• Published 11th Dec 2014
  • 2,390 Views, 33 Comments

Trust - Viking ZX



Not too long ago, Dawn Triage broke a rule. No one noticed. It wasn't a major rule. A minor curiosity. What harm could it do if nothing ever came of it? Except now something has come of it, and she needs to make a choice.

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A Morning of Events, Both Expected and Not

Dawn looked down at her notebook, eyeing the empty, yellow parchment paper. It looked as if today was simply going to be another day where she recorded very little, if nothing at all, about her patient. Not so unusual, at least not in the last two weeks. It had been a pleasant, if unexpected, surprise. It certainly was telling to go back and look at the first week of notes and compare them with the scant lines that she’d been copying lately. Especially with regards to the change in subject matter and tone.

Like yesterday’s, for instance. She could still see the impression on the parchment where she’d written down a single, declarative statement—one that had little to do with the actual purpose of the meeting—as well as the marks of a sketch below it where she’d attempted to pass the time.

Note to self, she thought as she looked away from her pad once more. Perhaps now that she’s showing quite a bit more recovery, I might be able to get her to tone down the technicality of her explanations. I should ask the next time she gets too in-depth.

She’d have to play that carefully, however. That had been one of her earliest methods for helping her patient cope with her disorder, getting her to talk about the technical details of her numerous projects. Focusing on hard, material numbers and data had really seemed to help the pegasus sort out her own thoughts and feelings.

Not that she hadn’t helped with a few of those projects. That had been … less than common, but as a doctor she was inclined to do what it took to help her patients. And she had to admit, it had actually been a little fun answering some of the questions that Sky Bolt had posed…

She brought her attention back to the medical bay around her, her eyes scanning over every pristine surface. There wasn’t a single speck of dirt to be seen marring the gleaming white and silver surfaces, and she could still see the shine on the counter where she’d sterilized everything the night before. She circled the room with her eyes once, then twice, checking that everything was in its proper place. A quick glance down at her notepad, resting across her forelegs.

“Late again,” she said, letting out a faint sigh of disappointment. “What will the excuse be this time, I wonder?” She summoned forth her magic, a soft orange glow wrapping itself around her horn and the notepad both. Parchment swished as she folded the pages back, flipping them over the top of the pad one by one until she’d reached the last page of the notebook. There, written across the top of the page in concise, block lettering, was the word “EXCUSES.”

Below that was a list of each of the patient’s various explanations for tardiness that Dawn had been given over the last several weeks, each with a series of tally marks under it. It was solely for her own amusement, unless she noticed some sort of pattern that was relevant to the treatment, of which she had found none. But it was something she could keep track of for her own entertainment, provided that she destroyed it afterwards and didn’t abuse her knowledge. She almost shuddered at the thought. That would be a gross violation of her oath as a doctor.

Her pencil floated over the rough paper, pausing to tap alongside each heading. Which will it be today, I wonder? she thought. Lost track of time? Had to finish a project? A simple apology? Or the most alarming one— A faint, heavy thump shook the room, and she immediately jumped one row down to the excuse in question. Something exploded. There was a disturbingly large number of checkmarks under that one.

Well, that should give me another moment or two. She floated her pad over to the counter on the far side of the room and set it down. Maybe enough time to work on my mane.

She stood, the sound of her hoofsteps echoing across the medical bay as she walked over to the large mirror on one wall. In all honesty, she preferred the mirror in her quarters, which was much more personal, but since she had to stay in the bay waiting for Sky Bolt to arrive, it wouldn’t do to leave.

The towel she’d wrapped around her mane came free with a quick tug of her hoof, and she wrapped her orange mane in the matching shade of her magic, gently tugging it to one side and sorting out the tangles.

“Now, where did I—ah, yes. Of course.” She turned and glanced at her desk, fixing in her mind the position of her hairbrush in the top drawer as well as grasping the handle of the same. Manipulating multiple objects at once with telekinesis was tricky for any unicorn, though some were quite skilled, and while she wasn’t in any position to brag about her capabilities in that regard, her career as a doctor had left her with a multi-tasking ability that made most unicorns jealous.

The hairbrush floated across the room, and she turned back to the mirror, tugging it through her short mane with measured, easy movements. Even on her fastest days, an explosion always meant that Sky Bolt was at least two or three minutes away. She had time.

As she brushed, she checked over her coat for any signs of thinning or other abnormalities among the pink hairs. It was hard enough looking well when the light gradient of her coat made a wrong stroke or misaligned hair all the more pronounced, but if she acquired any of the signs of stress that manifested in her coat … ugh. It’d be apparent to anyone with an eye for detail.

Fortunately, she didn’t see anything out of the ordinary. Her cutie mark—a bandage sitting across a syringe—looked just as vibrant and healthy as ever, and a further check at her tail and mane revealed that none of her hairs had gone grey yet. Not that she expected them to, not with her genetic stock. Only her great-grandmother had ever had grey hairs by the time she’d died, and that mare had married into the family long after her grandfather had been born.

Her mane styled properly, although shorter than she would have liked to have it—an unfortunate if necessary requirement of her position—she returned the brush to its proper place and gave her shoulders a little shake, striking a controlled pose in front of the mirror.

Adequate, she thought, giving her mirror image a small nod of satisfaction. She could, if the day required it, dress up further later, but for now the simple styling would do.

She’d just seated herself again when there was a faint knock on the door.

Of course, she thought as she floated the pad over. She still knocks here. Odd how that worked, that Sky Bolt was willing to knock on her door and wait before entering, when she simply charged into most other offices. The intrinsic nervous feeling one got when dealing with medicine, perhaps?

“Come in!” she called, raising her voice in case there was a need for additional volume. There had been on a few days, at least until she’d run a few healing spells over Sky Bolt’s ears.

The door eased open, and Sky Bolt—the patient, Dawn reminded herself—trotted into the room, a goofy grin on her face. “Hi,”

“Hello, Sky Bolt,” Dawn said, keeping her face straight, although her eyes couldn’t help but trace the faint lines of black soot etched across the pegasus’s grey coat and—singed—sky-blue mane.

“Sorry I’m late,” Sky Bolt said with a grin as she hopped into the chair that Dawn had set out for her. “I was working on a project, and it kind of got away with me.”

Interesting, Dawn thought as she flipped the bottom half of the notepad up, putting a tally mark beneath “Working on a Project” and “Something Exploded” both. “Are you all right?” she asked as she flipped the page back down.

“Me?” Sky Bolt asked, letting out a laugh. “Yeah, I’m okay. My ears were ringing for a minute, but I don’t think I did any real damage. It was just really loud.” She ran her hoof along the side of her head, tucking a bit of singed mane behind one ear. “And really disappointing,” she said with a frown.

“How so?” Dawn asked, setting her pencil atop the notepad. From the upbeat mood Sky Bolt was giving off, she likely wouldn’t need to do much writing today.

“Well, first of all because it didn’t work,” Sky Bolt said with a shake of her head. “I’m trying to adapt a teleport spell into a mod, but it’s just not working right! I keep building larger and larger spell circuits, trying to make it work, but every time the complexity of the spellwork and the amount of magic it uses overload the circuit and the whole thing goes up. And of course,” she said, fanning her wings and glancing at the askew feathers. “When that happens, most of the circuit can’t be recovered, which means I’m out a couple of grams or more of ethereal crystal, which I can’t get right now.” She let out a sigh. “I might just have to table it until I can get more ethereal crystal to work with.”

“Northgait is still shut?” Dawn asked. Sky Bolt tugged a feather out and then nodded.

“Yeah,” she said, spitting the feather into her hoof. “The Ocean’s completely off limits, and too busy to ship stuff out anyway. It’s getting pretty rough up there, from what I hear. But all it means to me is that I can’t get any of the crystal I need unless I import it from somewhere else, and that stuff’s expensive enough when it’s from the Ocean.”

“Even with your new budget?” Dawn asked. Sky Bolt’s funding since demonstrating her first mod for Celestia had been … substantial, but for her to balk in spite of that…

Sky Bolt nodded. “I’ve got money, but not enough to be blowing up progressively larger and larger models.”

“And you can’t create the mod without the ethereal crystal?”

A quick shake of the head. “Not even. The power attunement and the requirements just aren’t the same. I’d need to build something at least four or five times as large if I used the stuff I’ve been using so far. And this latest test is showing this mod’s going to need to be pretty big as is.”

“How big?”

“Big enough it won’t be a mod anymore,” Sky Bolt said, a dejected look on her face. “From this bust of a test and the math I was doing last night, I think to get one to work it’d have to at least be half the size of this room.”

“That’s quite large,” Dawn said, her eyes widening.

“Well, teleports aren’t like enchantments or those other spells,” Sky Bolt said, shrugging. “They’re active.” Another feather was plucked from her wing. “They rely on hundreds of small, incremental power changes based on all kinds of minute requirements. I’m not building something basic or static, it has to adapt and live. I’m trying to pack all the miles of nerves running through a unicorn’s horn into something small enough to fit on a pony’s back, and it’s just not going to work. At least,” she said with a disappointed look, “not with the technology I have on hand. Maybe with a microscope, and a carefully machined set of tools—” She shook her head. “Anyway, I’m going to table it, I think. Focus on the projects that are showing progress.”

Dawn smiled. “So some are coming along well? That’s good.”

“Don’t you know it,” Sky Bolt said, grinning. “I’ve got about seven mods that we can use now, and I figured out a way to store them on The Hummingbird so we can swap out if we need to. I don’t have enough to have one of the same thing for everyone, but we’ve got a good selection to bargain with.”

“So I’ll be able to make use of that shield mod you created?” Dawn asked.

“What, the bubble?”

“I’ll admit I’m not fond of the name and what it implies,” Dawn said, nodding. “Bubbles pop, and are inherently fragile. I’d prefer the term barrier, myself.”

“Eh, sure, whatever,” Sky Bolt said, another feather popping free of her wings. “Barrier works. It’s not quite as catchy, but it’ll work. But yeah, that one’s passed most of the testing I’ve come up with for it. Why do you want it?”

“What do you mean?” Dawn responded.

“Well,” Sky Bolt said, tapping her forehead with a hoof. “You’ve got a horn, for one. You can already make a shield spell, or at least learn one. Why would you want a mod that can do something you already can?”

Dawn smiled. “Simple. As team medic, I need to conserve my magic for health and care of the wounded. And while I am capable of generating a shield on my own, the area is not my speciality. And during a deployment, I’d not want to split my attention between a shield I can barely maintain and the work I am doing. Multitasking with spells is already difficult enough. The ability to simply create a barrier on demand, one much stronger than what I am capable of generating myself, and that requires far less oversight than it normally would, could be a great boon to me. Does that answer your question.”

Sky Bolt nodded. “Yeah, totally. Good thinking there. Half of that didn’t even occur to me.”

Dawn nodded. “Well, we each have our own talents and capabilities. Now,” she said, readying her pencil once more. “If I may further make use of my own, how are you feeling?”

“What, in general? Or just today?”

“Whatever you wish to answer,” Dawn said with a small shrug.

“Overall, I honestly feel pretty good,” Sky Bolt said, settling her still ruffled wings by her sides. “The nightmares have mostly stopped, and I haven’t had a panic attack in about two weeks.”

“That’s good,” Dawn said, pretending to make a note. She’d noticed very early in her sessions that Sky Bolt’s eyes would flick to the pencil every time that it moved, and that the mare’s tension rose if a long period went by without any markings. The solution, of course, was to fake the markings. It seemed that even if Sky Bolt knew they were probably faked, the motion helped her feel somewhat more at ease. “What about your work? Is it still being affected?”

“No,” came the response. “Working on some of the recovered golems helped. I still get a little nervous sometimes when I look at them, but then I remind myself that they’re just bits of wood, crystal, and metal, held together by some spellwork, it helps. I haven’t had a breakdown or anything in a while.”

“What about combat training?”

“I’ve never had a problem there,” Sky Bolt said.

“I misspoke,” Dawn replied, quickly. “What I meant to imply was to ask how you felt about the possibility of an upcoming mission.”

“I …” Sky Bolt’s mouth clicked shut, her ears folding down. “I won’t lie, I’m a little nervous. I did just fine on our last one, but at the same time, I don’t want to be the one who locks up the moment things go wrong or something unexpected happens. I don’t want to let everyone down.”

“Do you think that could happen?” Dawn asked.

“I don’t know,” Sky Bolt admitted. “We do the training exercises, even the combat stuff, and I’m fine, whether it’s against you guys or some of the other Guard. Everything there turns out just fine. But when it’s the real deal? I … I don’t know. I did fine last time, when we deployed for that hydra attack or whatever, but we didn’t actually fight anything. I am a little worried that next time we go anywhere or do something, I’ll seize up.”

“Do you feel nervous about the idea of a mission itself?”

“No,” Sky Bolt said, shaking her head. “Just that I’ll mess up somehow. Actually, it’s weird. I’m kind of excited for another mission. Just seeing a few of you test my stuff in action will be great!” Her wings flared out a little bit, shifting in excitement as her tail lashed back and forth. “But I still have that bit of worry that it won’t work, or that I’ll goof it up somehow.”

“Well, I’ll make sure that I stay nearby if at all possible just to check,” Dawn said. “I won’t deny that there is a slight concern that you might suffer a relapse the next time we deploy, but we can’t afford to leave you behind—not that you’d let us, I understand. Not when we’re using your equipment and need to see it in action. And you did perform without complication at all during the hydra incident. Were you worried that you’d have issues?”

“Yeah,” Sky Bolt said, nodding. She didn’t elaborate, but they’d spoken about it before, more in depth.

“And yet you didn’t,” Dawn said, smiling at her and making a real, actual note on her notepad. Patient seems to suffer more from a fear of lack of recovery than signs of a lack of recovery. Monitor. “Sky Bolt, I would classify your fears and worry in this instance as perfectly normal. They haven’t interfered with your work, nor your social life. You’re comfortable discussing them with me, but you don’t appear to suffer from them in any large regard. What you’re experiencing seems to be normal, ordinary fear of concern exemplified by a loyal desire to not let any of us down in any way.”

“Really?” Sky Bolt asked.

“Of course,” Dawn said. “You haven’t had any nightmares in forever, you’ve even exposed yourself—by your own admission—to elements of that which had given you the fear in the first place, and found yourself to be understandably wary but capable of rational thought and motion.”

“But I still get nervous,” Sky Bolt said, her shoulders sinking slightly.

“So do I, sometimes” Dawn said. “It both comes, and fades, with experience. Tell me, Sky Bolt, are you nervous when you need to recalibrate a sheet of paneling on The Hummingbird’s envelope?”

“It’s not paneling, but no.”

“Why not?”

“Because it’s easy. I’ve done it a million times. I could do it in my sleep.” Sky Bolt blew a bit of her mane away from her eye.

“I see. What about working on a new mod? Are you nervous then?”

“Well, a little, yeah,” Sky Bolt said, her eyes narrowing. “But that’s just because something could go wrong.”

“Exactly,” Dawn said, nodding. “From what you’ve said to me, that same worry is what occupies you now. The worry that something could go wrong. That is a reasonable fear.”

“So what do I do about it?

“The same you do when working on your projects, I would think,” Dawn said, offering the pegasus a small smile. “Don’t let that fear hinder you. Believe in yourself a little. Have faith. Push past the fear and go forward as you would while working on an experiment or a project.”

“Will the worry go away?” Sky Bolt asked.

“In time, I think it will,” Dawn said, making a final note on her pad. Patient nervous about active duty, but seems willing to push forward with the right encouragement. “To be perfectly honest, I think that you’ll do just fine. As you said yourself, you’ve hardly suffered any ill-effects recently. If you still harbor doubts, remember that Captain Song chose you, out of all the other candidates he had the option of choosing from. He understood that you, and you alone, were capable of what he needed. Does that help?”

“A little,” Sky Bolt admitted, nodding. “He did warn me, though.”

Dawn nodded, although that was news to her. “And did you listen to that warning at the time?” She asked, trusting her instincts to guide the next few moments.

“No, but—”

“But what?” Dawn asked, leaning forward slightly.

“But … I didn’t know what the job would be like!” Sky Bolt said, her forehead creasing. “I just wanted the job and was sure I could do it!”

“And?” Dawn prompted. The Captain never does something without a reason. I just need to get her to see that.

“And … and what?” Sky Bolt asked, giving her a confused look.

“And what did Captain Song say?”

“He let me on the team,” Sky Bolt said.

“Even when he knew you didn’t quite understand what you were getting into, Sky Bolt,” Dawn said, leaning back, a sense of satisfaction filling her. And there it is. “Do you know why?”

The pegasus shook her head.

“Because regardless of whether or not you knew exactly what you were getting into, you were determined to overcome it,” Dawn said, smiling. “I guarantee you, Sky Bolt, that was what he was looking for. He wanted to see if you would have the drive, the determination to stand up to something when told you should be fearful of it. And you did. And I believe you’ll do the same when faced with our operations in the future.”

“Really?”

“Enough that I’m willing to make this our final session, if you can agree with that.” She made a final note on the notepad, detailing the statement. “I’d be more than willing to keep an eye on you for the next few weeks, but as far as I see it, I believe you’re more than capable of continuing to serve on the Dusk Guard, and I’m confident that you’ll function admirably at the team’s side.”

“I … wow, thanks!”

She could see that the pegasus meant it, too, hear the lightness in her voice. The last, small bits of the weight Sky Bolt had been shouldering for the last few weeks were crumbling, falling away, leaving behind a bright, young pegasus who was now both a little bit older and little bit wiser. She felt a brief swelling of pride in her chest as she saw the mare’s ears perk up, the smile that seemed to come across her face as her confidence came back. Sometimes, the bandages aren’t visible, but they’re needed just as badly.

She’d still need to watch her, of course. Just in case she came across something that could damage her recently healed view of things. She’d done the equivalent of stitching up her patient, but if Sky Bolt went and did something truly dangerous, there was a chance those stitches could tear. She’d just have to hope that they did not, and trust that things would work.

How ironic, she thought as she tore the piece of parchment free with her magic. Now I’m giving myself the same advice I just gave her.

She brought her attention back to the task at hand, still feeling a sense of satisfaction that Sky Bolt had come so far. “Well,” she said, “how do you feel?”

“Actually, even better than when I came in,” Sky Bolt answered. “So, this was our last session?”

“Unless you need to see me again,” Dawn said, nodding as she summoned Sky Bolt’s file from behind her desk. “Which I hope doesn’t happen today, as we’ve already spoken. It’s my day off,” she explained as Sky Bolt gave her a curious look.

“Oh, nice!” Sky Bolt said with a nod. “What are you doing?”

“Checking on my house and doing a bit of cleaning,” Dawn answered as she sent the file back to its place, the latest bit of parchment inside of it. She’d put together a report for the captain later that evening. “Then head over to Canterlot General to watch an exhibition of a new surgery technique from out in Los Pegasus. And then a light luncheon at a favorite restaurant of mine. And before I come back on duty, an early-evening symphony in the Grand Hall.”

“Sounds like fun,” Sky Bolt said, her comment more polite than personal.

“It will be, I assure you,” Dawn said. “But before I can get to that, I have a few more small details I need to take care of here and—” There was a sharp knock at the door, and she frowned. “And now apparently perhaps one more thing to deal with.”

“Well, I’ll get going then,” Sky Bolt said, the tips of her wings fluttering with excitement. “I’ve got a few more projects I can work on. I’m testing the new helmets.”

“New helmets?” Dawn asked as she moved towards the door. The knock hadn’t come again, and it hadn’t quite had the urgency that denoted a medical issue, so she wasn’t too pressed to drop everything. “I wasn’t aware we had old helmets.”

“The first design didn’t allow for the mods or a few other features,” Sky Bolt said, moving alongside her. “With the increased budget, I went ahead and built a whole new design from the ground up. It’ll work better with the new armor as well.”

“New armor.”

“Yeah,” Sky Bolt said as they reached the door. “Mark-two designs, just like the helmets. Took care of some flexibility issues, feedback on weak areas, and combat testing. The new stuff is close to the older design, but better.”

“Well, I look forward to trying it out,” Dawn said as she wrapped the door handle in her magic and pushed it outward into the hall. “Yes?”

A Royal Guard private was standing in the hall, a heavy pair of saddlebags thrown over his back. The marks on his armor identified him as a courier. “Sergeant Major Dawn Triage?” he asked, offering a quick salute.

“I am,” she replied, returning the salute as Sky Bolt slid past her out the door. “What do you need, private?”

“I’m just delivering this, ma’am,” the private said, plucking a heavy envelope from his saddlebags. “Priority mail, just came in a few minutes ago.”

“Ah,” she said, taking the envelope in one hoof and then wrapping it in her magic. She glanced at the return address. Canterlot General. Curious. “Thank you, private.”

“Ma’am,” he said, giving her a quick salute and then turning and moving down the hall as quickly as he could without breaking into a run.

“Well now,” she said as she closed the door. “What is this?” I don’t recall requesting anything from Canterlot General, at least nothing that would require a priority message. She floated a letter opener over from her desk, carefully parting the flap with her letter opener. Let’s see what this is. A heavy stack of papers slid out onto the table and she glanced at the topmost sheet.

“Oh,” she said as she saw the large, block print on the top sheet. Nevermind, I suppose I did send them a request. But that had been weeks ago. For blood work. What had taken so long?

She glossed over the top sheet and then noted the large number of additional hospitals listed on the title page. Well, that explains that. Apparently they’d sent the sample to just about every major hospital in Equestria.

I should have told them this was a low priority case, she thought as she began to flip through the pages. Just a precursory measure. She frowned as another page of the report flowed past. Just as she’d expected—nothing. Which was probably for the best. Technically, though her actions had been in good interest, her actions had been somewhat of an ethical grey area.

Not that it matters now, she thought as she neared the end of the report. Just as I expected, it was a completely futile action

Her train of thought came to a grinding halt as she came to the last page of the report, her eyes widening as she looked down at the words written on it. Words she’d never expected to see when she’d sent off the inquiry a few weeks earlier.

Oh Dawn, she thought as she stared down at the paper, bearing news she’d never expected to get. What have you done?