Read Mosaic Online

Authors: Jeri Taylor

Tags: #Fiction, #General, #Science Fiction

Mosaic (7 page)

"Well, I'm going to show them. They can make me keep

taking tennis, but I don't have to like it. And I'm never

going to be any good at it. Sooner or later, they'll see

it's a waste of time."

And having made that decision, Kathryn began to feel a lot

better. She reached down and scratched Bramble on the

tummy, his favorite place, and he rolled over on his back

in ecstasy.

But then Daddy came home with his amazing news, and she

forgot all about tennis.

She was going to take her first trip into space.

Her first ride on a shuttle. Her first visit to Mars

Colony.

"I have to go next week," Daddy explained to all of them-her, Phoebe, and Mommy-as they sat around the dinner table.

Kathryn was only picking at her food, partly from

excitement and partly because she preferred replicated food

over the meals that her mother cooked with real food. Why

couldn't they do things like other people?

"Starfleet's sending a group to examine the colony's

defense systems. It will take a couple of days and I

thought maybe it was time for Goldenbird to get a taste of

spaceflight."

Kathryn's heart hammered in her chest. A trip with Daddy-and not just a trip but a visit to another planet! She'd

been dreaming of this since she'd been old enough to

realize that people could travel through the stars to other

worlds.

"I want to go, too!" yelped Phoebe.

Kathryn's head whipped toward her instantly.

"You can't. You're too little."

"Kathryn. . ." murmured her mother.

"Daddy, can I? Can I go, too?" Phoebe's impish face looked

imploringly at her father, blue eyes wide and intense. She

looked so pathetic that for a brief moment Kathryn thought

Daddy might actually say yes. "I'm sorry, Phoebe, but

Starfleet has rules. You're a little young." Phoebe's eyes

welled up with tears, and even Kathryn felt sorry for her.

"Phoebe, you can use my padds while I'm gone. As long as

you're careful." Now the blue eyes turned toward her, tears

instantly retreating. "I can?"

Phoebe constantly badgered Kathryn to use her padds, with

their myriad games, stories, and songs.

"That's very thoughtful, Kathryn," said her mother. And it

was. Ordinarily she wouldn't let Phoebe within ten meters

of her things. But she could afford to be generous tonight.

She was going to Mars!

The transport to San Francisco was no

different from any other: a brief moment of disorientation

as one's vision obscured, then a tingling sensation as

different surroundings sparkled into clarity.

Kathryn and her father materialized on one of the

transporter pads of Starfleet Headquarters; waiting for

them was a small retinue, including an admiral, two

captains, and a lieutenant who stood deferentially behind

the others.

"Well, Edward," said the admiral to her father, "whom do

we have here? A stowaway?" He was a tall, florid man with

Irish red hair that didn't quite look under control. His

smile was lopsided and cheerful.

"A future cadet, I hope. Admiral Finnegan, may I present

my daughter, Kathryn."

Kathryn knew how to behave in situations like this.

She approached the man, offered her hand, and said, "How do

you do?"

The older man smiled down at her. "I do very well,

beautiful lady. How about you?"

She blushed at his compliment. "Fine, thank you, sir." She

was wearing a brand-new turquoise jumpsuit that her mother

had replicated for the occasion, and she imagined that it

resembled the uniforms worn by her father and the others.

She felt crisp and military. "Captains Laurel and Dobrynin,

Lieutenant Kashut, Kathryn Janeway."

Kathryn shook hands with each of them, solemnly and

politely. "Shall we?" Admiral Finnegan gestured again

toward the transporter pad.

"Our shuttle is ready and we have a pilot standing by."

And once more they dematerialized, only to find

themselves, seconds later, in the spacedock which orbited

Earth's northern hemisphere. Kathryn had never seen

anything so astonishing. It was huge, with cavernous

hangars and dozens of docking piers, cargo bays, and

corridors. Windows to space were everywhere, affording

incredible views. Earth swam below them, blue and cloud-shrouded, a stately orb that soared majestically in the

starry heavens.

Kathryn had seen pictures, of course, but nothing had

prepared her for the sight of her planet from space. She

stood at one of the huge windows, staring at the jeweled

sphere, trying to figure out where Indiana was. "Amazing,

isn't it?" She looked up to see her father standing next to

her. "I remember the first time I saw Earth like that. I

was about your age."

"Is that when you decided to join Starfleet?"

He smiled at her, gray eyes crinkling at the edges. "I

think I decided that before I was born."

"Did you mean it when you told them I'd be a cadet

someday?" "Only if that's what you want."

"It is, Daddy. More than anything."

He put a hand on her shoulder and looked down at her for a

moment. He did that from time to time, and Kathryn never

knew what he was thinking. "We're ready to go now," he

said, and she took his hand as they entered the shuttlebay.

Standing at stiff attention next to a Starfleet shuttle

was a cadet wearing the uniform of Starfleet Academy. He

looked very odd to Kathryn. His skin was a light golden

color, and his eyes were pale. She tried not to stare at

him. Admiral Finnegan nodded to the cadet as they entered

the shuttle. "We have a very important young guest today,

Mr. Data, so make this flight nice and smooth."

"Yes, sir," replied the cadet. He had a gentle, soothing

voice. Kathryn looked up at him as she passed by, and this

time he didn't look so strange. He had an air of

imperturbability that was appealing. The group took their

seats in the shuttle, and the cadet boarded last. He began

working the controls, and Kathryn was reminded of her piano

teacher, whose fingers roamed so effortlessly and precisely

over the keys. "Shuttle Curie to docking control. Ready for

pre-launch sequencing." The cadet's voice was as confident

and poised as his demeanor. "Control to Curie. Prelaunch

sequencing under way. You may proceed." The cadet continued

his manipulation of the controls.

The hatch closed, the shuttlebay decompressed, and the

small craft lifted smoothly off the deck, heading for the

giant doors which even now were gliding open.

"Shuttle Curie to docking control.

Approaching portals. Ready for egress." "Go ahead, Curie.

Smooth sailing."

Kathryn held her breath. It was a regal moment, endowed

with wonder and mystery. Gracefully, silently, the vessel

passed through the massive portals and into the inky void

of space.

Only the faint hum of the impulse engines broke a silence

that seemed almost holy. Kathryn sat with nose pressed

against a window, staring back as the spacedock receded

from view, growing smaller and smaller until she could no

longer see it. Earth was diminishing, too; soon it was a

small blue dot and finally only a circle of light.

Three hours later, Mars became a visible disk. Kathryn

stared as it grew larger and larger; the first discernible

feature she spotted on it was a whitish spot, almost like a

tiny star, twinkling at one edge of the disk. "That's the

southern polar cap," said Daddy, as though reading her

mind. "It's always the first thing you notice on Mars. Even

though the planet's been terraformed, the southern polar

cap is still frozen-but it's mostly carbon dioxide that's

frozen, not water."

Kathryn searched her memory for her history lessons, and

wished she had given them as much time and attention as she

had science and mathematics. She vaguely remembered reading

about the colonization of Mars, but it had struck her at

the time as somewhat unremarkable. After all, space

travelers now flew to other systems, other sectors; what

was so amazing about a colony in one's own planetary

system?

But as multi-hued Mars loomed in front of her, it seemed

extraordinary indeed. Patches of red were still visible on

the planet-oxidized dust, which had given it the nickname

"the red planet" several centuries ago. But now there were

vast areas of blue and green, and wisps of white water-vapor clouds hanging in the atmosphere. It didn't look like

Earth, but it looked like a fertile, living planet. The

transformation had been a massive undertaking, made

possible with help from the Vulcans, the first offworld

species to make contact with humans.

That memorable meeting had taken place in 2063, the year

Zefram Cochrane had launched the first warp flight and

alerted the spacefaring Vulcans that Earth was ready to

take its place in the interplanetary community. Kathryn had

studied all that in her history class. How Cochrane's

revolutionary discovery had lifted Earth from the chaos it

had endured in the early part of the twentyfirst century,

how the arrival of the Vulcans had forged an alliance that

carried Earth into a technological renaissance that

eventually resulted in the creation of such nowfamiliar

conveniences as replicators and transporters.

But the first great project was the colonization of Mars,

and she was not clear on the details. However, she was not

about to admit that to her father, and so she affected a

nonchalant attitude and informed him, "I know all about

that, Daddy. We studied it in school."

And so there was no more discussion of Mars, even though

Kathryn would love to have heard the details.

Soon they docked at Utopia Planitia, the huge orbiting

space station that also served as a shipbuilding facility

for Starfleet, and then were transported into an operations

center on the surface. It was a large room full of

equipment-consoles, monitors, what seemed like thousands of

blinking colored lights-and people busy manning that

equipment. Kathryn was fascinated. She wanted to stay in

that room and try to figure out exactly what everyone was

doing, what function all those blinking lights served. But

that was not to be.

"Mr. Data, would you please give our young guest a tour of

the colony? You're familiar with the place, aren't you?"

Kathryn noted that Admiral Finnegan's Adam's apple bobbed

up and down as he spoke. "Indeed, sir. I completed an

engineering honorarium here a year ago. I am thoroughly

familiar with the colony and its environs."

The cadet turned to Kathryn. "I would be pleased to act as

your guide, Miss Janeway."

Kathryn smiled inwardly at the man's formality, but she

would never show her amusement-that would be impolite.

Solemnly she looked at him and said, "Thank you, sir."

Kathryn looked at Daddy, who was already moving off with

the others, heads together, in deep conversation. She felt

a momentary twinge of something she couldn't identify as

she saw him walking off. She was alone here, on another

planet, and Daddy was leaving her. She felt her heart start

to beat more quickly, and there was a funny sensation in

her stomach.

Then she heard the cadet's quiet, placating voice.

"Strictly speaking, Miss Janeway, it is not necessary for

you to address me as "sir." I do not outrank you, for you

have no Starfleet rank at all."

"Then what should I call you?"

"Data would be satisfactory."

"Data?" Kathryn tried to find a polite way to phrase her

next question. "Is that a common name among your species?"

"I have no species. I am an artificial intelligence, and

so far as I know, the only one of my kind."

Kathryn stared at him. She knew she was being rude, but

she could hardly believe her ears. "Are you saying . . .

you're not real?"

"I assure you I am quite real. However, I lack any true

biological component. I was constructed and then

programmed." And, to demonstrate, he snapped open a portion

of his wrist.

Kathryn almost jumped. Revealed under his skinskin?-was a

mass of circuitry, a complex web of optical fibers and

blinking lights. She looked up at him, amazed, and dozens

of questions began flooding her mind. "Who made you? And

programmed you? Where did it happen? How did you get into

Starfleet Academy-was Suddenly she stopped and covered her

mouth. "I'm sorry. I'm being too curious. Mommy says I have

to be careful or I might hurt people's feelings."

"I have no emotions which might be wounded, so you may

feel free to ask me any question you like. I shall be happy

to respond."

And as they toured Mars Colony, Data began to tell her

about his unique origins. Within minutes, Kathryn had lost

her anxieties, and found that she was in fact comfortable

asking him anything and everything, for he seemed to know

more than anyone she'd ever met, even Daddy. "Terraforming

Other books

The Last of the Ageless by Traci Loudin
Return to Shanhasson by Joely Sue Burkhart
Death Rides Alone by William W. Johnstone
Elisa by E. L. Todd
Suspect by Michael Robotham
Mud Girl by Alison Acheson
Sins of the Demon by Diana Rowland


readsbookonline.com Copyright 2016 - 2021