An Encounter Before the First

Eleven-year-old Kathren Troi looked out the window of the shuttlecraft, fascinated, as it neared Starfleet Academy. She felt her excitement heighten as the shuttle landed; she had bean waiting for this day for weeks, since she had bee informed that she had been chosen for the Early Entrance Program, and would be tested for entrance into Starfleet Academy the next year. She was proud to have been chosen out of so many young people who had applied. Only ten had been chosen from the entire Federation to test, and now there were rumors that the program, which had only been in existence for two years, was going to be shut down after this year.

Kathren glanced around the cabin of the transport shuttle at her fellow passengers. She and the other six of the ten accepted youngsters that were not from Earth had been transported here by starship. All seven of them, plus their guardian for the trip, Lieutenant Becam, a young human man that was part of the academy staff, were now standing up and collecting their belongings before exiting the craft. After a moment the shuttle's door was opened, and they began to file out. Becam stood at the door as they went past to be sure that all of them got off, as they should.

Once out of the transport shuttle, many of the preteens and young teenagers in the group started to try to wander off, gaping at their surroundings. Kathren and one or two others looked around in wonder but stayed where they were. None of them could quite believe that they were really here.

"Children, come back!" Becam called. "We must be on our way."

"We're not 'children'," one of the older boys complained. He was from Betazed, as she was; though he was from another part of the planet and she had not met him until now. She had spoken briefly with him earlier in the trip, and vaguely remembered that his name was Brian.

Becam blew air through his teeth in annoyance. Brian was exceptionally bright, but the type of fourteen-year-old that could drive just about anyone to distraction. Kathren had found that out quickly enough; she might have talked to him longer if he hadn't been so frustrating. She giggled.

"Please, can we just look around the grounds for a 'few' minutes?" one of the girls asked. The rest of them had finally come back and were gathered around Becam, and most of them chimed in their agreement.

"C'mon, please?"

"We have a few minutes before we have to be there, don't we?"

"We're about to take the hardest test of our lives! Can't we run around first?"

"Yeah, please? I really want to see this place!" was Kathren's reply.

They all knew there would be time to look around later, but didn't want to wait. The only one of them who said nothing was a stoic-looking, twelve-year-old Vulcan boy. After a moment or two of badgering, Becam held up his hands and relented.

"All right, all right, but just for a little while. Fifteen minutes, and then I want you all back here. We don't want to be late. The admiral in charge of this will have my head if we are. So don't go too far, and get back here in time, understood?"

A few of them giggled, but all seven agreed to meet back at the landing pad where the shuttle was in fifteen minutes. Then most of them went their separate ways, a couple of them sticking together. Becam stayed where he was.

Kathren set her bag down in the pile the others had made right next to the shuttlecraft, and smiled as she walked off. Her Betazoid senses had never been as strong as her mother's or even her sister's, being that she was adopted, and, at eleven, they weren't fully developed yet anyway, but what she could sense right now was mostly happy, excited, the majority of the snatches of thought and feeling coming from her fellow students that she had come here with.

At first she just walked, but soon enough she found herself skipping down the walkway. Fifteen minutes would hardly be enough too see the whole campus, and she couldn't go far on her own lest she risk getting lost, but in the meantime she could explore the gardens and around the buildings that were nearest to the landing pads.

Only a minute or so into her walk, she spotted a young, brown-haired boy that appeared to be in his preteens sitting on a bench just on the edge of the grass by the concrete walkway in front of the entrance to a building. She didn't recognize him; maybe he was one of the three young people from Earth that was going to be tested. But if he was, then he was in an odd place.

She decided to find out for herself. She skipped up to the bench and sat down on the other end of it.

"Hi," she said.

The boy turned to look at her, startled because he had been looking the other way and hadn't seen her come up. He squinted in the sun.

"My name's Kathren," she said, sticking out her hand. "What's yours?"

The boy took her hand, though perhaps a bit hesitantly, and shook it.

"I'm Wesley," he said.

"Are you here to test for the Early Entrance Program, too?" Kathren asked curiously, wasting no time.

Wesley shifted uncomfortably. "No. I probably could have if I'd applied, but I, uh, didn't want to. I want to join Starfleet someday, but I don't really want to go to the Academy right 'now.' I mean, I'm only twelve."

"So?" Kathren shrugged. "I'm eleven."

"Look, I told you; I just didn't want to, okay?" the boy said in mild annoyance. Then he looked away.

Kathren frowned. "There's more to it than that, isn't there?" she said.

He looked at her sharply. "How would 'you' know?"

She smiled. "I'm Betazoid."

Wesley rolled his eyes, "Oh good grief." But then he smiled and sighed, and finally said quietly, "You're right. My dad was in Starfleet. He was killed when I was little. So…another reason, and probably the biggest reason, that I didn't apply is because my mom kinda wouldn't let me. I guess she was just worried that something would happen to me or something like that, after what happened to my dad. I guess I can't blame her."

"Oh," Kathren said softly. "I'm sorry. I didn't know."

"It's okay."

The two sat for a moment, and then Kathren spoke up.

"I sort of know how you feel," she said. "Both of my parents died when I was three, and then I was adopted. Now I've got a great mom and a cool sister, but I still miss them, even though I can't remember much about them."

Wesley stared at her for a few seconds. Finally he spoke. "Gosh, Kathren. I'm really sorry that happened," he said sympathetically.

"Thanks," Kathren smiled. Then she looked around. "Hey, by the way, where is your mom? What are you doing out here?"

"She's inside. She went in to talk to one of her friends, I think." He gestured toward the building. "She said she wouldn't be long and that I could just wait here. She's been in there about ten minutes, so she should come out pretty soon. When she does I'll have to leave, so I probably don't have much longer to talk."

"That's okay; I don't either. We have to get to where we're going to test. Lieutenant Becam only gave us fifteen minutes to look around before then, so I've gotta go soon, too."

"Who's Lieutenant Becam?" Wesley asked curiously.

"Oh, him? He's the guy who was assigned to baby-sit us on the trip here and then back to our home planets," Kathren said.

Wesley frowned in obvious distaste, "Baby-sit?"

"Well, actually he doesn't call it that, but he might as well be baby-sitting us, the way he acts about it," Kathren laughed.

Wesley laughed as well, "Oh. So…what kind of things do you like to do?"

"As in hobbies?"

"Yeah."

"Well," Kathren said. "Mostly I like to read and stuff. I daydream a lot, too," she smiled.

"Don't you play outside? You like any sports?" Wesley asked.

"No. Not really. I guess I just never got into them. I mean, I do play outside, sometimes, but I don't do sports. Why? What about you?"

"I like baseball," Wesley answered. Then he frowned slightly. "How come you don't like sports?"

Kathren's cheeks turned pink with embarrassment, and she shrugged, lowering her eyes. "For one thing I was never any good at them. Besides, I was more interested in studying and reading, and I still am. Anyway, you probably just think I'm weird…"

Wesley shook his head. "No, Kathren, I don't think you're weird. I'm a lot like you. I like baseball, but its more of a side thing. I'm fascinated with starships, mostly. I like to learn all I can about them, from how they're designed to how everything in them works. I actually understand it, too, unlike most of my friends. Actually, most of them think I'm crazy or something." He let out a small laugh at that.

Kathren looked up at him again, and their eyes met. She smiled. "Mine too," she said wryly. Then her tone became softer. "It's good to know there are others out there like me."

"Right. But…sometimes it's still really hard, you know? Being different, being smart." And even as Wesley said it, he couldn't believe he had. He'd never told anyone that before. But for some reason talking to this girl just felt so…so right. He could open up to her more than he had ever been able to before with any of his other friends.

Kathren nodded in agreement. "It is, sometimes. But I feel better knowing that I'm not alone." Briefly she touched his hand that was lying on the bench. The two preteens smiled at each other, and then they heard footsteps coming from behind him.

Wesley looked over his shoulder. "It's my mom. I've got to go," he said, standing.

"It's probably about time I got going to," Kathren said, and stood as well. She looked toward the building they had been in front of, and saw a tall, slim red-haired woman coming toward them. She pushed a strand of her own blonde hair that had escaped her ponytail back behind her ear as the woman approached.

"Who's your friend, Wesley?" the boy's mother asked when she reached them, smiling at Kathren pleasantly.

"This is Kathren," Wesley said, motioning toward her. "She's here to test for the Early Entrance Program."

"They were letting us look around for a few minutes, and I was walking when I came across your son here. We were just talking."

"It's nice to meet you. I'm Wesley's mother," the woman said, extending a hand.

Kathren shook it. "It's nice to meet you, too." Then they all heard running footsteps coming up the sidewalk. Kathren turned to see one of her friends she had made on the trip, Malorie Sjone. Malorie was a 13-year-old human girl who had been on a starship with her parents.

"Kathren, come on!" Malorie said with some urgency as she stopped a few feet away. "We've got to get back, or Becam's going to blow a fuse. And we have two minutes!"

Kathren winced and turned back to Wesley and his mother. "I'd love to stick around, but now I've really got to go." She looked at Wesley. "It was really nice talking to you."

"You too," Wesley said, grinning. "Maybe we'll see each other again sometime."

Kathren returned his grin. "Hopefully." Then she spun and ran to catch up to her friend, who had already turned and headed off. "Bye!" she called over her shoulder.

"Bye!" Wesley called back, and his mother smiled and said farewell, too.

"Girl, do you know how hard you are to find?" Malorie said when Kathren got to her.

But Kathren didn't reply, still thinking about the conversation she'd had with her newfound friend, Wesley. She hoped that someday, they would meet again.


Hey! I hope you enjoyed the story! Please review whether you liked it or not. I want to know what you think. Also, don't worry…I will get the next chapter of Till Death Do Us Part up sometime. I'm doing my best.

Anyway, now for a question. I really need some help here, so please answer. Right now I'm working on my first crossover story. It's a Smallville/Star Trek: The Next Generation story, of all things. It's in the normal Star Trek time line, not mine. So Kathren is not there and Wesley doesn't stay. My friend, who is a total Smallville fanatic, is helping me because she knows more than I do. I just got into Smallville a few weeks ago. But whatever; the question is…should I put it in the ST:TNG section of the site, or the Smallville section. It has quite a lot of all the Star Trek characters, but most of it acually takes place in Smallville, so I'm stumped as to where it should go. Please help me. Thanks!