STAR TREK: WHERE NO ONE HAS GONE BEFORE
By Michael D. Garcia
The gentle sounds of rain falling on the roof and outside of his bedroom window pleased him. The rain did not fall often on his planet; it was a welcome event. Other children seemed to be dismayed by the fact that they could not enjoy the outdoors this afternoon, but not him. The rain gave him reason to stay inside and enjoy solitude without drawing attention to the fact that he was. His parents held the opinion that a well-adjusted child would wish to spend time with other children. The simple fact was that he had no friends. He had acquaintances and classmates, but the word friend was foreign to him. On those times where he was expected to be outside, he would do so only to keep up the pretense of normalcy. If he were allowed to exist within the walls of his room, he would be very pleased. Within his room, he was safe. Safe from all attention, secluded from the public eye. Safe not only from having to engage in empty conversation, but also from enduring ridicule from those who thought he was different. Regardless of what teachers, parents, and all adults would believe, children would remain the cruelest of beings while simultaneously oblivious to the depths of their own actions.
So the rain was more than just a pitter and patter that soothed him, it represented the blessed opportunity to sit and think. Or read. Or play a game of tri-dimensional chess against the home computer. Or contacting those on other worlds. Recently, through the technology of subspace messages, he derived enjoyment from corresponding with a Terran child. She was the same age as he. She enjoyed similar interests. She even knew how to play some of the same games, including some that were not indigenous to her culture. He was curious about her, and she was curious about him. Questions, answers, musings, observations, and opinions flittered over subspace every day. In some cases, every hour. After the first week of contact, she expressed feeling a bond with him. He replied with the same perception.
Today, however, the waiting message indicated that she was experiencing a situation that troubled her. Pressure was being brought to bear upon her by her parents, indicating that she should select an occupation similar to their own. Until that moment, she expressed she had no plans for her life. She felt she was too young to make any such decisions. She asked him if he had already thought about what he would do with his life. He didn't hesitate in his reply, stating that he would most likely follow in his father's career choice. He was proud of his father's accomplishments and hoped that one day he could make similar contributions. She didn't believe him. In reply, he asked her is she was proud of her parents and what they did. Her response was curt and biting, stating she was very proud of her parents. His suggestion was simple. Why not follow them?
Hours, then days went by before he received any response. He remained patient, however, never prodding. It was as if they had an understanding. It was not unusual for a week to expire before either of them would be able to respond, sometimes, but in this particular instance, it bothered him. Did he misstep? Was his question too personal, perhaps? After the first week, he began to stare at the screen before him. No message today, just like the other nine days. The lack of communication began to gnaw at him. His usual diversions did not serve to divert him enough. If he had friends beyond this subspace link, he thought to himself, then perhaps he could seek the opinion and perspective of those objective to this situation. Even his parents remained unavailable for comment, being engrossed in their own occupations. As the days went on, the absence of her correspondence began to pervade into his every thought.
Fifteen days, twenty-two hours, seven minutes, and thirty-four seconds later, her reply appeared upon his terminal screen. She felt the need for deep thought on the subject, and the answer she would determine had to be more than just a fleeting response. In her society, children her age were forced to consider their options. It was determined at this age into which skill set they would pursue in order to be of benefit to that society. She was dreading having to make that decision, because she felt very content. If she could remain as she was, doing what she was, her life would be very fulfilling. Due to the pressure, she decided for herself that leaving the colony would be best for her. Not just away to another place, but to a specific place. A starship. In Starfleet. The application process for Starfleet Academy preparation schools was a lengthy one, and without discussing it with her parents, she seized the initiative and sent in the application.
He was stunned. It was a very bold stroke, even for her. He wanted to know how she felt. She replied that she felt good about the decision. She hoped she would be able to make contributions by her own right. Not out of obligation to her family, but out of obligation to her. Her parents, she explained, were the colony's leading biochemists. They wished for her to continue their work within the colony's laboratories. It was the plan they had given her, but it was one she had no desire to see through.
Another wave of amazement washed over him. How could she defy her parents' wishes? She fired back, how could she live with herself if she did otherwise? Better to have lived doing what she loved than die never having even known what those dreams might be.
He pushed himself away from the terminal, logging himself off for the night and getting into bed without transmitting another message. It was a strange notion to him, but then most Terran notions were rather alien. His father would most likely advise against continuing this correspondence, he would advise that he sever this relationship before it caused any further distress. But the correspondence and relationship were things he desired, he wanted to continue to learn more. Not only did he gain insight into other culture, but perhaps one day, he could put that knowledge to use. For the moment, his mind was upon his own decision to follow his father's plan.
He ran a finger over the point of his right ear, smoothing the hair on that side in order to get comfortable on the very thin mattress he was used to sleeping on. His father enjoyed acclaim as a starship design engineer, in the private sector. It was a field that still held great interest to him, but had he adopted his father's career plan as his own and then altered his mindset about it? The possibility born within his mind. Maybe he told himself enough times throughout the years, convinced himself that his desire was to work with his father. What if he also held the notion of striking out on his own, leaving his colony behind like she had decided upon.
Discovery of both within him and the far reaches of known space made his outlook change, and that caused him to rest uneasy. Perhaps, the sudden uneasiness of his decision would be clearer after a period of time. Right now, it was time to sleep. He had school in the morning.