Star Trek: Frontier Academy – Part 5

This is part of a collaborative effort to produce a piece of Star Trek fiction that looks forward, rather than backward. Future installments will follow as they are written.

Link to Frontier Academy – Part 4

The room was awkward. Pleasant, but awkward. Like the rest of the building, Nav’s new quarters were all organic curves, smooth lines, no edges to speak of besides the shelves built (or maybe grown) into the wall.

Nav soon came to realised that she missed having corners.

Corners were nice. Corners were defined – they showed you where one wall ended and another began. And corners were natural homes for things – for lights, or tables, or bookshelves, or even just piles of clothes and boxes of stuff.

Nav had lived out of Boxes of Stuff for the last seven months of her life, between moving to San Fran, finding out she would be leaving and so never unpacking, living on a cramped starship as it crawled across the Gamma Quadrant. Boxes of Stuff had been her life, and they had always found a home in a spare corner of whatever room in which she happened to be sleeping.

And now, this room had no corners, and so her Boxes had no home, and so she had no home – just a bed, and some shelves, and an unmarked border with her roommate, who was presumably a Vulcan based on the sparse decoration and the absence of anything which might possibly possess sentimental value.

This wasn’t an immediate issue, as Nav’s Boxes were all still aboard the Nicholls, due to be beamed down in the evening. But it would definitely be a problem, she knew, when she would eventually have to confront the notion of – and this word made her shudder – the notion of unpacking.

Seriously, how the hell did people live their lives with all of their stuff in different parts of a room?

She also had a chest of drawers, she realised. Which was a bit like a stack of boxes, she had to admit. But she was probably going to have to designate specific draws for specific things, like some kind of bloody sociopath.

She missed Earth.

“Good afternoon.”

Nav span on her feet to see a Vulcan in the doorway. She was tall, and had the physique of a champion athlete, and god bloody damn it was she striking to look at. She was also staring at her own side of the room, her eyes darting to each item in turn.

Nav followed her gaze. “I didn’t touch anything.”

The Vulcan looked at her. “It would not be a problem if you had.”

Nav found this odd, because Vulcans weren’t supposed to lie. “I’m Nav. Nawisah. Whatever. Hi.” She pointedly held out her hand.

The Vulcan stepped forward and shook it, firmly, and this caused Nav some degree of alarm. “I am Suvek,” she said. “I am fascinated to meet you, Nav Nawisah.”

“It’s just Nav.”

“I know.” Suvek’s face gave nothing away. “You do not appear to have many possessions,” she said, looking around. “If there is anything you require, the replicator will be able to attend your needs.”

“Replicator?” Nav asked.

“Indeed. It is a common piece of technology. It is curious that you are not familiar with the concept.”

“I know what a bloody replicator is.” Nav was beginning to lose her grip on her emotions. She normally enjoyed speaking to Vulcans. They normally had a calming effect on her. She kept her voice level. “I meant that I don’t see a damn replicator in here.”

“Indeed,” Suvek said, in a tone both completely even and Vulcanian, and yet somehow dripping with condescension. “Computer, hairbrush, calibrate for dry hair.”

Glowing particles coalesced in front of Suvek, forming the shape and structure of a hairbrush. It hung motionless in the air until Suvek took hold of it and presented it to Nav. “This will get you started,” she said.

Nav was stuck in the middle between awe and rage, her surprise at the invisible replicator matched only by her desire to shove the hairbrush down Suvek’s throat. She took the brush from Suvek, closed her eyes, counted to three silently, and then looked the Vulcan straight in the eye. “Wouldn’t it be a failing in logic,” she said, “to piss off the person with whom you’ll be living for the next year?”

Suvek raised an eyebrow. “You proceed on three false assumptions,” she asserted. “The first is that we will be sharing these quarters for a year – we will in fact part ways at the end of the semester. The second is that this is a zero-sum game: of the two of us, only you are capable of experiencing emotional responses such as anger, frustration, or of being pissed off. The third,” she continued, ignoring Nav’s swiftly-flushing cheeks, “is that this is an attempt to piss you off. In point of fact, your hostile tone and provocative body language implied a need for me to assert myself sooner, rather than later, and make clear to you from the outset that your negative attitude would go neither unnoticed nor disregarded.”

Nav had no response. For several seconds she had no response. She felt like she might explode with rage. Or implode with shame. Certainly some kind of stellar catastrophe was on her emotional horizon.

She realised she hadn’t taken a full breath since Suvek began talking. She inhaled through her nose, exhaled through her mouth. Suvek was staring at her the whole time, expressionless and unblinking.

Finally, Nav relaxed her fists. “I haven’t got dry hair,” she stated.

“Indeed,” Suvek acknowledged. “By all counts, you attend to it very effectively. But you should keep the brush. It is equally effective on all hair types. It is, after all, merely a brush.”

Nav’s mood was swinging like a metronome, and the only thing she was certain of was that she was wildly out of balance. She said nothing more, but turned away and began unloading her travel bag onto her bed. Behind her, Suvek sat down on her own bed and retrieved a PADD, which she began to read.

A few minutes passed in silence. Nav surveyed her belongings on the bed – a spare uniform, some toiletries, data crystals with libraries of her favourite books and music, a few holodeck programs, two bags of coffee beans (her espresso machine was yet to be beamed down), some casual clothes, a tricorder, a backup tricorder, the inscribed custom-built tricorder dad had made for one of her birthdays and which never saw use, a pair of walking boots, a pair of running shoes, a-

“Will you be attending the ceremony in the afternoon?” Suvek enquired.

Nav didn’t turn to face her but remained focused on her unpacking. “Maybe,” she said, “depends on if my parents are there.”

“I am sure they would be.”

“Exactly,” Nav said. “Why?”

“Myself and three other students will all be attending together,” Suvek said. “It may prove useful for you to be introduced to them.”

Nav shrugged. “We’ll see,” she said. “I’ve only been here three hours, seems a bit soon for a party.”

Star Trek: Frontier Academy – Part 4

This is part of a collaborative effort to produce a piece of Star Trek fiction that looks forward, rather than backward. Future installments will follow as they are written.

Link to Frontier Academy – Part 3

“Who’s the new meat?” Kor’va asked, tipping her head to indicate the fresher on the other side of the concourse.

“Don’t be crass,” Mateo chided. “She’s an Earther, she arrived on the Nicholls. I don’t know who she’s arguing with, though.” He watched the newbie as she gesticulated at two science officers. Her frustration was clear even from the other side of the concourse.

“Probably her parents,” Siron answered. “Maybe, I dunno, maybe she’s angry at them for dragging her away from the Academy on Earth, and they’re annoyed with her for picking this moment to start that argument again.”

Mateo turned to her. “Seriously, Siron?”

Siron blinked her innocent, Betazoid eyes with their big black irises at him. “What’s wrong?”

“We agreed: never on other cadets.”

“Oh please, she only just started,” Siron said, incredulously. “Besides, they’re hardly having a private discussion – you would chastise a Chelondite for being able to hear them.” Mateo stared at her disapprovingly before she relented. “Okay, fine, you win.”

The new cadet and her parents parted, neither side appearing satisfied. The show was over. The three spectators moved on to a café in one corner of the concourse and sat down at a table next to a Vulcan cadet, another first-year.

The four of them made for a diverse group: Kor’va, a Klingon; Mateo, a human (technically a Martian); Siron, a betazoid; and Suvek, the Vulcan. Starfleet in the Alpha Quadrant was still forty per-cent homo sapiens, but Zhenxun had been a destination for immigrants from all worlds of the Federation, and that was reflected in the intake of its academy.

One of the waiters brought over a tray of drinks – four spiced celosia teas, an incredibly popular beverage on Zhenxun, brewed from local celosia plants and served steaming hot. They each took one and breathed in the spiced, earthy aroma.

Siron took a sip, then addressed the group. “So, are we all going to the ceremony later?”

“I will be late,” Kor’va answered, “My Civics lecture finishes at fifteen-hundred.”

“It’s going to be pointless,” Mateo said. “It’ll just be a boring speech and a load of arrogant Alphas cheering about how well their little province is doing.”

Suvek raised an eyebrow. “That’s a very adversarial interpretation.”

“It’s true,” Kor’va said, “they see us as nothing but a curiosity, a side project of the great Federation Dream. They hold us in contempt, because they are secretly envious of our rapidly advancing culture and scientific achievements.”

Suvek’s eyebrow remained raised. The rest of the table was quiet for a moment. Siron was first to speak. “Well, I mean, I don’t know about all that. We’re still very much a part of the Federation.”

“Are we, though?” Mateo asked. “We’re six months from the Wormhole, six months through unclaimed territory. We fly different ships, we have different rules. The uniforms are the same, but…” He paused briefly. “Do you feel like you grew up in the Federation? Or do you feel like you grew up in the Gamma Quadrant?”

Siron shrugged. “I feel like I grew up on Zhenxun, in Maathai city. Which is a Federation planet and a Federation city.” She took a sip of celosia. “Suvek? How do you- Well, that is to say, what are your thoughts?”

Suvek calmly finished her tea before she spoke. When she did, she was impassive. “Cultural identity is a difficult topic to assess objectively. Having matured here, on a colony in the Gamma Quadrant, largely isolated from the politics and factions of the Alpha Quadrant, I could not claim to have had comparable experiences to my contemporaries on Vulcan. And yet this is a colony built and managed, at least nominally, by the Federation, an organisation very much shaped by those same politics and factions within the Alpha Quadrant. And so surely my development must have been shaped, even indirectly, by Alpha Quadrant concerns, no?”

As usual, no one really had much of a challenge to Suvek’s insight, either due to its accuracy or its sheer verbosity. Kor’va remained adamant. “This is not the Alpha Quadrant, and I am not an Alpha Quadrant Klingon.”

Mateo put his cup down and folded his arms. “Well, what about me, then? I wasn’t born here, but I didn’t grow up back there. What does that make me? A wormhole child? One of the Prophets?”

“That is not what I meant and you know it!” Kor’va barked. Mateo shrugged with indifference. “You are of this Quadrant, even if you weren’t born here,” Kor’va explained. “You have spent a lifetime breathing Zhenxun air, drinking Zhenxun water. The spirit of Zhenxun runs in your blood, literally!”

Siron hushed them all. “Careful!” she hissed, gesturing towards a senior officer in dress uniform several metres away. “He’s from the Nicholls. You know how they are about that stuff.”

“We dare not be ashamed of our own qualities!” Kor’va protested. “They’re the backwards ones! Get lost!” she shouted at Mateo as he kicked her under the table.

The commander moved away, apparently unheeding of their conversation, or of Kor’va’s outbursts. Suvek stood up and straightened her uniform. “I must adjourn, my new roommate is moving in this afternoon, and I ought to attend to her.”

Siron smiled impishly. “You’re going to make sure she doesn’t touch any of your stuff, aren’t you?”

“My belongings are arranged optimally for comfort and convenience,” she said, averting her gaze. “Having to re-arrange their layout following misplacement would be an unwanted disruption.” She began walking away.

Mateo connected two dots in his head, and called after her “Suvek! Are you getting the new Alpha girl?”

“I am ‘getting’ nothing,” Suvek called back, “I am merely losing half of my living space.”

On to Part 5

Star Trek: Frontier Academy – Part 3

This is part of a collaborative effort to produce a piece of Star Trek fiction that looks forward, rather than backward. Future installments will follow as they are written.

Link to Frontier Academy – Part 2

She could taste metal. The air was tangy, and prickly in her throat. She coughed. It took her eyes a few moments to adjust to the bright light of the sun above. Brighter, and maybe just a fraction more blue than on Earth. Maybe even a little purple. The gravity was a little lighter, too. Not by much, she just felt a bit… springier. She coughed again.

She was stood in a paved street, tall buildings on either side, people walking past her on either side. It felt very much like San Francisco, except she had left in the Autumn, and here it felt like a cool spring day.

The buildings were different, too. Even the most modern, experimental Earth architecture seemed old-fashioned compared to the smooth, organic lines of the structures around her. Tall spires and apartment towers seemed to have sprouted, plant-like, out of the ground, with all sorts of overhangs and curves that would have left them structurally unsound had they been built in the traditional fashion.

The sun was high overhead, and the pale sky had a green tinge – which made sense, Nav realised, a green sky scattering the green light and leaving only the red and blue spectrums to-

“When you are ready to proceed, we will ensure your safe arrival at your destination,” the old monk said from behind her. She turned to face him, breaking from her reverie. “I understand that it is only a short distance,” he qualified.

She smiled. “You don’t need to escort me,” she said, “though I am grateful for the offer.”

The monk raised an eyebrow. “I made a promise to your parents that we would. It would be remiss of me to renege on that promise.”

Nav thought for a moment. “Well, would you promise me that you won’t escort me?”

“As it pleases you,” he answered, bowing his head.

Nav bowed hers in turn. “I’m Nav, by the way. Or Nawisah, or whatever. Nawisah Dacres.”

“So I gathered. I am S’Prel. You are fortunate, Nawisah, to have parents so dedicated to your wellbeing.”

“Yeah,” Nav answered. “I should go,” she said, changing the topic. “I need to register. Thank you for talking to me.”

“I am grateful that we have met,” S’Prel said. He glanced back to the other Vulcans, who were standing silently, watching him. They weren’t impatient – they couldn’t be. But neither were they hiding the fact that they were waiting for him. “We, too, need to proceed to our destination. Remain in good health, Nawisah,” he said, raising his hand in the Vulcan salute, “and excel in all things.”

Nawisah gave the Starfleet salute. “Take care,” she said but her throat was tickling again, and she coughed, managing to splutter “and do a great day.” She winced at her abject failure to express even a simple sentiment. “Erm, goodbye, is what I meant.”

Having ended the conversation catastrophically, she turned on her heel and quickly walked off down the street. The Academy and the Vulcan enclave backed onto one another, but the Academy was huge, and their entrances were separated by half a kilometre. She was walking at a good pace, but not enough to tire her, and yet she could feel her breath getting short. She coughed, once again, but it didn’t help. Her lungs felt a little ragged, like her windpipe was made of crinkly paper.

She arrived at the Academy entrance panting as though she’d sprinted the two-hundred metres. She took a few moments to catch her breath before she went inside.

On the outside, the Academy building had the same organic look as the rest of the city – a tall spire, with sweeping curves along its height, and additional structure branching off, impossibly spindly and complex in shape. It was impressive from the ground, and must have been startlingly beautiful from above.

Inside, the foyer was tall and airy, light pouring in through elongated windows onto huge botanical installations, full of terrestrial and vulcanian flora, and some that were completely unfamiliar. Nav walked through the main doorway as confidently as she could given her compromised breathing.

As she got to the middle of foyer, the front desk clerk called her over by name. “Nawisah Dacres? You’re here to register?” Nav approached, and was handed a PADD. “That’s your map, enrolment papers, class schedule, your halls assignment…”

“I’m meant to-” she had to cough again, badly. He throat was already tender, and likely inflamed. “I’m supposed to meet-”

“Commander Akemji? Yes, she’s down to see you at fifteen-hundred.” The clerk put a small container on the counter top. “This is for your breathing.”

Nav opened the container, revealing a small plastic tube. “I thought-” she had to cough again, “- I thought the treatment was in a pill.”

The clerk shook her head. “The tablet provides long-term alleviation, the vaporiser is for immediate relief. You’ll need to take it for the next few days until the tablet takes effect.”

Nav took a deep drag on the vaporiser, or at least tried to. As she inhaled the cough caught her out and the medicine never made it down her throat. The clerk politely didn’t notice as Nav wheezed and gasped. She tried again and managed a clean dose.

“So this will fix it? My breathing, I mean?”

“You should feel normal most of the time, but you’ll still struggle under exertion.”

“Until the tablet kicks in?”

“Oh no,” the clerk said, “even the tablets will only have a limited effect.”

Nav’s heart sank. “Oh.” She looked at the vaporiser in her hands. “I thought, I had been told-”


Nav turned to see a Commander striding towards her. “Commander Akemji?”

Akemji held out her hand. “Nice to meet you, cadet. Follow me to my office, and we can get started.”

Akemji sat down behind her desk with a thud. She was broad and heavy set, and incredibly expressive in her mannerisms.

“Right then, Cadet Dacres, let’s have a look at your record. You settling on okay?”

“I’ve only been on the surface for twenty minutes, so-”

“Top scores in Physics, O-chem,” Akemji seemed to switch focus without warning. “Bit shakey on Pure Math,” she said, looking up from the PADD at Nav.

Nav wasn’t sure if it was worth her continuing. “Oh, on my entrance exams, yeah, I struggled with matrices.”

Akemji kept reading. “Good on Mechanics, good on Statistics, Astrophys was through the roof! Bit of a stargazer?”

“It was my favourite in high school. Along with Warp Theory and Temporal.”

“Fantastic! You have the makings of a chief engineer!” Nav didn’t respond to that. “You were only a month in the Academy proper, but let’s have a quick look…” She scanned through Nav’s written record and her lecturers’ references. “Good, good, excellent… this must be a mistake, your flight instructor just wrote ‘Bloody awful’. Have you tampered with-”

“No, that’s accurate,” Nav confirmed. She sighed. “She said I was the worst pilot she’d ever seen. I crashed the simulator.”

Akemji scoffed. “That’s ridiculous! Everyone crashes a few times in the simulator, that’s how you learn!”

“No,” Nav said, “I mean I crashed the actual simulator itself. The holodeck froze and then shut down. The error log said it had encountered a fatal exception error trying to process my inputs into its physics model.”

Akemji stared at her across the desk in silence. A silence Nav eventually broke by explaining “I found it difficult adjusting the craft’s orientation to adjust for momentum and thrust.”

“That’s literally the definition of piloting a spacecraft,” Akemji said in the flat tones of a Vulcan.

“Yep,” Nav replied. “Hence the rating.”

The silence resumed for a few more moments. Nav shifted her weight in her seat and examined the far wall in detail.

After a few more moments, Akemji began reading again, before finally putting the PADD down. “Well, of course we’re thrilled to have you with us. Even if you hadn’t already been admitted to San Francisco I’m sure you would have been accepted here with no issues!” She leant forwards. “So, have you had any thoughts about your major?”

“Oh,” Nav said, surprised. “We don’t pick our Major until third year, do we?”

“No, the final choice is made then, but here we push our cadets to pick early, try a few classes, and see how they get on. You can pick and choose and see what fits!”

“Oh. I hadn’t- that is to say, it’s not something I expected to be thinking about.” She already knew her answer, however. “I would like to try the law classes, I think.”

“No pun intended!” Akemji cried, with a wink. Nav stared in shocked confusion. “To try the law classes. Y’know.” Nav processed this for a moment, then nodded and smiled. “But of course,” Akemji continued, “we can have a look at getting you enrolled on them. Bit of an odd choice for a fresher, but nothing wrong with that!”

Nav kept smiling.

“You’ll be living in the Constitution Wing. Off-worlders would normally be in the Miranda Wing but as we’re already part-way through the semester we just had to find a space. Constitution’s great, it’s got a lovely view of the athletics grounds and the best shared bathrooms on campus. Not en suite, sadly, but there’s no Kyrelans in your block so you ought to be alright. Oh!” she said, seeing Nav’s look of confusion. “Kyrelans shed their epidermis and outer mucus layer every three days. It gets… messy.” Her gaze drifted off to the side in silent recollection.

Nav’s throat had been easing progressively, and she realised she hadn’t needed to cough since she took the vaporiser. Nontheless, she cleared her throat. Akemji looked back at her. “I’ll have another cadet show you to your quarters, but for now, Cadet Dacres,” she said, standing and offering her hand, which Nav shook, “welcome to Academy Gamma.”

On to Part 4

Star Trek: Frontier Academy – Part 2

This is part of a collaborative effort to produce a piece of Star Trek fiction that looks forward, rather than backward. Future installments will follow as they are written.

Link to Frontier Academy – Part 1

Nav was early to the transporter room, and yet the Vulcan delegation seemed to have been there for some time, to nobody’s surprise. There were still a few minutes before they would beam down, so she put her travel bag down and leant against a bulkhead, trying to look casual.

She would have taken a PADD out to read, but her mind was racing and, in any case, she doubted she’d be able to keep her hand from shaking. So she just kept quiet and surveyed the Vulcans, in their pristine robes and immaculate haircuts and perfect postures. A few of them were engaged in quiet debate; two of them were sat legs-crossed on the floor in meditation; another, an older monk, approached Nav directly, and she found her anxiety rocketing.

“Greetings,” he said, in those typical even tones, “I presume you are heading down to the Academy campus?”

“Correct,” she answered. “You’re next door, aren’t you?”

He paused while he parsed what she’d said. “If you mean the Vulcan enclave, then yes, it is situated adjacent to the main campus facility.”

The Vulcan’s pervasive serenity had already calmed her nerves a little. Forgetting for a moment her imminent worries, her curiosity got the better of her. “Is it true – uh, is it accurate, that you’re on a mission? I mean, that you’re missionaries?”

He tilted his head in acquiescence. “It is not accurate, nor entirely true. We are indeed here to attend the well being of the Vulcans in the Gamma Quadrant, but ours is a cultural mission, not a religious one.”

“But they’re still logical, aren’t they? They still follow Surak’s teachings?”

“After a fashion. They adhere to logic where it suits them, but many have… deviated, from cultural norms. We are here to both observe these,” he paused again, “deviations, and to convince them by example of the benefits of a more logical path.”

More questions bubbled up in Nav’s mind, but she was prevented from giving them voice by the arrival of her parents, who rushed into the transporter room and embraced her tightly.

“Nawisah!” her mother cried, “why weren’t you at home?”

“I thought we were meeting here,” Nav lied, and qualified unnecessarily “I wanted to be prompt.”

Her mother, a Lieutenant Commander of stellar cartography, embraced her tighter still, whilst her father put his arms around both of them. He was a Lieutenant in the astrogeology department. The chance to catalogue the rocks of the far reaches of the Gamma Quadrant and map the planets on which they were found was a dream opportunity for both of them. They hadn’t hesitated to accept the offer.

“You’ll be careful down there, won’t you?” her father instructed.

“Dad, we’ll be meeting up in, like, ninety minutes.”

“Still though, just watch out once you get there.”

“Dad! It’s a Federation colony, it will be fine!”

Her mother put both hands on Nav’s face and looked her in the eyes. “Listen to your dad, Nawisah, you don’t want to get lost or end up late for registration.”


“Lieutenant, Lieutenant Commander,” the Vulcan monk offered. “If it would reassure you, my peers and I would have no objection to seeing your daughter safely to her destination. It would be no inconvenience to us.”

Her father took the monk’s hand and shook it, saying “would you? That’d great, thank you so much, she-“. He didn’t realise his error until he saw the shocked expression on the Vulcan’s face, at which point he let go and lowered his head bashfully.

“It would be our honour,” the Vulcan confirmed. Nav noted him wiping his hand on his robe, as subtly as he could manage.

Nav loosened her hold on her mother, hoping the favour would be returned, but she only held on more tightly to her daughter. “Mum, it will be fine,” she said. “Ninety minutes, then I’ll see you at the main concourse.” The embrace tightened again.

“Okay, ninety minutes. If anything happens, tell us straight away.”

“Nothing. Will happen.”

The transporter chief called out thirty seconds until energising. Nav’s mother finally released her, and stood to one side, whilst her dad handed her the bulky travel bag. As she took it, he pulled her close and kissed her on the forehead, and her mother hugged her again. She retreated to the transporter pad and stood to the side of the Vulcans. She faced her parents, and they were waving frantically at her – despite being no more than three metres away.

She wanted to mutter something like “Here we go,” or “this is it,” or some other cliche, but Vulcan hearing was acute so she kept her mouth shut. In her head, there were no words, just a tangle of images, of what she imagined her first view of the planet would be; of the transporter chief activating the main energiser; of her mother on the comm screen, telling her that they wanted her to come with them through the wormhole; of the sun shining through the Golden Gate Bridge, just like the mission patch she’d proudly sewn onto her uniform; of her parents, waving and smiling and smiling at her from three metres away, glad to be one step closer to their perfect assignment; and of Aisha, wrapping her arms around Nav’s waist and burying her face in her stomach.

The transporter room faded to white, and the next thing she felt was cool stone beneath her feet.

On to Part 3

Star Trek: Frontier Academy – Part 1

This is part of a collaborative effort to produce a piece of Star Trek fiction that looks forward, rather than backward. Future installments will follow as they are written.

Five years after the end of the Dominion War, Starfleet sent six ships into the Wormhole. They emerged into the Gamma Quadrant, travelling thousands of lightyears in a heartbeat, but that was only the beginning of their journey.

Their destination was a region of space far beyond even the Dominion’s reach: a group of star systems filled with habitable planets. This journey, under the speed of their own warp engines, took them years, and took them further from home than anyone had ever been before.

The colony ship U.S.S. Eleanor Dare reached orbit of the first and only stop on its journey: Zhenxun. Like Earth in many respects, and different in many more, this planet would be a new home, a new start for those aboard the Eleanor Dare.

Life was hard for a while. The comfort and convenience of life aboard a starship gave way to hard work, environmental challenges and a need for a new way of thinking. The task now was not of exploration or discovery, but of expansion and development.

Buildings were slowly assembled, power grids and generators connected together, and the colony of Maathai began to grow, quite literally. Without Federation building codes and regulations, Maathai’s architects experimented with organically grown structures of living metal and polymer. Strong, tall shelters emerged from bare rock, swaying with the wind and healing themselves when harmed.

After only a decade Maathai was a flourishing city, with thousands making the long journey across the Gamma Quadrant to settle there, as well as on the other planets around Zhenxun. It was the dawn of a new age – the Federation was now an intragalactic organisation, with frontiers across every spiral of the galaxy.

“Sixty years later, and here we are,” Johnson finished, “Maathai is now the jewel of the Gamma Quadrant. A centre for trade, production, and, yes, for learning.” He left an image of the city rotating on the holoprojector. “Still months from Earth and Vulcan and Andoria and Tellar, but still very much a part of the Federation.”

Aisha raised her hand. “Is it true they all have gills, sir?”

Johnson raised an eyebrow. “Gills? No, no I don’t believe any of them have gills. At least, not gills that they didn’t already start with. Yes, Aisha?”

“Why don’t we have organic ships and houses, like them?”

He shrugged. “We never needed them. Alpha Quadrant shipyards build good, strong ships the old fashioned way, and we get by just fine. Yes, Aisha?”

“How did the water turn into acid?”

“Well,” Johnson answered, running a hand through his hair, “the lakes and oceans aren’t actually acid, they just contain an unusual polymer-like secretion from much of the submarine life, and it causes irritation and blistering to most types of skin. In fact, it’s slightly alkali. Yes, Ai- Oh, Nawisah, you have a question?”

Nawisah lowered her arm. “How did the colonists prevent radical alteration to the environment into which they were settling? Wouldn’t their very presence produce unpredictable results and inhibit the natural evolution of indigenous species?”

Nawisah, as always, was keen to maintain her image. Her uniform was still smooth and its seams stiff. Her hair was tied back and her eyes were still buzzing from a caffeine rush.

Coffee was one of the few things she’d learned about during her month in San Francisco, and was a habit she’d brought with her through the wormhole and all the way here, to just a few hours out from Zhenxun. Her mother hated her drinking it, which was part of – hell, probably most of – the appeal. And now, she was glad of the extra alertness. She wanted to learn as much as possible about Maathai and Zhenxun, because she was determined not to be caught out by a hamlet full of mutants and deviants.

Aisha, the younger girl, looked at Nawisah with adoring eyes. Between Federation envoys, Vulcan missionaries, Bajoran pilgrims, Klingon hunters and Romulan “surveyors”, there wasn’t much room aboard the Nicholls for children, and whilst Nawisah hardly considered her a peer, she felt sorry for Aisha, stuck for months on a cramped starship with no other kids and no idea of what her future held in store for her.

Nawisah herself was a little uncertain of her own future. It was easy enough for her parents to tell her that the campus at Maathai was the equal of the real Academy, but when they had graduated from San Francisco Maathai didn’t even have a recruitment office. Nawisah wanted to wander the same halls that her heroes had wandered. She wanted to sit in the same lecture theatres that had hosted legends like Norah Satie and Tryla Scott and Admiral Saavik.

So, despite being separated by ten years, Nawisah and Aisha had been united by their frustrations, and now took turns torturing Lieutenant Johnson, the on-board anthropologist who was eagerly trying to prepare them for their new home. Aisha would bombard the young man with a barrage of simplistic questions, before Nawisah would precisely fire off an in-depth query of layered complexity, and they would watch his face twist as his brain struggled to change gears.

But, in the best traditions of Starfleet, he never ran out of patience. Or enthusiasm. And as much as Nawisah respected him for that, skewering him like this was one of the few enjoyable pastimes she and Aisha could share.

As Johnson stammered his way towards an answer, hitting buzzwords like “ecological footprint” and “sympathetic terraforming” along the way, he was saved by the chime of the ship’s comm system.

“Attention all decks, we are about to slow to impulse. Landing parties Alpha through Delta, please assemble in your designated transporter bays and prepare for disembarkation.”

Aisha rushed to the window, and Nawisah followed close behind her. They would be rendezvousing with the Tereshkova, a Margulis-class cruiser, built in the Gamma Quadrant and, therefore, built organically. Nawisah had seen diagrams of the organic ships, but had been told that they didn’t compare with the real thing.

Johnson struggled to see out the window from behind them as the Nicholls dropped out of warp. After a few moments, Nav spotted the other vessel and pointed it out to Aisha, who gasped with excitement.

The Tereshkova looked conventional from a distance. Decently proportioned saucer and engineering sections, nacelles in all the right places. But as she drew closer, her distinctions became more apparent. She was smooth, entirely smooth. There wasn’t a straight edge on her, and as far as Nav could tell there wasn’t a single joint or attachment point either. Every part of her structure just flowed into the other; there weren’t even any hull panels, just a featureless metallic skin, dotted with windows and the occasional sensor cluster.

But it was the colour that really made her stand out. She was pearlescent, every colour in the spectrum reflecting off her hull. She was like a mirage, or something out of a dream, and Nawisah’s mind was rushing to figure out what kind of engineering techniques had produced such a finish.

The call went out again for the first four landing parties to assemble. Nawisah was in the sixth group, so she had a little time yet. She and Aisha sat huddled together, staring out at an unfamiliar starscape and a ship as alien as it was beautiful.

On to Part 2