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Empress Xue'Daio Nox T'Verelan, Cmdr Evan Merlin | "Tomorrow" pt 2

Posted on Wed Feb 3rd, 2021 @ 7:15pm by Commander Evan Merlin & Xue'Daio Nox Tr'Verelan

Mission: A Distant Thunder
Location: Cold Station Theta/Apsha
Timeline: SD 242102.03

Morning rose and with it came the sound of gales howling and the slap of heavy shutters. The winter storm that had made promises of a grand arrival had fulfilled its word with grand bravado that left even the usually stoic Empress concerned and apprehensive. The horses would not be called for a grand procession, it was too risky and dangerous to chance travel by conventional and traditional means. Not with the snow blowing and ice building.

The senate would have to wait.

Other things could not.

A call was placed and her retinue became scarce - leaving the champagne clad Empress to her solitude and privacy as she waited to address the one member of the Federation that still remained familiar and dear. How long it had been since she'd seen his face...

"Sorry to disturb you, sir, but you have an incoming message."

The wild-haired commander made a face, causing the white-haired boy who sat in the high chair in front of him to giggle. "One moment, kiddo, duty calls." He rose and strolled over to the terminal. "From?" he asked as he activated it.

The young lieutenant who manned Ops during the tail end of Beta shift looked serious, though a corner of his mouth twitched briefly. "Ah, the Stenellian Ascendancy, sir. It's on a private channel. And, ah, sir? There's something on your face… near your ear."

He raised his hand and brushed, encountered something faintly sticky. He grimaced and grabbed one of the wet wipes which were an essential part of the process of 'feeding the kid'. "Thanks," he said and wiped the offending spot away, then brushed the rest of his face for good measure. It was a good excuse to hide the sudden excitement he felt, the burst of hope. "Is it an official message or-?"

"Can't rightly say, sir. It's coming directly from the palace, but it's a closed channel-"

"Very well, put it through." He straightened his shirt and ran a hand through his hair, even though he knew it would bounce back immediately. He turned the toddler in the high chair so that it faced the screen and said: "Did you hear that, Stormy? It's your mom!" By doing so, he failed to notice that the image changed and that the words were clearly audible to the person on the screen.

Xue's expression was one of gentle concern and quietude as she watched the man scoot their son around to face the channel and loudly proclaim who it was that they were expecting on the other line. The child had grown significantly since she'd last laid eyes on him, his hair as wild as his sire's and eyes as big as saucers as he abandoned the thought of food for the blinking pictures on the screen. "Stormy." She repeated, testing the nickname and released it. Odd nicknames left aside, the boy was safe with his father. Locking eyes with him, she smiled and wiggled her fingers in greeting - prompting a smile and exuberant baby wave and sloppy clapping in response. He was safe, secure, chubby, and happy like all babies should be. The decision, hard as it was, had been the right one during uncertain political times.

And that prompted her to remember why it was she'd initially placed the call. Talking politics was a near impossibility when the other party was wearing quite a bit of food across the front of their shirt and their sidekick was a very giddy child. "Have I missed the fabric preserving properties of mashed foods?" She asked, canting her head softly to one side, "Or has Arawn decided that you're the perfect canvas for his latest stroke of artistic genius?"

"It's short for Stormageddon, apparently. He told me he likes that name more than Arawn at the moment. Of course, tomorrow he might've changed his mind again," he said with a grin. He drank in the sight of her, as always marveling that he thought his memories of Xue coloured her more beautiful than she actually was, only to be surprised that it was the other way around in the rare moments he really saw her. "As for the food, I sometimes think it would be easier for me to wear a bib instead of him. Just feed him, sop him off and stick him in clean clothes- Yes, of course there will be bath time later," he said, turning his head to the toddler. He sat there with a wide grin, waving his spoon. "With bubbles, too, yes. Say hi to mommy, dear." He shook his head, half exasperated, while he still mirrored his son's grin. At that moment, despite the obvious Stenellian traits of the boy, they looked incredibly alike. "With words. She won't be able to hear you otherwise. I know. Long distances suck."

"I see." Ever patient, the Empress replied. Deep in her chest was a pang of guilt that slowly began to radiate through the rest of her body. She should be there, aiding in raising her son - even if it meant being covered from head to toe in what looked like... Squash? Her smile dimmed briefly, tempered by the realization of just how fleeting in nature life truly was. Life was also far from fair. Her place within it was as much Empress as it was Mother and her need to protect her people, who's lives were in actual flux, outweighed the need to be with her son and Merlin. Still, she found herself easing into that role, communicating with her son and laughing at his antics from far across the stars. It was an easy switch, but a half hour later the familiar pinch of duty plucked at her once again.

"Evan..." Getting his attention to shift from play to business had never been easy. He was a notoriously free spirit, happiest when left to his imagination and the zest that came with life.

Still, he had become better at it over time. Being CO of Cold Station Theta was no longer the dead-end job it had been when he had come drifting out of the nearby nebula in a weird rescue pod. With Beta Fleet Command on this station and the upgrades and expansions of the last decade, it was now one of the larger stations in Starfleet, never mind that it was one of the furthest ones away. He kept on dreading the day when someone higher up would decide that a mere Commander shouldn't be holding this position and send a Commodore to replace him-

A thought which brought him neatly back to his earlier thoughts about Commodore Ivanova, and love and loss. His grin faded and he became grave and still – no longer a wild and playful sea, but the smooth, calm sea just after sunset. "Yes." It was half a question, half a statement, inviting her to continue.

"There is concern growing within the Ascendancy," She began, shifting her focus away from her young son, "With Ivanova gone it leaves Hark as our only official connection to the Federation and his attentions are elsewhere." Adding that he was undoubtedly morning the loss of his eldest daughter went without saying, "It leaves the Senate feeling vulnerable and that vulnerability will undoubtedly spread through the public."

"Hm." There was, of course, one Stenellian who actually was serving in Starfleet – on the very ship which had just lost her CO. But as a Lieutenant, she was probably not in a position to become another formal connection. Unless she took up another position within the Federation… And of course, there were the unofficial connections, but they would have to remain just that. "Do you have a solution in mind?"

As he talked, he lifted Arawn/Stormy from his chair, gave him a last wipe and put him down on the ground to play on his own.

"I do." Xue answered, sliding a finger along one of her gold arm bands, "As soon as the storm front moves off, I'll be leaving for Aleine to address the Senate on several issues," Her brow furrowed just a touch as she allowed her mind to drift over the topics at hand, all of them less than comfortable to hold in her hand of cards, "There will only be two possible outcomes from this meeting and will need to be prepared for the least favorable of the two should it come to pass." May the stars refuse it, went without being or needing to be said. "My recommendation would be to get as far away from the Beta Quadrant as you possibly can."

"I'll take it into consideration," he said, knowing that he could never leave his responsibility or his commission behind. He could, if push really came to shove, always find a way to get Arawn to safety – if all else failed, there was still that old escape pod. "What is the most favorable outcome?"

It wouldn't have been posh to yell or plead with Merlin to come to his senses and do as she ordered when it came to leaving Beta Quadrant. Among his many attributes, stubborn was nearly chief. It was a two was street, she was irrefutably bullheaded and headstrong nearly to a fault. A quick glance to the silver maned child playing behind the Commander was undoubtedly in wonder as to whether or not he would inherit such a trait. "The most favorable outcome is that the Senate isn't planning the coup I've heard whispers of and that I am still alive at the end of the day. Should they succeed, I will perish, S'anra will likely fall as well, and a new regent will be upon the throne. One they can control." Her eyes flicked back to his, searching their oceanic depths for understanding and an anchor to moor herself to, "I assure you, I am ready should they try. After all, they only exist because the Emperor they hated so much chose to give them a voice and he is no longer with us. It's my right to disband them and be rid of their xenophobic sentiments and their treachery."

As Xue talked, his own thoughts had been racing ahead. He slotted in the new information and came to a dark conclusion. Usually, he didn't inquire about matters pertaining her position and politics. Not because he wasn't interested – he definitely was – but anything which was relevant for him in his position as CO of this station would come to him either via official channels, or, very occasionally, through the unofficial ones. He wanted to be a safe space for her, for Xue, the one person she could talk to and be with who didn't see her as the Empress of a powerful player in the Delta Quadrant first, but who saw her for who she was as a person, as lover and above all, as a friend.

But this was where the personal and the professional began to blend. "Your concern is not just for me, but for both the Ascendancy and the Federation." He spoke softly and cursed the physical distance between them, the need to communicate via electronical channels, no matter how well shielded and secured. If the faction Xue spoke of would send people after him to kill him, if they could be tracked back to the Stenellian Ascendancy, that could all to easily become a casus belli.

Once again, unconsciously, one hand rose and traced the thin scar under his shirt. Had Xue ever heard about that, he wondered? He hadn't told her, but had word reached her? The attackers had never been apprehended. By the time security got involved, hours had passed and they had long left the station. The knife had yielded little information, no fingerprints, no DNA other than his own. It had been stored in an evidence locker, where it would probably stay for long, long years. Had those guys just been common thugs or was he already starting to see ghosts? He shook his head at his own thoughts. That was the past. He had to focus on the near future now.

"They will try and take what they believe to be theirs." The Empress replied evenly, "Long ago what you now call Cheydinhall was part of the Ascendancy's territory. The very place that space station sits is more or less in the middle of it and a way marker in a sea of stars that was once ours." She explained, her voice void of most emotion and her eyes plainly showed her lack of care for such trivial things. "But that was long ago and they fail to remember that the ruling caste brokered our own people as slaves and sold that territory for reasons I have yet to truly discover, likely out of disinterest because the past is the past and we must look to the future. They don't understand that by us joining league with the Federation, we have technically gained more than we'd ever lost."

There was a sigh, partly out of disgust and partly out of sadness for the sorry state of affairs she had been dealt. All things positive were met with equally negative forces - forces that hid behind masks and smiles and waited until backs were turned to attempt and usurp power and privilege they simply had not earned and were not due. A fleeting thought went to the Commodore in vague wonder if she too had fallen prey to jackals. "There are many things I have not shared with you, Evan. Many things the Ascendancy has not shared even with the Federation as a whole." Xue spoke again, looking up to meet his eyes, "You have been kind to my agent, and she will serve you and the Federation with her whole heart. At the end of this, she will come to bring word of what has transpired. I will see to it that she is informed one way or the other by those loyal to me here. All I ask is that you protect Arawn. They do not see him as a threat to the throne, but you must protect him all the while in case one day they do."

"They'll have to go through me to get to him," came the immediate reply. "And they might find more than they bargained for if and when they do. As for the rest, share with me whatever you wish and feel comfortable with. You know I will not inquire as to the rest." He smiled. People had asked him to fish for more information in the past, but had found out quickly enough that he didn't make a good spy.

He stretched out a hand in her direction, not caring in that moment that they were separated by lightyears of empty space. "Be safe," he said softly. It was both a blessing and a wish. If he could have protected her as well as their son, he would have. But it was out of his hands and he would just have to trust her, as well as the loyalty of her retinue and… friends? How many friends, he wondered, did she truly have? It was that very question which had lead him to her in the first place. He glanced at Arawn, who was playing with the cat in the centre of the room. So much had come from those few encounters…

Her hand, so small, reached towards his and pressed gently to the screen. It didn't feel silly or contrite, it felt like the only chance they had to communicate beyond words or reason. "Someday I hope to get the chance." Her smile was hardly lit by happiness, but it was a smile none-the-less, "I will do what I can. In the mean time... Our son is the future that you must look to."

The screen felt cold and hard under his fingers, but he imagined it was her hand he felt, soft and warm. Little Arawn must have felt the weight of the moment, because he left the cat alone and dribbled over, placed his tiny hand on top of his own. And despite the lightyears which separated them, in that moment all distance faded away and they were together.

Like all moments this one passed. Her image winked out before he could reply, but he wispered into the empty space where she had been a moment ago: "I will keep him safe. Always."

Commander Evan Merlin
Commanding Officer

Xue'Daio Nox Tr'Verelan
Empress of the Stenellian Ascendancy
Queen Regnant of Apsha
Queen of Aliene


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