"The spear in the other's heart is the spear in your own. You are he." - Surak
The taking of a life is a peculiarly simple undertaking, involving very little in true difficulty. The only obstacle of consequence in the whole affair lies in the taboo that surrounds the act itself. The very moment that taboo is overcome, all difficulty is erased leaving only the matter of planning and, naturally enough, the execution.
Unfortunate as it was, such considerations had become more than mere academic debate in this situation. Though an abundance of potential options had originally been available, none of them now remained and everything dictated that action be taken. Killing remained the sole viable outcome and necessity demanded it be the resolution.
Needing the protection of darkness, he departed the room which had been provided him after dusk. Dressed as one of the Mondarian peasantry, it was too easy to move about the capital city unnoticed by its inhabitants and the city's security forces. Mingling through the pedestrians in the streets, he began to feel like a ghost which, if one considered the situation, was entirely appropriate.
The Chancellery lay at the heart of the city, revered for its architecture and various collections. As with the Terran expression 'all roads lead to Rome', in the capital of city of Mondar Prime, all roads led to the majestic building which dominated the hearts of her people.
Held over in session due to the debates, Council would be just letting out for the evening meal and respite when he arrived. Outside, in the courtyard, the usual crowd would mill. Councillors, staff, observers, and the media all jockeying for position as the debate spilled over into the streets. It was an entirely raucous affair and the perfect opportunity for the task at hand.
At precisely the right instant, hands shot out of the dark toward a particular throat. In mere moments there was screaming, chaos, and a body with a Vulcan kneeling at its side.
Usually when Admiral Forrest's face appeared on the screen, the captain of the NX-01 had learned to expect that face to bear one of three expressions: moderately aggravated, moderately perplexed, or generally pissed off, the cause of any one usually involved Enterprise. This time, Forrest had the look of a dog surveying a very unusual bone and Archer had to consider his own curiosity piqued. The last time he'd seen this expression, it had sent him chasing after T'Pol and a Vulcan fugitive, God only knew what it was this time.
"Morning, sir," he greeted, offering his superior a genuine smile. "Something we can help you with?" Settling in at his desk, he eyed the list of morning reports on the padd before him and chose one at random for review. "If you're just calling to chat, we can talk nebulas. T'Pol's been angling to visit one about three light years from here. Supposed to be a hell of a view."
"I'm sure it is," the admiral agreed with an affable nod. "But, unfortunately, we don't have time to discuss your science officer's interest in stellar phenomena this morning." Leaning back in his chair, Forrest hit a command which widened the view to reveal a tall, austere Vulcan standing at his side. An older man, he wore impressive ambassadorial robes which suggested he was no mere adjunct and, unlike some of his colleagues that Archer had dealt with, he carried an air that commanded respect. Something about him was so very familiar but the captain wasn't about to wager any guesses when introductions were about to be carried out. "Captain Jonathan Archer, this is Ambassador Solkar of Vulcan. Jon, the ambassador has a personal request he'd like to make of you, Ambassador..."
The name had the predictable effect of making Jon's spine snap as straight as any cadet on review and he only just managed to quell the entire reaction. What was one of Vulcan's most revered citizens and legendary ambassadors doing on Earth? More importantly, what was he doing at Starfleet Headquarters making a request of a vessel his people still considered a mistake?
"I apologize, Captain Archer, for the intrusion into your morning routine but I assure you this is a matter of grave importance. Tell me, have you ever been briefed on a planet known to its inhabitants as Mondar Prime?"
Lifting her eyes from the sensor hood, T'Pol shook her head once in silent refusal of Yeoman Pike's offer. The young woman smiled politely and continued on to Ensign Sato who gratefully accepted a mug of steaming coffee with her murmured thanks.
As the Yeoman moved on, Hoshi brought the cup near her face and inhaled what appeared to be a fortifying breath which instantly brought a wide smile to her face.
Curious. T'Pol had often observed humans to conduct unusual rituals in relation to their food consumption and many tended to vary in intensity and behavior. The one that had not, however, varied was the reaction that their coffee generated. The bond they shared with the dark, bitter liquid was most unusual. She had determined the beverage to be the Terran equivalent of Saya, a drink consumed readily among her own people, but never before had any Vulcan behaved with such reverence toward the spicy drink. Having sampled coffee herself, she had not observed any particular reaction to it within herself that would merit such response. It was another of the many questions with no apparent answers she had observed in the young race. In this case, she could only presume it something to do with the human digestive system that its Vulcan cousin lacked.
Most curious nevertheless.
Returning her eyes to the sensors, T'Pol watched the readings on the Turkhana Nebula as they scrolled across the hood's tiny screen. Interesting reports at that, the ship's sensors - rudimentary though they were - suggested tantalizing developments within the nebula's sub-atomic structure. If Captain Archer could be persuaded to the detour, her department would have much data with which to intrigue the Science Directorate, and perhaps even the famed Science Academy itself, by the results it suggested.
"T'Pol." As if summoned by her thoughts, the captain emerged from his ready room and, judging by his expression, he was about to confirm her suspicions about the call from Admiral Forrest.
Reluctantly turning away from her results, the science officer watched him approach. "Am I to assume, Captain, that our course has been altered by Starfleet Command?" She spoke the question neutrally but, to her own ears, she could detect a faintly petulant tone. In her time aboard Enterprise, she had observed that such changes were rarely welcome by anyone aboard ship. This time, the apologetic look on Archer's face suggested this particular change was not in the favor of her research - regrettable but a neligible concern. The nebula had been present and active for thousands of years, it would wait a few days more.
The captain sighed as he came to a stop before her station. "In my defense, T'Pol, I really had intended on letting you play with that nebula."
She would have opened her mouth to correct him on his choice of words but held her tongue instead. The captain enjoyed his humor and there was a sense settling over the bridge which she did not believe to be at all encouraging; humor might be in short supply among her crewmates soon enough.
"I'm sure," he continued finally, "that you've heard the name Solkar?"
If it were the Solkar of Vulcan about which he spoke, T'Pol could hardly deny it. All of Vulcan knew the name, the family, and the man. She had heard him speak early in her life, his words following her throughout her career. He and his mate held much sway over the Vulcan people, to say nothing of his children. "I have." Despite her internal thoughts, she remained as neutral on the subject as one could. "He is currently an Ambassador at large who works on behalf of the High Council itself." She lifted a brow. "Is there reason for your inquiry, Captain? Or have you decided to take interest in Vulcan's societal structure?"
Archer chuckled, taking the comment as humor, and briefly ducked his head. "Perhaps I should," he admitted. "After this is over, I just might have to." Leaning on the railing, he sobered and met her eyes. "His son, Skon, is a mathematician, I met him once when he consulted on the development of the transporter."
She nodded. "I am aware of his work."
"Most humans aren't," the captain responded. "I got the feeling he preferred it that way."
"Indeed, Skon has never appeared comfortable with the status of the family. He has been content with a career of diplomacy through shared scientific goals." This was not the conversation she had anticipated having when Archer had joined them on the bridge. It was, at best, highly unusual and the undercurrent was even troubling. He was, she well knew, avoiding the subject. "Is there a problem, Captain?"
He nodded and, were T'Pol human, she would have said her blood ran cold at his answer. "Ambassador Solkar was with Admiral Forrest when he called. He's personally asked Enterprise to divert to a planet called Mondar Prime. Skon has been working there on one of his projects with the locals, something about a weather net. He's been arrested - on suspicion of murder."
The planet was in an uproar. Chancellor Mendat was dead, the Vulcan arrested, and the population on the verge of riot. Everything was going precisely to plan and the ease of its progression was most gratifying.
While some were calling for calm and the restoration of order, the society had polarized into two separate camps. Those who demanded blood vengeance by means of the alien's execution and those who protested his innocence, proclaiming the pacifism of their Vulcan cousins.
As expected, those defending Skon were being branded as traitors to Mondar Prime in the Capital City's media.
Suspicion ran rife in the city's streets and already there had been scattered reports on the few outworlders in the population. The few Vulcans that had accompanied Skon to the planet were rumored to be in protective custody somewhere in Government House. They, themselves, were not under suspicion but their safety could not be guaranteed and their location remained secret even to the Vulcans themselves.
As for the accused himself, Skon was being held within the Chancellery. It had become the center of the unrest and none of the Ruling Council was willing to take the chance of moving him. Were he innocent and killed by a lynch mob all of Vulcan would demand retribution. It was well known that even Vulcan logic could eventually give way to madness.
All that required was the right breaking point and if one were very careful, one could easily find it.
"Mondar Prime is inhabited by a Vulcanoid species, they are reasonably peaceful and have had warp drive for a number of generations. Only recently, however, have they begun venturing outside their planetary system." T'Pol explained, bringing up an image of the planet on the screen for Archer's perusal. "Prior to 10.2 years ago, they had little interest in exploration."
She watched impassively as the captain circled around to take a closer look at the screen. "What exactly changed?" He asked, glancing back at her.
"In centuries past, the Mondarian people abused their planet's ecosystem much in the fashion that your ancestors did. Only now are the true effects of that abuse making themselves known. The climate change has thrown Mondar Prime's already chaotic and violent weather into near catastrophic extremes and it is worsening by the year. They approached us for assistance in reversing the damage and - "
"Enter Skon and his team." Archer finished for her, nodding. "They're trying to help clean up the mess."
"In a manner of speaking," T'Pol said. "They are developing a satellite system that, once deployed, will regulate the weather. Without that system, research data suggests the worsening violent storm systems will continue to do severe damage to their civilization and, indeed, their entire planet."
"So, why exactly all the controversy?" The captain turned to face her with an expression of confusion. "If this is going to save lives and they're there at the government's request..."
She did not suppress the upward motion of brow which conveyed her reaction to that comment. "It is not logical, I agree. However, Captain, you above all should understand why there is controversy among the Mondarians about our involvement."
Archer had the good humor to wince and grin at the same time. "Touché," he agreed around a chuckle. "Okay, so some of them don't trust the Vulcans or their motives for being involved in the project."
"Some of them do not," she affirmed. "By the reports Skon's party sent back, we know the Chancellor numbered among them and that he and Skon did exchange numerous discussions on the matter."
"Meaning they argued frequently?" T'Pol made room at the console as he moved back to join her, taking up position at her side and glancing out at the rest of the bridge.
"In the eyes of the Chancellor, the discussions might have indeed been viewed as arguments. I cannot attest to his state of mind on the matter but I can speak to Skon's. As a Vulcan, he would have enjoyed a chance to debate the merits of the project itself. Murdering him would have ended all opportunity on this matter, therefore that is not logical as well." T'Pol stabbed at the console controls in swift, jerky movements as anger bled subtly through beneath her control. The more she contemplated the situation the more increasingly difficult it became to control her emotions on the matter. To accuse any Vulcan of an act so devoid of purpose or reason was insulting enough, but one such as Skon?
"This is bothering you, isn't it?" Stepping closer, the captain lowered his voice in deference to the bridge crew working just a few feet away. "Skon being accused of this crime is bothering you a lot more than you're letting on."
"It is," she admitted tightly, moving swiftly away to the other side of the console as she found herself in dire need of the distance. Discussing it, even with the captain, stretched her control that much further and his concern grated against her already raw emotions. Logically, she knew she should not be feeling as she was. She directed her mind away from such thoughts to the project status reports that Skon's team had regularly submitted. It was likely that within them lay the answer to his freedom and, if so, the responsibility of finding it lay with her. Lieutenant Reed and Ensign Sato had reviewed them as well but there were certain subtleties that only another Vulcan would be able to detect.
"One of the hazards of diplomacy." Resting his hands on the console, Archer watched her with a sympathetic expression. A look she avoided meeting, steadily keeping watch on the reports before her. "It's pretty much a given that running into trouble on an alien world will come up sooner or later, your people must be experts on dealing with it. Look at the situation with V'lar, got a bit dicey there for a while but everyone came out of it all right."
"It did, and we have," T'Pol agreed. "It is not that." She hesitated, finding the effort to keep even her voice composed to be more taxing than she had anticipated. "In this situation, Captain, it is a matter of *who* it is and the crime that he stands accused of. Vulcan's distance on the matter suggests they are they are concerned for his life should they intervene. If we do not prove Skon is innocent of this crime, he will be executed by means of a ritual killing that, even at my people's bloodiest, we would have considered beyond cruel. This cannot happen." She swallowed hard against the sudden rise of fear and rage in her breast. "It cannot, Captain," she continued again with more calm. "I cannot let this happen."
Not after her role in the destruction of P'Jem...
In the wake of Skon's death, all Vulcan would need someone to blame and she suspected an exiling would be a blessing even to her; the shame would be too great for her to return home. She had been raised to revere the family of Surak and the knowledge that she had failed to save their heir from a vicious death for a crime of which he was not guilty...she dared not consider it too closely.
"We're not going to, T'Pol," Archer promised, solemn in the moment. "Even if we have to beam him out of there and run like hell, we're not going to let that happen."
There were no windows; still she knew it was night. The sun had set on the city some time ago, during her evening meditations, and she again faced the unwelcome realization that there had been no resolution to the crisis. Skon was still in chains, accused of a horrific crime.
Indeed, somewhere beyond the walls of her shelter, her husband waited in similar unrest under the watchful eye of Mondarian security. Without any answers and any sign they would be forthcoming, they were both left to keep their vigils and await their fate. Not a situation that either of them were particularly comfortable with though she suspected her husband was handling it far more efficiently than she. Raised the son of a diplomat, Skon had much experience in these matters while she, the sheltered daughter of two Academy scientists, did not.
Ironic when one considered the fact she was the one free to attempt negotiation and, in her current situation, had done little more than request copies of the investigation's progress and forward such to Vulcan. Though she did regret her inability to help through diplomacy, T'Vei was aware of other opportunities available to her. Since she and the expedition team had been relegated to 'protective custody' by their hosts - she would not yet refer to them as her captors - all work on the satellite project had ceased. This left her with ample time to review the evidence provided from the investigators. If she could not see her husband, she could still help him avoid the Mondarian Rites of Execution.
The Chancellor had died of a broken neck, this was indisputable. What was not, however, was the method by which it had occurred. A healer by training and practice, T'Vei had not had any opportunity to examine the body herself but if she were to make determinations from the copy of the autopsy report, she was forced to admit that the method of killing appeared familiar. She could not say for certain that it was indeed Tal-Shaya, but she could not say that it was not either. It suggested the killer were Vulcan, something which did not count in her husband's favor, but that was also not a definite. On any other world, T'Vei would have been comfortable in such an assessment but this was a planet populated by a Vulcanoid species. She was unfamiliar with any Mondarian martial arts but it was indeed theoretically possible that they had developed a technique that was similar in appearance to Tal-Shaya.
'So many potential variables. ' All of which she lacked any practical means of exploring. Her attempts to convince Mondarian security to allow her to examine the evidence and the Chancellor's remains had been rebuffed.
"Lady, if I disturb you, I apologize." Sokath, a young aide to her husband, spoke from where he hovered nervously in the entrance to the private chamber she had been granted (supposedly a concession to her status). "We have received a transmission from Vulcan."
"I am not disturbed," she assured, putting down her research and looking up at him. "Please elaborate."
For one so young, his control was commendable but she could read the uncertainty in his eyes and understood. "They are not coming," she spoke for him, turning off the viewer and rising from her seat. "The situation is highly volatile; the High Council correctly believes that sending one of our vessels would only serve to further arouse Mondarian anger."
Sokath inclined his head. "Yes. T'Pau has, I am told, opened dialogue with the Deputy Chancellor and they believe progress is slowly being made."
Which it would, she well knew. T'Pau was kin and a skilled negotiator, she would not cease in her efforts until a satisfactory conclusion had been reached. "Sufficient," T'Vei decided, telling herself so as much as the aide. "Skon will be gratified to know it has fallen to her."
The hesitation was brief but, to a Vulcan, unmistakable. Sokath hesitated a moment, betraying his uncertainty toward his next message. "Speak, Sokath," she prompted gently. "Information is our only defense at present, you will do more harm withholding it from me than you will prevent."
"T'Pau wishes you to know that Solkar has traveled to Earth, intending to ask the Earthmen to assist in the effort to resolve this situation." The young Vulcan confessed quickly, clearly relieved to be free of it.
T'Vei raised a brow.
"Indeed," she murmured to herself, considering it briefly. "Is that all there was?" At his nod, she dismissed him with her thanks and turned back to those contemplations. Solkar and Skon shared a certain fascination with the Terrans and had since first contact with them had been made. It was not unsurprising that Solkar would enlist their assistance; he had become something of a champion to their cause with the High Council. She suspected the majority of humanity was unaware of his steadfast support and believed he wished it thus. Unaware as they were of his involvement, the surprise - if one could call it that - would be in their agreement. Relations had improved between their two worlds; nevertheless, this was a dangerous situation. After the near-disaster that had been the NX-01's assistance with V'lar a year prior, she did not think the humans would be in any hurry to assist them now, especially if there was to be no official request from the High Council.
"Enterprise..." she mused quietly, sitting down.
"He is innocent." Upon the captain's explanation of the facts as he knew them to the senior staff, T'Pol made the pronouncement with no hesitation and utter conviction. "No Vulcan would do such a thing, certainly not Skon."
Her shipmates, unfortunately, did not seem to share her faith.
"I can appreciate your need to believe in the man, Sub-Commander," Lieutenant Reed began, his tone hesitant as though he were choosing his words with great care, "however I must question your certainty. He was found kneeling over the Chancellor's body, a man who - by all accounts - opposed the Vulcans' involvement on Mondar Prime and with whom Skon was known to have had words, and Skon's own wife confirms that the Chancellor died by a Vulcan method of killing." Regretfully, he spread his hands. "Even you must admit that the evidence is not in his favor."
That was indeed so. On the surface, the evidence did not provide an encouraging picture but T'Pol could not believe the circumstantial evidence to be so damaging as was suggested and said as much to her fellow officers. "There are any number of ways to discount much of the evidence, Lieutenant, and easily so. One must consider the fact that it is a Vulcan who stands accused of the crime. You cite the fact Skon and the Chancellor had engaged in a debate but how would logic be served if Skon killed the Chancellor for his disagreement? The Mondarian reaction to the murder has done nothing but inflame their anger, thus making the situation worse. It has, in no way, furthered Skon's cause among the Mondarian government or its citizens."
"Well, I can't believe the evidence either," Ensign Sato shook her head emphatically. "I can't." She looked cautiously at the Vulcan woman beside her. "With your permission, Sub-Commander?"
T'Pol acknowledged the respectful request with a faint nod. "Please."
"Lieutenant, the murder rate on Vulcan is nonexistent and is so for a reason. While Vulcans themselves would admit that, if logic demanded it, they could kill, they are avowed pacifists. They have been since the time of the Awakening and Reformation. After two thousand years, it would be almost impossible to drive any Vulcan to a murder so illogical as this one, much less a member of Skon's family." Hoshi shook her head. "It's not him, he didn't do it."
The emphasis in her voice seemed to rouse the interest of Trip who tossed out the challenge, "And what makes his family so all-fired important?"
Unexpectedly, it was Captain Archer who answered. "They're the descendants of Surak and, from my understanding, the traditional cultural leaders of Vulcan society. No official governmental authority but plenty of personal influence."
"Indeed," T'Pol agreed, "Skon is the eldest son of the eldest son. He will, in essence, rule the family. He is heir to authority over Surak's personal house and lineage as well as that of his clan. For him to commit such an act for no apparent reason would be an immeasurable disgrace on the family." She permitted a frown at the consideration of what the cultural repercussions would be on Vulcan. It would be a shame so great the mark it would leave on the family would be carried for generations to come.
"Okay, so you think this guy's the victim of a frame up," Trip acknowledged, leaning forward to rest his hands on the table. "Why are we getting our marching orders?"
"We aren't." The captain shook his head. "Since the murder, civil unrest has literally exploded on Mondar Prime. The Vulcan High Council is concerned that if the High Command sent a ship to investigate the murder, it would destabilize everything and cause a civil war. Ambassador Solkar intervened and personally asked us to help his son and his family."
"Their safety is indeed paramount," T'Pol spoke. "I cannot accurately describe the devastation on Vulcan that their deaths would cause."
Archer slapped his palms down on the table and pushed away. "All right then, set course for Mondar Prime."