"Heaven Or Hell, There I Go..."

Author: Captain i'Xann t'Danna
Date: December 19, 2384
Location: A Stealth Runabout In The Briar Patch

"Uhlan tr'Senna," said the longhaired blonde Romulan Tal Shiar Captain as she entered the runabout bridge, "you are dismissed. Take the shuttle and return to the Romulan space."

"Yes Captain, thank you, Captain," replied the beefy Romulan Uhlan at the tactical console. "Good luck with your mission."

"Thank you, Uhlan, that will be all," she nodded with approval.

As the middle aged male Romulan left the bridge and headed for the shuttle bay, the blonde shook her head. The Uhlan had no idea of what her current mission was. While the Uhlans were the backbone of Tal Shiar, they, as the lowest rank naturally had the lowest security clearance in the organization. Soon tr'Senna would probably be promoted to Lieutenant, and that's when the "interesting" stuff would really start for him.

i-Xann sat down at the tactical console contemplating her next move. The runabout was orbiting the Briar Patch awaiting the arrival of the *USS Ronin*.

This was a suicide mission and she knew that. It was not by coincidence that her superiors had sent her to travel back in time to supposedly prevent the imminent Kelvan invasion and the destruction of the galaxy, but, in fact, to achieve the Romulan superiority over the whole of the Milky Way Galaxy.

All the simulations conducted by her and the team of top Tal Shiar scientists indicated a 99% probability of this operation's failure. And, like all the other members of the scientific research team, she was against the plan, even though none of the team saw any other way to save the Galaxy.

Everyone realized that whoever was sent on the mission would, most probably, never return. It was thus expected that an operative from the abeyance pool would be sent. However, the superiors thought it fit to send her, and she knew exactly why: she was expendable - not as a result of substandard performance for she has always been highly competent, but because of her political views and her reluctance to kill during the missions.

Ironically, her present task partly involved exactly that: the assassination of a Federation Starfleet Admiral. i-Xann t'Danna, or, as she was known by her code name, Captain "i-Ren" t'Danna, truly loathed that part of her current mission. Her intelligence expertise was cryptography - she was, in fact, one of the top computer hackers in the Empire - and she detested the destruction of any sentient life. That "quirk" of her personality would now cost her the life of her own and there was nothing she could do about that.

So, there she was sitting at the control panel of her stealth runabout en route to the Briar Patch. There she would wait for the arrival of the Federation starship, follow it if necessary, and secretly transport on board as it entered the Briar Patch.

According to the intelligence received from the Tal Shiar agent operating on Federation Starbase 901, i-Xann still had a few more hours before the start of the operation, and the nonconformist blonde Romulan wanted to make what could be her last few hours count. There were a lot of personal friendships and loyalties to be considered and accounted for. It was almost certain that she was 'going down' on this mission, but that did not mean she would let her demise be in vain: she was going to warn certain others of her intelligence friends and colleagues of the treacherous nature of their superiors.

"Computer, record a message to Major t'Venn", she ordered. i-Sush t'Venn was of her colleagues at the Tal Shiar Scientific Division, and, secretly from their superiors, one of her closest friends.

<Complying.... Message recorder ready.>

"i-Sush, by the time you get this message I may already be dead." She took a deep breath and continued. "I want to warn you about tr'Kama and his dirty tricks. He is slowly getting rid of everyone loyal to General tr'Ennu and, I suspect he is going to oust tr'Ennu and take the General's place as the head of the Operations Division within a year. Just wanted to warn you to keep your operational contact with the General outside the Division business hours and off the Tal Shiar premises. I have learnt my lesson too late and am now paying the ultimate price for it. Beware: when Colonel tr'Kama finally gets his promotion, I suspect he is going to conduct an all-out purge and many of our colleagues will be canceled. We have been friends for a long time, so I hope you'll get to stay off his cancellation list. On the final note, I want to tell you how much I have always appreciated your friendship. I realize that when I lost i-Mick tr'Entta I would have probably been canceled had you not covered for me as I was grieving his death. Goodbye my friend, and, pray, do be careful, tr'Kama's minions have eyes and ears everywhere." i-Xann t'Danna paused and then addressed herself to the computer again: "Computer, end message. Encrypt with code 'i-Ren-Omega-Theta' and transmit to Major t'Venn's private channel thirty seconds before my beamout from this ship."

"i-Ren-Omega-Theta" was one of the encryption codes she had devised herself, but, unlike with all her other codes, she did not submit that one to the Tal Shiar, and shared the script source codes only with her closest friends. That was the only way of ensuring the security of her personal communications from the ears of Colonel tr'Kama and the like.

<Message saved and encrypted. Ready for transmission.>

She looked at her chronometer. It was still approximately another four and a half hours before the *USS Ronin's* ETA, and t'Danna decided to go and get some sleep.

She set all the ships systems to autocontrol and left the bridge. Her quarters were only a couple of minute's walk away: this runabout was designed for the efficiency of mission conduction, not for the operatives' comfort.

As she lay down on her bunk, she replayed her life in her head. She remembered her now-deceased lover at the Tal Shiar Scientific, i-Mick tr'Entta. He had also been a cryptographer and computer nerd like her, but his appearance was more traditional. They had become involved with each other shortly after she was recruited by the Tal Shiar straight out of the Academy. i-Mick had been a very handsome young man and his personality was very friendly despite the internal indifference and factions within the Tal Shiar. i-Mick and herself had secretly really cared about each other, and often spent a lot of time together at each other's quarters when not on duty.

They had been very careful not to reveal their feelings towards each other to their Tal Shiar superiors, for it would have meant a certain placement in abeyance or even cancellation for either or even both of them. However, their relationship was possibly discovered, because one day, two years previously, i-Mick was called into Colonel tr'Kama's office and sent on a deep cover mission into the Federation space. It was suicide for i-Mick was a cryptography scientific officer like herself and was unsuitable for complicated operations duties. t'Danna tried to protest, but that was in vain. She even went above tr'Kama's head to General tr'Ennu who was normally a more reasonable person to deal with, but there was nothing the General could do on the matter, because, despite his then Operations' Division position, tr'Ennu was still considered to be a Scientific man and was, thus, relegated in his decision-making power to a subordinate position even in relation to someone of a lower rank from the Operations' Division. Thus, there was nothing General tr'Ennu could do once Colonel tr'Kama had made up his mind.

i-Mick had gone on the mission and, as certain as it already had been before he left, he never returned. i-Xann was informed of his death, although his body was never returned to Tal Shiar. She was so distraught over his death, that she, although normally quiet and enthusiastically consumed with her computer work, became insubordinate and was only able to avoid being sanctioned herself because another friend and colleague, Major i-Sush t'Venn, gave her a few weeks off duty and covered for her. t'Danna often used to hope that maybe tr'Entta was still alive somewhere out there, but even that hope faded into the cold non-existence after a few months. And now there she was - on a suicide mission just like her beloved i-Mick, and what was worse was that she hardly cared about the fact that she was most probably not coming back....

The computer alarm went off waking her up from a fitful slumber, and i-Xann quickly jumped off her bunk and went to the bridge. As soon as she entered, she noticed a cloaked Federation vessel on the main viewer screen: the *USS Ronin*. It was moments like this that she really loved to serve in Tal Shiar Scientific: the "cloak-revealing" sensors that they had developed in their Division were paying off big-time.

The *Ronin’s* sensors did not appear to pick up t’Danna’s runabout, and the Federation vessel appeared to be continually traveling towards the centre of the Briar Patch.

*Well,* t'Danna raised her eyebrows and sighed, *Since this is to be my "terminal" mission, I guess there's no harm in following them around a little bit.*

"Computer, follow the Federation vessel at 10 kilometres!"

<Complying.... Autopilot sensors locked.>

The covert chase began.... t’Danna spent almost 36 hours in the runabout’s command chair, as the Federation vessel kept coming across what was seemingly one uninhabitable planet after the other. It often became frustrating and, at times, boring. To alleviate the boredom and try to stay awake i-Xann was continuously running her favorite programming software, playing with it, devising and perfecting cryptographic codes.... It was almost as if she were back at her console at Tal Shiar Scientific... but not quite!

...Suddenly the computer beeped. She seemed to have followed this *USS Ronin* into an unchartered part of the Galaxy. With eyebrows raised, she immediately shut down the programming software she had been running and got up out of the chair to stretch her legs.

At that moment the runabout's sensors beeped again as they picked up the neutrino emissions left by an unknown vessel that must have passed by not long previously. Stunned, t’Danna watched as *USS Ronin* had immediately adjusted its course to follow the trail. Her runabout also discreetly followed as per her previous instructions to the computer.

Leaving the runabout to continue to run on the autopilot and setting the remote alarm in case something else came up on the sensors, she sprinted over to her quarters to have a shower and change into her unmarked black covert ops suit.

...No sooner was t’Danna dressed as the remote alarm sounded. Quickly re-entering the bridge, she discovered that both her runabout and the *USS Ronin* were now orbiting an unknown planet.

She tried to scan the planet, but apart from showing multiple humanoid and animal lifesigns and a strange energy signature, the sensors did not appear to pick up anything unusual.

*Well, there we go...* thought i-Xann. *I wonder what these Federation pawns are up to?*

The blonde Romulan sat back down in the command chair, and, again, to her annoyance, nothing appeared to happen for what felt like ages. After resisting doing that for a long time, she looked at the chronometer: four and a half hours! The *USS Ronin* was still orbiting the planet and nothing was happening.

Finally, the runabout sensors beeped again, and a shuttle slowly separated from the *USS Ronin*.

"Computer, scan the shuttle!"

<Complying.... Ten humanoid lifesigns detected. One being that of Starfleet Admiral Pike.>

*Aha! There!* Her eyebrows rose again. *Well, I am going down as well, then – but MUCH faster that that!*

She reset the autopilot to orbit the planet and stood away from the console to transport onto the planet.

"Heaven or Hell, here I come!" said Tal Shiar Captain i-Xann "i-Ren" t’Danna as she calibrated her personal site-to-site transporter and tapped the activation button.