Who am I to go storming up to an Officer and demand, "Why am I different to everybody else?" I mean... am I different or am I just imagining it. Was Dr Franks comment, just a comment?
Yeap! I'm feeling really stupid, but I've made the appointment now so I have to go and see the Commander. The only question is what am I going to say to her? I'm desperately trying to think of some excuse to see her, but I'm struggling to come up with anything. And it's time to go and face the mess I've landed myself in. Grrrr.
* * * * *Sometimes an answer raises more questions.
I reported to Commander Jarrod as arranged. I knocked on her door and entered when bade.
The room was a little dim and Jarrod was sat at her desk, leaning back in the chair. For a moment, I wondered if she had a headache or something, but as I entered, she sat up, smiled and indicated for me to take a seat. It unnerved me. You see, Jarrod is, as I've said before, a steely-faced woman. She often smiles but it's a cold smile that barely reaches the corners of her mouth. This one though, was warm and welcoming.
"So Crewman Terran. What's bothering you?"
Not having thought of an alternative question, I stuck to the original one. It still burnt inside me to know the answer so I thought, what the hell!
"Well, it's a bit embarrassing really?"
Her eyebrows rose in curiosity.
"It's just something that Dr Franks said, and... well it's stupid really..." My voice trailed off as I lost my bottle.
"Well go on then. You're here so you might as well let it out," the Commander chivvied.
"He said... he said that if I were 'anybody else'."
The Commander thought I had paused; she didn't realise that was the question.
"If you were anybody else, what?" she asked after a few moments.
I shuffled nervously.
"It's not the whatthat came afterwards that's relevant. It's the 'if I were anybody else'. Why should I be different to anybody else?"
"Do you think you are different to other people?"
"No, but I get the impression that some people do."
"Like who for instance?"
"Yes. I mean, do you give many of your crewmen datapads and grill them about a possible future as a Starfleet Officer?"
She laughed at that and scratched her head. She seemed a little uncomfortable and her eyes flicked past me too, further into the room. Was there someone else there? But I didn't dare break eye contact with her. I wanted to see her reactions.
"And then there was your husband."
"Yes," she smiled. "It's hard to believe that a former Starfleet Officer can't keep his mouth shut."
"So there is something!"
She sighed deeply and leaned on the desk, casually resting her chin in the palms of her hands.
"Yes," she admitted.
The word bounced around on the inside of my head, reverberating off the inside of my skull until I could fully absorb it. I watched Commander Jarrod studying me. I was dying to know what that 'something' was, but Jarrod volunteered nothing.
"Oh!" I said. It was all I could muster up.
She smiled mischievously at me and leant back in her chair.
"Who are you, Terran?" she suddenly demanded.
The question caught me by surprise.
"Tell me about yourself. Who are you?"
"Uhm. Well I don’t know exactly. I was found on board an abandoned alien spacecraft by a Starfleet Officer. It's how I got my name. She was called Jenny too."
"And what do you know about her?"
"Only that her name was Jenny."
"Have you never been any more curious than that?"
"No. Not really. She may have found me but it didn't make me her responsibility or anything."
"Hmm, I see," and she frowned as she debated.
"Does that have something to do with this?" I asked.
Obviously it did otherwise Jarrod wouldn't have brought it up.
"Do you know who this Jenny was then"? I ventured.
"You could say that."
Again her eyes looked passed me. She was dragging it out, for what reason I didn't know.
"Will you tell me?" I asked.
"Why? Are you interested?"
"I am now."
"But not before."
"Like I said. She owes me nothing. She found me, probably saved my life so if anything, I owe her."
"You don't think she should have taken you in or had an interest in your growing up?"
"Whatever for? I wasn't her child. She was a Starfleet Officer and probably had other plans."
"An Ensign actually and yes, she did."
I edged forward nervously in the seat.
"Well?" I prompted again.
"Ensign Jenny," she said. "Her name was Ensign Katherine Jenny."
The name Katherine speared into my brain like a javelin. I had always assumed that Jenny was the Officer's first name. It had never occurred to me that it was her family name. More importantly, Jarrod's name was Katherine too. Were Katherine Jenny and Katherine Jarrod one and the same? I looked sceptically at her.
"Was that... you? Was your maiden name Jenny?" I ventured.
Wordlessly, she nodded and then we sat in silence just looking at each other for what seemed like an eternity.
"Oh... well, it's very nice to meet you. Thank you for saving me." I had no idea what else to say. Jarrod chuckled.
"You really are a very philosophical creature aren't you?"
I frowned, unsure what to say.
"And that's what makes me different?" I asked, unsure that it was reason enough.
"Actually, yes it does... in a way. You see, and this is where you are quite right in your assumptions, I was an Ensign with ambition, a career ahead of me. My father was an Admiral and my mother a Commander. They guided and inspired me. Theirs was the standard set to me and the standard I sought to attain. I didn't need a child then. I don't need one now. I've never wanted children. It's why I didn't marry until very late in life. Most men want a family and I wasn't prepared to take a break in my career to have a child and raise it. I'm not the maternal sort. Anyway... I digress. You went into care and I went my way. My career took off and I achieved my objectives, but you... you did nothing."
Jarrod suddenly looked away from me as though the confession hurt her.
"And I never, ever thought about you," she added.
"You had no need to. I wasn't your responsibility."
"Who's responsibility were you?"
"The State, I suppose."
"And what did they do for you? Yes, they put clothes on your back and food in your belly, but did they encourage you to be the best that you could be? Did they guide and advise you? Did you have a role model? Did you have any ambitions? How high were you encouraged to set your sights?"
I didn't say anything. We both knew the answer.
"So you did what? You left school at the first opportunity and worked in a café, waiting tables."
"There's nothing wrong with that."
"There is when you're not stupid. You've got a brain in your head. It's about time you started using it!"
"I am using it!" I blurted.
"But it's the first time ever as far as I can tell."
For someone who wasn't supposed to be beholden to me, she was doing a bloody good impression of an overbearing parent!
"So you became nothing... and then... I saw your name on the last intake." Her voice softened. She swallowed hard as though forcing down unwanted emotions.
"I have never, ever felt anything for you. Certainly nothing in the way of responsibility, but then, when I saw you, I realised that you had been denied the opportunities and encouragement that every child should have, and all because of one thing. You never had a parent. Those opportunities were never even suggested to you, let alone made available to you. Yet here you were... on my ship. Even then, for a while, I thought you were just another crewman, but then you popped out from under a table and advised a roomful of Commanders they were wrong. That takes some guts for a crewman. That's when I realised that it wasn't fair. You should have had those opportunities. If you had, I think you would be a lot more than you are now. I just wanted to even things up a little. Give you a chance."
She fell silent and her grey eyes studied me intensely.
"I see," I said and found that now, I was the one that had to swallow down emotion. Nobody had ever expected anything of me in my entire life. I'd never had to impress anybody or live up to anybody's expectations, but now there was someone, and I felt I had failed her. She had given me an opportunity and I had been happy to wait for something to happen, but not to grab it. I hadn't stepped up to the mark. I couldn't even be bothered to check the datapad she had given me for new updates.
"Still!" bellowed Jarrod suddenly in a very jovial manner. She was trying to lift the sobriety of the occasion. "That's all done now."
"But it's not, is it," I said.
She cocked her head on one side quizzically.
"I mean, the Senior Officers have obviously been talking about me."
"And I've let you down."
"No," she said. "You may not have risen to the occasion, but you've not let me down—and you did catch the Beast of the Drakonia!" she said jocularly.
"I'm not sure I like it though."
"Being treated differently to everybody else just because..." I didn't want to say 'out of pity', because that's what it boiled down to. She read my mind.
I nodded. She shook her head.
"It's not pity. You have been the subject of great debate, but not out of pity. You're unusual in that you have shown great initiative and there is a spark of promise there. If you had been born into a Starfleet family, you would undoubtedly have joined the Academy and you'd be sat before me as an Ensign, not a Crewman."
"And you opened the door for me, but I didn't exactly walk through it, did I?"
She shook her head.
"No. You didn't."
I felt ashamed.
"It's not that I haven't thought about what you said."
"Then what is it?" she demanded, unimpressed.
"What can I offer the Academy? I couldn't pass the Entrance Exam; I don't have the skills. I'm not technical and I don't think I ever will be. I'm not an Engineer or Technician and I know nothing about computers. I don't know the first thing about physics, warp drive technology, temporal science or anything else that Starfleet needs. So what could I possibly offer Starfleet?"
Jarrod shook her head.
"You obviously haven't the first clue as to what's in the Entrance Exam, have you?"
It was true. I didn't.
"Terran, go away," she commanded suddenly. "Think about it and come back tomorrow. Same time," and I was summarily dismissed.
So now I am sulking in my quarters trying to figure out what she meant, but I'm tired. I need sleep. Perhaps in the morning I will be able to work it out.