Praetor's Villa: Romulus
Neral's personal guards now had two purposes. Not only were they duty bound to prevent enemies from reaching the praetor, but they were also under strict orders from the Continuing Committee to ensure that he did not leave his villa without Senator Semach's permission.
The large wooden doors to Neral's bedchambers opened and the acting proconsul walked in as if he owned it. Booming strains of organ music echoed off the marble walls. A lone figure sitting in a wooden chair rested his chin on his right fist as he stared out the windows. The leader of the Romulan Empire had dispensed with shaving all together and his full, black beard extended almost to the front of his robes.
"Computer, eliminate music," Semachs said as he walked up behind Neral. The crushing silence that followed highlighted the tense nature of this meeting. "Why haven't you signed the appointment proclamation?" Semachs said angrily.
"You have the true leader of the Empire dragged from the Senate building like a dog, kept secluded like a prisoner, and now you dare to speak to him in that tone?" Neral said, not turning around.
"We keep you here in your appointed quarters, no comfort is denied you. However, if you continue to be this foolish and obstinate, that can easily change."
"How dare you?" Neral said leaping to his feet and facing the Senator, his eyes burning with rage.
"How dare I?" Semachs spat back at him. "How dare I? It was YOUR gross incompetence that brought the Empire to the edge of the abyss. At the end of the war, we were poised to reclaim our rightful place at the head of the galaxy, but in the past two years you have squandered everything into ruin. The death of Vrnealious was only the final straw after a long line of unforgivable blunders.
It was your little, blonde harlotthat forced us into this mess. It was her greed that resulted in her and most of the senior members of the Senate being killed on Dacen. It was her stupidity that caused the slave uprising that has crippled our borders and our resources, and it was the stupid, spoon headed creature she found slithering in the backwaters of Cardassia that has brought us to the verge of war! Even the hellish demons on Remus are starting to believe that they can challenge us. Their leader, Shinzon, is proposing that they should be given a seat on the Senate!
And you, you pathetic, foolish man…because you were blinded by Selonia's whorish face, perky tits, and forked tongue, it is all YOUR fault. You placed your prick before the country and we all are paying the price."
Neral roared and lunged forward with a balled fist. Semachs easily side-stepped his assault and slugged him in the stomach. Neral collapsed to the floor as the praetorians from the corridor rushed in.
"Do not fear," Semachs said turning to them. "The praetor is quite ill. He merely lost his balance and fell, but I will attend to him. Now, leave us."
"KILL HIM! IN THE NAME OF THE EMPIRE, KILL HIM!" Neral shouted holding his bruised gut.
The guards froze, unsure of what to do.
"I said…leave us," Semachs repeated more forcefully. The praetorians finally saluted and slowly departed.
"Oh gods," Neral said on the verge of tears as he crawled back to his chair. "Why have you forsaken me?"
"The gods haven't forsaken you, Neral," Semachs said rubbing his bruised knuckles, "You forsook yourself. Attempt to harm me again, and I will personally throw you out those windows onto the rocks below. With your recent behavior, a suicide would be quite believable."
Neral pulled himself back into his chair.
"Now," Semachs continued, "the reason I made this terrible trip. Sign the appointment proclamation so that I may officially assume the role of proconsul. The Empire needs a leader and it will not be you."
"You ask that I name a serpent such as you proconsul? You merely want me to declare you my heir apparent so I can be the next victim in your lust for power."
"You think I desire to be praetor?" he said walking over to Neral and leaning in the praetor's face. "I would never debase myself for such a useless position." He began pacing back and forth. The setting sun over the Apnex Sea framed the Senator in brilliant light.
"We falsely claim that we are an empire, but we are a republic in all but name. Our priests say to the masses that the imperial family are living deities: descended from the ancient raptor gods that flew down from Mount Selaya and took Romuloid form to save our ancestors from Surak's heresy, but it is merely a myth meant to placate fools.
You and I both know that those incestuous lechers have been fucking their siblings for so long that the empress has the mind of a child and pisses herself at least once a week. How divine…" he said rolling his eyes sarcastically.
"No, the real power of the state lies with the Senate and the People of Romulus." He leaned forward to spit his words directly into Neral's face. "The Senate and the People of Romulus…The praetor is merely an instrument to execute the Senate's will. The next fool who we deem worthy of taking the Praetor's Fasces will understand that from the beginning, but you will learn that now or suffer a fate worse than you can imagine.
Now, if you wish to continue living this cloistered, yet comfortable life," Semachs continued as he pulled a piece of parchment and fountain pen from his robes, "you will sign this. Or, I can hasten your demise and help you shuffle off this filthy mortal coil right now. The choice is yours…My Lord."
A look of utter despair and hopelessness crossed Neral's face. Senator Semachs relished every moment. Without an alternative that would allow him to continue living, the praetor reached up with a trembling hand and signed the document officially making Semachs the new Imperial Proconsul.
"Good," Semachs said straightening his back. "Now, go back to rotting away to oblivion. I have a nation to save."
Semachs walked away without another word, leaving Neral quivering at the heart of his palace prison.