[In orbit of Earth]
Space rippled just above the vast blue of Earth's pacific ocean which was partially obscured by an ivory swirl of gossamer clouds. The large D'Dherex dreadnaught slowly formed out of the distortion of space followed closely by two Romulan cruisers acting as escorts. As a planetary transport passed by people could be seen crowding the portside windows to a catch a glimpse of the unusual sight.
Inside the metallic beast Shiarrael was studying the visage with an onerous sense of nostalgia. How long had it been now? Six or seven years? She turned to the ship's commander "prepare a bomber for me."
Riov t'Vraeh looked puzzled "you will not be beaming down EnRiov?"
"No, when so close to our enemies I prefer my atoms not be dissembled." She smirked. Though there was another reason. Something was wrong on earth. Though the Tal'Diann didn't know what exactly was occurring on the planet there had been whispers. Those whispers were loud enough to give Shiarrael concern that things on Earth may no longer be the same as when she had left so long ago "please inform Senator t'Charvanek to be ready to depart shortly."
t'Vreah bowed her head "very well EnRiov."
As they descended through the clouds and across the Eurasian continent Shiarrael finally could see firsthand the damage caused by the Cardassian attack on Earth. The once beautiful city of Paris was now just a stretch of black scarring on the landscape. Millions dead. The thought caused her to shiver. Twenty years ago she may not have been so sympathetic- but now it was different. This was the home world of her children's' father- an equal part of them as Romulus will ever be. To see it in such a state made her melancholy.
The bomber jerked slightly when it ran into a headwind as they lowered their approached. Outside the cockpit window she could several federation fighters pull up from the surface and surround them. They were sent to 'escort' them to the landing pad near the new presidential palace in Sandringham. Though Shiarrael knew better- humans didn't trust Romulans, at least 'not as far as they could throw them' as she had once been told. Not that she could blame them. The distrust was built on centuries of hostilities between the two peoples and sadly she didn't fully trust them either. The jostling sound of the landing struts shook the bomber slightly as they made their final approach. The fighters broke away and flew off into the horizon past the high-rises of the London skyline as the bomber began its descent towards the more rural Sandringham.
Once they set down Shiarrael helped the frail Senate Speaker to her feet as the door began to lower. A group of Gai'Shian guards exited first and stood on either side of the doorway as Shiarrael headed out with t'Charvanek and their entourage of half a dozen Romulan dignitaries.
A phalanx of UFP Security personnel, not Starfleet security or marines, formed an honour guard for the distinguished visitors. At the head of this column of black uniforms was President Hutchins, with his closest advisors. As the entourage from the Romulan ship made their way to the top of the parade, Hutchins had to suppress the disgust he felt at dealing with Romulans. Any non-terrans were bad enough, but from a non-Federation planet? The thought was enough to disgust him. Malone had allowed the Romulans to fight for Starfleet in the Battle for Sol, so it must be permitted. He put on his best face and stepped forward one step, extending a hand. "Welcome to Earth." He said, unsure exactly who he was addressing.
The hand wasn't taken. Shiarrael simply nodded her head at the man feeling a certain tension arising from his slight gestures and eye movement. A smile appeared on her face but it was forced "Greetings President Hutchins- I am EnRiov Shiarrael t'Rehu of the Imperial Romulan Navy" she turned and faced the much older woman who seemed to glower at the human before her "and this is Senator Liviana t'Charvanek, speaker of the Imperial Senate." A title which effectively made her the third most powerful Romulan in the universe.
"An honor to meet you mister President." t'Charvanek spoke with a gravelly voice as her obsidian robes fluttered in the slight breeze "I believe our government has informed you of the reason for our visit?"
"Yes they have." Hutchins replied, as he indicated that they should move the conversation inside, rather than out in the gardens of Sandringham. "We can discuss those reasons once we've gone inside and had refreshments."
t'Charvanek nodded her head and led the Romulan group inside as they followed their hosts. For her part Shiarrael studied the surroundings. There was certainly something amiss and it was beginning to irk her greatly. Starfleet was nowhere to be seen and the President and his escorts consisted entirely of humans.
They arrived inside the great reception hall at Sandringham House, where tea and other beverages were being served. Once the pleasantries were dispensed with, they were led into a reception room where a very large, ornate table had been placed with chairs all around it. The President and his team sat on one side of the table, with their backs to a large hearth, with the Romulan delegation with their backs to the large floor-to-ceiling classic windows.
"As I am sure you are aware Romulus was recently attacked by forces of the triad. The Praetor has answered the demands of the Romulan public for retribution against our enemies for this brazen assault." Several of the Romulan delegates slid PADDs in front of her "the Romulan Empire has no shared border with the Tholians. In past times we have been on good terms with the Assembly but with the formation of the Commonwealth that has obviously changed. Previously the Empress didn't feel that it was necessary to commit forces to a war so far from our borders even to suppress the Commonwealth. However- with the attack and the departure of the Empress the Empire's stance has changed. We are in the process of reconstituting the the Imperial Navy's assets to form a large war fleet."
t'Charvanek threaded her fingers on the tabletop after Shiarrael finished and looked the President in the eye "we require access to space facilities along your shared border with the Tholians."
Hutchins looked at the Romulan flag officer intently over the table. "As I'm sure you're aware, we're in the midst's of… some internal difficulties." He said, evasively. "We could not guarantee the safety of Romulan vessels in Federation space, nor can we guarantee the co-operation of our bases along that border. For the moment, they appear to be loyal to the government, but we've seen these rebels do all kinds of things." He paused to take a sip of water. "Perhaps we could come to some arrangement?"
t'Charvanek winced momentarily. "Please elaborate."
"We will permit you to use our facilities, thereby ending the Triad war, providing your military forces assist my military with suppressing our little… rebellion." Hutchins said, with a sinister smirk.
"I see." t'Charvanek answered. A chorus of whispers began from the Romulan delegates but t'Charvanek tapped her cane on the old flooring silencing them "I will be honest with you President Hutchins. The Empire has little interest in suppressing your rebellion- you must understand from our point of view a fractured Federation is very beneficial to the Empire. Our vengeance against the triad is our priority for the moment- but the Senate may be willing to assist you with intelligence and weaponry." The old Senator sipped the water that had been provided "and as you have clearly outlined yourself President Hutchins you cannot guarantee that the forces along your border will remain loyal to you. This forces me to wonder if you are the right person to meet with- as you seem quite impotent at the moment."
"Well, without my approval, you won't have access to our starbases along the Tholian border, rendering your war effort somewhat mute." Hutchins countered. "And I'm only asking for support so as to guarantee your security. A fractured Federation might suit your aims in the short-term, but in the long-term, it will be quite disruptive to the Empire, without Starfleet to enforce the peace."
"I am not convinced that our security is intertwined but the Praetor has given me authority in these discussions." t'Charvanek glanced at Shiarrael, noted her panged expression, and then looked back at the President directing a malicious smirk his way "we will aid you in repressing the Starfleet rebellion but not until we have dealt with the triad." Her irises twitched to the corner of her eyes as Shiarrael moved to speak but was silenced by the butt of the Senate speaker's cane hitting her in the gut "keep your peace Shiarrael- we will talk later." t'Charvanek turned that wicked expression back on Hutchins "if this is not to your liking then perhaps we should talk to your rebellious Admiral. Offer to take those Starbases from you in return for his approval. I hear the Klingons are quite fond of him so at least we won't have to worry about those barbarians on our border if we aided him. You have laid your weaknesses out quite too clearly President Hutchins." One of the Romulan delegates slid a PADD to her which she pressed her thumb into before sliding it towards Hutchins "do we have an accord?"
Hutchins growled to himself, having allowed these inferior beings to outmaneuver him. What hurt worst was they were right, he was in a position of weakness, and he DID need them – far more than he'd ever admit. "We do." He said, coldly, and pressed his thumb on the PADD.
t'Charvanek stood up followed by Shiarrael and the Romulan delegation "then it seems we are done." She dipped her head "Bedah lloann'mhrahel praetelh." Turned and then walked out. The delegates followed her out except for Shiarrael who stood at the table staring at Hutchins. After a long tense moment she turned and left.
Hutchins waited a moment, then threw his pen down in disgust. "Bloody Romulans." He growled.
[To be continued....]