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[personal profile] trekwriter151
Disclamer: Don't own 'em, don't make money off 'em.

Notes: Hoshi makes a new home at Stanford and goes out to lunch with Jon, Trip and a few others. Things aren't sailing as smooth as Hoshi expected, and that will impact her future.

Cameos galore in this chapter, some named, some not. How many can you spot? And who are they?

Information about Stanford University is on Wikipedia. The Stanford Center (Language Institute) actually's based in Taipei. The Spogli Institute of International Studies and the Stanford School of Engineering are top-rated in the U.S. The rivalry with USC Berkley is still very much alive in the 22nd century. (And the quote from Heisenberg is supposed to be true. The restaurant in Palo Alto that has his name doesn't exist, though.)

Rating: T

Please R&R. Thanks.


June 6, 2144, Stanford University (Palo Alto, CA)

"Hey, can I have a moment of your time, Sato-sensei, or do I need to make an appointment like everyone else?"

Hoshi looked up from her computer screen and smiled at the man looming in the doorway. "Come on in, A.G., and if you put your feet up on my desk again, I'll break your legs."

Commander A.G. Robinson laughed and dropped into a nearby seat with a flourish. His tall, lanky build hinted at great strength under the surface, similar to Commander Jonathan Archer. A.G.'s sandy blond hair (what was left of it, anyway) was already going gray at the temples. Hoshi teased him mercilessly, but A.G. always took the teasing in stride. She found it easy to relax around him; he reminded her of Cousin Yuika in more ways than one.

"You've been hanging around Nick Duvall too long," A.G. commented. "You're even beginning to sound like him. Not. A. Good. Thing."

She gave him a droll look. "Not my fault that Nick's become a fan of Dirty Harry movies."

"Yeah, we can blame Trip Tucker for that. Ever since he showed Nick his collection of Clint Eastwood movies, Nick's been watching one ever weekend. Maybe we should be thankful he isn't in Security. I'd hate to think what he'd do with an EM-33."

Hoshi snorted and rolled her eyes. "He couldn't hit the broad side of a barn, A.G. I think you're safe."

"So are you. I swear, I need a damn flight plan to find this place." He laughed and shook his head. "Professor Hatayama wasn't kidding when she said she wanted you to have no distractions in taking over the new Stanford Center. I had to get directions from someone in the Spogli Institute."

She grinned. "You mean Ekatarina Aravaskaya's speaking to you again, after what you did the last time?"

"Katya's forgiven me. International relations between the Queendom of Aravaskaya and the Duchy of Robinson have been restored, much to the Spogli Institute's relief. And don't change the subject. You've been out of contact since Hatayama's got you running between here and the Language Training Institute in Taipei. You've racked up more frequent flyer miles than Jon, Nick and myself combined."

Hoshi winced. "Ouch. Blunt as ever, A.G. You must have missed the day the Gods handed out tact."

"Take me as I am, darlin', flaws and all."

"Sorry, you're not exactly my type. And 'darlin'? You've picked up some drawl from Trip."

"What is your type, anyway? Surely not someone like Jon. You get along with Trip like a house on fire. Maybe---"

She laughed and swatted him on the shoulder. Despite his irreverence, she'd missed this witty repartee. In fact, Jon was chagrined that she and A.G. got along so well. "Don't even think about it. Speaking of, what are you doing here this afternoon? I thought you'd be at the Warp 5 Complex with Jon and Commodore Forrest."

He shrugged. "Duvall and Ramirez are taking the NX-Gamma out for a spin. Jon and I've got the afternoon off, and Jon's ordered me to get yourself out of your nunnery and take you over to Heisenberg's for lunch. He's meeting us there."

She repressed a mental sigh. Although Jon and A.G. had escaped a dishonorable discharge for their stunt with the NX-Beta, both pilots had been grounded for several months, to satisfy the complaints of the Vulcans. Hoshi learned early on that Cousin Yuika's claim that Vulcans weren't above petty jealousy was spot on. She was open-minded enough to know that not all Vulcans acted like that, but their actions certainly didn't help relations between them and Earth.

It also didn't help that Jon already had a grudge against them, thanks to their "interference" with his father's engine. Hoshi understood where it came from, but it certainly didn't help her cause any.

"Hey, Earth to Hoshi. You there?"

She sighed and shook her head. "Sorry, A.G. I was just thinking."

A.G.'s amused look became more serious, and he leaned forward and put a hand on her arm. "Look, I know you try to see the best in everyone, including the Vulcans,'s still a sore spot for Jon, especially after Soval's latest argument with Forrest. Don't let him get you down...I think he actually feels bad for upsetting you the last time."

"I'll talk to him. He's always been the type to remember grudges until they grow old and die, then he sends them to a taxidermist and displays them on his shelf."

"An elephant never forgets, especially when it's constantly in the room." A.G. rolled his eyes, then the charming smile was back. "C'mon. Trip and Captain Jefferies are back in town for a little while. Jefferies's brother is giving a lecture at the Stanford School of Engineering this morning; he'll join us later."


Heisenberg's was a cafe in downtown Palo Alto, not far from Stanford's main campus. The restaurant was tucked between an antiques store and a stationery shop. Hoshi smiled at the dedication plaque right outside Heisenberg's main entrance. Someone had asked the famous physicist if he knew where Stanford was located. His reply was immortalized on the plaque: "I believe it is on the west coast of the United States, not far from San Francisco. There is also another school nearby, and they steal each other's axes." Even in the 22nd century, Stanford and USC Berkley were rivals.

"Hoshi!" Jon Archer called from a nearby alcove. "Over here!"

She smiled and gave him a friendly hug. Although Jon wore a smile, she felt the tension in his body, so she whispered, "It's okay, Jon. Truce."

He immediately relaxed. "Truce. Thanks, Hoshi." Jon withdrew a pace and gallantly pulled out a chair at the table. "Glad you could join us."

"Yeah," drawled Lieutenant Commander Trip Tucker. The engineer gave her a huge grin. "Jon and A.G. told me you've been hibernating again, and it isn't even winter."

She winced. "Sorry. Just been really busy." Hoshi didn't miss the significant glance between Trip and Captain Matt Jefferies and stifled a sigh. She hoped Jefferies wouldn't drop by Hatayama-sensei's office and 'have a little chat' with her. It wouldn't be the first time.

"Okay, you know the drill. We leave any and all official business at the door," A.G. reminded everyone brightly. "I don't know about you guys, but I'm starved."

Hoshi nodded at the attempt to lighten the mood. "You're always starved, bao bei. (Sweetheart)."

Jon glanced at her, his eyes wide with mock horror. "Bao bei? Him?"

"See, Jon, you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar."


"For God's sake, Jon, lighten up. I wouldn't do anything to besmirch her honor. I'm a gentleman."

Trip laughed and punched A.G. in the shoulder. "Right," he said, drawling out the word. "You do know that 'gentle man' doesn't really fit you, right?"

A.G. gave Hoshi a hangdog look. "Semantics. It's all semantics, right?"

Hoshi laughed and primly smoothed down the napkin in her lap. "Semantics count for a lot, Mister Robinson."

Even Jon seemed to relax in the company of good friends. Hoshi resolved to talk to him in private after lunch; there was something still bothering him, and it concerned her. She'd already forgiven him for their argument regarding his attitude towards Vulcans, so that wasn't it.

Conversation turned to Starfleet and its efforts to established a Cultural Liaison department in conjunction with the Stanford Center's Language Institute. Hoshi told them about her work with Professors Hatayama and Suzuki, but there were roadblocks none of them had anticipated.

"Unfortunately, some of the Starfleet brass isn't keen on taking suggestions from civilians," Trip commented. He gave Jefferies a sideways look. "Present company excepted."

Jefferies waved a hand to dismiss Trip's apology. "True. I know Forrest's been working on that, along with Soval, but I think if we had a Starfleet representative, they'd be more willing to listen."

"We don't have a Starfleet representative," A.G. pointed out, with a glance at Hoshi. "Most of the Cultural Liaisons are training with the Spogli Institute and being groomed for diplomatic work. None of them have even looked at the possibility of joining Starfleet."

"Can you blame 'em? They consider Starfleet as 'shoot first, ask questions later," Jefferies said in his deceptively mild tone. "Never mind that we're all in this business of 'boldly go where no one has gone before."

Jon chuckled. "That sounds like a recruitment slogan."

Hoshi rolled her eyes. "Once you fix that preposition at the end."

Everyone laughed again, the tension once more defused by humor. Jon grinned and said, "Always a linguist."

"Oh, excuse me. 'Go where no one has gone before boldly."

"Nah, it's 'Boldly go and get into trouble before anyone else can do it," Trip corrected his commanding officer.

"Oh, for God's sake, Trip. How is Starfleet going to get any new recruits with a slogan like that?" Jon said with a laugh.

Hoshi chose chocolate cheesecake for dessert, as the conversation turned to other things. Her mind wandered back to the short conversation about the problems plaguing the new Cultural Liaison department. She could see both sides of the conflict, but without a solution in sight, they'd always be at an impasse.

She'd have to think more on a way to resolve the situation.

Movement out of the corner of her eye drew her attention. Although they were in a private room, the door was open to allow cool air to circulate. The room directly across the hall was also occupied and she could see two men in her line of sight. They sat at a table facing each other. One silver-haired man had his back to her; the other dark-haired man leaned back in his chair with his arms crossed in front of his chest. His body language told Hoshi that he wasn't happy with whatever the silver-haired man had just told him.

She studied the younger man for a moment. He was definitely younger than Jon and A.G.; probably more around Trip's age. His mouth was turned down in a scowl that didn't seem to fit his face. The expression made him look like a Roman emperor who was not amused. Hoshi suppressed a shudder; hostility came off him in waves, and she had the distinct feeling this man was dangerous.

Hoshi turned away before the man realized he was being observed. She saw Jon looking at her and only shrugged good-naturedly in response.

The men argued over the bill and in the end, Jefferies won. His communicator went off as he waited for the receipt and he responded to the call. When it ended, he looked up at Jon. "That's my brother, John. He just finished the lecture over at the School of Engineering. He'll barely have time for lunch before he's got to fly back to Jupiter Station, so I'll need to bring him something."

"Mind if I come along?" A.G. asked. "I need to ask him something anyway."

"Sure, what's one more to make the trip even merrier?" Jefferies chuckled as their server presented him with the receipt. "We've got to do this again sometime. If anything, to keep our resident linguist here from turning into a nocturnal creature."

"Not gonna happen," Trip said firmly. "Not while we're here to drag her out to be social."

Hoshi chuckled and gave Trip a fond smile as she said, "Much appreciated, Trip, more than you know."

"Then the mission's accomplished." He got up from his seat. "Don't be a stranger, Hosh. Catch you later?"

"Sure." She waved as A.G., Jefferies and Trip left the restaurant. She and Jon remained in the room and finished their coffee. He broke the silence with a quiet statement.

"I'm being put on temporary duty to the Interspecies Engineering Exchange's training facility in Nevada," he told her. "Flight instructor."

She blinked at the unexpected bombshell. "For how long?"

"A year. Sounds like there's a new crop of engineers from Delta and Vulcan who have new ideas on engine design. The problem is that they've got plenty of theoretical experience, but no practical experience. Forrest is getting frustrated with engineers who have no clue how difficult it is to translate their stuff on paper to a real-life prototype."

Hoshi smiled a little at his use of 'translate'. "So that'll be your job."

"I guess it's Forrest's way of telling me to be more open-minded."

"I told you so."

He shook his head. "So you did. It'll be a lesson in patience. Unlike you, I don't always have the patience to deal with people who can't keep up."

Hoshi said nothing. That was very true; Jon tended to be harsh taskmaster at times, expecting his subordinates to adhere to the high standards he set for himself. Either you kept up, or you didn't. It was not unlike her own mindset for the Stanford Center, but she'd learned to temper her own drive for perfection in regard to her own students.

Perhaps this assignment would teach Jon to do the same.

"The teacher learns as much as his students," she reminded him.

Jon chuckled and finished the last of his coffee. "So says the Master. Honestly, though, I'm not sure how well this is going to turn out. I talked to one of the other instructors and I can already sense I'm going to have some fundamental differences with her style."


"Her. She's someone named Commander Erika Hernandez. Pilot and engineer, though she's also done some work with Starfleet Security."

"Oh. So you think this Hernandez is going to...cramp your style?"

He winced. "I wouldn't call it that, but...I don't know. I just have a feeling about her."

"Don't prejudge someone before you meet her," Hoshi warned him. "That might be the worst thing you do."

Jon laughed and shook his head. "You're right. That's why I'm glad I got to talk with you before I left."

"Wait. When are you leaving?"

"I'm to report to Nevada next week."

"Next week?" She stared at him. "So soon?"

Jon sighed and shook his head. "Yeah, that's what I said. I think Commodore Forrest doesn't want me to rest on my laurels too much. I might as well make good use of my time on the ground."

So that's what this is really all about. He's upset about not being allowed to fly. Hoshi pressed her hand on his. "You'll fly among the stars again, Jon. You'll see."

"I know, but it might be a while, Hoshi."

She nodded, but she repeated. "You will, sooner than you think."


Hoshi's shared her apartment with other graduate students. Naomi was visiting her parents in Sacramento for the weekend, Eva was on an archaeological dig in South America, and Kryztiana left to spend time with her younger sister. The comm went off, just as she had finished her assignments and grading exams. She knew who it was before she answered the page.

"How are you, Hoshi-chan?"

"I am fine, Mother. Good timing; I've just finished grading this week's examinations."

"What are your plans for this weekend?"

"Tonight, I'm probably going to a linguistics roundtable, and tomorrow, a group of us plan to have a picnic in a local park. The weather is supposed to be fine."

"You do have your comm with you, just in case?"

"Of course. I'll call you tomorrow night, like I always do, Mother."

There was some chit-chat about family business, then her mother bade her good night. Hoshi calmly severed the connection, then switched her computer screen to yet another Vulcan translation. She didn't have to wait long.

"You ready, Hoshi? We're all waiting for you." Irina Nechayev's bright tone rang through the speaker.

"I'm ready." She turned off her monitor and smoothed down an imaginary wrinkle in her short skirt. "Where are we going this time?"

"Club Tahiti, right off the Bay. You'll love it. A lot of people from Starfleet and the International Campus go there. And don't worry; I know the owner, so I can get you in without a problem."

"Sounds good. I'll be right there." She cut the connection, then left her tiny, cramped apartment without a backward glance.

Disclaimer: Don't own 'em, don't make money off 'em.

Notes: Sorry for the delay in updating this. Health issues again.

Hoshi has a strange dream that reflects her inner turmoil and she makes a personal decision.

Rating: T

Please R&R.


January 6, 2145 (Palo Alto, CA, off Stanford's campus)

By day, Hoshi was the teacher, student and obedient daughter and mentoree. At night, she explored San Francisco with her close-knit circle of friends. They all teased her that she "needed a life." As a result, she saw things that definitely fell under "cultural education", things that she never imagined. The group had just returned from a Friday night in San Francisco. The older women made sure Hoshi reached her apartment safe and sound, and what had started as a brief farewell became a Girls' Chat. Nidara and Beth raided the refrigerator for drinks and snacks.

"You know, you're not that bad to hang out with," said Ekaterina. "Where'd you learn how to dance like that?"

Hoshi hid her blush behind a cup of tea. "My mother insisted on dance lessons when I was a girl. Traditional Japanese dance, ballet, that sort of thing."

"That was more than just ballet, Hoshi," teased Lauren. The graduate student swirled the sparkling cider in her mug and winked at her. "We knew that there was a bad girl in there just screaming to be let out."

"Bad girl? Hoshi?" mocked Andrea, who rolled her eyes. "Miss Straight and Narrow? Come on, she hangs out with Starfleet. How much trouble can she get in?"

"She hangs out with Starfleet pilots," Tanya corrected. "They're hardly saints, Andrea."

"So tell us, Hoshi, how's he like?" chimed in Nidara. She sipped her wine cooler and kicked her slippers off her feet. Hoshi's next door neighbor focused her chocolate-dark eyes on the guest of honor.

Hoshi shrugged, but felt a surge of dread at the question. "He? He who?"

"Aw, come on, Hoshi," drawled Beth. The honeyed tones were sweeter than syrup, and twice as difficult to understand than Trip Tucker's. "He who? Mister Hotshot Pilot himself."

"Which one?"

Tanya sighed. "Who do you think? Tall, green-eyed and handsome. Archer."

Hoshi regarded her iced tea and sighed. Tanya had an unrequited crush on Jon, and her attempts to get more information annoyed Hoshi to no end. "I don't know. I haven't heard much from him in a few months, not since he was transferred to Nevada."

Ekaterina raised her eyebrows. "Is that a note of longing I hear in your voice, little friend?"

She couldn't stop the slow blush of her cheeks. "What? Longing?"

"You miss him, Hoshi, don't deny it."

Hoshi blinked and said, "Of course I miss him. He's a good friend."

Beth laughed and shook her head. "He's what, twenty years older than you? He's old enough to be your dad."

"Seventeen years. He's older than me by seventeen years."

"Like I said, technically old enough to be your dad," Beth said.

"He's like a brother, an older brother," Hoshi said, choosing her words carefully. "He's watched out for me, given me all sorts of advice...I've met his mother and his friends and he's always treated me with kindness and respect."

Tanya raised her eyebrows. "Oh? That sounds promising. Most guys wouldn't do that."

"Most guys you go out with, anyway," muttered Andrea.

Hoshi rolled her eyes at Tanya. "Last I heard, he's seeing someone in Nevada, a fellow Starfleet officer. Commander Hernandez."

"Serious?" At Hoshi's nod, Tanya shook her head. "Damn. More's the pity. Maybe I should join Starfleet. The best and the brightest..."

Beth laughed and threw her wadded-up napkin at Tanya. "Yeah, right. You're the last person I see in Starfleet. You'd be kicked out of Basic Training so fast, your butt would have size twelve boot imprints for the rest of your life."

"Nah, I could get through Basic Training. All I gotta do is bat my eyelashes at the platoon commander."

"Starfleet's not a dating service, Tanya," Nidara admonished her. "Besides, can you deal with a guy who you see once, maybe twice a year, and who probably has a girl in every port waiting for him?"

"I couldn't handle that," Beth agreed. "I want to see my man at the end of the day, every day. Call me traditional, but I need good old terra firma under my feet, the wind in my hair, and the sun on my face. No way I'd be stuck in a tin can for a month just to get to Vulcan."

The thought of being in an enclosed space like a space vessel made Hoshi shiver in revulsion. "I completely agree with you, Beth. I'd go crazy on a space ship."

Ekaterina waved a hand at her. "And, so, the award of the "Least Likely to Join Starfleet" goes to...Hoshi Sato. I just don't see you in an organization like that, even if your friends are there. It definitely doesn't suit you, little friend."

Nidara raised a glass. "To Hoshi, our little friend, who is the best of us..."

They all echoed the gesture, as Tanya finished the toast, "...and the one who needs the most corrupting of us all."

"Hear, hear," Beth drawled as she clinked glasses with the others. "We'll corrupt you yet, Hoshi."

Hoshi laughed, sipped her ice tea, and hid her unease. The world outside the walls of the Sato family was nothing like she'd dreamed about as a ten-year-old. It was scary, but wonderful at the same time. There was so much to see, so much to experience and explore, so much to do. The taste of freedom was a heady one, and she came to a startling conclusion.

She wanted more and she was reluctant to go back into the cage.


March 13, 2145 (Sato family compound, Tokyo, Japan)

Her conscience kept her from trouble, at least for now. All of her reports were stellar and she eagerly looked forward to her own research projects. Once a month, she went to the Linguistics Institute in Taipei and made sure all was well there. From there, she visited her parents in Tokyo. Hiroshi Sato was rarely present, but this time, he arrived at the family compound just after the evening meal.

"Hoshi-chan, may I speak with you?" he asked.

"Of course, Father," she answered smoothly. She followed him to his office and stood respectfully in front of his desk. Hiroshi gestured her to a chair and nodded for her to sit. They regarded each other in silence for a minute before he spoke again.

"Is everything well with you at Stanford? I've read Hatayama-sensei's reports and they live up to my expectations, but I want to hear it directly from you."

Hoshi had long learned how to control her expressions and body language. Now she called on those acting skills to become the docile daughter again. "I am well, with my studies and my cultural studies, Father. There is so much to do, and so little time to do it."

Her father nodded and said, "I understand the feeling of time slipping away from you, Daughter. Your cultural studies...?"

This was the dangerous moment and Hoshi skirted as close to the truth as she dared. "Music, dance, and the various arts from many different peoples. Vulcan harp music, Andorian jazz, Yaribian glass sculpture."

Hiroshi raised his eyebrows. "That is...different."

"Interstellar relations are so much more than just language, Father. To understand others, you must experience their cultural lives too." Hoshi bowed her head and added, "I haven't forgotten my primary goal; T'Liet and Salris have provided me with valuable information on Vulcan and Andorian trade."

"Oh? Tell me about this T'Liet and Salris, and some of the others you socialize with on a daily basis. I am concerned that some of the company you keep may lead you astray "

She looked up at him and bristled at the implied insult. "Lead me astray? Do you have such little faith in me?"

"I am your father. It is my right to be concerned, since you are so far away from us." Hiroshi's face was blank, but there was steel in his tone. "With Jonathan in Nevada and Hatayama-sensei near retirement-"

"You have no one to safeguard my welfare." Hoshi inclined her head demurely, even as she seethed inwardly. "No one whom you trust implicitly. I understand your concern."

"I am gratified that you do understand, Daughter."

"Might I make a suggestion, then?"

"Of course."

"Cousin Yuika and her husband live in San Francisco. If it will reassure your mind, I could invite her to visit me on a regular basis. She is part of the clan and will not refuse, if I ask."

Hiroshi chewed his lip as he considered the proposal. Yuika, like any "traditional" wife, had put her own academic career on hold as she looked after her own family. She had a young daughter now, and had set aside her "unconventional" ways. Hoshi saw the wheels turning in his head and held her breath.

"You've always looked up to her and she has settled down." Hiroshi nodded to himself. "Very well. I will contact her myself. When will you invite her to visit?"

"Perhaps this weekend, if it's at all possible. It will be wonderful to see her again."

He looked relieved. "Very well, that's settled. Now, tell me about the Vulcans and the Andorians."

Hoshi called up the information on her data pad and relayed the pertinent information. As she talked about trade customs and transit fees, she formulated another plan in her mind. She would have to be more careful in her extracurricular activities. A lot more careful.


March 14, 2145, San Francisco

"Hoshi!" Yuika smiled and grasped her cousin's hands. "It's good to see you!"

"And you! You look well." Hoshi eyed the healthy bloom to her face and the trim waistline, despite the baby, and felt a pang of envy. She looked so happy.

"Please come in! Come into my humble home!" Yuika guided her into their modest home on the Bay. Hoshi left her shoes outside the door, as was traditional, and followed Yuika down the corridor to the living room. Six-month old Shizuka gurgled as she batted at a hanging mobile in her bassinet. Hoshi knelt next to her and marveled at the innocence in her smile.

"She's being very good right now," Yuika said dryly. "The operative words are, of course, 'right now'."

Hoshi chuckled. "I see that. She looks a lot like Matsuo."

"That's what everyone says. It makes me feel a bit inadequate."

"Hey, you're her mother. You're the one who does most of the work."

Yuika shook her head and flopped gracefully onto the couch. "Actually, Matsuo helps as much as he can, considering his schedule. I'm glad for it; otherwise, I would be completely insane by now. His sisters take turns taking care of their niece, so I do have time for other things. Like research."

Hoshi raised her eyebrows and took another look at the clutter of notes and data pads on the coffee table. For the first time, she noticed equations scribbled in the margins of the scientific articles, the text highlighted in several different colors, with arrows indicating Yuika's various threads of thought. It made Hoshi dizzy just staring at them.

"Your father called me a couple of days ago. He doesn't know about the...ah, agreements that Matsuo and I have," Yuika said cheerfully. "I keep up with the latest quantum research and publish my theories and findings in some independent journals. Granted, I can't work for more than maybe ten minutes at a stretch, at least until Shizuka naps, but every little bit of time helps."

"So...that's why you have all the little arrows?" Hoshi asked, as she looked at one of the applesauce-splattered pages, turning it every which way in an attempt to follow the trail of ideas.

Yuika shrugged and replied, "Pretty much. If I don't write everything down, I lose whatever ideas I had. No eidetic memory, though that'd be helpful in my line of work."

"And Matsuo is okay with all this?"

"He encouraged it." Yuika shrugged again. "His family is traditional in some ways, but they're very forward looking in others. You know that Matsuo had actually been one of Henry Archer's engineering proteges? Jonathan's father was a big influence on him. Jolted him out of his insular thinking."

Hoshi stared at her, then laughed. "Jonathan's dad? Figures."

She leaned forward with an intense look. "And what about you? I know that Jonathan's stuck in Nevada for the next six months or so. Hatayama-sensei's officially retiring next month. A little tori told me that you've been seeing the sights of San Fran. True?"

Hoshi felt the color drain from her face at the bald statement. "It's harmless, just soaking up a little culture. And who's the little bird?"

"A big bird named Arthur. You might know him."

"A.G. Robinson, that traitor," she muttered. "When I get my hands on him-"

Yuika shook her head and said sharply, "Don't get mad at him. I asked him to keep tabs on you, since Jonathan can't, and he's been keeping the details of your, ah, exploits from Jonathan. And who do you think has been running interference between you and your parents? It's just bad luck that your dad's shipping export manager's son saw you at the Bay Twenty-One Club two weekends ago. I convinced your dad that it couldn't be you because it simply wasn't your nature to visit a place like that."

Hoshi turned pale. So that was why he had questioned her at the family compound. She owed Yuika a lot for covering for her.

"Look. I'm not telling you this to make you indebted to me. That's what your parents would do." Yuika grasped Hoshi's hands again and continued, "You'll be sixteen this year, almost a grown woman, and what you do with your own time is none of my business. Unless I think you might be putting yourself in danger."

"As I said, it's harmless. I do have some common sense."

"Your parents made sure you have book smarts, but you have very little street smarts, Hoshi. I don't mean fending off would-be Romeos with your phenomenal martial arts skills." Yuika inclined her head.

"I came to Stanford when I was fourteen. I'm basically in charge of the Language Institute in Taipei. I've dealt with grumpy academics and unwilling donors. I think I can take care of myself, Yuika."

"I never said you couldn't take care of yourself. Unlike some other people I know, you do have a brain in that head of yours. I'm just saying that you've got to be more careful. I don't want to see you get hurt because you got yourself into something you can't control."

Hoshi took a deep breath and let it out slowly. She glanced over at Shizuka, who gurgled as her chubby fist struck a rattle toy suspended over her head, blissful, without a care in the world.

"I didn't come here to argue with you, Yuika." Yes, she was still angry, but she couldn't alienate her cousin, not after all they'd been through.

"I know." Yuika squeezed her hands. "Will you at least let me help you? Even just a little?"

She forced a smile on her face. When will everyone realize that their "help" wasn't wanted or needed? They all wanted to force her to be someone she really wasn't. Nevertheless, she still had to play the part.



April 7, 2145

Three weeks after her talk with Yuika, Hoshi had an unusual dream.

She was on a rope bridge that spanned a huge valley. On one side of the chasm was a raging army of samurai warriors, all in their plated armor, winged helmets, and katana swords at the ready. On the other side, a swarm of black-clothed ninjas, a dark wave extending as far as the eye can see. A cold silence came over the combatants as they stared at each other across the gap.

And she was there, in the center of the bridge, directly in harm's way. She glanced around her, but there was no way out, and the mist obscured the long drop below her. She was trapped.

"Giri!" cried the samurai. "Duty!"

"Ryooshin!" the ninja screamed back. "Spirit!"

"What do you want from me?" Hoshi shouted. "Why am I here?"

"Anata ga sentaku suru hitsuyoo ga arimasu!" They shouted back in unison. "You must make the choice!"

Hoshi's heartbeat pounded so loudly in her ears that she could hardly think. "Why can't I have both? Why can't I have the balance?"

"Wo sentaku shite anata no unmei!" The battle cry echoed all around her. "Choose your fate!"

"What?" She gripped the ropes with white knuckles. "What do you mean? I don't understand!"

The only way off the bridge was to make her way toward one of the ends, but which way should she go? The samurai with their call of duty or the ninja, with their promise of spirit? Her first instinct was to go to the samurai, where her clan came from, but her feet hesitated.

Wait, there was another option. It was her choice. She would gladly suffer the consequences of her actions, if there were any. She looked down into the cloud-filled chasm below her, as the winds howled all around her and lightning flashed through the sky.

With a deep breath, she gripped the rope tightly, then launched herself over it, plunging into the icy white below. The sounds of the battle faded as she fell down, down, into an endless well.

Then, with a violent start, she jerked awake. She stared at the ivory-colored spackle on the bedroom ceiling, and expected it to fall on her. When it didn't, she slowly sat up on her futon. If she'd been lying in a regular mattress, she would probably have ended up on the floor.

Hoshi knew that she had made her choice. Her life was her own. Others might give her advice, but the only one who she could depend on was herself.

Why did she still feel so cold?


trekwriter151: (Default)

May 2012

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