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Not My First Choice

Posted on Thu Nov 16th, 2023 @ 9:02pm by S'Ranya & Praetrix Donatra

Mission: Episode 3: Conflicts of Interest
Timeline: Mission Day 1 at 0000

[Romulan Hall of State]
[A Few Days Ago...]

The Romulan sun was barely over the horizon when S'Ranya stepped out of her vehicle, having arrived at the Hall of State ahead of her meeting with the Praetor. It wasn't everyday that one was summoned by the seated leader of the Romulan Star Empire, and so S'Ranya wanted to be prompt. One had to respect the authority and ceremony of the office of Praetor, even if the person in the role was undeserving of that respect.

The Atrium was filled all manner of government bureaucrats starting their day. The sounds of low conversation met S'Ranya's ear as she approached the security desk. "Step into the scanner." Ordered the guard seated at the desk.

S'Ranya complied. The soft click of her heels echoing throughout the atrium.It only took a moment for the scans to happen and she was waved through by the guard. She was approached by a rather official looking, yet pleasantly plump, Romulan man. His hair was greyed and receding. He had the distinctive features of a Northerner. "Jolan tru, Ambassador. If you would follow me."

'Does he truly believe that I do not know the way?' S'Ranya thought. She kept pace with the man, her eyes focused forward.They came to the end of a long corridor and the man gestured to the Ambassador to sit.

"Praetrix Donatra will be with you momentarily." He said. Without looking at her, he turned and left. His footsteps echoed in the empty corridor.

Near S'Ranya's sitting place was a door leading into the Praetrix's small-but-private study, two armed guards stationed at either side of the portal. Donatra was known for taking meetings there rather than the ceremonial hall her forebear enjoyed. Unlike Praetor Hiren, this Head of State came from a military background and was much less fixated on the pomp-and-circumstance of the role. His insistence on ceremony and the accoutrements of State were more about feeding his own ego than benefitting his Empire. It was just one of the reasons Donatra had collaborated with Shinzon to replace Hiren.

But, of course, that coup had gone entirely sideways on her and Donatra had had to help quell the impacts her own mistaken machinations. It'd been a learning experience of the extreme but she'd taken her lesson well. And as a boots-on-the-ground style leader, Donatra had little time for or interest in pompous grandeur. Thus S'Ranya had not been summoned to the throne-laden main hall but, instead, the private office. Perhaps unexpectedly, however, there came no signal for the ambassador to enter the study. Instead, a cadre-in-miniature of security personnel exited the room, preceding and tailing the Praetrix as she slipped into the hallway to join S'Ranya.

"Jolan tru, Ambassador. Walk with me," came Donatra's half-order, half-invitation. Bedecked in utilitarian garb rather than something more formal, the Praetrix looked down at the sitting S'Ranya with a mixture of severity and calculation.

S'Ranya stood and smoothed any wrinkle that may have formed in her outfit with her delicate hands.The Ambassador had served under numerous Praetors, Donatra was an enigma among them. The Praetrix scoffed at the ceremony and grandeur that was a pillar of the Empire's elite since before living memory. Still, the authority that Donatra commanded was somewhat enviable.

Falling in line with the pace of the much younger Praetrix, S'Ranya made a note of the guards positions. "I must admit my surprise at being summoned here." S'Ranya conceded, keeping her eyes straight now and not looking at Donatra.

"It is regrettable that my hand was forced in doing so," Donatra replied, also not deigning to look at the elderly woman at her side. Whether it was the situation or S'Ranya herself that was regrettable went, for the moment, unsaid. The Praetrix continued forward, talking as she walked. "As you are aware, our new Federation embassy was bombed upon its official opening and Ambassador Tiveren," she named the head of the contingent assigned to Earth, "was slain. Ambassador R'kul has been attempting to look after our interests there but recent weeks have proven him...less than effective." Donatra turned a corner then, leading them down yet another hallway. The guards repositioned themselves around and ahead as needed to ensure her safe traversal.

"Put succinctly," the Praetrix continued, "I want you to take charge of the embassy. You will leave in the morning for Earth. The Grindore will ferry you there. Sub Commander Paltek will see to your timely arrival. R'kul is already aware that he is being replaced." Donatra fell silent then, giving S'Ranya time to absorb this perhaps surprising news. "You should know that I'd originally given this assignment to Tiveren over you. But now it seems I've no one more qualified to take his vacant posting." The last was added with a terse note of lament as the Praetrix came to a stop and, for the first time since setting out from the study, faced the Ambassador.

"You may retain R'kul if you wish," Donatra explained, "though beyond bringing you up to speed on the events there, I see little use for him personally. His reports are lengthly but say almost nothing," the Praetrix chided derisively. She handed over a display device then, nodding to it as an indicator that it contained said reports. "You may also take any additional staff you require to replace the seven we lost in the blast. My understanding is that the damage to the property has been repaired and those responsible apprehended. But," she held up a forefinger, "I believe there is more to this than Starfleet or the Federation are either willing to admit or capable of uncovering."

It took a beat for S'Ranya to sort through all of the information that was thrown at her during the short walk. She pursed her lips, "I am appreciative of your confidence in this." She faced Donatra. "I am, of course, ever a servant to the Empire." She did not bow as would be customary. "I do, of course, accept. But I want to ensure we have an understanding. I must be given the latitude to run the Embassy in my way."

The lack of a bow was noticed though went uncommented on for the moment. "Of course you are," Donatra replied haughtily. "Ever a dutiful daughter of the Empire. I expected no less," the Praetrix commented dryly. At S'Ranya's mention of running the embassy her way, the head of state's eyes narrowed almost imperceptibly. She realized then her mistake. In revealing that S'Ranya was her only choice in this matter, the Praetrix had ceded some of her power and authority over the situation. Clearly, the Ambassador was under the impression she could use this to her advantage.

"You will operate for the greater aims of the Empire, as dictated by me," Donatra said cooly, rising to her full height. "However, I have little time and little interest in holding your hand through every bit of day-to-day minutia. You may see to operations as you wish, assuming you meet the goals set out for you and our presence on Earth. Should I find that your way subverts the Empire's agenda in any fashion, however, you shall be recalled in shame and another sent in your place -- qualifications be damned. Is our understanding as clear as you would like?" the Praetrix asked sweetly, a dare to defy her infusing her tone and expression.

The ambassador did not answer. She didn't nod her head.Once again S'Ranya pursed her lips. "I shall make the necessary preparations to be aboard the Grindore before departure." She began to search her mind for references to Sub Commander Paltek, whom Donatra had indicated would command the vessel. She couldn't recall any information. She mad a mental note to search for his service record as soon as she left the Hall of State. "Should I expect a dossier on the who's who on Earth to go over while en route?"

It was the Praetrix's turn to purse her lips. Her eyes flicked to the display device she'd handed S'Ranya only a few moments prior before fixating, again, on the ambassador. "R'kul's reports contain detailed profiles on the major players. His estimation of transpiring events is sub-par, at best, but," Donatra shrugged ever so lightly, "his read on people is slightly more useful. You will find some very helpful information contained within," she said, gesturing to the PADD.

"I would begin your self-education with the dossiers on Federation President Najale Patel and the Starfleet Commander-in-Chief, Fleet Admiral Sturnack. From there," the Praetrix continued, "I'm sure you will figure out who is worth the time to read up on or not. Your way, of course," she called back to S'Ranya's earlier comment, her tone only slightly edged with steel. "I will expect your first report within two days of arrival. Jolan tru, Ambassador," Donatra nodded, the audience clearly over.

Entourage in tow, the Praetrix hastened her steps, leaving S'Ranya behind with a PADD full of information and her own thoughts.

S'Ranya raised an eyebrow and let out a small chuckle as the group left her standing in the corridor. With the PADD securely in hand, the older Romulan woman turned back the way they'd come and started the route back towards the Atrium. She passed by the same plump man who had escorted her when she had arrived , he nodded to her professionally as she made her way out of the government building.

She descended the steps from the Hall of State towards her waiting vehicle. Waiting next to the door was her driver, a relatively young man, at least compared to S'Ranya herself. He opened the door on her approach. "Home, Derin." The man nodded.

=/\= A joint post by... =/\=

Praetrix Donatra (NPC'd by Brad)
Leader, Romulan Star Empire


Ambassador S'Ranya
Head, Romulan Embassy (Earth)


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