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Ens Rennyn - The Deep Cut


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((Holodeck 2, USS Atlantis))

::"...back in a bit," Kirosa had told him. He wasn't sure that was true. For a moment, Ren stuck to his place in the tree, watching the Orion ensign launch through the air, descending on the Kalar with her hunting knife high. She seemed to move in slow motion, suspended there too long before making contact with the beast, but at the same time it all happened much too fast.::

::There was a moment when Ren was distracted by the realization that he'd cut his foot open at some time during his escape from the Kalar. It was a good, long, deep slice, the kind that only now, minutes later, was beginning to show signs of blood. His mind only focused long enough to register the wound before his eyes and all his senses jolted back to the scene below. Kirosa was butchering the Kalar.::

::The thing held its attack briefly, seemingly too stunned by the feeling of the blade to do anything else. The ferocity that read on Kirosa's face and the intensity of her rage sent Ren scrambling down towards her, despite the first sting of pain finally appearing in his foot as he climbed down the tree. He didn't know her, but he wasn't about to let her hurt herself.::

RENNYN: Computer! Restore safety protocols! Kirosa...

::He made it to the ground almost as quickly as he'd climbed up. The attack was ending in the Kalar's pitiful retreat.::

RENNYN: Ensign!

::He watched, waiting for any sign that she'd heard him. The power of her fury was frightening, but he had to admit there was beauty there, seeing her in her element, standing powerfully, breathing deeply, watching her prey loping away into the jungle.::

::All at once, Kirosa's tense posture relaxed and she sheathed her knife in her boot.::

KIROSA: Computer, Freeze Program. Arch.

::The computer complied, and, grabbing her jacket and vest, the Orion woman made her exit with hardly a glance back at Ren.::

KIROSA: Holodeck's all yours Ensign...

::She was gone.::

::Ren stood in place, stunned by what had just happened. His foot was bleeding now, dark, thick blood from deep inside, and the pain of it had caught up to him. The holodeck would self-clean, but someone would be out on the deck scrubbing the carpet after he walked himself to Sickbay. Around him, the frozen program of Rigel VII's jungle seemed to stand in as much confused silence as the Trill himself. The sounds of creatures far and near, the surrounding rustle of leaves were gone. The slight breeze that had punctuated the jungle's close, still air had ceased. Even the feeling of humidity seemed to have disappeared, replaced by the ship's normal ambient air quality. Only the visual representation of the dense jungle remained, eerily motionless.::

::He sat on the ground where he was, favoring the injured left foot on the way down, only wincing once as his foot began to realize the extent of the pain. Ren took off the ridiculous Hawaiian shirt, exposing the Trill spots on his arms and torso to the nullified, dangerless jungle. He tore the shirt into a useful piece, then wrapped it carefully around his foot, binding the wound long enough to walk to Sickbay and have it repaired.::

::Ren looked at the closed door inside the arch, a few meters away. He wondered where Kirosa had gone off to next. Her day was going from bad to worse, she'd said. He barely knew her, but he hated to see anyone in that much pain. He might have run after her if it hadn't been for his foot. Not that it was her fault he'd blindly walked in on her program without so much as finding out what was running - that was on him. And he'd had worse injuries than this by far. But one person's fit of anger could lead to another's harm, usually someone peripheral, someone not targeted or even thought about. The little bits of collateral damage that can radiate from one person's pain and rage, someone else's wound to carry. Ren might have been the victim this time, but, laying back on the jungle floor for a moment's rest, he thought of one time he'd been the one to cause pain...::

((Flashback - Starfleet Academy - 4.5 years ago))

::Ren's sister Alin tugged impatiently at the sleeve of his cadet uniform. In her own matching uniform, they could almost have been twins, except he was taller and broader, not to mention ten years older than not only her, but most of the other cadets on the San Francisco campus too.::

ALIN: Rendal Arnom Rennyn, get your rear in gear! Come on!

::No Rennyn had ever been to Earth that they knew of, but the two of them had arrived together following a disastrously long trip from Trill that, after a series of transfer mishaps, had threatened to make them late for first muster. Arriving in time had meant a sleepless night sitting up in a shuttle with a helpful but talkative Centauran who had agreed to ferry them on his supply run into the Sol system. They'd had to land with him in Alberta and beam themselves through a series of public hubs to reach San Francisco in time. The whole journey had been exhausting.::

REN: What I still don't understand is... what supplies did he need from Alberta?

::His feet were dragging, his eyes swimming, and worst of all, despite his best efforts to suck it up and be his normal friendly self, he was cranky.::

ALIN: Never mind. We were supposed to have taken our room assignments an hour ago. Hurry!

::They were half walking, half running across the campus, trying to appear dignified with all their bags hanging from them. Cadets all along the way stared at them.::

REN: Alright! ::He'd snapped the word out more sharply than he meant to. He could have used a shave and two bites to eat before reporting. But they didn't have the luxury.:: Sorry. I'm hurrying. Watch me get stuck with someone obnoxious like a Ferengi. ::He couldn't help grumbling.::

ALIN: Don't be rude. You have low blood sugar. Just try to be nice. ::Hoisting a wayward bag to her shoulder, she threw him a mischievous glance.:: Besides, they'll obviously pair you with the only person who can really drive you crazy - a Vulcan.

REN: Don't even say it! Give me anyone with warm blood in his veins and I'll find a way to get along with him. Heck, I've met cold-blooded lizards I didn't mind. But not a Vulcan!

::On a normal day, he'd have been more reasonable about it. He didn't have anything against anyone, really. Certainly not just because their race was emotionless. Sure, he couldn't quite understand that, but he'd only ever met a few Vulcans anyway, so what did he know. Alin was right, he was just hungry and tired, and his behavior and thoughts were becoming unreasonable. Once they got inside, he'd put his bags down and relax a minute, and act like a grown man.::

::As quick as they could, they arrived at the large gathering hall where the day's arrivals had been told to report at 0900. It was 0947 in San Francisco, and the majority of cadets in their cohort had already been welcomed, introduced to their roommates, and sent off to settle in before the afternoon matriculation ceremony. Only a few uniformed enlisted staff remained, along with a lieutenant in charge, and one patiently-waiting human cadet named Lois who launched herself at Alin.::

LOIS: Are you Alin Rennyn? I've been waiting for you!

::The lieutenant stepped forward with a slightly annoyed yet good-natured expression.::

LIEUTENANT: Our latecomers, I presume. Cadet Rendal Rennyn and Cadet Alin Rennyn?

::Ren and Alin both gave their best Yes, Sir.::

LIEUTENANT: At ease. I'm pleased to welcome you both to Starfleet Academy. Especially since it looks like you had an extra long trip from Trill. Miss Rennyn, your roommate has been waiting patiently for your arrival. I'm glad you joined us when you did.

::Ren glanced around as Alin and Lois broke off into their own excited chatter. He noticed that no other cadets were waiting there. Had his roommate been sent on already? Dared he hope that he'd have a room to himself? He hadn't been looking forward to rooming with some 18-year-old kid, despite how much he liked Alin and his other younger sisters and brother. The drained exhaustion he was feeling didn't make him any more likely to overcome his annoyance. He focused on holding himself together. He could practically have fallen asleep where he stood. But the Lieutenant and the others were watching him, and he forced himself to behave.::

LIEUTENANT: Mr. Rennyn, if you will wait a few minutes, your roommate has only just stepped out. He'll return in a moment. My crew and I need to be elsewhere by 1000, so we're leaving you to your own devices for the moment. ::He handed Ren a padd.:: Here's your roommate, your room number, your cadet number and everything you'll need to get started. Ceremony's at 1330, don't miss it. Good luck, cadet.

::The lieutenant joined the crewmen who were already at the door, and the group exited, leaving Ren alone in the big room with Alin and Lois.::

ALIN: Is it a Vulcan?

::Ren's sister bounded over to him, teasing him, riled up with all her youthful excitability. Ren, letting all his exhaustion show again now that the lieutenant was gone, activated the padd and took in a sharp breath.::

ALIN: What? I was kidding.

::Ren tried to calm himself with a few deep breaths, but couldn't. He showed her the padd, shaking it fiercely for emphasis.::

REN: They have to be joking. A dang, cold-blooded Vulcan!

::If Ren had slept a little the night before, his mind might have been clear enough to stop him from saying something so rude. If he'd had a bite to eat in the last 26 hours, he might not have felt too anxious to keep himself calm. If he hadn't had to wander the streets of Alberta in the first cold light of dawn looking for the public transporter, he might have had a shred of sympathy left to look beyond his own small needs and remain a member of polite society. All he had was exhaustion. He was worn down to that basic, instinctual version of himself that everyone becomes now and then when their body and mind are unrested to the tipping point. Though he'd tried, he had failed to overcome the unreasonable emotions flowing through him.::

::His sister's horrified expression set off his alarms, and Ren found his unkind words hung thickly in the air as he turned and saw a Vulcan face that would one day be very familiar to him. That first time he saw Sovak's face was the first time Ren realized that it might be possible to hurt a Vulcan's feelings after all.::

((Holodeck 2, USS Atlantis))

::Ensign Rennyn lay bleeding from his left foot on a frozen-in-time Rigellian jungle floor, dressed in nothing but brightly-colored swim trunks. If that was a metaphor for something, he couldn't work out what.::

::He'd been caught off guard by Ensign Kirosa's erratic behavior. The fury in her knocked him for a loop just to see it, but he had no idea what her struggles might be. Maybe whatever was getting to her was a lot worse than Ren could know; or maybe this was just one spectacularly bad day out of many good ones. Despite their moment together up a tree, he still barely knew her. And he'd learned the hard way not to judge a book by its cover...::

((Flashback - Starfleet Academy - 4 years ago))

::Ren was several months in to his time at the Academy, and he was flourishing. Back home in Arnmere, he'd had a good life, a happy one, but there were no starships for him to fly, beyond a holo simulation. His sister Alin was doing incredible work in her classes, already catching the eye of certain science faculty who appreciated her unique approach and keen perception. Ren, while not among the very topmost pilots in his class, proved capable in all his coursework, and was having the time of his life learning the skills he would need in his new life with Starfleet. Even those in their family who had objected to their leaving home had begun to come around, and life seemed to be headed in a wonderful direction for Ren and Alin.::

::Only one aspect of the experience left Ren disappointed. His relationship with his roommate, Sovak, the Vulcan he had managed to thoughtlessly insult the first moment they met, remained a major point of stress and distraction. It wasn't that Sovak had retaliated in any way. He didn't appear to hold a grudge, or resent the Trill, or even complain. On the contrary, the Vulcan had gone out of his way to do none of those things. In six months, he hadn't mentioned the incident once. It made Ren feel terrible.::

::The Trill man worried over it constantly. Where he came from, people said what they meant, talked it out, then moved on. They weren't exactly on a Betazoid level of openness, but for a non-telepathic race, they were fairly open. It bothered him that he never had a clue what Sovak was thinking. It made him worry that whatever damage his careless comment had created was festering and growing, shut up tight in the Vulcan's heart where no one could go to repair it, maybe not even Sovak himself.::

::Now, on what would become one of their most memorable nights, the two sat at the desks in their dorm room, each slogging through his own mountain of homework.::

SOVAK: Ren, it is 1800 hours. Do you require nourishment at this time?

::From day one, Sovak had been trying to serve plomeek soup to the Trill. Ren loved his vegetables as much as the next farm boy, but couldn't imagine a Vulcan dish would be anything but bland. He kept his face neutral out of respect.::

RENNYN: No thanks, buddy.

SOVAK: I am replicating plomeek soup.

RENNYN: I figured. Look, I'm just going to pass on that this time, okay?

::Sovak moved to the replicator and keyed in his order.::

SOVAK: You pass every time.

::The comment wasn't unfamiliar to Ren's ears. That was exactly what had been worrying him. Sovak possessed all the logic and emotional reserve anyone would expect of a Vulcan, but sometimes, just every now and again, he'd make some off-hand comment that seemed to serve no purpose but to criticize Ren. Barbed words with little jagged edges intended to cause damage. The only logical conclusion was that Sovak was angry with the Trill, but Ren couldn't prove it. Every time he tried to broach the subject, Sovak found a way to shut the conversation down. It was immensely frustrating.::

::Ren had been studying navigational maps for class, and it had occurred to him that conversations, just like navigable space, could be mapped. You start from a known point, where you have your bearings, and than you take off toward a far place that, even if distantly visible from the start, may turn out to be foreign in completely unexpected ways. How do you get there? How do you know which turns to take, which to avoid? How do you prepare yourself for what you may find? If you take it slow, carefully charting the spots between your starting point and the desired destination, you might just get there in one piece, maybe with a better understanding of what lies before you than you had at the start.::

::This was the day he was going to navigate past the usual barriers to Sovak. Ren began to plot his course.::

RENNYN: You sound annoyed.

SOVAK: I am certain I do not.

::Sovak carefully made no sign of irritation, but he did push his soup away without eating a bite.::

RENNYN: I wasn't raised to let a man's words trump what I know he feels by looking at him.

SOVAK: You are fond of telling me what you were and were not raised to be. I was not raised to express annoyance. Nor was I raised to "feel."

::Ren squared himself to the Vulcan so they were talking face to face.::

RENNYN: Sovak, I'm going to talk to you now. Because I don't know if you've been punishing me on purpose, or if I'm projecting that on you, but I feel terrible about what I said when we met, and if you've gotten to know me at all, you know that I didn't mean anything like that.

::If he didn't know better, he would have said that Sovak "scoffed."::

SOVAK: I would not allow a personal misunderstanding to negatively impact my educational objectives. Institutions of higher education exist to provoke critical thinking and social discourse, to challenge ideas and opinions with the intent of invoking questions and inspiring debate.

::That didn't even really make sense in the context. Sovak was trying one of his usual distractions, talking an intellectual circle around the point. Ren navigated a bypass back to the topic.::

RENNYN: But not to bring people together to insult each other.

SOVAK: In our modern cross-cultural social age, it must be accepted and, in fact, expected that social difference will influence the matter of most discourse. Your lack of regard for my cultural heritage was therefore neither unexpected nor surprising. After all, though Trills are known for their curiosity and thirst for learning, your background in an insular community with little cultural variety has naturally left you with certain biases.

RENNYN: Now who's being judgmental?

::Turning away, he stopped himself from saying more. This is where Sovak always got to Ren and ended the conversation. He'd say something that made the Trill angry, then Ren, afraid of being just as uncivil as he had the first time they'd met, would shut his mouth and stop talking. A few silent days later, they were back where they started.::

::But Sovak had a solid point. Ren thought about Arnmere, his out-of-the-way village on Trill. His cousin's husband was half-Betazoid, and there was an old Centauri couple down at the end of Raybrin Way, and maybe half a dozen more aliens from around the Federation. But by and large, it was a Trill community. Ren had flown up to the Orbital Station many times over the years as he practiced to be a pilot, and he'd spent an hour or two there when he could, soaking in the eclectic mix of cultures that passed through. But none of those people from other planets went to Arnmere, the little village stuck in the past, like something out of the 23rd century. And other than Ren and Alin, not many of the town's citizens ever left. They were all stuck in their patterns and habits, and they all could use a little shaking up. That was one of the reasons Ren had left - to be shaken.::

::Ren buckled down, thinking of his conversational map. Taking a cue from the Vulcan, he did his best to suppress his emotions. He was determined this time to find a way, to navigate another way through this conversation on a path somewhere between their usual routes of quiet anger and furious silence. After six months at this dance, it was time for an apology.::

RENNYN: That first day we met... what I said about you... What I mean is, I've found that I really enjoy rooming with you. I just... I've wanted to apologize. The bad-mouthing was uncalled for in every sense, and I'm sorry.

::A long silence ensued. He'd stumbled and he'd stuttered. He'd probably done it all wrong. It wasn't as though he expected a hug and grateful tears, but he had hoped some bit of the tension between them would be released. Sovak's face twitched in a way that Ren supposed looked thoughtful, then returned to a bland mask.::

SOVAK: It would be illogical to allow my studies here to suffer under an increased stress level based on interpersonal conflict.

RENNYN: That's the thing - there is no conflict here. At least, there doesn't have to be. I said something stupid about Vulcans, and you've given it way more weight than it should ever have had. There was never any reflection on you. All it proves is that I'm capable of being an idiot, which, let's be honest, has never been a matter for doubt...

SOVAK: You are suggesting that your hurtful comments, your apparent distaste for Vulcans, your abject incivility, was merely a misappropriation of words? A sentence said in error that meant nothing to you? An off-handed remark that you would like to have forgotten as soon as it left your mouth?

::The Vulcan's face had twitched again several times. It almost looked to Ren like real anger, but the voice was perfectly calm. When you make an apology, you have to be prepared to take a little punishment. Ren stayed calm himself and accepted Sovak's judgements.::

RENNYN: I would rather have stopped it before it even left my brain. It was a terrible thing to say, and I hope you weren't too hurt by it.

::He'd almost forgotten he was talking to a Vulcan, and maybe that had been another foolish thing to say. There was a six-week course on Vulcan culture and beliefs that he'd been thinking of taking the next year. He certainly needed to sensitize himself to the Vulcan way.::

SOVAK: I was hurt.

::The comment came softly, and was so odd that it didn't immediately occur to Ren what he had just heard. His eyes grew wide and he tried to keep his jaw from dropping at the realization that he'd just heard a Vulcan admit to feeling.::

::Sovak's eyes watered with sudden emotion, and it was the saddest sight Ren had ever seen. He tried to say something, but no words came.::


SOVAK: Please!

::Sovak turned and exited the room, not running, but hurrying faster than Vulcan dignity normally allowed. Ren couldn't begin to think about whether or not he should follow.::

::So there it was. It had only taken Ren Rennyn six months to force a Vulcan to an emotional breakdown. He stood uncertainly, wavering between advance and retreat, between compassion and self-doubt, the sad realization slowly sinking in that no map in the universe could have guided him through this conversation...::

((Holodeck 2, USS Atlantis))

::Trills are a curious bunch, like cats in the old Terran adage, or varks at a well, as the Bolian phrase goes.::

::Not every Trill wants to be joined. In fact, great numbers of them never once consider it for themselves. But every Trill child, their future undetermined, is treated by their community as a potential candidate. They're taught in school to quest for new information and fresh perspectives. They're encouraged by family and mentors to embrace the unknown. Anyone might become a candidate in adulthood, and the culture supports the idea that the best candidate is the one best prepared to take the most from life's varied experiences. Ren's parents had never pushed any of their children to seek joining, and no joined Trill had lived in Arnmere for a century at least. Ren himself had never really thought about it seriously, even when faced with the alluring idea that your personality and experience would live on in the symbiont after your life came to a close. Yet even in a place as backward as Arnmere, little Ren Rennyn was taught to ask questions and push boundaries, to explore the wondering ideas his inquisitive nature presented him with. For the people of Trill, curiosity is a virtue.::

::Laying flat on his back in a swimsuit on a simulated jungle floor, elevating his bleeding foot, Ren figured he'd taken the idea of uncovering new experiences too far. That was life. It puts you in situations you could never see coming...::

((Flashback - 4 years ago - Starfleet Academy))

::When Sovak reentered the dorm room he and Ren shared, his pained, dejected face had been replaced with the stoic expression typical of Vulcans. Ren had been on the point of packing a few things and going to stay with Alin and Lois for the night, just to give Sovak some space. He'd obviously pushed the Vulcan too far. He'd been so selfishly caught up in getting himself forgiven, he'd gone and made the problem worse, and that was bad for both of them.::

::Sovak didn't let him leave, not wasting a moment before saying what he'd come back to say.::

SOVAK: I apologize for my outburst. It was unseemly, and I did not wish to cause you discomfort. I perceive no reason to discuss the matter further.

::Ren shook his head. Something in Sovak's perfectly placid expression didn't add up. It was the eyes. They had been crying, and that always shows.::

RENNYN: You don't have to be sorry. I upset you, and I apologize.

::Ren's compassionate side rooted him to the spot. It wouldn't let him drop the subject now any more than his Trill curiosity would allow him to lose out on finding out how a Vulcan could cry. He couldn't help it. If they were going to have a cultural exchange here, then Trill curiosity was naturally going to enter in to the matter.::

RENNYN: And I don't mean to gape at you like a fish from a bowl, but Sovak, I'm surprised. I didn't know Vulcans had emotions.

::Sovak sat down, stood up, opened his mouth, and sat down again. Taking a deep breath to calm his apparently frayed nerves, he explained.::

SOVAK: Vulcans seek to control their emotions. The logical foundation of that statement cannot escape you - we seek to control emotions, because we have emotions. I have studied since I was a child to learn the ways of t'san s'at, the measured control of emotion. It is a journey all Vulcan children take, and most master the guiding tenets of the practice by the time they reach maturity. I... I have barely begun to achieve it...

::On the last sentence of his speech, Sovak's voice held a distinct quavering tone. There was no mistaking the look that had returned to the Vulcan's face, the watery quality of his eyes. Sovak was fighting back tears again.::

SOVAK: As a boy, I was unable to achieve the same level of control as my contemporaries. I often found myself indulging in aggression at play, or feeling sadness when faced with mundane rejections or failures. My uncle sent me away to a school --

::Here his voice broke, and Ren thought that if it was anyone but Sovak, he'd already have his arms around their shoulders in sympathy. With this Vulcan, he couldn't think how to proceed. The experience of seeing a Vulcan in tears was just too stunning, and he didn't know if the contact would be welcome. Sovak continued on his own.::

SOVAK: My uncle sent me to a place where children are instructed in a more severe version of t'san s'at, a monastic school which specifically guides initiates toward kolinahr. It is a common misconception that all Vulcans are masters of kolinahr, the ritual purge of all emotion. Many do not go so far. As my uncle has told me many times, some Vulcans simply lack the wisdom for it. Those will always fail.

::Ren didn't know what to say. The shame his roommate felt was palpable, evidenced in every aspect of his crest-fallen stance, his carefully forbearing words, his quivering expression of noble self-denial. It was no small thing for Sovak to admit to his experiences with emotion, let alone to display it, but he clearly couldn't hold it in any longer. This poor man had been struggling for years to be someone he wasn't.::

SOVAK: I am still young, Ren. There is hope for me to change. There is... great pressure on me to achieve an appropriate balance of control. One tactic I have employed is to make a study of intense emotion. When I chose you as my roommate, I did so because you are a passionate man. I thought I could attempt to position myself opposite you, to become less emotional by viewing emotion externally.

::It was an awkward admission, and the logic was a little bit sideways, but Ren couldn't help thinking that it wasn't a terrible approach. Then it hit him.::

RENNYN: Wait a dang minute... What do you mean "You chose me"?

::Sovak halted in his tracks, like a kid caught out in a lie, one who'd said something more than he meant to.::

SOVAK: I-- I...

::Ren felt the color rush to his face, setting off the Trill spots around his temples like Gorosi hunting cats on a field of blood. He didn't remember being given any choice in who his roommate was. He was pretty sure that wasn't how it worked. The only explanation was that Sovak had rigged it somehow. Probably went through all the cadet files and figured out which innocent victim's passionate emotions he wanted to study. This dang backwards Vulcan with his sideways logic and his "study of intense emotion." Ren felt like his last six months had been scripted for him, like all his choices had been taken away by this dang backwards hot-blooded illogician with heat in his brain and a heart full of badly-calculated automatic nonsense. He opened his mouth again and again to say all that, or some more colorful variation, maybe adding to it with fire and brimstone and the vein in his forehead popping out. He was steamed, and hot ire billowed up through him, ready to burst into a fiery tantrum that was going to teach this hopped-up hobgoblin a thing or two about passion!::

::Then he saw that look on Sovak's face, and it all drained out of him in an instant.::

SOVAK: I am sorry. I identified you out of all potential cadet roommates as my best chance for success. Had you arrived early on our first day here, you would have found me prepared to ask for your cooperation. It took several weeks to gather the courage. Since you were late, I had to make the arrangement myself by effecting several trades with other cadets and making thin excuses to the assigning lieutenant. Then I felt ashamed and was afraid to tell you.

RENNYN: You chose me. ::Ren's forced his voice to soften. He couldn't tell if he was angry about this or not. A Vulcan admitting to fear? Of a simple Trill country boy?:: You chose me. Let's be honest, you probably got the shorter end of this stick.

SOVAK: No, that is untrue.

RENNYN: Look Sovak, I'm not happy to hear about this, but I get it, ...I guess. At least, I know you've had a tough time of it, and I can't blame you for trying to do something to make it better.

::Sitting down next to the Vulcan, Ren followed the instinct he'd been denying all along and put his arm around Sovak's shoulder.::

RENNYN: Sometimes I'm so full of feelings, I don't know what I'm going to do with them all.

::Sovak said nothing right away, thinking carefully awhile before he spoke.::

SOVAK: Sometimes I wish I could feel more. Mostly I wish to feel less.

RENNYN: That sounds like living to me. You know, Sovak, we might turn out to be good for each other. It's not a bad idea to have someone in your life who balances you out. I know I could do with someone to teach me a little restraint.

::He heaved a sigh, half resignation, half relief. Life really was a course through unknown space, and it was funny where that course had led them.::

RENNYN: Like it or not... I choose you, too.

((End Flashback))

::Holding his injured foot up had been a good idea; Ren had stopped the thick band of blood flowing from his wound before it could soak through the bandage made of his torn Hawaiian shirt. He wouldn't need to treat himself with the emergency medkit in the Holodeck, or call Sickbay and ask someone to come to him. He was going to walk his way there and have the wound treated, and, though he might get hollered at by Dr. DyAmone for showing up in Sickbay looking like a refugee from a beach party disaster, all physical traces of the damage would vanish before the time came to attend the banquet for Telnoth Haerin.::

::Even the deepest cut could heal, but not every wound healed so fast. Sovak's troubles didn't go away overnight. Four years on, and they'd survived both the Academy and cohabitation. Now they were posted to the same ship in a far distant sector. He didn't think Sovak had rigged anything this time, getting them both placed on the Atlantis, but he wasn't ever going to be completely sure of that.::

::They were like two ships in space, Ren Rennyn and Sovak. They'd navigated their way to each other from vastly different regions, but now they traveled in tandem, like a convoy. That was a metaphor he could wrap his brain around. They might not get where they were going as fast as they would have separately, but they'd by stronger together along the way.::

::Pulling himself up from the ground, Ren called for the computer to end Kirosa's program, and the Rigellian landscape shimmered out. Ren limped a bit, walking on the heel of his left foot to avoid further damage. After all his refusals, Ren had tried plomeek soup eventually, and now it was one of his favorite foods. The Academy course on Vulcan culture and beliefs had done a lot for him too. Sovak had learned to face his fears instead of fighting them, but that was another story. From this moment on, whatever happened next on their journey, Ren knew that nothing ever stayed the same for long. That course he believed he was navigating through life was moving ever forward into fresh, uncharted space.::

::He didn't mind. He liked to explore the boundaries, to ask the questions, to shake up what needed shaking and break through to a new experience. Blame Trill curiosity for that.::

Ensign Rendal Rennyn
Helm Officer
USS Atlantis

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I know our CO posted Part 3 of this story for the contest, but I know I saw this done before and whole story deserves to be seen and judged as a story, so I'm posting it here as a whole.

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