Star Trek Voyager: Lower Decks

Author's Note: These characters may not be the most obvious choices for this story, but I needed enlisted personnel. "Learning Curve" was the only other episode that spent much time on enlisted crew, but I didn't feel I knew as much about those Maquis as l did about the misfits in "Good Shepherd".

Higher Education

by Denise

Celes hesitated as she stepped out of the lift, unsure which way to go. She must have looked lost; a passing Cadet stopped to ask "Can I help you?"

"History Department?"

"This way" he indicated, pointing to the left, "turn right at the end of the hall, the Department Office is the second door on the left."


"You must be Celes", the civilian woman sitting at the desk in the outer office said the moment Tal walked through the door. "Go right in", she pointed to a door to her right. "Captain Evans is expecting you."

Tal straightened her uniform then entered what turned out to be a small conference room. Seated at the table were three officers and a civilian. She came to attention and addressed the senior officer "Crewman Celes Tal reporting as ordered, m... sir." She'd caught herself just in time; she'd become used to addressing Captain Janeway, and by extension the other women officers on Voyager, as "ma'am", but protocol required "sir" unless told otherwise.

"At ease. Please take a seat. I'm Captain Evans, Chair of the Academy History Department. This is Commander Auerbach, Department co-chair, Professor Stead and Lieutenant Commander T'Lee," she gestured to each of the others as she introduced them. "We've been reviewing your files from Voyager."

"Ma'am?" So much for protocol.

Evans smiled, then answered "You are one of a number of crewmen who have completed Academy level studies during your time on Voyager. Since most of your course work was from the History curriculum, the Registrar's Office entered you as a history major and this Department received your records."

"Oh. I didn't realize those records would be reviewed automatically." Then the rest of what Captain Evans said registered. "Registrar's Office? History major?"

"You did complete the courses for credit, not just audit them."

"Yes. But,.. I'm not a cadet. I never could have passed the entrance exam. I thought I'd have to enroll at a university, have whatever credits I earned transferred there." Celes was glad she was sitting down; she hadn't felt this overwhelmed since that away mission with Captain Janeway.

"Perhaps I can clear this up" Auerbach interjected. "You should have received a transmission from the Registrar's Office a while ago. Apparently it never reached you."

"No, sir. The monthly data stream wasn't perfect; sometimes things got lost or came through garbled."

Commander Auerbach then explained Starfleet Academy's policy of granting provisional cadet status to enlisted personnel on long term, deep space missions, who undertake a formal course of study, upon completion of two semester's course work and subject to their commanding officer's approval. "Voyager's was certainly a long term, deep space mission, and Captain Janeway had given blanket approval for any crew member who wished to pursue a degree. Our purpose today is to review your work and determine your status."

T'Lee began the questions. "You are a Sensor Analyst, and the first course you registered for was the mandatory Freshman Engineering class, Engineering 100, the only engineering course you took. How is it that you came to study history rather than concentrate in your field?"

"I was assigned to engineering when I joined Starfleet, but I wasn't very good at the analyses. Any other assignment and I guess I'd have requested a transfer to another field, but being on Voyager I didn't have the choice, all the positions required technical skills, so I just did the best I could, which was barely acceptable. I thought if I could get through the Academy Engineering course it might help."

"Did it?" Auerbach asked.

"No, sir. But its how I found the other courses."

"Go on."

"When I was looking through the undergraduate data base I saw something called History 105 Overview of Bajoran Civilization. Growing up, most of what I learned about Bajor's past was from stories the adults told, we didn't have many text books and the ones we did get were 'edited' by the Cardassians." T'Lee raised an eyebrow at Celes' bitter tone. "Anyway, I downloaded that as well as the engineering course, which I never even looked at until I'd finished the history reading. After that I pulled out whatever I could find on Bajoran history, art and literature too. For every chapter I finished in Engineering 100 I'd let myself do at least one assignment from another course, usually more. When I finished the Bajoran studies I started on more general Federation history, then specifics like Earth and Vulcan."

"You did eventually pass Engineering 100, though," Auerbach stated, looking at a PADD.

"Just barely, after working at it on and off for more than two years."

T'Lee continued "You also completed two general science courses".

"Sometime last year, every time I registered for a new class I'd get a message that I hadn't fulfilled the science requirements. Since I was working in Astrometrics I figured I might as well take something job related and found two 100 level courses—Basic Stellar Cartography and Astrophysics for non-Physicists."

"Physics for Poets; I remember it well." Professor Stead spoke for the first time. "I'm interested in this paper you wrote, comparing the Cardassian occupation of Bajor with the Nazi occupation of France in Earth's Second World War. What made you pursue this?"

"The Hirogen," Celes answered, receiving puzzled looks from the professors. "They captured Voyager during our fourth year in the Delta Quadrant and implanted some kind of neurological suppresser in each of us that made us think we were really fighting in whatever holodeck battles they put us in." She paused, not sure how to continue. "The last scenario, the one that was running when the interfaces were disabled, was a bombed out town, with somewhat primitive vehicles and weapons. When we started repairs someone made a comment about Captain Janeway being the leader of the Maquis, which most of us, even the former Maquis, didn't understand, so Lieutenant Paris explained that the setting was Nazi Occupied France and that members of the French Resistance were called Maquis.

"That got me interested, and when things got back to 'normal' I did some research on the French Maquis, then I found some 20th Century Earth History courses, and I started reading books about the Second World War. By then we were in 'the Void', so I had plenty of time for studying. The similarities between what happened in Europe then and what we'd been through on Bajor under the Cardassians just seemed so obvious, but I couldn't find anything in the database comparing the two situations, so I did. I saved it as a History 350 Independent Study."

"Quite well written," Commander Auerbach complimented Celes. "I suggest you submit it to Bajoran Heritage. See me later this week and we'll discuss it."

"Thank you, sir."

Turning to his colleagues he added "In my opinion this should be considered as a two semester honors project."

After that the rest of the morning passed in a blur. The professors asked a number of questions, gauging her knowledge of events, people, places and dates. Finally Captain Evans concluded the session. "If there are no further questions, we'll break for now. Cadet Celes," she ordered "Report back here at 1400, in a staff uniform. Dismissed."

Half an hour later, Tal arrived at the restaurant Billy'd suggested for lunch, a small Chinese place not far from the transient quarters where they were both temporarily assigned.

"Looks like you had an interesting morning" Billy joked, pointing to the red turtleneck she now wore. "I gather your meeting went well?"

Celes nodded, grinning, then described her session with the history professors, pausing only long enough to place her order. "And then the Captain told me to report back at 1400, in a staff uniform. I guess I'll learn my fate then. Now what about you?"

"You know I was told to report to Starfleet Medical at 0930. When I arrived...

Billy Telfer walked into Office Suite 47B, nodding to Voyager's Doctor. A few minutes later they were directed to one of the offices.

"I'm Captain Rosenberg, Chair of the Academy's Nursing Department. This is Counselor Bari", she introduced the Lieutenant sitting in one of the visitor's chairs, then addressed Billy. "I understand you started working partial shifts in sickbay about a year ago?"

"Yes, ma'am, er, sir. The Doctor figured I'd spent so much time looking up diseases and self-diagnosing that I probably knew as much as, if not more than, most of the medics. Not Lieutenant Paris, he's practically a doctor, but Ensign Wildman and some of the other crew who help out."

"Self diagnosing?" the counselor asked.

"Crewman Telfer suffered from hypochondria, aggravated, in my opinion, by Voyager's circumstances" the Doctor answered for Billy. "A genuinely life threatening situation last year snapped him out of it. That was when I suggested he put his medical interests to better use."

"How is it this was not noticed when you first entered Starfleet? Depending on its severity hypochondria would have kept you from assignment to a starship, or even disqualified you from enlistment."

"As the doctor said, our situation aggravated it. I'd always been careful, frequently thought I was coming down with something, but never to the point it seriously interfered with my life. Then we ended up on the other side of the galaxy, exposed to all sorts of things the Phage, giant macro-viruses, aliens playing with our minds. The longer we were out there the worse it became."

"I see you completed one semester at Rutgers before joining Starfleet. What made you decide to leave school and enlist in the first place?" asked Bari.

Billy fidgeted a bit, clearly uncomfortable. "I was in college because it was expected, but I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. My parents thought it would be good for me, force me to grow up. 'Join Starfleet and see the Galaxy.' Of course, none of us had any idea just how much of the Galaxy."

Captain Rosenberg continued. "The medical logs show that as part of your sickbay training you have successfully completed the introductory nursing courses."

"Yes, sir. When there weren't any patients Doc had me reading texts, and doing simulations, so I could be more useful to him and Mr. Paris when there was an emergency. It wasn't like we could get outside assistance, or just stabilize critical cases until we could get them to a starbase or hospital ship. After a while he asked if I'd like to start formal nursing studies."

The doctor explained "Voyager had been without a trained nurse since the day we arrived in the Delta Quadrant. I'd trained Kes and Lieutenant Paris as primary medics, really physician's assistants, and others as backup medics. Kes started formal medical studies, as did Mr. Paris after she left. None of us knew how long my program would operate so someone needed to be prepared to step in. However, for nursing duties I made due with medics or whoever happened to be available—Mr. Neelix, Seven of Nine, even Captain Janeway at times. Mr. Telfer showed an interest in and an aptitude for the duties. So I had him begin the Academy nursing curriculum."

"Is it your intention to earn a nursing degree?"

"I wasn't really sure at first. But I like working in sickbay, being able to help people, and I think I'm good at it. So yes, I want to finish my degree."

"Between the nursing courses, your one semester in college and equivalency credits you should be able to begin the fall semester as a junior. You can, of course, resign from Starfleet and enroll in a nursing program as a transfer student."

"I never thought I'd say this, but I'd like to stay in Starfleet."

Rosenberg nodded, smiling "In that case would you accept a place here?"

"At the Academy? I... Certainly!"

Captain Rosenberg came around to the front of her desk. Billy and Counselor Bari stood up.

"Crewman William Telfer, you are hereby appointed to Starfleet Academy, Class of 2379, effective with the start of the next semester and subject to certain conditions. You will have to complete Engineering 100. Chief O'Brien teaches a six week summer session, primarily for cadets who didn't pass the first time, but there are always a few places set aside for enlisted personnel who are preparing to qualify for Warrant Officer. See him after you finish here. You will need to meet with the Class Dean concerning equivalency credits and any tests that may be required, including mandatory training such as qualifying for a higher level pilot's rating. I will recommend that the mandatory eight week starship tour be waived, since you've just completed a seven year tour."

"And, I will expect you for regular counseling sessions", Bari added. "You appear to have overcome the hypochondria but I will have to develop an independent evaluation."


"Congratulations and good luck, Cadet Telfer." Captain Rosenberg handed Billy a PADD. "Dismissed."

"Billy, that's wonderful news. Congratulations!" Tal leaned over and gave him a hug, then looked at him closely. "So why do you look like you've just been through one of Tuvok's security drills?"

"I've spent the last two hours dealing with the bureaucratic part of the appointment. I haven't filled out so many forms since I first enlisted. At least Chief O'Brien was helpful. I'll be taking his course as one of the Warrant Officer hopefuls, not a cadet; he figured it would be less awkward for everyone that way since the Academy appointment isn't really official for another couple of months, anyway. And I still need to register for a humanities or social sciences elective. Then there was billeting. They didn't quite know what to do with me. Finally decided that, since I'm still assigned to Voyager and won't officially be a Cadet until the fall semester starts, I can stay in my current quarters for the summer. Because I'm older and have mission experience they decided to make me a resident advisor. It means I'll get single, larger quarters, but I'm not sure they made a good choice. Me, giving advice?"

"You'll do fine. Besides, the first year students assigned to you will be too intimidated to give you a hard time." Tal continued before Billy could protest. "I'll bet they all brag that their RA is one of the 'Voyager Heroes'; isn't that what the press is calling us?"

"Among other things. And I'll take that bet."

"It's getting late. Walk with me to the social science building? You can see about your elective while I'm in my meeting."

They arrived at the history department about 15 minutes before the meeting was to start and waited in the conference room. Billy was immersed in the course catalog while Tal paced. "I just wish they'd gotten this over with this morning, like they did with you."

"Huh? Oh, well with me it was probably easier. All my classes were standard—do the work, pass the exam and get X credits. Somebody has to read and grade your papers and decide if they fulfilled the course requirements. And wasn't a lot of your work interdisciplinary and independent study? They have to figure out how many credits they count for. In the mean time, try to relax."

"Good advice, Mr. Telfer." Captain Janeway and Commander Chakotay had come in while they talked. Billy jumped up. Tal froze.

"I believe congratulations are in order, Cadet." Janeway, then Chakotay, reached to shake Billy's hand. "Thank you ma'am, sir."

"Until classes start, you will be assigned to sickbay. The Doctor and Ens... Lieutenant Wildman will help you prepare for your equivalency tests."


"Celes, we've just been discussing your academic achievements with Captain Evans. Why didn't you say something when I suggested finding you another assignment?"

"There really was no other post for me on Voyager. You didn't exactly have any use for an historian, other than maybe tutoring Naomi."

"I'm partially at fault here," Chakotay admitted. "The computer informed me whenever someone completed a course and I noted that in their personnel files. But I didn't want anyone to think I was monitoring what they were doing in their free time so I didn't track what the subjects were. If I had, I would have assigned you to the archaeology team, such as it was. Mendez was on the team because she'd been on a few digs during summer vacations, and I gave whatever time I could spare, but my fields are really paleontology and anthropology. Ensign Schliemann's the only trained archaeologist; he was always complaining about not having anyone to do cataloguing or comparisons with Alpha Quadrant artifacts. He'd have jumped at the chance to have you working for him."

"Of course you would have missed our away mission last year" Janeway added. "As a member of the archaeology team you wouldn't have had to meet the operations proficiency standards which had kept you off missions until then, just the qualifications in general emergency procedures and away team protocols, which you did."

Before Celes could reply the door opened, and someone called out "Attention on deck," and Admiral Chapman, her aide, Captain Evans and Professor Stead entered the conference room.

"Kathryn, welcome home." Chapman greeted Janeway. "Your father would have been so proud of you."

"Thank you, sir. May I present my First Officer, Commander Chakotay? Crewmen—correction Cadets Celes Tal and William Telfer? Admiral Chapman is Commandant of the Academy."

"Commander. Cadets, though not for much longer in your case, Celes. Captain Evans?"

"Cadet, we've finished reviewing your records. Each of the interdisciplinary courses was given four credit hours, and, as Professor Auerbach recommended, your independent study project was credited as a two semester honors project, giving you the total of 128 credit hours needed to graduate."

"Really? After this morning I thought I still needed a few more courses." Turning to Chapman she added "I see why you said 'not for much longer', sir." Then the full implication hit her. She looked questioningly at Janeway, who nodded, then back at Chapman.

"Attention to orders! Celes Tal, it is my pleasure to award you the degree of Bachelor of Arts in History, with honors, and to hereby grant you the commission of Ensign, Staff, Occupational Speciality Historian, with all rights and duties that entails." Billy took the gold pip from Chapman's aide and pinned it to her collar. "Congratulations, Ensign. Captain Janeway, Ensign Celes will remain under your command. There is considerable interest in Voyager's story. A lot of information has been released to the public, but Starfleet Command has decided an official history of your mission should be compiled. Who better to write it than a member of your crew?"

"It seems Voyager does have a position for ship's historian after all, Ensign" Janeway congratulated Celes. "Report to Commander Chakotay in two days at his temporary offices at Headquarters. Until then, both of you are on leave."

When everyone else had left, Billy was finally able to congratulate Tal. "With your permission, ma'am?" he asked, giving her a hug before she could respond.

It would be awkward for a couple of years, with Billy a Cadet and Tal an Officer. But that night, away from San Francisco and in civilian clothes, the best friends celebrated. They were no longer misfits.

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