The Pull of Family
Location: Holodeck, Romulus
"You were magnificent, granddaughter. Words cannot convey how proud I am of you right now, but we shall talk. For now, go- there is Senatorial business to tend to that prying eyes and rounded ears need not be witness. Jolan’tru, Mnhei'sahe,"
The words of Senator Verelan t’Rul echoed in the mind of her granddaughter as the young woman made her way through the corridors of the Starship Hera. Lieutenant Commander Mnhei’sahe Dox was a Starfleet officer and one of the ship's senior officers and a department head, as chief of the Flight Control Department. But she was also the granddaughter of a Romulan Senator And that Senator wanted to speak with her Granddaughter.
An official request for holographic communication between a Federation Starship and the Senate of the Romulan Star Empire was not something that happened often, so when the formal request had been received by Starfleet Command, the message was quickly forwarded to the Hera and Captain Telvan made the appropriate accommodations for her junior officer. The ship dropped from warp and would maintain a stationary position for the duration of the signal, while Mnhei’sahe would be afforded use of the main holodeck. After all, Starfleet was in no way oblivious to the most unusual situation in which they found themselves.
Having an officer with a direct connection to the Romulan Senate was not something to be ignored, but it was a connection that made the young, red-headed Romulan pilot more than a little uneasy. Only months ago, Verelan had arranged the young woman’s kidnapping, after all, in an attempt to bring her granddaughter back to Romulus to assume a place at her side, as was her birthright. Senatorial seats were inherited, and Verelan had wished to groom the granddaughter of whose existence she had only recently learned, in the proper ways of their people. It was a plan that had failed, but failure was often simply a means by which another door was opened, and opportunity was something that any good Romulan was always prepared to seize.
Thus, Mnhei’sahe found herself being groomed for a different role entirely. She was now Verelan’s chosen representative in talks between the Senate and the hidden reunification worlds scattered throughout the Empire. In truth, Mnhei’sahe found herself uncomfortable in the role. It was one of many for which she found herself being groomed. As a Starfleet officer, Commander Rita Paris was grooming the young pilot for Command, to one day captain a starship of her own and lead others. Captain Enalia Telvan saw in the young woman an Artan Baroness, and she had already been awarded a ship of her own within that dubious organization.
The less the anxious young woman thought of what her friend Masato Rei, known as the embodiment of Death itself, was grooming her for, the better.
Stepping into the holodeck, Mnhei’sahe took a deep breath and entered the empty space. The door shut and sealed behind her for privacy, though she knew that her every word would no doubt be reviewed and scrutinized by Starfleet Intelligence and, likely, the Romulan Senate as well. Despite this, she tried to relax, absurdly, by standing at attention. There in the center of the room, she adjusted the crimson uniform she wore with pride and wiped a smudge from her Starfleet badge. She ran her fingers over her pointed ears to ensure that no errant hairs were out of place and she took a few more deep breaths before the computer chirruped. =^=Incoming private message. Security level Alpha priority, from Verelan t'Rul. Senator, Romulan Star Empire.=^=
Centering herself, Mnhei'sahe slowly let the breath out and she let herself relax for a moment as she spoke. "Computer, please initiate secure communications. Authorization Dox, M. Lieutenant Commander. Access code 795-X9E."
As she did, the room began to flicker as the holographic systems engaged, and the young pilot found herself in a holographic projection of the Senator’s office at the capitol. While holographics were not unknown within the Star Empire, they were a tightly held secret. After all, the Romulan art of deception could be greatly assisted by holographics, thus they, like cloaking technology and transporters, were tightly controlled within the Star Empire. Thus technicians had likely had to rig the Senator’s office for holographics, or she herself was also in a holoroom, and the projection of her office was a facsimile.
“Jolan'tru, granddaughter. You are looking well today,” the voice of the matriarch of hour Rul came through the chamber as her office painted itself in around them, and her features sharpened. “It is most gratifying to speak with you again, after your recent report to the Senate.”
In spite of herself, and the circumstances with which they were first brought together, and in spite of her own reservations about her place in the future of the woman who stood across the virtual room from her, Mnhei'sahe was legitimately pleased to see her grandmother. Such was the pull of family to the young Romulan woman, denied it so long throughout her life. She allowed the slightest of smiles to crease her cheeks as she nodded in a respectful bow. "Jolan'tru, grandmother. Thank you, I am glad to speak with you as well."
“So, it seems we have found a way for you to represent the Senate to Starfleet, while still fulfilling your Starfleet obligations. It’s not exactly an ambassadorship, nor is it a Senate seat, but certainly a step in the right direction, wouldn’t you say?” the elder senator with the sharp eyes noted, inviting agreement. “You have made me proud with your rather novel solution to your loyalty to two worlds, Mnhei’sahe. In that, I am not alone… your work is quite the talk of the Senate.”
"I would agree, yes." Mnhei'sahe agreed, maintaining a mostly professional demeanor, not quite know what would be appropriate under the unique circumstances. But even as such, she cricked an eyebrow at Verelan's last statement. "I hope at least some of that talk is positive as there's... there's a lot of good that could come from this on many different levels."
"Some good, some bad. There is the usual drumbeating of the Warhawks and the distrust of outsiders, whom the consider you to be one. There are those who wish to see beyond our borders and reach for reunification, as the mission in which you participated is evidence," the stately grand dame stepped around the desk, her finger tracing across the marble desktop as she took slow, deliberate steps.
"There are those who feel the Star Empire should remain as it is, not upsetting the status quo as the Empire is stable and settled and sane at the moment. There will always be dissenting voices, there will always be opposition to any idea, particularly one that has had so many years to become ingrained as this one. But that is the art of politics, granddaughter." Standing before her, one generation to the next, the silver-haired senator peered into the dark eyes of her hope for the future. "Convincing those who do not see your way of thinking to see your vision, and share it by contributing to it, for the betterment of society."
"Politics is a living, breathing thing, and the Senate doubly so. Each of these aristocrats represent their district, and they sometimes work toward the betterment of their people, sometimes merely for their own power and benefit. But when they come together to debate, to propose, to consider and decide... it is a unified body that can change the course of history. not just for Romulus, but for the galaxy." Turning to walk back around the desk, the distinguished and regal figure moved with confidence, if slowly. "A heady brew, no?"
"Exceedingly so." Mnhei'sahe said with a slight smile, nodding. "But all things considered, I know a little about what a unified body can do when it's focused on one goal. What we've accomplished on this ship is a small example of that. And... as for convincing others to see things in a different way, sometimes..."
Mnhei'sahe unfolded her arms from behind her back and stepped a little closer to her grandmother's desk, a bit more comfortable in the moment. "Sometimes, two parties with very different points of view can learn to see things from the other's side and meet in the middle to create something neither would have predicted, and maybe even achieve something better as well. I... I hope WE can continue to be proof of that."
"So far so good. Sometimes there will be concessions that need to be made," the career politician offered. "But not on your end, and not just yet. So how goes the proposal? How does the Federation side of the negotiations look at the moment?"
Taking stock of what Verelan had just said, it was clear the career politician was putting herself out on the proverbial limb to make this all work on the Romulan side of things, and the words 'but not on your end' spoke of a grandmother's desire to protect. It was a moment that Mnhei'sahe noted internally as she nodded solemnly.
Answering, the young Starfleet Romulan was truthful and direct, "Cautious optimism, I would say. I'm not privy to any of the higher-level discussions, of course, but my communications show that, much like the senate, there is opposition but more than a few voices that see this as the next reasonable step in the gradual lessening of tension that has been building between the two governments since the Dominion War and Starfleet's role in dethroning Shinzon."
Thinking on it a moment, Mnhei'sahe folded her arms in front of her now, looking around the holographic room she stood in, taking it in just a bit with a touch of astonishment before continuing. "I can say that I believe that steps forward will continue to be extremely cautious ones for a while so long as Rendal and her rogue benefactors are still operative."
“That is a considerable concern,” Verelan agreed, nodding as she took a seat behind the desk. “As she is considered unsanctioned, there is call for her to be tracked down and stopped, of course. But there are a few factions within the Senate that applaud her actions as that of a true patriot, even as she is facing criminal charges. History reflects the prevailing perspective, as the proverb goes, so we shall see if she is a villain or a heroine of the Star Empire in due time. Meanwhile, reassure your people in Starfleet that we are making every effort to contain her, and that her actions are treasonous in the eyes of the Star Empire.”
“Of course, a long history of boldly lying and condemning actions taken which were authorized by the Star Empire or the Tal’Shiar have not left the Federation much trust in such promises. We understand this, and unfortunately, that is a stigma that you will bear as a representative of the Imperial Senate to the Federation,” the silver-haired matriarch admitted, folding her hands together in front of her on the green white-veined marble of the desktop.
"It's a burden I accepted when I told Starfleet I would serve in this capacity. Thankfully, I have earned at least a little support during my debriefing when I returned, and have some Admirals on my side that will listen to me when I tell them your words. And some that might even believe me when I tell them that your words are true, grandmother." Mnhei'sahe said. "I'm not here alone."
Then, she paused a moment to consider her own words and stepped a bit closer forward. "What about you? I know enough about the politics of our people to know that you will need all the support you can get on your end. You're putting yourself at a tremendous risk standing up for this. For me."
“Not for you, Granddaughter,” the sly old politico replied. “This is for our people, our future. While I will admit no small amount of pride in you and your political progress, this is far, far bigger than you or I, Mnhei’sahe. This is about two worlds, and the fate of an Empire. This is about moving boldly into the future instead of living in the past and endlessly conquering more and more worlds so as to not see the decay and rot at the core of the Star Empire. This is about changing the minds of the people, freeing them from the tyranny of fear, and changing the fate of the galaxy in the process.”
"Regardless of the scope, which I understand the gravity of all too well, I can also be concerned for you on a personal level." Mnhei'sahe said frankly, choosing to let that concern be seen freely without any facade between them. "I'm still a pilot. Charting the variables and measuring risk is part of the training. Do you have strong enough support to keep this momentum going? It's much harder to silence a chorus, after all."
“I do have one strong supporter…. a member of the old guard, a war veteran who entered politics, respected and well-liked on both sides of the aisle. Senator Artorius is a strong proponent of peace with the Federation, and a very vocal supporter of the Reunification movement. So while there are plenty who might wish me silenced and that this particular movement be stopped in its tracks, there are some who would see it through. Besides, I have Pajom to watch over me, and he is ever vigilant.” At that, the Senator looked past Dox, to a portion of the room that the holographics did not paint in, where presumably the Antecenturion stood watching over the matriarch of the Rul clan.
The name 'Artorius' was oddly familiar to Mnhei'sahe and she paused on it for an instant to consider it, her eyebrow raising quizzically at its mention. But she knew the name 'Pajom' much better. Antecenturion Pajom tr'Sahe was the guard on Verelan's Warbird that, during the darker parts of the young Starfleet officer's captivity when Dalia Rendal was in charge, secretly still worked to protect his mistress, Verelan, and Mnhei'sahe as well. While she was imprisoned, Pajom made sure she was fed and hydrated and ultimately even risked his own life and freedom to assist Mnhei'sahe's mother in escaping from her own cell.
But as the young Romulan man was not visible in the vista, Mnhei'sahe could only assume he was there and turned with a light smile and a respectful nod to where Verelan had looked. "Of that I am extremely glad. I am... considerably aware of the depths of Pajom's loyalty to you, grandmother."
“Good. Then you are aware that while your concern for my well-being is appreciated, you may proceed secure in the knowledge that I am in no danger, and that I am well-guarded at all times.” While the gravity of her statement was there, and the reassurance was put forth, somehow Mnhei’sahe suspected there was more she was not being told, likely in an effort to ‘protect’ her from the truth of the matter. “I am here in the cradle of civilization, the bower from whence the Star Empire sprang. You are the one out in the universe, in peril more often than not.”
"True enough..." Mnhei'sahe said as she looked up and around her, not so much at the projection of her grandmother's Senatorial office on Romulus, but at the great ship she so loved that she rode within. "... but I'm not alone. And while our duties place us in peril from time to time, they are perils worth risking."
Then, the young Starfleet officer spared a warm smile for her kin as she continued, mirroring Verelan's own words from moments ago. "Moving boldly into the future and changing the fate of the galaxy in the process. And, in time, it is my hope that this ship will be able to carry me back to see you again in person. In that better galaxy."
“That is indeed a very worthwhile dream, my granddaughter…. one that I share with you. I would love nothing less…. so let us continue to manage our efforts, shall we? I am sending documentation in the subchannel of this communique that contains the Senate’s… requests… and requirements for the first of the reunification colony set-ups. Also a list of… potential… colonists.” There was much that was unspoken in those pauses, and Verelan hoped that her accomplished descendant would read between the lines and grasp her meaning.
Hearing the pregnant pauses and the specific verbiage, Mnhei'sahe had a feeling that the lists and requests were likely not her own, quite possibly those of members of the Senate less inclined to see their purpose succeed. "Excellent. I will review the information and ensure it reaches the appropriate parties within the Federation. Thank you."
"Of course. Have the Vulcan delegation submitted any requests or requirements as yet? They have not been transmitted through official channels as yet, so I was curious if you had a better idea of their position, given your relationship with the representative?" This was, of course, very polite speech for the benefit of other listeners. Having been in a mind-meld with Sonak, the Kolinahr who had freed Verelan along with Mhei'sahe Dox, the elder stateswoman knew exactly who he was- after all, some small part of him would always reside within her now, just as amongst the multitudes he had encountered, a small fragment of her own Katra now resided in the Vulcan master of logic. Thus she knew him as she knew few others, as she did her granddaughter through his mental disciplines. But Verelan was too canny to just give that away, and relied on the sensible use of vagaries and speaking of the culture rather than the man, she deflected attention, as both parties knew that, despite their precautions, there were eavesdroppers.
Munching popcorn, the somewhat omnipresent yet still youthful embodiment of the composite synthetic life form Kodria nodded to herself. Hovering in the 'quarters' within the information space of the Hera's systems that Maru had offered her, in order to have her own space and privacy. Deep within the system, she sat watching multiple screens at once, but focused on this particular one as she replayed it for herself. "She totally means Sonak. Ooooh, I wonder if when she dies in this timeline, if he'll carry her Katra to Auntie Mnhei'sahe?"
Back in the holodeck, oblivious to Kodria's audience, Mnhei'sahe replied. "I've heard very little and nothing official, regarding the Vulcan position- other than what is already known. They are supporting the Federation, and have proposed the options for neutral, third party arbitration. But outside of the details that were in my last report, I have not been made aware of any further developments in that regard." Mnhei'sahe spoke of Sonak's suggestion to contact the Organians that were included in the written report she sent along with her verbal presentation, but knew that the Federation was still debating that, and didn't mention the enigmatic race by name. Following her grandmother's lead, she did not want to give away what might not be known.
"My feeling is that the Vulcans may be waiting to see what the Senate and the Federation council propose, then react to that. However, I can inquire further, and report to you again with more news when I have it," the perpetually anxious young officer replied, hoping she was continuing to keep up with her far more seasoned and experienced grandmother, who navigated politics in her sleep.
"That seems a prudent course. Well done, Representative. Again, I commend you... you've taken well to politics. One might even say it suits you," the sly old Romulan senator cocked an eyebrow slightly, a prim smile settling on her face that spoke of maternal pride.
"While my training under your tutelage was brief, I have worked to take it to heart and learn from that time. I only hope to continue to do justice to your teachings." Mnhei'sahe replied with a bow, maintaining a professional posture in spite of feeling more than a bit of that pride coming through that slight shift in her grandmother's expression. Politics might have been the last thing on the young Romulan woman's mind when she first set foot on the Hera, but she found herself slightly taken aback at how much she had meant what she had just said. In spite of herself and the circumstances of their disastrous first meeting, she still strove to please the woman she had never known growing up, learned to fear, and eventually to respect.
It was a pattern she would eventually recognize. But for today, both women silently basked in the moment, until the call terminated.