They were taken away, one by one, for more formal interrogation. As-yet, the Remans seemed unwilling to use the harshest methods of coercion on their prisoners, preferring for a cross-questioning technique that almost seemed straight from a law-enforcement playbook. They were clearly trying to catch the crew in some sort of a lie, force them to give up more about their supposed mission. This would have been easy enough, if the crew had been merely going about their originally-intended task of resupplying the observation post, but their detour to Oumoren V dramatically complicated matters. All the more so for Muninn, who had two reasons for sidling around the truth: one a secret almost as old as her, and the other (hopefully, she thought) undiscovered in the belly of the Mogrus.
When it came Muninn’s turn to make a second appearance in the grimly-lit circular room that the Remans were using as an interrogation chamber, she felt apprehension in beaded perspiration across her body. As of yet, however, no implements of torture, machines designed to induce drug-fueled confessions, or any of the other dark instruments she might have expected, made an appearance. Either these Remans were, for lack of a better term, more humanitarian than the Romulans they had supplanted, or else they were waiting for some other reason before trotting out the big guns.
She sat in the middle of a cone of light barely brighter than the ambient gloom preferred by the subterranean race, the two plain metal chairs and table (all bolted to the floor) were her only company. She breathed slowly, methodically, eyes on the shadowy outline of the door. She became so intent in her waiting that, when the door did finally open, she gave a little start.
The Reman who entered gave her a funny look, and his vaguely batlike face broke into what she was coming to recognize as a smile. “There is no need to worry. I treat my prisoners well.”
She recognized him from her first appearance in this room some hours earlier. His questions then, brief, to the point, and calmly spoken, had quite belied his rather intimidating appearance.
“I’ve not had cause to doubt it,” she said with diplomatic calm. “But, I have to ask… For how much longer will we be continuing these sessions?”
“Until you reveal the nature of your mission in our system,” the Reman said, still smiling. “The same as before.” He moved into the cone of light, then, and seated himself in the opposite chair. His long fingers were folded in his lap, and he sat back, the picture of complete ease.
“I told you, we’re not on any secret mission. We came because of a record I came across regarding a Starfleet officer living on Oumoren V.”
“There are no Starfleet officers on Stalx,” the Reman said, using the local’s name for the colony.
But Muninn remained stubborn. “My sources are clear. There is a human on Oumoren V, a retired member of Starfleet, to be precise.”
The Reman gazed at her across the table as if coming to some deep decision. “Very well,” he said, “let us play along for a moment. Assume that there is a human living on Stalx. And a Starfleet officer, at that. Why would they be there?”
“I’d hoped to ask them.”
“It wouldn’t have anything to do with a Starfleet Intelligence operation dedicated to undermining any Reman leadership not vetted by the Federation?”
He chuckled. “Ah. Well. Would you be interested in explaining, then, why this sudden interest emerged? Or why this mission was not officially cleared by your chain of command?”
That brought Muninn up short. She hesitated, wondering exactly how much he could possibly know. So far, the line of questioning was much the same as the first time, but something in her interrogator’s eyes made her wonder if there was some change behind the scenes. He knows something, or thinks he knows something.
The Reman, still smiling, pressed on into Muninn’s silence. “We know that your ship changed its flight plan at the last moment, that it had never been scheduled to enter this system. We know that you and the Bolian are not proper members of the ship’s compliment, but rather last-minute passengers brought aboard from Starbase Bravo…”
They’ve cracked the computer, she thought with a silent groan. Even if they had only broken into the recent data storage, that might be enough to lead them to Asenth. Assuming the girl didn’t give herself away in some other manner. Like trying to launch a distress beacon. Muninn tried not to let her panic show. Had she doomed the Romulan girl by giving her those instructions? It was at times like this that Muninn most fervently wished she believed in some manner of god.
“Let’s try this another way,” the Reman said. “I am willing to hear your explanation, your full explanation, for being in our system. I guarantee you fair consideration. But, without that, I am left with my best supposition. And that is that you are agents of Starfleet Intelligence, that your organization is worried about a militant and uncontrollable Reman leader, and that you are under orders to sabotage the revolution. If this is what I return to Hartresk with, I can assure you that he will take it upon himself to execute you all as enemies of the Reman people.”
He did not say this with any rancor, or bravado, or even a hint of threat. Instead, he spoke as matter-of-factly as one might when discussing the complications of patient scheduling. Somehow, that made it seem all the more chilling. Muninn did not doubt for a moment that he would make good on his word, or that death was a very possible outcome of their situation.
She leaned forward, placing her palms on the table. The cold metal reassured her, grounded her to that moment in time. She needed to tell him everything this time, or as close to everything as she could get without betraying Asenth’s presence to people who clearly hated her kind with a passion.
“A young girl came to my practice last week and asked for my help. She was a refugee from Oumoren V, a half-Romulan, with a human mother. When I looked into her mother’s file, I learned that she had been a Starfleet officer, that she had been listed as missing in action over a decade ago. Then my superior, Lish, the Bolian you have in custody, he discovered that there were reports of a human captured by Reman revolutionaries on the same planet. We came for her, because we couldn’t leave a Starfleet officer out here once we’d found her, and because her daughter deserves the chance to see her mother alive again.”
The truth sounded thin in the oppressive room, like a bad cover story. Exactly the sort of thing that an Intelligence agent might spin to keep their secrets under wraps. The thinness of it was part of the reason why she’d tried to dance around it before. The Reman stared at her in silence for what seemed like an eternity, his expression alien and unreadable. Then he barked something, a short retort of sound that made Muninn flinch before she recognized it for what it was: laughter. He was laughing.
“That has an interesting ring to it,” he said. “Though not one Hartresk will be likely to accept.”
“What’s your name?” Muninn asked, suddenly, leaping on a spring of intuition.
Again, that long stare before he spoke. “Janas. My name is Janas.”
“I’m telling you the truth, Janas,” she said, holding his gaze with her own.
“Strangely, I believe you,” he said.
“You do?” Muninn could not have kept the surprise from her voice, even if she had wanted to.
“I do. It fits with what Lish Dinalin said, and with what little we have been able to glean from your ship’s computer.” He gave a rattling sigh. “But a convincing tale is not proof.” He cocked his head to one side. “Do you have proof?”
Muninn licked her lips. “We could… find the woman. The one we’re out here looking for. Her name is Helen Anderson. She can’t be that difficult to locate.”
Janas shook his head. “You truly have no idea what has happened in our system, do you? The struggle between the Governor’s Legionaries and my people resulted in massive destruction across Stalx’s surface. Mines destroyed with the workers still inside, towns bombed, and the streets of the port city of Kalvanthes filled with the dead. Finding your Helen Anderson would be a monumental task.”
Muninn leaned back in her chair, her hope fading. “I had no idea it was that bad there.”
“The Governor treated my kind worse than most,” Janas said, “and many of his own kind not much better. There have been atrocities committed by both sides.”
Alien as he was, a note familiar to Muninn’s ear lived in Janas’ voice. A note of shame. She considered the Reman, tall, powerful, clearly intelligent. What was he doing working for a violent psychotic like Hartresk? Or was the commander of the ship more complex than he at first appeared? There were unknowns here, too many of them. She felt as if any incautious move would see her stepping on a landmine. What questions would break through, would offer some enlightenment that she could use?
“You said the Governor treated other Romulans poorly as well? Were there Romulan sympathizers among your revolution?”
He looked at her, a sudden sharpness in his eyes. “Yes. A good many.”
“Where are they now?” She felt the ice creaking beneath her, prayed it would not break.
“Many are dead,” Janas said. He shifted in his seat, his lanky frame a knot of muscle under tension.
“Did Hartresk have them killed because they were Romulan?” Instantly, Muninn knew that she had picked the wrong choice.
Janas stood with a snarl and he glared down at her from his impressive height. Muninn tensed, but the Reman merely stood there, clawed fists clenching and unclenching. “We fight for our freedom!” he hissed at her. “We are not barbarians, to kill women and children at will.”
Women and children. Muninn closed her eyes as she placed a horrible piece of the puzzle into alignment. “The girl… the one I told you about? She said that Reman soldiers killed her parents.”
Still glowering, Janas shook his head. “As I said, there were atrocities on both sides. But, unless her parents were supporters of the Governor…?”
“They were not.”
They looked at each other, human to Reman, in silence. His face, caught half in and half out of the cone of light, held a complex mix of emotions that she could still not decipher. But, clearly, there were depths under consideration there.
“Come with me,” Janas said, waving her toward him.
He led her to the door, which opened with a hiss at his approach, and then beyond it into a darkened corridor. The same stale smell pervaded here, but there were fewer Remans than before. Janas led her on at a steady pace, his long stride matched by her own. As they walked, he said, “The governor assumed that the Romulan dissidents were the true threat, and killed many of their leaders in the initial hours of the battle. He was, of course, ultimately mistaken in his assessment.”
Muninn took this information in with a small nod. Then jerked her head toward a huddle of Reman civilians in one of the side corridors. “Are these refugees from the mining bases?”
“Correct,” Janas replied. “They were dying out there. No supplies, cut off completely. And this is not all. Some outposts were massacred by their Romulan guards, who then fled on whatever ships were available to them.”
Silent for the remainder of their walk, Muninn tried, and failed, to imagine the terror these people had been living under. And just as bad for those on the surface. An entire star system full of victims. The immensity of it shocked her, appalled her senses. How could something like this be allowed to happen?
Janas led them through another door and into a room filled with glowing panels, holographic screens, and two Remans in long civilian tunics who seemed to be collating data from the various displays. Janas waved them out and led Muninn to one of the consoles.
“This girl’s name, do you know it?”
She nodded, hope blossoming despite her pessamism and fear.
“Her full Romulan name?”
“Enter it here,” he said, and tapped the console screen. An input pad appeared and Muninn, taking Janas’ place at the console, quickly typed in Asenth’s full name. The computer’s screen showed a circulating icon as it began to work.
“Their names are complex things, tied to family, location of birth, and more. If her family was known to the Governor, then his computers would have their name on file.”
Muninn looked over at him, surprised. “This was the Governor’s ship?”
“Indeed. It was his gift, from the old Romulan government, and the method by which he enacted total control over this system. It was by his torpedoes and disruptors that much of the damage to the towns and cities was done.”
“He turned them on the planet?” Muninn gaped, openly horrified. At his expression however, she flushed, feeling more the fool than she had in years. Yes, of course the Governor had turned his ship’s weapons on the planet. There was no shortage of men like that in history, people who would do anything to hang onto their dominance of others, with no blood price too high for their victory.
“How… how did you take it?”
Janas offered her one of his strange, toothy smiles. “How is it that your Federation saying goes? ‘You cannot Go alone, for a thousand fibers connect you with your fellow-men?’ Nothing good is ever gained in solitude. I served as head of the Reman servants in the Governor’s household. When the leaders of the Revolution needed someone on the inside, they came to me, and it was through me that they gained access to the many Romulan sympathizers in the lower classes of the household. I facilitated the exchange of information that made our dream of rebellion more than a passing fancy. If we had attempted it alone, without the aid of our Romulan brothers, we would have been annihilated. That support included the shield codes for this ship.”
“Then why aren’t you sitting in the command chair?” Muninn asked.
“Because I am not a military mind,” Janas said, “despite that I wear this armor. I am, I think you might say, a politician. There is a time for both in this revolution, and mine is soon to arrive.” He spoke with confidence, but Muninn felt certain that she heard some deeper dissonance within his tone. Worry. He must wonder if the military side will be willing to step back and relinquish its power when the time comes. And why would Hartresk ever choose to do that, now that he’s set himself up at the peak of this new hierarchy?
Muninn felt a tiredness creeping in at the thought of more violence that would inevitably come. All revolutions inevitably ended in a repetition of the same conditions that preceded them. Violence begat violence, no matter how pure the intentions for it were. Here, it seemed, as with everyone else in any history Muninn was aware of, the old pattern remained the same.
She saw Janas looking at her, but was spared having to reveal her thoughts by a beep from the computer. They peered at the console screen together. She struggled to read the Romulan characters, mouthing them out as she went, and Janas got to the point ahead of her.
“Your patient’s parents were marked for termination by the Governor’s guards,” he said. “They were subversives, working to help my people in their district, as well as others who wanted to overthrow the Governor’s control.” He glanced at her. “It says here that they were, indeed, killed during the opening hours of the battle. That would have been when this ship was still under the Governor’s control in orbit.”
Muninn stepped back a pace and nodded at the screen. “Would this count as proof for Hartresk?”
“That you are telling the truth about your mission here?”
“No.” He still looked at her in that vaguely uncomfortable way, his grayish features rendered shadowy in the dim light. “But proof would not convince Hartresk, regardless. He would not see Starfleet here, nor any other outside force. His goal is to keep Oumoren for Remans, and Remans alone, regardless of what the rest of Velorum decides.”
“And is that what you want? You said you worked alongside Romulans to secure this victory. Does Hartresk see any future for them in this brave new world he envisions for Remans, and Remans alone?”
Again, that barking laugh, that toothy grin. “Clever, Starfleet. You’re correct in your thinking. Which is to say: Hartresk is not the one you must convince. His lieutenants are. I would need to bring them irrefutable proof, something of a guarantee. And this would need to be the beginning of something larger, a downpayment, if you will, on certain promises from your Starfleet regarding acknowledgment of our right to self-rule.”
“I’m not a political officer,” Muninn said, “I told you before. I don’t have the sort of connections to make that possible.”
“But you and your crew would be able to bear witness. And your commanding officer, under these circumstances his word would carry with it the weight of at least a basic rule of law.”
“I suppose it would. Starfleet doesn’t make a point of interference, though. Regardless of what Hartresk thinks. We might recognize you, but what about the rest of the Velorum sector? I can’t make promises for any of them.”
“I would not ask them of you,” Janas said. “Merely your public word, while wearing that uniform. That, and the information you’ve given me, might be enough to change matters in my favor aboard this ship.”
And so it begins. The Revolution spins on. And who will win this time? The dream of peace, or the power of rage and war? Muninn looked Janas firmly in the eye, then extended her hand. “You have my word,” she said.