Alpha and Omega

The Wingleader’s office is what should be expected of a man who thrives to be a perfectionist. Healers could use the place for medical emergencies; it was that clean and sterile. Everything was in order - books straight, not a hint of loose paper anywhere, desk dusted, everything precisely placed. The cold atmosphere of the room only served to highlight the man himself, who sat across from a great sky broom desk with hands steepled and eyebrows lowered with his evident dissatisfaction.

B’rdian wasn’t in a pleasant mood. The surly twist of his lips held promises of reprimand without a hint of mercy. His hard eyes were set fixed, like a predator waiting to deliver a killing blow. Tere was simple fury in the square line of his shoulders as he leaned forward just enough in his chair to present himself in a station of authority.

Ers’lan…” the name of the rider who stood resolutely in the middle of the carpet, a couple feet back from the grand desk in which the Wingleader sat behind, in a tone that rattled the foundations - not for its boom but for the ominous pitch in which the name was spoken. A pronounced pause gave more weight to the initial tone, causing the brown rider in question to sweat a little more than he had done so already. It had been nearly an hour that he made the brown rider stand at attention, during which time other business was conducted, matters of lesser importance but greater than that of the brown rider’s summoning.

B’rdian knew what he was doing, he knew that this sort of treatment would lower the brown rider’s self-esteem, make him waver from that stubborn haughtiness. It had become a physiological game with the brown rider, one B’rdian wanted to win.

“I will not have any incompetence on my watch, rider,” this again delivered with a callous intent, “You constantly fail to impress me that you are suitable for this wing. I gave you a chance when you were a weyrling because of your fitness level.” He did admire the endurance of the brown rider, “A suitable trait you can use in the transport wing, I imagine.” The brown rider had no place in Galaxy. He was a fool. B’rdian was a fool for having taken him on. The boy had more issues than a can without a lid and holes in the bottom.

B’rdian could feel his temper rising. Ers’lan hadn’t moved the entire time. Defiance, that is what it was. The Wingleader even noticed the brown rider straightening further when he was called out for the incompetence. “Failure to store equipment precisely how you were shown is unacceptable. Letting your dragon descend out of formation by even a quarter of a dragon-length, unacceptable. Starting a fire while on sentry duty, completely ignorant of our whole reason for being up there. - unacceptable. Fighting in the living caverns with a fellow wing-rider? UNACCEPTABLE.“ He managed to contain a growl from the last, “The tallies are adding up and frankly, I’m not sure Galaxy has room for you.”

The brown rider stood resilient, holding together even under the threat of being kicked out of the wing. The weyrleaders would need more reason than that for a rider to be removed. B’rdian was in need of something that would set Ers’lan off, that would make the brown rider lose his temper and threaten the Wingleader. Sometimes the easiest solution took the longest. Trying to convince the brown rider he wasn’t made for Galaxy hadn’t’ worked this far. B’rdian would have to tighten up the reins.

He sat there, with his fist clenched now, on top of the desk. Only a twitch of his eyebrow would give the brown rider indication of his fury and his annoyance. His stern tone was cold as he demanded: “You will prove to me how much you desire to stay in this wing. You will drill on the obstacle course until I tell you otherwise. ‘0’ four hundred. Understood?” The brown rider had the gall to simply nod. A NOD. That was it. The lad didn’t even defend himself, as if he KNEW he had done his job poorly. Disgusted, Ers’lan was gestured from the room with a wave of a hand.

Ers'lan stepped out of the room with a heavy sigh, looking back over his shoulder, even if the door had was closed behind him. He shook his head with the disbelief over the situation. He had been working hard for Galaxy. He was even volunteering to take shifts from wing mates who were sick. Confusion settled in his mind as he lifted his hand to rub at his temple. Nothing about this made any sense to him. He knew that B’rdian was a prickly fellow, hard to please and often harder to impress. He didn’t argue with the man and didn’t go against B’rdian’s orders. B‘rdian was Wingleader and Ers‘lan was still the -new- guy in the wing. He had thought he had been improving since the disasters of the sink holes.

“Reckon it be a long day tomorrow…” he murmured to himself in a dejected tone, much like a child would sound to parents who didn’t appreciate the colorful pictures painted for them. Zhaoth was present in the back of his mind, a constant encouragement, a reminder that they had to push harder than ever before. Nothing could be gained without striving to be better than yesterday. Zhaoth had pushed him all through weyrlinghood, it didn’t stop now. The brown dragon only seemed to have more ammunition - B’rdian didn’t like it this way, so we have to do it this way. All day, all night. “Best get some sleep…” A last word as he contemplated his day on the morrow, on the long walk home.

At least two hours before sunrise, Ers’lan was already lathered in sweat. Full flight gear and all, Ers’lan was being put through the paces of the obstacle course. It wasn’t for the faint of heart this course. It was designed to test and stress the body. There were stairs, hills, long jumps, small walls and barriers to jump over, a large rung net that had to be scrambled over, a taller wall climb, a body drag, hurdles, and weights. The course was designed to run through the forest, wind down to the coastal road, go through the beach and pass into the meadows. Typically a wing rider would drill a few laps of this course everyday, but B’rdian had Ers’lan going for an hour already and he didn’t seem merciful enough to let it stop before mid-morning.

A barrage of constant threats would encourage the brown rider to endure the grueling course lap after lap after lap… The belittling would build up his anger and drive him with more determination to be quicker and more efficient. Ers’lan was going to prove it to B’rdian that he was worthy!

As dawn broke, Ers’lan had not been able to keep up the pace. He was staggering down the beach with every muscle in his body burning hotter than he had ever experienced before. It felt like his ribs would bust out of his chest because of his want to take deeper and longer breaths, causing his lungs to expand like they never have before. His heart thudded loudly, rapidly pounding by the stress of the unnecessary exertion. His vision was darkening as he couldn’t get sufficient oxygen to pump the blood through as quickly as his body needed it. His feet were blistered and bruised. His knees felt inflamed and his groin muscle seared with bewildering sharp pain with each leg movement. The flight jacket was a thousand pounds and his boots twice as four times as heavy as they normally felt. He had found the end of his stamina, coated in frothing sweat like any over abused runner in a runner-race.

Yet, B’rdian chided him, “Is that all you got? You’re more pathetic than I realized. It’s just barely dawn and you’re failing to keep steady on your own two feet.” B’rdian made a dismissive noise that carried over to the brown rider before speaking, “If you’re on a rescue mission that takes days, days that lives depend on you, what are you going to do? Fall on your ass…” The voice loud enough for it to carry to any spectators, which may not be any so early in the morning, “You clearly don’t want to be a part of this wing.“

The wingleader’s face distorts with disgust once again, “Do not report to the wing this evening if you fail in this.” When the brown rider looks like he is going to falter to a walk, the wingleader snarls, “What are you waiting for you useless sack of shit?! MOVE IT.” All the brown rider can do is put his head down and struggle to run, struggle to put out of his mind the white hot pain slicing through every inch of his body.

B’rdian waited … and waited… and waited for Ers’lan to return. Surprisingly, the brown rider made it around, sand spraying behind him from his wobbly attempt and numerous sprawling half-falls that flailing arms help to prevent. There is a desperate hope in the brown rider’s face that begs for a pause, that begs the drill to be over. B’rdian remains firm with his arms crossed, having muttered to the brownrider, “Any slower and you would have to do it all over again.”

Abruptly, Ers’lan succumbs to the exertion. One moment he was putting a leg forward to sloppily run across the beach, the next moment he was face first in the sand, barely able to stop his own descent with wobbly arms.

B’rdian’s voice becomes like that of a vulture over a dead carcass, an irritating caw that keeps gnawing at the brown rider. The wingleader even goes so far as to toe the fallen rider with his boot, demanding that Ers’lan stand on his own two feet.

Ers’lan cannot move. Everywhere hurts. To take a breath hurts, to flinch his legs hurt. He tries, despite the abuse of his body, to lift himself, propping up on one hand and a second elbow. A baleful gaze seeks for B’rdian, eyes desperate in a look back over the curve of a shoulder blade. There was anger boiling inside, aimed toward B’ridan. If the brown rider had nothing against the wingleader before this, it had changed now. B’rdian had belittled him, the wingleader had insulted the brown rider in more personal ways throughout the drill - slighting everything from his sexual preferences to the state of his relationship with his father. Everything to cut and dismantle Ers’lan had been used, in attempts to goad the brown rider, in attempts to clarify the brown rider’s position in the Wing, as the grunt - the omega.

The wingleader hunched over the brown rider, boot semi-resting on the back of Ers’lan who was still very much crumpled on the beach in utter exhaustion. “Weak. As much as I would expect from you. Useless. Get up and report for sentry duty.” A demeaning job after the humiliation, the final straw that breaks the proverbial camel’s back.

The brown rider couldn’t. He couldn’t move. He was spent. His physical body and his emotional spirit, done. The last struggle to climb to his feet ceased and he just let his body sink back into the sand. There was no way in Rukbat’s red blaze that Ers’lan was going anywhere to do anything.

B’rdian had found his opportunity: “Consider yourself suspended from duty for a sevenday, no pay, for failing to follow a direct order.”

That was the victory in which B’rdian wanted, to assert himself as the alpha dog. The objective achieved, B’rdian left.

Ers’lan shuddered lightly as the wind buffeted his sweat covered body, the breeze creeping through the spaces between his flight jacket and his shirts, chilling him to the bone. The shudder was more than physical, it was a shudder of resignation and defeat. His eyes closed as he let out a staggered sigh, unable to force himself up as B’rdian walked out of sight. He just wanted to stay there, eyes turned out toward the water, watching the surf roll in…

So this was rock bottom…

Watching the course itself, is one small rider who has been taking in the abuse of her wingmate. She's known that B'rdian has been pushing Ers'lan. Has been for a long time now. But there's been little that she can do about it. Sure, she's got this hate/not hate thing going, but that doesn't mean she condones unfairness. And then there's also the fact that she can't help but wonder if there was a good reason for the terrible assignments and such. Not her place to get involved. Or so she kept telling herself.

For once, she's actually thankful that Mirai still has a crush on him and is always hoping to catch him out on the course. Or anywhere for that matter. She swears that the girl has got to be bribing someone for the information of his coming and goings. But when Mirai saw something that didn't seem quite right, she at least at the brains to go and check with her mother. She's glad that Mirai told her, though she's not what sure to do about it at the moment.

Keziah watches as he's forced around the track, one can only imagine how long he's been at it already to look so exhausted. The man runs daily for as long as she's known him. She can't help but be appalled at the treatment of the brownrider and even more so at what gets said. Her eyes narrow and her temper flares. It's not right, it's not fair and it's at a complete disregard for the safety of not only the brownrider, but ultimately the wing as well. She starts to run down there and then stops herself. As much as it galls her to stand there and do nothing, she forces herself too, she's got to get all the facts. And hope that it does some good.

As he keeps badgering at Ers'lan it just becomes too much to watch and she just can't stand back and let this abuse happen anymore. Someone is going to get hurt or die, and it'll be her Wingleaders fault, and if she doesn't say anything than hers as well. That very thought at what she see's as betrayal off all that she believes in has her making her way quickly back to the Weyr after watching B'rdian literally kick a man when he's down. After watching him punished for being unable to get up after being ran to death. After having treated Ers'lan poorly herself. This can't go on any longer. It has to be stopped. She had thought that B'rdian was just being hard-nosed. She hadn't realized that the man had gone over the deep end. The Weyrleaders need to know, and she just hopes they listen. They've got to listen. Hopefully this time will be different. It's got to be different.

Zhaoth's mind sighed in his own, the weight of it crushing his with even greater dissatisfaction than what B'rdian's jabbing had done.

« You will do better next time, with more practice. You will show him that after all your pain, you can still get up to do your duty for your wing. You will. We will get you ready in the sevenday you are not allowed to be with the wing. »

Ers'lan closed his eyes, the cool press of the sand the only real comfort to the situation, as his lifemate clearly wasn't helping matters. His chest was still burning, as if it was going to be ripped apart from his desperate grasps for breath.

With the last ounce of his strength, he pushed himself up off the beach, face staring down at the sand as he strained himself up on his arms and knees, both which wobbled with his exertion spent. There wasn't even any energy left to argue with his lifemate, to defend himself. There was only enough to crawl up the beach, toward a pile of drift wood that would offer shelter from the wind.

Hand over hand, knee sliding in front of knee over the sand, he made it to the wood, covered in slippery moss and frozen dew droplets. Like a sack of potatoes, he heaved himself over the trunk of a rotted out piece of wood and crept underneath a pile of it, shuddering as he snuggled down into a wallow of sand. He would get to his weyr when he could muster enough strength to move, until then the warm ache of his muscles would keep him company as his mind slowly drifted on the consequences of being kicked out of the wing… Would he really have to spend his life delivering boxes? Would he even be allowed to join another wing, after being demoted by a Wingleader? Would he have to transfer…? Would it be easier to transfer and start all over somewhere else?

With eyes closing tightly and his arms wrapping around himself, body curling in the fetal position, he was completely miserable - there was no one to save him this time. He wouldn't be lucky enough to find another person like Captain Joans in his lifetime… This time, he had to deal with it and suffer it and hope that one day it would change …

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