Promotion by Merit

Xerian VI, Romulan Advanced Agricultural Colony World, Twelve Years Prior.

”I should have remembered you’re usually early for your appointments, my apologies, uhlan.” The subcommander’s voice was almost pleasant, the impression doing little to negate the aimed plasma pistol in his hand.

The woman standing his opposite bit the inside of her lip, her own service pistol drawn but ineffectually pointing towards the floor. “Think nothing of it, sir.” To her disgust the voice coming out a pitch higher than usual.

Sitting at the edge of his desk, in the dimly lit cavernous office, subcommander Bracha’s continued nonchalantly while briefly pointing his pistol at the body laying face-down on the floor in frotn of him. “We had an unfortunate accident, uhlan. As you can see the sublieutenant Berel mishandled her sidearm, it discharged, and I’m afraid we have a fatality.”

The coppery taste of blood hanged unpleasantly on Roris’ tongue as she chewed the inside of her mouth. Her eyes darting between her superior officer, the body on the floor, and amorphous humanoid form standing in the shadow in the corner of the office. The weak glow of the single active light node located on the ceiling making sure most of the sparsely decorated-room remained in darkness.

“Holster your weapon, uhlan. There’s only the two of us in here.” Came subcommander’s short, sharp order.

Swallowing the blood and saliva accumulated in her mouth the young uhlan’s mind raced with available options. She was a decent shot but the chances of even rising her weapon, and let alone firing it, were non-existent. Even if subcommander missed, an unlikely occurrence at this range, she was rather certain the figure in shadows wouldn’t. Darting for the closed door behind her or tumbling to the side also seemed as unappealing options. The late sublieutenant Berel was quicker, stronger and a trained ground combatant.

The subcommander’s pistol aimed at her head interrupted her fervent calculations. “Holster your weapon, uhlan. I’m not in the habit of repeating myself.”

With slow mechanical motion Roris slid her plasma pistol into the holster, closing the protective flap for good measure. Judging the odds she concluded that the weapon was useless anyways and doing anything but obeying would just leave two bodies on the office floor. Undoubtedly a second victim of weapon discharge accident.

Straightening her back the auburn-haired Romulan looked at the older officer, the trickle of sweat unpleasantly crawling down her backside under the uniform.

“Very good, uhlan.” Bracha rested the pistol on his hip, the figure in the shadow making a slight move in unison.

”You see, uhlan Roris, the times are changing.” He continued. “But we remain Romulans. As you well know our world will likely soon join the new Republic, and it’s imperative we preserve certain traditions from our past.” Pausing for a moment he judged her response, the younger Romulan remaining stiff, her eyes attached to her superior’s face.

”Wouldn’t you agree, uhlan?” He inquired politely as no answer seemed to be forthcoming.

Swallowing another accumulation of blood and saliva Roris paused before answering. “Yes, sir.”

“I understand your conundrum, uhlan. I truly do, but these are not the times to fall victim to sentimentality and flowery idealism.” The subcommander shifted his weight as he remained propped at the edge of the massive old-fashioned writing desk.

”No, sir, they are not.” Came out her mechanical answer, the tone almost surprising the woman.

”Now, to preserve those traditions that make us Romulans some unfortunate choices have to be made.” He pointed with his pistol at the body on the floor briefly. “It’s regrettable but necessary, do you understand?”

Roris’ posture relaxed a little, the accumulated sweat cooling unpleasantly under her uniform as her mind raced. “Yes, sir, I do.”

Bracha raised his eyebrows. “Good, now tell me, uhlan, how many of us are in this room?” Glancing at Berel’s body briefly he returned his focus on Roris’ face.

The woman kept her features immovable, making certain not to look at the corpse again. “Two, sir. You and I. Not counting the unfortunately deceased sublieutenant Berel.”

He nodded slowly. “Very good, uhlan. And what happened to unfortunately deceased sublieutenant Berel?”

Roris quirked eyebrow as she glanced at the body on the floor. “Her service pistol discharged by accident, the model is notoriously unreliable.”

“And did we do enough to help her, uhlan?” He inquired politely.

”Yes, sir. The report will show we expanded two emergency medkits trying to revive her. Alas, we came too late.” Came the calm response.

Subcommander Bracha holstered his plasma pistol and nodded. “Very good, sublieutenant, your request for transfer to intelligence division has been granted and your immaculate service record ensured your promotion.”

”Thank you, sir.” She replied impassively.

Bracha smiled. ”Instructor Mertinek will look forward to tutoring you, he is a former Tal Shiar major that defected and very experienced.”

The two Romulans eyes met for a moment in silent understadning.

”Would there be anything else, sir?”

”No, sublieutenant, I’ll take care of the poor unfortunate sublieutenant Berel’s remains and inform her family. She’ll be given a soldier’s funeral and posthumous promotion to full lieutenant. I expect that you will attend the funeral wearing the full dress uniform, naturally.” Pausing for a moment he added, the smile not leaving his square features. “You’re dismissed, sublieutenant.”

”Naturally, sir. Thank you, sir.” The woman clacked her heels with practiced ease and saluted across her chest. Wheeling in place and taking measured steps out of the office she made certain not to look at the figure standing in the shadows behind subcommander Bracha.