Captain’s Log, Stardate 47384.9
MV Poseidon’s Rift
Fleet Admiral Gustaffson made it clear to all of us: this is a deniable mission and there will be no rescue if it all goes south. But it’s also a vitally important mission, one that could accelerate peaceful friendship between the Federation and Romulans, or precipitate a second war. Hence the deniability. And hence, volunteer only.
Our Romulan ally, Commander Nurama, seems to have made quite a name for herself since we parted ways. Not only did she negotiate a peaceful resolution at the very first artefact we found, where Romulan and Federation ships were facing each other down, but she returned to Romulus to make the case for warmer relations between us. As such, she has aroused the anger of the Tal Shiar, the Romulan secret police. But by all accounts she has also tapped into a large minority in the Romulan Star Empire who feel the same as she.
The last we heard from her was a cry for help, and a request for asylum. We have to rescue her, for even if the time for change isn’t right now, she might be able to make it come sooner rather than later.
The last we heard of her was from Romulus itself. We need to get through the Neutral Zone undetected and find the Romulan Underground, a resistance movement that seeks peace with the Federation.
I, of course, volunteered and have undergone surgery to allow me to pass as either a Vulcan or Romulan, and am now Commander Umboto, a Romulan trader captain. Rekan volunteered too but didn’t need any such alteration. And both Resh and Torgh volunteered, but we can’t really change a Tellarite or a Klingon into a Romulan, at least not in five days.
We also have another volunteer: Captain Milo Wynter of the Poseidon’s Rift. In exchange for an amnesty on the criminal charges he and his crew would otherwise inevitably face, he has offered to help us navigate the Neutral Zone and introduce us to his nefarious Romulan contacts: they may be able to put us in touch with the Underground.
We commandeered his vessel too. It’s a battered but hardy old freighter with engines classified for Warp 8, but which can take us up to Warp 9.1 or 9.2 thanks to Resh’s rapid refit at Narendra. We weren’t able to do much with its weapons or shields, not without leaving way too big a UFP whiff all over the ship, but the confiscated Romulan light arms will come in handy. On my order Resh modified them too, to make sure the maximum power setting will disintegrate the target: if we get into a fight deep inside Romulan territory we cannot leave a trail of dead bodies behind us. We tested the weapons in Excelsior’s cargo bay, on a side of beef dressed in body armour – that chunk of steak didn’t know what hit it!
We had no time to spare, and within a week the Poseidon’s Rift and her crew of 18 volunteers was heading away from Narendra at Warp 9, her hold full of Federation food and drinks, and artefacts and keep-sakes for barter. I have left Excelsior in the (I hope) capable hands of Lieutenant Commander Banks, with orders to track our progress through Romulan space from the Federation side of the Neutral Zone, ready to respond should the situation warrant it.
It took two weeks to reach the galaxial eastern arm of the Neutral Zone. The farthest part of the Neutral Zone from Romulus Wynter assured us it was poorly monitored and easy to cross: and so it proved. Once in Romulan space we waited for Wynter’s usual criminal contacts to respond to his “I am here again” message. It didn’t take long for them to make contact, and it didn’t take long to swap some of our cargo for the information we wanted.
We headed for the Chaltok system, and a rendezvous with two members of the Underground who seemed as keen to see us as we were to see them. The two men we met, in the depths of an asteroid field, were both serving officers in the Romulan military: Centurion Ulduth and Sub-Centurion Karius. They were aware of Nurama and keen to see her rescued and exfiltrated out of the empire. They told us she had been arrested by the Tal Shiar and was now in custody on Iota Centauri V, a class H planet with a barely breathable atmosphere where the settlements are subterranean.
Iota Centauri is 60 light years from Chaltok across the ever-increasingly densely populated Romulan Empire. We have to fly even further, as we are charting a course that keeps us as far as possible from population centres and well-travelled space lanes. We are trading time for secrecy.
It didn’t work.
Not far from Psi Valorum, only a few light years from the Neutral Zone and halfway to Iota Centauri, we were hailed by a Romulan military patrol ship, an old style Romulan Bird Of Prey. Her commander, Captain Demak, questioned our unauthorised presence in this part of space. His ship, RIS Katarn, completely outgunned us, with our Disruptor Banks and light Torpedoes, and a crew complement of at least three times mine. We couldn’t afford to try and fight them, but couldn’t be boarded either: I had to deflect their attention. It didn’t work. We were ordered to stand to and prepare to be boarded.
While I was feigning a slightly frustrated compliance I gave four orders: Torgh was to activate a torpedo as a bomb; then as soon as their shields dropped Rekan would scan their ship and identify the location of the warp core, and transfer those co-ordinated to Resh; Resh would beam the torpedo to the Bird Of Prey’s warp core, then lock on and beam the Romulan boarding party straight back into space. It was a nuclear option, one I hoped would give us instant victory and leave no hope of survival for the crew of Katarn. It was terrible, but if this mission is to succeed we could not risk arrest, defeat or escape with knowledge of our existence.
The plan worked perfectly, and we didn’t detect any attempt to communicate from the Katarn, or a distress signal: they never knew what hit them and never had a chance. Perhaps one day, the crew of the RIS Katarn can be commemorated with the alliance, or at least the peace, between Romulus and the Federation, and their merciless deaths will not be for nothing.
But for now we press on, at maximum warp, as the debris of the Katarn – and her 80 crew – spreads out across empty space. Nurama had better be the great hope for peace between our civilisations that some think she is: many have already paid dearly for it…