Heart and Soul
Location: Holodeck Two
Stepping up to the entrance to Holodeck two, it was fairly early in the morning, but Jaeih Dox had been up for hours and was curious as to why her daughter had called for her to meet her there.
In most matters, Lieutenant Commander Mnhei'sahe Dox was a steady and predictable officer. On duty, she was controlled, proper, and professional. Considering Jaeih's own checkered history with the Romulan military and the Tal'Shiar, the former Commander and Intel officer was quite proud of how her daughter comported herself on duty.
Which made the sight she saw when she stepped into the active Holodeck quite troubling.
There, in the center of the chamber, stood her daughter looking more than a little haggard. Her hair was a bit disheveled and her uniform tunic was hanging open at the top. Standing in front of Mnhei’sahe was what Jaeih assumed from the locale, was a hologram of Verelan t’Rul. Mnhei’sahe’s Father’s Mother. Jaeih’s former supervisor in the Tal’Shiar.
Momentarily unaware that the door had opened, Mnhei’sahe was clearly exhausted and turned with a jerk towards her mother, who was stepping towards her. As the door hissed closed, the anxious officer refastened her uniform top and ran her fingers through her hair slightly, inadvertently making it a little more messy.
For the overwhelming majority other life, Jaeih had been more a commander than a mother to her emotionally challenged daughter, but the stern woman was making every attempt she could to change that now. Now, her daughter was a new mother herself and they had made significant strides towards repairing their damaged relationship. As such, she stepped over almost absentmindedly and shook her head.
“Tsk… no.” Jaeih said, reaching over and running her fingers through Mnhei’sahe’s hair to try and bring the unruly curls back under control. “There… that should be… better.”
Meeting Mnhei’sahe’s somewhat wide-eyed look of surprise at the moment of motherly affection, Jaeih tried to redirect to a more predictable pattern by adjusting her daughter’s collar and tugging her uniform. “There. Better.”
“So…” Jaeih said, realizing how awkward the moment had become, “I assume from this that you’ve had another call from the noble Senator from the Hearthworlds?”
“Stepping back a little, Mnhei’sahe sighed and her shoulders sunk slightly more. “Ie. We received the… summons at 0330 this morning for a call an hour later. Apparently, it couldn’t wait.”
While the young Lieutenant Commander allowed a minor bit of sarcasm out, her mother replied matter-of-factly. “Yes, that would be Verelan’s style as I remember it. An observation I’m sure you can attest to from your time with her as well. It’s a simple enough power play. Make sure the other party is doing things on her schedule to establish dominance. Make their opponent wait. Make their opponent leap.”
“I’m not her opponent.” Mnhei’sahe said with a light scowl.
“THIS is, Mnhei’sahe. Make no mistake about it.” Jaeih said, pointing firmly at her daughter’s Starfleet commbadge with narrowed eyes. “Your loyalty to Starfleet. Your position on the Hera. THIS!”
A bit more forcefully, Jaeih grabbed her daughter’s right arm and pulled up the sleeve to show off the black metal band on her wrist. Her Romulan ceremonial wedding bracelet. “Everything about you that exists as the things that stop you from fulfilling her desires for you... are her opponents”
Jerking her arm out of her mother’s hand, Mnhei’sahe bit her bottom lip and tried to not let herself become angry, but that old bitterness between the two women was beginning to roil once again. “Enough, Mother. Point taken.”
“I… apologize, Mnehi’sahe.” Jaeih said, stepping back and realizing she had overstepped her bounds with her daughter. “My… objectivity is… tainted where Verelan is concerned.”
“That said, what I said was an important truth you must remember. She wants you. Not HERE on the Hera, but on Romulus, under her wing. In her own way, she believes it as what is best for you and for the Star Empire. But it is a need to possess, all the same. These.. games she plays, she plays better than any of our people I’ve ever known. FAR beyond my own level.” Jaeih said, adjusting her own uniform. “But.. you called me. Please, how can I help you.”
Pacing slightly, Mnhei’sahe gestured to her mother to follow her away from the center of the chamber. “Commander Paris and Captain Telvan accompanied me this time for the call. It was not a long one, but it was… eventful.”
Directing her mother’s attention to the center of the Holodeck, Mnhei’sahe instructed the computer to replay the events of the morning for her mother’s review. With deeply focused attention, Jaeih watched the verbal chess game between the granddam of the Imperial Senate and the trio of Starfleet officers for the complete duration of the recording up until Rita Paris ending the communication.
“Well… I can see why you are… distressed, Mnhei’sahe. That was quite the discussion.” Jaeih said flatly, her arms folded behind her back as she pondered what she had just seen. “And what you require from me is?”
“Perspective.” the redheaded pilot replied with the slightest hint of desperation in her voice. “You know her far better than I do. You know how this game is played and, frankly, I do not. I can only guess at the depth of everything that was said there, and the more I do, the more possible angles I see. The more ways I can interpret what she might have meant in… everything.”
“Tell me what you saw, then. Considering that it is 0830 hours and this concluded at 0500 hours, I can assume you have watched this at least 5, if not 6 times and tried absorbing it from every angle. Pausing? Replaying? Stepping up close to look at her every facial tic and expression?” Jaeih said, turning to look at Mnhei’sahe with a raised eyebrow. “So tell me. Succinctly. What did you see. Summarize it for me.”
With narrowed eyes, Mnhei’sahe took a sharp breath in. “She’s trying to get me back on Romulus. She either wants to make another pitch for me to continue studying with her to take over her seat…”
“Or?” Jaeih interjected, emphasizing the other option she sensed was coming to encourage Mnhei’sahe to dig deeper.
“Or… her mention of the Romulan Ambassador might be an indication that I may need to be wary of the existing ambassador, or that she may be now thinking that if I can fill that role, she can still have a hand on me while allowing me the illusion of freedom.”
Beginning to walk slowly around her daughter with a judgmental expression, Jaeih was acting very much like the stern, authoritarian who had raised Mnhei’sahe. Not the more emotionally open mother she had been trying to become. “All of that may well be true. She would have to move a number of pieces to net you a status as a full ambassador, which would require you studying at the Academy of the Great Art ON Romulus. But I can see her leaning into that direction with you. She could promise you what you crave more than anything else that way.”
“Which is?” Mnhei’sahe replied.
There was no verbal reply. Instead, the stern Romulan matriarch simply stopped and looked directly at her daughter with a raised eyebrow, expecting the answer herself.
“Belonging.” Mnhei’sahe said with a tone of bitterness in her voice. “Belonging… and acceptance from her. From a family.”
“Indeed.” Jaeih said as she continued circling her daughter. “It is an angle she had already been preparing you for by naming you her chosen representative between her and the reunification colonists. And it is a role you accepted with enthusiasm, which told her it was a route worth exploiting.”
Now Mnhei’sahe was clenching her fists behind her back as her mother spoke, but she bit her tongue. She asked for exactly this and she needed to listen, even if she didn’t like what she was hearing.
“But it is only a part of what she was working towards in that conversation. What else did you observe?” Jaeih pressed.
“The sigil at the end. The transmission ended with the sigil of the Star Empire.” Mnhei’sahe added, trying to get over her attitude and focus on her mother’s questions. After all, were the exact same questions being asked the exact same way coming from Rita, Dox realized she wouldn’t be feeling the way she was now.
“In our past transmissions, when the hologram ended, it just… ended.” Mnhei’sahe continued, a bit more focused as calm came with it. “That had to mean something. Everything has a meaning. Usually more than one.”
“Very good. Continue. Keep going.” Jaeih said, a bit more encouragingly. She knew this was difficult for both of them, but it was vitally important. Her daughter had been thrown in the very deep end of a world Jaeih had tried to shelter Mnhei’sahe from for years.
“My initial thoughts were that she was indicating that, perhaps, the Senate might be pushing for this… visit. In getting me to Romulus. It could also be a reminder of her intentions for me.” Mnhei’sahe said, with a bit of uncertainty in her voice.
“It is possible that it was a mistake to allow Enalia and Commander Paris to join you in this meeting.” Jaeih replied, stopping to think. “It may have left Verelan feeling as if her power over you was being challenged. But if I had to make an assumption, I would say the appearance of the sigil of our people was used to reinforce your relationship. To remind you of your position and the influence she and the senate have over you that you may not even be aware of.”
“She doesn’t control me, Mother!” Mnhei’sahe shouted, defensively, turning to face Jaeih.
“Are you certain of that, KOLAES DOX!” Jaeih shouted back, repeating the Romulan title of ‘Emissary’ that she had been addressed as during the message. “What did I tell you on that ship, when we were BOTH prisoners? Cultural indoctrination is STILL Indoctrination. Or do you think you were given a TITLE just for them to make their paperwork easier?”
“I know it’s a power play, Mother! I know it’s her flexing to see how far I’ll bend.” Mnhei’sahe said, trying to calm herself back down, and failing. “It’s also her way to try and plant seeds of doubt with Starfleet and with the Captain. Try to make THEM question my loyalties. HOW MANY TIMES DO I NEED TO PROVE MYSELF!?”
“EVERY TIME, MNHEI’SAHE!!! Every time! Do not forget, we are Romulan. Our people have been in conflict with the Federation since before there WAS a Federation, and that will ALWAYS come with a degree of distrust.” Jaeih snapped back before bringing her own voice back down and taking a few breaths.
“Not here. We both know Commander Paris and Enalia trust you with their lives. By the Elements, they trust ME! But STARFLEET? The admirals back on Earth who only know our people as the abstract villains of their lore? They read a report where a Lieutenant Commander is being given an official title by the Senate of the Romulan Star Empire and you KNOW they are questioning if you are truly loyal.” Jaeih said calmly once more.
“I do not say this to anger you, Mnhei’sahe. But to REMIND you to be careful. Verelan… I knew her since I was still in the Academy. She recruited me young into service. Nobody alive knows how far she will go to get what she wants, and she wants YOU, Mnhei’sahe. She wants you to WANT to go to her. To forsake Starfleet and the life you’ve built. And make no mistake that she will find ways… subtle ways… Romulan ways… to take this life from you one chip at a time until you have only the Hearthworld to turn to. Only her and one of the lives she is designing for you.”
“Now, when I say ‘one of the lives’ and I mean it.” Jaeih added. “Verelan will not place all of her hopes on one single path for you. Right now, she is building a foundation for you to take baby steps towards her goal. She is using diplomacy. She is using your desire to see reunification made reality. But she will only take small steps for so long until she starts reaching for more of you.”
“If Starfleet decides to allow this meeting to happen, I cannot go with you.” Jaeih said, her tone returning to that of a worried mother. “My name was written and burned three times upon the floor of the senate. There is no scenario where I can go there and not be put to death for my crimes. So I must give you everything I know, daughter. You must be prepared to play this game.”
“I understand that, Mother. I do.” Mnhei’sahe said as her shoulders dropped a bit. “But I still need to make an official report to the Captain, including my personal recommendations here, but I don’t know what to say.”
“Yes, you do, Mnhei’sahe.” Jaeih said, raising an eyebrow. “You’re just still afraid to say it.”
“That sigil…” Dox replied, her eyes cast down as she let out a breath. “It was a warning. Yes, she will try to influence me. Try to convince me to stay. Show me what my life could be. But… it is also a warning. Her suggestion that the Hera fly under a flag of Diplomacy means that if that diplomacy fails… and if I refuse whatever is to be offered, then the Senate will take that as an act of aggression. If we go there, the Hera will be put at risk. Everyone will be. Because of me.”
“Yes. They will try and position it so that it will appear that we are the aggressors. Perhaps it will by my presence here that they will use as an excuse. Perhaps it will be Enalia’s incursion and attack on a Tal’Shiar facility to rescue you that will be the excuse. But you are correct. That sigil was a warning. A warning and a reminder.”
“A reminder that she is a Senator first and my grandmother second.” Mnhei’sahe said, despondently. “It’s never easy, is it, Mother.”
Reaching over, Jaeih put her hand on her daughter’s chin and lifted Mnhei’sahe’s face up to meet her gaze. “No. No, it is not.”
“There will be time later to feel what you are feeling.” Jaeih was a mother again for a moment as she looked deep into her daughter’s eyes. “Tonight when you return to your quarters, you may tell Mona of the turmoil in that heart of yours too open for your burdens. Cry. Rage. Scream to the elements or Al’thindor. Then, you may let it all out then, Mnhei’sahe.”
“But now, I must task you with something I know you know how to do. Now, you remember what it is to be Romulan. What you feel… that passion threatening to devour you from the inside is our power, Mnhei’sahe. Claim it. Use it.” Jaeih leaned in close as she spoke, her voice calm but strong.
“When you eventually stand before her and the senate, remember to guard your heart well. Reveal nothing. Give nothing. Absorb what they say, and what they do not say. See what they do and do not do. Every gesture will be a statement. Every gaze a declaration.” Stepping back, the former Intel operative was as warm as she could be, considering her words. “I tried to spare you from that. From the burden that is being of the Declared. I did not want you to ever have to fly beneath the raptor’s wing. But this is where we are. So if you wish to live free from that, you must learn to embrace it. You must learn to to harness your passion but not reveal it. You must learn to control the meanings of your words. You must learn to be a stone.”
“I understand.” Mnhei’sahe said, looking at her mother and realizing just how much this moment felt like those first meetings with her Grandmother all those months ago. In her mother’s eyes, she could see how similar she was to Verelan in her own way.
“Good. Then your first lesson has already begun. Now, we have a presentation to prepare, little one. Let us begin again.” Jeaih said, stepping back from the center of the room. “Play the recording again. But this time, you will tell me everything you see…”
“And everything… you do NOT see. Let us begin.”