Location: Military Assault Commander Operations, San Francisco
Year : 2156.70
They had been circling each other for three minutes. Neither was prepared to make a move. Judo was as much a mental as a physical discipline and each of them was looking for a way in, a way to take their opponent down, outwitting the other, both physically and mentally. He reached out with his left foot and went for her right, trying to take her off balance, roll her round and flatten her. The problem was, she knew what he was going to do and why.
As he went in, she stepped to one side, turned, dropped her right shoulder, pulled at the lapels of his Judogi and hurled him over her, the perfect Seol Nage shoulder throw. He came down with a thump on the mat, felt his neck and grimaced, shaking his head from side to side and, if he was honest, finding a new emotion. On this occasion, he was irritated with his failure.
She had outmanoeuvred him at every session for the last ten weeks but his response this time was different. There was no resignation or distraction, his adrenaline began to pump faster and he gave himself a precious thirty seconds to focus. He lifted himself off the mat and took his position. The command came – “rei” – and they bowed to each other. He moved toward her. This time, he was in the zone. Everything slowed down. He had more time to think, more time to plan and was ready for some lateral thinking. He moved in on her, grabbed her lapels and went to move his left foot forward. She sensed the move and was ready to repeat the shoulder throw. But it was a feint. This time his left foot darted across behind her left not her right foot. She lost her balance, fell back and he came down over her at right angles and pinned her down – the perfect Yokoshiho Katame, the four direction hold. The instructor waited to see if she could move free and finally called time: “Mate”. He let go of her and oddly enough she gave him an encouraging smile, hardly the sign of an implacable Judo opponent.
The instructor reminded them they had not finished, “Sergeant, Private remember: best of three.” The atmosphere in the training room changed; everyone was now watching. Water bottles were put to one side, Pads put down. Everyone wanted to see how this would end.
She came in swiftly aiming to grab his lapels and finish the bout quickly. He had other ideas. He moved his feet away from her, frustrating her first attempt. She realised his pace had doubled in these last two bouts and she was now up against a worthy opponent.
They had each other’s lapels. An onlooker not familiar with Judo would think they were performing some kind of strange dance as they deftly probed with their feet: looking for a weakness or momentary lack of concentration.
Finally, she saw her chance; came in ready to twist and take him over her right shoulder. As this was his weak side, she was counting on him remaining defensive, not counter attacking. But she was wrong; he ducked down and with his left arm, held her turn and dropped his left shoulder. A combination of momentum and his grip, sent her flying over his left shoulder, rolling and crashing to the ground with a decisive thump. The MACOs present burst into spontaneous applause but the Private, rather than enjoying the moment, became alarmed. He went over and reached out with his hands to pull her up. “You OK?” he said. She took his hands smiled at him, replying “Just fine, but thank you.” She sat up, but still holding his hands, rocked backwards using the momentum to throw him over her. Everyone laughed, including the Private, as he lay there flat out on the mat.
“OK, Team, a great day. It’s all getting better, some good work today. 0800 hours for small fire arms practice. Well done everyone. And good work, Private.”
The Private lifted himself up, went to grab his towel and made for the changing rooms. He had just reached the door of the training room when a voice behind him reached out to him. “Hey, Private: my place at seven. Bring a chilled bottle of white.” The Private knew exactly what that meant. “Sure thing,” he replied and without turning round, put up his right arm and held his thumb and finger in a gesture which communicated a simple message “A.O.K.”
Location: Sky Tower, San Francisco Harbour
He hit the entry chime at 6.58 pm Pacific Daylight Time. The hydraulic hiss came seconds later. He held the bottle in his left hand with a big grin on his face. “Reportin’ for duty ma’am.” She took him in and just smiled. He wore a sand coloured pair of suede chinos and a burgundy silk top with a fold below the neck line, understated but classy. How things had changed, she thought. Despite the loose fitting top, she knew it covered a body in perfect shape, in fact in better shape than it had ever been. He broke the silence. “Well, am I gonna stand here all night or are you gonna invite me in?”
She reached out, grabbed him by the waist, pulled him in and lifted her face to his. They kissed, not as a prelude to anything but with a warmth, a sincerity and an openness. He still held the bottle in his hand as he moved his hand behind her back and slid it underneath her top and pressed hard. “Woah! That’s cold, Private! Remove it at once!” He laughed, “Yes ma’am.”
They let go of each other and walked across to the island kitchen unit in the centre of the apartment. She took the wine from him. “I’ll put that in the wine chiller.” He looked slightly crest-fallen, wondering if it was the wrong choice. “No, it’s just fine! It’s just we have something to celebrate,” she said, interpreting his look and presenting him with a half bottle of champagne to open. As he opened it, she spoke, “You know, today was the first time you haven’t compensated for that left arm?” A discreet <Pop> from the champagne, as he opened it with aplomb. “Hey, you’re right! When I hit the mat, something happened to me today and I stopped overthinking.”
She put two flutes on the island. He carefully poured and handed the first glass to her, as the bubbles began to settle. She took the glass and spoke, “It was strange for me, too. I wanted to win in front of the guys but I enjoyed seeing you get your mojo.” Both glasses expertly poured, they now leaned against the island and stood looking at each other. “Congratulations, Soldier! You did good today.” They brought the glasses together, clinked and lifted them to their lips, all the while looking across at each other, their eyes smiling. She put her glass down on the island and, rubbing the rim with her finger, looked up at him intensely. “This is more than your first win; it’s about recovery.” As he looked at her, he pursed his lips and nodded, “You’re damn right.” He picked up his glass again and looked at it and thought very carefully about what he was going to say next. “It’s been a hell of a journey and no one has been more important to getting me here than you.” He nodded as he offered his thanks to her. “I’m just glad I have been here for you,” she acknowledged. “It really has been my privilege, if that doesn’t sound too humble, to watch you turn it round.”
He frowned, “Now, you know I don’t like all that hero stuff. Part of this has been realising what a deep hole I was in and that I needed to do a lot of climbin’ to get out. So I am not too happy with all that privilege stuff.” She offered a resigned smile, “That’s why I like you so much and why I wanted to help.” Changing the subject, “I need to give the Chowder some attention; why don’t you pop out on to the balcony? The screen’s up and it’s a beautiful night.”
Charles Tucker the 3rd picked up his glass, walked over to the Observation Deck and slid the glass panel to one side. He took in the breathtaking sight of San Francisco Bay on a beautiful night in the mid 22nd Century. He looked West and took in the twinkling lights of the buildings, the traffic on the water (which he noted was light tonight) and the shuttles crossing the sky. The moon was out and the stars filled the sky. It sure was a beautiful night. He could hear one or two warning horns from the bigger craft on the water; yep, somethings will always be, whatever the technology .
As he stood there, his mind went back to a year ago. When he thought about the date, he realised it was almost a year to the day that they had sent little Elizabeth out into the heavens. Ambassador Soval had given the address at the child’s funeral rite and his old friend, Jonathan Archer, had read some lines from Kahlil Gibran on sorrow.
Throughout, T’Pol and Tucker, the surrogate parents, had remained Bonded to ensure he kept his composure. But afterwards, when everyone had filed out, not having any idea what to say to them and they were alone, T’Pol let go.
Trip received it all. Rage, anger, despair: it all flooded into him. Despite his arm being in a sling he had used his good arm to pull her to him, as she bled internally. After what had seemed like an age of agony, the feelings began to dissipate and what she shared was in some respects more disturbing. T’Pol revealed to him she just didn’t care anymore; she was completely lost. Finally, Trip verbalised. “My God, this is a mess.” She placed her hands around his neck and they stood like that for quite some time. No sharing. Empty. Just a physical connection.
Eventually, she stood back from him and looked up at him, her eyes wide open. “I am leaving for Vulcan.” He thought about that for a moment and let out an ironic sigh, turned his head to the side and nodded. These two had feigned and mis-routed each other many times in the last two years. Their relationship was so often about bluff, but he knew this was entirely different. He looked up to the Cargo Bay roof as if his next words were costing him deeply. “T’Pol, erm, you and I, we’ve been round the block a few times over the years.” She nodded, “I agree.” “But this? This is not good.” he concluded. She simply nodded this time. “I just hope those guys, the priests or whatever they are, can help you.” She looked down, deep in thought for several seconds before lifting her head. Raising an eyebrow with a resigned look on her face, “Who can say?” she uttered. Trip looked at her and realised this amazingly bright Science Officer was out of ideas, out of hope. Out of everything.
She turned to leave. The only sound in the Cargo Bay was the rustle of her robes, as she moved toward the exit. Just as she reached it, she turned and looked at him, “I have been able to make one deduction.” Trip’s eyebrows went up questioning. “I owe you an apology, Trip , I am… ” and she hesitated to use such an informal human word, “… sorry.” And with that, she turned and left.
Suddenly, he was shaken out of his reverie. “Hey, Private, you OK?” Charles Tucker realised he had drifted rather a long way. “Yeah, I’m good. But you know, reachin’ this point – its made me kinda reflective.” She looked hard at him, “Anything you want to share? The Chowder’s ready, come and sit.”
Private Tucker got stuck in. “Wow, Amanda this is the best yet! You’ve really got the hang of this. You have surpassed yourself.” She smiled, “Praise indeed.” He put his spoon down for a moment and wondered where to start, “Well, I am bound to wonder how I got from the shipwreck I was a year ago to now.” “Of course, ” she said, aware of the irony, “it’s only… human.”
“For one thing, Malcolm’s father lending me his beach property in the Indian Ocean for three months? That was a Godsend. Being able to get some diving done and catch lobster without any of these Terra Prime idiots knowing where I was – that was perfect. And whilst I was there I did somethin’ I have never done before, I read. It was one of Malcolm’s Pop’s books that gave me the idea to join the MACOs.” “What do you mean?” She enquired. “Well, there was some British chap who was really famous in the First World War back in the Twentieth Century. He was serving out in the Middle East. Became a bit of a hero. Afterwards, he just wanted to be a regular guy in one of their military forces. It made me realise I wanted to do the same.” He began eating again.
“I think there was more to it than that.” Amanda Cole had become a little more serious. “Another reason why you joined the MACOs, I mean.” She hesitated to say more. “Come on then,” Tucker encouraged. She took a deep breath, “You needed to get your pride back in yourself.” Tucker looked bemused and shook his head, “Whaddaya mean?” he questioned. Amanda ploughed on, “Look Trip, you don’t mind if I call you Trip?” “Course not.” She drove her point home: “Someone stole it and misused it.” Trip stopped again and thought about the implications of what Amanda had said. “My God woman, you’re right! Once I stopped thinking about that little munchkin I felt like, I dunno, like I’d suffered some kind of… rape.”
She exhaled and relaxed, “Exactly! When I came back to Headquarters from my duty on Colombia, you were three months into the training. Six months on, it was obvious to me you were still in trouble. You had lost something; that spark I fell for to begin with…” Trip smiled and looked at her wistfully, “You’re bang on, Amanda”.
“God, that made me so damned angry,” she intervened. “You’d become less of a man. Which you sure as hell are not and did not deserve.” He smiled and looked at her. “Thank you, Amanda. I owe you one heck of a lot.” He finished up his Chowder, “Now, beautiful lady, what’s the next course?” She teased him. “You’re such a Southern Charmer! Wait and see, Private. Wait and see…”
As he finished eating the second course he could not help but smile to himself. Amanda had just cooked him his favourite dish, Pan Fried Catfish, though he was glad she had left out the Hush Puppies, knowing how health conscious he now was. Somehow it was symbolic of everything about their relationship and how easily it came. She knew him because they came from the same area of Florida, even went to the same movie theatres when they were young. It was certainly different from T’Pol. He couldn’t and didn’t want to disguise his enthusiasm. “I can’t believe you did that, how did you know?” She laughed, “Never you mind,” reaching for his hand across the table, “You know that adage ‘the way to a man’s heart…’ ” She changed the subject. “Shall we rest up for a while, before dessert?” he nodded. “Yep, that would be great.”
Trip got up and walked to the observation deck but this time turned to face South, looking down the Bay. She came up behind him and followed his gaze. He was looking at Star Fleet Headquarters. “It’s not them is it? It’s her.” Trip turned to Amanda he knew it was time to talk. “Can we sit, darlin?”
They sat on one of the sofas on the roof terrace; Amanda pouring the last of the wine. “Amanda, what I’m gonna tell you is known only to five people. So this is for you only, promise me?” She nodded. “It’s strange, because in some sense, you’re part of this story.” He paused, drawing breath and summoning up the memory. “During the search for the Xindi I had a lot of trouble sleeping and the Doctor suggested T’Pol helped me with some meditation and what not.” Amanda smiled, “I remember – the neuro-pressure thing.” “Yup, that’s it.” “Well, T’Pol and I became very close. She was a great comfort to me and I somehow became the focus of very strong emotions which she began to experience.” Amanda laughed “Oh, you mean, like jealousy?” Trip smiled as only he could with that huge half moon look. “Yeah, you got it.” “Well, one thing led to another and we were… intimate.” Amanda became thoughtful. She knew this was answering a question that had been in her mind for several weeks, “I see.” Trip looked at her. “I bet you don’t.”
“Vulcans may seem very uncomplicated compared to us, but the truth is it’s the other way round. When a mate is chosen for a Vulcan in childhood, not all but some, with the help of their families, develop a Bond which is consummated when they physically mate. It’s not merely an understanding or real affection beyond their legal obligations; it’s more. Way more… ” She continued to look puzzled, “I am still not with you.” “They share each other’s thoughts.”
“Ok, but you’re not a Vulcan and you haven’t gone through this ‘ritual’?” He put his glass down and held her hand, looking directly at her and hesitated. “I know… but we have it all … without even trying.” She withdrew her hand and got up and walked over to the observation panel and looked out at the view. Everything was now crystal clear. She had puzzled over why Trip had not taken her to bed, now she knew. Whether he wanted to or not, she knew instinctively he couldn’t.
“You know, Trip, I have always believed you were special. Not all that ‘save the planet’ stuff but you, the man: your integrity, your honesty, your honour.” He was scratching his head, vaguely embarrassed at his confession to her, “Thank you.”
Amanda turned to look at him. In the end, she reasoned to herself, T’Pol was a woman even if she was a Vulcan one and Amanda knew women would react to Trip in similar ways. “Trip, can you remember the last thing she said to you?” He frowned, “Oddly enough, yes. I was thinking of it earlier. She said she owed me an apology.” Amanda’s eyes darted about, “Do you know why she apologised?” He shook his head. “I do,” she said. “It was because she realised, like the child, she had drawn you into something without your consent.” Trip looked down for a moment and played the scene again in his mind. It wasn’t a ‘sorry, I am leaving you’, it was an apology for not explaining the potential consequences of becoming intimate. Trip began to shake his head, finally realising what she was trying to tell him in those final moments together and looked up at Amanda. “My God, you’re right!”
Amanda looked at Trip, “You have to believe me, Trip, this has nothing to do with my feelings but you need to find her and find a way of breaking this ‘bond’ between you. Only then can both of you move on… in every sense of the word.”