Star Trek Hunter
Episode 22: Sacrifice
Scene 6: The Balcony
As instructed, Flight Specialist Jennifer Hopper brought the tiny shuttle craft down directly into the atrium of the newly constructed Imperial Administration Center on Vulcan, located a few hundred meters from the Regar Sea - the largest ocean on Vulcan. The building had 40 stories and was constructed from transparent plascrete. It wrapped around a large central garden in a rough horseshoe shape that was open to a beach leading down to the sea.
“No heroics, Hopper,” said Justice Minerva Irons. “There is nothing you can do for me – if you try, it will ruin my plans. The only way you make it out of here without becoming a slave is to assume all is lost and just play it straight.”
“That is almost exactly what Commander Dolphin told me,” Hopper replied. “That and to be very respectful toward Supreme Commander Sela – never use her name or anyone’s name – only their titles.” She went through the shutdown sequence, secured the engine, then keyed the door. “I should exit first, your honor.”
“Yes, you should.” Irons remained seated as Hopper stepped around her, having to bend over slightly because the shuttle was not large enough to stand up in. She turned and stepped out of the craft. “Leave the door open and hand the remote to the centurion, Flight Specialist,” Irons said.
Hopper held her hand out, the remote key to the shuttle in her hand. A number of romulan guards, led by a centurion surrounded the craft and the two women. The centurion looked at one of the guards. The guard stepped forward and held out her hand. Hopper tilted her hand, dropping the key into the guard’s hand.
“I know you speak Romulan,” said the centurion.
“We both do,” Irons responded.
The centurion registered only the slightest surprise, glancing at Hopper, then said, “You are to go to the balcony on the 14th floor. Please make your way directly there.”
“Thank you, Centurion,” said Irons.
“No escort?” Hopper asked as they stepped away from the guards ringing the shuttle.
“A show of strength on Sela’s part,” Irons responded. “Can you imagine a high level romulan operative being invited to walk, unescorted into the Federation Council building to meet with President Rodriguez on a balcony?”
Hopper shook her head.
“Supreme Commander Sela will be standing by the balcony rail when we arrive and she will be alone,” said Irons. “She will be wearing civilian clothing – probably a long gown. Do not make any false moves. She is quite capable of protecting herself.”
“Commander Dolphin told me to resist temptation at every turn.”
“I did not promote him twice for being reckless.”
While the two women were not escorted into the building, there was no shortage of observers. It was evident that the romulans had been ordered to leave the two women alone to move at their own pace and at will. It was equally evident they were uncomfortable with those orders.
The entire ground floor served as a lobby. Although the large, open ground floor was filled with people – mostly romulan, but several vulcans and humans as well – the two women were afforded a wide berth. When they chose an elevator, no one joined them. Their ride to the 14th floor was a solitary one.
The 14th floor was apparently one large office and apartment suite and was entirely vacant. It was only a few meters from the elevator to the balcony. Just as Irons had predicted, Supreme Commander Sela was dressed in an emerald green gown - but of a different cut from the one Irons had seen her wearing on the I.R.W. Bestia. She was leaning on the rail of the balcony, looking out to sea.
“Vulcan is a dying planet,” Sela said, still looking out to sea as Irons joined her at the rail. “This is not my first time to look at this ocean. Even with all the passion the humans have poured into saving this planet, it is still dying.”
Hopper hung back near the door.
“Step up to the rail and look at it, young human,” said Sela. “So little life along the shore. So little life in that ocean.” Sela turned and looked at her (mostly) human visitors. “In your stupidity and your immorality, you nearly destroyed Earth in your 21st Century. But even the most egregious of human neglect and greed was nothing compared to the barbarity and hatred of the vulcans for one another. Earth was able to recover.”
Sela looked back out to sea as Jennifer Hopper walked up to the rail – put her hands on it – looked out to sea. There were no ships. No one was swimming or surfing. No signs of life. “Vulcan has been slowly dying for a thousand years. This planet will eventually become uninhabitable. The human passion and contrition that saved Earth cannot save Vulcan. The poisons the vulcans used in their last world war were too potent. They have tried for a thousand years to extract them, but those poisons got spread everywhere by the water and have caused a deadly ongoing chain reaction in the soil. It just keeps getting worse. Their weapons worked better than they were designed to. As much hate as you humans could manage to throw at one another, it never even began to compare to how much hate the vulcans had for each other. How much they hatred they had for themselves. You know the story of Surak, who finally led the vulcan people to peace and logic, teaching them to rigorously suppress their emotions. It’s part of what you humans love about vulcans. Their cold dispassionate logic.”
Sela turned to look at Irons. “You are part vulcan, but you don’t suppress your emotions. There are more and more of you – you have taken the poison of the vulcans into your species. You have taken their poison into your very blood, and left the antidote on the table.”
“Without their emotional self-control, vulcans are monsters. You are a quarter vulcan, but you do not discipline yourself. Is that how you came to be such a monster, Justice Irons?”
Sela paused, then focused on Jennifer Hopper, looking at her closely. “Come here, child.”
Hopper walked around Irons, stepped in front of the romulan supreme commander. She managed a relaxed humility. “You were very well chosen for this assignment,” Sela said. “Just the right combination of humility and self-possession. Do you speak?”
“To tell the truth, I am frightened out of my wits, Supreme Commander. I don’t know whether to stand at attention or curtsey,” said Hopper.
Sela laughed lightly. “You are also part vulcan?”
“No, Supreme Commander. My grandfather is romulan.”
“One of my admirals?”
“A commander, I believe,” said Hopper.
“I thought romulans were prohibited from service in Star Fleet,” Sela observed.
“Star Fleet had only allowed romulans and people of romulan descent to serve in Star Fleet Intelligence,” Hopper replied. “Then, 10 years ago when Admiral El Fadil became Chief of Staff, he pushed through a policy change. Romulans are now allowed to serve in every command within Star Fleet as long as we are Federation citizens or receive a recommendation from a command level officer.”
“Very interesting. Return to where you were, child,” said Sela.
Sela turned toward Irons again. “You will be tried. Your trial will be broadcast. You will implicate Star Fleet in the destruction of Gamorlan and the death of thousands of romulans.”
“I will do all those things, Supreme Commander. And I will give you far more. I will give with both hands,” said Irons. “But there is a price.”
“You will not go free,” said Sela.
“No,” Irons replied. She took a deep breath. “No, I have recently realized that I have not been free for a very long time. But I will escape. Probably immediately after the trial. And after I escape, you will send our pilot back to us, unmolested.”
“That is what you selected her for. To test me?” Sela was clearly holding an icy fury very carefully in check.
Irons was simply exhausted. “No, Supreme Commander. We selected her to be a coin. A coin with which you will purchase the Al Donovos and Al Jenova star systems. Al D. 3, Al D. 4 and Al J. 4 are all suitable for the transplantation of Saketh. You are aware of the U.S.S. Ark?”
“A weapon beyond imagination,” said Sela. “We are prepared to destroy it.”
“You would be destroying your future,” Irons replied. “The Ark was created to remove all life, all the soil, all the water, all of the atmosphere from Saketh and transplant them to Al D. 3, Al D. 4 and Al J. 4. Saketh is the only superplanet left in romulan space. It could live, except for the wave of gamma radiation headed toward it. In less than 300 years, Saketh will be sterilized.”
“And you know,” rejoined Sela, “that the star systems you call Al Donovos and Al Jenova will be sterilized in just over 3,000 years by gamma waves from the same source.”
“Not if we can repair the machine,” said Irons.
“You don’t think we have considered that?” asked Sela - her icy fury just a little closer to the surface. “The only people who could repair that machine are the people who built it.”
“The borg,” said Irons.
“And you don’t think we had considered using them?” Sela was no longer concealing her anger.
“It turns out that we may have some resources that you might not have been able to include in your consideration. Not technology,” Irons added, anticipating Sela’s response, “Personnel. We have a few people who are immune to the borg nanites. And who have some very unusual abilities.”
“You would need an emancipated borg to be able to rework their base code…” Sela started.
“We have one of those,” Irons replied.
Sela closed her eyes, rolled her head back, sighed, letting her anger drain from her. “Even with all of that, your plan might have worked if you could make a bargain with their queen. But she is dead. The borg have not fared well since the destruction of their transwarp conduit. They are not the power they once were. You saw their ships - those are among the best they have to offer. There just are not enough of them left to get this job done.”
“You have a long term plan. Romulan nomads.” Irons looked at Sela. “How many of your people would be left behind to starve or die from gamma radiation?”
“What are you driving at?” Sela asked.
“You said it yourself, a few moments ago," Irons replied. "I have become a monster. Not just for your people, but for mine as well.”
Sela took a long breath, looked at Irons closely, evaluating her. “I will not allow you to escape.”
“I would not expect you to, Supreme Commander,” Irons replied levelly. “But when I do escape, remember: Flight Specialist Hopper is the coin. She is your innocent witness to these events. Your unimpeachable emissary. And the key to the future of your people.”
“I was not looking forward to putting you on trial, given your age. You are old and tired, Minerva Irons. But listening to your bluster, I am beginning to have more of an appetite for this trial,” said Sela.
“Oh, I will give you a memorable trial,” Irons replied. “Together, you and I will create a legend. A terror that your people will never forget.”