La Serina was unusually quiet absent two of its regular crew members. The existential crisis on Coppelius necessitated an extended visit for the synths. Rios had an opportunity to recoup some of his losses after their adventure on Kiara so Picard encouraged him to take it. Rios hated being made to feel like a Ferengi harping about profits but he did have a business to run. Ships, even holographically manned ones did not maintain themselves. The Vulcans had quickly revoked payment citing that the money A'den used was not his to spend. The account was entirely funded from proceeds derived from the exploitation of Enid's art and music. S'ril had no wealth of his own. Picard offered to float him the funds until he resolved the dispute with the Vulcan government and the Federation compensated him for their use of La Serina as a field hospital. He would have volunteered the ship of course but was grateful for the consideration.
Picard had initially resisted becoming involved in the political and social development of Coppelius because he had lived his entire life as an organic. Several of the synths thought this automatically disqualified him from participation. It was Kestra, Riker's daughter who pointed out that Picard was uniquely qualified to offer guidance since they were all Data's children. Picard had valuable insight into what their real father would want for them. Will Riker felt obligated to come out of retirement to serve as the Federation's liaison to Coppelius in the aftermath of the Kiara catastrophe. The synths were Data's children and he wanted to make sure they were treated fairly. There had been renewed calls to reinstate the ban on synthetics. Additionally, it appeared that Soong had sent a death squad to dispatch Enid. Many news outlets that made the connection between Enid and Miss O'Dare jumped to the chilling assumption that Soong was trying to silence the young reporter and had used his synthetic children as a personal army. It didn't matter that the attempt had failed. The act had scared many in the Federation to re-examine the status of Coppelius. Additionally, the Federation had discovered that Soong was holding at least one Romulan XB from the Artifact and had subjected the woman to an invasive procedure. They justified their actions stating that the woman was a spy but there was no record of a trial. Both Riker and Picard knew that Soong was a scientist not a statesman. He had no training in diplomacy or interstellar law. His actions were that of a father protecting his children, not a head of state. Riker wanted to be sure that the Coppelius synths would not be treated harshly for the knee jerk reaction of their creator but underestimated the danger. He had brought his wife and daughter with him, indulging his daughter who felt a strong connection to Soji. It had worked out, but not without suspense. The synthetics came to the realization that they could not exist in isolation. They needed to enter Federation society. Data had aspired to add to the substance of the universe, not replace it.
The job was a simple cargo run to Vulcan and La Serina had completed it without incidence. He had hoped to negotiate with the Vulcan government but found himself shut out. Their government was working out the ramifications of the events on Kiara as well and were taking their time in making a decision.
"We are receiving a distress signal," Raffe studied the display in front of her.
"On screen," Rios sat forward in his chair.
"No visual," Raffe replied, "It's automated...And it's Romulan."
Rios threw up his hands, "Of course it is!" The last thing he wanted was more involvement with more pointy eared humanoids. His Starfleet training won out of course and he grudgingly programmed an intercept course. He turned to Elnor, "Better have that sword ready." Elnor nodded curtly in response. Rios thought the young man had been even more broody since his encounter with Enid on Vashti. He flat out refused to answer questions about the events on the mountain.
La Serina pulled alongside the disabled Romulan freighter. There was no response to their hails. "Life signs?" Rios inquired.
"One, very faint," Raffe responded, "And it's Vulcan."
"Lock on and beam the survivor to sickbay," Rios signaled to Elnor to follow him. Raffe stayed on the bridge. A few months ago he would not have thought of such precautions. Agnes joined them in the sick bay. The Vulcan appeared, triggering the EMH.
"Please state the nature of the medical emergency," he stated. Agnes worked with Emil to triage the elderly Vulcan. He had a disruptor wound to his shoulder which should not be life threatening. Agnes appreciated the help in determining why the elderly Vulcan was failing.
"He seems to be in neural shock," Agnes concluded.
"His readings are consistent with a failed mind meld," Emil concluded, having access to the entirety of the Federation medical database. He administered the prescribed treatment, "I am not confident that our patient will recover." Agnes agreed. It seemed that the Vulcan was too far gone.
"Do you think he can tell us what he was doing on the Romulan ship?" Rios asked. The Vulcan stirred.
"Easy," Emil told the Vulcan, "You are aboard La Serina. We are treating your wounds."
"I need to go home," the Vulcan said weakly, "To die."
"You're going home to die?" Agnes repeated. Was his condition already dire before the apparent fire fight?
"Yes," the Vulcan tried to sit up but was restrained by Emil.
"You need to rest," the holo insisted. The Vulcan shook his head.
"I need to speak," the Vulcan insisted. Agnes and Rios exchanged looks. A Romulan freighter had been destroyed in Federation space and the only survivor had been a Vulcan. They needed to know what happened.
"My programming…" Emil started.
"Computer deactivate EMH," Agnes countered. Emil couldn't administer a drug that would most likely kill his patient even if that meant it would allow the Vulcan to give the crew of La Serina an account of what had transpired. Agnes didn't believe that the Vulcan would last long anyway, drug or no drug, so she went ahead and administered the hypospray. Within seconds, the Vulcan responded positively.
"You were on your way home?" Rios inquired, "From Romulan space?"
The Vulcan nodded, "I was on a mission of mercy," he said, "If this is La Serina, you are familiar with the events on Kiara and the albino composer."
"We are," Rios assured him, "What does this have to do with Enid." The Vulcan began to fail again and signaled for Agnes to administer more of the hypospray.
"You'll certainly die," Agnes cautioned.
"Important," the Vulcan wanted them to know what danger was loose, perhaps on Vulcan already as they spoke, "I am old." He gave Agnes an encouraging look. Agnes looked to Rios who indicated that she should do as he wished. She gave him another dose. "Thank you." Introduced himself as Siruz that and went on to explain that he had a longtime friendship with Plutarch. Plutarch had called him when Enid's behavior betrayed the existence of a presence in her mind. They had thought it was the girl's foster brother but it was Rynar's katra that had invaded Enid at the time of his death posing a mortal threat to the girl. He tried to remove the katra and place it in an ark but the procedure had not gone well. Rynar had ended up in his consciousness. He was attempting to return to Vulcan so that someone with more experience could remove Rynar but the restless katra had other plans. Now it was embedded into a Romulan who had taken the freighter's shuttle. He implored them to find the shuttle. Rynar was set on taking over Enid's mind and gaining her abilities. "She must be protected."
"She should have remained in Federation space," Elnor interjected, crossing his arms.
"Enid is well cared for," Siruz said. He didn't understand the logic of the young Romulan, "And given her experiences here…" No, the girl belonged with her father.
"Until the Tal Shiar exploits her," Elnor persisted, "I'm sure Narek…"
"Narek is her handler," Sirius stopped the young man. He didn't have time to argue this.
"He probably seduced her by now," the idea of Enid with Narek made his stomach turn.
Siruz wasn't aware of the events on the mountain, "But I don't believe the pair are intimate," he said, "Although, the man seems to have a genuine affection for her." Yes, he thought, anyone could see that. The pair had a bond, "I think their relationship is actually quite touching."
"Touching?" Elnor snorted, "Narek tried to kill one of our friends."
"Narek comforts her when she has nightmares," Siruz told them, "Which happens often enough to make going to sleep an act of bravery." He took a deep breath, and appeared to want to say more but didn't.
Rios started. A'den had told them about Enid's nightmares. She had foretold the events on Kiara. Was she dreaming of another Synthetic Alliance incursion? "Do you know what these nightmares are about?" Rios asked.
"Various things, I believe. She is having difficulty dealing with her brother's betrayal and death, I'm told," the Vulcan was growing tired, "I believe that Narek helps her frame her experiences."
"Frame them against the Federation," Elnor's face was set with resentment. He agreed to keep her secret and she ran off with Narek.
"She has much to grieve" he added before laying his head down. Siruz wanted to be on Vulcan when he died. He would need to rest now if this were going to happen. He slipped into unconsciousness and did not offer any more explanation. Rios scanned for the shuttle but could find no trace of it. He backtracked to Vulcan and explained to the authorities what they encountered. He then contacted Picard on Coppelius.
"Interesting," had been Picard's response.
"That's it?" Elnor spat, "After what Narek did to Soji?"
"Narek," Picard interrupted, "Would likely treat Enid much differently,' he paused to judge Elnor's reaction. The boy had been behaving oddly since the events on Vashti. Picard knew that Elnor thought he should have made a greater effort to convince the young woman to come with them, "To Narek, Enid is a real person."
"And Soji wasn't! She was real enough for him to sleep with her!" Elnor paced as he spoke.
"To gain her confidence," Picard started.
"To kill her and her family!"
"Yes," Picard sighed, "Members of the Tal Shiar have a remarkable ability to compartmentalize…"
"And you let her go with them!" Elnor accused.
"She made her choice," Picard's voice was stern. He'd had this argument with Federation officials, "To Narek, Enid is not only real, she has a high status within what is left of Romulan society."
"He's a bad person," Elnor was not giving this up. Picard regarded the young man in front of him. What had transpired on the mountain? He assumed that Elnor was keeping a secret for Enid. That would explain his refusal to talk about the events on the mountain and his resentment that Enid chose to go with her father.
"Elnor," Picard explained gently, "She wanted to meet her father. Zani…"
"Zani hasn't talked to Plutarch in over half a century!" Elnor exploded.
"Enough!" Picard barked at the young man. Elnor retreated reluctantly.
"How are things on Coppelius?" Raffe asked to ease tensions.
"Wrapping up nicely," Picard appreciated his former first officer's tact and insite. Raffe could be counted on to smooth things over, "Arcana was elected as head of state for Coppelius. Several dozen synths are going to enlist in Starfleet academy as well." Picard indicated that he and Soji were ready to return to La Serina.