“Starfleet?” Her voice had been incredulous, shocked. She’d dropped some of her work to stare at him over the lab table, her datapad left on the specimen’s chest. “We have work to do, and you want to waltz off and just -” She was rarely openly angry, but now it shimmered under the surface, her emotions clear. For all her age, disguising emotion had never been his mother’s strong point. She’d thrown up her hands at him and refused to discuss the idea further.
She’d probably tell him the same thing today, four years later. His mother had never come around, but he’d left for the Academy regardless. He could only hope one day she’d understand why he had left for Starfleet- and perhaps he would understand her reasons for disliking them, in turn. Perhaps soon, he could convince her to let her work be...
But he had time, didn’t he. El-Aurians were long lived, and he was young yet - a mere 35. His classmates had jested he was older than them, but next to his mother and the few relatives they had, he’d felt like an infant. Their knowledge and memories were so vast, and in comparison he was like a stumbling babe. Even graduating from the Academy hadn’t changed that feeling.
Didn’t help half the Vulcan cadets were older than him too, and his race outlived theirs. Tottering babe, indeed!
Taelon fidgeted as the shuttle docked, tugging nervously at the cuffs of his sleeves. He shouldn’t be so nervous - no, who wouldn’t be? Four years at the Academy and it’d all been leading to, to...this.
No, not just this, he reminded himself. It’d been leading up to what came after this: the ship, the commission and post - whichever one they deemed him suitable for. But this was the final step, and the first major step into the real world of Starfleet, in all its glory and opportunity. He was at the crossroads of three empires, with all the danger that implied...
“Nervous?” Dysella, one of his classmates, leaned over. The girl was grinning excitedly, and she slapped him on the shoulder. “Don’t be. It’ll be just like the simulations, right? They don’t make us do anything weird for these.”
“I hope you’re right,” he said, and smiled in return. “I -”
“This Starbase is supposed to have a really good bar, by the way,” She cut him off, and he didn’t bother to continue. “Like, really good. Let’s check it out after the cruise, yeah? Looks like we’re ready to go.”
She was on her feet as soon as the doors opened, and Taelon couldn’t help but be a bit calmed by her demeanor. It was hard to be nervous around Dysella - the girl was a bolt of energy. She paused at the door to wink at him. “Hey, Tay, knock it off. Leave being grim and introspective to the Vulcans.”
With that, she was gone. Taelon shook his head as he got to his feet, having to duck so his head didn’t hit the ceiling. Gods forbid he got compared to a Vulcan! He could only aspire to their level of logic and control.
Stepping from the docking port into the station’s concourse was like the day he’d first arrived at the Academy. People were everywhere, the buzz of their conversations a wall of noise that overlaid everything. Bright clothing swirled behind the darker grey of Starfleet’s uniforms. Tall species stumbled over small. Lights and advertisements flashed and glittered as he looked down the length of the main walk. It was a shimmering wall of interesting things, and he couldn’t help but have each catch his eye in turn. He ran a hand over his shaved head, agog.
Cestus III had never come close to being so busy. The colony had been small, remote, and perhaps just a bit backward - or so his classmates had told him. Growing up there, it’d been fine to him, but compared to this kind of life...well, now he knew what they meant. Cestus simply wasn’t so populous, especially after having to rebuild. Besides, they’d never had a-
A shoulder hit his and Taelon stumbled, grabbing the nearby railing. “Stop blocking the walkway, Cadet,” a man snapped, and Taelon jumped as he realized he had indeed been staring. The man disappeared into the crowd, Taelon’s quickly murmured apology unheard.
He brushed himself off, flushing and tugging his pristine uniform carefully back into place. Thankfully, his dark skin downplayed his blush, even if the dash of freckles over his nose did its best to emphasize it. Starfleet officers didn’t sit and stare at people, now did they? He shook his head, feeling rather a [...]. It just felt so natural to watch things, to wonder at them...
Well! Alright, no staring or gawking, then. He stepped forward into the crowd, looking up to try to orient himself. Dysella had been excited about the bar, so why not head there early and check it out? Perhaps he could get something to send home.
The bar wasn’t as crowded as he’d assumed it’d be. He stepped from the crowd, and it felt a bit like hauling oneself from a river - the push and shove of people ceased and the place seemed comparatively still. Tugging out a barstool, he pulled himself up onto it, tall form a bit lanky and awkward as he got comfortable. He smiled brightly at the bartender...then squinted at the list of drinks behind the man.
“Um - sapphire wine, please,” he said after a moment, then had to sit forward to call the man back as he headed away. “Oh! And could you water it down, please? T-thank you.”
The last thing he needed was to be tipsy while on a cadet cruise. It’d be like his first xenobiology exam all over again.