His footsteps echoed loudly on the cobblestone path, and the sounds of night life mingled in the atmosphere, as Senator Vrax traversed the short distance from tactical headquarters, across the compound, to the senate building.  He tugged at his tunic, to ward off the cool night air, as his mind filtered through the details he had just received from Admiral Valdore. 

By all accounts, the battle between the Earth vessels and the Romulan fleet was proving to be more problematic than the senate had first anticipated.  “Three warbirds lost,” he grumbled.  Despite the coolness, sweat broke out on his brow as he struggled to find a way to explain the losses, and to present the conflict in a positive light, to Praetor Remal. 

As he climbed the stairs, leading to the Praetor’s chambers, Vrax didn’t notice the beauty of his surroundings; the tall spires, that encircled the senate building, reached to the heavens, aglow with orange lights that cast their golden hew on the buildings below.  No, instead Vrax was contemplating Praetor Remal.

For years he had observed from the back benches of the senate as Remal rose through the ranks to proconsul by meticulously, and methodically, eliminating those that stood his way.  But it was Remal’s viciousness in bringing about the downfall of his predecessor, Praetor D’Mora, which truly turned the senator’s blood to ice.

Remal, a proconsul at the time, had doggedly worked in the shadows; incessantly planting the seeds of doubt regarding D’Mora’s loyalty to Romulus.  He had circulated stories that D’Mora was capitulating to the pacifists, seeking to open diplomatic ties with the Vulcans - and by extension, humans... a species the Romulans despised.  Then D’Mora’s fate was sealed, five years ago, when he failed to order the destruction of the earth vessel, Enterprise, while it was trapped in the Romulan minefield.

Romulan Senate Chambers
April 22, 2152

Vrax’s mind wandered as D’Mora droned on in the background. He stifled a yawn as he thought about the mundane running of his department.  He needed to make sure that Valdore was on schedule developing Romulus’ latest weapon.  The drone ships held much promise, and he hoped to have them completed and ready for deployment as quickly as possible.  His thoughts were interrupted by the raised voice of the man sitting opposite to him.  His eyes turned to Remal who was rising to his feet.

“This is unacceptable,” Remal roared, pointing an accusing finger at D’Mora.  “The humans should have been destroyed.”

Vrax turned his attention to D’Mora who sat passively in his seat.  He gave the praetor credit for remaining calm under the deadly glare of the proconsul.

“We are not ready to make ourselves known to the humans,” D’Mora replied evenly.

Vrax sat straighter, more alert, as he watched Remal leave the bench and storm towards the praetor.

“This is an outrage, an affront to all Romulans,” Remal yelled, spinning on his heels to address those in the senate.  Loud murmurs echoed in the chamber as Remal faced the praetor once more.  “I demand action be taken.”

Under the growing disapproval of the senators, D’Mora held his ground, though Vrax could tell he was becoming more insecure under the barrage.  “We do not want war with the humans right now,” D’Mora warned.

Remal stood directly in front of the praetor.  “Would that be because you are seeking an alliance with them?” he accused, his voice laced with venom.

Vrax shifted in his seat as the senate chamber exploded into chaos.  He was sure that Remal’s charges were likely laced with untruths, but he nonetheless grew concerned at the direction this assembly was taking. 

D’Mora sprung to his feet.  “That is a fallacy,” he growled.  “I have not sought, nor will I seek, an alliance with the humans.”

“I’ve received intelligence to the contrary,” Remal stated.  “You met with the peace movement again.”  He spun to the senate members once more, his voice growing louder and indignant as he continued.  “He plans to capitulate to the pacifists and contact the humans.” 

Over the din of outrage reverberating around the chamber, Remal waved his arm at the praetor.  “He cannot be trusted.  The intelligence does not lie,” he shouted.

The members of the senate rose to the feet in uproar, loud voices, demanding action.

Remal pounced. “Romulans are the superior power.  We are destined to rule the galaxy,” he bellowed over the din.  He spun in circles as he continued to address his colleges.  “The re-unification of the Romulans and Vulcans is inevitable,” he boomed with confidence.  He stopped turning to face D’Mora one last time.  “And I intend to lead the Romulan Empire to victory.  We will destroy the humans and her allies, at any cost.”

Vrax shivered at the perceived cold of the memory.  After assuming the role of praetor, Remal’s first edict was to execute D’Mora.  His family, and close colleagues, quickly met the same fate. 

But Vrax had to admit that Remal was right.  The human ship should have been destroyed years ago.

As he neared the praetor’s chambers, Vrax thought about his own ambitions.  He had designs of one day rising to Praetor, but was not as ruthless as Remal.  His approach being more of stealth and manipulation had served him well, and had achieved the desired results - until the failure of the drone ships.  After that, Vrax’s ambitions were dealt a serious blow, and he learned a bitter lesson.  Now, more than ever, he was determined to distance himself from any failures that may reflect badly on him.  So he lurked in the shadows, listening, learning, keeping himself well informed and protected. 

Deep in thought, Vrax was surprised to see that he had arrived at the Praetor’s chambers.  He stood quietly at the door for a moment, taking the opportunity to gather his thoughts, before he pressed the chime and entered.

The Praetor’s chambers were wide and circular, covered in jade and black carpet.  One wall was draped with an ornate tapestry, depicting the symbol of the Romulan Empire.  On the other wall hung a map that displayed the praetor’s plans for dominance of the galaxy.  The rest of the room was enclosed in a glass window, which was where Praetor Remal stood, with his back to the door, staring out over his domain, as the senator entered. 

A sliver of ice ran up the senator’s spine as Remal turned and eyed him steadily.  “What have you heard?”

Senator Vrax held his gaze.  “Admiral Valdore has reported that the battle is proving to be more problematic than he anticipated, Praetor.”

“Explain!” Remal ordered.

Vrax stood his ground under the praetor’s deadly stare.  “One of the earth ships has been destroyed,” he replied.  He took a steadying breath and prepared himself mentally before continuing.  “Unfortunately, three warbirds have been lost.”  Vrax’s eyes followed the praetor as he stormed around his chamber. 

Remal stopped and spun toward the senator.  “How did this happen?” he growled.

Vrax fought to keep his composure.  “As I said, Praetor, the battle has proven to be more problematic than anticipated,” he said, evenly.  Vrax tried to keep his voice calm and placating as he continued. “However, the admiral ensures the battle will not last much longer, and Romulus will have her victory.” 

Remal’s face darkened.   “Admiral Valdore is skating on thin ice, Senator,” he said menacingly.  “His failure with the drone ships started his downfall, if he fails, it will reflect badly on you.”

Vrax bowed his head slightly.  “I understand, Praetor,” he replied, calmly.

Vrax kept his nerve as Remal regarded him dispassionately.  “Keep me informed,” Remal ordered.  He spun of his heels, and walked to his window, leaving Vrax with nothing left to do but leave.

The senator bowed to Remal’s back.  “Yes, Praetor,” he said, then made his exit.

* * * * * * * * * *

Admiral Valdore’s face darkened as he observed the remaining Earth vessel.  “Is Commander Dekaris ready?” he asked, turning his piercing gaze to his sub-commander.

Jo’rek lifted his head.  “Yes, Admiral,” he answered, bowing slightly.

Valdore stared back out to the space in front of him, which was filled with the view of the earth ship, Enterprise.  “Destroy them.”

Jo’rek nodded and turned back to his console.  He pressed a button.

* * * * * * * * * *

No one spoke on the bridge of Enterprise, stunned into silence by the events that just unfolded, as the enormity of the disaster set in. 

Malcolm persisted in his frantic efforts to plot a defense.  Travis battled with his helm controls to keep the ship out of danger, and Hoshi busied herself at her console, occasionally sneaking a glance at the captain.  She closed her eyes in anguish.  He looked devastated. 

Though momentarily shocked, T’Pol forced her attention to remain on her sensors, and the last of the attacking ships.  Her console sounded, alerting her to the approaching danger.  “Captain, the two remaining ships have altered their course, and are now aiming at Enterprise,” she advised in a tight voice as she kept her eyes fixed on her readings.

When silence was her only response, T’Pol looked up and quickly scanned the bridge before her attention settled on the captain - she was disturbed by his appearance.  He sat slumped in his chair, head hung low, unaware of his surroundings.  “Captain!” she called out.

Concerned at his continuing silence, T’Pol stood and advanced to her commanding officer.  “Captain,” she called more forcefully as she neared.  Her alarm grew when she came to a halt in front of him.  His eyes were vacant, distant, lost in a world of pain that she could only remotely understand. 

As T’Pol tried to penetrate his vacant eyes, she searched her mind frantically to find a way to stir him from his inertia, and lead him back to reality.  She leaned down, grabbed his arms, and forced him to his feet.  “Captain Archer, your ship needs your full attention,” she said urgently.


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