DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc. The story contents are the creation and property of Cheree Cargill and is copyright (c) 2001 by Cheree Cargill. This story is Rated PG. The title "Rihannsu" belongs to Diane Duane and comes from her books on the Romulans.



BALANCE OF TERROR: THE SUNDERED

Cheree Cargill



Stardate: 1710.3. First Officer Spock recording.

The face that confronts me from the main viewing screen holds me spellbound, along with the rest of the bridge crew, but it is for a completely different reason. The others begin to turn and stare at me, some in amazement, others in naked hostility. I can read their misgivings plainly in their faces, their emotions unconcealed. They have all made the same connection ... the Romulans look like Vulcans, therefore I must be a Romulan spy.

But I am too caught by the face I see to acknowledge their paranoid suspicions. Wonder is the emotion I am feeling at the moment. Of course. It is so obvious, so logical. These are our lost ones, the ones who could not adapt to changing times, the ones who tore themselves voluntarily away from Surak's reforms and left our world forever.

These are not Romulans. They are Rihannsu ... the Declared. Their name for themselves. The rest of Vulcan called them the Sundered.

Suddenly everything falls into place. All the puzzle pieces fit. Our lost brothers. The Ones Who Left. Ripped from the bosom of Vulcan by their own hostility and unwillingness to change. We didn't know what happened to them, where they went. They vanished into time and space as if they had never existed. After a few generations, they had become merely the stuff of legends. There were those who declared that they had never existed at all. Somehow, I knew better. I knew they were out there somewhere, but I never actually expected to meet them here on the very edge of Federation territory nor face them across a battlefield of open space.

I see Stiles glaring at me, hatred fairly radiating from him. It puzzles me why he should display such xenophobia toward me. If he is that anthropocentric, what is he doing in Starfleet? Moreover, how did he pass the psych exams?

I lower my gaze from the main viewing screen and meet his glare, returning it cooly and with just a hint of challenge. It fuels his anger; he fairly seethes before turning back around to the navigation console. I decide to overlook it at the moment. I still have not settled fully into my position as First Officer on this voyage. I have been in this position for just over three months and it still does not fit me comfortably.

It does not fit well with some of the crew either, especially those who served during the period when Gary Mitchell was second in command. Stiles was one of those. He resents my part in the events on Delta Vega and the seeming usurpation of Mitchell's position after his death. Thus, he has several grudges against me, not the least of which is his bigotry toward non-humans. I will think more on this and discuss with the Captain whether discipline from me will seem like retribution to him and whether it will only aggravate the situation. And yet, to establish my authority, it is exactly what I may be forced to do.

Next to me on the bridge's service level, Lt. Uhura brings her hand up to her ear mike and listens intently. "Receiving a communication, sir," she says to the Captain. "It's from the other ship. Sounds like code."

"Put it on audio, Lieutenant," Kirk directs her.

She does so and we all listen to the blips and squeaks of the alien message. "Unable to translate, sir," she says after a moment. "It's in no known code." Her busy fingers are already shuttling the message down to Cryptography.

Stiles mutters something under his breath. The Captain just happens to be walking past him at the time and he turns stiffly, his back rigid as iron. "I didn't get that, Lieutenant," he says with deliberate calm.

"Nothing, sir," Stiles responds.

"Repeat it."

"I was suggesting that Mr. Spock could translate it for us," the navigator says, anger resonant in his controlled voice.

"I assume you are complimenting Mr. Spock on his translation abilities," the Captain responds in a tone that could slice steel.

"I'm not sure, sir." The answer is sullen.

Abruptly Kirk reaches out and seizes the high back of Stiles' chair, whipping him around to face him. "Well, here's one thing you can be sure of, mister! Leave any bigotry in your cabin. There's no room for it on the bridge. Do I make myself clear?"

"You do, sir," Stiles answers, gaze locked on Kirk's, not really giving an inch.

Kirk releases the chair and stalks back to the command chair, slides into it stiffly and stares at the main screen. I can see a vein pulsing in his neck.

I elect not to speak up. It is wiser to remain silent at the moment. I hear footsteps and look up to see Uhura approaching, a computer chip in her hand. "I made a tape of it, sir," she says kindly, a friendly smile on her face.

"Very well, Lieutenant." I take it from her and turn to slip it into a reader slot.

As I listen, I find myself thinking that I have grown quite fond of this human woman during the short time we have served together. She is outgoing, efficient, highly intelligent, and almost from the first day has approached me on the level of a peer, even though I am her superior officer. Besides the Captain, she is my only real friend on board.

I sense now that she is offering that friendship as a counterpoint to Stiles' hostility. Perhaps she is responding to the prejudice shown so blatantly toward me. I seem to recall that, several centuries ago, her people were persecuted and enslaved on Earth because of their darker skin pigment. I find this highly illogical. It is only an increase in melanin in the skin cells that sets her people apart from other humans. Humans have a wide range of skin colors. Why should skin color matter? Was there a time when that really made a difference?

I wonder if the darker-skinned natives of Vulcan have ever encountered this prejudice among humans or if there is simply a general bigotry toward all non-humans, regardless of origin.

I make a note to discuss that topic with Uhura at my earliest opportunity and gain her insight and opinion.

But my attention is drawn back to the electronic noise that makes up the Romulan code. Listening intently, I attempt to decipher it, but there is no known pattern to it. Perhaps by applying an overlay of Old Vulcan to the language, a design may be detected. I forward my recommendations to Cryptography and turn the problem over to them.

* * *

"Debris from Outpost Four," I announce, holding the brittle fragment of metal that we have recovered. "Castrodinium. The hardest substance known to our science."

With barely any pressure at all, I shatter it between the fingers of one hand. There is stunned silence around the conference table as I sit. A general discussion of tactics and battle plans follows and the pros and cons of attack or retreat are weighed. Captain Kirk sits silently, seemingly passive, but his eyes dart from one speaker to the next and I can almost hear his thoughts buzzing and clicking as he analyzes each comment with the precision of a military genius.

Across the table, Stiles is blustering again. "These are Romulans!" he asserts strongly, rising to his feet and leaning on the table for emphasis. "You run away from them and you guarantee attack! They'll be back! Not just with one ship, but with everything they've got!" He fixes me with a hard glare. "You're the expert on these people, Mr. Science Officer, but you've always left out that one fact! Why? I'm very interested in knowing why?!"

"Sit down, mister," the Captain said quietly but brooking no argument.

Stiles sits. I return his glare for a moment. I am quickly tiring of his insolence. I am, after all, second in command of this ship. Does he not realize and respect that fact? Why does he believe that I will continue to overlook his insubordination?

We hold each other's gazes for a long moment until he blinks. I back away from the confrontation. We have more important matters at the moment than disciplining a crewman. I turn my attention back to the Captain. "I agree," I say. "Attack."

There is a general outcry of disagreement, with Sulu pointing out that there is no way to lock on the phasers as long as the Romulans have their cloaking device engaged. That is discussed briefly and someone points out that we know almost nothing about these invaders from across the Neutral Zone.

"We know what they look like," mutters Stiles acidly, looking straight at me.

"Yes, indeed we do, Mr. Stiles," I snap back, my patience at an end with this foolishness. "And if the Romulans are an offshoot of my Vulcan blood ... and I think this likely ... then attack becomes even more imperative."

"War is never imperative," McCoy protests vehemently.

"It is for them, Doctor," I retort. "Like Earth, Vulcan had its own colonizing period, you see. Savage, even by Earth standards. And if the Romulans have maintained this martial philosophy, then weakness is something we dare not show."

I go back to exchanging glares with Stiles but, out of the corner of my eye, I can see Kirk looking at me speculatively, rubbing his bottom lip with his index finger. There is silence for a moment, then Sulu said quietly, "We're still on our side of the Neutral Zone, Captain."

Kirk pauses then makes a decision. "Let's get them while we are. Battlestations, gentlemen."

* * *

Later, after it is all over, alone in my cabin I meditate upon the day's events.

How odd it felt to be rushing into battle against my brothers, distant though they may be. I felt the old song of war rising in my blood, the ancient anthem of conquest. It stirred me and suddenly I understood the Rihannsu need for victory. My adrenalin soared and I nearly shouted as I felt the deck beneath my feet quiver as the phasers blasted loose their lethal energy. It was seductive and exciting.

As I watched the dispersal pattern light up the distance, I realized that I could not feel the rehou k'war'ma'khon with the Romulans as I do with all other Vulcans. They are truly sundered from the Unity of things. We all shield it, lest the mental distraction be maddening, but nevertheless we are aware of it. The "vibration of extended family", the linking of one Vulcan to another. We are one people, one world.

How sad it must be to have left all this behind, knowing that you will never be aware of your fellow Vulcans ever again. The Rihannsu must be driven insane by this loss.

I ponder the separation. Two thousand years is a very long time to live in such a state. Is it time now? I wonder. Is it time for them to come home? Not yet, but soon maybe. I feel a great empathy for them. I want to heal this wound between us, seal the breach between one brother and the next.

Someday, I promise myself. Someday I will seek a way to act as the salve in that wound. We must be one people again.

The lost ones must come home again.

THE END