Hello from Earth! Having a wonderful time! Wish you were here!

Chapter 1: Hello from Earth

Hello from Earth…

( Unless otherwise noted all messages are video recordings. )

Stardate 44395.54

(Thursday, 25 May 2367, 09:00 AM, Mars Standard Time)

To: Keiko Ishikawa O’Brien, U.S.S. Enterprise

From: Zoe Harris, Hotel Curiosity, Mars

Hi, Keiko! I’m recording this on my padd at the breakfast table, so I only have a minute, but I wanted to let you know I received the file with the pictures from your wedding. Sorry I had to miss it, but I’m pretty sure you didn’t really need some kid hanging around. I know, I know, you’re not that much older than I am, but… look at you, all ‘Sadie, Sadie, married lady.’ Congratulations!

Anyway, your dress was amazing! I’ve never seen a kimono that delicate looking, and you really did glow the way all the magazines say you’re supposed to.

Actually, everyone looked amazing – I can’t believe Ed wore a tuxedo – but then, he’s not Starfleet, and everyone else was in formal dress. He and my mother look so good together, don’t you think?

Thanks, also, for the picture of Data – I’d never seen him all dressed up before. I know you can see me blushing, but please don’t tell him I did? Someone should frame a copy of that image of him though…

Dad has a class this morning – he’s teaching a spring intersession kind of thing, through June – but this afternoon we’re going to the Spirit Arboretum. I can’t wait to see it.

(An audible chime interrupts the recording.)

Oh! My ride is here. Friends of Dad’s have daughters my age, and we’re spending the morning getting mani-pedis together. Gotta go.



Thursday, 25 May 2367, 3:00 PM, Eastern Time

From: Theodore Nechayev MIT, Boston, MA, Earth

To: Zoe Harris, Hotel Curiosity, Mars

Well, Zoe, I did it!

I have completed my last exam, turned in my last documentation from my time on the Enterprise and I stand – well, I’m sitting. Hmm. Alright, I sit before you a free man, and a rising junior. I’m told next year will be intense, so I hope you’re planning to have some fun between music and theater stuff because I’m excited about getting to show you MY city.

Aunt Alynna says she’s got the guest suite already for you, and to let you know that yes, there is a bathtub. She asked me what your favorite scents were, and I’m afraid all I could remember was that you dislike roses. No matter. There’s a bath shop in one of the shopping districts that you will love, and I will suffer manfully through because it’s my job as your host.

Before you ask, no, she’s not expecting that we’re serious; she knows I invited you as a friend.

And, friend-of-mine, you’ll want to be in your best comfort mode, because Cherise – the on-again/off-again girl I told you about – is definitely off-again, this time forever.

I can imagine the look of doubt crossing your face, so before you crumple a napkin to throw at the screen – don’t you dare glare at me, Miss Harris – you should know that a copy of her wedding announcement to some lawyer from Harvard is attached to this recording.

Can’t wait to see you next week.

(Attachment, from the Boston Herald)

Girard – Kaplan

Cherise Girard and Evan Kaplan were married Saturday the 20th of May, 2367 at Memorial Church, Harvard University. The reception followed at the Plaza Tent on campus.

The bride is the daughter of Claire and Edmond Girard, of Quebec, and is currently a student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where her studies are focused on Urban Planning and Civil Engineering. She will graduate with the class of 2369.

The groom is the son of Harriet and Norman Kaplan, of Chicago, and completed his legal studies at Harvard University in January of this year. He is currently an associate at the law firm of Kaplan, B’nel’kp, and Rogers, and is based in Boston.


Stardate 44402.71

(Saturday, 27 May 2367, 11:45 PM, Mars Standard Time)

To: Lt. Commander Data, U.S.S. Enterprise

From: Zoe Harris, Hotel Curiosity, Mars

Hi, Data. This message is really brief because it’s almost midnight, and I’m very tired and a little buzzed from champagne.

Yes, you heard that correctly. Champagne. Dad let me have some at the after-party, but it had been hours since I’d eaten anything and… oh, god…  telling this completely backwards.

Okay, five words: I saw the Tantalus Quartet.

I saw them, and heard them, and met them, and it turns out that their cellist, Hugo Rodriguez, is actually one of the instructors at the Suzuki thing, and he’s going to make sure I’m assigned to his section.

How cool is that?

I mean… seriously?

Anyway, the concert was amazing, and the after-party was really lovely, but it would have been better if you were there. I mean, going to their concert with Dad was fabulous, but his suits are always rumpled and he never lets anyone press them, and Keiko sent me the pictures from her wedding and you looked…

(Zoe utters the next line in a tone of perfect, sudden clarity.)

Actually, you looked pretty amazing.

(And then she reverts to her usual breezy style.)

I mean seriously…  are you not beating women off with a stick?

Oh-oh! Hugo and Gae-Lyn said to hook you up with their booking agent, so I’ve sent that information as a text file. They said if their schedule meshes with the ship’s, ever, and anyone would be interested, they’d be willing to come aboard and do a concert or two, gratis.

(Data is then treated to a really intense yawn from Zoe.)

Remind me of the time conversion, and I’ll call live and in-person when I’m settled in San Francisco.

G’night, Data.


Stardate 44421.56

(3 June 2367, 8:56 PM, Pacific Time)

To: Lt. Commander Emily Harris, U.S.S. Enterprise

From: Zoe Harris, Casa Nechayev, San Francisco, Earth

Hello from Earth, Mom!

Theo met Dad and me at the spaceport on the first, just as we planned, and then his aunt took us all to dinner at this place in the Marina district that had these mashed potatoes that are twice-baked with gouda…seriously, Mom, I wanted to take a bath in them.

Oh, please tell Lt. Worf that we delivered his gift to Alexander, and that his parents send their regards. They’re very sweet people, and insisted upon serving us lunch. I might have to start swimming every day if people keep feeding me this way.

I got your letter, and I promise I’ll be a credit to my good breeding. Or at least I won’t embarrass you too much. Yes, I know staying with the Admiral is an honor, and yes, I know I have to tone down the snark. Maybe it helps that I’m a civilian, because she seems perfectly delightful to me.

Also, she’s a lot smaller in person than she is on the news nets. We could totally share clothes, if she owned anything that wasn’t a uniform.

Dad’s list of rules was way more specific: don’t do drugs, don’t get drunk, don’t pierce anything below my earlobes, or above my earlobes, and no visible tattoos.

No, Mom, I’m not going to run out and get an invisible tattoo. What would be the point?

Anyway, yesterday, Theo and I went out to the Maritime Museum to see the old ferries – they really used petroleum products to power vehicles? How quaint. We also poked around the tall ships – I love the smell of tar and history. I would have made an awesome pirate. Theo indulged me, and since we were practically the only people there, we played pirates on the Balclutha for hours.

Then we went to this really old restaurant on the wharf and had three kinds of clam chowder just as the fog rolled in. Mom, Beach Haven is fantastic, but I think I’m falling in love with San Francisco.

Today, we went to Golden Gate Park, and saw a local Shakespeare troupe perform A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The actor playing Puck was half Vulcan, and I know it’s a total stereotype, but the pointy ears totally worked for the character, and then we came home and watched vids and ate Thai food. I always miss delivery food on the Enterprise.

It’s only nine, but I’m tired…Theo has arranged to meet some of his local friends for brunch tomorrow, and we left word at the Academy for Wesley to come join us if he was available.

I’m enjoying this trip a lot, but I’m also looking forward to Suzuki starting next week. I’m not wired for a life of leisure.

I’ve attached a few still images from our museum trip. There’s one of me in classic pirate stance at the bow of the ship – could you make sure Data gets a copy? Trust me, he’ll appreciate it.


3 June 2367, 10:30 PM, Pacific Time

From: Cadet Crusher, Wesley, Starfleet Academy, San Francisco, Earth

To: Zoe Harris, Casa Nechayev, San Francisco, Earth


Mom said you were spending the summer here in San Francisco, and I have been so busy with classes that it didn’t occur to me to have a welcome message waiting for you.

About brunch, I’ve arranged for a day pass, and would love to meet you and Theo. The time and place you suggested work within my schedule.

See you then.

Oh, wait…”Casa Nechayev?” What’s that?

(There is a beat and then the recording continues.)

Wait, Theo Nechayev is related to Admiral Nechayev?

You’re staying with them?

Now I really want to see you at brunch.

Notes: This is not the proper sequel to “Crush” (obviously), but it is a bit of fun to move the plot ahead a bit. Locations on Mars are named after various Mars landers. Locations in San Francisco are real. The Balclutha is one of the tall ships at the National Maritime Museum, which is based at a pier off of Aquatic Park. I confess: on days when the water is choppy, I’m too chicken to climb the steps to the upper deck, even though I know it’s perfectly safe. “Casa Nechayev” is Zoe’s name for the admiral’s house.

Chapter 2: Having a Wonderful Time – Part I

Disclaimer: Star Trek: the Next Generation, the U.S.S. Enterprise, and all the canon characters belong to CBS/Paramount. The rest is mine.

Having a Wonderful Time – Part I

(Unless otherwise specified, all mail messages are video recordings)

Stardate 44431.90

(7 June 2367, 15:28 hours, ship’s time)

From: Dana Swenson, U.S.S. Enterprise

To: Zoe Harris, Suzuki Institute, San Fransisco, Earth

Omigod, Zoe! You looked just a real pirate standing on that ship. And Theo looked so dashing in that other picture. It sounds like you’re having a great time. I’m almost jealous.

No, I’m definitely jealous. You get to explore San Francisco with a cute boy, and I’m here doing a summer design class via correspondence and a creative writing seminar with Professor Benoit and … I miss my best friend. I mean, Annette’s here, but she’s about to start her last year of high school, so she’s been reading college brochures.

Oh! Everyone was on lockdown for three days because there were…well, I’m probably not supposed to say, but…you know that race of people with the kind of grey-ish skin and the neck ridges that sort of sounds like a kind of sweater? We had a bunch of them on the ship.

Daddy says I had nothing to worry about, and he’s in security, so he should know, right? But everyone was so tense, and I felt like if I was too loud or too happy something might break.

They’re gone now, but things still feel really…unsettled.

Josh said to tell you to tell Wesley that he’s NOT doing summer school. Boys! Honestly.

Speaking of boys…Josh and I…things are getting kind of serious…I think…but then there are days when I feel like he’s my brother because I’ve known him so long.

Gah! Zoe! I wish you were here. Or I was there.

See you soon.


Stardate 44432.87

(7 June 2367, 23:57 hours, ship’s time)

From: Lieutenant Commander Data, U.S.S. Enterprise

To: Zoe Lauren Harris, Suzuki Institute, San Francisco Earth

Dear Zoe,

Please forgive my delay in responding to your last message. I was pleased to hear from you, and am gratified that you enjoyed your experience with the members of the Tantalus Quartet. I have contacted their booking agent, and it is likely that the Enterprise will be doing more than hosting them for ‘a concert or two’ but I am unable to provide further details at this time.

I was unaware that one’s companion wearing untidy clothing could negatively impact enjoyment of an artistic presentation, but I appreciate the sentiment. I also regret that we were unable to attend the quartet’s performance together. However, I am certain there will be other opportunities to share similar experiences.

(A shaggy orange cat leaps into frame, and as he picks up the animal and deposits it on the ground, Data addresses it.)

Spot- no. You are not part of this recording.

(The cat lets out an annoyed mrrrreeeeooowww.)

(Data returns his attention to the letter he is recording.)

Pardon me. Spot is not yet well-versed in proper behavior.

I was initially uncertain as to why you believe that seeing me in my dress uniform would require that I beat women with a stick, or any other blunt object, but I realized that you were using slang to imply that I am ‘a catch,’ or that I have qualities that would interest a potential mate. Thank you for the compliment, Zoe.

I believe you would find it amusing to know that I recently had a conversation with Counselor Troi in which I confessed that being an active participant in Keiko and Chief O’Brien’s wedding has prompted me to consider the possibility of my own marriage at some point in the future.

The image of you ‘playing pirates’ on the Balclutha, forwarded from your mother, was not, perhaps, representational of your most aesthetically pleasing attire, but it was agreeable to ‘see you happy.’

I am due on the bridge shortly, but in answer to your question about time conversions, if zero-two hundred hours local time on what will be, for you, Sunday morning, is not too late for you to be awake (I am familiar with your predilection for keeping late hours), or disruptive to your optimal sleep patterns or class schedule, it will be an acceptable time for a ‘live and in person’ conversation, as you phrased it.

I look forward to speaking with you.



(There is a moment of dead air and then, instead of the usual Starfleet or UFP symbol, the cat – Spot – returns, and switches its tail, then turns its head toward the camera and blinks, then bats its paws. Data’s hands are seen lifting Spot away from what must he his desktop, and then his face comes into view, though it’s obvious he’s petting the cat below frame.)

P.S. I believe I neglected to mention that I have acquired a cat.


Stardate 44433.69

(8 June 2367, 07:10 hours, ship’s time)

From: Lt. Cmdr. Emily Harris, U.S.S. Enterprise

To: Zoe L. Harris, Suzuki Institute, San Francisco, Earth

Oh, my dear Zoificus…I’ve gotten spoiled by having you with me, and now knowing you’re out in the world exploring your own interests on your own terms…I’m not sure how I feel about it. Who gave you permission to grow up, anyway? It must have been your father.

I’ve enjoyed seeing the pictures you’ve been sending, both holos and photos. Admiral Nechayev sent me a note telling me that you were an excellent guest and expressing pity that you have no Starfleet aspirations. (I did not tell her that you must have been replaced with a clone of the daughter I’m familiar with.) I know you think you aren’t suited for this life, but if she invites you to tour the Academy, consider taking her up on it. The worst that could happen is that you confirm that it really isn’t the path for you.

I’m looking forward to hearing all about the Suzuki Institute. Comm when you can; don’t worry about the time conversion.

I love you, kiddo.


(A Series of Text Messages)

Thursday, 8 June 2367, 10:00 AM, Pacific Time

From: Theo Nechayev

To: Zoe Harris

Hey, CelloGirl, Friends of mine from school are going to be in town for the weekend. Would love for you to meet them. Would a note from a Starfleet Admiral get you a weekend pass? Let me know your schedule, soonest.

Thursday, 8 June 2367, 10:07 AM, Pacific Time

From: Zoe Harris

To: Theo Nechayev

Got your message. This is music camp not the military. No one tracks us on weekends as long as we make curfew, but I’m trying to get a spot in Hugo’s master class. Will let you know my schedule once I know it.

10:16 AM

From: Theo Nechayev

To: Zoe Harris

What’s a master class and who is Hugo?

10:19 AM

From: Zoe Harris

To: Theo Nechayev

My secret lover. Wanna have a threesome?

10:20 AM

From: Theo Nechayev

To: Zoe Harris

So. Not. Funny. Not. Funny. In. The Slightest.

10:22 AM

From: Zoe Harris

To: Theo Nechayev

Don’t they teach you how to use search engines at MIT?

It was, too, funny.

10:33 AM

From: Theo Nechayev

To: Zoe Harris

Okay, it was a little bit funny.

If Hugo Rodriguez is offering a master class, then you must do everything possible to get in. Let me know about the weekend ASAP.

12:47 PM

From: Zoe Harris

To: Theo Nechayev

I got in! Master class is Saturday from 1:00-5:00 PM. I could meet you for dinner, maybe?

1:02 PM

From Theo Nechayev

To: Zoe Harris

Fantastic. Will work out details later.


9 June 2367, 4:47 PM, Pacific Time

To: Zachary Harris, Hotel Curiosity, Mars

From: Zoe Harris, Suzuki Institute, San Francisco, Earth


Oh, my god, this place is stellar in the extreme. I only have about fifteen minutes, but I’m recording this message on my padd so that I can show you this:

(The video pans away from Zoe’s face, to do a slow tour of her dorm room, which has a view of one corner of the Golden Gate Bridge.)

I can see the bridge from my bed, Dad. And I can smell the salt air.

(The image steadies and Zoe’s face is once again in frame.)

Anyway, the room is awesome, and I share a bathroom with just one other girl – it’s actually between our rooms, and she’s the first chair cellist in her high school orchestra so, at least she’s not horrible, which is good because everyone is practicing all the time.

Sunday afternoon, when Theo dropped me off here, our registration packets already had our section assignments. I have a warm-up every morning first thing after breakfast, and then after that we break up into an ensemble class, where there are about six of us. We play quartet music, mostly, with some people doubling parts or taking turns.

After that I have my private lesson, and guess who my instructor is? No, not Hugo. Cooper! Cooper the luthier from Ogus II. She seemed surprised that I was surprised to find her there – she said you knew she went to Suzuki every year. Apparently a lot of the instructors are instrument makers, and they treat the after-class hours as an unofficial conference of their own.

After lunch we have orchestra rehearsals – we don’t audition for places until next week – for now, we have randomly assigned positions based on our current repertoire, and then free time until dinner – you can practice or there are workshops on different kinds of music, and other instruments – and then after dinner there’s a concert. Sunday night it was some of the instructors, but the rest of the time it’s students, so I think I’m going to sign up for a spot next week.

(There’s a knock – an actual knock – on the door, and Zoe turns away from the screen to yell, “Almost ready, come in if you want.” Then she turns back.)

Dad, that was Ronnie – her real name’s Veronica but she hates it – she’s my suitemate. Gotta dash to get one of the good tables at dinner. Love you.

Oh! I made it into Hugo’s master class on Saturday.



Stardate 44438.92

(Saturday, 10 June 2367, 5:00 AM Pacific Time)

To: Lt. Commander Data, U.S.S. Enterprise

From: Zoe Lauren Harris, Suzuki Institute, San Francisco, Earth

(Zoe begins by affectionately mimicking Data’s very formal tone from his letter to her.)

Dear Data,

I received your missive and apologize for the delayed response.

(Zoe rolls her eyes, then breaks into a grin.)

Did you seriously record that as if you were writing a formal letter to a colleague, instead of a note to a friend? “Dear Zoe?” “Regards, Data?” I’m not sure what the total volume of your personal correspondence is, but with people you’ve actually hugged? It’s okay to loosen up a bit.

And…you used my middle name. Even my mother doesn’t use my middle name. Well, she does if she’s mad at me, but then it’s a whole different thing. I have a theory that the only reason human children even have middle names is so that they can tell when their parents are really, truly, deeply angry with them.

You’re totally gonna poll all your friends about this now, aren’t you?

Anyway, this note is to ask if we can reschedule our call until next week, because I got into Hugo Rodriguez’s master class and it starts in eight hours, and I haven’t slept yet, and then afterward I was invited out to meet some of Theo’s friends from MIT, and tomorrow I’m supposed to have breakfast with my father, as he’s returning to Centaurus in a few days, and then there’s the Sunday night concert, and…well…do you mind if we reschedule?

I’m betting you’re curious about what exactly the Institute is like, and I really wanted to tell you in real-time, but I don’t want you to have to wait, so I’m attaching a copy of my last note to Dad.

By the way, my private lesson instructor says to send you her ‘kind regards.’ That will make more sense when you watch my other vid.

(Zoe does not yawn, but she does rub her eyes, and even Data, watching her image on a video display, would be able to see that she’s in that weird combination of tired and wired that often happens to young people at arts camps.)

By the way, you owe me the full story about how you managed to adopt a cat. And why is he? She? Whatever. Why is the cat called Spot?

(Zoe shrugs)

Well, I guess if it’s good enough for Hades…

(Zoe resumes her affected version of Data’s formal style)

Cordially yours,

Zoe Lauren Harris

(The effect is ruined by the giggle she emits as she closes the file. Only a portion of it is appended to the recording. )

Notes: For purposes of this story, Zoe’s dorm is part of University of San Francisco’s Lone Mountain campus, and the Suzuki Institute exists in that space as well. Her class schedule is based on the National Cello Institute’s annual program, though that is only a week or two long. Data’s formality, with complete headers and actual greetings and closings seems consistent with his letter to Bruce Maddox in “Data’s Day.” Zoe’s comment about the name Spot being “good enough for Hades” is a reference to a scene in the fifteenth novel in Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series, Skin Game.

Chapter 3: Interlude: Eat, Sleep, Cello

Disclaimer: Star Trek: the Next Generation, the U.S.S. Enterprise, and all the canon characters belong to CBS/Paramount. The rest is mine.

Interlude: Eat, Sleep, Cello

Stardate 44460.75

(Sunday, 18 June 2367, 04:11 AM Pacific Time)

I’ve heard it said more than once that nothing good happens after two A.M., but whoever came up with that expression obviously lived in a time when faster-than-light travel hadn’t become routine, and time zones were calculated only on individual planets, and not across whole segments of the galaxy.

Put more succinctly: it’s always after two A.M. somewhere.

Right then, in my dorm room at the Suzuki Institute in San Francisco, it was actually shortly after four A.M., but I was wide awake, and even kind of wired, though that might have been as much because of the fact that my suitemate Ronnie and I had only returned from a late-night excursion to Mel’s Drive-In a couple of hours before, and had spent the intervening time ghost hunting in the campus chapel.

We didn’t find any ghosts, but we did manage to scare ourselves silly, which was the real point of the exercise. Never underestimate a little well-placed horror – it gets the adrenaline going.

And then there was the anticipation of the call I was about to place…one that had been rescheduled twice in the last ten days.

I fetched a mug of tea from the replicator in the elevator lobby on my floor, returned to my room, adjusted the comm-system so the camera could see me from my chosen position, sat cross-legged on the end of my bed with my back against the wall, and placed the call.

There was a delay, as connections were made, and then there was a static-filled screen – for a moment, I could have sworn there was an image behind the static – one of a pale-faced man in black combat-gear – but then it resolved into the Starfleet symbol, and then the mission patch for the U.S.S. Enterprise.

U.S.S. Enterprise communications. Lieutenant Seth Starker here. How may I route your call?” How ironic that the person on comm-duty was the cello-teacher I was not actually trying to reach.

Seth? Seriously? Since when are you a communications officer?”

Again there was a delay, probably so Seth could confirm the origin of my transmission. Then the video feed engaged, something that typically didn’t happen until a call had been routed to its intended recipient.

“Zoe! I’m filling in for Lieutenant Rothfus. He just had a paper published and is celebrating with his girlfriend. Hey, how’s San Francisco? How’s Suzuki? How are you?”

“San Francisco is awesome, and Suzuki is amazing. Eat, sleep, cello…that’s my life right now…and I love it.” I hesitated, “Look, I’d love to regale you with everything I’m learning and doing, but I kind of have a comm-appointment with Data, and I’ve already canceled on him more than once…”

“I’ll connect you through immediately,” he said, as if he’d suddenly remembered he was on duty.

There was another brief delay and the screen went dark again, but then it flickered back to life to reveal my tutor – my friend – in living color, sitting at the console in his quarters. The cat, however, was not in evidence.

“Hey, Data,” I said. “This is so much better than letters.”

He didn’t smile, of course, but he did imbue his words with a bit of warmth. “Good morning, Zoe. Yes, this is ‘better.’ Are you certain you are awake enough for a conversation? It is…quite early…in San Francisco.”

“Way to not give the time in detail,” I teased lightly. “And it is early – or late, I guess, since I haven’t been to bed yet. But…” I shrugged. “I have tea, and I have time, and I miss you.” I didn’t let him respond to that, just continued on, adding, “Besides, I cannot possibly survive one more day without knowing how you managed to adopt a cat.”

“Ah, Spot.”

“Yes, Spot. And should we take a moment and discuss the reason you chose that name for a stripe-y cat?”

“It is a common name for Terran pets, Zoe. As well, it seemed to…suit her.”

I smiled. “If you say so. Now, tell me where she came from?”

“Spot escaped from a supply shuttle. The pilot was due to continue her journey, and by the time the animal was located, she had already departed. Initially, she was to be a quartered in a crate in the biology laboratory.”


“She appears to be an escape artist.”

“Oh, so…she’s a pretty typical cat, then?”

“Having never before owned a cat, nor been around many household pets at all, I am uncertain as to what constitutes ‘typical.’ However, she has demonstrated a remarkable ability to disappear from her assigned crate and reappear in inappropriate locations.”


“Geordi found her curled up against the outer casing of the warp core on her first morning aboard-ahip, and two days later, she managed to gain entry to the Jeffries tube leading to the port nacelle.”

“Sounds like she has a thing for magnetic vibrations.”

“That is my theory as well. It may be why she tolerates my company above most others.”

“Is there a story there?”

“Only that, before I agreed to co-habitate with her, Spot managed to attain ingress into my quarters on no fewer than six occasions.”

“Data,” I said, letting my delight bubble out in my tone, “she likes you. She really likes you.”

“That has been my supposition.”

“So you’re keeping her?”

“I believe it would be more accurate to say that she is keeping me.

I laughed again. “That’s probably true. I have to say, I’m not a fan of cats – I’m much more a dog-person – but I’m glad you have a pet. One thing, though?”

“Yes, Zoe?”

“She better not usurp my spot on your couch.”

For a moment we were both silent, and I was frantically analyzing what I’d said. Was it too forward? Had I just…staked a claim? Should I be embarrassed? Why was I not embarrassed?

Data broke the silence, saying with his usual understated certainty. “She will learn to share.”

We lapsed into another silence, but this time it was because I was sipping my tea. “So, I sent you the recording from my recital, last Tuesday. What’d you think?”

His head tilt, ever-so-slightly forward, was not the one that meant he was confused, but the one that held a hint of reproach. “Are you certain you wish me to analyze your performance?”

“Sure, tell me how much I sucked,” I quipped.

“I found no fault in your technique or intonation,” he said. “But I believe you chose a piece you are comfortable with in order feel more confident of your abilities.”

“Cooper said pretty much the same thing,” I confessed. “Well, actually, she said the piece was beneath me, and she’s making me work on one of Bach’s unaccompanied pieces for the last week of the clinic. She’s tough…but she’s also kind of Zen. She actually reminds me a little of you.”

His eyebrows lifted. “Of me?”

“Yeah. She has this knack of explaining things so that they just make sense, and she’s sort of…quietly confident. You always know she’s in charge, but you never feel like she’s ordering you around.”

“That is an excellent quality in a leader.”

“May I ask you a personal question?”

Again with the eyebrows. “You have never required permission before.”

I threw him a look meant to telegraph that he’d made a valid point and that there was a first time for everything. I wasn’t sure if he’d get it, but to explain would have distracted me from what I wanted to ask. “What are you like when you’re working?”

“I do not understand.”

I sighed. “Okay, look. I’ve observed my mother when she’s been involved in a work project. I’ve hung out in the anthro labs. I’ve even seen her issue orders before, though rarely…like to teammates, or whatever, but…she’s my mother, so, to me, her leadership style is never gonna seem anything other than parental.” I waited for him to digest that.

“Please continue.”

“I know what you’re like in class, and I got a glimpse of what you’re like when you’re in charge of a mission when we were on Ogus II – ”

He interrupted. “When the Potts child was missing.”

“Right. But most of the time when I’m around you it’s when you’re off-duty. It’s class or rehearsal or…just us. And… you don’t usually act like an authority figure, you just are one. I’m kind of curious about what you’re like when you’re actually…leading.”

“Is there a specific incident that has prompted this curiosity?”

“No. Not really. I guess it’s partly just me being nosy. And partly me being away from the ship, but in a city that’s become essentially a ‘company town.’ And…I guess I’ve been curious for a while, but I didn’t want anyone to think I’d ever be actually interested in Starfleet.” I favored him with a rueful grin, then. “It’s just…I’ve never seen you on duty. I want to know if you’re…different.”

“If you are referring to the idea that people take on distinct personae when interacting with differing segments of a population…”

“I am, and I’m not. I mean. I already know that you’re different when it’s just you and me than you are in class or in public. Not a lot different, but…there are things…nuances. You’re a lot more…open…and kind of…looser…when it’s just us.”

“I am not alone in this.”

“No, of course not. You already said…everyone does it.”

“I was referring specifically to yourself.”


“Yes. You are much more flippant with your friends, for example, more prone to snark, than you are when we are ‘just us.’ At those times, you are much more introspective.”


“In any case, if you wished to observe me at work during a typical day, I am certain it could be arranged, although the shadowing of officers is more usually reserved for students who are candidates for the Academy.”

“Shadow you?” I was surprised by the very idea. “No one said anything about shadowing you.” It had actually never occurred to me. “I was just thinking maybe…isn’t there any video of ‘Commander Data on the job’ that isn’t classified, or hasn’t been edited specifically for media? I mean, it’s not like you haven’t been a story from time to time.”

His eyes widened in apparent surprise. “I was not aware you had seen those media files.”

I could feel myself blushing. “You’re not the only person who can look stuff up, you know. It just takes me longer.”

“You do not have to ‘look stuff up’ if you wish to know more about me, Zoe.”

“Hence this whole conversation.”


I took in, then released a deep cleansing breath. The light in the room seemed different somehow, and I realized that the sun was coming up. I glanced at the clock, then refocused on the screen, my eyes meeting the image of his. “It’s almost six. I should let you go. A bunch of us are going to spend the afternoon at Stinson Beach, and I want to be awake enough to surf and still survive tonight’s concert.”

“You should not be depriving yourself of sleep.”

I laughed at that. “Oh, please, Data, it’s summer. Anyway, I can sleep when I’m dead.”

For a fraction of a second, there was a troubled look on his face, as if my expression had truly rocked him. Then he was his usual self again. “I have enjoyed our conversation,” he said. “We will speak again soon.” It wasn’t a question.

“G’night, Data.” I said.

“Good night, Zoe,” he responded, but before he disconnected the comm system on his end, he added, very softly, “I have missed you, also.”

The connection terminated, and the screen went dark. I unfolded my legs and padded across the floor to look out the window at the bay and the bridge. Cool salt air tickled my senses, but for all my bravado before, I really was tired. I put my tea-mug on the desk so I wouldn’t forget to return it to the replicator, and then crawled into bed.

My dreams that night were full of music and laughter…and a certain android.

Notes: This was done as an interlude because their live chat deserved more than just being another entry in a series. For purposes of this story, Spot has always been female. Mel’s Drive-In is a real diner. Zoe and her friends probably went to the one at Geary and Arguello. Stinson Beach is also a real place and people really do surf there, but the water can sometimes be a little sharky.

Chapter 4: Having a Wonderful Time – Part II

Disclaimer: Star Trek: the Next Generation, the U.S.S. Enterprise, and all the canon characters belong to CBS/Paramount. The rest is mine.

Having a Wonderful Time – Part II

(Messages are all video recordings unless otherwise noted.)

Stardate 44487.49

(27 June 2367, 10:25 PM, Pacific Time)

From: Zoe L. Harris, Suzuki Institute, San Francisco, Earth

To: Zachary & Gia Harris, Beach Haven, Centaurus

CC: Lt. Cmdr Emily Harris, U.S.S. Enterprise

CC: Lt. Cmdr Data, U.S.S. Enterprise

Please forgive the mass mailing, but it was easier to record this once and send it to all the people who matter. I just got back from tonight’s recital where I played the Prelude from Bach’s first suite for solo cello – the one in G major – and I killed it. I mean, yeah, I know, it’s one of those pieces that every cellist plays, but Cooper has this knack of pulling stuff out me – musically, I mean – that I don’t even know where it comes from.

We worked on it nonstop for a week, and I even canceled my weekend plans with Theo and Wes (yeah, Wes has been hanging out with us when he gets weekend passes) to practice more. I know, you’re all in shock. Remember to breathe, those of you who need to.

Anyway, Cooper says she’s contacting Dad and Data herself to tell what she thinks I ought to be doing. We also talked a lot about the fact that I’m NOT doing music for the second half of summer, but going to an acting program instead, and she actually thought it was a good idea.

Specifically, she said, I should let one thing inform the other, that acting would help me be a better musician, and vice versa. She is officially the first teacher I’ve had – sorry, Data, but it’s true, if only because you and I have never had this discussion – who doesn’t think I’m being somehow disloyal to my instrument (does anyone think that could sound really dirty in the wrong context? Oops, sorry, forgot who I was talking to.) or not serious enough by wanting to do different things. She also said I should consider an academic institution for college, rather than a conservatory, but that I should look at all my options.

No, Mom, Starfleet Academy is still not on the list. Data, back me up on this? You know it’s not a life I’m suited for.

Anyway, it’s hard to believe this is my last week at Suzuki. I think I could stay here forever and not get bored.

At the recital tonight there were a couple of boys from Oberlin who played rock and roll cello duets – covers of a song by some ancient Earth group called ‘Metallica’ and a newer piece by an all-cello rock band called ‘String Theory.’ Dad, you and Uncle Zane would love them. Data….I’ve got a data-solid with some of their stuff, but I’m not sure you’ll appreciate the glory of ACID CELLO.

(The door opens, and another young woman – one with cocoa-colored skin and a head full of braids – leans over Zoe’s shoulder and peers into the camera. Her accent is faintly British.)

Hello, Zoe’s parents or friends or whatever. I’m Ronnie. If she hasn’t told you ALL about me, you’re missing out. Need to borrow your girl for a couple hours. There’s cheeseburgers a-waiting and less than 90 minutes to curfew.

(Laughing, Zoe pushes Ronnie out of frame.)

Ronnie, I need to finish this!

(She returns her attention to her letter.)

Alright everyone, you heard her…there are cheeseburgers. Sorry, but junk food trumps letter writing every time. Love you! Mean it!

(Message attachment: a clip of Zoe playing the Bach Prelude.)


Stardate 44487.90

(28 June 2367, 2:00 AM, Pacific Time)

From: Zoe L. Harris, Suzuki Institute, San Francisco, Earth

To: Dana Swensen, U.S.S. Enterprise

Okay, I admit it: I’ve been a horrible friend. I’ve been so focused on music and music, and did I mention music? And I kept meaning to send you another letter, but then all the news was of the old kind and…forgive me?

So, it’s my last week at Suzuki, and I’ve met some people and my playing is better than ever, but more than one of my teachers here has asked me if it’s what I really want to do with my life, and the thing is, how are you supposed to know what you want to do with your life at sixteen? I mean…really?

I mean I love music. But…what if they’re right?

What if I don’t love it…enough?

Okay, this is already way too serious.

So, you and Josh…Josh and you. I don’t know, you seem to fit together so well. But I guess…I met you both at the same time, so I think of you in the same breath half the time. The two of you together just seems right.

But if you’re not ready, you’re not ready.

I mean…Tev and I…we were…but then with Theo I’m not….

I’m really not helping, am I?

I’ve only got three days left here at Suzuki, and then I’m back at Theo’s for the North American Independence Day holiday, which is apparently some ancient celebration that involves fireworks and backyard barbecues. I’ll be there for a week after that, actually, before I move to ACT’s summer dorms, which are actually in the hostel at Fort Mason.

It will be weird not doing music every day. I know pretty much how I stack up with other musicians, but against other actors I have no idea.

Tell me I won’t suck?

Hug Josh for me.

Kiss him for you.


(Another series of text messages)

Friday, 30 June 2367, 11:05 A.M. Pacific Time

From: Zoe Harris

To: Theo Nechayev, Wesley Crusher

Okay, boys. The final recital is tonight. My ensemble got picked for the opening. Are you both coming? Can I get a head count?

11:07 A.M. Pacific Time

From: Theo Nechayev

To: Zoe Harris, Wesley Crusher

At the advanced age of eight-days-from-twenty, I do not believe I still qualify as a boy. Wouldn’t miss your concert for the world, CelloGirl. Auntie is coming as well.

11:08 A.M. Pacific Time

From: Wesley Crusher

To: Zoe Harris, Theo Nechayev

I requested an early-start weekend pass, but it hasn’t been approved yet. Will let you know ASAP.

11:09 A.M.

From: Wesley Crusher

To: Zoe Harris

If I don’t get a pass, please don’t hold it against me? It’s a really big weekend for off-campus requests.

11:12 A.M.

From: Theo Nechayev

To: Zoe Harris

Aunt Alynna wants me to tell you not to be put off when she shows up in full dress uniform. Suzuki Institute is a respected school, and this concert is an annual event.

11:13 A.M.

From: Zoe Harris

To: Theo Nechayev

Is this the part where you tell me I committed some social faux pas by inviting her so casually?

11:14 A.M.

From: Theo Nechayev

To: Zoe Harris

She’s a friend of the family to you, at least now. If you were a cadet it’d be different. Are we allowed to take you home with us, or do you have to wait until morning to check out?

11:15 A.M.

From: Zoe Harris

To: Theo Nechayev

Morning, sadly. Between ten and noon. Are you coming to fetch me, or should I sign up for the Institute’s ground shuttle? Public transport with cello and luggage is kind of a hassle.

11:16 A.M.

From: Theo Nechayev

To: Zoe Harris

I’ll come collect you at 10:30, and bring you home so you can unpack. We’ll plan the rest of the weekend together.

11:23 A.M.

From: Wesley Crusher

Zoe Harris, Theo Nechayev

I was just informed I am Admiral Nechayev’s body man for the evening, and that formal dress is in order. Gee, Zoe, I thought you said we were FRIENDS?

11:37 A.M.

From: Zoe Harris

To: Theo Nechayev, Wesley Crusher

I swear I had nothing to do with this.

11:38 A.M.

From: Theo Nechayev

To: Zoe Harris, Wesley Crusher

Hey, it got you off-campus on a Friday night of a holiday weekend didn’t it? Aren’t you plebes supposed to be honored by such assignments?

Also? I had nothing to do with it either.


Stardate 44498.86

(Sunday, 2 July 2367, 2:00 A.M. Pacific Time)

To: Stevek Mairaj, U.S.S. Berlin

From: Zoe L. Harris, Casa Nechayev, San Francisco, Earth


So, we haven’t talked since April or early May, and so much is going on. First, I’m writing this from the home of one Admiral Alynna Nechayev. Yes, that Admiral Nechayev.

(Zoe does her best deadpan I’m-being-completely-serious tone and expression.)

Apparently hanging out with officers, wannabe officers, and ‘fleet brats eventually sinks in. T’vek, I’m actually at a Starfleet Academy summer program for prospective students.

(She takes a beat.)

Also, I’m dating Wesley Crusher.

(She stares into the camera daring it to contradict her. It does not.)

(Time passes.)

(She bursts out giggling.)

Okay, that’s totally bogus, but I wish I could have seen the expression on your face when I said it. So, truth: I’ve been on Earth since the end of May, staying with Theo – I think I mentioned he was on the Enterprise for a semester in space thing from MIT? Well it turns out that he’s the Admiral’s nephew, and he’s here for the summer, and he invited me to spend the summer with him.

Of course there was no way my parents – well, my dad, maybe, but definitely not my mom – were going to let me spend the whole summer with a boy. (Theo says he’s technically a man since he turns twenty next week, but whatever.) So, for the last month I’ve been eating, sleeping, and breathing music at the Suzuki Institute, and I’m here for a week, and then I move to Fort Mason, for ACT’s summer program, and then there might be a few days here again before I head home.

Or…back to the ship.

Or…you know what I mean.

The music part’s been stellar, of course. I got to work with members of the Tantalus, I’ve learned a little bit of Vulcan lyre technique in a workshop here (see, I promised your mother), and the rest…

The admiral, when you’re not her underling, is really all shades of cool. She’s much smaller in person than she seems on a vid-screen, and kind of soft-spoken, and she’s been very welcoming, not pushing the whole ‘consider the Academy’ agenda on me at all.

And Theo…Theo is…nice. He’s funny and kind and I like spending time with him – he’s introducing me to his friends, and taking me to lots of his favorite places, but we’ve agreed to keep things casual. Light.

At least for the summer.

(Her tone changes from light and chatty to somewhat darker. Worried.)

I need to tell you something. Well, I need to tell someone something, and I’m picking you because you’re not likely to put me under house arrest or redirect a starship…you know I told you about…about Data’s brother and what happened after you left? Well, it’s probably nothing. Or nerves. Or…I could have sworn I saw him at the final Suzuki concert last on Friday. Just for a second.

I’m probably just imagining things, right?

Oh! I forgot. My suitemate, Ronnie, says to ask you if you know a guy on the Berlin – Harley Babigian? He’s a year or so ahead of us in school, and they used to date or something. Well, they used to ‘get together,’ but I’m not entirely sure which meaning of ‘get together’ was meant.

It’s really late, and we’re doing brunch with bunches of people I don’t actually know tomorrow, so I’d better hit send.

This summer’s been amazing, Tev. I miss you…I think I’m always gonna miss you…but I’m okay.

Better than okay.

Great even.

(She flashes her happiest smile, the one that goes all the way to her eyes.)

Give my love to your parents.

And send me a note when you have time.


Stardate 44505.87

(4 July 2367, 15:35 PM, ship’s time)

From: Stevek Mairaj, U.S.S. Berlin

To: Zoe L. Harris, Admiral Nechayev’s residence, San Francisco, Earth

Look at you, Zoe, hanging with the Admiralty. Wow, and to think I knew you when…

Okay, I know, you wouldn’t care if Theo’s family were janitorial workers, as long as they kept you in coffee…you are being kept in coffee, aren’t you? I’d hate to think what you’d be like if not.

(He schools his smiling, laughing face into a more serious expression.)

I’m glad you’re doing something for you this summer. I’m going to a summer program on Earth as well, that starts in a couple of weeks. ‘The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts’ is hosting an intensive for prospective architecture students and they liked my application enough to get me in. No promises, but maybe we can meet up. I’d love to see you.

(He takes on a concerned, lecturing sort of tone.)

So, about the other thing you mentioned. The brother….are we talking in code for a reason, or can we say his name? I feel like I’m in a spy vid.

(In a conspiratorial whisper)

The sehlat yowled at moonrise.

(In a normal voice)

I don’t know what to tell you. If it was just one time, then maybe it was just your imagination…you can be a little…creative, sometimes. Don’t be paranoid, just be aware. But if you see him again, Zoe, you have to tell someone. Your mother, at least. Or Data.

Is it wrong that I hope it’s just you being a little crazy?

Not crazy-crazy, but…you know.

Anyway, I’ll append my trip details so you have them. Hopefully our schedules will mesh. I want to meet this Theo-person, see if he’s good enough for you.

Oh, and Harley’s in my lit class – or was – I’m not sure what classes will be when school starts again. He’s…kind of awesome actually. Trouble, but in a good way.

(He holds his hand up, favoring her with the Vulcan salute, but then flashes the ASL sign for ‘I love you,’ right after.)


Stardate 44507.34

(5 July 2367, 04:23 hours, ship’s time)

From: Lieutenant Commander Data, U.S.S. Enterprise

To: Zoe Lauren Harris, Admiral Nechayev’s residence, San Francisco, Earth

Good morning, Zoe.

At your request, I am attempting to be more casual in my personal correspondence with you. Do you find that ‘good morning’ is a better greeting than ‘dear Zoe?’ Does the fact that it may not be morning in your location when you receive this missive lessen the effect of the greeting? Is there a specific greeting you would prefer I use for future letters?

You have asked before for news of the ship. We have been under a communications blackout for the last three point seven six eight days, but I am afraid the reason is classified information. Let me assure you that we are all well.

Prior to the blackout, I had the experience of serving as ‘judge and jury’ in a trial between Captain Picard and a ‘con artist’ attempting to pass herself off as a legendary being in order to lay claim to an entire world and all its people and assets. I do not mind admitting that I was somewhat concerned about the possibility of ruling against the Captain, but with the help of Commander LaForge and many others aboard the Enterprise – including your mother, whose knowledge of folklore was quite handy – the truth was found, and the woman was arrested.

It is possible you have seen mention of this on the news networks, as she has been ‘scamming’ people throughout the Federation for…the better part of a decade.

In regard to your last letter, I am honored to be included with your family among people who ‘matter’ to you. Perhaps you are aware of this already, but, as I have often had to remind you that we are friends, I will clarify for you: you also ‘matter’ to me.

I have heard from Cooper, who has suggested that if you are to move forward as a musician, even if you do not eventually make a career of it, you would benefit less from a teacher and more from a coach and partner. She has further suggested – as you, yourself, have – I believe the word is ‘grumbled’ – that you have moved beyond what Lieutenant Starker can teach.

As we have already agreed to continue meeting weekly to continue your study of music theory, I would suggest that we expand our time together by one hour, and focus part of that time on technique and repertoire. I have observed that reactions to my own performances are much warmer since we have begun working together, and believe we should capitalize on what is clearly mutually…beneficial.

However, if this plan is not acceptable to you, or if you would prefer to work with someone who understands the emotional component of musicianship, I will understand, and will begin the search for a likely candidate.

When I mentioned your complaint about my ‘writing style’ to Counselor Troi, she suggested that I include some inconsequential chatter in my next letter, so I will share that as I record this, Spot is curled up on the couch, but not in ‘your place.’

Instead, she has taken a liking to the place I generally occupy when you and I are having tea together, and I must dislodge her if I wish to sit down. After I do so, she invariably waits until I have picked up a padd or my oboe (You have stated more than once that you think the oboe sounds like a ‘duck call’ but it is a necessary component of certain chamber ensembles. Having now listened to the calls and songs of eight hundred seventy-three distinct types of water fowl, I believe that you either made an error in identification, or are using ‘duck call’ in a way with which I am unfamiliar. Please elaborate?) and then jumps into my lap, where she will remain until I move her again. This behavior typically repeats itself until I cease my planned activity and focus my attention on her, or until she exhibits signs of being hungry.

(As if on cue, there is a loud meeoooowwwrrrrr from out of frame, and then orange and white fur obscures Data’s image.)

No, Spot. You must not jump onto the console.

No, Spot. You must not bat at the control keys.

No, Spot –

(There is a screen full of static for about 30 seconds, during which Data’s cajoling and Spot’s meowing can be heard. Then the image resolves into Data’s face again. His last three sentences are uttered very rapidly.)

I am afraid I must end this letter now, Zoe.

I look forward to your next communication.

Data out.

Notes: Episodes that take place during this chapter are “Devil’s Due,” and “Clues.” The piece of music Zoe mentions playing solo is the Prelude from Johann Sebastian Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1 in G major, BWV 1007. A video of Yo-Yo Ma playing it has been added to the CRUSHING ON CELLO playlist (link in my profile.) Rock cello is not a new thing, though it’s safe to say it was new to Zoe. My own first intro to it was via the group Apocalyptica, which really did start out doing all-cello covers of Metallica tunes. Their version of “Fade to Black” has also been added to the playlist. And before you ask, no, Tev and Zoe are NOT getting back together.

Chapter 5: Wish You Were Here – Part I

Disclaimer: Star Trek: the Next Generation, the U.S.S. Enterprise, and all the canon characters belong to CBS/Paramount. The rest is mine.

Wish You Were Here – Part I

(Messages are all video recordings unless otherwise noted.)

Stardate 44521.34

(10 July 2367, 07:00 hours, ship’s time)

From: Lt. Cmdr. Emily Harris, U.S.S. Enterprise

To: Zoe L. Harris, Fort Mason Hostel, San Francisco, Earth

Hello, Kid-of-mine!

I haven’t heard from you in a few days…are you all settled in at the hostel? I know orientation was last week, but classes start today, don’t they?

Send a note, even if it’s just a quick line to tell me how you are.

I miss you, kiddo.

I love you.


12 July 2367, 2:00 PM Local Time

From: Zachary Harris, Beach Haven, Centaurus

To: Zoe L. Harris, Fort Mason Hostel, San Francisco, Earth

Darling Zoetrope, are you merely immersed in your creative artistry, or has something gone wrong? We miss seeing your smiling face and hearing your melodious voice, even if it has to be via comm-chat and recorded letters.

I heard from your mother…she says you’ve been incommunicado for the better part of a week.

I think you’re just avoiding us until whatever you pierced or dyed has healed or faded.

Tell me I’m right, darling?

Gia sends her love, as do I.


13 July 2367, 4:00 AM Pacific Time

From: Anonymous Sender

To: Zoe L. Harris, Fort Mason Hostel, San Francisco, Earth

(This message is audio only, and the voice sounds like a darker, less stable version of Data.)

I’ve been watching you while you’ve been in San Francisco. Brave of you to stray so far from the people who can protect you. Maybe you aren’t such a little girl after all.

I heard you play the Bach prelude at Suzuki. My brother didn’t teach you that kind of expression.

Does he know you wanted it to be his kiss? Somehow, I doubt it. If you ever want to taste the real thing again, instead of pining for a cheap imitation, I’ll be around.

I’m always around.

(Message auto-deletes after it finishes playing.)


Stardate 44533.22

(14 July 2367, 15:00 ship’s time)

From: Stevek Mairaj, U.S.S. Berlin

To: Zoe L. Harris, Fort Mason Hostel, San Francisco, Earth

So, you’re so starstruck by the people you’re working with at ACT that you don’t have time to read or answer mail anymore? Maybe it’s good we’re not a couple any more – I’d be hurt and worried.

Oh, wait, I am hurt and worried.

Mostly worried.

Anyway, Zoe, I’m not traveling through San Francisco, but through Antwerp, so I won’t be able to see you before my program starts but we have a long weekend at the beginning of August and if you can find time, I think I could get a shuttle there, or you could come to Denmark, or we could meet somewhere in between – what’s in between California and Denmark?

Hope you’re having fun showing off how amazing you are.

See you in a few weeks.


15 July 2367, 11:00 AM Pacific Time

From: Cadet Wesley Crusher, Starfleet Academy, San Francisco, Earth

To: Zoe L. Harris, Fort Mason Hostel, San Francisco, Earth

Hey, Zoe, I just got a text from Theo asking if I’d heard from you all week, and when I tried to text your PADD I got a message-refused response. Is everything okay? Should I call the Admiral, or send word to my mother?


Stardate 44535.56

(Saturday, 15 July 2367, 11:34 hours ship’s time.)

From: Lieutenant Commander Data, U.S.S. Enterprise

To: Zoe Lauren Harris, ACT, Fort Mason, San Francisco, Earth

Alert: This message has been tagged read-receipt (automatic), reply-requested


As I begin this recording, it is one hour, thirty-four minutes and thirty-eight point three seconds into the time of day when, were you aboard ship, we would be having our Saturday Session. As I have nothing else scheduled for this period of time, and have become accustomed to sharing it with you, it seemed appropriate to spend it recording a message.

Spot is asleep on the couch, and the ship is engaged in a mapping and charting expedition in a largely uninhabited sector. You would refer to this as ‘the boring part.’

Most of my colleagues would agree with you.

It has been approximately ten days since we have last communicated. As your pattern has been to send messages every other day, I became…concerned…and went to your mother to determine whether or not there was cause for alarm. Her response to my inquiry was that she had not heard from you either, but that you were likely ‘just busy, making new friends and experiencing new things.’

It is my hope that your mother is correct.

I am unsure why, but I do not believe she is.

I have formed seventeen distinct scenarios providing possible reasons for your ‘radio silence,’ to use your phrase. However, I am not inclined to list them now. It is my experience that if I omit information, you will ‘come looking’ for the missing…data.

Zoe if something is wrong…May I remind you that I am available if you…’need an ear.’

I hope to hear from you…soon.

(Read-receipt: July 15, 2367, Time: 11:35:35 Stardate 44535.57)


Stardate 44536.03

(15 July 2367, 3:37 PM, Pacific Time)

To: Lt. Cmdr. Emily Harris, U.S.S. Enterprise

CC: Lt. Cmdr. Data, U.S.S. Enterprise

Zachary & Gia Harris, Beach Haven, Centaurus

Cdt. Wesley Crusher, Starfleet Academy, Earth

Dana Swenson, U.S.S. Enterprise

Stevek Mairaj, U.S.S. Berlin

From: Zoe L. Harris, Fort Mason Hostel, San Francisco, Earth

(This message is text only).

Am fine. Settled in at hostel. Other girls are really cool. Boys…are boys. Week’s been intense. More later. Z.


(A series of text messages)

15 July 2367, 4:02 PM, Pacific Time

From: Zoe Harris

To: Theo Nechayev

Sorry to be so avoid-y all week. Cannot believe you actually had Wesley Crusher check on me. I mean…Wesley? Really? Brunch tomorrow?

15 July 2367, 4:03 PM

From: Theo Nechayev

To: Zoe Harris

It has to be on the late side. Promised auntie I’d go to mass with her in the morning. You’re welcome to join us.

4:04 PM

From: Zoe Harris

To: Theo Nechayev

Mass, really? Catholic, Orthodox, Episcopalian….What flavor of mass? And what time?

4:05 PM

From: Theo Nechayev

To: Zoe Harris

Episcopal. Sung. We’d pick you up at nine-thirty.

4:06 PM

From: Zoe Harris

To: Theo Nechayev

I haven’t been to mass since Christmas Eve. See you in the morning.


15 July 2367, 8:30 PM Pacific Time

To: Irene Harris, Harris Farm, Garrovick River Falls, Centaurus

From: Zoe L. Harris, Fort Mason Hostel, San Francisco, Earth

(Throughout this message, Zoe seems subdued, and a little bit ill-at-ease.)

(ACT is spelled as one word, but pronounced letter by letter – A – C – T)

Hey, Gran –

It’s been a while since I’ve contacted you, and since everyone else jumped on me for not being all chatty-Cathy this week, I thought I’d better send a note before it was your turn.

San Francisco is a lovely city, and I can see why people always want to come here. Parts of the city feel like there’s nothing but Starfleet, but then you turn a corner and there’s a local café that’s been here forever, and you can’t help but feel the history of the place…Centaurus feels so new and young by comparison.

So, the Suzuki Institute was an amazing experience. My technique instructor, a woman named Cooper who owns CrossBows on Ogus II, was really amazing at pulling expression out of me while she tweaked some of my technical skills, and I got to do a master class with Hugo Rodriguez from the Tantalus…and that was really scary, and really daunting, but then I did some more weekend extras, and I’ve learned that I’m a better musician than I think I am.

But I also learned that I’m not certain I want to be a musician as a career. The instructors are all brutally honest – you give up a lot of other options when you choose a conservatory, and it invariably means long tours or being stuck in the back of an orchestra til you’ve paid your dues…

So…I had a nice break hanging out with Theo. Mom likes him. Sometimes I think she likes him more than I do, but then, she sees us as some great match, and I suspect if I stayed with him it might not hurt her career – and why am I even worried about that. I mean, she’s on the damned flagship – I know, language – and everything and…

But that can wait.

I’ve been at ACT for a week and a half now, and wow…it’s not what I was expecting. It’s not what I was expecting at all. I mean, everyone’s very nice, but…I’m not sure I belong here. I feel like I have no idea what I’m doing, and everyone is so much better than me.

I wish you were here to hug me and then talk sense to me.

I wish I’d decided to go back home and do summer stock, at least for the second half of the summer.

I wish…I wish a lot of things.

Well, I have another message to send, and I’m going to mass – yes, you heard that right – with a friend tomorrow, so I should end this now.

I love you, Gran. Can’t wait to see you at Christmas.


Stardate 44536.94

(15 July 2367, 11:40 PM Pacific Time)

To: Lt. Cmdr. Geordi LaForge, U.S.S. Enterprise

From: Zoe L. Harris, Fort Mason Hostel, San Francisco, Earth

(As with her previous message, Zoe is subdued, and any semblance of being chipper is obviously forced.)

Hey, Geordi,

I bet in a million years you never expected to get a message from me. Hope you don’t mind?

So, I’m at ACT in San Francisco, and there’s this boy here who’s a little younger than me – about fourteen. His name is Michael Lang, and he’s really kind of sweet in an I-wish-he-were-my-younger-brother kind of way, and his family survived one of the Borg attacks, but there was blowback from an explosion and he lost his eyes.

He’s been fitted for a VISOR – I guess they don’t like to do prosthetic implants on kids who are still growing? – and he’s getting used to it, but what he isn’t getting used to, shouldn’t have to get used to, is that other kids are picking on him.

I might’ve sort of, kind of, mentioned that the Chief Engineer of Starfleet’s flagship was a family friend – presumptuous I know, but you can exact some kind of revenge when I get back to the ship next month – and might be willing to share some advice?

So, would you?

His contact info is appended to this message.

Also…while I’m recording this…is there a way someone with seriously subpar computer skills could retrieve a message that was set to auto-delete after being read? If there is, could you send me step-by-step instructions?

I don’t want to eat up more of your time. Let me know what you think about Michael? I hate to see anyone in pain.

Oh…and…could you let Data know I’ll call him tomorrow afternoon or evening?

Thanks bunches.

Notes: Zoe’s lack of communication will be further explained by Zoe herself, so I won’t elaborate here. This chapter also exists between episodes, so it really is, mission-wise, one of the ‘boring parts.’ Fort Mason is a former army base in the Marina district of San Francisco, and was the principal port for the U.S. Army’s Pacific campaign during World War II. Today, it’s part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Some of the officer’s housing is still in use, while one of the buildings is a hostel with a small café. The main fort now houses Fort Mason Center, which provides space to improve troupes, SFMOMA, Greens restaurant, at least one music school, etc. ACT – American Conservatory Theater is a real institution, but does not, in our time, have space at Fort Mason – they’re more centrally located. For this story, I’ve really just co-opted their name.

Chapter 6: Interlude: Fear of Failure

Disclaimer: Star Trek: the Next Generation, the U.S.S. Enterprise, and all the canon characters belong to CBS/Paramount. The rest is mine.

Interlude: Fear of Failure

Stardate 44539.34

(Sunday, 16 July 2367, 8:40 PM Pacific Time)

I put off the calls I knew I had to make for as long as I could, not because of the message from Lore, but because I didn’t want my family to know I was floundering where I’d expected to excel.

First, I spoke to each of my parents, explaining that the first week and half of ACT’s program had been intense. Then I watched Geordi’s message, following his step-by-step instructions to retrieve and save the message from Lore, which I (also following his instructions) forwarded both to him and to Data. Then I took a long, hot, water shower – one of the perks of having a father who’d funded a private room with an en suite bathroom.

I was wrapped in a terry-cloth bathrobe, with bare feet and still-damp hair when I finally placed the one call that I had been both anticipating and dreading.

“Lieutenant Commander Data, here,” came the familiar voice, as his features resolved into an image on my screen. As before, I’d adjusted things so I could sit on my bed while we talked.

“Hey, Data,” I said, attempting my brightest smile. “Miss me?”

“Yes,” he answered simply, but then his head canted ever so slightly forward, and his brows came together in the expression that usually meant he was concerned, but his yellow eyes were reassuringly steady. “I do not wish to be rude,” he said, “but in the common parlance, I believe it would be accurate to say that you ‘look like hell.’ How can I help?”

Come here and make everything better, I wanted to say, but didn’t. Instead I sighed, “I don’t think you can. It’s not just the message from Lore that has me all messed up. I’m not sleeping well. Food tastes like sand.” I could hear my voice quavering. “Data, everything’s all wrong…I don’t think I can do this.”

If I was expecting sympathetic platitudes, I was talking to the wrong person.

“Please elaborate,” he said.

“It started the first day,” I answered. “They broke us up into different groups, and the instructor I was assigned is this guy named Lachlan Meade. He’s this great big bear of a man, and he’s Scottish, and I’ve seen him in vids like half my life – we all have – so I know his reputation, but he walked into class on the first day, and announced that ‘acting is standing up naked and turning around slowly.'”

“That is an interesting description of the craft,” Data observed. “Please continue.”

“Then he said that some of us were probably here because we were the children of celebrities, and some of us probably had professional credits from work as kids, and some of us had the leads in our school plays…and that none of that mattered.”

“Ah,” Data said.

“Ah? I tell you that the instructor basically said I didn’t belong here, and all you say is ‘Ah?'”

Data didn’t typically need to search for words, so his hesitation confused me. After a beat or two, however, his soft reply came over the comm-link: “I am uncertain of what you would have me say. Did Mr. Meade state explicitly that you do not belong in this program?”

I took a breath, “Well, no. But Data, I fit every single one of those three criteria.”

“Yes,” he agreed. “You do. However, I would ‘hazard a guess’ that you are not the only student who does so. ACT’s summer intensive is a pre-professional program, is it not?”


“And is it not also usual for the children of professional performers to follow their parents into ‘the biz,’ just as the children of Starfleet officers often follow their parents into service?”

“Yes,” I said again. “Of course it is, but…”

His brow-crinkle, this time, was the one I recognized from class as the expression he wore during ‘teachable moments.’ “Then, is it not possible that your own flair for the dramatic, as well as your prolonged absence from home and family, have combined to reduce your confidence in your own talent and abilities?”

I wrinkled my nose at him. “It’s…possible,” I allowed.

“There is more,” he stated. And I knew he meant that I had more to tell him.

“He’s having us do these exercises where we talk about ourselves.”

“I do not understand.”

“He puts us all in a circle, and makes us close our eyes and talk about our scariest moments, or the time we were happiest, or who makes us our best selves.”

“I have never known you to be reticent about sharing personal anecdotes.”

“All my biggest moments would involve name-dropping. I’ve never been more scared than when I was afraid you’d all been Borgified, or when I thought you were dead. I’m happiest when I’m playing music, which is pretty normal, but the best musical moment I had was doing Hugo Rodriguez’s master class. And the person who makes me my best self is…” I could feel myself blushing, but somehow the distance between us and the fact that it was just a comm-call made the confession come out anyway. “…is you. And I can’t talk about any of it, because Lachlan – I mean everyone -already thinks I’m an over-privileged ‘fleet brat with a celebrity father, so naming the Enterprise or talking about how my math tutor and music theory teacher is…you… would be…less than helpful.”

I hesitated, catching my breath, then continued before he could say anything. “But it doesn’t matter, anyway, because really, Lach is – I mean everyone is – is right. I’ve never had to struggle for anything, really. I’ve been taught how to succeed, but I’ve never been taught how to deal with failing. And Data, I feel like I’m failing.”

“I suspect you are simply having difficulty adjusting to a new paradigm.”

I rolled my eyes at his image on the screen. “You would say that.” A thought occurred to me. “Have you ever failed at anything?”

“Yes,” he said, in the same matter-of-fact tone he’d used when he’d said he’d missed me. “I experienced failure many times as a cadet at Starfleet Academy.”

“You failed classes? Aren’t you omniscient, or something?”

His expression was reproachful. “You are aware that I am not. But, yes, I did fail more than one class. Anything that required personal interaction was difficult for me, as I had not yet learned human social customs.”

“You weren’t programmed with stuff like that?”

“There is often a great divide between theoretical knowledge and the knowledge gained from experience,” he said. And then his face lit up, as a thought apparently occurred to him. “Zoe, do you play poker?”

“Poker? The card game? No. Most people my age consider it a geezer game.”

“Query: ‘geezer game?'”

“One of those things only old people play.”

“I do not think either Geordi or I count as ‘geezers’ by any definition,” he said. Anyone else would have been miffed. He, of course, was not.

“Well, no…not you two…but, why are you asking me about card games?”

“My experience playing is a good example of ‘knowing how to play’ a game, but lacking the necessary real-world experience to excel.”

“I’m not sure how your poker prowess – or lack thereof – relates to my problem.”

“It does not relate to your problem, merely to your question about what ‘stuff’ was included in my original programming.”

“Oh…okay.” I waited a beat. “I think maybe we should talk about the message I received from your bro – from Lore.”

“He did say he would be watching you.”

“I remember. I was there. It was creepy then, and it’s creepier now. Bordering on scary, even. The thing is, Data, most people don’t actually mean it when they say things like that.”

“That is true. However, Lore is not ‘most people.’ He has demonstrated a tendency to be unpredictable, and his behavior is often irrational. As well, he –”

I cut him off, “Data!”


“Am I in danger? Is he likely to kidnap me from my bed? Should I inform the instructors that I may have a stalker?”

“Ah.” His eyes betrayed that he was searching for information. “I do not believe he means you direct harm. In fact, I am inclined to believe that he meant for you to forward his message to me. As long as you are cautious about where you go, and with whom, I do not think you are at risk.”

“Can you do me a favor?”

“Of course, if I am able.”

“If you believe that I’m really not in danger, I trust your judgement, but… I didn’t tell my parents about that message. I also haven’t told them that I thought I saw him – Lore – at the Suzuki concert.”

“If Lore truly wished you harm, he could have ‘made a move’ against you at any time.”

“Oh, thanks for that.”

“Is the concert the only time you have glimpsed him?”

I closed my eyes, thinking it over, “I thought I saw him at mass this morning as well, but that seems unlikely…I mean why would he go to mass? But most everywhere we’ve been there’ve been Starfleet officers in uniforms, and I’m betting he still has your old one, or access to more, and really what’s one more officer in a sea of…oh, god, I just realized why you’re always in uniform, even when other people are in normal clothes.”


“It’s to blend, isn’t it? You in civvies would stand out, but in a uniform…. People see the uniform first, not the man who’s wearing it.” I said it softly, not with the usual gleeful tone I’d have used when solving some other, less personal, puzzle. “When you’re in uniform, it forces people to see you as an officer and not…”

“…as a machine.” He finished the sentence for me. “Indeed,” he added quietly.

The kid I’d told Geordi about, the one with the VISOR, flitted into my thoughts for a moment, and when I looked at Data’s face on my comm-screen, and met his eyes, all I could say was, “People really kind of suck, sometimes.”

“I would not use that phrasing,” Data said, in a tone as subdued as my own, “but you are correct. However, as you yourself have noted, sometimes people can also be ‘kind of awesome.'”

My slang coming out of his mouth made me grin. “You are kind of awesome. All kinds of awesome.” I managed to maintain a real smile for him. “Thank you, Data. Talking to you has really helped.”

“I am glad that it did.”

The rest of our conversation was just chat. He told me the ship was still mapping and charting, but that Commander Riker was deployed on a mission to determine if a planet was able to be contacted by the Federation, and I told him about some of the stuff I’d been doing at ACT that hadn’t been completely awful.

As our conversation wound down, I asked him again, “So, you won’t tell my mother? About Lore?”

“I will not, for now, if only because she would likely insist that you return to the Enterprise, and I believe Lore would consider such an action cause for alarm.”


“But I must insist that you stay in touch with your parents, and that you let me know if you see or hear from him again.”

“I will,” I said. “I promise.”

“I accept your promise,” he said gravely.


“Yes, Zoe?”

“Do you really think I have talent?”

“Yes, Zoe.”

We ended our call at that point, and I went to comb out my hair before bed. I was still half-convinced that I wasn’t doing very well, but I wasn’t ready to give up, either.

Notes: First, a shout-out to Phangirl27. No, I’m not in school. Haven’t been for decades. Just crazy-busy. Improv helps me get into the heads of different characters. Sometimes. Second, Riker’s mission (referred to by Data) is “First Contact,” the episode, not the movie. It’s the only episode that doesn’t reference a specific Stardate, but based on the episodes on either side of it, mid-July should be about when he first goes ‘undercover’ on the planet. Third, I’m off to Mexico on 12/23, but will try to have this story finished before I leave. Someone stop me before I write a Christmas one-off. Edited to add: the quotation, “Acting is standing up naked and turning around slowly,” used by Zoe’s instructor Lachlan Meade, was actually coined by Rosalind Russell.

Chapter 7: Wish You Were Here – Part II

Disclaimer: Star Trek: the Next Generation, the U.S.S. Enterprise, and all the canon characters belong to CBS/Paramount. The rest is mine.

Wish You Were Here – Part II

(All messages are video recordings unless otherwise noted.)

Stardate 44588.42

3 August 2367, 6:36 PM Pacific Time

To: Stevek Mairaj, U.S.S. Berlin

From: Zoe L. Harris, Fort Mason Hostel, San Francisco, Earth

Well, you’ve been gone again for like four days now, and somehow it doesn’t hurt as much as it did after my birthday. Does that mean we’re really over each other – romantically – or does it just mean we’re growing up? I’m guessing a little of both.

Anyway, I’m just dashing this off between class and dinner, and I’m late for the latter. I loved hanging out with you in San Francisco, and I’m glad Theo didn’t feel threatened by you being here. It shouldn’t matter that the two of you get along, and yet somehow it does, at least a little.

And how dare you tease us about being the new power couple of ‘fleet brats? Aren’t you the boy with five – FIVE – different girls pinging your padd all the time.

Really, Tev…if I’d known you were such a player…

But…I guess it’s good you have options.

And…I still miss you like crazy.

I should go.

Give your parents my love, and I promise to be better about keeping in touch if you are. Deal?


Stardate 44589.98

4 August 2367, 08:13 hours, ship’s time

From: Lt. Cmdr. Deanna Troi, U.S.S. Enterprise

To: Zoe L. Harris, Fort Mason Hostel, San Francisco, Earth

Hello, Zoe, I hope this message finds you well.

Data says you and he have been corresponding regularly – no, he hasn’t provided any details of what you’ve talked about – so I bet you know that we’re still on our mapping and charting mission. Commander Riker is back from his away mission – I think I mentioned that in my last letter, if someone else didn’t – and I hope you don’t mind, but I shared the recordings of your music with him. He says any time you want to switch to jazz, you’re welcome in his band. Take him up on it – he could use the challenge.

I’m glad to hear you’re not struggling so much now that you’ve been at ACT a while longer. Remember that even though it’s a pre-professional program, you are not committed to a career in theatre if it’s not what you want. This is just a time for you to explore possibilities. If you look at the experience that way, I think you’ll find the pressure eases.

Perhaps I wasn’t clear, Zoe, but you are welcome to contact me any time. As long as your mother is part of this crew, you are a part of the Enterprise family. Something tells me there are people – a certain android of our mutual acquaintance – who would consider you a part of the ‘family’ even if your mother transfers to a different posting.

Enjoy your last few weeks, Zoe. I look forward to seeing you again in person, and hearing your adventures over some kind of chocolate.


Stardate 44592.92

5 August 2367, 10:00 AM Pacific Time

To: Lt. Commander Data, U.S.S. Enterprise

From: Zoe L. Harris, Fort Mason Hostel, San Francisco, Earth

I looked at the time as I was getting up just now, and the first thought that entered my mind was, “Oh, god, it’s ten in the morning and I’m going to be late for my Saturday Session with Data.” Then reality penetrated my brain, and I remembered I was still in San Francisco. No, I’m not crazy (Counselor Troi says so) it’s just that Saturday mornings with you have been imprinted into every part of my being.

Translation: I miss you. I miss my routine. I even miss the ship, but don’t you dare tell my mother I admitted that.

On the other hand…things here have completely turned around. So, last Friday in class (a week ago Friday, not yesterday-Friday) I got so fed up with all the ‘find your inner truth, tell your deepest secrets’ stuff that Lach – Lachlan Meade – was pushing us to share that I blew up at him.

I mean, I really blew up at him.

I told him I thought he sucked as a teacher, and not everyone was supposed to be a method actor, and anyway, he’d already said the kids of celebrities, community theater brats, and people who’ve had the leads in school plays didn’t belong at ACT, so why would he want us to share truths that amounted to name-dropping.?

And the weirdest thing happened.

He started laughing.

I mean like belly-laughs, from the deepest core of himself, and then he started to applaud.

As I’m sure you can imagine, I was confused. Actually, the whole class was confused. Then we all started laughing, too – it was like some invisible wire had snapped, and suddenly there was no more tension.

(Whenever she’s quoting Lachlan Meade, Zoe imitates his Scottish brogue.)

Then Lach looked at me, and said, “Zoe, just because it happens that ye match ev’ry category I ticked off on m’fingers, doesna mean ye’re not s’pposed t’be here. Sharing yer truth isna about the facts of a story; it’s about finding the universal truth in all of us. And fer yer information, almost ev’ry one of ya has some celebrity in the family tree. So now, I’m gonna ask ye again t’tell us yer scariest moment, and this time, ‘stead of worrying yourself silly over droppin’ names, just open yer pretty mouth and tell the fookin’ tale.”

So, Data, I did. And do you want to know something? It wasn’t about Lore, after all. And it wasn’t about the Borg, either. And…and I just realized that breakfast ends in an hour, and Lach is leading an improv bootcamp today, and I kind of really want to go.

Tell Spot I’m bringing her a special present.


(The following is neither text nor video, but printed on monogrammed paper, delivered by courier.)

6 August 2367, 2:00 PM Pacific Time

From: Admiral Alynna Nechayev, Starfleet Headquarters, San Francisco

To: Zoe L. Harris, Fort Mason Hostel, San Francisco

Ms. Harris

The pleasure of your company is requested at the Historic Cliff House at 11:30 A.M. local time on Sunday, August 13th, for a farewell brunch honoring my nephew Theodore. RSVP at the above address.

(Below the printed invitation, the following note is handwritten in peacock blue ink.)

Zoe, dear, Theo insisted that you’d appreciate a written invitation, and we use paper so seldom these days that I was happy to indulge him. Send me a note at the office, and I’ll make sure a ground car picks you up and returns you to ACT on the day.

It’s not a surprise, of course, but I’m not sure if Theo remembered to tell you he was heading back to campus on the 14th – he has a chance for a better position in the housing lottery, but only if he’s present on the day.

You are, of course, still welcome to spend the rest of August at the house, if you like. In fact, if you let me know when your showcase performances are, I’ll extend an invitation to your parents to come as well.

I’ve enjoyed getting to know you, Zoe, whatever you decide.




(This message is text-only.)

6 August 2367, 8:30 PM Pacific Time

To: Admiral Alynna Nechayev, Starfleet Headquarters, San Francisco

From: Zoe L. Harris, Fort Mason Hostel, San Francisco


(You keep telling me to use your first name, so I really hope you mean it.)

Thanks so much for the invitation to brunch. The formal paper made me smile. Of course I’ll be there. Thanks for including me.

I’m not sure of the performance dates, yet, but should know in the next day or so.

Whether or not my parents can make it, I hope you’ll come.

– Zoe


Stardate 44620.46

Tuesday, 15 August 2367, 11:15 AM Pacific Time

To: Lt. Commander Emily Harris, U.S.S. Enterprise

cc: Zachary & Gia Harris, Beach Haven, Centaurus

From: Zoe L. Harris, Fort Mason Hostel, San Francisco, Earth

I’m pretty sure you’ve all received messages from Admiral Nechayev already, but you know I had to tell you in person. Theo and I eloped two days ago right before he went back to school, and we know it’ll be hard and everything but…

Yeah, I wouldn’t buy that either, if I were you.

Although it’s true that you should all have personal notes from Alynna (yes, she told me to call her that). Why? Because they’ve announced the dates for the ACT Summer Showcase – not whole plays, or anything, more like our own plot that we all wrote, but using scenes and musical numbers from established productions.

Anyway the dates are the 24th-26th of August, and I’d really love it if some or all of you could come. Mom, Ed is invited, too, if he wants to come. Or can. I was thinking maybe you could beg for leave and we could spend the last week of August together, here in San Francisco or somewhere else.

Alynna says she has room for up to seven people in the house, if you uniform-y types don’t want to slum it in ‘fleet housing. Um, her words were probably a lot more gracious than mine.

Anyway…I have to dash off for lunch, then a dance rehearsal, then a vocal rehearsal and then we’re taking a picnic dinner to the Fort Mason Green to watch the sailboats. Lach said if we’re off-book by Friday he’ll take our group sailing on Saturday.

I love that he knows just how to bribe us (he calls it an ‘incentive’) to make us rehearse.

Hope you’re all hale and hearty. Gia – I want a new belly-pic!

Love you, miss you…can’t believe my time here is almost over.


Stardate 44621.67

15 August 2367, 9:53 PM, Pacific Time

To: Lt. Commander Data, U.S.S. Enterprise

From: Zoe L. Harris, Fort Mason Hostel, San Francisco, Earth

Hi, Data…I think I was a little sappy in that last note. Call it a creative buzz and forgive me if I was out of line?

This message is a quickie, because I’ve got to dash out to lunch and rehearsal.

Anyway, they’ve set the dates for our showcase, and I know you’re Very Busy and Important and all but I’d love for you to come if you can.

I’ve attached a file with the calendar details. Also, Admiral Nechayev said I should extend her offer of housing to you, too, as long as I’m inviting you.

P.S. I thought I saw Lore at the Marina Green earlier today. I’m probably just being paranoid, but I got it on video. Also attached.

(File attachments: calendar of events, invitation from Adm. A. Nechayev, video of crowd at Marina Green)


17 August 2367, 10:47 PM Pacific Time.

Chat Request from MadRussian MIT

Chat Request accepted by CelloGirl ACT

CelloGirl: Theo! Did you get the dorm assignment you wanted? I meant to send you off with a proper message and failed utterly.

MadRussian: I did. I’m in a 2-person suite. Each of us has our own room, with a common area between them, and we share a bathroom with the suite across the hall. Visitors are allowed, you know.

CelloGirl: And you know my mother is unlikely to allow it, but I’ll ask. I’d like to see Massachusetts before I’m forced to go back to the ship. Or Boston, anyway. Is it true the swan boats are still there?

MadRussian: They are, and I’d be happy to take you on one. *sigh* You only want me for my connections; now I see it clearly.

CelloGirl: Yes, it’s true. Your connections…and your rowing prowess. Um, you do have rowing prowess, don’t you?

MadRussian: I’ll have you know, I’m on the crew team.

CelloGirl: Well, that’s a relief. I could never be with someone who can’t handle a canoe.

MadRussian: Do you want to…be with me…Zoe?

CelloGirl: …

MadRussian: Zoe?

CelloGirl: I do, and I don’t. I’m afraid of going too far, too fast with you…

MadRussian: The way you did with T’vek. Doesn’t he have around seventeen girls hurling messages at him?

CelloGirl: At last count it was only five. But…yeah. I mean, at the time neither of us had any clue his parents were being PCSd, but still…

MadRussian: I know…I DO know, Zoe. Think about it…meanwhile, I’ll see you on the 24th.

CelloGirl: You’re coming to showcase?

MadRussian: As if I would miss it.

CelloGirl: I’ll talk to the parental units. I’m sure we can figure something out. Good to chat with you, Theo.

Session Ends.


Stardate 44627.78

18 August 2367, 03:22 hours, ship’s time

From Lt. Commander Data, U.S.S. Enterprise

To: Zoe L. Harris, Fort Mason Hostel, San Francisco, Earth


After viewing the video footage that you sent, I can assure you that you are not being paranoid. However, I remain certain that you are in no direct danger from Lore. Nevertheless, I would advise caution. Secure the door to your room when you enter and leave, and avoid being alone in public spaces.

I have just processed your mother’s leave request – I do not think she will mind me telling you that it has been approved – and have made a request for leave for myself. If the captain approves it, then your mother, Professor Benoit, and I will travel to Earth together to see your performance. I will confirm this with you as soon as I am able.

Regarding your concern that you were ‘too sappy’ or ‘crossed a line,’ let me remind you that I cannot be offended, nor was there anything improper in what you said. I, too, am aware of the absence of our established routine, and anticipate your return to the ship so that it may resume.

I was in Ten-Forward with Geordi yesterday attempting to ‘cheer him up’ as he has recently met one of the ship’s original designers. Their encounter did not go as he had hoped, although their differences were resolved by the time she left this morning.

We had not been there long when Guinan joined our conversation. She asked after you, and I relayed your story about Lachlan Meade. She laughed, as did Geordi, and then asked if I had been imitating Meade or you. I explained that I was drawing on your habit of changing your voice for dramatic effect, and she smiled and nodded and made the observation that you were ‘good for me.’

If she meant that you are helping me to see new sides of humanity, and stretch further beyond my programming, then she is more correct than she knows.

She asked me to send her regards, and Geordi also sends greetings.

I hope to ‘see you soon.’

Data out.

Notes: This chapter involves a time jump of a couple of weeks. It takes place after “Galaxy’s Child” and before “Identity Crisis.” Not a great time for Geordi. Also, I cannot figure out how to escape out an at-sign so ffnet doesn’t think I’m trying to post a link.

Chapter 8: Love, Zoe

Disclaimer: Star Trek: the Next Generation, the U.S.S. Enterprise, and all the canon characters belong to CBS/Paramount. The rest is mine.

Love, Zoe

(All messages are video recordings unless otherwise noted.)

Stardate 44655.45

28 August 2367, 5:46 AM, Eastern Time

To: Admiral Alynna Nechayev, Starfleet Headquarters, San Francisco

From: Zoe L. Harris, Sandpiper Inn, Ocean Grove, NJ


I just wanted to leave a message thanking you for your hospitality over the summer. You made me feel very much at home, and it was reassuring knowing I had your house to call ‘home base.’ I’m pretty sure my parents were reassured, also.

I actually enjoyed the tour of Starfleet Academy more than I thought I would, but it only confirmed my feeling that it’s Commander Data, the other officers I’ve met, and even my friend Wes have experienced.

Mom, Ed, and I are settled into this B&B and even though I’m still on California time, I was up before dawn, listening to the tide come in. It’s so beautiful here. Different than San Francisco, but nice.

Anyway, thanks again, for everything, and I promise, the fact that you’re really not a dragon lady will be our secret.


31 August 2367, 10:30 AM Eastern Time

To: Theo Nechayev, MIT, Cambridge, MA

From: Zoe L. Harris, Sandpiper Inn, Ocean Grove, NJ

Hey, Theo –

First, it was great spending bits of the summer exploring San Francisco with you. I’ll never forget the look on your face when that woman started shaking the dead chicken at you so you’d give up your seat on the cable car – and you thought they were just for tourists!

Second, thank you for being so patient with me. I know it’s not the romantic summer you’d hoped for, but be realistic. You’re twenty, and I’m – (She sings this line) – I am sixteen, going on seventeen. And while I’m not going to confess to being either innocent or naïve, I think we can both agree I’m too young to commit to someone half a galaxy away, and you…you’re in college. You’re supposed to be sowing wild oats, or wild triticale, or…I don’t know…wild Talaxian redstalks…or something.

Translation: I think you were right when you said we’d always be friends, but that we shouldn’t be more. At least, not right now. But I promise, if I do another summer in San Francisco next year, I will contact you (especially since your aunt has already invited me to stay).

That said, I had a blast with you in Cambridge the other day, and it was sweet of you to introduce me to your friends, and make time for the swan boats. If I follow my original plan and go to the Martian, I won’t be that far away, and if not, well, Earth has a lot of options for arts and academics.

Take care, keep in touch, and I’m sure we’ll see each other again.


Stardate 44664.32

31 August 2367, 11:30 AM Eastern Time

To: Zachary & Gia Harris, Beach Haven, Centaurus

From: Zoe L. Harris, Sandpiper Inn, Ocean Grove, NJ, Earth

Hi, Dad! Hi, Gia! Hi, Future Sibling Currently Residing in Gia’s Belly!

This last week at the Jersey Shore with Mom and Ed has been really amazing. Not great for surfing, but Nonna and Nonno came from Connecticut to spend some time with us, and Nonno took me deep-sea fishing. It’s weird. I always think of my family as being only your side of the family – I guess because I lived with Gran when I wasn’t with you, Dad – and I forget about Mom’s parents, and I was so little the last time I saw them, but now I’m old enough to really get to know them.

Anyway, we leave tomorrow to return to the Enterprise, and I just wanted to take a moment to thank you for the flowers. Yes, I completely understand why you couldn’t make it all the way back to Earth for my showcase. No, I’m not upset.

I guess I forgot to tell you that my instructor, Lachlan Meade is directing at Idyllwild and encouraged me to audition for their summer program. I know, I know, you don’t want me to ignore music…but auditioning isn’t necessarily committing, and I’ve learned so much this summer, that I kind of really want to.

Mom and Ed send their regards.

Mom is also convinced I’m about two inches taller than I was when I left the ship, but…whatever.

Love to you both. All. Whatever.


31 August 2367, 11:47 AM, Eastern Time

To: Cdt. Wesley Crusher, Starfleet Academy, San Francisco, CA

From: Zoe L. Harris, Sandpiper Inn, Ocean Grove, NJ

Heyya, Wes.

Just a quick note to let you know, yes, I have the package for your mother, and no, I won’t forget to pack it. Ditto the package for Annette. Sorry I didn’t get to say goodbye in person, but things were kind of hectic. Hope your first full year at the Academy is as awesome as you want it to be.

Don’t be a stranger.


Stardate 44665.49

31 August 2367, 9:43 PM Eastern Time

To: Dana Swenson, U.S.S. Enterprise

From: Zoe L. Harris, Sandpiper Inn, Ocean Grove, NJ, Earth

Okay, best friend, we head back to the Enterprise in the morning, and I’m dying for some girl talk with you and Annette. Set something up for Monday or Tuesday, please? When do classes start again? Oh, right, orientation meetings on the 7th and 8th and then instruction begins on the 11th – Ed said.

Miss you lots. I have stories to tell, and I’m sure you do, too. Love to Josh, and your Dad, and…sorry, I’m a little scattered.

Anyway, see you soon.


Stardate 44666.22

1 September 2367, 4:07 AM Eastern Time

To: Lt. Commander Data, U.S.S. Enterprise

From: Zoe L. Harris, Sandpiper Inn, Ocean Grove, NJ, Earth

(This message is text only.)

Dear Data,

I’m supposed to be awake in less than three hours, and the reality is that I haven’t slept at all. I can never sleep the night before I travel, and since I can’t sleep I thought I’d send you one last note. It’s text only because I don’t want to disturb Mom and Ed – this inn is old, and there’s no soundproofing.

On the other hand, I’m sitting on the sleeping porch as I write this, and I can hear the waves crashing on the sand, and it reminds me a lot of Dad’s house on Centaurus, a place I wish you could see.

Although…somehow, I don’t think you’re really a beach-person.

I have so much to tell you…and I have a present for you. It’s not very big, but I think you’ll like it. And don’t tell me you can’t like things. I know you have preferences, at least.

So, I was wondering if we could actually plan on tea when I get back? You pick the time, and let me know.

I’m looking forward to resuming music theory with you, and meeting Spot. I wish I could say I was looking forward to your math tutorial, as well, but the fact is, I’m never going to like math. Even if the teacher is made of awesome and wrapped in gold.

Thank you for letting me inundate you with messages and calls all summer.

See you soon.

Love, Zoe.

Notes: Ocean Grove, NJ is a real place, and a popular summer destination. It’s right next door to Asbury Park, and has some of the best swimming beaches on the central Jersey shore. As far as I know, there’s no inn named the Sandpiper…but there could be. This chapter ends Zoe’s summer. Her story – and Data’s – will continue in the proper sequel to CRUSH (title suggestions are still welcome).


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