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Part of USS Endeavour: The Widening Gyre

Jolan Tru

Runabout King Arthur, Teros IV
August 2399
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After ten minutes in a bathroom, five minutes with a medical kit, and two minutes sat in the King Arthur’s briefing room with a steaming mug of tea, Doctor Karl T’Sann looked a little more half-human. He’d tied his hair back, cleaned up, and a vicious cut over one pointed eyebrow had been sutured enough to start fading already.

‘Despite how it looks, I’m indebted to you for coming at all.’ He blew gently on the tea, before setting it down on the low table with a wince. ‘The moment the Rebirth realised Starfleet was in town and looking for me, they got cold feet over the whole affair.’

Airex folded his arms across his chest. ‘What about the rest of your team, Doctor? Are they here on Teros?’

T’Sann shook his head. ‘No. No, we were all jumped on Behram by the Rebirth there and were separated. I haven’t heard from any of them since, but then, it was only about a week later that I got here and was collared.’

‘The Rebirth tried to get you,’ Drake repeated, ‘and you still carried on trawling the old Neutral Zone?’

‘I learnt on Behram that what I needed was here.’ T’Sann raised his eyebrows at them. ‘My whole team was dedicated to this. We weren’t going to turn around and go home in the face of opposition.’

Opposition is a fine way to describe your people being abducted or murdered,’ said Airex wryly. ‘But we can return to Endeavour and reach out to contacts on Behram, chase up these leads. We’ll find them, Doctor.’

T’Sann winced. ‘No. No, not yet, Commander.’

Airex stared. ‘What?’

Beckett advanced on the briefing table at that, eyes bright. ‘Did you find whatever you were looking for from the salvage dealer? Is that why we can’t leave yet?’

‘You found out I went to Korskiv? I expect you talked to Nevantar. That’s good work, he’s a sneaky old sausage.’

Beckett beamed at T’Sann’s impressed voice. ‘I have contacts of my own. He wasn’t so hard.’

‘Gentlemen.’ Airex lifted a hand. ‘What is so important it’s worth delaying an already tardy rescue mission for your team?’

‘My team,’ said T’Sann bitterly, ‘will already be dead. The Rebirth said as much. That’s why they knew to find me here, grabbed me here. I did get what I wanted off Korskiv first, but while the Rebirth were kind enough to ditch me at the first sign of Starfleet trouble, they did not leave me with my things. Including the transponder.’

Beckett raised an eyebrow. ‘Transponder?’

T’Sann sipped his tea. ‘A lot of old ships and old artifacts left Romulus under inauspicious circumstances during the evacuation. Korskiv didn’t know what she had when she picked up a wreck that was actually the old wing of the Vomal, once a living museum in orbit dedicated to the technology and artifacts of the Romulan exodus. It included the transponder of the Vomal itself – the original Vomal, one of the transport ships that made the journey.’

Airex cast a frustrated look at Kharth, who stood near the door with her arms folded across her chest, expression unreadable. Without support from her, he returned his gaze to T’Sann. ‘All of this is for an artifact that’s been in Romulan hands for centuries?’

Slowly, T’Sann put his tea back down, and when he spoke his voice was low, deliberate. ‘The Romulan people have suffered untold loss after untold loss. The destruction of their homeworld, the shattering of their empire, the scattering of their people. The erosion of their politics, of their culture. Nothing which could provide insight into and security of who they are and what they stand for should be considered an acceptable loss.’ His gaze turned up to Airex, just as cold. ‘But no, Commander. I am not simply seeking to retrieve the Vomal’s transponder. I want what it will lead me to.’ At last he looked to Kharth. ‘I’m after the Koderex.’

Kharth did straighten at that, and Airex exchanged a cautious glance with Beckett, but it was Drake who cleared his throat and spoke. ‘So, for the not-a-Romulan-or-a-history-buff here, what’s that?’

Beckett spoke cautiously. ‘The Koderex was one of the other transport ships from the Romulan exodus. But it was lost en route.’

‘It was more than a transport ship,’ Kharth butted in, brow furrowing deeper. ‘It held the whole library archives for those who marched beneath the raptor’s wings. Much of it was duplicated on other ships, but untold knowledge and records of my people’s earliest years, of their reformation away from Surak’s restrictions, was lost. It’s almost mythical.’ She advanced on T’Sann, put her hands on the edge of the briefing table. ‘You can find it?’

‘Tracing the Koderex was difficult,’ T’Sann said. ‘The earliest centuries of the Romulan people were dedicated to settlement, after all, and much was lost by the time they had the resources and technology to retrace their footsteps. And space is… very big.’ He clicked his tongue. ‘Nobody had any idea where the Koderex might have been lost until the Romulans and Vulcans reestablished contact, and back-channels gave Romulan historians access to records on Vulcan outlying the original expected flight route. Romulan historians compared this to what records existed of communication during the exodus between the Koderex and other ships, and narrowed down the region it had been lost to a sector. There was just one problem.’

‘The Neutral Zone,’ breathed Beckett, transfixed.

‘Exactly.’ T’Sann snapped his fingers. ‘Then the Neutral Zone collapses over a decade ago, except everyone is a little busy. But I bought the Vomal’s transponder from Korskiv, and I think that with it, I can locate wherever the Koderex crashed or is drifting. Even the slightest remains of it…’

‘Could have vast detail of the origins of the Romulan people,’ said Kharth, voice more neutral, but her eyes equally locked on T’Sann.

‘The Romulan people, who are in desperate need of unity and cultural pride.’ T’Sann looked up at Airex. ‘That’s why, Commander, I’m not leaving without the transponder. If you want to go, then go – but I’m not coming with you.’

Airex’s lips thinned. ‘Did the Rebirth know about this?’

‘They know I’m after Romulan artifacts, because I thought I’d need to buy the transponder off the black market. They’d like to say I’m a threat to keeping Romulan history in Romulan hands, but in truth, they think I’m a threat to their cash flow.’ T’Sann shrugged. ‘I don’t think they expected a Starfleet response. From what they said, they’d hoped to ransom me to the Institute.’

Airex looked for a moment like he might press the point – then he sighed, and put his hands on his hips. ‘It’s late,’ he said at last. ‘And you’ve been through a lot, Doctor. If the Rebirth gave you back because they don’t want trouble, I dare say we have a little time – and some options. I suggest we all rest, first, and discuss our next move in the morning.’

Nods greeted what was clearly not a suggestion, and Kharth stepped forward as T’Sann stood. ‘You can have my bunkroom, Doctor. I’ll clear out.’

He gave her a tired look. ‘There are multiple beds per bunkroom on a New Atlantic-class, Lieutenant. I expect I’ll be unconscious the moment my head hits the pillow; no need to inconvenience yourself for my sense of privacy.’

T’Sann needed help back down the ladder to the lower deck, patched up but still aching from the tender mercies of the Rebirth. In the confined space of the bunkroom, he sank onto the bottom bed with a relieved sigh, and Kharth was prepared to clamber up and make her own, troubled attempt at resting, but he spoke as she had a foot on the bottom rung of the ladder.

‘Your commander doesn’t think this is important, does he?’

Kharth hesitated. In truth, she’d expected Airex to be more excited by the Koderex. But perhaps that was because Dav would have been delighted. The parasite was different. ‘Our mission was to get you back. Not you and your research.’

T’Sann put his hands behind his head and propped himself up against the bunk’s head. His lips curled. ‘That’s a very diplomatic answer, Lieutenant. He knows he can’t just abduct me off this planet, right?’

‘You’d stay here?’ She cocked her head. ‘Even though the Rebirth would probably pick you up again if we left?’

‘I know how to keep a low profile. It wouldn’t be easy. But I can’t risk the Rebirth scrapping the transponder, or selling it to who-knows-where – or, worse, realising what I want it for.’ His eyes raked over her. ‘You understand how high these stakes are.’

Her foot dropped down from the ladder. ‘You’re not half-Vulcan, are you.’

The smirk broadened. ‘I am. I’m not half-human.’ T’Sann sat up, sobering. ‘My parents were among the earliest members of Ambassador’s Spock’s reunification movement. But growing up in the Federation, it was a lot easier and safer to pretend to have a human father. That’s why understand how high these stakes are.’

A troubled frown tugged at her brow. ‘Our people’s problems go far deeper than losing mementos or records of our history. Three splintered governments, untold numbers of scattered refugees… without infrastructure or homes, stability or safety, what good is a fifteen hundred year-old library archive?’

‘I think you know better than that, Lieutenant Kharth,’ he said softly. ‘I think you know the battle for survival is about more than individual lives or individual safety. It’s about more than the state of our governments.’

She bit her lip. ‘Maybe.’

‘The apocalypse didn’t happen when our homeworld was destroyed; we’ve given up a homeworld before. That’s just when it started. It’s still happening as our culture, our history, our way of life are all being lost, eroded, and destroyed, just a little bit, every single day.’ He drew a slow breath. ‘The apocalypse is happening to our people as we speak. We can turn the tide.’

Troubled brow still furrowed, Kharth gave an awkward nod. ‘I’ll talk to the commander in the morning.’

‘It can’t be easy for you,’ T’Sann pushed as she turned away. ‘A Romulan far from your own people all the time, or exposed to this, the most desperate reduction of our people.’

She forced a shrug. ‘I’ve lived more of my life without Romulus than with it.’

‘So you’re afraid you’ll forget. Forget what it meant to be Romulan, forget what it means to have a connection to your people.’ He swung his legs over the side of the bunk, less exhausted now, bright-eyed in his intent. ‘I’ve spent my life not knowing if I truly understood my father’s culture. If I could truly understand it.’

Her hand curled around a rung of the ladder. ‘What happened to him?’

‘He never made it off Romulus. He was a known suspected collaborator by the end, and the authorities were not…’

‘…political dissidents were bottom of the evacuation priority lists.’ Her family had been, once. Only by Admiral Beckett had she been saved, again and again. ‘I’m sorry.’

‘I didn’t know him as well as I wished.’ T’Sann shrugged. ‘But we have to keep more than memories. We have to live in a way that honours and remembers those who came before. Actions, not just thoughts. He wanted to unite the Romulans with the Vulcans. But before that can happen, now… I have to try to reunite the Romulans.’ He gave a self-conscious smile. ‘I’m sorry, I’m tired and a bit light-headed and probably over-sharing. It’s been a while since I spoke to one of my people who’s on my side.’

‘I understand. Likewise.’ She swallowed. ‘The Rebirth who got you, who have the transponder – is it Vortiss’s lot?’

His eyebrows raised. ‘Vortiss was the one calling the shots. I didn’t see a lot of him – he likes to hold court in the bar in the District centre; he’s put up this obnoxious Romulans Only sign to seem like a more valid supremacist. But he’s the one in charge. You know him?’

She stared at the bulkhead for a moment. ‘I have my own business with him.’

‘Then maybe,’ said T’Sann gently, ‘we can both get what we want by sticking around.’

The cocktail in Kharth’s gut turned noxious; a blend of warmth towards someone who understood, grief at her father, fury at Airex, and guilt at herself for every one of her choices. Instead of answering, she at last swung into the top bunk, putting him out of sight. ‘We’ll work on this in the morning. Good night, Doctor.’

‘Karlan,’ he said softly as the lights died. ‘Call me Karlan.’

She hesitated in the dark, and when she spoke, dared no more than a whisper. ‘Saeihr.’

‘Saeihr,’ T’Sann repeated, just as quietly. ‘Jolan tru, Saeihr.’

She did not reply out loud this time, eyes locked on the ceiling she couldn’t see, infinite memories and possibilities spilling out before her vision in the dark. But her lips did form the words for the first time in maybe a decade, feeling clumsy and as if she’d forgotten how, only daring mouth them in silence.

Jolan tru.