Welcome! You’ve made an excellent choice! You’re obviously a person with impeccable taste. Before we begin this holonovel, however, my faithful companion and I would like to say a few words.
This story and the others in this arc are all based on characters I used to play in the USS Strangelove RPG over at the now-defunct forum Sim Trek 2 Boldly Go, but you should be able to follow it even if you didn’t participate in the RPG or frequent the site.
The story is set in 2387, six years after events in the Strangelove RPG.
Yelena is wearing the uniform and rank insignia created specifically for the RPG, but her mother Irina and the background fillers are not; they are wearing “First Contact” style uniforms. There is a reason for this, I promise. 🙂 I’ve decided that in my corner of the Trek universe, the Strangelove uniforms are like the working uniform of today’s (US) Navy and are worn by personnel on starships and starbases, whilst the “real” Trek uniforms are the equivalent of dress blues and are worn planetside and at formal-ish functions. Hence why Irina, serving at Starfleet HQ, and Yelena, serving on the Strangelove, are wearing different uniforms. (And yes, you’re absolutely right that Yelena ought to have changed into more formal attire when having lunch with her admiral mother.)
Any questions? No? Then let’s get started!
Program complete – enter when ready!
Vice-Admiral Irina Ivanova glared at the clock on her office wall. Seven minutes, she thought. This was outrageous! She hit the button to the intercom, but before she could say anything, her aide’s harried voice came out:
“Admiral, I promise I’ll let you know the second she shows up!”
“See that you do!” Irina snapped, and punched the intercom button as if it was somehow responsible for this outrage.
The USS Strangelove, the ship Irina’s daughter Yelena was serving on, was in Spacedock for a maintenance overhaul, and Yelena had promised that she would be at her mother’s office at twelve o’clock sharp so they could have lunch together. Now it was seven minutes past, and still no Yelena. Irina snorted angrily. Did the girl think her mother had nothing else to do than sit around wait for-
The intercom buzzed.
“Admiral Ivanova? Your daughter is here!”
Almost as if it wanted to prove Irina’s jubilant aide right, the door to the office opened to admit the prodigal daughter. At least the girl had sense enough to look apologetic, Irina thought, but it would have been even better if she had been on time in the first place!
“I’m very sorry, Mother,” Yelena said quickly, “but we had a bit of an emergency aboard; a series of gel packs in the replicator system decided to have a nervous breakdown, so instead of coffee, the captain got… well, I’m not really sure what it was, but it was green and slimy and I could have sworn it was moving. Of course, we had to fix it right away, but it took longer than I thought.” She beamed. “I’m not as quick in the Jeffries tubes as I used to be…”
Irina was on the verge of acerbically asking if there really hadn’t been any other engineers on duty qualified of replacing some malfunctioning gel packs, but at the last moment she held her tongue. When Yelena grew up, there had been times – many times – when Irina herself had been late, or not been able to show up at all, for something she had promised her daughter she would attend… and she wasn’t all that sure Yelena wouldn’t point this out to her. For Irina’s daughter had changed. Over the last few years, ever since she met the young man who was now her husband, Yelena seemed to have grown more confident, more assertive, and she moved with new poise. But her demeanour wasn’t the only thing that had changed, Irina thought. Right now, the most obvious change was her girth: Yelena was seven months pregnant.
Irina had always thought that the claim that an expectant mother had a certain glow about her was ridiculous, but she had to admit there was something about Yelena. She radiated a joy and a pride that made Irina both glad for her daughter’s sake, and a touch jealous that Yelena obviously was experiencing something Irina herself never had. Yelena had been the result of the worst mistake Irina had ever made, and Irina Ivanova did not readily forgive any mistakes. Not those of others – and never those of her own.
“Shall we go?” she asked, a touch of irritation in her voice. Her mother’s tone made Yelena purse her lips with an annoyed frown – something else she never would have done a couple of years ago – but then she nodded her agreement.
“I hope they haven’t given away our table…”
The comment made Irina arch an eyebrow in disapproval. Yelena really should know better by now; you did not give away a vice-admiral’s table, especially not when said vice-admiral was the Chief of Starfleet Tactical. The girl would never make past the rank of lieutenant if she didn’t stop thinking like a junior officer…
“They haven’t,” she curtly told her daughter. “Now let’s go. We don’t have all day; I have a meeting with the C-in-C at thirteen-thirty hours.”
They didn’t speak during the short walk to the restaurant, even thought Yelena, no longer as lithe as she used to be, seemed slightly annoyed at the brisk pace her mother set. The first half of the meal also passed in silence, with both mother and daughter waiting for the other to speak and neither of them willing to be the one to start. Finally, Irina decided things were getting ridiculous, and cleared her throat.
“So… how’s Aziz?”
“Excellent.” Yelena smiled proudly. “He’s been promoted to lieutenant-commander.”
Irina nodded slightly in approval. Her son-in-law was a very capable officer, and for Irina, this was high praise indeed. Aziz Taghmaoui would go far, no doubt about it. It wouldn’t surprise Irina if he one day rose to be Judge Advocate General; he had both the intelligence and the drive to succeed… unlike his wife, she thought with a frown, who certainly had the former but sadly seemed to be lacking the latter. She looked at her daughter.
“When are you getting promoted?”
Yelena put down her knife and fork. “Aziz is in a different field than I,” she reminded her mother. “And for that matter, so were you.”
Irina snorted; when she was Yelena’s age, she had already been a full commander and would be promoted to captain in a couple of years. Engineering was a slower career track than Command – or Law, Irina supposed – but that was no excuse not to make an effort. And Irina was certain that Yelena was not making as much of an effort as she could.
“It wasn’t meant as criticism,” Irina said, even though it had been exactly that and the look on Yelena’s face showed she knew it had. “I’m concerned about you, that’s all.”
With an expression very much like her mother’s trademark face of disapproval, Yelena arched an eyebrow.
“Why? Because I won’t be captain at thirty?”
“Because I feel you aren’t paying as much attention to your career as you should,” Irina firmly corrected her. “It won’t get any easier, you know; pursuing a successful career in Starfleet is difficult enough without having a child to tend to as well.”
Yelena sighed. “You aren’t exactly an authority on that, Mother.”
Shocked, Irina stared at her daughter. “I beg your pardon!”
There was no hostility in Yelena’s wistful smile. “You were never very good at compromising, Mother. In the choice between your family and your career, we both know which came first. But I don’t blame you, not any more. I know it wasn’t easy for you. But sometimes… sometimes I wish I had had a mother, and not a captain.”
For the first time in her life, Irina Ivanova was dumbfounded by something her daughter had said. In the past, she had dealt with the tearful tantrums of the child Yelena as well as the sullen stubbornness of the adolescent in the same cold, unyielding manner that had been known to put the fear of Your Supreme Being of Choice into many a junior and quite a few senior officers over the years. Irina had always prided herself on running a tight ship, and she had run her little family in much the same way. She could deal with dissension in the ranks… but this kind of quiet, pensive observation, she had no idea how to handle.
“Yelena, I… I just…”
Again, her daughter smiled that wistful smile. “It’s all right. I know you did the best you could.”
Irina knew it should make her furious, but again there was no accusation in her daughter’s voice, no anger. Just a kind of quiet observation that for some reason made Irina’s throat clench.
“I won’t be making the same choices you did, Mother”, Yelena went on in the same, quiet voice. “I won’t be captain at thirty like you were. I might never make captain at all. But, Mother – it isn’t important to me. I have a husband that I love very much, and soon, we are going to have a little daughter that we’ll love and cherish. And I’m happy. I’m really, truly happy – and that means more to me than any captaincy or any admiral’s stars in the world. I know you can’t understand that… but I do wish you could respect it.”
Again, Irina didn’t know what to say, for again there was no accusation in her daughter’s words; just a quiet determination that Irina had never seen in her before. Yes, Yelena had changed – but it wasn’t until now that her mother understood how fundamental the change was.
“You’re an adult.” Irina’s voice was husky. “You’re fully capable of making your own choices.” She smiled faintly. “I guess I hadn’t quite realised how capable until now. You’ve changed, Yelena. You’ve grown.”
Yelena grinned. “You think?” she said, pointedly putting her hand on her belly. Irina couldn’t help smiling.
“I wasn’t referring to that. But yes, you’ve grown in that respect as well.” Irina swallowed; for some reason, she had a lump in her throat. “It suits you. You… you’re beautiful.”
Yelena beamed. “I sort of like it. Well, except when she decides that 3 AM is a good time to start throwing somersaults, that is; that can be a little annoying.”
“She gets that from her mother.” Irina smiled faintly. “I don’t think I got more than four hours’ sleep during the last two months of my pregnancy – in total. I did give me the time to finish up on my crocheting, though.” Her eyes softened. “And you always seemed to calm down when I sang to you…”
Yelena’s eyes widened in surprise. “You sang to me? Really? I had no idea you could!”
Irina snorted. “I can’t – but you’ve got an even worse sense of pitch than I do.”
“Oh, I know!” Yelena giggled. “Aziz always flees from our quarters when I sing in the shower! He keeps telling me I’ll have to sound proof the bathroom if I’m going to keep it up, and I keep telling him that in that case, he’s the one who’ll have to requisition the materials from Commander Sorvik.” She grinned. “He always drops it at that point.”
“Tell Aziz to pass it on to me and I’ll run it by Rear-Admiral th’Rarz,” Irina told her with an ever-so-faint smile, referring to the Chief of the Corps of Engineers. “He owes me a favour.”
This was so unlike her mother, it made Yelena laugh out loud, and Irina couldn’t help but to laugh with her. Yelena gave her mother a curious look.
“You know, I don’t think we’ve ever done this before.”
Irina arched an eyebrow. “What? Had lunch?”
“No, laughed together. And talked like… like we’re both adults. On equal footing.” She grinned. “For one thing, you haven’t pulled rank on me once.”
“I do not pull rank, Lieutenant!” Irina snapped.
At first, she couldn’t understand why her daughter was grinning – but then she realised what she had actually said. She smiled a bit sheepishly. “Well. Maybe I do at that.”
“Just a little,” Yelena agreed, still grinning.
Irina smiled back. Then she caught the time, and grimaced. “Yelena, I’m sorry, but I-”
“I know – you have a meeting with the C-in-C at thirteen-thirty. I need to get back to the ship, anyway; I promised Aziz I’ll be back by two.”
Irina waited patiently while her daughter manoeuvred herself out of the chair and clumsily left the table. While Irina at the time had found her own increasing lack of agility as her pregnancy progressed to be only annoying, Yelena shone with pride over her protruding belly. Again, Irina felt a pang of jealousy, but this time, it quickly gave way to pride. She had a beautiful, confident, happy daughter – and even though she did have to admit she really wasn’t much of an authority on the matter, she knew Yelena would make a wonderful mother.
Putting a hand to her lower back, Yelena grimaced. “Somersaults,” she said by way of explanation at her mother’s questioning look. “If she’s this energetic when she’s born, she’s going to be a handful, that’s for sure.”
Irina hesitated. It seemed like a sappy, ridiculous request to make, but…
“Would you mind if… I mean, could I…?”
Yelena beamed. “Don’t be silly, Mother. Of course you can – it’s your granddaughter!”
Carefully, almost coyly, Irina bent to put a hand on her daughter’s round belly, and was immediately rewarded with a kick against her palm. “My granddaughter,” she thought with amazement. For some reason, her eyes were getting misty. “That little thing moving in there is actually my granddaughter…”
Almost as if she could hear her grandmother’s thoughts, the baby let loose a series of strong kicks. “My,” Irina murmured. “Feisty!”
“Yeah, I’ve noticed,” Yelena agreed with a grimace. Then she smiled. “I think she’s saying hello. After all, not many children can say that their grandmother is Irina Ivanova…”
Irina pulled herself up. “Careful,” she said dryly, “or I might think you were giving me a compliment.”
“I was.” Yelena sighed. “Mother… I know I’ve never said it, and I know you probably won’t believe me, but… you know, I’m proud of you. And I’m proud of being your daughter.”
For a moment, Irina just stared. Even if she had known what to say, she had too big a lump in her throat to get a word out. She hesitated a little; then she wordlessly reached out and gave her daughter as tight a hug as Yelena’s girth allowed. For a second, Yelena went rigid with surprise – hugging wasn’t something Irina Ivanova usually did – but then she relaxed and just as tightly hugged her mother back.
After a minute, Irina reluctantly let her daughter go, quickly looking down and busying herself with smoothing her uniform jacket until she had blinked away that ridiculous mist that was once again clouding her vision. Then she straightened.
“I have to run. But I… we’ll talk again before you leave orbit, all right? I’d like to see you and Aziz for dinner before you go. Oh, don’t look at me like that; I can handle a replicator! Really,” she added firmly when Yelena still looked sceptical. “Besides, I have a daughter that I’m sure can deal with any fused circuits.”
Yelena blinked; never before had Irina, known throughout Starfleet for her disdain for engineers, openly acknowledged her daughter’s engineering skills. “Actually, I’m more worried about a city-wide blackout,” she dead-panned, for her mother’s complete lack of any engineering skills of her own were so legendary, it was generally believed she could cause a warp core breach just by walking through Engineering. “But we’ll bring the beverages… and the isolinear chips.”
Irina just rolled her eyes at that. Then, after a moment’s hesitation, she gave her daughter another quick hug.
“Take care of my granddaughter.” Irina’s voice was husky. “I’ll contact you about that dinner.”
And she quickly turned and walked away, before Yelena could see the mist in her eyes.