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Part of USS Mackenzie: Natalie Harris – The Academy Years (NHAY)

NHAY 007 – Harris Junior, I presume?

Mellstoxx III - Starfleet Academy
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“You put in the work this summer, Cadet Harris.”  Professor Alexandra “The Hammer” Pantuso sat across from Natalie Harris in her office.  She’d been assigned several of the rising stars of the junior class.  She had pulled the young woman’s file after meeting her in May. 

Natalie shifted in her seat, unsure why she’d been called to Pantuso’s office.  “Uh, yes, ma’am.  I wanted to accelerate my graduation possibilities as much as I could.”  She smoothed out her cadet pants out of practice and nervousness.

“You’ve had a taste of space.”  She had read ahead with the cadet’s dossier – Academy and otherwise.  “You ended up in the Delta Quadrant…your brother had to come find you.”

Natalie felt her face burn bright.  “You don’t miss much, Dr. Pantuso.”  She stared at the unique carpet fibers on the floor.

“I don’t because I’m damned good at my job, Cadet Harris.  I’m sorry you lost your cousin.”  She scrolled through the records, “I would have thought you’d end up in the merchant sector with Harris Transport.  Your mother’s turned that errant ship of a company around.”  She stared at the young woman, “Why not?”

“If my brother hadn’t been murdered…I might have, Capt…Professor.  I felt…,” she searched for the right word.  “Compelled.  I felt like I..that I had to continue the tradition of a Harris in Starfleet.”

Pantuso scoffed and relished the shocked look that reflected from within Harris.  “You’ve heard me talk about finding your path…and not doing something because you need to redeem someone else’s career.  Hell, your friend cadet Goldsmith got out while the getting was good.”

Harris felt her face bloom again, but anger fueled the feeling this time.  “Captain Pantuso…I am not Phil.  I didn’t blame him for what he decided…but I will not give up something I want to do.  I want to do this.”  Her voice had been raised on her last statement, and she blinked, surprised at her tone.

“Feel better?”

Natalie saw the professor in a new and startling light, “You wanted me to get mad?”

“I wanted to know the real reason you want to finish the academy…and why you’re being downright aggressive in closing the gap with your graduation.”  She sipped at her cooling tea she’d replicated a moment ago, “I wanted to make sure it wasn’t your brother’s legacy leading you into a fool’s errand, Cadet Harris.”

“My brother’s legacy is his…and his alone.  I’ll always wish that he was still here and that I could still talk to him…but I can’t sit around and wait for him to come back.  That’s a true fool’s errand.”

Pantuso appreciated the turn of phrase.  She stood, walked to her bookshelf, and searched through the spines, “There was a mathematician from Scotland who wrote many books about science and math. There he is. Eric Temple Bell.”  She pulled the book out and returned to her desk, searching through the well-read pages.  “He wrote novels, although they weren’t good by most standards of the day.  But, he did say something profound about fools.”  She turned the book around and pointed out the line to Harris.

Natalie leaned forward and read, “Time makes fools of us all. Our only comfort is that greater shall come after us.”  She looked at Pantuso, “The meaning?”

“We know what we know at the time we know it.”  She closed the book and returned it to the shelf, “Plenty of his theories and ideas were built on and improved after he died.  Not much remains of his discoveries today, but his legacy is the acknowledgment that future generations will build on what we do today…or, in his case, yesterday.  Your brother’s legacy is his own, but it’s also yours, and you can build on it and carry on the Harris name into the future.”

Natalie replied, “I’ll admit…reconciling my continuing story with my brother’s…hasn’t been easy.  That helps, Professor.”

Pantuso stood at attention, and Harris followed suit.  “I’m assigning you to me as your advisor. We’ll meet once a week to start.  The calendar invite will be in your inbox.  Dismissed, Cadet.” She watched the cadet leave, a lighter spring in her steps.