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Government District, Ki-Baratan: Romulus

Stardate: 54815.2

Midnight chimed on the clock in the sitting room of Trallian's townhouse. The senator sat at his desk while staring at the wall on the far side of the room. Fear gripped him like a nhiadh in the talons of a mogai. His vocal support of Semachs over the past few weeks had earned him just enough trust to be appointed as the interim head of the Tal Shiar. This new position gave Trallian unprecedented access to all the secrets of Romulus, but it was also just enough rope to hang himself with. Rellas' few remaining forces were powerless to act while Shinzon held the upper hand. Trallian knew he could be the conduit of information to change that and give the rebels back the momentum they desperately needed. However, the slightest misstep could be a death sentence for him and his family.

The young senator stared at his computer monitor. His access codes into the intelligence databases were now active. He could spend from now until dawn reading every dirty secret available on troop movements, fleet construction, and the disposition of known dissidents and no one would be the wiser. After all, he could easily claim it was his new responsibility to learn it all. However, the terrifying possibility remained: what if he found something useful?

If Rellas and the rebels used that information to gain an advantage, the leak would obviously be traced to Trallian. If he didn't contact Rellas, how could he consider himself any different than all the other spineless Romulans trying to secure their place in Semachs' new order? Would he be able to live with himself if the rebels died because of something he could have stopped?

More painful hours passed as Trallian just stared at the login screen. Finally, as the first hints of dawn appeared outside his windows, a beam of sunshine caught a frame on the far wall. Trallian looked up to see the beautiful portrait Samilla had presented as a gift when he first won election to the Senate. In the painting, his wife sat overlooking the beautiful blue fields behind their villa. Her arms were wrapped around Sevon and Sepina. His daughters gently rested on either side of Samilla's lap. The artist had captured their expressions perfectly. The girls stared back at him with absolute adoration and confidence that their father was a man of his word. Samilla's face was happy, yet calm. Her eyes gazed down on him as if to say, "I love you, I trust you, and I believe in you," with one serene expression.

It was then Trallian knew what he had to do. No matter what, he had to keep the three most important women in his life safe. If Semachs was able to crush the rebellion and secure his new power, Trallian knew that would be impossible. The moment Semachs found out that Trallian had spent years aiding the rebellion, all of them would be shot, bayoneted, and vaporized to dust in that order.

However, if he kept Rellas strong, if he prevented Semachs and Shinzon from fully closing their grip on the government, there was a still a chance that they could all escape to a place far away from the machinations of Romulus' new tyrants. Slowly, he reached up and keyed his access code into the terminal. In a flash, the whole scope of Semachs and Shinzon's private armament campaign came into blunt focus.

Trallian spent about an hour just trying to grasp of the details. Billions of talons worth of latinum and raw materials had been transferred to the Reman Heavy Military Industries consortium. It was obvious that Shinzon was fast building a huge conventional force that would soon be able to rival even the Romulan Imperial Navy. It was also obvious from Semachs' comments in the margins of the daily intelligence briefings that he fully understood and indeed supported this turn of events. However, there was something amiss that kept bothering Trallian. He just couldn't put his finger on it.

Before his father died and left everything to him, Trallian's main job in the family kali-fal brewery was balancing the accounts. The senior Trallian was an absolute stickler for efficiency. They young Trallian learned very quickly that every single talon and kernel of kheh grain had to be accounted for. Woe to the farm worker or brewery employee that tried to skim off the top or stole a few cases of Romulan Ale for their own personal consumption. Trallian's father could catch even the smallest scheme by merely studying the spreadsheets, and he ensured his son learned it as well.

Now, as Senator Trallian looked at the treasure flowing from Romulus to Remus, he realized that another scheme was going on. However, this one was much larger than a few missing cases of kali-fal. To put it simply, the Remans were not producing enough vehicles and weapons to account for all the resources Semachs' was giving them. Worse yet, the proconsul seemed none the wiser. It seemed that as long as Shinzon was getting results, Semachs didn't care how he did it.

After another three painful hours of analysis, Trallian had finally cut through enough lines of accounting to see where the gaps were. Just before he had to leave for the Senate building, he finally identified two mysterious hemorrhages. The first was at the Reman shipyards themselves. Over 5 million tons of tritanium and duranium were unaccounted for along with over 2 million liters of refined deuterium. The materials were prime shipbuilding material, but not enough vessels had emerged from the yard to account for them all. The second gap was even larger: 10 million tons of polyduranium. The only hint to its fate was that a civilian ship of the "Romulan Mining Consortium" called the "Narada" had been contracted by the Remans to run several heavy shipments to the Hobus system over the past five months. What didn't make any sense at all was that Hobus was a useless star in the middle of nowhere. There were no habitable planets or space stations in its orbit. It was simply a fading point of light on a starmap. Trallian didn't know if these two discrepancies were connected, but he did feel that Semachs was so blinded by ambition and arrogance, he didn't have a clue about Shinzon's true intentions.

The most logical explanation was that the Reman general was merely a thief. Shinzon was stealing valuable commodities and slowly shipping them to the outskirts of the empire to sell to pirates or smugglers. However, Trallian's gut told him that the logical explanation was just too simple and that something far more dangerous than embezzlement was going on right under the ears of the Romulan government.

Trallian slumped back in his chair and rubbed his hand over his unshaven facial stubble. Then, he pinched the bridge of his nose between his green, blood-shot eyes.

"What in the name of the gods are you doing out there, Shinzon?" Trallian muttered. Whatever it was, the senator was now more concerned than ever.

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