Thunder rolled across the sky. Sitting with his back against the rock, Chekov not only heard it, but felt it in the earth. It was powerful and amazing. This wasn’t the sort of experience you could have on a starship. Space had storms, of course. But not like this.
He wasn’t sure how far he’d come up the mountain. He could have looked at his chronometer and compass…but Chekov was not so inclined. In this place he wasn’t a captain or a Russian or even just a man. He was elemental, one with his surroundings—and he liked it.
A little while later he felt the chill, though, as the wind picked up and tossed wet leaves at him around the overhang where he was sheltered. Rain slashed at his face, and he knew he needed to move on. Getting slowly to his feet he used the walking stick Sulu had given him and set out to find better shelter before nightfall.
Coming to a wild place like this was essential for his survival these days. His quarters were appointed well, certainly—but although he shared them with no one he always knew others were only a few bulkheads away. The thunder of the ship’s engines could always be faintly sensed, as well. And although he loved his ship and crew there were times when he longed for wordless, timeless existence.
A thunderous existence such as he’d found here.
One of the caves through the next canyon yawned open before him. Chekov found the dry dark welcoming after his wet climb, and strode inside, only a moment later remembering he should have checked it for wildlife. As it happened, he’d been lucky. Only a few bats shrieked and pelted the air near his head with their wings as they escaped out into the falling night. After that, he was left to himself to build a fire and settled down before it. Taking the provisions he’d brought from his duffel, he set about to eat and continue to watch the falling rain.
The first few days were always the same—the constant clamor of duty orders, requisitions, decisions echoing in his head. But soon they faded as he was permitted at last to ignore them. They were usually closely followed by guilt at being on leave, random memories of trivial incidents and, at last, silence except for the pulse of the forest, the rush of rain and thrum of thunder.
Chekov loved the storm. It was powerful, commanded all and followed no one.
How many years since he had come here with Sulu? The Russian stirred the fire and considered. It really didn’t matter, he supposed. It had been long enough. He thought of his friend now and smiled—Hikaru had made everything a new adventure. But that’s what he wanted to get away from, just now. He needed to be made small by this vast place, humbled by its power. Because if a captain didn’t remember how fragile all of life was, how great his responsibility was to it with every command, then it was too easy to let his ego take over. God knew it had happened often enough.
The sun went slowly down and the hum of the insects came up. The rain tapered off and faint dripping could be heard as in the distance something screamed—a rabbit, maybe, taken by an owl. Life and death happened here, in a natural cycle. They weren’t things to fear. They were empty.
And when he left this place in a few days, Chekov would be empty, too—and ready to be filled up with duty and responsibility…until he came again.