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The Distance Between Stars

Posted on Aug 15, 2017 @ 6:12am by Captain Michael Turlogh Kane

Mission: The Romulan Way


"THE DISTANCE BETWEEN STARS"

(Continued from "First Day")
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Captain's log, supplemental - the Phoenix continues to make her way to the Azri Drakara system. So far, there has been peace between Praetor Radaik and Senator Nevar, but all that may be about to change...

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Location: USS Phoenix, en route to Azri Drakara
Stardate: [2.17]0814.2215
Scene: Conference Room - Deck 1, saucer section


Michael Turlogh Kane watched carefully as Delora Radaik and Nevar entered the conference room - her first, him next. Although they entered together, no words were spoken, and both of the sat down on opposite ends of the table, leaving Kane feeling very much like the man in the middle. There was clearly no love lost between the two of them, and the tension was starting to become plain.

He hadn't gotten over the strangeness of having Romulans aboard the ship - hell, he doubted that any of the crew had. Even with Marine and Security deployments around the ship to prevent even an opportunity for espionage - not that any of these Senators seemed likely spies - the Phoenix's Starfleet crew still kept the Romulans at arm's length. Nearly three hundred years of enmity cast a long shadow.

"Praetor Radaik, Senator Nevar, you are both welcome to this meeting," he said diplomatically. "It has been arranged at the request of the Praetor, and I have agreed to act as facilitator."

Nevar's satanic features were creased in irritation. He seemed on edge, leaning back in his chair and looking around the room - everywhere except to the other two people in the room. "The United Federation of Planets has no business interfering in the internal affairs of the Romulan Star Empire," he said bluntly. "The very fact that we are aboard the Federation's war dreadnought speaks volumes."

"They are not interfering, Nevar," snapped Delora Radaik. "They are facilitating. I assure you, I still command the loyalty of the Senate and People of Romulus. Acting as head of state, I have requested their assistance."

"The Praetor is correct, Senator," said Kane smoothly. "When the Praetor speaks, we would do well to listen." He knew it was a lie - by choosing to intervene in the senatorial power struggle in favour of the Praetor and her peace process, the Federation had committed to a side. If that side lost, the ramifications for peace were poor. Nevertheless, the lie came easily enough.

"It is time for me to reveal our destination to you," said Delora Radaik. She reached into the folds of her cream-colored robe and withdrew a dull green Romulan PADD - on it, Kane knew, was a copy of the colonisation report that the war hawks had been trying to bury. Delora Radaik was going to reveal its existence to Nevar and demand an explanation for it.

"High time, too," said Nevar. He turned to face them both, picking up the PADD when the Praetor slid it across the table. "What is this?"

"It is a military colonisation report pertaining to the Azri Draka system," said Delora Radaik. "The survey officer who compiled the report recommends that the Empire colonises the second planet of that system, and furthermore recommends that the native inhabitants be exterminated to facilitate this."

Kane was watching Nevar closely as the Romulan senator perused the contents of the PADD. He was no expert on Romulan psychology, but there was a sudden pause as Nevar realised what the Praetor was referring to, a subtle but perceptible tightening of the lips, a barely-scrutable flicker in the Romulan's dark eyes. If he had been Human, Kane would have directly accused Nevar of knowing something.

Nevar paused a moment as he reached the end of the report. He took a moment for himself, then looked up, features carefully neutral. "This report means nothing to me. To my knowledge, it has not yet reached the Senate for a vote."

"That's the point, Nevar!" snapped Delora Radaik, standing up and leaning across the table. "Your people have been trying to bury this report! Look at the date - it was written months ago!"

"A bureaucratic oversight!" said Nevar defensively.

"Deliberate obfuscation!" Delora Radaik slapped a palm on the tabletop. Her eyes narrowed. "There is only one logical conclusion - "

"Logic!" sneered Nevar.

" - and that is that something is happening in Azri Drakara, something that the war hawks do not want brought to the attention of the Senate!" Delora Radaik pointed out to the stars. "But we are on our way there now, are we not? When we arrive, we will find out what is happening there - and when we do, what will it mean for the war hawks who tried to bury the report? Answer me that, Senator!"

Nevar looked cornered, and also looked like he knew it. He clamped his mouth shut, eyes blazing.

"Nothing to say?" said Delora Radaik. "That is good enough for now, but when we reach our destination, I trust you will be a lot more talkative."

Nevar pushed his chair back and slowly got to his feet. He looked like he was going to say something, but his instincts took over and he bit his tongue. He bowed at the neck, turned and strode from the room, the door punctuating his exit with an angry hiss.

Delora Radaik went to the long viewing port, looked out at the stars, and exhaled the stress out of her.

Kane let the silence surge between them for a moment, but there had to be words. He got to his feet and stood behind her, looking at their reflections in the viewport. His was illuminated by the ceiling light, hers was shrouded in shadow. "He knows something, Praetor. Now he can raise the alarm among his allies, and if he tries to send a message off this ship - well, we'll be ready."

Delora Radaik said nothing.

Kane decided to leave her to it. He moved away, his reflection ebbing away from the viewing port like the tide.

"Captain Kane."

He stopped, looked back. In the viewing port she looked like the Devil incarnate. "Don't presume too much of me, Captain Kane. When I move against Nevar and the war hawks, I will do it when I am ready."

"You have allies, Praetor. Beyond the Neutral Zone and close to home. A good tactician makes use of all her assets."

She turned to face him, but there was a cold gleam in her eye that set him on edge. "Spoken like a Romulan. That is why I am here, and how I knew you would rush forward to help me if I asked. Assisting the beleaguered Praetor in her hour of need. The Federation, always rushing to the aid of its friends." She chuckled ruefully.

Kane frowned. "Are we not friends, Praetor Radaik?"

She let it hang in the air for a moment. "With all that entails. You see what it entails, do you not, Captain Kane?" A pause. "The Federation's premier warship stumbles upon a mysterious plot in the Azri Drakara system, perpetrated by the war hawk faction, that threatens the peace process between the Federation and the Empire, a peace process opposed by many in the military and Tal'Shiar. The Empire is fragmented, its power curbed by many powerful factions who pull the reins in many directions. The Praetor is weak, and does not command the full loyalty of the state."

Kane kept quiet as Delora Radaik kept on talking.

"But Romulans are Romulans first and foremost. D'era - the Romulan Way - is at the core of our very being. If the plot is thwarted, the war hawks are discredited and the Praetor's position is solidified. She can centralise her power and purge anyone whose loyalty is in question. The Federation, having silently assisted in this matter, is prepared to give the Praetor whatever she wants, especially if it means a stable Empire that presents no threat to the war-weary Federation planets close to the Neutral Zone."

Delora Radaik looked Kane right in the eye. "If, however, the plot succeeds, then the Praetor's position and power comes under threat. The war hawks may decide to attempt to overthrow the Senate, or direct the navy to cross the Neutral Zone once again and terrorise the Federation." She spoke slowly and deliberately. "In this case, the Federation, alerted by the Phoenix, which has knowledge of the plot, will be prepared to give the Praetor whatever she wants, especially if it means a stable Empire that presents no threat to the war-weary Federation planets close to the Neutral Zone."

Delora Radaik spoke slowly and deliberately. "Either way, Captain Kane, the Praetor gets exactly what she wants. Do you understand your place in the scheme of things now?"

She moved forward, a spider scuttling on the floor, sweeping past the dumbfounded Kane and exiting the room.

Looking out the viewing port, Michael Turlogh Kane could not see one single familiar constellation, and his soul felt hollow and empty as the distance between stars.

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NRPG: Are we in so deep that we can no longer see the surface?


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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