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Three Months Later

Praetor's Villa: Romulus

Stardate: 55004.5

Neral sat in his bedchamber and stared out at the waves of the Apnex Sea. In his hands, he held a holophoto of Lady Selonia in her white wedding robes. She stared back at him with a noble and fearsome visage worthy of an ancient Romulan Empress.

"My queen…" he whispered staring down into her eyes. "We should have ruled the galaxy together, but do not worry. We will be together again soon."

He heard the sound of a side door opening behind him. A pair of military boots echoed across the marble floor.

"I knew it was only a matter of time before Semachs sent someone to kill me," Neral said without taking his eyes away from Selonia. "I never expected it to be you."

"There is a new order rising on Romulus," Commander Sela said walking towards him. "I was offered a chance to be a part of it."

Neral laughed as he stood up and turned around to face his assassin.

"Governments change frequently on Romulus, Commander," he said with a hint of warning to his old protégé. "Keep your eyes open or else you'll soon find yourself on the other end of this conversation."

"Perhaps," Sela replied. "But not today…"

She pulled a dagger from underneath her tunic and shoved it into Neral's chest. The praetor gasped as green blood splattered across his robes and Sela's hands. The picture of Selonia fell to the ground and shattered. Sela grinned as she twisted the blade in his heart.

"Just let go, Old Man," she said seeing the broken holophoto at her feet. "This is what you really wanted after all."

Neral took a last glance upward and caught sight of Sela's blonde hair. He reached over and placed a bloody palm on it. With his last gasps of life he tried to keep the image of Selonia's face in his mind. Sela recoiled in horror and pulled the knife back out. The Praetor of the Romulan Star Empire collapsed to the ground dead.

"The praetor is dead," Semachs said stepping into the room through the same door she entered.

"But the Romulan Star Empire lives on," Sela replied.

"Well done, Commander," Semachs said. "You've proven your loyalty to me just as I asked."

"Thank you, Proconsul," she said gathering her composure and looking down at her knife covered in blood. "However, I don't understand why I couldn't just use a disruptor. It would have been far cleaner…"

"True," Semachs said taking a few steps forward. "But it wouldn't have left enough evidence…"

"Evidence?" Sela said with a sharp breath.

"Tell me, Commander," Semachs asked. "How long have you been one of Trallian's agents?"

"What are you talking about?" Sela shrieked. "I've never been one! I did exactly as you asked. You said you needed talented people at your side!"

"Indeed I do," he replied. "Unfortunately for you, it was him that I was talking about." Semachs looked back to the side door. Shinzon entered and stood confidently beside the proconsul. The Reman general bowed to Sela with a smile on his face.

"Good afternoon, Commander," Shinzon said with a dangerous grin.

"He's also far more effective than you are," Semachs added. "After all, you got your last master killed," he added with a chuckle pointing at Neral's corpse.

"No," Sela said in horror as she shook her head back and forth in disbelief. "No, no, no!"

"Perhaps you should have heeded Neral's advice more closely," Semachs added still laughing. "PRAETORIANS! PRAETORIANS COME QUICKLY!" he suddenly shouted at the top of his lungs. "She's murdered the praetor!"

The front doors of the chamber burst open and two armed guards rushed in. They looked down in shock to see Neral's mangled body on the floor and Sela standing over him covered in his blood with the knife still in her hand."

"It's not my fault!" she screamed with tears streaming down her face. She dropped the dagger and let it clatter to the ground. "I did it for Romulus! For Romulus!"

"She's absolutely insane!" Semachs shouted. "Get her out of here!"

"NOOOOO!" Sela wailed as they grabbed her arms and dragged her kicking and screaming from the room. "He ordered me to do it! He ordered me!"

Once the sound of her pathetic screams disappeared down the hall, Semachs walked over and stared down at Neral's corpse.

"It seems I found a way to get rid of the pathetic old man while also making him a martyr to my cause," he said kicking the shattered fragments of Selonia's portrait across the floor. "It's so perfect the drama almost writes itself: a human half-blood subverting Romulan government at the highest levels for almost a decade while secretly serving the traitor, Trallian. When her master was revealed, he ordered her to take revenge."

"That story certainly sounds plausible," Shinzon said shrugging his shoulders. "Well, plausible enough for the masses at least. The foolish do love conspiracy theories."

"That's all that matters," Semachs replied. "Once I'm done broadcasting her trial and conviction to the entire Star Empire, she's yours."

"I know a place in the Reman mines that is particularly accident prone," Shinzon replied. "She won't survive a day."

"For your sake, you better make sure of that," Semachs said wiping his hands and stepping towards the main doors. "I've got to go and inform Senator Hiren to prepare for his installation as praetor. Hopefully that idiot will be as compliant as you."

"Yes Proconsul," Shinzon said masking his true feelings towards Semachs and the rest of his Romulan lackeys.

"Oh," Semachs said suddenly pausing. "Make yourself scarce before anyone else shows up. If word got out that a Reman was in the Praetor's Villa, it would be more shocking to the Romulan people than the sight of that," he said pointing to Neral's body.

"Yes Proconsul."

Semachs left the room and Shinzon grinned from ear to ear. It was only a matter of time. Shinzon knew his secret allies in the military could force a session that would have both Proconsul Neral and Praetor Hiren in attendance. Then, the two of them would quickly find out what Remus was capable of. They would soon join the rebel Rellas as a pile of ash blowing away in the breeze. Then, he would take his rightful place in the galaxy.

"The Romulan people better get used to the idea of a Reman in this house," he thought to himself. "They will be seeing it very soon…"


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