Cadet (2nd Class) Quentin Collins - The Anti-Life Equation

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Justin Partridge

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Apr 9, 2021, 12:23:40 AM4/9/21
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((OOC: I have another away team sim incoming but I was struck by the muses to finally make good on that flashback sim I promised, which also nicely foreshadows our current Omega-level problem. You are all fantastic and I appreciate you all indulging me a bit.))

((Years Ago...

Exterior. San Francisco, California. Starfleet Academy.))

Quentin Collins stormed from the Library, both embarrassed and enraged.

He felt his boots slap painfully against the pavement of the walkway, branching like a healthy vein into the Academy's beautifully tended grounds, which shone with a radiance and life even at this later evening. His speed and the amount of things he was trying to carry had already started to get the better of him as soon as he had burst through the door. He knew it was going to end up this way, or expected it to, at least. Outside of his Advanced Xeno-Lit class he saw a very neatly laid out flyer for a book club. It had started well. Well enough that Quentin had started to let his guard down with the group. 

One meeting had passed then another then another. Then came tonight. A discussion on dread was the plan. Quentin knew he had the perfect thing. Gathering some of his moldering, but still readable comic books from his footlocker, he had brought them to the group, anxious to both share this slice of literary history with his "friends" as well as a look into what he himself was into a reader. 

They had laughed at him. The leader of the group going so far as to say that they only discussed "real" books here. That what he had brought was a novelty for sure, but had no real value toward discussion there. 

Which led Quentin to this moment. Skidding through the darkened part of the grounds toward his quarters, flush with embarrassment and the all too familiar feeling of rejection. So it's only natural that he didn't see the errant root hooking across the pathway. Only natural that it sent him spilling to the grass, his comics flying like a scattering flock of birds. The coolness of the grass was pleasant but did nothing to soothe his embarrassment and shame.

He had gathered most of them when he heard him. The icy chuckle of his past. He whirled toward the sound and saw him. He hadn't aged a day it seemed. Still with that same stupid faded demim jacket. The same gross wispy, oiled back blonde hair. Same stupid buttons, flashing from his lapel. Faraday. Or was it Fogg now? His mother warned him that he was someone who wore names as easily as they would wear clothes, but it still didn't matter to Quentin. Not right now. Years ago he would have been frightened of the man (such was his stated intention and MO throughout his sparse appearances through his and his mother's life), but now he was just too mad to be scared. Too embarrassed to fear anything other than his peer's jibes and withering looks.

He started to stand, not even giving him the satisfaction of looking at him fully.

Collins: I don't have time for you right now...

Faraday: No, it wouldn't seem you do, Mid-ship-man. Too busy being the butt of the joke...

Quentin started to stomp away.

Faraday: Ah, ah, witch-boy, you've forgotten one.

He stopped. Held his stance firmly. He didn't want to relent. Didn't want to give him his eyes nor attention. He shuffled quickly through his collection and saw, sickeningly, he was right. He was missing one. He crooked an eye across his shoulder and saw it. The worn, but laminated reprint of New Gods #1. 

He turned and darted back across the cross, somewhat off the path and the now glowing pathway lights snaking through the grounds. He knelt carefully and tried to pluck the comic into his fingertips, but was stopped by the sudden slap of a muddy and grimy pair of smooth, spurred boots. He couldn't move it, forcing him to finally look his recurring tormentor in the face. Causing the man's smile to widen with pleasure.

Faraday: You take yourself much too seriously, Quentin. You wouldn't if you knew what was in store for you.

Collins: You don't know anything about me.

Faraday: Of course I do, witch-boy. I have been corralling Collinses since before you were a passing daydream in your momma's mind. Nobody knows your cursed bloodline better than me. Well...except maybe mommy.

He wrested the comic out from under the muddy boot print and started away in a huff.

Collins: I am NOT cursed. There is no such thing as curses...

Faraday: No?! Tell that to Kayla Drex. Tell that to Irina Pavlova. Tell that to...Chloe Waters. Ask them, when you bury them, if they think curses are real. If they don't believe that everything you and your family touch turns black and dies away.

Quentin felt his rage peak, his body launching into a muscle memory (something his physical education instructors would have been pleased to see). Crossing the distance between them with a few steps, thanks to his scarecrow like limbs, he grabbed up two handfuls of Faraday's stupid jacket and slammed him hard against the tree he was formerally using as a perch. This seemed to delight the man, illicting a croaking cackle from his throat as he was being throttled.

Collins: WHO are you?! My shrinks say you aren't real. My mom says you're a con man. But you show up here, spouting nonsense like it's gospel and throwing names at me like I know them every few years and I'm SICK of it. 

Faraday: You know who I am, witch-boy. If not, just ask that lovely witch moth-

He raised him slightly and redeposited him back against the trunk of the tree, his hands gathered around the dusty material of his jacket the whole time. Cutting off his thought and replacing it with another dry, croaking laugh. 

Collins: NO. This isn't about HER. It's about YOU and ME. What do you WANT with me?

He raised his hands up in mock contrition.

Faraday: I just wanna teach you, Midshipman. Show you the world beyond the world. For example, did you know it's REAL?

Collins: What's REAL? What are you talking about?

He pointed cheekily with his hands, downward and to a seemingly open comic. He followed his gesture somewhat, trying to suss out what he was exactly indicating. It was the New Gods. The titanic split of New Genesis and Apokolips, fueled by the latter's never ending quest for Anti-Life. The Death That Was Life. The infernal arithmetic that could make reality unto clay to be melted and cast aside.

Faraday: The Anti-Life Equation. But it's called nothing so elegant as The King's words and pictures. It's called Omega. And it. Is. Everything, witch-boy. It's anything and nothing. It's birth and entropy in a candy shell. Just ask them. Ask your Star-Fleet masters and see how they cower from it. But it's all just waiting out there just the same, no matter their fear ::he said pointing up to the starry sky:: You'll see soon enough, Quentin. You will see it ALL. For the first time and the last time. Along with all your so-called friends. Then you'll remember today and my palaver with you. I just hope you make it out the other side, Mid-ship-man.

He opened his mouth to retort, but was startled again by more sounds of shoes on the pavement and a meek voice.

Groundskeeper: Yewawright, son? 

He snapped to the new speaker in slight terror, wondering suddenly how this all might look, only to then look back to empty hands. 

No evidence at all of their talk except for his still scattered comics. And the slight echo of mocking laughter on the passing wind.

He turned creakily and tried to nod.

Collins: I...don't know...

The next day he did ask. Despite his better judgement. 

He sought out one of his best teachers. A stern Stellar Cartography professor. And he asked him. The man blanched only slightly, but still sternly dictated it "above Quentin's pay grade for now". Quentin told himself that he didn't notice the gleam of fear in the man's eye after he had asked his question.

Weirdly enough, however, that didn't make Quentin Collins feel any better about it.
--
TBC (years later)

(Future)

LIEUTENANT COMMANDER 

QUENTIN COLLINS III

(Eventual)

FIRST OFFICER

U.S.S. ARROW NCC-69829

ID: E239512QC0


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