The woods are lovely dark and deep.. djale had rolled off the sleeping mat as quietly as he could so as not to disturb Sada or Inaja, the other two corners of Aja Alon, his triad. The last warm tendrils of The Embrace had been still coiled around the center of his brain, as they always were, as they were for every Deltan. So as a parting gesture he reached out again from that very private part of his mind and tenderly embraced his ajami, who then responded from that deep comfortable place of semi-consciosuness after the Embrace which every Deltan knew so well. His ajami responded in kind, without giving any outward sign that their sleep had been interrupted. That morning it had been very difficult to let go of that embrace,both the physical one and the much closer one which he had just shared yet again with them."No" he caught himself ".. new morning, new beginnings" and chose at least for that moment to not dwell any more on that topic. He stretched his long muscular frame up to its full 1.9 meter height and filled his lungs with the sweet pre-dawn air. Having taken in his first breath,he immediately dove down to offer the morning postures to the day that lay ahead. In the dim light of the sleeping chamber he had been barely visible, rather he had resembled some sort of smoky ghost or shadow, as only a ghost or shadow could have moved so effortlessly through such seemingly impossible, physical contortions. As he had finished, he had looked up at the sky,and realized that he had time to spare.. The sun would have been rising soon and it would break over the jungle forest that lay beneath the stonehouse any minute, but not as of that moment. He paused and looked out at the vast dark shadow that was the guamar Inaj, the Inaj forest. That jungle had always represented an almost religious holiness for Djale. Especially at that time of day in the predawn gloom. Filled with the unknown, both benign and malevolent. Forces both beneficial and destructive, and not being able to truly see them, only encounter them. His eyes then tracked up again as they caught a movement up in the sky above the jungle, and he saw the first glimmers of new day light reflect off the obviously artificial object he knew was hanging in orbit above him. It had occurred to him at that moment that this too was another jungle, waiting for him. He paused for another brief moment, then moved on to prepare for this new day. But I have promises to keep..... The official swearing in ceremony for Starfleet cadets had finishedabout an hour ago, about a kilometer away from where djale now sat. He got a tremble down his back and wondered as he glanced around the cool, icy blue of the waiting room how many of the other cadets were aware of existence of this oath taking ceremony. He had already taken the verbal oath, that very first day at the Federation recruiting center in ijleati, on Delta. No sooner had he put down his very small, awkward travel bag, then the PADD had been thrust in front of him and he had been directed to repeat those words that would always and indelibly be a part of his shifa, his soul- "I solemnly swear to abide by the Federation policy for Deltans serving in Starfleet." The words burned like hot coals in his mouth as he began to understand what he was sacrificing to enter this jungle."I do hereby promise to accept the chemical, physical and logistic restrictions that have been provided as a given necessity to uphold this oath. I do hereby declare that I make this oath voluntarily and without duress." "Those were words, and that moment was now three weeks ago." he had thought to himself as he sat in this unfamiliar room. "Today", he had said to himself quietly as he sat there, "Today I pay for those words" ("djale alon, procedure room 5"), the computer announced in cold,sterile Deltan, which by its description could not be real Deltan at all. If there had indeed been a greater profanity than to hear the beautiful, flowing, living, breathing, encircling Deltan tongue served up frozen,impersonal and artificial like this room, djale had decided he had no example. He had then slowly walked down the hall and entered the procedure room.It had been in every way as cold as the waiting room. The only obvious place to sit had been the very large surgical couch in the middle of the room. djale decided he would accept whatever happened, but it was a weak decision. "You understand then what is involved with the insertion of the bio-suppresive implants?" the slender graceful woman who had silently entered the room asked him. Startled,but having recovered quickly, he had been momentarily at a loss to decide which was the greater crime; the horrendous voluntary self-mutilation which he was preparing to undergo,or the fact that it was going to be a Deltan woman, this sweet delightful beauty who was now standing before him, who was indeed the individual who would be performing the deed? "Yes....I....want...", and then Deltan physician had made a quick motion with her arm, and then placed the anesthetic hypospray down on the procedure table. Many days later he had opened his eyes and found himself in a very similar room. djale had been completing his xenopathology residency and was preparing another Deltan beauty for her entry into StarFleet academy. He felt the Surge building within him, within her as well as she had recognized him as a Deltan. And yet as quickly as the pheremones and their minds had been ready to spill, to merge with everything else, he had regained his composure and had turned away to face his instruments. "You understand then what is involved...what is involved...with the insertion of the bio-suppressive implants?" he had asked too quickly, stuttered, and had immediately felt sorry for it.. ~wait, please wait...~ she had implored at that point. with her heart, with her hands, with her mind. djale for the second time that day, almost nearly lost himself. Instead, he chose to respond in the best way that he could, the most Deltan way that he could, having been unconcerned for the ramifications of what was an obvious breach of his oath. What had helped him regain his composure at that instant was what djale saw in her. He had seen the fear, the apprehension-and yet saw the character, the courage,the resolve to sacrifice all of what it meant for her to be part of an aja, to be Deltan...for what was being offered to her...to be part of this even bigger ajma, family. to be given the immense black jungle laid out above them. ~hai ajali, yes little lover~ he whispered with his mind, with his shifa, as only one Deltan could to another, regardless of the consequences. "Is it worth it?" she had whispered then with her voice, as if having remembered where she and he were.Part sadness, Part irony, Part hope he had smiled sharing all those emotions at once ,"It's too early to tell",he had then made a quick motion with his arm, and then placed the hypospray down on the table. And miles to go before I sleep....... ".....four years, several hundred light years and here I am." djale picked up the tumbler with the dark amber liquid in it and took a slow, measured sip, allowing the slow steady flavor to make its way to the back of his throat. Waiting, anticipating the burn, the chaos of flavor that always came at the end. Which then slowly dissolved into a warmth that dissipated far too quickly, but for a few moments anyway...... What an absolutely perfect liquid this invention called whiskey!!!. He glanced around the establishment , having felt very fortunate for his choice of this place which was well off the beaten path in the Hong Kong neighborhood of the commerical sector. The "I Ching" was a very non-assuming looking place from the outside, with perhaps two or three patrons in total having entered since djale had entered himself some two and a half hours previously. The Orion bartender, who's name he had been fairly certain was something like Tri'la or Tri'al...well she hadn't moved from the same spot behind the bar for over two hours. It didn't matter that djale had shared very little conversation, that he had mostly sat in silence other than the previous forty minutes or so. She had smiled when he had walked in, and had continued to smile throughout the time he spent in the I Ching. A smile that tried but failed to hide more than a little expectation. He had glanced in the mirror behind the bar, looking at the face that stared back. His dark , almost ebony skin really had aged very little in four years. The deep amber hazel eyes betrayed very little of the complex emotion that had enwrapped him constantly from the start of this process. that wrapped him even now. that would continue to wrap him. He had looked at the bartender then as she looked at him, as she smiled at him, and very briefly he had tried to imagine them as just two regular strangers meeting in a bar. As quickly,he was forced, forced himself back to his promise. He remembered though that as long as he remained in Starfleet, that the deeper part of who he was, who he would always be would for very large periods of time be closed to him. His choice, his deep and lovely woods came with promises he had to keep, andthere were still so many miles to go...... She was stunning, as most Orion woman were. He sat looking at her and was for the briefest moment envious of her as an Orion. He could feel the attraction that she generated, and yet there were no restrictions on her in that regard. Perhaps though, he had finally come to the point , where he was prepared to at least accept where he was, and be greatful for that. He smiled then briefly, part sadness, part irony , part hope. A smile that he had shard briefly with another, not so very longbefore this day. The Orion, who came to the conclusion that her unasked question was finally being answered was met with another smile and a shake of his head. "Miles to go before I sleep" he said quietly to her. and picked up his travel bag. And before he really had another moment to ruminate on this , his PADD alarm was ringing off. ("All Cadets are reminded to arrive at Holodeck 9,Level12/Tower 4 Fleet Operations Command no later than 1600 hours for final briefing and cadet cruise ship assignment.") djale alon checked his chronometer, ,finished his drink in one swallow, gave the bartender another final smile, and walked out to face the next jungle.