Politics Makes Strange Bedfellows
Mission 0 - Leaving the Blue Marble
Location: Continuing Committee Chamber - New Romulus
Timeline: Day 4 - 1100 hrs
Sar'ena had never seen the chambers the current ones had replaced; but suspected they had been even grander than the current set. Or perhaps not: Perhaps the current ones, constructed within the last decade to replace those lost in the Hobus disaster, had been made even more imposing and elegant to convey a message in its aftermath. Given the intricacies of the space, she pitied the staff who were responsible for ensuring its security...Not that she didn't usually make at least a cursory sweep of it herself before any scheduled meeting. Old habits died hard, after all; and those who got sloppy enough to set them aside entirely tended to die as well. A good deal of the Senate and an only somewhat lamented succession of several less-than-effective praetors over the last eight years was doing their best--or worst--to prove that true, and she grimaced looking down at the spread of files of those currently in consideration to assume the post, then at the empty chair in the center of the long, curved table, then finally at the other seven seated members of the Committee. Most of them had expressions as unreadable through long practice as her own, but she knew several were - like herself - less than satisfied with the current candidates; and all of them were unsatisfied with the current state of affairs and political instability, and the dangers it posted to the Empire.
Loval had put his plans for the Orion on a temporary hold as he was recalled back for a Continuing Committee meeting. He looked at this as an opportunity. One where he could perhaps recruit other high ranking members of the government for his plan. The usurpers needed to be stopped. But in order to get that done a worthy Praetor needed to be placed in power. In order to get that done allies would be needed. Hence this meeting. He did a sweep of the committee room himself from space. The Tal Shiar always had ways of seeing where others thought no one saw. During his scan he noticed the one person that could be his greatest ally and most potent enemy all in one package. She is already there excellent. Nothing like being the last one to arrive, make everyone wait for you. he thought. When he was ready he beamed down to the surface and made his way to the chamber. "Jolan Tru everyone..." Loval said as he nonchalantly strode to his seat at one of the heads of the table. Traditionally the Director of the Tal Shiar sat at one head and the Director of the Tal Diann.
"Jolan Tru," Wraet responded with several others. Unlike either of the intel heads, he had arrived neither late nor early, but carefully timed to allow those who felt being first was an advantage to either gloat or grow anxious about their decision, and allow himself to be in place and quietly assessing the others when those who preferred the drama of a late entrance arrived. He may not have been groomed for the Senate, but he had picked up a few things from listening to conversations at home. The rest was perhaps inbred talent or simply that some of the lessons of running the family business interests translated well. Yet this was a different world, both in the literal sense of the planet and the situation. The instability from this rapid turn over of Praetors was something the Empire had not seen since the early days after Ruling Queen was deposed. He hoped they would find a way to back to the Empire of old, but not that far.
Sar'ena waited until the usual greetings and formalities were complete, then looked down the table - making sure to linger a telling amount of time on the empty center seat and the leader who should have been seated in it - before speaking.
"Once again we find ourselves faced with this task." she said in a biting recrimination, not of any present, but of the overall situation. "As with the previous instances--" she tapped the file of candidates in front of her, drawing anyone's attention to the similar files before them "--that we must do so in such rapid succession speaks to deeper issue to remedy." She paused before continuing, just the right amount of time to let the point sink it but not enough to garner interruptions. "Beginning with the selection of a new leader for the Empire." That she was underwhelmed by basically every candidate in the stack went unsaid; as did the fact that within those options, still, there were some, at least, she considered less damaging than others, if nothing else.
Loval listened to her speak and clenched his jaw as much as it left a bad taste in his mouth he had to agree with her. He glanced down at the candidate files as she spoke but these people just made him angrier. "I am forced to agree with my esteemed colleague. This will not do, the constant change in leadership leaves the Empire weak and open to anyone who wants to attempt to bring it down. In fact the only place that I disagree is when it comes to these candidates. None of them will do. If we put any of them in power we will be back here in weeks, possibly months. What we need is someone hard-lined internally but open externally." Loval rose as he spoke and glanced at each and every person sitting at the table.
Interesting... Wraet had been ready to begin by building consensus in pointing out the names that most clearly should eliminated - those who would indeed last barely a month since they had been put forward by political enemies fully expecting if they were elevated to the post their ascension would result in a swift and fatal exit. However Loval's bold move intrigued him. It was not that he disagreed honestly, but that he was certain the Tal Shiar Chief had some more subtle machination behind it. He wondered, given the preamble here, if this was a rare case of cooperation between Tal Diann and Tal Shiar, but there was as usual nothing to be read in the Tal Diann mistress's expression. He was tempted to wait as her response through debate, suggestion or silence would provide some clues there, but if this was pre-arranged it was likely another member had been primed for the desired response.
So, judging an opportunity, when Loval's gaze fell on him, Wraet lifted an eyebrow. "I assume you have someone in mind?"
Loval stood and smiled like the cat who ate the canary. Wraet hadn't known it but he gave Loval the opening that he needed. He raised an eyebrow at the man and took a deep breath, Loval chose his words very carefully before he spoke again. This had to work in order for his master plan to have any chance of success. "Yes in fact I do, and she is not on any of your lists. Of course she wouldn't be as she is better than any of those sycophants that are on the lists."
He tapped a few commands into the console in front of him and then lay his palm flat on the panel. "Release the contents of the Tal Shiar file named Praetor Teth'Ana to the members of the Continuing Committee only, authorization Loval rhi-hwi-kre-the-lliu." A file of data appeared on the consoles in front of every committee member. It began with a picture of a young Romulan female newly elected to the Senate. Of course what the committee members did not know is that the file they were looking at was only half of what Loval had on her. In fact the only other person in the room that knew the rest of the file was Sar'ena, and that was because her own people had dug up the same information. Loval could only hope that she arrived at the same conclusion as he. "Ladies and Gentlemen the future of the Romulan Star Empire Senator Teth'Ana" Loval leaned in onto the table for effect. He paused before going into his explanation to allow the members to read the file and ask the obligatory questions.
"The far future, perhaps." said one of the other members in a very dubious tone that suggested he was perhaps questioning - as far as he could get away with such - Loval's sanity. "She's barely 90 and has limited political experience." Several other voices echoed similar lines of thought; while a perfectly respectable age for a variety of other endeavors, the modern age had not seen a praetor who counted their age in only double digits (Shinzon's regrettable coup attempt nonwithstanding), and certainly not one with such a limited political portfolio, regardless.
Sar'ena, however, appeared thoughtful. "And yet these are not, as each of us here knows perhaps better than all others, normal times for the Empire. Perhaps it would behoove us to not so quickly disregard unusual options, in unusual times."
Sar'ena was in agreement or at least she seemed to be Loval thought, and that was something. He turned to to the member that had started the questioning. "No I speak of her becoming Praetor in the here and now. Allow me to address your concerns. In terms of her age, let's face it with the two back to back incidents that the Empire has gone through, it is young Empire. Having someone young means that we have someone for plenty of time. Time enough to mold them, to shape them. To your second point, as the file will show while she is new to the Senate she is descended from a long line of Senators. As we are all aware knowledge is passed down. Read it..." Loval delivered the last two words as he pointed to the file. "...I couldn't believe it myself when I read it. She is the next, best hope for a strong Romulus."
Wraet had scanned the document, considering what was before him - both in the report and playing out in the chamber. As far as the information on the screen, Teth'Ana represented a House nearly as prominent as his own, but came from a distaff line that had married into a ship-clan. Once that might have been a strike against her, but with the ship-clans newly ascendant by virtue of a greater population of survivors, it was in fact a factor in her favor. She had also previously been involved in managing the trade enterprises for her family, which gave her greater experience than most in dealing with those outside the Empire. And in the aftermath of Hobus she had used that experience to help organize relief for many refugees, which gave her a good name among the common people. All factors in her favor, but while she came from a senatorial line, she had been even further removed from the line of succession than he had, so Wraet did not share Loval's professed faith in knowledge being passed down.
As for the other side of what was before him...While Wraet had not interacted with Teth'Ana beyond the normal formalities in the brief time since she had arrived in the Senate, he had noted an intelligent woman from a distinguished family who was of roughly his own age. So, as with a few others in that category, he had done a bit more background research on her. Finding a new mate from among potential political allies was a time-honored approach, but one couldn't be too careful. He had seen nothing so far that would be disqualifying (though if she were elevated to Praetor that would certainly place her outside his consideration since he had no wish to appear an opportunist), but the Tal Shiar Chief putting her forward so enthusiastically struck him as a reason for concern in and of itself.
"I would certainly not count her age as disqualifying," Wraet responded with a wry smile. "But I am not as enamored of the idea of a 'youth Praetor', nor speaking as one of a similar age, do I think most younger Romulans hunger for inexperience. Not that she is completely so, but despite your professed faith in knowledge being passed down, you've said in nearly the same breath that she would need to be molded, shaped over time." He tipped his slightly to the side, measuring risk. "Given your unusual degree of enthusiasm, one cannot help but wonder what shape you expect her to bend into." Though left unsaid, he trusted every other member of the Committee had instantly added the thought 'and why'.
"Though, he admitted he plans such a tactic." said another member in a rather dry tone. "Which may somewhat cut into his plans to do so; unless he intends everyone to be a party to such."
"I expect her to bend to the shape that the Empire requires. The fact of the matter is we are all here to make sure that the Empire lives and lives longer than all of us in this room put together. In order to do that we may have to place our own political agendas aside for the time being and get a Praetor who will make the Empire their priority. Senator Teth'Ana is the next best hope for that goal. If you are sitting here telling me that your only reason for not supporting such a candidate as this is because I am supporting/suggesting her then I must ask you a question." Loval paused for a moment as he leaned forward on the table and looked across it at Sar'ena. "Do you have the best interests of the Empire in your mind? We all but agreed that right now the Empire needs the Federation as a smoke screen. A group who can assist us in rebuilding, and one we can get rid of when the time is right. In order to get that we need a Praetor who will fall in line with that concept. Teth'Ana IS that Praetor. I ask any of you to give me or anyone else here a reason other than it was I who suggested her as a reason that she should not be Praetor." Loval actually began to pace when he finished speaking as if to say I'll wait.
"If your primary case for her is that she makes a good outward face to present to the Federation, you might have just said so," Wraet replied, with a shirked eyebrow expressing a minimal shrug. He privately doubted that they had heard all of the reasons, or even the true ones, but he had to admit that in terms of setting things up to make that argument about patriotism and distrust of Tal Shiar motives, it was well-played ...except of course, that the Tal Shiar had no one to blame but themselves for the reputation that lead to such. "I'll admit she is a better choice that what's on this list, but casting a conveniently pliable and personable young Senator as our last best hope is a bit over dramatic. Especially if you're already planning to get rid of her once the Federation is no longer a necessary ally."
Loval snapped his fingers. "You see that is it I am not planning on getting rid of her once the Federation is gone. You see she either plays ball or she is out, there is no in between. Now is the time for us to no longer play games. She becomes Praetor she gets with the plan that we lay out or she is gone and we find someone else." The cards were falling into place, and Loval knew now that it was a matter of time before his choice would become Praetor. With Sar'ena and if he could solidify it Wraet on his side it would happen. Only one question remained, who long could he keep them on his side.
"Perhaps we should table this for the moment." Sar'ena said, looking down the table; allowing time for side conversations to occur between various parties outside of the meeting before raising the issue again or attempting to proceed further seemed most likely to her to lead to progress on a selection without also leading to the sort of regrettable breakdown of order that would have never happened in the pre-Hobus era; where she might worry blades would be drawn at the table. "We have a full agenda today, including the approval of..."
As she began to lay out the next items for discussion, however, the glances various members traded with one another and to the currently empty chair at the center of the long table made it clear that the issue was not for even a moment truly forgotten by any of them.
Director Tal Shiar, Romulan Star Empire
Continuing Committee Member, Romulan Star Empire
Continuing Committee Member, Romulan Star Empire