The desert air was dry, carrying with it the unmistakable scent of sand and heat. This near to the Forge, one could hear the wailing of the wind as it roared through the twisting canyons. There was no spot in ShiKahr closer to the Vulcan heritage.
Clad in the unremarkable work robes of a low-level bureaucrat, T'Pol stood quietly before the elaborately carved overlook that dominated the view. From here, she could see nearly all of the streets and curved alleyways leading to or past the ancient gates that had once marked the border of Surak's demesne in antiquity. Over the centuries, those gates had been expanded and reduced and rebuilt again so many times it no longer resembled its original appearance.
She heard the traitor approach long before she saw him. Menos did not hurry as he strode toward her, but neither did he tarry. Like her, he was dressed to blend, complete with concealing hood still hanging down past his mid-back. He carried no visible weapons, but T'Pol knew it would be illogical to presume he was unarmed. She certainly wasn't and he had been one of her primary instructors.
"I congratulate you on a most effective ploy," Menos said once he drew alongside her. "Your request for a meeting was artfully phrased. It effectively straddled the line between openly resentful of the system and sullen naivete." He offered her the tiniest of nods. "I was unaware that my extracurricular activities were known to the Director."
"You could have run," T'Pol said calmly. "There is no logic in your decision to remain on Vulcan."
"On the contrary," Menos retorted in an even voice, "my every action has been logical." He turned to face the open desert. "A war is coming, T'Pol-kan, and the allegiance I have chosen is one which offers the highest chance of survival." T'Pol studied him for a long moment, wondering exactly when his considerable intellect had tipped into insanity.
"The Andorians are," she began but Menos interrupted, but his voice was several decibels louder than necessary.
"The Andorians are not relevant," he snapped. "They are a momentary distraction before the true danger to Vulcan." He pinned her with a look. "The Humans will destroy us if we do not act … and we will let them." His expression darkened fractionally. "They will seduce us from our rightful place of power and supplant us." Menos turned to face her once more. "Thus have I allied with our Lost cousins," he said. "For the good of Vulcan."
T'Pol stared at her former instructor with a disturbing sense of unease swimming in her stomach. Every Vulcan knew the legends of the Rihannsu and how they had been cast from this world into eternal exile, but no one truly believed they still existed. They had been too barbaric, too uncivilized, too poorly equipped to long survive their great exodus, so only madmen claimed their support.
And yet … Menos' gaze was still sharp, his actions coherent and focused, directed toward an unseen but identifiable objective, so unlike the other illogical fools who referenced those who marched under the Raptor's wing. He had been recorded in the company of unknown Vulcans who did not exist in the planetary census. Was it possible he was not delusional?
"You are considering my actions without filtering them through officially-sanctioned biases," Menos said approvingly. "This is why your record as an intelligence operative is so inconsistent," he added. "You have become accustomed to failure." He frowned. "How many times have your assignments been weighted against your abilities? How often have you been sent into a situation long past the moment you could have altered the result?"
"Quite frequently," T'Pol admitted. She knew quite well that her performance was listed as marginal and was capable of suppressing her resentment over this only after extended meditation. Logic told her that someone in the Ministry harbored an emotional dislike for her, though she had yet to discern their identity.
Menos opened his mouth to comment further, but visibly hesitated. He frowned slightly, his eyes narrowing, and then, to T'Pol's great surprise, he sighed heavily.
"Well executed, Director," he murmured under his breat. "This is a trap," Menos said calmly, "and both of us are the targets." T'Pol tensed.
But it was already too late.
A brilliant lance of living fire flashed over her shoulder, striking Menos squarely in the chest. He remained standing for several heartbeats, his expression frozen in pained shock, and finally, he slowly toppled to the street. There was never any doubt that he was dead.
Even before he fell, T'Pol was twisting in place, her right hand darting for the concealed disruptor in her belt. With her left hand, she slapped the communicator disguised as a badge of administrative rank, triggering the agent in distress alert. A second bolt of weapons fire slashed out at her, narrowly missing as she threw herself into a jumping dive that carried her off the overlook and into the street below.
She hit the dirt walkway hard, rolling to distribute the impact more efficiently. A trio of pedestrians – two males twice her age and a matronly female who looked to be of sufficient age to have known Surak personally – calmly stepped out of her way and continued on their way, sparing her only a single, disapproving look so identical on all three faces that T'Pol recognized them as blood relatives.
"Code in," a disembodied, gender-less voice ordered through the tiny receiver secured in her left ear.
"T'Pol," she replied sharply as she half-sprinted, half-walked down the street. "Code: one, seven, zero, one." An alleyway beckoned – it was sheltered and curved away from the overlook. "Shots fired," she continued. "Target is deceased and I am being pursued by an unknown number of hostiles." She risked a glance behind her and suppressed a flash of anger at the sight of the pedestrian trio now in conversation with two hefty males wearing the gear of Internal Security sweeper teams.
"We are monitoring the situation," the gender-less voice said. "Evade capture and proceed to contact point three-three-six." T'Pol's nostrils flared with irritation but that was the only indication of displeasure at the extraordinarily unhelpful instructions she allowed show on her face. She ducked into the alley, removed her outer robe, and then reversed it before slipping it back on. When she emerged from the small side street again, she wore the uniform of a low-level sanitation disposal worker.
Contact Point Three-Three-Six was an unremarkable shop specializing in decorative, hand-crafted urns, usually used in remembrance rituals for the recently deceased. T'Pol observed it for several moments from a place of relative concealment, but saw nothing out of place to indicate that it was a trap. Still, she approached with no small amount of trepidation and entered cautiously, the disruptor held tightly in one hand. The proprietor, a male of indeterminate age, looked up from where he sat behind the counter and raised a single, questioning eyebrow. T'Pol drew breath to address him.
And, in that moment, a stun field enveloped her.
She was unaware of how long she was unconscious and as she slowly surfaced toward coherence, T'Pol could sense the sedatives coursing through her bloodstream. She was secured to a bed of some sort – it reminded her of a physician's biobed – and there were voices hovering near her. Try as she might, though, she could not force her eyes to open.
"It would be more efficient to simply terminate her," a voice declared. To her ears, he sounded diffident, obsequious even. "I can arrange for disposal if you are unwilling."
"Do so and I shall personally ensure your demise is exceedingly painful," an all-too familiar male declared. The drugs must have been particularly effective because he sounded like T'Pol's late father. "You have your instructions. She is to remember what I want her to remember." The other man murmured something that sounded like acquiescence and T'Pol heard him back away. She struggled against the drug-induced torpor that stripped away her control, but her body refused to obey her desires. "I am sorry, Daughter," the male who sounded like Father whispered. He stroked the side of her face and she felt a whisper of foreign emotion brush against her mind. Her thoughts tumbled over one another. It could not be. He was dead.
A sudden rush of displaced air warned her that they were no longer alone. The knot of emotions that she recognized as belonging to her father, even though she knew it could not possibly be him, hardened, turned darker and angrier.
"You come when you are not asked ... and pay no heed when I call you," Father said in a growl.
"I do not answer to you," the newcomer replied. He spoke Vulcan with a curious accent. "There is no logic in this course of action, Director."
"Menos was the final piece," Father said. "With him removed, you are the only one remaining alive who is aware of my former identity. I am now free to implement Phase Two."
"Infilitration." The other man sounded disturbed. "This was not why I revealed myself to you. It will complicate things immeasurably."
"Reveal? I found you out, if you recall." Father exhaled deeply. "It is logical for me to do this."
"You have irreparably damaged your daughter's career in the Ministry," the stranger said, disapproval evident in his voice. "And now, you conspire to harm her credibility further by implying she experienced a psychotic break. Is this how you see to your child's well-being?"
"You misunderstand my intent," Father said. "I intend to place the blame squarely upon Menos. My daughter's reaction will be understandable in light of the tragedy she has averted." T'Pol felt him shift his stance. "I do not wish this life for her."
"She chose this career because of you."
"I know." Father shook his head. "She is too much like me," he said. He suddenly sounded bitter. "Our breeding runs true," he murmured. "You wonder how I will succeed in my infiltration? It is because I am already Rihannsu." The stranger's silence must have indicated shock as Father continued. "My foremother returned to Vulcan on a mission of espionage but bonded so intently with her mate that she abandoned it."
"I was … unaware," the other man stated.
"And T'Pol is doubly so. Her second foremother mated to a Rihannsu as well, though I doubt T'Mir knew this until many decades after the fact." Father's voice hardened. "I do this so T'Pol will not be asked to in twenty years when the High Command inevitably realizes the extent of chi'Rihan's infiltration of Vulcan." The oh so familiar mindtouch slowly vanished as Father retracted his hand. "Barring direct intervention," he said, "youcannot prevent this." Another hiss of displaced air announced the stranger's departure. "As I suspected," Father said softly, an amused tone in his voice. "Be well, my child" he said a moment later. "Remember the dreams of your youth and seek a life among the stars," he whispered. "Let nothing and no one restrain you."
He withdrew then, calling out for an attendant. They conversed, their voices too soft for her to comprehend, and then, the first male joined them. A few moments later, he approached with the unseen attendant. Dry, overly warm fingers touched her face in a way that was tantalizingly familiar.
"She is partially aware," the older man announced. Gone was the hesitation and hesitancy that had been in his voice when he spoke to Father. "Sedate her again," he ordered. "I will not risk this while she is conscious. Even for him." Something touched her neck and she fell into oblivion, knowing that when she woke, nothing would be the same.
She blinked away the last vestiges of confusion and inhaled sharply. The imposed memories she had known for eighteen years fell away, collapsing like spider-webs in strong rain. Anger replaced the guilt she'd struggled with for years. It took little less than a minute for the last of the High Priest's work to vanish as she integrated what she now knew to be the truth with her memories of life since the Fullara that wasn't. Abruptly, her breath caught. The stranger speaking to her father … she knew him. She knew him.
Suddenly, she needed to meditate very, very badly.