Disclaimer: If you recognize it, it's not mine.
This story is rated K+ for language and possible minor violence in later chapters.
This story is a spin-off of my other story "Big Doors", but you don't have to read that one to understand this one. This story will, however, follow the "Big Doors" AU at the point where said story deviates from canon.
Chapter One: Not Starfleet Material
"I'm sorry, Miss Yar, but we cannot accept your application to Starfleet Academy."
"What? Why not?" Seventeen-year-old Tasha Yar could practically see her dreams evaporating in front of her.
"It's your record. History of drug abuse and mental instability leading to sexual addiction, difficulties managing anger appropriately - you're not exactly Starfleet material."
"Most of that is lies, Commander. I never had a sexual addiction, and I've been off drugs for four years. Please, just give me a chance to prove myself."
"I also see a tendency towards insubordination and defience. Good day, Miss Yar."
"Wait! Is there anything I could do to get into the Academy even with my record?"
The commander sighed. "Fairness demands that I tell you that if you could find a commissioned Starfleet officer with at least a rank of full lieutenant to sponsor your application, we would be obligated to review your application along with this officer's letter of recommendation. But seriously, with your record, you'll never find someone willing to stake their reputation on you. I advise you to just give it up now. Good day, Miss Yar."
He terminated the link, and Tasha slumped over the computer console, fighting back frustrated tears. The door opened, and a staff member stepped in.
"I see you're not talking anymore. What are you still doing here?"
"I'm sorry, sir."
"Stand up straight!" He grabbed her shoulders and yanked her off the console.
He grabbed her chin and forced her face up. "Are those tears?"
"Miss Yar, what's Rule Number Seven?"
"We Do Not Lie." Tasha knew the rules by heart; everyone there did. It was expected.
"Then I'll ask you again: are those tears?"
"Yes, sir." Her voice was barely more than a whisper.
"What's Rule Number Nineteen?"
"Tears Are For Babies."
"Right you are. So you've broken two rules in two minutes, not to mention remaining in the comm room after your communication was terminated. And you lied to the commander, that's another infraction."
"I apologize for my disrespect." The apology, like the rules, was rote, learned.
"I'm afraid that's not going to be enough this time. I'm putting you on discipline for a week."
Tasha's lips paled slightly, but all she said was "Yes, sir."
Tasha curled up on a corner of the hard bunk, her back hurting from the physical punishment inflicted on her and her stomach aching from hunger. On discipline, in addition to being forced to write lines and being forbidden to speak to any other students, instead of regular meals she would receive a nutritional drink every other day. It was enough to keep her from suffering malnutrition but not nearly enough to satisfy her hunger.
Not that hunger wasn't familiar to her. On her home colony, she'd had to scavenge for food constantly, and if she couldn't find it, she'd had to do without. But in some ways this was worse. On Turkana, at least she could look for food and hope to find it. But here, she couldn't do anything about her hunger except bear it.
She allowed herself to recall the five weeks of heaven that had existed her life of hell. She had been rescued from Turkana by an angel, a woman named Katherine Pulaski, and brought onto a ship called the Saratoga. It was there she had first learned of Starfleet. Her closest friend besides Katherine had been a twenty-year-old ensign named Ben, who'd delighted in telling her all about Starfleet and the Academy almost as much as he'd enjoyed trying to convince her to join up. Not that she'd needed much convincing; to her, Starfleet represented the antithesis of the hellhole she'd grown up in, and she'd wanted to wear the uniform even more than he had wanted her to. She'd dreamed of getting into Starfleet and getting the chance to serve with one or both of her dear friends.
But her application had been denied, and Ben and Kate had abandoned her. She hadn't heard from either of them since she'd been dropped off in the near-hellhole that was the Nebraska Center For Special-Needs Orphaned Youth. It wasn't Turkana, but it was close. The center had forty-seven rules, and breaking any one would lead to a rebuke at best, a punishment at worst. The counselors, instead of helping her get through her traumas, had found a way to blame every single one of them on her, putting into her file the very labels that had led to the rejection of her application to Starfleet Academy.
Starfleet Academy. She couldn't get the thought out of her head. If only her friends hadn't abandoned her - Katherine had been a lieutenant commander, and Ben had had a close friendship with the captain of his ship. Either Katherine or Captain Whatever-His-Name-Was could have written her the needed recommendation. But she was alone. Just like she'd been her whole life.
Eight more months, eight more months. The mantra running through her head was the only thing that kept her sane. In eight months, she'd be eighteen, no longer a child, and she would be able to leave the center. True, they'd probably just throw her onto the street, but she'd survived on the streets of Turkana IV. Surely she could survive on the streets of Earth.
"Great. Just what we needed."
Tasha hid behind the wall and listened to the staff members talk. She'd found it was the most effective way to get information about the outside world. No one else had ever been able to get away with it, but if there was one thing Tasha had learned on Turkana, it was how not to be seen.
"What's going on?" asked someone.
"Starfleet's running a training exercise out in the big field, the one we use sometimes. The city's rerouting all the transports around the area. It means that instead of taking twenty minutes to get to my sister's place, it'll take forty. They never reroute the transports for us."
The conversation continued, but Tasha didn't hear. Her heart was pounding with excitement. She'd been to the field for the center's "exercises" - their word for the brutal drills the students were subjected to - and she knew how to get there. It was only three miles away; she could get there on foot. She knew enough about Starfleet to know that no one would send an Academy group out without at least one officer in charge. Maybe if she spoke to someone in person, she'd be able to talk them into sponsoring her. True, the one commander - Jelly-something-or-other - hadn't been very keen to listen, but she'd met other Starfleet officers who were different. With any luck, she'd find one who would pay attention.
It was a risk, she knew. She'd be violating Rule Number One (The Center Is Our Home. We Do Not Leave Without Permission.), the single most serious rule in the book, and she was already on discipline, this time for simultaneously violating Rule Number Twenty-Five (We Do Not Yell) and Rule Number Eleven (We Are Civil In Counseling). But for the chance to be in Starfleet, she'd risk it. She'd risk anything.
Tasha crouched in the corner of the field, where she could observe without being seen. Her luck had been amazing to this point. Running the exercise was not one officer, but rather about a dozen. Surely out of that many she could find one who was sympathetic.
She knew that interrupting training would be a bad way to start out, so she remained in her hiding place, waiting for them to take a break. She didn't really mind. It felt good just to be outside, to do what she pleased without worrying about consequences.
One of the officers blew a whistle, and everyone snapped to attention.
"Take lunch. I expected to see everyone back at exactly Thirteen-thirty hours, understood?"
"Yes, sir!" The entire group chorused.
The cadets who'd been training ran off in every direction. Tasha bit her lip, steeled herself, and stepped up to one of the officers.
"Excuse me, sir. Might I have a word with you?"
I want to give a major shout-out to konarciq for helping me come up with this idea. When I first introduced the idea of Tasha having lived in the center, she pointed out that everything the counselors said about Tasha would make it hard for her to get into Starfleet. That's where I got creative. Originally this story was just a blurb in "Big Doors", but it's taken on a life of its own.
Some elements from Star Trek: Voyager will be making an appearance in this story. It is not necessary to know Voyager in order to understand the story, which is why I've filed this under TNG and not as a crossover, but it might give you another layer of insight. (Plus, it's an awesome show!)