Posted on February 26th, 2000 by Ral Tiran
Ral was in his quarters, lying on his bed, not quite asleep. After the shore leave he had just spent, he was exhausted. To his delight, he had spent much of that shore leave with Belle. He was beginning to discover even more about her and he was starting to enjoy her company as he found out more.
One thing had disturbed Ral during the conversations he had with Belle. She had said that the man who murdered her foster parents had been Fyrtnal, the convicted felon the crew of the Atlantis had…killed. He knew Belle had been in a fragile state recently, and he hoped this new information wouldn’t push her over the edge…
Worry for Belle pushed Ral away from sleep again, and he rubbed the sore muscles in his neck, wondering if he’d ever manage to nod off. He rolled over to get into a more comfortable position when he saw a communique from Betazed. Ral rolled off the bed, wondering which parent was sending the communique. He hit the button next to the screen and smiled to see a familiar face.
Ral’s father, Thomas’, face filled the screen. “I had heard you would be on shore leave at this Starbase,” he said, his satisfied smile not quite engulfed by a fleece of graying whiskers accumulated over twenty years of Starfleet service.
“Hello, father.” Ral said after a few moments of silence. “How is Mom?” he added quickly, “and yourself?”
“We’re both fine, retirement agrees with me. If only I could get your mother to retire along with me.” Thomas grinned at that statement.
“Mother always was…attached to her work.” Ral remembered when he was a boy on Betazed and how much his mother had worked. She was a counselor on Betazed and never felt her work was done.
“I see you’ve been excelling at your position.” Thomas gestured to Ral’s pips.
Ral’s hands went instinctively to his pips. “Oh yes, I meant to write you about it, I’ve been pretty busy aboard the Atlantis.”
“I’m surprised to see your only a Lieutenant Junior Grade, I’m sure you’ll be promoted soon, and if you’re not, I’ll have a little talk with your CO. How about Chief Engineer, you been assigned that position yet?” Thomas asked.
Ral shook his head. “Dad, please don’t try pulling any strings or anything of the sort. I’ll get what’s coming to me once I deserve it.”
Thomas shook his head solemnly. “I’m sorry son, I just want what’s best for you, I’ve been trying to stop being so pushy.” Thomas sighed slightly and said in a slightly lower voice. “I’m proud of you son.”
Ral smiled. “Thanks dad…I appreciate that.” It was the first time in a long while that Ral had heard his dad say he was proud of him. Ral remembered a time when his relationship with his father had been worse, much worse.
Ral stood in front of a view screen in his dorm room at Starfleet Academy. The face of his father filled the screen, his dark brown hair and beard recently trimmed. The face looked disappointed as well as upset. Ral knew his father must be angry, if he had found the time to send a communique from the Odyssey, the ship he was currently positioned as Executive Officer.
“I’m disappointed in you Ral. I expected better of you. I know you could have done better.”
Thomas stayed silent for what seemed a life time to Ral. Figuring his father was waiting for a reply, Ral said, “I’m sorry father…I don’t know what else to say.”
Thomas seemed to become slightly angry at that comment. “You don’t know what else to say? Try, ‘I’ll start studying more father, I’ll stop playing around and focus on my studies, father.’ A ‘C’ average in your classes will never get you on a good ship in Starfleet.”
Ral simply nodded, more to himself than his father, not knowing what to say. He hadn’t really studied much while at the Academy or paid as much attention in class as he should.
“Well?” Thomas asked. “Are you going to shape up or was it a mistake to send you to the Academy at such a young age?!” Thomas demanded to know.
Ral shook his head. “No father, it wasn’t a mistake. I’ll start paying more attention in my classes and studying harder. I will. Please, just let me stay at the Academy.”
Thomas seemed to repress a sigh. “You are very intelligent Ral. I know you could have an A average in all your classes and I expect no less. You are only in your first year at the Academy, one bad semester will not look too bad, as long as you get your grades up for the next semester.”
Ral just stood there, in front of the screen, not knowing what else to say or do.
“You are my son. Excellence is expected of our blood line and you’ll not ruin the family image. I’d suggest you start studying. I’ll be checking in with your teachers periodically. I’ll see you the next time I am on Earth.” The screen then turned black.
“Good bye father.” Ral said softly to a darkness filled screen.
Ral sat in the laboratory, pouring mixtures together. He ladeled a few millimeters of the green solution into a bottle containing Irius oxide, and waited. Steam began to pour out of the bottle, and there was a low pop as the glass splintered. Ral sighed loudly and cursed softly under his breath. Suddenly the door of the laboratory opened and in walked Nate, a friend of Ral’s ever since he first came to the Academy.
“Still working I see.” Nate said, grinning. He then walked over to the table Ral had been working at. He frowned for just a fraction of a second, seeing the cracked glass.
“I’ve got to get it right and so far, no luck.” Ral sighed again.
“Don’t worry about it. You’ll get it, you always do. You’re the one that always has to do everything right.” Nate smiled pleasantly in Ral direction. “Why don’t you take a break, there’s gonna be a small get together shortly. Why don’t you show up?”
Ral began to think about his suggestion. A break would be good, and a chance to talk with other classmates also sounded good. Ral then glanced over to the glass, which showed his failed experiment. Ral shook his head.
“Come on, you’re gonna graduate with honors anyway and going out and having fun now won’t change that. We only have less than a year here and then we will be off on a starship. We should have fun now, while we can. One failed experiment won’t wreck a career that hasn’t even started yet. No one can be absolutely perfect all the time.” Nate stood there, hoping to appeal to Ral’s better nature.
Ral thought over the suggestion again, taking in the sight of the cracked glass once more. Suddenly, he heard his father’s voice as if he were there in person, “You are my son, excellence is expected of our blood line and you’ll not ruin the family image.”
Ral shook his head once more, almost reluctantly. “I’m sorry Nate, I really need to get this right. You go and have fun though.”
Nate, seeming almost disappointed sighed, “Alright, if that’s what you wanna do. I’ll talk to you later.” He then turned and departed out the door, slamming it behind him.
“See you later,” Ral called after him. Ral sat back down at the table, getting a new glass, preparing to start over. He had to succeed — had to get this right — or Starfleet would never accept him and he’d spend the rest of his life knowing he was a pale shadow of his heritage.
Ral stood in his quarters aboard the Atlantis, looking himself in the mirror. He could see his father’s eyes staring back from the mirror, and could see the wrinkles that flowed across his father’s face barely beginning on his own. I am like my father he realized but that doesn’t mean I have to spend my life pretending to be him.