Cardinal Virtues


Summary: A personal, metaphysical account of my relationship with Star Trek. A 40th anniversary tribute.

Disclaimer: I make no money off of Star Trek; rather, I spend on it.


In a place outside of time, but definitely in space, he stood and greeted his friends. They came from all over the blue and green world, speaking different languages, but joined by their affection for him. There were many of them, so he spoke to some directly, and others indirectly, but all received some measure of attention, and they gave as good or better than they got.

Somewhere in the middle of all this, as his friends congratulated and praised him, teased him and berated him, he took a short break, and, wandering over to the dark edges of the room, he noticed he was being watched.

This, as you may have gathered, was not unusual. Millions of people watched him. But this one felt different.

He walked in circles for a while until he spotted her; a child hiding behind a chair.

Hello, little one, he said. Are you lost?

She thought about this, staring shyly at him from behind glasses really too big for her face. "No," she replied quietly. "But I don't know where I am."

This was not a peculiar statement. He made ones like it and odder all the time. Is your mom here? he asked. It wasn't unusual for parents to bring their children to introduce and be introduced to him.

She put a finger to her lips and ducked down behind the reclining chair again. "Shh!" she told him. "She doesn't know I'm here. I'm supposed to be in bed."

He smiled and crouched down in front of her (well, the chair) in order to be on eye level with her. Why'd you wake up?

The top halves of two glasses lenses peeked up over the chair's arm. "Wasn't sleepy," she confided. "And I wanted to know what was so important."

Now he did chuckle, but only softly. What do you think?

"I dunno."

He stretched out a hand and showed her a little ship.

"Ooh," she said, reaching for it, and then snatching her hand back, "shiny!"

He handed her the little ship and let her stare at it for a while, rewarded by the smile stretching over her face. Would you like to meet the people on it?

The little girl ducked behind the chair again, but kept the ship.

You don't need to be scared. What would you like them to be like?

She thought about it, looking at the little ship in amazement, still murmuring 'shiny' from time to time.

"I suppose" she said,

"I'd like them to be brave, and clever, and kind, but I don't know about people. I don't like people very much."

What do you like? What do you need in your life, little one?

She was really too little to answer such a question reasonably, but she tried.

"I suppose…I want to look at the stars and know if they have stories too. I like stories…"

He laughed aloud and picked her up from behind the couch, hugging her gently. I can arrange that. I'll even tell you a story now.

She smiled faintly, so he told her a story about the ship, using it to demonstrate and repeating the explanations when she got confused. It was a story he'd told before, but evidently she'd never heard it.

By the time the story was over, she was so engrossed that she cheered when the people solved the problem and the ship she liked so much didn't blow up as it had done the other times.

Unfortunately, that attracted her mother's attention, and she came to put the little girl back to bed.

Just before he handed her back, he told her, I'll tell you another story, if you come to see me again. And another, after that. But there's something I'll want in exchange, and I'll tell you when you can give it to me, all right?


Some time later, he was with another group of friends, most of them the same ones, though some had left and others were new, when he saw a familiar-looking girl sitting on a chair. She was slumped into it, swinging one foot despondently, and the eyes behind her glasses (still too big for her face) were darkened and lonely.

He excused himself for a moment and went to talk to her.

Hello again, he said. What do you need this time?

She shrugged and didn't answer.

What's happened?

Now, at least, he got a mutter. "Doesn't matter. Can't do anything about it."

He sighed with her. I can't help you with that directly, but maybe I can do something. You look lonely.

"I suppose."

Well, since you've been away, I've found some new stories, some new people to tell them about, and some new stars. Would you like to hear them?

She looked up, and he saw that the look in her eyes he'd taken for depression was actually a roiling anger. But it abated slightly.

"Yeah, all right."

He had several years of stories saved up since the last time she'd visited, so he started her on those. And as she paid attention to the stories, he could tell she'd begun to feel better.

Do you remember what I said the first time we met?

She shook her head no, so he told her. And she was older now, so he expanded.

I'll give you friends who won't desert you, and if they do, you can call them back again. I'll give you family who won't betray you, and if they do, you can turn back time. I'll give you worlds you've never been to, and skies you've never seen. I'll give you wonder, and awe, and a hope for the future that you've never known was there.

I'll give you a source of information that will tell you things few grown-ups know. I'll give you fascinating people unlike any you've ever seen before. I'll put the technology of the future in your hands and in your mind, and I'll teach you how the universe works, how it should work, and how it might work if people tried.

I'll give you a way to get away when life's just downright awful. I'll give you a place to escape to, and people to meet you there. I'll give you a second universe to live in, and the dreams of a future that just might be someday. And I'll give you the right to come back whenever you please.

How does that sound?

She allowed that it sounded wonderful, and he could see the desire in her eyes. But she also wasn't stupid, and she read a lot, so she knew there had to be a catch.

"And what will I have to do in return?"

He smiled, nodded. She and his universe would get on fine.

Well, you tell me. When you think you've got it figured out, come on back and we'll talk.

"How long will it take me?"

Oh, I don't know. You will though.


More time passed, and there were even fewer people the third time she showed up. There were more than there had been in recent years, because this year a major event was coming, but there were still less than the heyday.

She wasn't sulking in a chair this time, or hiding behind it, and, about to call her 'little one', or 'child', he changed his mind, because she obviously wasn't.

Welcome back. Did you think about it?

"I did," she told him. "I thought about it for a long time. I wondered how I could repay you for everything."

He crossed his metaphysical arms and looked her straight in the eye. She was wearing smaller glasses now, but they were still too wide for her.

"It was quite puzzling. How does one repay an entity like you?"

Evidently she'd taken advantage of his offer. It showed in her voice, her posture, and her phrasing.

"I wondered. I watched as many of the stories as I could, but that seemed too passive. I learned all I could, but that seemed too remote. I read as many of the books about you as I could, but that's an unending task, albeit an enjoyable one, and that seemed passive too. I wrote stories, but that was nothing, the dreams of a fangirl. I made sure people knew I loved you, but what good did that do? I smiled internally every time I thought of you, and externally at every sight of you. But I was almost the only one to see those smiles.

"I thought about it a long time, and realized that the easiest way to the answer was to come and ask."

She locked her hands behind her and raised her chin. "Tell me. What did you expect in return?"

He sighed. Well, was it worth it?

"Worth it?" She obviously thought he was joking.

All the times people thought less of you because you liked me. Every odd look, every skeptical manner. What about all the examples where your mannerisms, learned from me, set you apart? Without me, you'd be far more involved with your peers. I've made you different.

Her eyes narrowed, funneling a glare through the lenses of her glasses, which had slipped down her nose to give her a slightly snobbish appearance. "Different? You are criticizing 'different' to me? What are you about except differences, and getting along despite them? Why have you been teaching me except to have me learn? And you know as well as I that those set apart are often those who see best. Why else have you introduced me to those who are different? Of course it's been worth it! And I intend to have it continue being worth it. Just you stop me!"

There, you see? He chuckled. Why did you need to come to me? You've already given me what I needed in return. A lot of people would say you've been changed for the worse, but you keep on regardless.

Her brows furrowed. "I see. What you paid out to me—no, to all of us—we've been giving back all along." She nodded. "Of course."

She turned to go.

Are you coming back? he couldn't help asking.

She spun on one heel and fixed him with a Look. "Do you have any doubt? Have a little faith in me, a little hope for the future you've been urging us all to.

"Aren't those the great virtues, after all? Faith, hope…and love?"


Author's Note: Although the first section isn't word for word how I was introduced to Star Trek, I did sneak into my mom's room when I was supposed to be asleep to watch 'Cause and Effect' over her shoulder—yes, without her knowing. Undoubtedly, my first reaction to the Enterprise was 'ooh, shiny,' and I did cheer when they beat the temporal loop, a gesture of appreciation that ended in me getting caught. (Whoops…I didn't get in trouble though—I got to watch the next one!) I still remember faintly how thunderstruck with wonder and amazement I was when I realized the solution. To this day, my image of brilliant revelation is 'three! three!' If you remember 'Cause and Effect', you may remember why that's relevant, and also how that episode was a godsend to a five-year-old. It kept repeating itself, so I had time to figure out who everyone was and what was going on.

Although all dialogue is metaphysical and all settings and events are equally so, the emotions are real, if somewhat awkwardly phrased (I think).