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 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