Shore Leave: Business As Usual
Location: Jungle, Uncharted World 112C, Beltha Sector
Claire wiped the sweat off her forehead as they reached the top of the incline. The temperature was actually quite comfortable, with a cool breeze coming up from the shoreline. But even with that, the exertion and the humidity made trekking through the jungle a good workout. Her green tanktop and grey shorts were comfortable, helping to make the heat bearable. But her boots did leave a bit to be desired.
At the top of the hill, they reached a several foot tall sheer rock face. She was confident that Nathan could just scale it, but she was not exactly going to be able to. "Alright, muscles. I'm gonna need a boost to get over that one," she teased, as she elbowed him in the side lightly.
Bishop had been walking behind Clair, softly singing "She's got legs and she knows how to use them." When they reached the rock face. He looked at her as she elbowed him and asked for a boost. "That's all I am to you, is muscles." He teased and added a sniff for effect. He bent forward and cupped his hands together. "Well come on you wanted a boost."
Claire stepped onto his hands and braced herself as he launched her up toward the top of the rock face. Clambering up, she made room for him to climb up a moment later. "I didn't say you were only muscles. But of the two of us, I doubt the title work fit me very well."
Moments later, Bishop was beside her, "Oh don't try to make up Claire." He teased, "You think you can bat those pretty eyes of yours and I'll do whatever you want." He continued to tease her. He didn't add that she was right.
She made eye contact with him, dramatically batting her eye lashes for effect. "Don't give me ideas."
Laughing he shook his head, "Moi?" He asked in mock surprise, "Never, now lets go "legs". We still need to find a suitable camping site."
"I think there's a bit of a clearing a little ways farther up this way," Claire said as she started off farther into the jungle at a fairly brisk pace. If legs was going to be her nickname, then she'd make sure she lived up to it. "I used to go camping quite a bit back in Quebec. It was a lot different from here though. A little bit more frigid. Canada isn't exactly the tropical jungle kind of place."
"Yeah, that's right." Bishop agreed, "When you were out hunting polar bears or was it elk?" He chuckled as he followed after her. "Lead on and I will follow. After all I've got the tent. You know.." He continued, "I used to camp when I was a kid in Massachusetts out at the Boy Scout camp located at Buzzard's Bay."
"We didn't hunt. I don't think I'd have the stomach for that," Claire replied, as she led them further. "I didn't know you were a boy scout though. Though I suppose I'm not surprised."
"I was teasing Claire." He clarified. "Yep. Sure was. Got all kinds of merit badges and stuff. See? You learn all kinds of fascinating stuff about me all the time. Just like I didn't know you led camping trips in Canada hunting for bears." He egged her on, a smile on his face.
"Yes, boy scouts. Fascinating," she teased, in a sarcastic tone. "Here's a bit of a more interesting question for you. I assume you haven't been a perfect boy scout your entire life. You had to get in trouble at some point during the academy. What's the juiciest story you've got? "
"Listen Nanook. I find your lack of faith disappointing." Yet even as he said it he was laughing, "I was a model Boy Scout. Now as a cadet at the Academy that's a different story. Not so much. You already know of the Blue Dye Incident which was quite rewarding. Now juiciest let me think on that," As he walked along.
“Blue dye was a solid prank. But I’m guessing there’s more. A Boy Scout like you had to go rogue at some point,” Claire teased. The trees were starting to thin a little. The planned clearing had to be getting close now.
"Oh! I am wounded to the quick by your utter lack of faith in my sterling reputation." Bishop teased. "Of course truth be told there were a few chinks here and there but nothing too major. Except for....." His voice trailed off an he knew it would peak Claire's attention.
“Go on...” Claire said, batting her eyelashes for good measure.
"Oh no, I can't Claire, your feminine wiles won't work on me this time." He protested feebly. "The memory even now is too painful." he hammed it up to add to the intrigue.
Claire stopped, turning back to him in just the right pose to accentuate the angles of her slim frame. With an overly dramatic toss of her hair, she gazed back at him. “Are you sure?”
"Weeeeeellllllll….if you insist." Nathan answered with a grin.
“Oh, I do,” she replied with a quick wink, resuming their path.
"Well," Nathan began as they walked, getting ready to tell Claire, then decided that here and now wasn't the right time. "On second thought, I'll tell you later Claire."
She gave him a bit of a skeptical look. "Fair enough," she replied, a little surprised that he had suddenly changed his mind. Maybe it was more serious than she'd expected. "Well, on another note, I think I'm starting to hear the sounds of a small waterfall up ahead. As long as it's the right one, we're almost to the campsite I'm hoping we can use."
Nathan trudged up the trail behind her, he saw the look she gave him but made no comment. He would tell her just not now. He wanted this to be a special time for them and he hoped it would memorable as well. "Sounds good Claire." he said alound yet silently he was thinking, *A waterfall is a waterfall.*
Sure enough, within a few minutes, they climbed past another obstacle and found themselves in a natural clearing of sorts. Tall trees encircled it, but along the cliff face was a nearly 50 foot waterfall, pouring into a small pond, which eventually poured into a stream that ran downhill into the trees. Along the edge of the pond was plenty of room to set up tent, fire, and all the other amenities of a good campsite. “There! Told you we were getting close. Look suitable enough to you?”
Coming up to stand beside her, Nathan looked the campsite over and had to admit he was impressed. Nodding, he replied. "This is more than suitable Claire, this is perfect! You did an amazing job selecting this site. Two thumbs up on a job well done." He looked the area over, "Where do you want the tent set up?"
“I’m gonna need you to pick that part. My requirements are: not in the water and not in the fire. My bed roll is comfy enough I probably won’t notice what kind of terrain I’m on anyway,” Claire replies with a smile.
"Simple enough." Nathan answered, "Though slightly elevated would be better so if it rains the water rolls away form us and doesn't puddle or pool around the tent."
"Yes, I'm not particularly keen on turning my bedroll into a sponge," Claire replied, setting her pack down on one of the nearby rocks. The area was beautiful, and the sounds of trees rustling nearby only added to the effect. She kicked off her boots and walked over to the edge of the water, putting her feet in the water for a moment.
"Can't blame you there. Otherwise people would be correct in saying you were all wet." He teased. He took off his backpack as he watched Claire walked to the water's edge. He smiled as he watched her put her feet in. "Is the water cold?" He asked as he unpacked the tent and began to set it up. Once he was done with that he would make a place for their fire to be.
Claire turned around to look at him with her head slightly slanted, a suspicious look on her face. She ignored the second question. "What do you mean 'people would be correct'?"
Nathan was turned away from her, beginning to set the tent up so he didn't see the suspicious look on Claire's face. He turned and when he saw her look alarm bells sounded in his head. *Way to go Nathan, you've stirred up a hornet's nest and your gonna get stung if you can't talk your way out of this.* "What Claire? Oh nothing I mean if it rains your sleeping bag would get all wet and you would get all wet." He said quickly and hoping she didn't press him on it.
"Mhmmm," the redhead replied, sounding unamused as he turned back to their tent. She could have been wrong, but she'd thought she'd caught a hint of blush on his face.
A moment later a loud splash made its way to Nathan's ears. Claire's head emerged from the water a few feet from shore. "There. I bailed you out," she replied with a wink. "Water's lovely, by the way."
Nathan turned and looked out to where Claire was in pond. "You certainly did and you certainly are. Good to know about the water. I'll join you once I've finished with the tent."
"Good call. If it starts raining out here, I might get over the pond pretty quickly," she replied, slipping on to her back and kicking slowly to stay afloat. "I have to say. One of the downsides of being on a ship all the time is that we don't get to just enjoy places like this. But I suppose, had I not been on the ship, I'd never have actually arrived here."
She chuckled a little at herself. "And now I'm just rambling..."
"Nonsense Claire. You aren't rambling, your sharing your thoughts and feelings. I agree with them by the way." Nathan replied.
Claire hesitated for a moment. She wanted to ask him about something. Something he'd avoided completely in their previous conversations. There was little doubt in her mind that it'd be a sore topic, but she felt like she needed to bring it up. Coming to a halt and treading water in one place, she looked back toward shore.
"You don't talk much about your last ship," she said, leaving a pregnant pause in the air. She hoped he wouldn't take this the wrong way. She wasn't trying to make him feel bad, just wanted to broach the subject. They couldn't get to know each other well if they were keeping their walls up.
Bishop sat on the shore, looking out at Claire. He nodded, "No, I don't, what would you like to know?"
"Ideally, all of it," she replied tenderly. "But I'll settle for what you're willing to share. I don't want to push you."
He nodded, "A fair and reasonable request, Claire. You want to know about the man you're camping with."
"I didn't mean it like that," Claire said, vaguely splashing toward him, though it didn't reach. "I just want to get to know you better. And this feels important."
"I didn't take it like that, Claire. And you're right. It is important. We should be open and honest with each other." He said with a smile as she splashed water at him. "You're interested and I take that as a compliment."
She treaded water for a moment, before deciding he might need prompting. "So...anything you're willing to share?"
Nathan was sitting on the shore but his thoughts were far away on a ship he no longer commanded. He focused on Claire, "I was captain of a starship. It was the best fourteen months of my life. That is until the Arizona Incident I think the media called it. The people on the Arizona were like members of my family. That ship was my home. A wistful look on his face. He looked away for a moment then back at Claire, " A Captain is responsible for the lives and deaths of his crew. Every decision you make is solely yours. It is the ultimate responsibility." He grew quiet, "I screwed up and people died. It is that simple. Hence why I'm not a captain anymore."
Claire looked at Nathan, a look of genuine sympathy on her face. She'd heard of the Arizona Incident, of course. And she'd been well aware that Nathan was the captain. She'd certainly wasn't above listening to rumors, but she'd intentionally avoided the topic with him prior to this. But she was glad she'd gotten him to open up. "I'm sure you did everything you could. Sometimes...sometimes things happen."
Nathan nodded almost absently, he saw her look of sympathy and was glad it wasn't one of pity. He didn't want that. "That's kind of you to say Claire but the hearing didn't see it that way. So I was stripped of my command and reduced in rank. I guess I should be grateful I'm not in prison. Which is what a lot of people wanted." A wry smile crossed his face. "So here I am."
"I think prison sounds a little bit severe for what happened. I can't imagine what possible charge you'd face," Claire replied. She had a feeling he was being a little bit over dramatic there, though given what had happened, that was understandable. He hadn't shared much in the way of details, but she didn't want to pry. "Besides, have you looked around? Here is a pretty good place to be right now."
He looked out at her. "I was charged with gross negligence Claire. For a starship commander there is no worse charge. It means I failed to take proper actions when we encountered the Klingons and because of that people died." He stopped he didn't want to spoil the time he and Claire had. He nodded, "Here is very nice." He admitted. "The company even better."
"Yes, I am pretty good company," she said, with a bit of feigned narcissism. She nodded at the mess of canvass and spokes next to the man. "How goes tent building?"
Nathan nodded, smiling as Claire spoke. He looked at the jumbled mess of canvas and tent spokes, "I'll have it up and ready for us to use in thirty minutes." He promised. "Then we can go for a hike if you like. I can dig the firepit when we come back."