Location: Vulcan Suurok Class Battle Cruiser, Ti’Mir
Captain Yanik stood looking at Emissary and her Companion and, despite being a veteran Vulcan commander, his lips turned upwards, suggesting a smile. “It is five years since we first met. My recollection was you both had a desire to reach out, to recognise and explore differences.” His hands were clasped together as he took in each one of them, “and you have done that with great skill. I congratulate you. I cannot think of a more suitable choice from each of our races to pursue this mission.” He paused, to let his commendation sink in.
“And now some detail: this is the flight path which was transmitted by the Romulans. It has been converted so that it will interface with our shuttle; you can simply link it to the navigation system. It contains stellar cartography but also pure text so it has been used to build up data for the Universal Translator. I recommend when you arrive, even before meeting with the Romulans, you enter into dialogue to increase the data field. It will save time later.”
He then offered T’Pol a small cylindrical device which glowed green. “If you disable the safety lock and press once it will turn Amber, if then pressed a second time, Red. If there is a mission incident, go to Amber. If you are certain the mission has failed or is about to, then go to Red. I am to remain on station here. If the Beacon is activated by you, I will transfer the data to Vulcan. You are aware that no one will come to your aid, but it will give us vital information about Romulan intentions and buy us some valuable precious time.” They both nodded.
He moved in front of Emissary and offered her the Vulcan sign of good wishes. “Peace and Long Life.” She responded with her left hand and reciprocated the wish. He then moved to her companion. “On the first occasion we met, you may have thought me rude and arrogant, whereas I accused your Captain of such behaviour. So, what are your thoughts now?” The Companion thought carefully before answering. “I believe neither of you displayed such behaviour. What I saw was what we must avoid with the Romulans: a misunderstanding.” Captain Yanik nodded in agreement, “And now it is goodbye. I think the term in your world,” he looked directly at Trip, “is ‘Good Luck.'” As he spoke, Yanik went to shake the Companion’s hand. “Thank you, Captain. I really appreciate that.” T’Pol exchanged with Trip your diction is improving. He looked at her sideways, giving her what his mother would have said was an ‘old fashioned’ look.
They were now in deadly earnest; the journey begun six months ago had reached the critical stage, where the fates of three worlds and others hung in the balance.
They passed inside the shuttle, their personal belongings already stored and settled into the cockpit, looking up out of the low angled cockpit observation glass at the Ti’Mir’s lower fuselage. The Emissary inserted the flight path chip and the Companion released the docking clamps. “Are you ready?” “Yes.” She activated the flight path and the craft moved forward. When they cleared the Ti’Mir, the sensors fed the data to the autopilot. The Warp Ring activated, creating a Warp Field. They were catapulted forward, the stars turning to a rain shower before their eyes.
As the shuttle shot through the heavens, it gave both T’Pol and Trip a chance to reflect on the previous six months and beyond. They spoke to themselves creating ‘diaries in the mind.’
On reflection, the most important development was that we are once again open to each other. The sense of loss has evaporated. I could have maintained the ‘shield’, but only with a profound sense of loss and grief. When I arrived 18 months ago from the Enterprise, V’Lor helped me to attain balance. But, I admit, without my Bond Mate a part of me was lost. Now it has been re-found and with that I have once again found myself.
He is changed but then so am I. We are more of each other. He is more logical, more measured, more strategic in the way he conducts himself while I am more instinctive, more innovative and less afraid of my emotions. But I am a Vulcan and at my core, more primal: I cannot suffer someone in my territory. It is good that the two Earth women that wanted him did not have him. It was good for all our sakes. The result would have been a… disaster.
I have taken pride in his progress these six months and, with V’Lor’s help, he has learned to perform the ‘Shield’. He is calmer, more thoughtful and has learned great discipline under V’Lor’s guidance.
Our great shared concern has been whether the time of my Pon Farr was close. So far it has not manifested itself and, with the damage caused by Trellium, who can say when it will come, if ever. But my mate is with me; I know he will respond.
So we are one; we are prepared and we travel to Romulus in hope. But we cannot look beyond hope.
Looking back at these six months, I realise the experience has been a revelation and I go into what is in front of us profoundly changed.
Thinking about it, the most changes have sprung from my time with V’Lor. I have reached First Level and, like now, I can shield myself from T’Pol and enjoy the privacy of my own thoughts. It is as if I have grown another sense; I am more aware of all that is around me. I can read others and feel less inclined to communicate orally. Captain Vanik is right: I am now a little bit Vulcan.
The times I enjoyed the most were when T’Pol and I would ascend to the mountain summit and ‘the place of seeing.’ We would go to meditate, share and practice the shield. We sat in the ‘square’ under the Vulcan sky, entirely alone but together. During that time, T’Pol never asked to share my thoughts of Amanda because she knew Amanda and I were close, but never intimate.
I have always understood, after the event with the Orion women, that I am protected by something which is primordial and capable of violence. If Amanda and I had been intimate, T’Pol would have intervened with disastrous results, shield or no shield. It may not have been conscious but I think, deep down, I knew the Bond had to be broken before I could move on, in every sense.
So we are one; united in our desire to help our two worlds. We go in search of Peace but we may find War.
One curiosity of my time with V’Lor: one day we were Melded and he gave me some insight into his mind and Surak’s Katra. V’Lor, sharing the wisdom of Surak, looked at the war of the Xindi and the tragedy of Elizabeth and said three is an important number. Is this mission the third challenge, the final one?
One matter we have given thought to is my Southern accent. I have practised with the Universal Translator and looked at whether it can read my intonation. Where it cannot, I have worked to ensure my idiosyncrasies are smoothed out so we can be sure them Romulan’s can git what ahm sayin’!! Ha, I maybe more measured but my sense of fun is still intact!
Ten Hours later
Whilst they had reflected and slept, the autopilot had navigated them across space for many hours, but now it would have its work cut out. They both instinctively woke from their sleep as they came out of Warp. They looked out through the viewing screen: Romulus was before them. At last, the moment of truth had arrived. The shuttle altered course, moved into an equatorial orbit and began its descent. They were receiving a hail. The Universal Translator had been fed the flight path instructions, so it had begun to build a linguistic pattern from the information contained. “Vulcan vessel: we have you.” The Emissary and Companion looked at each other and shared a nervous smile.
They passed quickly down through the dark space of the thermosphere and into the dense rich cloud formations of the stratosphere, through which they caught glimpses of the landmass.
Neither of them were entirely comfortable being taken down on autopilot but they knew this was a necessary preliminary to create trust. T’Pol : We are being scanned. He nodded and then verbalised his response. “I suspect they are checking to see if we pose a threat. I am certain once they decide we do not, they will take over the guidance systems for the final few minutes and land the Craft remotely.” Trip had deduced correctly. As they moved down to 3,000 metres, thrusters began to fire, adjusting and fine tuning their position and altering their approach as they moved down through the cloud. At 2,000 metres, the flight path took on the more traditional pattern of a commercial or cargo vehicle. It was at 1800 metres they saw it for the first time.
He spoke first. “Impressive. And quite different from Vulcan.” “Indeed. The layout implies a centralised, hierarchical, power structure. I believe the shuttle is going to be brought down there,” pointing to the centre of the city.
The craft was rapidly losing height and speed as it passed over the city. Once beyond the city it made a tight right-hand turn over what looked like a municipal park and then passed out to sea. It made a final sharp right hand turn and the reverse thrusters fired; they were about to land. T’Pol’s guess was correct: their destination was the core, the Citadel. They leaned forward a little taking in the view of the very heart of the empire, the Senate building at the centre of the Citadel.
The shuttle, now very low, came in over the outer wall, crossed a canal and lowered itself, thrusters firing, onto the open landing space, immediately beneath the Senate. The back draft from the landing was minimal. Once the smoke cleared, they looked out. They were down, they had arrived. They looked at each other, a cautious smile on Trip’s face. Yes, they had arrived but to what? What happens next?
“This is Companion. We are switching to manual to complete a bio-security check. We would advise you to do the same. We recommend we perform a number of vocal interactions so the Universal Translator can build a proper relationship between Romulan and what we call English, the predominant language of Earth which the Emissary will speak in.” They wanted to show the cooperative nature of their relationship as often as possible and the language choice was one such example.
All was silent. They waited nervously as the minutes ticked by. Finally, the response came. “Companion, we acknowledge.” Trip let out a relieved sigh. “You will be met by one of our Presidium and taken to your quarters where you can discuss your objectives. Whilst we promise nothing, we are a people of honour and we know your craft and the two of you pose no threat to us. Be assured of a safe passage.” Trip responded. “We find your response… ” and he thought for a moment, “satisfactory.” An ironic smile from Trip as T’Pol released her seat harness and passed into the back of the craft.
He sat impassively as the scanning continued. He called back to T’Pol, “How’s it coming?” “Do you mean my outfit or the Universal Translator.” “Don’t be vain! The latter.” “If you could continue your impersonation of being a Vulcan for a little longer, it would help.” “You mean you’re not ready?” Enough of this banter he thought, the scanning must be almost complete.
He checked the readouts as they emerged, until all the data was complete and the analysis and recommendations had come through. There were no issues: the environment was ideal for physical first contact.
“Romulan Contact, do we have authorisation to release the hatch?” There was a pause. “We detect no hazards. Release at your discretion.” Here goes, he thought. He checked his appearance, picked up the Universal Translator, made his way to the hatch and hit the release button.
He walked down the steps and looked up. Three unarmed Romulans were directly in his line of site. His MACO training came into play; in mere seconds he looked around him for threats and took in the physical environment the Apron, the Parapet at the edge of the Apron and out to sea. The atmosphere of the location was privileged, reverential. A gentle sea breeze, quiet not threatening but gave little away.
Only then did he focus on those in front of him. One was clearly important: a young male, in a simple medium grey weave two-piece uniform. It suggested an administrator rather than a member of the military. But it was the physical similarity that, to Trip, was overwhelming: he could easily be mistaken for a Vulcan. The swept eyebrows, the military style hair cut with the distinct fringe. If there was a difference, the forehead seemed more contoured. Those precious few seconds confirmed a simple truth, the people of Romulus and Vulcan were connected in some way …. and, given their recent clandestine behaviour, some among the Romulans must know as well.
The young Romulan stood in front of two shorter ones, a male and a female, both of whom were much older. He walked toward the young Romulan male who spoke first. “My name is M’ret. I greet you on behalf of the Senate. To aid your visit we have appointed… ” and he hesitated. Trip saw this as an opportunity to step in, “We would call them ‘House Administrators’ – support staff. I am the Companion of the Emissary. It is an honour to meet you.” Trip offered the thought to T’Pol: now…and you were right.
The Emissary appeared at the hatchway of the shuttle and paused to look out. She was no longer wearing the robes of her Order but a full length dress, cut away above her breasts and a chiffon jacket to cover her arms and shoulders, a headscarf wrapped around her chin giving emphasis to her face. Trip was immediately put in mind of the dress she wore for her wedding to Koss, except this was white. Apart from her looking breathtakingly beautiful in the ensemble, he felt it was the perfect visual message for her role. M’ret walked up to her, clearly captivated by her beauty. “Welcome to Romulus, Emissary. I am Sub-Consul M’ret.”
The two older Romulans took this as their cue to move out from behind M’ret and pass inside the shuttle to pick up the visitors’ personal belongings. Once out, Trip discretely retracted the hatch, securing the shuttle. M’ret and T’Pol walked in front and the Companion followed behind. T’Pol shared: so far so good.
Trip walked behind and looked up toward the Senate. He also noticed something else. Three Romulan Craft were approaching, identical to those encountered by the Enterprise, four years previously. Their front profile was a flat U, with the two sets of nacelles at either end of the U. The central span contained the hull and the connective tissue to the nacelles, the wings. But it was when they passed over, they noted the implied aggression. The craft looked liked huge ‘Birds Of Prey’, with their menacing up-turned curved wings. Trip conveyed to T’Pol: This is a deliberate show of power. The reply was instant I am sure you are right. T’Pol turned to M’ret. “A magnificent example of your achievements.” M’ret smiled uneasily. Almost simultaneously a phrase came to T’Pol and Trip: ‘those that march beneath the raptor’s wings’. They may not have been marching but they were certainly walking under the wings of the raptors. The craft passed over the senate building with a great roar and disappeared out to sea.
The party passed into their quarters which were one level up from the Landing Apron. Their suite contained two rooms and a large reception area. Perfect for an Emissary to work, study and prepare.
M’ret beckoned them to sit and asked them about their intentions. T’Pol responded. “I wish to speak to the heads of your governing body, to set out our Alliance’s views. My Companion wishes to explain a little about his World’s intentions in the Quadrant. We would then each like to have separate and more detailed conversations about our particularly interests, mine being cultural and his being political.” We believe this could be carried out in one day, leaving you to formulate an initial response on the Second Day before we depart. I am not here to negotiate but to offer something much more straight forward: the simple thought that we can have peace if we all desire it.”
M’ret nodded. “This is what we imagined. We have set time aside so that you can meet with our governing legislature tomorrow. With that thought in mind, I will leave you with an explanation of the governance of our two planets.” T’Pol took the Pad he offered to her. “I am grateful to you; this is a good start. May I ask you one question?” M’ret nodded his assent. “To what extent is there unanimity among your people as to how to respond to the overture we have made?’ M’ret thought for a moment.”It is the Romulan way to assume the worst. We are an aggressive species and assume others will be the same. Few Romulans will expect you to genuinely be offering peaceful co-existence. But you are here, so there is always the chance.” T’Pol nodded. They rose and M’ret indicated he would call upon them at 0900 hours. In the meantime, he encouraged them to take advantage of their Guides and the hospitality they could provide. After he had left, T’Pol turned to Trip but communicated non verbally: that is someone who hopes for the best.
M’ret sat before the Praetor. “So ?” “I believe they are what they say they are. The first test was to scan the craft: it posed no threat. We therefore diverted it to the City. Now I have spoken with them and we have searched their belongings, I do not believe they are here to collect intelligence, the Emissary has a device for capturing Visual Records which is consistent with her desire to visit our cultural archives and they have neither analytical or transmission capacity. I offered and provided them with only the data which would serve their perceived objectives. There was no attempt to extract more than we offered.” The Praetor nodded, “I have seen the material. I agree with you. For that reason, they present an even greater threat than mere spies, with their message of peace and cooperation.” “Praetor?”
“Our credo is ‘Unlimited Expansion’. We thrive on aggressive acquisition. Indeed, there are those that believe the Romulan people’s origins lie in the rejection of peaceful co-existence. Our reason to exist is to take the Romulan way of life to other worlds. You have seen the woman, it is rumoured that we share a past with Vulcan and we should draw closer to them. Such actions would not lead to peaceful co existence but the ceding of Vulcan to the Empire. We have a clarity of purpose and their presence and message of peace may confuse and undermine it.
“When they contacted us, the maxim we agreed was “Keep your friends close, but keep your enemies even closer.” M’ret looked at the Praetor and risked a qualification, “but we also agreed we would deal with them honourably.” The Praetor nodded. “Let us proceed cautiously, Sub-Consul, and see what tomorrow brings.”