For everything there is a first time

Disclaimer: Trek's not mine, nor (alas) is Scotty

Linlithgow Primary School, Scotland, Earth, September 2226

Day one. Monday

Aisleen Murray listened to the giggles and chat of her Reception Class at play, and nodded to herself as she began to note personality traits, and match name-badges to faces. The first day at school was always fraught with trauma, and today had been no exception - one tearful blonde lass had asked her mother: "You won't forget to come back for me when I'm sixteen, will you?" So Aisleen always allowed plenty of latitude with the toys and colouring for the first few days, just while the wee mites got used to the classroom and began to make friends. It was also a useful way of discovering who would be the little monsters, and who wanted to learn. Just now, Billy Fisher was amusing himself by making a lot of noise with a toy tricorder; while Jamie MacNair was carrying bricks into the playhouse - one at a time. The four girls were playing with the dolls - though Annie had scorned the pink-clad 'real tears' Baby Bloo in favour of Captain Star, Space Command Action Figure. Aisleen suspected it would be only a matter of time before Captain Star blasted Baby Bloo with his plastic phaser, and wondered which playmates would survive the resulting fallout.

The last child in the little group she hadn't quite figured out yet. When he'd made a beeline for the automated Fire Engine toy, she had assumed that he would press the buttons to make the siren wail and the ladder extend, before setting it rolling across the floor. But Montgomery had switched it on, turned it onto its roof, and was lying on his tummy watching its inner workings through the transparent plastic cover on the base. His nice new uniform sweatshirt would need a wash when he got home.

"Whatcha doing?" Jamie MacNair, having run out of bricks to carry into the play house, had wandered across toward the Fire Engine and its audience.

"Seeing what makes it go." Montgomery barely glanced up as he answered, but he shifted a little to one side as Jamie sat down next to him.

"The button makes it go," said Jamie, pointing "On the side, there."

"Aye, that switches it on - but the batteries give it power. There, see? Then those blue wires go to the little boxes in each corner, and they make the power into energy to make the wheels go round." He rested on his elbows and looked up at Jamie through an unruly dark fringe. "It's kind of like the 'mergency power in shuttlecraft. 'Cept it's smaller and they don't have wheels."

How does he know that? I didn't know that! thought Aisleen.

Jamie wasn't nearly as impressed. "Can we make the siren go now?" he said.

"No, Jamie, you can't," said Aisleen, stepping forward and clapping her hands to get everyone's attention. "Time to go back to your desks everyone. Let's learn some letters, shall we?"

It took a while to get them settled, then more time to explain what the keypads and screens on their desks were for and how to switch them on. But, at last, Aisleen was able to sit back at her own desk and use her monitor to check how each of her new charges was coping with the 'A - B - C' picture exercise she had started them on half an hour ago.

Most of them were on 'V for Vase' or 'W for Wellies', she noted, though Jamie was still on 'O for Orange'. She clicked to the last screen. Montgomery was...

She blinked, frowned, double-checked that she was looking at the correct readout.

Montgomery appeared to be half-way through Number Four of the 'Ronnie the Rocket' Early Reader series, which he wasn't even supposed to be able to access yet, let alone read. Granted, his parents had said the lad already knew his letters, but still...

Aisleen shook her head. Computer glitch. Had to be.

Getting to her feet, she walked slowly around the room, making approving noises as she passed each child, till she reached the desk at the end. There was no mistake. Ronnie the Rocket whisked across the screen on his latest rescue mission as the boy pressed the 'next page' button.

"Can you tell me what that says, Montgomery?" she said, crouching next to him, and wondering if perhaps he was just looking at the pictures.

He nodded. "'Ronnie had to move very fast to get to the... umm... the pla-net in time,'" he read. He gave her a happy smile and added: "I like Ronnie - he's exciting."

"Aye, that he is," she said, "But you were supposed to be doing your ABCs."

"Did," he said, with a shrug.

"Then can you tell me how you... ah... found the book? You shouldn't have been able to, you know."

He gave another shrug. "Pressed that - that - and that," he said, pointing to the unlocking code keys. "Usually works."

Aisleen nodded, slowly, and stood up. She would have to have a word with the headteacher about this one. And about reviewing the access codes for the Key Stages too. 'Usually works' indeed! Little monkey. She clasped her hands together and gave him an encouraging smile. "So, my wee lamb - do you know your numbers too?" she coaxed.

Montgomery sighed, unhappily. "Only up to twelve times twelve," he replied.


Day three: Wednesday

Megs Logan entered her classroom after the break and looked around anxiously for her youngest charge. It didn't seem right having a four-year-old in with the Third Years who were so much bigger and older than he was, but so far he had more than kept up with the lessons. It was the other children she was anxious about – though so far, the girls had been very protective of him, which meant the boys, with their bullying potential, hadn't got near him.

Right now though, Megs couldn't see him at all, and she walked around the semi-circle of desks to see if he was hiding in a corner. "Where's Montgomery?" she called.

"Under the desk," supplied Alice, pointing.

"With Katie," added Angus.

As Megs braced herself to ask what on earth they were doing under the desk, the pair of them emerged, Katie clutching a small toy pig, and Montgomery holding a screwdriver.

"He fixed it!" Katie pressed a button on top of the pig and it 'oinked' and spun its curly tail. "Look, it works now!"

She threw an arm around Montgomery and gave him a resounding kiss on the cheek.

"Urgh!" he said, dragging a sleeve across his face and leaving a grubby mark where the kiss had landed.

Megs fought to keep her face straight. "That was kind of you to mend Katie's toy, Montgomery," she said, "But you shouldn't have the screwdriver in school." She held out her hand. "Give it to me, now, there's a good boy."

He clutched it to his chest. "It's mine."

"I know that, pet, but I'll have to take care of it for you till you go home. You can't keep pointy things like screwdrivers with you – it might be dangerous."

"'Tisn't." He took a step back, and bumped into Angus, who grabbed the tool and held it over his head.

Montgomery promptly burst into tears, while Angus smirked, and Gordon Jones sneered "Cry baby!"

Even as Megs opened her mouth to remonstrate with them, Montgomery dragged his other sleeve across his face, rushed at Gordon, and used Katie's empty chair as a launch pad to throw himself at the bigger boy. The pair of them went down in a tangle of fists and yells, and separating them cost Megs a bitten finger and a kicked shin.

"Alright!" she yelled, keeping herself between the two brawlers, "Everyone who isn't in trouble, sit down! Where do you think you're going, Angus? You come over here and give Montgomery his screwdriver back!"

"But, Miss, you said..."

"I was asking him nicely to give it to me. I did not tell you to snatch it off him, did I?"

A sigh. "No, Miss." With obvious reluctance, Angus trailed across the room and held out the screwdriver to Montgomery. "Here," he said.

Megs cleared her throat, and Angus rolled his eyes. "Sorry," he added.

"Right," said Megs, feeling that it was now safe to let go of the other two. She lined the three miscreants up and pointed her sore finger at each in turn. "Angus, do not take things that don't belong to you. Gordon - don't call people names. And Montgomery - don't use your fists to settle an argument. Now, is that clear, all of you? Good."

With a sigh of relief, she sent Angus back to his desk, and put her hands on her hips as she looked down at the other two boys. Gordon was dabbing at a bloodied nose with a very dirty handkerchief, while Montgomery's face was streaked with dirt and tears, though at least he appeared to be undamaged. "We'd better get the pair of you cleaned up," she said, switching on the Auto-monitor that would ensure the class behaved while she was out of the room. "The rest of you, finish the sums on your screens - and woe betide anyone who hasn't filled in the answers by the time I get back."

Shoo-ing Gordon in front of her, she took Montgomery's hand and led him along the corridor to the First Aid room. It wasn't till she'd wet a cloth to wipe his face that she realised he was still clutching his screwdriver.


Day five: Friday

Friday afternoons meant Art. Which today had entailed painting, happy children, and a great deal of mess.

Stick figures, houses, spacecraft, and creatures with legs at each corner abounded on the large sheets of art-card, though Montgomery - despite being swamped by the apron Megs had tied around him - seemed to have got more paint on himself than on his art-work.

Megs stared down at the mainly-blue blob he had laboured so hard to produce, and said: "That's very... colourful, Montgomery. Is it mummy?"

"No." There was both pity and reproach in his dark eyes as he looked up at her. "It's a dilithium crystal."


Day Eight: Wednesday

"So," said Megs, as the main computer screen finished running the science presentation, "Different things behave in different ways when they're heated. Let's see who was paying attention, shall we?" She put up a picture of various items on the screen. "Which one of these is the odd one out?"

She wasn't the least bit surprised to see the class's very own odd one out raise his hand. Montgomery's science homework - identifying what things were made of, with a choice of 'plastic, metal, wood, glass' - had arrived on Monday morning with a note attached from his father: 'We had to help him read some of the big words. But the answers are his own'. They'd all been right too - though it was probably just as well that the choices were entered by touch-screen, given that his lettering skills were still right where they ought to be.

Right now though, he was the only one with his hand up, so... "Montgomery?"

"The tree."

She nodded. "And can you tell me why that's the odd one out?"

"The other ones melt," he said, "But trees burn."

"That's very good," she said, "Does everyone else see that? The tree ... Montgomery?" He'd put his hand up again. "You have a question?"

"Aye, Miss. Why?"

She blinked, not understanding what he meant, but was pretty sure she was going to regret saying: "'Why' what, pet?"

"Why do trees burn, and not melt?"

"Ah," said Megs, offering up a quick prayer of thanks for ten years' experience in dodging difficult questions, "We'll come on to that later." At least ten years later, when it's not my problem. Normally. "For now, there's an exercise on your screens that I'd like you all to work through. "

She decided against letting Montgomery know that she had put extra pictures into his version of the exercise, to help him with the big words. He would probably feel insulted, and the seven-year-olds would moan that it 'wasn't fair'.

"Please Miss?"

It was Gordon this time. Well, that made a change - though how he could possibly have a question already...

"Please Miss, my screen's not working again."

Obviously it was going to be one of those days. "I'm sorry, Gordon, maintenance were supposed to have fixed that for you. Come and sit at the spare desk on the end, next to Katie, and I'll get yours mended for tomorrow." She pressed the keys on her control panel to redirect Gordon's exercise page to the spare screen and waited while he got settled, then switched on the Auto-monitor and stood up. She needed a coffee - and private access to a computer that could tell her why wood didn't melt!

"... so, being as his mother couldn't very well take him with her to the Library every day, his dad's been looking after him at the shuttlecraft repair shop." Aisleen sipped her tea, and perched on the staff-room desk next to where Megs was scrolling through pages of information about atomic structures and carbon-based life. "Seems he likes sitting in the Pilot's seat and watching what's going on. His dad started giving a running commentary on whatever he was repairing, to stop the lad asking "why" all the time."

"Aye, I can understand that!" Megs sat back and pushed a hand through her hair. "I have no idea what any of this means. I'll just have to hope he doesn't ask me about it again."

"Are you talking about the little boy who's clambering about on the desks in your classroom?" asked the Class Two teacher, who'd entered the room just as Megs finished speaking. He gestured to the Auto-monitor screen that Megs had not been paying sufficient attention to, and added, "Because if he falls off while he's got that pen-knife in his mouth, he probably won't be asking anything at all!"


"Montgomery! What are you doing? Get down from there at once! No! Wait! Don't get down - take that pen-knife out of your mouth first and give it to me!"

"It's Gordon's," he said, obviously reluctant to hand it over without the owner's consent, "I fixed his screen."

Megs sighed. "Aye, well it was kind of you to try," she said, folding the pen-knife and tucking it into her pocket, "But these things are very complicated. I'm sure..."

"I did! Look!" Still perched on top of the desk, he pushed the keyboard cover back into place and pressed the 'on' switch.

The screen flickered to life, bouncing the school badge from corner to corner in the absence of work to display.

Everyone clapped, which at least gave Megs a chance to recover what was left of her composure. She took a deep, calming breath. "Montgomery, you were supposed to be doing the exercise I set," she said, pointing to the project title on the main screen.

"Did," he said, as she lifted him down from the desk.

"I see. So you thought you'd just fix the screen to pass the time, did you? And how exactly did you do that, can you tell me?"

Montgomery pointed to the corner of the keyboard cover. "I just had to tighten up the... the..." He spread his hands and shrugged. He either didn't know what it was called, or couldn't pronounce it. "Usually works," he finished.


"Scott's Shuttlecraft Shop, how can I help…? Oh. Mr MacDonald, hello. What's he done now?"

The headmaster leaned a little closer to the viewscreen, wondering whether his bemusement showed on his face. He'd never come across a child like the one perched on his armchair before, and he'd ended up talking to a contact on Alpha Centauri about how best to deal with the situation. "Mr Scott, in many ways your son is a normal four-year-old. But his numerical skills and scientific curiosity - not to mention his practical abilities…" - he twiddled the pen-knife Megs Logan had confiscated as he spoke - "... are quite beyond our capacity to cope with on a day-to-day basis. We'll be happy to keep him in class for his other lessons, but for maths and science he really needs a specialist tutor. If you and your wife could come by tomorrow, we can discuss the options?"

"A special tutor? Is that really necessary? I mean - we knew he was bright, but... won't that be expensive?"

MacDonald put down the penknife and shook his head. "There'll be paperwork to fill in, and probably some assessments for the lad to do, but there shouldn't be any problem getting the Education Authority to pay for the extra tuition." He looked across at the boy again as he went on: "If we can give him the right guidance and training, I think young Montgomery could go a very long way."

THE END


A/N: For more Trek stories see LiveJournal (via my profile)