"They can see us," Soji squinted at the view screen in front of her, "They have to be able to see us." La Serina was cloaked but so was the ship in front of them. The technology the ship was using was similar to that of La Serina. It was synth technology.
"It has to be a Romulan ship then," Rios said slowly. The Coppelian cruiser had been left on Aia, in Romulan space. "They couldn't have reverse engineered the technology that quickly," Rios crossed his arms, "What do you want to wager that business about the holos was a ruse?"
"But we saw the programming," Soji maintained. She had not wanted to believe that she missed A'den's homicidal worm program but she had. Enid had almost died because she missed the programming. Picard told her about the conversation he had overheard between Narek and Enid in La Serina's sick bay. In some realities, Enid had died. The difference in this reality is that Narek had brought Cailum. Cailum had been about to disable the worm although it had taken some time.
"It was an insidious piece of programming," Raffi wanted to reassure her synth friend, "It wasn't your fault that we missed it." Soji smiled at Raffi. Raffi thought at times the synth expected too much from herself. They had all missed A'den's killer worm, the responsibility did not fall exclusively to Soji.
"She's right," Picard interjected, "The holos tried to kill Enid. The Romulans would not have programmed them to do that."
"I don't doubt the programming was there," Rios said, "But I doubt that Cailum would have taken so long to fix the problem." No, the Romulans had been up to something. Rios punched out some commands on the holographic display in front of him. "Look here," he pointed to some code.
"The Romulans accessed the synth specs," Soji recognized the files that had been copied.
"Mierda!" Rios shifted in his seat, "And now they have an advanced ship." La Serina was in Vulcan space. The Vulcans had reached a resolution regarding the money A'den owed him. They could have transferred the funds electronically but had asked to speak with La Serina's crew, again, regarding A'den's time on the ship. As long as they were in the neighborhood, Arcana requested that they double back over Sutra's path. There was still the question of the Romulan companion that had been detected on the Coppelian cruiser. The Romulan companion that she had when she was in Vulcan space. Sutra's assertion that the cruiser's sensors had malfunctioned was not resonating with the leader of the synths but without the cruiser, there was no way to verify it.
"It's been over a year," Rios had argued, "I don't think we will find anything."
"Understood, Captain Rios," Arcana said with her customary cool affability, "But if you would look, it would be a great service to my people." Rios agreed and now he hung nose to nose with this new kind of Romulan ship. It was smaller than a warbird but larger than La Serina and it was white.
"This ship outclasses us," Raffi commented. The Romulans had made some improvements for sure.
"What do you think they are doing here?" Agnes absently rubbed Cris's shoulder. They had enjoyed the last year without involvement with Romulans. She knew he didn't want to come to Vulcan.
"It's Enid," Picard announced, "They are probably doing the same thing we are." Picard had woken earlier than usual this morning. He'd had an odd dream, one he couldn't remember much about until now. This in itself was strange, since becoming synthetic he remembered his dreams with accuracy. He had dreamed of a white winged equine with a giant horn. The animal kept nudging his hand. He had spent enough time around horses both real and holographic throughout his life to understand that the creature wanted fruit so he offered it an apple, which it took. It had whispered something in his ear but he the words were on the tip of his tongue. Plutarch had sent him some of Enid's most recent compositions and upon waking he attributed the vague dream to the hours that he had spent listening and ruminating over the music. This body of work represented how Enid perceived her newly found Romulan family. Picard was heartened because they were lively and inspiring. To his mind, Enid seemed happy.
"I find it hard to believe that Enid would be in Federation space again," Elnor broke his silence. Picard hadn't mentioned his dream to Elnor and Elnor didn't mention his dream to Picard. He had encountered the albino's equine as well. Like Picard though, he did not remember what it told him.
"We should hail them," Rios concluded and opened a channel.
"They know we are here," Narek squinted at the view screen. His telepathic abilities were still short of Enid's but he could sense that much.
"They can't make up their minds if we see them though," Enid reached over and placed her hand on Narek's arm. He turned to smile at her. Unlike a warbird, the Gi'halidrl was fitted with two command chairs, one for Enid, and one for Narek. The designers had a well developed sense of symmetry and the chairs were equal in size. Enid filled in the extra space in her's with pillows which also helped keep her warm. Between missions, she spent her days nested next to Narek in the chair. So far they had tripped three traps without much incident. The Vulcans had sent an invitation to Enid and Plutarch insisted that Enid consider responding. He hadn't ordered though and Narek was uncharacteristically quiet on the topic. He usually knew exactly what to do, so Enid was feeling like she was floating, looking for direction. They had agreed to at least scout out Vulcan space and see what they could come up with on their own before responding since the last trap had been near Vulcan space. Sort of. Distance was relative in space.
"Let's just move off and see what they do," Cailum suggested. Fank maneuvered the Gi'halidrl back to find that La Serina responded in kind. At times like this, Enid hated snakeleaf. She wished she could hear the melody of what was playing out but Narek argued against forgoing the medication in Vulcan space. It had been eight months since the Gi'halidrl was commissioned. The first trap had taken weeks to figure out but now they had a better idea of what they were doing. The hardest part of the second and third traps had been the travel between them. Endless days with the only music being that of Fank, Cailum and Yumuen. There was Narek as well and she could never tire of his mind but there wasn't much to think about in the void of space, day after day. Narek was best enjoyed when he was arguing or trying to solve a problem so Enid found herself starting fights for the sole purpose of hearing his mind work. Initially he fell for it but now he just called her out. He knew she needed more stimulation and devoted time to continuing her training in Llarkh-aer'rl. On a warbird, she had more minds and more room. He wished that someone had thought of including space for a proper gym on the ship. Through meditation she had learned to stretch herself further telepathically in search of something to compose which was helpful but that was a lot of work. She looked forward to an extended stay on Surruk. Ji'aella was competing in another meet and she wanted to be there. Since she wasn't coaching, she could listen to the competition. Plutarch had promised her that she could despite Lorlani's objections. But first, there was the matter of the Vulcan invitation. They had found information regarding Rynar and the order.
"We are being hailed," Cailum announced. Narek and Enid exchanged looks. Neither really wanted to respond.
"Maybe it would be best if you responded," Narek suggested. While he had no remorse for his treatment of Soji, his only regret was failure, he knew his presence was inflammatory. Besides, if he didn't have to look at Elnor again, he'd be happy. Enid agreed and Narek retreated to the executive chamber to watch.
"What can I do for you, Captain Rios?" Enid said pleasantly. She guessed that their body language betrayed that they did not expect her on the other side of the comm. This pleased her since she had been working on interpreting emotions without using telepathy. That was something else that she and Narek had been working on in the long hours of space travel although there wasn't much opportunity for authentic practice. She confirmed her hypothesis by opening herself to them telepathically. Yes, this was fun!
"Nice ship," Rios responded, nodding to Fank and Cailum. The men returned the gesture. Rios had hoped Narek would respond as he wanted to call the tricky Romulan out for stealing his specs but he found he couldn't admonish Enid. His ship had tried to kill her, maybe specs for her own ship was a small compensation?
"She's cozy," Enid looked around.
"Where's Narek?" Elnor interrupted the pointless exchange.
"I can't travel without Narek?" Enid tried to feign offense. She wasn't comfortable lying to Elnor. Not when he was still keeping her secret so she tried deflection. If someone else on La Serina had asked the question, she thought she'd have done better.
"There are two command chairs," Elnor pointed out flatly. Enid looked at the chair next to her. Narek had left his tan zhekran on its seat.
That was careless, she thought to the man in the next room as she concentrated on not looking at the puzzle toy. Narek coached her to stand. It would draw attention away from the chairs. She did.
"What brings you to this neck of the woods?" Rios wondered again at the intensity between Enid and Elnor. Elnor had still offered little detail about the events on Vashti except of course admitting to Soji that he had been the one to remove the synths heads.
"I have an invitation," Enid responded, hoping that Narek would approve, "And you? I would have thought that you'd want to avoid pointy eared humanoids for a while." Rios would have been taken back by this flirty version of Enid if he hadn't seen her on Surruk in the comfort of her family. He guessed that she hadn't been aware of the Sutra threat until the attack at the concert. Snakeleaf changed the girl's personality considerably.
"I have an invitation as well," Rios told her.
"You didn't answer my question," Elnor reminded her. Enid didn't know how to handle the young man's persistence. Narek came to her rescue though, he emerged from the anteroom and walked over to stand behind her. Good, Elnor thought, he hadn't completely corrupted her.
Sorry, Enid thought to her lover and mentor.
We will work on your acting skills, Narek responded in her mind. He squeezed her shoulders.
"So it looks like we are both headed to Vulcan," Picard summarized. Enid and Narek could tell this was not good news to anyone on La Serina except perhaps Picard, who genuinely looked forward to learning more about the composer. He didn't discuss it often with his shipmates but he did communicate regularly with Plutarch about the refugees on Vashti and the subject of Enid often came up. He was curious to see if her father's assessment of his daughter's situation was accurate.
There was not much communication between the ships as they finished the trip to Vulcan. It wasn't exactly what they had planned but Narek was glad that Enid had finally chosen a direction. He knew that she differed to him on many things but didn't feel that he was qualified to make this call. Entering Federation territory still terrified his little sand devil and he felt strongly that the decision had to be hers. He argued this with Plutarch who made it clear that he expected the Gi'halidrl to accept the invitation. While Narek agreed that they needed to learn more about the order and the fate of Rynar, he wasn't sure that Enid needed to be subjected to a planet full of Vulcans. According to the medical hollow from Kiara, Enid had trouble breathing around S'lar and T'vel. Plutarch argued that Enid had grown significantly since those days and the snakeleaf would of course help her. Yumuen had perfected the administration of the drug so Enid only was free from the substance for a few hours a day. Narek knew Enid hated this but the drug gave her emotional stability. It didn't affect her psionic abilities, just her capacity to hear music, which to Enid, meant everything. Narek was looking forward to an extended stay on Surruk if only to give Enid a rest from space travel which he knew his love hated.