Chapter 18 Future Imperfect

Location : Chateau Picard
Year : 2389

“Now, is it was one or two rooms?” Trip, decisive, “Two.” “Give me ten minutes and they will be ready.”

Neither Trip or T’Pol were in the mood to simply sit waiting. They walked off the terrace, turned to the left and walked round the Lake. “He’s clearly done something important. He has that certainty, that air of authority. I will take a look at his biography so we know who we are talking to.” T’Pol thought about that, “A wise move. I will bring myself up to date on the preparations for the war. Maybe something has occurred already and he has taken these two in. They have a humbled, grateful air about them. And they are very protective of him.”

They walked back to the house, full of purpose, knowing their questions were about to be answered. Both of them knew somethings they had experienced didn’t make sense but that was overshadowed by the biggest question mark of all: how had they ended up in France? “Trip, I think it would be advisable to work through the data as individuals and then discuss our findings.” Trip moved toward the terrace, “Good idea.”

Ten Minutes Later

Laris had showed them to their rooms and opened the Info Nets for them. Trip sat down in front of his screen and commanded, “Access.” He looked at the card that Vash had given T’Pol and requested the profile. “Jean-Luc Picard. Biography.” Jean-Luc’s face emerged amongst several possible matches. Trip swept the rest off the screen and touched Jean-Luc’s.

The data began to emerge. Streams of prose, the occasional photograph. He read the first few paragraphs and froze. A kind of inner silence took him over as his mind stopped, unable to understand the implications of what he was reading. He read the same few paragraphs again. He broke out in a sweat, his heart rate increased. He went to the bathroom, found a basin and turned on the tap. He cupped the water in his hands, bent down, threw it on his face and wiped himself dry. He was still not right and repeated the process. He sat down on a stool to give himself time to calm down.

After ten minutes he stood up, looked at himself and nodded. Some of what had been puzzling now making sense. He had regained his curiosity, his desire to understand, to learn more. He grabbed a tumbler, poured some water and sat back down in front of the screen and started again.

Location: Lakeside
Four Hours Later

It was early evening when T’Pol came out of her room. She had changed into black pants and vest, topped with her short patchwork trench coat with the big lapels. She knocked on Trip’s door. Nothing. She went downstairs looked around, nothing. She went out on the terrace and walked to the Lake. A lone figure sat on the bench, looking across the countryside. She walked up to him and sat down next to him, as he stared vacantly looking into the distance. He had brought a scarf with him which was lying by his side. She picked it up and put it round him, tying the ends in a simple knot. She noticed him responding as if he was acknowledging the falling temperatures: a slight shrug of the shoulders.

Laris looked down on them from an upstairs window. Jean-Luc had just come upstairs from his study, where he too had been staring intently at a screen. He asked a question of Laris, “How long has he been sat there?” “Two Hours.” Laris looked at Jean-Luc, “Who are they?” Jean-Luc continued to look out, “Two extraordinarily brave people.”

T’Pol put her left hand on his right shoulder. “Trip, Vash told me the decision was not taken lightly. If they hadn’t intervened you would have died.” He finally turned to her, “But you would have survived.” “I don’t think so. I had a plan to break you out and escape. I had found out where you were, I had acquired a weapon and I was coming for you.” He turned more fully to face her and placed his left hand over her right and squeezed it. “I believe even if I had managed to reach you, we would have decided to die together. You were close to death and I would not have been able to pass on my Katra.” Trip turned his sad empty eyes to her, “Romeo and Juliet after all.” Instinctively, they folded into each other, and remained, unmoving, for many minutes looking out across the countryside.

Eventually, they moved away from each other and Trip continued, bent down and put his head in his hands. “So you had better tell me what happened?” He wasn’t sure if he wanted to know or not. “You mean, historically?”

“The war began soon after we disappeared and continued for four years. It was appalling. No quarter was given. There were no wounded and hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, died. Eventually, the Alliance combined to defeat them at Cheron.” Trip didn’t move.

T’Pol tried to move things on. She bent down to the side of his face. “So who is Jean-Luc, Trip?” Trip sat up and let out an ironic laugh. “Would you believe he commanded a ship called the Enterprise until he retired four years ago. Throughout his career he worked to ease tensions between the Romulans and the Alliance, now called the Federation. At some point he even supported an attempt at re-unification with Vulcan. There is much more but he was trying to aid the Romulans until he retired, which explains his housekeepers.” “Fascinating.”

Trip continued to look across the fields as the sun came down in a burst of orange. He turned again to look at T’Pol and asked in a faraway neutral voice, “What happened to the others?” “The Enterprise survived the final battle and was mothballed rather than given the refit that had been planned. I have not had a chance to consider the personal lives of the others.

“Trip, there is something else you need to know. Endeavour was lost at Cheron. It was used as bait in a tactical gambit; no one survived.” Trip continued to look at T’Pol. His voice was a whisper. “Malcolm? All my crew mates who were transferred?” She put her hand on his shoulder and looking at him intently, “Everyone on board, Trip ….” He just uttered the word. It was only one word but it was like the weight of the world descending on him, crushing him: “Amanda.”

It was almost twilight. “You know, maybe it would have been best if whoever they are hadn’t… interfered.

Up on the gallery landing, Jean-Luc thought about the encounter with the long gone Ressikan people. Would that mean something to them? Jean-Luc had experienced, deep in their past, a family, children, an entire lifetime before being returned to the present.

_________________________________________

Trip changed for dinner. He put on a three button sweater and dark pants. Trip thought about Jean-Luc. This man was an icon of the 24th Century. Probably a role model for many. Trip needed to show some grit, dig deep. He looked at himself in the mirror. Yes, it’s just not possible to take it all in. And, yes, I would have wanted to die fighting alongside Amanda. But… I am alive. I just need to work out how and then why.

Somehow, at this moment, the idea of pre-dinner drinks seemed ridiculous. So T’Pol and Trip entered the dining area at eight. He looked over at Laris, she looked concerned. “Smells delicious.” She smiled, well done, she thought. “It’s confit de canard. We are going to start with a salad.”

Jean-Luc walked in and took the prepared opened bottle, “Now, this a ’75. I hope you’ll like it. Come, sit.” Trip and T’Pol sat together on one side. He came round, filled Trip’s glass and poured water for T’Pol then sat down himself, whilst Laris began organising the food.

“So, we all understand each other’s situation a little better. You know who I am and I have found out who you both are. Both of you are going to have a great deal of adjusting to do. I insist that you stay with us for as long as you need. No arguments.” He tried the wine. “Yes, I think you will enjoy that. Now, you will barely have had time to think of all the questions you want to ask, let alone ponder potential answers, so please! Take your time.

“One thing I learned from my experiences is one feels isolated simply because no-one has been through anything remotely similar. You are in a minority of one.” He smiled at both of them, “or two. I had an excellent Ship’s Counsellor, but I still felt isolated. And no matter how much we try to help you, you too will feel the same.”

Trip looked over at Jean-Luc. “I kinda understand now why Vash sent us to you, Admiral.” Jean-Luc countered, ignoring the thanks. “Please: Jean-Luc.” “My friends call me Trip.” Jean-Luc nodded and carried on.

“Your biographies show you were highly decorated through out your careers. For your services to Star Fleet in the Romulan War you received the highest honour. Giving your lives in the line of duty, and yet… here you are. Please?” He offered an ironic frown and gestured turning over his hands. He was puzzled.

T’Pol began with context: the Hope Strategy that came out of the Awakening and the need to be open to Re-Unification. She then explained how Trip had come to join her. She took them through the offer of peace that was transmitted, their journey to Romulus and their presentations to the Senate. Jean-Luc and the two Romulans listened spellbound to the offer they made, shaking their heads and realising how close these two had come to changing history, with potentially enormous consequences.

She then outlined the nightmare of Trip’s abduction, the days of heartache whilst the search went on and her plan that, after the final presentation, where she had revealed that the Romulans and Vulcans shared the same ancestry, she was going to storm the bunker beneath the Mausoleum. She handed over to Trip.

He talked about what he had expected from the torture. The various phases, that when he entered the second phase, the interrogation, it was clear he was being used as a political weapon to unseat the Praetor. Jean-Luc interrupted.

“This is extraordinary. That, enthused by the changes on Vulcan and your profoundly unique relationship, you traveled to the very heart of the Empire over a hundred years before mankind had encountered the Romulans. Let alone any idea of the connection between Vulcan and Romulus.”

T’Pol responded. “It is my belief that Atare was a pragmatist, ahead of his time, which is why he responded. He believed in the rights of the Romulan Empire to pursue its doctrine but was prepared to consider… accommodation.” Jean-Luc nodded agreement, “Oh, I agree with your assessment. Throughout my career, I met similar minded personalities but there was always opposition, whether from their leaders or the Tal’shiar… or others.” He looked at them, “But that is for another time.” Laris, who had been riveted to the spot whilst they spoke, intervened, “Even today, after everything, Romulan society is riven with sectarianism, secrecy and inner cabals.”

T’Pol warmed to that theme, “I am certain that Sub Consul M’ret, who lead the search for Trip, wanted peaceful co-existence.” Jean-Luc smiled. “You must have met him when he was very young. Many years later he successively sought asylum with us through a subterfuge. But that brings me on to something else. Whilst I can see Star Fleet and Vulcan suppressing evidence that two of their number made this journey, surely it was too big to remove the incident from the Romulan consciousness?”

T’Pol looked at Jean-Luc.” I believe I can explain. At the end of my final address a high ranking Tal’shiar operative, who had infiltrated all aspects of Vulcan Life and despised Vulcan, appeared. He claimed to be my Father and sought to undermine my arguments by suggesting that I was merely a half breed seeking validation.

“He would have had the knowledge and means to both control data and ensure all involved had the incident erased from their memories.” Laris intervened.”Don’t doubt it. That would be Tolsek. He died fifty years ago and was well known for using Vulcan Mind Rituals for punishment and interrogation,” and looking at Zhaban said, “The white wash worked. We have never heard of even rumours of this encounter.”

Trip now spoke. “And that brings us to my.., ” and, looking at T’Pol,” our big question. I had been left for dead when two people came in my cell in MACO Uniforms and made some kind of decision before I passed out. And the next thing I know is we ended up in France.” Jean-Luc intervened, “May I?” He looked around the room for confirmation.

“I believe, Trip, that when the two appeared they intended merely to return you and T’Pol home. It would make sense of their appearance as MACOs from your time. The person who appeared to you is known as ‘Q’. He is part of the Continuum: a group of immortal beings who are interested in our evolution. He intervened several times during my time in Star Fleet and, frankly, was highly unpredictable, though in our last encounter we parted on good terms. I suspect Vash, who worked with ‘Q’ for a while, persuaded him to bring you forward so you would survive.

“There may be a wider, more profound, philosophical reason that not even ‘Q’ consciously appreciates – or is not revealing – but that, my friends, is for another evening.” Jean-Luc stopped, “I think, Laris, it’s time to take a break. We should have coffee. All this talking is exhausting, don’t you agree?” Looking around the room.

T’Pol spoke again. “If I may, I would prefer tea? What you have said, Admiral, is logical. ‘Q’, having made the decision, sent Vash to Madam Bouvier and brought Trip to the Senate to denounce them and then send us forward. It is illogical, but it is what happened.” Trip smiled at T’Pol’s convoluted thought process, which was a mixture of logic and pragmatism. He really was getting inside her thinking. As unbelievable as it was, he now had the one answer he was looking for: they had been brought forward to the 24th Century by the Intervention of something called the Continuum.

Jean-Luc lead T’Pol and Trip to the Inner Courtyard where Zhaban had lit the brazier in the centre of the yard and set down their drinks. They sat around the dancing flames of the fire. “I must say, I consider myself privileged to have heard this vital but hitherto unknown piece of history. And to have met you both. It is impossible for you to yet appreciate the ramifications of what you attempted to do and when you attempted to do it. It is for that reason I would advise caution. Whatever your future holds, I suggest this knowledge remains within these four walls.” A voice in the background, “You humiliated forces on Romulus which, despite everything, still exist today. You cannot take the risk that someone isn’t aware of what happened. Romulans are past masters at the art of secrecy “

They sat quietly for many minutes looking into the flames of the fire. Each of them turning over the implications of what they had shared.

Jean-Luc thought about T’Pol and Ambassador Spock, who earlier in the century, had attempted to pursue exactly the seed that T’Pol had attempted to plant two centuries before.

T’Pol thought about the brutal father that she had never known and now she knew to be dead.

Trip thought about his parents, his brother, Jonathan, Hoshi and Amanda: all long gone in the past. He had taken Hoshi’s charm from his pocket and was looking at it. “What is that?” “It’s something given to me by my Communications Officer when we left for the mission. It’s a Japanese charm, which I have found is… for warding off evil.”

He looked at Jean-Luc and T’Pol, a wistful look on his face, “All things considered, I think it’s worked. It’s going to be hard, very hard, to deal with all of this but Vash made a good call putting us in touch with you, Jean-Luc. Now, if you don’t mind I am going to turn in. Good night.” The others stood. Trip shook Jean-Luc’s hand. He crossed to T’Pol and gave her a hug if you need me, Trip : Thank you. and disappeared inside.

Jean-Luc turned to T’Pol. “Young lady, I think he is especially lucky to have you.” T’Pol continued to stare at the firelight. “Admiral, do you have any Jazz.” Jean-Luc looked at T’Pol astonished. “Do I have any Jazz? Ha! Zhaban!!”

Trip had sat down to meditate before he slept and found his way to the Space. T’Pol was sat crossed legged in the dark. In front of her, a band and a female singer with the most soulful voice.

I’ve got the world on a string
I’m sitting on a rainbow
Got that string around my finger
What a world, what a life, I’m in love

I’ve got a song that I sing
and I can make the rain go
Any time I move my finger
Lucky me, can’t you see? I’m in love

Life’s a wonderful thing
As long as I’ve got that string
I’d be a silly so-and-so
If I should ever let you go

He came away from the Space stood up went to the door, opened it and went out into the hallway. Crossed over to the side he knew looked out on to the Courtyard. The brazier was still lit. T’Pol was sat alone watching a holographic performance of a female and her band singing jazz standards, Ella Fitzgerald and her band of over four hundred years ago. Yep: T’Pol enthralled by a performance of Jazz Standards about emotions and one emotion in particular. “Well I’ll be damned.”

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