Romulan Planetary Protectorate of Viochin: Romulan Frontier
Rellas stood on the beach near their safe house. It was a warm, clear night. He stared up at the brilliant blanket of stars dotting the blackness above him. It was a different sky than the one he looked up on Grallus IV as a boy; different still than the one he gazed out while one of Selonia's gladiators on Dacen Prime. However, he still took comfort when he found the familiar points of light that had always been his guides before.
Suddenly, without looking down, a grin crossed his face.
"If you're going to just stand there and stare at me," he said with a chuckle, "you might as well give me some company while you smoke your cigarettes. After all, you bought them with the money I won."
"I'll admit," Valaa said stepping out from behind from behind a palm tree a few meters away, "nicotine withdrawal was a factor in me getting you that fight." She walked over and stood next to him before blowing out a puff of smoke. Rellas caught a strong whiff of it in his face.
"Harsher than usual," Rellas coughed.
"Viochinian tobacco isn't quite up to the standards of the Yridians yet…" she said taking another drag. Rellas went back to looking at the sky. Valaa studied him for a few moments before speaking again. "What are you looking for, Boss?" she asked.
"The holy texts of Kahless teach us that if we salute the stars, sometimes they will salute back with an answer," he muttered back.
"An answer?" Valaa replied confused, "an answer to what question?"
"Which way forward we should take on this path?" he answered. Then, he pointed to a ball of light near the western horizon. "Do you see that? That's Grallus, where I was born." He pointed to another star just off center of the sky. "That's Dacen, where the Son of Tigranian helped me fight for my freedom." He turned and pointed to a third star near the eastern horizon. "That's Qo'noS, the Klingon homeworld where the Unforgettable first brought the words of honor to the galaxy," finally he pointed to a smaller, dimmer star a few degrees away. "And that is Boreth, where Kahless said he would one day return."
"I appreciate the astronomy lesson," Valaa said blowing out a lungful of smoke, "but why exactly do you think the stars will have your answers?"
"I've been to more of those points of light than I ever thought I would," Rellas said. "But it's still filled with places that I desire to see. How can we know where to go if we don't remember where we've been?" he asked.
"I couldn't tell you which one of those things is Orion," Valaa said dismissively, "and to be honest, I don't really give a shit. It's not good to keep your eyes on the sky, Rellas. It's best for people like us to keep our focus right there," she said pointing to the ground at their feet. "It's how we stay alive." She took a final puff on her cigarette.
"So, you mean to tell me you've never once looked up at stars and hoped?" he asked. Suddenly, Valaa's eyes grew very distant. She flared her green nostrils and angrily blew out two puffs of smoke. Then, she threw the burning butt of her smoke into the sand and stamped it out.
"I did look up…once," she remembered. "I never knew my father and I never spent much time with my mother. She was too busy dancing for our owner who also owned the cheapest, seediest nightclub in the city of Durghe. It was a great reminder of where we stood in the order of things.
The day after I turned thirteen, a pair of men put down two bars of latinum, locked a chain and collar around my neck, and hauled me off towards the spaceport." She tensed her back as she wiped her eyes. "My mother wouldn't even look at me as they led me away. I didn't do her the honor of screaming or crying. I wanted her to know she meant as little to me as I meant to her…
It was the middle of a night much like this when we reached a parked slave ship. Just before they threw me in the bottom of hull with all the other humanoid cargo, I looked up. I begged to the stars for anything, ANYTHING: a god, an angel, an ancestor, to come down and rescue me. Instead, those things just twinkled back like they were laughing at me.
I learned that night that the stars don't care about you. There're no mystical beings or spirits up there guiding our destinies. Those dots are just burning balls of plasma floating in infinite cold and blackness. The only thing in this universe you can count on is yourself.
The next eight years of my life were absolute hell," she said sucking in a deep breath of air and looking down at the surf. "If you hadn't freed me, I probably would have ended up killing myself."
She expected some kind of forced sympathy followed by a lecture to "suck it up." Instead, Rellas' answer genuinely surprised her.
"Valaa, your faith is stronger than you know…"
"Excuse me?" she replied with disbelief.
"Do you really think I started following the teachings of Kahless because the Son of Tigranian promised me an easy life or a way to quick and painless salvation?" Rellas said. "I began to believe because even in the face of utter hopelessness and excruciating suffering, the Unforgettable's message kept that human moving forward. It gave him a code of honor and an unflagging belief that despite the indignities performed on him, that he would have final victory over his captors…and he did.
Two years ago, I was about to die at the feet of a hundred wealthy Romulans who thought I was their plaything. Then, in a flash, they were cut to pieces at our hands. A year ago, you were adrift in a sea of pain and suffering. You could have remained hopeless and afraid. Instead, when presented with a new path, you chose to fight. Whatever you call it: faith in Kahless, faith in gods, or just faith in yourself, you picked up a weapon, and took the hard path. That is why your faith is strong."
Valaa's face dropped.
"You really don't understand me," she replied ashamed. "I'm not doing this because I'm fighting for some notion of equality, or justice, or a better life for other people's children. I don't think for one second anything I'll ever have some greater meaning or impact…
I'm doing this, because I want to hurt them like they hurt me. Every time they take something away from me, I want to take something away from them. I want those Romulans to suffer like they made me suffer. That's what keeps me going! I'm not some noble warrior looking for honor and glory. I'm just a broken thug who doesn't know when to quit…"
She buried her head in her hands. She was about to walk away when she felt a gentle hand under her chin. Rellas lifted her eyes to meet his.
"Motivation doesn't matter," he said calmly. "It is our deeds that live on through time. Some of the greatest good can be done for the wrong reasons and some of the greatest evil can be done in the name of altruism.
I am forever grateful to you, Valaa. Without you, we would be dead a hundred times. You cut a path through Shinzon's armies for us to escape Daxos. You found us a new safe harbor. You kept us alive. Because of your strength and your wisdom, we fight on. That is noble too."
"I'm sorry," she said shaking her head. Tears were now streaming down her face, "but I've spent my entire life being told that I'm worthless; being treated like I was worthless. I don't think I'll ever be able to believe anything else."
Rellas smiled as he lifted her chin again till her eyes pointed to the heavens.
"Then let me believe it for you."
Without thinking, she threw her arms around him and openly wept. He held her close and let her cry to the sound of the waves lapping against the sand.
Suddenly, Gras ran outside of the hut and shouted at them.
"My Lord! We're receiving a transmission."
Valaa and Rellas pushed apart. He turned to face Gras while Valaa looked away to steady herself.
"We're on our way," he replied. Valaa cleared her throat.
"I'll go and help them with the decryption," she said jogging towards the ramshackle building. Rellas took one final look upwards. Then, out of the corner of his eye, he noticed Boreth twinkle at him. Then, he grinned from ear to ear.
"majQa'," he whispered under his breath.
Rellas ran down the stairs into the basement. It seemed like a jolt of electricity had shot through all the rebels in the room. Trallian never called them unless it was important news. Seebo was readying their small visual terminal on the map table while Gras and Valaa worked at an old subspace console to bring the signal into focus.
"I think we have it," she said punching three keys in quick succession.
"Onscreen, My Lord," Gras said with a nod.
Rellas looked down as the haggard face of Trallian appeared in front of him.
"You look tired," Rellas said with a hint of levity.
"I don't have time for games," Trallian replied nervously looking around. "I'm leaving within the hour for my villa across the Apnex Sea. The Senate won't be in session for the next two weeks, which means that Shinzon will have time to act without being interrupted. You should be concerned as his current pet projects are probably related to destroying you."
"Pet projects?" Rellas said concerned.
"I don't know what's going on," Trallian replied, "but something is happening in the Hobus system. Tons of money, supplies, and fuel are being rerouted to the Remans under Semachs' authority. I don't think the proconsul knows what's going on, but he doesn't seem to care as long as Shinzon keeps your forces on the run. Go to Hobus, and see if you can find out what's happening. If you can stop whatever it is, I think it will force Semachs to purge Shinzon…"
"Which means we will be able to go on the offensive again," Rellas said with hope.
"Exactly," Trallian replied.
"Thank you, my friend," Rellas said smiling.
"There's something else," Trallian said nervously. "I don't know how much longer I'll be able to keep passing you information. Semachs is using the Remans to rip the entire establishment apart looking for plots and treason. Position and family connections are meaningless now. It's all loyalty to the proconsul." He paused. "I won't let anything happen to my family, Rellas. I'm being watched too closely to plan their escape myself. I need you to find a way to get them out of the Star Empire. Please, help me like I've helped you."
Rellas looked right back at him.
"I give you my word as a Klingon warrior," Rellas replied. "I will find a way."
"Thank you," Trallian said before disconnecting the transmission.
"He's signal's gone," Gras said putting his controls down.
"Hobus!" Seebo said turning to the others triumphantly. "We're getting out of here!" A cheer rang up through the room, but Valaa shouted them down.
"Wait!" she shouted checking a read out on the subspace unit. "Something's wrong."
"What do you mean?" Rellas asked walking over.
"There was something strange going on with the transmission," she said checking the data. "The time stamps don't line up. There was an extra few milliseconds of delay between when Senator Trallian spoke into his terminal and when we received it. It's almost like someone was intercepting the transmission before relaying it forward."
"You mean the Romulans have detected where we are?" Gras said bolting up from his chair.
"No," Valaa said shaking her hands. "There's no indication that they knew where the signal was going," she said turning to Rellas with wide eyes, "but they knew EXACTLY where it was coming from…"
"By Kahless," Rellas exclaimed doubling over. "Trallian…"
"Somebody really was watching him, and a lot more closely than he thought. Now, they have exactly what they need," Valaa said.
"Fuck him," Seebo said flippantly. "He's a rich Romulan asshole anyways."
Rellas bolted across the room and slapped him across the face with all his might. Seebo collapsed in a heap onto the floorboards.
"THAT MAN," Rellas shouted loud enough to bring dust down from the rafters, "has risked everything for us: his fortunes, his family, his very life! He could have betrayed us but instead he has ALWAYS kept his word! I just gave him mine that we would protect his family. I have no intention of breaking it."
"My Lord," Esrak said slowly walking over, "They're on Romulus, and already under heavy surveillance. To get to them would mean walking straight into the heart of our enemy."
"That would be suicide!" Gras agreed. "We haven't got this far by being stupid." Rellas looked around the room and saw similar doubt in all the other fighters' eyes.
"Does everyone else feel that way?" Rellas asked. Their silence broke his heart. "Fine," he answered, "then I wish you long, comfortable lives running away to hide in safety. I don't fight with cowards anyway. I'll go alone…"
"No you won't," a voice sounded from behind him. "He turned around to see Valaa standing strong. "I'm going with you. If you believe in this man…" she said stiffening her spine, "…then that's good enough for me."
Rellas smiled and bowed to her.
"I'm going as well," Esrak chirped. "Because of you, my daughter will grow up in freedom. If that comes at the cost of my life, so be it."
"Thank you my friend," Rellas said putting a hand on his shoulder. "Is there anyone else here who believes that honor is more important than life?"
One by one, the rebels climbed to their feet. Gras shook his lead and laughed.
"Why not?" he exclaimed. "I'd probably be dead by now anyways if I had stayed a slave. At least this way I had some fun on the way down."
Finally, it was down to Seebo. He stood back up rubbing his bruised face.
"And you?" Rellas said firmly. "What is your choice?"
"I'm not doing this for any Romulan," he said. "I'm doing it because I don't want to let this group down."
"That's good enough," Rellas said extending his hand. Seebo grabbed his wrist and shook. Then, the Gralluscan turned to the others. "We leave in half an hour. Grab every single weapon you can carry. We're going to need them."