Jaiana

By Lt. Zoe Jebkanto

Rating: G

Genres: drama

Keywords: Xindi

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Disclaimer:  Star Trek is the property of CBS/Paramount.  No infringement is intended.  The only profit obtained from this story is the nonmonetary one that comes from stretching one’s imagination.

Keywords:  Family bonds, Xindi

Summary:  It is easy to talk about people “back home” letting go their prejudices of the past, but…

A/N: This story is set a few years into the future – that is, after the series ended with “Terra Prime” and after the Romulan war has wound down and the Federation is getting geared up to begin.

Unspoken thoughts are shown in quoted “italics”


 

Enterprise NX-01 - The Captain’s Quarters  Date:  05 09 2161

“Hey, Cap’n, sorry I’m late.  That system analysis took longer than I expected.”

It seemed to Trip Tucker like he hadn’t been off his feet all shift, climbing up and down every catwalk in Engineering, finalizing repairs on the last of the damage done by Romulan fire, it was time to settle his tired self back and enjoy wild water-polo mayhem with his old friend.  What could beat sharing loud cheers, quiet conversation and a couple of good, cold beers?

Jonathan Archer sat, back to the door, busy at his work-station.

Stepping into the captain’s quarters, Trip glanced toward the vid screen.  It was set up and ready to go, the words “UCLA Bruins versus Florida Gators” emblazoned across the screen above the frozen image of a waving, cheering crowd.  On the table by Jonathan’s bunk was a tray with two tall, golden glasses and a big orange bowl of pretzel sticks.

He smiled.  Good.  He hadn’t been delayed as long as he thought.  Each waiting beer still wore a cheerful foamy cap.

“No problem.  Sit down, I’ll be right with you…”  There was something more than distraction in Jonathan’s tone.  But what?

Trip studied the lines of his shoulders for clues as the door hissed shut behind him.  Decided that, no matter how much he liked old detective movies, he wouldn’t have made much of a living as a private eye.  “Everything okay?” he asked.

Jonathan glanced his way.  “I took a few minutes to finish some correspondence.”

Trip raised his brows.  Waited.

“I got this letter a couple of days ago…”  Gesturing him closer, Jonathan held up a PADD.  “Take a look if you’d like.”

White words and numbers glowed bright against the blue screen.  “Velocity and Trajectory Calculus, Field Analysis, Warp Theory?  These look like the sort of classes I took when I was tryin’ to get into the Starfleet School of Engineering.”

The words brought it all back.

“Late, late nights cramming for exams during his last spring break back at home.  How his concentration tried to wrap itself around words that wouldn’t stay still on the screen anymore.  How he drew concerned looks from his mamma and lived on warp-fuel coffee until it lost its effect and his sister Lizzie found him asleep one morning, still at his desk with his nose planted flat against his monitor…”

As his attention shifted to the numbers, he let out a long, appreciative whistle.  “Ninety eight per cent!  In Compensatory Algorithms?”

A quick grin lit Jonathan’s face.  “As compared to your…?”

“Ninety five,” Trip was caught between admiration and confusion.  “Somebody want a reference letter for their Starfleet application?”  As an officer on Enterprise, he’d had a few of them himself.  “But, Cap’n, this is more of an engineering focus than command.”

Jonathan tapped the PADD.  The school report gave way to several lines of words.  “That’s right, but the student’s mother wrote to ask if I’d send a letter of recommendation on behalf of her daughter.  I was about to sign off and submit it to the admissions board, when I wondered whether I should say something more…”

“Oh, God, Cap’n!  Not another nineteen pages!”

“I’d like to think I can blame about eighteen of those for that anomaly back in the Expanse,” said Jonathan, his grin fading.  “Good thing my recommendation is mostly a formality and these marks speak for themselves.  I’ve never actually met the applicant.”

“Well, Cap’n, your name probably speaks louder than words around Starfleet.  But unless I read you wrong, I’d say you’ve got some reservations.”

Jonathan nodded.  “I think there’ll be some that won’t make things easy for her, even if she is accepted…”

If?  With those grades?  Anybody that wouldn’t look twice at them probably doesn’t deserve her!”

Jonathan swiveled in his chair, gave Trip a penetrating look.  “You sure about that?”

Trip took the PADD, murmuring occasional phrases as he skimmed Jonathan’s letter.  “…pleased to recommend… excellent academic… character references indicate she is bright, intuitive and honest, all of which would make Jaiana a fine candidate…”

“Similar words were in the letter that came the summer after Trip submitted his application. ‘Your school performance and the letters of reference indicate you would be a fine candidate…’”

“He’d been wrapped in the pride of his family.  His mamma’s strong, hard hug and soft murmur of congratulations.  His dad’s sparkling eyes as he said ‘I knew you had the makings of an engineer.  Now you can learn how to put back together all the things you left in pieces around the house!’  Lizzie’s grin as she demanded ‘How soon can I come visit you in San Francisco?  I’d like a real close look at how they built the Golden Gate!’”

It was a once-in-a-lifetime moment: when work, hope and dreams came together and the future opened up, galaxy-wide with possibilities.  One Jaiana would be as unlikely to forget as he was.

Trip looked up from Jonathan’s formal phrases.  “Well, yeah.  As sure as anybody can be who makes a recommendation without having met the student in person.”

“Maybe,” Jonathan picked up the electronic stylus used for official signatures, then allowed it to rest quiet between his fingers.  “You’d want to look a little further before you say anything more.”

There was a challenge in the words.  A test of some kind.  Trip had known him long enough to recognize it, but not whether it was he being tested for a reaction, or to see if he could spot some potential difficulty facing this girl.

“She’s not from Earth.  Or isn’t human anyhow.  Is that what you’re getting at?”

Jonathan’s nod was almost imperceptible.  “Attitudes can be slow to change, Trip.”

He didn’t like to admit it, but the captain was right.  It was surprising that the knowledge could ache, even after all these years: if his and T'Pol’s daughter Elizabeth had lived, she’d have faced difficulties with some people on Earth due to the Vulcan part of her heritage.  “You’re thinking even so long after the Xindi attack, there’s a lot of xenophobia on Earth, and this girl might not be prepared for it, right?  But, Captain, they’ve had plenty of off-world students at Starfleet these last six years since Terra Prime tried to wreck the first Coalition Conference…”

His words trailed off.  He understood the problem, even through his protests.  He wasn’t thrilled when the Vulcans assigned an observer to Enterprise’s first mission.  How about furious?  He’d resented like hell the part TPol’s people played in Earth’s history since First Contact, keeping Humans under patronizing scrutiny for a century, holding up the Warp Five project so long Jonathan’s dad never lived to see his engine leave orbit.  Then they had the nerve to send someone along to report to their High Command whether the crew could even handle itself in deep space!

“That first sight of T’Pol confirmed all his worst expectations.  There she stood in the captain’s ready room, her poised, erect posture all but shouting of arrogant Vulcan superiority, as she distained to take the hand he offered in greeting.  He’d have sworn he could read it all in her eyes…  Upstart, smelly humans, believing they were ready to go trundling around the galaxy with barely a century of warp technology behind them! Okay, he’d resigned himself as his hand dropped to his side, he’d work with her, best he could, but he didn’t have to like her…”

Of course, things had changed a lot in the last ten years.  But what could he have told Elizabeth about dealing with bigotry like his had been back then?  That there was no such thing as The Vulcans, The Andorians or The Humans?  That one-on-one, all species were made up of individuals and she didn’t have to take credit or blame for those who shared her gene pool?  Probably he’d only have hugged her hard and said her family loved and believed in her, though the main person to believe in her must be Elizabeth herself…

Would Jaiana’s parents tell her the same thing before sending her to Earth?  Would it be enough to sustain her at the Academy?  He glanced from the PADD to the crowd on the vid-screen.  People carried their attitudes into Starfleet with them, along with their clothes and study materials.  His early reaction to T’Pol was a case in point, wasn’t it?  All this girl could do was hold her own, best she could and look to the evolving future.

It was years since Temporal Agent Daniels enlisted Enterprise’s help with keeping the timeline moving in its intended direction.  Looking from the screen to Jonathan, Trip tried to put their conversations about him together with happenings back home these last months as the Romulan war wound down.

“From what Daniels said, the United Federation of Planets we’re putting together is all about letting go old resentments, the wars we fought, our bad histories with each other…”

Jonathan nodded silent encouragement as Trip framed his thoughts in words.

“Remember how hard it was, getting Andorians, Vulcans and Tellarites to keep from going at each other long enough to see we all faced a bigger threat from the Romulans?  Our Coalition’s made a certain kind of peace with them now, but without their shadow hanging over us, it’s gonna be harder to keep putting aside our old differences.”

All the tiredness of the long day’s shift pulsed through him, along with the fresh grief about how unfair his home-world might have been to Elizabeth, as it could still be for this girl the captain was so concerned about.

Well, there wasn’t a damn thing he could do for his daughter, except maybe hope that a future Earth would become a more welcoming place for others like her, who had roots in off-world soil.

There was a worried, almost wary look in his friend’s eyes.  “Captain, since you carried the katra of Surak, you and T’Pol have talked about the Vulcan IDIC.  Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations.  With that philosophy being worked into Starfleet training, don’t you think that’ll help this girl with some of the attitudes back home?”

“I don’t know…”  Shrugging, Jonathan gestured to the PADD.  Trip tapped the prompt that exchanged the words for a filled in copy of a very familiar looking application form.  He couldn’t resist the tug of a nostalgic grin.  Funny, after all these years, how some things never changed: Name, gender, height, weight, birthday- translated for Academy purposes to Earth’s Common Era system- birthplace in a town or city whose name was completely meaningless on a planet…

A planet whose people sometimes still haunted his dreams…

Trip took two, three, four steps back, searching for the edge of Jonathan’s bunk with the back of his legs as his knees threatened to unlock.  Sinking onto its firm surface, he suppressed a groan as his guts fisted in a knot.  The ache over little Elizabeth had rested there beneath his heart as he’d wondered how parents could help their kids confront bigotry.  Just waited there to spring out and ambush him with fresh grief over all she’d never had an opportunity to experience, the potential she’d never…  They’d never… had the chance to realize…  Either of them…  Either of his sweet Elizabeths.

“The words on the PADD fragmented into nightmare memories of days, weeks, months.  For an instant Admiral Maxwell Forrest’s face filled the screen. ‘There’s been an attack on Earth…  Seven million dead…’, followed by the rising flood of his own words.”

“To the captain in the ready room.  ‘Did he say what part of Florida?’”

“To Malcolm, standing at the edge of a gaping canyon that wasn’t there the last time he visited his home town.  ‘Over there was the movie theater… Lizzie used to holler like a banshee if I didn’t take her with me…’”

“To T’Pol, in a battle-damaged Enterprise hallway, as his tears flowed:  ‘She was my sister… my baby sister…’”

“Finally, en route to a meeting of the Xindi council, standing face to face with the creator of the weapon that had blasted a chunk out of the lives of everyone on Earth. ‘Florida!  That’s one of the places…’”

Weird, how his hands grew clammy on the PADD.  Back in the Expanse, that same sick cold had filled him as the captain explained the Xindi attack was a desperate, misguided attempt to defend themselves from a human threat that had never existed.  He’d heard it, learned to understand the truth of it. But that didn’t ease the fierce, sorrowing ache.  Damn it!  Why had Jonathan showed him this particular application with its stellar set of marks?  They were supposed to be friends!

“More words echoed through Trip’s memory.  Again, there was that same, sorrowing ache, this time mirrored in tired, Xindi eyes.  ‘I can’t change your loss, but I’m putting my life… my family’s lives… at risk… to save both our worlds.’”

Degra’s family!  Degra’s daughter… Jaiana!

God, his gut ached, tight as a clenching fist.  The kind he’d like to smash the stupid PADD with and watch all the hopeful words shatter!  Or pop Jonathan Archer in the jaw with along about now!

There were over eighty other people on Enterprise he could have asked what they thought about this girl joining Starfleet!  And despite knowing the pain the question would cause, he had asked Trip.

“…my sister!  My baby sister…”

Or maybe…  It was because he did know.  Hadn’t Trip recognized a challenge, a test, somewhere in his words?  He glared over the top of the PADD into Jonathan’s eyes.  “Damn it, you set me up!”

God, sometimes he swore those green eyes could see inside his head!  Hadn’t he just been thinking how he’d have told Elizabeth she didn’t have to take credit… or blame… for those who shared her gene pool?  Not two minutes after seeing himself tell her there were no such collectives as The Vulcans, The Tellarites or The Andorians, he’d pushed the image of a bright, aspiring Starfleet engineer into a box called The Xindi.

“It was just after talking about the attitudes back home!  Yeah.  Back home!  Right!”

“But the girl was…”

“No.  Not the girl.  He had to stop calling her that.  Jaiana.  Her name was Jaiana.”

She’d be a young adult now.  One who’d grown up with the same sorrowing ache for a lost family member that Trip understood so well.  But also with a tangled knowledge he couldn’t begin to imagine, her father had caused the deaths of millions on an alien world, then was killed by one of his own people for trying to save both that world and his own.

On another water-polo night, Jonathan had looked over his beer glass at Trip and said that shortly before Degra’s murder, he’d shared part of Daniels’ history with him.  It held a far-future Enterprise, the Flagship of that United Federation of Planets that was even now being formed back on Earth.  Xindi served aboard her beside Humans.  Degra must have confided that to his friend Jannar, or written of it to his wife, Naara.

Now his daughter wanted to join Starfleet, maybe hoping to set that vision in motion, because it held the possibility of a future where people let go old resentments, long bitter wars and bad histories to find common cause.  She wanted to come to Earth, where even the name of her home-world was still widely hated.

She had to be one of the craziest people ever born.  Or one of the bravest.

Trip’s hand shook under the sudden weight of the PADD as he held it out toward Jonathan.  The silent admission was painful, reluctant – even after all this time, but he could make it without flinching.  In bravery, Jaiana certainly took after her father.

Jonathan looked at the PADD.  Raised questioning brows.

Trip thumbed the prompt to bring his glowing words back onto the screen, then thrust it toward him, more firmly this time.  “Oh, go on, Cap’n!  Take it!”

After several seconds, his fingers closed around the device.  Its small weight rested between their extended hands.  Jonathan’s gaze was apologetic.  “I’m sorry, Trip.  Setting you up wasn’t anything I’d planned.  At least, not until you came through the door.”

“Don’t worry about it.”  Trip shrugged.  After all, it wasn’t his friend Jonathan who’d done that, so much as the captain of Enterprise.  That made a world of difference.  “I mean… you had to know, didn’t you?  Whether you should submit that recommendation?  If it would be fair to… to Jaiana.  There probably wasn’t anybody who wanted to see the Xindi blasted to hell and beyond any more than I did.  But if this Federation’s gonna work, those of us representing her better try living by what she stands for, right?  I don’t know whether or not you’re doing this… Jaiana… any big favors, but, go ahead, sign it.  She’s earned her chance.”

Taking the PADD, Jonathan swiveled back to the work-station, activated the stylus, bent forward and with quick strokes, began to inscribe his signature.

He hadn’t really been waiting for Trip’s reaction before doing that, had he?  Probably not…  Exactly.  Not if he hadn’t thought about handing him that application form until he came through the door.  He sure couldn’t have had any doubts about Jaiana’s readiness for Starfleet Academy’s class-work.  But… if Trip had ignored that once he saw the name of her species, would he have decided maybe Earth wasn’t ready yet for Jaiana?

It hadn’t been ready for his and T’Pol’s daughter either, or Terra Prime wouldn’t have rallied so many followers.  If he still ached over the lack of acceptance for Elizabeth, how could he show the same lack to another girl who deserved no more credit… or blame… for those with whom she shared her gene pool?

He could still hear the ring of amazement in his words.

“With those grades?  Anybody that wouldn’t look twice at them probably doesn’t deserve her!”

Good God, she’d managed a ninety eight in Compensatory Algorithms!

Who in their right mind could ignore that?  Jaiana deserved more than half-reluctant acceptance, but the same kind of support as he would have wished for Elizabeth.

Jonathan glanced up from the PADD.  Trip followed his gaze toward the vid screen where the cheering crowd was still suspended in digital time.  Incredible!  Only a couple of minutes had passed since his arrival here!  The foamy caps on the beer had hardly fizzed down at all.

“There,” said Jonathan, pushing back from his work-station.  “Done.  I’ll send this to the bridge for Hoshi to transmit in the morning.  Meanwhile, we can…”

Trip drew a quick, deep breath.  Both the sorrowing ache and the worst of the day’s fatigue were starting to fade.  “Wait!  Cap’n!  Don’t send that yet.  Those classes really are an engineering focus.  I don’t have anything to add to what you wrote, except maybe putting the name of an experience warp field engineer right under yours might help some to swing the odds her way.  Here, pass me that PADD and stylus, would you?”

Surprise, then approval lit his friend’s eyes before rising, he set the PADD on Trip’s lap.  He handed him the stylus, then moved to the controls for the vid screen.

A contented smile started to form itself as Trip wrote in firm, backhand strokes beneath Jonathan Archer’s flowing signature and rank designation “Charles A. Tucker III, Chief Engineer, Enterprise NX-01” and the sounds of wild cheering filled the room.


Comments:

Cogito

A very thought provoking short story - the first time I've seen this topic explored. I wonder whether Archer recognised why he was waiting for Trip's view before finally giving his approval. Good to see Trip overcoming his prejudices here.

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