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A Light That Never Comes - Part 2

Posted on Wed Apr 12th, 2017 @ 3:57pm by

Mission: S1E5 - Unknown Territory
Location: Stellar Cartography Lab
Timeline: Mission Day 75 - 20:30

After checking back into the main shuttlebay and doctoring the records to indicate he had been present all afternoon, Ryland set his plan into motion. He hustled back to his quarters to clean up and change into a fresh set of clothes. Gone were the red and black of Flight Control, replaced by a skin-tight white undershirt, navy blue bomber jacket, and brown flight pants tucked into his trademark jackboots.

A quick glance in the mirror confirmed his ensemble as complete before he hit the door at a brisk trot.

By the time he had reached the Stellar Cartography lab, Ryland had slowed to a more measured pace. When he found Laena alone, studiously engrossed in her work, he assumed a casual gait.

"Aren't you just the prettiest picture of overachieving charm?" Rylan strut up to Laena's terminal with his hands in his jacket pockets.

Laena turned her chair to face the man. When she saw him, she suddenly realized she had underdressed for the occasion, having traded her uniform for a pair of sweat pants and a fitted hoodie. She pulled the sleeves over her hands and rested them in her lap. "You clean up well," she said, turning back to her station.

"You look like a bright ray of sunshine yourself," Ryland shot back with his hands outstretched to embrace Laena by the shoulders. Before his words were out, he gave her a brief hug which ended with his hands lightly resting in the middle of her back. He smiled down at her only to see her tremble at his touch.

Too much.

"Why don't you show me how your fancy star computer works?" He rolled back to his heels and waved a hand at the screens. "Each point of light is a star, yeah? Gotta' tell ya, Ms Laena, these look a lot bigger up close."

Laena gripped the side of her console, taking a deep breath as her body trembled, uncontrollably. Her eyes squeezed close as she took rhythmic breaths to control her heartbeat which had began to race.

The rush of pursuing his fox began to fade. Ryland rubbed the back of his neck and considered leaving. But if he did, then this bad impression would be a lasting one. Besides, he'd never retreated before. Would be a shame to start now.

"You look cold," Ryland lied. He took off his bomber jacket and draped it over Laena's shoulders. The form-fitting undershirt revealed a chiseled physique with muscles that rippled when he moved.

"Is that better?" The sparkle in his eye retained its flirtatious edge, but it also mingled with compassion. It was perhaps the closest he had ever come to an apology.

The woman just nodded, holding out her hand to keep some distance between the two. "Thanks," she said, not wanting to be rude and take the jacket off.

"So... what are you working on here?" Ryland felt off his game. Course correction was needed. Hopefully by getting Laena back into more familiar and therefore comfortable territory, he could try again.

Laena took her seat again and turned towards the console. "We just recently got a new astrometric upload from the Starfleet Science Institute. I was taking a look at the new data to see any new areas of explored space that we weren't aware of before." With a few taps of the console, the massive black screen suddenly burst to life, bathing the two individuals in a soft glow. As Laena looked up at the massive starchart, her eyes sparkled from the pure joy and excitement she felt.

"I love exploring new areas," Ryland said, though he had long since turned away from the screen to study Laena. "Going where this man has never gone before. It helps me remember I'm alive."

His mouth curled to one side in a suggestive smirk.

Despite the man's overt advances, Laena was completely captivated by what she saw. "Look at this," she said, almost in a whisper, as she dismissed the created map in lieu of an actual image. A beautiful purple and yellow nebula boiled on the screen and she couldn't look away. "Isn't it beautiful."

"Sure is." Ryland leaned closer to Laena. "I've never seen her equal."

Laena scrunched her eyebrows as she looked at the man, "You're in my personal bubble," she said, matter of factly.

"I'd like to be in more than that," Ryland quipped without hesitation.

Without hesitation, Laena reached out and slapped the man across the face. "Don't you ever disrespect me like that again," she said, pointing a finger towards his nose.

"Ow!" Ryland rubbed his smarting cheek. "What in the hell did you do that for, lady? I thought we was having a good time, and then you haul off and hit me!"

"I'm here trying to share something with you and you were disrespectful and lewd." Laena crossed her arms over her chest. "Your lack of manners and couth puts people off and makes them not want to be around you."

"If you go around slapping folks because they think you have a nice ass, then I can't say as I expect anyone would want to be around you either." Ryland threw his hands down, though they were balled into fists. "Do you think I came here because I give a damn about any of this bullshit?" He balled hands turned free in wild gestures which took in the scope of the entire lab.

He stomped toward the door, but stopped after just a few feet. When he turned back to Laena, he said, "When I cast a line out to a nice girl and she nibbles, what's a scoundrel like me to do but reel her in? But I ain't about to be slapped around like a lil' redhead stepchild. Talk about disrespect."

Ryland snorted in contempt, but turned toward the door before his chagrin gave way to anything more vulnerable.

"Why did you come here, then?" she said, following him down the catwalk towards the door.

"I came here because my balls are bluer than the dark side of the moon and I thought you were playing hard to get," Ryland said without turning around. He did not like being chased. "What do you care? I'm getting as far away from your bubble as I can go."

"Leave then. And don't bother coming back," she said, turning and walking back to her console. "You disgusting excuse for a man."

"Yeah, well, my reputation preceded me, didn't it?" Ryland turned around just before he reached the door. He saw Laena's back. "What do you know about men anyway? Who are you to judge me?"

When the woman didn't stop, Ryland cast his eyes down.

"You think you know me," he said quietly, almost to himself.

"Who have you given a chance to know you?" she asked, quite loudly, in comparison to his vocal decibel. "You strut around here acting like a man who doesn't know how to behave in public. Why would anyone want to get to know you?"

"I have plenty of friends," he retorted. His chin raised in defiance. "Before I came here, I had a life, a career, a purpose. Darlin', I was twice the man you think I'm not capable of being. And it all went to shit. It meant nothing. Now I'm after the one thing left that I can get my hands on. If it ain't you, then I'll find another and never darken your doorstep with my disgusting shadow again."

"Why can't you be him again?" she asked, his voice returning to her usual softness. "What is preventing you from being who you truly are?"

"This is who I am," Ryland said, tapping himself on the chest and walking backwards. "Don't bother looking for a light at the end of this tunnel, Ms Laena. You'll just be looking for a light that never comes."

The doors parted when Ryland came near enough to trigger them. He turned around and left the Stellar Cartography lab--probably for good.


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