Stardate 75847.1; November 06, 2398
Edited by Peter Bossley
Written by Chris Adamek
Commander Stephanie Kerrigan
President Ghodan Makar
Cadet Patrick McCormick
Admiral Alexis O’Connor
Lieutenant Jayla Trinn
The hour was late.
Praetor Tomalak knew not how many hours had elapsed since the daylight surrendered to darkness. As he lay in his bed, peering into the abyss, it certainly felt like an entire eternity had passed—but that was little more than fantastical posturing. The more analytical portion of Tomalak’s mind knew that no more than three or four hours had passed—and as long as those analytical thoughts raced through his mind, Tomalak knew that sleep would continue to elude him.
He wearily closed his eyes and focused all his mental energies on darkness before him. There was nothing to be seen; nothing to be heard; nothing to be analyzed. There was nothing but shadow and dark, welcoming him into a restful slumber.
Relaxed as he was, Tomalak found his eyes—in utter defiance of his very soul—eager to open up. On this long night, they were not willing accept sleep as a valid activity. Tomalak realized he could force the issue; there were more than likely a few mild sedatives somewhere around his home… and if not, this bout of insomnia was nothing a decent cup of vala juice couldn’t cure.
Slowly, Tomalak sat up in his bed to ponder his next course of action. The computer, detecting the movement, brought a few dim lights online—mainly candles—providing the Praetor with just enough illumination to scurry to the kitchen for a cup of juice—or perhaps to realize the true extent of his quagmire.
In the past, when faced with a difficult decision, Tomalak would confer with his mate; he would share all the burdens hanging over his head, and together, they would come to an acceptable decision. But as the gentle illumination fell upon his pillow, Tomalak duly noted that he was alone. There was so much on his mind—it felt as if the weight of the Romulan Empire was on his shoulders—but there was nobody there to share in Tomalak’s burden. Soon, he feared, his strength just might falter…
And suddenly, the computer on Tomalak’s desk chirped a few cold tones. He immediately realized someone was contacting him—but who would dare bother the Praetor at this late hour? There was only one way to find out.
Tomalak rose from his bed, slipped into the silky gray robe draped over his desk, and then tapped a short sequence of commands into the computer. The Romulan Empire’s emblem flitted briefly across the screen before his newly installed communication system projected an image of Commander Jerras at the foot of his bed.
“Praetor,” she said, tugging gently at her uniform, “forgive the intrusion.”
“Oh, it is hardly an inconvenience, Jerras.” Tomalak smiled faintly. The sight of Jerras in his bedroom was more than a little awkward—and watching her effortlessly stroll through some of his furniture was even more disorienting. Whatever happened to the days of simple viewscreens? Tomalak supposed those days faded right along with the simple existence of the Romulan Empire. “I assume you have news?”
Jerras nodded sternly, and for the briefest of moments, her gaze locked with Tomalak’s—and in that instant, her placid silver eyes betrayed every shred of discipline in her petite body—something was wrong. She swallowed hard. “Federation forces just broke through our defense perimeter near the Trìkkala Pulsar.”
In that instant, a flood of questions stormed through Tomalak’s racing mind. He very quickly sorted through the more pertinent ones before suddenly hearing himself ask, “How many dead?”
Jerras frowned. “At least three thousand,” she solemnly replied. “Thankfully, early reports indicate there are likely thousands of survivors—they have probably been taken captive by the Federation, but at least they are safe.”
If Tomalak had become aware of one thing in recent weeks, it was that safe was a relative term. “None of us are truly safe,” he whispered. “What of the Federation fleet?”
“Six hundred nineteen Federation starships are presently en route to Talon IV,” gleaned Jerras from some unseen computer terminal. “They outnumber us nearly six to one.”
Tomalak shuddered at the news. Even with the help of the Tholians, there was no way the Romulans could ever hope to overpower a fleet of that size. Surrender was certainly a viable option; it would save countless lives on both sides of the conflict—but would mean the end of the Romulan Star Empire. “How much time do we have to prepare?”
“At least two days,” said Jerras.
Tomalak was surprised. Even at moderate warp speeds, the Trìkkala Pulsar was barely six hours from Talon IV. “Why the delay?”
“Our intelligence reports indicate the Federation fleet is regrouping. The fleet sustained moderate damage during the battle. Our fallen comrades may have bought us some time.”
“The question is,” continued Tomalak, “will it be enough?”
Jerras considered the question for a long moment. There were undoubtedly a few decent plans churning in her mind, but when her lips parted to deliver her response, her image froze—and then flickered away. Tomalak immediately glanced back at his computer screen for an explanation, but much to his chagrin, it was blank. He frowned. “A standard communication system would have sufficed,” he mused. He tapped at the controls, hoping to reestablish the connection with Jerras—but the darkness prevailed.
Suddenly, glint of azure light caught Tomalak’s eye. He glanced up from his work and peered out the open window, his eyes grazing the starry night just in time to see a great arc of dazzling blue energy shatter the placid night. As the energy field roared overhead, everything seemed to tremor…
The desk wiggled, the computer rattled, the elegant curtains wavered in the night. Outside, Tomalak could hear the constant rustling of trees and leaves. It felt like a mild earthquake, gradually shaking every rational thought from Tomalak’s mind until nothing was left but the nervous ball of fear gnawing at his stomach.
But then, just as quickly as it started, the shaking stopped—and cold, ominous wind floated into Tomalak’s candlelit bedroom. The bitter breeze gently wrapped itself around the Praetor’s body, embracing him like a lover—but whispering poison into his ears. A chill crawled down his spine, and he quickly moved to close the window and shield himself from the breeze, but a sudden gust—the electrical storm’s last wicked gasp— extinguished every last candle in the room, leaving Tomalak in utter darkness.
The hour was late, he realized, and from this long night, there would be no morning’s dawn…