“Hael’hktarr nu ‘suya!”
The dish hit the cream colored wall and exploded, sending sprays of fine china and steaming food everywhere. Something of the ugliest color slid down through the Federation seal while the Vulcan and Terran flags stunk with it. The banquet room went deadly silent. Ambassador T’Pren set her jaw and rose smoothly from her chair. She bowed, her diplomatic stones catching the light. “I assure you, Ambassador, no disrespect was intended.”
The Andorian’s face was almost purple and his right antenna was twitching spasmodically. “Is that so?” he hissed, eyes slits. He leaned forward on the table, his knuckles bluing dangerously. The rest of the Andorian party began to rise. “You’re telling me that the noted Ambassador T’Pren did not know the dietary poisons of her guests?”
The commodore beside T’Pren began to sweat and got to his feet in support of her. The Starfleet Security officers near the doors discretely shifted stance into readiness.
Poisonous? The trouble was worse than she first thought. Her aide had believed it was a simple case of possible indigestion, but how did something poisonous, like mat'akali apparently was to the Andorians, even get into the kitchens?
Worse, their ambassador thought it was done deliberately. By her. The fact that she was the one who saw and warned him about the mat'akali meant nothing.
She had to fix the damage fast. Assuming she survived long enough to do so. She bowed again, deeper this time, aware of the real danger in the room -- to her and the Federation. “An unforgivable accident that we will--”
His lips curled back into a snarl. “You think you can dishonor us to our faces and we are so weak that we will not respond?” He began to move one hand backwards towards his ceremonial dagger. “I will teach you proper respect, Vulcan.”
The conference room’s doors snapped open.
“Akhilend’r, if you harm my daughter, they will be sifting the stars to find all the pieces of your remains.”
The Andorian blinked and whipped around, eyes going wide as his antenna stiffened in shock. “Saavik?”
She held herself tight in her white dress uniform jacket, and her presence in the room was formidable. “That is Admiral to you, Ambassador.”
He tilted back his head and roared laughter. T’Pren’s lips parted while jaws dropped along most of the Andorian party and all of the Starfleet personnel. Akhilend’r strode around the table, arms wide, and dragged Saavik into a bone-creaking embrace. “It is good to see your ears again!”
T’Pren’s eyebrow ascended as her mother unflappably returned the embrace and then stepped back to eye him disapprovingly.
“Who allowed you to keep your dagger?” She slid a look at her daughter that made T’Pren internally wince.
Saavik’s eyes took in the remains of the dish and the stain on the wall. She gave him a look. “Your manners have not improved over the decades, I see.” T’Pren had the satisfaction of seeing his antenna crinkle in embarrassment. Saavik’s mouth grew dry humored and she cocked her head at him. “I was in the midst of a Presidential council when I received a memo noting you were being excessively difficult. It is fortunate that my aide,” and she gave T’Pren a sidelong look, “recalled our past association.” She cleared her throat. “Such as it was.”
Akhilend’r chuckled. Then he blinked and blued. “Forgive my discourtesy.” He turned to snap his fingers. A frail Andorian child peered hesitantly around the Ambassador’s senior aide and then hurried forward to stand next to his leg. The Ambassador’s chest puffed. “My grandson, Thuray.”
Saavik bowed with all the formal lines of one greeting an monarch. “Admiral Saavik, at your service, sir.”
Things suddenly made sense: Akhilend’r’s furious reaction, his insistence that mat’akali endangered his people... Not himself or the adults, T’Pren realized, but his fragile grandson.
The delicate child’s eyes turned huge as they traveled up and up and up Saavik’s intimidating height. He looked up at his grandfather who nodded, encouraging the boy to bow shyly to her. The ambassador’s smile was genuinely proud. “A small child, but I have been assured his intelligence levels will compensate for the lack.”
Saavik looked at the boy thoughtfully. “A particularly disturbing thought. I prefer less... advanced enemies.”
The child’s little chest lifted at the compliment. Akhilend’r swiveled his antennae up and forward. “You honor me and mine.” His eyes glanced at T’Pren and his antennae now lowered. “Perhaps, I have been unduly... tense.”
Saavik inclined her head. Then she straightened and looked at T’Pren. “This one does not bring me shame.” She turned back to him. “Be assured we will discover who made this mistake and nearly sabotaged our two people’s efforts. And,” her tone showed a storm was ahead, “we will correct it.”
He blinked and grew thoughtful, then smiled slowly and viciously. “I will lend you my dagger, if you wish. My own honor is damaged for claiming your daughter guilty of this mistake.” He took a deep breath and bowed to T’Pren. “My formal apologies, Ambassador. I should have known one such as you would not commit such... errors intentionally.”
T’Pren had herself in complete control, but she understood the complete shock still going around the tables. She bowed back. “My apologies for not taking more... personal attention to the details.” She straightened and her face hardened. “You may be certain, it will not be allowed to happen again.”
Akhilend’r’s face registered surprise and he studied T’Pren thoughtfully. “I see your mother in you, now. Not just the noted Sarek and your father. Perhaps these negotiations will not be a fool’s errand after all.” He turned back and snapped a curt order in his native language. Immediately one of his party rose and offered his chair. Akhilend’r smiled at Saavik. “Join our table, Admiral? The President must have dismissed you to be here.”
Saavik inclined her head. “So long as all remaining dishes retain their current placements, Ambassador, I would be honored.”
T'Pren watched while he kept his head bent close as he answered Saavik's question about Thuray's mother. Two old comrades... of what?
"My daughter flies about the galaxy seeking trouble, just like we did,” he was saying. “I hear you have one like that, besides this one. I try to give her advice and she ignores me. Just like I did to my father and Thuray does to her. How did you put it all those years ago? What foolishness overtakes accomplished people that they decide to make children?"
"A paraphrase, but it is certainly true to my meaning."
"I remember saying to you then that we should never have children." He smacked the table with his laughter, making the dishes ping together. The younger people jumped in their seats. "And some idiots thought that meant we were lovers."
"Neither of us is so foolhardy as that."
T’Pren naturally recovered before any of the Starfleet party. And realized the immediate danger was not only over, but that the negotiations were as good as won. She shook her head and tasted the new fruit plate put before her, wondering how many years it would take to talk her mother into the diplomatic corps.
And how long it would take the universe to recover.