Edison Naquin felt the tell tale shake through the floor of the transport, followed promptly by the hiss of an airlock pressurizing. They were docked. Quickly he grabbed his small case, roughly shoving the pad he’d been idly reading inside, and dodged his way through the passengers. The transport was packed, commuters were wedged into it’s shaky interior like cattle, crammed between boxes of goods and crates of god knows what. Edison hoped to escape the ensuing stampede as the fatigued group alighted. He’d also seen a few other cadets stuffed awkwardly in the too small seats a few rows aft, and he sought to avoid them recognize him. He was among the first few to breach, a wave of scurrying insects exploding from the tin-can transport like ants. The other Cadets were not far enough behind for his liking, but they stopped mid track and gaped openly at the expansive interior of the Star Base. It bellowed out like a planet before them, miles of decks stretching above and below, ships looking as tiny as grasshoppers and mosquitoes against it’s behemoth interior. Edison was too nervous to notice. The last thing he needed was one of his soon to be fellows recognizing him at the Hollodeck. With eyes plastered just north of his clopping foot falls, Edison surged off in the direction of the nearest and largest crowd he could find, while the other Cadets stood dumbfounded, oblivious to the traffic jam forming behind them. Soon enough he was in the middle of a teeming plaza, formed by a dizzying array of colorful shops. A mouth watering scent lofted on the temperate air and all manner of fashion styles swished past his vision. An overwhelming raucous of conversation made it hard to follow the train of ones inner thoughts. This ebbing crowd all but assured his anonymity, a thought which allowed him to breath a might easier. His hands, however, were still clammy and he was all to aware of the sweat forming across his brow. Despite reassuring himself how ridiculous his internal mantra was, he could not shake the feeling his mother was somewhere among the shoppers. She was watching him, hunting him, he could just sense it. Unable to quell the nightmare, Edison half paced, half ran to the nearest rail overlooking the docking bay. Dancing through the swelling hoard of people like a bulldozer, he more than once barged bodily into various individuals quietly shopping in the plaza’s square layout. Meek apologies slipped from his lips after every encounter. He felt exhausted and disoriented when he finally escaped the hoard, reached the rail and began scanning the enormous space which stretched out before it. He just knew her hauler would be there, it’s sleek metal hull piercing rudely through the throng of space traffic. How could it not, when had luck ever favored his own plans and not hers. Her ship was no where in sight, still he sat watching the vessels depart and arrive for some time, until his nerves eased a touch and his breathing returned to something akin to normal. Even after many minutes had past, he could have sworn her forbidding figure would be brooding behind him when he gingerly turned from the rail. Nothing greeted him there but a crowd of strangers, all busily rubbernecking or consumed by their own errands and lives. He slumped against the rail and tried to recall where he had last told his mother he was. The Lunar Colony? Or was he still claiming to be a load master on that wreck of an Andorian freighter? No, no he said he was piloting shuttles for that civilian outfit in the Vega Colony. This had to stop, thinking about this was as sure as one way ticket to being cast out of Star Fleet for good. If these jitters did not abate, he’d be certain to make an utter fool of himself straight off the bat. He couldn’t afford that, he needed to distance himself from his failures at the academy, not re-create them here. He had a real shot this time, or at least he had to believe that. What was required was a strong drink, something with kick, something to help his drastic addiction... Espresso. The Star Base was big enough, if he could find a bazaar he might even be able to get something brewed with real beans. First he had to change. Being caught in civilian clothes was a great way to sign for his dishonorable discharge. Already he’d be scraping gunk out of filters on some rattly bucket of bolts, but for the grace of one kind-hearted professor at the academy. “You should be booted out good and proper” The old codger had said. “But you’ve got...” “Spunk?” Edison had offered helpfully. “No, a delusional sense of imagination. You’d just be back next year and we’d be going through this all over again.” “This is true.” It was not, Edison was so tired of Frisco, and the academy, and being the brunt of every joke. He would have taken the first space-fearing job he could if he’d been pulled from yet another department of training. Another year in classes, another year failing to retain the lists of procedures, the how-to’s and why-nots and what-if’s. Using his intellect had never been something he was good it, but he excelled at scraping by on the skin of his teeth. “Time to let someone else deal with your particular eccentricities. I’m to old for it!” Fine parting words, Edison had thought. He found a small bathroom and hastily tore off his plain tunic and grubby pants. Now he felt more certain his mother wasn’t here, he could be less worried about wearing a uniform. With little care he donned his now wrinkled cadet outfit, pinning his commbadge on crooked and his pip out of place. His brown hair was a complete disaster, being styled in the image of someone who had repeatedly shoved his hand through a force field, and there was a light smudge of something black on his ruddy cheek. He gave himself a disapproving glare in the mirror. No matter how he focused, Edison could never straighten out his sheepish look, nor pull himself into that crisp appearance most other officers managed to retain. Sometimes he wished he was a shapeshifter instead of a plain old Terran. Then he could just will himself into the appropriate state. “Right” He said to his reflection. “Stay below the radar, watch were you put your feet, pay attention to orders, save day dreaming for down time, Don’t think aloud, Don’t think in your head and forget to listen, say nothing at all if possible and above all else” He pointed sternly, looking deeply into his own light azure eyes, “DON’T PUSH ANY BUTTONS UNLESS YOU’RE CERTAIN OF THEIR FUNCTION ”. Somewhere in his mind a niggling, self effacing, internal voice came swirling from the black. Stay below the radar, easy for you to say, your not 6 foot 4, bulky and cumbersome like a lumberjack who has the co-ordination of a jelly fish in a strong current. Also, if you want to go limiting yourself to the buttons you know, try remembering what procedures you are meant to have down to instinct by now. Perhaps his inner ponderings were right? Edison sat staring at his image, wondering what impulse he’d followed when he joined Star Fleet to begin with. That reflection looked nothing like how it should, with slightly slumped shoulders and down cast gaze. There was no doubt he was a far-cry from the clean cut officers he had spent the last few years milling among. God, the thought of sitting through yet another lecture on the import of the prime directive, or being drilled on the significance of wiping away hand prints from the console, was enough to make him slip into a coma for good. And what his class mates got all teary eyed over just made him long for the clunks and rattles of those more bare boned vessels he was raised on. He’d take a slide rule over a tricorder any day, and that just was not the ‘Right Stuff’ for a Cadet. He shook away the swelling negative thoughts, he was Star Fleet recruit, and he’d worked [...]ed hard to be one. Coffee... that’s what he was doing. He pried his sinking gaze from the mirror, shoved his civilian clothes in the nearest recycle drop and headed for the commercial sector. Coffee would fix everything. Again, as he shuffled as inconspicuously as possible through the various corridors and turbo lifts, the unshakable presence of his mother haunted him. She would love this, seeing him all dressed up, with a polished pip choking of the air to his brain and a commbadge making all his decision. He could only imagine the tongue lashing, although he wished he wouldn’t. Out of complete instinct, Edison ducked into a negligée store when a group of red-shirts came walking toward him. He idly thumbed soft fabrics, amid the stares of the various employees and customers, until they had past. It was not until he saw his own uniform in wall length mirror, that he remembered there was no need for that. More over, he’d better shake the urge if he was going to last on a ship full to bursting with uniforms like... like his. He found a Bazaar, one which smelled sweetly of Turkish delights and roughly ground coffee beans. He ordered a strong black cup and gulped it down in one go, scolding the inside of his mouth and burning his tongue. He ordered another to help with the pain. When it arrived, thanks to his innate sense of tardiness, Edison thought he best check the time. “Perfect” he gasped when he saw how late the hour was. The shock of this realization tore his concentration from the loaded cup, a nice glop of coffee swooshed overboard, smearing over the front of his uniform. The steaming liquid seared against his chest, singing his light chest hair and staining the fabric. To late to be concerned, Edison began a mad dash for the assigned meeting area, hoping with all might he would not get lost. Rounding a corner, another group of officers were sitting at the table of what looked to be Klingon eatery. Old habits die hard, Edison twisted on his heels, tripped over his feet and fell to the ground with a thud; snagging the hem of his pants on a potted plant as he careened to the ground. The sound of tearing fabric nearly broke his heart. Seriously, you should just give in, head for the nearest hauler and beg for a ride to any place other than here. His internal critique offered as he eyes focused on the army of shoes he was now at eye level with. A passing medic helped him back to his feet. “You alright?” She inquired as she helped haul Edison’s unwieldy frame into an upright position. “I think so.” He replied, unable to hide his addled state. “Trying to make it to the Cadet Briefing in time. First Day.” The Medic looked over his crumpled clothes, with stains and tears and commbadge skewed. Amusement past over her fine features. “Oh” She seemed bewildered. “Good Luck!”. “Thanks” Edison said hurriedly, as he once more started his mad dash. “CADET!” The Medics soft voice followed his flight, Edison turned again, careful this time not to trip over his own feet. A small smile had blossomed on her lips as she pointed in the opposite direction. “You’d want to be headed that way.” She said through a stifled giggle. Edison sighed, then realizing he had no time to admonish himself, he began running through the throng of people, back the way he had come. “Thanks” he shouted as the medic blue uniform flashed past. As he fell into a rhythmic pace, dodging each obstacle as it presented itself, and weaving his way in what he hoped was the general direction he needed to be going, Edison found his mind wandering. This time it was not to thoughts of his mother at least, but rather to the next issue he would have to grapple with. And of course, what else could now consume him, but his crippling fear of hollodecks!