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Com Ivanova, Praetor Vrith Tr'Bak | "Where Stars Were For Shining" pt 5

Posted on 242002.02 @ 18:20 by Commodore Rochelle Ivanova & Vrith Tr'Bak

Mission: Genesis

In the hours and days that passed since that first time she woke up since the crash, Rochelle’s sharp mind had been given over to increasing periods of ever more despondent self-reflection. The despondency of those reflections had never been as dark as the day the Federation laid the thought of her to rest.

Tr’Bak had brought her a PADD once she’d indicated that she had interest in seeing the proceedings. Morbid, really, but suiting. Not everyone had a chance to see how those they loved and fought for would react to their death. In San Francisco, the crowds were both weeping and cheering. Cheering for her as if she had achieved feets of greatness during her time serving Starfleet. For them, the day was a celebration of her life. She, however, was distinctly unable to feel the same level of emotion. If anything, she felt the funeral was overdone and just another great publicity stunt generated by the alleged loss of a ‘beloved flag officer’. Ravsson had seen to it that her memory suited his purpose and the sheep appeared to readily follow their corrupt shepherd.

How could she think any different when she knew more than anyone else what the past thirty-three years had truly been like? How little she felt she had achieved? The throngs of mourners may not have seen it, or felt it, but Rochelle most certainly did. The truth for her was far from glorious, a long way from triumphant. Indeed, there was nothing to celebrate for her when it came right down to it. Forget the Vindicator, her ‘death’ left Landon and Javaan alone.

But… She had to continue on. She had no choice. And she had to do this... alone.

Ah yes, alone… There was that word again. It seemed that being at the top was always a lonely position. More than anything, she wished it wasn’t so, but it was and there was nothing a single soul could have done about it. She had her crew, she had her friends, lovers even… But still the title and the seat it came with was not meant for sharing no matter how she’d tried out of sheer guilt of what had happened to Landon. The truth of the matter was simple. That weight of responsibility was meant to be held with single authoritarian power and final unapologetic say. There were no true checks. No true balances. It took as much as it gave, and wore thin relationships that seemed destined to be titanium clad. The only chance to stop it was just that… To stop it. To step away and live a civilian life far away from the thresholds of militaristic living. Truth be told, she knew she wouldn’t stop. That life, that power, it had practically been encrypted into her DNA at conception. She’d endure, much the same as she had for the entirety of her life. To put it plainly as Andrea once had; We must always endure.

Yet still… The question begged to be asked; in the time she’d been on the proverbial throne, what had she actually achieved? It was a question that she’d been asking herself an awful lot as of late and still hadn’t yet found a satisfactory answer. Maybe there was no answer.

The Federation had been ‘great’ when first she emerged as a young XO. Her father, Gods love him, had pulled the great organization of worlds and people through upheaval and strife by doing a job that he never wanted to do. By the time she’d become a CO, he had yet again tugged the Federation through almost insurmountable strife in order to be sure that they remained great. All that had happened since was a constant and agonizing decaying of the structure that had been left behind and she had watched as it all fell apart.

The people lining the streets of San Francisco couldn’t see it, but Rochelle could. Blyx had once said It has only fallen apart if we say it has, but Blyx was so very wrong. It may have been the job of the Federation and Starfleet’s illustrious flag officers to offer hope to the masses in times of trouble, to offer the people a light in the darkness, so to speak - but it was a foolish thing to deny the truth when confronting it. She knew the truth.

When first the proverbial crown of command had been placed upon her noble skull some nearly thirteen years ago, she’d had high hopes. Back then, she’d had dear Andrea to guide her and the experienced Captain’s sound mind and iron will supported her when she had very little hope of being much more than a strong willed and rebellious loose cannon of an officer. Rochelle had clung to her lessons and strength much like a child would cling to their mother just learning the role she had been thrust into - but thanks to dear old Andrea, she managed to learn the skills needed to bear the same burden Andrea had. A burden she believed she had been most unsuited to and yet had been born and destined for.

Then came the tragedy of Starbase Whydah and the resulting death of the once proud Griffin. Andrea’s well earned pseudo-retirement back to the halls of the academy as a professor.

From there, everything was a blur filled with personal romance, personal loss, endless battles and wars won, a civil war, revolution… But that image of the Federation was now crumbling from within and scattered all about her feet and there wasn’t a thing she could do but watch as no one was there to maintain control of it simply because no one had seen the writing on the wall… Until now.

Until the bloody Praetor of the Romulan Star Empire had come and laid it out in black and white.

Her career. Her family. Both seemed to be falling apart and she now needed to find some way of keeping them both together. It was imperative that she held everything together. As Andrea had told her more than once, holding things together was her job. It would force her to paper over the cracks and as with everything else, Andrea had been right. It had most definitely come to papering over the proverbial cracks and the only thing she could hope for was that in doing so she would somehow succeed in sealing those cracks as she went along, healing great rifts and assisting in creating the brighter future of which the Federation had promised. It was and would be a difficult task to achieve and part of her sincerely doubted it could be accomplished.

It had to be accomplished and the only hope she had left to cling to was the sentiment that It was always darkest before dawn.

The PADD’s life flickered and died at her prompt for it to turn off. It then slowly came to lay face down in her lap, all but forgotten.Yet unlike the screen, its holder was still full of life and refusing to be tempered by someone bent on extinguishing her. Her face still bore the symptoms of her introspection. Questions remained written across it, some of which had dimmed some of the light that lay harnessed within her eyes.

Tr’Bak, for what it was worth, had expected it to come to pass. The reality of mortality often ignited such thoughts and values. Instead of having her life pass before her eyes in an instant, she’d been given time to think and reminisce for days. For that, he held no envy. None. Not even an iota. He looked up, studying her as she idly chewed the side of one of her thumbs as she remained lost in ambient thought.

“You’re staring.”

Her voice broke the fire-warmed silence, and he nodded, “I am.”

“Why now? Plotting something new?” Her hand dropped and her eyes found his. The light returned to them, hard and cold and so full of mistrust and disdain.

His head shook and a smirk slowly spread across his mouth, “So like you to make such a presumption, but no.” He sighed, settling into his seat by the fire, poking at the embers with a metal stick. “I’m not plotting something new. I was actually thinking about how much envy I truly lack for your position right now or the one you will be in when we get you back to the world of the living.”

At this, the Phoenix tilted her head and narrowed her eyes, gazing at him in a most suspicious and quizzical of fashions. “You make little to no sense to me.”

“What’s so hard to understand, Commodore?” His breath came in a heady, almost exasperated chuckle. The poking stopped, the fun of it gone just as quickly as it had come. No longer was it needed as a way to pass the time spent in silence - she had risen once again to challenge him and he was there to meet it head on. As usual. It had become the norm between them.

The frustrating, infuriating but reasonable norm. Anything more, anything less, wouldn’t have been fitting at all.

Rochelle snorted softly, as if the answer was so incredibly obvious and he was mad for not already knowing it. He was a horrible creature, ruthless and rash. She knew him and what she knew was in no way kind or anything but manipulative and cruel. None of his actions made any sense now, it was as if she were living in a fogged up sham version of reality and it had only added to her greater sense of melancholy, frustration, and anger. “I know you, Vrith Tr’Bak, I know how you think, what you feel, and your general modus operandi. None of this fits the bill.”

The smirk grew broader yet and he ran his fingers through his hair before he spoke, “You mean you know that I am Rhiannsu.”

“That has nothing to do with it.” She bolstered in response, stiffening through her shoulders at the thinly veiled accusation appointed within his statement.

“It most certainly does, Commodore.” He pressed onward, once more tending to the fire. He spoke with a light air that couldn’t help but be branded as both arrogant and haughty, “To you we are nothing more than bloodthirsty and treacherous savages that lack the so-called civilization and feel good you typically associate with humanity and the rest of your pious Federation anointed races.”

A loud pop from one of the logs silenced them both momentarily and he looked for evidence that an ember may have made it onto the wood floor. It would have been an impressive feat, improbable, but impressive and dangerous all the while - not unlike the woman he bantered with.

He wouldn’t burn twice.

“You are human, so imperfect, so volatile, so sickly. Like a pestilence you spread and expand, reaching new heights and building off the ruins of your brethren. You yearn for freedom but internal conflict is your forte.” Tr’Bak continued, turning his face from the fire to look upon her. Backlit by a window’s wintry light and caught the fire’s amber glow, she was so very alive and so very vibrant. Though hidden by the shadows cast by her cascading hair, he could see her arctic eyes flashing brightly with every flicker of flame and thought alike, “So… Beautiful, so fragile, yet you flex to conform to new and even bleak situations. You thrive under stress and though imperfect individually, and even in groups, you manage to create new horizons and the means to conquer and explore new frontiers.” He shrugged, letting the iron in his hand lay prostrate against his knee as he spoke.

“Like it or not, the truth is that Humans and Romulans are two sides of the same coin, Commodore, rinse and repeat with the El-Aurians, the Klingons, the Stenellis, Vulcans, Andorians, Cardassians and so on.” The corners of his mouth curled upwards, “When our progress is stalled, we remove the issue. Any impurity must be removed for the sake of unity and forward motion… Your own Commodore Ravnsson meant to excise you like a cancer from his path the same way he plans to cut away anything else that stands in his way, and he’s supposed to be a member of a most enlightened race. So enlightened that even the Q fear them.”

Rochelle’s jaw lifted a fraction of a degree against the notion that they could ever be on the same page in any regard. It was an elitist response, she recognized, the sudden swell of ego and injured pride. The welling of caustic emotion in her chest that immediately wanted to shout ‘you’re wrong!’ even though she intrinsically realized and knew that he was right.

All throughout human history there were a litany of examples that proved his point when stood up side by side with the goings-on of every race he allowed to smoothly pass over his tongue. They were all imperious. They were all prone to violence, bloodshed, and corruption. Wars had been fought, lines had been drawn, and an ‘us vs them’ mentality had often been fostered. Even she was guilty of it during her time being held as a sword for the Federation.

One man’s terrorist is another man’s hero, Rochelle. The good guy and the bad guy are defined very differently depending on what side you’re on. It’s all relative and it’s all trivial. Archer’s words chose then to haunt her, driving home their still valid point. They were a chilly reminder that even now they were forever embroiled in that chaotic song and dance routine and picking sides. Us vs Them.

“And what makes what you want and what you do so different to Ravnsson’s actions?” She countered cooly, casually watching the Romulan Praetor’s every move. He was surprisingly calm and stoic, so comfortable even now that he undoubtedly knew she had recovered enough to kill him if she so chose. His was a unique brand of arrogance - or hope - that she’d remain anything but hostile. “Why go through all this trouble when you could easily just launch an attack while the Federation is weakened and not expecting it?” Her movement to a new roost, one further away from the silvery light of the window, stole from her the halo of ice and saw her stealing the shadows he normally lurked in.

Feeling the pressure of her abstract nearness, a patient olive hand came up to cup and stroke Tr’Bak’s mouth and chin and for a moment his eyes flashed to some thought far away until at last he scowled and shook his head. “Because that’s not what I do. At all.”

A second later, his eyes had found the light of hers once more, “The difference between what it is that I want and what it is that Ravnsson wants is that he wants to break the Federation down and force them to eat from the palm of his hand as some sort of second coming of the Terran Jesus Christ and then force them to fight their foes for supremacy. There’s extreme xenophobia to be found there, specifically against the Klingons.” His candid and almost rushed voice paused as he realized the uptick of his own blood pressure as he spoke, “I simply want to unite the entire galaxy under one strong rule and I am not afraid to die trying to obtain it and I will not steal it by sneaking through the back door like some common street cur trying to catch a free matinee at the theatre.” The Romulan’s hands slapped against his thighs and he pushed himself up to stand by bracing against them. Almost as an afterthought, the fireplace poker was caught by his hand before it could fall and gently set against the stone hearth.

She watched him as he rose and took her previous roost by the window, an eyebrow flicking high as she regarded him and his words with a mix of surprise and interest. It wasn’t the answer she had been anticipating in the slightest. Vrith Tr’Bak wasn’t supposed to possess a shred of dignity nor honor… And yet there he was, lauding such things that seemed so abject and diametrically opposed to the behavioral patterns she had readily stamped and identified as his personality markers. Twilight zone indeed.

Her silence and lack of quick, witty, vitriol filled response was, in a word, unsettling. It made the skin over his spine tingle and the fine baby hairs on the back of his neck stand nearly on end, prompting him to speak and elaborate, “And so, as I told you when you first woke up after the crash, I restore you, Commodore, because you do not deserve to be snuffed out by someone who doesn’t have the fortitude to come for you face to face and because the Federation cannot be taken and overturned by someone who is too cowardly to be forthright with their plans and works by distributing snake oil to the people. It’s a matter of… Scruples.”

“Captain Landon Neyes. Where were your scruples then?” She countered, crossing her coltish legs and sliding her hands along the wooden arms of her chair. It felt more than good to have him up against a wall without having to even touch him.

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To Be Continued...
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Commodore Rochelle Ivanova
Commanding Officer
USS VINDICATOR, NX-78213

Vrith Tr'Bak
Praetor
Romulan Star Empire

 

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