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Under Our Skin


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((Highlands of Scotland))

::The Trill woman, wearing a backpack and carrying a walking stick from her father-in-law’s extensive collection, had set out from her camp with only a couple of hours left before the mid-autumn sunset. The Northwest Highlands, in the far reaches of the Isle of Britain, was one of the least populated areas on Earth, despite it being in Europe, one of the most densely populated. Idril enjoyed the silence and often took her leave times with her in-laws and camped in the hills and valleys there. Something about the solitude, the pregnant silence, had gotten under her skin and wouldn’t let go.::

::Her current target was Beinn Nibheis, a short mountain by her standards, but the highest on the island of her husband’s birth. There wasn’t anything particularly special about the collapsed shell of a long-dead volcano, but it made for a nice leisurely climb and a great place to watch the dying of the sun.::

::The Trill woman stopped most of the way up and looked back over the trail below her. The blue sky was torn by slashes of long grey clouds. The dramatic sky lay over the equally dramatic and rugged highland terrain below. Pushing one of her long red locks, having escaped from her long braid, back behind her ear, she realized that she would be content to spend the last of the day there, watching the shadows playing over the rocks and hills of the valley, but suddenly a plaintive screech called her higher.::

::When she cleared the edge of the large plateau that was the summit, she was greeted by a stiff cool wind that made her squint in its suddenness. The screech came again. Looking up, she saw a group of hawks, circling high overhead. One by one, they broke off and turned south. They must’ve been among the last ones in the area, as the others should have long ago began on their long migration.::

::The last bird, however, hesitated as his brethren moved on, circling tightly above the Trill woman. Hovering with skills that she, even with all of her engineering training, couldn’t even begin to imagine, he seemed to defy gravity and wind in the next moment, holding perfectly still some sixty feet above her head.::

::The details were distinct as the sun lit the juvenile hawk’s dappled brown and cream breast. Each one of his dark-tipped flight feathers, each mark on his breast, the ridges on his legs, all stood out in sharp relief. For a moment, the bird hovered there, looking down at the lone woman on the mountain, before winging over and following after the others.::

SooSang: That, my dear, was incredible.

::Idril looked over at the older man. He was a biologist, a botany specialist but still closer to understanding the birds than her own training.::

Idril: Yes… yes it was.

::Another voice spoke, this time on the other side of the redhead, and she turned to see an older Trill woman, also smiling, though her body language said she was a bit put out as well. It was a weird combination.::

Rumina: I never have been much for the outdoors, but I will say that you look magnificent out here.

::The fleet-captain-turned-hiker smiled. She had never been one who was comfortable with compliments on her looks, even from her husband, but Rumina’s were especially embarrassing. Next to Rumina stood silent Durath. Whenever Idril saw them, he was quiet, hovering next to the older woman protectively. Not surprisingly, she thought to herself, considering their lives.::

::The woman wasn’t young anymore. She had gone through the academy, had nearly 15 years of ship-board experience, including captaining one of the most advanced cruisers in Starfleet, and was now the head of engineering operations at the biggest fleet yard in the Federation. She felt young, though, for all that she wasn’t. It was walks like these that made her stay that way. Connecting with the wild, with Nature… there was something almost sacred about it, she thought, though almost purely an atheist herself. The woman stepped up to the edge of the escarpment and looked out over the stretch of land. One could see for miles. It was something to take the breath away and had a feeling that no holodeck could ever recreate.::

Azulay: A rugged place… a warrior’s culture of old…

::She nodded, glancing at the older man. He would know, with as many years as a diplomat as she had alive.::

Azulay: …but one with deep religious roots as well.

::She chuckled a bit. The old man was always more in tune with his faith that she was and unafraid to say it to her. After a moment, the exultation in her heart, made by the rocky expanse, turned the chuckle into a full laugh, one that echoed across the rocks and returned to her. Stepping away from the edge, Idril, still with the smile on her lips, took the small pack off her back and walked to the centuries-old ruins of the observatory on the summit plateau.::

::Sitting down on one of the hewn rocks, she pulled out the light snack that Valerie, the nanny/cook in the Wilde household, had made for her trip. The Trill were famous for their long memories, though they were not a unusually long-lived race themselves. It was a collective memory, one granted by symbiosis with another race, one of which lay implanted in Idril’s abdominal pouch. As she sat to eat in the crisp autumn twilight, the breeze ruffled her hair again and the stars looked down on the only person sitting on the hill, all alone.::

::In a very real sense, however, the woman was and would never be alone. The memories of her past were always there, just under the skin.::

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