(( Interior. U.S.S. Arrow, outside Cargo Bay 1. ))
Maria had lost track of her mental mantra, and where she was. She'd spun out for the second time today - something exceptionally rare. This time, however, her body refused to cooperate to bring her out of it. Not yet, at least. She barely managed to sit herself up, only vaguely aware of the violence occuring a few meters away from her. Ghant's words vibrated through her head like a gong had gone off. She hadn't left herself behind when she left her prior life, had she? Surely she hadn't discarded everything... certainly becoming a vindictive, bloodthirsty shell of herself wasn't her future? She had given so much away just to not become a dancer - what if there was nothing left? She spiraled into personal history, and struck on a distant memory.
(( Flashback. Exterior. Somewhere on The Pampas of Argentina, a long while ago. ))
Once, Maria had been a young teen woman like every other human. She was precocious, talented, self-possessed, and held a love for the outdoors and adventure, among a great many other things. On this particular day, she was indulging that passion from the back of a horse, accompanied by her older sister, Camila. She was back in Argentina after a long while away, dressed in a button-down, pants, tough boots, a red neckerchief, a beret perched atop her head with her hair neatly arranged flowing from underneath, and a
strapped at the lowest point of her back. She was the spitting image of a gaucho from hundreds of years ago, though none of them would have been women.
On this particular day, the wet of the night prior met with a sun high in the sky baking off the moisture. The smell of trampled wet grass and hot mud kicked into the air filled her nostrils, an exhilarating elixir of scent that encouraged her to spur on her steed to reckless speed, whooping in delight all the way. The flat expanse and open horizon offset by endless sky seemed to beckon her ever onward. The beat of the hooves and the breathing of the horse matched her beating pulse.
On this particular day, her black-haired sister had been charged with keeping the young Maria in line and out of trouble. It wasn't an easy task on the best of days, but doubly so today when Maria seemed determined to misbehave. She rode hard to keep up with her, but she knew Maria was heading into potential trouble up ahead, with a swampy bit of land liable to throw her off in her estimation. She called out in their native Spanish.
Camila: Maria! Slow down!
Maria: :: She shouted back, her smile a mile wide. :: Why? I'm too fast for you?
Camila: Slow down, before you hurt yourself!
Maria moaned and groaned about it, but she pulled her horse back to a canter anyway and regrouped with her sister. She came alongside and shot her a displeased look.
Maria: You sound like mother, Cami.
Camila: And she's the one we'd both be dealing with if you fell off the day before a dance recital.
Maria: :: She scoffed. :: Her and abuela... :: A beat, then she grinned. :: Don't tell me you're joining their confederacy...
Camila: :: She sighed. :: Maria... you have a rare gift. Mom wants to see you realize your talent, and achieve something few do.
Maria peered off into the distance, squinting a little from the hot sun that bathed her features. In the deep distance, clouds had started building up over the mountains. A light breeze took her hair as she considered a response.
Maria: :: She frowned. :: Cami... Mother thinks I'm meant to be the dancer of a generation. You know I'm not, right? There's tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of dancers, times thousands of planets, each one with a mother that probably thinks the same thing. Most of whom work harder than I do, want it more, and have even more ability. It's not a gift, it's sweat and blood day in and day out.
Camila: Maria -
Maria: :: She cut her off. :: You know I'm right! I do it for the challenge, the physicality... Because I might get to say something new. Mother loves it because she gets to say, "Look how talented and gifted my daughter is! Look at how well she executes the classics. She'll be the best some day." She'd have me drilling and practicing every moment of every day, until I've worn my feet off to a nub and turned into a lifeless hologram.
Her sister shook her head and chuckled softly. A quiet moment passed as the turning point in their ride inevitably came earlier than Maria would have liked. Camila's tone turned serious, a sign of the bond between them signaled in the fact she didn't scold Maria for her outburst against their parents. She knew where the topic led well enough anyway.
Camila: You've danced your whole life, Maria. You're planning on it being more of your life. You know better than anyone in our family what it takes to make that happen.
Maria gave her classic cockeyed smile, knowing her sister had a point, like she always did.
Maria: You're right, as usual... Everyone says music is supposed to be joy and expression, but... :: Her smile fell. :: I don't know... Too many days I don't do it for me anymore. I hope that changes.
Camila: I'm sure it will.
:: She smiled warmly. :: And what would you do if you weren't dancing, huh?
Maria: :: She grinned back. :: I don't know, maybe join uncle here on the ranch? Spend my days riding the open range and herding cattle.
Camila: Follow in Diego's footsteps, eh? You'd be bored in a week, not to mention that's quite the irony from an anti-traditionalist like you.
Maria: :: She laughed softly. :: Right again, Cami.
She sighed, her eyes drifting over the landscape again. It wasn't awe-inspiring like the mountains, nor rich like the forests, but it was special to her nevertheless. Every detail went noted and cherished. Occasional scruffy trees and random bunches of tall grass decorated the flat landscape. Insects and birds buzzed and hummed away, filling the air with activity.
Maria: I'm not sure I'd ever get tired of the land or the horses, though...
Camila: Why do you think our uncle is still here?
:: She chuckled. ::
Maria's expression dropped, even though her immaculate posture never did. The stillness hung for a long moment. For those familiar, it was a drastic contrast to her usual smile and ceaseless pep.
Maria: What if dance is all I am?
Camila: You have a wandering heart, Maria, but a good one. I know you have more to offer than you think.
Maria: ...But how do you know?
Camila: How do you not know? You've always been the one that reaches for something more, something else. Always moving ahead, fueled on by something I'll never understand. Didn't you hear yourself just now when you said what you love about dance? You have such high-minded goals and ideals, things that are more who you are than any activity. Mom wants what she wants, but you believe in more than that... Not to mention you're definitely the smartest one in the family.
Maria: Oh hush! Stop being such a sap. :: She smiled, and took a beat seemingly unconvinced. ::
Camila: Some day, you'll know it's true! You know I'm always right. :: She grinned, the smile betraying their family tie more than their looks. ::
Maria: And humble, too.
They both giggled, cherishing probably the last moment they'd have together alone for a while. Camila finally broke the quiet.
Camila: Come on, it's time to get you back. Race you? Mom will never know...
Maria: You're a terrible influence.
:: She squinted her eyes in a devious grin. :: Hyah!
And she was off, darting away with hot pursuit behind her, kicking up a cloud of dust.
Ensign Maria Alvarez
Ops Officer, USS Arrow