Where do your Loyalties Lie?
Shore Leave: Welcome to Drozana
Location: Drozana Station
The Ralaaripae touched down in a dim, unkempt shuttlebay of Drozana station. The yacht couldn’t have been more conspicuous, and when the hatch opened, Areinnye and Taev were immediately set upon by vendors and peddlers of various wears.
Ferengi entrepreneurship was quickly snuffed by Romulan disapproval and after paying an exorbitant berth fee, the pair of officers were on their way.
In a turbolift that smelled of decomposing Targ waste, they had only made it a few levels when the doors parted to reveal a women with shock white hair.
“Raven” Areinnye pronounced.
The Colonel did not believe her eyes. "A- Areinnye?" The doors to the turbolift closed. "What the suns are you doing here?"
Areinnye eyed the woman before replying. Civilian clothing, but wearing ranks from two different organizations. “I am here” she said calmly. “To gather the rest of my crew and finish the task set before us.”
Raven sighed. "That may well have become a lot more difficult than originally anticipated, Commander. Or have you not heard of what happened to the flotilla?" She paused as the turbolift stopped, and opened again, on the bazaar level. "I think we best find a more private space to have this discussion. I have a private room on the top level, behind the bar. Or we could meet on the ship?"
Areinnye’s brows rose at mention of the flotilla. Dorvaela and she had agreed that incommunicado was best while she was at the capital. “Your ship, I think. Ferengi ears are large and costly” she replied.
The Colonel nodded. "Meet me in my ready room on the Claw in two hours, in that case. I have a business appointment I must not miss." With that, she stepped out of the turbolift and seemingly disappeared into the bustle of the bazaar. But when the next lift arrived, she made her way straight back to the ship. Areinnye's reappearance had come as a surprise, and she would need to prepare for the upcoming meeting.
Two hours had passed, and Raven was sitting in her ready room on the Claw. As always, her coat was hanging from the bat'leth on her wall, and with her military-style shirt, complete with shoulderboards and her rank badge on the collar and a neat black necktie, she looked very serious and business-like as she sat at her desk, with the tattered Tal Shiar banner on the wall behind her. On her desk, next to her terminal, she had now placed a framed photo of herself and Ellie, both in their finest Starfleet Academy dress uniforms. It was the best photo of the two that she had - at least, the best one she would display openly. A more casual photo of them just relaxing together was folded in the inside pocket of the coat Ellie had given her. It was her most prized possession.
Raven shook her head, and pulled herself out of her reminiscence. Now was not the time for that. She took a PADD out from a drawer under her desk, and connected it to her terminal. Quickly, she copied Lieutenant Borex' report on the attack on the flotilla onto it, as well as the reports of their discoveries when they sprang the "smugglers"' trap. Gedak was keeping an eye on the slave markets, but no Romulans or other suspicious offerings had appeared so far. She had also included a brief report on their activities since Areinnye had departed, but she had decided to leave out any detail on the Ourainavassa. They were going to acquire a Mogai-class warbird - and that was all that the Commander needed to know for now.
Areinnye had sent Taev back to the Ralaaripae. This conversation was one best had privately. At the appointed time, she materialized inside the Claw’s cramped ready room alone, with a case at her feet. Orienting herself, she caught Raven’s eye. “Forgive the dramatic entrance. An over abundance of caution tells me I shouldn’t be seen boarding your vessel at the moment.” She explained.
Raven looked up and shook her head. "You always have had a flair for the dramatic, Commander." She indicated the chair in front of her. "Please, be seated." Her tone made it clear that no longer did she see herself as someone hired by Areinnye to do a job - they were both officers in service of the Romulan Empire, and of equal rank. If anything, her Tal Shiar rank was seen as superior to Areinnye's naval rank.
Areinnye did seat herself, pushing her chair back well away from the desk and pressing her palms together.
"A lot has happened since your return to Romulus, Commander t'Vraen," the Colonel continued, maintaining a formal tone of voice highly unusual for her. "I have compiled the relevant reports on this PADD for your perusal. However, to give you a brief overview of events that you may, or may not, be aware of."
"On 238612.21, the refugee flotilla was attacked by forces unknown, assumed to be pirates. Only the hospital ship, the Sianna, escaped, although there were serious casualties on that vessel also. We met the ship here, at Drozana, where some of her officers and crew transferred to this ship. The rest, led by Lieutenant Borex, her acting commander, chartered a freighter headed for the neutral zone, to find a new place to settle."
"On the same day, we were supposed to conclude a deal with some smugglers, to acquire parts to get the D'Deridex' drive core back running. The deal, however, turned out to be a trap. We easily defeated the so-called smugglers, killing all of them. When questioned before his death, their commander claimed to have been working for an individual only known as "the Vulture". We have been making enquiries, but so far, with no success other than that this individual is a woman. A search of their vessel revealed that their cargo bay was filled with cryo pods, some of which still had traces of Romulan blood. We believe that the attack on the flotilla and this trap are connected, and that both were orchestrated by this "Vulture". Since arriving here at Drozana, we have grown our crew and gained some vital information on a Mogai-class vessel that was apparently stolen and is now for sale by pirates. We aim to acquire that vessel, as our mission has changed. We are no longer transporting refugees, we are investigating their disappearance, and hunting those responsible for it."
With that, Raven finally concluded her report. She leaned back in her chair, waiting for Areinnye to respond. Areinnye took her time looking over the reports. Outwardly, she had shown little. But the Commander felt a level of violence bordering on hysteria welling up inside her. She felt betrayed by everyone involved, and although the logical part of her brain told her that this was still salvageable, and that there was likely little the mercs could’ve done, the cold-blooded killer that lurked just below the surface was tugging at her restraints, demanding to be given free reign.
She set the PADD on the desk, pursing her lips. “Do you know, I find little in common with hired guns. They work for pay, while Galae personnel work to protect and better the Empire. But I do understand them. Frankly I respected you more when you were a gun-for-hire” Areinnye told her in an icy tone that his none of her wrath. As she spoke, she keyed commands into the device on her wrist
“And now, here you sit. Wearing the ranks of an organization that does nothing but harm the Empire. You give me news that the flotilla is destroyed, and I assume General Dorvaela with it. The timing of my absence seems to have coincided with the vacancy of sense and ambition. You now owe allegiance to two contradictory causes.” Areinnye’s emotions were barely in check now.
Receiving a confirmatory chirp , the Commander looked across her desk “I’m going to ask you one question, Raven. And consider your answer carefully. Where do your loyalties lay?”
Raven returned the icy stare. "And here I was, assuming that the commission had somehow been orchestrated by yourself. I owe no loyalty to the Tal Shiar, Commander, nor do I owe any to the Empire. My loyalty is to my crew. Some of whom are highly invested in this whole endeavour, if I may remind you. While you were off on that doomed planet you call a homeworld, my crew and I were out here, trying to do your dirty work. Maybe you should have had better protection for your flotilla, then those pirates would not have been as easily able to take them apart."
She leaned forward. "I wonder what my father would have thought of you. I never had the pleasure of meeting him, before he passed away. And yet, I feel close to him now. It is thanks to him that I wear this rank. It is thanks to him, that my crew are officially privateers, in service to the Empire. Maybe you are familiar with him? General Varis, of the Tal Shiar?"
Areinnye’s brows rose in surprise. Being Tal Shiar, the General’s exploits weren’t exactly open knowledge. But the Commander knew enough to know that he was to be feared, if not respected. All of this left her with a terrible decision to make. One that every Romulan struggled with: Whether to trust, or to fear.
Fear would be easy. She could have the Dominus, which had arrived before they had, transport her to safety, before firing a ball of plasma nearly as hot as a star into the Claw. But that wouldn’t help the refugees. And she likely needed Raven to help her find them. So it would have to be trust.
“I’m going to take you at your word. Only because if you were Tal Shiar, I’d be strapped to a chair right now, being debriefed in the cruelest manners imaginable. As for your lineage and newly acquired commission, I view it as little more than another method of attempted control. I will work with you to secure my people, but I will not take orders. And if I find you are leading me into a trap...well, consider how easily I found you.”
Raven smirked. "Don't you think that if this was a trap, it would have snapped shut by now? Our goals remain the same, Commander. And after all, you did pay me and my crew a handsome sum for this operation." She smiled. "So, don't worry about my loyalties. Worry about the mission. From my side, the next step will be to go acquire said warbird from the pirates, and investigate what happened to the colonists."
Areinnye used the tip of her boot to kick open the trunk she had beamed in with. “This is for the unexpected difficulties. I think it should be adequate, even in the eyes of your Ferengi. I’m going to leave my pilot with you. And I believe a few of my other officers have joined you as well. Jolan Tru, Colonel”