Well, as usual, a late entry by me. As it took so long, it comes with its own theme song (referenced in the story): The Zombies - Hung Up On A Dream
I should mention that parts of the story take place in the Abramsverse and reference a plot point of the new movie. However, it's a plot point that got generally mentioned in interviews and reports even before the movie came out, so I'd say the story contains only mild spoilers for the movie.
Hung Up On A Dream
“A dream that became a reality and spread throughout the stars."
Ki Bataran, Romulus
- James T. Kirk
Eyralan Berelak, Pr'Tohr of the Romulan Star Empire, sat at the desk in her darkened office. Before her, the green, red and yellow lines and dots of the tactical depiction of known space danced as she worked the controls of the holographic projector.
Her furrowed brow and the dark circles around her eyes, upsetting her otherwise delicate features, were evidence there was much to worry about. Her beloved home was surrounded by outright enemies or untrustworthy villains on nearly every side. The Empire's strategical situation didn't get any better no matter how often she stared at different parts of the projection.
But there was one border that worried her the most at the moment. It was also the one closest to her home planet. A red line sclicing the darkness of space and a small yellow stripe was all that separated her Empire from them. The Federation, growing like a cancer, ever-expanding, ever eager to welcome new converts into its fold. One hundred and fifteen planets have already fallen to them.
At 120 years, she was still considered young among her people, who had extended their lifespans to as much as 400 years by genetic engineering and various other medical tricks. Yet, when she was growing up, no one had even heard of Earth. Well into her adult life there had been no doubt that Andorians, Vulcans and Tellarites would never trust each other, that they'd always keep clashing over even minor disputes. Then, the humans stumbled ignorantly into space and upset the delicate balance of power and everything changed.
Eyralan stared suspiciously at the ominous brown clouds outside the entrance hall she had entered just a few minutes ago as part of the Vulcan delegation to the Constitutional Convention supposed to draft the Federation Charter. The hall's walls and roof were made of glass, even though the outside view was less than inspiring. This planet was basically a ball of rock with a few ugly shrubs in between and an atmosphere so hostile they had all received breathing masks in case they should want to venture outside. But it had taken long enough even for this compromise about the location of the event to be made over the ambitions, suspicions and national prides of the states attending the convention. Within three weeks delegates of those same nations were expected to come up with a coherent foundation to an organisation the likes of which this part of space had never seen.
She wondered why they all had even bothered to come. It was as clear as crystal that it would never work.
“What are you thinking, Sulin?” Councillor Arak, the delegation's leader, asked her softly.
“That this is illogical. The Coalition of Planets broke apart fast, and yet the same people try to create something even more ambitious. It all sounds good in theory but in practice it has led us here
Arak looked at her thoughtfully. “The teachings of Surak were once just a theory, too. I would have fully agreed with you a few months ago. But Humans seem to have a way of making the unthinkable possible, for good or bad.”
Oh no, not you. You're not falling for this, are you? I'd hate to have to get rid of you.
Reluctantly, he added, “It is somewhat puzzling, I know. For 95 years we had to practically hold their hands. They didn't listen to our advice, yet came asking for our help at every opportunity. We refuse once and they defeat the Romulans.”
As if on cue, a man in dark informal clothes approached them. Though smaller than she had imagined, she recognised him immediately. The Butcher of Cheron. He smiled at Arak and greeted him with the Vulcan salute.
“It is agreeable to see you again, Captain Archer.” Arak replied.
“Please, Councillor, I'm here as a civilian.” Archer said cheerily, actually believing it to Eyralan's bewilderment, despite of the still slightly battle scarred Enterprise orbiting the planet.
Ki Bataran, Romulus
Their ability to convince themselves of being one thing while doing something totally opposed to that was truly baffling. She wondered how her people would react when they learned that the Butcher of Cheron had thought of himself as an explorer, and what's worse, everyone around him had believed him. Even now, Starfleet Captains in command of mighty ships able to destroy a planet at a whim sincerely declared they were on a mission of peaceful exploration.
Warily eyeing the heap of padds lying before her on the desk, she leaned back with a sigh. She'd never get to the bottom of this, anyway. Besides, the padds reminded her that hours of work and a number of vexing decisions still awaited her. Somehow this job was turning out to be quite different than she had imagined. And much less glamourous, too.
She got up and walked over to the small silver side table, helping herself to a cup of tea. Returning to her desk, she connected an old data rod to her portable computer. Music began to fill the room. For a moment she concentrated to recapture the feeling she had experienced when she had first heard it, when it had been strange to her ears. The rod had still been in her posession the day she had returned to Romulus and contained an eclectic selection of mostly Vulcan and human music, with a few Andorian pop songs, some sad Tellarite folk songs and Denobulan classical pieces thrown in for good measure. Music of the enemy.
“A sweet confusion filled my mind
until I woke up, only finding everything was just a dream..”
The voice of a human male of 265 years ago softly sang from the speakers. What would her people think? What would the Federation think?
“A dream unusual of its kind
that gave me peace and blew my mind...”
Well, they would like it. That much was certain.
Relieved to be leaving the tiresome consultations about trade and work regulations behind for the duration of the break at least, she crossed the entrance hall, the vision of a nice cup of tea in her room on her mind. She stopped short as she noticed someone standing outside the transparent hall from the corner of her eye. Who would be crazy enough to voluntarily expose himself to the planet's hostile conditions? Sure enough, it was Archer. Her intuition told her it was a bad idea but a strange fascination got the better of her, so she took a deep breath, put on her breathing mask and went outside.
“Uh, hi there.” he said and smiled at her.
“You're not wearing your mask.”
“Yeah, it's not necessary. That was just a precaution for the delegates. It's not really dangerous out here.”
The wind blowing grains of sand against her skin and ruffling her long brown hair, she had doubts about that but took off her mask anyway.
“So, what are you doing out here?” she asked.
“I could ask you the same question.” he replied.
Finding herself unable to provide a satisfying answer at first, she nearly blushed. Damn, he's got me there.
Finally, she came up with something.
“I wondered who in their right mind would venture out here.” she said dryly.
“No one.” He grinned. “I think it's pretty relaxing, though.”
He looked at her. “But your hair is getting messed up. Maybe we should be getting back inside.”
She nodded. Huh. What was that? A flirt?
Ki Bataran, Romulus
“They spoke with soft persuading words
about a living creed of gentle love...”
For years she had tried to fight the nostalgic feelings tied to the memories of her time on Vulcan and failed. Deep down she knew there was a reason she felt that way. Afraid of uncovering that reason she rather settled with the incomprehensibility of it.
For the hundredth time today she told herself to focus. She had a decision to make. Probably the most important in her life. Leaning over the padds spread out in front of her, she stared at the footage of the mystery ship again. Like a giant black squid it hovered over a glaring sun. It couldn't be true. But the best experts in the Empire couldn't find anything wrong with the data provided by Starfleet. She watched as the fantastical ship fired on the Federation vessel U.S.S. Kelvin
. It was indeed the unprovoked, ruthless attack the Federation Council had condemned it to be. Or was it?
“Sometimes I think I'll never find
such purity and peace of mind again...”
She switched off the music and listened to the ship's commander ordering the Kelvin
's Captain about. He looked Romulan and he spoke Romulan, with a fierce Sharanthian accent no less.
But who would do this, after all the care they had taken to keep their appearance and their origins a secret? Could it be an elaborate scheme by the Federation so they could lead a just war against the Empire?
In any case, she had a decision to make. The Federation considered the attack an act of war. Should she take them up on it or should she try to appease them?
Already, she had worked through the latest intel on Starfleet, various strategic assessments and projections, reports on what the people think and which high-ranking officers and politicians favoured which decision, not to mention the numerous endlessly dragging briefings she had had to sit through. Surprisingly, it all sounded promising
enough. And it was tempting. A victory would ensure her everlasting fame. The humiliation of Cheron finally avenged.
Still, the doubts lingered on in her mind. It was damn risky. Glancing at the holoprojection reminded her of the Federation's advantage in resources, especially once their war machine would get going. However, a good strategy and some luck would go a long way to counteract this. There was something else, though, which worried her much more.
Well, that was easy
, she thought as she pulled up the cool, light bed sheet. Vulcan's warm air was gently toying with the white curtains. Though quite early in the morning, the sun was already shining brightly outside, burning down on the desert-like outskirts of Vulcan's capital. She thought back to how difficult it had been with Arak and all the delicate subtlety it had required. Then again, Jonathan, lying next to her, looked like a man on whom any subtlety would be utterly lost, anyway.
Her head resting on her right arm, she looked at him. She enjoyed this way too much, considering who he was. Maybe she was a bad agent, after all. “A tendency to grow attached to her targets” it had said in her training supervisor's final assessment. Well, screw that. She had manipulated the Vulcan High Council into abandoning Earth by growing attached to her target. It wasn't her fault the damn military was so incompetent.
Her fingers ran along the long scar located a few centimetres below his left chest.
“How did you get that?” she asked.
“I had this duel with the Andorian Prime Minister.”
“I heard about that. What happened?”
“Mmh, I'm a little blurry on the details but I think I insulted his mother.”
She lifted her left eyebrow. “Why?”
“Oh, it's not as exciting as it sounds. We were at Andoria for repairs, shortly before the signing of the Federation Charter. Shalis invited us over to dinner. Everything's fine until he tells me he won't sign the Charter. Says he's not convinced.”
Now both her eyebrows went up.
“Not the kind of thing you want to hear over dinner.” He smiled at her. “So I came up with this plan where I would provoke him into challenging me to a duel. I'd win and spare his life. He'd owe me and sign the Charter.”
Eyralan looked at him with a stunned expression. “That was your plan?”
“Yes,” he replied, laughing. “Just goes to show that Andorian Ale is not a good foundation for strategic thinking.”
“But it worked. Kind of. He eventually came around and signed it.”
“You didn't win, did you?”
“No, I lost badly. That's how I got the scar. He really wanted to kill me, he was actually about to cut my throat when he suddenly decided otherwise. I never really found out why he changed his mind.”
“But you must have known that an ushaan with an experienced fighter such as Shalis would involve a considerable risk to your life.”
“I guess I knew. But what else could I do? I had to prevent the Federation from falling apart before it was even founded.”
“You risked your life for an idea.”
Throwing her a slightly suspicious look, he reluctantly said, “Yes.”
He pondered the question for a few moments.
“Think of everything our nations, the Andorians and Tellarites have achieved on their own. How much more could we do if we worked together? There's no end to what we can do. That's the idea behind the Federation. We can make the galaxy a better place. Sounds like an idea worth dying for to me.”
She nodded absent-mindedly. They're fanatics.
Ki Bataran, Romulus
I swear to dedicate my life to the well-being of the Romulan people, promote their welfare, protect them from harm, uphold and defend the Constitution and the laws of the Empire, perform my duties conscientiously and do justice to all.
Silently reciting the oath she had sworn not too long ago – although it seemed much longer to her – had become a ritual of hers. It was a strong reminder of the responsibilities she had. However noble it sounded it was rather vague on how to fulfill it.
She had made her decision.
After having been locked up in her office or bland conference rooms for so long, she decided to go for a walk. Outside it was a sunny day. Strolling through the narrow little streets of the old town unhindered – by now, the people had become used to this eccentric habit of hers – she saw a small boy wildly driving in circles on his tricycle round a small square. He would live. For now. There wouldn't be a war with the Federation.
But she couldn't help feeling as if she had betrayed him.
Excerpt from an interview with Shalis Th'Anat, former Andorian Prime Minister, conducted by Makry Meran for Vanity Fair in June 2187
MM: “There have been a lot of rumours surrounding the Andorians joining the Federation. It is said that, at one point, you were determined not to sign the Federation Charter. Is that true?”
“Yes, that's true.”
MM: “What changed your mind?”
(laughs) “Oh, that's a long story. But maybe I can shorten it down for the young people. You might have heard of the ushaan between me and Jonathan (Editor: Archer).”
MM: “Oh yes. Who hasn't?”
“Well, I was winning and preparing to cut his throat – because no one insults my mother like that and gets away with it - when by chance I caught the look in his eyes. And that was most unusual. He didn't look afraid or defeated but rather defiant and even slightly annoyed. As if he was unaware of his impending doom. He lay there, bleeding heavily, probably in considerable pain, obviously defeated, but he wouldn't give up. Seeing that, two thoughts crossed my mind. The first: He's crazy. The second: If only I had ten people like him in the Guard. In that moment I got a glimpse of what an organisation supported by such people could accomplish. Of course, I didn't kill him. He was coughing up blood and all, but he yelled at me asking whether I would sign the Charter or not. I told him I would. I mean, you got to admire that level of determination, right?”