Sora couldn't sleep. Jedras slumbered next to her on their comfortable Federation mattress. She stared out of the window as the stars rushed by. She also knew that in just over twenty-four hours, they would be returned to the Cardassian State. She guessed that a Tal Shiar field agent at the embassy on Simperia would immediately debrief them and send them back to Romulus for further questioning. She had seen it before.
Once, during her youth, a freighter captain had drifted into Breen space. He was returned only to be paraded across the newsfeeds. He lambasted the cruel and backward nature of outsiders while publicly rejoicing at his return home to the Star Empire. She knew in her heart, that was exactly what she and Jedras would be forced to do. However, she also knew it would all have to be a lie. The Federation wasn't cruel or backward. They had been treated well, fed, clothed, and were even given the chance to salvage some of their data.
Sora sat up in the darkness and buried her head into her hands. Her life was just that: a lie, all of it. The hardships and intimidation she and everyone she knew had suffered were for nothing. The government claimed it was all necessary because of the threats posed by outsiders, however, it was only for the benefit of the nobles and the military they controlled.
She stepped out of bed and walked into the living room of the guest quarters. On the desk was a computer terminal. She pulled out a pair of headphones and turned the device on. A blue screen with a Federation seal appeared above the words:
Computer Access Terminal:
Guest Access Enabled
"Computer," she said softly enough not to wake Jedras. "Tell me about the United Federation of Planets."
Pictures appeared across the screen showing scenes from all corners of Federation space.
"The United Federation of Planets is an Interstellar Federal Republic located primarily in the Alpha Quadrant of the Milky Way Galaxy. It consists of 152 member worlds spread across over 8,000 light years of space. Its population is currently 3,212, 527,462, 543 sentient beings as of the last census in 2375. The capital planet is Earth. Each individual member world maintains sovereignty over internal domestic matters, but individual rights are codified by the Articles of Federation which supersede all local laws and regulations on all member worlds.
Once every four years, each member world elects a representative through universal suffrage to the Federation Council and also casts electoral votes for the office of President of the United Federation of Planets. The ten justices of the Federation Supreme Court are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Federation Council.
The Federation Council is primarily concerned with passing national legislation, negotiating interstellar agreements, and providing common defense through the Department of the Starfleet. The Federation President must approve all legislation passed by the Council, but may be overridden by a two thirds vote. The Federation President is also the Head of State as well as Command-In-Chief of the Starfleet. The Federation Supreme Court may override any legislation deemed to conflict with the rights guaranteed by the Articles of Federation.
Standard of living in the United Federation of Planets is classified as Extremely High on the Humanoid Development Index. Currency is abolished for domestic matters as it is unnecessary as a means of regulating domestic trade…"
"Pause," Sora said rubbing her eyes. "Computer, tell me about the Romulan Star Empire…"
"The Romulan Star Empire is a Constitutional Monarchy organized as a de facto oligarchy spanning the Beta Quadrant of the Milky Way Galaxy. It consists of an unknown number of subject worlds populated by a mix of local, conquered inhabitants and Romulan colonists. The territory of the Romulan Star Empire extends over 10,000 lightyears. Its exact population is currently unknown, but estimates state that upward of 950,000,000,000 sentient beings are non-Romulan subjects without full or equal protection under the law. The capital planet is Romulus. All other worlds in the Star Empire are subordinate to Romulus with varying degrees of freedom based on the numbers of Romulan colonists. There is no known system of legal protections for individuals.
Each jurisdiction of the Star Empire appoints a Senator to represent them at the national level through a nominal election, however, the validity of the elections remains suspect…"
Sora scoffed. Even the Federation computer was being too generous. A ballot presented to a commoner consisted of the name of a Senator with one block for "Yes" and one for "No." She never knew anyone who checked "No" and didn't disappear in the night.
"The leader of the Senate is known as the Proconsul and works in conjunction with the Praetor: an official appointed by the Senate for a life-term who acts with limited dictatorial powers as Chief Executive. The Head of State is the Empress who has no known function beyond a ceremonial role. There is no written law stating that Senators and the Praetor must be members of the Romulan species, but no known non-Romulans have ever been elected."
"And if they ever are, it will be the beginning of the end…" Sora mumbled.
"The Military and the Tal Shiar or "State Security Service" wield enormous authority within the Romulan Star Empire. Most labor consists of slaves conscripted from subject worlds. These factors lead to extreme levels of humanoid rights violations within Romulan territory…"
"Computer," Sora said leaning forward. "Clarify humanoid rights violations." Graphic pictures suddenly appeared on the screen. Sora covered her mouth with shock. Images showed legionnaires leading around captured aliens on long chains. Another picture showed a Romulan conducting a slave auction of Elohsians and Gralluscans in front of a crowd of well-dressed nobles. Finally, one showed a Romulan soldier holding a disruptor pistol to the head of a Gotannan child.
"The Interstellar Red Cross classifies the Romulan Star Empire as an extreme violator of humanoid rights. Non-Romulans have no legal standing within the framework of government and are often used as forced slave labor. Romulan citizens of common birth have limited recognized rights and are often subject to the unregulated rule of traditional noble families. The Empire exists under a stated policy of "Imperium ethh D'Deridexium Primus" which is translated as "Empire and Military Power First." This means that Imperial officials, noble families, and the military may confiscate any resources prior to distribution to commoners or non-Romulan inhabitants. Though no official data exists, the Intergalactic Red Cross believes that there may have been as many as four significant famines throughout the territory of the Star Empire within the past fifty Earth years resulting in over five hundred million deaths…"
Sora reached up and shut down the terminal. She knew in her gut that it was all true, but still didn't want to hear anymore…
Tigranian rolled over in his empty bed and threw off the klongat fur. He stared at the ceiling, desperate for sleep that wouldn't come. Suddenly, his communicator beeped. He looked over and saw the chronometer read "0347" hours. He reached out an arm and slammed it on the nightstand.
"This is Captain Tigranian, go ahead."
"Sir, it's Lieutenant Stone…" a very annoyed and sleepy voice sounded from the other end.
"What's up, Katie?"
"Sir, I'm really sorry to bother you, but she wouldn't wait till morning. She wants to talk to you right now."
"And who would that be, Lieutenant?"
"The Romulan woman, Sir…" Katie replied. "She's standing in my quarters down the corridor and wants to speak to you alone."
Tigranian sighed, stood up, and pulled a t-shirt off the floor.
"Send her over, Katie," he replied while throwing on the top and pair of shorts.
Less than a minute later, his door chimed. He walked over and parted the doors to reveal a very nervous looking Sora. The two security guards with her looked upset. Tigranian raised a hand to simultaneously let them know it was alright and to stay in the hall.
"Come in please," Tigranian said motioning for her to enter. "Forgive me, I wasn't expecting guests," he said sarcastically walking to the living room. She followed him inside without a word. "Have a seat," he said pointing to his couch. She sat down as he pulled up a chair from the dining room table. "How might I be of assistance, Doctor?" he said fighting back a yawn. "Obviously, it's very important if no one else on this entire ship could help."
She stared at him with a haggard and worried expression. He knew something real was going on.
"Jedras doesn't know I'm here," she began. "He's been sleeping this whole time."
"Ok," Tigranian said. "What's going on?"
"When we first arrived on board, you said we didn't have the full story about the Star Empire. Well, tonight I did some research, and I think you're right. Very shortly, you will return us to the Cardassian State, and then shortly after that, we will return to Romulus."
"Yes…" Tigranian said nodding his head nervously.
"When I go back, I want to help my people…by helping you."
Tigranian was speechless as he tried to comprehend what she was telling him.
"Jedras has no love for the government, but he would never actively oppose the Empire," Sora said rubbing her temples. "However, I can't stand by idly anymore while legionnaires commit atrocities in my name. I know you don't have any reason to trust me, but I want to be another voice telling the Federation what is going on behind the Neutral Zone."
Tigranian took a deep breath and stood up. He considered his next words carefully.
"If you're asking what I think you're asking," Tigranian began, "Starfleet Intelligence will need more than just what you see. You'll have to seek out things: specific information, names, documents, schematics…it will be extremely dangerous for you and everyone you know. Are you prepared for that?"
"If I wasn't," Sora said replacing a strand of frazzled, black hair behind her pointed ears, "I wouldn't be in your quarters right now."
"I'm not a spy. I'll have to speak with Starfleet Intelligence."
"I understand," she said.
"If they say 'yes,' that's the final word," he warned once more. "They'll be no going back. However, if you want to walk out of my quarters right now, I'll go back to bed and forget this conversation every happened."
"You may be able to forget, Captain," she replied. "But I'll never be able to forget those pictures I saw on your computer of what is going on beyond the view of the Romulan public. We're not bad people, Captain," she said finding resolve in her voice. "There are some of us who aren't willing to turn a blind eye to unnecessary suffering anymore. We want change. By helping the Federation, I can make that happen."
"Alright," he said reasonably convinced of her sincerity. "I'll make the call."
"Thank you," she said standing up. "I should get back to my quarters before Jedras realizes I'm gone." She turned to leave.
"Sora," Tigranian called after her. "I know most of you are good people," he said holding himself steady. "But show your fellow Romulans you can be more than just followers. Show them that they can put their country on the right path."
She nodded and headed back into the corridor.
The next evening, Laria nervously emerged from the turbolift onto the senior staff's quarter deck. She hadn't seen her husband all day. Katie had taken the morning meeting while Tigranian shuttered himself in his ready room with explicit orders to not be disturbed. She had no idea why. Then, two hours ago, he suddenly walked out of his office and disappeared off the bridge without a word.
With a deep breath, she opened the doors to her quarters and stepped inside. She was expecting to walk into another yelling match. What she found caused her to freeze in surprise.
The lights had been dimmed and flickering candles decorated the entire living room. The dining room had been set with a homemade dinner and a Bajoran kava cake sat in the middle of the table. As she walked closer, she saw the words, "I'M SORRY," clumsily written with red icing in Bajoran pictogryphs.
"Do you know how hard it is to write in Bajoran on a cake?" she heard from behind her. She spun around to see Tigranian standing in the doorway to the bedroom. His uniform jacket was unzipped and splattered in white and red fondant. A smile crept across Laria's face.
"It's the thought that counts…" she said quietly.
"The thought is real, L," he said cautiously stepping towards her. "I am sorry. Just because we have to be captain and lieutenant on the bridge, doesn't mean we have to be when we're alone. You were trying to tell me something. I refused to listen."
She held up her arms and gestured for him to come to her. He walked forward into her embrace.
"No," she said resting her head on his shoulder. "You were the one trying to tell me something and I was the one who wouldn't hear it. Just be glad that Alex and Annabeth are better friends than we thought."
"I suspected they were pretty good friends. I mean, they let us have a child with them. How did last night go by the way?"
"I'll put it like this, if you want to have a kid, you get to change the diapers."
It was his turn to laugh.
She turned to look at the table.
"You made hasparat?" she said. "You must have really thought you were in trouble."
"I know it's your favorite," he replied.
"My mother's is my favorite," Laria said looking at him, "but yours is a close second."
"I'll take that," Tigranian replied looking into her eyes. "You know, I'm so thankful that I'm married to you."
Laria stared back into his loving gaze.
"Me too," she said.
They leaned forward into a wonderful kiss.