She walks the waters like a thing of life,
And seems to dare the elements to strife.
[VSS Seleya, in orbit of Vulcan]
12th Day in the month of et'Khior, YS 9022
The triangular shaped command center was abuzz with activity, with the only center of calm being the slightly elevated chair located conveniently on the dais that took up the rear half of Seleya's bridge. Every primary station in clear view, the woman seated there still found her gaze drawn to the viewscreen more often than not for there on the large, slightly curved surface a planet turned slowly in its ancient, stately dance. Only the rugged, mountain covered surface of Kel was visible now, half of it gleaming in bright copper and rich burgundy, lively gold and even the occasional dot of amethyst as Nevasa slowly set over the lands, rendering the skies ablaze and making the precious lakes nestled away so far north shine her light back into the eternal night. The other half was dark, dotted with small twinkling lights, clustered among the valleys and spreading into a graceful curve along the Thanar Sea.
Many names had been given to this planet, by as many species and more. The one foremost on T'Meni's mind was also one the inhabitants of this world did not care to divulge to outsiders.
Clad in the somber, elegant rosewood colored uniform that was impeccably tailored to her physique, Seleya's Commander observed her senior officers move purposefully across the bridge, lit brightly by Vulcan standard, her closely cropped steel grey hair emphasizing the severe upsweep of her brows and the aristocratic, chiseled features. There was no nervous energy, not yet, but a grim determination in the set of jaws, the tapping of fingers against consoles, the gazes lingering just a heartbeat too long on a less than perfect diagnostic readout. They wondered.
So did she.
The quiet, soft hiss of turbolift doors opening prompted a slanted brow to climb fractionally, but the still figure kept her attention on the latest batch of reports scrolling over the transparent screen that hovered before her. Intricate letters shining in ruby and garnet danced in mid-air, intersecting and overlaying diagrams and power consumption curves. With the experienced engineer's eye and engineer she was and would remain until the time that her Katra was no more, no matter what rank the Council decided to pin on her T'Meni scanned for imperfections, irregularities, even the smallest sign of trouble and found none.
Trouble as it were had arrived in a different shape. An aesthetically pleasing one to be certain, as the Commander silently observed when it was finally becoming impossible to ignore the young woman stepping up to the center chair any longer. Clad in the unique dark gray that V'Shar favored for duty uniforms, the young fosh-lan whose silver insignia still gleamed with the brightness of a newly acquired rank stood quietly, her hands loosely clasped before her in a courteous, patient manner. Of course the latter was rather ruined by the blatant eagerness that radiated from her stance and the urgency that practically waved a myriad bright flags in her dark brown eyes but it was not in T'Meni's nature to comment on such inconsequential issues.
Her piercing gaze took in the tall, lean form, the clear, sharply defined features, the glossy black hair worn in the short, practical style that nonetheless flattered the upswept brows and finely tapered ears. By all accounts the epitome of what constituted Vulcan beauty, the young woman drew decidedly more glances than curiosity concerning a V'Shar agent would warrant. However, there was no evidence of undue distraction among her officers and the Commander was content to let them be inquisitive. None of them would be on their crew had they not an abundance of this trait already so prominent in their race, and to chide them would therefore be highly illogical.
"S'thora." The young woman gave an impeccable bow after the ancient eyes had deemed to acknowledge her presence at last and found herself positively unsettled by the sharpness of this deep, deep grey. A shade of blue seemed to slumber somewhere beneath the smoked topaz, the shimmer of the sea under roiling clouds when storms sweep over Thanar in the spring. Trained to adapt to even the most outrageous of circumstances with befitting equanimity and quick thinking, the young fosh-lan still could not help but be impressed. Without doubt a ship's commander should carry authority as naturally as they drew breath, but these eyes did not merely command. They expected to be obeyed without even considering the possibility of the contrary.
"The agency conveys greetings, madam. Your request for independent operations has been cleared, however the Defense Forces request " a near imperceptibly raised hand stopped the young woman in her tracks.
"I am aware." Just as she was aware he would personally watch Seleya and had likely already moved his pawns and bishops as to not upset the queen's plans. Terran chess might be a poor metaphor when one considered the deeper implications; however it suited the subtle dance which director Sutok had performed for decades. A dance that was made rather difficult by the fact the queen moved only by her own will, if ever. For when she did, the board itself changed and she knew it well.
T'Meni never questioned her position as the queen's own, not so much a sword in her hand but the trusted shield bearer, the one who needs not claim loyalty to she who was her blood to justify that her actions were righteous. To heed the Matriarch was to heed C'thia.
It was the simple fact that the queen had not only moved, but allowed it to be known that would have sent a chill down the Commander's spine had she ever allowed for such a thing to happen. The child before her could hardly understand what it meant when Eldest Mother called upon her clan in this manner. The manner which sent ripples far, far beyond family, even the planet.
What ever she anticipated might befall them it could only be dire. Dire enough for Starfleet to send a fleet after a garbled message had been received, telling the outrageous tale of a planned attack on Vulcan. Dire enough for the entire Defense Force to mobilize on a recommendation presented without proof, without any data but rumors and whispers, and a transmission that could not even be authenticated and would have otherwise been handed to intelligence rather than send an entire planet into heightened alert. What piece of the puzzle the Matriarch had that would paint such a menacing picture, T'Meni did not know. Nor did she need to. However, other matters she did indeed require information about and this young one hand-picked by Sutok himself was apparently the one to deliver it.
"I assume the codes for Tel-Alep's sensor array have been downloaded."
"Ha, S'thora. As have those for the monitoring satellites of the outer asteroid belt."
"Acknowledged. Tevel, khar-gluvaya."
It took zero point seven seconds for a real time image of the solar system to appear before the Commander, hovering seemingly immobile in mid-air. But a closer look revealed the swirls of Kir-Alep to be moving as a magnetic storm passed over the Subjovian's polar region and several of the glowing dots floating like so many specks of dust between the second planet and the outer rim were creeping forward on trajectories the computer would reveal at a single touch. Just as one would need only reach for one of them to make it declare its name, patrol schedule and a host of other details.
There was no need however. The warm red shape hovering near Kal-Apton's massive bulk was as familiar to T'Meni as the tiny dots dancing leisurely around the inner belt. The Guardians were on the move, eyes fixed on the endless night outside their home.
What caused the steel grey brow to climb slightly was the silver insignia blinking over several of the magenta colored dots including the one soaring above Vulcan herself. That he would place agents in several crucial locations to ensure uninterrupted flow of information was no surprise. That he would reveal it so blatantly was.
"It is satisfactory, madam?"
Once more, the elder's gaze was drawn to the viewscreen where a planet still rolled silently under her ship's hull. Patience was not something that had ever come easy to the fiery blood of those born to this world. It was however something they had learned quite well.
She noticed the shift a split second before the subdued murmurs and noise of normal ship operations were interrupted by a deep, menacing alert sound emanating from T'Reah's tactical console. When the Le-Matya tenses before the hunt, when the Shavokh hovers above its prey before plunging down, there is the frozen moment of life and death standing on the edge of a sword a moment senses honed to such things since the Time of the Beginning knew all too well.
"Target object has emerged eight hundred thousand sixty seven leht-weh'kayr outside the system. Neutrinos match specified parameters to within zero point eight percent margin of error. Readings are resolving now, S'thora. However, there is considerable interference " the woman might as well have been reading the menu at her favored restaurant in the artisan quarter were it not for the minute frown crinkling her velvety brown brows. And T'Meni knew immediately what it was that caused her tactical officer's displeasure.
This wasn't right.
Oh, if she were a tactician, a military mind she would approve of the location. It was ideal to throw off even the sophisticated sensors of a Federation core world, shielded by Kal-Apton's bulk from their penetrating scans, and furthermore using the solar radiation of Behr'ak (40 Eridani B) glowing behind to make even those readings ... unreliable. But T'Meni was an engineer who glared in disbelief at the ship showing on her sensors. Tattered and beaten, with gaping holes in her hull but her proud lines still visible even in this fuzzy resolution, Temep`Shar coasted towards her home, framed by the menacing Warbirds who made up her escort.
The young V'Shar, apparently stunned by the Commander's failure to order immediate departure, snapped around to stare at the tactical officer "The Federation task force?"
"Three point seven four v'hral until arrival."
Too late. Much too
"S'thora, should " once more, a raised finger silenced her. And then the silver haired Commander reached out, almost dreamily tracing the lines of the holographic ship floating before her.
"T'Reah. Shields on standby, charge weapons. Varek, hold position."
Hold ? Before the young woman's eyes, the ships spread across the system began to converge on the enemy, with exception of one V'Ket cruiser which seemed to coast inward and the defense satellites turned towards the threat, charging their powerful guns. What was she doing?
T'Meni noticed and disregarded the positively fidgeting young agent, her steely eyes fixed upon the ship she knew near as intimately as Seleya. No part of that impulse assembly, that warp drive, that her hands had not touched. No conduit she had not personally crawled through, no piece of the shimmering hull her eyes had not burned into memory. Even when T'Pelar and her minions had taken the project from the engineers who had so vigilantly, one could near say lovingly, built this ship from the keel up, stood proudly as her heart had begun to beat, her veins near bursting with the power it had been too late. They would know one another, always.
This wounded soul limping towards home it was not Temep`Shar. It could not be, for the ship she knew could not have survived the strenuous journey from her last known location, not in this manner, not in the condition she had been in. Debris, parts of the engineering section built by hands who took immeasurable pride in their work yes. The entire vessel, dragged across the event horizon to maintain it and then discarded, tumbling behind the Warbirds like desert weed no.
In short, non-Vulcan English T'Meni didn't buy it.