Commander Tucker was late again… thirty-one minutes late, to be precise. It was now a predictable pattern of behavior that T’Pol found rather disconcerting. Since he had agreed to undergo neuropressure treatment of his insomnia thirteen days before, he had been late for eight of their twelve scheduled sessions, and had canceled four of them. His level of cooperation with the treatment was unacceptable. She rose from meditation to use the comm. Stepping to the console on the wall, she stretched out an elegant finger to activate the “all call” function.
“T’Pol to Commander Tucker.”
T’Pol paused, waiting for a response. None was forthcoming. She walked to the computer console on her otherwise completely unadorned desktop.
“Computer, locate Commander Charles Tucker,” she said, suppressing her annoyance quite firmly so that her request was voiced in tones of icy calmness.
A sensor schematic appeared on the screen. Commander Tucker was apparently in his quarters, and had chosen to avoid neuropressure that evening. This was also unacceptable. Regular deep REM sleep was necessary for the efficient functioning of the human brain. T’Pol had no intention of allowing Commander Tucker to function at less than top efficiency during a mission of such importance. Corrective steps were obviously necessary. She pulled a Vulcan robe from her closet to properly cover the clothing she wore… clothing which was not appropriate for the corridors of Enterprise, but which allowed the access to bare skin that was necessary for the proper application of neuropressure… and left her cabin in search of one Charles “Trip” Tucker the Third.
“I know ya don’t wanna be reminded of all this, son, but I thought you might need some comfort out there while you’re chasin’ down the ones that did this to us.”
Trip Tucker sat at the computer console on the desk in his quarters. His face was wet with tears. He held a frame with a photograph of a vivacious young blonde in both hands, but he wasn’t looking at it. His eyes were fixed on the screen, on his mother’s face. Catherine Tucker’s recorded message continued.
“That’s why I asked Ensign Sato to save this until you were a month away from Earth. Don’t get mad at her, Trip. I could tell when I called right before you shipped out and you didn’t wanna talk to me that she was worried about ya. You’ve got friends on board ship, just like ya have friends at home. Don’t forget that, son. Your daddy and I love you. God bless you, Trip. I’ll be prayin’ for ya.”
The image on the screen abruptly reverted to text. It was a book file appended to the message. The title page read The New Universal Standard Bible. His mother had bookmarked passages for him. Trip sighed heavily and wiped his eyes with his sleeve. It was typical of his mother to attempt to comfort others at a time when she was the one that needed comfort. She’d always been a woman of strong faith. He just wished he could believe in any of it now. When he was younger, he’d gone to church with her… prayed with her. As he got older, faith in other things took precedence… faith in the power of human intelligence and ingenuity… in his own ability to get the job done. That was all gone now. There was only anger left… and grief. He stared at the photograph in his hands. Lizzie had been so beautiful. How could faith exist in a universe that would allow such beauty to be senselessly destroyed? Anger welled within him again. How could his mother still believe in a God that would allow something like this to happen?
His eyes returned to the screen. With his teeth clenched, he brought up the first bookmarked passage. It was from the Old Testament, the Book of Wisdom.
Court not death by your erring way of life, nor draw to yourselves destruction by the works of your hands, because God did not make death, nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living. For he fashioned all things that they might have being.
“Dammit, Mama!” he exploded. Holding Lizzie’s picture securely in one hand, he slammed his opposite fist on the keyboard to close the file. Instead, his violent outburst caused the next passage to appear. The Book of Wisdom appeared to be the source of readings for the day.
But the souls of the just are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them. They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead; and their passing away was thought an affliction, and their going forth from us, utter destruction. But they are in peace.
Tears began to flow in earnest. It’s just not fair, he thought in wry resignation. She even knows what I’m thinkin’ 200 light years from home! He took a shaky breath, and brought up the next passage. The Book of Lamentations this time. When had his mother become such a bible scholar?
My portion is the LORD, says my soul; therefore will I hope in him. Good is the LORD to one who waits for him, to the soul that seeks him; It is good to hope in silence for the saving help of the LORD.
Trip carefully placed the photo and its frame on the desk beside the computer monitor, and then dropped his head into his hands. It was all just too much to bear.
Okay, God, he thought angrily, If you’re so damned good and all… what the hell do ya plan to do next? Let the Xindi fry the rest of us?
His head came up, and he stared sightlessly at the computer screen, where the passage from the Book of Lamentations that his mother had thought would comfort him was still displayed. His angry reaction to the words before him forced him to be completely honest with himself. He still believed. He wouldn’t be nearly so pissed off now if he didn’t. He sighed.
“You win, God,” he muttered furiously. He looked up then, the way he’d done as a child whenever he prayed. It had made no sense then, and still didn’t. He just did it out of habit.
“I may believe in ya… you piss-poor excuse for a ‘merciful redeemer’… but I don’t hafta like ya!” he said to the ceiling. Then the door chime rang.
When Commander Tucker answered the door, he appeared to be angry. He also had obviously been crying. The combination did not bode well for his receptiveness to any suggestions which might improve his efficiency. T’Pol paused before speaking, uncertain about the most appropriate response to the situation. After two seconds spent in silence simply looking at her in puzzlement, the disheveled engineer’s eyes widened.
“Neuropressure!” he said in sudden realization. He gave her an apologetic look. His hang-dog expression, combined with the obvious fatigue on his tearstained face, sent an unfamiliar pang of concern through her. It was concern for the ship’s operational efficiency, she decided.
“When you failed to arrive within thirty minutes of our scheduled appointment, I decided to come and find you,” said T’Pol coolly.
The human smiled rather sheepishly, and then seemed to notice the way that she was dressed. Apparently realizing that she intended to offer treatment in his quarters that evening, he stepped aside to allow her entry.
“I’m real sorry, TPol.” The commander’s words dimly registered as she took in the room before her.
“An apology is not necessary. I would much prefer punctuality,” she replied over her shoulder as she walked to the center of the room and gazed around her in what would certainly have passed for curiosity in a non-Vulcan. T’Pol, of course, did not experience curiosity.
The bed was unmade. The room was otherwise relatively tidy. Pictures in frames decorated every level surface… photographs of sea life, and of people she didn’t recognize, mostly. There was one of Commander Tucker with Captain Archer. The two of them were much younger, and had broad grins on their faces and their arms over each other’s shoulders. There was one of the commander flanked by an older couple. T’Pol assumed that they were his parents. On the desk next to the computer console, facing a small vase containing a single silk flower which T’Pol didn’t recognize, a young woman smiled brightly from a candid portrait taken with greenery in the background. Her hair was long and blonde. T’Pol walked forward and picked up the frame. She studied the open, cheerful face in the picture. Commander Tucker had smiled like that… before. She looked up as he approached her and gently took the frame from her hand, placing it back on the table. Her eyes searched his face. He avoided her gaze.
“Is that a portrait of your sister?” asked T’Pol softly. She wasn’t sure why knowing the answer to the question was important to her, but she felt compelled to ask. He smiled briefly and nodded. T’Pol searched for something to say to draw him out.
“She resembled you quite strongly,” she said finally. He didn’t smile again, but he nodded, merely acknowledging the statement. His eyes remained fixed on the photograph. T’Pol’s eyes followed his, and then she caught sight of the scripture passage highlighted on the console screen. One brow went up as she read.
“I was not aware that you espoused faith in a deity,” she told him after completing her study of the passage. She turned to him with a questioning look.
“I have always wondered about the human tendency to put credence in things which have no basis in logic,” she said with interest. He rolled his eyes, still focused on the photo in his hand.
T’Pol eyed him consideringly. Her readings in human psychology had implied that humans who demonstrated belief in a power greater than themselves possessed greater resilience in times of stress. “Do you find the practice calming in times like these?”
Commander Tucker met her eyes finally, and chuckled dryly, shaking his head as he carefully replaced the picture frame on the desk in front of him. “I guess not, since I was in the process of cussin’ the guy out when you rang the bell,” he told her ruefully.
T’Pol eyed the human before her with a puzzled expression. He seemed entirely sincere.
“My understanding of what humans call ‘God’, although admittedly incomplete, does not appear to be the same as yours, Commander,” she told him. “Given the supposition that you believe in a superior being, perhaps you could explain to me the benefit you derive from calling into question the motives of an omniscient and all-powerful entity responsible for the entirety of creation… or is my understanding of the concept faulty?”
The commander stared at her for a moment. He appeared to be struggling with some unnamed emotion, and then, to T’Pol’s utter surprise, he began to laugh.
“Mama’s not gonna believe this,” he said, shaking his head. His smile, directed at her, caused unexpected warmth to blossom somewhere in the center of her chest. “Now I’ve got a Vulcan preachin’ at me!”
T’Pol’s brow rose to her hairline. “I was merely clarifying my understanding of the concept, Commander. Your beliefs are entirely your affair.”
Still smiling in a rather befuddled manner, the engineer walked over to his bed and sat down, indicating with a wave of one hand that his visitor should take the desk chair. T’Pol complied.
“So… you don’t believe in God, but you’re tryin’ to talk me into trustin’ in His plans?” asked the puzzled human.
T’Pol exhaled. There were times when the commander’s usually brilliant mind failed to comprehend the simplest of statements. She found her frustration at moments like these very difficult to suppress.
“Vulcans neither believe nor disbelieve in a deity, Commander, since the existence of a higher power can neither be logically proved nor disproved,” she told him with forced tolerance. “I was merely pointing out the flaws inherent in your reasoning, given the initial supposition that what you believe is, in fact, true.”
“So, you’re sayin’ that if I’m gonna believe in somethin’ as illogical as God, I oughtta do it in a logical way,” he said ironically. “Isn’t that sort of a contradiction, T’Pol?”
T’Pol’s brow went up again. Then she plunged into the debate with earnest.
“Not necessarily, Commander,” she replied. “While I was preparing for my assignment to Enterprise, I read extensively from classic human philosophical works. It was my intention to search for parallels in them to the works of Surak… in order to better understand human thought processes.” She paused. He waited with an amused expression on his face. “I was not entirely successful,” she admitted.
The commander let out a single dry laugh. “You’re tellin’ me!” he murmured.
She fixed him with a stare of Vulcan displeasure as she continued. “In the course of my investigations, I came across an interesting document written several centuries ago by a human named Thomas Aquinas. Are you familiar with it?”
Her opponent in the evening’s philosophical debate thought for a moment, and then admitted defeat. “I’ve heard the name, but I can’t say that I’m real ‘familiar’ with what the guy wrote.” He cocked his head at her with a look of forced patience and crossed his arms. “Lemme guess, though… you’re gonna tell me all about it, aren’t ya?”
“Describing a portion of Aquinas’ work will be necessary to allow me to make my point, Commander,” replied T’Pol. Her companion rolled his eyes and said nothing. She took that as an invitation to continue.
“I found Aquinas’ attempts to logically prove the existence of God quite fascinating. Although some of them were based on incompletely understood scientific concepts which can now be disproved, the one which interested me the most used the concept of beauty as the basis for the existence of a deity.”
Commander Tucker’s expression cleared. “I remember that one! Mama took this theology course at the bible college when I was a kid, and she told me about it. Isn’t that the one where God has to exist because, otherwise, how would we know somethin’ was beautiful without havin’ the most beautiful thing in the universe to compare it to, and that beautiful thing is God?” he scoffed. “I always thought that one was stupid! I know what beauty is. I don’t need anythin’ to compare it to.”
T’Pol eyed him challengingly, and then pulled the silk flower from the vase on the desk in front of her. The commander reached for it instinctively with an alarmed expression on his face.
“Be careful with that, T’Pol! Lizzie gave it to me!” He took her hand in both of his, extracted the artificial blossom reverently from her grasp, and held it gingerly between the thumb and forefinger of his right hand. Initially, his attention fixed on the silk flower, he didn’t seem to be aware of the fact that his left hand still cradled hers.
“I apologize, Commander,” said T’Pol stiffly. She looked down at the floor. In her eagerness to make a point, she had overstepped the bounds of polite behavior and touched a valued item without his permission. It was inexcusable. His calloused fingers still gripped hers. She felt them squeeze gently.
“Hey… it’s okay. No harm done,” came the commander’s soft reply. She looked up. He was gazing at her with a curious expression. Then he smiled reassuringly. The warmth in her chest returned. Her brown eyes locked with his blue ones for several seconds. Neither of them said anything. She became aware of his scent in the enclosed room. It was not at all unpleasant. Then he released her hand.
“So… what was your point?” he asked finally.
T’Pol cleared her throat. Then she gestured toward the flower in his hand. “Do you find that botanical reproduction in your hand aesthetically pleasing?”
He looked down at his hand. “You mean this silk lily?” he asked her. He lifted it up to his own eye level and studied it for a moment. “Yeah… I suppose I do,” he told her diffidently. “I keep it more for sentimental value, though, since Lizzie gave it to me… to ‘brighten up’ my cabin, she said… since I hardly ever get to see real flowers.”
“So you do agree that, for more than one reason, you find the lily beautiful,” pressed T’Pol. He shrugged, and then nodded agreeably.
“Why do you find it beautiful? To what are you comparing it to make that assessment?”
Commander Tucker tilted his head in exasperation, his tongue stuck firmly in one cheek. “Are we back to that again?” he asked. T’Pol returned his stare squarely, waiting for his response. He exhaled heavily and capitulated. “I guess I’m comparin’ it to the ‘perfect’ lily… and that’s just an idea… and the idea came from somewhere… and that somewhere isn’t me, ‘cause how would I know what perfect is?” He exhaled once again. “I get it, T’Pol,” he replied. “You win. Assuming that I believe in God, and I suppose I still do, despite everythin’, it’s possible to think about his existence logically,” he growled, “… now can we do some neuropressure so I can get some sleep?”
“Very well, Commander,” replied T’Pol in a tone just short of smugly satisfied. “Please remove your shirt.”
Trip Tucker lay face down on his bunk, suspended in the twilight state halfway between sleep and wakefulness. Small, soothingly warm hands pressed firmly into the pressure points at the base of his spine. He felt as if he were floating… in a state of utter and complete physical relaxation. His mind, freed of care, was left unfettered to explore the events of the day.
Wonder why she seemed so eager to argue the merits of somethin’ she doesn’t even believe in? he wondered idly. His mouth turned up into blissful smile as T’Pol’s hands moved to the pressure points in his mid-back which always put him right to sleep. The image of the expression on her beautiful face when he’d held her hand that evening suddenly came to mind. Too bad she was only interested in the challenge of the argument. It occurred to him as he fell asleep that if the existence of God could really be proved by the existence of beauty in the universe, then she was living proof that God existed. He found the idea strangely comforting.
Like it? Hate it? Just want to point out a typo? Join the discussion now.
Disclaimer: Star Trek in all its various forms and its characters are the property of CBS/Paramount. No copyright infringement is intended by the authors of this site, which is solely for the purpose of entertainment and is not for profit. This site is owned by CX and was opened to the public in February 2008.