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.
“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.”