Consecutusque cohortis ad Rubiconem flumen, qui provinciae eius finis erat, paulum constitit, ac reputans quantum moliretur, conversus ad proximos: "Etiam nunc," inquit, "regredi possumus; quod si ponticulum transierimus, omnia armis agenda erunt." - Suetonius.
[Ra'tleihfi, Imperial Palace]
If there was one thing that the people were adept at sensing it would be trouble. The raucous protest against the Empress quelled quickly once they noticed the ground vibrations from the beating engines of over a hundred heavily armored flitters and tanks. It was that sense of trouble that caused the crowd to quickly begin dispersing. Even the Rei'Krannsu guards seemed uneasy upon seeing the large force arriving before the gates of the Palace. The lead flitter touched down a few feet away from the large wrought iron bars of the primary gate. As the doors folded out Arrenhe exited the flitter. Her viridian robes fluttered against the smoke-swept breeze as two columns of six heavily armed Gai'Shian flanked her on either side. She approached the gate where the Rei'Krannsu lifted their weapons forming an X in front of the entrance blocking her way.
"You may not enter. We have been ordered not to allow anyone to pass." One of the guards spoke as several more Rei'Krannsu exited from the palace and began moving towards the gate.
The Gai'Shian lifted their weapons offended by the Rei'Krannsu's actions but Arrenhe quickly grabbed the nozzle of the nearest Gai'Shian's disruptor and pulled the weapon out of his hands before tossing it to the ground "calm yourselves." She ordered with a hint of irritation as she turned her attention back to the Rei'Krannsu. "It would be wise for you to check with your superiors Farein." The Gai'Shian were too impulsive and lacked effective discipline. Arrenhe knew if a firefight erupted the Rei'Krannsu could probably make short work of her current guards- even being outnumbered ten to one.
There was a lull in the tension as the Rei'Krannsu Farein appeared to contact his superiors. He shielded his face with his free hand so it was difficult to make out the muddled conversation he was having. After a few minutes passed he finally dropped his hand and nodded to Arrenhe "forgive me EnArrain- you may pass. However, the Gai'Shian may not follow."
Again the Gai'Shian openly displayed their outrage but were smart enough not to raise their weapons. Arrenhe stepped forward as the Rei'Krannsu lowered their weapons allowing her to pass. The Gai'Shian remained at the gate as Arrenhe was escorted into the palace by two other Rei'Krannsu.
One of the Palace servants met her as soon as she stepped into the grand hall. The young woman bowed her head deeply and then motioned for Arrenhe to follow her. She led the Praetor down the long hallway past dozens of ancient statues and paintings. All of them depicted of old heroes and battles that had once dominated the surface of Ch'Rihan after the landing. If one could bottle up the two world histories this walk would be it- a march through history. It was bit ironic to Arrenhe that she was marching through history to create history. The young woman stopped at the base of a tall staircase and then slowly made her way up followed by Arrenhe and the Rei'Krannsu escorts. When they reached the top of the staircase Arrenhe was motioned into a room. Once she stepped inside the door was closed behind her.
Inside Arrenhe found the Empress standing in front of one of the large windows- half of her figure covered by the large charcoal colored drapes. From her hiding place she spoke and gestured "please sit down Praetor."
Arrenhe made her way to the large settee and took her seat. As she sat the door opened and the same servant that had escorted her entered with a large oval serving plate which held a teakettle along with glasses and some wafers. She set it down on the table in front of the settee, bowed her head, and then exited the way she came. "Empress if I-" Arrenhe started to speak but paused when the Empress began speaking again.
"It's ironic isn't it?" Teelis asked. "The servants in their devotion put up these massive curtains last night so I could sleep without the constant firelight keeping me up. Instead I find that I have been drawn here- watching this scene unable to sleep or do anything but gawk helplessly. The suffering of my people because of my failures..." Her voice trailed off as she finally stepped away from the window allowing the drapes to slide off her and obscure the view. Making her way to the chair across from Arrenhe the Empress picked up her tea glass and took a shallow sip. "When I heard the Praetorate appointed a new Chief Praetor without consulting me I was surprised. I never felt they had much of a backbone." She paused, looked up at Arrenhe, and smiled letting out a light tittering laugh "present company excluded of course."
Arrenhe nodded her head slowly "the Praetorate only has the best interests of the Empire in mind." She waited for a moment to gauge the Empress' expression before continuing "empress you must understand that the current situation on Ch'Rihan is unstable. It's no longer safe for you to remain here. If our enemies can strike at our heart they can strike at you. It would be better if you returned to the throne world and waited for the situat-"
"No. I will not." The Empress interrupted Arrenhe and set her tea glass down forcefully "I realize I have made some mistakes but I have only ever had the best intentions of the people in mind." Teelis looked at Arrenhe "you see that is what separates us Praetor. While the Praetorate keeps its mind on the Empire my mind has always been on the people. I cannot leave them. No- instead you will help me. You can show me my weaknesses and with your help I can correct my mistakes. We can build something gr-" The Empress paused and looked a bit confused as she started to massage her forehead. Her eyes blinked rapidly as her posture started to droop. Her eyes then focused on Arrenhe "wha...t ha... yo... me..." she tried to speak but her mouth trembled with great difficulty.
Arrenhe pulled out a tear shaped vial from the cover of her robes' sleeve. Twisting the vial in her hands she sloshed around the remaining harlequin colored liquid "nasty stuff this is. It comes from one of the far eastern colonies. When our people originally settled that world the colonists would come down with a strange condition- a random paralysis during the growing season. It was so odd that many of the colonist began to believe that the planet was cursed. It wasn't until much later that it was discovered that the pollen of one of the planet's native flora contained a compound which while harmless to many of the native species acted as a block of sorts within the motor cortex of Vulcanoids." She shook her head at the Empress like a parent would to an unruly child and stood "I'm sorry Empress. I can't allow you to remain here."
Teelis was now struggling mightily to even keep herself upright as the toxin did it's work. She was still able to move her lips though and Arrenhe could barely make out what she was saying "t...r...a...i...t...o...r."
"Traitor? Empress spare me. You have done enough damage now have-" the sound of crashing dishes caught Arrenhe off guard and she turned to find the young servant standing at the doorway wearing a shocked expression. Realizing she had been too focused on the Empress to notice the door open Arrenhe acted quickly. She walked over to the woman and grabbed her by the throat. The servant clawed at Arrenhe's arm as she was dragged towards the window. Pushing the drape away Arrenhe undid the latch and lifted the woman over the sill and released her grip. There was a momentary shrill scream which was muffled when Arrenhe closed the window. Turning her attention back to the Empress Arrenhe straighten her hair and robes "as I was saying. You have done enough damage don't you think? Don't worry the toxin isn't fatal. Normally. It shouldn't take more than a few decades for all of the effects to fully heal. Forgive me Empress but this is in your best interest- the best interest of the Empire." She turned towards the door "you can come in now."
The two Rei'Krannsu entered followed by a third which had just arrived. He wore the rank of EnRiov*, the highest ranking official within the Rei'Krannsu, and bowed his head at Arrenhe. "We will take care of everything from here Praetor."
"I told you to make sure that your people knew not to let anyone enter." Arrenhe scowled "no matter. Report that the Empress killed the woman in a fit of rage before collapsing from exhaustion. Please have her off of Ch'Rihan by the time I begin my speech." She looked at the Empress again and dipped her head one final time before leaving "Bedah [farewell] Empress."
[Senate, Underground Prison]
tr'Relek slammed his palms into the table repeatedly making quite a racket in the old dungeon. His Gai'Shian guards stared at him with vexed expressions but remained steady at their positions next to the heavy iron doorway. He only stopped when the grind of the old heavy door opening caught his attention. t'Knei walked in followed by Shiarrael. t'Knei waved her hand which caused both guards to leave the room. Once they left tr'Relek sprung to his feet and charged the Tal'Diann commander grabbing a handful of t'Knei's collar forcing her back into the stone wall "what are you trying to do to me Gwiu!?"
t'Knei moved quickly and slid her hands between tr'Relek's arms in a prayer posture and split them breaking his grip on her. With a second move she pressed her palm into his chest sending him stumbling backwards. "What I have done to you?" t'Knei laughed at him, a short laugh of pity "you are still oblivious? This is what you have done to yourself. Ones sins will eventually catch up to oneself. Even someone as powerful as you Taev."
tr'Relek was enraged and if a person's expression could kill his would have vaporized Gwiu and Shiarrael where they stood. "Who are you to speak of sins? My allies will not sit still while you hold me here on false charges. When I am out you will be the first head that I take to my mantle Gwiu."
Shiarrael pulled a small device out of her pocket and set it down on the table. She pressed it and watched as a dim light illuminated on its base. The small thing was an interference device- made to create 'noise' so that they couldn't be listened on. "Leave us for the moment t'Knei." She turned to her attention to tr'Relek as the heavy door grinded open and then slammed shut leaving her alone with him "when I was working with the humans there was a word I once heard that intrigued me. This word is called 'Karma'. There is no equivalent translation in our language. I never quite understood it, at least not until this moment. You see this word means the effect that the sum of our actions has on our future. How it carves itself like a knife into our destiny based on how we live." She pulled an ISD out of her pocket and tossed it onto the table in front of him "and how you have lived tr'Relek- well, things do not appear as if they will end well for you."
"What is this?" tr'Relek asked as he picked up the ISD and studied the text on it. Realization at its finest. Where fury had been absolute desolation appeared- but it was only a momentary blip in his expression. Soon fury returned, stronger, and now focused entirely on Shiarrael "so this is your doing t'Rehu? I should have known!" He grit his teeth and slammed his fist on the metal table "but this will not be enough. You may wound me but my allies will protect me. I have worked hard to make sure I have enough support. You will regret this deeply Shiarrael. You will regret this deeply!"
"I don't understand how you can be so blind?" Shiarrael pointed at the device "it's all there. How you conspired with the Commonwealth and their allies to destroy the Senate! We pulled the evidence from their destroyed vessels. We found where you had created a false sensor signature so that you could deploy our forces away from home world allowing enemy forces unrestricted access to murder the Senate and Empress!"
"Lies!" tr'Relek threw the ISD which hurtled past Shiarrael and shattered against the wall behind her "these are all fabrications! You have fabricated everything to destroy me!"
"Our people have two words for the term fact. Truth and truth told. This is the truth that will be told to the Senate." Shiarrael smiled wickedly "oh, it wasn't easy to do. I assure you it required a lot of work but this evidence while not entirely fool proof is more than enough to convict you of treason."
"You don't have ALLIES! You have people who feared you but I have taken away their fear. Without that fear how do you think they will rule?" Shiarrael kicked one of the ISD shards at him "really, are you going to remain so arrogantly oblivious until the end? I had expected at least a little pleasure from this but at the moment all I feel is disgust."
"All I wanted was to make the Empire strong again! All these weak minded fools were ahead of me. Something had to be done about them." tr'Relek's eyes were wide and seemed to be pulsating with madness "we needed strength. It didn't matter who. tr'AAnikh had made the Empire weak and the Empress followed him and did the same. How could I sit still and allow these people to continue to weaken the Empire with their ideas? I did what needed to be done to put myself in a position to stop them!"
"Is that why you had my parents killed?" Shiarrael asked her own fury barely restrained "it wasn't enough that you killed them but you insisted on sending me their heads. Remember?"
"Your parents?" tr'Relek's expression softened as he seemed lost in thought. After a second inspiration hit him and the madness returned "ah...you were a traitor Shiarrael! You aided Vulcan! You saved their world. You know what happens to traitors. They must pay for their crimes! Just like you have paid for yours with the blood of your parents." He smiled and laughed "is this why you have went through all this trouble? For something so petty?"
"Petty?" The world rolled off Shiarrael's tongue like a feral snarl. But instead of slamming his head repeatedly into the wall as her heart desired she grabbed the small device off the table and turned away. "As you have said. Traitors must pay for their crimes." She opened the door "you have been apprised of your charges. The Senate's investigative committee will meet after the Praetor's speech to decide your fate. I will see you there tr'Relek." She heard his screams echoing behind her as she left.
[To be continued...]
Captain Shiarrael t'Rehu