Saint Ferdinands Medallion

By Lt. Zoe Jebkanto

Rating: G

Genres: drama

Keywords:

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Disclaimer: I don’t own it, I just write about it.  No profit made, no infringement intended.

Keywords: Family, past history.  Leaving for Starfleet.

Summary: A young Trip Tucker is about to begin his engineering studies at Starfleet…

A/N: I’ve had it brought to my attention (actually by an engineer) that, at least in the U.S., it is St. Patrick, rather than St. Ferdinand, that is recognized as the holder of the particular distinction mentioned in this story.  After a little research, I found that it is an honor shared by both Patrick and Ferdinand, but Ferdinand is the one I learned of first in this capacity.  Being in part Irish, I’d long since been familiar with good old Patrick in relation to another…

This story is for Linda, who has said she particularly likes stories in which Lizzie Tucker plays a significant part.

___________

Panama City, Florida — 20 August 2137

How much longer?

Trip Tucker’s travel pass was in his pocket, same as last time he’d checked to make sure it wasn’t home on his desk.  At least he didn’t have to consult his chronometer again.  There was one by the exit door that had just traded the minute number on the far right for a new one.

Outside the window, a San Francisco-bound skimmer beckoned with a sky full of possibilities.  Inside, the faces of his family urged him to make sure he’d gathered his full store of memories.  Should he snatch up his travel gear so he was ready as soon as the departure signal came?  Or keep his arms free for one last round of hugs?

He’d dreamed of today since he wasn’t quite sure when, but it had never been like this!  Always he saw himself striding, head up and smiling, into his future.  Now, as the last moments counted down, his throat was tight and his stomach vibrated harder than the alert in his pocket was gonna when it announced the skimmer was ready for boarding.

What was taking it so long, anyway?

Wait!  Why was time speeding up when he had half a million things to say to everybody… if he could remember what they were!  And if he could swallow down the lump pressing up his throat to get the words out.

Why did excitement sometimes feel like apprehension?

It wasn’t like he hadn’t been on skimmers before, been away from home or visited Starfleet.

This was different.

After today, he’d be someone who only came from Florida, not somebody living there.  When he was here next, he’d be wearing a uniform, would have begun classes.  And, assuming he passed them…

(and he was gonna pass them, right?)

…he could officially call himself a student of engineering at Starfleet.

“Your first free day-” Lizzie’s hand closed on his bicep and pulled him round to face her.  “You’re recording me a walking tour of San Francisco, remember?”

“Lemme think a minute…”  His words held little of the off-hand note he wanted…

(Good thing his voice was way past the cracking stage!)

…as he rolled his eyes toward the ceiling like he was reading off a list up there.  “You want a bunch of pictures of the slimy green old garbage scows down at the waterfront and some real close-up and personals of the gulls eating rotten dead fish, right?  Did I forget anything?”

Releasing her grasp, she gave him a quick punch on the shoulder.  “Creep,” she said, her tone managing to be no more…

(or less)

…forced than his.

“Hey, ouch!”  He didn’t say more, only made a big deal of rubbing his arm so she wouldn’t hear how the lump was shoving its way up his throat again.

He looked from his family to the skimmer and back.  He’d known he was gonna miss them, but God, how could that happen before he’d even left?

Probably because things with his family had already begun to change.

Like how he and Lizzie had been just now.

He watched her turn and wander to the window.  He could see the ghostly reflection of her face in the glass, superimposed on the skimmer beyond.  She looked like she might be gulping on a lump of her own.

They’d gone through this whole picking on each other routine…

(or about a thousand variations of it)

…over the years.  This time they were acting it out for each other’s benefit, playing the roles of who they were up until now.  But she was on her way to being a Lizzie he wouldn’t know in that same day to day way next time he saw her, any more than he’d be the same Trip she’d grown up with.

He’d be at Starfleet, sharing a small room in a crowded dorm, eating school foods all week and trying exotic new ones on weekends.  Not to mention checking out what other, off-grounds adventures waited for him in San Francisco.  Lizzie would be the last Tucker kid at home, with the whole upstairs to herself, coming down in the morning to the familiar smells of Mamma’s home-made breakfasts.

He’d be immersing himself in Trajectory and Velocity Calculus and Basics of Warp Theory and Flow Dynamics with people from every continent on the planet.  Maybe some from one of the moon bases or Utopia Planitia.  Lizzie would be finishing her Honors Arts, Advanced Trigonometry and Anthropology of Ancient Civilizations courses and going on dates to the movie theater or other familiar places on weekends.  Except when she wasn’t traveling with the folks to visit her list of colleges offering innovative degree programs in design and architecture.

There was a time his parents- especially his mamma- figured…

(actually hoped, he knew)

…that was the career path he’d pick.  Some of it came from her dad and grandmother being architects, which made it half a family tradition.  Some was because he was always fascinated by the way spaces and structures worked together.

Though he seemed far better at taking things apart, he had liked building them too, even as he proclaimed he wanted to be a Starship Captain.  Of course, he also said he’d like to be a professional scuba diver, an alligator trainer or a speedboat mechanic, so he wasn’t sure how seriously they’d taken that particular announcement.

Then he lost himself in the book Emory Erickson: Father of the Transporter and found himself emerging at the end of it with lasting dreams of becoming an engineer.

Not just any kind of engineer… a Starship Engineer!  That was better than becoming the captain.  He could work on transporters like Emory Erickson and warp engines like Zofran Cochrane!  And who knew?  He might come up with a few ideas of his own!

He’d be his family’s first engineer and its first explorer…

(unless Aunt JoEllen, the family historian, knew of somebody from back, hundreds of years ago, before the Antebellum, who’d cut a path through the wilderness or something)

…and without question, he’d be the first on his way to the stars!

If the skimmer out there ever decided to leave.

With an audible sigh, Lizzie turned from the glass.  The lump in Trip’s throat ached as she moved, not back to his side, but over toward their parents, leaving him standing in a nowhere land between his family and the window.

Well, why not?  He was just about as good as gone already, wasn’t he?

He was leaving all of them behind sometime in the next few minutes.  Going where no Tucker had gone before.  Changing himself, not into an architect, a coastal botanist, a teacher, historian, or even that once dreamed of alligator trainer, but into somebody who might not be able to find his way back to his old familiar place at home.

God, he wanted to say something to spark their familiar, easy laughter.  Step past his travel cases to stand among them.  Get that round of hugs going, make it last until the alert vibrated in his pocket and maybe even hold on a few extra seconds after that.

But the awkward expectancy of the moment held him motionless and silent.  All the hurried conversations that came in with them from the car were exhausted.  Mostly they were last-second check-lists anyway, but…

(Did he have the credits authorization code asked Dad while Mamma went straight for issues of clothes:  Had he packed his extra shoes?  His Gators’ sweatshirt?  His socks?  His…?  He’d had to cut her off before she got around to itemizing his underwear!

…still, he’d liked the half-chaotic sound of interwoven Tucker voices.

Even the half-million things he’d wanted to say had dried up.  That left only the waiting.  And the ache.  The damn lonely ache!

When he used to picture himself walking out to meet a grown-up future, he had a grin so big it nearly met behind his head.  Oh, he’d figured he might get a little…

(maybe more than a little)

…apprehensive sometimes.  That was all right, it was part of the adventure.

He never thought he’d feel so achingly alone and so…

(considering where he was going, it was a strange choice of words, but he couldn’t find one that fit any better)

…so alien!

In the past few weeks, the ache would come in the hours when late night became early morning.  When he was too tired to imagine the exciting things he’d do in San Francisco.  Instead, images of growing up here painted themselves on the ceiling.  He was gonna miss the easy rhythms of this place, of his family; the salt-water smell on the breeze, the buzz of cicadas, boat trips on the Gulf, barbecuing in the back yard, his first carm his last year of school.  Already they were taking on a feeling of long ago while he was hurtling onward…

(and at warp speed, of course)

…into his future.

His family’s first engineer.

Years back he was proud when that idea occurred to him.  His heart swelled so big he could about popped the stitches in his shirts!  He walked around smiling like a runner breaking through the tape at the finish line or a climber taking that amazing step that found him at the top of the mountain!

But in the late night hours, he began to see the distance between him and the others on the track or halfway down the hillside.

He wasn’t just going to be the Tucker clan’s first engineer, but their only engineer.

Mixed with the old pride was a new loneliness.  The ache.  If their faces had glazed over at the dinner table listening to him talk about intriguing things like warp dynamics or flow dispersion theory when the physical sciences were only scattered in among his more usual school subjects, what odd kind of person did they think he’d chosen to turn himself into by making those things the focus of his life?

Would there still be things to talk about?  Laugh about?

But his parents had seemed happy when he said he’d applied to Starfleet, hadn’t they?  Even if Mamma counseled him not to close his mind to the idea of other schools, other options as well?  And Dad said there was so much competition for so few openings, maybe he should have a backup plan?  At least they were pleased he believed in a dream enough to pursue it as far as he could, right?  Wasn’t that almost…

(if not quite)

…the same as being happy?

He’d always managed to push the aching thoughts aside and drop off to sleep after a while, but here they were again, in the middle of the day, growing larger by the moment, not only in his throat but somewhere under his breastbone.

Now, with the moment of departure…

(almost)

…at hand, as they stood there, light-years across the shiny floor, did they know he wouldn’t be skimming away without looking back? That as much as he loved the water and the boats and the life he’d lived here, the dream had chosen him as much as he had chosen it because space and speed and stars were what he’d been made for?

There was a tingle against his hip.  After the second by second wait for the departure signal, it was startling to realize it had finally come.

He fumbled the device from his pocket, almost dropping it from clammy fingers, then stared down at the red letters blinking from the screen.

Five minutes.

Tapping an acknowledgment, he slipped it back in his pocket and looked from one face to another.  “I… I gotta go.”

He hadn’t realized he’d spoken aloud until his family was surrounding him, reaching, touching, gathering him close, creating a huddle of circling arms as the wall of waiting silence dissolved before the much more familiar tumultuous Tucker floods of words.

“You’ll just let us know when you get there, all right?”

“If you left anything behind, all you have to do is…”

“Yeah, yeah, I know.”  There was a stinging in his eyes.  He closed them tight and drank in the faint smell of fresh-cut grass on his dad’s shirt, the floral essence of Lizzie’s shampoo and the indefinable scent that was his Mamma’s.

After what seemed only an instant, the connection broke as her arm pulled away from around his shoulders.  He opened his eyes and turned to look at her.  Now she was the one who was fumbling something from her pocket.

“Here,” she said and pressed a small, blue wrapped package into his hand.

“What is it?”  From long habit, born of Christmas and birthday mornings, he shook it gently near his ear…

(No clue!)

…then almost dropped it.  Damn!  The excitement…

(apprehension?)

…was making his fingers clumsy!  He fumbled with the bright ribbon, then paused.  Looked up.  Was he supposed to open this now, or after he got on the skimmer?

His Mamma nodded down at the package.

Now.

After all the things he’d taken apart in his life, he should be able to untie a ribbon!  He could see the anticipation in his dad’s eyes, his mamma’s eager smile and the excited, impatient way Lizzie bobbed up and down on the balls of her feet.

At last the wrapping fell free and the box’s lid was lifted open.

Inside, a small disk rested on a bed of cotton.  It looked old enough that Aunt JoEllen would probably approved of it.  The light streaming through the window glinted bright across its gold surface, obscuring some of the details, but he could make out the stylized engraving of a man’s head and shoulders.  He tilted it back and forth and squinted at the tiny letters at the top, half faded with the passage of time.

Old.  Really old.  Historic old.

“Ferdinand?”  Was that right … Ferdinand?  With three capital I’s next to the name.  Well, he recognized that Roman numeral!  It was attached to his own name as well.  Ferdinand the Third then.  Letters below the small face read “Of Castile”.

History had never been his best subject, but if he thought about it a moment… Castile?  Hundreds of years ago wasn’t it part of… Spain?  There’d been a lot about Spain in his Regional History classes growing up.  Ponce de Leon had been important in Florida’s past, carrying out his search for the Fountain of Youth.

Trip’s finger brushed the golden surface.  He’d never seen anything quite like this.  Was it an antique?  Somebody must have gone to a lot of work tracking it down!  The ache beneath his breastbone eased a little.  Here was something of the place he’d grown up that also said something about his dream.  His family’s recognition that, even if they didn’t share it, they understood its important to him, because, just like he hoped to be, Ponce de Leon had been an explorer.

Raising his eyes, he met the smiling gazes of the family.  Smiled back.  Searched for words to say he realized the significance of the gift.  So, what could he say, what did he remember about de Leon?  Or Castile?  Or Spain maybe?  Well… a lot of Spanish ships had gone down along the coast, victims of piracy and tropical storms.  Ships loaded with lots of golden…

“Is this a… a doubloon?” he asked.

Lizzie was laughing.  “No.  It’s a medal.  See, there’s a link at the top for a chain.”

He saw it now as he squinted at the tiny opening above the man’s bearded golden face.  It almost touched a fine, delicate line encircling Ferdinand’s head.  Was that supposed to represent a halo?  Trip tipped it in the light.

Yeah, it looked like the stylized representation of a nimbus.  Was this Ferdinand III of Castile considered to have been a holy person then?  A saint?

“I’ve never heard of a Saint Ferdinand…” his mystified words trailed off.

“You haven’t?”  An almost wicked grin of secret and delicious pleasure spread across Lizzie’s face as she gave one more little bounce of excitement.  “Really?”

“It seemed fitting,” his mama said.  “To send with you on your journey.”

“But…”  Trip looked from one face to another in confusion.  “Didn’t it used to be Saint Christopher medals people would give to travelers?  As a wish for their safety?”

“Well, yes, it was,” said his Mama.  “That was an old, old tradition.  Your journey is different than any of us Tuckers have ever made.  One that’s bringing something all new and special into our family.”

“Yeah, you’ll make Tuckers part of history,” said Lizzie.  “Like some of the other frontier great explorers.  Like Lois and Clark or…”

“That’s supposed to be Lewis and Clark, honey,” said Dad.

Undaunted, Lizzie went on.  “…maybe Scott, Byrd or Perry.  Who was it that found the South Pole first, anyway?”  History had never been her best subject, either.

There was that ring of laughter Trip had been hoping for.  He heard his own voice mingling with the sound.  It did wonders for easing that ache.

So did his mamma’s arm coming back around his waist.  “Whether you make history or not, that medallion is just a little symbol to show how proud we all are of you.”

As the laughter faded, Trip glanced back down at Ferdinand’s bearded face.  What made the guy so significant, anyway?  He raised questioning eyes from the shining gold circle to one smiling face after another.  “Am I missing something here?”

His mamma laughed.  “Probably.  We had to do a fair amount of researching to find out about Emperor Ferdinand here.”

The alert vibrated again in his pocket.  He didn’t have to look.  He knew the red letters would be warning “two minutes”.

His dad must have seen him tap his acknowledgment.  “I’ll start getting your cases together,” he said, then, with a wink, added.  “Lanie, I think you’d better show him.”

Not taking the box from Trip’s hand, with a quick and delicate touch, his mamma turned the little medallion over so he could read what was written on the back. He stared at the tiny letters and felt the lump fill his throat again.  But there was no ache of loneliness in it now.

Closing the box, he slipped it into his pocket and spun to encircle his mamma and sister in hard, whirlwind hugs.  “Thanks, really!  Thanks a lot!”

They walked with him to where his dad stood, holding out his travel cases to him.  Taking them, he moved toward the exit and the skimmer waiting beyond.  But even when his family dropped back and he stepped through the door alone, they were with him.  That Spanish reference on Saint Ferdinand’s medallion had told him they recognized his need to reach out, to explore, like de Leon, here in Florida.  But that other inscription, the one on the back, well, that one spoke to the deepest heart of his dream…

Head high, Trip Tucker strode toward the skimmer and his future, grinning.  No, he wouldn’t be a stranger to his family the next time he came home, after all.  More than their spoken words could ever had told him, those tiny gold letters said they recognized, and respected him for who he was, who he was going to be.  That was why they had sent him on his journey, not with the traveler’s traditional medal of Saint Christopher, but one bearing the image of Saint Ferdinand of Castile…

Patron of Engineers.


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