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The New Kid in Town

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Chapter One

Geordi lived and breathed Starfleet. He learned to walk through the corridors of a Starship. Family trips were spent, not in Florida or even the moon colony, but on planets half a light year from home. Ever since he could remember, his parents had told him stories of exploration, science, discovery; and he listened with wonder and awe. He yearned for the day he could be on his own ship, with his own crew; his own rank and job and duty to perform.

But that day was still far, far in the future. And sometimes it felt like it would never arrive.

He was starting his second year today. It was exciting; of course it was. This year they would go beyond the basic curriculum. New research opportunities were popping up every minute. The academics were going to be more difficult. But more rewarding, too.

But the academics weren’t what he was worried about. He’d never struggled to fit equations into his head, or memorize the entire history of Starfleet’s engineers and their respective ships. No, he was worried about something far more daunting.

See, Geordi hadn’t really had success in the ‘making friends’ department, let alone in the ‘romantic relationship’ minefield. Maybe it was because he was raised in space, surrounded by adults from the time he was a baby. Or maybe it was because he spent so much time reading and studying; his VISOR barely had time to register anyone else’s presence as he tore through book after book.

Whatever it was, Geordi doubted that the summer vacation would have fixed it. He hadn’t had the fortune of other boys, who sprouted like weeds over the holiday and returned to school looking like full ensigns. His uniform was still baggy. The way it stuck out at odd angles and fell over his hands made him look completely ridiculous. His mom had promised he’d ‘grow into it’. From his perspective, if it fit by the time he was a commander then he would be shocked.

Geordi looked himself over in the mirror one last time, as the morning birds chirped just outside his window. This was always a stressful part of the day. His VISOR could only make out outlines, really. The shape of his uniform; the line separating his hair and his forehead; his short stature, as he stood to his fullest height. He couldn’t tell if he had spinach in his teeth. And, even though he’d already been at Starfleet Academy for an entire year, he didn’t have anyone there to tell him he had spinach in his teeth.

Geordi pushed that thought aside, as he straightened his uniform as best he could. It was a new year; and the start of the academic-heavy portion of Academy training. He was good at academics. This was where he thrived. So maybe, just maybe, this would be his year. Who knew? Maybe today he would meet the love of his life.

Nah, probably not. He smiled at the idea, slipping his room key into his satchel. He’d been reading too many of his sisters’ novels. Stories of unlikely romantic encounters; knights in shining armor and everything. There weren’t any knights at Starfleet. None that he’d ever met. And today, most likely, was going to be filled with more droning professors than swooning lovers.

Best to get to class and save the dreaming for bedtime.

. . . . . . . . .

“Who can tell me how dilithium works, with regard to the matter/antimatter reaction in a standard warp core?” Professor Hanlon asked, scanning the room with his searchlight eyes.

Geordi raised his hand toward the sky without hesitation.

“Mr. La Forge?”

Geordi cleared his throat. “When dilithium is exposed to high temperatures and electromagnetic pressure, it becomes porous to light-element antimatter.”

Professor Hanlon beamed.

“Exactly, Mr. La Forge. You’ve been doing your reading.”

Geordi let himself smile, too. First question of the year down. About a thousand left to go before winter break.

He could do this. He could do this. He could-

“Psst,” whispered someone to his left. Ah, Libby. “Here.”

She practically shoved a crumpled up piece of paper into Geordi’s hand. He slipped his fist under his desk, out of sight of old Hanlon. He tried to keep taking notes; he really did. But the paper made his hand sweaty and then his hand made the paper sweaty and Libby’s eyes were boring into the side of his head.

Carefully, he unfolded the paper, cringing at every sound it made. As Hanlon turned to face the board, Geordi spared a glance down. Read the words.

Blushed.

“So…?” Libby said with a cheeky smile.

Geordi felt his face burn. He opened his palm and let the note fall to the floor. Then he leaned over his work and wrote faster; followed Hanlon’s every word like he was explaining the fountain of youth.

Beside him, Libby and her friend were giggling.

Geordi couldn’t understand what was so funny.

. . . . . . .

“Why didn’t you respond?” Libby asked as soon as the bell rang.

Geordi stacked his books and fit them into his satchel. Not exactly ignoring her, just making it known that other things were more important to him at the moment.

He didn’t respond until she shoved the note back into his hand.

“Ashley is just dying to go out with you,” she said, with that same sarcastic look on her face. It wasn’t exactly what he would call a smile that she wore. Maybe a sneer.

Behind her stood Ashley, and Ashley was definitely not ‘dying’ to go out with him. Ashley was rolling her eyes, smiling with the same unkind smile Libby always wore. Geordi couldn’t fully understand their joke; the ensigns he used to hang out with on the space stations never used this kind of ‘humor’ with him. But he knew, somehow, that he was being made fun of.

“I have to go,” he said abruptly, sliding his satchel over his shoulder.

As he hurried out of the room, ears burning, he could hear the girls laughing.

Maybe...maybe this wasn’t going to be his year after all.

. . . . . . . . .

There was one constant good at Starfleet Academy. Even among the stressful deadlines, the strange humor he never understood, and the less-than-chef-quality food in the cafeteria. There was his tech room.

Okay, it wasn’t ‘his’ tech room. But he’d been granted free use of it since his second month here, a perk of straight As and being a teacher’s pet, so it felt like his. It was a small room. (some would call it cramped). And dark. (some would call it gloomy). But it was all his for an hour or two, depending on how much time he slotted off for himself.

Since it was the first day of class, he didn’t have any competition. As soon as he left class and those giggling girls, he went straight to his hideaway on the other side of the building. His ID swiped him in without any trouble, and he entered.

The room greeted him with that dark coziness it always held. He dropped his satchel on the bench by door and eased the lights up a notch higher, so his VISOR didn’t have to work so hard. Then, for a minute, he just stood there. Gazed at the furniture, exactly where he’d left it three months before.

Home at last.

“How are we doing, computer?” he asked, as he sat on the rolly chair and spun around to face the desktop.

“All systems are functional,” replied that familiar computer voice that had followed him from ship to ship and station to station. From beyond Pluto, to San Francisco.

“Perfect. And safety is still on?”

“All student locks are activated.”

Geordi shook his head with a smile. “I was worried you’d say something like that.”

In here, he was like a different person. He was confident. Able. Maybe a little cocky. For an hour, he could pretend he wasn’t a gawky, awkward kid without a date to prom. He was a commander; no, an engineer. Or a captain, like his mother. And this was his ship: the Starship La Forge. Exploring new places and learning about the universe through experimentation and some calculated tinkering.

“Activate La Forge program 67,” he ordered. A pile of mechanical parts beamed into the replicator; his favorite set, which he’d been reluctant to leave behind last summer. “That’s more like it.”

Perhaps it was a lonely little life he led at school. But it was okay, when he was in here playing around with his robots and his toolkits. And he had friends, really. Not good friends. Not best friends. But, you know, people were usually nice to him. And professors liked him. So it wasn’t all bad.

And anyway, school was only a stepping stone, right? His life would start on graduation day. He had all that time left to worry about friends and relationships. Today, he could just tinker in his engineering room.

And wait for the future to arrive.