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“They live!” N’Vel snarled as the glare from the disruptor cannons died down, exposing a blackened, but largely undamaged enemy hull. “A hit with the plasma cannon and a full disrupter barrage and their ship survives?”

“The Federation’s shipbuilding technology has advanced at an alarming rate,”S’Tonn said, his impassivity signaling his own chagrin. He couldn’t help it, N’Vel knew. He was the CO of a starship and as such couldn’t wear his emotion on his sleeve. Fortunately, as an Admiral, she was under no such restrictions.

“No, our technology has stagnated,” she spat bitterly, “while our enemies have reached out into the universe with both hands. I’ve never even seen a warp signature like the one that ship used to enter the sector.”

“Nor I, Admiral. It was as if they appeared from thin air.”

“Disruptors recharging in two minutes, Admiral,” the gunner informed them.

N’Vel felt a cutting mixture of tension and frustration pull taut along her shoulders and arms. The trap had worked perfectly, but the beast refused to die, its hide too thick for their spears. In a moment it would be gone, magicked away by whatever advanced technology the Federation had developed while the Tal Shiar spied on shopkeepers and university students.

The ship on the viewer--alien and beautiful--would be the herald of the destruction of the Romulan Star Empire, if N’Vel failed.

“Load and arm a nuclear torpedo,” she said.

“I must warn the admiral of the danger of deploying atomic weapons at these ranges. The Starglider is not one of the lead-clad ships of old.”

“I am aware of the dangers, Centurion,” N’Vel said. “But I’m afraid success is the only acceptable outcome to this encounter. And that outcome must be swift. We have only moments before they’re gone.”

S’Tonn stiffened up a bit, the meaning behind her words sinking in: if they lost engagement, then the only question left to answer was whose hand they would ultimately die by. The Federation? The Klingons? Or the Tal Shiar?

“Helm, bring us around to attack vector three,” he ordered crisply. “release safeties on my command.” 

The Starglider whined around them as the ship banked, swooped, and began its run.

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