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Lt. Commander
Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 120
# 115 One, Final Test
06-24-2011, 04:11 AM
"I'm telling you, he'll be here!" she whispered emphatically, as her pale, blue-skinned hand grasped his, squeezing reassuringly.

Smiling at her earnestness, he shook his head slightly and replied, "I know you're trying to help, Tala, but, really, I'm not worried about whether he shows up, I'm just trying to not pass out in front of all this brass!"

His mind, however, warred against the words, even as he spoke them, because it did matter to him. Today was the day... His final, major test, before graduation from Starfleet Academy, the delivery of his dissertation to qualify for completion of Command School. As if completion and submission of the lengthy dissertation were not enough, a portion of the grade hinged upon its delivery, in front of a veritable sea of command pips, medals, and campaign ribbons, seemingly pinned to every, otherwise-unadorned scrap of cloth that covered the assembled officers of the General Staff, in attendance from nearby Starfleet Command.

It was not the legion of Starfleet officers that fueled his angst, however, but the glaring absence of one, specific individual, that threw his soul into torment. He and his father had not spoken, in person, since the day that he left for the Academy; their only communications had been terse, merely informative notes, advising each other as to their health and welfare, always with a civil, though frosty, veneer.

His father... Eugene Marshall... Well-known Federation Councilmember and part of President Bako's inner circle... His father who had never approved of his decision to enter Starfleet, believing that it would be better if he followed the carefully-crafted path that had been arranged for him... Enrollment in the best prep schools, followed by admission to Harvard University... A cozy position as an aide to one of Earth's Representatives to the Federation's General Assembly... Ultimately, following in his father's footsteps as a Councilmember... Every detail was planned with meticulous deliberation... Except for one... He had little (if any) desire to follow in his father's footsteps, seeing the cutthroat nature of political machinations from the inside, he preferred a path that would, hopefully, serve a more noble purpose; hence, his enlistment in Starfleet, despite an angry protest by his father.

Since that day, despite impressive marks in every class, discipline, and study at the Academy, he had never received a word of commendation or approval from his father. Most days, it did not bother him, as he had made his choice and was going to abide by it, regardless of the consequences or opinions of those around him. Today, however, the weight of expectations was driving his mind to the edge of despair, as he realized how desperately he craved a healing of that rift between him and his father, and further began to realize how much it had motivated his efforts in the past four years.

As if sensing his thoughts, the young, Andorian woman brought her hand up to his face and traced several, slender fingers along the sharp contour of his jaw, "You're not listening to me, Ben, I'm telling you, he will be here!" As she saw him give her a wistful glance and a half-smile, she continued, "Your father is not going to miss the most important presentation that you'll ever make at the Academy! You are going to graduate first in your class and I'm telling you, he is going to be here for this." The fingers tracing his jawline gently pulled his face down to hers and she emphasized her final words with a tender kiss.

A genuine smile creased his face as he looked down at her, "Well, whether he's here or not, I'm definitely going to go make you proud, at the very least." Even as he finished speaking, however, the smile faded to the same, pensive look that his face sported earlier, belying the turmoil that had his insides in open rebellion.

"He'll be here," she whispered again, seeming to sense his inner conflict, "Now, go out there, and show them that your father isn't the only Marshall that will be a star."

Chuckling quietly, he embraced her briefly, then stepped away from her and toward the curtain at the back of the stage. Taking a deep breath and consciously trying to will his emotions into balance, he pushed through the curtain and stepped out onto the stage, as the Academy Commandant finished his introduction.

Striding to the podium with a confidence that he did not truly feel, he shook the Commandant's hand and thanked him for the introduction. A smile and quietly-whispered, "Good luck, Ben" did little to alleviate the nervousness that he felt.

Looking out at the assembled officers and public officials, time seemed to slow as he pondered the future. This dissertation was but a tiny ripple in the pond of his life, but it would touch the lives of all those gathered here, many of whom would be his superiors in Starfleet, after graduation; as such, it took on a certain gravity that both amplified his personal nervousness, yet also helped him to steel his motivation to give an exemplary presentation.

As his eyes wandered over the crowd, he tried to block out his recognition of specific, high-ranking attendees, though, naturally, it was difficult to ignore Admiral Quinn and his personal staff. When the Commander-in-Chief, Starfleet, attends a function, it is nearly impossible to ignore. Looking away from the Admiral, to avoid adding to his anxiety, his gaze swiftly passed over the remainder of the crowd when, suddenly, his eyes locked on a stocky, white-haired man standing near the back of the auditorium.

Flanked on one side by his omni-present aide, a Vulcan female, on the other by his Rigelian bodyguard; and dressed in an immaculately-tailored suit, stood his father. His pale, blue eyes met the stare of his father's stone-gray eyes, and time stopped.

A thousand conflicting emotions raced through his mind, ranging from terrible frustration to unbridled elation. His face, remarkably, remained composed, despite the internal rollercoaster ride that he was experiencing. For a moment, all that passed between he and his father was the impassive stare that they shared. With a brief, barely-perceptible nod of his father's head, however, his nervousness vanished, replaced with a firm determination to validate his choice, made four years previous.

At the thought of the smirk with which Tala would tell him, "I told you he'd be here," a wry smile set itself upon his face. Acknowledging his father's nod with a slight nod of his own, he took a deep breath and began his dissertation.

"Space... The final frontier..."