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I have lived with the eagle all my life. Even now when I’m in my room at Starfleet Academy I am confronted by it countless times every day. Over the years I have come to know every curve, every angle, every nuance of light and shadow formed by the graceful shape of its outspread wings. If I say it’s simply a small statue of a bird in flight, you’d say that there are thousands of those in souvenir shops all over the galaxy. You’d be right of course, but mine is different.
I’m told that I was found with it clutched in my hand. I know I need to explain that but I still find it difficult to talk about. Of course Starfleet knows; they have to know the history of all their cadets and I suppose mine isn’t all that unusual. When I say found with it clutched in my hand; that was the second time when they pulled me out of the rubble of the mall beside the bridge here in San Francisco after the Breen attack in 2375.
The first time was on Caldor Prime after a hit and run attack by the Cardassians on our small settlement. I was 5 years old and had been living on our small farm with my mother. My father was away for the winter working in the mines on Telfas Prime when the Cardassians came. I didn’t learn all about this until much later. There were three survivors of the raid and we were found purely by chance by a Bajoran Militia ship looking for fresh supplies. They took us with them when they left and I grew up in various camps till we settled in Bajor when the Cardassians pulled out. The eagle was apparently lying beside me when they found me and it found its way with me on my long journey here to the Academy.
I lived most of that time with the elderly woman and her daughter who were rescued with me on Caldor. It was from her lips I learned the story of the eagle. It had belonged to my grandfather who had made his living on a number of planets as a shepherd. He had been given it by a young boy in the village near where he was working in exchange for some star charts he had no further use for. It had once been part of grandfather’s crook and when he died my father had it mounted and it stood on a table by the door of our home. And so it has been present in every home I have lived in since I was that small child. Indeed it has become a symbol of home and family to me, where ever I have found myself.
That brings me to the present day, well last week actually. I am in my third year at the Academy and have just started a module in exobiology; my first assignment with a partner paired me with a young man whose name was already well known as one of the returning heroes of the USS Voyager. The only Delta Quadrant native in the Academy, in fact the only ex Borg in the Academy come to that and already a specialist in the subject. I have never been so nervous in my life. So much so that after the first session we had in the lab I left one of my PADD’s behind and like a gentleman he called at my room to return it to me. I was so embarrassed.
That was when he saw the eagle. He admired it, and then asked me of its history. I was intrigued. There was so little I could tell him and I couldn’t think what it was he found so interesting about my little statue. Was it valuable? Was it a long-lost work of art? Icheb however was not forthcoming but instead asked if he could borrow it for a short while to show to someone. He must have seen my expression of concern. I had never been parted from it.
"Do not worry, I will take great care that it does not get damaged and will make sure that it is returned to you very quickly." He was true to his word and two days later the eagle was installed back in its rightful position in my room. It turned out he had seen something very similar before and wanted to compare the two.
So now he is taking me to see the man who carved my eagle and gave it to my grandfather all those years ago.
As we stand outside the door of the house, despite Icheb’s reassurance I can feel panic descend. What if I make a fool of myself? What can I tell him? What will he tell me? After all, this is the home of the most famous couple in Starfleet. I feel totally out of my depth.
The door opens and "Hello Icheb, and you must be Chandani," she takes my hand, "come in, my husband is so looking forward to meeting you."
We are swept through into the lounge in a rush and there he is smiling at me, dark, handsome and so very welcoming.
"Hello, sit down and let me tell you about your eagle. Kurt Bendera and his father were very good friends of mine……………….."
And as I listen to the story of how he met my father and grandfather I feel that surrounded by the warmth of these people, I finally belong to a family.
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