Eden Enigma sat on the floor of her parents’ quarters, working through a series of difficult math problems and trying, and failing, to push aside the tension that had been rising in the station all day. Something was coming, but that something was work for the crew, and it was Eden’s job to do her math then play with her holofrog.
Though if the crew didn’t deal with whatever had them all so on edge soon, she would have to put the math off until after they did. The collective stress of two hundred twenty-three grown adults was, after all, enough to destroy any girl’s ability to focus on quadratic algebra.
Eden. Her mother’s voice rose in her mind, warmth and love filling her, and Eden smiled. Even if there was some of that tension the crew was feeling in her mother’s mind as well, Arianna Starling knew how to maintain proper barriers. There’s likely going to be a red alert soon, and Ensign Rogers is on her way to pick you up to take you to the emergency shelter. Bring a toy or game, and don’t panic. Your father is in command.
Her father. Jay Enigma could handle anything the galaxy sent to their little home in the stars. Eden acknowledged her mother’s words – her mother would be too busy getting the infirmary ready for red alert for a conversation – but held to her calming presence as she got ready for her evacuation. She took two toys – the tiny emitter for her holofrog, and her model of the newest Enterprise.
The door opened for Ensign Rogers. She was tall, blonde, pretty. Eden’s father’s yeoman, and at this point almost an older cousin to Eden herself. She liked Ensign Rogers better than any of the previous yeomen, after all, though sometimes she wondered if that was as much because she was getting older – she would be twelve in mere weeks! – and catching up to the ever-rotating set of fresh ensigns who helped her father with his work and gained valuable insight into his command style in return – as with the fact that they simply got along well. “I’m ready, Ensign.”
“Well done, Cadet.” Ensign Rogers offered Eden a smile that didn’t reach much past her eyes. She was worried, too… moreso than most of the crew. She attended senior staff meetings… maybe she knew something the others didn’t.
Maybe whatever was coming was going to be worse than a few pirate ships or a badly off course Jem’hadar raider.
You’ll be safe, her mother’s voice in her mind promised, and Eden believed her.
As she and Ensign Rogers hurried along the curve of the outer line of quarters, they passed one of the large viewports looking down on the blue-green world of Cestus III.
“Coming out of warp, Lady Starling.” Taimili Voit’s voice shook Eden out of her reverie, though her eyes were already focused on the viewscreen. Cestus III, the same planet she had spent her childhood gazing down on. Nothing seemed different, from space.
Nothing, save for the lack of the Starfleet armed research facility at the planet-moon L3 point.
“Scan for Tkon alloys,” Eden said quietly as she felt Luvrodo’s eyes on her, felt his mind try to touch hers. Her barriers were up as fully as they ever were; he would find only thoughts of Dominion War-era logistics charts.
As much as she liked him, there were things she was not yet ready to share.
“I have them,” Ral said from the sensor station. “Lukan City, underground. I’m also reading some at the city landfill.”
They did not get down to the planet often. Between her parents’ work, the distance requiring a runabout or shuttle, and Eden needing to prepare herself before being in crowded places, there simply weren’t that many opportunities.
But today, Eden was eight, and her parents had taken her to the new holographic museum that had opened in Lukan City. Human history, focused primarily on Asia, from the rise of the Zhou Dynasty until First Contact, though the focus was as much on the coming wonders made possible by advanced holographic technology as on the history. “Using the future to teach the past,” her father had said with some disbelief as he read the museum’s promotional material.
“If we’re lucky, that’s how we’ll be remembered,” her mother had responded, drawing one of his rare and brilliant smiles, that undeniable warmth that rose from him when she reminded him that she was cleverer than he was filling their quarters for Eden to bask in.
She’d insisted on going for her birthday, of course. Put extra hours in with Dr. Haval to work on her barriers to be sure she could handle the city. Whatever it took, she wanted to see the exhibit on the clay army.
It hadn’t disappointed. The detail, the scale, the raw number of the terracotta figures… it was utterly breathtaking, and as they passed through the souvenier stand near the exit Eden was still talking about it. “They made so many! What must it have been like to concentrate so hard and work on their faces?”
“Probably a bit like surgery,” her mother murmured. “A bit like command. A bit like that look you get on your face when you’re about to solve a puzzle that’s plagued the Federation since its founding.”
Eden blushed. “But they won’t do any of my solutions!” Certainly, the reasonable part of her mind insisted, there were reasons for that, complications in all the problems she’d put her mind to work on this year that she, a child on the far edge of the Federation, couldn’t understand. But the reasonable part of her mind was boring and didn’t want to make everything in the Federation right at once.
“Then you’ll just have to grow tall enough to make them listen,” her father said with a wide smile, but he wasn’t halfway through the sentence before Eden’s attention was captured by something else.
A tiny silvery holoemitter, just big enough to fit in her hand, projecting an image of a white-spotted Chinese flying frog. The frog looked up at her as she approached, her dark eyes wide, and when she touched it she felt the slick skin under her fingertips even if she couldn’t feel the frog’s tiny mind.
A single holoemitter, projecting a simple image with simple behavior, her reasonable mind provided. Her unreasonable mind drowned it out with joy over the presence of the frog.
She did not know how long it was, how patient her parents were, with her fascination with the toy before her mother suggested that perhaps they could take it home with them.
“Miss Thibeau, take a team to the landfill and see if you can find any Tkon artifacts there. Ka, Ral.” Eden rose to her feet. “With me. Let’s see what the Cestians have built over.”