.....She had been at a museum of natural history somewhere in former Canada when she was just a Cadet. A friend dragged her along and for the most part she didn't much care for it. The mud, the smells, the slow pace of walking everywhere and stopping every few yards. Moruk, her Bolian friend who shared her dorm room, absolutely loved it all.
"Oh, look," she squealed. "This animal! It looks like a fego!"
"That's a sheep."
"Ssssh-aep! Oh, they look adorable! Do they give milk, too?"
"Well, uhm... I don't think... "
A guide saved her some embarrassment that day. "Yes, they do! We make a cheese with it, too. Would you like to come see how the cheese was made 700 years ago?"
.....And so she was dragged along yet again. Agriculture. Farming.
.....Yes, there are those who still swear that this type of food is better for us, better than what replicators make. But the cleaning and the killing and everything else involved just did not appeal to her. In fact, nothing here really had. The houses, fire hazards all of them and no structure enhancements that could protect against unforeseen severe weather; the clothing and the way they showed us they 'washed' them... even the sun bothered her here. Overall, she was annoyed and just wanted to get back to San Fran.
.....Until she heard a rhythmic clanging just off to the side. She left Moruk oh-ing and ah-ing over how milk goes sour, taking holopictures of sheep.
.....In a low hut just around the corner was a man, working with sweat beading on his brow. He seemed to be slowly nearing retirement -possibly in his early 80s- wearing leather pants and a long-sleeved shirt made out of that coarse wool cloth everyone here wore. A long, thick leather apron covered him from the neck down to his knees and he stood with lightly bend back and knees as he hammered away at something small. "Come on in," he shouted over his work, "you can actually help me by moving that bucket there a little closer."
.....She ducked into the hut as he stopped hammering and gave her a winning smile. He pointed with his hammer once more at the water filled bucket alongside the wall and she lifted it and placed it right next to his anvil. Only now did she see the dully glowing piece if iron in the man's tongs. "Thank you, my dear," he said and flicked it into the bucket. Steam rose from its resting place and the iron let out a long sigh of relief, content in its new form.
.....As the man straightened up his smile grew even broader. "Ah, Starfleet. Cadet Third Class, I see. My son is on a cruiser in some forsaken part of the Federation these days. I don't see him often. You're sure you want to leave Earth this badly, my girl?" He poked around inside the bucket a while and picked the newly made nail out. He dropped it into a small try where it clanged happily against the others already resting.
.....She frowned at his remark. "That's not what Starfleet is about... It's about exploration and defending the Federation. Even this little speck of Earth right here!"
....."Is that so?" He had turned his back on her and rummaged in a pit of hot glowing coal. From it he pulled a bright red glowing sliver of metal which he daftly placed on the anvil. She jumped back as he resumed hammering away.
.....She felt she should say something. She felt angry. Angry at his small, smug smile. How dare he judge her? Or his son for that matter? Besides, Earth has nothing new to offer. Sure, it has plenty of old to offer. This place, for starters. But if one wanted to learn new things, it would not happen here on Earth. It would be out there. Around the colonies. Around uncharted star systems. In nebulas. In gas giants. And suns. ...and the longer she watched his hammer fall and rise; the longer she watched him form the lump of bright metal, the more she felt her indignation and outrage melt away. There was something very soothing about seeing this very plain work happen right before her.
.....She blinked as he pushed his tongs into the bucket and made another puff of vapor rise; the water bubbling briefly around the hot metal. How long has she been standing here, just letting her mind wander?
....."Here, my girl," he said and smiled at her. "Have this nail. Take it with you as a tiny piece of Earth and carry it with you. And when you had enough of being out there, use it to hold a picture of your family up when you settle down in a nice home."
She held open her hand and felt the nail drop into her palm. It was warm and she felt as if its warmth tried to leave an impression with her that afternoon.