Deep breath. Calm. Absolute… Her white space enveloped her whole in its serenity. Three years on Vulcan had taught her more than she could ever have dreamed. Control. Centred. The fiery temper of youth now channeled in the direction fate had mapped out for her all along. Granted, the heat on the planet had damn near sucked the life out of her, but under her Vulcan mentor’s hand, she had adapted. Even though he betrayed no feelings or shared no opinions on her evolution, she could see he was proud - in a very Vulcan way of course.
Now, it was time. Her tenure on Vulcan had come to an end. Earth needed an Ambassador to Qo’nos. She was that Ambassador.
Starfleet’s flagship Enterprise would take her there.
Captain Jonathan Archer was sitting in his ready room, giving his screen an appraising look. Admiral Max Forrest - on his console's monitor - gazed back.
“You’ve read her file, Jon?”
“I have, Admiral. And frankly, I can’t believe that Starfleet would be so reckless as to entertain the notion of keeping Soong’s work alive, never mind building on it after the horrors inflicted by the Eugenics Wars.”
“Soong’s work was guiding more than anything else. Apparently she’s a natural step in our evolution. Believe me, I shared your misgivings when the nature of the project was presented to me too, Captain. That said, she has proven exceptional in so many ways. Under the guidance of the Denobulans and the Vulcans the project has moved at a pace that permitted a furthering of that evolution that no one really expected.”
“Instinct and intellect have reached a mutual understanding?” Archer met his gaze, nonplussed. “I’ll believe it when I see it, Admiral.”
“Well, I’m happy to be able to give you the opportunity, Captain. You and Enterprise will be accompanying the Ambassador on a diplomatic mission to Quo’nos.”
“A diplomatic mission to the heart of the Klingon Empire? Are you sure Enterprise is the right ship for the job? I’m hardly Mr Popular with the Klingons and wouldn’t want to jeopardise —“
Forrest raised his hand. “Nice try, Jon. Columbia is otherwise engaged in business on Andoria so Enterprise has to go.”
Archer didn’t look convinced.
“You will be pleased to know that Kolos recently took a position on the Klingon High Council. He is paving the way for better relations between our worlds. Who knows? Soon we may even have Klingons serving aboard Starfleet vessels.”
Archer gave him a lop-sided grin and a raised eyebrow… “Now that’s just crazy talk, Admiral…”
“Do you think they even realise they’re doing it?” Chang whispered conspiratorially.
Some of the Enterprise crew and Hayes' MACOs had received their orders: Enterprise was going to Quo’nos and the MACOs would be joining them, much to Lieutenant Malcolm Reed’s chagrin.
“No way. Love is blind you know,” murmured Cole through slightly parted lips.
While the crew had been given two weeks leave while systems on the starship were repaired, modified and put through their paces, the security team and the MACOs had waived one of those weeks in favour of putting in some additional training. It may be a diplomatic mission, but the Head of Enterprise's security held no naive illusions about the nature of the territory into which they would be venturing.
Currently however, Malcolm Reed was engaged in one of his favourite pastimes - by making a fair attempt at demonstrating to Major Hayes the old adage, the bigger they are, the harder they fall…
“At least you’re keeping your left up, Major, though perhaps a little closer to the body next time…”
“I’ll take that under advisement, Lieutenant,” replied Hayes, before rising to his feet quicker than a man of his bulk could be given credit for. He lunged at the midsection of his opponent, and tossing him in a backflip, knocked the wind out of Malcolm, before pinning him to the mat.
Malcolm maintained his composure, resisting the rising temptation to head-butt the man in the face. “I’ll give you that round, Major.”
“Thank you, sir.”
Chang shot Cole a glance and a smirk.
“Something you’d like to share with the rest of the class, Corporal?,” asked Hayes, as he rose from the mat, dragging Malcolm up with him. Damn, thought Chang. Hayes was highly attuned to the slightest nuances. He’s like some kind of divining rod when it comes to his team. Chang should have known better than to try and get one over on him.
“NO SIR!” he responded, with perhaps a little too much enthusiasm. He could sense Cole trying to contain her own mirth. He’d deal with her later.
“Glad to hear it, Corporal.”
“Right. You know the drill. MACO pair with Fleeter and get working on those moves. And try to mix it up. Klingons apparently fight with honour but that doesn’t mean we have to.”
Reed stood next to Hayes to observe the session.
“So you read the files?” Reed enquired.
“Yes, Sir. It’s scant information at best but I thought it wise to familiarise myself with what we had. Also, they don’t seem so different from our own Earth version of the brutal steal-your-land, take-your-women warrior set.”
That surprised Reed. He really didn’t want to like the man, but was finding it more and more difficult to find reasons to dislike him. Still, good to maintain a healthy degree of coolness in his demeanour. He still got a kick out of annoying Hayes and downright relished the fact that he was his superior. Though maybe not as superior as he thought. “So you’re an historian as well now, are you?”
Hayes shot him a quick glance. There were still times he wanted to bounce Reed’s head off the nearest bulkhead, though those feelings were slowly diminishing, now that the pressures of the Xindi crisis had abated. Who knows? This mission to the Klingon home world might bridge the chasm that both still seemed to occupy either side of. Not as soldiers, but as men. Hayes snorted inwardly at the thought. Yeah, right. And maybe a Klingon might win a 20th century beauty pageant.
“Only when there is a need to understand your adversary. Sir. Offence being the best defence and all,” responded Hayes levelly, before turning his attention back to the training session.
“Quite,” came Malcolm's curt response. He can be such a smart arse, thought Reed. But then, so can I when the mood takes me I suppose…
Her first up close and personal encounter with Enterprise.
She watched in silent deference as the shuttlepod glided along the sleek body of Earth’s first Warp 5 capable Starship, breathing a silent thanks to the Universe for breathing life into her at this particular point in time and space. Humanity was finally doing what it was supposed to do. Sure, it had taken a few billion years but hell, it was worth the wait.
Her Uncle had always told her she was destined for something special, something more than she could comprehend. At the time, she had thought destiny nothing less than some cruel being created by an indifferent Universe that she wanted to grab by the throat and squeeze the life out of. It was her way of applying definition and explanation to the loss of her parents, both taken so young. She remembered her mother’s smile and her father’s gentle laugh and clung to that memory like a lifeline to sanity - her first memory - as she lay wrapped in the warmth of their arms, eyes barely open. As she grew older, her perpetual anger warred with that memory, dimming it year by year. She had been so angry for so long that when Section 31 found her and took her under its wing, she was teetering on the edge of self-destruction. Fortunately, Section 31 had recognised an anger and the potential within her that could be channelled and put to good use. They enrolled her in Starfleet Academy and that had been her grounding, the discipline she needed to tame her warrior-esque temperament. Despite her youth, she had excelled. Extra covert training; Evenings and weekends learning about new life and new civilisations; Unforgettable experiences on Vulcan and Andoria - extremes of environment unknown on Earth, made to test and stretch her beyond her limits, while throughout, collecting information on Earth’s new galactic allies. She had revelled in the thrill of espionage.
“Instinct aligned with intellect” they had called it, and she had not known what that had really meant until meeting the infamous Dr Noonien Soong…
Except she was a natural augment. A rearrangement of DNA that sometimes, though rarely, spontaneously appears in a species. And Section 31 had exploited her for all she was worth to them. Not that she had cause to complain. She had been respected, admired and trusted, and she had never betrayed that trust. It was no doubt what had earned the role in which she presently found herself. Though how Starfleet Command had managed to convince Section 31 to part with her for this particular mission she couldn’t begin to guess…
She felt the solid clunk of metal on metal as the pod docked and she smiled. The mission aside, it would be interesting to catch up with an old friend too. The last time they had crossed paths was her Starfleet graduation ceremony, before she was whisked off to continue her training. She owed the man a lot. More than he ever knew.
Yes, it would be good to see Malcolm Reed again.
“If I may say so, Captain, I find this highly irregular.”
Reed and Hayes had been summoned to the Captain’s Ready Room to be briefed more fully on the nature of the mission to Qo’nos. Malcolm shifted uncomfortably, the memory of the last time he and Hayes had been reprimanded in this very position occupying a dark corner of his mind. They’d come some way from bruised kidneys and detached retinas, but Malcolm still felt compelled to keep a close eye on his former adversary.
“I have to agree with Lieutenant Reed, Sir. It could potentially make the working environment… difficult.”
“Noted, Lieutenant, Major. However, the orders come from Starfleet Command, the mission has been in planning for months and we are in no position to question it. You are both professionals - past experience aside," he mumbled, almost but not quite under his breath, "and I expect you to behave as such. For the duration of the trip, you are to treat her no different than you would any other member of this crew. She understands her position and expects nothing less.”
Malcolm sighed. An Ambassador posing as a member of the crew? Working in his Armoury? God, as if life wasn’t complicated enough…
Archer stepped up to Reed and Hayes who stood to Malcolm's left. “The matter is closed, gentlemen.” He smiled then. “You’ve faced down the threat of human extinction. I’m sure you can handle one little Ambassador…”