Act 5: Loss

The door to the common room slid open with a soft hiss of air, and Harry looked up from the game of three-dimensional checkers he was playing with Ryki. The Mintakan, had enquired if he knew how to play, producing the board game from somewhere shortly after M'Var had returned to her room, and then set about teaching him.

"Alice, you're back!" Ryki crowed from his seat opposite Harry.

"How many times must I tell you Ryki, my name is not Alice," the girl said.

"As many times as it takes, beautiful. Where's blondie?" Ryki said, ignoring her exasperation.

"Outside, chatting with the groundskeeper. Ah, and you must be Harry, I'm Ara Giko," Ara was a short girl with long brown hair pulled back into a ponytail. Her nose, however, was what drew Harry's attention. The bridge of her nose had a series of ridges stacked vertically. She had this look about her that made her seem perpetually lost, somehow. Like a girl trying to figure out what to do next, in an unfamiliar place. Harry supposed, that this was where Ryki had gotten the nickname, Alice, from.

"I'm a Bajoran," Ara, informed him with a smile, when she noticed the direction of his stare.

Just then the door opened to admit Sky, followed by a tall girl with long chestnut brown hair. She had a presence that just, filled the room, that Harry wondered for a moment, why she'd been given the nickname of, blondie, by the Mintakan.

"Oh, isn't he just a darling! Sky, my dear, you didn't tell me he was this cute. Harry dear, I'm Rwuxosse Sept, daughter of the sixth house of Betazed, holder of the Ring of Theron, and heir to the Elder Scepter of Betazed," Rwuxosse declared with a flourish, the back of her hand and wrist dramatically positioned in front of Harry.

Harry stared, perplexed at the proffered hand.

"Don't mind her Harry, she's always that dramatic," Ara stage whispered to the boy who'd shrunk back from Rwuxosse.

"I haven't the faintest idea what you mean Ara," Rwuxosse said, as though, at that exact moment, she really didn't, but once she caught Harry's gaze she winked, and then went about arranging herself, daintily on the nearest empty couch.

"This seems like the start of a bad joke," Ryki muttered, "An AI, Bajoran, Betazoid, Mintakan and a Vulcan walk into a bar," he trailed off, "never mind, Vulcans don't drink."

Rwuxosse laughed, "do tell another Ryki."

Ryki gave her a withering look and said, "I'm not your court jester, Blondie."

Rwuxosse cleared her throat, and Ara looked made a strangled sound as she tried to suppress a laugh.

"Don't mind us boys, we'll be out of your way soon enough," Rwuxosse said, standing up, and then she stopped halfway to the door, as a thought occurred to her, "Say, you sturdy young men wouldn't mind helping us ladies move a few things, would you?"

"Say no," Ryki stage whispered to Harry, but Harry was already standing up to follow Ara to the door.

"Why did Rwuxosse want to go shopping, anyway? I'd have thought you would've seen everything they had to sell already." Ryki muttered.

Ara overheard him and decided to grace him with an answer, "Oh you poor deluded man, the stores don't always sell the same things. Besides, we originally attended the academy annex at New France; and we didn't have the time to give the shops around the academy the attention they deserve, when we were on Earth during the graduation ceremony before receiving our assignments."

"I'm sorry I asked," Ryki mumbled.

"And so, you should be," Ara mock glared, before changing the subject. "So, Harry, what's your class schedule look like?" Ara asked as they distributed the shopping bags between the four of them. They would've roped Sky into helping, but he'd made a break for it when they weren't paying attention.

"I've got a lot of catching up to do," Harry said showing the printout to the other cadet.

"Hmm, some of these are better than Ryki's scores when he first started, actually," Ara said pointing at some of the course names, "you may not be a genius on the level of Wesley Crusher, but you're certainly not stupid."

"Why do you say that?" Harry asked, as he tucked the list back into his pocket before he picked up the items pointed out to him.

Ara's room was simple, yet comfortable. The wall to the right of the bed held a regulation standard storage closet. To the left of the closet was a small replicator unit, like Harry had become quite familiar with over the past few days, opposite the bed, there was a small lounge area with a coffee table and two smoothly curving chairs.

The far corner, facing the door of the room, and taking up the most space in the room, it seemed, was an elegantly curved desk with a depression in which sat a computer terminal.

To the left of the door to the room and closer to the lounging area was another doorway leading to the bathroom.

"About you not being stupid, or about you not being a genius like Crusher?" Ara asked, she walked into the room and then pointed out a place for his burden. "Set the bags down over there on the desk."

There was a moment of silence as Harry carefully set his burden down on the table in Ara's room.

"Not that, the earlier bit about Ryki," Harry said.

"Oh, he's actually from a pre-warp civilization like you, unfortunately things happened and he wasn't able to return home," Ara said.

Ara began to unpack the items in the bags, finding places for them throughout the room and in her closet, while moved to sit on the bed.

"Oh," Harry said. "What happened?"

"It's a sore subject, and not really my story to tell, you may be one of the only people, Ryki, will actually talk to about it," Ara replied.

At just that moment, Ryki poked his head into the room, having finished being Rwuxosse's pack horse.

"Why do you say that?" Ryki said. His lacked his usual playful demeanor and warmth Harry had come to expect.

Ara's cheeks flushed. "I just," she began before Ryki cut her off.

"It's a sore subject Harry, because I don't agree with the decision nor the reasoning behind it," he began.

"As Ara said, I'm from a pre-warp civilization, have you heard of the prime directive," Ryki asked.

"I think I remember hearing something about it on the television," Harry said. "Isn't that the rule about not interfering in the social and cultural development of other races?"

"It's a both more and less, it basically forbids any meaningful interaction between the federation and any civilization that hasn't yet developed warp technology," Ryki said. "It's also a rule that gets broken far more often than the federation would like to admit. I'm actually named after one of the crew that unofficially first contacted my world."

"So, what happened?" Harry asked.

"I was on a sleeper ship headed to a system we were reasonably sure could support life, when the ship was intercepted by an Orion raider," Ryki said. He shifted his weight and then stepped into the room grabbing a nearby chair. "We were mistaken for a lost Vulcan ship at first, but when they realized we wouldn't be missed by the Vulcans or the Federation, we were quickly taken to be sold as slaves."

"How did you get to be on a sleeper ship, and what is a sleeper ship, anyway?" Harry asked.

"They're ships that put people into a deep sleep, so deep they don't even age while waiting for the time to pass that it takes to get to where they're going," Ara told him having taken a seat beside him on the bed.

"After word of the 'sky-lord and his people in the great ship' spread through our population," Ryki trailed off for a moment, "we were a relatively peaceful people before Picard and his crew came to Mintaka, after, we had no reason to fight amongst ourselves."

"My people were obsessed with the idea of the people who lived among the stars in great ships, for the story went that they had once been just like us. And if they could live among the stars in great ships, then so could we," Ryki smiled.

"Picard's crew had weapons, so we theorized that as good as Pickard's people were, there were probably also people that would be less than friendly. So, we focused on developing the technology, both for war and for peace," Ryki said. "Eventually we had enough of an understanding of the basic principles of math and science required, that we were able to launch the sleeper ships."

"I have some technical skills so I was one of the ones chosen to help maintain the ship," Ryki said, "this also meant that after I was captured, I received training in warp theory and mechanics to be sold as an engineer for the highest bidder."

"How'd you escape?" Harry said, leaning closer and listening to the other cadet's story intently.

"I didn't. I was originally bought by the captain of an Orion trade ship, where I learned everything I could about warp technology for the next year, until the owner had gone bankrupt, and the crime syndicate he'd borrowed from, seized his assets for auction to recoup their losses. A Federation sympathizer was there, and bought my freedom," Ryki said.

"When the Federation found out, there was a hearing to determine my fate, and I was barred from returning," Ryki muttered.

"They wouldn't let you go home?" Harry asked in disbelief.

"Nope, I knew too much about advanced technology, you see, and they said I'd disrupt their natural development, not like it hadn't already been disrupted, by having one of their ships stolen by space pirates," Ryki said, darkly.

Harry looked down at his shoes, feeling bad for his new friend. The world somehow seemed less happy to him, than it did an hour ago. "I'm sorry, Ryki."

"Why ever for? It's not like you made the decision. Enough of this dreary topic; besides, I believe my people will probably still manage to develop warp technology before the Federation thinks we should, even without my help," Ryki said launching himself out of the chair and to the door of the room. When he turned back to face them, some of the warmth had returned to his eyes.

"We shouldn't get stuck in the what-ifs of the past, Harry," he said.

—-—

Misses Figg, was worried. Mr. Jones' visit had raised questions in her mind that she couldn't lay to rest. Question, about not just the Dursley's treatment of Harry, but the neighborhood's as well as her own.

She wondered why a great many things about the situation, from her own reports to the headmaster all those years ago, to why the boy had only just now decided to run.

She decided it was time to contact a few people.

—-—

Dudley was bored, and when Dudley was bored, he usually did two things, eat, or find his cousin to teach the freak a lesson or two. Unfortunately, or possibly fortunately depending on the point of view, Dudley's cousin Harry was nowhere to be found, and Petunia having to work on making the meals for the household herself had forbidden him the pantry, and the kitchen.

Lacking his usual methods of relieving his boredom, and having been forced outside for the day he gathered his usual crowd and lead the way down to the nearby park.

There's no soft way to put it, Dudley was a bully. Now, he certainly wouldn't admit such, nor would his parents, however, that didn't change the fact that he was a first-rate bully, and, naturally, as a bully is wont to do, Dudley and his gang found a target.

"Matthews!" Dudley bellowed.

"Uh, hello, Dudley," Steven Matthews said. Steven's eyes darted from side to side looking for an escape route.

At one time, this sort of confrontation would've gone unobserved. Dudley's violence normally restricted to his cousin who would somehow always manage to slip through their grasp, even when they were sure he had been surrounded.

As bruised as Harry got from his encounters with Dudley's gang, the fight always happened after having lead them on a wild chase when they'd all run out of breath. Steven Matthews wasn't as lucky, on that front. His luck, however, was in for a turnover today, even if he would be sporting a shiner and some decently sized bruises.

"Alright, break it up, break it up," Dudley and his friends froze at the authoritative voice. Steven just lay there whimpering.

The course of events from there snowballed, Petunia and Vernon's usual method of resolving the situation, calling in favors and glossing things over, wouldn't work this time. Steven Matthews was the son of one of the local councilman, in charge of a committee that could make things difficult for Vernon's company, his mother held a job in the social services in the same office as Mr. David Jones.

There would be no sweeping this under the rug, and when word got out among the neighborhood, the bobbies had more than enough statements on the quality of Dudley's character. With the missing Potter boy in mind, Dudley was looking at mandatory community service and counselling with a court assigned supervisor.

Naturally, the Dursleys refused to back down, and with each step they took, the paperwork against them grew, until the court ordered that Dudley be placed in the protective care of St. Brutus' secure home for at risk children.

—-—

"The all eight members of our squad are expected to make use of the dorm facilities here. Ara and M'Var are the dorm officers as they have the most experience. First year cadets normally share with at least one other cadet, and after the first year can choose to keep the arrangement or transfer to their own quarters," Sky told him pointing the out the doors to the other dormitories.

"I know you have your own quarters outside the holodeck, but it was decided to assign you a shared dorm anyway and give you the option of whether to use the dorm or your own quarters on the ship," Sky said.

"Who would I be rooming with?" Harry asked, unsure about the idea of sharing his room with another person, before he even had the chance to really enjoy the freedom of the quarters he'd been assigned by the holographic doctor.

"Me or Ryki," Sky replied.

Harry thought for a moment before asking, "Can I change my mind later, if I want?"

"Of course," Sky said.

"Alright, let's try with Ryki first then," Harry said with a yawn.

Sky shared a look with Ryki before he tapped a few buttons on his pad and the room assignment changed to show Harry's name next to Ryki's on the plaque next to the door.

The shared room though using the same type of furniture as Ara's personal quarters had a different lay out. In the center of the room was a similar desk to the one in Ara's room, only this one was shaped into an S-like curve with the terminals in the bend of the 's' opposite each other. The beds were on either side of the door and a small lounge area was on the far wall from the door, framed by the regulation closets one for each cadet the room would house. The door leading to the shared restroom was to the left of the room between the bed and the closet.

Ryki wrapped an arm around Harry's shoulder and steered him towards the empty bed on the left side of the room. Which made sense to Harry, as he noticed the right side of the room had various things spread about showing that Ryki had already claimed it.

Harry wondered about the final too members of the squad he hadn't met yet, wondering if he'd see them in the morning.

—-—

Tuesday, June 20th, 1989

The next morning, Ryki woke Harry, and after they both were dressed, he led the way to an assembly, where Doctor McCoy, gave a speech about the founding of the academy and his expectations for the year.

After the speech, Harry found himself more concerned with what the tutors had for him, than meeting the remaining two members of his squad.

With all the new concepts, ideas, and training floating around in his head, he was feeling a bit overwhelmed by the time lunch came around.

"Hey, Harry," Sky said with a grin, as Harry walked back into the dormitory.

"What's on your schedule for the afternoon," Ryki asked. Harry consulted the pad he was carrying with a shoulder strap around his neck.

"Meditation, with M'Var," Harry replied. "Why meditation, I don't know."

"An organized mind is a valuable tool, Harry" M'Var said, as she emerged from her room. "It is agreeable to see you, I hope your morning was educational."

"It was something," Harry replied.

M'Var raised an eyebrow briefly before taking a seat with a salad bowl filled with fruits and vegetables Harry had never seen before.

Harry watched as M'Var carefully speared her food with the long thing fork, that didn't quite look like the forks he was used to.

"A strong mind is supported by a healthy body, Harry," M'Var said as she noticed his gaze. "I see that you do not have something to eat. Would you like to try a some of my salad? If it is to your liking we may have the ship replicate some more."

Harry looked at the food in interest. "I suppose I could try a bite," he said. M'Var speared a yellowish cube of fruit on a fork, carefully handing the utensil over to the boy. "It is best to use the utensils," M'Var said.

"M'Var my darling, you never share your meals with me," Ryki said, feigning a look of hurt.

"That is because, childish though you may act, Ryki, you are still an adult, and it would be inappropriate to share a meal with you, as we are not mated," M'Var said.

"But we could be," Ryki asked, his tone containing a hint of something.

"I doubt you will ever be mature enough for me to consider it," M'Var replied.

Harry bit into the offered piece of fruit while his two companions where distracted, the flavor was an intense mixture of sweet and sour with a tang like a mix between a pineapple and a cantaloupe.

"I see it is agreeable for you then," M'Var said, reaching out with a napkin to wipe away the juice that had dripped down his chin.

Sky laughed at Harry's reaction to M'Var's tender care from behind his tablet, earning him a glare.

After lunch, M'Var ushered him into her room where she'd set out a small oil lamp between two rugs.

"Sit, in whatever manner you find comfortable facing the lamp," M'Var said, taking her place with her legs crossed before the lamp. Once Harry had stopped fidgeting and seemed comfortable, M'Var reached forward and adjusted his posture, "It will be uncomfortable to sit for any great length of time, but you can lessen the discomfort with proper posture."

"What now," Harry asked.

"We are going to use the flame as a mental exercise, to help clear your thoughts and increase your focus on the task at hand," M'Var said.

She reached forward and with a simple gesture a spark of electricity passed over the wick of the lamp igniting the flame.

"The flame is, Harry, it neither grows nor shrinks, yet it will be sufficient for the task at hand; allow it to remain as it is. You are to focus on the flame, and as you focus examine yourself, your thoughts, your feelings, your worries, as you examine each, think about why they exist within you, and as you acknowledge their existence let them fall into the flame, and remember, the flame is sufficient for the task, it should neither grow, nor shrink."

Harry listened as M'Var's instruction flowed over him, every so often he fidgeted with the nervous energy of a child.

"I believe that will be adequate for today," M'Var said, quenching the flame, after what seemed like ages to Harry. But as he stood and stretched, as tired as he felt, at the same time it was though he had more energy than before.

"Thanks," Harry said flinging his arms around M'Var's waist. M'Var tensed for a moment before resting as hand on Harry's head.

"You are most welcome, young one, we shall meditate again, Thursday," M'Var said, "tomorrow you will learn from Rwuxosse. I expect you to listen to her; she is a talented individual in spite of her, eccentricities."