She could not get comfortable.
The steady hum of Enterprise was both familiar and strikingly discordant, though T’Pol suspected her subconscious was simply trying to locate the hiccup in the warp field that had caused the T’Muna-Doth’s superluminal transit to feel so bumpy. Given how critical she had been about the Enterprise’s capabilities when she first came aboard, it was strangely unsettling to be aboard the Starfleet vessel and consider it vastly superior in every way to a Vulcan craft. Silently, she filed the thought away for later review – Trip would find it amusing.
Today was the third day since her awakening in Challenger’s medical facility and she was still struggling with the vast changes that had greeted her. For the first time in a very long time – before Tolaris actually – her thoughts were clear and ordered. Gone were the sudden flashes of rage or grief or despair … no, that was not accurate. They were still there, along with all of her other emotions, but she could control them once more. Her hands were steady, her body free of the aching, persistent pain that she’d sadly grown accustomed to. She felt more like her than she had in years.
Knowing that the Pa’nar had been so easily eradicated by a stranger when both she and Phlox had struggled so hard was at once frustrating and amusing. That a second mind meld could resolve what a first one had caused was ironic. She frowned very slightly.
“I do not know,” Doctor Yuris has told her when she asked if her own missteps with Trip might have caused neural damage to her human mate. To her relief, the doctor did not give her a disapproving look or even hint at understanding the implications behind her questions, and it would be illogical to presume he did not correctly assume the nature of her concerns. Later, after she was fully settled, she would pose the same questions to Phlox.
Shifting her posture slightly, she resumed focusing on rebuilding her mental whitespace as she fed the extraneous worries and concerns of the day into the nothingness. Meditation was so much easier than before – T’Pol truly did not recall ever feeling this … balanced before, not even before Tolaris’ assault. This was the first time in three days that she was completely alone and she fully intended on utilizing the solitude to reconstruct her still tattered control. Trip was away, with the captain and Commander Reed, ostensibly celebrating their return in a traditional human male bonding ceremony involving alcohol and stories of past events that were both untruthful and wildly improbable – though from the sensations she could feel from their cerebral linkage, it did not seem that the reunion was going as well as any party would like. T’Pol shoved it aside. Her time was limited before…
The chirp of her door annunciator came almost exactly when she suspected it would – her estimate was off by only two and a half minutes, well within the margin of error – and T’Pol allowed herself a tiny smile before focusing on clearing away any hint of emotion. Ambassador Soval would not understand and much depended upon her ensuring that he remained an ally. Whether Trip wanted to admit it or not, T’Pol knew there was much difficulty for them still ahead. She inhaled control and spoke.
Soval was dressed in his most ornate robes – again, she felt amusement curl her lips slightly and from his reaction, she had done an inadequate job at concealing the emotion – and he visibly faltered at the sight of her kneeling on the floor before a flickering candle. T’Pol gestured very slightly for him to join her without rising. Again, the ambassador hesitated.
“I did not mean to interrupt,” he began in their native tongue. T’Pol looked up to meet his gaze.
“You did not,” she said simply. With her left hand, she picked up the PADD resting at her side. “I have finalized my report to Vulcan High Command regarding the events Commander Tucker and I were involved in.” Soval’s lips tightened.
“There is no High Command now.” He knelt smoothly before her but accepted the data device. “I will forward this to the proper authorities.” T’Pol inclined her head very slightly in appreciation.
“I have also been reviewing this … Kir’shara.” She frowned slightly. There was still so much to digest and T’Pol was unsure how certain of these teachings would apply to the person she was now. In at least one section, she’d already noticed blatant contradictions and wondered if Surak had composed his teachings at various dates throughout his life. “It is quite fascinating.”
“The discovery of these teachings has changed the very fabric of our society.” Soval was silent for a moment. His eyes darted and T’Pol knew he could see the signs of Trip’s presence. “Your mother will be gratified that you are alive,” he said. It was clearly not what he had meant to say, but T’Pol accepted the shift of topic.
“Perhaps.” She frowned again. “I suspect she will not be pleased with everything I have to tell her, however.” At that, Soval’s expression tightened. “I have reason to believe my father is still alive,” T’Pol said. In her many years of interaction with the ambassador, she had never before witnessed this expression on his face.
Raw, naked surprise.
“You are aware of my Pa’nar,” T’Pol continued. “During our time on Ekos, I experienced an … emotional trauma.” Even now, more than a year after the fact, she could still see the unfortunate soldier exploding in the T’Muna-Doth’s cargo bay due to the failed transport and could taste the raw, anguished guilt coursing through her, but she pushed it down, locked it away, and continued. “While I was recovering, I discovered certain inconsistencies with my memory.” She allowed irritation to appear on her face. “When I came into your employment, were you aware of the extent of my intelligence background?”
“No.” Soval quirked an eyebrow. “I reviewed your record, of course, but it was not particularly illuminating.”
“That is because my record is a carefully forged lie.” T’Pol inhaled carefully. “I now recall, quite clearly, my father visiting me while I was at Gol.” Again, Soval’s surprise was clear and T’Pol allowed another tiny smile to appear. “By my calculations, this event transpired twenty-six years after his recorded death.” Soval opened his mouth to speak. “There is more. He was interacting with the temporal agent, Daniels.”
“This is … unexpected,” Soval said after a long moment of consideration. “Are you certain that your memories are not flawed?” T’Pol gave him a flat look.
“I do not know how to properly meld,” she said, “but if you wish to view these memories yourself, I would be willing to allow you touch them.” The offer caused him to flinch – a human would not have noticed it … well, Trip would have, but he was different.
“T’Les will be … displeased.” He turned his head fractionally to examine the carefully folded Starfleet uniform on the tiny couch. “About a great many things, I suspect,” he added.
“You are referring to Trip.” She smirked at the subtle reaction he betrayed, though whether it was due to her use of her mate’s nickname or the simple acknowledgement of his suspicions she did not know. “I trust your wisdom,” she said, intending it as encouragement for him to speak his mind, not as an ambassador but as a very old friend of her family. Soval took it.
“I will not dissemble,” he said flatly. “Your well-being … I am concerned that your … connection with Mister Tucker has had a detrimental effect on you.” He almost grimaced. “You are more … emotional than you were before this incident.”
“Trip has had an effect on me,” T’Pol replied calmly, “but it is far from a detrimental one.” The disbelief in his eyes caused her to frown slightly. “I do not deny that I am more comfortable expressing emotions, but Doctor Yuris confirmed certain of my suspicions regarding my … connection with Trip.” Outwardly, Soval barely reacted to the emphasis she put on the same word he had used though she could see him struggling to contain his own emotions in regards to the implication about what it meant. She pressed on. “The Pa’nar degraded enough of my neural pathways that I would have died had it not been for Trip.” It was much more than that, of course, but the more emotional reasons would likely make the ambassador uncomfortable so she did not address them, instead leaving them implied. To her great surprise, however, Soval nodded slightly.
“The path you have chosen with Mister Tucker will be … difficult,” he said slowly. “Humanity, as a species, is still quite young and our own people are not known for their compassion.”
“An error on our part,” T’Pol said. Something Trip had once told her came to mind and she repeated it without thinking. “Logic without compassion is simply an excuse for tyranny.” Soval’s eyebrow climbed as he digested the phrase but finally, he nodded again.
“Your mother will be on Earth when we arrive,” the ambassador said as he stood, once more glancing in the direction of Trip’s belongings. “Do you intend to introduce Mister Tucker to her?”
“I do.” This time, T’Pol did not try to hide her amusement at his question and the way Soval stiffened even further was telling. Yes, her control was worse than she feared. Interacting with other Vulcans would be difficult if she did not find a better equilibrium. Lowering her eyes, she once more stared at the candle. Recognizing her unstated request for privacy, Soval turned away but T’Pol realized she could not let him go without asking a question that had been gnawing at her since she’d begun reading the Kir’shara. “Ambassador?” He paused and looked at her. “You were with Captain Archer on Vulcan,” she said. “Why did you not carry Surak’s katra instead of him?” Soval’s face was perfectly devoid of any expression but his eyes … they swam with a dozen emotions, none of which T’Pol could identify. She knew the ambassador well enough to recognize when he considered lying to her and then decided against it.
“Surak chose his vessel,” Soval said, his tone bleak. “I was deemed unworthy. Corrupt. Incapable of accomplishing what needed to be done.” Without further remark, he turned and departed from the guest quarters that Captain Archer had so readily offered for her use. She pushed down the instinctive urge to leap up and follow Soval, to demand a further explanation for his cryptic remarks. Corrupt? The ambassador was the least corrupt male she’d ever known. The explanation defied understanding. According to the official, sanitized description of the Kir’shara’s recovery, the ambassador had suffered great hardship, physically carrying the mostly delirious Captain Archer through the Forge itself, standing at his side and defending him when the human was too weak, too exhausted by Vulcan’s merciless climate to even stand. And yet, his actions had been relegated to little more than a footnote in that same report.
T’Pol shook her head. There would be time to investigate this later. She closed her eyes and focused on her breathing.