The Next Generation
Heart and Soul
Location: USS Hera, Deck 13, Starfleet Junior Academy
Taking the turbolift down to deck 13, the anachronistic astronaut looked up to eye the two-meter tall horned wall of muscle following her. Physically intimidating and fearsome to behold, he was possessed of a quick mind, an analytic nature and a determination to prove himself. All of these the time-tossed temptress found to be desirable qualities in an officer, and he was already impressing her. So much so that she was now enacting an impulsive bit of her plan. But then, Rita Paris tended to plot her course while already in motion, and the Oriasi officer seemed to be a good fit for the duties she had outlined thus far.
Now for the acid test.
As they moved into the daycare of the starship, the commander began to explain. "On the Hera, the birth rate is statistically higher than is expected or projected. There's a reason for that, and I'll explain. But for now, accept the fact that those who can reproduce are doing so at a remarkable rate on the USS Hera. In some cases, even those who can't.... again, we'll get to that.
The nursery was abuzz with crewmen clad in medical blue who were in the process of caring for literally dozens of infants, all under one year old, of varying humanoid races, and one rather precious looking octopoid with violet and cream patterned skin and big orange eyes with slits instead of pupils being bottle fed by one of the crewmen, who smiled at them.
Tanaak couldn't help but smile back. He wasn't entirely sure why they were walking through the daycare, but he knew they wouldn't be here without good reason. From the way the Commander was talking, he could tell he'd been wrong about what the other duties he'd be offered would and wouldn't be. He was starting to realize that something about the children here was going to be the main event, and he wasn't sure yet how he felt about that. Ready, eager, of course... but what role would he be asked to play?
Still, seeing the busy crewmen fussing over a full nursery made him a little nostalgic. He was old enough to help when his brother and sister were born. They had been twins. For months, it had been delightful chaos in the house as he and his parents struggled to keep up with two perfect, precious babies. The sounds and smells of the nursery brought back a flood of memories; joyous and terrifying.
As they passed a child with an unreasonable amount of dark swirling hair, she burst into tears at the sight of the over-sized Oriasi soldier. He quickly knelt down, hid his horns behind his broad hands, and flashed his biggest smile at her. When she began to chuckle, he got back to his feet and took long strides to catch up to Paris who had stopped to watch him with an expression he couldn't identify.
"My apologies," Tanaak said seriously. "I'm with you."
"I'm realizing that," Paris smiled, her expression one of frank appraisal. "We have 752 crewmen onboard the Hera. We have an additional 24 civilian workers in various functions. There are, in addition, 82 minors onboard, of varying ages, races and levels of scholastic achievement. This is all a reasonably recent development for the Hera, within the past year. The birth rate seemed to indicate we needed a solution, and ours is a generational story. With Starfleet, it always has been."
As they walked, they entered a grand rotunda with stairs leading down to the lower deck, and lining the rotunda seemed to be classrooms. Stepping up to the rail, Paris placed her palms on it and leaned, taking it all in as her hip cocked and the woman unconsciously played up her sex appeal without trying. "I have a nursery, a preschool, a series of classrooms and even a few instructors. Heck, I even have a special ed program and a specialist for that."
"What I don't have, Mr. Sado, is a headmaster." Paris turned to look at the large and imposing horned Oriasi. "I need someone to manage all of this. Someone who understands fear, and when to apply it. Someone who knows when a gentle hand is called for, and is unafraid to extend it. Someone..." As a paper starship zipped by an inch from her nose, Paris cocked an eyebrow and smirked. "Someone who can bring discipline, fairness, and create an atmosphere that encourages growth in all facets- academic, personal and social."
"I think you're the man for the job, Mr. Sado. In addition to being my wingman on potentially dangerous missions not involving hordes of unruly youngsters." Squatting smoothly, her knees together, Paris picked up the paper starship and studied the design. "Some sound aerospace principles at work here. It shows promise, I suspect, as does the audacity of flying it past the noise of the first officer. What do you say, Mr. Sado?"
The medical officer's mind raced. Could he possibly take a position he hadn't trained for? He eyed the children around him. I won't be teaching classes, I'll be... His eyes widened and the corners of his mouth twitched up into a hopeful smile. I'll be part of the education system that I loved and wanted to share with Itthakor. "I'll do it!" he blurted, then frowned and shook his head. "I mean... I should probably say I'll consider it." His ears grew a little darker than usual.
"What I really mean is that I'd like to prepare myself to take the job. I don't want to presume that I'm ready to just... jump right in. I may not need to go back to school for a teaching degree, but I'll need to acquaint myself with the curriculum, find out how responsible I'm to be for the work the teachers do, and how to counsel them as well as the students." The giant worried his fingers over one of his horns. "Surely there are others more qualified for the position, but with your vote of confidence..." He cleared his throat. "I am fully aware that I'll have some catching up to do in order to accept the position, but I would very much like to accept."
"Ongoing education is admirable, Mister Sado. But what I need is an able and active administrator- settling disputes, solving problems and finding solutions for some remarkably unique challenges," Paris replied as a youngster wearing a green envirosuit complete with 'fishbowl' helmet walked by. The youngster's face was rather reminiscent of a goldfish, although he was still a bipedal humanoid. "The fact that you are physically imposing is a plus, because size represents authority to the subconscious. You are a trained combat medic, so there is no schoolyard dust-up that you'll fear, nor any injury for which you are unprepared. You bring enthusiasm, efficiency and excellence with you- the Starfleet tradition."
"I have the utmost faith in you, Headmaster Sado. I leave this in your capable hands," Paris offered her hand, and when he took it, gave a professional handshake- firm grip, two pumps, release. "I'll see you at 15:00 every Wednesday and Friday in the armory for an hour of simulated combat training." Turning to walk away, Paris wagged her finger over her shoulder. "Now that you're here, I have to make sure the old lady doesn't go soft..."
"Headmaster Sado," the Oriasi breathed to himself, picking up the paper ship that had sailed by earlier and turning it over in his large hands. A gentle smile spread over his face as he looked at the fragile likeness that he held; the symbol of hope, the unknown, and all the bright futures a starship could hold.