Premiered June 24, 2003
The official term is Restriction to Ship. It's imposed for a variety of reasons by a Commanding Officer on any member of a crew. In the case of Lieutenant Commander Robert Woodward, it was designed to allow for a cooling off period. There had never been a restriction in the log of the Intrepid, and with a handpicked crew of only eight, there had been no expectation of one. But Michaels, who understood Woody as well as anyone, knew Woody had to be kept under wraps, if only for a few days. There was an implied loss of one important member of the planetary base team, but a conservative approach was now mandatory, at least until after the Day of Renewal.
Restriction does not, of course, imply an off-duty status. In fact it allows for considerable latitude in one's onboard duties. In Woody's case, he had now commenced under Michaels' orders what amounted to a complete hands on inspection of the Intrepid's engineering and computer systems. The fact that most of the work was make-shift was not at issue. Rather the intent was to keep Woody busy with potentially useful work, and thus avoid the stigma of a 'Formal Restriction to Ship'.
The result was that Woody was kept busy looking for flaws in each and every aspect of the ship, while at the same time trying desperately to keep his sanity and competence in tact. During the first days of restriction, the attempt by Woody to submerge himself in his work was apparently successful. But on the day prior to the Day of Renewal, the first kink in his armor became apparent, as Woody asked Shari Ryerson to talk to Dawn on his behalf. If nothing else, Woody wanted desperately to see Dawn again.
His mind told him he wanted to clear the air, to make amends for his actions, to somehow set the record straight. It seemed right and proper their relationship be ended on a more loving note. But of course what Woody really wanted was a reprieve, a change of heart in Dawn. Woody needed one last chance to remove the specter of death from over her head, and try again to pick up where they had left off three days ago.
On the one hand, Woody wanted very badly to forget. But he also wanted very much never to forget. He could still see her face and remember the ecstasy of her touch. He needed one more trip into paradise.
Woody's request to Shari had been a confidential one, and the rest of Intrepid's crew was unaware of it. The others were, in fact, beginning to think that perhaps Woody was going to pull out of his depression on his own efforts. It was a great source of comfort to them. Still Michaels had his skepticism. He had just voiced the problem to Rip Moltz.
Rip answered, "I appreciate your concern, Captain; but I seriously doubt any kind of sedation, mild or otherwise, would have any beneficial effect in the long run. I really feel Woody has to work this out by himself."
When the Captain did not answer but only looked poised for a better explanation, Rip continued, "Woody is clearly a 'manic-lover'. He has a continuing need for love and reassurance. But I am basically optimistic. And because of Woody's history, I fully expect him to pull through just as he did after his ill-fated marriage. If nothing else, the prior disaster has hardened him."
Michaels seemed unconvinced. "That prior marriage was a sham. It was a one sided love affair with Woody giving it his all, and his so-called wife bathing in the ecstasy of being the lonely wife of a space hero."
"Precisely," Rip agreed. "But this just makes my point. Woody has been through it before, and he can do it again."
"There's a flaw to such reasoning. Woody's wife was a bitch. Dawn is not. In fact, this Riwanian woman is almost perfect. It would have been better if she had some flaws, something to attack in getting her out of Woody's system. But she has none of which we’re aware. So now his loss is truly substantial. The loss of his wife, on the other hand, was in reality welcome news. The result is that the two situations are totally dissimilar."
"As you say, the facts may be different in both cases, but the perception by Woody of the facts may be the same. It's the latter that's important. The facts don't really matter, if Woody perceives the two situations to be identical. And in that case, there is no difference."
Michaels watched Rip for a moment, only partially convinced. Before he could continue the train of thought, Shari Ryerson came into control.
"Captain," Shari asked, "May I talk to you for a moment?"
"Is it urgent?"
"Yes sir, I believe so."
"Okay." Turning to Rip, "We'll continue this discussion later." When Rip had acknowledged and started to leave control, Michaels turned back to Shari. "Sit down, Shari."
As she sat down, she said, "It's about Woody." With that revelation Rip stopped and turned around. The Captain motioned for him to stay and listen. Then Shari continued, "I've just spoken with Dawn, the Chosen. She has requested that Woody attend her this afternoon."
Michaels gave a silent gasp, as his heart surged. This was anything but welcome news. Shari watched the reaction, felt Rip's sudden tenseness, and knew she had hit a very sensitive nerve. She considered telling Michaels everything, from Woody's original request to Dawn's initial reaction. But Woody had sworn her to secrecy. Furthermore, Dawn's strong concern over the possibility a last meeting might increase Woody's anguish was tied too closely to the first consideration. A third factor was that despite Dawn's worry over the effect on Woody of one last meeting, Shari had sensed that the critical factor had been her love for Woody. Dawn had wanted to see Woody just as badly as Woody had wanted to be with her. For Shari, the essential factor was the love between the two. That overrode the other concerns which were relatively speaking trivial.
Michaels was looking at Rip, waiting for a response from the professional psychologist. Finally Rip said, "I think you should allow it. On the plus side is the possibility of a last chance to really clear out a lot of false perceptions. The con side is that Woody may do something rash. But frankly I don't see him doing much more than he has already done. I'm sure we could prevent a kidnapping!"
Michaels snorted slightly, not liking the response. Then to Shari, "Anyway we can get out of this?"
"I doubt it, sir. There is a priest and a small delegation waiting outside the ship to escort Woody to Dawn. I don't think they would accept a refusal, however polite."
Michaels' eyes shot up. Suddenly he was caught between the rock and the hard place. He could hardly refuse the priest's request, despite the possibility of Woody doing something very foolish. Muttering to himself, he replied "Damn! Why must she put him through this?"
Shari picked up on the complaint. "Because she’s Chosen. It’s her right.” When that didn’t seem to convince him, she added, “Captain, you must remember that she is just as much in love with Woody as he is with her. She very badly wants to see him again. She was as concerned as you are she might hurt Woody even more. But the combination of her wanting to at least try to ease his pain during her last hours, and her own passionate desire to be with him again, turned the tide. Dawn the Chosen, wants Woody to be with her again."
When the Captain only scowled, Shari added, "You're talking about some very strong emotions. Reason and logic have no chance against the depth of their mutual attraction. And as the Chosen, Dawn can expect to have anything on Riwan she wants. The only alternative would be for you to stonewall it and hope The Gods choose not to contest it – even though it’s likely a mortal insult.”
Michaels could see no way out of the dilemma. On the one hand Woody's last few days had been encouraging, perhaps a reason to give him the benefit of the doubt. But Woody's history, as known only to Michaels, made him very skeptical of what Woody's state of mind might really be.
In the final analysis, however, the fact the priest and other Riwanians were waiting outside to escort Woody carried the day. Michaels could not now refuse to act on what was ostensibly a reasonable request by the Chosen. Still, if he could send his own delegation, it might reduce the risks.
In fact the added stipulation helped his concerns only slightly. As the combined group left the immediate surroundings of the Intrepid, Michaels fell back into his chair. He suddenly felt very much like the player in a great play whose script had long ago been written, and one he could in no way alter.
The procession itself was decidedly odd. Three Riwanians walked in one file, with three space travelers in another. Ahead of the two files walked the priest and Woody. Woody set the pace for the procession, with the priest occasionally indicating the proper path to take. The small group comprised probably what was the first military-like procession in the recent history of Riwan.
Eventually they came to a small clearing where another set of pillared columns stood. Between the two pillars were ornate gates, both closed. Walls on either side of the pillars made the place seem strangely closed to the outside world. With no other place in which to turn, the procession came to a stop. Then the priest announced, "We are to await the Chosen here."
Woody glanced at the priest, turned, and began to look around. Noting the position of Riwan's sun, he mentally calculated there were only a few hours left before sunset. Woody's nervousness increased slightly as he thought of the few hours that remained.
Sorrenson, Ryerson and Rip stood slightly to one side, not ready to speak or otherwise call attention to themselves. The three Riwanians did likewise. All seemed to be silent witnesses to another's event.
A hint of movement on the path that had brought them there caused everyone to turn. As they stood there, Dawn walked quietly up to meet them. Momentarily, her step faltered as she caught her first sight of the group. Just as quickly, she took a deep breath, her step gained more purpose, and she began to walk with certain and sure knowledge.
Woody's first sight was of the dazzling green robe. His second was the blatant, dark bruise on her cheek. An uninterested observer might not have noticed the bruise from the same distance, but to Woody it was like a beacon announcing to the world his abject cruelty to the one thing he loved above all else. As she approached closer, Woody grimaced at the memory of his hitting her. But then the grimace faded and he began to bask in the glow of her smile, a smile glistening with the trace of her tears. Suddenly the memory of her beauty flooded over him, and he seemed to become unaware of their history or future. Only her beauty remained, and his love for her.
With her radiant smile to soften the request, she asked the others to remain outside the gates, while she and Woody entered. The priest immediately agreed, as the other Riwanians hastened to open the gates. Sorrenson did a momentary double take, but he made no move to object. As Woody and Dawn walked out of sight, Max edged closer to the priest. As the two looked away from the path, Max asked, "Are there any other exits from this garden?"
The priest replied simply, "No."
As the lovers walked deeper into the garden, Dawn broke the long silence between them. "This place is called the 'Garden of Solitude'." For just a moment she looked at him, trying to read the state of his mind. As he continued to look about, absorbing the nearness of her and the surroundings, she sensed a foreboding. Between them a silent force seemingly tried to keep them apart. Then, the thought crystallized in her mind of what she must now do.
As they walked with their hands intertwined, Woody seemed to bask in the glow. Hesitant and afraid to speak lest the dream vanish, Woody shuffled along at her side. She continued to guide him along the path, as if he had lost his way. The thought of his walking alone in the future, gave her a sudden pain.
Awkwardly, Woody began trying to tell her of his love. Dawn reached up to hush him with a finger to his lips. She told him she loved him, and knew with certainty of his love for her. For a moment they seemed to compete, trying to tell each other their innermost emotions. Whereupon Dawn, determined to settle it, did so with a lingering, passionate kiss. As they broke apart, his eyes fell to where his hands held her, where the robe was furled between them. For just a moment she hesitated, as she became aware of his thoughts. The questioning look in his eyes helped her make the decision.
Quietly, she began. "Woody, the last days without you have been as if I could no longer love nor give. Your anguish has cut my very heart. Now I sense your hesitation." For a moment they only looked at each other, Woody uncertain as to her meaning, hardly daring to think beyond the moment. With a certain finality, she added, "If my robe offends you, then I will leave it."
Woody stood stunned, his arms still holding her at arms' length. He was hesitant, knowing what the words and promised actions meant to her. His first thought was to reiterate his love for her. But he realized he would only be saying he could not live without her. Somehow such a statement would be wrong to utter now. He instead remained silent.
As if reading his thoughts, Dawn brightened her smile and gave him a slight kiss on the cheek. Then she stepped back out of his arms. Her eyes dropped away from his as she quickly unclasped the catch on her robe. Abruptly the robe fell from her shoulders. It collapsed in a clump, without ceremony, without apparent care, the slight rustling of the cloth reverberating in Woody's ears. Looking back at him, she began to slowly into his arms. "I cannot bear to hurt you, to cause you anguish or sorrow. I must give all of my life to you without reservation." The words spoken aloud, she laid her head against his chest.
Woody stood stark still, not really believing what his eyes had witnessed. Then slowly he began to ease, to melt into her arms. His strength seemed to bounce back as he began to take deep breaths. Dawn, sensing his body's recuperation, guided him back. Together they walked deeper into the garden.
Woody was both ecstatic and troubled. He realized what he had asked her to do, and then abruptly knew the fact of what she had done. He started to glance back, as if a portion of their love remained in the heap of clothes where the robe lay. But then her presence -- her immediate, intimate presence -- reaffirmed itself, and he became content to float into a tranquil enjoyment of the present.
For a while they spoke of love, not in how much, but in all the marvelous ways it manifested itself in their lives. Soon they made love by the edge of a small stream, easily and passionately. Then she told him of her love, what it meant, its infinite source, its lasting until eternity.
"Nothing can change my love for you, Woody. It is yours forever -- whatever forever may bring." For a long time they simply laid in each other's arms.
Nightfall came and with it a silent peace. For a moment she stirred in his arms, holding on to him, trying to impress all of her love into a single moment. Quietly he laughed, mistaking her intensity for a need for more passion. His stamina waning at her continuing desire, and his own need for constant assurance of the eternal nature of her love, he asked for some of the special nourishment.
Laughingly she rose and walked away, her eyes remaining on him. Just as quickly she was back with a small tray. Together they selectively ate. Soon they were again making love -- a tender, loving, gentle act which left him in a state of lasting ecstasy. It was a state of unusual depth for Woody in that Dawn had been highly selective in the morsels which she had fed him on this occasion.
Woody, as he sat resting against a small rise, was content and completely happy. He continued to smile at the love of his life. Dawn smiled lovingly and snuggled into his arms to await the allotted time. Pressing her body against his, they both began to drift off into a deep sleep. After a moment she stirred and shifted slightly in order to whisper into his ear. "My love I give to you for all time." Dawn had now given all her love, all her time to Woody. It was to be a gift of compensation for his life without her.
As the first light of the morning came upon the small grove where they lay, Dawn snuggled against Woody's sleeping form. Lifting her head, she observed him in the dim light. His deep sleep was clearly evident. She only vaguely recalled the drug she had given him to aid his stamina, but which was also to provide him with a deep sleep. Hopefully he could sleep at peace for the remainder of the day. She could not bear to see him again on this Day of Renewal. She had no desire for him to witness the end.
Leaning against him, she gave him a lingering kiss. For a moment her resolve wavered. But it was only fleeting. She rose and walking away, looked back at his blissfully sleeping form only once. Her tears welled up and she turned away.
Bending over her discarded robe, she carefully and gently picked it up. Kissing the hem as if to make amends, she ceremoniously put it on her shoulders. As she clasped the catch to bind it to her, her tears flowed all the more. Quietly she began to walk to the gate, in the dawn's first light on the Day of Renewal.
Copyright 1983, 1996, 2003 Dan Sewell Ward
Chapter Ten -- Confrontation
Chapter Twelve -- The Day of Renewal
2003© Copyright Dan Sewell Ward, All Rights Reserved [Feedback]