Fiction – Shades of Grey 001

The evening’s events were unexpected, but also thought-provoking. Certainly, the presence of Tal Shiar spies on New Romulus was no surprise, but for one of them to beam directly into D’Tan’s personal office was alarming to say the least. If the Tal Shiar wanted to assassinate D’Tan, they have proved that they could achieve this without difficulty; the fact that the Proconsul of the Romulan Republic was still alive was a testament that things were changing.

But for the better, or worse?

D’Tan pondered this very question with his two chief political advisers currently on planet, Gallaen and Dhnial. As a long-retired senator of the old Star Empire, Gallaen was cautiously optimistic of what the visit implied, while Dhnial, an ex-Star Navy captain who lost his family to the brutality of the Tal Shair, would never trust anything the secret police offered; yet both agreed that extreme caution be exercised when it came to the Tal Shiar.

At the core of his being, however, D’Tan was a peaceful man. His entire life was devoted to Ambassador Spock’s teachings, and his dream of reuniting the Romulan and Vulcan peoples. Even now he has achieved the seeming impossible: reconciliation with the Remans, allying with the Federation and the Klingon Empire, and normalization of relations with Vulcan. If there was a sliver of chance to reunite the Romulan people, he would no doubt pursue it. The question was how.

“I would think,” D’Tan spoke up after hearing both of his colleagues. “That the best course of action is to request an open dialog with the Tal Shiar leadership. As I told Commander Khiana, we are not interested in secret dealings and arrangements. We don’t want the Tal Shiar secretly in charge, terrorizing the Romulan people. If they want to reunite our people, they would have to do it in the open…”

A computerized beep interrupted D’Tan, followed by a voice through the intercom. “Admiral R’Jal is here to see you, sir.”

“Please let him in.” D’Tan replied. He couldn’t help but notice the scowl that suddenly settled on Dhnial’s features; it’s no secret that Admiral R’Jal was a high-ranking Tal Shiar official prior to his defection to the Republic, and despite all the sensitive information he brought to them, R’Jal was still one-time Tal Shiar. D’Tan wasn’t sure what sort of dirty work R’Jal might have done in the past, and he wasn’t sure he wanted to know.

“Jolan Tru, comrades. Early start, aren’t we?”

D’Tan looked up as Admiral D’Tan entered. He had to admit the old ex-Tal Shiar had a way with people; stout and overweight, with graying hair and a very non-threatening face, R’Jal cut the image of someone’s friendly uncle. His demeanor was… in fact, quite pleasant and disarming. It was arguably these disarming qualities that made R’Jal so dangerous, because many people surely underestimated him in the past, to their eternal regret.

“Jolan Tru, Admiral,” D’Tan gestured towards one of the empty chairs. “Thank you for arriving so quickly, but we have a… development that may require your unique… insight.”

Gallaen echoed D’Tan’s greeting, but Dhnial just sneered. The latter’s obvious disgust didn’t faze R’Jal, as the fat Romulan unhurriedly took his seat. “And it’s nice to see you again too, Dhnial. Quite refreshing to see this atmosphere of honesty; we don’t need to hide our dislike for each other anymore. Wonderful.” He even flashed Dhnial a smile, but before the other Romulan could utter a retort, he smoothly continued. “And in that spirit, how may I be of service, Proconsul?”

“A Tal Shiar subcommander named Khiana paid me an unexpected visit earlier this morning,” D’Tan sat back and began. “She beamed in alone after hours, and suggested that since the loss of Sela and Hakeev, the Tal Shiar is… in her words, ‘at loose ends’.”

R’Jal actually scoffed at this. “Let me guess, now they don’t have anyone with enough charisma to sell a Tribble, so they want to ‘reconcile’.”

Gallaen spoke up. “She suggested that the Tal Shiar might be interested in throwing their support behind Proconsul D’Tan.”

“Controlling the Republic through him, is what she meant,” Dhnial practically spat out. “They saw that they couldn’t sustain their own breakaway state, and now they want to claim ours. Never again.”

“For once, Dhnial, you and I agree,” R’Jal rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “Subcommander Khiana’s gesture was…”

“Preposterous!” Dhnial snapped.

“…I was going to say amateurish, but thank you,” R’Jal continued without missing a beat, turning back to D’Tan. “I don’t know what they are teaching this new generation of Tal Shiar, but standards fall.” He sighed dramatically. “If they had done their homework, which they clearly hadn’t, they would know Proconsul D’Tan is never going to agree to being controlled by the Tal Shiar. And to send a mere subcommander as a messenger? That tells me one of two things: Either they are stupid, which is good news for the Republic, or they are desperate enough to try anything, which is even better news.”

The other Romulans frowned, and it was D’Tan who asked the obvious question. “In my experience, a group of fanatics who are desperate is never good news, Admiral.”

“It isn’t,” R’Jal leaned back in his chair. “But the Tal Shiar are not fanatics. Never were, except for a handful of obsessed lunatics, but every tree has a rotten branch.” He paused to peer at the suspicious look Dhnial was tossing his way. “No I wasn’t one of them, so stop thinking it, Dhnial. Hakeev, on the other hand, was precisely that. No, you see, the Tal Shiar might have been manipulative, oppressive, ruthless, treacherous, and all those negative adjectives you can dream up, but we — they — were always pragmatists. Fanatics pursue a cause single-mindedly to their own destruction; pragmatists adapt and survive.”

“What are you suggesting, Admiral?” Gallaen finally asked.

“I defected from the Tal Shiar to join the Republic, because I saw evidence that the Tal Shiar leadership conspired with an unseen enemy to destroy Romulus.” R’Jal’s tone suddenly turned solemn. “That’s not the Tal Shiar I signed up for; that’s not the Tal Shiar anyone signed up for. That’s why I left — and it’s not just me, there are many ex-Tal Shiar serving under the Republic banner now — and I can assure you, a lot more Tal Shiar would leave if they are presented with the same evidence I saw.”

D’Tan and Gallaen exchanged looks. “Admiral, given your extensive experience with the Tal Shiar, we could use your advice in this matter but frankly, we were hoping you could organize an investigation into whether the Tal Shiar can be trusted to negotiate with. Openly, that is.” D’Tan paused. “I’m not sure I’d condone any attempts to instigate a mass defection from the Tal Shiar. It could be construed as a blatant act of aggression on our part…”

“Proconsul,” R’Jal nodded. “With all due respect, for the most part Tal Shiar personnel see the Republic as… soft. Your policy of honesty and peace, which I personally admire by the way, is considered an insult to Romulan pride. Not every Tal Shiar is going to jump at an opportunity to defect to the Republic.”

“Enough of this, R’Jal,” Dhnial snapped again. “You’re saying the Tal Shiar may want to talk, but you’re saying they won’t join us. Don’t make us guess. What are you saying?”

The fat Admiral heaved a dramatic sigh. “As much as I enjoy this air of openness, I sometimes do miss the good old days.” He lamented. “Gentlemen, the Tal Shiar wants to talk now because they are rapidly running out of choices. So, we should talk. Just don’t expect an easy, happy resolution — except that time is now on our side. We have long-term goals and agendas, and the will and leadership to make them happen; they do not. What we can expect, however, is an opportunity to further weaken the Tal Shiar now that they are without leadership. With a properly managed propaganda campaign and continued negotiation, we can destabilize their entire powerbase. Colonies under their control will break away; even their own personnel will start to desert or outright defect. In any case, the Tal Shiar is already bleeding power and influence; this is an opportunity for us to speed it along.”

There was silence in the Proconsul’s office for a minute, as the other three Romulans exchanged uncomfortable looks, but each pondered the Admiral’s words. Ultimately, it was again D’Tan who spoke. “What you say may be true, Admiral, but all this manipulation and plotting remind me too much of what we left behind. The new Republic is built on different principles.”

“Even the most vigilant man cannot watch for an assassin’s dagger forever,” R’Jal mused aloud. “At some point he’ll have to hunt down the assassin.” He paused for effect. “There is no dishonor in self-defense.”

“It’s still a slippery slope,” D’Tan sank back in his chair, an unhappy tone in his voice.

“Some of us have walked that slope all our lives,” R’Jal shrugged. “Someone has to, to keep the rest of you from falling down.”

“It sounds as though you have a plan in mind, Admiral.” Gallaen interjected curiously. “What are you going to do?”

R’Jal smiled. “No plans yet, but I have some ideas. Once I have something, I can run it by you all, but for your own peace of mind, I expect you may not want to know.”

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