Call On Line One
Mission 0 - Leaving the Blue Marble
Location: Romulan Embassy Compound, Earth & IRW Glan’To - Romulan Space
Timeline: Day 3
As usual, the chill in the area left Eilaea to suppress a shiver as she entered the embassy's secure comm room; technicians claimed the room was kept at a lower temperature for the benefit of the equipment, but it did nothing to make it any more pleasant. The young man who had retrieved her from her quarters parted ways at the entrance, but she noted as the door secured behind her that someone had also retrieved Sublieutenant t'Ehhelih, who was seated before the screen blinking with the call currently being held for them. Eilaea reached out to the panel and entered her access codes to release the call hold, taking a moment before seating herself to tug on her uniform jacket and run a hand across it to smooth any wrinkles and straighten the belt and sash.
Vriha allowed herself a small exhale of relief at the Lieutenant's entrance - far better to let the Tal'Diann mistress do the talking here - but otherwise maintained a firmly neutral mask. She inclined her head slightly to Eilaea, both in welcome and acknowledgment that she was prepared to begin the comm, though she was far from sure that she was prepared for whatever the discussion itself might entail.
"Sir we have an incoming codded message" the comm officer's voice was as full of surprise as his face. Loval took a moment to think about who would know their location let alone reach out to them. "Where is it originating?" Loval responded curtly. "Sir it is the Romulan Embassy, on Earth sir." came the response. Now it was Loval's turn to be surprised, although unlike his comm officer he did not show it. "Route it through to my office." He responded as he rose and went in to the office. "Vekos you have command." He shouted over his shoulder.
When Loval sat down the image of the Imperial Romulan crest sat on his screen. Since the message was coded, he input his command code and the screen dissolved into the image of two female Romulan officers appeared. "Colonel Loval here. State your name and rank." Loval was very short, his plans were at a critical stage and playing politics was not going to help things at the moment.
Eilaea firmly suppressed the reflexive rise of her eyebrow that threatened to show itself as the screen before her resolved itself into an image; though it was not exactly well publicized overall throughout the Empire for obvious reasons, she recognized the visage on the transmission, and as she spoke began trying to untangle in her head exactly why he might be calling them--given his own place in the order of things, it would have been rather more typical for him to have contacted her own superiors. "Lieutenant Eilaea t'Keirianh." she replied, adding an exacting salute, fist to chest.
"Erein Vriha t'Ehhelih," Vriha answered crisply, though she wondered that the Colonel would even ask since surely a Tal Shiar officer would have read at least enough of their files prior to requesting this comm to be able to identify them over a viewscreen.
Loval kept his face cold, but internally he wondered why a Tal Dian officer was contacting him. If his recollection was right there were not many Tal Dian left. However with them you never knew. He quickly pulled up the service records of the two women and scanned them. Now that he had verified them they could speak. "Jolan Tru. How can I be of service to the Embassy?" The question needed to be asked, the amount of disdain that Loval put into the question however was not needed.
Huh? Vriha's brows lifted, but she managed - just barely - to contain expression of her perplexity to that. She darted a glance at Eilaea, but beyond that did not respond. Whatever was going on here was, if she recalled the human expression correctly, 'above her pay grade'.
Eilaea managed to keep the surprise off her face and from her reactions entirely...But didn't bother concealing the slight twist of her mouth and brow at the tone. Given the rather substantive differential in rank between the two of them, it was a delicate balance; but a signal nonetheless that the slight had been noted, as she had little doubt he had intended it to be. Still, she wouldn't really have expected otherwise on that count. What she had not expected, however, was for the man theoretically placing the call to them to then act as if they had signaled him, instead. For a moment she considered whether or not it was some attempt to embarrass or annoy her; but quickly set the possibility aside as extremely unlikely; it wasn't the sort of petty, minor move a man who'd reached such rank would engage in.
"Jolan Tru." she replied, deciding to play the situation out a bit more for the time being. "We would inquire the same of you, in fact." She carefully watched the screen for any slight variation of expression that might be discernible as she announced this; not that she expected there to be any more than there had been in her own.
"Lieutenant, are telling me you did not open this channel?" Without looking Loval began to run the trace through the system of the communication array on his vessel. He knew the location of every button from muscle memory. He was going to find out where this message came from, but more importantly who actually connected the three officers. As he stared into the comm screen his face expressed all of the words, the expression said if you think this line to be intercepted do not speak, do not even blink.
Eilaea's fingers were playing out a similar dance to Loval's out of the camera angle, attempting to discern from where the call had actually originated and whether or not there were any signs the channel might be compromised. In lieu of a verbal reply to the query, she gave a response that would be rather more difficult to interpret or note from anyone intercepting the communication, and carefully shifted her eyes just-so to lock straight on to Loval's in a hard stare for several moments--it was an odd enough move, especially coming from a more junior officer to a high ranking one, that she was confident he would interpret it as an unspoken signal that she felt unusual things were in her play here, and had indeed not opened the channel herself.
For her part, Vriha had been trying to fade into the scenery since the conversation began, but now sat stock still practically willing herself to meld with the chair and become no more noticeable than office furniture.
There was an extended pause where the two covert agents had been locked in a staring contest of sorts. To a bystander this pause would seem like an awkward silence, however to a Romulan this pause was an intimate conversation. One in which Loval had received the Lieutenant's message loud and clear. In the lower right corner of his screen the results of his tracing efforts were shown. It seemed that the comm channel was opened from inside the Embasy, the office of the Ambassador themselves. Loval smiled as the equation became clear, he blinked as he began to speak. "Well Lieutenant let us simply say that someone is watching out for both of our best interests. It also seems that yourself and the Sub Lieutenant are being reassigned." He cocked an eyebrow as he was curious if this latest piece of news was true.
Vriha released the breath she had been holding. Her mind was racing with questions, but outwardly she gave only a small nod, opting to let Eilaea handle explanation. Despite having learned to weigh and be aware of potential machinations since she was child, she was nonetheless aware that compared to these other two she a kharah out of water here.
“We are, yes.” Eilaea replied, closing out her own inquiry into the channel as she confirmed the call had originated from the embassy comm system and did not appear to be compromised...and making a mental note to either look into or have someone else look into the youngster who had informed of the call earlier. Or several personnel in the Ambassador’s immediate office. Beyond the confirmation however, she said nothing more; volunteering information was a dicey business at the best of times and she had to admit it rankled her slightly that the man on the screen knew of the reassignment already when she was uncertain if even her own superiors did as of yet.
"Excellent... One should continue to extend the olive branch with one hand while balling the fist with the other. It seems that we may be in a position to assist each other. The ship you are being assigned to is uniquely important to the reestablishment of the Empire in all of it's glory. Your positioning there would be ideal. In return I would not forget the assistance that you would be providing." Loval modulated his tone as he spoke, he was right between a request and an order. Which is where he should be. There was a fly buzzing in the back of his head though. This was all too dammed convenient. Two Romulan officers being assigned to the ship that he had hand picked. He sent a message to his security chief to start looking into everyone who worked at the embassy. After a short pause he continued "You do know what is going on back home. I am pretty sure the good Ambassador has been keeping it out of the Federation ears."
"I am aware, yes." The bland tone of Eilaea's voice as she spoke the words gave away next to nothing of the emotional maelstrom associated with the issues and events in question...feelings shared with many others who served the Empire, yes; but quite honestly perhaps all the more for someone with a mate and child residing in the new capital.
"Indeed," Vriha remarked, adding brief agreement to both. While not nearly so well informed as either, she was painfully aware of the various divisions and disagreements with respect to the way forward after Hobus as these had overflowed in their own way into the scientific and research community. The degree to which she knew of more political aspects came primarily through the attention - positive and negative - paid to ship-clans like hers that had suffered less loss because of their exile to border worlds in her great-grandparents' time.
"You are correct it is not something which has been....widely publicized...however." Eilaea concluded; a hint of distaste in her voice that had for once nothing to do with the Tal Shiar connection, but rather with the very idea that anyone would possibly see releasing such information to external parties as at all appropriate.
"Well the wheels are turning and the factions vying for control will be pushed to the wayside. Leaving only the Imperial Fleet left to reform the government. When that time arrives do you not think there would be a place for those who took the initiative. I will speak plainly for a moment, but only a moment. The Tal Dian has lost a number of it's members with the loss of Hobus as you are no doubt aware. What you may not be aware of is that I as the senior ranking military official is in process of restoring them. However, I need people who are loyal. Not loyal to me, the Tal Shiar, or the Tal Dian. But loyal to Romulus, to the Empire. It is there that I can see you rise." Loval tented his hands on his desk as he spoke. He dangled the bait, and now to see if she would take it.
“I have always been loyal to the Empire, and forever shall be.” Eilaea replied. But once again it was a classic Romulan gambit in its precise phrasing of what was said and unsaid and how; the ironglad statement of loyalty to the Empire itself matched with a clearly absent promise of particular loyalty or particular opposition to any given particular leader, faction, or otherwise; Loval himself included.
"My loyalty is to the Empire," Vriha echoed firmly. It was true, but also the response so trained into her that it would have been nearly impossible to give any other. However, there did seem to be one point that should be clarified. "My only interest in personal advancement is in the sciences."
"Very well then what is required is eyes and ears on the inside. Someone on the Orion who can report back to the Empire on what is happening." Loval knew the truth, and the truth was that whether they agreed or not they would be working for him. If they chose not to agree these two would wind up in Romulan space and doing what he needed with the Orion. If the chose to agree then they would be doing what he needed from the inside.
Vriha fought an eyebrow wanting to rise at that. Reporting back to the Empire had already been explicitly given as part of the assignment, so it made little sense for this Colonel to be brought in to repeat it. Unless of course by 'to the Empire' he meant to his faction within the Empire, which seemed likely. The problem was that she had no way of knowing precisely what that meant, and despite what he had said so far she was not inclined to trust him any further than she could throw him. Indeed, since he was Tal Shiar, that distance amounted to about how far she could throw him right now with her sitting on earth and him on a ship light years away. However, she had no intention of voicing any of that and instead waited, allowing Eilaea to respond.
“We will, as always, faithfully carry out our duties.” Eilaea vowed. Once again, it was a nebulous statement; utterly proper on the surface and utterly committing her to or for that matter against nothing or anything beyond following existing orders.
"I know that you will. You will report to me on all matters that deal with the Empire." Loval leaned back in his chair and gave a knowing smirk. "It is also important that Commander Barrett have the utmost faith in you, both of you. You are just another member of his crew as far as he is concerned."
At that Vriha's eyebrow did ascend. She didn't see how that could be remotely possible unless Commander Barnett was a complete idiot. And while history had shown that it wasn't uncommon for Starfleet officers to be a bit ...clueless... there were not many cases of anyone in command of a starship being an actual idiot.
Eilaea returned Loval’s smirk with a bland yet edged one of her own...and very carefully said absolutely nothing as to his statements; neither affirming nor denying them. “Our timeline for finishing matters pertaining to our duties here at the embassy is rather tight, Colonel; so I’m afraid we really must be going now in order to complete them in time to report to our new assignment.” She added a carefully executed salute at the end of the words; balancing the show of respect due a senior officer with the fact that she still had not actually promised or agreed to any of his directives.
"But of course Lieutenant. We will be in touch. Glan'To Out!" There was a brief delay where the image of Loval's smirking face remained on the screen. He knew he had his chess pieces right where he needed them for a checkmate. Then quickly his face was replaced on the screen by the image of the symbol of the Tal Shiar.
As the image on screen faded to a blank, Eilaea carefully reached over to ensure the connection overall was terminated. Neither woman said anything, but exchanged a quick glance, before Eilaea finally spoke.
“Before we conclude our final tasks here...I believe it is time for a drink.”
Though she did not share Eilaea's enthusiasm - or capacity - for strong drink, in this case Vriha nodded emphatically. "Perhaps more than one."
Tal Shiar Director, Romulan Star Empire
Lieutenant Eilaea t'Keirianh
Operations Officer, USS Orion
Sublieutenant Vriha t'Ehhelih
Science Officer, USS Orion