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- Within her first week at Starfleet Academy, Jaylah hacked into the environmental controls and security systems of her dorm– because she was bored and twitchy, because she didn’t know what to do with a home she had not taken apart and re-wired herself. 


- She broke into the cafeteria after hours and told herself it was just to see if she could. She skipped class to go wander the streets and build a map of the city, of these concrete canyons and glass-and-steel cliff walls, of which way she would run if she needed to. She played her music too loud. Kirk wrote her from deep space, further and further away as the months and maydays of their mission moved on, to ask if she was trying to beat him in demerits earned in an Academy tenure. She took that to mean he approved.


- Jaylah had had a big brother, once. Elah had taught her about engines, about how to wrestle, and a lot of really terrible jokes, once. But Scotty walked her through the Enterprise’s engines, when she was rebuilt and shining. They got grease and fluids all over their overalls. Kirk and Spock sparred with her while they waited for the Enterprise’s next mission to come through– Academy martial arts and Vulcan holds and corn-fed Iowa brawling tricks. Uhura provided the bawdy humor, parsed out smugly at the edges of social gatherings. 


- They had set the ruins of the Franklin up as a museum, tucked into the floating bubble of Yorktown. Schoolchildren would take field trips to wander the halls of her house. They invited her to the opening ceremony, cut the ribbon while she and the Enterprise crew were still wandering, limping, through those clean curving streets, but she did not attend. 


- Instead Scotty showed up at her doorstep with a bottle of Scotch stolen from Chekhov. They played her music so loud it shook the walls and earned them a dozen pissed off texts from Bones and a single sternly disapproving note from Spock. They ignored them all and toasted the Franklin, a good lady, a fine home. 


- When Jaylah boarded a transport ship for Earth, for California and San Francisco and the Academy that lived in the shadow of that golden bridge, the whole surviving crew of the Enterprise came out to the loading dock to wave her good-bye. It had been so many years since she had known any faces so well, living, other than her enemies’. She pressed up against the window and watched them– peach and blue and brown and black and green– disappear. 


- No matter how hard she fought and hoped, she had thought she would never get off that planet. The moment she saw her father go down, she had thought she would never be able to survive that stab in his gut, that light that went out of his eyes. She had been small, willow limbs and shaking hands, and she had thought she would never see another sky again. 


- She got up early on cold mornings and walked through the swirling San Francisco fog. She greeted the sun as it climbed up over the Bay and burned the sky back to blue. 


- The crew pooled their credits and bought her a motorcycle for her next birthday, to replace the one they’d left on the planet. Jaylah had left a lot of things in that boneyard. She drove the steep streets on her humming bike and felt like perhaps she had not left everything. 


- When Jaylah took the Kobyashi Maru her final year, she watched her classmates complain and rant afterward about unfairness, about no win scenarios. She did not speak up, just took her results and left. The lesson was one she had already learned, already buried in herself. Sometimes you cannot win, no matter how good you are, no matter how brave, no matter how much you love your daughter and want to live and live and live for her. Sometimes all you can do is die the best way you know how. 


- (When the ruckus had finally died down on Yorktown Base, after the smoke had settled, after the crowds had parted, Jaylah had seen Demora Sulu run to her father’s arms. She had seen Hikaru kneel in the rubble and lift his daughter into his lap and hold her safe in his arms. She had thought, I would have died for this. I am alive, and I am glad, but I would have died for this, I would have, I would have died for this)


- (Her little sister Jessy had been about Dem’s age, the last time Jaylah had seen her alive). 


- She didn’t declare an emphasis in her Academy studies for two years. Scotty thought she should go into engineering, because as a traumatized, escaped child she had reverse-engineered repairs on the Franklin that could only be matched by his own genius. Kirk thought she would make an excellent command officer. Uhura, impressed by how she had taught herself Federation Standard from the Franklin’s logs, made sure the communications department paid friendly attention to her. 


- Instead, Jaylah took the introductory classes for every field of study in the Academy, ignoring the disapproving cries of her guidance counselors. In combat she was years ahead of her peers. She found languages easy, but their technical underpinnings were unengaging and confusing. In engineering she was gifted, but decades behind the state of technology. Scotty had happily dragged her through the Enterprise’s rebuilt engines, but her heart and her blackened fingers would always belong to engines lifetimes older.


- The Enterprise crew were on their second five year mission when Jaylah graduated from Starfleet Academy. They gathered in the main mess hall, all the crew that had survived the Enterprise’s first death, and the new crew members who had heard stories of this adopted daughter of the ship for years. They live-streamed the ceremony. Scotty wore a ‘PROUD BIG BROTHER OF A STARFLEET GRADUATE’ shirt Sulu had hand-lettered for him. Bones opened a bottle of good ol’ Earthside bourbon and pretended not to tear up when her name was called. 


- She wore medical blue.  


- After years of Academy schooling and medical training, Jaylah stepped onto a Starfleet ship, her badge pinned to her chest. The corridors curved into the distance. The lights hummed and lit up as the ship floor murmured under her feet. It felt like coming home. 


- But there were no rocky hills out her shipboard window, no dull sky, no shimmering shield to hide her from her enemies. There was just space– black, cold, endless; brilliant, star-studded; full of discovery and danger and things worth dying for. She was ready to boldly go. She was ready to bravely go. She had thought she would never see another sky and here she was, older than her oldest brother had ever gotten to be, with hands that could defend lives and save them and heal them. The universe was spreading out before her, endless stars lighting the skies of endless planets. She was ready.