Notes: Thair comes from Eowyn's The Curse of Hellguard. Valeris' details come from the STVI film, Vonda McIntrye's biography for her, and other professional novels (which is why no one from Enterprise meets her here. They don't until the film.) I also brought back T'Pren, Saavik's 'mother', and a snippet of their story from The Pandora Principle. The Romulan word for Hellguard, Thieurrull, also comes from there. You don't have to read or have seen these to read this. This chapter came to me based on my friend Martha saying, "Can you imagine the first time some Romulan hears Saavik's name? Humans are like, 'So?' but the Romulan is going, "Oh f-!" That made a great bridge from Chapter 1 to what follows, which was originally a separate story that had no beginning.!
Subcommander Cekula managed to look more aggravated than Kirk had when he saw the Klingons. Pale green eyes over high cheekbones and under thick, slanted brows startled people passing by. "I didn't kill all the people I've killed over the years to get stuck with duty like this!"
Subcommander Toreeth merely answered, "Brag, brag, brag," and took another hearty swallow from her drink. Her shoulder length sable hair slipped out from behind her pointed ears from the motion. She idly combed her fingers through it to put it back in place. She didn't need to, it was cut to stay out of her face, but it was a personal habit.
Cekula yanked her own long, dark auburn hair into a ponytail. "Don't pretend you're happy about it."
"I'm not," Toreeth agreed, her own jade eyes snapping. "That's why I'm already drinking heavily."
"Say something useful."
"That is useful. But, in fitting with your mood, I'd like to know who offended whom that we got stuck with this duty, so I can get payback."
"Or who owed whom a favor. The Commander doesn't look any happier about it."
Toreeth snorted into her mug. "How can you tell?"
Their commander spoke minimally and the joke that was very carefully told in her ships was that she had only three expressions: intense, angrily intense, and intense with a tiny smile because she was going to kill you.
A commotion caused them both to swing their heads where a Vulcan in a Starfleet uniform slammed a Centurion – Vacohk, Toreeth later identified – to the ground. She touched him rapidly along his shoulders and arms, numbing them which became blatantly clear when he struggled to stand up. She had rendered him powerless; he seethed but could do nothing.
"Apparently," Toreeth noted, "he forgot those hands are fully charged this side of the Zone."
A Klingon also got involved, although he turned out to be just testing the Vulcan. Probably, Toreeth quipped in a down moment, to have something entertaining to do.
The Klingons roared their approval and laughter. A slight human woman pushed her way to the Vulcan as did Kirk, Spock, and McCoy from the Enterprise. Envoys for the Federation and the Romulan Star Empire hustled to see if someone was taking this to an all-out incident and they all waited for Ambassador Sarek's reaction. But even without his help or in fear of his wrath, both sides agreed to leave it to what it was: a minor, personal scuffle.
That being settled, Vulcans came up in answer to the human woman's dash to the front and a couple admirals and the Terran ambassador also joined them while the Centurion was teased and the Klingons still shouted.
Cekula shook her head, her fair skin darkened with a flush of bronzed green along those cheekbones. "One Yyaio pulls her backbone out of storage and we're supposed to be impressed. Akhh!" Music started and she grabbed her forehead as if pain blossomed in her skull. "Not Klingon opera! Not on top of everything else!"
Toreeth pursed her lips. "They're awfully worried about that human woman. She wasn't even involved. Hold on."
"You do not recognize Ambassador Sarek's wife?" came a new voice.
Their heads shot over in that direction. Another Vulcan in uniform — Toreeth was fairly sure it was a cadet's — who stood ramrod straight with her hands behind her back. Her short black hair was swept behind her ears and held in place with a wide hairband. Her bangs went oddly back to the middle of her ears, even shaving the rest of her hair there.
"I would have thought," she continued, "she would be part of your briefing."
Toreeth smirked. "You're the embodiment of Vulcans, aren't you? Including the pole running up your… spine."
That chin came up. "Or perhaps losing disturbs you more than you allow."
Cekula waved at her like batting away an insect, her voice deep and gravelly for a woman. "If anyone lost anything, he did and I don't care. Especially if this is over Lady Amanda and he was stupid enough to try something."
Toreeth considered her mug and gauged how many swallows she had left. She tipped back her head to find out.
Meanwhile, the Vulcan cadet, who didn't seem to get the idea that no one wanted to hear what she had to say, kept talking. "It is also true that Lieutenant Saavik is—"
Toreeth spat her mouthful back into her mug and choked.
Cekula stared, mouth opened and wide-eyed. Then she roared at the top of her lungs, "IMIRRHLHHSE!"
Her volume made it ring in the room and it bounced off the walls. Worse, the Universal Translator picked it up and translated the extreme obscenity into Klingonese and Federation Standard. Something else that made the Klingons thunder with laughter.
Toreeth demanded, "You said Saavik?"
"IMIRRHLHHSE!" Cekula once more shouted.
The cadet turned her head slightly, gauging the situation. She clearly liked being in the spotlight, even theirs. That didn't matter since she looked down her nose at them – which she had to tip her head back to do because they were a bit taller, especially Toreeth. Her dark eyes shone with cold snobbery. "Impressive. I expected to have to explain my people would not give her a Romulan name, that you had given it to her. As well as needing to clarify Saavik is one of those half-Romulans. The ones your Empire claims were never born."
"They died!" Toreeth exclaimed. She swore she heard the planet was destroyed.
The eyebrows went up. "Apparently, not all of them."
Cekula swore again, "Faelirh ch'susse-thrai!" although she managed to get her volume down.
Still, people began scuttling to turn down the Universal Translators and their Commander glared with leashed fire at them. Toreeth signed back to her as Cekula quivered to go over to the half-blood. But Sarek and Amanda of Vulcan hovered there and so did the Enterprise's command officers.
Cekula swung back on the young Vulcan. "Is she guest-friend to Sarek's House? Does she have their patronage?"
Something sour filled the cadet's mouth and she straightened coldly. "...Yes. Through Amanda."
What was that? Nothing interesting enough to go into now because of that family's benefaction: anything done by the Empire's officers would be examined and become possible fodder for intergalactic treaty violations. And if Enterprise had an interest in Saavik, it made things messier.
Imirrhlhhse was right.
Toreeth assessed the Vulcan next to her. She and Cekula were lean lengths of muscle and it showed in how they moved as they stepped closer: predators. Smiling predators. "You know her."
"We have been close associates for 3.47 years."
"I don't suppose you have any insights to share. Something to make up for this death wish you have in looking down on us."
The cadet's voice was ice. "Obviously not."
Cekula's eyes returned to the half-breed. "All of them falling over her because she—" She looked like she wanted to spit again. "And can we shut off the ryak'na Klivam opera!"
The Vulcan looked in this Saavik's and the hated Spock's direction too and Toreeth swore she saw dinglha'le, a hunger, there.
The Romulan smiled with fake innocence. "Do you have Sarek's patronage?"
The cadet's non-answer said plenty.
"Ah!" the Subcommander answered and grinned broadly as she snatched a bottle going by and refilled her drink. After she first dumped the bit she had spit back into her cup into a potted plant near them.
The Vulcan stiffened and then calmed herself, folding her hands behind her back, staring at Saavik. Toreeth saw the coldness become calculating. "It was an impressive feat with the Centurion. However, he is, after all… one Romulan."
Cekula's head swung to her and back across the room. Her growing grin was all teeth and burning eyes. She shot a look at Toreeth, tipped her head to the cadet.
"That's fine, I'd rather watch anyway." Toreeth swirled her drink and flashed her own teeth. "This is going to be too good to miss and I can see it all from back here."
As Cekula left to whisper in her Commander's ear, Toreeth questioned the Vulcan. "What's your name, Cadet?"
"And how many others survived, Cadet Valeris?"
The disdain again. "I will not give you information, including possible survivors… besides the obvious evidence of Saavik."
Toreeth's grin showed full canines. "Only about her then. Got it. Explains why you did give information just now, on her."
The cadet followed Cekula with her eyes as the Subcommander grabbed other Romulans around the room and whispered fiercely in their ears. Their reactions ranged from stunned expressions to cursing as she had, although more quietly. They began to move and Valeris simply watched them do it.
Toreeth bumped the Vulcan's shoulder with her mug, just to be annoying. "Don't worry. There's not much we can do at an event like this, especially with Kirk and Sarek around."
Valeris lifted her brows. "I am unconcerned."
"Yeah." The Romulan buried her smirk inside her cup. "I noticed."
"Unlike you, I am in control of my emotions."
"Right. That's got to be it. Wait, isn't Valeris a Klingon name?"
Saavik heard the Romulan curse like everyone else. She'd already checked on Valeris twice since the evening started; this many Klingons had to be difficult for the cadet who was also her friend. Now Saavik took her eyes away again from Captain Kirk and the others who talked with her to ensure the younger woman was all right with the two Subcommanders close to her. She never signaled she needed rescuing; instead, she appeared to force the one to walk away and the other to move a few steps, grinning into her drink.
Saavik caught Valeris' eye and gave her a nod of approval for handling herself so well. However, what appeared to be true could likely be the opposite, so she turned to tell Amanda, Spock, and everyone else she needed to excuse herself to check that Valeris actually was fine.
It was why she missed the Romulans coming for her.
Most would not recognize it; they simply moved to the presentation area in the center front of the room, but if Saavik hadn't turned away, she'd have known what was happening. Instead, she knew nothing until the first one slipped in between her and the Enterprise officers, including Amanda. The Sublieutenant apologized as he squeezed by, explaining he was getting to the front area. As Saavik frowned at him, someone slammed into her left shoulder sending her backward a few steps. He also apologized for bumping into her, but this time, he lied.
They came at her like a storm-swollen river and with her going against the heavy current. She pushed anyway, but each time she took a step, it meant her foot left the floor and they took advantage. It took less than a minute, but when done, she was in the center and surrounded.
The sound of them, the smell of them, the cunning stares.
Their Subcommander leaped to the podium, the automatic spotlights picking her up, even coming up from the floor. "We're having a quick discussion, so we're using this area provided by our hosts. Our Starfleet liaison will help us and then we'll clear out in case you need the area for yourselves."
The Klingons shrugged it off and turned their backs. So did most of the Federation parties. Amanda, Spock, McCoy, and Kirk watched Saavik, not that she could tell.
They were everywhere. They filled every sense.
The tactic was well done. No one could complain without giving the Romulan representatives fodder to say they were persecuted for nothing. If someone like Kirk offered to help as another liaison, he'd be pushed out as not needed. If he insisted, he created a situation.
The Romulans formed groups, talking, alternatively laughing and serious, with a multitude of topics but always keeping a common theme to perpetuate the illusion they held a conference.
Now they acknowledged she was there as if they hadn't arranged it. Gapes, stares, glowers blocked from the rest of the room. Some Romulans stayed just past the edge of her peripheral vision. Some stalked behind her back where she was vulnerable.
And she was alone.
The Subcommander stood ahead at the edge of the surrounding force as the obvious gateway to get out. She laughed and sang with a senior Centurion, silver hair running down her back, over the slip of girls they had been, who had treated the Fleet March as a personal anthem, scoring what would obviously be their glorious, single-handed victories against all enemies.
Saavik remembered being taught the March. Like everything else with Thair, Hellguard's Director, the lesson didn't end well.
She had a sudden, horrifying thought. She swept everyone around her for familiar faces; she recognized no one and knew that didn't mean they weren't at Hellguard.
It also didn't rule out… that one of them could be…. her –-
One could be her parent. Her right hand curled as if holding a knife.
No, she couldn't make that hunt, not in this moment. She had to get out of here. She'd escaped their reach before.
Saavik's mind suddenly pulled back and saw the landscape. To run, she needed to clear a path. The group closest on her right: the one man kept turning from his group to speak to the one across from him. If she stepped behind him, allowed his senses to pick up on someone there, he'd turn full around. If she moved with him, he formed a barrier at her back for anyone trying to reach her there. He also opened a space that she could fit through. She'd be at the middle group where –
The path opened to her: feint there, pivot, dodge until she reached the Centurion with the Subcommander. It was the former who made the final part, the way she flung her head back when she laughed, eyes closed, then leaned forward with an arm around her superior's shoulders. It'd bring the Subcommander in closer to the older woman, blocking her view of Saavik.
The groups formed old fashioned cogs in machinery: turn them the right way and it made the others form an escape.
Run, Little Cat!
Saavik started to when thankfully, her mind took a further step back. She saw the full picture, like the map in a war room of the entire battlefield.
She did something unbelievably difficult: surrounded by the enemy who begat her, her personal tormentors, her nightmares, she went into a relaxed parade rest, face calm.
The view in front of her became cluttered with Romulan bodies; they brushed against her again, pushed.
She stood cool and tranquil.
The view cleared to what it had been before except for one large, dangerous change: the Subcommander had disappeared. Saavik listened. It was too many voices, too much movement to pick out her antagonist, but she tried. She noticed a hitch in people's conversations, sudden jostles which gave her a theory. She traced it with her hearing and when the Subcommander suddenly reappeared through the group on the right, Saavik turned her head to face her.
The Romulan moved half behind her shoulder and Saavik refused to turn.
The Subcommander leaned in, voice low and mocking. "We did not know you were alive, Sa'Av Ik."
"A preferable situation."
"You didn't think you could go into Starfleet and not get noticed sooner or later. Especially not with that name."
"I did not."
"You could have changed it."
"It is my name." Saavik had thought of doing it, but Spock encouraged her to keep it. Then came the final reason when the blocked memories from Thieurrull resurfaced: T'Pren who would have been, had been, her mother had called her it: "Little Cat, you must always watch the stars. You are like them, brave and bright. Look up. They all belong to you."
Any thoughts of changing it got swept away by that.
Hearing it now, with that accent and the derision… it sounded sacrilegious when compared to T'Pren.
"I understand that."
A surprising answer, Saavik thought. "I do admit I had not expected you to read a file on a lieutenant, even one assigned to a diplomatic party."
That smile defined predatory. "Is that how you think we found you? Not at all, although we'll be reading your file now." The Subcommander looked her up and down. "What about you, Sa'Av Ik? The hands are Vulcan, we saw that with the Centurion. You moved well against him and the Klingon. I'm giving that point to our side. What about that mind? You survived the colony and no one can tell me that you only did it through sheer luck and blind panic. You couldn't meet my eyes and push back the way you are if that's all there was to you." She stepped in closer and the smile turned… curious. Even more measuring. "You see it, the way out of here. You even started to take it, but you stopped. That's interesting because I bet this is the first time you have a group of us filling every space on your horizon since the colony. But you didn't take it."
Saavik did meet her eyes. "I will not run your maze. I will not take your test."
"Why not? You're our property. You and all the others like you that survived. We left you behind, but it doesn't mean we can't come back and claim what's ours."
Death first. "Do you wish for the truth to be revealed? You would give the Federation one more reason for war."
Grin. "I doubt they'd miss one little lieutenant. Some people would definitely be relieved if we took away that nasty …Romulan blood of yours out of their pure Federation."
Yes, they would. Saavik lifted her brows in apparent calm. "Attempt it and we will see."
Cekula looked back with satisfaction and then gave a breathy laugh. "You are still surrounded."
"So I am."
"What do you intend to do? Nothing so passive as to wait for someone to clear the area. Nothing so weak as to have Sarek or the Enterprise save you. So, what will it be?"
"First, I will address your earlier attempt to discover if I am the only survivor of the Thieurrull colony. My silence to your comment did not mean agreement. I merely addressed the larger issue which is the Federation's reaction to four captured ships from a core world. Second, a question." Now Saavik's expression reminded her adversary that Vulcan gave birth to predators too. "Were you there?"
The Subcommander didn't flinch. The two women's eyes warred before she lifted her head. "I don't know why I'm answering, but no, I wasn't. I don't know anyone who was."
Saavik settled back into her former stance. "Third, then. I heard your earlier …comment on the Klingon opera. Not as loud as your reaction to what I surmise was your discovering my existence."
"That's true. I'm not a fan. Of the Klingon music, I haven't decided about you yet."
"Which is why they will believe this." Saavik turned her face from the Klingon area and roughened her voice as she shouted, "Tivh noDjuv Klivam bequ!"
Not a nice thing to call a musical piece about Kahless.
Klingons started shoving through the Romulans to the Subcommander, people of each faction squaring off with each other. One stared down into her face. "What did you say, Hu'tegh?"
"It wasn't me," the Subcommander dismissed and jerked her head to Saavik. "It was her."
The Klingon looked around his fellow warriors. "She believes we are foolish enough to think a Vulcan would speak this way." He towered over her again. "You are fortunate I do not fight battles with women."
The Romulan bared her teeth back at him. "You are fortunate I don't take advantage of the dozen weak spots in your body armor."
Bedlam broke out, although mostly insults, shoving, and minor altercations; as Toreeth had said to Valeris, there was only so much they could do at this event.
Saavik took advantage of it. Her Starfleet uniform, her Vulcan standing, and the small measure of respect from earlier kept the Klingons off her, and if a Romulan tried, a Klingon seized the distraction.
She gave Amanda, Kirk, and McCoy a reassuring nod, but couldn't stop. A small voice told her to get of the room, get to her cabin where the walls were close and she was safe. Amanda started coming to her but Saavik minutely shook her head. Not yet. Please understand. Because if she stopped for any of them, she'd be remaining in the room.
However, she underestimated Amanda again because the older woman was waving her to leave just as she planned.
McCoy stopped Kirk from coming after her and Saavik's eyes found the doctor's; the expression brought home how he knew everything about her from carrying Spock's katra. But she hadn't given him that knowledge, so he politely looked away.
They worked with Amanda and the back-on-the-scene Sarek to block the open path behind her. She caught the captain and doctor shouting at the young Starfleet officers jumping into the melee.
She nearly stopped when she saw the one Subcommander remaining near Valeris, but the Romulan signaled she was doing nothing and in fact ran laughing to help her compatriots. Valeris looked calmly back at Saavik like she could never be in danger and then her chin and eyebrows went up in superiority.
Since she does not run from the Klingons while I flee from the Romulans.
The truth hurt. But she found Amanda's eyes and led her gaze to Valeris. Amanda agreed with a slow nod; she'd check with the cadet and make certain she was fine.
Saavik looked for Spock covertly from the corners of her eyes, but he was nowhere.
She moved out of the room and to her cabin. The door opened and she let herself pick up speed the last few steps into the haven.
He waited for her in privacy. His memories of her had come back for him to know to do this.
Her control showed the damage. He didn't care.
"They were everywhere."
He stepped closer. "I know."
"I knew this day would come, so it has, but I foolishly envisioned it would be a side note to a larger event. Instead, their sole focus is… me."
The bare room was stark. Once it would have been because of her lack of personal items. Now, while she had a few, she didn't bother placing them in the plain cabin because it was temporary. Her belongings were packed for the Enterprise.
Stark, bare, impersonal, the cabin shielded from her persecutors. She could put her back to one of its walls. She reached to do something a Vulcan wouldn't: lock the door. Add to the feeling of safety, of being protected.
Her fingers hovered. Lock the door and she admitted how much the Romulans had gotten to her. She gave them a victory, even unknowingly. She dropped her hand.
Spock moved so close that they touched. He reached past her and locked the door himself. He looked down without stepping back. "The preference is mine."
He did not move away.