Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Best Minds of My Generation

When the NX Cusatis appeared in orbit, I was in the middle of another dead sprint, and when I phrase it that way, that’s exactly what I mean.  It was a run for my life.  The rape gangs were out in full force, as always.

You have no idea what that’s like, and I hope you never do.  What made it worse each and every time was that I knew they weren’t after me.  They wanted my sister, my kid sister.  I don’t know if Ishara ever appreciated what I did for her.  I shielded the worst of it from her, and on top of that, after our parents were murdered I had to raise her myself.  She was angry her whole life.  I think it was because of the kitten, the tenuous link to a normal life, that I was able to escape such a fate.  I had to hide it, of course, and the moment I lost track of it I never saw it again, and it’s not hard to guess what happened to it.  Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if my sister had bonded a kitten instead of fundamentalists.

The other thing that saved me was that I knew the life my parents led before they came to Turkana.  My father’s brother had served in Starfleet.  It was his early retirement that gave us access to the Federation passports.  He was an administrator, and he was supposed to make the colony a success, but instead he was sent into exile within a year, a political pariah.  The rest of us got to stay.

Since I was very young I would hear stories of my uncle’s career, his time serving aboard the Stargazer, and that was how I first learned about Jean-Luc Picard.  At this time he wasn’t widely known, and he certainly wasn’t heralded as one of the finest captains to ever serve in the fleet, but there was always something so heroic about the way my uncle talked about him.  It was different from the way he talked about his other idols, men like Archer and Kirk.  You’d expect that familiarity would take some of the shine off, but not with Picard.  He was noble and held himself with a gravitas that had every officer follow him unquestionably, even after disasters like Maxia and the death of his best friend Jack Crusher, killed on a mission Picard had led personally.

I fell in love with the man before I ever met him.  I loved him for all the reasons that made him everything I needed in a life that had nothing of his kind, when there were nightmares around every corner.  I didn’t know anything about Starfleet that my uncle hadn’t told me, and all I remembered was Picard.  It was my goal from the moment my parents died to join Starfleet.  My sister obsessed over factions in the colony, and I never gave them a second thought.  None of them had ever done anything for me, none inspired me.  If I failed her at all, and I believe that this is exactly what she thought and will always think, it’s that I never gave her the same vision that saved me.  Living in terror will cause lapses of concentration like that.

As I was saying, my life on Turkana was exactly the same up to the moment I finally escaped it.  The Cusatis was the only ship Starfleet had that it would trust to visit the colony, and it was only an experiment, a prototype that wouldn’t go into active service for decades.  As I record this log it’s still in development, refining some of the technology that is essential to its systems.  It’s the only one that can land on a planet, though, the only one that can shock a population with a maneuver of that kind, and that was all that saved me.  I look back on that day and that’s all I can think.  I wasn’t going to make it.  My sister had recently made her choice, joined her given faction, but the only way she would survive long enough to reach their headquarters was for me to provide a diversion.

It was a suicide run, and it was my only option, a dash through the heart of the colony, where the worst scum gathered and clashed on a daily basis.  What passed for law enforcement on Turkana had abandoned this sector years ago.  It was only because I’d grown up there that I had the instincts that would make it even tenuously feasible.  The place was filled with abandoned complexes, most of which were still empty because even the most desperate wouldn’t risk being inside when they finally collapsed.  This made them perfect for the most desperate to operate out of them when they didn’t want regular scum to bother them.  That’s where I went.  The rape gangs were at home.

As far as I can tell, the Cusatis laid down phaser fire that leveled several of these buildings.  I don’t particularly care to speculate if sensors had already identified them as being clear.  Once the ground was level, it landed right there.  After dusting myself off I watched as security officers beamed directly in front of me.  They knew to look for me because I had told them myself that this would be the unorthodox circumstances in which I would travel to my Academy entrance exam.  There was no other way off Turkana at that point.
My uncle had left all his technical manuals behind.  I studied them instead of sleeping at night, which was just as well because I wouldn’t have anyway.  You let your guard down at your own risk.  There were a lot of bright prospects at my exam, but I wasn’t impressed by any of them.  I guess you could say that the colony made me competitive.  In those days I don’t think anyone in Starfleet was as prepared for the Klingon and Romulan threats of the day as I was.  They were empires at war, and no one else seemed to have a clue as to how to deal with them.

I constantly amazed my professors with my knowledge of warfare tactics, perhaps because I kept my past discreet, and those who knew were kind enough to keep my secret.  I met Picard for the first time as a visiting lecturer, although he avoided the one maneuver that was already at that time bearing his name.  It was this kind of modesty that helped make him real to me.  He was a famous bachelor along with everything else.  He had more than his share of admirers, and among my fellow cadets I was not the only one who couldn’t hide their own crush.

The trick to serving with him, however, was to become the best, and as I’ve said that wasn’t too hard.  Entering the security division was a natural fit, and I worked to improve my prospects with every opportunity, and absorbed every bit of news that would facilitate them.  It wasn’t widely known, but I knew as much as anyone about the Pegasus mission, so I was just as pleased when I learned that I had been assigned to the Enterprise as when I heard that William Riker would be its first officer.

Riker was one of the brightest officers in the fleet.  If he hadn’t gotten the Enterprise he would have assumed his own command.  Everyone knew it.  But the embarrassment of riches continued.  We would also have the android Data in our crew, and the Klingon, the only one in the whole fleet.  I knew Worf would be a key member of my staff.  There was also Beverly Crusher as ship’s doctor, who was intriguing because she was Jack Crusher’s widow, and she would be bringing her son with her.  Wesley was said to be the next big wunderkind, the second coming of Pavel Chekov, a wiz kid whose school science projects were being displayed at the Daystrom Institute.  Geordi La Forge also intrigued me if only for the fact that he had been born blind.  If he had been born on Turkana, he wouldn’t have lasted five years.

Finally there was Deanna Troi.  I often wonder if things had been different that I might have just as easily led her life.  She became a psychiatrist, a gifted interpreter of human emotion, partly because of her Betazoid empathic abilities, but that wasn’t what made her special.  I barely knew my parents.  By all accounts she barely survived hers, or at least her mother.  Yet where I became defensive, she decided to help others in a different way.  If I had been more like her, I wonder if I could have helped my sister a little more.

I couldn’t help think that way about all of them.  For whatever reason, I had lived among the worst people imaginable only to end up with the best, and it wasn’t simply a matter of contrast, that anything would have seemed better compared to the colonists.  I have been in constant awe of my colleagues aboard the Enterprise.  There is plenty of pettiness in Starfleet, I’m sad to report, plenty of officers who will entertain their base instincts.  This crew is different.  These are the best minds of my generation.

The best of them, the one they’ve all gravitated toward, is Picard.  I’m still in love with him.  I can’t help it.  I hope it doesn’t affect my judgment.  I try to keep my cool, try to be as detached as possible.  Despite my background, I’m an unabashed romantic.  The rape gangs never got me.  I think that’s the difference.  There are always two sides to me, though, in competition.  The feminine side is what I fight.  The feminine side almost got me killed.  But it’s always just below the surface.  I can seem remote, and that’s the reason why.

If I weren’t being so careful…There’s only been one time where I let my guard down.  It was that stupid omnipotent clown that did it, and the one who finally identified the elephant in the room.  Picard of course was discreet about it.  What else would you expect?  I felt like a fraud.  I was humiliated and vulnerable, and that was before the clown even said it.  I think that’s the main reason why Picard didn’t notice, or could pretend so well that he hadn’t.

What can I expect from the future?  That’s been the question of my life.  I’m always hoping for the best, but part of my wonders if I haven’t been preparing for something worse.  How will I be remembered?  I hope as being worthy of the position I’ve found myself in, worthy of standing on the shoulders of giants.

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