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The Politics Of Empire

Posted on Jul 26, 2017 @ 10:42pm by Captain Michael Turlogh Kane

Mission: The Romulan Way

"THE POLITICS OF EMPIRE"

(Continued from "From The Immortal Divide")
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Captain's log, supplemental - the unexpected arrival of a group of Remans has caused tensions to rise aboard the ship. While the Phoenix's senior staff enjoy their day off on Romulus, I have beamed back to the ship to meet our visitors...

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Location: USS Phoenix, orbiting Romulus
Stardate: [2.17]0726.1440
Scene: Conference Room - Deck 1, saucer section


Michael Turlogh Kane, with Jake Crichton standing at his shoulder, sat across the table from the three Remans and tried to figure out what was going on.

Remans, he knew, were the original inhabitants of Remus, the other M-class world in this system. They were the first people to be conquered by the Romulans two millennia ago, and since then had languished as a worker caste within the Empire. Briefly rising to prominence during the Shinzon regime fifty-three years ago, they had since been returned to their status as a servitor race, and probably were much worse off now - Romulans did not tolerate internal dissent within their domain. Remans looked for all the world like nosferatu - pointed ears and teeth, pale skin, bald, ratlike heads - and were reputedly sensitive to light.

Kiarasek had not introduced her two male companions, and Kane didn't ask about them. He regarded her closely. He wasn't sure if she was representative of her species in general, but there was a certain softening of her features that may have marked her as female - smoother features, slightly larger eyes - but otherwise she was indistinguishable from her companions. All three were cloaked in hooded gray robes, but those hoods had been drawn back to reveal their faces.

Through the rear viewing port, the Reman shuttle hung between the Phoenix's warp nacelles, an insect hovering near a mammoth. It was a modified version of a Romulan Charon-class warpshuttle - its distinctive blunted nose and tight nacelles were still there, but this shuttle's hull was gunmetal gray and pockmarked with charred spots, like she had been caught up in an explosion. Kane didn't ask about that, either.

He let the silence stretch out for another moment, but the Remans seemed unperturbed. Eventually, he started talking. "Who are you and why are you here?"

Kiarasek regarded him quizzically. "I am Kiar - "

"I know your name, but that's all I know about you. Who are you representing? Why have you come aboard my ship? What did your message mean, about something happening in the shadows?"

Kiarasek paused a moment, considering her answer. "When we said we were your friends and allies, Captain, we spoke the truth. I regret not being able to be more forthcoming, but suffice it to say that we are also friends and allies of the Praetor, and staunch supporters of the peace process."

"Is that a fact? Then why the skullduggery?"

"Because as we said, there is more going on than you realise. While you have been feted on Romulus, powerful forces are at work elsewhere in the Empire." Kiarasek reached inside her robe and withdrew a PADD. She placed it on the table. "The war hawk faction in the Senate has determined that, although the Empire is strong, the Praetor's position is weak. They sense that an increasingly-ambivalent Senate may soon be of a mind to support their stance against the Federation instead of the Praetor's peace process."

"We already know all this, Kiarasek. The same thing happens on Vulcan every day. It's called politics."

Kiarasek inclined her head. "The politics of empire are not the same as those of a representative democracy. While the factions in the Senate jockey for position, the military looks on with interest, yet to decide if it should intervene or not. The Empire has seen military rule before, and may yet again. It is important that the Praetor's position be strengthened."

Kane leaned forward. "If I open that PADD, I risk involving the Federation in an internal Romulan matter. That's not something I can do."

"Is it not, Captain? You were happy to involve the Empire in the internal politics of the Federation when you met with the Praetor on Limbo two years ago."

"That was different. The Federation government had been usurped by - "

"The same situation looms on Romulus, Captain Kane. The fact that it has not happened yet does not mean that the process is not underway. If you wish to protect the peace process, then you must, by extension, be willing to protect the Praetor's political position. Open the PADD now or later, but open it and read. The war hawks do not want the information contained within to reach the Senate."

Kane set his jaw. Kiarasek was making a good point, but his conscience gnawed at him like a hungry dog. Admiral Stiles had given him strict orders not to allow the Phoenix's visit to Romulus to become politicised, but hadn't they been playing politics ever since they crossed the border? Wasn't this visit supposed to smooth the passage for an incoming Federation ambassador? Yet if what Kiarasek was saying was true - that the war hawks were moving politically against the Praetor - then the peace process would suffer. Chevet and the other senators had been very clear on what would happen should the war hawk faction overthrow the Praetor and institute their own rule.

The fact that the Romulan military had not taken a side was interesting, but it was also very Romulan too. The military was probably planning for a long game, waiting to see which side gained the advantage - both Nevar and Delora Radaik were military veterans, and both war hawks and Praetor had influence over the military.

He needed more time to think about it. Instead he said, "Why bring it to us here on the Phoenix? If this information threatens the Praetor, then why not take it directly to her?"

There was a hint of smile on Kiarasek's pitted face. "The skullduggery you mentioned, Captain. The Praetor has friends and allies she does not know about, and the war hawks are not the only faction in the Senate. You and your crew are outsiders here, with no knowledge of the deeper workings of our politics. They way I see it, Captain, you have two choices - do nothing, or do something. One will protect the peace process, and one will involve the Federation in an internal political matter of a foreign government. Which is the lesser evil?"

Kane reached out his hand and drew the PADD across the table towards him. "No promises."

Kiarasek stood up and donned her hood, and her two companions did likewise. From the shadows under the cowl, she made a noise like a chuckle. "No promises, then. We take our leave, Captain Kane. Goodbye. We will not meet again."

As if on cue, three green pillars of light appeared in the conference room, enveloping the Remans and dissolving them from sight. An instant later, their shuttle shimmered and faded from view, its cloaking device activated.

Kane held up the PADD and turned to look at Jake. "What do you think, Commander? Shall we open Pandora's box?"

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REPORT TO MINISTRY OF COLONISATION (Abridged)

SUBJECT: Second planet of Azri Drakara 1319 (colloquially "Drakara II")
SPECIFIC: Native inhabitants - the Baelorn

Thought of the Day - "Is is better to die for the People than live for yourself"

DRAKARA II
As anticipated by our long-range scans, the second planet of the Azri Drakara star system is capable of supporting a wide range of organic life. Gravity is comparable to Romulus. The surface is sixty per cent water, but this is not arranged in seas and oceans - rather, it is geothermal in nature, rising to the surface from underground aquifers into springs, lakes and pools. Several planetary lakes are tens of thousands of square kalanams in size.

The climate of the world is generally cold and often hovers around the freezing point of water. This is due to the planet's thin atmosphere, which will need to be terraformed to some degree before full colonisation can begin - a thin atmosphere contains less greenhouse gases than Romulus, by comparison, and cannot retain as much surface heat. Native fauna includes many small flying animals, with large wings to compensate for the thin atmosphere, and many animals are capable of extended exertion, having evolved a large lung capacity. Several dissected samples show that all life on this planet has iron-based blood, and as a result of the thin atmosphere, has evolved a much higher haemoglobin content than average.

THE BAELORN
Drakara II is home to a pre-warp indigenous sentient species that call themselves Baelorn. They are bipedal, with thin limbs and an elongated torso. Their skin is wholly black - this is an evolutionary response to the high ultra-violet light in their atmosphere.

Anatomical vivisections on captured specimens reveal several interesting physiological details. Baelorn are warm-blooded, generating their own body heat. They therefore require energy to live, which they consume omnivorously - Baelorn are accomplished hunter-gatherers and have developed many ingenious ground-based methods to capture flying animals.

Baelorn are hermaphroditic, able to reproduce by fertilising themselves when certain environmental and personal conditions are met, and bear their young alive. Each Baelorn only seems to have no more than two offspring in their lifetime. This would mean that their population is relatively stable, and their total number only growing quite slowly.

It is estimated that they have been at this Stone Age-level of technological development for approximately two millennia. They have mastered the use of fire and cook their food. They live in extended family circles numbering up to around one hundred individuals. Their life expectancy seems to be around twenty-nine standard years, but this is slowly extending as they evolve more technology. Their culture revolves around this family unit - Baelorn display an impressive connection to their elderly relations, and practice a highly-ritualised cremation ceremony when they die.

Our observation posts around the planet estimate a total global population of approximately eleven million Baelorn, split into dozens of factions and clans. Some of these factions seem to be growing larger as they absorb weaker families, and we may, within the next century or two, be about to see the emergence of a caste/monarchical system of government.

RECOMMENDATION
Total extermination through orbital bombardment. It would take no more than one hour and leave the planet pre-prepared for terraforming. Being primitives, there is nothing that the Baelorn can offer the Empire, and should therefore be eradicated.

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Scene: Conference Room - deck 1, saucer section, as before


Kane and Jake looked at each other as they tried to absorb the meaning of the information on the PADD. Why Kiarasek had given them this report didn't seem immediately clear.

"It's disturbing to think that the Romulans practice the extermination of primitive sentient life-forms within their sphere of influence," said Jake. "Who knows what's been lost over the centuries?"

Kane nodded slowly. "This report must have been prepared by a survey team in that star system with a view to getting the Senate to vote for the recommendation - the extermination of these Baelorn people and the colonisation of their planet by Romulans. But Kiarasek also mentioned that the war hawks didn't want this report getting to the Senate."

"Right. Now I see why she wanted to hand it off to us. If we give it to the Praetor, then we'll have done Kiarasek's work for her, and she gets to remain hidden in the shadows."

Kane paused. "If we give this to the Praetor, we don't know what she'll do. We don't know the context behind the report - why would the war hawks care about a people like the Baelorn? Surely they're more concerned with Senate politicking?"

There was silence for a moment, each man looking out at the stars, calling up old ghosts in their memories. Finally Jake looked over at Kane. "She was right about this being the flip-side of the Neo-Essentialist situation. We're not supposed to get involved in the internal affairs of a foreign government, but if the Praetor is removed from office and the war hawks come to power, we can kiss goodbye to the peace process. It's an awful choice - do we act now to protect the Praetor's peace process, which hopefully benefits the Federation, or obey our own laws and return home with the knowledge that war might be coming?"

"What's your recommendation, Commander?"

Jake looked surprised at being asked. "I think... I think that both laws and the future are mutable, sir. But I also think that we need to make a good future. I think you should give the Praetor the report." He smiled ruefully. "But I'm glad I'm not you."

Kane looked over the PADD again. "An isolated star system in the Romulan Empire. A survey team's recommendation to exterminate the locals inhabitants. The war hawks attempting to bury the report. The Praetor's peace process. And no easily-identifiable links." He sighed. "I'll beam down and give it to her immediately, but we should make ready to leave orbit. We might not be too welcome once I tell her where we got this."

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Location: Imperial Senate, Ki-Baratan, Romulus
Scene: Praetor's office


For the second time in as many hours, Kane went through a transporter, but his usual misgivings about being disintegrated in one place and reassembled in another place were at the back of his mind. He felt like he, his crew, and his ship were being drawn by turns into the depths of some huge web, and the longer they stayed in orbit of Romulus, the more entangled they were becoming.

The two Romulan guards outside the Praetor's office watched him carefully. One touched a control panel on the wall and murmured something into it. When the reply came, she signalled her partner, and they opened the door into the Praetor's office, beckoning him forward.

Kane moved past them and found himself once again inside Delora Radaik's office. The room was beautiful - the floor and walls were hewn from some kind of marble-like stone, polished to a smooth finish, and 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 the chair was Delora Radaik, watching him carefully through her green eyes. "Come in, Captain Kane. Your message said that it was urgent, and the fact that you have arrived in person to relate your message must mean that is equally as important. Am I correct?"

Kane stopped at the desk of the most powerful woman in the Romulan Star Empire. "Only you can answer that, Praetor." He placed Kiarasek's PADD on her desk. "The information on this PADD was delivered to the Phoenix an hour ago, by Remans who claim they are friends of the peace process."

Delora Radaik raised an eyebrow. Kane watched her features for even a flicker of amusement, but there seemed to be only confusion there. She took up the PADD and read down through it. "This is a colonisation report regarding some planet and some aliens that I've never heard of. Why are you bringing this to me?"

Kane set his jaw. "The Remans indicated that the war hawk faction are attempting to bury this report and not let it reach the Senate, where, presumably, it would be put to a vote."

"Indeed?" Delora Radaik became interested. She sat up and read down through the PADD again. "The information means nothing to me, but it might mean something to the Tribune of the Senate." She touched a button on her desktop control panel. "Senator Chevet, report to my office immediately." She looked back at Kane. "Remans, you say?"

"Yes, Praetor."

"I am glad that they think highly enough of me to send me this information," she murmured. "I should make some effort to tracking them down, so I can thank them personally." The noise of hurrying footsteps hailed the arrival of Chevet approaching from the outside corridor. "Ah, Chevet is here."

Chevet glanced at Kane and stopped beside him, facing the Praetor and bowing at the neck. "How may I serve the People?"

Delora Radaik thrust the PADD at him. "No need to be formal, Chevet. Read this. Has the Senate ever debated or voted on this report?"

Chevet glanced down at the contents. "No, Praetor. I don't recognise it."

"Is it any part of the upcoming business of the Senate?"

"No, Praetor. Where did this report come from?"

Kane stepped forward. "It was delivered to the Phoenix by Remans. They indicated that, for some reason, the war hawks are trying to bury that report."

Chevet's eyes widened in surprise. "Interesting."

Delora Radaik came around the desk and stood before them. "Most interesting. I will eventually confront Nevar with this report, but let us make our own plans first. Chevet, is there any upcoming Senate business that requires the express presence of the Praetor?"

Chevet looked confused. "No."

"Then I may go off-world if I choose?"

"Yes, Praetor." Chevet held up his hands suddenly. "Praetor, if you are suggesting - "

But Delora Radaik cut him off. "When an opportunity like this presents itself, you must strike. Hesitancy intimates weakness." She looked at Kane. "I will speak plainly, Captain. I cannot trust anyone. If a plot is in motion in the Senate, then it may also extend to the military. Would you be prepared to receive the Praetor of the Romulan Senate aboard your starship and to take a short tour around the Empire - say, to the system mentioned in this report?"

Later, when he was alone in his dark quarters, trying to sleep, Kane would admit to himself that there was never any other way this could have gone. When he crossed the threshold into the Praetor's officer, he had turned himself, his crew, and his ship in one direction, had taken a side, had committed them to an uncertain future. God help them all if it turned out to be the wrong one.

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Location: USS Phoenix, orbiting Romulus
Scene: Transporter room one - deck 6, saucer section


Kane, Jake, and Jasmine Yu waited by the transporter control panel as Stiles Orion prepared to bring their passengers aboard. As soon as he had returned to the ship, Kane had sent for the away team still on the surface, recalling everyone back and explaining the situation to them. Now the ship was abuzz with news that the Praetor and a Senate delegation were coming aboard, and that the Phoenix would be leaving orbit and making for some planet even deeper within the Romulan Empire.

For her part, Delora Radaik had continued playing the great game of politics. Aware that too many questions would be asked if she simply disappeared off-world, and careful to keep her enemies as close to her as possible, she had called together the Senate delegation that had greeted to the crew of the Phoenix when they first landed on Romulus. Now she, Chevet, Nevar, Ael Velal, Jemasun Tor, Aurelia Dak, and Oloth were all standing by to beam aboard. The ship's destination had not yet been revealed to the senators, and Kane wondered what would happen if and when the war hawk faction found out about where the Praetor was headed.

Something was waiting for them in the Azri Drakara system, something that might have far-reaching repercussions for the future of the Empire, and by extension, peace with the Federation.

A burst of blue-white light from the transporter PADD heralded the arrival of the senatorial party. No guards, no generals, no Tal Shiar agents. Just the Praetor and the senators.

It was a hell of a risk.

Kane tapped his communicator. "Kane to bridge. Mister Vukovic, the Romulan delegation is aboard. Take us out of orbit."

[[Acknowledged, Captain.]]

As he stepped forward to welcome the Romulans aboard the Federation's only dreadnought, Kane wondered if he was making the biggest mistake of his entire career.

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Scene: Space


The verdant blue-green jewel of Romulus tumbles by in the Long Night. From the skies above its capital, a gunmetal grey starship with violet nacelles takes flight into the void, carrying a cargo more precious - and more dangerous - than it knows. The starship Phoenix turns on its axis, nacelles flaring menacingly into life, and snaps forward into warp speed.

Nearby, the B-type Valdore-class Warbird Shai'Dan, under Commander Jaron, detaches itself from the orbital space station known as the Raptor's Nest. Triangulating the Phoenix's course from its last known heading, the Shai'Dan engages its warp engines and its cloaking device, fading from view even as it moves off, trailing the Phoenix deeper into the heart of the Empire.

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NRPG: With her back to the wall and little other choice, Praetor Delora Radaik has decided to travel to the Azri Drakara system on a mission to find out why the war hawks are trying to bury a report pertaining to that system's native inhabitants. With his back to the wall and little other choice, Kane has agreed to ferry the Praetor and some of the most powerful Senators in the Empire on that voyage. With your back to the wall and little other choice, your characters are along for the ride, whether that leads to war or peace and/or our collective doom.

The Romulan delegation is aboard the Phoenix now. The voyage to Azri Drakara will take some weeks, so in the meantime you'll see them around the ship. Maybe they're on a tour, maybe they're in the Vulgar Tribble, maybe they're partaking of a holodeck, maybe they're visiting your department. Maybe they're being sneaky, maybe they're not. Maybe they're friendly, maybe they're contemptuous. Maybe they're enduring the suspicions and prejudices of the eight hundred plus souls on the Phoenix. The difference now is that anyone can use any of them - you're not confined to writing about the senator you created. The senators are:

- Praetor Delora Radaik
- Senator Chevet (the Tribune of the Senate)
- Senator Nevar (the leader of the war hawk faction)
- Senator Ael Velal (created by Alix)
- Senator Jemasun Tor (created by Ken)
- Senator Aurelia Dak (created by Ranjani)
- Senator Oloth (created by Susan)

If you need to know more about these senators, you should read the post where the character was created.

I deliberately wrote the 'Romulans beam aboard' scene in a vague way to allow for backposts if you want to finish off what your character was doing on Romulus or on the ship prior to the Romulans' arrival, or if you wanted to write about your character's reactions to what happened. The one thing you should do, though, is move time along a little. Backposts only show us where we've come from, and writing a backpost that ends at the same time index this one does could probably benefit from a step forward or two. Use your two eyes - Initiative and Imagination.


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


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

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