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Old November 5 2008, 09:03 PM   #40
SLWatson
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Arc of the Wolf: Distant Horizons - Processing

Title: Processing
Rating: G
Words: 2642
Timeline: June 2240
Disclaimer: If you hadn't noticed in the above disclaimers, he's still Paramount's.
Notes: One of a set of 'Basic Training' stories -- that particular group is not finished and only has two parts, though the second part is probably one of the more important ones. Edited by the Teddog. This is a look at Scott going through processing (and finding it beyond a surreal experience); kind of a darkish comedy of incredulity. Mostly, though, just very surreal, which I imagine it would be after living in one life for so long. Not particularly inspired, but hey.

--

The name 'boot camp' had fallen out of favor centuries before, mostly because it had some mildly negative connotations, versus the much more accurate 'Basic Training.' Some of the misconceptions about said Basic Training had fallen by the wayside too, long since -- at least when it came to Starfleet, recruits were generally picked for their ability to be as much explorer as defender.

Regardless, a lot of rumors still persisted, and the biggest one was that it was a hard, intense experience.

That was an understatement.

The first part was the processing, which took place in Maryland. There, recruits were given their initial paperwork and a thorough physical and dental workup, as well as initial psychological testing. The paperwork was tolerable -- there was a ton of it, but a lot of it was repetition, and getting used to it now was probably wise because there would be even more of it in the near future.

The physical was... less tolerable.




Even if most physical exams were conducted almost entirely with tricorders and scanners, requiring no unnecessary contact or even much proximity, any sight of a doctor tended to make Scott's blood pressure spike. So, finding himself surrounded by other recruits, all of them almost mockingly calm, and likewise surrounded by doctors...

His nerves were somewhat frayed by that point anyway. Leaving a rainy, cool Aberdeen had been an experience in itself, somewhat stilted and filled with trepidation. Then landing in the very warm morning sunlight of summer in Maryland had been a swift and real reminder that he was no where near familiar territory. He didn't have time to really debate on that, though, because immediately he was too busy to think. The good thing, of course, was that... well, he was too busy to think. Coincidentally, the bad thing was just the same.

He had known that it would be like this, maybe even counted on it, but the reality was slightly more jarring than he expected.

Without the time to get a bearing on things, either his surroundings or other people or any of it, he had a hard time feeling... there. Scott needed a certain amount of time to do those things, to assess his exact situation, and mostly he was very good at it. But this far outside of the life he had been living, it was too much to process and no time to do it, leaving him feeling more like he was on auto-pilot than anything else.

On the upside, without time to deal with the feelings, he was at least able to keep his mind focused on the myriad tasks and get through them without balking.

Until the physical.

If it weren't for the fact that he had people behind him, he would have been out of there and probably out of the building before his rational mind overrode his instincts, all of which were screaming for him to be anywhere else.

"You okay, man?" the recruit he'd just knocked backwards into a bit asked, sounding a little startled.

The question at least snapped Scott back to rationality and he realized that he'd backpedaled. After a couple of breaths, he said, "Aye, thanks." And then he fell to fidgeting, not even realizing that he was doing it.

The wait was over quick; the processing staff had this down to a fine science.

"Little anxious?" the doctor asked, casually, consulting the tricorder.

"Aye, sir," Scott replied after a moment, when he realized that he was going to have to get used to actually answering non-engineering questions and responding to non-engineering things out loud. He also finally noticed that he was still fidgeting and promptly clasped his hands behind his back.

"Well, that's normal." The doctor didn't look up, just focused on his readings. "Skip breakfast?"

"I dinna mean to," he said, and after that figured out that another 'aye' would have been a better response.

"Mm," was the reply, confirming that thought.

It was quiet after that. Lots of scanning, but nothing worse, and he didn't have to sit down, lie down or anything, which made it far easier to live with. It was the closest Scott had gotten to being able to think for a few minutes and try to grasp at everything that he was doing half-automatically. The sunlight was still very bright coming in through the windows, and the fact that the clock on the wall showed it was only now coming up on noon was kind of a shock. It felt like it should at least be into the afternoon, if not evening.

He was able to tune out the number of doctors for awhile until the one that had been doing his workup came back.

"Absent a few mild vitamin deficiencies, you're in good shape," the doctor said, handing over a card. "That's a lunch voucher; don't skip it."




His arm was still a little sore from where he got the vitamin booster, but Scott didn't have time to really think about that, either. Lunch could have theoretically provided a period of recuperation from everything, but it didn't -- the cafeteria was packed, and even though he'd gotten a bit better about being around crowds at university, he still didn't like that much non-mechanical noise and movement. It was a bit like sensory overload; even when he was in university, he'd pack his own lunch and find somewhere quiet to eat.

It was almost too loud to think -- staff and recruits everywhere and all of them talking. Not the steady harmonics of machines, but the much more chaotic patterns of living interaction. Snippets of conversation speculating on the Academy, strangers swapping names and stories with one another, a couple of them taking the chance to call home on the public comms, knowing that they wouldn't get the opportunity here soon.

He didn't waste much time there; didn't have much to waste anyway. After the lines, crowds and actually sitting down to eat, he barely had time to return the tray and silverware before he had to go and do the next round of paperwork.

Equipment requisition forms, transcript sign offs, background check sign offs...

That took another hour or so, but at least the knot left from the shot had gone away.

The psychology evaluation was next. Scott had been dreading it; the idea of some shrink poking around in his mind, diving right into his soul-stuff was really unnerving. He knew he had to go through it, though, because Starfleet wouldn't accept any nutjobs.

Right?




It was multiple choice.

The psych evaluation was a multiple choice test. About two hundred questions, with four options to answer. Conducted in a large room with probably fifty other recruits. No shrinks. No mind-poking.

He almost couldn't believe it.

Scott wasn't sure if he was relieved by the fact that he wouldn't have to go through any mindgames a shrink would put him through, or if he was deeply disturbed that this was all the psychological screening that would be required to get into Starfleet. Even less sure because about half of the answers had no option that he felt would be appropriate, leaving him to pick the best out of what he thought were inappropriate choices.

His head was buzzing some when he finished that, a kind of annoying sort of dizziness. He chalked it up to the heat -- it was probably getting close to eighty-five degrees out, something Aberdeen never saw, and the walks between the buildings were incessant.

The last thing he had to go through before he could pick up his transfer orders, travel voucher, hotel voucher and food vouchers was the dental appointment.

The physical had gone far better than he actually expected, given just how actively he disliked doctors. And the psych eval had been absurdly simple. And while he'd never actually been to a dentist, at least that he could remember, he figured that this would be the easiest part of the day.




"Well, I needed a vacation," the dentist, a younger guy probably about thirty, said. He was cradling his wrist, but he sounded surprisingly nonchalant about it. "Maybe Bermuda this time."

The dentist was a member of Starfleet, as evidenced by his blue uniform shirt. Over that, he wore a sort of pale blue lab coat. On first look, he was an entirely normal individual, utterly professional.

Until he turned his back to get his profession-modified tricorder.

Airbrushed on the back of his labcoat was a woman barely in a bikini, posed in the tropics and in the midst of dumping what appeared to be cold water on herself, with the string on the back of the bikini just come loose. If it were a sequential picture... well, it wasn't hard to tell what would come next, but it wasn't a bad exercise for the imagination regardless.

If it weren't for the fact that he'd been so shocked by the fact that this guy could get away with wearing such a thing in uniform, Scott might have spent more time debating on frames two, three, four and five to go after the nicely painted frame one.

The dentist must have noticed that look, but he didn't offer any explanations -- just chattered on about how many recruits he had already seen today, how good breakfast was at that restaurant off-campus, that kind of thing. Took time out in his recounting of his day to inform Scott that his mouth was in good shape, nothing needed filled, replaced or otherwise, but he'd probably have to have his wisdom teeth pulled when they came in, or they'd crowd the bottom teeth. Suggested a professional cleaning, though, since he'd never had one.

Still trying to grasp at how that labcoat came into existence, and how this guy could get away with wearing it (and starting to speculate on the next scene that should logically come after the one already painted), Scott agreed.

And that's when it became an incident.

The first problem was that he had no idea that you actually have to lay down for a cleaning. Any speculation on the buxom beauty fled instantly when he was told to. At that point, he could have probably outright said no -- in retrospect, he should have -- but there were a million reasons why he didn't and none of them that could ever be explained in coherent words. So, he did as he was told.

That alone was enough to make him jumpy. It was one thing to be on your back under a piece of equipment, working, but it was a whole other thing anywhere else. Especially if there was someone standing over you. There was never any good that could come from that kind of position, ever. It was the kind of thing that was so deeply, primally avoided that it wasn't even remotely conscious.

Part out of willpower and part out of fear, Scott managed to hold still for all of fifteen seconds. Then the dentist reached over him to get the sonic cleaner, and the next thing Scott knew, he was across the room with his back to the wall, the dentist was holding a wrist and he had no clue how he got there.

It was silent for about a minute, a tense silence at least in half of the room, a somewhat baffled one in the other half.

It was broken when the dentist declared that he needed a vacation.

"All right... the horror stories aren't true," he continued. "We don't use drills, we don't yank teeth unless there's a very good reason and then we replace all the important ones with lab-grown matches. We don't happy-gas people or poke them with needles full of novocaine anymore, we never use pliers and root canals are a thing of the very distant past."

Still practically shaking from the adrenaline rush, Scott had to blink at that a few times. It was only after about ten more seconds of trying to comprehend what was being said that he realized that the dentist was trying to address a more common fear. But he just nodded, a bit dumbfounded.

"You'd think our reputation would have gotten better after, oh, centuries." The dentist tried carefully flexing his wrist, then winced. "You must've heard some real doozies."

There was no reply to that -- Scott hadn't, actually. As far as he'd figured, you only went to a dentist when you had a real problem.

"So, the sonic cleaner is absolutely painless, it takes about a minute and a half overall, and you could always just tell me to knock it off if it bothers you." The dentist grinned, kind of wryly. "As opposed to making me."

"Sorry," Scott finally said, more automatically. He didn't quite remember what he'd done, but it was pretty easy to piece together. "There goes my career," he thought. "Assault on a superior officer. Dinna even sign the final paperwork, yet."

"Still want your teeth cleaned?" the dentist asked, jarring Scott out of his rather fatalistic notions of careericide.

In the end, the answer to the labcoat was apparent when the buxom beauty depicted on it came in to take over; on her coat was the dentist, in a considerably less compelling if not similarly depicted scene. Turned out they were a husband and wife team.

And it also turned out that it was far, far easier to hold still when the wife's finer assets were a close distraction. Who'd have thought?

"Sprained wrist," the dentist had said to her, with a shrug. "Perfect time to go to Bermuda, honey. Put in the paperwork."




The day ended with Scott picking up the rest of his paperwork, including directions to one of the hotels where recruits were put up before being sent on to San Francisco. By then, he was practically reeling; still kind of dizzy and now queasy too, but mostly reeling because it had been... well, the oddest day of his entire life to date. In about twelve hours, he had left Aberdeen, arrived in Maryland, filled out uncountable forms, took three different screening tests, managed to have lunch somewhere in there...

He still hadn't honestly processed most of it. It was almost like it was happening to someone else and he was just along for the ride. Not just the actual events of the day, but even the hot weather and the clear sunlight and... none of it seemed all that real.

For something that didn't seem real, it also seemed like it had been more like a year than it had been only hours.

He unlocked the door to his hotel room, setting his luggage next to it, then locked it when it slid closed behind him. Leaned back against it to catch his breath; it really was hot out, compared to what he was used to. And he still wasn't exactly feeling well.

The room was nice, though. Lots of pastels, but clean and comfortable. There wasn't more than a bed and a bathroom, and a screen to watch the news on, but it was...

It took him a moment to actually realize that rush he felt. And to figure out why it was a good kind of rush.

...it was his. This room was his.

Just for the night, admittedly. And he knew that he'd be stuck living with far too many other people when Basic Training started, because everyone lived in barracks where quiet and privacy were coveted commodities. He wasn't really looking forward to that.

But... this room was his. Even if it was just for the night, it didn't belong to his family. It was his. By all accounts, the first place he would ever rest his head that was.

At that realization, he smiled.
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