Disclaimer: Don't own 'em. Don't make money off 'em.
Notes: R/S and TnT
This is an immediate sequel to “Captain Sato’s Enterprise”. Read that fic first to understand what’s going on. . T’Pol’s relationship with the Vulcan High Command is different...it’s not how it is in the “real” universe.
Archive?: Just let me know first. Thanks!
She instantly woke at the sound of the Communication Officer's voice. She leaned over and pushed the intercom toggle on her nightstand. “T’Pol.”
“Lieutenant, you have a communique from the Vulcan Security Ministry on a secured channel." Archer's voice held equal parts of respect and curiosity. On Vulcan, curiosity was a positive trait, as long as it was harnessed at the appropriate times. He was well-matched with that canine of his, Porthos the beagle. The corner of her mouth twitched in humor, but she controlled it.
“I will accept it, Lieutenant Commander.”
“Transferring now, and please give Minister T'Pau my regards.”
“I will certainly do so,” she answered. "Thank you."
She expected, just like Jonathan, to see T'Pau in her office. Her eyes widened at the sight of Minister Soultek instead. T'Pol suppressed a shiver of revulsion at the sight of her future father-in-law. Weeks of no contact, then suddenly, she had a flurry of 'instructions' from both Soultek and her fiance, Koss.
T'Pol bowed her head in acknowledgement of his presence. He raised his hand in the Vulcan salute, which she returned. “T’Pol, my apologies for disturbing your rest.”
“I was not asleep, Minister.”
He raised an eyebrow and asked, “I am not currently speaking in a diplomatic capacity, so you need not refer to me now with that title.”
T’Pol considered that statement, then nodded. “Ah. I understand. Then I infer that this channel is completely secure?”
“Yes, especially from your communications officer..”
She nodded. "Lieutenant Commander Archer tends to see the best in everyone, as you well know. That is his biggest strength and his biggest weakness.”
"I completely agree. His loyalty to Soval is admirable...but Soval has worked with Humans longer than any of us on Vulcan. Soval's logic on Archer's people is...uncertain, as far as objectivity is concerned."
T'Pol kept her tone even. "Even Surak's contemporaries questioned his objectivity during Vulcan's Unification, Minister, but Surak continued on his own path. As will Soval."
"I hope that path will not have the same tragic outcome."
"For Soval or for Archer?"
"Either, or both. Although we are on opposite sides, I do not wish either of them harm." He didn't quite smirk, but his eyes lit up at the corners. "I am not the ogre that V'Lar makes me out to be."
"Is First Minister V'Lar well?"
Soultek didn't quite shrug. "As well as can be, considering the trying times. She still tires easily, and T'Pau is constantly by her side, as her kinswoman. The Vulcan Council is still divided on the matter of Beta Polaris, but T'Pau insists on carrying out the mission of the Vulcan Science Academy."
"And you still disapprove?"
"'Forewarned is forearmed', as T'Pau reminds me. If we find any further threats to Vulcan, then we will be better prepared to deal with them."
She raised her eyebrows at his concession. So, even Soultek saw the logic in V'Lar's and T'Pau's policies. It wasn't like him to admit such defeat; in fact, T'Pol was sure that Soultek planned on twisting the truth to benefit his Clan.
"There are some things over which I disagree with V'Lar and T'Pau...but their arguments are rather logical in this matter."
This time, he did shrug in dismissal. "Time will tell, whether or not their presuppositions are correct, T'Pol." Soultek shook his head and changed the subject. "I must speak with you on a 'confusing' matter."
She raised her eyebrows at the older man's choice of word. Did Soultek suspect her ruse of providing limited information to Vulcan Security? Did he believe her to be 'disloyal' to Vulcan? T'Pol worked jointly with both Trip Tucker and Hoshi Sato to quell his fears. Had those precautions been enough?
She inclined her head in a gesture of submission. "'Confusing'? I will attempt to clear any misunderstandings."
Soultek nodded again. "Have you received your instructions from me?"
T'Pol sternly controlled the shiver of revulsion that ran through her. “Yes, I have."
“We were quite impressed by your previous reports. The navigational data has allowed us to track Enterprise’s progress and the personnel summaries gave us critical information on how to deal with her command crew.” Soultek raised his eyebrow again. “Captain Sato is not your typical Starfleet captain and that has the Vulcan Security Ministry..stymied."
He spread his hands in frustration and added, "That is not the word I would use, but Healer Kov has used it, and I am merely...borrowing the term."
T'Pol's mouth twitched again, this time in grim humor. She couldn't help but feel a sense of satisfaction at Soultek's confusion. After all, she had fulfilled her part of their bargain. It was not her fault that he could not use the information as efficiently as he wanted.
“No, she is not. I would venture to add that none of this crew is 'typical. It is difficult to predict their actions, for they do not use logic in the same way Vulcans do."
His smile was without humor. "Especially the Armory Officer.”
T’Pol only nodded, for she didn’t trust herself to speak. The memory of piercing blue eyes intruded on her consciousness and she pushed it away. Highly emotional. Highly skilled. A potentially dangerous combination.
So was this Soultek's main concern? Trip Tucker as a threat? He was a good friend of both Soval and Jonathan Archer and knowledgeable in Starfleet training and tactics. Was there more to it?
"Lieutenant Commander Charles Tucker. You 'suggested' that I re-focus my attention on him, as Kov watches Doctor Reed."
“I must be blunt, T'Pol, and I ask you as a fellow member of the Vulcan Security Force. Do you foresee the crew of the Enterprise--and specifically him--as a threat to Vulcan?”
She carefully considered her words before she spoke them. T'Pol's last mission with the VSF was more than a decade ago, but obviously Soultek still considered her an agent. Then again, no one who joined the VSF--voluntarily or not--wholly left it. Although this conversation was shielded from Jonathan Archer, Soultek had implied that Vulcan Security might be listening...and possibly recording. The possibility alarmed T'Pol considerably; it was another concern to bring to Trip, the next time they talked.
“He has shown an interest in Vulcan culture and language, to the point where he is somewhat skilled in the lirpa and wants to learn the ahn-woon. In return, he is instructing me in some Earth-based combat techniques. An equitable trade in information.”
Soultek insisted, “But is he a threat? You have not answered my question.”
Her face flushed bronze-green. She had been temporizing, but unaware of it. Trip Tucker must have affected her more than she realized. “I will not deny that he has the potential, Soultek. The others, like Sato, and Mayweather...they all do.”
Soultek nodded to himself. “I commend you on your honesty. It is not easy, dealing with these Humans on a personal basis." He ducked his head as if he realized to whom he was talking. “Forgive me.”
“‘The cause was sufficient’,” she said, quoting Surak. Her tone was even, without a trace of reproach. You must not allow emotion to cloud your judgement. Logic dictates the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one. For the benefit of the hidden listeners, she said aloud, “I will not allow my...concerns...for Lieutenant Commander Tucker to affect my performance, Minister. He is a valuable resource of tactical information.”
“Indeed. I do not have to remind you to continue your vigilant watch over him."
“That goes without saying, Minister." She paused and added, "Captain Sato has invited me to evening meal with her and Tucker. I expect it to be a...productive evening.”
“I look forward to reading that report, T’Pol.” The brief flare of humor was gone as quickly as it had appeared. “Your mother and I agreed that you should remain on Enterprise for the time being. Your mission objectives remain unchanged. Make sure you are on the Away team to Luran, and watch them during the First Contact."
"Very well. I will be vigilant."
"Yes, that would be helpful to us, wouldn’t you agree?”He raised his hand in the Vulcan salute again and she matched it. “Peace and long life. Until next time.”
“Until next time.”
His image winked out, replaced by the logo of the Vulcan Securty Ministry. T’Pol stared at it for a long time, deep in thought. There was no chance of her going back to sleep. Her conversation with Soultek had kindled all sorts of thoughts...and possibilities.
I must meditate on this. She was assigned to Beta shift, so she had sufficient time. T’Pol turned to her closet, where she kept her meditation mat and the taper for her candles. Yes, there was always possibilities.
“Buoys are prepped and ready to go, Commander.”
Commander Travis Mayweather, First Officer and Science Officer of the Enterprise, nodded and swiveled around in the command chair. “Launch on my order, Commander Phlox.”
“Acknowledged,” said Phlox from Engineering. The Denobulan sounded more cheerful than usual and for good reason. Travis smiled and glanced at Lieutenant Rostov, who sat at Phlox’s station on the bridge.
“Two minutes, Mike, and give me a twenty-second tick for reference.”
“Yes, sir. Two minutes starting—now.”
Travis brought his attention to the beautiful nebula in front on him. The Enterprise remained a safe distance away from it, for Travis’s scans had found a surge in its radiation levels. He had suggested launching warning buoys for the various cargo ships that traveled past the Urathan Nebula. Captain Sato had heartily agreed and Commander Phlox had arranged the launch of the buoys.
The hiss of the lift echoed loudly over the bridge. Captain Hoshi Sato nodded at Travis, but said nothing, only gestured for him to complete the launch. He nodded and waited for Rostov’s cue.
“Twenty seconds, Commander.”
“Thanks, Mike. Engineering?”
“Standing by...Buoys show green.”
Trip Tucker’s voice came through loud and clear. “All ready down here, Commander.”
Travis watched as the timer approached zero. Then he ordered, “Launch buoys.”
Four spheres streaked towards the nebula on various vectors, slowing until they reached their target coordinates. Lieutenant Commander Archer nodded as he listened to his earpiece and reported, “Warning buoys are running, Commander. No problems with the message.”
“New data coming in,” reported Lieutenant Varianis from the science station. “Scientific sensors are working at full capacity.”
Captain Sato moved to Travis’s side. “Excellent launch, Commander. Get some rest; you’re earned it.” Before he could object, she added, “You can analyze the nebula’s data after at least four hours sleep. I’ve already warned Lieutenant Varianis that if she sees you in the lab before then, she’s authorized to knock you out and drag you to Sickbay.”
Travis’s face fell in mock disappointment, then he turned and glared at his departmental XO. Lieutenant Ellen Varianis only shrugged as if to say, “Sorry, Commander. Captain’s orders.” He sighed and said, “Understood, Captain.”
“Go on, get out of here. And Gamma shifters, you’re relieved of duty.”
With those words, the officers and crewman on Gamma shift turned over their stations to the incoming Alpha Shift personnel. In moments, the shift change was complete. Hoshi glanced over at Jon Archer, who still sat at the communications console. “You too, Commander. I can see Crewman Rheinstein hovering over your shoulder.”
Jon nodded and unfolded his tall, lanky frame from the chair. “Captain, may I have a few words with you in private before I go off-shift?”
“Of course. Lieutenant Varianis, you have the conn.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Varianis replied.
After Hoshi and Jon were settled in the Captain’s Ready Room, she nodded for him to continue. He handed her a PADD. “T’Pol received a communique from the Vulcan Science Ministry at zero-three-twenty hours this morning, Priority Two.”
His tone of voice raised alarm bells in Hoshi's mind. "You didn't listen in on their conversation, did you?"
“Lord, no!” Jon shook his head, horrified at the thought. “Vulcans hold their privacy sacred. It’s just that this is the third such conversation this week. I know T'Pau...she isn’t the type of person who just says ‘Hi, how are you?’ that often."
Hoshi frowned at the information. “Priority Two...wouldn’t Minister T'Pau have used that channel to talk directly to me?"
“She would have, if she'd made the call herself.”
"You think she wasn't the one who called T'Pol in the first place?"
"As I said, T'Pau wouldn't call T'Pol that often unless there was a crisis in the Clan, and that would usually be either T'Les's or Soval's job. I didn't overhear the conversation, but I noticed some heavy cryptographic matrices interwoven into the main frequency. So whoever it was didn't want anyone to overhear, not just us."
Hoshi's mind went over all the possibilities, then she said quietly, "Soultek. Trip and I were wondering when he'd call T'Pol. He has enough clearance to use the Priority Channels from the Security Ministry, and he'd want to handle this himself."
Jon shifted uncomfortably from foot to foot, which was unusual for the normally calm and collected lieutenant commander. "Should we let Soval know about this?"
Hoshi was silent as she considered that. “Not until Trip and I speak to T'Pol ourselves. We’ll keep an eye on her, make sure she’s all right. I'm sure Soultek didn't call simply because of her welfare. I’ve invited her to the Captain’s Mess for dinner; maybe I can find something then.”
He looked relieved. “Thank you, Captain.”
"Thank you for bringing this to my attention, Jon. Now get something to eat and some sleep. It's past your bedtime."
He rolled his eyes at her maternal tone. “Yes, ma’am. Oh, and those Luran speeches—“
She sighed. “I looked them over before I went to bed. I’m going to need your help later on a few passages, but I think I got most of it.”
“Just let me know when.”
“I will. Thanks.”
Jon smiled and left the ready room. Hoshi brought up one of the Luran texts on the screen. She was supposed to make the same speech in three different dialects...and crack a Luran whip at certain points during the speech to “keep her admirers at bay”. She nearly choked at the prospect of using a deadly weapon on a First Contact mission. Luckily, Lieutenant T’Pol was skilled in the ahn-woon, the Vulcan version of the whip and had offered to give Hoshi lessons.
“Hmmm...I wonder...” she thought aloud. She switched screens and brought up Ensign T’Pol’s personnel file. Of course, Hoshi had reviewed all of her bridge staff’s records when Enterprise was launched, but she hadn't looked at them since. A certain detail nagged at her. She scrolled down T'Pol's service record until she found it.
According to the file, T’Pol had been assigned to the Vulcan Security Ministry after her initial training. After eighteen months, she had requested a transfer to the Vulcan Space Operations Ministry, where T’Pol concentrated her efforts on navigation and helm systems for Vulcan ships. She had stayed with Space Operations for twelve years before a brief stint at the Vulcan Science Academy with her mother, T’Les, and her posting to the new Enterprise.
Her performance reviews were impeccable. She had earned many awards and accolades from her peers. “So why is she only an lieutenant?” Hoshi murmured. “You’d think that Starfleet would have made her at least a lieutenant commander, if not a full commander. You don’t make someone with that kind of space experience a mere lieutenant.”
Had T’Pol been demoted at one time? There was no mention of a demotion in her official record. Another thought occurred to Hoshi: She was the first Vulcan to serve on an Earth Starfleet ship. Was there some prejudice involved? Hoshi winced at the idea, but unfortunately, it was possible. Earth was still new at space travel, and its people still adjusting to the possibility of meeting new races.
I’ll try to find out something during tonight’s dinner. It just doesn’t make any sense. Hoshi sighed and with an effort, switched her screen back to the Luran text. Before she plunged back into Luran verbs and prepositions, she added, Travis was right. T’Pol is an enigma.