Standing on the cliffs East of Kinsale, Aine looked out over the Celtic Sea. This was the first time visiting since leaving Starfleet just two months earlier. She loved visiting this place as a child, but after all she'd been through, those memories seemed as though they belonged to someone else.
The sea was rough and near black from the thick grey clouds that hovered low. Her black hair, now with a few streaks of grey, was much longer now and whipped about by the heavy winds. She used to love standing in this very spot, smiling when looking out into that same wind. It was hard to imagine that feeling now.
The wind once felt like adventure. Like those tall ships she'd read about as a child. Wind was what was out there in the distance, calling to you. But now it felt like the darkness. Confusion. Fear. It felt cold. Not the cold you feel on your skin, but the cold that cuts deep to your core.
From her first assignment on, danger seemed to be a common theme in Aine's career. Many times she'd been in situations that seemed hopeless. Often outnumbered and pinned down, they narrowly escaped, time and again. They were nothing if not resourceful. She'd seen fellow crewmen injured and killed, but that wasn’t what finally did it.
She closed her eyes as the wind seemed to howl louder in her ears. On this last mission, the small team had been called upon to rescue another lost team. It wasn't the first time, rescues seemed routine anymore. But when they arrived, things were not as they seemed. It was not a rescue as much as a recovery. The team they had been sent to rescue had been killed in ambush. And the same awaited them.
By the time “contact” had been called, two of their six team members were down and the rest were scrambling for cover. Seconds later, two more were dead and Ranlard, the fresh ensign, lay injured.
Aine opened her eyes and looked out to the sea again, it had grown darker. She thought about Starfleet. How when she was a new Ensign, the idea of adventure, discovery, and exploration was everything. With war looming, things changed. Starfleet changed. She could feel the weight of that change in her chest now. She closed her eyes again, taking in the cold air.
Aine had been fortunate. She was able to retrieve Ranlard and they made their way into the trees. They found a small hide. They were surrounded. They could hear the sounds all around them. An unknown and unseen enemy in the night who wanted nothing more than to kill them all. Footsteps on leaves and crackling sticks. Whispers in a language they couldn't understand.
Before the sounds of around could disappear in the distance, they disappeared with the wind. A storm was brewing. The night seemed to last forever and there was no way of knowing now if the threat was gone.
Aine and Ranlard hunkered down and tried to keep each other warm. Every time he tried to speak, she hushed him. Neither dared use their communicators for risk of being heard. The best they could hope for was that Starfleet would send help.
Time wore on and soon the storm was passing, the wind died down. But it seemed as though her teammate’s fate was tied to the wind. By the time the calm came for the storm, he had died, right there in her arms.
It wasn’t until morning that help came. Time was moving fast now. On the shuttle going back, Aine couldn’t look anyone in the eye. She felt as though someone had been careless with their lives.
Her eyes opened, her hair whipped across her face as she once more looked out to the ever darkening sea.
The solace she was seeking wasn't here, in this place. She turned to go back down the path. She couldn’t let herself wait for the winds to die down.