On the day of his and T’Pol’s departure, the Zeons threw them a parade.
At least they’re not shooting at
us, Trip told
himself wryly when the urge to fidget started to become too much to
At his side, her expression calm and resolute, T’Pol did a nearly
perfect job of pretending that she was actually paying attention to
the procedings, although Trip knew for a fact that she had discreetly
turned off the translator earpiece almost two hours earlier. He had
filed the information away for later harassment – he looked forward
to hearing her tortured reasoning as she explained to him why doing
so was in any way logical – but made no effort to bring it to the
attention of the Zeons.
Instead, he focused on watching the locals.
This was why he had joined Starfleet in the first place, to see
things no humans had seen before and visit worlds that Earth had only
imagined. He intended to enjoy the moment, no matter how unbelievably
bored he actually was.
And God help him, he was bored out of his skull.
Eventually, the speeches began to wind down, no doubt encouraged by the
waning attention of the crowd – there were fewer and fewer applause
lines, more attendees carrying on their own conversations, and quite
a number simply walking away. When First Elder Sarai came to the
podium, her remarks were short and succinct – Trip didn’t know what
she said, but it resulted in laughter and cheers.
“Think you better turn your earpiece back on,” Trip muttered under his
breath. T’Pol gave him a sidelong look, complete with raised eyebrow.
Less than a heartbeat later, her lips curved up ever so slightly in
that not-quite smile he loved so much.
“Yes,” she murmured so softly that he had to strain to hear her, “that
certainly seems the logical course of action.” A slight frown marred
her otherwise flawless features. “I believe they expect me to make a
speech,” she announced softly, dismay and nervousness lurking in her
“Pity the captain’s not here,” Trip said with a tight smirk. “He
loves this sort of thing.”
T’Pol responded only with a flat look before returning her attention
to the podium.
A speech was expected and Trip
watched as she took the stage. Not for the first time, he wondered
how to reference her in terms that made sense to a human. Girlfriend
seemed too … high school and not serious enough for what they were;
the word lover didn’t fit either as it carried illicit undertones
that simply weren’t apt; and unlike her, he wasn’t entirely
comfortable using the term ‘mate.’ Partner almost worked, although
that too wasn’t entirely the correct word. Shaking his head to clear
it – you can think about this
later, he told himself sharply – Trip focused on the words of the
petite woman who had so changed his life.
“We thank the Council and the Zeon people for their assistance,” T’Pol
said in a seemingly calm voice that would have fooled him a year ago.
She was beyond uncomfortable and he automatically took several steps
closer so that he was at her shoulder. From where she stood, Dena
paused slightly before resuming her translation from Tandosian to her
native Zeon, but Trip ignored her. T’Pol continued in a stronger
voice, thanking individual people – Dena’s family received special
accolades – before she shifted into a more professional-sounding
speech that was tantalizingly familiar. Long minutes later Trip
finally realized that T’Pol was regurgitating, word for word, one of
Jon’s better First Contact speeches.
It took every gram of his self-control to keep from grinning, although
from the glances she gave him, T’Pol knew he was laughing inside.
The applause T’Pol received when she finished was so loud and extended
that it caused them both to flinch. To Trip’s surprise, T’Pol
discreetly reached for his hand. He blinked in astonishment – she so
rarely initiated physical contact in public that it almost seemed out
of character for her – and then barely kept from grimacing when she
maneuvered him to the podium that had the microphones atop them like
a ridiculous-looking basket of alien fruit. The flicker of nearly
malicious amusement that flashed through his head had a distinctly
Vulcan feel to it. That’ll
teach me, he reflected while forcing another smile on his face.
The crowd went silent absurdly fast and he swallowed.
“I am not especially good at this sort of thing,” he said in his best
Tandosian, pausing to allow Dena to translate before resuming, “so I
will keep this short.” The smile he flashed this time was heartfelt.
“First, thank you for not shooting at us,” he said wryly. “I cannot
speak for T’Pol,” he added, “but I lost my taste for that after the
first dozen times.” Laughter rippled through the crowd. Trip inhaled
– what to say next? T’Pol had covered all of the important parts and
he had never been any good at this in the first place – before
straightening his posture slightly. “Second and far more important,”
he said with another smile, “be excellent to each other.” The movie
fan buried deep inside him snickered at the resulting applause – who
knew stupid comedies from the twentieth century were good for
speeches? – and, on instinct, he lifted his hand and saluted the
audience with the ta’al. He
felt rather than saw T’Pol start at his adoption of the Vulcan
gesture. The urge to tell them to ‘party on’ was nearly overwhelming.
When he stepped back from the podium, the crowd once more erupted in
cheers, and the First Elder swept in to take his place, once more
chattering away in the gibberish they called a language. Trip
reclaimed his place next to T’Pol.
“An interesting phrase,” T’Pol murmured softly and Trip smirked.
“At least I managed to avoid mentioning gazelles,” he replied in an
equally low voice. “For a second there,” he added, “I thought you
were going to mention how you once watched sehlats grazing near the
Forge.” T’Pol glanced at him before pursing her lips. Even through
the magical psychic connection linking them, Trip could not tell if
she was amused or irritated. From her body language, though, he
guessed it was a little bit of both.
“Be well,” Dena instructed as she gave them both a quick hug. T’Pol
froze in surprise and discomfort at the blatant physical invasion of
her personal space but just managed to not flinch or recoil. She
backed away from further contact and, without hesitation, Trip
stepped forward to run interference. He smiled and shook hands and
accepted back-slapping hugs, all the while slowly backing toward the
T’Muna-Doth. At the open
hatch, he paused and offered a wave to the assembled Zeons gathered
around the Launchpad. Their applause was deafening.
“Finally,” he murmured as he stepped onto the ship and pressed the
button that sealed the hatch. T’Pol was already halfway for the
ladder leading to the command deck, so Trip made a beeline to the
reactor room where he spent several long moments re-checking the
various readouts and displays. Nothing had truly changed – while
relatively advanced, the Zeons were still not a warp-capable culture
so they hadn’t developed any way to obtain deuterium, which left the
T’Muna-Doth dangerously low
of the isotope. The supply of warp plasma was equally limited,
although Trip was less concerned about this since they wouldn’t be
able to maintain a steady warp four for very long. Hell, he wasn’t
sure they could stay at warp three!
“We have received clearance for departure,” T’Pol’s voice crackled out
of the nearby wall panel.
“Bringing reactor online now,” Trip said in response. He frowned at some
of the fluctuating readings – nacelle number three continued to worry
him – but nothing was below the danger threshold. “All systems
reading amber,” he said with a slight smirk. “You are good to go.”
“Acknowledged.” A subtle tremor rolled through the floor as she engaged
the engines and slowly fed power into the maneuvering drive.
Automatically, Trip activated one of the wall displays that provided
the exterior view. He felt the tension in his shoulders ease as the
Zeon landscape rapidly fell away. It was not that he had distrusted
them – out of all the aliens he’d met over the years, they’d been
among the friendliest, but by God, they liked to talk. Trip smiled:
Jon would have been right at home.
“Accelerating to warp factor one,” T’Pol announced long moments later.
Soft chimes echoed throughout the ship and Trip leaned forward to
watch his panel. Excitement warred with trepidation, but he pushed it
aside and focused on making sure everything was working as expected.
The T’Muna-Doth shivered slightly as they went superluminal and the
nacelle temperatures spiked more than he expected, but it was well
within safety parameters.
“You are go for warp two,” Trip said. T’Pol did not respond vocally as
she eased the starship to eight times the speed of light. “Now bring
her up to warp three … slowly …”
“I have done this before,
Commander,” T’Pol remarked, her voice nearly dripping with amusement.
“Transiting through the heliopause … now.”