Chapter 19: In Equal Measure

Location: Chateau Picard
Year 2389
One Month Later

Trip ran the diagnostics for the third time. He checked the airflow on the filters, the pressure level of the Pneumatic Actuators, the air quality and density of the Turbines and finally the Fuel Injectors, which he had re-calibrated. Everything was fine. He was ready to run a test on the mobile irrigation pod and lifted it into the air. He left it to cycle for five minutes before drawing it back onto the ground.

It had been a good morning’s work. As he had suspected, the machine had aborted, without causing any damage to the vines, when it detected a malfunction in the air filters, which could have damaged the compressors. He had been right. When he took the air filters apart he found evidence of tissue. Trip smiled to himself, might just have been an unlucky bird.

Just as the machine closed down, Jean-Luc appeared at the door of the storage silo with two baskets. “I seem to have appeared at just the right time. Ready for lunch?” Trip was washing his hands and cleaning up. “That’d be great.” Jean-Luc handed Trip his basket. “Our normal spot?” “You betcha.”

Lunch together had become something of a ritual for them both. Each day they walked to the hill overlooking the vineyards and had a man to man. What in the old days for ‘Captain Picard’ would begin with Will, his Number One, asking for ‘Permission to speak freely.’

Jean-Luc was fascinated by Trip, who unlike many of his crew had radically changed since his mission began. More akin to his beloved and dear friend Data, now long gone.

Trip found Jean-Luc invaluable, he kept him grounded. He made him feel as if moving 233 years into the future was simply an unusual relocation. In the evenings, when T’Pol had retired and there was a little wine left in the bottle that it would be ‘rude not to finish’, they would regale each other with stories of male pregnancies, recalcitrant ambassadors and over-attentive beta-zoid mothers. One evening, they talked deep into the night about their shared experiences at the hands of torturers. Unusually, today Jean-Luc began discussing the kind of matter he would reserve for the evening.

“Trip, you and T’Pol are very welcome to remain here as long as you wish. But have you given any thought to your future?” Trip put his croissant down and cleaned his mouth. “Yeah, I have been looking at where I could do the thing I love most: fixing things. Not the high tech ‘easy’ options of Greater Europe or the Chinese Federal Republic, something like the Dome projects on Antartica or the Sub Sahara, where my ‘can do’ attitude to problem solving might come in handy.”

Jean-Luc was thoughtful. “That’s excellent. Not because I want to rush you away but it’s the issue of your anonymity. Laris has been to Beaune, collecting things we needed and she checked with Madam Bouvier and one or two places you went to, to see whether your appearance has lead to questions. She was very discrete.” Trip’s face clouded. He hadn’t realised how much his anonymity meant to him. Jean-Luc looked at him, “Don’t worry, Trip. For now all is well. You seem to have passed through without causing any ripples. However, you are now aware of how my career ended. Eventually, the fact that a Vulcan woman and an unknown man has joined this cantankerous old recluse will draw comment and unwanted attention. And the longer you stay, the more the risk increases.”

Trip turned to look at him. “It’s not the business of what to do or taking a new identity… ” Jean-Luc interrupted, “Trip,” he looked out across the vineyards to the hills in the middle distance, “Several times on the Enterprise I fell in love. Vash was a case in point. She was incorrigible and tricky but there was something… special between us.” Trip could sense his passion for their time together.

“I loved Beverley. I never stopped loving her. And she loved me, but her soulmate was her husband, Jack. And that is my point. We may love several different people during our lives: some may be very mischievous, some with great artistic flare. Some are simply homemakers but we only ever have one soulmate: one indefinable connection that, if we are blessed to have, we pass into old age with.”

Trip knew the point he was making to him and reluctantly he began. “This really is man to man stuff, Jean-Luc, so here goes. T’Pol and I had sparred from the beginning and after three years we were finally intimate. That’s no crime but it created something which rarely occurs in Vulcan society, if ever: a spontaneous Bond which enables us to share our thoughts.” Jean-Luc looked carefully at Trip, “That is exceptional. I know something of their marriage rituals. The kind of Bond you describe only emerges with instruction from an early age and then much later is initiated during the male’s Pon Farr.” Trip nodded in agreement. “It makes more sense now, knowing she is half Romulan. But our bond just blew away the traditions she had begun in childhood.

“But it’s not just that. We were used as propaganda by a terrorist organisation, who want nothing to do with off-worlders and we decided to part. Everything seemed too complicated, too exhausting. When I decided to make the journey to Romulus, we were in the middle of a ritual of Separation.”

Jean-Luc nodded, “I see. And being a man of honour, you were pursuing the separation to free yourself to marry someone else… ” Jean-Luc looked pained, “who you now know died many years ago?” Trip acknowledged his guess with a profound look of sadness.

Jean-Luc held his glass in his hand and looked down as he spoke, “I understand. Though I cannot imagine how the cloning of the child felt. But think of this, Trip: I have gone up against an institution and been thoroughly rejected. I chose to withdraw and live in seclusion,” waving his arms around the vineyard, “alone. Now you, too, have gone up against an institution, a different one, and came close to losing your life. And now you too are here. But Mr Tucker,” and Trip listened carefully, “you are not alone in your anonymity, you have a heaven-sent opportunity to make the most of that precious gift in the coming years without all the distractions of command!’

Jean-Luc chuckled to himself and turned to Trip. “So there we are. There is much for you to think about. It’s not easy but I stand by my original observation, we may love several times in our lifetime, but we only have one soulmate.”

As Trip returned to the Chateau in the company of his own thoughts, he turned over everything Jean-Luc had said.

There was one thing he agreed with him about. It was no coincidence that he had found Amanda and Hoshi, once he had left command but that lead on to another thought. He had never known T’Pol when the world wasn’t coming apart at the seams. They had never had that chance that Jean-Luc described. He also knew that T’Pol would not want Trip to respond simply because of any obligation he might feel or because of the invaluable help she had given him – and still was. He continued to have nightmares and each night T’Pol would break into them and take him to the Space. There was much to think about.

Later that evening

Trip and T’Pol had come down for dinner. As Jean-Luc was in the Wine Cellar, Laris decided it was time, high time, to do some prodding.

“Trip, do you enjoy swimming?” He looked at Laris, “I love anything to do with water.” “Well, beyond the hill there is a natural pool that Jean-Luc’s family created many years ago. You should take a picnic out one afternoon and go for a swim.” T’Pol, who had been sat reading, interrupted. “May I accompany you?” Trip laughed. “But you don’t swim?” T’Pol’s response was intriguing, “If I wish to sail in the future, I should learn.” Trip realised the idea of her sailing independently irritated him. “Be my guest.” Laris continued to prepare the salad, a smile on her face.

After dinner, Trip went alone up to the observation gallery at the front of the house. At this time of day the Sun was low, hidden by the house, and the vineyards were in twilight. When he switched on the Pad in the dusk, the screen lit up like a beacon in the dark. He worked his way through the algorithms until he found what he was looking for. Laris had shielded the Pad for him so his interest in the subject matter would not be picked up by a third party. He swept all the others with the same surname to the side and finally found her.

Obituary:

Major Amanda Cole

Major Amanda Cole died yesterday, in the line of duty on board the NX Endeavour. All hands were lost when the Starship suffered a catastrophic failure to its integrity, during an engagement with the Romulan Fleet. Be it noted that the Endeavour’s unselfish actions were, without doubt, a turning point in the battle.

Major Cole exemplified all the best qualities of a MACO. She combined razor sharp combat skills with superb self discipline. Her swift rise to the rank of Major was a testament to her training and leadership skills.

She contributed to the defence of all we hold precious during two campaigns: the search for and destruction of the Xindi weapon, as well as numerous engagements in the Romulan War.

She was mentioned in dispatches many times. She received the highest commendation for bravery, after a combined operation with the Vulcan ship, Ti’Mir, to obtain vital intelligence about the enemy which involved an audacious foray deep into Enemy Territory.

I came to know her when she served on board the Enterprise, where she made many friends, all of whom will grieve her loss. Her personal motto, which she gave to her battalion, was ‘Speramus optima, praeparet pessimus’: ‘Hope for the best but prepare for the worst.’

With the end of hostilities, we who have survived know we have navigated safe passage, emerging from the darkness. But we will never forget those who walked – and fought – with us and bravely lost their lives: ‘they gave their tomorrow that we might enjoy our today’.

Captain Jonathan Archer

NX 01 Enterprise

Trip didn’t feel self pity, guilt or remorse. He felt pride. He knew that embedded within that obituary were the echoes of their time together, which he would always hold dear. Was the reference to the Ti’Mir connected to them? He would never know.

The Next Day
Early Afternoon

Trip was stood up in the shallows of the river. He was holding T’Pol by her tummy as she lay in the water. Originally, he was going to give her instruction as he had his baby sister when he taught her to swim. But they had this Bond, this extraordinary gift and he sent her waves of confidence. He propelled her out into the middle of the river and supported her, until he was confident she could swim without support. She was soon swimming without aid and, being T’Pol, with effortless grace and dignity. He joined her, swimming up and down the stretch of the river that had been sympathetically damned, creating an opportunity for both irrigation for the house’s vegetable plots and a place of recreation where one could swim in the dappled sunlight on warm summer afternoons.

After the swim, they broke out the mats and laid out the picnic prepared by Laris. Trip sat cross legged on the Mat took out his personal Pad and began reading whilst enjoying his food. T’Pol looked up from her plate of food and instead of searching out his thoughts asked him what he was reading. “For Whom the Bell Tolls it’s about the Spanish Civil war of the 20th Century written by Ernest Hemingway” T’Pol frowned.”That seems an odd choice.” Trip looked at her and smiled. “Well it was your idea.” “What do you mean?” “Do you remember movie night on the Enterprise?” “Yes” “Well once you had sat in on one, you said, in order to explore the story further and gain more of an insight one should also read the original work the movie was based on.

When I stayed at Malcolm’s Fathers property in the Indian Ocean, apart from learning French so I could speak to my Scuba Buddies, I began reading the books of all those films we saw.” “I see.” Trip’s look became more animated more intense and so did his language. “Do you really, do you really understand how after Elizabeth I was was so determined to embrace more not just be ‘the guy from Florida’ because thats the kind of thinking that lead to Terra Prime and I wanted to be as far from that as possible to honour her.” She looked hard at Trip.” I do see, you are very different to the Man I first met in so many ways.” And she stopped speaking knowing that she should not make claims about herself, it was for Trip to do. But Trip surprised her. “Would you like me to read some of it to you?” “Yes” She moved opposite him and sat in the same posture as him, cross legged. Trip cradled the Pad in his lap and began.

From it, from the palm of her hand against the palm of his, from their fingers locked together, and from her wrist across his wrist something came from her hand, her fingers and her wrist to his that was as fresh as the first light air that moving toward you over the sea barely wrinkles the glassy surface of a calm, as light as a feather moved across one’s lip, or a leaf falling when there is no breeze; so light that it could be felt with the touch of their fingers alone, but that was so strengthened, so intensified, and made so urgent, so aching and so strong by the hard pressure of their fingers and the close pressed palm and wrist, that it was as though a current moved up his arm and filled his whole body with an aching hollowness of wanting. He stopped and looked up at her. “Very powerful eh?” She was looking down deep in thought and lifted her face to him, a single tear falling down her cheek. The words came out in a contemplative hush as if she were speaking aloud to herself but she was not. I am thee and thou art me and all of one is the other, another line from the book. He nodded offered her a wistful smile, moved over to her and took the thumb of his right hand, wiped away the tear from her cheek and kissed it. He stood up and took her hand easing her to her feet. “Come on we should be getting back to the house.”

That night, after a dinner full of the joy of laughter and ease, for the first time in a long time Trip went to bed and slept soundly. The nightmares of Romulan Warbirds and soldiers slaughtering and defiling the innocents of Beaune and La Barre finally banished.

At last he was free, free to move on, free to express what he knew he felt, what he had always felt.

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