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.
"A million fought as one. Smoke covered the sky. Blood drenched the land." Shiarrael whispered the verse of an old Romulan poem as she leaned against the railing of the Galae Command Center's third floor balcony which overlooked the Senate and much of the city. A giant haze of smoke covered the dark turquoise sky as dozens of black pillars poured into it from the smoldering fires that dotted the cityscape. The air had the unnatural bitter and crisp acrid smell of ash which made it difficult to breathe at times. How many have died tonight? She wondered.
In the plaza below one of the large public viewing screens was still working even though it sported a large visible crack through its center. On the display a young Romulan woman was addressing the public. "During an emergency session the Praetorate has named Arrenhe i-Latasalaem t'Ahaefvthe Shiar'Fvillha. As her first act Shiar'Fvillha t'Ahaefvthe issued a declaration of martial law on Ch'Rihan. All citizens are required to remain in their homes until planetary security can be assessed and assured. We have also been informed that she will address the Senate later this morning..."
"Excuse me Shiarrael. I thought you would want to be informed. The Gai'Shian have been sent to apprehend Taev tr'Relek. He will be charged with high treason."
Shiarrael turned around and nodded at t'Knei "good. Keep me informed of your progress." Soon tr'Relek will finally be dealt with but for the moment she needed to be patient. As t'Knei dipped her head and turned around to leave Shiarrael moved her gaze back to the public view screen. What she saw gave her pause. Thousands of people had apparently gathered in front of the old imperial palace in a furious protest. The Empress' Rei'Krannsu guards were shoving the angry crowd back as they screamed inaudibly but were clearly overwhelmed.
"We have just received a report that a large protest outside of the Empress' palace has been steadily growing. They appear to be blaming the Empress for the current situation-"
"EnRiov wait, please." Shiarrael motioned for t'Knei to come over and then pointed out the situation on the screen being reported on "do you know anything about this?"
t'Knei shook her head wearing a slightly confused expression "No, but I assumed this was your doing?"
"No." Shiarrael replied wearily. She knew it could be problematic if the situation spiraled out of control. The last thing they needed was the Rei'Krannsu slaughtering dozens of citizens trying to protect the Empress and elements forbid if something were to happen to her. The Empress' allies would rally around her quickly and such a situation might even trigger the civil war they had hoped to avoid. "I will speak with you later. For now I will go meet with the Praetor."
[Ihhliae, Relek Estate]
A gradient of amethyst and goldenrod pulled at the dark turquoise of the night sky from the horizon as the sun began to rise towards it's skyward perch. A quiet morning on the outskirts of Ihhliae usually filled with the sound of animal calls was broken by the intense droning of flitter engines. Dozens of Romulans left their homes to stand outside and watch the convoy of heavily armored vehicles descend on the old Relek estate. Gai'Shian shock troops dressed in their obsidian armor filed through the surrounding fields carrying large disruptor rifles. It was an incredible scene occurring in the old aristocratic neighborhood and residents could only gawk.
For his part tr'Relek stood at the entrance to his estate flanked by servants and guards who all seemed perplexed by the activity around them. Dressed in his gaudy uniform the EnRiov expressed unrestrained fury as the first group of Gai'Shian finally surrounded him "how dare you. Do you know who I am?!" Relek kicked one of the decorated ceramic plant pots at the group causing it to shatter and send a blanket of dirt onto them.
The lead Gai'Shian stepped forward and bowed his head as courtesy required. If he had been bothered by the fit of pique the EnRiov just exhibited he didn't show it. "Greetings EnRiov tr'Relek. I have been sent by EnRiov Gwiu t'Knei to escort you back to I'Ramnau."
"For what reason?" tr'Relek pointed a finger at the young soldier "this is a mistake. How dare the EnRiov send troops to my home without any reason! I demand you leave now before I lose all patience with you. Rest assured I will have your head if you continue this insanity."
"Forgive me." The Gai'Shian bowed again and then raised his weapon priming it. The other Gai'Shian did the same. "I have been given explicit orders to escort you to i'Ramnau and if you resist you are to be killed. You are being accused of high treason for your actions preceding the attack. I will ask you to once more to surrender yourself."
Relek stared silently at the group. A vein that thrusted out from the edge of his temple indicated his rage but his physical expression remained still. Finally he waved his guards and servants off and stepped forward "fine, I will play this game. But rest assured when my name is cleared- and it shall be. I will be certain that all of you regret this greatly."
"Word of the attack has spread throughout the Empire. The Senate is mad with grief and fury at this brazen act of infamy. They are calling for a great war of retribution against our enemies and the traitors." Senator tr'Delon spoke from the middle of the Preatorate's primary meeting chamber as tawny rays of the early morning sun slipped in through cracks along the edges of the curtaining. These rays seemed to instinctively highlight Eisn on the old mural of the neutral zone that was etched into the center of the chamber's marble flooring. "We have already made preparations for your speech and have also received your recommendations about restructuring the Galae after the recent failure. Although some within the Senate are hesitant to make the changes and are also wondering how the Empress will react."
"The Empress will be returning to the throne world shortly." Arrenhe spoke casually causing the Senator to raise his brows in surprise. He started to ask about it but she raised her hand silencing him "I will explain in detail during my speech to the Senate. Thank you for your update Deihu tr'Delon." Across the room near the entrance Arrenhe noticed Shiarrael standing against one of the archway pillars. "We will break for now" she announced causing the collection of Praetors to rise from their seats "I will see you again at the Senate complex." The group slowly filed out followed by tr'Delon. When the chamber was finally empty Shiarrael walked inside.
"Congratulations Shiar'Fvillha." Shiarrael dipped her head in a bow and then studied the room. It was virtually unchanged from the last time she had stood within its confines. She always found it ironic how obsessed her people had once been with the Federation. The mural dominating the center of the floor was such a vain display. Absent mindedly she kicked at the neutral zone marker.
"Congratulations?" Arrenhe laughed and shook her head. "Such a mess, yet not unexpected. Still I find my mind a bit weary from everything but at least the Senate is finally unified in its purpose. Now instead of plotting to kill each other they are plotting how to take advantage of the recent tragedy proudly counting the number of dead from each of their districts like victories in a battle." A slight sigh escaped her lips as she stood up "so absurd. This bunch of fools that dominates the Senate." She paused and shook her head again "but to the point, what can I do for you Khre'Riov t'Rehu?"
"Has it ever been different?" Shiarrael wondered out loud not being able to remember a time when a majority Empire's political elite weren't disgusting or petulant. "I wanted to inform you that EnRiov Taev tr'Relek has been taken into custody. t'Knei will be having me oversee the investigation into the matter." She lifted an ISD from her pocket and held it out for the Praetor to take "I have made a list of those who should head the Senate's investigation committee. I'm sure you will find most of the names familiar. Please recommend them to t'Charvanek."
Taking the device Arrenhe glanced down and perused the list of names provided. When she finished she looked up wearing a tense smile "t'Relek is the primary patron for most of these officials. Do you think it is wise to have them sit in on his hearing?"
"Relek is a fool and a coercer. They do not respect him but they fear him. Indeed he has helped many with Zorek funding but he has also kept them clearly beneath his boot. I have looked into it and he constantly makes outlandish requests and berates many of them. With this opportunity I am more than certain they will see to it that this burdensome blight is removed." Shiarrael grinned "and many within the Zorek do not support Relek- they also fear him and will be glad to see him gone. He has killed many to reach his current pedestal."
"Very well." Arrenhe nodded her head "I will take this request to t'Charvanek- but Shiarrael there is something that has been bothering me. I only recently informed you that I felt tr'Relek needed to be dealt with. I am very impressed with what you have done- but I am not a fool. All this would have required meticulous preparation and work. Incredibly doubtful that you were able to plan and coordinate this over the course of a mere few weeks. Be honest here-" She studied the Khre'Riov "how long have you been planning this? Since the beginning? Is that why you suggested bringing him into our inner circle? So you could trap him?"
Shiarrael drew in her breath and then nodded her head slowly "it is as you have said. I have been planning this for quite some time. Years even- not quite what we have done here. The opportunity simply presented itself to me and I took the advantage. tr'Relek is a demon, a cancer on our people, I could not allow him to continue on."
Arrenhe accepted answer for what it was "I will not pry but I will return your honesty. This makes me uneasy- in the future I expect you to be forthright with me or your head will be joining tr'Relek's on a pike in front of the Senate. Do you understand me?" Shiarrael simply nodded her head in a quiet answer to Arrenhe and the Praetor smiled in return "good. Now is there anything else?"
"The only thing is the matter of the Empress. I heard the words you spoke to Deihu tr'Delon but I was wondering if you were aware of the situation currently occurring outside the Imperial Palace? It seems there is a riot of sorts. From what I have heard from the Gai'Shian sent to help control them the people are demanding the return of the Tal'Shiar." It was definitely strange. For so long the Tal'Shiar had kept people in line using terror to enforce their will. There was also no love lost between the agency and the other military branches. That people were demanding their return was odd- and from Shiarrael's perspective likely staged.
"Yes, I am aware of what has been happening. Bunch of fools but they will get what they want." Arrenhe grimaced "I have decided that I will deal with the Empress' matter on my own. Continue what you are doing in regards to tr'Relek. I also expect you to be at the Senate complex for my speech later this morning."
What they want? Shiarrael wondered if that meant the Praetor had decided to reinstate the agency. She frowned and bowed her head again "I will be there. That was all I had Praetor. With your permission I will return to my duties."
"Yes go, I will speak with you later." Arrenhe replied and once Shiarrael disappeared through the archway the Praetor took the free moment to massage her temples. As much as she hated the idea Arrenhe knew she would have to get rid of the Empress to ensure a smooth transition. Much like her famed poet ancestor once wrote... Ale burns, fire burns, and politics burn- but cold were life without them.
[To Be Continued...]
Captain Shiarrael t'Rehu