Disclaimer: Star Trek and all associated characters and situations are the property of CBS studios. Star Trek Online is the creation of Cryptic and Perfect World. All are here used by myself for entertainment purposes only, without permission or intent to profit.

Author's Note: Admiral Jorel Quinn is the NPC quest giver for the early stages of Star Trek Online. In this chapter and the next I altered his character and made up a background to suit the story. No offence to the original character (who is quite nice) is intended.

Edit: Stardates have been recalculated with the help of the TNG Stardate Calculator available on TrekGuide .com in order to provide more consistent Stardates across multiple stories. This does, however, make the Stardates here slightly out of sync with those used in the game's lore.

Graduation Day

Cadet Carlin Agran's Personal Log, Stardate 79740.2:

Today is the big day! Today I graduate with the Starfleet Academy Class of 2405—specifically in the top 10% of the class. Everyone will see it. Mother can't be here in person (the fare for a transport from the Beta Rigel colony is too expensive), but she'll watch the holos later. Most importantly, he will be there. He will see me cross the stage…and when he does, he'll realize he never should have abandoned me: his child.

For the Starfleet Cadets gathered in the auditorium that day, it was the proudest moment of their lives. It was also one many of them couldn't wait to be done with. Carlin Agran, for one, was ready to swear to never again listen to the old Earth tune "Pomp and Circumstance." For some reason, every graduation on Earth since time immemorial had to play the song non-stop throughout the entire ceremony, and by now it had been going on so long she had every single note of it committed to memory—which was saying something, since Carlin had always been tone-deaf. She pushed back strands of her auburn hair, revealing the distinctive Trill rows of brown spots running down from her forehead and along either side of her head and neck before disappearing beneath the collar of her uniform. She massaged the spots at her temple, trying to ward off the headache she could feel coming on. If this ceremony goes on much longer…

She cut off the thought, and made herself pay attention to what the Tellarite master of ceremonies was saying. "Cadet John Andersen, graduating with a degree in Warp Theory," the stocky man said, with a voice as dry as his bristly beard. A human cadet in engineering yellows stood, crossed the stage, pausing to shake hands with everyone, and descended again with his diploma in hand, mercifully doing so without comment or any hesitation that would have only slowed things down.

Carlin tried not to yawn. She made herself sit straight. They were graduating in reverse alphabetical order this year (for whatever crazy reason) and that meant her name would be coming up soon. This was a critical moment for her, one of the moments she'd been waiting for her whole life, ever since she heard of him.

She let her gaze drift over to the place where he stood on the stage, careful to keep her face neutral. She couldn't help a little smirk, though. If she was not mistaken, he was beginning to go bald, leaving a small gap between his Trill spots and the salt-and-pepper mass of his slicked-back hair. It amused her to think that the years had been no kinder to him here than they had been to her mother, Lendri back on the Beta Rigel colony.

His name was Jorel Quinn and he was a Rear Admiral in Starfleet, one of the top brass in charge of Starfleet Science, though with a war looming between the Federation and the Klingon Empire, his position was beginning to change. To many, Admiral Quinn was a kind authority, a fatherly man—but those were people who didn't actually have him as their biological father, Carlin reflected bitterly.

Her mother had told her some time ago about the young Trill, Jorel Onx, who had been her father, how he had left Lendri the moment he'd found they'd conceived a daughter together. It hadn't been until Carlin was a little older that she'd understood why the pregnancy had gotten Lendri in trouble, why Jorel had denied his involvement and even faked a DNA test to prove his innocence—the Trill Symbiosis Commission frowned on excessive fraternization among its applicants: and conceiving a child together was certainly out of bounds. If Jorel had confessed himself as the father, he would have been dismissed from the program in disgrace and never allowed a chance to join with a symbiont again, just like Lendri had been.

But understanding the reasons for his cowardice and rejection didn't make Carlin any more inclined to forgive him for them. It had taken her some time to piece together the records through the computer files available on Beta Rigel and find out that the Jorel Onx her mother knew had been joined to the Quinn symbiont, becoming its sixteenth host: Jorel Quinn. Quinn was one of the six oldest symbionts still capable of joining, and that had given Jorel Quinn plenty of influence from the start. It hadn't taken him long to go on to a brilliant career in Starfleet, shooting up to flag rank like a rocket. But like the rocket, he'd blasted Lendri and her daughter into the ground in order to get where he was—and Carlin wasn't about to forgive him for that…or let him forget.

And that was what made this day so important. When Jorel had walked away from the child he'd fathered, he'd declared her unworthy of his attention, unworthy of a father's love, less valuable than the status and fame a joining could give him. Carlin was about to prove him wrong.

"Cadet Carlin Agran," the Tellarite intoned. "Graduating with advanced degrees in Xenobiology and Astrophysics."

The voice was as dry as ever, but to Carlin the words were like a trumpet call. She smiled and stood smoothly, walking to the stage. She kept herself from looking directly at Rear Admiral Quinn, but her mind could not help but keep track of where he sat and her smile broadened at the thought of him sitting there, watching her. What do you think now, "Daddy?" her thoughts burned at him. Look how your little daughter has grown up and made so much of herself—oh, but you can't let anyone know that she's your daughter, can you now? Can you even admit it to yourself—admit that you made a mistake when you deserted her and her mother to pursue your own stupid path to glory? There was a dangerous glint in her eyes. She knew that Jorel had to be aware she was his daughter. She had made sure to "accidently misdirect" her admission files to his office when she'd been accepted to Starfleet Academy. Though it was her own interest that had pushed her to pursue astrophysics, her study of xenobiology was a direct jab at him, as was her recent application to the Trill Symbiosis Program. He had graduated with a degree in Xenobiology from this very Academy twenty years before, and Carlin had made certain to beat his every test and assignment score in pursuit of that degree (though it had meant repeating Molecular Biology of Humanoids twice). Yes, I'm your daughter, her record screamed at him, and, yes, I'm better than you are at everything. Still think I'm not worth your time, hmm?

She stepped across the stage, savoring the moment. She accepted the antique paper diploma carefully in one hand and then took the time to shake hands with each of the admirals and ceremonial officers, even the ones she didn't technically need to. She took her time getting to Rear Admiral Quinn's hand. Let him know what it feels like to be the abandoned one for a minute, she told herself. Finally, she grasped his hand, intentionally making the handshake too firm and pricking his palm with her fingernails.

But to her surprise, he didn't flinch. Jorel Quinn actually squeezed her hand back, covering it with both of his and shaking enthusiastically. He smiled broadly and his eyes showed nothing but genuine pride. "Congratulations, Cadet, or should I say, Ensign?" he said. "If you're not too busy, I'd like to see you in my office after the ceremony."

"Uh…of course, sir," she said, dumbfounded. She could not detect even a trace of the resentment he must be feeling in his voice or expression, and she was too startled herself to put an edge of sarcasm into her voice. All she could manage was to free her hand as gracefully as possible, paste on a smile for the holo-camera, and walk off stage without tripping over her own two feet.

Behind her, unnoticed, the Tellarite droned on. "Cadet Hatxir Adrej, graduating with a degree in Temporal Mechanics."