Just Plane Crazy (Part 1)
Genre: Romance, Humor, Adventure, AU
Disclaimer: Except for some Vulcan OC's, all characters belong to the show-runners. I'm only borrowing them
Timeline: End of episode "Kir'Shara"
Quite a while back, my incessant blather about aviation (you can tell I'm an aviation nut, can't you) made Linda (of TriS and HoT fame) challenge me to write a story that involves planes on Vulcan. It has been on my mind for a long time and I finally managed to start it. It is a special piece of writing for me, because Linda was my very first beta reader back in 2009. Everyone, who has ever beta'ed for a non-native speaker, should know what kind of difficult task that is. Her kind words and helpful tips made me confident enough to try more fanfic writing. Thanks Linda, this one's for you.
Like many other males of the species, I hate the useless TnT angst of season 4, effectively rendering Trip a pitiful doormat. That's why I take this AU immediately after T'Pol's shambles of a marriage is dissolved. This story involves planes, so you'll find some aviation related technobabble in it.
Btw; if anyone wonders why Trip actually met his great grandfather: It isn't that unusual. My great grandfather (mother's branch) died when I was 24 years old. It is reasonable to believe that in 140 years from now such things will be more common due to longer life span.
T'Pol looked at the closing door of her quarters, shell-shocked. However involuntary this marriage had been, after the death of her mother Koss had been the last member of anything resembling a family. She was now truly alone - and realizing it - shocked her deeply.
She was sure, that her human friends would not abandon her, but the only one of them, who could give her the same sense of protection, safety and contentment that a Vulcan family would, was Commander Tucker. But he was – as the humans used to say – heart-broken, because of her. While he was not really suffering from any cardiovascular disease, she now began to understand why humans had invented such a phrase. The sense of rejection and the feeling of being completely alone, which Koss' release from their marriage had evoked, was almost physically painful.
Still looking at the same spot on the wall that she had fixed her glance on since Koss had left, she almost didn't notice the door chime. T'Pol wasn't really keen to see any visitors, but somehow she believed to know who it was – or did she just hope?
"Hi, there. I heard what happened on the surface and I wanted to see, how ya holdin' up. You OK?"
Trip expected the usual, clipped 'Yes, Commander', but to his shock she just said nothing and shook her head to indicate 'No'.
Racing to her side he took her hand in his. "I just met Koss in the launch-bay. He looked at me as if he was gonna kill me – and only me. Did something happen?"
"He released me from our marriage," she answered and Trip didn't think it sounded like she was happy about it.
"That's a good thing, innit?"
"You do not understand..." T'Pol said barely above a whisper.
"Let me see. Your mother died, your father is dead, you have no siblings and even if you were blackmailed into marrying him, your husband just dumped you. On top of that, after my stupid Romeo and Juliet comment, you don't expect me to come back. You're left alone. And, as if that wouldn't be enough, Jon just found some artifact that proves that most of your beliefs and traditions have been perverted by people like V'Las. So you're not only lonely but confused as hell, too."
He was startled when she looked at him, her brown eyes filled with sadness, agony and tears trying to escape her desperate attempts to suppress such an unseemly display of emotions.
"How can you know all this?"
"Because I already was there. Not the artifact thing, but I lost Lizzy, my home and ... I lost you," he added, now barely above a whisper himself.
T'Pol's barely intact control reached the end of the rope when she realized that after her marriage to Koss, Trip had been in the same agonizing pain that she felt now. The tears started falling. She quickly turned away from him, but made no effort to let go of his hand.
Trip was shocked and confused for a moment. Tears were nothing he associated with Vulcans. He recovered quickly, remembering several instances of T'Pol showing unexpected emotional reactions. The image of T'Pol screaming at him when she tried to go off half-cocked to look for Archer at Azati Prime, the sneering at her mother during the argument over breakfast during their visit to Vulcan where only two prominent examples. Something must have had happened to her emotional control and if Malcolm's horror stories were to be believed, it all began on the Seleya. Trip made a mental note to ask her about it, but now was not the time.
"Turn around, darlin'. Look at me," he demanded softly.
"It is unseemly to be seen in such condition. Vulcans do not cry."
"You obviously do," he insisted. "I think something happened to you in the Expanse, so you might just as well learn to live with it. Look at me," he repeated, ignoring her protest, and watched on as she very slowly turned around to face him. Her face was a mess. She wasn't hysterically crying and screaming, not even sobbing, but a steady stream of silent tears ran down her cheeks. Her shame about the emotional display was cleanly visible – at least to him.
He gently wiped her tears away.
"Unless you wanna kick me out of here again, you better get used to me seeing you when you have a hard time, because I'm not planning to go anywhere. Not without you."
If the situation wouldn't have been so tragic, he would have smiled about the look of complete bafflement that she shot him. Obviously she hadn't expected him to say that – not after all she had done to him.
"I... I do not wish that you go anywhere. You are..., where I wish you to be."
Now it was his turn to look baffled. For a Vulcan her words were unusually direct. For T'Pol, who was usually loathe to admit to anything, it was a sensationally open admission. Gently he took her in his arms, letting her head rest on his broad chest.
"It's ok, darlin', let it out," he soothed and gently rubbed her back while her tears continued to drop, landing on his uniform. "Maybe it's not the way Vulcans do it, but I don't mind. Grief is hard on anyone."
"Vulcans must... grieve in meditation."
"First let out all the pain," he returned softly. "Then you can meditate until the cows come home."
The tiniest smile graced his features as he noticed T'Pol's momentary confusion about the phrase. After a moment, she looked up at him.
"Will you help me?"
"Sure, but I don't know how much help I'll be. I've never meditated before."
"Just being close will help," she explained and put her head back on his chest – tears still continuing to fall.
Trip started to wonder, just how much water there was in the tear-sacs of a female from a desert planet.
It was good to be home. While it certainly was an honor to be carrying Surak's katra, it was an even more glorious feeling to have it gone. After days of having a 2000 year old logical ghost rattling around in his skull Jonathan Archer enjoyed the silence in his mind. Nonetheless the last days had taken a toll and his mood could only be described as utterly foul.
Exiting the shuttle that had taken him from the surface back to Enterprise, he ordered Travis to tie her down and walked over to the nearest com-panel.
"Archer to T'Pol."
No reaction came.
"Archer to T'Pol, please respond."
Archer was startled to hear Trip's voice. Why was his chief engineer answering hails for T'Pol?
"Sorry Cap'n, but T'Pol's not really in a condition to answer right now. Is it urgent?"
"What happened? Should I contact Phlox?"
"Not something Phlox could help with. He had a look at her wounds, but..."
"But what? What's going on Trip?" Archer demanded, probably a bit too strongly, but he realized that too late.
"Dammit Jon, her mother died!"
"I know," Archer sighed and began to realize that he had just made a fool of himself. "I'm sorry Trip, guess I'm a bit cranky. Are you with T'Pol?"
"Yeah, I'm helping her with meditation."
"Good, I'll see you both at breakfast tomorrow – 0800?"
"We'll be there. Tucker out."
"Trip helping T'Pol with meditation?" Archer asked with a disbelieving look at Travis.
"I don't know, Sir, but I actually expected that she would turn to Commander Tucker for help at a time like this."
"Did I miss something?" the Captain asked, while the two officers left the launch-bay. "I know they've been doing that neuropressure thing, but I thought that was a therapeutic measure to help Trip sleep?"
"You don't eat in the mess hall too often, Sir. Else you would know that Commander T'Pol and Commander Tucker have been sitting at lunch together for at least two years. I think it started around the time we ran into the Romulan minefield. They're very good friends and for a Vulcan loosing her mother must be really hard. It's only logical that she asks Commander Tucker for help. He's her closest friend on the ship."
Archer smiled about Travis' reference to logic, but at the same time he felt a strange jolt of uneasiness. Had he become so distant from the crew that he didn't know just how close the two of them had become?
"Ouch," Trip exclaimed as he looked at T'Pol's meditation posture. "I don't think I can do that. I'm not exactly a gymnast."
"You may sit behind me and frame your legs around me. Such posture will be easier for you to maintain."
Trip did as she asked, but he became acutely aware that it would take quite some restraint to prevent an embarrassing body reaction. Feeling somewhat unsure what to do with his hands, he rested them on his knees and was taken by surprise, when T'Pol grabbed them and slung them around her waist.
"I need you close," she whispered. "Concentrate on a calm, steady sensation, like the flame and free your mind of all thoughts."
"I'm an engineer, darlin'," he whispered back. "Engine sound's gonna do it for me."
"Very well," she answered and drifted off into a much needed meditation.
To his surprise, after listening to the steady thrum of his engines with closed eyes for a while, Trip drifted off as well.
T'Pol came out of her meditation, still feeling the agony over her mother's death, but a lot calmer and more in control of her raging emotions. Hearing no response from Trip, she realized that he was still in meditation. She gently leaned into him to rouse him out of it.
"Hmmm," Trip hummed as T'Pol snuggled into him.
"What'cha apologizing for?"
"It is 0500. Your helping me denies you sufficient sleep."
"We've been at it for 7 hours?" Trip asked in disbelief. "Well, at least that explains why my butt hurts like hell."
T'Pol nodded. "I have never meditated for such a long time and my... behind is sore as well."
"Ya needed it darlin'," he answered and she leaned her head into his touch, when his hand caressed her cheek. "Is it ok if I crash in your bunk for an hour or two before we meet Jon?"
"I was hoping you would stay here... and not only today," she answered.
"Are you asking me to relocate here?"
"If that is agreeable for you...," she whispered with a hint of insecurity.
Trip laughed. "Darlin', I'm in love with you. I've been dreaming to wake up in your bed for ages. Of course I will stay here."
T'Pol ignored the sore backside as she hurriedly got up and swung around, staring at Trip. Although the concept of 'love' was rather alien to Vulcans, she knew the magnitude of importance that using the L-word carried for humans.
"What's wrong?" he asked.
"I had lost hope that you would ever speak those words to me," she whispered, her glance cast down firmly.
"I'm not sugar-coating it for you," he answered, gently caressing her cheek. "There was a time, when I had lost hope, too. But now that you're out of that mockery of a marriage, I'll grab the bull by the horns and the only one who could stop me is you. But you don't look like trying to do so."
"How does arresting a male bovine help?" she asked with a raised eyebrow.
T'Pol relished the look on him as he was startled for a moment and then started laughing. "You did that on purpose T'Pol, didn't you?"
"My experiment was obviously successful," she delivered deadpan.
"Let's get some sleep, darlin'," he said, still chuckling, and T'Pol let him lead her to her bunk.
They didn't bother to strip out of their uniforms and snuggled up to each other on her bunk.
"I could definitely get used to this," he sighed.
"You will, I promise," T'Pol murmured sleepily as both soon drifted off into much needed, if short, sleep.
X X X
"Mornin', Cap'n," Trip greeted as he led T'Pol – gently holding her hand - to her chair and held it out for her. Captain Archer wondered if any of them was aware of just how obvious their behavior was. He grew irritated as he had known Trip to be an old-fashioned gentlemen. His conduct was certainly not appropriate towards a married woman – regardless of her species.
"Trip," he began slightly confused. "Since when did you abandon your manners?"
"I didn't. T'Pol's not married anymore and to be honest, we did it on purpose to get it over with."
"Pardon?" Jon asked back – his confusion growing even bigger.
"Jon, T'Pol was released from her marriage and we're together. Nothing short of a firing-squad will change that."
The captain swallowed his answer, because the steward entered the room to set out the dishes – scrambled eggs for the men and a bowl of Plomeek broth for T'Pol.
"Travis told me you two were close," Jon mentioned between bites. "Have I really gotten that ignorant that I didn't notice it?"
"You've secluded yourself in the Expanse," Trip answered. "Probably part my fault. I was too messed up myself to be any help for you."
Jon held up his hand. "Forget that thought, Trip. If it wasn't for T'Pol you would have been even more messed up than I was. I suppose the neuro-pressure thing played a part in this... development?"
The captain saw the surprise on Trip's face when T'Pol answered.
"It was merely a welcome reason to spend time together. While it was necessary to alleviate Trip's insomnia, it was not the reason for our mutual attraction. It already existed before. We did of course try to keep it secret, which is most likely the reason, why you did not notice it. Now, however, there is no longer a reason to keep our relationship a secret, unless Starfleet opposes our union."
Jon smiled. "Don't worry T'Pol. Since we got back from the Expanse, the no-frat rules have been almost abandoned. As long as your duty isn't affected, you're good to go and I've got no doubts about the professionalism of you two. Congratulations."
"Thanks, Cap'n," Trip answered with a grin that Jon could only classify as goofy. "So what's coming up now?"
"Actually nothing," Jon explained. "As a show of gratitude, Minister T'Pau has granted the crew permission to visit Vulcan. Starfleet agreed to a whole month of shore leave."
"Yay for Starfleet," Trip enthused.
"The Vulcans also... um... asked a favor of you."
"Yes," Jon answered and his grin widened. "The Vulcan Science Academy, specifically the Engineering Institute, asked if you would hold some guest lectures."
Jon saw Trip's eyes widen to saucer dimensions.
"What do they want with me? Hell, I may be good with a warp 5 engine, but they are at ...what?... warp 7?"
"They are more interested in history," the captain explained. "Now that they are reviewing some of their dogmas, they'd like some first hand information from us."
"The Vulcan Science Directorate claimed for a long time that time travel is impossible," T'Pol filled in.
"Yeah," Jon continued. "That's why I'll be holding guest lectures, too. They want to learn about my adventures with our 'friend' Daniels."
"Imagine that," Trip exclaimed with a laugh. "Still not sure where I fit in."
"You once told me that your gramps had historic planes," the captain said.
"Great granddad, actually. Had a lot of old propeller planes. Cessna's, Piper's – hell even an old Antonov. Trust me, these things are a helluva lot more fun to fly than any shuttle pod," Trip explained and Jon smiled at Trip's sudden enthusiasm.
"Then you'll like your lectures," he explained. "Up to now the Science Directorate claimed that there's no way that a heavier-than-air structure can fly without at least impulse drive, much less without anti-grav devices."
"What? Didn't they have planes on Vulcan?" Trip asked with a look at T'Pol.
"No. We did not need them. For airborne warfare, which only happened before the time of awakening, we used Lan'kagars. Airborne travel was not done before we developed ion drive and impulse engines."
Jon shot her the same riddled look as Trip.
"Lan'kagars are large predatory birds, fairly comparable to what Earth mythology calls dragons."
"You rode dragons?" Trip asked and couldn't help but laugh.
"Now you're pulling our leg, T'Pol," Jon butted in.
"I do not remember pulling any of your limbs, Captain."
Jon saw Trip howl in laughter and shot him a confused glance.
"Welcome to the Vulcan sense of humor, Cap'n!"
X X X
Trip looked around in confusion. Just a minute ago, he was sitting in the Vulcan Science Academy, waiting for Professor Solan and suddenly he was in a completely empty white space. In front of him sat T'Pol.
"Where are we?" he asked.
"What are you doing here?" T'Pol asked with an equally confused expression.
"Damned if I know. I'm waiting for Professor Solan and suddenly I'm in this... well, nothingness."
"You must leave," she urged. Before he could answer, a loud voice sounded in the white space.
Suddenly Trip found himself back in the Science Academy – slightly disorientated. A young Vulcan male stood in front of him, looking expectantly at him.
"Professor Solan is waiting for you."
Trip nodded wordlessly and followed the Vulcan.
X X X
"Peace and long life Professor."
"Live long and prosper, Commander," the tall Vulcan replied. "We are honored to make your acquaintance."
"I come because of your request for some guest lectures. I think we can arrange that."
Professor Solan watched with interest, how the human tried to keep his expression as neutral as possible. He had been warned that the human Charles Tucker III was one of the more emotional specimen of his race, but so far he had been surprisingly unemotional.
"We are honored. Were you informed about the topics?"
"I was. You want to learn about historic airplanes. You're lucky; I actually flew some of them when I was young."
Solan raised a surprised eyebrow. The human surely did not look old enough to have lived at the time. The human engineer seemed to notice it.
"My... how would T'Pol say... second forefather collected old airplanes. Some were over a century old. He taught me to fly them."
"Now that Vulcan is reconsidering their beliefs and traditions, we decided to review some of the postulations of the science directorate. It appears that they did mislead us in more regards than only the possibility of time travel."
"They sure did," Trip agreed. "But why would you want to prove them wrong on something as ancient as conventional airplanes? It's not like you would gain anything from it."
"You may not know what kind of potential benefit might come out of such a discovery. As far as I understand historic airplanes were mostly of a mechanic nature instead of relying on electronics, were they not?"
"Well, to a degree. Before the mid 20th century planes were mostly mechanic. After that electronics became a vital part."
"As you may know," Solan explained. "The Vulcan Forge has a natural dampening field that renders all kinds of electronic devices inoperable. If we were to prove that a mechanical airborne device was able to function in this environment, it would allow us to venture into the Forge without risking death by sand fires or predatory wild life."
"Now I get'cha," Trip said with a grin.
"So do you think that the science directorate misinformed us about the possibility of mechanical airborne travel?" Solan asked.
"Well only partly," Trip explained. "According to my scanner readings, I would say Vulcan's atmosphere has about the same density as the air on Earth in 10.000 feet height. Many of the old propeller planes wouldn't work here. They would be too slow to take off in such a thin atmosphere."
"Feet?" Solan asked.
"It's an old unit of length, about 0.3 meters. Many aviation measurements are expressed in historic imperial units, like knots for speed and feet for height."
"Fascinating. So, if I understand you correctly, many earth airplanes would not have functioned on Vulcan."
"Only the small propeller planes. They wouldn't be fast enough to keep the airflow over the wings going. Earth was using primitive internal combustion engines at the time. Later, when turbofan engines were developed, planes got quicker and could fly higher. A turboprop or jet airplane would easily fly on Vulcan, just not as high as on Earth."
Solan watched as the engineer moved his tongue inside his cheek. He did not know, what that gesture meant for humans, but his guest looked like being in deep thought, so he decided to remain quite.
"You know, Professor; I have an idea. Instead of having only theoretical lectures, why don't we build a plane. I guess you have enough engineers, who know how to use a welding torch?"
"Would that not require a significant amount of time?"
"With today's technology, I'd say about 2 weeks. It's not like we're trying to build a 747."
"Your offer is most generous," Solan replied, ignoring the unknown numerical reference. "But we would not wish to occupy so much of your time. I understand your crew was given 4 weeks of shore leave. You would have to sacrifice half of that time."
"Don't worry, Professor. Building something is the best vacation I can imagine and I'm staying here on Vulcan, so it won't bother me."
"We are honored."
X X X
Trip walked through the door of the house that now was T'Pol's.
"Evening, darlin'," he greeted and leaned in to kiss her. The gesture was gently returned.
"Was your conversation with Professor Solan productive?"
"Sure," Trip answered with a wide grin. "We're going to build an airplane."
Trip watched one of T'Pol's eyebrows creep north. It was one of the things he liked about her.
"How was your day," he asked.
"I spent most of it in meditation, although I find it most difficult without your presence. I was later debriefed by Minister T'Pau and Ambassador Soval. I also received official documents, which declare my marriage to Koss annulled."
"Strange," Trip returned. "How come that you've got problems meditating without me?"
"I do not know, but Minister T'Pau offered a theory. She explained that a Vulcan mating bond could have been formed between us. It is one of the concepts which were lost before Captain Archer found the Kir'Shara."
"She knows... about us?"
"Yes and she fully supports our relationship."
"Wow," Trip said in surprise, before remembering the question he had initially planned to ask after her explanation. "What's a mating bond?"
"It's a mental connection between mates. Emotions, thoughts, even images can be shared. Such a connection needs time to build. That is the origin for the tradition of living together for a year after marriage."
"Did you have such thing with Koss?"
"No, but if we have a mating bond, it would explain the severe repulsion I felt during the ceremony."
"What does that mean for us? Do we need a year of leave?"
"No, we're residing together on Enterprise. However it may have consequences for you."
"The daydream," Trip muttered.
"When I was waiting for Professor Solan, I had a sort of daydream. I ended up in an empty white space with you sitting in it. We even spoke."
"I told you to leave," she remembered.
Trip looked at her in surprise. "So it wasn't a fantasy..."
"No it was real. Minister T'Pau's theory was correct. We are bonded."
"So, if we're bonded... What exactly does it mean for us?"
"Bonding is a life-long commitment. While a bond can be severed, it is only possible to do so at terminal risk for both mates."
"Till death do us part," Trip muttered and noticed T'Pol's confused eyebrow-lift.
"Part of human marriage vows," he explained.
"Fascinating. By Surak's true teachings, we are considered a married couple."
Trip looked at her in a mix of astonishment and joy. "You're my wife?"
"Yes, husband," she answered, while Trip took her in his arms and swirled her around with happy enthusiasm.
"We need to do something though," he continued, once he had set T'Pol back to the ground. "It would be tricky if I zoned out during work."
"It would be prudent for me to be present during your work. A forming mating bond draws mates together. The longer the distance is the more severe are the symptoms. We also need to inform Professor Solan. He will know how to expect certain reactions."
"Hm. I wanted to ask your help anyways. We need to find a way to synthesize kerosene. Do you think that's possible?"
"We could modify one of Enterprise's resequencers, but I first need to study the substance. I can do that at the science academy, while you work with the engineers."
"Great! All I have to do is find some design specs. I'll call Starfleet Engineering. Do we have a subspace terminal around here?"
"There is one in the meditation room."
"Great, how about me getting that call in and then we do some meditation? You look like it would do you some good."
"That would be agreeable, husband."
Trip's grin got wider. I could definitely get used to that.
"Starfleet Archive of Engineering, Ensign Caruthers. Please state your security authorization."
"Tucker, Charles III Foxtroot-Lima-Golf-Mike 1558"
"Accepted," the young woman declared after typing in the clearance. "What can I do for you Commander?"
"I need access to some historical design documents from the mid to late 20th century."
"Data before the year 2005 are incomplete, but if you have sufficient data to search for, I can try to find something."
"Ok. Could you try to find data about an airplane called 'Douglas DC-3'."
"Negative, Sir," she answered after typing in the data.
"Ok, try 'Lisunov Li-2' or 'Basler BT-67'."
"Both negative, Sir," she answered with an apologetic expression.
"Dammit! Ok, try the 'Antonov AN-2' please."
"Also negative," she answered and watched the tongue of her conversation partner loll inside his cheek.
"You said, you have everything after 2005?"
"Then try to find the 'Shijiazhuang Y-5'. That's a Chinese copy of the AN-2 and they were still buildin' it in 2005."
"I found it, Sir," she said and then added hesitantly: "But that's one ugly beast."
"What do you expect, Ensign," he replied with a smile. "It's a Chinese copy of a Ukrainian design that was almost 60 years old at the time. But it's one of the greatest planes ever built."
"I'll take your word for it, Sir," she answered with a smile of her own. Commander Tucker was every bit as charming as he was rumored to be. "Do you need anything else?"
"Yeah, I need engine design documents. We won't get anywhere with the Shvetsovs. Do you have anything about an engine called 'Glushenkov TVD 20'?"
"Hm. Ok, how about 'Pratt and Whitney PT6A'?"
"We have something. In fact there are dozens of variants."
"Anyone of them named '67R'?"
"Yes, Sir," she nodded happily.
"Ok, please bundle it up with the plane design specs and upload it to these contact data."
"Um, Sir," she started nervously. "According to my indications, the data belong to a private residence on Vulcan?"
"Yep, that's exactly where I am. This house belongs to Commander T'Pol – a Starfleet officer with a higher security clearance than mine, so you can safely transfer it, Ensign."
Seeing the Commanders smile, she returned the gesture and started uploading the information.
"Just making sure, Sir," she explained.
"Of course. Thank you, Ensign."
"You're welcome, Commander."
= tbc =