also, given that the Orions are involved somehow makes this a layered story for Reyky to uncover later on.

Keep up the amazing work!
Thanks! There's a lot going on here behind the scenes, and the Romanii are a complicated people, to be sure.
I am absolutely loving this story and how you are exploring an entirely unexamined part of Trek lore. I'm really looking forward to your ideas on the parallel world mystery, and it will be very interesting to see how the Magna Romanii deal with a Starfleet that isn't hamstrung by the Prime Directive. Plus, the Orions are always fun. :D
Thank you! I've wanted to do a deep dive into this species for quite a while, to see if I could breath some real life into a people created for a semi-campy TOS episode. Fingers crossed!
* * *

“I’m sending you hunting, Mister Glal,” Trujillo said across the subspace channel to the escorting USS Gol.

The pugnacious Tellarite commander smiled from within his unkempt beard, his tusks quivering with excitement. “Don’t think that I’m not eager to run these bastards down, sir, but is it wise to split our detachment? That only leaves you with Zelenskyy for backup should the Romanii decide to engage you in-system.”

“True enough,” she agreed with a smile. She secretly missed working with her irascible former XO on a daily basis, but his talents as a commanding officer were undeniable. “I’m betting that they’ll think because we’re in their home system that their ships can maraud freely elsewhere. I’d like you to disabuse them of that notion.”

He held her gaze with his piercing green eyes, his expression suddenly serious. “What are my rules of engagement, sir?”

“Issue challenge upon encountering one of their ships, and if they refuse to heave-to and surrender, engage them with the intent to disable. Failing that, destroy them.”

“I’m not excited about the prospect of bringing Augments aboard as prisoners,” he growled. “I’ve seen the recordings of their boarding party, and I’ve read their bio-scans. They’re incredibly dangerous. The odds of even a handful of them being able to take the ship are too high for my taste.”

“I’d recommend beaming over canisters of neurozine gas and a liberal application of stun grenades. Hell, once their shields are down you can stand off and rake their vessel with shipboard phasers set to stun. Once they’re neutralized, you could place them in a specialized containment unit aboard their own ship. Fit the ship with explosives so that if they were to break free, you can detonate it remotely. Yes, they’re strong and ferocious by human standards, but strength-wise they’re on par with Vulcans, Romulans, and Klingons. As long as we’re taking rational precautions…”

“Understood, sir,” Glal said unenthusiastically.

“Glal, they’re still people. It’s not like they’re androids or some other manner of artificial life form. Knowing Magna Romanii society, it’s a good bet none of them volunteered for these enhancements. I certainly can’t condone the crimes they’ve committed, but we have to take the high road here. We can’t espouse the benefits of a rules-based galactic community to the Romanii while we’re slaughtering their soldiers without a fair trial.”

Glal raised a Vulcan-like eyebrow. “That may be the most admiralty thing I’ve ever heard you say, sir.”

She raised a hand, fully aware of the irony of her statement. “I know, I know. It appears that even I am capable of growth and change, my friend.”

Glal’s grin had returned. “You’re just sending me off to keep me away from the ambassador, aren’t you?”

Trujillo closed her eyes as if pained. “I had to hand over a vintage bottle of Tarkalian bitters to get the two of you out of the brig and get the whole incident deleted from the station’s security log. It’s too expensive for me to allow the two of you miscreants to roam around unattended.”

“The man does know how to throw a party,” Glal laughed.

She shook her head in mock consternation. “Speaking of Curzon, I have a diplomatic prep session with him in twenty minutes. We’ve learned more about the Romanii in the past six days than I learned about the Romulans in four years at the academy.”

“Send him my regards, and please let him know that I’ve been exiled due to his Flannigans.”

“Shenanigans,” she corrected with a resigned sigh. “And good hunting, Captain,” she added, terminating the channel.

* * *

“Magna Romanii culture, as I’ve noted previously, is overwhelmingly traditional and conservative," Lieutenant Helvia said, instructing many of the senior staff in Reykjavík’s windowless briefing room.

"New ideas, new technologies, and new cultural trends are all looked upon with deep suspicion,” Helvia explained. “Even when new technologies were reluctantly adopted, it was almost exclusively for military applications. The Romanii weren’t traditionally disposed to modifying such inventions for mass production or usage by the general public. The kinds of labor-saving household items popularized in Earth’s 20th century were considered unnecessary in a society where such mundane tasks were handled by slave labor.”

Garrett frowned, gesturing to the viewscreen where a large anti-aircraft missile system was displayed. “They’re clearly not still in a pre-industrialized state, Lieutenant.”

“No, but Romanii technological advancement has been driven by necessity. The Eastern cultures on Magna Roma, what on Earth would be considered China and Southeast and Southern Asia, were the first to create such technologies as gun powder, cannons, and later, aircraft. The empire was forced to adopt and adapt these inventions for their own use, and in so doing only grudgingly advanced into what on Earth was called the Industrial Age.”

Helvia stood, changing the viewscreen image to a flat, Mercator projection map of Magna Roma’s surface. It was disturbingly close to Earth’s continental layout, with only a few major differences notable from this perspective.

Eastern Asia, South America and southern Africa had large, inland seas, and an eighth continent occupied what on Earth would have been the Northern Atlantic Ocean.

Helvia gestured to the landmasses in the Western Hemisphere, the continents which on Earth would have been North and South America. “The ‘new’ continents of Aggendum and New Carthage were discovered by the Carthaginians in what would have been Earth’s second century, AD. They were first colonized by Carthaginian and Chinese settlers and were only conquered by the empire a thousand years later in what is called the ‘Barbarian Conquests.’”

Trujillo appeared intrigued. “One of the things that amazed me is that after the Magna Romanii made First Contact with the SS Beagle, their society absorbed the shock of the existence of alien life with surprisingly little upheaval.”

Helvia shrugged. “Until contact with the Enterprise six years later, the Beagle and her crew were a state secret. But, following the escape of Kirk’s away team and the arrival of the Orions shortly thereafter, the existence of aliens became public knowledge. In the end, alien cultures were viewed as just more barbarians. What does it matter if the barbarians are from the East, or from another world around another sun? Simply more beings to subjugate and exploit. When Proconsul Claudius Marcus put Beagle’s crew into the arena, they bled and died just as easily as any man.”

“So, they feel they have nothing to fear from outworlders?” Davula asked.

“They recognize the threat that aliens pose to the empire, but so far, they’ve only had dealings with a handful of non-human species. They’ve entered into any number of commercial agreements, the terms of which have been highly favorable to the empire. With slaves to sell and latinum mines still being worked, Magna Roma has become very wealthy. They have gone from nuclear power a few decades ago to fusion and anti-matter systems. So far, at least, contact with ‘Star-barians’ has brought only benefits to the empire.”

Trujillo winced and Davula laughed out loud.

“They don’t really call us that, do they?” the Bolian asked incredulously.

“It’s a modern colloquialism,” Helvia admitted.

Curzon Dax sat forward, having been silent for much of the morning’s cultural briefing. “If the planet is swimming in wealth, what is the point of Romanii piracy? Surely they can simply purchase whatever advanced technology they want from their intermediaries? Why go to the trouble to disable and board a Federation merchant vessel?”

Helvia shook his head. “Unknown, Ambassador. Perhaps the empire’s military is trying to establish control over the trade routes nearest System 892? Now that they’re in possession of warp-capable spacecraft, they may be returning to old habits of conquest.”

Curzon shook his head emphatically. “No, there has to be something more we’re not yet aware of.”

Davula studied him. “Military adventurism is consistent with their culture and history, Ambassador.”

“Oh, I don’t deny that. However, they’re a conservative, reactionary power, not one given to clumsy gestures, most especially when their technological betters are watching. I don’t think we dare attribute their actions to stupidity or political naïveté. These are dangerous people whose concept of life and death are very different from our own. Even now life is relatively cheap in their society. Sure, the slaves are provided with healthcare, but what does that matter if you’re buried in a mine collapse or killed while fighting in the arena?”

Trujillo found herself nodding in agreement. “We underestimate them at our peril.”

“Precisely,” Curzon said, his voice weighted with caution.

* * *