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Part of SS Viridian Expanse: Night Moves and Bravo Fleet: Sundered Wings

#1 – Opening Gambit

Outskirts of the Velorum Sector
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Viridian Expanse, Bridge

For the past few hours, Keren had been watching and reading reports about the chaos on Rator and the reaction of the Remans on Psi Velorum. To say he was growing concerned would be an understatement.  He always knew instability like this was a possibility and, in a sense almost inevitable. With three successor states vying for the legacy of Romulus, none having any greater amount of legitimacy than the other, something like this was bound to happen. There was one problem with unrest like this, no matter how inevitable it might be. 

The timing can still suck. 

In fact, the timing couldn’t be worse for Keren and the crew of the Viridian Expanse. Not long ago they had left a planet that had just undergone a military coup loaded with a valuable cargo being shipped to a planet that had just declared independence in response to said coup.  Oh, and to make things even more complicated, just before leaving Rator he’d been speaking with a senator who was concerned about the military taking highly unusual actions with regards to his cargo. It really couldn’t get much worse. For the meantime the Expanse was sitting just outside the Velorum sector, under cloak, while Keren could figure out what to do next. 

Sitting at his command station, the Romulan hybrid was silently staring at another report that was discussing which Senators had managed to survive the coup and what they were doing, when Timek rested a hand on his shoulder. 

“Figure out a plan yet?” The Reman first mate knew the answer was almost certainly no, but he asked anyway to get Keren to talk. 

“I’m still looking for Durana’s name.” Keren answered. It might not have been the question Timek was verbalizing, but it was one he was going to ask. “If my talking to her got her killed, if she asked one too many questions because of what I told her…” 

“You’re not at fault.” Timek interrupted before the captain could finish. “What people do with the information you provide is not your problem. Durana was clearly suspicious of the military before she came to you. Whatever happened was going to happen no matter what.” 

Keren nodded. “You’re right of course. But it would help to know where she was, it might help to make sense of what to do next.” The captain paused a moment and then continued on a different topic. “Have we heard from Psi Velorum yet? Even with our delay leaving Rator they should be expecting us by now.”

“An inquiry was sent, yes.” The Reman answered. “However, I feigned comm interference and said I would get back to them shortly, just as you directed.” 

“That will buy us some time at least. And it tells us that someone there is still expecting us. Who that is, that’s a different question entirely.” Keren seemed slightly relieved, but his face still showed the signs of immense stress. He had a moment to take a breath before the voice of his pilot, Shiren, got his attention.

 

“Oy, boss, I have a transmission coming in. Military frequencies, high priority.” The young Romulan’s voice was at first curious, but it shifted to mildly terrified when he continued. “It’s Admiral Terak boss.” 

Timek and Keren each shot each other the same look and seemingly were about to say the same thing. The Reman spoke first. “What does that prick want?” 

Keren shook his head. “I have a pretty good guess, as I’m sure you do as well. I just hope I’m wrong. Shiren, my station please.”

Shiren nodded nervously and a moment later the stoic face of Admiral Terak appeared on Keren’s monitor. He’d only met the Admiral a few times, but all of them were uncomfortable enough that Keren remembered them vividly. 

“Admiral, to what do I owe the honor of this communication? I’d expect you to be quite busy. Was my Bolian supplier not to your satisfaction?” 

“Your delivery was satisfactory,” the Admiral replied gruffly. “It’s your next one I’m more interested in.” 

“Two cases next time then?” Keren knew the Admiral wasn’t calling about the Bolian Whiskey, but he wasn’t quite ready for the real issue. “I don’t think I’m going back to Bolarus for another few months, but I’ll be sure to get you something when I do.” 

The Admiral ignored the diversion and got straight to the matter at hand. “I’ve become aware that you were commissioned to deliver a number of industrial replicators to Psi Velorum. As you are probably aware there has been a complication in the security situation on the planet and the facility you were scheduled to deliver them to is now in the hands of a criminal element.” 

Keren feigned surprise when responding. “I hadn’t heard that, quite concerning. I hope everything is okay down there.” 

The Admiral simply glared. “I don’t know what you’re playing at here Keren, but stop, now. My sources have told me all about your meeting with Senator Durana and your delay leaving the Rator cargo transfer station. I don’t know what you two are up to, but I don’t have time for it. It is requested that you head to the following coordinates to rendezvous with the warbird Kherzan in four hours. The Kherzan will take custody of your cargo and you can then go about your business.” 

This was exactly what Keren was expecting. Several military facilities in the Velorum sector had already gone dark. Since it appeared the military had made the initial consignment, it wasn’t surprising in the slightest they’d want the replicators back. They especially wouldn’t want them in the hands of the Velorum rebels. It all made sense. 

That didn’t mean he had to like it. 

“I understand Admiral and I’d be happy to accommodate your request. However,” Keren keyed in a command on his console, “according to Imperial Trade Regulations, I’m going to need a formal request for change in delivery instructions, appropriate guarantees of payment due to non-delivery at the request of the consignee. All this will need to be cleared directly by the Ministry of Trade and Industry via form…” 

“How dare you quote bureaucratic nonsense to me!” The Admiral shouted. “Do as you have been directed or…” 

“Or what?” Keren asked, clearly unafraid of the threat. “You know what will happen if I’m harmed. You might think you have power but your position isn’t nearly as stable as you think it is. You want me to play ball, you do it by the book or you’ll never see those replicators.” 

The Admiral made a threatening gesture, but Keren just stared him down. After a tense moment, Terak angrily shook his head. “Fine, we’ll do it your way. Hold position, the proper authorizations will be delivered shortly. Terak out.”

Once Terak’s face disappeared from the screen, Shiren turned to look back at his captain. “I’ve never seen Terak back down like that before. I’ve never known him to be scared of anyone, even the Praetor.” 

“Every man has his demon Shiren, even Terak.” Timek answered. “That’s all you want to know.” 

Keren just nodded and went back to thinking. Terak was going to press the issue, bureaucratic red tape be damned. How far he’d go was unclear, but that was a matter for another time. Keren knew how to not be found if it came to that. He could find a quiet moon, hunker down, have a pint of ale, and wait for this whole thing to blow over. That would be the easy thing to do, but would it be the right thing. Would it be the most profitable thing? Nothing was clear at this point and that was clearly starting to get to Keren. As he proceeded to stand up to walk towards his cabin for a quick rest, Timek stopped him. 

“We’re getting another transmission, this time text only. Claims to be from the provisional government on Psi Velorum. Comm troubles and all that nonsense.” 

Keren rolled his eyes. “Let me guess, they know all about the shipment and want us to deliver it as planned with all haste for the good of the people and all that jazz, right?” 

The Reman first mate nodded. “Sprinkle in a few boasts about being on the right side of history and praising you past good relations with the people of Psi Velorum, whatever that means.”

“I knew I should have charged that mining consortium full price, they wouldn’t call asking favors all the time then.” Keren seemed to be getting agitated. “They attached delivery instructions?” 

“Yes,” Timek replied. “I should also point out that they recently have called on the Federation for assistance. They said they’d arrange for an escort in order to ensure that the, and I quote, ‘tyrants won’t steal what is rightfully ours’. And before you ask, they have offered additional payment.” 

The idea that Starfleet would be getting involved in this sort of thing wasn’t unexpected. The Federation, it seemed, couldn’t seem to keep its nose out of Romulan affairs the last few decades. They were, however, acting unusually quickly. Usually, the Federation plodded along and took achingly long to do anything.  Adding them into the mix could mean any number of things, but big picture galactic politics wasn’t his problem. For now, he had to deal with what was in front of him, the big picture could come later. 

After a long pause to think, Keren finally responded. “Send the provisional government the same response I gave the Admiral. We’ll need an appropriate claim to the cargo and all that sort of thing, unless you have a better idea.” 

“I hear Bajor is nice this time of year and there’s always work there.” The Reman wasn’t the best at sarcasm, but he was getting better. 

The hybrid captain shook his head. “You know I can’t stand hasperat Timek, though they do make good wine.”  

“Stalling it is then.” Timek turned back to his station and allowed Keren to return to his cabin.

It was a short walk from the Expanse’s bridge to the captain’s quarters, but Keren didn’t go directly there. Instead, Keren walked full length of the main deck very slowly. Walking often centered his thoughts and, right now he had far too much to think about. This wouldn’t be the first time he had to deal with competing claims to his cargo. It happened all the time when you dealt with the grey market like he did. However, this was the first time he had to deal with a situation of these sort of stakes. He’d have to choose sides, and that was something he did his best to avoid. He’d always gone where the money was, not where the glory was. 

Big stakes were something he did his best to stay far away from. If he’d wanted that kind of life, it was available to him. His mother could have gotten him a commission in the Republic military. He might even have his own warbird by now. Aunt Jurel could have found a place for him in the Tal Shiar, but that life wouldn’t have been any better.  He’d been groomed for both and couldn’t stand either. He’d just be someone’s pawn, a piece in a larger game within an even bigger game. That was simply the way it worked in Romulan life. The players might wear different uniforms, the teams have different names, but the game was always there.  Keren, Timek, and even the young Shiren, despite coming from vastly different backgrounds, all were on the Expanse for one reason. 

None of them wanted to play. 

But here they were, thrust right into the middle of the game. If Keren was going to have to get involved in this situation, he had to make sure he played perfectly otherwise he’d get hurt and so would his crew. Getting through this situation alive was going to be one challenge. Getting through it with a future afterwards, that was the real trick. 

When Keren finally got back to his cabin, he entered and immediately collapsed onto the bed. Sleep wasn’t going to come, but as he closed his eyes, he finally got a moment of peace.

It wasn’t going to last. 

 

 

 

 

Comments

  • The SS Viridian Expanse enters the Fleet Action between a rock and a hard place! The economic and moral dilemmas of this story made for an engrossing read. Starting in media res really pays off here. I'm intrigued by Senator Durana and whatever information Keren provided her with? Could it really have played a part in the downfall of Rator? The constant bluffing and double-bluffing of the Romulan way was particularly entertaining, especially within the perspective of a Romulan ship. "Complication in the security situation" was a classic misdirection that made me chuckle. You've not only given Keren the tough situation of trying to decide whether to complete the gig with the Romulan or the Reman government, but you layered in even more tension, by having Keren try to play them both. Tricky!

    June 5, 2022