Kids in the Jeffries Tube

The Kids in the Jefferies Tube, they called themselves. I heard them decide on that as the name of their… club, I guess you’d call it. There was a place in Engineering on the old “D” where you could hear sounds resonating down from a Tube junction. I’ve heard some pretty weird things coming down from there; music, voices, the occasional couple who thought they’d found the most isolated spot on the ship.

I suppose I should have made those kids come down out of there — those areas were supposed to be off-limits to children — but then I remembered another kid who played around in the Jefferies Tubes of a starship. Yup, that was me: Geordi LaForge, future Chief Engineer of the Enterprises “D” & “E”.

Oh… I still chuckle when I think of it. Mom never did. She was terrified. Starfleet is tough for kids, but I think it’s worse for parents. I was visiting Mom’s ship — she wasn’t Captain yet, Third Officer, I think — when it was in dry-dock for a refit. Some of the ship’s systems were down for repairs. That’s probably why we were able to get in all the places we did. I didn’t have my visor yet so I was totally blind. The other kids had never met a blind person, didn’t really understand what it meant. Once we got in the Tubes, they went too fast. I fell behind and pretty soon was lost.

I wasn’t scared. I should have been, alone, blind, and lost in the inner workings of a strange starship. I wasn’t scared, though, not then nor later when Mom explained to me why I should have been afraid. The ship just wasn’t scary. It felt — this is hard to describe — it felt warm and welcoming just like a hug from Mom. There I was, alone in darkness with the ship totally surrounding me. I could feel every quiver, every hum. Every sound came to me like a voice speaking directly to me.

That’s when I decided I’d become a Starfleet Engineer. It was a wild dream for a blind kid, but it seems to have worked out pretty well so far! I even scratched my initials on one of the conduits. I hope they never found them and erased them. I’d like to think that little bit of me was still there when that ship put up its brave last fight at Wolf 359.

So when I heard those voices from the Jefferies Tubes whispering down into Engineering, I just smiled to myself and let them be.

Yes, I knew Commander LaForge. I mean, not really. But I saw him sometimes and then he saved my life. That was on the Enterprise. Which one? 1701-D. It was my home… until she blew up and crashed.

Everyone was rushing around and the alarms were making noises I hadn’t heard before and me and some of my friends didn’t know what to do. Then Commander LaForge saw us. He picked me up and carried me off. He saved my life. But I still wish he’d have let me pick up Teddy. Poor Teddy got all blowed up when the warp core made its breach.

Warp core breach… that’s something they were all scared of. More scared than of spiders or Denebian Slime Devils even. Then the ship crashed and that was scary too. Commander LaForge held me and kept me safe and all the time he was saying over and over, “Starboard power coupling. I just knew that starboard power coupling was going to be trouble.”

I don’t know what he meant. I was too worried about Teddy to think about it. I don’t think I want to be an Engineer when I grow up. I’d be afraid the ship would blow up and I couldn’t stop it. I think I’d rather be a Security Officer, like Alexander’s daddy. If I was a Starship Security Officer I could keep all the Teddy bears from getting blowed up.

Even though my Father’s Chief of Security and a Klingon Warrior, I don’t think he ever knew about the Kids in the Jefferies Tubes. He’d have made us stop. I know he would. Father could be an “Old Twig in the Quagmire”. Commander Data taught me that expression. Hee, hee… it was ‘cause of Data that we first found a way into the Jefferies Tubes. His cat, Spot, used to escape from Data’s quarters and go exploring the ship. I liked Data even if Father didn’t. I like tribbles too. So there.

Spot found me and a bunch of others one time during a Red Alert. Red Alerts are weird. The grownups are really careful to not frighten us kids, but when the ship shakes and people are running around it’s… it’s just weird. I wasn’t scared. I’m never scared. I’m a Klingon, just like Father.

So the ship was shaking around and we were kind of being ignored, like if they didn’t tell us anything we’d think nothing was going on. Grownups can be dumb. Then Spot comes up and meows and purrs while we petted him. Except “him” was really a “her”. See how dumb grownups can be? Data still thought Spot was a “him”, but we knew better. So when Spot wandered off we followed. Turns out Spot knew his way around the ship better than anyone and led us into all the forbidden places. There was one place we went a lot, above Engineering. It was a junction that made really cool sounds. One time we all wrote our names on the back side of some gadget in there. My name is second, right beneath Marissa’s, ‘cause it was her idea. I don’t think anyone ever knew we went in there.

I used to be really shy, but after I won that prize and met the Captain and then he made me his Number One when the turbolift broke I wasn’t so shy anymore. After climbing up the turbolift tube I didn’t think anything could scare me ever again so I started going with the Kids when they went into the Tubes. They used to pretend they were doing something dangerous, but compared to that ladder the Tubes are just plain fun. In fact, I kind of became the leader of the Kids. We used to run along some of the big Tubes playing follow-the-leader. It was terrific until we got too big and had to bend over to run. It sort of became the rule that when someone got too tall he had to leave the Kids.

It was kind of sad the first time my head brushed against the top of the Jefferies Tubes. But I guess it didn’t matter so much by then. I was already really involved in school, studying hard in the pre-Academy classes. In a few more years I’ll be at Starfleet Academy and some time after that I’ll be the youngest woman ever to be Captain of a starship named Enterprise!

I’ll always remember the last time I went in the tubes with the Kids. That was the day we wrote our names on the back of a box in one of the Tubes. It was a Sternbach connector, I learned much later when I started studying starship mechanics. Anyhow, you should have seen little Clara Sutter’s face when it was her turn and she saw the name of her alien friend, Isabella, already there!

I grew up on starships, a bunch of different ones, but I really did like the Enterprise best, though not at first. After everyone found out my imaginary friend wasn’t imaginary at all they treated me with a sort of respect. Even though I was still a little homesick and lonely, I had to live up to the way the other kids saw me, so I was the first one to go into the Jefferies Tubes behind Spot. We never did find aliens in the Tubes, or anything else strange, but we did play pretend a lot. That was what I was best at, pretending and imagining without a holodeck or computer or anything, just us. It was fun.

Still, I think I liked the Arboretum best of all the places on the ship. Molly’s mother worked there and sometimes I helped her with the plants. Growing up on starships I never really got to be on planets much. It was in the Jefferies Tubes — fun as they were — that I decided that the place I really wanted to be was out in the open, underneath a big, wide open sky with a sun shining down on me. And I want to dig in dirt, real dirt, not hydroponics, and plant flowers and trees.

I never told the other Kids that. They all wanted to do things in Starfleet like their parents did. I didn’t tell Daddy either. But I did tell grandpa about it. If anyone would understand I knew it would be him. And he did. Grandpa Boothby said there might even be an opening right at Starfleet Academy for me when I’m old enough. That would be nice. I’d like to stay around Starfleet kids and imagine all the grand things they’d be doing, and maybe remind them that it’s supposed to be fun and sometimes what they really ought to do is run through the Jefferies Tubes and play pretend.

On the last inspection I made of the Jefferies Tubes in the Enterprise “D” I changed out one of the Sternbach couplings with a new Okuda model just in from Utopia Planetia. When I turned it over I saw the names of a bunch of kids from the ship written there. Some were still aboard, some weren’t. I don’t know why, but I kept that box with those names. I have it still. Some day I’ll look them up and see how they turned out, see if the dreams they dreamed in the Jefferies Tubes came true.

The End