To The Edge of the Universe
The doors to Admiral Edward Janeway’s private office swished silently open as the young girl walked in. With the posture and the training of a Starfleet Cadet, young Kathryn Janeway stood in front of her father’s desk waiting at attention for the Admiral to address her. He had summoned her to his office through official channels rather than a personal message which usually meant he needed to see her for something official.
The Admiral wasn’t so much an unfeeling man as he was a busy one who took his responsibilities as a Starfleet Admiral seriously, and as such he was very careful not to let it appear as if his daughter received any special treatment. Especially after he was assigned as Headmaster of the Starfleet Academy just one year before his daughter had been accepted into Starfleet Academy.
Finally, after ten minutes of silence, Kathryn had had enough and spoke up, “you asked to see me Admiral?” Using her father’s rank was one more way of reminding herself of the duality of her father’s life. At home, she was free to call him daddy but outside of the house, he was Admiral Janeway, Headmaster of Starfleet Academy. And Kathryn was never truly allowed to forget that, a lesson she’d often resented but eventually came to learn and accept.
Admiral Janeway looked up at his daughter then with a small smile on his face. He was wondering how long it would take before she tired of the silence and spoke. It was a game he enjoyed playing with all the cadets under his command but one he only lost with his daughter. His goal was to see if he could get the cadets to stay silent indefinitely. Only Kathryn had ever broken the silence first. Every other cadet merely waited and squirmed under the silence.
“Yes Katie. I wish to speak to you not as your commanding officer but rather as your father.”
This caught Kathryn by surprise. Her father only ever called her Katie when they were at home. For him to use that name now was unexpected and it took her a few moments to react, by then her father was speaking again.
“Katie, I have a favor to ask of you concerning a friend of mine.”
“What sort of favor father?”
“Erin Hansen and her husband are set to leave on a weekend mission this Friday. They have a 4 year old daughter and the mission is no place for a child so young. This being their first child, and having suffered two previous miscarriages, Erin is extremely overprotective of her daughter. Starfleet needs her and her husband’s scientific expertise on this mission.”
“Ok, but I fail to see what that has to do with me sir.” Kathryn had a sinking feeling she knew what her father was driving towards but chose to play dumb, wondering how exactly he’s phrase his request, which would determine if it was truly a request or an order hidden within a request.
“Yes, well, what I am trying to say Katie is, I would like for you to meet with Erin Hansen and her daughter. I would consider it a huge favor if you could...well...keep an eye on the younger Hansen while her parents are away on this mission.” Admiral Janeway was vastly uncomfortable asking his daughter this favor. He was always careful not to abuse his authority as Admiral and Headmaster for his personal benefit. Even though he was speaking as a father and not an Admiral and Headmaster he was still using his office for the discussion and of course, he had sent for his daughter through official channels. It was a fuzzy line he was trying to avoid crossing.
Kathryn simply stood there trying to absorb what her father was trying to say. Then it became clear. “Dad, are you asking me to spend my weekend...babysitting a toddler?”
Admiral Janeway actually squirmed a little under his daughter’s glare. In this day and age, teenage girls weren’t exactly fond of babysitting, especially those who were enrolled in Starfleet Academy.
“Yes Katie I am, but only if you want to. This is why I want you to meet with Erin first. I want her to get to know you so that she may feel comfortable leaving her daughter in your care.”
“Why me father? Why not ask Phoebe?” Somehow, Kathryn knew that her father wouldn’t trust this...task to anyone but family.
The Admiral smiled, “Phoebe is capable yes, but...well I would prefer it be you Katie. You’ve always been the more responsible of my daughters. I would trust Phoebe with a great many things but with this task I think you would be better suited. Besides, something tells me that Erin would respond better to having a Starfleet cadet watching her daughter rather than a civilian, regardless of who that civilian’s father happens to be.”
Katie knew the meeting was already scheduled, just as she knew her father would’ve never seriously doubted her cooperation. She liked to challenge her father on most things, not let him think he could simply order her about just because he was an Admiral. Her father had grown accustomed to having to convince her sometimes. This was just another of those times.
“Tonight at 1930 hours. Erin and her daughter will arrive then. Please be on time and on your best behavior Katie.” He knew it was unnecessary to add the best behavior line but also felt that to not do so would leave a loophole he was not comfortable with.
Kathryn merely nodded and after a few moments was dismissed from the office to resume her studies. Kathryn knew that the evening ahead would prove to be significant though at the moment she wasn’t entirely sure how.
Janeway House 1930 hours
Kathryn was waiting in the living room for the arrival of Erin Hansen. She knew that the other woman would be on time and she wasn’t disappointed when the doorbell chimed her arrival. As the lady of the house while her mother and sister were in Indiana, Kathryn answered the door and let their guests in.
Erin Hansen walked into Admiral Edward Janeway’s living room holding her daughter’s hand. She was still a bit intimidated when she stopped to think about how far her friend had come since their days at the Academy. Erin Hansen had befriended Edward Janeway during her first year at the Academy. Edward was in his third year and every girl at the Academy was after him. However, Edward was already taken by a young civilian named Gretchen that no one really knew a lot about. Erin had simply been content to be his friend. Rumors soon flew about the two of them and all the time they’d spent together but they paid them no mind. Edward had made sure his fiancé, Gretchen, knew the truth and that was all that mattered.
It wasn’t until her second year that she met the man she was destined to marry. But throughout everything they’d been through and all the years that had passed, Erin and Edward had remained very good friends. Which was why, when this mission had come up that required her and her husband to both be away, she’d turned to her dearest friend for a solution. Knowing that there was no way that one of them could stay behind, she’d hoped Edward could still help somehow.
And now here she was, set to meet the girl whom Edward deemed responsible enough to trust with Erin’s most valuable treasure, her daughter Annika. The young girl who had opened the door for her had introduced herself as Edward’s elder daughter, Kathryn. Edward hadn’t told Erin anything about the girl who he’d chosen to introduce her to so she had no way of knowing it was Kathryn herself.
Edward was waiting in the living room to greet his old friend. “Erin, I am so glad you could make it.” Edward walked over and hugged his old friend, truly glad to see her.
Erin returned the hug and smiled, "Edward, thanks for having me.”
“And this must be Annika right?” Edward turned toward the small child, knowing this was his friend’s little miracle child. Two unexplainable miscarriages had preceded young Annika’s arrival.
“Yes this is Annika. Honey say hello to Admiral Janeway.”
The little girl smiled shyly before her bright blue eyes drifted to the quiet girl standing in the doorway. Annika looked at her and when their eyes met, she smiled brightly. The older girl smiled in return at the little girl. She was truly taken by the big blue eyes that looked back at her.
Kathryn would never be able to explain why but, that evening when she met Erin and Annika Hansen, something inside of her had changed.
By the end of the evening, Erin had agreed that Kathryn was the best choice to baby-sit Annika. Kathryn had truly been on her best behavior and had charmed her father’s friend and, in a move that baffled even Erin, she’d gotten Annika to slide out of her shell and play around.
Annika, Erin explained, had spent the first three years of her life on a starship and the year since they’d been back on Earth isolated from other kids her age. Annika’s higher than average IQ and the fact that she’d not been around any children her own age had led the girl to be very withdrawn, shy and quiet. The fact that, within only 30 minutes, Kathryn had gotten the young girl to laugh, play and be...well just a kid was an impressive feat indeed.
Friday began ordinarily enough. Due to her babysitting assignment, Kathryn had been excused from her afternoon classes in order to take charge of young Annika at one in the afternoon when her parents’ shuttle took off.
At 1300 hours, Kathryn and Annika waved goodbye to the departing shuttle as it took off and left Earth. Once the shuttle was out of sight, Kathryn held out her hand for Annika to take. “So, what do you wanna do today kiddo?”
The young girl simply looked up at her older friend and smiled, not sure how else to answer. No one had ever asked her what she wanted to do they always just told her what she was going to do. She had been expecting Kathryn to do the same.
Kathryn lowered herself until she was at eye level with her young charge and asked, “come on now, there must be something you wanna do right? Somewhere you want to go?”
Annika thought about it, there was one place she’d heard of but had never been to, her parents were always too busy and they never trusted anyone else with her. Displaying a grasp of the English language that other children her age could never claim, Annika said, “can we go to a park Miss Kathryn?” She was fully expecting Kathryn to say no but she’d asked anyway.
Kathryn realized how unnatural it felt for a 4 year old to be calling her Miss anything so she said, “Annika, why don’t you call me Katie? And yes, we can go to the park. Come on.”
Annika smiled brightly, she’d call her anything she wanted her to if it meant she could finally go to a park.
The rest of the day was spent playing on the swings and slides in the park. Annika had never had this much fun in her entire life. By the time the sun went down, Annika was sure she’d finally found a friend.
Kathryn had played with the abandon usually found in four year olds. Being Annika’s only friend, Kathryn had gotten right down to her level and played with her new friend. Most babysitters would sit on a bench while their charge played but, not Kathryn. Something about Annika brought out the child in the normally serious 18 year old Starfleet Cadet.
Once the sun started to set, Kathryn told Annika it was time to go home. Though reluctant to leave the park, Annika soon brightened when Kathryn promised they could visit it again before the weekend was over. Heading home, Kathryn asked Annika what she wanted for dinner.
“Katie can we have McDonalds’?” The fast food restaurant had previously been forbidden by Annika’s parents who were adamant vegetarians. However, Annika’s mother had given Kathryn permission to let Annika have anything she wanted...within reason.
Kathryn smiled down at the young girl, who had obviously read her mind since she was craving a Big Mac and fries. “You got it kiddo, let’s swing by there then take it home and watch a movie ok?”
Overjoyed, Annika simply nodded and smiled. Kathryn and Annika spent that evening in Kathryn’s private sitting room watching old movies from the 20th and 21st centuries... mainly Disney movies in deference to Annika’s age, and of course Kathryn’s secret preference to animated, musical movies. It was one of the happiest nights either girl could remember having in a long time.
By the time Sunday evening rolled around, Kathryn and Annika had formed a strong bond. When Erin Hansen brought Annika home that night after she and her husband returned from their mission she noticed that Annika was different. No longer was she painfully shy or quiet. She’d learned how to vocalize her wants and needs while still maintaining a respectful and obedient tone of voice. In addition, Annika smiled more and whenever Kathryn’s name was mentioned after that weekend, the little girl’s eyes would light up and the smile she wore was hard to wipe off.
Kathryn, too, experienced a noticeable change. She was still focused on her goals in regards to Starfleet but she now knew the importance of making time for her new friend. Annika seemed to bring out the best in Kathryn and it didn’t go unnoticed by her teachers, her father and even her friends.
Over the months following their first weekend together, Kathryn and Annika spent a lot of time together. Often, the Hansens were required to go on short term missions which meant either take Annika with them (to sometimes dangerous posts) or leave her in the care of her favorite (and only) babysitter, Kathryn. It was no contest. Annika, smarter than most girls her age stated clearly and vehemently that she preferred to stay with Kathryn. When Kathryn offered no objection and had actually volunteered to look after Annika, the Hansens agreed and so began a mutually beneficial arrangement concerning Annika’s safety. Erin Hansen soon came to realize that Kathryn was quite possibly the best thing to ever happen to her daughter.
Under the attention of the Starfleet cadet, Annika had grown bolder, happier and more like a child than the premature adult she’d been in danger of becoming. Before Kathryn, Annika was 4 going on 40 but after Kathryn became a part of her life, the young girl finally learned how to truly be a kid. In an interesting twist, Annika’s advanced intelligence enabled her to assist Kathryn with her class work, while Annika’s young age brought out the kid in Kathryn.
Two years passed and the friendship between the girls grew stronger despite the huge gap in their ages. Because of Annika’s advanced intelligence and maturity, they were able to have long talks about all sorts of topics ranging from the basics of an old 20th century game called Monopoly to the complexities of Temporal Mechanics.
Then came the event that would change everything between them.
Classes for the day had ended three hours ago and almost everyone else had left the building. Third year Starfleet Academy cadet Kathryn Janeway was sitting in a chair outside of Admiral Owen’s office waiting to be called inside.
As a third year, she was eligible for a two week training mission during her upcoming Spring break. Kathryn had put in for it hoping to get it but also insisting to her father that he not use his influence to help her. She’d wanted to be selected for the mission on her own merits.
A week ago, her father had told her that, barring any unforeseen emergencies, the Hansens would not be sent away during her break. It was the Admiral’s way of ensuring his daughter would apply for the training mission. It was based on merit and looked good on a cadet’s permanent record. Cadets who’d previously been chosen for these training missions often went on to command their own ships or to be Chief Officers on starships. The Admiral had hoped that, after she got a taste of space travel Kathryn would switch her focus from planet-bound scientific work to a command track.
“Cadet Janeway?” The woman who was Admiral Owen’s secretary called out her name to get her attention.
Kathryn stood from her chair, her posture ramrod straight. “Ma’am?”
“The Admiral will see you now Cadet.” Miss Daniels gave the obviously nervous though trying to hide it cadet a small smile. She had seen many cadets going through her office to see the Admiral and they all had the same look on their face. Nervous under the surface but the picture of calm otherwise. Some cadets though hid the nerves better than others. Cadet Janeway hid it well but it was still visible. After her many years as Admiral Owen’s secretary though, no cadet could hide the nerves completely. For that matter, there were very few officers who could hide it.
Kathryn gave a small nod before entering the Admiral’s office. Her nerves were threatening to make her lunch repeat itself. However, she was Kathryn Janeway, daughter of decorated Admiral Edward Janeway, she knew that carried certain expectations and she intended to live up to them...one way or another.
Twenty minutes later...
Kathryn left Admiral Owen’s office in a state of semi shock. Not only did she get the training mission assignment, thanks to her grades (helped along by her “tutor” Annika) Kathryn had been given the First Officer’s Chair. It was the highest rank a Cadet could achieve on a training mission. The Captain’s chair always being filled by a real Captain who acted as Commanding Officer as well as training Instructor. Captain Hiro Sulu was going to be the Instructor on the mission.
Captain Sulu was a highly decorated Officer who not only had an illustrious Starfleet career, he had a legendary pedigree as the grandson of Captain Hikaru Sulu. The Captain had been a helmsman on the USS Enterprise. Even Kathryn was intimidated a little bit by the prospect of working under him.
Kathryn headed back to her house in a daze. This was her big chance... to prove to her father that she was capable of switching her major from Warp Core Mechanics to Starship Command. Kathryn knew her father was disappointed that she hadn’t originally gone into Starship Command but her aptitude placement tests upon entering Starfleet had placed her in the Engineering program. She’d had to wait a year before she was eligible to change her major. By the time she was eligible for the change, she’d really started to like Engineering, however, now that she’d gotten the First Officer post on the training mission, Kathryn was excited at trying her hand at command... maybe she’d find out that command suited her better than Engineering, perhaps not.
Once at home, Kathryn went to her room to process her new information. Later that evening Annika was coming over so her parents could go out for dinner. Kathryn always loved spending evenings with her young friend. She helped fill the gap left behind by her sister Phoebe when she’d decided to stay in Indiana with their mother. Her parents loved each other immensely and nothing could ever change that but Gretchen Janeway had never felt comfortable being too close to Starfleet Headquarters. So the arrangement had been made that Edward would spend weekends and vacations in Indiana with his wife and the rest of the time in San Francisco attending to his duties as an Admiral and keeping an eye on his daughter.
Two hours before Annika was due to arrive Kathryn began getting things ready, the movies were stacked next to the viewscreen, the popcorn and sodas were programmed into the replicator waiting to be called up when needed. By the time Annika had been dropped off, her father had gone up to his private rooms to work and stay out the girls’ way as they hung out together.
Later that night...
Annika had been granted permission to spend the night since her parents would be out late. When it was time for bed, Kathryn helped Annika get ready then they camped out in her sitting room in sleeping bags having an old fashioned camp out. They could’ve used the built in holosuite that her father, as Admiral, had installed in the house to make it really authentic. Programming a forest and a campfire was easy enough but the little girl had expressed fear at the thought of it so Kathryn had suggested they camp out in the sitting room.
Camping out had been so much fun that neither girl ever wanted it to end. In the morning Annika shyly asked, “Katie, can we do this again?”
Kathryn smiled, “sure we can kiddo. But not until I get back from my break ok?”
“Ok, I can wait.” Once again Annika displayed a maturity beyond her years, knowing that agreeing to wait would garner her more approval from her older friend than an impatient tantrum would.
Kathryn smiled, already planning on ways to get Annika to agree to the holosuite. Then she thought of a way, “Annika, how about while you’re waiting for me to get back, you try to use the holosuite here? I can ask my father to give you permission. That way when I get back we can go on a real camping trip, what do you say?”
Annika thought about her friend’s suggestion. She knew Katie had been disappointed when she’d had to skip the ‘real’ experience of the holosuite’s forest. In her desire to make her friend happy, Annika agreed to give it a try.
A week later...
Kathryn had said her goodbyes to her father and the Hansens and boarded the training vessel that would be her home for the next two weeks. An excitement took her over as she settled into her quarters, right next to Captain Sulu’s as befitted her status as First Officer.
Everything about this mission would be authentic. From the uniforms to the chain of command to the actual mission. Starfleet always issued an official command mission to be carried out by the Cadets aboard the training vessel. This time was no different.
“Attention: all senior staff to report to the conference room immediately.”
The ship-wide announcement was issued in the unmistakable tones of Captain Sulu. Kathryn had heard his voice many times in the week since she’d gotten the training mission assignment. As his First Officer it was necessary for her to meet with the Captain as they reviewed protocol and established the essential level of trust and loyalty needed to avoid mutiny by the crew. Starfleet had learned early on that without the trust and loyalty of the First Officer, chances of a crew mutiny increased dramatically.
Usually, a Captain got to select his or her crew, almost always placing a trusted friend in the First Officer’s place. But in the instances where that wasn’t possible, such as training missions, the Captain learns early on that establishing that trust and loyalty works to their advantage.
So, Kathryn had spent many afternoons in meetings with Captain Sulu. Kathryn was very grateful for those meetings. They helped her get past her hero worship of Captain Sulu and see him as just another person.
Kathryn walked into the conference room and took her chair to the right of Captain Sulu as the other senior staff filed into the room. Kathryn took a moment to look over the other cadets that made up the Senior Staff, and realized that she was among the top cadets at the academy. Only the best got picked for these training missions and it made Kathryn proud to know she was among this group.
“Hello to all of you.” Captain Sulu began once the senior staff had filed into the conference room and taken their seats. “I would like to welcome you all to the USS Trainer I. This ship is one of three specially designed for these training missions. For the next two weeks, we will be in orbit around Neptune performing scans of the atmosphere and retrieving data. The goal of this mission is two fold. First and foremost, this mission is designed to teach and test all of you to...weed out those who might not be suitable for deep space travel. These training missions are Starfleet’s way of ‘shaking the pail’ so to speak to see which cream rises to the top. We will also be in competition with the other two training vessels, Trainer II and Trainer III. They will be in orbit around other planets within our solar system. The other goal of our mission is to promote teamwork as well as see if we can find out anything new about this planet. The majority of the data we will retrieve will no doubt already be in our data banks at Starfleet. However, considering the ever-changing conditions involved in the universe, there might actually be something new to learn. Take a look around at your fellow crewmembers, they will be your support system. You will all work as a team to complete the mission.” Captain Sulu paused there to let his senior staff absorb this new information.
There was silence in the room as the cadets processed the information, letting it sink in that they would be working together, not against each other.
The cadet assigned to be Chief Engineer spoke up, “Sir, does this mean that there are no other crew members for this entire ship?”
Captain Sulu smiled, “that’s correct Cadet. This ship as well as the other training vessels are small enough to only need a limited crew but also large enough to simulate a full sized starship.”
“If this is possible why not make all of Starfleet’s vessels of this size?” The Chief Engineer asked again, curious.
Captain Sulu knew that most captains would get annoyed at this point with all the questions but, being one of three Captains permanently assigned to training ships, he knew that as well as being a mission it was also designed to be a learning experience. So he had learned to have patience with his cadets.
“It was proposed but soon rejected when it became clear that for deep space long term missions it would be helpful to be able to sustain a larger crew complement, to rotate the shifts. The only reason the trainers are this size is to maintain the exclusivity of the training missions, if the trainers were the size of the galaxy class ships we’d need too many cadets. In other words, not just anyone can get on these trainer ships.”
The Chief Engineer nodded with a smile in acknowledgement of the more than adequate answer to her question.
“And now if there are no further questions I’ll begin the introductions and the one and only time I will take attendance.” Captain Sulu smiled then. Knowing that taking attendance would serve to remind everyone that this was still a gradable assignment. “Serving as Chief of Security is Cadet Elizabeth Wildman.”
“Aye Sir, here.” Cadet Wildman answered in acknowledgement.
“As Chief Engineer we have Cadet Barbara Kyle.”
“Present Sir.” Cadet Kyle answered, smiling at her fellow crewmembers.
“Chief Operations Officer will be Cadet Ioannis Mercado.”
“Here Sir.” Cadet Mercado was a second year cadet, the only one accepted into the training programs based on merit. Cadet Mercado had finished first in his class his first year and was currently holding the number one position this year. Of course, it also didn’t hurt that the Mercado name was almost as famous and influential at Starfleet as the Janeway name.
“Our Chief Medical Officer, Medic Cadet Harold Carroll.”
“Chief Conn Officer is Jeff Sterling.”
“And last but not least, First Officer Kathryn Janeway.”
“Here Sir.” Kathryn smiled, knowing that Captain Sulu was getting to the best part.
Captain Sulu paused for a moment to let everyone look around and put names and ranks to the faces they would soon get to know very well. In a rare coincidence, this was the first training crew that consisted of all humans. Usually, Captain Sulu had a Vulcan or a Klingon or even the very rare Cardassian, but this rotation was all human.
“My name is Captain Hiro Sulu of the Starship Trainer I. I will not only be your commanding officer for the next two weeks but I will also be your instructor. And that means that this entire assignment will be evaluated and graded at the conclusion of our mission. Any questions?”
The conference room fell silent as the cadets who now made up the senior staff of Trainer I processed the information. Each cadet looked around to see if any of their crewmembers would ask any questions.
Since no one spoke up Captain Sulu dismissed them to their stations to prepare for take off. The senior staff filed silently out of the conference room and took their assigned stations on the bridge, in engineering and sickbay. Within the hour they were out of Earth’s orbit and heading to Neptune.
The sky was bright blue, the temperature was moderately warm and even a bird sang in the distance. Annika Hansen took it all in but felt nothing but loss. Thanks to Kathryn’s conversation with Admiral Janeway, Annika had been given permission to use the holosuite in the Janeway house for a few hours every day. With help from her mother Annika had designed the program she was currently running. In it, she stood in the middle of a grassy field under a bright yellow sun waiting. What her mother didn’t know was that Annika had made one addition to the program after her first time using it. The program had been expanded to include a hologram version of her friend Kathryn. Annika had found that she desperately missed her older friend and that by interacting with the hologram of Katie the loneliness she felt without her friend was lessened. Another feature she’d added was an older version of herself, to see if she’d ever be as pretty as her friend. The holograms interacted with each other much the same as the real Annika and Kathryn did, as best friends. Annika had yet to program the simulation for nighttime. Though she knew that she would have to before Kathryn returned if she wanted to show her older friend that she was no longer afraid of outdoor overnight camping, Annika was still reluctant to change the setting from safe daytime to nighttime.
“Warning: holosuite time will expire in ten minutes.” The female computerized voice reminded Annika that her time was almost up.
Since she only had ten minutes left, Annika decided to try the nighttime version.
“Computer, alter environmental parameters to match twilight.” Annika instructed the computer, noticing the changes immediately as the sunlight faded to twilight. It was that time of night just after the sun sets where the darkness isn’t total but is dark enough to be considered nighttime. Annika looked around and realized something was missing. “Computer, activate the Kathryn hologram.”
The hologram of her friend Kathryn appeared and when their eyes met, both girls smiled. Annika always smiled when she saw Kathryn, whether it was in person or on the holosuite, the sight of her older, prettier friend always made her happy. Annika was too young to truly know what that meant but she did know that she liked the happy feeling she got when she was around her friend.
In the twilight of the simulation, Annika started to get a little scared until she looked again at the Kathryn hologram, who was smiling at her.
“Warning: holosuite time will expire in five minutes.”
Annika looked around for a few minutes before she ended the program and walked out of the holosuite. Annika turned to the activation console next to the door of the holosuite and removed the memory bar from its slot. The memory bar held the program and all the additions she’d made since Kathryn left. Annika always made sure to take the memory bar with her so that no one else would know about the additions she had made to the program...mainly her Kathryn hologram and the hologram of an older version of herself. Annika had been around grown ups long enough to know that most adults would misinterpret her motives regarding the holograms so she kept them to herself.
Annika left the Janeway house and headed to her own house, knowing that her parents were still in their basement lab working on their experiments. Her parents had recently taken an intense interest in a species known as The Borg. They had gathered all the known data on The Borg and then locked themselves up in their lab to test their hypotheses. Their research was only ever interrupted by two things; Starfleet missions and dinner with Annika. But even dinner was a brief affair as each parent was eager to return to the lab.
Annika walked into her house and went to the door of the basement and opened it to greet her parents.“Mama, papa, I’m home now!”
Vague replies met her announcement and Annika knew that was the best she was going to get out of them for the next four hours until dinnertime. Annika filled her time by reading the novels that Kathryn had loaned her. Kathryn had managed to replicate actual books from the 20th and 21st centuries that she thought Annika might like too. Even at six years old, Annika could read on a high school level, such was the extent of her intelligence. Annika settled on the couch in the living room and continued reading her book Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Kathryn had told her that it was the second in a series of seven books written in the 21st Century. Annika had liked the story’s plot of magic and mystical happenings. She especially liked the cover art the book boasted. Kathryn had promised that once Annika had read all seven books, they would sit down and watch the seven movies that were made from them. Kathryn had explained that it was common back then to make movies out of books. Annika didn’t understand why anyone would watch a movie about a book they’d already read but she wasn’t going to object to watching movies with her friend. They were her favorite times. Kathryn always made her feel like she wasn’t just a little kid. She made her feel like an equal and Annika really liked that a lot.
Dinnertime came just as Annika finished her book. Her parents came up from their lab and her mother replicated two large pizzas with everyone’s favorite toppings and they all ate together with Annika telling her parents all about her day and trying not to notice their eyes wandering to the clock on the wall behind her. Her parents were always looking at the clock and Annika had learned young not to expect them to suddenly change.
When dinner was done, her parents kissed her goodnight and headed back to their lab. Annika now had one more hour before her bedtime and she spent that time watching television. Not that there was a lot on television in this era of interactive holoshows but there were a few channels that still broadcast old shows from the 20th and 21st centuries. Annika had really started to like certain shows that were aired after dinner.
Despite only having an hour before bedtime, her parents wouldn’t know if she stayed up later. Annika usually stayed up an extra hour to see her favorite shows. Her parents never left their lab until midnight, and that gave Annika more than enough time to do whatever she wanted to.
That night, Annika stayed up an extra hour then went to bed. She placed the memory bar next to her bed on the nightstand and smiled as she thought of her best friend. Kathryn had been gone a week, which meant that she’d be back in a week. It was something for the lonely little girl to look forward to, and for now that was enough to make her smile.