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Queen's Pawn

Posted on Jul 15, 2017 @ 9:29am by Captain Michael Turlogh Kane
Edited on on Jul 15, 2017 @ 9:02pm

Mission: The Romulan Way

"QUEEN'S PAWN"

(Continued from "Old Acquaintance")

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Captain's log, supplemental - we have enjoyed a pleasant reception at the Romulan Senate, but it has only been the prelude to a meeting with Praetor Delora Radaik...

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Location: Romulan Senate building, Ki-Baratan, Romulus
Stardate: [2.17]0715.0130
Scene: Reception Room -> Praetor's office


Michael Turlogh Kane kept an eye on Cantor Von and Senator Nevar while the two of them were talking. Von's knowledge of the Romulan language was impressive, and although a difference in inflection was discernible to the ear, Nevar looked relaxed and comfortable to be speaking in his own language, smiling clearly and obviously engaged with whatever the Betazoid was saying to him. That was good - if the leader of the Senate's so-called 'war hawk' faction could be brought to friendly terms, it might make the job of the future Federation ambassador that much easier.

By and large, the other conversations were also flowing well. The Romulan senators, like all politicians of importance, were experts at the language of diplomacy - words were their darlings, and they were unfaithful lovers - but personal stories were being told, and that indicated that connections had been made that were beyond the superficial.

Chevet touched his arm, breaking his reverie. One of the guards outside the Praetor's chambers had signalled to him. It was time. "Captain Kane, the Praetor is ready to see us now."

The moment had arrived. Kane looked around at the others - Eve, Kass, Jasmine, Cantor, Malin-Argo, and Tomas' - and eyeballed them all individually.

The great wooden doors to the Praetor's office were thrown open, and the delegation of senators advanced, followed by the Starfleet crew. The room beyond was magnificent - the floor and walls were hewn from some kind of marble-like stone, polished to a smooth finish, ans the ceiling was high-arched wood, like something from an old church on Earth. A censer hung from the central beam, moving slowly overhead, releasing an earthy, aromatic scent. The opposite wall was incomplete, bending outward in a heart-shape to form a walled balcony that overlooked the Apnex Sea.

The balcony looked picturesque enough, but the main room was dominated by a large desk that, though ornate, was equally functional. There were drawers, a desktop computer, several PADDs scattered on the surface, and a simple chair.

Seated on that chair, but rising to her feet as the doors were opened, was the Praetor of the Romulan Star Empire. Delora Radaik was wearing a two-piece off-white suit of clothes, with a high collar about her throat closed by three ivory-like buttons. A silvery chain was attached to the front of her suit, brooched here and there with ancient Romulan symbols. She looked the same as when they had spoken ship-to-ship over two years ago on Limbo, brown hair and green eyes and red lips. There was something regal about her, something alien too, but she was smiling now, and coming around the table with her hand extended. "Captain Kane!" she exclaimed in Standard, not Romulan. "And the delegation from the famous starship Phoenix!" She shook Kane's hand while the other senators looked on in bemusement. "It is good to meet you in the flesh, Captain Kane."

"Praetor," said Kane formally. "When last we spoke you were an Admiral. My congratulations on your election to higher office."

"Thank you." Radaik indicated the line of expectant officers standing him. "And these are your officers?"

Kane introduced each one of them in turn. "Lieutenant Eve Dalziel, ship's counselor. Captain Kassandra Thytos, marine commander. Lieutenant Jasmine Yu, chief security and tactical officer. Lieutenant Cantor Von, chief operations officer. Commander Malin-Argo, chief engineer. Lieutenant Tomas' Vukovic, chief conn officer."

Delora Radaik made sure to look each of them in eye, passing down the line like she was inspecting Academy cadets on a parade ground, nodding and smiling a greeting at each in turn. "You are all welcome to Romulus," she said, and gestured around the room with her hands. "You are the first citizens of the United Federation of Planets to ever see the inside of this room."

Kane could believe it. "We are honoured, Praetor."

"I am honoured to receive you," she said meaningfully. "I hope to welcome the future Federation ambassador in this room also. It will be a significant step on the road to peace between our two governments." She paused a moment, like an idea had just crossed her mind, and turned to the Romulan senators. "Seeing as you are here, I would like to show you the Imperial Senate, so that you can see that our government functions as any other parliament on any of your member worlds. Chevet, the Senate is in session at this moment, correct?"

Chevet stepped forward and checked the chronometer on the wall. Behind him, Nevar, Oloth, and Aurelia Dak were exchanging suspicious glances. "Yes, Praetor, for another two Turns."

Nevar moved forward to stand beside Chevet. "Praetor, you have not informed the Senate that you will be attending today. Our arrival would undoubtedly interfere with the business of the house."

Kane was frowning as the exchange was relayed to his ear by his universal translator. It was one thing to meet the Praetor in a small group setting such as this, but if he was understanding what was happening, then the Praetor was proposing taking them all into the Senate itself, something he had not anticipated. He wanted to interject, but the conversation was moving too quickly.

Radaik smiled at Nevar, but there was something wolfish about how she bared her teeth. "It is fortunate that I had the foresight to check the day's schedule. At this moment, our colleagues are debating nothing more pressing than a bill concerning katterpod bean tariffs this winter. I think they will be glad of the distraction." She turned to Kane. "What do you think, Captain? Would you care to accept the further hospitality of the Praetor?"

Kane bristled inwardly at the cleverly-worded question. Replying in the negative would come across as rejecting the 'hospitality' of the highest-ranking Romulan in the empire. "We would be honoured," he said, "but Praetor, you should know that I am under orders not to allow our visit to Romulus to become politicised."

"Very sensible," said Nevar pointedly.

Radaik shot Nevar a dangerous look. "I understand, Captain Kane." She held up a hand, indicating the direction they were to walk. "To the Senate, then. Come along, everyone."

As Kane fell into step alongside her, he noted how Nevar and his allies were hanging back, giving themselves the space they needed to discuss this new development. In some ways, he felt like Delora Radaik was moving too quickly, that she was railroading them down this hallway, and he tried to analyse how much she seemed to have changed since he spoke to her on Limbo two years ago. Back then, she had been a fiercely professional military officer, all clipped language and steadfast resolve. That woman might still be here, but now whatever resolve she had was being hidden behind ostensibly friendly words and generous gestures. He wondered - was she playing her own game? There was obviously more going on around them than any of the Federation people were privy to. It seemed that there was as much politicking going on within the Romulan Senate as there was in the Federation Council.

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Scene: Hallway -> Senate floor


The office of the Praetor was, of course, part of the large complex of buildings that held the Imperial Senate. Like the Hall of Voices on Vulcan, or the Place de la Concorde, as it was, in the ruins of Paris, there were dozens of adjunct offices, meeting rooms, and rooms for all the staff that went along with the main building. So far the group of senators and Starfleet officers had passed well over a dozen of these adjunct rooms, and each time they did Kane was sure that they were about to enter the Senate itself. Like the peripheral activity that went on around the Federation centre of government - the iron triangles of meetings between civil servants and lawmakers, meetings between lawmakers and lobbyists, meetings between lobbyists and civil servants - it was all happening here, too, and not all faces that he saw were Romulan. The vast majority were, but there were a smattering of aliens among them, most of whom he had never seen before and was sure that the Federation didn't know about. He passed a jackal-headed humanoid that peered at him from four eyes set side by side on its forehead, and couldn't help but stare at a floating gelatinous thing that seemed to be communicating with a female Romulan civil servant by touching her on both sides of her head with a pair of glowing tentacles. How many conquered peoples existed inside the boundaries of the Romulan Star Empire, and why were they never seen?

Kane reminded himself that the Romulan Star Empire was not a democratic institution. None of these people - jackal-headed humanoid, floating gelatinous thing - were free. In all likelihood, their homeworlds had been conquered in the millennium that the Romulans had been expanding across the galaxy, and they were here as representatives of subject or vassal peoples who might be groaning under the Romulan yoke, but who could not regain whatever independence they enjoyed prior to contact with the Romulans. In many respects, it put Earth's experience into perspective. When the Romulans abandoned Vulcan twenty centuries ago, they picked a direction and kept going until they found new virgin soil. By a quirk of fate, what if they had gone in the opposite direction from Vulcan, and came across a beautiful blue planet teeming with life, whose inhabitants were in their Early Medieval period? Humans might still have made First Contact with Vulcans, but they would have been violent, xenophobic Vulcans possessed of an aggressive martial imperative and the burning desire to conquer.

Delora Radaik interrupted his train of thought. "There is a saying throughout the Empire that the honour of the Praetor is the honour of the Empire. That saying still holds weight today. The Romulan Praetor is supposed to be the embodiment of D'era - the destiny of the Romulan people to expand and conquer the stars."

"There are many ways to conquer, Praetor," said Kane. "Only one of them is by the sword."

She smiled at him sidelong. "If only the war hawk faction could understand that. To be elected Praetor, I had to gather the support of many senators. My reputation as the victor of the Prygus helped with that, to be sure, but did you know that there were some who would not yield the position to a woman?"

"That surprises me. I would have thought that a people who crossed the quadrant to find a new home would be more amenable to merit. After all, as your ancestors discovered, you cannot discover new oceans until you have the courage to lose sight of the land." Kane risked a glance behind, but everyone was keeping up. Not much talking, though. "What is the role of the Praetor in the Romulan government?"

Delora Radaik raised an eyebrow in a very Vulcan-esque manner. "Supreme command over the military. The authority to interpret and enforce laws. Inspirational figure for all Romulans everywhere." She smiled to herself. "Like everything, practice is different than theory. The office is far more important than any one individual, and although a Praetor wields broad powers, the Senate acts as a check to that power." She indicated to the group behind them. "Which is why I must give ear to the words of the war hawks."

Kane looked backward again. Nevar and the others were still at the back of the group, keeping their own counsel. "Will they try to stop the peace initiative?"

She considered that for a moment before replying. "No, but they will try to influence it, and possibly attempt to lessen it if they feel they have the support in the Senate. Nevar is a very clever politician, and he has been making many speeches denouncing our desire for a peace with the Federation."

A light went on in Kane's head. "That's why you're taking us to the Senate," he said quietly. "You want the other senators to see us in the flesh, make it real to them."

Delora Radaik's eyes twinkled. "I will respect your wishes not to politicise your visit, but I said nothing about everyone else. Think quickly, Captain, someone might call on you to say a few words."

Kane's heart leaped into his mouth. The hallway they were walking in was terminating in another pair of ornate doors, and the flanking guards were opening them - from beyond came a chorus of voices murmuring.

It was the floor of the Romulan Senate. A circular room reminiscent of an amphitheatre with tiers of simple benches rising toward the ceiling, the room was crowded with dozens of Romulan men and woman, sitting in groups listening to a male speaker who was standing in a central dais. The speaking senator was talking about how agricultural tariffs were too high for many citizens on the frontier worlds, turning in slow circles while he spoke to his fellow senators, but a hush came over the room as the newcomers entered.

Kane was amazed, and he was sure that his officers were feeling something similar. He was pretty sure that they were about to make more history here - to his knowledge, only one Federation citizen had ever set foot on the floor of the Romulan Senate prior to today - and the weight of history pressed down upon him. He was surprised to see the Senate so busy for a supposedly-simple agricultural debate.

Total silence descended, broken only by the footfalls of the new arrivals. Nevar and the other senators moved to their places along the ground tier benches, while Delora Radaik, Chevet, and the Starfleet crew stood on the central dais, under the eyes of dozens of Romulan senators. Nobody moved, nobody spoke. Many of the senators had confused looks on their faces, and looked to one another to try to figure out what was happening.

One of the Romulan guards passed a thick staff to Chevet, a heavy blunt thing that seemed very old - its inscriptions were faded and worn almost smooth. The tribune thumped the staff on the marble floor twice, the sound of it echoing around the chamber. "The Praetor!" he announced, his reedy voice loud in the silence.

Delora Radaik stepped forward and took a moment to look around at the gathering. There must have been over a hundred senators here, and they were all hanging on whatever she was going to say. Kane glanced around at the away team - Eve, Kass, Jasmine, Cantor, Malin-Argo, and Tomas' were all respectfully silent.

"To the Senate and People of Romulus!" called Delora Radaik, using the body's honorific. "Ahead of the appointment of an ambassador from the United Federation of Planets, a Starfleet delegation has arrived on our world! Their starship - the Phoenix - currently in orbit, is the same starship that worked to make the peace between our two powers during the recent internal crisis within the Federation! The Senate and People of Romulus value victory in war - how much do they value peacemakers?"

Nothing happened. Kane looked around, fearing the worst, but quickly realised that nothing was happening because nobody knew what to do. The attention had moved from the Praetor onto each and every Starfleet officer standing on the central dais. For a fleeting moment, he wished he was anywhere else but here right now.

Delora Radaik turned to face him. "Would you like to address this house?"

Kane glanced at the others, trying to gain a measure of courage from a shared spirit of solidarity. "If they will hear us."

"Objection!"

The voice rang out loud and clear around the floor of the Senate, and although it came from behind the group on the central dais, Kane recognised it immediately. Senator Nevar was on his feet, a look of thunder on his satanic features. "The Praetor is overstepping her bounds! The Senate is already engaged in the business of the day!" He moved to the central dais, passing among the Starfleet officers while speaking loudly, his words echoing throughout the chamber. No friendly words now, no jocular reminiscences with Cantor Von - now it was all politics. "We all know of the Praetor's peace initiative with the Federation, and while we value peace, we do not need to hear the platitudes of Starfleet officers who have been ordered to this part of the galaxy - to *our* part of the galaxy! If this Human or one of his people wish to speak, let them notify the Senate tribunes and apply for the privilege to do so! This is the heart of the Romulan Star Empire! Let us show them our power!"

A series of murmurs broke out among the seated senators. Several of them - a majority, it looked to Kane - were nodding in agreement with Nevar's words. He looked at Delora Radaik - she did not seem especially perturbed, but surely this venture had backfired badly. With a chill, he realised that Nevar was not showing the Starfleet representatives the power of the Senate, he was showing the Praetor the power of the Senate.

For a moment, Kane thought he got a glimpse of the power structures inside the Empire, and wondered how they might affect the search for peace.

Delora Radaik stepped in front of Nevar. "So be it! I declare all Senate business done for the day. This house will reconvene tomorrow."

Chevet slammed the staff on the floor twice again, and many senators got up from their seats and headed for the exits. Nevar and Delora Radaik exchanged an angry look, before Nevar stalked back to his allies. Nobody stood with the Praetor - Kane thought she looked isolated and alone, until Chevet gave the staff back to one of the guards and moved to her side.

The Senate was emptying quickly. Kane wanted to ask Delora Radaik what had happened, but didn't get the chance. The Praetor turned on her heel, face impassive, and walked alone from the room.

"Ah don' think that went too well fer her," said Kass.

"For us either, ," said Cantor Von. "It seems that the war hawk faction has more support in the Senate than we realised."

"That's why we were brought here," said Kane, finally realising the great game that they had been exposed to today. He watched Delora Radaik disappear down the hallway they had entered from. "Now she knows where she stands with them."

Chevet approached them. Nearby, the other senators - Oloth, Aurelia Dak, Jemasun Tor, and Ael Velal - were waiting to see what would happen next. The tribune got right to it. "There will be no further meeting with the Praetor today, Captain Kane, but we invite you and your officers to remain on Romulus as our guests for tonight. Individual quarters have been assigned to you here in Ki-Baratan, and your officers may choose to remain together or continue in the company of our hosts here. This is a beautiful planet, and you may be inclined to see some of it, either in groups or as individuals. If not, then a private meeting room will be made available to you, and you may dine together before retiring for the day."

Kane inclined his head in gratitude. "I will remain here in the Senate building, but my officers will make their own individual decisions."

Chevet motioned to the nearby senators to be ready. "As you wish, Captain."

Kane turned to Kass, Eve, Jasmine, Cantor, Malin-Argo, and Tomas'. "Well?" he asked. "Shore leave for the rest of the day is granted if you wish it."

"I will remain here, Captain," said Malin-Argo. "I want to make contact with the ship and get an update from my staff."

Kane nodded. "Alright. What about the rest of you?"

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NRPG: Well, what about the rest of you? This might be your only chance to see the sights of Romulus, and might be the last chance to interact with the Senator character that you created. If you want to go somewhere on the planet, now's your chance, either alone or with someone else in a JP. If your character remains behind in the Senate building, what will they/ the group do?

SHAWN: You can pull the trigger anytime now.


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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