Location: The Romulan Senate.
The Next Day
Year : 2156.276
T’Pol stood waiting on the edge of the Senate floor, ready to speak. She was there on behalf of Vulcan and Terra to urge the Romulans to find the path to peace. Whilst the introductions were being made, she took the chance to take in her surroundings. The Senate room was dimly lit, the architectural features ornate. The walls hung with art and the room adorned with sculpture, all of which celebrated centuries of conquest, acquisition and war. Was she a little intimidated? Her Bond Mate interrupted break a leg, T’Pol. She was confused. Why would I want to break a leg? Trip sighed; sometimes it just took too long. Never mind. Ignore me and focus on them. You can do this. She looked to the opposite side of the Senate Floor where Trip stood, dressed in the robes of his Order and thought how magnificent he looked. Trip took in the vision that was T’Pol on this momentous occasion and you don’t look so bad yourself.
T’Pol was beckoned to the floor, the Senator withdrew. She stood for precious seconds taking in her audience. Heavily robed sombre looking males, all of them. She turned to the Presidium, their faces slightly less implacable. M’ret nodded his head and behind them the most patrician figure in the room, the Praetor. In the gallery, a single member of the Tal’Shiar.
“Thank you for providing me with this, the first opportunity for a Vulcan to stand before your Senate. My message from Vulcan and the other members of the Alliance is a simple one. We do not seek legal agreements, trade treaties, or cultural exchanges. We do not seek to influence your culture, your belief systems, your rituals. We do not seek to negotiate accords regarding your credo of Unlimited Expansion.” This brought a murmur and she detected surprise in some of their faces. M’ret moved in his chair and, out of the corner of her eye, she saw the Praetor’s facial expression change to one of thoughtfulness rather than implacability. “We do not seek to exchange technologies, medical advances or knowledge of this Unfathomable Universe we share. We seek but one objective: peaceful co-existence. In summary, we recognise the proud independent tradition of your world and your desire to pursue that tradition. We simply ask in return you afford us the same.” She bowed and withdrew. The silence was palpable. They were stunned.
She returned to the edge of the floor and the Companion came forward from the opposite side. remember your diction. Did a flicker of something pass across Charles Tucker’s face?
“I am a simple man with a simple message. Mankind has always explored. It’s what we do. From the very beginning, we explored our world, its lands, its seas and its skies. Five years ago, mankind set off to explore something new, some say the final piece in the jigsaw: Space. Why did we do that? So we could take over new worlds and subdue the civilisations we met? No. It was the same reason its always been: to satisfy our curiosity and to learn. Most of all, to learn about ourselves. What I have learned from you is that you wish to remain unchanged, untainted and continue on alone. My message from our world is simple: we respect that and will honour it. We ask only you respect our desire to explore.
“We have only been exploring Space for a short while but an old friend of mine put it better than I could. He said ‘I’m gonna...’ ” Trip stopped knowing the Universal Translator would not have worked. “Sorry..” and restarted. ” ‘I am going to have to remind myself every day that we didn’t come out here to play God.’
“I am here to say just that, we are not here to play God or sit in judgement. We’re not here to be your friends, but even more, we’re not here to be your enemies.”
T’Pol walked on to the floor and stood next to Trip. They thanked the Senate and turned, bowing to the Presidium and the Praetor. M’ret stood, came over to them and ushered them away. All the Senators stood and began to leave, except one: Senator Vrax. Something about the presentation perturbed him. High up in the gallery, standing back in the shadows, the operative from the Tal Shiar, the Romulan Secret Police, stood for many minutes deep in thought.
The doors of the reception to their suite swung back. M’ret and T’Pol walked in followed by Trip. Trip shared with T’Pol Well that was no bundle of laughs. She responded I sensed they were completely taken aback. I agree.
M’ret gave T’Pol an information Pad. “This is the cultural material you requested. This afternoon, your guide will take you to our Museum of Antiquity.” He then turned to Trip, “Your guide is a member of the military. She will take you around the city precincts. It will give you a chance to further elaborate on your words today.”
Trip thought for a moment. “Thank you, M’ret. You know, speaking to the military would make a good deal of sense. It will give me a chance to explain, first hand, that we really are not a threat. We have been through terrible wars amongst ourselves and we know the cost only too well.” M’ret nodded, “Our military believes knowledge of your opponent is the key to engagement: the more you can show them you are a formidable opponent but not a threat, the better.”
M’ret stood up to leave. “Before your guides arrive, please… take advantage of our hospitality.”
They were alone. Trip looked across at T’Pol, the expression on his face a mixture of resigned and questioning. He verbalised for the sake of anyone listening. “All we can do is our best. Your idea that we keep it short, with honourable, simple goals was, I am sure, the right way to play it.” T’Pol looked at Trip, “Offering the truth is easy, once you discover it.”
Location : Romulus Citadel. Military Operations Monitoring Centre
The door retracted and Senator Vrax entered. He took in the whole gamut of screens, listening devices and earnest administrators all bent on one goal, listening to the people of Romulus to find out who were a threat to the status quo. “Welcome, Senator. It is always a pleasure to see you here, though something of a surprise, perhaps.” Valdore and Vrax had acted swiftly, agreeing to meet in plain sight. “Forgive me for interrupting you, but I wish to discuss a matter of security in my Region.” Valdore smiled and beckoned Vrax to a discrete area within the complex.
Valdore secured the room, they were alone. “Did you manage to analyse the recordings?” Valdore went through the voice recognition protocols and the screen came to life. He requested the two sets of data. They played the recording from the Drone. “I’m gonna guess that’s the power circuit I just shut down.” then, the second from the Companion’s presentation to the Senate “I’m gonna…. [there was a pause]…..Sorry, I am going to…”
Vrax nodded his head knowingly, his memory had served him well. “It’s him. Our noble human, wrapped up in the robes of a Vulcan mystic spouting non-interference, is the very Star Fleet Officer that boarded the Drone and accessed our technology.” Valdore gave Vrax a chilling look, “and who is very much alive and well to tell the tale.” The point wasn’t lost on Vrax. If the Companion revealed he was one of the two survivors of the Drone Incident, Vrax’s end would follow soon afterwards. Vrax responded, “which would be disastrous… and not just for me.”
Valdore gained access to the programme of the two visitors and nodded his head in a sign of encouragement. “We have time. I believe we can turn this to our advantage. The Commander may turn out to be a gift.”
Location: Museum of Antiquity.
Six Hours Later
T’Pol had been studying the artefacts in the Museum for ninety minutes. Busts of Generals, paintings of Generals, writings of Generals. Most interesting was the imagery of Raptors. Predatory birds of prey on crests appeared on anything and everything which had Totemic value. T’Pol would never be able to describe herself as bored, that was a human emotion, but she could bring herself to say the last two hours were ‘of little value’.
Her guide was a fastidious, elderly Romulan. He wore the weave of M’ret except with less ostentation. This was a grey monochromatic society that served a common cause. T’Pol had asked if she could take notes and visual records and had been busy capturing endless homages to great Romulan Victories. Whilst of no value, it would enable her to capture what she was looking for without suspicion.
“Emissary, we are now entering the area of the museum which holds all the material from our earliest history. You may find some of the material very degraded.” Unbeknown to the Curator, this was the very material that she had come for. She was searching for hints as to their origin.
T’Pol had already noted there was no record of a primitive period. The Romulan people’s ground zero was a highly advanced agricultural society. Stone houses, non-mechanical farm machinery, rather than hand ploughs, were sported. It was pre-industrial, but only just.
“The beginnings of most cultures are expressed in terms of myths. Do you have such a myth surrounding your origins? “Indeed we do. We were brought out of the desert and emerged from the mouth of a creature.” T’Pol was fascinated. “Are there images celebrating these myths?” The Curator smiled. “Indeed. Come this way.”
T’Pol followed him into a recess which was hidden away from the main thoroughfare of the museum. The recess included beautiful drawings of a crab-like creature, emerging out of a Sand Storm. Several different artists had tried to capture this idea. T’Pol. “May I… capture these images?” “Indeed! It is good to see someone take an interest in these items.” T’Pol ensured she captured date stamps and any text attached to the works for later translation. She was anxious not to draw attention to this moment and offered a deflection. “There are several exhibits from the beginning of the second millennium that I would like to consider further, may we?… and, Curator, I must congratulate you collection: it is most impressive!” They passed on, the unctuous Curator bathing in the compliment.
Location: Causeway Rim. Romulus City
Trip was enjoying being out in the open air and getting some exercise. His host was a Romulan Guard, and she sure was some Romulan Guard. Valhoth wore her dark lustrous hair with a fringe but somehow it communicated health and vitality rather than the boyishness of some of the Romulan woman he had encountered. She wore a geometric jacket in a checkerboard style, a strap over her right shoulder, connected to a belt which gathered her tiny waist. Trip had to admit she cut a very feminine figure.
After meeting, they had made their way to the outer rim of the Citadel to walk its entire circumference. Trip walked quickly. “You are very healthy, Companion.” Trip nodded, “I believe in nourishing all: the mind, the body and the spirit.”
Whilst Trip enjoyed the company of this attractive woman, he would have wished for someone older, perhaps more circumspect more naturally conversational. She seemed more intent on the personal, rather than the wider, issues but there was a simple reason Valhoth was wearing an earpiece with a listening device and Valdore was feeding her the questions she was asking.
“You say that your exploring has only peaceful intentions. But do you not also prepare to defend yourselves?” Trip was direct and to the point, “Seven million of my people were slaughtered by an invading force three years ago. It turned out it was an experiment, the prototype of a weapon they were developing to destroy mankind. Yes, we are always considering potential threats, whether known or unknown and preparing to respond to them.” Trip let that sink in.
“Yours is a highly disciplined culture, based around a strong military. I am certain you will be preparing to ‘defend’ yourself. I wouldn’t expect you to behave any differently.” She nodded and Trip went on, “And neither should you about us. Don’t take the current strengthening of our defences as a sign of aggressive intentions it is not.”
Valhoth changed tack. “I understand you are attached to a religious Order on Vulcan. Has this been your life’s work?” Trip stalled, “No…” He reached out to T’Pol: are you getting the third degree? : No : Be careful, Trip. Inevitably, the question came back from Valhoth, “So, what other expertise have you acquired?” Trip told the truth, as far as he wanted to: “I am trained as an Engineer. I have always loved engines since I was a small boy.” She looked at him coquettishly. “A Vulcan Monastery is a strange place for an Engineer to be.” Trip felt he was being handled. However this was no time for personal hubris or vanity he responded with real conviction. “Two years ago I lost my daughter and it made me re-evaluate my life. I tried several things before I found the peace I have attained with my Order.” He turned stopped and looked at her frankly. “I would not wish that experience on anybody including you?” She realised her attempt at mischievous irony had not worked and merely looked down. “Now, is there anything else you wish to discuss regarding my remarks this morning because I would gladly answer them?” He was firm, determined to return the conversation to the more general matter of their offer.
As a woman, she knew she had touched a raw nerve; as a member of Admiral Valdore’s personal staff, she sensed he had considerable mental resilience and was not a man who would be drawn out easily. They walked on, circling the heart of the Romulan Empire and each other.
She took Valdore’s next prompt.”Mr Tucker, you have mentioned Terra’s defences and we know you respect our desire to understand our … potential enemy. Would you be surprised, given your varied career in life, that some think you may well be a spy and have come to assess our strength?” Trip looked at her. an ironic smile on his face. He realised what was going on.”No, I would not,” and turned grabbed her face and looked at her ear. “Get off me.” Trip had other ideas. He took out the earpiece, threw it up in the air and grabbed it as it came back down and put it in his carry bag. She looked aghast. “For a man of a spiritual order, you show a good deal of…improvisation.”
Trip ignored her. “Miss Valhoth, I am going to let you into a secret. If you believe that T’Pol and I are anything other than whom we say we are, whatever we have done before, you are making a grave error. Now shall we walk on and restart with a little more honesty?” Trip offered his arm. “So, Miss Valhoth, who are you spying for?” Somehow his playfulness and lack of any real threat intrigued her and she gave as good as she got. “Isn’t that obvious? The military.” Trip laughed. She was righ,t he already knew the answer. But Trip overlooked something: who it was in the military might be important.
He relaxed and as they walked on he regaled her with tales of Florida, his family and his experiences on the Enterprise in the early years. Whilst he omitted the drone incident, he talked about Elizabeth and his withdrawal to the Order of Surak. In response, she shared a little of her life. Se liked him he was handsome – for a human – and clever. She also knew he was telling the truth.
Valhoth had veered a long way from her brief but there was a reason for that. She had worked out that Valdore’s manoeuverings were not on behalf of Romulus but himself. He had some personal stake in this subterfuge. Her instinct told her that Trip was for real and there was something else: Romulans had lost much when they departed Vulcan but they were not entirely separated from the ancient traditions of Vulcan mysticism. She sensed this man had mastered some of those mysteries. In a Romulan that feeling was mere intuition but his aura was strong. She sensed honour and worthiness. Trip, of course, picked up on this and realised that Valhoth was now in danger. Whoever had put her up to this had been revealed and had gained nothing. He stopped on the Apron, where the shuttle lay, below their quarters and looked out to sea. “I do not think your masters are going to be very pleased with what has gone on here. Be careful.” They walked to the stairwell that would take them above.
As they made their way up the stairs, she grabbed his arm and stopped him. She looked at him implacably, as if she was wrestling with something and finally made up her mind. “You are in great danger.” Out of site, Trip took out the listening device and placed it gently in her ear and smiled, considering the sensuous point of the lobe. He mouthed thank you and took both her hands. She looked at him, disarmed. He let go and made their way to the entrance of T’Pols quarters and stopped looking at her with his typical quiet smile which radiated a mixture of pleasure and pathos.
He gathered himself and with great solemnity made the Vulcan sign of Peace to her. “Peace and Long Life.”and mouthed remember, be careful She bowed her head, confusion written on her face, withdrew and walked away quickly.
As Trip opened the door he thought back to Yanik’s remarks. He was most definitely a little bit Vulcan these days but he was also troubled for Valhoth, himself and T’Pol. They were going to need all their wits to get away from this place.
Location: Emissary’s Rooms 3 hours later
T’Pol and Trip sat on the terrace, taking in the commanding view of the City. Their house support had provided them with fresh fruit and water. For the most part, these days Trip was a vegetarian so the offering suited his needs. They looked out to sea and shared, T’Pol first: My day went exactly as planned. I am going to put the pad down on the table and show you two images. Trip carried on eating and gave a sideways glance. He looked at the image from the Vulcan database and the image that T’Pol had taken that afternoon. He went to grab her hand. No, Trip, careful! But thank you, I am fine. Please consider the two images.
One is a painting I found this afternoon which is tied up with the myths of the Romulans’ beginnings. The other is a Vahklas class craft from the Vulcan Database. As you can see, they are identical.
Their myths refer to them ‘coming out of the desert.’ There are no desert regions on Romulus. What I am certain is recorded in the painting is a Vahklas Class Transport, leaving the refugee camp on the edge of The Forge for Romulus, with a contingent of the Disappeared. Trip, this is the final piece of the jigsaw.
Trip carried on taking pieces of fruit. Well done you, but are you OK? The Vahklas must bring back memories of Tolaris?
For the first time since they had become open again, she shared her feelings with Trip, feelings of gratitude for his concern for her. As soon as Trip had seen the ancient craft he knew she would be reminded of an incident five years ago, when T’Pol had suffered an abusive Mind Meld from a member of a rogue Vulcan sect who travelled in a Vahklas Ship.
Now it was Trip’s turn to share: So, for you, it‘s been a Perfect Score day. For me, it’s been frustrating. The Military were fencing with me, probing me for personal information. Valhoth was directed to let me know they think I am a spy and when her listening device was off she also let me know I am in danger : She did, did she? Good, clearly that charm of yours works with Romulans as well : If it works with Vulcans why not? But seriously, T’Pol, we mustn’t spend a moment longer here than we need to : Agreed.
T’Pol switched to vocal communication. “I am glad it has been a productive day for both of us. M’ret has advised me that he will collect us and take us to the Senate at 0900 for the Senate’s initial response. Then we may leave.” After T’Pol had spoken they both looked down at the Apron and the Vulcan Shuttle Craft. They did not need the Bond to read each other’s minds. They knew what they were thinking, they were staring at their exit route, their escape route. Valhoth’s warning was clear enough but being adepts in reading minds it merely confirmed what they already knew: they were in danger and that sense of danger was growing by the hour.
After supper, they asked their administrators to provide them with the site map for the Citadel, so they could take an evening walk and admire the City. T’Pol changed into the robes of her Order. They went down onto the Apron and then down a further level to one of the four causeways that led from the Inner to the Outer parapet. There was no denying the magnificence of the city and its architecture. T’Pol spoke first. “It reminds me a little of the Vatican City on Earth, with its towers, cupolas and mausoleums. One day I must visit. It is a great monument to one of Earth’s most cherished belief systems.”
Trip looked Inland beyond the city to the plains and the distant Mountains and then turned round, looking back at the Senate and beyond to the Sea. “Can we do half a loop, T’Pol?” pointing to the opposite side of the Citadel. She nodded in agreement. They left the Western side of the Citadel and moved to the East around the Southern Loop. The Southern side of the city seemed to be more recreational with areas of green and beyond that, beyond the Canal, they sensed something more commercial. Whereas the Citadel was quiet with few Romulans, the Southern Quadrant was a hub of people traffic. Many of the buildings beyond the Canal looked as if they were residential. Trip guessed that a quasi Police State’s Capital would be populated by administrators and enforcers. He couldn’t imagine many night clubs playing Jazz in amongst all this and laughed to himself.
T’Pol who was listening to his thoughts, verbalised. “In the same way that Vulcan is a place of the spirit and the study of spiritual knowledge, Romulus is a place of the soldier and the pursuit of military knowledge. The schism of nineteen centuries ago has formalised the two different elements of our psyche and separated them out, the raw primordial aggression and the desire for peaceful contemplation.” Trip thought about that. “Yes, that makes sense to me. You’re both very focused singular societies, where as we are all over the place.” She looked up at him, “But that’s what makes you interesting: your accidents can produce unexpected outcomes. Like your Jazz Music.” She thought back to her time when she stole out of the Vulcan Compound in San Francisco to that very thing: a Jazz club. She had enjoyed that chaos that Trip described.
They had reached the area that abutted on to the Sea. Trip would normally have lent over the balustrade and enjoyed the sea breeze, but dressed in the clothes of his Order he stood looking out to sea and thought about the distinction he had made. He thought back to his conversation with Valhoth; recalling that fun-loving chaos, the family, diving off the Florida coast, the time at Malc’s father’s cabin by the Indian Ocean. It was very different from Vulcan and Romulus and yet stood here now with T’Pol somehow he felt he was not part of that chaos anymore. He found himself thinking that Vulcan of all places felt more familiar to him. What had changed?
T’Pol verbalised. “Each time you return to the familiar or thoughts of the familiar, it gives you a perspective on how you are now different. Your experiences change you, whereas the matter at hand has not changed.”
He nodded in agreement, looking at the distant horizon. “You see, I didn’t go seeking these things: these changes. I just wanted to explore, When we began, I was certain of who I was but I don’t think you were. There’s something in you that’s trying to find out who you are.” She turned to look up at him. “Is that why you wished to pursue ‘separation’? Because you perceived I had experimented with you in my desire to find out who I am?” Trip began to formulate a reply. One that went all the way back to T’Pol’s remarks the morning after they had made love, in the middle of the Xindi crisis, right through to the simplicity of him wanting freedom from the Bond. And then he stopped himself. He shook his head. “Uh uh, let’s not go there.” Trip knew this was neither the time nor the place to talk about the politics of their lives, they must focus all their energies on uniting to bring off this peace mission. “Shall we go back now?” T’Pol nodded in agreement.
How odd, she thought, that she wanted to talk about their personal feelings whereas Trip was measured, strategic and circumspect, almost Vulcan, whereas she was being very human. The Bond was continuing to grow.
Location: Emissary’s Quarters Early Hours,
T’Pol woke with a start. She knew immediately something was wrong. She grabbed her nightgown, hit the lights and dashed to Trip’s Room, throwing the door open. His bedding was all over the room. Some of the furniture was damaged, ornaments laid smashed on the floor… And Trip was missing.