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Crosshairs

Posted on Sep 10, 2017 @ 6:58am by Captain Michael Turlogh Kane & Captain Kassandra Thytos
Edited on on Sep 10, 2017 @ 6:58am

Mission: The Romulan Way

"CROSSHAIRS"

(Continued from "Witnessing Technology Demonstration")
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Location: Romulan space station, Alpha Drakaris system
Stardate: [2.17]0909.2300
Scene: Control Centre


Michael Turlogh Kane watched carefully as the tense scene unfolded before him. The Phoenix had disappeared from sensors - impressive initiative from Jake Crichton - causing consternation among the Romulans as their control over the situation suddenly disappeared with it. Kane could imagine the searing panic on the bridges of the outside Warbirds, as the Federation's dreadnought had slipped out of their grasp. But while things were going well for the crew on the Phoenix, the same wasn't true here on the station.

It was obvious that something was Going On in the Romulan Star Empire - the Senate faction known as the 'war hawks', led by Senator Nevar, were making some sort of power play here in the isolated Alpha Drakaris system. They had constructed this space station in secret and deployed a squadron of Warbirds here, all without the knowledge of the Praetor, Delora Radaik. Was it to establish a base of operations to overthrow her and install a new government on Romulus, as was the general suspicion? So far, Nevar had been evasive with his answers, not contradicting the suggestion that the station's purpose was for some sort of annihilatory terraforming project, but Cantor Von's conversation with D'Mara, the station's commander and Von's former lover, had indicated that its true purpose was something else entirely.

Now, isolated from the Phoenix and trapped between the Praetor and the war hawks, Kane and his officers were in a difficult position. Everyone was playing their own shell game, and while it seemed like the Starfleet people were just getting in the way, Kane knew that whatever was about to happen here would have far-reaching consequences for the quadrant as a whole. A recovering Federation would not likely be able to cope with a resurgent Romulan Empire, but the Federation was equally in no position to capitalise if the Empire collapsed into civil war. It was a thin, tautly-stretched tightrope between two uncertain outcomes, neither of which was particularly appealing.

Delora Radaik appeared in no mood for any more games. She rounded on Nevar, eyes blazing. "I have had enough of this obfuscation, Nevar. You are acting like you are in control of this situation, but it is a smokescreen. I was not stupid enough to leave Romulus without revealing my destination to my chief military officers - if you intend to use this terraforming weapon to seize the praetorship, you will lead the Empire into civil war."

Never held up a hand. "The praetorship is not something that interests me today, and I am well aware of the consequences of any attempted coup. Very well, I will show you why we constructed this space station, and when I have, I hope you will seize the magnificent opportunity that it presents to you. This way."

He gestured to a nearby turbolift, but stood in front of Kane. "Not you, nor your people, Human."

Kane glanced at Delora Radaik. "We are standing with the Praetor, Nevar." He wished the words didn't sound so damn hollow - he and his crew were aliens here, getting involved in an internal Romulan matter, and with every new development, feeling more and more out of his depth.

Delora Radaik regarded them both. "The Federation is not our enemy today, Nevar."

Kane watched the exchange. He knew that Delora Radaik was playing a dangerous game - a balancing act between the Federation and potential rebels in the Romulan Senate. She was devious and manipulative in her own way, but if the Romulan Star Empire collapsed in flames, it could lead to a dangerous upswing in violence along the sectors bordering the Neutral Zone. That was why he'd chosen to try to protect the Praetor's position - as the instigator of the peace process, she desired a new relationship with the Federation, one that repaired the damages done in the past fifty years and solidified the border once again. It meant peace (in the short term, at least), and that was the goal of every Starfleet officer.

Never looked coldly at the Praetor. "They might be after today."

"All the more reason we should see what you're talking about," said Kane evenly. "If you're determined to plunge the quadrant into war and kill trillions, I want to know why."

"Let them come, Nevar," said Delora Radaik. "After all, if what you say is true, they won't be seeing home again, will they?"

Never looked around, eyes narrowed as he thought about it. Finally he gave a curt nod. "So be it, then. As you say, Praetor, none of them will be leaving here alive."

The Romulan senator opened the turbolift doors and led the group inside, a new tension hanging in the air.

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Location: USS Phoenix, orbiting Alpha Drakaris II
Scene: Main bridge - deck 1, saucer section


“Ain’t gonna be long until they find us, or until ya fry the damn shields and everything inside of 'em. An’ do you know how much radiation there is floatin’ 'round us right now? Wait, why’m I even askin’, o' course ya do,” Kassandra said sourly, glaring at Tomas' Vukovic. The man had moves when it came to piloting ships, no denying that, though Kassandra had a very hard time thinking of Tomas as a man. To her, he was just this weird mass of *things* packed into a man shape, like jello in a jello mold or something.

But everyone else treated him like a regular person, and she had to try to do the same. She turned her attention to the viewscreen, where the undulating image of an aurora was displayed. She had no doubt it was beautiful and impressive, and was no doubt doing a more than adequate job of hiding their energy signature on the Romulan sensors, but she had no time for this. “Jake - uh, Commander Crichton - we oughta be comin’ up with a way ta destroy that friggin' station thing as soon as we can, instead a’ fiddlin’ our fingers.”

“We don’t even know what it actually is, so we can hardly justify starting a war over something that *might* be dangerous,” Jake pointed out.

That infuriating way that he had of offering very sensible sounding rationale was, nonetheless to Kass, an excuse to be chickenshit and avoid the hard choices. When he got like this, Kassandra suddenly had a very good idea of why Xana Bonviva had decided to divorce the Commander, despite him looking and sounding so very good on paper.

“Think about it, Commander! They’re friggin' Rommies, what the hell else is it gonna be asides from a goddam weapon? Right about now I wish we had some of Edgerton’s damn Aegis sh -” Kassandra trailed off as she noticed the shocked looks on the faces of the others on the bridge. “Don’t y'all be lookin’ at me like that, an’ don’t pretend y'all didn’t think the same friggin' thing for jus’ an instant! I ain’t sayin’ I like 'em, or that I think they’re a good thing to use, but y'all gotta admit that a buncha thaleron satellites would be a damn good deterrent right about now! Yanno, use that thing on us and we’ll seal Romulus off an’ maybe nuke it with thaleron - sure would put a stop to any ideas they had.”

“Mutual destruction.” Eve Dalziel had been standing in the door to the observation room, apparently having come to see what the commotion was, and she took to opportunity to break the very awkward silence. “It was tried on Earth five hundred years ago, but it doesn’t make for a very stable peace. I understand what you’re trying to say, Kassandra, but surely you can’t advocate a repeat of Paris - ”

“I *ain't* advocatin’ for that, I’m just sayin’ that - well, *shit*! Forget I said *anythin’* other'n we need ta destroy the damn thing, since I’ve apparently managed to offend all yer friggin' sensibilities!” Kassandra huffed and slapped her hands down on the edge of the flight control console in annoyance. Some of the junior bridge officers visibly flinched as she did so, and Kassandra became aware of a throaty laugh coming from the entrance to the observation room.

Ael Velat, the young Romulan senator that Kass had spoken to on Romulus, emerged from behind Eve, clapping her hands slowly. “Now *that* is what I’d been hoping to see since I came aboard!” she said, a smirk on her face.

Kassandra noticed that the young woman's demeanor had changed - apparently it had been an act Ael had been putting on for their benefit. Finding the Romulan a convenient target for her pent up irritation and hostility, Kassandra wheeled to face the woman, hands on her hips, glowering. “What the hell’s *that* supposed to mean?”

“I’d been waiting to see the *real* Kassandra Thytos, the one whose records I read, the Butcher of Barbosa.” Ael was outwardly not impressed by Kassandra’s posturing, though Kass’ sensor nets could see the slight, involuntary tensing of her muscles. “I thought surely that the bloodless, leashed, pathetic creature I spoke to couldn’t be the woman who I read about, but now I see that it was just there under the surface, under a veneer of - ”

“Y'all shut yore mouth! Ya don’ know nothin’, and ya sure as shit ain’t as clever as ya think y'are!” Kassandra snapped. “An’ anyways, just what the hell are you doin’ out here? This all right here's a private talk, so git!”

Ael Velat seemed nonplussed. “Well, I am here to help, but by all means if you don’t want my help…”

“Help us? What do you mean?” Jake intervened, and gave Kassandra a warning look. “Help us how? And why would you help us anyway?”

“To help you diffuse the situation,” Ael shrugged elegantly. “I have my own reasons, but - ”

“She’s Tal Shiar,” Eve jumped in, giving Kassandra a warning look equally as intense as Jake’s had been.

Kassandra rolled her eyes, wondering if people thought she was going to jump forward and beat the Romulan up for no provocation.

“Why would the Tal Shiar want to help the Federation? You are Romulans first and always,” Jake stated. “You can’t say you want to help and then just expect us to take you at face value.”

Ael Velal put her hands behind her back and stood stiffly. When she spoke, her voice was cold, her youthful face sharp, her lips thin creases. “The Tal Shiar have a vested interest in resolving this situation. Having your ship annihilated would cause war with the Federation, and while you have been substantially weakened by your civil war, you would still take up plenty of time and resources from our... other endeavors." She paced forward into the bridge. “Not to mention that if something happens while you’re here, our embarrassing little schism will be obvious to any intelligence collector with half a brain. There are not many to rival us in the Alpha Quadrant, but the smaller confederacies are a potential problem. If we are distracted with the Federation, and they sense internal weakness - well, they might try to band together and try to carve themselves out a bit of our empire.”

“Ain’t nothin’ brings an empire together more n’ a war,” Kassandra said, skepticism heavy in her voice. “An’ anyway, if you’re so worried about the war hawks an’ a potential schism, then why ain’tcha dealin’ with them like the Tal Shiar does so well?”

“Because the Tal Shiar doesn’t want to pick a side, just in case they choose the wrong one. Isn’t that it, Ael?” Eve’s face had a sudden shrewdness to it, an expression that always surprised Kassandra when she saw it. Even though she knew that Eve had been an intelligence operative, it was so easy to forget and lump her in with the harmless, nurturing counselors like Owen Arion. “The sides are evenly matched enough, and so is public sentiment, that you’re hamstrung in dealing with the situation. You’d rather help us find a way to deal with it, that way if it goes wrong, you can blame us, and it unites the Romulan people again.”

Ael spread her hands and smiled enigmatically. “Do you want my help, or not?”

All eyes turned to look at Jake. Kassandra new it was a lost cause, but she tried to will the man to rebuff the Romulan Senator’s offer of assistance and throw her immediately into the brig, or at least order her back into the observation room.

“Provisionally. What did you have in mind?” Jake finally said, quietly. Kassandra glared daggers at him, which he pointedly ignored.

Ael smiled. “Excellent! Believe me when I say that we are not working at cross-purposes, Commander Crichton. We will start by contacting Herut, on the Shai'Dan. We Tal Shiar have our own means of communicating, that even the military is not fully aware of. I can send a message to the Shai'Dan that will not reach anyone’s ears but his. Now, if I have some assistance making the necessary arrangements….”

Jake nodded slowly and beckoned her forward.

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Location: Romulan space station, as before
Scene: Turbolift -> Power Core


The turbolift slowed, readying itself to stop, somewhere in the dark bowels of the station. Nobody said anything on the way down, but the air seemed as thick as heavy cloth. Kane shared glances with Cantor Von and Jasmine Yu, wishing that he had some space to consult with them.

Suddenly, Delora Radaik broken the silence. "The terraforming beam that you attempted to use on the planet below is not the whole story, is it?"

Nevar looked sidelong at her. "No. It is only one half of it. The space station was constructed for two purposes - only one of them was to act as a mount for a planet-killing weapon, which we have developed as a terraforming weapon."

"The Federation experiment with a similar weapon one-and-a-half centuries ago," said Jasmine Yu. "They called it 'Genesis'. It was supposed to be used to transform dead worlds into living planets, but it was too dangerous. If it had been unleashed on a world where life already existed, it would have destroyed that life in favour of its own matrix."

Nevar nodded. "That is also the basis for our weapon."

"But how are you going to deploy it?" asked Kane. "No Romulan starship will ever get through the defence perimeter around Earth."

The turbolift came to a stop, and the doors opened, and Kane saw that the future relations between the Federation and Romulans were hanging on a knife edge.

The room that they stepped into was dominated by an enormous spheroid forcefield - deep green and crackling with power. It was being powered by at least a dozen separate generators mounted on the room's other three walls, each of them snaking a twisting line of energy into the spheroid field, feeding it more power. Between each generator were banks of wall-mounted work stations, all manned by tired-looking Romulan men and women.

All that impressive enough, but it was what lay within the forcefield that gave Kane pause. The forcefield was containing some sort of portal, a white-hot rent in the fabric of space-time, open and weeping like a sore. It seemed to be swollen, pushing against the constraints of the surrounding forcefield, bulging in one direction and then another like a balloon, but each time being stymied and returned to its former shape.

Nevar led the group forward, ignoring the confused looks from the nearby technicians. "This is why we have built this space station, Praetor. This is the future of Romulan warfare."

Kane looked in askance at Cantor Von and Jasmine Yu, but without any tricorders or equipment to make an analysis, they could tell him nothing.

"What is it?" asked Delora Radaik in wonder. "It looks like a quantum singularity, but why is it not contained within a nullifier core?"

Kane knew that the Romulans did not create warp fields using the controlled annihilation of matter and anti-matter, but rather utilised artificial quantum singularities to generate the energy necessary to form a warp field. The resulting output of power allowed Romulan starships of capital classes to both cloak themselves and travel extended distances at warp speed, protected by a nullifier core that prevented the singularity from destroying the ship. But he wasn't sure that this thing *was* a singularity - for one thing, it would be nigh-suicidal to keep an artificial quantum singularity behind something as potentially-flimsy as a forcefield, even if it was being generated and maintained by a dozen different generators. If that forcefield ever came down, the singularity would irradiate everyone aboard the station - hence why they were usually contained behind nullifier cores.

Never ran his hand over the outer shell of the green forcefield, making the energy field ripple like water. "The quantum singularity is a thing of the past," he said keenly. "This is an artificial wormhole."

Kane couldn't believe it. An artificial wormhole was supposed to be impossible to build because, while you might be successful in *opening* one end of the hole, it would be impossible to navigate through *nothingness* in order to construct the exit point of the wormhole. That was why the damn things were such a lottery - in transiting through space-time, wormholes seemed totally random. But if the Romulans had figured out a way to eliminate that random element and construct an exit point, then it was something that Starfleet needed to know about.

"Bullshit," he grated. "Artificial wormholes aren't possible."

"Really?" sneered Nevar. "I invite you to test this one at your convenience. You see, this wormhole's exit point is in orbit of your homeworld."

"Earth!" exclaimed Jasmine Yu. "You're saying that this wormhole leads to Earth orbit? But how is it not being detected by Starfleet?"

Nevar couldn't take his eyes off the pulsating light. "The exit point has not yet been opened. Nor will it be, until we are ready to fire our weapon. When the exit opens, it will be like looking down the barrel of a gun, bypassing all your vaunted defence perimeters. Shortly afterward, the terraforming beam, fired *through* the wormhole, will destroy planet Earth."

Kane listened with growing dread.

"Your wormhole is too small for that," pointed out Cantor Von. "And we've already seen that your terraforming weapon is not fully operational. How do you know the exit point will open where you want it to?"

Nevar's features softened a bit when the Betazoid addressed him, but his tone was still adamant. "I will admit that the testing has been simulated up to this point, but we are confident that we can generate the exit point where we want it. I obviously cannot reveal the technology that makes this possible, only that it is so." He held out his hands like he was about to embrace the pulsing green field. "As regards its size - yes, you are correct. In its present form, the wormhole is too small to contain the terraforming beam. However, when we deactivate this restraining forcefield, the wormhole will swell a thousandfold into space. We will have abandoned this station by that point, and will be controlling the process remotely - the terraforming will be turned inward and fired before the wormhole consumes the station."

"This means war with the Federation," said Kane. "If this all does what you say it does, and you succeed, it means war."

Never didn't blink. "I know."

"Enough!" Praetor Delora Radaik stepped forward. "The war hawk faction built this thing here, in this system, without the consent of the Senate! You have deliberately subverted our entire system of government!"

"All for D'era!" exclaimed Nevar passionately. "The Romulan Way is not an abstract philosophy we teach children! It is the living, breathing imperative of all the Romulan people! We have the chance now - *now*! Strike at the heart of the Federation, cut off its head with one blow! Coupled with a simultaneous offensive across the Neutral Zone, the Federation will collapse! Its power will be broken, and when they beg us for peace, it will be on *our* terms!"

He gestured to the entire room. "This is it, Praetor! Join us! If you embrace what we have done and validate this project politically, you will cement your position as one of the greatest leaders in our history! Don't let fear of war cloud your judgement, for we Romulans were *made* for war! Joins us, and let us bring the Federation to its knees!"

Kane listened, aghast. It was now clear why the space station had been built, why the war hawks had tried to bury the colonisation report, why the nearby Warbirds had been directed to this isolated system. And if this technology was fully operational, then Earth was once again in the crosshairs of destruction - the terraforming beam would end all life on the surface.

"Praetor," he said, trying to stop his voice from trembling, "you cannot agree to this! You invited the Federation to begin a peace process, which we have entered into in good faith! Don't condemn all our peoples to war!"

"Enough, Captain Kane!" she snapped harshly. "If what Nevar is saying is true, then I would be a fool not to hear him out!" She turned to Nevar. "I will listen to you, Never. That is what I will do next - just listen."

Never turned to Kane, a look of triumph on his satanic features. He smiled and nodded to D'Mara, and led Delora Radaik away down a corridor. Chevet followed close behind.

Kane watched them walk away, feeling like all the hopes for peace were going with them. He, Cantor Von, and Jasmine Yu were left behind, unimportant and irrelevant.

D'Mara stepped forward. She had been quiet up to now, watching intently from the sidelines. She motioned to the turbolift again. "I will show you to guest quarters. You will, of course, have to be placed under guard. Please, come with me."

Nevar and Delora Radaik were gone, lost in the enshrouding darkness of the corridor. It was like night falling on the future.

Behind him, the turbolift doors hissed open to receive them.

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NRPG: So there you have it - the threat to Earth. We move now into the freeform climax of this story. There are many questions to be resolved through your posting, including:

- will the Praetor agree to join Nevar?
- how close is the Romulan weapon to completion?
- is communication with the Shai'Dan possible?
- how will the Phoenix avoid the searching Romulan starships?
- how are we going to stop the war hawks?


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

&

Alix Fowler
As
Kassandra Thytos
MCO
USS Phoenix


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

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