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In her pre-teens, Nyota Uhura was small, scrawny and very timid; that drew all sorts of bullying. She passed the challenging entrance exams for the exclusive Math and Science Academy in the United States of Africa with ease when she was seven years old, achieving the highest marks of any student. Nyota's math aptitude, along with her science skills, placed her at odds with fellow students older than she who considered themselves the cream of the academic crop, in particular Angela Parker. Angela was the apple of her parent's eye; she could do no wrong, according to them. Angela's parents expected her to take top honors in every academic field. She was a spoiled kid who both excelled in the academic setting and was a social butterfly; most of the other girls at M&S Academy were in her thrall, and those who weren't paid a price. Angela's aptitude for math was unrivaled-until Nyota came along. After Nyota entered M&S Academy, Angela's grip on the top spot started to slip. Nyota slowly deposed her as the mathematics queen. What made it worse was that Nyota was two years younger than her.
Nyota thrived academically in the M&S Academy environment, challenging many of the seniors' theories and solving some of the math problems that stumped them. As a result, she was targeted by both genders, who perceived her as a threat because of her high intelligence; she paid the price of all sorts of harassment. Nyota endured a daily gauntlet of verbal and physical assault but never wavered in pursuing her goals. She would let nothing stop her from reaching them. During those lonely years, Nyota often found herself looking up at the night sky, watching the twinkling stars and hoping she would someday find a home up there. Space called her for an adventure.
But when it came to physical attraction, at fifteen Nyota was still small, scrawny, and timid. She liked several older boys and hoped they would be interested in her. But none of the boys paid her any attention; they found her too brainy and taunted her for her lack of beauty. The girls shunned her because her intelligence intimidated them, and she wasn't really old enough to join the girls on their beauty binges. Nyota found herself alone for most of her M&S Academy years; socially, she had hoped for one friend-just one-to share with and confide in. Or for a boy to show interest in her, regardless of her looks or intelligence. It was at those low points that Nyota felt like an ugly duckling.
To numb the pain of rejection and loneliness, Nyota threw herself into activities such as swimming, dancing, self-defense, singing, learning to play several instruments, and working toward fluency in multiple languages of Earth and beyond. In these things, she excelled as well. But Nyota's heart was always with the stars. Those activities became her companion and the rock that she clung to for survival. It was those things that saved her from being consumed by her torment. As she entered her late teens, she buried the anger deep in her soul. When she got older, she would relive events in her nightmares and see the many scornful faces that mocked her when she was younger.
Nyota remained small, scrawny and very timid, until her eighteenth year. Like a butterfly in a deep-sleeping cocoon, she physically changed into a desirable woman. Things changed so quickly and dramatically that she struggled with the new attention she attracted. The men who had formerly shunned her were now attracted to her, and the women who had ignored her now became jealous of all the attention Nyota drew. Her transformation also attracted more unwelcome attention from Angela and the Alpha girls, the most notorious clique in the M&S Academy. They were infamous because of their habit of mocking or shunning young women to the point of tears. The treatment got more vicious for any young woman who made the mistake of looking too hard at one of their dates.
When Nyota came of age, Starfleet sought her out and invited her to attend Starfleet Academy. They tapped into all the valuable skills and talents enumerated in Nyota's spotless record and set about training her, polishing her existing skills and teaching her new ones. But during Nyota days at Starfleet Academy she was unable to focus exclusively on the exciting new subjects and training she was being exposed to; Angela had made it into Starfleet as well and was only too happy to gather a new group of followers with which to harass Nyota, making her feel like a helpless twelve-year-old again. The new Alpha club picked up right where the old one left off.
Starfleet Command was more interested in Nyota's achievements, which caused friction in Angela's command modules. On top of that, Nyota became the most desired and sought-after woman in the Academy, which left Angela seething. Nyota's athleticism and beauty had helped her became more popular and highly respected. But when Angela's boyfriend, Maximilian Clark, took interest in her, it was the last straw. Angela's jealousy of Nyota had only grown as the years went on, but things took a nasty turn when Angela spied Nyota talking to her man, Max. Max went out of his way to attempt to gain Nyota's attention, because he secretly desired her. Angela hounded Nyota in every way and made her feel her wrath, using her new band of Alpha girls to carry out her cruel campaign.
In her second year, Nyota met Charlene Masters, a new Academy recruit who was majoring in engineering and could take apart any kind of mechanical device. Charlene was not intimidated by Nyota's looks and treated her as an equal. Charlene came from a tough neighborhood in Chicago and had three older big brothers who had taught her to stand on her own and not take crap from anybody. She could take on the toughest adversary and stood up against the Alpha girls fearlessly, daring them to mess with her. One day she found Nyota cornered by Angela and the Alphas. Charlene stood next to Nyota and braved Angela's taunts, defying her and giving as good as she got. From that day, they were thick as thieves. In Charlene, Nyota found someone to share her hopes and dreams with.
Nyota admired Charlene's strength and looked to her as a role model for dealing with bullies. Charlene taught Nyota to let loose and use her assets. Charlene made Nyota laugh uncontrollably and dared her to do the impossible. Charlene had been aware of the way the other women had been treating Nyota and was fully aware of how cruel people can be to one another. Charlene and Nyota's friendship endured the test of time, and they became blood sisters or 'sistahs in crime'. Nyota shared the bitter experiences of her teenage years with Charlene, who comforted her, saying time would heal her wounds. Together, they endured their Academy years, letting their treatment by the Alphas roll off their backs and focusing on their studies. Nyota blossomed, becoming more confident and independent, and developing skills to deal with those who thought ill of her.
She worked earnestly in the diplomatic corps, where her multilingual fluency was an asset and she was highly valued. Starfleet Intelligence used her in code-breaking classified materials and attempted to recruit her. She gained experience in interacting with different cultures, and Starfleet reaped the benefits of her work. Nyota was often placed with the Federation of Planets delegation team. This gave her her first taste of travel into space.
Nyota continued to draw a great deal of attention from the opposite sex, including from high-ranking officers and official delegates. But during those times hobnobbing with the bigwigs, Nyota did not fall for any of the men; her sights and heart were set on the stars. Her beauty continued to be both an asset and a liability, earning her poisonous looks from jealous wives and lovers.
The years passed, and Charlene and Nyota were both assigned to the USS. Enterprise, which happened to be in port for repairs when their 10th Starfleet class reunion was scheduled. They decided to stay at a hotel near the reunion. They were back where their friendship began and old enemies lurked. But Charlene and Nyota's friendship had endured, and life had changed both of them for the better.
"Nyota, are you ready to face the demons of our past?"
Nyota gave Charlene a long sigh and took a deep breath.
"Not really; after all these years, do you think they've changed?"
"Who knows? Maybe they grew up and will act like mature people." Charlene grabbed Nyota by the shoulders and looked into her eyes. "Listen, Ny, we are better people now; don't dwell on the past. We are here for fun and to reestablish relationships with old friends."
"You forget, Char, we also had mortal enemies; we had to watch each other's backs. Remember?"
"Well then, at least most of the professors and teaching instructors will hear our accomplishments."
Nyota looked at her long-time friend and put a smile on her face. "Yeah, you're right; it's just a luncheon; what could go wrong?"
The two women stood in front of the closed door that was the entrance to the banquet hall. Charlene was dressed in a knee-length burnt-orange romper, with pearls edging the collar. Nyota was wearing a two-piece pantsuit with blue and white stripes running diagonally on the top and solid-blue pants. At that moment, one of their former classmates bumped into them; she froze, staring at the two women. She had shoulder-length auburn hair and had a look of shock and recognition on her face.
Nyota and Charlene quickly recognized her as one of the Alpha club girls. Then the woman turned and recognized Nyota as well.
"Uhura! You're both here!"
Nyota and Charlene stared at each other, wondering whether or not to acknowledge the other woman.
"Celia Edwards... how are you?" Nyota asked.
Celia took a deep breath and looked at both women with sincerity.
"Masters, Uhura, I owe you both my deepest apologies for my cruel treatment of you during our Academy days. I was very wrong about both of you. I should have listened to you, Uhura, about Kevin back then. Please forgive me."
Charlene and Nyota were speechless again.
Celia continued, "I married that jerk after you warned me that he was a player. I was so busy listening to that stupid club, which was a big mistake. Now I'm divorced from that jerk and a wiser person."
"Wow, Celia! I'm sorry that you went through all that," Nyota said.
"Girl, I'm happy; lesson learned! I wish I had been more mature back then and had the backbone to be myself."
Celia looked at Nyota and Charlene with respect. "I wish I had been more like the two of you; you stood your ground and didn't let the Alphas bully you."
Celia stepped forward and gave each of them a hug. Nyota and Charlene received her hugs and returned them.
"Wow! Apology accepted! Thank you, Celia; it took guts to apologize," Nyota said.
"Are you staying?" Charlene asked.
"Unfortunately, I can't. I have to report back for duty."
Celia looked at them and saw real women. She reflected on her behavior when she was with the Alphas and how mean they were.
"Just fair warning: the Alphas haven't changed much. I was just in there and I couldn't take it anymore. So you two be careful."
Nyota and Charlene looked at each other as they prepared for the worst.
"Thanks for the warning; we've tackled bigger and crazier foes than them."
"Well, I have to go. It's good to see you both again."
Celia left and both women took a deep breath as they looked at each other.
"Well, Char, are you ready to face our past?"
"Bring it on, Sistah!"
Charlene grabbed Nyota's arm and marched forward.