- - - - -

The dinner was letting out, though quite a few groups remained behind. Most of their fellow professors had said their goodnights, but they had not followed, choosing to enjoy a while longer the fresh air and patterned sky, and the sounds of the bay trickling over the rocks nearby. An occasional gull cry broke the steady buzz before them.

In the pavilion, the remaining cadets had gathered into comfortable little niches, chatting away as if they didn't have a thing to do the next day. One within a younger group sat with her drink in her hands, listening, straight faced and nodding on occasion. A couple times, she flashed a quick grin. Her eyes darted over to the chronometer three times in two minutes.

The presentations had gone well, the commander thought, her own included. A lot a good questions following each talk had come from a number of cadets in her freshman class, she'd noticed with some pride. In response, she'd taken the opportunity while at the lectern to tease them about their upcoming finals. They'd enjoyed that.

G -- (6. 672 59 ± 0. 000 85) x 10-¹¹m³/kg · sec²

A soft orb now lay heavy on her lap, sound asleep on the bench they occupied and oblivious to the other little orb bobbing just behind. Beside her was a long, warm form, hugging her close in the cool night air, so real and sure. It was a welcome respite after all the business of the night, which had followed a busy day. It was good to talk a while, too, quiet and comfortable under the stars to let dinner digest, let their girl settle down.

It was time to go.

Long day tomorrow for them all. Her daughter had her nine-year checkup with the doctor at eight hundred hours; her own four-month checkup was one hour later. After that was done, she needed to make some arrangements for the next guest speaker and to finish grading the overload of quarter finals that'd come on too quickly. Her husband would be out until Friday with the test runs, which even he wasn't anxious to sit through, hour after hour--though he was the first to admit that the blunders often amused him. That weekend, the grandparents would be visiting, which in any case scenario meant no rest for the weary.

The cadet stood, said some quick goodbyes and swerved around the metal chairs without touching them.

Both commanders' eyes followed the move. They had been watching the young woman for a while, having started their conversation there talking about her.

"Why don't you tell her that?" he finally suggested.

She peered back at him. "Think she'd listen?"

"You never know. Couldn't hurt."

What either of them would have given for a little genuine mentoring back in their Academy days, even if they'd been convinced nobody would understand. Maybe nobody did. But nobody tried to see otherwise, either, as some old Starfleet credo said cadets had to pull their own bootstraps. That much was true, but a steadying hand could go a long way, too.

She never wanted to be young again. She knew that much.

"Take Miral for me, Tom," she said quietly as she mentally plotted the rendezvous.

"You bet," he said and relinquished his wife.

Easing the weight off her lap and into his arms, she paused to smile at their daughter's soft mew, how her sleepy hand crept around her father's shoulder to hold on when he cradled her. A tall, sharp-witted girl, it was easy to forget sometimes that she was still a child. She'd had a long night.

She gave his jaw a little stroke as she stood. "I'll only be a minute."

With a skip and a few smooth strides, she re-entered the pavilion and walked steadily through. She nodded to a few greetings from her students but otherwise didn't slow. Right on time, the young woman saw her, visibly regretted it then decided on second thought to stop and wait. Her face was perfect neutrality as she took a breath and opened her mouth.

"Hello, Commander Torres." The words were as stony as her face had been earlier that day.

The older woman grinned. The cadet's response was exactly what she had expected. She moved closer to the cadet, realizing only upon arrival that they were about the same height.

"Cadet Metri, good evening," she said. "I won't keep you, since I see you're on your way out." The younger woman nodded stiffly. "But I was still thinking about your silicate problem, and wondered if you'd like to show me what you'd done sometime."

Metri turned her stare askance. "You want to see it?"

"I'll let you in on a poorly kept secret here: I'm an engineer before anything else, even before an officer. I enjoy solving problems and hearing about new ones--masochistic as that sometimes sounds." Having earned a slight snicker for that, the older woman nodded. "Meet me for lab a little early tomorrow and we'll thrash it out a little."

Metri snorted. "You'll probably thrash it, all right... Commander. Sorry."

She shrugged at the casual comment. She actually preferred it from her students, as she never much liked them being on parade for her, even if it was their place to be. Then again, she never had been complete Starfleet material. "It won't be any worse than anything anyone's done to me--not nearly. Especially here."

That did manage to raise a brow. "Really? You?"

The commander smiled again and gave the cadet a soft pat on the arm. "Trust me," she said with an assured nod, "nothing's ever as clean cut as you'll want it to be. I know how much better it is when we nail it right away, but it usually takes a little longer to get these things right. You'd do good to bring it into the lab, where it belongs. And I do want to see. I don't joke about things like that."

A full five seconds passed, then, "Well... I guess I could make it in at about ten hundred thirty, if that's all right."

"Good," she acknowledged, not too friendly, but not tough, either. "I'll see you then."

Metri didn't trust her, the commander could tell. She didn't believe her sincerity and still looked nervous as she escaped to the walkway.

But she had at least agreed to come in early. It'd do.

Those things took time, just like the theories did. She knew all too well, being that same half-Klingon misfit who'd drifted long after she'd been in that young lady's shoes, and still was learning a thing or two every now and again.

Never hurt to have the memory of someone who'd tried. Whether or not Metri made it through Starfleet, and whatever was the root of that young woman's difficulties, she'd at least know someone at the Academy who understood, or tried to understand, or had at least approached her.

Better than nothing.

"Ready?"

Her husband had come in behind her, quietly lest he wake their child. The girl's body was limp, her boots swinging slightly with her father's momentum, her round face and dark lashes smooshed against his lapel. Her mouth was set in a decisive pout; her fingers were bunched up under his collar, only instinctively holding on.

Totally oblivious to all the workings around her, just as she should be at that age.

B'Elanna looked up at him and nodded, reached up to rub a little circle on their girl's back.

"Definitely."

(fin)

-

© D'Alaire M., 2001-2007


Notes:

Below is the key to the equations. Formatting here does not allow equals signs and subscript, so they were replaced with dashes. The bits themselves do have some meaning, so the incorrect notation had to do. My apologies to all math-minded people for that. --da

f-- fº ( 1 ± v/w )
A Doppler shift calculation, where "f is the resulting frequency, f0 the original frequency. The plus sign yields a frequency decrease in case the source is moving away, the minus sign an increase if the source is approaching." (Credit to Ex Astris Sciencia; also, parentheses should be brackets)

m - M 5 log¹º (r/10)
Formula which links Apparent Magnitude (m), Absolute Magnitude (M), and Distance (r).

c-- 299 792 458 m/s
Speed of light.

cos-- (l-33°) ( cos d cos (a - 282°.25) ) / (cos b)
Calculated Galactic Latitude.

larc-- ( 360°-l ) ( pi/180° )
Xrelative-- sin ( larc ) dplane
Yrelative-- .-cos ( lplane ) dplane
barc-- b(pi/180°)
Zrelative-- sin ( barc ) dplane

To determine the x, y and z distances of a star from Earth, for galactic mapping using Earth as a central point. (Credit to Ex Astris Sciencia)

G (6.672 59 ± 0.000 85) x 10-¹¹ m³/kg · sec²
Constant of Gravitation.