Posted on March 31st, 2012 by Leda Harper and Syvek
Leda Harper and Syvek
Lieutenant Leda Harper had not spent much time cooling her heels upon finishing her last handful of Academy credits – off-schedule, as entirely too much of her education had been.
They had, in fact, thrown her onto a shuttle and thence onto a frigate heading for the fringe systems with remarkable speed. She wasn’t sure why; certainly there were plenty of command-chain types eager to see her, or rather her mods, in action. At least the Atlantis was a pretty plum assignment, though from all she’d read about the mess they were in at Gencodia and beyond, things were going to be lively from the get-go.
The ship was vast, far larger than the smaller science vessels she’d grown up on, but familiar. The layout was more than similar enough to others she’d seen and her feet took her more or less automatically where she needed to go – Engineering (she was going to have to drop in on them within a day or two), crew deck, there. Holodeck. Leda shifted the duffel on her shoulder and strolled down the hallway, absently jabbing at the first available door pad. She wouldn’t be up for rec time for another week, but training time was still more or less free for all, and she wasn’t comfortable enough with the ship yet to just commandeer a stray cargo bay.
The large double doors opened with a mechanical whine, revealing that the holodeck was in use. A cracked desert plain lie across the threshold, the world’s sun mercilessly baking the parched ground from directly above. Hot wind blew through the door at a languid pace, as if to offer hope of the cooling breeze that would not come until nightfall.
“Damn.” Leda rocked back a half step, squinting into the light – surely there’d be an open one down the hall – but holodeck opponents were rarely as useful to work against as real ones.
It hadn’t been locked.
Walking in would be rude.
She shrugged, and stepped across the threshold, eyes narrowing against the brightness. Four paces and her off-duty jacket was already clinging to her shoulders, damping through.
The holodeck door obligingly slid closed and winked out behind her. A dim trail remained in the sand, a single set of footprints, and she strode out to follow it. She hadn’t met most of the ship’s complement yet; she’d barely had time to toss her things into her locker thus far. With luck she wouldn’t stumble across one of the bridge officers, at least. “Hello?” Her voice didn’t carry far against the heavy air.
Five minutes in and she’d stripped off the jacket, then the overshirt, stowing both in her duffel. The heat was oddly pleasant, bone-deep, dead dry. Three more minutes before her patience frayed. She shifted into a steady jog, accustoming herself to the slight crunch-and-give of the surface, then again into a full-out run, breath rasping in her throat. A fleck through the heat-shimmer gradually resolved itself into an upright, moving outline.
The outline became recognizable as a shirtless Vulcan male wearing white linen pants and sand socks, who was apparently exercising in a variety of fashions – lifting large rocks and throwing them, running around carrying those rocks while jumping between several obstacles, and even climbing a nearby rock formation and then jumping down from impressive heights with different methods of landing. He paused, probably hearing her, and watched as she drew nearer.
Leda slowed on approach, boots crunching faintly as she settled into an unhurried trot, sweat streaming now down shoulders and arms and the back of her neck. At least this was a face she half recognized, one of the longer-tour Marines. She saluted as she walked up, brow creased in apology. “Sir. I’m sorry to interrupt, but I’ll admit I was hoping for company. Do you mind my joining you for a while? I’m Lieutenant Harper.”
The Vulcan squinted at her for a moment, as if sizing up her ability to endure the conditions. “I am Lieutenant Syvek. Vulcan is not the most hospitable place to exercise.”
“I can see that, sir.” Leda relaxed a little, free hand settling at-ease behind her waist. “I’d appreciate the opportunity just the same – there hasn’t been time to meet most of the rest of the staff. If I’m intruding, please accept my apologies and I’ll go find another space.”
“Very well. You are, after all, a Starfleet Marine. As you can see, my chosen method of training is to use what is naturally available.” He gestured in a wide arc to his makeshift gym, and continued, “No more is necessary. Modern equipment, with its rigid, repetitive motions can not compete with asking your body to do what it evolved to do, in its natural environment.”
“Agreed, sir, I usually find cliffs.” Leda nodded her thanks, dropped the duffel, then dropped herself to the dirt to pry off her boots. “I appreciate the opportunity to work in a new environment – this isn’t what I would usually key up.” She stretched out a leg, then levered herself up, flexing metallic toes in the grit. “Would you be willing to offer instruction for a minute or two?”
“Of course.” Pausing a moment, Syvek took note of her legs. “As I am uncertain of how much sensation you have in your prosthetics, and the ground is quite hot, I do have an extra pair of sand socks, should you require them.”
“I think this’ll be fine.” She bounced a bit on the balls of her feet, glancing up to the nearly-sheer rock walls he’d picked for a jungle gym, a jagged-edged slash through the sunbleached landscape. “And I’ll try to stay out of your way, sir. Lead on.”
The Vulcan hefted a sizeable rock with both hands. “Consider for a moment the humble stone, misshapen and unbalanced. Even carrying it, one must constantly make tiny corrections with an array of muscles to compensate for its unwieldiness. But to throw and catch it while running, that takes another level of control.” Syvek regarded her with curiosity. “Catch.”
She’d had just enough warning, and chuffed with surprise at the weight and heat of the thing as it whacked her cradling palms. “Aye, sir.” Muscle and sinew flexed through her shoulders as she rocked back on her heels and lobbed it back without finesse, angling away at a cautious jog.
Syvek matched her pace, catching and returning the rock a few times. He abruptly stopped about ten meters from a nearby boulder and hurled the stone like a shotput, striking his target squarely. “Throwing such a projectile also engages muscles that are not generally used in standard exercises.”
Leda’s hands flashed up briefly, shielding her eyes as splinters of stone needled out from the impact. “Got that much, sir. Is this your idea of appropriate field conditions?” She trotted over to retrieve the slightly-smaller rock. Sweat poured freely over her by now, the black of her sleeveless shirt soaked through. “A place you know?”
“It is near my home. I underwent my Kahs-wan in this desert.”
She nodded, the rock clutched to her hip with one hand, trotting back over to her duffel. “Pardon me, sir, better drink something.” Leda fished out a water bottle, methodically drinking down half the contents. “Is this one of a few choices you cycle through? I keep tending to pull up locations from my own homeworld, but variety’s nice.”
“Indeed. I have a few other locations on Vulcan, as well as other worlds, just to vary the climate.” Syvek looked up at a nearby rock wall. “Admittedly, I am not fond of the icy mountains of Andor, but I still use them for training, since my distaste for the cold only serves to make the experience more valuable.”
Her laugh was startled, her grin a quick flash as she re-stashed the bottle and scooped up the whole thing to carry over into a sliver of shade. “I don’t think anyone’s fond of those. I’m not sure even the Andorians are.” Leda glanced up in parallel, rocked a bit on her heels, and then sprang up to cling to the wall – her mechanical toes stretched and spread to find purchase, and she huffed with effort, finding fingertip holds. “Perhaps you could send me a list, sir. The computer keeps giving me tropical paradises and I’m sick of climbing volcanoes.”
In an instant, Syvek was on the rock face beside her and expertly finding grips for his hands and feet, his familiarity with the climb an obvious advantage as he quickly ended up a few meters above her. “The holodeck programs are not restricted. Query the computer for Syvek Training Programs and you will find them all.”
“Understood. I look forward to mixing up my options a little.” The formality chipped off as she focused on the climb, brow creased, testing each handhold before committing her weight. She seemed expert enough, the clawed tips of her toes permitting occasional holds that a boot would not have. After a few minutes she seemed to have found a rhythm; by inches she gained ground, clinging to the stone with gecko determination.
“Impressive, Lieutenant,” came the call from above her. Syvek stood akimbo atop the formation, watching the remainder of her ascent, making no indications that he intended to assist her.
“Maybe by the fourth time I’ve climbed it, sir.” Leda had been managing to watch from the corner of an eye for that last precious few feet, and angled over to take advantage of proven holds. Three, four, five long hitching motions, pushing her way belly-flat up the scorching stone, and at last – sweat cutting trails through the dust on her skin – she hauled herself over the lip and rested, gasping, on a knee. “Thank you for the time and the exercise. It’s really been a pleasure.”
“Certainly.” Syvek regarded her for a moment and continued, “I am impressed to see a human subject herself to the hostility of training here with me, but you have endured it without complaint. Colonel McKnight would wish such hardiness on all of his Marines, I would think. If we train together again, you may call me Syvek. The environment is harsh enough; formality has no place in it.”
“I like a challenge.” She levered herself up, extending a hand. “Leda. Seriously, thanks again, though I think I’m going to blow my last half hour on the coldest pool of fresh water I can stand.”
Arching an eyebrow, he shook her hand and answered, “I shall not fault you for that.”