Act 6: Academy
Wednesday Morning, June 28th, 1989
"The biological mechanisms are astounding, doctor. They've developed a comprehensive range of techniques and theories to achieve things we've been trying to accomplish technologically for the past century!" Sky said. He was in the medical facility located on deck six of the engineering hull. The massive display panel on the wall was filled with open documents, texts and manuscripts that had been copied from the mages of the United Kingdom.
A series of video files were playing on loop on the left side of the screen, each showing surveillance footage of a spell being cast. The blue tones of Starfleet medical made the room extremely calming for most humanoid species.
"Be careful, Sky. They are still human underneath all that mysticism, they do still make mistakes," McCoy said, his tone was low and gravely.
"I know that," Sky replied. "Their abilities do not make them perfect, or Harry would never have activated the emergency beam out."
"I've more than just a personality matrix and medical database in my program, Sky. The original doctor McCoy made an almost complete image of his memory engrams available to Captain Ward's mother before he passed away. Those memories were made part of my program, so I can truly say that I remember seeing enough beings that claimed to be all powerful in my time, and, at the moment, a lot of what I'm reading from these wizards shows a similar level of arrogance," the southern doctor said.
Sky looked over at the two medical pods, the transparent surface showing the forms of the two he'd beamed away from their deaths so long ago.
"Don't assume that we aren't showing our own arrogance, doctor; who are we to observe silently while sentient beings die," Sky said.
"Who are we to interfere!" Dr. McCoy bit back in retort.
"We're the ones, who refuse to look on and do nothing, while the unscrupulous compass their ends," Sky said.
"And, how do you know that our actions will not make things worse," McCoy said.
"Touché, doctor," Sky said, as he looked at the doctor for a moment before replying, "but answer this, how do we know that our inaction would have resulted in anything better?"
McCoy's shoulder's slumped, "on your head, be it."
"I wonder every day, doctor, if I'm making the right decisions regarding our young charge. Every day, doctor, and at the end of the day when I compare the medical report from his first day with us, to the most recent physical, I cannot find it within me to support a different course of action," Sky replied.
"That's fighting dirty," McCoy said.
"The boy has wormed his way into your heart too then?" Sky said.
McCoy just grumbled in reply. The silence between them stretched on as they both silently examined the biometric readings on the control panel. Until, Sky, broke the silence.
"How soon will these abilities begin manifesting in Harry?" Sky asked.
"Oh, they already have," McCoy said. "Not to such an extent as what we see in the literature, but the buildup of energy is definitely there."
"Alright, Sky, spill," Rwuxosse said, her eyes narrowed dangerously.
"What are you talking about?" Sky said.
"You know exactly what I'm talking about," Rwuxosse' hands now firmly set on her hips. "I, am Rwuxosse Sept, daughter of the sixth house of Betazed, holder of the Ring of Theron, and heir to the Elder Scepter of Betazed. I, am, no, fool, Skylar Flynn Mackay."
"I never said you where, Rwuxosse," the AI replied.
"You've handpicked the four crewmembers with the most training in, telepathic or related fields. You've asked us to step into bodies and spend time in a simulated recreation of the Sol three Starfleet Academy. And I'm supposed to believe it's all out of the kindness of your heart? You forget yourself, I may not be in my own body, but the computer knows what sensory input my brain requires, and I can definitely sense your plotting," Rwuxosse said.
"I'm not plotting," Sky began.
"Don't lie to me, Skylar Flynn, I went to the academy with you," Rwuxosse said, cutting him off. Sky lowered his head and grumbled sulkily.
"I'm just making sure all my bases are covered, he has an unusual paracortex and the doctor mentioned something about trace amounts of Psilosynine," Sky said.
"I doubt that's all you have in mind, Sky, but it's a start," Rwuxosse said.
At the same time as Rwuxosse was interrogating Sky, M'Var was making her way academy's medical facility to initiate her own interrogation.
"Doctor," M'Var said.
"M'Var, to what do I owe the pleasure?" Doctor McCoy said.
"I am, loath to continue an assignment without, adequate, intel," M'Var said.
"How can I assist you, then," the EMH waved her into a side office.
"Harry," M'Var said, and with that one name, Bones leaned back in his chair.
"What about him?" Bones said.
"This child, he has some abilities. The schedule Sky drew up placed him in my charge for the evening during my normal meditation, I had not expected him to be able to attend to the meditation exercise as quickly as he did," M'Var said.
"Oh? Do tell," Doctor McCoy said reaching for a tablet to take notes with.
"He is still quite young, one of his age is expected to have some amount of energy that would make sitting still for so long difficult," M'Var said. "Yet, for one who has just been introduced to the concept of meditation, he took to the assignment and exceeded my expectations."
"In what way?" Doctor McCoy asked.
"There are somethings that I would not expect from one so young as he, especially as a human. I speculate, that should I not have had the prudence to preface my instructions the way I did, that I would be visiting you for a different reason," M'Var said. "My exercise for the day, made use of the traditional Vulcan meditation lamp, as an aide in clearing the mind."
McCoy gestured for her to continue.
"It took him roughly fifteen minutes of instruction to enter the appropriate mind state, and had I not also been watching the flame as well as he, I might not have noticed, that the flame responded to him."
"To quote an old friend, fascinating," McCoy said.
"Indeed. Thus, I am here to enquire, as it seems no small thing that, Harry, should have us in his squad," M'Var replied.
"Your conclusions are logical, and there may be some basis of fact to them. My own medical scans, revealed unusual structures woven throughout his paracortex, there are a few marked differences to Betazoid physiology, but they revealed the presence of Psilosynine, among other neurotransmitters in trace amounts," Doctor McCoy answered.
"Thank you, Doctor," M'Var said, "I would enquire if there was any specific goal to his training with us."
"None, that I am aware of M'Var, I trust the four of you to see to his needs as they arise," McCoy said.
Wednesday Evening, June 28th, 1989
As calming as meditating with M'Var was, Harry discovered that Rwuxosse' lessons were exhausting. Not, in that she had strenuous activities planned for him; rather, she was everywhere all at once and constantly had something to say.
Since holograms were practically non-existent to untrained empaths, Rwuxosse had decided that Harry should learn diplomacy and the finer points of etiquette after she'd watched him eat the previous morning. At least until the ship finished replicating a few empathic field generators.
It was an odd design she'd discovered in the database earlier in her Starfleet career; the generator was an added attachment around the same design of a Risian Hover ball, so that they would hover and move around in the air. It was a technology that had been watered down and distilled from far more dangerous examples, until it was safe to use for the intended purpose.
But until Rwuxosse had them in her possession, Harry's lessons would consist mainly of proper formal protocol.
"Marvelous, Harry, my dear," Rwuxosse said as he stood stiffly in the outfit she'd insisted he change into.
Harry grumbled something under his breath. The outfit she'd chosen for him was a pair of formal black slacks, and a long sleeve white shirt, that seemed to have far too many folds of cloth.
Rwuxosse gave him a shrewd glare. "What was that, Harry? I didn't quite hear you."
Harry shivered briefly at the tone of voice, it reminded him of that tone his aunt would get when she wasn't happy with something Dudley had done.
"Nothing ma'am," Harry said.
"I see," Rwuxosse said. Those two words carried a weight of meaning that could've filled a small novel.
Rwuxosse reached over to try and straighten Harry's messy mop of black hair.
Harry ducked, "it's fine, it won't lay flat."
"Then, perhaps you should consider growing it out a bit, and tying it into a ponytail," Rwuxosse replied, and Harry shrugged.
"I'll think about it," Harry said.
"See that you do," Rwuxosse said.
"It's a shame we don't have a crowd of people available to socialize with properly for your training," Rwuxosse said.
Aside from teaching Harry etiquette, politics, and diplomacy, it was also her responsibility to teach him to recognize telepathic and empathic influences, the difference between them, and if he had the talent, how to project his own thoughts, and the doctor's scans of the child had identified a structure in his brain that was in roughly the same location as the normal Betazoid paracortex; so, Harry should have the talent, it would just be a matter of getting it to show.
And that brought her back to waiting on the empathic field generators, as realistic as the holodeck could make things, it just lacked the appropriate emitters and programming to fully generate a crowd of people he could practice those abilities with. That, was where the training orbs would come in. With some luck, they would be able to gently activate his paracortex, by slowly increase the number of generators until he was able to sense them, and then work on helping him train the organ with weekly exercises.
"Harry, darling, I hope you've read the material I sent to your tablet," Rwuxosse said, her hands resting gently on his shoulders. At Harry's affirmative nod, she pushed open the doors and led him into the room.
Friday, June 30th, 1989
After meditating with M'Var on Tuesday, and Wednesday's exhausting etiquette lessons with Rwuxosse, followed by another round of meditation with M'Var on Thursday, Harry wasn't sure what to expect for the block of time reserved on his schedule for the afternoon. As he pushed open the door to the common to see who was waiting for him next, he was pleasantly surprised to see Ryki standing there with a grin.
"There you are, Harry," Ryki said.
"Please, tell me we aren't doing anything boring today," Harry said, a pleading look in his eyes.
"Boring? Never let it be said, Harry, that I the Ryki of Mintaka would ever be boring," Ryki said, affronted. "Don't tell me that our ladies M'Var and Rwuxosse were boring."
"No, no, not boring," Harry backpedaled, "there's just only so much of etiquette and meditation one can stand."
Ryki chuckled, "I wholeheartedly agree, and you'll be happy to know that I've nothing of the sort planned for today. I'm entirely at your disposal for the evening, whatever you want to do."
"Could we play checkers again?" Harry asked, hopefully.
"If that is what you wish," Ryki replied, reaching out to ruffle Harry's hair only for him to lean back to avoid it.
"Don't do that," Harry grumbled, "You'll get me in trouble with Rwuxosse for undoing her efforts."
"Her effort?" Ryki said, looking at Harry's hair again, he hummed, and peered this way and that. "Well, it's still messy. But it's I suppose it looks like it was done on purpose now instead of just being a lack of adequate grooming."
Harry glared at the older teen.
"It suits you," Ryki said.
An hour later, Harry moved the final piece on the board and stood with a whoop of joy.
"I won," Harry said, with a wide smile.
"So, you did," Ryki replied with an amused look. "Did you want to play another game?"
After a moment of thought, Harry shook his head.
"No, um," Harry said. Ryki raised a quizzical eyebrow at Harry's hesitation.
"You have something in mind?" Ryki asked.
"I only," Harry started hesitantly, "that is, I've always wanted to," he trailed off. "It's nothing," Harry said, looking down.
"It's not nothing, Harry, ask away," Ryki told the younger boy.
"Could we go somewhere? Anywhere? My cousin Dudley was always bragging about things like that, amusement parks, carnivals, class field trips," Harry said suddenly looking very sullen.
"Now, now, Harry, chin up," Ryki said. "It's a bit short notice, but I'm sure we can whip up a carnival for you to attend."
0100 hours, Saturday, July 1st, 1989
It was the weekend, and Harry lay staring out the window of the bedroom in his quarters; while Harry felt bad about not spending his first weekend with the other cadets in his squad, he hadn't felt entirely comfortable, and just wanted some time to be alone.
For a child who'd spent so much of his life alone already, except when completing the tasks his aunt or uncle set for him, having so many people around asking him questions and placing demands on his time felt strange and oddly stifling.
As he lay there staring at the ceiling, he noticed the lighting from the window had shifted, looking up he saw that the view had changed, and earth was no longer framed between the nacelles. The room grew dark without the reflected light from the planet.
"Computer, lights, slowly until fifty percent," Harry called out.
The lights in the room flicked on revealing Harry's bedroom. Mounted on the wall was a large screen currently displaying a picture of the eagle nebula, that Harry had found in the database the previous weekend. The image itself could be changed at any time, per the preference of the room's occupant, but would maintain the image chosen indefinitely without power.
Harry looked out the window noticing that it seemed to have somehow darkened even further. Suddenly he jumped from the bed and ran for the sickbay, yelling for the one person he'd spent his first few days with, "Doctor McCoy!"
The holographic doctor flickered into existence as he entered, immediately taking in the distressed state of the boy, he asked, "Harry, what's the matter?"
"Why," Harry paused to catch his breath, "Why are we flying towards the sun?"
"What?" McCoy asked.
"We are currently flying towards the sun," Harry repeated, "Why? Isn't the sun insanely dangerously hot, and like huge, and you know, dangerous?"
"I'm sure there's a reasonable explanation," McCoy replied. "Computer? Please state the current course and justification."
"Current course is for sol-primary, purpose, refueling, estimated for flight plan completion, and return to earth orbit: twelve hours," the voice of the computer replied over the intercom.
"Refueling?" Harry asked.
"You didn't think the ship ran on happiness and good feelings, did you?" McCoy said.
Harry looked down at the floor, cringing a bit internally at the tone, a small part of him wondered if the doctor would be upset, but he knew it was just the doctor's normal acerbic personality.
"With the holodeck program running, we probably burned through the plasma a little quicker than estimated. Bah, I'm a doctor not an engineer," McCoy grumbled. "You should ask Sky for an explanation."
Harry made a face, "He's weird."
"He's also the best one to explain it," McCoy replied. "Just grab your tablet and call him from your room where you can enjoy the view."
"Fine," Harry grumbled, but he'd calmed down enough to realize that if McCoy wasn't worried then there was probably nothing to be worried about.
When he reached his room, and called the Sky on his tablet to reveal the young man sitting nonchalantly at a desk in what must've been his room. Sky smiled brightly.
"Harry, what are you doing awake at one in the morning?" Sky asked.
"Couldn't sleep, Doctor McCoy said to call you to ask about why we're flying towards the bloody sun," Harry replied.
"Refueling," Sky replied, and then noticing Harry's look he decided to elaborate. "So, starships are powered by energized plasma," he started.
"Energized plasma?" Harry asked.
"You know what electricity is, right?" Sky said.
"Of course," Harry said looking affronted, but then amended, "well actually not really, I mean I know how it's used and that its conducted by metal."
"Electricity comes from moving electrons, they're what're known as sub-atomic particles, smaller than an atom, Harry, metal conducts them because it's easier for electrons to flow from one atom to the next in metal," Sky told him.
Harry nodded in understanding.
"Plasma isn't electricity, plasma is a state of matter, do you know the states of matter?" Sky asked.
"I remember learning about them in science class, solids, liquids, and gasses, right?" Harry said.
"Yup, those are the classical three, but there's a fourth state, plasma. The fourth state is what we use to power the ship, normally the antimatter engine would generate our plasma, it does so by allowing a particle of anti-deuterium to collide with a particle of deuterium, the resulting explosion releases enough energy to turn the nearby particles of deuterium in the reactor into plasma, which is then fed into the plasma distribution system of the ship," Sky explained, taking care to elaborate on the terms that confused Harry, such as deuterium and anti-deuterium.
"The plasma is highly conductive, and we use that conductivity to supply the needed electrical power to any system on the ship, nearly instantaneously and without the same level of impedance we would be forced to deal with if were forced to make use of copper wires, at the moment we don't have the manufacturing capacity for antimatter to use long term, so were holding onto it in case of an emergency, and the fusion reactors aren't able to generate the quantity of plasma we need at any great lengths of time," Sky continued. "Still with me, Harry?"
"I think so," Harry said as he carefully repeated the information as he understood it back to Sky. "But how does the sun picture into this? And how does that help us refuel?"
"I'm getting to that, patience young grasshopper. Over time the plasma in the system begins to cool down and loose energy, becoming less conductive, if we had the anti-matter engine running it wouldn't be an issue as the plasma could be recirculated as it cooled mixing with fresh deuterium to be reignited as the engine annihilated more anti-matter. But, since we're conserving our stock of anti-matter until we can find a facility capable of generating greater quantities than the ship can make on our own, we need another way to replace the spent plasma in our power system. That's where the sun comes in," Sky said with a grin.
"But how," Harry asked.
"Hold your horses, I'm getting to it, strategically placed around the ship on the outer hull are a series of collectors," Sky pressed a button on his computer shoving his video feed into a corner of Harry's screen to show the image he'd selected. It was an odd triangular shaped prism, protruding from a hatch on the hull, just within the forward-facing side of the triangle was an odd funnel shaped opening that glowed with the heat of the plasma within.
"The ship's sensors identify the best area of the sun to obtain the plasma from and skim the surface, as the plasma is funneled into the collector, the spent plasma is vented through the nacelles and exhaust ports of the engineering hull. As for how we're able to do so without burning up, that would be a newly developed shielding system, it's incredibly strong against plasma, not so much against energy weapons though," Sky finished.
"Okay then," Harry said, it was a lot of information and he was sure he hadn't understood even half of it, but it sounded cool, and Sky sounded like he knew what he was talking about, "I suppose, I should be glad the ship wasn't named Icarus," he said after a moment.
Sky chuckled, "there was a push to name the plasma exchange system, Project Icarus, while it was still in development, but more superstitious minds prevailed."
"As long as we won't all die in solar fire," Harry yawned.
"Get some sleep, Harry," Sky said.
Monday, July 3rd, 1989
Harry frowned as he looked out the window overlooking the holographic recreation of the bay. He wasn't sure why they'd called him into the office here, or what was expected of him.
The door opened to reveal a tall slender woman with dark eyes and long dark hair pulled back into a pony tail.
Harry looked up to meet her eyes before abruptly turning and looking down at his feet.
"Hello, Harry, look up please," she said.
Hesitantly, Harry raised his head to look her in the eyes.
"That's better, you have charmingly green eyes, Harry. It would be a shame to hide them. I'm Inara, Inara Reynolds," Inara said.
"Hello, Miss Reynolds," Harry replied.
Inara smiled brightly at him and then moved to take a seat in the chair facing his. "Harry, I'm the ship's counsellor. I know Doctor McCoy requested that we have regular meetings to discuss how things are going. If you're aren't comfortable with that we can talk about anything you want, or we could move this to the balcony and enjoy the evening breeze, or anything you want, Harry."
Harry gave her a puzzled look.
"Why?" he asked.
"The first and least important reason, is that it's my job, Harry. Beyond that, I want you to feel, if not comfortable, then at ease. I'm here to listen, Harry, to anything you want," Inara replied.
"Okay," Harry said.
"Is there anything you'd like to talk about?"
And then, Harry started, first a few words at a time, and then his words fell like the waters of a great flood overwhelming the barrier he'd placed to hold them back. He questioned everything, from what happened to his parents, to why he lived with his aunt and uncle, why they treated him the way they did, why he'd been rescued, why everyone was so nice to him now, and how he kept feeling like there was something just out of sight ready to bring it all crashing down.
Most surprising of the revelations was his questions about the overheard conversation. Which lead to the uncertainty he felt about his roommate Sky, and then there were the questions he had about the final two roommates he'd yet to spend time with beyond passing them briefly in the hallways, or on the grounds.
At the end of his emotional rollercoaster he found Inara had moved from her seat to the lounge he was on, her palm gently resting between his shoulders.
Inara let him talk, and listened, and when he'd finished he felt tired and wrung out, but at the same time, better.
When his breathing had finally returned to normal, Inara gently moved back to her own seat.
"You've been through a lot, Harry. You've had to grow up much faster than your peers, but you have done well. I don't have all the answers to all your questions, Harry. But I can at least address the ones I may, you are welcome here for as long as you wish, we will not turn you away, this is your home now too," Inara said.
"Thanks," Harry said, his voice thick with the lingering emotion.
"Now, I understand that your roommates have taken it upon themselves to offer training and tutoring in the afternoons except for Mondays?" Inara said.
Harry nodded, "yeah, M'Var, Rwuxosse, and Ryki, they've been great!"
Inara smiled, "then, I'd like to offer my office for your Monday afternoon then, at least for the next few weeks," Inara said. "I'm also available any other day if you need, so even if it's not Monday and you want to talk, I'm available."
Dudley hated it here, he wanted to go home, to his parents. He missed the way things used to be, being able to laze about all day while the freak did everything.
The children at St. Brutus, home for at risk youth, had chores of all things. Dudley had never considered the possibility that he would need to do anything. He'd always had his cousin around to shift the work off on.
It was the perfect plan he thought, wondering just how the staff could've known or found out. He'd tried foisting his work off on a scrawny kid by the name of Trent Gatewood, only for the boy to have the gall to stand up to him and tell him no.
He was in the middle of applying a little physical persuasion when he felt the rough hands of the social workers pulling him away from the other boy. It wasn't like he'd hurt him at all, Dudley thought sullenly. He'd given the freak worse, he just couldn't understand what the big deal was about the blood flowing out of Trent's nose.
Oh, he understood the tears alright, or at least he thought he understood them, considering how he used tears as a well-honed tool in his arsenal for getting what he wanted from his parents.
But now they were using scary words, things about pills, diets, medications, and he shuddered, therapy. He'd heard about therapy from one of the other kids at school once. His dad, Vernon, had spoken at length on the subject. Not that Dudley understood everything Vernon had said on the subject, but he got the gist of things, and Dudley Dursley was no sissy-boy that needed a therapist to deal with his issues.
Not that he'd have much of a choice in the matter, the older boys in the dorm knew just what a good thing they had going for them at St. Brutus' and while normally they would be quite willing to let Dudley's bad behavior see him transferred to one of the less welcoming facilities, it wasn't their way to let him walk all over the younger children.
Dudley quickly discovered that he would not be given the chance to assert his dominance; indeed, after his first week he found himself at the bottom of the proverbial totem pole.