The Vulcan Science Academy has gained access to a section of tunnel deep beneath the city of Shi’Kahr during an excavation sponsored by the T’Planna-Hath Historical Society. When the Society announced that it expected to link the tunnel to Surak, the excavation was funded in part by House Sekir, the dynastic family to which Surak belonged. While it has long been thought that the 2,567.83 kilometers of tunnels beneath Shi’al’s capital city had all been mapped, a previously unknown section, 15.91 km in length, was revealed to structural engineers after the T’keKhuti Quake. For millennia, the tunnels served as drainage conduits in rare but devastating floods, as well as escape routs and sally ports in times of war. They were places of refuge for the homeless, petty thieves, and smugglers. During Surak’s time, the tunnels had a dark and lawless life of their own. The Shi’Kahran government was too preoccupied with repelling the Sudocian invasion to patrol the seedy underground. In fact, officials had a mutual understanding with the gangs that prowled the tunnels, who efficiently defended these networks of caverns against foreign commando strikes and infiltration.
Although Surak never wrote about his experience in the tunnels, a few who encountered him there did. On more than one occasion, he used the tunnels to escape angry mobs in the city streets when impromptu gatherings and lectures drew violent opposition. As his popularity grew, civilian authorities considered his public teachings such a nuisance that they sought to arrest him for inciting riots, but they always lost his trail in the sprawling labyrinth of tunnels. There Surak and his followers found an enclave of supporters who could quickly smuggle them to a safe haven and cover their tracks.
Years later, upon his death, 5,786,411 people signed the online remembrance book, jamming the nets for 3.71 days. In that guestbook, preserved in the Academy archives, is an entry by T’Vei who wrote, “I shall never forget the day Surak suddenly appeared among us. I had previously seen him from afar and was familiar with his image posted on the nets, but he was much smaller than I’d imagined, and at first I didn’t believe it was him. He was very thin, for he was constantly on the move in those days. He had come through the tunnel leading to the storage chamber beneath my studio. My family mostly used it as a shelter from air strikes during the war.
“The day Surak came, I was preparing glazes for a series of firepots commissioned by the Suta Temple. He inclined his head and said, ‘I ask forgiveness. My days are not mine and I have no wish to disturb yours.’ He was not hurt, but one of his two companions had a cut over one eye. They had escaped a disagreeable crowd that corned them in the market. ‘We lost the fruit and bread we had purchased,’ the one with the cut said, ‘but not our honor.’
“I gave them fire and water in the custom of old and we shared a meal of mashya and fire-fruit. When they left in the middle of the night, I gave Surak a cup I had designed for the temple priests. Again, he inclined his head, and accepting the cup, he said, ‘What we begin here will alter the face of our world. Live long and prosper, t’hy’la.’”
T’Vei went on to write, “Surak and his companions carried very little with them, obtaining what they needed in exchange for their teachings. But Surak tied the cup to his belt with a scrap of cloth and it went everywhere with him. Every time I caught a glimpse of him on the nets, it was either cradled in his hands or tied to his belt. I was told later that he would drink from no other vessel – to minimize the risk of being poisoned.”
T’Vei became one of Vulcan’s most famous potters, and much of her work can now be seen in the T’Sar Museum. The Suta Temple kept careful records of the work commissioned from her, and because of these records, the fragments of the cup found in the recent excavation have been identified as originated from her studio. DNA analysis of the residual protein molecules adhering to the glaze has revealed that the cup had been used by Surak and handled to a lesser degree by T’Vei. In a journal entry made accessible by T’Vei’s estate, she noted that the cup was returned to her following the death of Surak and kept as a prized possession on a shelf in her studio. The cup was presumed lost when the studio was destroyed in an earthquake. Although she had the means to hire a salvage crew, she allowed the city to fill in the area and retired from her craft. “Surak always said, ‘Kaiidth – what is, is,’ she wrote, ending her journal entry.
Surak’s cup, along with several other artifacts currently under study at the VSA, will arrive later this year as part of a special exhibit at the T’Sar Museum entitled: Surak: The Tunnel Years.