author's note

Genre: Action/Adventure, Drama

Rated: PG … mild language, violence, and adult situations.

Summary: Two officers, believed killed in action, are stranded on a prewarp planet and must work together to survive while the rest of the NX-01 crew learn to carry on without them. Begins a very AU season 2.

This story is unrelated to my Endeavour series.

Disclaimer: The only thing I own are my hopes and dreams ... although I did pawn both a while back for rent money.

A/N: 631 Earth days have passed since chapter 1. It's late January, 2154. This chapter transpires mostly concurrently with the previous two.

115: soval

Despite his career, Soval loathed diplomatic gatherings.

He found them utterly illogical, senseless wastes of time that accomplished little beyond existing as events allowing the participants to preen and pose in front of aides and fellow bureaucrats, all the while pretending they were more important than they truly were. As an ambassador, he'd made a point of attending such gatherings as rarely as possible and, when duty required his presence, he inevitably arranged for an 'emergency' to come up as soon as possible that would require him to leave. T'Pol had excelled at generating creative excuses and her absence was keenly missed.

According to the original plan, this particular gathering was intended to be official recognition and honoring of the two Starfleet crews that had been invaluable during the recent Kir'shara crisis but, as was so often the case since the establishment of the new High Council, it quickly transformed into yet another minor crisis thanks to Minister T'Pau successfully alienating even those most open to Vulcan interests. It should have been anticipated or even expected – as an adherent to Syrran's teachings, she had earned a reputation not as a politician, but as an extremist and a hardline logician. She'd undertaken the kolinahr ceremony at a very early age and had been elevated to the rank of master even before her fourth decade, so as a result, she'd never bothered learning important elements necessary for a successful leader, namely diplomacy. As far as T'Pau was concerned, there were two ways to accomplish a task: her way and the wrong way. Such an all or nothing mindset was exactly the wrong one to possess as a leader.

T'Pau was in rare form today. In addition to making several offhand comments to Admiral Forrest that could be (and were) perceived as implying incompetence at the highest ranks of Starfleet, she'd also unintentionally insulted both Captain Archer and Captain Hernandez with her remarks about them being fortunate their junior officers were as effective as they were. She topped that with a series of off-the-cuff statements to other human officers that immediately caused offense, though she failed to even notice the foul looks that followed her wherever she went. And that was all before she was scheduled to speak the public.

"We cannot allow her to address the human journalists," V'Lar mused. She was watching T'Pau with a critical eye, though Soval suspected that she was actually more interested in the damage left in the minister's wake. There were irritated expressions, scowls, dark muttering … no. They could not allow T'Pau's abject disinterest in anything resembling diplomacy to cause further strife, not if they were going to salvage Vulcan's tattered relationship with Earth.

"She will not." Skon, the new ambassador to Earth following Tos' unceremonial dismissal (and imprisonment due to his Romulan connections, though few knew this fact), straightened his robes with one hand. "In exactly two minutes, word will reach her of a crisis on the homeworld that requires her immediate attention." He quirked an eyebrow. "Apparently," Skon continued in a dry tone, "certain elements in the reform government vehemently disagree on how best to disseminate the Kir'shara to our colony worlds." Soval gave the younger ambassador an approving nod – that was exactly the sort of thing that T'Pau was best at handling.

"We will need to … how do the humans phrase it?" V'Lar tilted her head slightly. "Conduct damage control?"

"It has been my experience," Soval said flatly, "that humans react best to honesty. Ensure they are aware that we too are struggling to adapt to Minister T'Pau's … unconventional leadership style."

"Is that wise?" Skon was frowning. "It implies a lack of stability within our government."

"Human governments are never stable," Soval pointed out. "Show them that we are experiencing the same kinds of transitional difficulties they face following every election and you will find them more willing to give us the latitude we need to mend the damage caused by poorly chosen words." Both ambassadors considered his remarks before signaling in their own ways that they would defer to his superior understanding of humanity. By all rights, Skon's position should be his and, in fact, T'Pau had offered a reinstatement to his previous role, but for reasons Soval could not adequately verbalize, he had declined. Surak's condemnation of his failures continued to ring in his ears and until he understood why the Father of Logic considered him corrupted by the system, he had no plans to reclaim a true position of authority.

Exactly on schedule, T'Pau's aides hurried to her side and, twenty seconds later, she swept from the room without bothering to explain her departure. Soval swallowed a sigh of irritation – her focus was admirable, but would it physically pain her to learn some social niceties? – before advancing on Admiral Forrest. Behind him, the other two ambassadors spread out, with Skon making for the Earth president while V'Lar descended upon a quartet of irritated-looking admirals.

Nearly an hour passed before Soval was able to excuse himself from the gathering. He left behind a dozen of vaguely amused humans who had, upon hearing his initial apology for the minister's lack of social grace, nodded their understanding, usually right before launching into unlikely stories about similar incidents they'd personally witnessed or experienced with well-meaning but highly positioned amateurs. Passing through the doorway, Soval paused, grimacing very slightly at the crisp air that greeted him. Officially, it was still summer here in Geneva, but to him, the temperature was far too cold. He missed Vulcan.

"Greetings, Ambassador." The woman who fell into step alongside him was a surprise – he knew T'Les was planetside but he'd certainly not expected to see her here – and Soval hesitated for a long moment, unsure how best to respond. Their last interactions had been strained to put it kindly.

"Professor," he greeted calmly. "It is agreeable to see you." T'Les gave him a look that he could not quite decipher – was she amused, irritated or simply disinterested as she appeared?

"Might I have a few moments of your time?" she asked. "It regards my … late husband." Ah. So T'Pol had spoken to her mother about her theory. Soval inclined his head slightly.

"Of course." They walked in silence for a moment. "I presume your daughter has spoken to you." T'Les' expression tightened.

"She has. I find her arguments … compelling."

"As do I." Soval exhaled. "Forgive me for saying this, but I find this sort of action exactly the kind of thing your husband would consider logical."

"You are simply stating the truth," T'Les said. "I can take no offense to that." She looked at him. "I wished to inquire as to whether the government possessed insight regarding his actions."

"Not that I am aware," Soval replied immediately. He hesitated, then pressed on, once more opting for honesty rather than prevarication. "I have made inquiries but no additional information has been made available to me." He pursed his lips. "I will continue my efforts."

"That would be … appreciated, Ambassador." Neither spoke for a long moment but, to Soval's mild surprise, it was not awkward. "I am … concerned about my daughter's mental well-being," T'Les said in a very tense voice. She looked straight ahead, refusing to look at him, and Soval followed her example. "Certain of her … associations are … troubling."

"You refer, of course, to Commander Tucker." A flicker of emotion flashed across T'Les' face but was gone nearly before he saw it.

"I do." T'Les nearly frowned, then evidently thought better of it. "I will concede that Commander Tucker is not entirely unpleasant, but … I am … concerned about how T'Pol's … association with him will affect her future."

Inwardly, Soval winced. He did not know how to respond without offending the woman next to him or insulting her daughter. To his very great surprise, he was also rather leery about insulting the human in question – in the fourteen days since T'Pol and Commander Tucker rejoined Enterprise, Soval had been consistently impressed with the human's adoption of many Vulcan traits. Gone was the wildly exuberant and overly emotional young man he'd been when Soval first met him, and in his place was a calm, calculating, intelligent sentient who knew when to stand aside and when to speak. If only it had not also led to T'Pol's strange behavior…

"I am unsure if I am qualified to comment on any … relationship your daughter might have with the commander," he said after a long moment of contemplation. T'Les lifted an eyebrow.

"I trust your wisdom," she said, her words and tone eerily similar to that of her daughter's. Soval fought the urge to sigh.

"May I speak frankly?" he asked after another long moment. T'Les nodded. "While I was aboard Enterprise, I overheard much discussion about your daughter and the commander." He frowned and let T'Pol's mother see it. "There were many theories, of course, but to his credit, the commander refused to comment on the nature of his relationship with Subcommander T'Pol, even when interacting with those he was once closest to." Soval frowned again – why was he defending Tucker? Was it because the temporal agent Daniels had hinted at this prior to the beginning of the Xindi mission, thus giving him more time to grow accustomed to the idea? Or was it because he had witnessed firsthand how isolated from his fellow humans Commander Tucker had become thanks to his relationship with T'Pol? "I cannot advise you about how to proceed, Professor," he said carefully, "but I will say that, having interacted with the commander, I am suitably impressed with his capabilities."

T'Les was silent for a very long time. They continued their slow stride through the streets of Geneva, flanked by a trio of exceptionally skilled Vulcan commandos whose sole purpose was to ensure that Soval did not encounter trouble, especially from the more vocal xenophobes among humanity. Soval had grown so accustomed to the silent bodyguards that he only rarely gave their presence any thought.

"He is human," T'Les stated softly. Her expression was conflicted and Soval thought he knew the crux of her dilemma: she wanted her daughter to be content, no matter how that state of being came about, but remained concerned that an emotional, reckless, youthful human was incapable of providing what T'Pol needed. It was an understandable worry given Earth's history.

"Have you interacted with the commander?" Soval asked cautiously. This was treading dangerously close to intimate family matters. "He is not an altogether unpleasant individual."

"At the moment, I cannot." T'Les' expression flattened out into irritation once more. "T'Pol accompanied him to ... Pinnamuh City?"

"Panama City," Soval corrected. "It is a city in Florida, located in North America, where the commander is from, I believe." They rounded a corner and began the long journey back toward the government compound.

"Yes. That is the place." T'Les nearly scowled. "This is her father's fault," she muttered. "He allowed her too much leniency as a child and encouraged her to daydream when she should have been focusing on control." Wisely, Soval kept silent. He did not think it would be an especially brilliant move on his part to state that he found T'Pol to be very much like her mother in terms of temperament and personality. "Advise me, old friend," T'Les said abruptly. "Should I be pleased or irate at the thought of his survival?"

"You did not sense his death through the bond?" Soval asked hesitantly. At this, T'Les glanced away.

"We were wed but I never touched his katra," she said simply. Such a revelation caused Soval to nearly stumble – he well recalled T'Les in her youth and how enthusiastically she'd approached marriage. To not bond with her … that was unconscionable and patently illogical. He felt a surge of contempt for his onetime friend.

"I would say … irate." He frowned. "Abandoning one's mate and child in such a way is illogical." And immoral, he almost added. It took a conscious bit of effort to rein in his irritation at the male in question and, by the sidelong glance T'Les gave him, he was not as successful as he'd have liked. "I regret that I must return to San Francisco, Professor," Soval said. "May I escort you to your lodgings?"

"I have none in this city," T'Les replied. "I came here solely to seek your counsel." At that, Soval blinked. He suppressed the surprise, however, and simply nodded.

"Then if it is agreeable to you," he said, "I will invite you to join me on my shuttle back to the Vulcan compound."

"It is." T'Les narrowed her eyes slightly. "And this will give you the opportunity to tell me everything you know about Commander Tucker."

This time, Soval did sigh. It was going to be a long trip.

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