Ben was relieved that the feeling he had as he stepped onto the Starbase 118 hangar deck was one of silent affirmation. That's one small step for a man ... he thought, but then shooed away the oft-quoted phrase, embarrassed at having made the comparison. He had been waiting for that step for four years; the arrival for his cadet cruise from the San Francisco campus signaled, in his view, the start of a new life. For such a level-headed person, this "step" superstition was something of an anomaly in Ben's personality. Perhaps it was an outlet for the repressed nonsense, squeezed out of his consciousness by years of learning discipline at the Academy, Power Storage Solutions, and an overly-regimented upbringing; perhaps it was a last link to the world of gut reactions and trusted instinct. The idiosyncrasy remained, though, exactly as it had been six years ago, when he graduated top ten percent from engineering school. At least, the experience was the same in the pull to feel for it, waiting with breath held back until it came. Different -- a complex conjugate pair -- in reaction. Walking into the building on his first day as a design engineer, his first step left him thinking he couldn't be there his whole life. It wasn't intimidation or the thought of being unable to handle it. He had been prepared, but the bewildering fog of boredom loomed on the horizon, even that first day. In deference to the step, here he was: a man more fully developed and more committed to himself than before. Ben looked around the hangar bay at the new cadets in perfect uniforms and noted their general amazement at their surroundings. From tight corridors and manned duty posts, doubtful gazes of hardened crewmen and officers sized up the compatriots upon whom they would depend, for better or for worse. It occurred to Ben that he was among those being evaluated. He smiled. An officer approached. Ben picked up his bag and took a second step; the feelings of the first resounded within him again, echoing off the walls and engulfing him in assurance. "Cadet Benjamin Harold Livingston," he informed the officer, "ready and reporting for duty."