This is the last part of this story. I'm kind of sad to see it end. I've liked living in Trip's head for a while.
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Trip rested his back against the wall of the truck, Malcolm's head again pillowed on his lap as he slept. They'd been driving for an hour, maybe longer, and Malcolm had been dozing off and on since they'd left, the movement of the vehicle, plus their full bellies, lulling them into a daze.
The truck rolled to a stop, and Trip heard the driver get out, walking around to the back. The door opened to reveal the driver, smiling as he waved them out.
"Malcolm," Trip said quietly, shaking his friend's shoulder.
"Mmrf," Malcolm replied.
"We're there, kid."
Malcolm opened his eyes and stared up at Trip, smiling.
Trip and Malcolm lay in the grass, waiting for the shuttle to arrive.
It's such a beautiful place, Trip thought, staring up at the clouds. He breathed in, his nose filling with the scent of the grasses around him.
He turned his head to the side and, seeing Malcolm sleeping again, he turned back to the clouds. To him, the violence here seemed so arbitrary, the sides randomly drawn; he couldn't even see the difference between the two peoples, and yet the Proszka felt the difference was enough to kill the Czarna. It was unbelievable, really.
Trip rolled over onto his belly and started tugging at the grass, combing it between his fingers.
He heard the guards before he saw them, then saw a group of them advancing, their weapons drawn. They saw him before he could do anything and he heard them calling to each other, raising their weapons and pointing them at him. He froze where he was, face down on the ground, and spread his arms out to the side.
Turning his head, he could see Malcolm still beside him, sleeping. As some of the guards pulled Trip to standing, he saw others train their weapons on Malcolm, and one poked at him with the barrel of his weapon.
Malcolm stirred, then woke all at once as they pulled him up violently. He hissed in pain, and one of the guards smiled.
Trip realised that they knew. He could see it in the guard's vicious smile, in his eyes; he knew that Malcolm was hurt.
Trip panicked as he saw the guard raise his weapon, training it on Malcolm, and he yelled as his own guards pulled him forward, forcing him to start marching, to leave Malcolm behind. Trip tried to turn back, desperate, and he caught a glimpse of one guard, weapon at the ready, and Malcolm standing there.
The guards pulled Trip forward again, forcing him to move.
He heard a shot behind him.
Trip winced, cringing at the sound, tears forming in his eyes as his breath caught. They were so close. They'd been so close.
He heard the noise of the shuttle's engines before he saw it.
Trip opened his eyes, wincing at the pain in his head. He squinted and tried to make out his surroundings. The smells were different, the light was all wrong. Where were the clouds?
"You have a nasty concussion," Phlox said, his concerned face coming into view. "A guard hit you with his weapon just as the shuttle arrived." Seeing Trip's look of confusion, he asked, "Do you remember what happened, commander?"
Trip closed his eyes. "So close," he murmured. "We almost made it." His head started spinning. "Wasn't enough…"
Trip opened his eyes, staring up at the lights above him. Sickbay. Enterprise.
He heard a soft voice. "Hey, Trip."
He turned his head and saw Hoshi sitting in a chair next to his bed, one of her hands resting on his arm. "Hey, Hosh," he gasped, his voice raw. "How are you?"
"I should be asking you, commander."
Trip shrugged and looked away.
Hoshi rubbed his arm very gently. "Phlox removed the burn."
Trip glanced down at his arm, and Hoshi lifted her hand to reveal a mild red area where the brand used to be. He nodded and she moved her hand, grasping his, then letting go.
Trip stared at the ceiling, numb. He drifted with his thoughts. What was one life lost? Why mourn one person when so many more were dying? He started humming, "Give me useless, beautiful things…"
After a while, Trip realised that Hoshi was still sitting next to him.
"How long have I been here?"
"A few days, just," she replied. "You were in pretty rough shape."
"How are things in engineering?" he asked, trying to act normal, to make conversation.
Hoshi smiled broadly. "What, you want out already? I figured it would be Malcolm who…"
Trip started in shock, and Hoshi stopped speaking, her eyes widening as the realisation hit her. She rushed on. "Oh, Jesus, Trip. I'm so sorry. It's not what you think." She smiled gently. "He's right over there." She indicated the area on the other side of his bed. "He's sleeping."
Trip turned and saw Malcolm asleep on the bed across the room. He laughed, a sudden bark as a rush of feeling overwhelmed him, and turned back to Hoshi. "He's always sleeping," he whispered, his voice hoarse. Then he closed his eyes, and he felt the numbness start to melt. He began to cry quietly.
Trip's poem is Murmurings in a Field Hospital, from Carl Sandburg's Chicago Poems.