“Winter. I always think of them in winter. So it’s fitting, to be here, in the wintertime.”
President Archer stood on a small stage and looked at the assembled guests. “Fifty years ago, in 2162, the NX-01 took its final journey. And it came back here, to Earth, as the planetary coalition was forming, which later became the United Federation of Planets. And there were changes in my life as well, as I was privileged to command a second ship, the DC-1500, the USS Zefram Cochrane. And then you were kind enough to elect me as a Councilman and then as President. But today is not about me. It is about the honored departed.”
The guests watched as he unveiled a large obelisk, meant to look a bit like Cleopatra’s Needle. But instead of hieroglyphics on the side, it was inscribed with the names of the dead. “For everyone who ever served on the first Warp Five starship, their names will be here when they are gone. Some are, sadly, already there. Some could have had their names inscribed during our mission. And I see them, and I can hear them, still, although years have passed.”
He paused to collect himself a little bit. “Elizabeth Cutler was a Science crewman. She had a big, wide smile and a pleasant way about her. Crewman Fuller was quick with a joke. Patricia O’Malley died in a confrontation with a hostile species. Crewman Burrows was killed during a transporter experiment. Crewman Jane Taylor was killed during the Xindi War. Crewman Masaro was a suicide.”
He took a breath. “On the MACO side of things, Private Hawkins and Private Forbes were both killed during the Xindi War. Major Jay Hayes, probably the bravest soldier I have ever known, died saving Ensign Hoshi Sato from Reptilians.”
He paused, remembering. “And at the end, on our last mission, Charles Tucker III died, well; he was killed saving my life. As many of you know, there is a Charles Tucker III Foundation for Promising Engineers. I have been privileged to serve on the board for several years.”
“And there are others,” he continued, “like Malcolm Reed, who is now gone for a decade, and his wife, who also served with us on the NX-01. I remember them as if it were yesterday. It may be 2212 but for me it is yesterday.”
He looked at the assembly. “I know you were expecting profundity of some sort or another today, but I’m afraid I just don’t have it in me right now. Know that these people, these good people, were the best. Thank you.”
He slowly walked off the stage, feeling older than his nearly one hundred years of life. His wife was waiting. She took his arm and they slowly waited for everyone to depart, waving away the press. When everyone else was gone, and the stage had been disassembled, they stood in front of the obelisk. Then he bent down and touched the earth. “Miva,” he said to her, “there are too many names.”
“I know,” she said, with a voice with an accent that sounded almost Irish.
“Hayes, Tucker, Cutler and Reed. I think those were the toughest ones. Hayes, as he gave of himself for Hoshi. Tucker because he, too, traded his life for another’s. Cutler because it was so unexpected. And Reed, well, it feels too soon.”
“Malcolm died a good decade ago,” she reminded him.
“And it was, you know, it was because his wife was gone. And he just couldn’t go on any longer. He lasted about three weeks, and then that was it.”
“I know,” Jonathan said, “I remember the memorial service. He made it through Christmas, and saw the children one last time. He died in the garden at their home. His stepdaughter-in-law was with him.”
“Jia, yes,” Miva confirmed, “she told me he saw her just before he went. It’s very similar to my people, how we die.”
“Oh? And what happens to Calafans, Miva?”
“We see our beloved ones or our ancestors if there’s no one beloved. And Jia said he saw her, his most beloved, and she had a key in her hands. And he knew that once he touched her hand and the key, that he would be gone.”
“To go in such a way, my God.”
“When my first husband, Darywev, died, he saw his parents. That was long ago, very long ago.”
“I remember how you were then,” Jonathan said, “I had thought it would be better to stay away but you said no, that you wanted me to be there.”
“I did, and I do. You were a perfect gentleman for a good year after Darywev’s passing. I knew you loved me because you waited.”
“Yeah, I already loved you,” he said.
She looked up at the sky. “It’s a hazy shade, kind of a foggy, misty, cottony grey. Darywev’s hair, at the end of his life, it was that color. Yours is becoming that color.”
He was still kneeling, and he pointed at a blank area on the obelisk. “Hoshi’s name will be there. And Travis’s. And T’Pol’s. And, and mine.” He straightened up, towering over her.
“And others, too, like the Shapiros and the Hamidis, right? You called them, what did you call ‘em, Jonathan?”
“The honored departed, Miva. As dead as that tree over there.”
“That tree isn’t dead, my beloved. It’s just dormant. I bet if we went over there, we’d see buds. Even for those who didn’t leave descendants, like Hayes and Tucker and Cutler, there are still buds. They made it possible for descendants of others, like, like Declan Reed, to exist at all.”
“That’s true,” he allowed.
“It’ll be a long time before your name is on that monument.” They began walking away together.
“A hazy day,” he said, “It’s the winter of my life. There are no buds on this tree, no descendants.”
“And like I said,” she insisted, “your work, and your dedication, and your sacrifices, they made those other descendants possible. Declan does owe you his existence, too, yanno. And I owe ya a lot of my own happiness.”
“I do. Winter or no winter; you are who I wish to be with.”
“And you are who I wish to be with,” Jonathan said, “winter or no winter, hazy day or not.”