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Foreign Shores

Posted on Jul 01, 2017 @ 6:17pm by Captain Michael Turlogh Kane

Mission: The Romulan Way


(Continued from "Identity Crisis")


Captain's log, supplemental - after a successful diplomatic function with our counterparts from the Shai'Dan, our arrival at Romulus is imminent. The Phoenix will be the first Federation starship to visit the capital world of the Romulan Star Empire in over fifty years...


Location: USS Phoenix, approaching 128 Trianguli (Romulus) system
Stardate: [2.17]0701.1010
Scene: Main Bridge - Deck 1, saucer section

Michael Turlogh Kane couldn't sit down. Apprehension had been building in him for the past several hours, and he found himself pacing back and forth across the bridge as the Phoenix gradually got closer and closer to the lion's den. Not too many Federation starships had visited this world in the past, but there had been a few. In 2375, at the height of the First Dominion War, the Romulans had hosted an intergalactic conference on their homeworld, marking one of the rare times they opened their capital up to outsiders. The starship Bellerophon had transported the Federation's delegation to that conference. Then, four years later, the Sovereign-class USS Enterprise had visited Romulus just the moment when the Romulan military had overthrown its civilian government. Now the Phoenix was about to become the third.

The exact location of Romulus had been a total mystery to Starfleet for centuries. The existence of the 128 Trianguli system was known, of course - the star having been observed and catalogued by Federation astronomers - but it was not identified as the capital system of the Romulan Star Empire for over a hundred years afterward. In the twenty-fifth century, the Federation's corpus of knowledge regarding the system had expanded - it was the second planet of, and one of two M-class worlds, in its solar system. It was a warm, temperate world, with a range of climate much like Earth's, and a similar topography consisting of oceans, mountains, jungles, plains, icecaps, and deserts. The one thing Romulus didn't have too much of was natural resources - it was that fact that forced the initial expansion of Romulans off-world and into space. Their nearest neighbour - the planet known as Remus - was the first planet to be colonised by the nascent empire, but the capital always remained on Romulus. Specifically, it remained in a city named Ki-Baratan, which lay on the shores of the Apnex Sea. From its seat there, the Senate and People of the Romulan Star Empire exerted its will across hundreds of star systems.

Kane moved to the rear of the bridge where Lieutenant Byte was working at one of the operations stations. The android was busily correlating the sensor data that was being collected by the ship - the Shai'Dan might have requested that the Phoenix deactivate its sensor palettes for the voyage to their homeworld, but that request had not been made. Instead, the Romulans had chosen a middle ground by leading the Phoenix through their empire by a roundabout route, keeping them clear of their major star systems, therefore seeking to limit the information the Phoenix could glean regarding information regarding starbase locations, ship deployments, and the like. That didn't mean that nothing was being recorded, though. Everything the Phoenix picked up - warp trails, power emanations, comms chatter - all of it was being carefully recorded. Disseminating and correlating the lot of it would give Starfleet Intelligence several months of work when the Phoenix returned to Federation space.

Kane looked over Byte's shoulder. The data stream was long and it showed no signs of stopping - Byte had been manning this station for close to twenty hours straight now. The android's cornflower blue eyes never wavered, taking in everything. {{Greetings, Captain,}} said Byte, without looking up. {{Do you wish me to make a report?}}

Kane raised an eyebrow. "Don't you have enough to be doing, Mister Byte?"

{{Captain, I currently hold over two thousand quadrillion bits of data in my memory banks. My linear computational speed is approximately one-hundred-and-eighty trillion operations per second. I am more than capable of providing you with a succinct report should you wish it.}}

Kane smiled to himself. Was the android peeved because he had questioned its ability, he wondered. Byte was a truly amazing machine life-form, full of childlike wonder one moment, and total social retardation the next. Kane recalled that the android had previously attempted to induce fear and anxiety in itself, without success. "Alright then, Lieutenant. As we approach Romulus, what is the general overview of the subspace chatter and traffic movements occurring inside the system?"

Without taking its eyes off the screen, Byte responded. {{Subspace communications are at a surprisingly low level, Captain. It may be that news of our arrival has not been made public, or perhaps the Romulan subspace communications network has been restricted to general access in some way - the latter reason is more likely, but might be for any number of reasons. Furthermore, sensors have detected a lower-than-expected amount of warp signatures around the 128 Trianguli system, indicating a lower number of space vessels entering and leaving the system.}}

"Strange," Kane frowned. "There should be thousands of civilian starships operating in the capital system of the Romulan Empire."

Byte paused the data stream and turned to look up at him. {{Indeed, sir. If the Romulus system has been closed to civilian traffic, it was done before our scheduled arrival - an impressive feat of logistics.}}

Kane folded his arms, weighing up the options. The preparation that the Romulans had made for the arrival of the Phoenix was now becoming clear, and their own security had been foremost to their collective mind. Wary of the reputed firepower of the quadrant's only dreadnought, they must have dispatched the Shai'Dan with orders to escort it back to Romulus via a route that kept it clear of potential military targets. Meanwhile, they would have been sealing off their capital system to civilian traffic, temporarily suspending trade and travel for the duration of the Phoenix's visit. No wonder the Shai'Dan's crew seemed calm enough to attend a dinner aboard the Phoenix - their path had already been laid out for them by their superiors. With a shiver, Kane realised that there would likely be hundreds of cloaked Warbirds waiting for them too.

Jasmine Yu turned to him. "Incoming hail from the Shai'Dan, Captain. It's Commander Jaron."

Kane gestured to the main viewer. "On screen, Lieutenant." He moved down from the stern of the bridge as the viewer winked on, showing the Shai'Dan's bridge. Jaron was wearing his silver uniform jacket, sitting in his command chair on its central pedestal, surrounded by his bridge officers at their stations. "Commander Jaron."

The Romulan inclined his head in greeting. {{Captain Kane, our arrival on Romulus is imminent.}}

Kane nodded. "I'm looking forward to it."

{{Of course. There is the matter of where the Phoenix will be stationed while your delegation will be on the surface with the Praetor."

Kane stepped forward. "I had assumed the Shai'Dan would remain in its escort role as we assumed an orbital pattern."

Jaron stood up from his seat, taking a moment to frame his next sentence. {{Romulus is orbited by a new starbase, named Rom A'losh. The Imperial Navy has been preparing a berth for the Phoenix there. It is expected that you dock your starship at the starbase.}}

Kane froze. Translated, Rom A'losh meant 'the raptor's nest' in Standard. He gestured to Jasmine, drawing his thumb across his throat.

She cut the audio feed. "Mute."

The features of the other bridge officers were all masks of concern, and Kane looked around at them. "What do we know about this space station?"

Byte ran it through his computer station. {{Nothing, Captain. No records of an orbital space station around the planet.}}

"Makes sense that they have one, though," said Jake. "Their version of Spacedock, as it were. It's been so long since a Federation starship visited this system, they're bound to have made a few upgrades."

Jasmine indicated the main viewer. "Captain..."

Kane turned to see that Commander Jaron's frown had deepened at being put on mute. An exasperated look was forming on the Romulan's face as the seconds stretched out. Kane motioned for Jasmine to restore the audio feed. "My apologies, Commander Jaron, but we were not expecting to dock at an orbital station. I would like some time to consult with my officers before I respond."

{{Respond, Captain? Surely there can only be one response to our gracious invitation, given in good faith.}}

Kane ignored the slanted language. "As you know, Commander, I have a responsibility to the security of this ship, as you have to yours. I will contact you after I consult with my officers. Phoenix out."

The screen winked again, showing the starfield-at-warp again, dominated by the stern of the Shai'Dan ploughing on ahead.

Kane looked around the room. "Conference in five minutes."


Location: Somewhere in Romulan space
Scene: A computer monitor, relaying coded real-time instant messages

++ The Phoenix's arrival at the homeworld is imminent. An update is required.

++ We are six months from completion and full functionality. The timetable has not changed and will not. Has something unexpected happened?

++ You mean aside from the Federation's dreadnought paying a hastily-arranged visit to the capital?

++ I see. At all costs, you must keep that report buried. If the Praetor -

++ The Praetor's eyes are looking elsewhere, and as long as they are, we are safe. That report will never make it to the Senate. We served together many years. You have never had cause to doubt what I say.

++ No.

++ I must go and put on a smile and prepare to meet our guests. Believe it or not, one of them is known to us. I to my work, you to yours.

++ Interesting. I will want to know more in your next contact. I will wait to hear from you. Jolan Tru.


Location: USS Phoenix, as before
Scene: Conference room - Deck 1, saucer section

The senior officers of the starship Phoenix took their seats around the burnished mahogany conference table. Jake, Tomas', Kass, Jasmine, Arak, Eve, and Cantor. Lynette Ryan represented Engineering, and Sofia Andersson represented Medical. All of them had assembled to consider Jaron's invitation to dock at a Romulan space station that none of them had ever seen. For Kane at the head of the table, that was worrying - Admiral Stiles had warned him that any intelligence she could provide was out of date by at least a year, but in the half-century since Starfleet's last contact with Romulus, the Romulans could well have constructed a new space station in orbit, and why wouldn't they? Both Spacedock and Starbase 1 orbited Earth.

"Commander Jaron proposes that the Phoenix docks at The Raptor's Nest for the duration of her visit to Romulus," he said, getting everyone's attention. "This meeting is to decide the best course of action, thinking about the possible consequences of both acceptance and refusal." He looked around at everyone. "Comments."

"Hell no!" exclaimed Kass as soon as the word was out of his mouth. "Y'all are goddam fungbrains if'n ya think the Rom'lins kin be trusted! Oh, they've prepped a place for us alright, give us a nice clean berth in their space station, loaded ta the gills with friggin' sensor probes an' all kindsa shit! You tell them sonsabitches ta suck on your fat'n, Cap'n, pardon mah Klingonaase."

"Major!" chuckled Jake. "Why so aggressive? You do realise that there are probably dozens of cloaked warbirds waiting for us anyway? If they don't want us to leave, we won't be going anywhere."

""I must agree with the Major," interjected Cantor Von. Jake frowned at him, but the Betazoid continued on. "We can't be confined - it makes no tactical or operational sense. A physical tether to a space station is something we cannot comply with. The Romulans will be salivating at the idea of learning as much as they can regarding the Phoenix's systems, and we cannot let that happen. Knowledge, after all, is power."

"I agree," said Sofia Andersson. The young doctor didn't mince her words. "As much as I can see that being physically linked to a space station would provide greater stability to the ship as well as access to direct supply lines, we are dealing with Romulans here. With all due respect, Captain, history has shown them to be the type to offer a hand in friendship while directing an invasion with the other. Any direct link with any of our systems could be exploited in some way making the ship and everyone on board vulnerable."

"Yes, Captain," said Lynette Ryan. "We can't give the Romulans any advantage, no matter how slight, because they're sure to exploit it. We need assurances, but words aren't enough. Easier in the meantime to refuse, and take up an orbit instead."

"I can't believe what I'm hearing!" exclaimed Jake incredulously. "Listen - we're already as good as dead if the Romulans turn on us! You think that being in orbit gives us anything more than a few seconds' headstart if we need to make a run for it?"

"I agree with you, Commander," spoke up Tomas' Vukovic. The Borg leaned forward, elbows up on the table. "I could be of use if we were docked at a Romulan space station. My shapeshifting abilities - "

"- would cause an interstellar war if you were caught sneaking around," said Jasmine Yu. "I'm sorry, Commander Crichton, but I think you're wrong on this. A few seconds' headstart is better than nothing. Our best chance to escape is being free to jump to warp whenever we need to. I recommend we refuse to dock at this Raptor's Nest."

Jake shook his head in disbelief. "What about you, Eve?"

"I'm wary, Commander. Diplomatically, it would look friendlier if we docked at their space station, but on the whole I agree with the consensus here - if things go wrong and we need to move quickly, we need to be free to do so." Eve looked up at Kane. "I'm in favour of the orbit."

"And I also," said Arak Schad. The diminutive Aamazzarite had been listening quietly, but took the last turn to speak. "For as much as we know about the Romulans, there is so much more we do not know, especially about their technological capability. Just because the Phoenix outclasses their starships does not mean it also outstrips all of their related technology. If we docked at this space station of theirs, they might be able to disguise surreptitious scanning amidst the background noise of the station. No - for our own safety, we should avoid docking there."

Kane nodded. He glanced sideways at Jake - the ExO was looking down at the table. Kane could imagine that Jake was feeling publicly embarrassed right about now, and touched his forearm compassionately. "We'll go with the majority recommendation," he said as gently as he could. "Kane to bridge."

[[Bridge. Byte here.]]

"Open a channel to the Shai'Dan, Lieutenant, and put it through to the conference room." He looked around the table. "Important that we appear united on this."

The wall-mounted viewscreen flickered on, but it didn't show the Shai'Dan's bridge. Jaron was sitting at a desk in what looked like a small but functional office - perhaps his version of a ready room. His jacket was off again, and he looked around in askance at the assembled faces on the Phoenix. {{It seems like a town meeting has taken place, Captain.}}

Kane hit him with it right away. "I must respectfully decline your offer of a berth at this space station you mentioned, Commander Jaron. I and my officers feel that, in the best interests of this starship's security, we would prefer to take up a standard orbital pattern instead."

{{You - decline?}} Jaron's eyebrow shot up in a very Vulcan manner.

Kane said nothing, letting him digest it, while the Romulan's eyes flickered around at everyone, pausing to rest on the faces of those who he spoke to at the diplomatic function.

{{I see. I must contact my superiors with this news, Captain. We did not anticipate refusal, and I am unsure what consequences will follow as a result of this. Shai'Dan out.}}

The screen winked off again. Kane turned back to his officers. There was no way of knowing if Jaron was speaking the truth or not - surely the Romulans *had* anticipated refusal - but even if he was not, it didn't make much of a difference this close to Romulus. "Thank you all for your input. Dismissed."


Location: 128 Trianguli II (Romulus)
Scene: Orbit

Rom A'losh - the Raptor's Nest - hung in the sky above Romulus, turning slowly on its own axis, a companion to the planet's two natural satellites. It was enormous - comparable with the Federation's own Spacedock - but was not shaped the same way. Eschewing the mushroom designs that Federation starbase planners preferred, the Raptor's Nest was shaped like a huge wheel, with a central boss holding several spokes that were connected around a thick circumference outer ring.

The central structure was the source of the station's power, as well as the nerve centre of all its systems. Constructed around a huge version of the artificial singularities that powered Romulan starships, the Raptor's Nest was both an orbital fortress and a docking platform for imperial starships. On a good day, the thousands-strong crew of the station tended to the needs of dozens of ships, from the smallest Bird of Prey to the largest Valdore Warbird.

Below it, Romulus revolved, turning over and over slowly in an endless Newtonian spiral. The sun sparkled on the Apnex Sea, light strands of cloud gently wafted across the sky above the capital city of Ki-Baratan, and... nothing else. The skies of Romulus lay empty - no Warbirds drawn up in formation, no civilian freighters plying their routes to and from the capital world, none of the hustle and bustle that one would expect from the central axis around which the entire Romulan Empire turned.

Twin flashes of light heralded the arrival of two starships - the first, a B-type Valdore-class Warbird, and the second a gunmetal grey, violet-nacelled dreadnought twice its size. In that burst of light, both ships decelerated from unimaginable speed to simply being here and now.

The starship Phoenix had arrived at Romulus.

All around them, the legions of cloaked Romulan Warbirds armed their guns and steadied their aim.


Location: USS Phoenix, assuming a standard orbit
Scene: Main bridge - deck 1, saucer section

Romulus. It was no longer a word - now it lay ahead in the main viewer, a beautiful blue-and-green jewel that was the focus of so much Federation anxiety. The homeworld of the alliance's most enduring enemies, now brought together in the hope of a road to peace.

The bridge crew were silent, everyone keeping their own counsel as the Shai'Dan peeled up and away at half-impulse power to allow the Phoenix space to assume an orbital pattern. It was a momentous day for everyone - no matter what happened over the course of their lives in the future, everyone aboard the ship could now claim to have been to the capital world of the Romulan Star Empire.

"Orbit established," reported Tomas' at the conn.

In the distance hung the Raptor's Nest, spiralling slowly around its central hub. Apart from the Shai'Dan, there was nothing else to see in the sky over the planet. It was like walking in to a huge, empty house.

"Where's the fleet?" murmured Jake at Kane's shoulder.

Kane looked at the stars. "They're out there," he said. "Waiting and watching. Probably closer than we think."

A series of chimes sounded from Jasmine's console. "Message from the Shai'Dan, Captain."

"On screen, Lieutenant."

Commander Jaron appeared again. He was standing up in the centre of his own bridge, and was smiling wolfishly, pulling on his silver uniform jacket. {{Welcome to Romulus, Captain Kane! It gladdens my heart to see my homeworld again. I hope the time you spend here will give you a new appreciation for our people.}}

"That is also my hope, Commander," said Kane neutrally, declining to ask where everyone was. "What is our next step?"

{{You are about to be contacted by a representative of the Senate. It only remains for me to say goodbye to you and your crew. Thank you again for your hospitality during our voyage.}}

Kane nodded. "It was good to meet you and your officers, Commander Jaron."

{{I hope we shall do so again, Captain.}}

Jaron touched a control on his command chair, and the image on the main viewer changed again. Now, instead of a Warbird's bridge, the scene changed - an ornate office on the planet's surface. A middle-aged male Romulan with a lean face, blond hair, and wearing a gray civilian robe was sitting at a desk. The wall behind him was dominated by an impressive fresco of the familiar symbol of the empire - a huge bird with its wings spread wide, seizing whole worlds in each of its talons. When the Romulan spoke, it was in a thin voice, but one with an air of authority. {{Captain Kane?"}}

Kane stepped forward. "Yes?"

The Romulan nodded. {{My name is Chevet, and I am a tribune in the imperial government and the chief aide to the Praetor. On behalf of the Senate and People of Romulus, I extend a welcome to you and your crew, and also our thanks for voyaging so far to be with us.}}

Kane nodded. "We are honoured to be here." Patience, he told himself. If the Romulans were determined to take things slow then there was nothing to be done but wait for them. This was their back yard. Here, everyone on the Phoenix was an alien.

{{In one hour, you and a delegation of officers from your starship may beam down to these co-ordinates,}} said Chevet, keying the controls on his computer. {{There will be a private audience with the Praetor and some senators, and you will then be introduced to the Senate itself. Afterward, there will be a short reception where you and your delegation can speak informally to the Praetor regarding the further details of your visit.}}

Kane listened carefully. Chevet sounded like he had memorised all this - more evidence of Romulan advance planning.

{{Should you wish it, there may be time for supervised side activities for some or all of your delegation while you are meeting with the Praetor. The city of Ki-Baratan has many important monuments, and some of the views of the Apnex Sea are pleasing. It is our hope that at least some of your officers - accompanied by our senators, of course - will take this opportunity to learn about our culture and our people.}}

"Thank you for the offer, Tribune Chevet. I look forward to meeting the Praetor again." Kane put just a little emphasis on the last word.

{{One hour from now, if you please, Captain Kane. Until then.}} Chevet touched a control and the screen winked, showing the planet again. The Shai'Dan was moving away from the Phoenix at one-quarter impulse speed, leisurely charting a course toward the enormous space station in the distance.

Kane looked around at the bridge before speaking to Jake. "We need to select some officers to accompany me to the surface. We'd better break out those new dress uniforms, too." He sighed. "Did he say we'd be introduced to the Senate?"

"Yes, he did," said Jake.

Kane rubbed his eyes. Already he could feel a headache coming on.


Scene: Main Engineering, deck 36, drive section

At the the bottom of the ship, fifty-one decks down from the bridge, the cavernous sprawl of main engineering lay spread out in an open plan, built around the pulsing violet warp core. There were always dozens of engineers moving around, working at duty stations, returning from or heading off into the ship to work on maintaining her myriad systems. If the main bridge, so far above, was the head, then main engineering was her beating heart.

Whenever Kane was down here, he always felt like he was intruding. The ship was split into different departments, each of them given over to one of the senior officers as their own little fiefdoms within the larger kingdom. He might have been the sovereign, to continue the analogy, but each department head was a powerful baron.

And they didn't come much more powerful than Malin-Argo. The Grazerite was built like a bull, all broad shoulders and thick thighs, and he stomped around the three engineering decks keeping a close eye on his staff. Biologically requiring only an hour or two of sleep each day, Malin-Argo almost never left engineering, even taking his meals in his office. Kane was aware of some rumblings of discontent among the junior officers, especially involving Ensign Ryan, but he hoped that had all been nipped in the bud. Malin-Argo's service record spoke for itself - he was a superb engineer, and even though he was abrasive and brusque with his staff, Kane didn't hold that against him - somewhat guiltily, he recalled that he too also had a bit of a temper.

He found the Grazerite looming over Ensign Ryan near the warp core, reading a PADD that the junior officer had obviously just submitted for inspection. Malin-Argo scratched the amber-coloured down on his neck while he scanned the information. "We can improve on that efficiency level, Ensign Ryan," he rumbled. "Ninety-seven per cent is good, but let's go for ninety-eight. If this ship is required to jump to warp speed, we will have very little warning, and the plasma manifolds need to be as efficient as we can possibly make them."

Lynette caught sight of Kane approaching them. "Commander, the captain is here."

Malin-Argo turned around and straightened up. "Captain Kane. What brings you to engineering?"

Kane looked around. There was almost no talking going on in the background - everyone was busily working at their stations, and the only murmuring was business-related. The tightest of tight ships, he thought to himself. "Commander Malin-Argo, a delegation of Phoenix officers has been invited to the surface to meet the Praetor. As chief engineer, you will be part of the delegation."

Malin-Argo shook his head. "Impossible, Captain. I am overseeing many important projects at the moment. I must decline."

"And I must insist," Kane said evenly, frowning at the Grazerite. Malin-Argo wasn't especially tall, but he was heavily built, and might be an intimidating physical presence to someone who didn't know him. "This diplomatic visit to Romulus supersedes your work here."

"Captain Kane, these projects directly relate to the ability of this starship to defend itself in the event of an emergency," grunted Malin-Argo. "It would be most foolish to take me away from my work at this point in time."

Kane eyeballed him with one of the withering glares he reserved especially for those who made him repeat himself twice. He spoke firmly, going formal. "Commander Malin-Argo, this is not a request. You will participate in this ship's delegation to Romulus. You will report to transporter room one in fifty minutes, having delegated command of the engineering department to one of your assistant engineers - perhaps Ensign Ryan here. All your work projects will continue, and when we are finished on the surface you will resume them again as you see fit, but in the meantime you will carry out my orders. Have I made myself clear to you, Commander?"

The Grazerite paused a moment, then inclined his bull-like head. "My apologies, Captain. I will report to the transporter room at the appointed time."

"Thank you," said Kane. He shot a glance at Lynette. "You can handle the engine room for a while, can't you, Ensign?"

"Yes Captain," nodded Lynette. She indicated Chaucer and Asta Elgin, both of whom were nearby. "I'll have good help."

Kane nodded, and turned on his heel, leaving them both alone.


Scene: Transporter Room One - deck 6, saucer section

At the appointed hour, the away team assembled under the watchful eye of Stiles Orion in the transporter room. Kane, Cantor Von, Jasmine Yu, Malin-Argo, Eve Dalziel, Tomas' Vukovic, and Kassandra Thytos would all make up the Phoenix's delegation. Remaining behind would be Jake, Lynette, Aerdan, Sofia, and Arak. Too many might have seemed grasping, too few as disinterested.

As the rest of the away team made their preparations, Jake and Kane talked quietly in the corridor. "The ship is yours, Commander," Kane said. "You know what you do. First priority is the Phoenix, not the away team. If the Romulans make any attempt to seize the ship, you must do everything you can to prevent that from happening, including scuttling the ship in orbit. Understood?"

Jake nodded grimly. "I got it. Let's hope it doesn't come to any of that, though." He grinned. "See if Praetor Radaik remembers a handsome Human like me."

Kane tapped the side of his nose with a forefinger. "Good luck, Commander Crichton."

"And you, Captain."

Kane crossed the room to the transporter pad. Safest way to travel, he told himself. Forget about the fact that it's killing you and bringing you back at the other end. He looked around. "Everyone ready?" He motioned to Stiles Orion. "Energise, Chief."

Seven cobalt blue pillars of light appeared on the pad, dissolving the away team into nothingness...


Location: Ki-Baratan, Romulus
Scene: Senate reception room

... and reappeared seconds later many miles below on the surface of the planet.

A flash of light. A feeling of coldness, right down to the soul. The next instant of consciousness for Kane was to find himself and the away team standing in a reception room, with several Romulans staring at them.

The room was tastefully decorated, with rich tapestries hanging on the walls. There was a window in the wall behind where the away team materialised, and through it they could see the sun sparkling on the blue Apnex Sea. The room was warm, but not hot, a pleasantly balmy temperature reminiscent of a Mediterranean climate. The floor and walls were made of a ceramic that showed scenes of Romulan historical triumphs, including the conquest of Qo'noS sixty years ago, and the attack on Earth almost three centuries ago. It was a point well taken by the Starfleet crew.

There were a dozen Romulan senators, male and female, standing in front of them. To their fore was Chevet, the Romulan who had spoken to the bridge crew earlier. He stepped forward. "On behalf of the Senate and People of Romulus, you are granted admission to this august assembly." He bowed at the neck.

Kane stepped forward and repeated the gesture. "On behalf of the crew of the starship Phoenix, we are honoured to be here." He straightened up, and gestured to the away team. "My officers. Commander Malin-Argo, our chief engineer. Captain Kassandra Thytos, our marine commanding officer. Lieutenants Von, Yu, and Vukovic - bridge officers and department heads. Lieutenant Dalziel, ship's counselor."

"Von? Cantor Von?" One of the Romulan senators in the second row moved to Chevet's side. He was tall and lean, with black hair swept back into a widow's peak and deep forehead ridges. His features were downturned, and had he not a friendly expression, his face would have been creased into a sneer. "Cantor Von, is that you?"

Kane turned to the Betazoid, who was smiling now. Clearly, this Romulan and Cantor Von recognised each other - Kane remembered that Cantor had served aboard a Romulan starship for five years on a spying mission into the Dominion.

"Jolan Tru, Commander," smiled Cantor, "or should I say, senator. Captain Kane, may I introduce Nevar, the commanding officer of my exchange mission with the Imperial Navy."

Nevar was smiling now too, while Chevet and the other senators were looking at each other in askance. "I had no idea you would be coming!" exclaimed Nevar, patting Cantor's arm in a friendly fashion. He turned to his colleagues. "I served on a joint mission with this Betazoid when I was commander of the T'Korex."

The other senators nodded approvingly. Kane watched carefully - this was an unexpected, but welcome, turn of events. Nevar seemed to hold Cantor Von in some regard from their time spent together. This was a good thing- if there was already prior good feelings, then the path to peace might be that much more smooth.

"How is that friend of yours?" Nevar was saying. "That other Terran, the one with the accent who was always swearing!"

Cantor nodded. "Oh, him." he chuckled. "Well, I - "

Chevet stepped forward. There was a smile on his face, and Kane noted that the other Romulans were looking much more at ease now. "Senator Nevar - please, the Praetor is waiting."

"Of course, of course. Matters of state." Nevar stepped back amidst his colleagues. "We will spend some time together later, Cantor."

Chevet beckoned the away team. "Come with me. I will take you for some refreshments, then bring you to the Praetor."

As everyone moved off, Kane grabbed Cantor Von's forearm. "That Romulan senator - Nevar. tell me about him."

"An able commander," said Cantor. "There was some friction between us in the early days, but we parted on respectful terms. I wasn't expecting to see him as a senator, though."

"I see." Kane thought of Delora Radaik, another ex-military officer turned politician, and was reminded of Admiral Stiles' fears that the Romulan military was again beginning to make inroads into imperial politics. "If you can use your good relationship with him to our advantage in any way, do it."

Ahead, the Romulan senators had paired off with the away team as they walked down a long, frescoed corridor. The conversation and introductions were beginning to flow, and the sight of it gave Kane hope. Here on their homeworld, with no threat for them to worry about, could the natural arrogance of the Romulans be tempered by simple personal connections with off-worlders?

Here on Romulus. For a moment, he felt the distance, saw the light-years in his mind's eye, and realised just how very far from home they all were.


NRPG: We're on Romulus, chatting up their higher-ranking senators. The crew has split into two groups. Please read carefully.

IF YOUR CHARACTER IS ON ROMULUS, then you are currently on your way to have a light lunch and an informal chat with the welcoming committee as a precursor to meeting the Praetor. Remember the diplomatic function on the Phoenix, how safe you felt because it was in our house? Well, now the shoe's on the other foot - there are Romulans everywhere, and you are the alien. It's currently just past noon. Along with this post, you should have attached images of Senator Nevar and Senator Chevet (Praetor Delora Radaik has her own page on the website wiki). Also, go ahead and create a Romulan Senator who is talking to your character - the Senator can be from anywhere, be male or female, but should be a relatively important figure in Romulan politics with significant responsibility in some public administrative area. Remember to co-ordinate with each other if you think you need to. Keep in mind that these Senators are all experienced politicians and represent tens of thousands of constituents from around the planet (or empire, if you like). They are also experts in diplomacy and in the art of talking a lot while saying as little as possible. If you're interested in history, you could do worse than research the structure of the government of the late Roman Republic, paying attention to ancient Roman government posts for ideas on what the Senators might do in the imperial government. Needless to say, Nevar is talking to Cantor Von, and Chevet is talking to Kane.

IF YOUR CHARACTER IS ON THE PHOENIX, then don't worry. You have not been 'left out' of the story - far from it. In fact, a subplot is about to begin on the ship (as soon as Shawn posts it, that is) that will steer the story into deeper waters, so your posts are especially important right now. All players on the ship will be required to post before we can advance, so get in touch if you're heading off on vacation or something. Along with this post, you can find attached image files of Commander Jaron (of the Shai'Dan, currently docking at the Raptor's Nest), and of the fearsome space station itself. In the meantime, your character has his/her normal work to do, except with the added pressure of being in orbit of Romulus and within firing distance of a space fortress (and, probably, dozens of cloaked Warbirds).

Any questions or comments, feel free to get in touch. Any complaints, you know where to find Shawn ;)

Jerome McKee
the Soul of Captain Michael Turlogh Kane
Commanding Officer

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



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