The Plebe The sleet fell in piercing sheets that stung the skin and sent cadets and instructors racing between structures. She watched the short lived pandemonium with detached amusement, the sensation of water falling from the sky as alien to her as the billowing grey clouds overhead. To be honest, she preferred the overcast to an open sky. The naked blue canopy filled the young woman with a potent sense of agoraphobia. Her dark hair hung limply under the onslaught. It stuck to her face and channeled the rivulets of icy water that coursed down from her unprotected head. She stood, transfixed, still in the very spot where she'd stepped off the shuttle bus. The grand entrance to Starfleet Academy stood before her, but her legs would not move. Try as she might to enter their historic grounds, it was as if an invisible force held her in place. This will be my home, she thought finally. These buildings; the lecture halls, the dormitories, the simulator complexes, this can be my new beginning. I can't go back, not ever. The carryall suddenly seemed to weigh too much and she let the handle slip from her fingers. "Child, please tell me that if you've passed the battery of tests necessary to get into this place you at least have sense enough to come in out of the rain!" The voice jolted her from her reverie. She turned to find an older man clad in a work shirt and overalls, a wide-brimmed hat atop his head with water trickling from the brim. He appeared to be adjusting a portable ionizer field set above a small patch of tulips that surrounded the base of the statue of Jonathan Archer that stood before the main gates. "I've got to make sure these darlings don't get clobbered by this un-seasonal downpour." He shook his head in dismay, "Weather modification network my wrinkled backside! We never used to have freak storms like this in the Spring here in the Bay." She smiled despite herself at this wonderful piece of normalcy that had intruded into the most momentous day of her young life. He pressed the last toggle on the control mechanism and then moved over to where she stood. He put a strong but deceptively scrawny looking arm around her shoulders. "C'mon, miss, let's get you inside and dried off. My name's Boothby." He stooped to pick up her carryall and guided her gently but insistently towards the main administration building. "What do they call you?" "Ramirez," she croaked, speaking before she'd even realized it. "Liana Ramirez." "Well then, welcome to Starfleet Academy, Cadet Ramirez. I'm afraid I'll have to suggest to your instructors you receive some remedial training in inclement weather survival." "Sounds like a plan," she remarked numbly as she tried to make sense of her new place in the cosmos. A warm rush of air greeted them as they moved through the sliding transparent aluminum doors into the grand atrium. The sleet continued to pelt the exterior, its staccato beat announcing the arrival of Earth's most recent immigrant, another bruised soul searching for meaning and belonging within the walls of the Federation's foremost cathedral of dreams.