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The Third Option


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((Capitol - New Romulus, 2400))

::So much had changed in the galaxy since the Romulan homeworld had been destroyed. Captain Kaedyn Zehn marvelled at this as he stepped into the visitor's gallery above the newly built Romulan Senate chamber. He had personally seen the effects while serving onboard Starbase 118 on the edge of Romulan space. Where once the Empire was known for its insularity and paranoid control, he had seen it in tatters. He had also seen it rebuild itself at an impressive speed..::

::Almost immediately after this thought had passed it was replaced by confusion that Starfleet would send him as part of the official Federation delegation. As relations with the Romulans warmed, so too had they cooled with the Klingons and Kaedyn had risen through the ranks as an intelligence officer - a spy - during a time when diplomacy had slept.::

::Despite the best efforts of Starfleet, including the heroic actions of the Captains he had previously served under, Turner, Jaxx, Nicholotti and Herrara, the war with the Klingons had been unavoidable. When it had come, it had lead to millions of senseless deaths including that of his own husband, Eliaan, who was killed during the massacre on Deep Space 6. If it had not been for his career and, more importantly their young son, Kaedyn knew he would not have survived that loss but it was still so raw and he had found himself noticeably harder than he had been before it.::

::Even now, even in this official setting, as his thoughts returned to his lost love, tears filled his eyes and he struggled to keep his emotions in check. It was a personal loss that allowed him to empathise with the Romulans who had lost so much more than he could imagine when their homeworld had been destroyed. He was interrupted from his morbid thoughts by the approach of a familiar Romulan man from the crowd.::

Sarup: Captain Zehn, it has been a long time.

::A faint smile danced in the eyes of the handsome Starfleet officer, where the uncried tears still remained. Ten years was a long time for most but for a Joined Trill, with more than three centuries of memories rattling around in his head, it sometimes felt like a blink of an eye. As he looked at the Romulan man, first encountered during the Klingon invasion of the Thracian Alliance, it felt like it had only been a few months.::

Zehn: Mr Sarup. You are perhaps the last person I expected to see here.

Sarup: I'm part of the diplomatic mission from Thrace. I must admit, I never imagined that either of us would end up here. ::he paused and smiled:: But, I have been assured that my diplomatic status will prevent my former Tal Shiar colleagues from killing me while I am here.

::Only a Romulan, Kaedyn mused, could be so dry on the subject of his own possible assassination. It was yet another indication of the change in the Romulan government that they could welcome a delegation from the Alliance that had included a large number of former Imperial citizens to this event.::

Zehn: I agree it does feel strange to be here but that just goes to show different the Empire is from the one you left.

::An enigmatic look crossed the Romulan man's face, outwardly remaining friendly and diplomatic but there was also a darkness that was hard to pinpoint. For those who had lived in the Romulan Empire it was to be expected that a degree of cynicism would remain. Could that Empire truly change in ten years? The destruction of the moon Praxis had driven the Klingons to peace with the Federation but it had never changed their violent, warlike nature.::

Sarup: Perhaps, Captain. Although, from what I gather we may have already witnessed the high tide of Imperial openness and pacificism. Praetor Charon has built his power upon his ability to work with the Federation and the day when that help is no longer required fast approaches. There are those keen to step into his shoes...

::Unfortunately, Kaedyn had also heard similar rumblings. While not officially an intelligence officer any more, he still had contacts throughout the alpha and beta quadrants who fed him information. Old spies, he knew, never truly retired. After a decade of living in that world, secrets were still second nature to him. As always the Romulan government was riddled with factions and factions within factions. All the intelligence suggested that the Praetor's power was waning. There were two leading candidates to replace him in time, one was an old ally and the other was more troubling.::

Zehn: Senator Varend...

::Sarup beamed and nodded slowly in a mock version of a bow.::

Sarup: I'm glad to see your intelligence skills are not going to waste since you took command of that starship of yours. Yes, the Senator is very much the rising star.

Zehn: And what of Vreeya?

::Proconsul Vreeya was, to Kaedyn's mind, the very personification of the new Romulus. He had first encountered more than a decade earlier when she had become a close ally of Admiral Nicholotti. She was intelligent, resourceful, fiercely patriotic and the very model of an inter-stellar stateswoman.::

Sarup: Ah, yes Vreeya. Believe me, Captain, no-one would rather see the magnificent Proconsul rise to the position she deserves than I.

Zehn: ::smiling:: Sarup, I believe you are in love

::The Romulan nodded and for a split-second a genuine look of regret crossed his face.::

Sarup: Maybe a long time ago. However, the Proconsul's close relationship with Starfleet and President Creena of Thrace have marked her as something the Romulans have long mis-trusted: a foreigner. I fear when the Praetor falls, Vreeya will also fall. My only hope is that she will manage to escape with her life as she is certainly no ally of Varend.

::Before the Trill could respond, Praetor Charon entered the chamber followed by the Proconsuls and the leading Senators in order of precedence. The audience rose to their feet and applauded politely until the officials were in place. Smiling widely, the Praetor took to the podium and indicated for everyone to take their seats. He made a short speech, mainly thanking the guests for their attendance and discussing the hardships of the past years. It was a speech that seemed more suited to a Federation politician than the leader of the Romulan Empire and as he finished up, Kaedyn worried that Sarup had been right about the coming transition.::

Charon: I hereby declare the New Romulan Senate open

::There was another polite round of applause and people began to stand to head into the reception room when one of the Senators stood.::

Sarup: ::in a low voice:: The famed Senator Varend

Varend: If I may say a few words, Praetor...

Zehn: ::whispering:: What the hell...?

::A low noise of quiet consternation rippled throughout the crowd. Even with the relative informality of the situation, it was unheard of for a Senator to speak up in such an event unless called upon by the Praetor. By speaking out, Varend was challenging his authority in the most public of ways. Kaedyn held his breath as the Praetor attempted to cover his surprise at the break of protocol.::

Charon: ::nodding:: Very well, Senator.

::Having failed to respond to the challenge, the Praetor had allowed Varend to position himself as a political opponent rather than subordinate. As he the Senator began to speak, it was clear that he was doing so as a powerful usurper. The murmurs died down as the crowd listened to the man who would be king.::

Varend: I want to begin by commending the Praetor for his magnificent work in rebuilding the Empire in these past years

::As the crowd applauded the sentiment politely, Kaedyn glanced at Sarup who was shaking his head slightly. Evidently the Thracian envoy could see the compliment for what it truly was: a political assassination clothed in a smiled. Only a politician of the highest order could pull off such a feat.::

Varend: We have endured many hardships since the destruction of Romulus. The loss of our home, our friends and our family was followed in quick succession by a loss of pride. Our once proud Empire was forced to rely on the kindness of adversaries and tolerate betrayals that would have been unthinkable before...

Sarup: ::in a low voice:: I think he means us...

Varend: Today, with the dedication of the new Senate chamber on our new homeworld, we reclaim our pride. The time for the new Romulan Empire begins today

::The audience rose to their feet in excitement, applauding and cheering in a way that was uncharacteristic for the usually reserved Romulans. Kaedyn, Sarup and the other non-Romulan guests in the gallery clapped politely but there was a sense of nervousness among them. The Praetor looked crestfallen as Varend began to shake hands with other officials and pointedly avoided him and Proconsul Vreeya who also looked grim. Varend had seized the political initiative in the most dramatic way imaginable.::

Sarup: Did you see who shook his hand first? Admiral Koral

Zehn: The Chief of the Imperial General Staff?

Sarup: The very same. If he has the power of the military behind him, he will be Praetor by the end of the year and the military build up will start at the same time. When they speak of the next war, they will say it began today.

Zehn: ::shaking his head ::Madness

Sarup: Perhaps, Captain, perhaps. On the other hand, no-one ever said the Romulan government was sane.

::The Trill's train of thought continued, almost as if Sarup had not spoken. The applause of the crowd had still not abated, it was like watching the terrifying rise of a dictator::

Zehn: After all we've done for them, the Empire would have been overrun by the Klingons if we hadn't helped them

Sarup: And that is precisely why they hate you. The Federation is a reminder of their past weakness and to reject you is to ignore that weakness... and to fight you would be to fight those memories.

Zehn: The Romulan people have changed since you defected. They've had to change.

Sarup: I may have been away for a decade, Captain but I am still Romulan. I know these people; I was these people. War will come.

((Ready Room - USS Turing))

::Having stayed at the reception for minimum time that diplomacy allowed, Kaedyn had returned to his ship and briefed Starfleet on the shocking events of the day. They had been just as concerned about the situation as he had been and he was authorised to very discretely take the lay of the land on Romulus. As he sat in the ready-room of his Akira-class starship, he pored over every scrap of intelligence on Senator Verand that he could get his hands on.::

::He was interrupted by the chimes of his door.::

Zehn: Come in

::His intelligence officer, Lt Commander Zak Malik, entered the room. Having been with him since his days in the Black Tower, the handsome human was now a trusted friend as well as an able officer.::

Malik: Captain, we just got word from the surface that Proconsul Vreeya won't be able to meet with you.

Zehn: I didn't imagine she would risk being seen consorting with Starfleet after this afternoon but it was worth a try...

Malik: Her office did send us this through secure channels, I'm sure you will find it useful

::He handed Kaedyn a PADD and the Trill scanned the Romulan intelligence file on Senator Verand. This was even better than meeting with Vreeya and a slight smile crossed his face.::

Zehn: Indeed.

((Conference Room - USS Turing))

::With his hands behind his back, Kaedyn stared out of the conference room window at the planet below them. Behind him, Ambassador Sarup examined the intelligence that Vreeya had given them, the intelligence that indicated the very close ties between Senator Verand and the Klingon Empire. No-one knew how accurate the adage of history repeating itself was better than a Trill, throughout the past two hundred years the alliances between the Federation, Romulans and Klingons had shifted frequently. Links between the two Empires had always formed when the Federation was considerably stronger than them both. As was the case now.::

Sarup: We always suspected this but we had no confirmation until now. I will be honest, Captain, this is the worst case scenario for us.

::The Thracian Alliance, made up as it was from breakaway elements of the Romulan and Klingon empires, had relied on the emnity of the two and would certainly be destroyed if it found itself surrounded by a Romulan-Klingon detente. Even though it was a Federation Protectorate, there was little that Starfleet could do to protect her. Kaedyn returned to his chair at the head of the conference table.::

Zehn: So now we have the choice between sitting back and watching two of our enemies rise again or taking a pre-emptive strike while they are still weak.

Sarup: Come, Captain, you know that neither your government nor my own would sanction such action.

Zehn: Then we have to wait until he becomes Praetor and plunges us back into an intergalactic war?

Sarup: There is, of course, a third option...

::Silence filled the room. They had both been in the intelligence business for a long time and Kaedyn knew exactly what he meant.::

Sarup: Why, I wonder, did Starfleet send you on this mission? Was it truly for your diplomatic skills and fame in Romulan circles...

::The Trill nodded.::

Zehn: And why did President Creena send you?

Sarup: I'd imagine for the same reason. You may be a Captain now and I may be an Ambassador but we're just two old spies, Zehn.

Zehn: If we assassinate a member of the Romulan Senate then war is inevitable...

Sarup: Only if someone finds out. If, for example, it appeared that the Praetor had the Senator killed then it would clear the way for Proconsul Vreeya to take charge...

Zehn: Even if it was as easy as that to do, it would also be illegal in both the Federation and Thracian Alliance

Sarup: ::snapping:: Don't be so naive, Captain! We're talking about the death of one man to prevent a war.

::There was a long silence as Kaedyn considered his options. Sarup was, of course, correct that preventing another war was of paramount concern. Still, unlike many of their shared profession, Kaedyn had never allowed himself to cross the line that Sarup was now suggesting.::

Sarup: Think about what I have said, Captain. One way or another, this will happen. I have a greater chance of succeeding with your help.

::Without an adequate response, Kaedyn rose to his feet and straightened his uniform.::

Zehn: Thank you for joining me, Ambassador. I am late for dinner with my son... I'll be in touch

((New Romulus, three days later))

::As far as anyone knew, the USS Turing's captain was onboard as she left Romulan space and the Ambassador had left with the Thracian delegation. Between the two of them, Zehn and Sarup knew enough tricks of the trade to make it discretely onto New Romulus without detection. That, it had turned out, was the easy part. Evidently, the Romulans had made sure to include their usual paranoid security aparatus to their new home.::

::With a biodampening unit keeping his Trill life-signs suppressed, Kaedyn found himself waiting in the safe house of a Thracian spy. Thracian Intelligence were active on the planet and he could have left Sarup to lead this himself but he was still secretly hoping there would be a way around it. Vreeya's intelligence showed evidence that could be used to blackmail the Senator, particularly his illegal intelligence gathering for the Klingons. In truth, Verand was little more than a Klingon puppet and while Sarup was determined to kill him, Kaedyn believed he could be turned.::

::A plan was in place, with the assistance of the pro-Federation faction in the Senate Sarup had been able to organise access to the security protocols for the Senate offices. When they were confident the Senator was alone in his office, the security network would be dropped and they would beam in. The signal came that everything was in place and Kaedyn wrapped a hooded cloak around him and grabbed a disruptor. As they stepped into position, he adjusted the beam setting.::

Sarup: Are you ready, Captain?

::He thought of his son, he was only twelve and had already lost both of his biological parents and Eliaan. He didn't deserve to become an orphan again but it was for him that Kaedyn was committed to this course of action. He had to prevent the war and if he was lucky, he could do so without being killed himself.::

Zehn: Ready

Sarup: Well, we'll know if we're going to be successful or not very soon.

::Gripping his weapon tightly, Kaedyn took a deep breath as he dematerialised, not knowing what to expect next. They rematerialised in the officer and Senator Verand leapt out of his chair, evidently shocked and afraid.::

Verand: Who are you?

::Kaedyn pulled his hood down, revealing his Trill forehead.::

Zehn: Captain Kaedyn Zehn

Verand: ::with a wry smile:: What do you want, Captain? You must know you won't get off this planet if you fire that weapon.

Zehn: I only want to prevent a war, Senator.

Sarup: What are you doing, Zehn? Take the [...]ed shot!

::Holding the disruptor up, his gloved hand shaking visibly, Kaedyn tensed the muscles in his jaw to stop his lip from quivering with nerves. With a sharp movement, he turned and fired at Sarup. The Thracian fell to the floor, stunned but not dead. Kaedyn turned the weapon back to Verand.::

Zehn: Senator, we need to talk...

END.

Lieutenant Kaedyn Zehn

Intelligence Officer

USS Vigilant

Edited by Kaedyn Zehn
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