Location: Enterprise Bridge
Final Day: 1200.
Trip stepped on to the Bridge and looked around. Hoshi noticed him out of the corner of her eye and they winked at each other. T’Pol was standing to the left of the Captain who was sat in his Command Chair, their eyes both fixed on the viewing screen at the front of the Bridge. Captain Archer checked to see who had entered and smiled at Trip. “Permission to enter the Bridge, Captain.” The Captain offered that intense knitted eyebrow look that only he could, and spoke with a touch of irony. “Permission granted, Mr Tucker.” Trip moved to the right side of the Captain’s chair and followed the direction of their gaze.
The screen was filled with the presence of Vulcan. The Enterprise was in a Low Polar Orbit at an altitude of 1500 kilometres, waiting for a response from Flight Control. The Captain looked at Trip. “We’ve sent the flight path, we’re just waiting for the sign off. As it’s an off-site landing, Travis has offered to pilot the shuttle. He is strapped in ready to go.” Trip: “It’s awful decent of you to drop us down close to T’Pol’s home.” The Captain smiled. “It’s the least I could do.”
Hoshi signalled, “We have clearance.” The Captain ushered them off the bridge. “Right, let’s go. Lead the way, T’Pol.” She headed for the Turbo Lift, followed by the Captain and then Trip, who felt someone grab his arm. It was Hoshi, “I am coming to see you off.”
The four of them walked down the corridor and Hoshi pulled Trip back and whispered, “Amanda wishes you the best.” Trip gave a reflective smile, “So you know what this is all about then?” She nodded knowingly as they continued walking. They had to cross half the length of the Saucer section to reach the Cargo Hold.
They all stood looking at the shuttle and each other. This was an awkward moment: the moment of goodbye. They looked to Captain Archer to speak first. “Yep,” knowing what they were thinking. “This is it. Malcolm’s already gone, this is ‘the band breaking up’; we have given our final performance. It’s been a heck of a journey and,” looking at T’Pol, “we understand each other a great deal better than when we started. I know this new team will shape up but nothing will ever match us!” Hoshi agreed, “Absolutely, Captain.” She turned to T’Pol, “Goodbye, T’Pol.” T’Pol simply looked at Hoshi, “Goodbye, Ensign.” Trip knew that words could never express what they had shared, where they been, what they had been through but T’Pol’s reaction to Hoshi was way too stiff, almost rude. He wondered what the hell was behind that.
Jonathan stood in front of T’Pol. “I know we had our moments at the beginning, but again and again you have proved your worth. And my God, we all owe you a huge debt of gratitude for joining up the dots on this latest one.” As always when she received praise, T’Pol’s frown intensified. “Thank you, Captain. And thank you for,”, she hesitated, “your… companionship over these past years.” Jonathan hugged T’Pol, released her and stood back.
Trip had moved over to Hoshi and they held each other, neither prepared to let go. Still holding her, he turned his head and spoke quietly to her alone, “and Hoshi, as soon as you can, take my advice, eh?” He could feel her nodding and she finally stepped back to face him. “We want you to have this.” Hoshi handed him what looked like a tiny rectangular label bag with a set of Japanese symbols written on the vertical. “It’s an Omamori – a Japanese Charm. Keep it safe and you will be.” Trip frowned, “That’s a bit serious, I am only gonna be gone for a week!” Hoshi gave him a quizzical questioning look suggesting ‘I am not so sure’. “Well, for the next week just think of it as a stand-in for your guardian angel.” She came up close and whispered in his ear, “and all those that love you.” He shook his head disbelievingly, held her again, let go and turned for the Shuttle.
T’Pol took one final look around the Cargo Bay. There was a real air of finality about this for her. Meanwhile Trip smiled at Jonathan. “Come back safely, Trip.” Hoshi was looking away and wouldn’t meet Trip’s gaze and he offered a reassuring. “Sure will.” to both of them.
T’Pol stepped inside. Trip followed, the hatch closed and a sombre Jonathan Archer walked back to his Bridge with Hoshi. “I know something of Omamori. What kind of Japanese charm was that, Hoshi?” “It’s a yakuyoke – to ward away evil.’ They walked back to the Bridge in silence.
Location: Aerial Approach to the Home of T’Les
The city came into view across the Vulcan Plain as the Shuttle passed over Mount Tar’Hana. “Control, do we have clearance to land?” Travis received clearance, turned in a graceful arc, the city core to the right and began manoeuvring toward the landing area below T’Pols’ home. “Sure glad you’re in the drivin’ seat, Travis.” Travis was focusing on the terrain, following navigation, made some adjustments and executed a perfect landing. His job done, he turned to them. “It’s my pleasure.” He released the hatch. T’Pol exited first, Trip turned to speak to Travis. “Should be winging my way back in just over a week.” Travis grinned that big grin of his, “See you then.”
As soon as Trip was out with his kit, they walked quickly off the apron and began to climb the steps toward T’Pol’s home. They stopped for a moment to watch the Shuttle lift off, sweep across the district and rapidly gain height as it made its way back to the Enterprise.
As they climbed the steps to the Villa at the top of the rise, Trip was acutely aware that this was the first occasion they had been alone together for any length of time for over a year. At least, he thought, it was just this first day. Tomorrow, they would leave for Mount Seleya and T’Pol would remain behind. They only had this one day to get through.
T’Pol opened the courtyard door and looked around her. All was in order; the property was being well looked after by the custodians of the Villa. Trip reacquainted himself with the Vulcan artifacts and pottery that the Courtyard contained. It reminded him how exquisite Vulcan art and design was. T’Pol stepped inside, adjusted the atmosphere controls and moved directly to her room.
Trip remained outside for several minutes and took in his surroundings. T’Pol retraced her steps and spoke. “All is well. There is food stored and your room is set.” “Thanks. I’ll come in a minute and fix us a drink.”
Trip threw his bag on the bed of the room, returned to the central living space and went to the food work station. There, he crushed some exotic Vulcan fruit, left by the custodians and made a drink for both of them. He placed one down for T’Pol, sat on the opposite side of the room and sighed. “How does it feel without T’Les being here? You know what I mean by ‘feel’ right? I mean, in the physical sense?” She looked up and out of the opening to her left, as if looking for inspiration. “I miss her; in the sense that we were at odds and I would be tense when I came home. But if you mean ‘does the house feel empty’? Yes it does. It is as if something that you were pushing against has disappeared and… there is a void.” Trip wondered whether that applied to them. He was increasingly aware that the spark, the repartee, that had characterised their exchanges was no longer there. Were they both being deliberately polite or was it something else?
“So, how shall we use this first day? All seems to be ok here.” Trip laughed, “Nothing to fix?” He remembered fixing the refrigeration unit on his last visit. T’Pol wondered, “Would you like to visit the Museum of Surak? It might give you more of an insight into the ritual and what to expect tomorrow.” Trip smiled. “That’s a great idea and when we get back I’ll see if I can rustle up that salad your mother always made for you.”
Trip was given a great deal of food for thought by his visit to the Museum. Vulcan psychology had found a way of defining and controlling things which remained a mystery to mankind. He now thought of this Bond in physical terms. It was as if a series of strands had been wound together, which would have to be unpicked. It also made him realise that, whilst neither of them were ‘sharing’, their individual foundation stones had been re-organised. It was as if two separate buildings were gradually becoming one. Maybe that accounted for the reduced tension between them?
Location: The foot of Mount Seleya.
As the only access to the Temple and the Mount was by foot, the aerial shuttle bus had dropped them on the Landing Apron at the Base of the Mount. “There are a thousand and one steps to climb. To ascend is both a physical and a spiritual quest. The climb should be uninterrupted. I suggest, as this is your first time, I set a pace which we can both maintain.” Trip nodded agreement.
The previous evening had been uneventful. Trip and T’Pol had enjoyed the terrace with its commanding view of the city. T’Pol had given Trip an English translation of the ritual and he had spent much of the evening sat on the Terrace, reading the words of Surak.
Before he turned in, he sent a message to Hoshi, thanking her and letting her know how much he had enjoyed her company. He also enclosed an encrypted message for Amanda. He looked at the Charm and, given what Hoshi had said, knew it was in part from Amanda. He also checked his skivvies for somewhere to keep the charm safe. He had remembered correctly: there were internal pockets for storing sensitive items.
Once they were half away up the endless stairs, he turned to look back across the burning Vulcan plain towards the Volcano. On this visit he was determined to climb into the crater!
As the climb went on, Trip didn’t reminisce about the last few years and what had led to this. He thought back further, to the inquiring mind of Trip, the nine year old boy and his fascination with engines. Would that young boy recognise the older man, climbing to a summit steeped in Vulcan Mysticism? He knew what the little boy would have said. And his older self would have agreed, “I hate steps.”
Finally, after an hour they arrived.
T’Pol looked at Trip as he took in his surroundings high above the Vulcan Plain. To his left, in the cliff face. was an entrance to the living quarters of the Order. To his right, a beautiful cone-shaped tower. “It is The Hall of Ancient Thought.” T’Pol walked towards the narrow entrance which extended a third of the way up the side of the cone. Trip followed her in, T’Pol turned to Trip. “We may prepare here.” T’Pol entered an ante-room but Trip felt compelled to walk to the exit on the opposite side. He walked through and looked out.
Directly in front of him was a perilously narrow open bridge, high above the plain and on the other side of the bridge, atop a sharp pinnacle of rock, a circular terrace had been built. On the far side of the terrace, a raised platform, reached from a series of steps. The platform was backed by a u-shaped monument. Two pillars swept up into the sky with a cross piece at the bottom connecting the two. In front of the cross section, the most extraordinarily five pronged sculpture and in front two alters set at an angle toward each other at the front of the platform. They would have formed a perfect V but for the space between them. It was then a Vision came into his mind. Darkness, a cloaked Priest and T’Pol and him walking toward the place of connection .. or disconnection.
A voice from behind him. “You may prepare now.” Trip jumped, shocked out of his reverie. “Yes. Yes, I will.” But he found himself looking back through the narrow opening at the platform, illuminated by the flickering torches.
He returned, having changed into the Vulcan outfit that he had worn for T’Pol’s wedding. T’Pol looked at him. “It is fitting. I will ascend first. Wait for my return.” T’Pol disappeared up the stairs which followed the line of the tower to the next level. Trip sat down to wait, thinking over what he would say.
Fifteen Minutes Later
Trip, deep in thought, was sat clasping his hands, looking down at the floor when he became aware of the rustle of T’Pol’s robes. She appeared above him and descended to the floor level. She walked over to him and he stood up. They looked across at each other in silence for sometime until finally Trip spoke. “Did all go well?” T’Pol looked down. “It was… satisfactory. I will withdraw to my quarters to meditate. Once you have completed your exchange, simply descend to the Plain. V’Lor will arrange for a shuttle to take you back to the Villa. I will meet you here in seven days, at the hour of darkening.” Trip pursed his lips and nodded, making it clear he understood what needed to be done. She looked at him briefly, turned and withdrew. So much of their communication now a gesture or a look.
Trip climbed to the first level, taking in the place of meeting. The guardian acolyte bowed and sounded the gong of arrival indicating Trip to climb the stairs to the second chamber. He took in the spartan, uncluttered surroundings. A single candle burned on a small table block in the centre of the room. There were alcoves, where texts and scrolls were kept, but little else. Two backless curved throne chairs stood on each side of the table. The one on the far side was occupied by a venerable ancient Vulcan dressed in black ceremonial robes who emanated a calm authority. What made the most impression was the narrow aquiline face with its piercing eyes.
He stood to greet Trip, his hands clasped together. “Welcome Charles Tucker.” He beckoned him to sit down.
“To begin with, I wish to hear why you have made this journey. I would then ask that we join so that I can determine there is no risk to you in the ‘separation’. Finally, I will explain the consequences of the separation for both of you.” He paused, briefly, before inviting Trip to speak, “Begin when you are ready, I am acquainted with the facts.”
Trip nodded his head slowly up and down but was silent for some while, gathering his thoughts.
“We got to know each other properly when I was suffering from the loss of my baby sister and T’Pol was infected by exposure to Trellium on the Vulcan ship, Seleya. Both of us were vulnerable and we found friendship in each other at a time when everything around us was challenging. T’Pol became curious about the feelings released by the Trellium exposure and I felt, as many humans do, that the banter, the exchanges, the disagreements between us represented a sincere interest in her. It came to a head when T’Pol experienced jealousy and acted territorially toward me and we… had intimacy. What we never did, or should I say T’Pol never did, was explain what that might mean for us.
“Later we were badly misused, violated even, by a terrorist organisation. An incident which exposed the difficulty of a Human having a relationship with a Vulcan. We decided to go our separate ways and make new lives. I believe I have made mine and that I should be able to get on with my new life without the complication of the Bond.”
The Vulcan was silent for several minutes, absorbing all that was being said and what was being left unsaid. “I am impressed by you, Charles Tucker. Your honesty does you credit.
“There are I believe two matters where you differ. You are anxious to break the Bond, whereas T’Pol has explained to you that a Vulcan who breaks their Bond will not be ‘set free’ to create another, as she will Bond but once.
When she arrived after relinquishing her command on Enterprise a year ago, one of the first disciplines she learned was to ‘shield’. This enables the Bond to be quieted between you.” Trip now understood what had been happening this last year. “She would be able to sustain this for the rest of your life… but you may not consider this the end of the matter. She has indicated that she has not made you aware of this, for fear of you wondering about her motives and that for you it may not create a sufficient air of finality. So we have identified two important and distinct views our two cultures place on the matter of this Bond.”
V’Lor stood. “May I now have your Mind?” Trip stood up, nodding agreement. For Trip, the experience was not one of sharing, merely a sense of release to something implacable. V’Lor, an adept, was opening up Trip’s conscious and subconscious mind, whilst retaining the mysteries of his own.
He stood back from Trip, clasped his hands together and nodded, considering his judgement. “Charles Tucker. Your mind is whole and you are in balance. I see no reason not to proceed.” Trip was relieved, though not entirely surprised. So far, he felt all was well. The mystic beckoned them once more to sit.
“Let us now consider the consequences. Whilst a Bonded couple will continue to express themselves as individuals, not only do their Khatra’s become bound together, over time there is… a blending. Their personalities become entwined. I have looked at your perceptions of each other. It is clear, over time you have both changed and become a little like each other. The Charles Tucker I see before me is not the Charles Tucker that became enamoured.” Trip let out an ironic sigh.
Trip was anxious to intervene but did not wish to show disrespect. V’Lor however was a wise and intuitive Vulcan, and picked up on Trip’s wish. He turned his hands over and gave way. “This shielding thing and us becoming more alike has affected how we deal with each other, I see that.” V’Lor continued, “That is valuable. It will ensure you are better able to understand my thoughts on the consequences.” Trip nodded, a small understanding though uncertain smile on his face.
“I have studied the texts and considered the question from the opposing viewpoint, what is the benefit of the Bond. You are a man of few words so I will respond in the same way. The initial consequence will be a sense of loss: a loss of a part of you, a loss of purpose and of growth. In time, you both may heal but these are the matters which you have benefited from. If the Bond is broken the opposite will come to pass.”
Trip sat and looked down at the candle. Not only was the way forward set out but the journey he had made seemed clearer. The Bond seemed to have benefited them as individuals…but not as a couple. “Charles Tucker, is there any thing further you wish to ask of me?” Trip sat their shaking his head.”No, no I don’t think so.” “Then I believe our time together is at an end. I will not offer you the Vulcan message of hope, that is reserved for the completion but for now, I thank you.” Trip stood, bowed his head and withdrew, only stopping to glance toward the place of connection.
Location: Mount Tar’Hana
Whilst Trip had enjoyed making a study of Surak’s teachings in tranquil surroundings, he was anxious to challenge himself physically. The chance to climb Mount Tar’Hana was the perfect opportunity. He had been set down at the base of the Volcano and had climbed over the Volcanic Rock to the crater rim. He looked down into the depths and considered the steady plume of smoke that erupted from the inner island of the Volcano. He decided to descend. The crater was steeper on the inner side of the cone but Trip still didn’t need crampons, he had sufficient grip. He clambered down and took in the water that filled the crater. The only relief was the heap of volcanic rock which formed the island where he sat down to rest.
He wondered, what if there was an eruption? He would be asphyxiated in seconds. It was always a risk, just as if they pursue the separation it might cause years of disorientation. Trip tried to imagine the middle way. But V’Lor’s assertion that the Bond would grow and their Khatra’s remain Bound suggested to him that T’Pol would spend the rest of her days alone but not alone. He also considered the sanctity of a human marriage and its vows. They were at odds with such a Bond, not to mention the overt intimacy of the mind that a married Human partner would find impossible to compete with.
He finished eating, packed up and looked for the only path out of the crater. In the same way he now realised, there was only one path for his personal journey.
Location: The Home of T’Les
Trip was rested and calm. He had climbed the Volcano, studied the texts of Surak and had followed the workout each day that a certain Sergeant Cole had designed for him. It had been a good week and he had kept in touch with Hoshi and the Enterprise making it clear to both for different reasons that all was going according to plan.
He was about to make a drink when the gong sounded announcing someone was in the courtyard. He went to the door expecting any one but the Vulcan stood in front of him. It was Koss, T’Pol’s husband of a brief few months.
“If you’re lookin’ for T’Pol, she’s with her Order on Mount Seleya.” Trip went to close the door but Koss raised his hand indicating Trip should listen. He looked at Trip in that entirely enigmatic way only Vulcans can. “That is acceptable to me. I wish to speak with you. May I enter?” Trip could not help but display a look of puzzlement but reopened the door fully. “Be my guest. Though I won’t say this is easy.” Trip picked up some tumblers, a vessel of water and, placing them on the table between them, sat back waiting.
“Charles Tucker, I would encourage you to listen to all I have to say. Only then determine whether my being here is judged not on whether it is easy, but whether it has value.” Trip’s lower lip protruded. “Fair enough.”
“When T’Pol and I fulfilled our betrothal agreement T’Pol thought only of her duty to her mother and tradition. She set aside any other thoughts.” Trip nodded, he knew he did not need to remind Koss that he had practically blackmailed T’Pol over her mother’s predicament. The only reason that Trip had allowed him in was because he had atoned later by honourably withdrawing.
“It is my belief that T”Pol has acceded to the shep ra shen merely to correct the earlier wrong. She is pursuing your request, putting you first before her duty.” Trip was instinctive, “Whaddya mean, duty?” Koss responded. “As I suspected you are not acquainted with all the facts.” Trip was sarcastic. “Well, perhaps you had better fill me in on ‘all the facts’.”
“T’Pol has been appointed Emissary. She is to set out on behalf of Vulcan and Terra for the Romulan home planet and look for peace. She is our last hope of avoiding war. If this ritual is performed she will set off alone. And lost.” Trip stood up and walked out onto the Terrace. He looked at the wonders of the City, with its one million inhabitants and then thought about Earth, about Star Fleet, about everybody he knew and… in particular, about Amanda.
Trip finally returned and spoke.”Would you be able to take me to the Lava Fields?”
Location: Vulcan The Home of T’Les
Day 7 0011 hours
Trip had dressed for the desert journey and had his pack ready for the ceremony. He had left a message with the custodians that he was to leave today and thanked them for their kindness.
He was about to leave when the door opened. “I have come as you asked.” It was T’Pol. She had come after all. He had given up hope that she would respond to his message.
She stood on the opposite side of the room, an uneasiness about her. Trip threw his bags down and looked at her, his hands on his hips. They stood across from each other.
His voice was strident, stronger than it had been for sometime. “Eighteen months ago, I stood in that room,” pointing at the guest room he had stayed in, “and your mother told me I loved you. I told her it really came home to me at the Lava Fields when you told me you were getting married to Koss. She urged me to tell you, you know? Her exact words were ‘it is important for her to have all the facts.’ Yesterday, Koss came to see me.” T’Pol started. An unusual reaction for a Vulcan. “He told me I didn’t have all the facts. That you had been appointed Emissary for Vulcan and Earth. Well, I think it’s high time you and I started making decisions based on the facts.” T’Pol’s head was moving round, she was breathing unevenly, she was barely in control.
“So, here is what is gonna happen. I am not going to pursue Separation at this critical time. Furthermore, I am going with you on this mission and here’s why. First off, I am not having you walk into the Lion’s den on your own. Next, as this is an issue which affects both our worlds I am going to represent Earth. What better way to make Surak’s argument than two people from both planets who have learned to co-operate. And, thirdly, because we have this Bond – which they won’t have a clue about – we have a tactical advantage if things go wrong. Oh, and here is another fact: Admiral Gardner and T’Pau have already agreed.”
T’Pol’s chest began to heave. She closed her eyes, desperate to remain in control. She let out an agonising, heart-rending grown. A single tear fell down her face and it all flew at Trip: twelve months of pent up thoughts and feelings. The regret, the loneliness, the heartache, the guilt, the confusion, more jealousy but most of all the dreadful, aching sense of loss.
Trip looked up, an agonised expression of recognition on his face. “My God, you didn’t want it at all! You have been unhappy, lost, alone all this time. Well, I’ll be darned!” Trip took three strides across the room and pulled T’Pol towards him. “T’Pol, T’Pol, what am I gonna do with you? What am I gonna do about us?”