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Romulan Planetary Protectorate of Viochin: Romulan Frontier

Rain poured out of the night sky onto the rusty sheet metal roof. The rapid "tink, tink, tink" of water droplets on tin drowned out the lapping sounds of waves crashing on the beach a few meters behind the tightly clustered village. Many locals were still out despite the weather. Some strolled to take in the warm, moist air while others concluded a few business deals that were still outstanding when the twin suns set beneath the horizon several hours previously. On the back porch of one of the shacks, two elderly Viochinian men sat across from each other over a worn out game board. Each took turns placing plastic tiles with various colorful symbols to make specific patterns.

Half a dozen curing fish hung from an old piece of rope strung between sun-bleached wooden posts supporting the roof. A bare white fluorescent bulb dangled from two wires overhead. The harsh glow attracted sand flies that clustered in a swarm just a few centimeters above the men's brown, scaly heads. Neither one seemed to mind. Both smoked a harshly pungent yellow weed from long-stemmed clay pipes.

"Biang sow di pang bachang," one of them muttered while stroking the long white beard that extended from his pointed chin. He carefully placed a tile with a red circle near the top of the board. The skinny, reptilian lips of his competitor curled back from his yellowed, needle-like teeth.

"Siema cao sing ji bas saanh," he said putting a tile with a green cross adjacent to the piece just placed by his friend.

"KIEP SAP LAO!" the first man exclaimed with great frustration. The other man laughed as he blew acrid smoke out of his two nose slits.

Another older Viochinian woman sat two meters away from the men enjoying a bowl of pungent fish stew. Every few bites, she would casually look over with her two bulbous eyes, and shoot the meter and half long tongue out of her mouth to snare one of the sand flies out of the air. The creatures added additional flavor to her dinner. Suddenly, a figure in a rubberized cloak appeared out of the darkness.

"Coy ciap bing say triniah mai lo?" the Viochinian woman asked with a dispassionate huff.

"Giang Giang," the figure replied. "Ting nia chang chu soa mas Romulani biang bak."

The Viochinian woman's face contorted into an expression that most humanoids would classify as a "bemused grin." She shot her tongue out to grab another fly before reaching under the table at her side to press a hidden button. A secret panel in the exterior wall of the shack clicked open. The cloaked figure passed inside, firmly shutting the door behind her.

The figure walked down a flight of dark rickety steps to a claustrophobic chamber dug into the sand underneath the shack. Its walls were reinforced with old scrap wood. The only light was a bare bulb that flickered every time someone walked on the floors above.

Rellas, Esrak, Seebo, Gras, and about fifteen other fighters were huddled around a table. When they heard someone coming, they all drew disruptor pistols, daggers, and swords and aimed them into the darkness.

"You certainly know how to make a girl feel welcome," Valaa muttered emerging from the staircase and pulling down her hood.

"We can never be too careful these days…" Seebo replied as they all holstered their weapons.

"I'm an Orion!" Valaa shouted while stripping off her soaking wet cloak and throwing it into the corner. "I hate the fucking rain." She pulled out a dry cigarette and lighter from her pocket and lit up. Everyone else in the unventilated space had learned it was a bad idea to complain. They had just learned to tolerate it the clouds of smoke.

"How did you ever learn about this planet?" Esrak asked curiously.

"Before I handed in my resignation to my master along with thirty centimeters of sharpened steel," Valaa explained, "he used to come here several times a year for semi-annual multi-day morpholan binge. He brought me along to play with whenever he didn't have a hypospray against his neck…"

"The stories you tell of your captivity make me almost thankful to have been one of Selonia's gladiators…" Rellas said shaking his head.

"Yeah, he was a REAL great guy…" Valaa grumbled sarcastically before taking another long drag on her cigarette. "But don't hold his vices against this place. The Viochinians are good people even when they're trying to sell you drugs, illegal weapons, or counterfeit Federation goods. Everyone's gotta make a living somehow, after all. It also means they also know how to keep their mouth slits shut."

"Were you able to find out anything about the others?" Gras said hopefully. Valaa's face immediately dropped.

"How bad is it?" Rellas asked. Valaa put her smoke between her lips and walked over to the table. A faded star map covered with coffee stains and crumbs of food was laid out on its surface. Valaa grabbed an old-fashioned pen to use as a pointer and started briefing.

"It's worse than we thought," she began. "The Remans raided our supply stockpiles on Garthos, Sandora Prime, and Xanitla. They also hit our safe houses on Nequencia and B'lev. I wasn't able to get into contact with Celes II or Ralatak, but it's a good bet those are gone too."

"How?" Seebo said pounding his fist against the table. "Do you think we have a mole?"

"What you see is what you get!" Valaa said pointing around the room. "Everyone not in this basement is either dead, missing, or shipped off to the colony on Subik IV. Anyone here on the Reman's payroll? Anyone?" she repeated sarcastically.

"What about Trallian?" Seebo grumbled. "How do we know that pointed-eared bastard isn't selling us out to save himself?"

"That's enough from both of you," Rellas shouted. "Seebo, Senator Trallian has been helping this movement far longer than you have. Besides, he never knew the locations of Nequencia or B'lev. I arranged those two myself." He then turned to Valaa. "And things are now challenging enough without us snapping at each other."

"Personally, I think it's just the Remans, unlike their pampered and coddled Romulan friends, actually know how to think like a fugitive slave," Valaa said.

"No one in this room is a slave anymore, Valaa," Rellas reiterated firmly.

"Sorry, Boss Man," she apologized with another puff on her cigarette. "However, the fact remains. We can't even hope to mount an attack anywhere until we figure out how to get one step in front of the bat boys."

"What do we know about the Remans' leader, this General Shinzon?" Esrak asked.

"I asked some old acquaintances who occasionally work with the Reman Mining Guild hauling dilithium ore. Here's the kicker. He's not even Reman. He's human."

"HUMAN!?" Gras said shocked.

"Don't ask me to explain," Valaa said holding up her hands. "That's just what they told me."

"Do you think he's a transplant like your old Klingon friend?" Esrak asked. "What was his name? The son of Tugrunan? Son of Targan?"

"The Son of Tigranian," Rellas said pursing his lips. "I don't know, but I have never heard of a human voluntarily becoming a member of a second-class race in the Romulan Empire."

"I don't know," Valaa countered. "Humans are renowned as being one of the stupidest, most na´ve species out there. I mean, they were so bad at economic planning they just decided to get rid of money."

Her last comment actually managed to get a chuckle out of Rellas. Then, he quickly grew serious again.

"I don't know, but you are correct about one thing, Valaa. Until we understand our new enemy, we can't hope to defeat them." He paused, "and the Son of Tigranian did teach me something about humans who do not live among their own kind…"

"What is that?" Esrak asked. Rellas answered:

"They're twice as unpredictable and twice as dangerous because they have something to prove."

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