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.
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.”