She was meditating when the door
T’Pol instantly opened her eyes, frowning at the unexpected sound. As far as she knew, no one outside the Tucker family (and her mother, of course) knew she and Trip were living in this particular apartment which had frankly been the point. Even before last week’s terror strikes (and the resulting Starfleet response) momentarily distracted them, human journalists had been been very … aggressive in their attempts to spy on her and Trip, going so far as to stake out their respective quarters at the Starfleet dormitories and the Vulcan embassy, which made interacting with her mate unnecessarily difficult. Trip had even discovered a cleverly concealed recording device in his own cabin, the origin of which could not be readily determined. With his sister’s assistance, they had thus secured this domicile through an intermediary to avoid further attention while they determined their future.
Evidently, it had not worked.
She rose from her meditation pad and checked her clothes, ensuring that nothing would stand out in this neighborhood. Once satisfied, she then pulled on a tight-fitting, wool cap that would cover her ears from any visual inspection before striding toward the main entrance. As she drew closer to the door, she heard the upstairs shower end and briefly considering waiting to allow Trip time to dress so he could greet their unexpected visitor (or visitors). He was, after all, far better at handling overly inquisitive humans than she was.
The door chimed again.
Suppressing an exhalation of pure irritation, T’Pol padded closer to the security system she and Trip had installed. Intended to be subtle, it mostly consisted of passive sensor arrays and carefully concealed miniature cameras hidden in the alcoves outside the apartment. She activated it and instinctively raised an eyebrow in surprise at the two men standing outside the door. Ambassador Soval was sufficiently unexpected, but the presence of Admiral Harris of Starfleet Intelligence could not bode well.
“Something up?” Trip asked as he fast-walked down the stairs. His hair was still wet and T’Pol frowned at the trail of water he was leaving in his wake. Did he not realize how that could potentially discolor the carpet? She pushed aside the random thought and turned to cease blocking his view of the wall display. “Huh,” he murmured before giving her a questioning look. T’Pol shrugged very slightly – she doubted anyone but Trip would have been able to detect the motion – and he nodded.
So she opened the door.
Behind her and a meter or so to her left, Trip was tensed to react should this meeting go poorly. There were at least five weapons within easy reach for him, not including the phase pistol he’d already drawn and kept hidden from sight. T’Pol also had carefully placed herself in a position that would afford poor visibility for anyone outside the apartment but that gave her an excellent vantage point. She had not gone for the Vulcan disruptor concealed next to the doorway yet, but retrieving it would require little more than two seconds.
“Ambassador, Admiral,” she greeted coolly, surveying them quickly before allowing her gaze to encompass the corridor beyond. She saw no one else, but that did not mean they were alone. “We were not anticipating your visit.”
“It was unscheduled,” Soval replied.
“Unscheduled and unofficial,” Admiral Harris added. “Knowing your reputation, Subcommander, I’m guessing you’ve scanned us for weapons.” T’Pol raised an eyebrow slightly but made no further reply. “I’d rather not do this in the hallway where people can eavesdrop.”
“Do what, exactly?” Trip asked as he stepped into sight. He was studying Harris with a frown. The admiral sighed.
“Can we please do this inside?” he asked again, glancing over his shoulder and nearly fidgeting. T’Pol glanced quickly to Soval who stared back at her impassively, showing not a hint of emotion or the direction of his thoughts.
“It concerns your father,” the ambassador said. T’Pol stiffened, felt Trip tense at the same time, and nodded very slightly. She stepped aside.
“Guess I should have started with that,” Admiral Harris remarked as he stepped through the doorway. He glanced around quickly, smiling tightly the moment he realized that Trip was armed. Soval followed, quirking an eyebrow as he took in the bland décor that had come with the apartment; his expression faltered for a heartbeat when he caught sight of the lirpa prominently displayed upon the living area wall but he recovered almost at once. “You know who I represent?” the admiral asked.
“You are the director of Starfleet’s Special Operations Group,” T’Pol said. “A division that, according to official documentation, does not exist.”
“That’s correct.” Harris’ false smile fell away. “We’re in the business of … let’s call it crisis management, something that you are quite familiar with, I believe.” T’Pol said nothing and schooled her expression to stillness. “You are no doubt aware of the events of this month,” the admiral said. “In addition to the Terra Prime crisis, we’ve also been struggling to deal with Romulan encroachment in this quadrant.” He grimaced. “Enterprise and Challenger handled that recent drone nonsense to the best of their abilities, but it’s only a matter of time before the Romulans move against us again.”
“You still haven’t gotten to how this concerns T’Pol’s father,” Trip said flatly. “Sir,” he added as an afterthought.
“SOG has been aware of Romulan activity for years now,” Harris said. “My predecessor … actually, his predecessor was also in contact with certain elements inside the Vulcan government who were convinced that the Romulans had infiltrated High Command in some fashion.” He reached into his pocket, freezing in place when Trip shifted slightly which once more drew attention to the fact that he was holding a pistol in one hand. Harris drew out a PADD very slowly, offering a wry smile in her mate’s direction. “I’m going to go out on a limb,” he said, “and guess that you’ve had some trouble settling back in?”
“With respect, sir,” Trip replied, “I don’t know you. For all I know, you could be a Terra Prime operative who has hoodwinked the ambassador here into thinking you’re a good guy.” He blinked. “No offense intended, Ambassador.”
“You don’t know me,” Harris replied, his voice low and hard, “or you would know how wrong you are. I lost family to Terra Prime so don’t you ever compare me to those butchers.” He inhaled slowly, visibly regaining control. “This documents all of the interactions the Special Operations Group has had with Vulcan personnel investigating Romulan infiltration of the High Command.” T’Pol hesitantly accepted the data device but did not look at it. “When you review that information, you’ll note that all of those Vulcans have one thing in common: they’re dead.” The admiral frowned. “Every single one of them that reached a certain point in their investigation suffered a sudden, unexplained accident.” He nodded in Soval’s direction. “Until the ambassador began digging into your father’s death,” Harris said, “I thought he was just one more casualty.”
“And now?” Trip again.
“Additional digging has turned up information indicating that SOG’s original sources were wrong.” The admiral rubbed his temples. “We are now of the opinion that your father, operating under the assumed identity of either Solok or Tavok, entered Orion space in May of 2134.”
“This matches the intelligence I have obtained,” Soval said calmly.
“Which leads me to why I’m here,” Admiral Harris said. He looked between the two of them and T’Pol could feel Trip’s sudden flare of dread. Automatically, she took a half step closer toward him without realizing it. “It’s not exactly a secret that no one knows what to do with you two.” He smiled, though from her study of human body language, T’Pol thought it looked forced. “Starfleet Command believes that your requirement to be stationed together to be unreasonable and fears it would led to accusations of favoritism.”
“And the Vulcan High Council is uncomfortable with the concept of having a human aboard one of their capital ships.”
“We’re already aware of this,” Trip said through clenched teeth.
“Which is why I want the two of you to work for me,” Harris said. “We know the Romulans are coming but I don’t have the resources or intelligence apparatus to uncover what their plans are.”
“Vulcan has both,” Soval said, “but the discovery of the Kir’shara has left us critically short on capable personnel.” He straightened. “We propose a joint intelligence effort, Human and Vulcan, to uncover the vital information necessary to prevent if possible the coming war.”
“And if we can’t stop it,” the admiral added, “we need to be prepared.” Again, he offered the false smile. “You two are ideally suited for this.”
“Are the two of you insane?” Trip glowered. “I’m an engineer, not a spy!”
“You are an engineer who has spent the last two years learning under one of Vulcan’s most capable and highly skilled intelligence agents, Commander.” Soval inclined his head toward T’Pol slightly. She raised an eyebrow at the compliment.
And seriously considered the offer.
Trip could sense her thoughts and bit off whatever it was that he was about to say, turning his head toward her. She met his eyes and tilted her head very slightly. In an instant, his mood and thoughts were open to her: he was concerned that there was more to this than indicated, that Harris was playing some unseen game with them as pawns, that he was ill prepared for the demands that an operation like this would require. At the same time, he knew that she was at least slightly intrigued by the opportunity before them – this would require a level of creative thinking that both of them excelled at, not to mention how much autonomy they would possess. Neither were particularly enthusiastic about simply returning to their previous jobs and the actions of their respective governments had not left positive impressions on them.
“May I presume that the operational proposal is also on this PADD?” T’Pol asked. She could see the admiral’s reaction – he was convinced that she had agreed – and frowned. “The commander and I will review your offer and discuss our options.” Soval was already beginning to retreat, but Harris was clearly about to say something more, likely in an attempt to further ‘sell’ them on the idea. “Thank you for your visit,” T’Pol said flatly. There was no way to ignore her dismissal.
“You want to do this,” Trip said as soon they were once again alone. T’Pol gave him a look.
“I have not made a decision yet,” she replied. “There are considerable benefits and drawbacks to undertaking such a venture.”
“But you want to do this.” Trip was watching her, his expression curiously blank.
“I … I think it is at least worth considering.” Everything she’d learned about the Romulans indicated they would be back, even after their recent setback with the drone attacks. And if they could save even one life by accepting this offer, could they not at least consider it?
“All right,” Trip said. “Let’s take a look at what Admiral Spooky has in mind.” He flashed her a quick, barely there smile, and T’Pol felt the flare of of emotions surge between them. “And if you still think this is a good idea, I’ll let you sell me on it.”
And they went back to work.