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Someone Like Me
Posted on September 7th, 2016 by Kathryn Harper

She longingly stared out the ready room windows, and instead of a grand cosmic display, found only the interior of a spacedock. Whatever answers starship captains would usually find in their long stargazing reveries would not be available to Kathryn Harper now, as her ship was confined to port. Atlantis had been ordered to stay at Starbase Vinland until an admiral decided otherwise, as an apparent punishment for resolving a situation peacefully. She had negotiated a historic treaty with the Romulan Republic, her crew had extended medical and technological aid to desperate refugees, yet here they were, grounded and waiting for the executioner’s axe to fall.

Kate turned away from the windows in disgust, wondering why she was even here. Days of anxiety had given way to elation when they had handed off the refugees to the aid ships dispatched from headquarters, but it had only lasted as long as her congratulatory speech to the crew. Immediately afterwards, she was in this room being chastised for what she’d committed the Federation to, an organization that she thought stood for the very same ideals she had praised her crew for demonstrating. In such light, her recent conversations with Lieutenant T’Lira and Commander Vallero about why they wore the uniform now seemed shallow.

The desk’s computer screen lit to indicate an unread message. With resignation, Kate sat down to view it, expecting to find the news of her court-martial or reassignment. Instead, she was surprised to see the name of a teacher whose primary school class she had once been in, decades ago. Ms. Erynd was also apparently still teaching, since the message was addressed from her entire level five class. It began with a neatly-handwritten introduction in her native language:

Captain Harper,

Or, as I hear you are now known, Kathryn, but that’s not how I remember you as a little girl in my class. An old teacher’s memories, though, are not important as the woman that girl turned out to be. News of your treaty negotiations with the Romulan Republic has made its way to Lunat Bay, and after I gave my students an assignment to learn about you, their natural response was to ask if they could talk to you, since you were once my student. The class put together the attached video with their questions and messages, and also wondered if the next time you found yourself in your hometown you would speak to them in person. Just the favor of your reply would be appreciated, of course, but if you lack the time for either while commanding a starship, we certainly understand. In the meantime, enjoy the video, and thank you—not just for inspiring these children, but also their teacher, and showing us all what heights our people can truly reach.

Yours, Ms. Erynd

Reading the letter had caused a smile to unconsciously spread across her face, and Kate started the video to find herself immediately treated to a succession of wide-eyed children extolling her accomplishments and telling her how they wanted to join Starfleet, become scientists, become pilots, or command starships when they grew up. Many asked surprisingly good questions about life in space, how the technology worked, and how to get accepted to Starfleet Academy. From these children, Kate also learned that she was the first female Risian to command a Starfleet vessel, and that the class had petitioned the town’s mayor to throw a parade in her honor when she returned.

A parade in her hometown was the last thing Kate had ever imagined happening to her, much less being the first to do anything. It was uncommon for her people to join Starfleet, being so devoted to their role as stewards of the premiere vacation planet in the Federation, but it did happen. She knew of at least one Risian to command before her, but had never noticed that no women of her species had ever done so. Several of the girls in the video, and even some of the boys, had called that out as a specific factor in letting them know that they could grow up to do something other than service tourists, like most would on Risa.

Looking back on her childhood, Kate at first found that sentiment to be strange, since she had never felt the pressure to go into tourism, despite her parents being in the field; they had always encouraged her insatiable curiosity, if not her disregard for their traditional culture. It was also not as if Risa did not have its own scientists and engineers, along with many other professions outside of tourism, but it was just rare for anyone to want to leave the planet. As a child, there had been a Risian starship captain in the news that Kate had admired, who she eventually was able to meet at his retirement ceremony some years later. She had met her childhood hero, just like the kids wanted to meet theirs, and it was suddenly her place to be a person that inspires the next generation.

While the children were likely blissfully unaware of the sexual nature of other species’ general perception of Risians, seeing them aspire to be something more uplifted Kate’s spirits. All of these boys and girls needed to see someone like them doing great things, and that she had gotten their attention reminded her that what she had done for the Romulans was not just right, but one of those great things. Her will renewed, Captain Harper vowed to carry on, as the awe-struck looks in the eyes of the children she inspired lent her inspiration in turn. “This. This is why I am here,” she quietly said aloud before beginning to record her reply.

 


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