Our Daily Bread: Life & Work in the 24th Century

amantari@netzero.net

NOTES: Based on settings featured in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Though canon elements and characters may be referred to, the people depicted here are of my own invention. This story is a work of fanfiction, no copyright infringement is intended.

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Have you ever wondered what the people of the future do for a living? Here are a couple of answers.

S'Edra, Holo-Design Technician

S'Edra is a Vulcan in her late-twenties with dark bobbed hair and a slightly unnerving gaze. She is the chief designer for Unigram of Risa, the largest retailer of holographic software in the Alpha Quadrant. She joined the company five years ago, after leaving her position at the Utopia Planetia Shipyards on Mars.

"I design games for holodecks and holosuites," she explains. "I take ideas, and make them come to life, or more accurately, as close to life as possible. My work is standard feature on Federation ships and starbases. I am sent a script, and from their words the sets, characters, and costumes are created. I must also determine how users will interface with the program. This is perhaps the key element to retail success. In this business, appealing images alone fail to generate high profits."

She is quick to dispel the notion that holo-design is easy. Computers are the dominant tool, but a great deal of work must also be done by hand. She recalls spending a month on a piece called Viva Las Vegas:

"There were a number of problems with the appearance of the main character. I tried over three-hundred variations with the computer, but nothing worked. Finally, I walked into the holosuite with a comb and a bottle of hair spray. I have learned that sometimes, you must style Elvis' hair yourself."

Though Vulcans are legendary for not showing emotions, it doesn't mean they are immune to the sting of failure. S'Edra refers to her days at a certain Federation Shipyard as an example.

"At Utopia Planetia, I was considered a civvie, a civilian hired to make up for worker shortages. This is where I first learned to work with holographic technology. It was my job to test the imaging equipment on new starships. It was repetitive work, made even more tedious by primitive tools. My first week there, I suggested to the Supervisor some changes that could be easily implemented. For some reason, he did not agree with my logic. In fact, he began to think of me as a troublemaker. My colleagues' behavior was also quite illogical. They agreed with me in secret, but were afraid to speak out."

Despite criticism, S'Edra learned how to make programs on her own. She even began using them to test the holodecks. Then her Supervisor found out. He dismissed her immediately for breaking protocol. As she left, he gave her one final piece of advice:

"If you want to play around with equipment lady, get yourself a job at Unigram!"

She was hired immediately.

S'Edra has no complaints about how her life has turned out.

"It is illogical to complain," she says. "I am well compensated for my efforts. I went from living in the corner of a cargo bay to living in a beach house on Risa. I have even purchased my own shuttle. When I have free time, I venture out to space. I plot a course for the third moon, and I have a drink of Sorian brandy by the light of its' rings.

Such behavior is illogical. But then, the view IS pleasing.

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First of Ten, Waiter

A fifteen-year-old humanoid male with deep brown skin and a shy smile spends his days waiting tables at the Admiral's Hideaway, an entertainment facility on Dalvos Prime. "I like it here a lot," he says. "It's good to hear the people talking, the beeping of the games, the dishes clanking against the table. Most people find it annoying, but to me it's great. I like it loud."

While these seem to be the words of a typical teenager, his life began quite differently. In fact, the waiter who likes bright lights and action was once considered a threat to the universe.

His story began when the U.S.S. Hatchepsut encountered a dormant Borg vessel in deep space. It was determined to be a remnant of a defeated invasion fleet. Captain Michael Whelan sent an Away Team to investigate. While scanning the dormant crew, Doctor Jayna Mered stumbled upon a maturation chamber containing the body of a eight-year-old male. Before the Team could finish, the auto-destruct sequence was somehow triggered. In the process of retrieving the Team, Chief Engineer U'is accidentally beamed the chamber to the ship.

"Though the Team made it back safely," Captain Whelan recalls, "We were now faced with the dilemma of an unwanted passenger. Most of the crew wanted me to toss the chamber into space. I'll admit, I wasn't too keen on having this thing around myself. I was still having nightmares about Wolf 359. But Doctor Mered insisted that she be allowed to continue her studies. She said that the information could prove useful in the event of any future attacks."

Doctor Mered's research did provide a wealth of information. Then, she made a critical mistake. While attempting to probe the young Borg's neural implants, she triggered a massive series of rejections. In order to save his life, she had to remove nearly all his cybernetic implants. The Borg survived, but when he regained consciousness, the results were disastrous.

"I'll never forget the day he first saw his own reflection," she says. "He looked almost human. He stared at the mirror for a long moment, then let out this gut-wrenching scream. He went into such a frenzy that it took two guards to sedate him. I sobbed myself to sleep that night. I kept thinking why did I do it...I should have just let him die."

The child (known at the time as First of Ten) was handed over to doctors at the McKinley Research Facility on Dalvos Prime. There, he was kept behind a secured forcefield. The trauma of being separated from the collective was worsened by the researchers' indifferent attitudes. Bailey Mercer, an assistant, recalls his initial impressions:

"When I first saw him, I thought to myself THAT'S IT? That's the BORG everyone's been talking about? He reminded me of my little nephew Will. Every day, when I went in to do my scans, I would talk to him, like I did with little Will. I'd tell him all kinds of stories, though all he did was stare at the ceiling. The researchers thought I was just wasting my time. But one day, after about a year, he looked me straight in the eye. Not just some random movement, he looked at me like he really wanted to hear."

Mercer became a bridge between First and the researchers. Over the next several years, Mercer helped him come to terms with his transformation. In return, Mercer was able to help researchers acquire vital information. Yet after five years, that bridge began to crumble. A tug of war ensued between Mercer (who believed First should have the right to live his own life) and his superiors (who saw him as a security risk). In the end, neither side could claim complete victory. A Federation court ruled that the boy remain on the station, but only under the condition that certain rights be respected.

First is well-known about the station as a hard worker and a fast learner. However, he admits that he doesn't like to talk about his past.

"I don't think about the Borg very much anymore," he insists. "I've been here so long that I don't even think of myself as one. Most people think I'm human, so I let them believe that. But sometimes I dream. In one dream, I'm back in the collective. I'm in a chamber and there are a million voices in my head again. Sometimes I dream that I'm an old man with a wife and children and grand-children. I can't say which dream is good and which is the nightmare."

POSTSCRIPT: A year ago, First changed his name from the Borg designation to Albert McKinley (Albert, a random choice; McKinley, for the station.) He has also enrolled at the station school. He says that in a few years, he plans to petition Starfleet again.

"When I turn eighteen," he says, "I feel I should have the right to leave. I don't know if I actually will, but I want the right the same as everyone else. Is that not what it means to be an individual?"

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Ensign Daniel Rotegh, Engineer

He is a twenty-two-year-old of Klingon/Human parentage. After graduating from Starfleet Academy last year, he was sent to the U.S.S. Baltimore, a galaxy-class starship. He was immediately assigned to maintaining the ship's waste extraction system.

"I work in waste extraction," he grins, running a hand through his blond hair. "I know it sounds nasty, but it really isn't. Half the time, I can work my entire shift and not even break a sweat. If you keep up with the computers, check all the tubes regularly, you won't get into any trouble. I'll admit, though, when they first sent me here, I wondered 'who did I piss off?' But now that I'm used to it, it's not that bad."

"People ask me all the time, how do you 'go' on a Starship? Well, you 'go' the same way you do anyplace else. Each quarters has its own bathroom, and each deck has several restrooms. They're all self-cleaning, thank goodness. As for the commode itself, it's your basic model 224-B, derived from the tried-and-true Earth design. Now, the ancient models used water, but these days, when you flush, a little blue transporter beam zaps up the waste."

"Where does it all go," he chuckles. "Well, most of it is de-materialized, but some of it is re-configured and sent to our central storage facility. When necessary, it's used by our replicator systems. I tell everyone, 'Flush twice, it's a long way to the canteen.'"

"If I play my cards right, I'll be leaving this gig soon. I study a lot: ship schematics, technical journals, and so forth. I want to make it to the engine room. Now if that doesn't happen, I've got my music to fall back on. I play lead guitar in a band with some other officers. Our music is rock n' roll, with a touch of Klingon for an edge. We play every weekend on the ship at the Starboard Grill. We're still working on a name, but who knows, we might be playing Luna Arena someday."

Rotegh recalls when his parents first found out about his job. "They came to visit me on the Baltimore. It was kind of embarrassing, because I never told them exactly where I worked. My mom was surprised, but not disappointed. She said, ' Well, everyone has to start somewhere.' But my dad...he was incensed that I was placed in such a lowly position. 'The House of Rotegh has a proud history. We ARE warriors, scientists, statesmen, not janitors.' He stormed into Captain Patel's office, demanding that I be given a different position. I thought she would toss us all into the brig, but she somehow convinced him that I had the most important job in the universe.' Without people like Daniel,' she said, ' Starfleet would be in chaos. No one, anywhere, would be able to go.' My father was so inspired, he had it inscribed on a plaque for me. It hangs on the door, right in front of my quarters."

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Rzna'Tal, Schoolteacher

Rzna'Tal is a tall, stately Bolian in her early fifties. For seventeen years, she has taught in schools across Federation space. Her current assignment is on Xihar, a small colony located in the Volon system. Once part of the Cardassian Empire, Xihar and several other territories were turned over to the Federation as part of a peace treaty. Under this treaty, the Federation also turned over several of their territories to the Cardassians.

"I've worked in schools across the Federation. I've been on starships, desert colonies, ice moons, and space stations in the middle of nowhere," she says. "Many people wonder how I can stand it: always moving from place to place, dealing with the vast differences in culture. I don't look on these things as a burden. Teaching is my dream. It has always been my ambition to inspire and encourage young minds, no matter the circumstance."

Rzna'Tal teaches at the Kedra Academy, located in the capital city of Visra. She is in charge of third level, mostly six and seven year old children.

"I arrived not long after the Federation had taken control," she explains. "I had just completed five years on board a starship, and I really wanted to work planet-side. I longed to see trees again; breathe real air and feel the ground beneath my feet. I wanted a quiet little assignment in the country. I soon learned this was anything but."

The day before the Federation took control, the departing administrator urged the colonists to burn everything and return to Cardassia. Gul Zurlin told them told the people that the Federation would make them slaves. Though most of the colonists chose to stay, that didn't mean they were 'running to salute old blue'. The people stayed because they had put all their hopes into this world. They couldn't afford to start over.

The relationship between the Federation and the Cardassians were troubled from the start. The new administrator, Henri DeRousel, had little love for the colonists. In secret, he urged all Federation arrivals to arm themselves. Rzna'Tal found this move disturbing:

"Of course, I expected some hostility from the adults, but children? I put what Mr. DeRousel said out of my mind. Then on the first day of class, I turned to write my name on the board. I felt something bounce off the back of my skull. It was a rock. The last thing I remember before blacking out were these little voices jeering at me."

This incident immediately changed the teacher's world view. "I'd never been so humiliated in my life. The feeling just burned me up inside. I quickly got my hands on a phaser, and I began to practice. I went from knocking things over with the lowest setting all the way up to maximum. The last setting actually disintegrated my target. Though it was an inanimate object, I was frightened to tears. If I needed this weapon to get a child's attention, then I had no business in a classroom. The next day, I took my chances and went back to work, unarmed.

"This is a Federation world now," I told them bluntly, "Like it or not, we're here to stay. You may not think much of me, but those feelings should never get in the way of your education. The universe is like a race, and without knowledge, it's so easy to fall behind. No one in this class should ever have to come in last place. I'm not asking for love, but I am demanding respect. I promise to deliver the same in return."

The strategy worked. Rzna'Tal managed to get through her first year without another major incident.

During the next year, student/teacher relations slowly improved. However, the government/colonist situation steadily deteriorated. Rzna'Tal believes that the DeRousel's policies were largely to blame:

"DeRousel wasn't there a good year before he made Standard the official language. Most of the colonists speak only Cardassian, and universal translators are hard to come by. If you didn't learn fast, you were lost. Curfews were also enacted--no one on the streets without a special permit after sundown. Officials claimed it was a matter of public safety, but they made it virtually impossible for colonists to function."

Though they didn't like what was happening, complaining was discouraged in the Cardassian community. They feared causing trouble, especially since the Cardassian government were giving the former Federation colonies hell. Curfews seemed miniscule compared to mass arrests and bread lines. The colonists concluded that things would simply get better on their own. It didn't.

"If anything," Rzna'Tal says, "The changes I saw drove both sides further apart. It was most harmful to the children. Parents told me they were beginning to feel a deep sense of shame. They would no longer answer to their given names, or eat the native foods they loved. I tried to counteract some of what was happening, but it's hard to build confidence in the classroom only to have it torn down in the outside world. I spoke to DeRousel and to a string of officials all the way up to Admiral Necheyev, but I got the feeling that no one was going to take me seriously. The general attitude amongst the-powers-that-be was that the colonists were lucky that they were even allowed to stay on the planet."

The Federation's second year in power ended violently when a series of riots erupted throughout the colony. It began when a two-hundred-year-old statue was removed from a park in the central plaza. It was dedicated to Rodel Eltah, a young doctor who treated colonists during a deadly outbreak of Silidian fever. He saved many lives, but died of the disease himself.

"The people of Xihar consider him a hero," she points out. "The removal of that statue was final proof that the Federation had no consideration for their feelings."

For three days, rioters clashed with Federation troops. Non-Cardassian establishments were burned to the ground, and Federation citizens were attacked and held hostage. The riot didn't end until troops stormed the capital. Henri DeRousel was forced to resign, and the colony was placed under martial law.

"Everything was completely trashed," she says, shaking her head. "The school was nothing but a shell. I thought we were finished. Then Yorin Kevel, one of my students, arrived with a broom in his hand. He was a quiet student, I didn't even think he particularly liked me. Yet, there he stood, asking me where to start cleaning. He thought he could fix everything in time for next week's classes. Soon, other students came with their brooms and tools. Believe it or not, that room was clean enough to have classes the next week. The rest of the grounds were a wreck, but we didn't care. Because of Yorin and the other children, I decided to stay. I didn't ask them to love me, but they did.

POSTSCRIPT: After an investigation, the Federation admitted that they were largely at fault for the civil unrest on Xihar. They issued an official apology, and promised the people a new form of government -- a joint council consisting of Federation and Cardassian colonists. In the five years since the riot, the joint council instituted several key changes. Cardassian was re-instated as the official language (with Federation Standard being secondary). Furthermore, the statue of Dr. Eltah was restored in the central plaza, and his birthday was made an official holiday. Council members regularly meet with the people, and everyone is encouraged to vote.

Rzna'Tal, now the school principal, keeps in touch with the students from that first class. All have moved on to the local secondary schools. Though Xihar has had some rough times, she's convinced that history will not repeat itself. "There is a genuine feeling now that everyone wants to get along."

The new atmosphere, she believes, is largely due to the joint government. "I like that it is a mixed group: Cardassian and Federation, civilian and military, male and female, young and old. I like that a wide variety of views are represented. Most of all, I like how everyone has to answer to one another before anything can happen. The Federation can't dismiss the concerns of the colonists, and the colonists have no reason to let problems build and build."

THE END