2237-05-11 - Alone in a Crowded Room

Erin and Cate chat about social isolation and science.

Date: 2237-05-11

Location: Mess Hall

Related Scenes: None

Plot: None

Scene Number: 1017

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The wise and informed might know that Corporal Erin "Chilly" Hayes was one of the recon Marines that went forward to scout out the Cylon base at the edge of contested territory. It's not exactly public, but soldiers talk. (The other was Corporal Charlie Wagner.) Everyone has a role to play in the Game of War.

At the moment, the diminutive Aquarian is back to her old shenanigans: sitting by herself, reading some gigantic tome of scientific lore, and keeping to herself. Erin is curled up on a chair in a corner of the Mess Hall, her tray containing naught but a plate and the destroyed cores and stems of fruit. On the table is a cup -- presumably filled with coffee or water -- which seems carelessly neglected. And the rest of the room, which is probably under her absent, attentive scrutiny, appears forgotten for the moment.

Cate has been keeping busy on the surface, mostly helping out in the medical tent with some of the local doctors and ancillary medical personnel. Right now, though, her mission is a late dinner. It's not one of the usual meal times, so she has to content herself with a sandwich that one of the galley cooks whips up, and some mixed fruit. Tray in one hand, cup of coffee in the other, she scans the tables and notices Erin sitting over yonder. Approaching the other marine, she eyes the tome and raises an eyebrow. "Little light reading there?"

Erin looks up. The left corner of her mouth twitches, lifting up for a millisecond into a smile of acknowledgment and recognition. "Kind of." Shrug. "Helps me relax, I guess. I've read it at least five times." It's a primer on geology. Nerd.

Polite, the Aquarian dog-ears her page, and shuts the book. "Hi, doc. Come to check on me?" Beat. "Sergeant Dorn likes to do it when he sees me. I think he believes it's funny to prod at me." Verbally, probably. "Late dinner?"

Cate takes the dog-eared book as enough of an invitation to sit down opposite Erin, setting her tray and cup on the table. "Really - you've read that whole thing five times?" The comment about Dorn gets a quizzical look. "No, just thought I'd say hi. Why does Becks think you need prodding?" She nods to the last, "Yeah, worked through supper down at the tent city, so, figured I oughta eat something."

In response, Erin nods once. "Really." She seems serious about that, but doesn't elaborate. "I think Sergeant Dorn thinks that -- " Beat. " -- that I may need to, ah -- you know -- loosen up a bit." Shrug. "Be more like everyone else, I guess." Because she's not. Not really. Or she doesn't believe she is, but she is.

She looks around the Mess Hall for a moment. "Truth is, I -- " Another shrug. " -- I guess I'm just not comfortable around -- around a lot of others." Erin squirms in place slowly, and a little awkwardly. "Or maybe I'm coming to realize that, I don't know."

"Being like everyone else is overrated," is Cate's easy response to that idea. She slouches a bit in her chair, the long workday catching up to her. Munching on her sandwich, she listens quietly to Erin's explanation and then tilts her head curiously, "You come from a pretty small town then?"

"More like a scientific exploration camp," replies Erin quietly. There's a pause after. "My parents raised me while they were studying phenomena on a glacier. Every year we'd head to Heim when it was warmer, but otherwise -- " Shrug. " -- it was me, them, my books, my studies, and vids. That's it."

Kind of a shitty way to grow up.

"It was okay -- I was okay -- when they were with me. And then, when I was studying in Heim, it was -- I don't know, I just never had the time or inclination to be like every other student there." Beat. "I knew what I wanted to do. I knew what I wanted to study. And I didn't see the point to deviate from that."

Cate's eyebrows go up a little at the story. "Wow. That must've been rough. Not having any other kids around to play with and shit." She takes a few more bites of sandwich and wonders, "So - that's how you got into geology I take it? That's what you wanted to study?"

"Planetary physics, actually." Erin pats her textbook twice with a hand. "Geomorphology is part of that. Understanding how a planet comes to be, and how that history can effect everything from limnology to the chemical composition in its atmosphere and soil." This makes her smile, and the smile holds on her face. "I don't know about you, but that's the sort of thing that gets me -- I guess, excited. Excited about -- " Shrug. " -- I don't know, everything?" And then, a quick, anxious laugh. "It's horribly stupid."

Cate listens with interest as she eats. "Doesn't sound stupid to me. But... I was a science geek in school too. Biology more than physics, but it was all pretty cool. Didn't earn me many friends though. So I guess I get that you can be in a room full of people and still be alone," she points out with a shrug. Then, grinning faintly, she admits, "Don't really know what the hell limnology is though."

"It's the study of bodies of water: their biological, chemical, and physical make-ups, composition, and patterns," explains Erin clinically and rapidly. "On Aquaria, it was a popular topic. Go figure." Ice planet? Water sounds like a thing to study. "The sort of thing that helped the planet develop advances in terraforming areas." Beat. "I, ah -- I guess I'm a bit surprised that you didn't have many friends? You seem to have plenty in the unit."

"Cool. Yeah, I guess that would make sense. Lots of water to study there." Cate puts the sandwich down to take a drink from her coffee, giving her a moment to collect her thoughts before replying, "I wouldn't say I have a lot of friends here. I mean, I get along well enough with most of the guys, but... that's just squad shit. Real friendship, that's something different. Becks is my friend. The chaplain, couple of others." She shrugs again. "I dunno, I guess it's how you define it."

"Mm-hmm." Erin concurs with the definition. "Well, that's a lot more than I've got, if you don't count my books." Again, she laughs a nervous laugh. "Wow. I sound awful." Kind of.

At that point, she picks up her tray. "I should get going, though. Don't mean to be sudden about it, but I've probably lingered too long with my buddy." Erin pats her book, and then stands up, taking and tucking the large, heavy object under an arm. "I'll see you around?"

Cate seems untroubled by the sudden departure, if mildly surprised. She nods. "Yeah, sure. Take care," she offers, then goes back to her meal.


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