Note on the use of ungendered pronouns: as J’naii are a predominantly-ungendered society, most do not use gendered pronouns for themselves. As such, I will use the ‘ne/nem/nir’ pronoun set, in accordance with the precedent set by Ensign Kteer and Admiral Renos’ wiki entries.
Kivik sat at the corner table alone save for a duffel bag of belongings, one hand fidgeting with nir glass. In the other, ne held a datapad full of overwhelming but riveting information. StarBase 118, its Command and Crew compliment, its various segments - along with their businesses and technical specifications, recently docked Federation vessels. Ne triple-checked the directions to reach the holodeck, where nir final training session would take place.
A blue humanoid entered the establishment with an easy smile, greeted by a friendly chorus from their waiting friends. Kivik thought for a moment and finally settled on nir guess. Ne switched the view to a database of alien species - a cheat sheet for the J’naii who, despite nir best efforts, still felt ne had much to learn about the myriad races that filled Federation space.
‘Bolian,’ ne thought to nirself. ‘I’m pretty sure that’s-’
“Is this seat taken?”
Kivik was so startled to have nir thoughts interrupted, ne lost nir grip on the glass and it tumbled to the floor. The jubilant group with the Bolian turned to look at the commotion and Kivik felt nirself blush to have caused a scene - and potentially caught ‘observing’ the other patrons. Ne immediately reached down to grab the glass. Rising up, ne saw the speaker who had startled nem - a young human.
‘Male,’ Kivik judged, by his manner of dress and traces of facial hair. ‘Another Cadet, probably, given his youth. Ops, by his uniform.’
“Is this seat taken?” the young man asked again with an amused smile.
“Oh... no,” Kivik answered, finally realizing ne hadn’t yet given a response. “You can have it.”
“Actually, I was wondering if I could sit here. Would that be alright? I’m just waiting for my training to start.’
Kivik gave a nod towards the seat and tucked nir datapad away in nir bag. The young man sat, opposite nem.
“My names Jack. Jack Innison. What’s yours?”
“I’m Kivik. I’m a cadet here - fresh out of the Academy, same as you. It’s nice to meet you.”
“Yeah, I noticed you were sitting all alone and, well I’m alone too. I thought maybe you’d like a little company.”
“Sure, I like company,” ne said. “In fact, I haven’t really had a friendly conversation since graduation. Everyone I’ve seen since then has been a new face. A lot of my friends ended up shipping out to planetary installations.”
“Not you?” Jack asked, motioning to the server for a glass of the same.
Kivik shook nir head. “I’ve spent most of my life on one planet, experiencing one culture, and knowing only one way to be. I want to see what the universe has to offer.”
“Wow,” Jack answered, leaning back in his chair. “That’s big. I think I get you, though. I’m just happy to be put somewhere - anywhere that’ll have me. I just needed to get my feet off the ground, you know what I mean?”
“I think so, yes.”
There was a silence for a minute and Kivik felt the other cadet eyeing nem, trying to figure something out.
“I’m J’naii,” ne said. “In case you were wondering.”
“J’naii,” he replied, the unfamiliarity apparent in his intonation. “Forgive me. I don’t think that’s a Federation world..?”
“That’s true. There are not many of us who have chosen to leave - at least not yet. We’re an isolated and, truth be told, repressed people. Rear Admiral Renos is J’naii - but very few of us aspire to explore beyond the limits of our society and, of those of us who do, even fewer have the option to do so.”
“What makes you different, then?”
Kivik considered nir answer, unsure of how much to share. “I was… difficult. I was vocal in my opinions, which did not align with social norms. My government and family were happy to see me go.”
Jack raised his eyebrows. “A rebel, then? And you came to Starfleet?”
“I’m not a rebel,” answered Kivik, perhaps more sharply than ne intended. “I’m a scientist. I care more about what the facts tell me than what tradition dictates and that does not sit will with many on my world. We have a strict social order based on widely-accepted pseudoscience that allows innocent people to be prosecuted for…” Kivik stopped when ne saw the look on the other cadet’s face.
“I’m sorry. You didn’t know what you were getting into when you sat here,” ne said, apologetically. “You see, I’m incessantly opinionated. At least when it comes to my field.”
Jack chuckled. “No, it’s okay. Don’t apologise.” He pointed to nir uniform. “I see you’re in Science. What’s your field?”
An announcement interrupted their conversation, summoning Kivik’s group to the holodecks for the beginning of their training.
“Ethnology,” ne replied, standing and grabbing ner duffel bag. “The interdisciplinary study of biology, archaeology, and social dynamics.”
Jack stood as well, perhaps out of custom, Kivik noted, as he did not grab his belongings.
“Maybe I’ll see you later,” he said, smiling again. “We could get a drink or something?”
Kivik smiled back, kindly, though ne was beginning to sense that Jack may have motivations outside of mere friendship. Over four years at the Academy, Kivik had experienced several interactions not unlike this one - young humans, men more often than women, who seemed at first to be interested in friendship, only for it to become awkward later when romantic feelings were unveiled. Feelings that Kivik could not reciprocate.
Kivik had been informed by a close friend that, to those from sexually-binary cultures, ne may be perceived as ‘female’, or at least ‘feminine’ - though this confused nem, as ne did not believe ne exhibited any gendered fashion choices or physical characteristics, male or female. Still, the data seemed to support this hypothesis.
“Maybe,” ne answered, avoiding committing to anything specific. “Perhaps, if we survive our training. I hear it is a unique experience.”
Jack raised his glass. “I’ll see you around.”
Kivik nodded and left the cafe, heading towards the nearest turbolift.
Even for a scientist who had spent most of nir life studying social customs and relationships, and who had just spent four years in Starfleet academy amongst countless men and women, humans were still confusing.