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Speak Softly

Posted on Jun 18, 2017 @ 1:19am by Captain Michael Turlogh Kane

Mission: The Romulan Way

"SPEAK SOFTLY"

(Continued from "Romulans And Dinner")

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Captain's log, supplemental - following Commander Jaron's acceptance of my invitation for a diplomatic function aboard the Phoenix, he and his staff have beamed over. Everything is in readiness to begin...

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Location: USS Phoenix, en route to Romulus
Stardate: [2.17]0617.1720
Scene: The Vulgar Tribble - deck 10, saucer section


Michael Turlogh Kane stood back and watched everything fall into place. The Romulans had left their temporary quarters and were on their way to the Vulgar Tribble, which had been completely redesigned for the function. Replicated tapestries hung on the walls - the sky-blue laurels of the Federation next to the grasping bird of Romulus. There was one long, single table that curved gently towards a horseshoe shape, and it was stacked with colour-coded dishes to whet the palettes of everyone present. The small bandstand in the corner was politely unobtrusive as the musicians tuned up.

The strange feeling kept dogging him. The Phoenix no longer sailed the stars of the Federation - right now she was deep inside the Romulan Star Empire, being led by the nose towards an uncertain appointment with those who ruled that vast tract of space. The history of enmity between the Romulans and the Federation was a long and bitter one - both entities were diametrically opposed to one another along basic societal philosophy, and while it had occasionally been possible in the past to come to an uneasy truce, such arrangements were only ever ephemeral and quickly degenerated back into a state of cold war. Analysts said that it was because the Federation valued freedom and the Romulans valued control, but that was simplifying things. Neither Federation freedom nor Romulan control could ever be extended beyond their current borders while the other existed, and that created the danger of stagnation over a long term.

Kane noticed Iphie Bonviva standing near him, waiting for him to stop thinking about whatever he was thinking about and notice her. He turned to face her, making a gesture with his hand to encompass the whole room. "Miss Bonviva - before you say anything, I want to congratulate you for the work you and your staff have put into the Vulgar Tribble. The room is unrecognisable, but looks spectacular. I'm certain that our guests will be pleased. Please extend my compliments to your staff."

Iphie grinned. "Thanks." She held up a tray on which was sitting a decanter of a dangerous-looking blue liquid. "Romulan ale? It's the real thing."

"Just the one." Kane reached out and took a glass, the heady aroma of the alcohol wafting up his nose. "You know there's an embargo on this stuff."

Iphie put on a mock-outraged face. "This is a very old vintage. Don't look now, Cap'n - our guests have arrived."

Kane looked at the main door to the Vulgar Tribble, where Commander Jaron and his three officers had just entered. Jake Crichton was with them, gesturing around the room as he illustrated the layout. Both Jaron and Deleem were smiling politely, but Herut and Ratal were giving off an attitude of stern strength - Ratal in particular was staring daggers at everyone around her.

Jake saw Kane, and the group started to walk over. Kane took a surreptitious deep breath, plastered a smile on to his face, and made himself ready.

"Captain Kane," said Jake, "may I present Commander Jaron, captain of the Shai'Dan."

"Jolan tru, Commander Jaron," said Kane, reaching out a hand.

Jaron extended his arm, like he had been practicing this manouevre, and they shook hands stiffly. "And may you also find peace, Captain Kane." The Romulan released his grip and looked around the room, nodding approvingly. "I must say, I was not expecting a welcome of such opulence. My compliments to your hospitality staff."

"This starship is fortunate to have a modicum of talent in that department." Beside him, Iphie was beaming from blue ear to blue ear. Kane took a second glass of ale from her tray and gave her a 'disappear' look with his eyebrows. She stuck out her tongue and moved away while Jaron and Kane moved to the main viewing port of the Vulgar Tribble. Behind them, Jake began making more awkward small talk with Deleem, while other officers subtly tried to engage Ratal and Herut in conversation.

The starfield was a blur, but the stern of the Shai'Dan was visible to the fore, leading the Phoenix onward into Romulan space. Jaron lifted up a hand and pointed ahead. "Romulus lies ahead, Captain Kane. You will be the first Federation starship to visit my homeworld in over half a century."

Kane raised his glass. "The Praetor's invitation honours us."

"I am sure she knows it," said Jaron neutrally. He paused for a moment. "This new Praetor - there is much that is new about her. She enjoys broad support among my people, and she has a certain way of talking, of acting, that reaches all levels of society. She is forward-thinking and often makes public declarations about the direction she believes our society needs to move." Jaron took a sip of ale, and looked pleased at the taste. Then his face became serious. "You should know that not all in the Senate are supportive of this new peace initiative."

Kane shrugged lightly. "The Federation Council is likewise divided. There is much work to be done."

"That is not what I mean." Jaron took a step closer to Kane and lowered his voice. "There are many within the Empire who say that the Federation has never been as weak as it is now. They say that, while we have the advantage, we should attack. They say that even if the war becomes a stalemate, the Empire would still make territorial gains from any subsequent peace treaty, and push the Neutral Zone boundary farther from Romulus and closer to Terra."

Kane looked at Jaron in the eye. "And what do you say, Commander?"

"Like you, Captain Kane, I obey my orders. Your admirals ordered you to come here, did they not?"

"They did."

"And they did not take your personal feelings into account?"

"They did not."

Jaron put a conspiratorial hand on Kane's shoulder. "Neither did mine. The very act of speaking civilly to anyone from the perfidious Federation is enough to anger many of my officers."

Kane looked back at the other Romulans and saw what Jaron meant. To his credit, Deleem looked like he was enjoying talking to Jake, even if the conversation was a bit one-sided, but the other two - Ratal and Herut - were giving off an air of stand-offishness. Ratal looked like she had caught the milky eyes of Kassandra Thytos, and the diminutive marine was slowly but surely moving towards the female Romulan - both of them sizing each other up on a bully's playground. Herut had said hello to everyone who had greeted him, but he had refused food and drink and had kept his comments cursory, almost brusque.

It was an illustration of how much work there was to do. Kane could hardly blame the Romulans for feeling on edge - if the situation was reversed, he would probably be expecting a knife in the back at any moment - and for a brief moment he wondered how genuine the welcome on Romulus would be from anyone who was not Praetor Delora Radaik.

"You are disappointed by the reactions of my officers, Ratal and Herut?" asked Jaron.

Kane shook his head. "Of course not. If I was aboard the Shai'Dan, I think I might behave in much the same way."

"I doubt that, Captain Kane. Not all Romulans are foolish enough to believe every ounce of state propaganda denouncing the Federation. No, there is a reason for their behaviour. One of them is a Tal'Shiar agent."

Kane looked at him in shock. "You brought a Tal'Shiar agent aboard the Phoenix?"

"I was not in a position to refuse them, Captain Kane. Besides, I am not supposed to know their identity."

Kane shook his head in confusion. "The Tal'Shiar planted an agent aboard the Shai'Dan and didn't tell you about it? I don't think I could rest easy knowing that, if I were you."

Jaron nodded sagely. "That is what the Ta'Shiar do. They are everywhere and anyone. That way, everyone is careful of what they say, what ideas they spread."

Kane turned back to look at Herut and Ratal. The woman had figured out that Kassandra was sizing her up, and was standing at her full height, eyeballing at the blind marine. One of the Bynars - Hobbes, Kane thought - approached her with a tray of canapes, and she shook her head haughtily, dismissing Hobbes like the Bynar was a dog.

"It's Ratal," Kane murmured. It all added up - the superiority complex, the casual condescension, the hostility. Only a Romulan who had been completely indoctrinated would wear such a sneer when confronted with dozens of her enemies.

"No," Jaron said sadly, like Kane had failed a test. "Herut is the Tal'Shiar agent masquerading as my operations officer. Ratal's parents were killed fighting the Kem D'Neel at Coriana Three. She believes that the Federation dragged the Empire into that war, and thus, she despises you."

Herut. Kane watched the man and saw that Jaron was correct. Herut was just open enough that people were approaching him to make conversation. He was asking them questions - who are you, what is your species, what is your position aboard the ship - gathering intelligence. When not talking, he was watching everything and everyone. When he went back to the Shai'Dan, it would probably not be to go to bed, but to write a report to his superiors in the Tal'Shiar.

For a moment, Kane saw how oppressive it must be to live in that kind of world, and shivered when he thought of what kind of people it might breed.

Jaron seemed to realise that the conversation had taken a downward turn. "Perhaps you would be interested in hearing about my home province, Captain Kane? It is my hope that you will be able to take in some of the sights of Romulus during your visit, and I would be pleased to return the hospitality your crew have shown us."

Kane steadied himself and turned back to the conversation. "Of course, Commander Jaron."

Outside, the stars rushed blindly past as the two ships sped ever closer to the heart of the Romulan Star Empire.

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NRPG: Too short I know, but we'll arrive at Romulus next weekend. This is to facilitate anyone who wants to post something at the diplomatic function but hasn't yet, or those of you who want to write a bit more about it.


Jerome McKee
the Soul of Captain Michael Turlogh Kane
Commanding Officer
USS PHOENIX


"He speaks an infinite deal of nothing!"
- Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice", Act 1, Scene 1.117

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