Wrecked: Human Platitudes

By Escriba

Rating: PG

Genres: angst drama romance

Keywords:

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Disclaimer: Enterprise and its characters are propriety of CBS/Paramount (as if somebody didn’t know it…)

Rating: PG.

Summary: In the last night of Enterprise, a Corporal finds a surprising intruder with a more surprising task to complete.

Note: This is a response to the November Word Prompt Challenge from the TRIS Board.

Thanks to: Alelou, who graciously edited it.


 

Corporal Camilleri walked through the empty corridors of the Enterprise while he tried to absorb some of the courage its walls emanated. This was a ship of legend, the epitome of Humanity’s adventurous nature.

And it was its last night before being stripped down permanently.

Corporal Camilleri could never serve on board, so he considered a privilege to be one of the soldiers to guard it. A night without sleep wasn’t such a sacrifice if he could see it with his own eyes, travel across it, touch it with his hands. He went from room to room, like a curious child.

He came to the Mess Hall. He stopped and inhaled. Such an important room, this one —nerve center of the crew’s social life. Not so long ago, it was full of people (hungry for food and human contact), and now… well, Corporal Camilleri felt a little depressed seeing it so empty.

Until he heard a clang come from the Galley.

Corporal Camilleri only believed in his rifle and the Juventus of Torino. Ghosts weren’t part of his belief system, so he prepared his weapon to shoot and glided silently to the Galley. Before entering, he bent around the doorframe and peeked inside. The sight surprised him: it was a slight, petite woman manipulating what seemed to be an oven. He noticed the woman wore a red catsuit with Enterprise’s patch on it and she was, apparently, repairing something, since she had a toolbox near her. He noticed her green-tinged skin and pointed ears, too.

There was only one Vulcan female who had served on Enterprise: Commander T’Pol.

Corporal Camilleri’s knees trembled. He breathed in and out several times, trying to ease the throbbing lump of anxiety in his stomach. He thought about leaving her alone, but then he reconsidered: not only was this his only chance to talk with somebody like her (a legend only comparable to Captain Archer or the late Commander Tucker), but he also was required to find out what she was doing there (for security issues, of course, nothing personal).

So Corporal Camilleri gathered all his courage and went into the Galley. Although Vulcan hearing was better than Human (according to his exo-biology lessons), she didn’t seem to notice him. He cleared his throat, but got the same result. He coughed then, loudly.

Nothing.

“Eh… Uh… Ma’am? Commander T’Pol?”

“Yes?” she answered without turning around. She had all her concentration focused on the hand coupler.

“What…?” Corporal Camilleri fell silent and pondered his behavior. Acting like a child caught with his hands in the cookie jar was stupid. He was doing his job. She, on the other hand, was in a forbidden sector. “You can’t be here, ma’am. Please, I ask you to leave this place immediately.” She didn’t stop her task. “I don’t want to force you, ma’am.”

“I would deplore such a course of action too.”

But she didn’t halt or turn away from her task. Camilleri began to feel slightly irritated. “Commander T’Pol, leave this place now.”

She kept quiet. Then, she exhaled slowly and put the tool on the worktop.

She turned. “The oven is wrecked, I’m repairing it,” she explained as if it was the most normal thing in the world.

“This ship is going to be cut into pieces tomorrow.”

“I’m very aware of that.”

“Then why—?”

“In the Xindi mission an attack damaged the Galley, not to say a quarter of the ship.”

“The Xindi mission?” What was she talking about? Had she lost her mind?

“The mission entrusted to Enterprise to stop the Xindi weapon before it could destroy Earth as they destroyed… Florida.”

“Yes, I remember, but—”

“Commander Tucker repaired the Galley.” She acquired a wistful expression. “Or that was what he thought. In reality, the oven couldn’t cook at low temperatures and to make it work at high temperatures two hits on the left side, about 30 centimeters from the lowest point, were required. It was nothing serious, since Chef could use the microwave. The oven was seldom used anyway, it was almost a decorative piece of furniture.”

“Ma’am, with all due respect, I don’t understand what—”

“Give me a moment, Corporal.” She inhaled. “Commander Tucker always said he would repair it, but never could, because there were always other tasks to complete first. So it turned into… a running joke. The crew even invented a saying: ‘That will happen when Commander Tucker repairs the oven.’ He was amused by the situation, but I wasn’t, and I told him, in a very severe tone as I recall, to do his job.” T’Pol cocked her head and suddenly seemed nearly ashamed. “We weren’t getting along very well by that time. I had… some issues to resolve.” She exhaled very slowly, almost like a studied movement. “Anyway, he ended promising me that he would repair the oven. But days and weeks and months passed and he didn’t. I inquired about it. Amused, he promised me he would make the repair the last day of Enterprise’s mission.” T’Pol looked at him. It was his imagination or her cheeks were greener? “We… had resolved our differences by then and, since the oven wasn’t vital equipment, I agreed. Hoshi found out about our agreement one day, which means the entire crew ended up knowing it. The Captain suggested a party.” T’Pol inhaled again, a shaky sound. “We were going to have a party: Commander Tucker would repair the oven and the crew would celebrate it. It was scheduled for the last day of our mission. The Captain said: ‘We will throw a hell of a party to celebrate this old lady’s funeral.’ But today we have held a different funeral, and nobody remembers the promise. Except me.”

Corporal Camilleri didn’t know what to say. If she were Human… But she was Vulcan.

Meanwhile, she took her tool again and fiddled about with it. “May I continue?” she asked, not looking at him.

She was in a restricted area, but how could he deny her something so small?

He nodded. She resumed her work. Corporal Camilleri stood in an awkward situation: he didn’t know if he should stay or go away. In the end, his curiosity took the best of him and he decided to watch over Commander T’Pol.

“So…” he began, “you came here to repair the oven.”

“That’s correct.”

“Why?”

“Because it was scheduled for today.”

“Yes, but…” How could he say it delicately? “It was Commander Tucker who was responsible to do it.”

“He is dead, so he can’t do it.”

He flinched. Her coldness was almost brutal. But now that she mentioned it… “I watched… the funeral on TV. Captain Archer’s eulogy was very beautiful.”

“The Captain has a talent for speeches, at least when a gazelle isn’t cited.” She raised her head and looked at him, as if she was expecting a laugh or something. When he didn’t react, she seemed disappointed and turned back to her work again.

“Aside from the oven, this ship is in an extraordinary condition.”

“Commander Tucker took good care of it.” T’Pol banged something metallic repeatedly. “She was his life.”

“He died like a hero,” he forced himself to say.

“He died. The way is irrelevant.”

“Yeah, it’s shitty when somebody near you dies. My brother died,” he confessed suddenly. He was trying to convey that he understood.

T’Pol’s movements slowed down. She glanced at him, wearily.

“He died in the Earth/Romulan War,” he said.

She nodded and worked a little more, then: “Does it hurt less?” she asked.

Prego?”

“Your brother’s death, does it hurt less as time goes by?”

He pondered his answer; she seemed genuinely curious. “Not really. I mean, it hurts less now, I can even talk about it normally, but I miss him more than ever.”

She nodded once more. “Yes, the Captain told me something similar.”

“A wise man, isn’t he?”

“Impulsive and too bold, but yes, wise for a Human.”

It was a weird compliment, he thought.

“And Commander Tucker?” he dared to ask. “How was he?”

T’Pol lowered her arms and turned the tool in her hands, suddenly very interested in it. Corporal Camilleri swore inwards: Vulcan or not, naming a recently dead comrade was insensitive.

“He was irritating,” she said out loud. “He was full of prejudices, had no patience, he used to speak too loud, he never slept, he was too familiar with strangers, especially women, he had an immature sense of humor, his hobby seemed to be to try to exasperate me, he never respected my avoidance of physical proximity, he was an unrepentant carnivore and he had absolutely no taste in clothing.” Her eyes shone by a sudden humidity in them. “He was loyal, caring and brave. But most important of all, he was… my friend.”

Corporal Camilleri wouldn’t have been so touched even if she cried. There was something moving in her vehement rant. He remembered that years ago rumors about an affair between her and Commander Tucker had spread through the galaxy. He thought then that they were nothing more than nonsense, but now, seeing her like that…

“Everybody loved Commander Tucker,” he said. He could have said “respected” or “cared for,” but he wanted to give her a chance to confess something like that without actually confessing it.

She looked at him as if she understood his attempt. “Yes, everybody loved Commander Tucker,” she answered. Her big eyes stared at him with a painful sadness dissolved into a million lights inside her irises. He lowered his head, self-conscious. She took up the repair again.

He saw her precise and assured movements. “You are… coping well with his death,” he said.

“Meditation helps.”

Corporal Camilleri didn’t know how, but her tense voice told him she wasn’t being completely sincere. There she stood, so proud and confident, and yet, she was repairing a wrecked oven in the middle of the night, completing the task of a beloved dead person.

Obviously she was far from being all right.

“One day,” he said, breaking the thick silence, “you’ll wake up, take breakfast, go to work or whatever… You will spend all day and, once in your bed, at night, you’ll notice that you haven’t thought of the deceased person in all that time.”

T’Pol continued fitting two pieces together, but he knew by her softened expression that his words were reaching her. “One day,” he went on, “that will happen. You won’t know why or when, but it will.”

She closed the lid of the wires she was working on and pushed a button above the oven’s door. It turned on. “Repaired,” she informed with an even voice, almost inaudible.

“Good work,” he complimented her.

He saw her moving her jaw sideways in a thoughtful mood. “One day?” she asked.

“One day.”

She nodded slightly, like a determined child before jumping the vaulting horse. Then, she took all the tools, ordered them meticulously in their box and closed it.

“My work is over, so I’ll depart now, Corporal…” She turned and read his name tag. “Camilleri.”

He felt a silly pride inside his chest and smiled automatically. She observed him with a sly gaze.

“Good night, Corporal.”

“G-good night.”

She moved away quietly, like a cat. All the shadows in the Gallery seemed to cover her. He felt the sudden urge to say something, anything. “I’m sorry for your loss.”

She stopped. Corporal Camilleri went over every swear in the planet inside his head. He was such an idiot. She turned toward him. Her face was blank. He was such a loser, and he knew she was thinking the same. How did he dare to say those platitudes that a Vulcan surely would find ridiculous?

“Do you know something curious, Corporal?” she asked.

He swallowed and shook his head no.

“You are the first person to tell me that.” Her gaze softened suddenly. “Thank you.”

Corporal Camilleri was too stunned to answer back. She turned away again and disappeared in the dark corridor.

Corporal Camilleri found himself in an empty room. It occurred to him that in certain occasions even Vulcans needed some Human platitudes.


Comments:

Lady Rainbow
Such a beautiful and moving story. Loved T'Pol's interaction with Camilleri, esp. when she said he was the first person to be sorry for her loss (of Trip). Thanks for a great story.
Transwarp
This is a well-crafted piece. The dark, deserted [i]Enterprise[/i] is a poignant backdrop to your story. The broken oven is BRILLIANT. I wish [b]I'd[/b] thought of it...
dilettante
Heartbreakingly good. Written well -:)
Dinah
What a poignant story, Escriba. T'Pol would probably grieve in just this way. I don't think that, down deep, she would ever fully recover from losing Trip. Great story!
bluetiger
As I said, this was wonderful but it did make me cry. Lovely story
blacknblue
ouch. just ouch.
Aquarius
I will say again that there is such a sad beauty to this piece. It makes so much sense to me that T'Pol would complete this final task on Trip's behalf. That it was so heartbreaking is evidence of how well-done it was.
JadziaKathryn
This is sad, but good. In a universe that never [i]actually[/i] happened, of course. Really, this seems like an appropriate gesture for a grieving T'Pol. But the fact that noody else said they were sorry for her loss doesn't say much about the rest of the crew...
Asso
Can I repeat here what I said on the board? And now what could I say? Trip probably would have said: "Damn Basque woman! Damn sly and clever female!" You flatter me and inflate my ego, and - in doing that - you sweetly stab me! Disappointed? Me? SURE! [b]But the worst it is you wrote a delicious, moving, luminous piece![/b]:D Mumble... mumble... mumble... Damn Basque woman! Damn sly and clever and gifted female! Mumble... mumble... mumble... Too lovely, damn! Too...:@ Mumble... mumble... mumble...;)
Vaux
Beautiful! You broke my heart, but it's really beautiful.
Reanok
Escriba this was well written and heart breakingly sad poor T'Pol I feel so bad for her in this story.
Alelou
This is one of the loveliest, saddest TnT stories ever. Beautiful.
Elessar
Extraordinary. That's the only word for it. I've never read a story like this, I've never seen a T'Pol like this. It's funny because there is a time and place for this T'Pol, she wouldn't fit in almost any other story, but she fits in this one, and no other T'Pol would. Unbelievable. Great!

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