The Call She Had Been Dreading
Heart and Soul
Location: Flight Control Office, Holodeck Two, Romulus
It had felt very much like less time had passed than the week or so since Lieutenant Commander Mnhei’sahe Dox has returned to her post on the U.S.S. Hera.
The nature of the command structure of the wondrous, Nebula-Class Starship meant that as the Flight Chief, Dox was responsible not just for flying the ship or its various support craft, but for all of the other pilots on the ship and the maintenance of those support craft. If if had anything to do with flying, the redheaded Romulan was in charge of it. As such, she had a significant amount of paperwork left for her upon her return from her two weeks off ship for the birth of her three children on her wife’s homeworld of Miradon.
At the desk in her rather large office overlooking the main flight deck, Dox was busy reviewing files and hoping she had done the right thing dealing with the crisis that had occurred in her department during her time away. The Edosian Ensign named Wieaex had choked in her role of assistant chief. A delicate rescue mission to recall a number of the Hera's support craft needed to be controlled at the last minute, and Wieaex didn't know what to do. The woman was a skilled pilot and good under pressure AS a pilot, but in command of others, she panicked. The emergency had been managed with the help of another flight officer, Ensign Jessica MacNielle, but it had shone a light on a major problem with the Edosian pilot’s confidence. In spite of meeting with her to talk about it, Dox was afraid that she was going to lose a skilled pilot.
The two have talked and Dox had convinced the Edosian pilot to stay on the Hera and the two would continue to reinforce Wieaex's training, although the difficult decision had been made to move Ensign MacNielle up to the position of assistant chief for the time being.
Running a finger over her ear, which was a very old nervous affectation that Romulan pilot had carried over from her childhood, Dox was questioning her decisions. She was debating her OWN command abilities. Rita would have known exactly what to do. Rita would have had one of those perfect Starfleet speeches in her pocket that would have inspired everyone. Dox thought, berating herself.
With her head already swimming over the proper course of action to hopefully help a troubled officer recover her career, Dox was exhausted and glad for her day to be over. She looked forward to going home to her bond-mate and their three wonderful new children for the evening. Everything else would keep for the night.
At 0330 hours in the morning, a light chime stirred the young pilot from sleep and the computer’s voice lightly seemed to whisper to her delicately.
=^=Message for Dox, Mnhei’sahe. Lieutenant Commander.=^=
Laying in the nest-like bed she shared with her bond-mate, Mona Gonadie, Dox groggily crawled up to sit on the edge of her bed and slowly make her way into the main living room of their expanded family quarters so as to not disturb her sleeping wife.
After peaking in on the holographic sensors to check on Hlai’vana, Tala and Amihan, who were all sleeping soundly, Dox picked up a PaDD and flumped on the couch as she looked at the incoming message that the chime had alerted her to.
Tapping the screen to call up the message, Dox’s stomach tightened into a tight knot as the sigil of the Romulan Star Empire came up on her screen. In green letters below it, she read the words.
From: t’Rul, Verelan. Senator, Ihhliae province. 1,657th Session of the Imperial Senate. Fifth Day of the Second week of the Fourth month of Air. 1824 A.S.
To: Dox-t’Rul, Mnhei’sahe. Lieutenant Commander, Starfleet. Kolaes, Imperial Senate.
Greetings, Kolaes Dox-t’Rul.
A formal request for private, personal communications between yourself and Senator Verelan t’Rul has been tendered. Arrangements and timeline is approved by Starfleet Intelligence. Your presence is required and we have been ensured that you Vessel will make the appropriate accommodations for holographic communications at 0430.
Thanks are conveyed for your continued service to the Star Empire and the betterment of relations between our two governments.
Jolan’Tru, Kolaes Dox-t’Rul.
Senate Kharifv, tr’Naan.
Sitting back, Dox rubbed the bridge of her nose knowing full well that this was viewed by the Admiralty, Captain Telvan and Rita before arriving at her desk. And while it was written in Federation Standard, it was loaded with titles in her native Romulan such as one that was new to her. Plus, it no doubt woke up Enalia and Rita as well, which just added to her anxiety.
‘Kolaes’ meant ‘Emissary’, which she technically was, as she had been tasked with communication with Romulan Reunification colonies on her Grandmother’s behalf. But the title being used in an official communication was troubling. The Senate and her Grandmother seemed to be trying to send a message both to herself and Starfleet that Dox didn’t like. Much like Commander Dalia Rendal constantly referring to her as her ‘Apprentice’, this felt designed to make her superiors in Starfleet continually doubt her loyalties.
‘Kharifv’ simply meant a ’Mediator’, which was innocent enough, but still troubling that they were choosing to insist on making those at Starfleet translate parts of the message, down to the regional dating terminology that simply meant ‘June 4th’ on Earth Calendars. It was dog whistle communication and it immediately put the young Starfleet officer on guard for the holographic communication scheduled for an hour.
Looking at it, she knew that Enalia and Rita would understand that they were poking at her a bit. Both women trusted Dox’s loyalty and the young Romulan woman knew it, but she was still irritated. Which was NOT a good way to start a call with one’s grandmother.
‘Accomodations’ meant that the Hera would be pulling out of warp and coming to a stop near a subspace relay to affect clear, holographic communications. Meaning the ENTIRE ship would essentially know that they were being held up because of her. It was a bit of a hyperbolic moment on her part, but she would allow herself the self-indulgence of the irritation for the moment to help clear her head.
This call was most likely going to be about the Hera’s part in the recent engagement with a number of Romulan ships at Galorndon Core. The engagement that, while she was not directly there for, lead to joint operations between the Hera and the Persephone and their Romulan counterparts that were operating under false orders from the renegade Commander, Rendal. There was an official story sent out over the Federation News outlets extolling the bravery of the Romulans in helping save the Hera that she was sure Verelan would want the truth of. Dox was comfortable, at least, in the knowledge that in THIS case, it WAS the truth for all intents and purposes. She wouldn’t have to ever TRY to lie to the woman whose ability to see through such things was beyond impressive.
Forty-Five tense minutes after rescheduling the duty roster on the Flight Deck to account for her meeting, Dox arrived at Holodeck Two for the scheduled call. Even without checking with the bridge, the natural pilot, raised on ships, could feel the Hera drop out of warp and take up a fixed position relative to the motion of the galaxy for the call.
As she rounded the corner to the exterior door to the chamber, she adjusted her crimson uniform which she had been preening in at her office to ensure that it was to inspection levels of care. Her pips were freshly shined, as was her Starfleet badge. Her uniform changed for a freshly pressed one. She didn’t need too, but she always felt exceptionally nervous when speaking with the stern matriarch of her ancestral house.
Those nerves were minorly expanded upon when she saw Commander Rita Paris and Captain Enalia Telvan waiting outside for her arrival.
“Captain. Commander.” She said, coming to parade rest before her commanding officers.
The Trill captain greeted her with a wry grin. "Mnhei'sahe. Why politicians always insist on doing this sort of thing before breakfast is beyond me. You know her best, but we expect her to ask about more than the recent incident. We just want you to know that we trust you and though everyone is expecting you to meet with her, it's up to you what you do or don't tell her. We have complete faith in you. You've got this."
"Unless of course you would like to reinforce to the Senator that you are in point of fact a Starfleet officer with a chain of command, in which case we'd be happy to stand behind you and look imposing," Rita added, subtly tugging the hem of the anachronistic minidress she wore that somehow never seemed to be quite enough to completely cover her abundant assets. "Not that we don't have faith and confidence in you- but we also have your back."
At that, there was the hint of a genuine and warm smile on the young pilot's face as she nodded, looking again for a moment at the PaDD in her hand with the message before replying. "Currently, it's mid-day on Romulus. But the wording of the message request was specific to the time as on our clocks, so this is either a power play on her part, on the senate's part that she is enacting, or an emergency in which time was of the essence."
"Regardless, I think that in lieu of the flexing done in the message, a little flexing back is in order. As you say... reinforcement of who and what I am first and foremost." Dox continued, as she added. "However, on a personal level, I... would appreciate it. Thank you."
"Then we're with you the whole way," Enalia replied with a nod and a press of the holodeck controls which opened the large double doors. "We can begin when you're ready."
"Thank you." Nodding and stepping in, Dox tucked the PaDD into her back pocket and adjusted her uniform, making sure it was as ready for presentation as if she were meeting with the Admiralty again. As she did, she immediately felt just a bit embarrassed for it in front of her two commanding officers.
"I feel... foolish, but it still matters to me what she thinks. In spite of everything, I still care. Sometimes, I wish that I didn't, but I do." Dox said, admitting something that was extremely difficult for her to the two women who were extremely important to her as they set themselves up in the center of the black and gold, gridded chamber.
"She's family - of course you care. As bad as my mother was, do you think I didn't care what she thought? Just don't let her manipulate you." As they entered, the spotted woman tapped at the holodeck arch controls and loaded the prepared location data, replacing the black and gold grid chamber with that of Senator t'Rul's chosen meeting chamber - a study of some sort presumedly in her own manse. "Also, a small word of advice, if I may? Don't have anything in any of your pockets in calls with the Admiralty, Councilors, Senators... It hurts the creases of your uniform and makes it look like you're hiding something."
Blushing slightly, Dox pursed her lips and took out the PaDD. Waking back across to the arch of the chamber, she opened the small storage locker on the wall and placed the PaDD inside before coming back looking extremely embarrassed by the oversight as she re-adjusted her uniform. "Thank you, Captain."
"As for seeking approval from people who have kidnapped you in the past, we've all been there, Miss Dox. Don't beat yourself up about it- family tends to fall in a different category, as do our issues with them," Rita offered with a smile and a roll of the eyes. Her own relationship with the elder Commander Paris over the years had been tumultuous at best, but she had never given up hope that one day he might see her value and that he had raised an excellent officer. Given that he had died a hundred years ago, now it was absolutely never going to happen. But still, Rita understood that drive.
“Thank you. Seriously. For everything.” The anxious officer said as the computer chirruped from overhead. =^=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."
The holographic form of Senator Verelan t'Rul materialized, along with a rather ornate and polished desk, a comfortable high-backed chair. and a circle of sage carpet- apparently the sum total of the holographic capability directed to the call. In her view, she materialized in a black room with a yellow grid pattern about it that looked suspiciously like a cell, with two taller officers flanking her, whom she recognized. After all, they had mind melded, and impressions of both women were quite strong in Mnhei'sahe's mind.
Taking it all in, eyes slowly rolling about to take in the spartan military display by the Federation, she was impressed. Tres militaristic- know thy audience. Settling her gaze over to the anachronism in the objectification uniform, then to the space pirate, those sharp blue eyes focused in on the redhead, whose body issues she could certainly understand, given the pair of Valkyries who accompanied her. Settling a professional close-lipped smile onto her face, the distinguished lady from the Ihhliae province greeted her granddaughter, as an emissary of the grand senate of Romulus.
"Lieutenant Commander Dox. Commander Paris. Captain Telvan. I was not expecting such participation in this communication, although of course your perspectives are welcome. Well," The old dame's eye lit up and she raised one eyebrow slightly as she smiled a bit saucily. "I hear you went on quite the adventure, and were saved through the heroic efforts of one tugboat captain who heroically fought to free his fleet, and they even saved a Federation starship in the bargain. Or so I hear."
Standing straight with her arms at her side, Dox offered a culturally respectful, light bow. "Jolan'tru, Senator t'Rul. Yes, the Hera and three Romulan Warbirds were pulled into an artificially generated singularity. Without the aid and planning of Garnak, the commander of the Freight Eagle 7X9-V, all four ships would have been lost."
"Captain Telvan and Commander Paris were present on the other side of the singularity and can speak first hand to the efforts of the ranking officer in charge of the Warbirds, Commander t'Rekt, and her invaluable service towards the goal of ensuring the survival of the crews of her ships," Dox concluded, summarizing the information that was now public knowledge of the incident.
The smile faded a bit, and the sharp-eyed and pointy-eared matron steeled her gaze. "There is considerable talk about why the Federation is working so hard to paint the Star Empire in such a flattering light. Theories and conspiracies abound. As the ranking officers who can speak to the invaluable service of the crews and her ships, what would be your response to the questions that abound on Romulus at this hour?"
Enalia expected such a question so she smiled politely and replied. "With the aid that they rendered us, my personal honor demanded that we do all we could to honor and aid them both in the Federation and in their return home to their families and Empire."
The aged senator offered a half-lidded eye to the captain, then cast an inquisitive glance toward the throwback. "Anything to add, Commander? Really, the magnanimosity of Starfleet is grandiose indeed, and it has a great... number... of factions putting forth theories. Any insight would be helpful."
The curious commander cocked an eyebrow of her own, nodding. "The events unfolded as indicated. All parties logs confirm it, so if the Federation chose to honor the Romulan participants, whom we appreciate for their assistance, why should we object to them being hailed as our saviors? What was exemplary was that their cooperation saved us all. I think that's the most important point in all of this, because as this showed, peaceful cooperation can achieve great things. We're here today because of it."
That answer actually took the Deihu aback for a second, as the earnest sincerity came through. She honestly believes that. Rather amazing naivete for someone in her position. "I see that someone read their Federation charter this morning. So, as the Kolaes to this particular situation, given your remarkably unlikely proximity to the situation... although you say you were not onboard at the time?"
With the attention focused back at her, Dox's stomach tightened even further as she considered the direction of the conversation, and realized that in mentioning that she was NOT on the Hera during the incident, it would eventually lead to her Grandmother questioning where she HAD been. That was a line of questioning that might lead to the birth of her children.
While Verelan knew that Mona had been pregnant thanks to their mind meld, Dox had taken great care to keep that fact a secret during the month of her captivity on Verelan's Warbird and wanted to keep the information of their recent births just as secret. But she was also a terrible liar, so it was her goal to make sure the conversation stayed on point.
"That is correct, Senator. I was on the other side of the singularity during the incident, but I can attest to the events as described in the official reports, and what is being said here as true. As for the value of peaceful cooperation, I agree with Commander Paris wholeheartedly. After all, peaceful cooperation is also why you and I can stand here and speak our minds freely."
While her words were general, their meaning was specific and Dox hoped that her grandmother understood. Verelan may have dismissed Rita Paris' words as naive, but Dox wanted her grandmother to remember that it was that naivete that made it possible for her embattled grandmother and her Vulcan superior to enter, and free, the elder Romulan Senator's mind. That naivete that enabled Mnhei'sahe to extend the trust to her grandmother in spite of everything.
That philosophy didn't just save the ships from that singularity. It saved Verelan's mind from Rendal's machinations.
"I see. So you have nothing to add to the official report which might add clarity?" The silver-haired Romulan statesman sat back, bringing up her hands to emphasize her point, her long and elegant fingers weaving in the air as she expanded on her point and drove home her reason for the call. "You see, there are a great number of theories and possibilities. None of them are particularly positive, nor do they paint the Federation well. I would strongly suspect that the crews returning home will face some rather aggressive questioning. I had hoped to perhaps quell some of those rumors and possibly shine a light of truth onto the matter. But it seems there is no deeper truth than the Federation's usual message of benevolent friendship through conformity to their ideals."
The unspoken translation of that statement was that Deihu t'Rul expected the crews to be tortured by the Tal'Shiar until they broke, and ideally she was seeking some maneuvering room for them. But with the Starfleet officers standing by the official position, she wasn't going to make any headway. At this, she looked resigned. A good politician knew when she had lost, after all.
Recognizing the resigned look on the Senator's face, Enalia decided to offer up a bit more of a boon. "We may be able to offer up our sensor logs during the event. I'm sure Starfleet will strip out certain elements, which your own people will easily be able to reconstruct. However, from the perspective of the Hera, it should confirm many of the details of the reports when combined with the logs and sensor data from the four vessels returning to you."
Looking at Enalia for a moment, then back to Rita, then back to her Grandmother, Dox knew she was failing. Failing as both a Starfleet officer and as a voice FOR Starfleet that would be heard in the Senate of her estranged homeworld. For a moment, she cast her eyes down, having picked up on what Verelan was suggesting with the words she hadn’t said.
After a brief instant, she took a breath. The Romulan Starfleet officer wasn’t sure if she was being manipulated. She didn’t know if she was doing the right thing, but in her heart, she had to at least try. If she failed, she might destroy not just the tenuous link that she had been working to maintain with her grandmother, but also the link Starfleet was establishing through her to the Romulan Star Empire. And worse, the brave Romulans that risked everything by trusting Rita and Enalia could be lost.
“Senator. I would speak, if I may.” She said, holding her head up high and standing as straight and tall as she could. No small feat flanked by her statuesque Captain and First Officer. “The most important details in all of this… the details not mentioned in the official reports, for reasons I will elaborate upon in a moment… is the involvement of Dalia Rendal. More importantly, the facts collected from talking with the crews of the three Warbirds and Captain Garnak. Those facts told us that the skeleton crews were assembled hastily from remote colonies and stations, too remote within the Star Empire to be aware of Rendal’s discommendation.”
“They had every reason to believe they were on a classified mission for the Senate, in service to their home and their Imperium.” Dox said, talking a little bit more confidently. “They obeyed their orders and performed their assigned tasks with honor, unaware that the source of those orders was a woman without honor. Acting WITHOUT the approval or backing of the Hearthworlds.”
“It was decided to omit that information from the media account, as it could have reflected poorly upon the Star Empire. But also, because it was our personal desire to act in the best interests of those officers that risked everything to do what they knew was right. Commander t’Rekt’s primary goal, along with Garnak’s, was purely and simply to protect the Romulan citizens whose lives had been entrusted to them. I can attest to this personally from my own discussions with all involved, and an examination of the logs and records here on the Hera.”
There it was, and the canny old politico smiled. The piece of the puzzle she needed announced over a monitored channel, which would cause ripples she could use, confusion she could work between, dissent that would foment rebellion. "I see. That was indeed not a part of the official reports in the Federation's new coverage, which most certainly would have caused considerable problems in the Imperium. Likely a diplomatic incident as well... as opposed to the odd handling of the situation that has so many scurrying to find some kernel of truth in the presentation. I see... Rendal once again operating on her own, pursuing her own private agenda with utilizing the resources of the Star Empire for her own personal gain. That does make the situation seem considerably clearer."
The knot in the gut of the lowest ranking woman in the room, literally or virtually, loosened ever so slightly, though her face and body language betrayed nothing of her anxiety as Dox was getting ever so slightly better at masking her own emotions when needed. It was a skill that, for better or for worse, was fostered and grown ever time she communicated with her authoritarian grandmother.
"Then I am pleased that we could provide you with the clarity you required, Deihu," Dox replied, using the Romulan term for Senator as a sign of respect.
"So, are there any other questions the Imperial Senate would care to send our way, or are we done here, Deihu t'Rul?" Rita Paris asked with a perfunctory smile. On the other end of the call, Verelan noted the ploy. Protective, using directness to end the confrontation. Castling, the knight exchanging the rook, interposing. Let's see how this plays.
"There is one last point of business to discuss," the senior senator said with a smile, then fixed her gaze on Mnhei'sahe Dox. "We would like to arrange a visit to Romulus for the Kolaes who has represented the Senate. A great number of the senators would like to meet with the personage representing them to the Federation, as well as the current ambassador to the Federation."
At this point, in spite of her best effort, there was no way for Dox to conceal that blood rushing from her face as her skin blanched ever so slightly. But she maintained her still and calm facade throughout in spite of her insides going into panic mode as she froze for a brief instant.
Understanding many of the implications of the invitation, Enalia chose now to once more interject. "As Kolaes Dox's commanding officer, I first want to extend my appreciation and gratitude for such an offer. It is indeed an honor. However, Starfleet would insist on the USS Hera escorting her to the visit and would it not be problematic for an intel vessel like ours to be seen above the hearthworld?"
"Arriving under a flag of diplomacy would alleviate any such concerns, of course, Captain Telvan." The reply was succinct, brief, and to the point.
Sacrifice the queen? Check.
"It certainly is a generous offer," Paris interceded, seeing how they were being maneuvered, and promptly plotting an escape course. "Which is certainly something that will be discussed by our superiors at Starfleet Command, Senator. In the meanwhile, we are honored to have such an offer extended, and we look forward to discussing it further through official channels."
The knight moves again, flanked by the pawns of infrastructure. Well played, amateur.
"Of course, Commander. We would not presume that you could act with such autonomy within the structured order of Starfleet. The subject will be discussed and debated and we shall see what shall come of it. In the meanwhile..." A hint of the grandmother she knew peeked through, and a bit of genuine warmth slipped into the woman's voice. "It is good to see you, Mnhei'sahe Dox."
As with everything, Verelan always said multiple things with each statement. It was all but a proverb on Romulus that a word with only one meaning was useless, and the grandam knew that better than most. Mnhei'sahe Dox, however, was new to the games her people played so wel. Still she felt very much like a drowning child, there before the silver-haired matriarch of her family. The woman she feared and craved the approval of, in seemingly equal measure. But even still, she wasn't oblivious to the games being played... and didn't have to like her place on the proverbial game board.
"I am glad to see you again as well, noble Deihu. May the Elements conspire to allow it again." Replying, Dox kept her words brief, but specific, trying to not say anything that could be used against her grandmother in the Senate, or herself with Starfleet. In such communications, saying the word 'grandmother' could be too dangerous for too many people, regardless of how known that fact was all around.
if the Senator had a reply, it was lost to the symbol of the Romulan Star Empire, the void black wings against the greenlit hue of the galaxy, with Romulus and Remus clutched in her talons.
"The audience appears to be over. Computer, end transmission, please, and secure all comms, perform a level 5 through 1 diagnostic on any system associated with this process to scrub them down, and report all findings through data analysis. Thank you. So," Paris placed her hand on the shoulder of the rambunctious Romulan redhead. "You alright, Miss Dox?"
For a moment, Dox was silent as she stood in the center of the room between Rita and Enala, feeling impossibly small. "I'll be fine. I just need to get some breakfast. I have some time before beginning of my duty shift to write my official report for Starfleet. Review everything. I'll... be fine. Thank you."
It was an attempt at strength, but in spite of her steady face and calm words Rita could feel Dox shuddering ever so slightly. "I just... need a little time. I'll be fine."
"Stay here," Paris suggested, which in her case was an order. "Have breakfast, take a run, write that report, complete with your impressions and any analysis you think may be relevant. Bring in Mrs. Dox to analyze the conversation objectively then collaboratively with you. Give the morning to this, Lieutenant Commander. Process, review, get some perspective and give a comprehensive report, if you will. If more time is needed, inform us and press on. But finish with a presentation to the Captain of the report you plan to file with Starfleet and the Federation."
"Understood?" Paris patted the young officer on the shoulder. "We're here for any input you need, and I believe the Captain will be making some recommendations to Starfleet Command."
"I was going to recommend we get some breakfast together in the captain's galley first. All of our morning routines were disrupted so we might as well make it a working breakfast, right?" the Trill woman asked, stretching and yawning as she headed to the holodeck arch to review the log data. "Aiva isn't the best cook yet, but she's gotten good at quite a few things. Just stay away from the oatmeal - I think she's adding protein powder to it."
Standing there, Dox allowed a slightly forced smile to crack it's way out. Both women were offering help in different ways. It was a study in perspectives and seemed to be a microcosm of the dilemma the young Lieutenant Commander found herself in.
She had divorced herself from the majority of her obligations with the Artans and was trying to focus on her new family and her career in Starfleet. But here she was, feeling pulled in all directions again. Enalia's offer was one of pure friendship. Emotional support and bonding where she might gain strength. It was what she wanted to do. To lean on her friends and ask them what she should do when she felt so lost.
But Rita addressed her not just as a friend or even a sister, but as an officer first and foremost. She suggested a path to step back and try and take a measure of control over a seemingly impossible situation through structure, reason, and routine. Ironically, it was logic as a candle in the dark. Some sense of control over her own course was the one thing that the golden-clad Commander knew that her Romulan subordinate needed the most in the moment.
She knew both women were there to support her and offer her all the help she needed. But as Dox looked at them both, she realized that what she wanted and what she needed were different things, and she made her choice.
"Thank you, Captain. I appreciate the offer... I really do... but I think that I need to start on that presentation while it's fresh. I need to... work this out." Dox said confidently. "I will have my presentation and personal recommendations prepared by end of shift."
"After which... I would not object to a... what's the phrase... a raincheck?" Dox finished with a much more true smile.
"The offer is always there for both of you," Enalia replied with a genuine smile of her own and a fresh PaDD in hand. "Just remember to take a break and actually eat some breakfast, ok? Thinking works best when you've eaten the first meal of the day."
"I'll take you up on that breakfast in your mess, Captain. C'mon, let's leave Miss Dox to it. I've got some ideas I want to run past you anyway..." As she spoke, the first officer was steering the captain off the Holodeck. After all, breakfast sounded good, and it accomplished a number of things all at once. not the least of which was to offer the young Romulan officer time to work through the complex situation into which she had found herself thrust.
"Thank you, Captain. Commander. I'll report back as soon as I'm complete." Dox said as Rita and Enalia left the holodeck, leaving her to her work.
As the doors hissed shut, the facade and posture of the Romulan Flight Chief collapsed. Her shoulders dropped and her head sank as she fought off a wave of panic that began to settle in now that she could let herself feel the weight of what had just occured.
Taking a moment, she sat down on the deck, putting her arms around her knees like she did as a child, sitting in her tiny compartment on the smuggling ship, the Forager, that she had grown up on. Sitting here, on the holodeck, she felt exactly as small and completely as powerless as she had felt as that lonely, damaged child so many years ago.
After a moment of what felt like an almost impossible silence, she took a breath and stood back on her feet and stepped over to the far, left wall. Rubbing her tired eyes, she let out a long sigh. "Computer. Please generate a standard, mid-sized galley station here. One pot of brhon caelis coffee. Hot. No Cream. One mug, standard. And please replicate a bowl of... reference my personal replicator files. Access code 795-X9E."
Gesturing to the area in front of her where she wanted the table to appear, she continued. "Please replicate a bowl of... Gonadie breakfast scramble... three. Thank you."
After a second, the computer replied as the table materialized with a shimmer and the food and coffee were replicated in place. =^=You're welcome, Lieutenant Commander Dox.=^=
As always, the computer replied personally and the Romulan pilot smiled as she poured herself a cup of coffee and took a long sip before setting the mug back down and picked up the bowl of scrambled eggs and potatoes in a cheese sauce that Mona had designed for when her anxiety-driven bond-mate needed to eat quickly.
Turning back towards the center of the room, Dox took a bite of her breakfast as her face now showed focus again. She remembered that last image as her grandmother ended the transmission. The sigil of the Star Empire. The great bird Al'thindor, with the Hearthworlds in its talons. It was not how she usually ended her holographic conversations, and that had stuck in the back of Dox's brain.
Everything Verelan t'Rul said had meaning. She did not choose her words casually, and each word conveyed more than it seemed. It was a lesson the learned Senator did her best to teach her granddaughter during the few, short weeks on that Warbird all those months ago. As such, the images she chose to show must also have meanings and those meanings had been tugging at the back of Dox's mind since the transmission ended.
It could have been her way of indicating that this proposed visit to Romulus was being pushed on her by the senate. It could mean that she should beware of the mentioned Romulan Ambassador. After all, Dox has become an ambassador of a sort, and that position might be a threat to others already in power. Romulan politics were, after all, a dangerous business.
But Verelan was an ambitious woman who still had designs on her granddaughter's future, and replacing the Romulan ambassador might by the silver-haired politico's new ambition for her granddaughter. However, the more disturbing truth could have been that showing Dox that sigil at the end could have been the grandam's way of telling her wayward heir... you are still my granddaughter. You will fulfill your promise to return.
You are still mine.
Worse yet, it could mean all of that and more. There was no way for Mnhei'sahe to know, but she could still plan and study. Prepare for the eventualities and take nothing for granted.
"Computer..." she said, setting her empty bowl down, taking another sip of coffee, then stepping back towards the center of the room to figure out what her next move in this chess game would be. "Please replay the previous communication..."
"...from the beginning."