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Old June 24 2010, 04:18 AM   #1
Cobalt Frost
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ST:TNG "Harvest Moon"

Late August, 2309

"Papa, papa,” cried young Jean-Luc Picard, running into the kitchen. His feet still bore dust from the trail between the house and the vineyards. “There’s something wrong with the moon.”

“Is there now,” the elder Picard chuckled. He reached down to tousle Jean-Luc’s thick brown hair. “Eh bien, you must show me at once.” As Jean-Luc scurried out the door, his father turned to the friend he’d been chatting with.

Un moment, Etienne,” Maurice said, following Jean-Luc into the vineyards. He tracked Jean-Luc’s voice, following the persistent “allez, papa, hurry!” that rose from among the vines. After a minute or two, Maurice arrived at the small hill Jean-Luc favored lately as a place to play.

“Show me the moon, Jean-Luc,” said Maurice, trying not to smile. This was obviously important to his son, so he adopted an air of mock concern.

Jean-Luc’s pudgy little finger pointed at the moon, full and low and large. “It’s so big, and it’s yellow!” More of an orange color, thought Maurice. He eased himself to the ground and motioned for Jean-Luc to sit on his lap.

"That is a harvest moon, Jean-Luc,” explained Maurice. “It is a good sign. It means the harvest will be plentiful, which will give us an excellent vintage this year.”

“Harvest moon,” repeated Jean-Luc carefully. “But why is it yellow?”

"I’m not sure, Jean-Luc. But we need to get back to the house. Monsieur Devancer came all the way from his estate in Avignon, and he and I have business to discuss. And you, mon fils, must apologize for interrupting us.”

Jean-Luc stood and looked at his father. “Yes, papa.” Maurice got up and the two walked back to the house.

"Papa says I must apologize, M’sieu Devancer. I’m sorry I interrupted you.”

"C’est rien, mon petit. So, tell me about the moon."

"Papa says it’s a harvest moon. He says,” and Jean-Luc’s face lit up, “that we will have a good harvest and a good vintage.”

“Indeed!” laughed Etienne. “I think your father’s right.” He looked over at Maurice. “Precocious little boy, n’est-ce pas?

“So his mother says,” replied Maurice. “Jean-Luc, go find your mother and wash up for bed.”

"Yes, papa.” Jean-Luc hugged his father’s legs, then hurried off to find his mother.

“There is a harvest moon,” Jean-Luc told his mother proudly. “It was big and yellow and papa says it’s a good sign.”

Yvette tugged a nightshirt over Jean-Luc’s head. “Papa’s right,” she said. “A very good sign. Now into bed with you.” Jean-Luc hopped into bed; Yvette leaned over and kissed his forehead. “Goodnight, mon cher.”

“Goodnight, maman," Jean-Luc yawned. Soon, he was fast asleep, dreaming of yellow moons…

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Summer, 2318

Jean-Luc rushed from the dinner table (as fast as decorum allowed, so as not to upset his father) back to his room where his latest ship-in-a-bottle project waited on his desk: a Promellian battlecruiser, vanguard of the mighty Promellian warfleet. Jean-Luc must have read the story dozens of times about how the Promellians and the Mentharans met in battle, finally wiping each other out completely. He couldn’t imagine how two peoples could hate each other so deeply as to wish the utter annihilation of their adversaries.

Jean-Luc fit the dorsal phase inverter onto the model, then carefully set it down to look out the window. There was a harvest moon out, colored a pale orange. Almost the color of that cheddar stuff those North Americans call ‘cheese’, thought Jean-Luc with a smile. He reached for another bottle, this one containing the model of an Excelsior-class starship, and held it up to the sky as if the ship were in space, orbiting an alien world.

“Captain’s Log, stardate… "

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

April 7, 2342

“Captain’s Log, USS Stargazer. We have returned to Earth, docking at Earth Station McKinley, for routine neutrino purging of the ship’s Plasma Transfer Conduits. I have granted shore leave to the entire crew, though not all at once, of course. Leave schedules have been structured to ensure that a skeleton crew remains aboard. As for myself, I am leaving the ship in the capable hands of Lt. Jack Crusher while I return home for a brief visit.”

The transporter beam delivered Jean-Luc in the middle of the Picard vineyards; from where he’d beamed down, it was a short walk to where his brother Robert was fussing with the irrigation system.

“Still having trouble with old Pierre, I see,” laughed Jean-Luc. He and his brother had named the main pump ‘old Pierre’ when they were much younger, and the machinery was as stubborn and crotchety now as it was back then.

“And hello to you too, Jean-Luc,” groused Robert. A valve head popped off, spurting water everywhere. Jean-Luc dropped his bags and knelt to help his brother. Several minutes later, the two wet and dirty brothers stood up to admire their handiwork.

“Hmm, well, it’ll hold,” Robert said. “Would you like some lunch?”

“Yes, that would be nice.” The two walked back to the house, making idle chatter along the way: Robert talking about this year’s crop, Jean-Luc sharing a story of the Stargazer’s visit to Stormreach, fourth world in the distant 39 Beta Primaris system.

“Oh, and Jean-Luc,” said Robert as they sat down to lunch, “Jenice Manheim left a message, voyons, three days ago. Said she’d heard your ship was coming to Earth, so maybe you could get together.” Jean-Luc felt a pang of guilt at the mention of Jenice’s name. He and Jenice had been quite the couple, but lately she’d been talking about where the relationship was going, and it had kind of gotten Jean-Luc spooked. He should have had the courage to talk to her about it, but instead he’d been avoiding her. Robert knew this, but preferred to mind his own business; he did, however, fix Jean-Luc with a critical eye as he relayed the message.

“I’ll call her after lunch,” said Jean-Luc, reaching for the camembert. Robert cocked an eyebrow but said nothing.

Later that night, Jenice had beamed in from Paris, and she and Jean-Luc strolled through the vineyard. They ended up on the tiny hill where Jean-Luc spent many a childhood hour. Shining a pale yellow, a harvest moon dominated the night sky.

“So, how much longer is the Stargazer going to be in dock?” asked Jenice.

“Another week,” replied Jean-Luc, “to finish the neutrino purge, update the computer software, and replenish replicator stock. We should have our next patrol assignment by the time we shove off.”

“I can’t stay much longer,” she said. “I have papers to finish grading. But come see me in Paris, day after tomorrow, the Café des Aritistes. Please, Jean-Luc?”

“I will,” he answered, embracing her. Deep down, however, he knew he wouldn’t be there, certain it would break her heart…

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

2370, Kesprytt III

Not long after discovering that they couldn’t get more than a few feet from each other, a somewhat delicate situation arose.

“Beverly, I, ah,” Jean-Luc thought how best to phrase this, “I need to, ah, relieve myself.”

“OK, well, how about over there?” Beverly said, pointing to a nearby outcropping. “That rock seems private enough.” Psi-wave device notwithstanding, they could both sense each other’s embarrassment. After a minute of trial and error, they found a comfortable distance. Beverly turned her back and very intently studied the surrounding terrain.

“Thank you, Beverly,” said Jean-Luc as he stepped up next to her. The setting sun threw long shadows across the rocks and hardscrabble in front of them. Jean-Luc paused for a moment, considering a path, then they more-or-less resumed their original course, plotted by a still-unknown benefactor.

Soon the sun had set completely, but Jean-Luc and Beverly continued, cautiously, by the soft light of the harvest moon. Jean-Luc looked up at the sky and smiled, and Beverly caught a bit of his thoughts.

“Jean-Luc, you old romantic,” she teased. “What’s that, part of a poem?”

“Something I started to write, many years ago:

It was fair and fine that autumn night,
‘Neath the light of the harvest moon

but that’s as far as I ever got. My father once told me that a harvest moon was a good sign.”

“Let’s hope so,” said Beverly. She consulted her tricorder. “There’s a hollow just 30 meters that way. We can rest there for the night.”

“Make it so,” he smiled, and they laughed quietly…

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

2379

With Geordi overseeing repairs (no doubt up to his elbows in plasma manifold lubricant), he thought, Jean-Luc decided he could spare a day or two and visit his sister-in-law Marie, who had taken over the vineyard after the tragic death of her husband, Jean-Luc’s brother Robert. Jean-Luc opted to take a shuttle rather than beaming down (transporters were temporarily off-line anyway) so he could fly around the Enterprise-E before heading for France. The repairs were proceeding apace, though the Enterprise still bore scars, some deep and ugly, from her duel with Shinzon’s Scimitar. Picard was proud of his ship and crew; faced with a far superior foe, they’d given as good as they’d gotten, and made it back to tell the tale. He had even heard tell that a new Klingon opera dramatizing the recent battle was playing to capacity crowds all through the Empire. He had to smile at the thought, certain that Worf had more than a passing hand in the story’s spreading so far so fast.

The shuttle made one more pass over the Enterprise’s now-complete saucer, then headed away from the spacedock and down to the blue-white jewel, Earth. For a moment, Jean-Luc recalled the first time he’d seen Earth from space, which made him wonder what Anij was doing. I really ought to go see her again.

Soon, though, the shuttle settled down at the Picard family estate. Marie was there to welcome Jean-Luc with a warm embrace. They talked for hours, finally stopping to eat as the sun was almost completely set. Jean-Luc put together a basket and walked with Marie to his little hill, where they shared a hearty meal. Behind them rose the moon, a harvest moon, full and low and yellow…

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Author's note: This was going to be my entry into the "Strange New Worlds" contest, but the contest/book series ended before I submitted it. Posted here for your enjoyment.
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Last edited by Cobalt Frost; June 24 2010 at 08:51 PM.
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Old June 24 2010, 07:33 PM   #2
ambessalion
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Re: ST:TNG "Harvest Moon"

i liked it, very good stuff
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Old June 24 2010, 08:43 PM   #3
Mistral
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Re: ST:TNG "Harvest Moon"

It could very well have been a finalist-I enjoyed it a lot. A beautiful feeling running through it-I love "touchstone" stories like this.
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Old June 25 2010, 07:43 AM   #4
Admiral_Young
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Re: ST:TNG "Harvest Moon"

I enjoyed this...nice emotional Picard story spanning eras of his life. I like the fact that he went back home after the Shinzon incident while the Enterprise was undergoing her repairs and upgrades. It makes sense after a traumatic encounter with his own clone and mirrors "Family" a bit.
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