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Flying Colors

Posted on Mon Jan 23rd, 2017 @ 1:02am by Commander Akiva ben-Avram

Mission: S1E3.5 - Interlude
Location: Classroom
Timeline: MD 19

A window of time had presented itself to Akiva, and he decided it was time to take a look at the classroom where Biynah would spend much of her time while he was on duty. Hopefully it would keep her out of trouble, as he had finally heard about her encounter with the burly Ensign Doqqu in Engineering.

When he entered the classroom, the teacher was not in sight. Instead he was taken back to his adolescent years. Primary schooling was always handled at home on Hebron, which meant that secondary education was less structured than he had seen elsewhere. Books (on paper, which were highly treasured), bullies, and high marks. The more things change, Akiva mused to himself, the more they stay the same.

A number of preadolescent eyes watched the commanders as he entered the room, but for the most part they were just sidelong glances as the various students went about whatever studies or projects they were concentrating on. One young boy, a Ktarian who looked to be about seven or eight, did give the first officer a long and thoughtful look, until the human boy next to him gave him a nudge, and the two went back to working with building blocks, most of which had gears of various types embedded in them.

A pretty, dark haired young woman entered the classroom, accompanied by a blonde girl who looked to be about twelve or thirteen. Between the two of them they were carrying a large, transparent container that held some kind of colony of insects. The young woman in question gave Akiva a radiant smile as she said, "It's Commander ben-Avram, isn't it? We haven't formally met, but if you'll give me a minute to set this up," she said, gesturing at the colony in her hands, "I'll correct that oversight. In the meantime..." The young woman looked over at the Ktarian boy and his building companion and said, "Dajorn? Daniel? Why don't you show Commander ben-Avram what you're working on? Commander ben-Avram is our ship's first officer, which means he's very interested."

"It's a bat robot," the Ktarian boy said somberly, who had walked over to the first officer with a child's PADD in his hand. The Ktarian boy pointed at the assembled blocks he and the human boy had been working on. The blocks were in a very rough shape of a bat standing on its legs, with shaky wings making a slow, flapping motion. "Daniel and me just got its sonar working. That's how bats see and hunt. Some bats anyway. The ones on Earth. You can see what they see here," the Ktarian boy lifted up the PADD to Akiva, which showed a rough picture of the shapes in the room, with a line radiating from the center of the PADD "sweeping" around.

"That is... actually impressive," Akiva said with surprise as his interested grew from feigned to sincere. "Where I come from, little boys learn about robotics at an early age, so I can tell you have a knack for it."
He brushed his fingers across the blocks in a gentle stress test. The bat theme would have to be disregarded in later prototypes, but the foundational design need not be entirely scrapped. Of course, they were only blocks; it was the idea that Akiva observed. In fact, so keen was his observation that he was oblivious to Janelle's approach.

A warm smile appeared on Janelle's face as she walked up to the first officer talking to Daniel and Dajorn. "Not to interrupt you, Commander, but I wanted to ask my students how the rest of their projects on Earth bats is going."

"I think it would go faster if we could use the real replicator for it instead of that," the human boy said, pointing at a very primitive three dimensional printer in the middle of the room.

Not missing a beat, Janelle asked the Ktarian boy, "Dajorn, why don't you explain to Commander ben-Avram why we use the replica of an antique three dimensional printer instead of the replicator for making models?"

The Ktarian boy looked up at the first officer and answered, "Because we have to figure out codes and stuff, and what materials and stuff to use to make the printer work. That way, we know the principles that go behind how a replicator works, when we order food and stuff."

Akiva's head turned back and forth as he followed the exchange, then he nodded with approval. "Very good," he said. "Too many people take our technology for granted. A proper understanding is the first step toward respecting what we have been given."

"Why don't you two get to working on your bat model," Janelle said, radiating a small amount of enthusiasm toward the boys, "But first, why don't you thank Commander ben-Avram for his interest in your project, and perhaps we can have come back at a latter time to discuss robotics with you."

Both boys gave the first officer enthusiastic thanks before heading toward their the primitive printer.

"I'll try to work it into my schedule," he said meekly.

Janelle watched her students go to their next task, radiating contentment, before turning her attention back to Akiva. "Janelle Fischer, Commander," she said, extending her hand, "And I presume, Commander, that you are here to discuss Biynah?"

"Indeed I am," Akiva said warmly until he saw Janelle's hand. He took it as he might handle a cobra, shook, then returned his hand to his side. He reflexively caressed his thigh, then balled his hand and planted it on his hip when he caught himself. "I just wanted to ensure there wouldn't be any problems with her attending your class. She's very much... accelerated in many aspects of her learning, yet so inexperienced with so much to learn. Am I making any sense at all?"

"Yes, you are, Commander, and relax, please. I'm just a mild mannered teacher," Janelle said with a chuckle. "I took the liberty of discussing Biynah with Counselor Maera. We worked out an approach that will serve Biynah well."

"Oh?" Akiva scrunched his eyebrows and tried not to flush at the thought of the ship counselor. "I am all ears, Janelle... Ms. Fischer... ma'am."

"Miss Fischer," Janelle answered, "And I suspect my first encounter with Counselor Maera might have been more flustering than yours. If you're a telepath who doesn't make the necessary mental preparations before talking to a Deltan, it can be more than a little bit overwhelming. Would you mind if we took this conversation outside, Commander?"

"Yes, please," Akiva said, heaving a sigh of relief. He turned on his heel and walked to the door without waiting for Janelle. When they reconvened in the corridor, Akiva turned back to Janelle. "You were saying, Miss Fischer?"

Janelle gave instructions to the class to continue working on their various projects and told one of her older students to "watch over things" while Janelle stepped outside the door. Janelle took one last peek into the class before turning her attention to Akiva.

"As I was saying, Commander, Counselor Maera and I were discussing the matter and..." Janelle paused as she considered a better way of explaining her approach. "Commander, are you familiar with ancient Greek philosophy?"

Akiva grinned. "Where I come from, Miss Fischer, ancient philosophy is present day philosophy." He motioned for her to continue.

"Then you probably know where I'm going to," Janelle continued. "Ancient Athens was host to a number of schools of philosophy --- the Cynics, the Milesians, the Stoics, just to name a few. Schools that didn't teach the nature of philosophy, but how to live your life. I understand that Biynah could probably give me lectures on any subject you care to mention. So I'd like to introduce her to the other aspects of life, the ones that aren't easily quantifiable."

"That's what I had hoped," Akiva said, his face brightening before slowly turning dour. "Particularly since she may or may not be welcomed in my way of life." He shook his head and blinked. "At any rate, where do you plan to begin?"

"When you bring her to my classroom," Janelle answered. "The children will be curious about Biynah but, to be honest, they were curious about the Ktarian children our Marines brought back. And they will be as quickly accepting of Biynah. So I'll start her out learning to work with the other children taking care of our plants and animals." Janelle paused before adding, "Some of the children do stay with me, when circumstances don't allow them to return to their parents or guardians."

Akiva rubbed his chin in thought. "Interesting," he said at length. "I think there is real promise there. Which sorts of plants and animals do you care for in the classroom?"

"You might have seen the observation beehive brought in earlier," Janelle answered. "And we try to bring in specimens that have been screened by our science department, from planets visited by away teams from the Vindex, though we haven't had any such specimens in a while." Janelle paused a moment, before asking, "If you don't mind me asking, Commander, what do you hope for Biynah to achieve? And how do you see her in your life?"

"To be honest, Miss Fischer, that is a question I've asked myself a thousand times." He sighed and cast his eyes along the corridor as if searching for the answer. "Biynah's conceptual design was more of a scientific experiment as opposed to, well, personhood. When I had the idea to create an android, I suppose I didn't really understand what I was getting myself into. As I designed her physical form piece by piece, the reality that I was bringing a lifeform into this world suddenly hit me. And then..." He choked up a little. "... when I activated her... and she came alive... and..."
He shut his eyes in a grimace and took several deep breaths.

Janelle tilted her head to one side but said nothing, letting Akiva continue without interruption.

"There's a saying, 'You cannot take someone to a place you have never been.' The programming I gave her was simple: learn and grow. I don't know that I've surpassed that myself, so I really don't know where to send her next. I don't know... I'm just trying to provide her as much opportunity as possible to surpass me." His thoughts turned inward, trailing off in thoughtful reverie. "In the end isn't that what every parent wants for their child?"

"So is she your child, Commander," Janelle asked, "No matter the consequences?"

Akiva turned resolute. "Yes." He blinked hard, then added, "I have sworn it."

"And meant it," Janelle added quietly. "So when can I expect Biynah to join my class?"

"To be honest, Miss Fischer, I'm having a hard time containing her." Akiva flushed a little from embarrassment. "I keep having to change my voice authorization every time she sneaks out of my quarters. She will be here anytime you're ready."

"No time like the present," Janelle told him. "Why don't we set up an appointment between the three of us, talk a little, and then I'll get her started in the classroom."

"That sounds wonderful," Akiva said. "I really appreciate you taking this on. If there's anything I can do to help out, please let me know."

"Absolutely, Commander," Janelle answered. Looking into her classroom, she add, "Just let me know when is a good time. For now, I better get back to my students. Daniel and Dajorn are working up the courage to try to open up the beehive."

Akiva smiled before quietly excusing himself.


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