Author: Brendan Chris
Veksai lay in bed, waiting for the fun to start.
It was the first morning of SNAP, the Starfleet New Arrivals Program. And, apparently, it was really going to suck.
Veksai craned his neck, looking at the small alarm clock built into his headboard. 05:58 hours. Across the tiny room his new roommate, Cadet Nuhvill, was snoring loudly. He really didn’t know what to expect this first morning, but he didn’t think he was going to like it. Still, the hours weren’t that bad, considering that on Waystation he was usually on his way to the Dillon Enterprises decks by this time.
05:59 hours. Whatever they had planned, Veksai just wanted it to start already. This waiting was killing him! Were they going to force him to do push-up after push-up? Was he going to have to complete some ridiculous task? WHAT???
Suddenly, there was a booming crash from the hallway, sounding like somebody had just struck a bass drum the size of a small house. Veksai jerked so hard he fell right out of bed, landing in a heap on the floor and sending up a fresh puff of dust. A deep, male voice began belting out lyrics, drawing each word out like a bug smeared on a windshield:
‘ooooooooooooom Do’! paaaaarHaaaaaaaa’ ech maaS! SoooooooooooooH choooooooH laaaaaaH!!
“What the f**k?” Nuhvel groaned.
Out in the hallway, Team Leader Buhras tapped a control on the hallway panel, causing every dorm room door to hiss open.
“OUT OF BED!” she shrieked, “YOU’VE GOT UNTIL THE MUSIC STOPS TO BE READY FOR FITNESS! TEETH BRUSHED! MALE MAMMELS BETTER BE SHAVED! REPTILES BETTER HAVE PROPERLY OILED SCALES!”
“Is she kidding?” Veksai asked, eyebrows rising.
“FURRED SPECIES WILL HAVE THEIR BODY FUR NEATLY COMBED!” Vexnar shrieked, “CRUSTATIONS WILL HAVE EGG NODULES REMOVED AND BODY SLIME AT A MINIMUM!”
Veksai lept out of his bed, rushing towards the single small sink and mirror contained in his room. Unfortunately, Nuhvill was rushing to the exact same place at the exact same time. The two collided, falling to the floor and scrambling to get back to their feet.
Just down the hall, Malespere and Bahred barely heard the thump. Malespere was brushing his teeth while Bahred was hopping around on one foot, trying to pull his running shoe on. There was a deafening shriek from Gallium’s room, followed by a PLOP! as his new Velvattian roommate untangled itself from the nest of wall hooks it used as a bed. In the background, the hellish music continued to blare:
ngop Serrum! je Qoong! muDnaQ yIn! wa’DIch ngIS!
“What in the name of the Holy One is that hideous racket!” Kumari cried, trying desperately to comb her hair. Her roommate, Bizkit, had somehow managed to get lost in her t-shirt. Next door to them, a cadet named Zenith was ignoring the instructions of the Team Leaders, instead trying desperately trying to wipe red hair off his cloths. His roommate, Val’gural, had arrived during the night and was Barudan1, a race that just happened to be covered from head to toe in bright red fur.
je vaj Segho’! HurDI’ yaH ‘oH! jIQ’ooooooooooooooooooooooor!
“YOU’RE ALMOST OUT OF TIME, BRUTE SQUAD!” Buhras screamed, straining to be heard over the music, which seemed to be reaching a ground-shaking climax. M’Kr’gr, having no need to shave or do his hair, was just scrambling into the hallway. His roommate, another newly arrived cadet named Fastocheni, was in the process of pulling his shirt on as M’Kr’gr rushed by. Unable to see where he was going, one of his very large feet came down square on M’Kr’gr’s tail. M’Kr’gr roared in surprise and jumped, cracking his head on the doorjamb and falling the floor. Fastocheni, his one foot flying in the air as M’Kr’gr’s tail was pulled out from under it, fell flat on his ass with a very painful sounding ‘THUD!’
je woQ! ‘oH tet chaH paaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarHaaa’ chuuuuuuuch!!!!!
With a loud flourish of drums and other assorted banging noises, the music ceased.
“EVERYBODY IN THE HALL!! NOW!!!” Buhras screamed, her voice sounding twice as loud in the sudden silence.
With a scramble, the last of the Brute Squad cadets pulled themselves out of their rooms.
Just around the curved corridor, Squad Leader Mecablox braced himself and prepared for his entry. He was wearing the approved Starfleet Academy athletic wear, that being a grey t-shirt with red shoulders and a pair of red shorts. Behind him his deputy, mid-classman Yanar Drain, was scratching behind his ears. With his left leg. (Drain was a Sheppian, a race that loosely resembled an anthropomorphic German Shephards that could walk on their hind legs.)
“Stop it, Yanar,” he said, “We are supposed to look intimidating,”
“Huh?” Drain stopped scratching, then bared his teeth in a growl.
“Betterrrrr?” he asked through clenched teeth.
“Yes, much,” Mecablox said.
“Ohh, does that mean I’m a good dog?” Drain’s ears perked up (literally) as his tongue lolled down out of his mouth.
“For the love of God,” Mecablox sighed, “Please do not start licking yourself in the middle of an inspection, OK?”
They stepped purposefully through an open doorway and into the lower-classman section of Fort Pike, careful to step around the gaping hole in the floor. Mecablox’s eyes widened as they gazed over his Squad.
Veksai and Nuhvel were both holding their heads and wincing. Mecablox could see swellings where matching goose-eggs were already forming. One of Veksai’s shoes was missing, and Nuhvel had almost enough stubble to form a full moustache. Malespere and Bahred were at least dressed, although Bahred was wearing mismatched socks. Gallium was still in his pajamas, flinching away from the huge, tentacled-monster that had moved into his room during the night. The squid-like Velvattian, to its credit, was at least free of egg nodules. Baxter was at least in the hall, but the fumes emanating from his mouth betrayed his poor oral hygiene. His roommate, a Russian boy named Igor, looked like he was going to be sick. Kumari and Bizkit were each missing a running shoe, the other was untied. M’Kr’gr and Fastocheni had both managed to knock themselves unconscious and were lying sprawled out on the floor.
“This is,” Mecablox said, struggling to keep a straight face, “most disappointing,”
He turned to Buhras, Vexnar and Kethnor, who were standing in the hallway, looking severely at the cadets.
“Have them ready in five minutes,” he said curtly, then left.
He wasn’t sure, but Veksai thought he could hear barely restrained laughter as Mecablox and Drain departed.
No sooner had he turned away then the three Team Leaders leapt into action.
“THAT WAS DISGUSTING!” Buhras shouted, her voice ringing off the walls, “NEVER, NEVER HAVE I BEEN SO HUMILIATED BY A GROUP OF CADETS! YOU’LL HAVE TO DO MUCH, MUCH BETTER THAN THIS, BRUTE SQUAD!”
“You!” Kethnor said sharply, pointed at Veksai and Nuhvel, “You will both shave immediately.” They hesitated, staring unsteadily at him.
“NOW!” he snapped. With a jump, they darted back into their room.
“What is this?” Vexnar hissed, surveying Kumari and Bizkit, “You don’t know how to properly dress yourselves?”
“Actually, I had servants who dressed me,” Kumari said, nose slightly uplifted.
“Oh, well excuse me for not helping you!” Vexnar snapped, his antennae shifting in irritation.
“You are excused,” Kumari said regally.
With a snarl, Vexnar slammed one fist into wall next to Kumari.
“I AM A WARRIOR OF THE 12TH HIVE! NOT A LOWLY SERVANT!” he snarled, “YOU WILL DRESS YOURSELVES, PROPERLY! NOW!”
With a squeak, Kumari vanished into her room.
“WHAT IS THIS!” Buhras was snapping, plucking a tuft of red fur off of Zenith’s shirt, “Were you rolling around in this crap, or are you just incapable of cleaning it off?”
Malespere and Bahred exchanged glances, watching the chaos around them. Malespere found it interesting to watch how each Team Leader interacted with their cadets. Buhras was pure volume, her voice reaching levels that Malespere was certain a girl her size should not be able to produce. Vexnar, while quieter, had a strange sort of dryness to him, like he held everybody in contempt. Kethnor wasn’t shouting…he was giving instructions to his cadets in a low, growling voice that somehow managed to sound calmer, yet just as menacing as either Vexnar or Buhras.
Of course, their observations were interrupted when Burhas came by, snarling at them both to get their asses in gear instead of standing around like a pair of dull-witted Mugato2.
Five minutes of shouted instructions (by the Team Leaders) and frantic scrambling around (by the cadets), and Brute squad was out the door, into the chilly San Francisco morning.
Mecablox and Drain, having recovered from the laughing fit induced by the initial condition of the squad, were satisfied that the Team Leaders had managed to at least get everybody presentable. Nobody was wearing proper athletic gear, but then it was the first morning. Plenty of time for that later.
“Take a good look here, cadets,” he said, pointing to a display on the wall. It read ‘SNAP Countdown’. Underneath, a timer was slowly ticking away, currently showing 29 days, 4 hours and 23 minutes. “This counter will show you just how far you have to go until the Survival Challenge and the end of SNAP. It is, as you can see, a long way off.”
He waited a moment as this sank in.
“Let’s go,” he said, leading the group into a run.
They started jogging down one of the many roads that led around the Academy, heading away from the towering Khitomer building and out towards the perimeter. It wasn’t long before many of the less fit cadets were pouring sweat and gasping for breath. Mecablox and the Team Leaders, by contrast, didn’t even seem to be breathing hard. Malespere and Bahred, two of the more fit cadets, found that their biggest challenge was avoiding tripping on Kodene, the squid-like Velvattian, as it flailed it’s tentacles around. (Veksai and Baxter, running directly behind Kodene, found it equally challenging to avoid slipping in the slime the squid-like alien left on the pavement.) Drain had dropped to four legs and was running around the Squad, growling and baring his teeth. At least, Mecablox mused, he wasn’t barking or chasing squirrels.
After what seemed like an eternity to the less fit (and was in reality about twenty-five minutes), Mecablox led them back to Fort Pike.
“You have ten minutes to shower and be in appropriate civilian attire!” he announced loudly, tapping a panel to re-activate the room doors.
“Ten minutes?” Kunami objected, “I can’t even do my hair in ten minutes!”
“Nine minutes,” Mecablox said calmly.
“But-“ somebody else objected.
“Ok, shower time!” Nuhvill called out loudly.
There was a mad scramble for towels and soap as the cadets vanished into the male, female and hermaphroditic alien washrooms.
Fifteen minutes later, Gallium was standing in the corridor, wincing as Team Leader Buhras spoke to the gathered squad. Unlike the previous day, she was wearing standard cadet dress: a grey overall with her department colour3 (mustard yellow, in her case) across the shoulders.
“You had ten minutes” she said loudly, “You wasted two of them arguing. And you still weren’t ready on time! Look at us!” she gestured at the Team Leaders, “We’re ready. And we had to get into uniform too!”
“How do you think we should fix this?” Kethnor asked, sounding almost casual.
“Oh, I think this will fix itself,” Buhras said, “Since every minute they’re late is another minute out of their breakfast time!”
There was some assorted grumblings.
“You don’t think that is…what is that word that whining humans like to use…” Vexnar looked towards Gallium, “Fair?”
“Yeah, that’s it,” Gallium nodded.
“Oh, so you don’t think it’s fair that if you waste our time, we waste yours?” Vexnar demanded.
“No,” Gallium shook his head, “I meant yeah, that’s the word whining humans use!”
“Are you implying that humans whine more than other species?” Krethnor growled. Gallium now had all three Team Leaders converging on him.
“I…no?” Gallium squeaked. His blue skin abruptly broke out in sweat.
Up and down the corridor, the other cadets were shifting their weight. If they were already late for breakfast, Gallium was only making them later. Unfortunately, the Bolian boy seemed to be digging himself into a deeper and deeper hole, the Team Leaders twisting each phrase he uttered completely around.
“Everybody down!” Kethnor finally shouted, “We’ve wasted another five minutes…I think twenty-five push-ups ought to be a fair trade!”
There was more grumbling as most of the Brute Squad cadets dropped to the floor.
“What’s a push-up?” Kumari ask curiously, twirling a lock of hair around one finger.
Several minutes later, the group had marched over to the Lower-Classmen Dining Hall. The building was much the way they remembered it: a stone building with fancy windows, oak tables and framed images of famous starships. However, where there had been a line of replicators, there was now a lunch line, with half a dozen identical men dishing food out to waiting cadets. Kumari winced as one man slopped a spoonful of scrambled eggs onto one plate with a loud PLOP! Her mother would never have permitted any of the house servants to handle food in such a way!
She would have said as much, but their instructions were clear: They were not to speak, they were not to look around and they were to keep their arms, tentacles or other grasping appendages at their sides. Only once they all arrived at their table and were given the Team Leaders’ permission could they sit, eat and speak.
After much confusion (most 24-th Century students had never tried navigating a cafeteria line before), they were finally gathered around a table that had a small Brute-Squad place-card. Several of the standard chairs had been replaced with custom units, designed to accommodate Kodene, M’Kr’gr and the other aliens in the group.
“OK,” Buhras said, making a show of looking at her chrono, “You have about…eight minutes to eat. Enjoy!”
She left, joining the rest of the Brute Squad SNAP staff at a nearby table.
“What is with those creepy little men?” Kumari demanded, her gaze alternating between the food on her plate and the dining hall workers.
“Holograms,” Veksai said, “They look like old Mark 1 Emergency Medical Holograms4.”
“Whatever they are, they can’t cook worth a damn,” Nuhvill said, a sour look on his face as he chewed on his eggs.
With the chaos of the morning at a temporary lull, Malespere had the chance to look more closely at some of the new arrivals. Kodene was using three of its many tentacles to shovel food into its gaping, tooth-line mouth-slit. The large alien hadn’t said anything yet and hadn’t made any kind of overt moves towards anybody, but Malespere noticed that both Gallium and Bahred kept sneaking nervous glances at the alien. (He couldn’t blame them, he was doing the same thing after all.) Nuhvill was an average looking human; brown hair, stocky build, no real distinguishing features. Bizkit had to be the smallest girl Malespere had ever seen, and her orange skin was throwing him off just a bit. Her long, greenish hair was pulled back in a pony-tail. She probably would have been quite pretty, had she been human. Further down the table, another alien girl looked almost…cat-like? She wasn’t furred, but she did have tiny canines, slightly pointed ears and a lithe build that somehow seemed feline. There was something very attractive about her, alien looks none-withstanding. Zenith was another average-looking human. He was taller than Nuhvill, with lighter hair and an air that seemed slightly…arrogant? He had also been a good five minutes longer than everybody else at getting his breakfast, and was eating quite a bit more slowly. Fastocheni, by contrast, was bolting down his breakfast. A tall, skinny dark-haired human of Italian background, he gave Malespere an easy grin before diving back into his food.
Fastocheni wasn’t the only member of the squad that had noticed Malespere’s gaze. In fact, they were all glancing around the table in between bites of the rather bland breakfast. Most had a sort of open curiosity on their faces. Veksai, on the other hand, had a strange, calculating look in his eyes. Noticing Malespere’s gaze, his expression hardened, becoming strangely…defiant? Defensive? Malespere wasn’t sure, but he again came to the conclusion that he didn’t really like Veksai. Val’gural, the furry Barudan, was eating some sort of strange, blue breakfast meat and shedding tufts of red fur. Next to him, M’Kr’gr didn’t seem to notice as he shovelled some kind of bloody meat into his mouth. Baxter was turning slightly green as he watched M’Kr’gr eat, but his own hunger finally got the best of him and he resumed eating.
This time, when it came time to meet their staff outside, they were only four minutes late.
Their first stop after breakfast was the Academy Replicator Center5. A rather drab building near the Academy perimeter, it consisted of a large waiting room, several shopping consoles and of course several rooms containing replicators of various sizes and purposes.
“As you may or may not expect,” Mecablox explained, “You will need a variety of clothing and equipment during your stay here. Many of the items you will be receiving are identical to those currently used by active officers. Other items, such as the maroon dress uniforms you saw yesterday, are only used at the Academy. For historical reasons.”
“Are we getting guns?” Baxter asked excitedly.
“Yes,” Mecablox nodded.
“Who-hoo!” Baxter made a fist and started pumping his arm.
“You will, however, be expected to clean them, perform basic maintenance, and of course keep them secure at all times,” Mecablox went on.
“Crud,” Veksai grunted.
“We’re getting guns! We’re getting guns!” Baxter chanted, apparently not caring about the extra work.
“And they are training weapons, capable of causing a minor stinging sensation, nothing more,” Mecablox concluded.
Baxter stopped his celebratory chanting.
“Oh,” he said.
One by one, the Brute Squad cadets stepped into the clothing scanner, which recorded their exact bodily dimensions, species and expected rate of growth. With a loud hum, the industrial replicator in the next room would come to life, depositing a small mountain of clothing items, school supplies and unidentifiable bits of equipment, each labelled with their names and service numbers. The lucky (unlucky?) recipient would then rush to pack everything into the duffle bags provided (after digging through the pile to find said duffle bags) and scramble to get out of the way before the next person’s kit materialized. Of course, the Team Leaders were there to shout out supporting and encouraging suggestions like ‘What are you, stupid? Pack the heavy stuff at the bottom’ and ‘Hurry the hell up, we don’t have all day!’.
In a second waiting room, weighted down by several heavy bags, Gallium looked over at Bizkit. The small girl had all but disappeared beneath her kit.
“Do you need a hand with that?” he asked.
“I can handle it,” she replied curtly, “Do you need a hand?”
“What? Why would I need a hand?” Gallium asked, “I’m doing OK,”
“Well so am I, but you asked me anyway!” Bizkit shot back.
“Well, I just thought…you know…” Gallium trailed off.
Bizkit gave him a look.
“You’re just so…tiny…” he finished.
On a seat nearby, Veksai choked back a chuckle.
“Oh, you think I’m tiny?” Bizkit demanded, turning awkwardly to face Gallium and nearly hitting Veksai in the head with a bag, “Has it occurred to you that maybe I’m just the right height, and you humans are just too big?”
“What species are you, by the way?” Veksai asked.
“Nicondii6. Do you have a problem with that?”
“What’s a Nicondii?” Gallium asked.
“I am. You got a problem with that?” Bizkit repeated.
“Well…no…I don’t think so…”
“If you’re going to be in Starfleet, you need to become more comfortable with other races and cultures,” the delicate, feloid-looking alien spoke up. It was the first time either of them had heard her say anything. He voice was husky, throaty, and more than a bit sexy.
“I’m comfortable with other races!” Gallium objected, “My Dad’s an Admiral! We used to have Vulcans and Rigellians and stuff over all the time,”
“Then why are you staring at me like some kind of half-minded yokel?” Bizkit demanded.
“Maybe he’s got the hots for you,” Veksai chuckled.
“Or maybe he’s never seen such concentrated bitch before,” the feloid alien said cattily. (How fitting, huh?)
Bizkit merely glared at her.
“What’s your name, anyway?” Veksai asked.
“Ouatordelinariman,” the alien said, “But you can call me Quarterman,”
“Why?” Veksai asked curiously, “That’s sort of a strange nickname,”
“I’m a Hermat7,” Quarterman said, giving Veksai a suggesting wink. Veksai immediately broke into loud guffaws while Gallium and Bizkit looked on, uncomprehending.
“What?” Gallium asked.
“Ask again when you’re older,” Veksai said. He turned away, ceasing to pay attention to Gallium’s repeated questions.
They were interrupted as M’Kr’gr and Bahred stomped into the room, banging their duffle bags against the wall.
Once everybody had finished, they found themselves formed up on a small, grassy field outside the Replicator Center. In front of them, Team Leader Buhras was looking at her chrono8 and frowning.
“Let me guess,” Nuhvel muttered, “We’re late,”
“You’re all late!” Buhras snapped, tapping her watch then dropping her arm, “Does anybody know why?”
“The scanner was too slow?” Malespere ventured.
“We didn’t move fast enough?” Bahred asked.
“No,” Kethnor walked in front of them, pulling out a small holo-generator9, “It is because you did not work as a team!”
He activated the generator, which produced an image in the air in front of them. It looked like footage from the security camera. They could see themselves walking into the scanner, picking up their piles of kit and then carrying them into the waiting room, where they sat and gabbed amongst themselves.
“Did it not occur to any of you, that it would be quicker and easier for all if you had, perhaps, HELPED EACH OTHER???” Kethnor snarled.
“Oops,” Igor said, chuckling.
“You think this is amusing?” Vexnar asked, flexing his antennae, “You think failing to work as a team is funny?”
“Well, no, but-“
With a groan, the squad dropped to the ground. Kumari, having at least learned how to do a push-up, only managed two before falling back to the ground.
A few minutes later, with everybody back on their feet, Buhras stepped back in front of the group, a big grin on her face.
“Don’t worry,” she said happily, “I know how we can fix this! Everybody empty out your bags!”
The cadets exchanged looks.
“You heard me! Dump them out! Spread them around! You like things messy? Let’s make a nice, big mess!”
Uneasily, they upturned the duffle bags and knapsacks they’d been issued, dumping shirts, pants, tunics, shoes, tricorders, padds, survival gear and all their assorted equipment on the ground. The Team Leaders moved through the group, grabbing random items and tossing them around. Before long, the field looked like a supply ship had exploded.
“Good,” Buhras said. She looked at her chrono, “You now have five minutes to get everything packed back up.
Brute Squad gaped at her, jaws dropping.
“Four minutes and fourty seconds,” she said sweetly.
It was still the first day, heck, it was still the first morning, but the cadets were starting to get the picture. With only a moment’s hesitation this time, they immediate started racing around the field, rummaging through piles of stuff, searching frantically for items with their name on the label, then rushing back to their spot in rank to stuff the item into their packs. Kumari nimbly dodged to the side as M’Kr’gr came crashing through, shredding an off-duty shirt with one foot claw. Nuhvel brushed a tuft of red fur away from his face as he dug through a pile of stuff next to Val’gural. Zenith was slowly moving from pile to pile, giving each a sort of half-hearted poke.
It seemed like only a few seconds before Buhras was shouting again.
“Time’s up!” she said gleefully.
Everybody froze. Only Malespere had actually managed to locate all his kit. Kodene had most of his items, but was having difficulty packing them, as the plastic-wrapped items kept popping out of his tentacled grasp. Bizkit was berating M’Kr’gr for shredding her shirt and Veksai and Nuhvill had again managed to literally butt heads, fresh goose-eggs forming on their foreheads.
“Dump them out again!” Buhras said cheerfully, earning some very dirty looks from the cadets, “I’m not going to tell you twice!”
With groans of resignation, tightened lips or grunts of anger, they complied. As Buhras continued speaking, Vexnar and Kethnor again moved through the group, grabbing handfuls of kit and tossing it in all directions.
“We told you to work as a team!” Buhras said, “And did you? DID YOU?”
“Apparently not,” Quarterman said.
“Correct. You are still working as individuals!” Now Burhas was snapping, the cheerful ‘Isn’t this fun?’ grin gone, “What if you were on a ship that was under attack? Do you think you’d win if you were all off in your own little worlds?”
“Maybe what you need is a bit more…guidance,” Burhas said, looking thoughtful. “Yes. Mr. Gallium?”
“Huh? What?” Gallium started, standing ram-rod straight.
“You’re in charge,” Burhas said, tossing him an extra chrono, “You have five minutes to get everybody packed away.
“WHAT?” Gallium squeaked. “Four minutes and forty seconds…”
Five minutes later, they were again dumping out their kit. “Can anybody tell me what went wrong THAT time?” Buhras was asking.
“I told everybody to pack their stuff, Gallium said, “I told them when time was about to run out. We were trying!”
“You were trying…as individuals. WORK AS A TEAM!”
She looked at her chrono again.
“You have five minutes,”
This time, they leapt immediately into action. Most of the cadets again started rooting through piles of equipment. Malespere and M’Kr’gr, however, ran right at Gallium.
“Look, man,” Malespere said, “We gotta do this differently! Get a few people to run around finding stuff, a few more to sort the piles, then a few more to start packing stuff up!”
“It does not matter who’s kit you are packing,” M’Kr’gr added, “That is were we are going wrong…we are only packing our own possessions,”
“Right, right,” Gallium gulped.
The three of them quickly started detailing different cadets to different tasks. Quaterman, Bizkit and Bahred, all being fast runners, were sent to gather in the scattered kit. Kodene, with its many tentacles, along with Veksai and Kumari started sorting kit, tossing it into separate piles, while several other cadets started stuffing items into bags.
“Thirty seconds!” Gallium called out, looking at the chrono.
Everybody was running around frantically. Fastocheni had joined the runners and was now tossing plastic-wrapped clothing items to Kodene and Veksai, who called out the names on the items, then tossed them in the appropriate directions.
There were still items scattered on the ground.
Burhas looked at her chrono, then at the scrambling cadets. They stared back, giving her a ‘deer in headlights’ look.
“You have two more minutes,” she said flatly.
The rest of the morning was spent unpacking.
A place for everything, and everything in its place. It seemed to Bahred that they’d each been given enough equipment for a small army…and every item had a particular place in their room. The maroon formal tunic with its white turtleneck had to be hung between the field jacket and the white dress uniform…the undershirts worn underneath their duty coveralls had to be folded exactly ten by fifteen centimetres and stacked in a certain drawer in their quarters. Every sock, every boot, every padd and every stylus had it’s place, and it took nearly an hour and a half for the squad, led by Gallium (as the Squad Senior) and Malespere, M’Kr’gr and Veksai (as the Team Seniors) to get everything in place.
Of course, it then took another half hour to fix everything they’d done wrong, under the ‘guidance’ of Buhras, Kethnor and Vexnar. By the time lunch finally rolled around, most of the cadets were looking at their Team Leaders with looks that ranged from ‘annoyed’ to ‘zealous hatred’. Of course, M’Kr’gr’s fangs, blood-red eyes, knarled forehead and scaled green flesh meant that he always looked like he was bordering on zealous hatred, but hey, you get the picture.
As the cadets filed back into the dining hall, arms at their sides and eyes facing straight forward, several started to wonder just what it is they’d gotten themselves into.
With only eight minutes to eat lunch, there was little time for conversation beyond ‘That sucked!’ and ‘What the hell?’. Then they were formed up in front of the dining hall and marched off towards the Leonard H. McCoy Medical Center.
It was here that another interesting (and annoying) little Academy tradition rose up to bite them in the ass.
As they marched down one of the tree-lined roads leading around the Academy, they couldn’t help but notice that several other cadets were riding slidewalks10 between the various buildings. As they marched down the street, Team Leader Vexnar noticed another Andorian cadet walking calmly along the slidewalk as it carried him next to the street. An insignia on the planet patch on his shoulder marked him as a mid-classmen. Of course, none of the Brute Squad cadets had any idea what these insignia meant yet.
“Eyes right, everybody,” Vexnar snapped, “This is mid-classman Jikut, a warrior of the 8th Hive of Andor! From this point forward, you will hail him whenever you see him!”
“Yes, Team Lea-“ Gallium started to say.
“DON’T TALK IN RANK!” Buhras snapped, cutting him off.
“Eyes forward,” Vexnar hissed.
They resumed marching, watching as Jikut moved further away on the slidewalk.
“Well? Isn’t anybody going hail him?” Kethnor asked expectantly.
“How do we-“ Veskai started.
“DON’T TALK IN RANK!” Buhras screamed.
“It’s easy,” Kethnor said, a dark grin on his face, “One of you simply calls out ‘Hail, mid-classman Jikut’. The rest then reply with ‘Greetings, mid-classman Jikut’.
“But,” Bahred objected, “She just said we couldn’t-“
“DON”T TALK IN RANK!” Buhras screamed again.
The cadets, understandably confused, exchanged glances.
“He’s almost out of earshot,” Kethnor said, a hint of threat entering his voice.
On cadet, a plump Tellarite11 named Derok, starting shouting:
“Hail, mid-classman Jikut!”
Uneasily, the rest of the squad answered ‘Greetings, mid-classman Jikut!’
Malespere’s eyes darted over to where Buhras was walking next to the squad, but she was silent.
Evidently, they’d done something right, as Jikut turned around and shouted:
They quickly found that this activity wasn’t limited to cadets who were buddies of their SNAP staff. Each time they passed another squad of lower-classmen with their respective SNAP staff members, Vexnar would introduce them and the squad would obligingly hail them. The other squads, in turn, likewise hailed the Brute Squad cadets. Veksai thought it was sort of cute, up until he realized that the staff was only introducing each squad and/or person once, and expecting the cadets to remember them every time they crossed their paths. (This led to a particularly embarrassing encounter later that week with a senior-classman named Rektam that earned them fifty push-ups.)
Finally, they arrived at the medical center where they were subjected to tests, scans, body fluid samples and the sharp sarcasm of a swarm of EMH Mark-Is.
“Didn’t I see you in the lunch room earlier today?” Gallium asked one of the holograms, trying to be friendly.
“No, I don’t think so,” the EMH replied, sounding bored, “I was in the back kitchen making salads. Now turn your head and cough!”
“I hope you wash your hands before you go back to the kitchen!” Veksai could be heard to say from the next curtained partition over.
“Don’t be absurd,” another EMH said, “The force-fields that comprise our bodies cannot carry bacteria, germs or any contaminants into your food,”
“Yes,” a third identical EMH added, pressing a hypospray12 against Quarterman’s arm, “We have to add that stuff ourselves,”
“Do you have any idea how hard it is to spit in somebody’s food when you have no saliva glands?” a fourth asked. The EMH pressed a hypo against M’Kr’gr’s arm, then frowned in annoyance as it failed to penetrate the alien’s scales.
“That’s funny,” Gallium laughed uneasily.
“We are not programmed to be funny,” all the EMHs responded in unison.
“So, uh, what are you guys doing here if you work in the lunch room, anyway?” Gallium asked.
“Do think the flesh-and-blood doctors want to spend a week examining new cadets when they could simply have us do it?” an EMH replied, shaking his head with contempt.
Veksai winced as his EMH started poking at his stomach.
“Hybrid physiology is always so fascinating,” the EMH remarked, “How on Earth did your spleen end up all the way over here? Which of your parents was Orion?”
“Are you sexually active?” an EMH was asking Bahred.
“C’mon, man!” Bahred said, blushing as he looked nervously from side to side, “There’s, like, other people around!”
There was an enraged roar as, having failed with the hypo, M’Kr’gr’s EMH jabbed him with an old-fashioned hypodermic needle. A few partitions down, Kodene was frantically flailing it’s tentacles as the EMH attempted to probe a particularly sensitive sensory node. An egg-nodule resembling a cluster of grapes, flew out of the partition and hit the wall with a SPLAT!
“H-hey!” Bahred said nervously, “What are you doing with that Q-Tip?”
Outside, in the waiting area, Vexnar and Kethnor grinned darkly as an ear-splitting scream ripped through the air.
“You two are so cruel,” Buhras giggled.
“It is not our fault if the EMHs believe there has been an outbreak of Vulcan Gonorrhoea,” Vexnar said innocently.
Another scream, this one sounding vaguely like Malespere, sounded from the examination room.
“Funny, I thought they could test for that stuff with a simple tricorder scan,” Burhas mused.
“That’s the trouble with holograms,” Vexnar said as another scream, this one sounding a lot like Veksai, sounded, “They can be made to forget things so easily!”
Supper, another run around the campus (this time with Kethnor leading the squad in Klingon calesthetics) and the Brute Squad cadets were finally given a slight, slight bit of freedom from their SNAP staff.
Nuhvel was sitting on his bed, polishing a pair of boots while Veksai attempted to iron one of his uniform jumpsuits.
“Did somebody forget to tell Starfleet that nobody in the real world has had to iron clothing for about two hundred years?” Veksai seethed.
“Or polish boots,” Nuhvel added.
“Or dust!” Derok, the boisterous Tellarite, called from across the hall. His pig-like snout was wrinkled as he attempted to chase down dust-bunnies being pushed around by an errant breeze.
“I’M HEARING TALKING!” Kethnor shouted from his room down the hall, “I SHOULD BE HEARING ONLY CRIES OF PAIN AND PATHETIC WHIMPERING! NO TALKING!”
A snarl on his face, Veksai resumed his ironing.
The following day was more of the same. They were given briefings on Starfleet policy, briefings on Starfleet culture, a tour of the Athletic Center, the Spock Library, a multi-species briefing on sexual consent, harassment and health, including information on which species were sexually compatible. (Derok was thrilled to hear that Tellarites were sexually compatible with most species. Veksai didn’t have the heart to tell him that most species found Tellarites far, far too ugly for sex.)
Hovering over them at all times were Team Leader Buhras, Team Leader Vexnar and the rest of their SNAP staff. They were marched to and from briefings by at least one member of their staff. Every morning at least two staff members led the morning workout, with another screaming at the cadets that they weren’t showering or dressing quickly enough. They were marched to meals by their staff and finally, at the end of the day, they were marched back to Fort Pike. There, the staff would plan their evenings to the last minute, depending on just how many times they’d screwed up during the day.
For example, each staff member had used marking tape to section off a small piece of floor next to their room doors, an area in which cadets were forbidden to step. After about the fourth time somebody stepped in Buhras’ space, she responded by running a line of tape down the center of the hallway and declaring it their ‘highway’. Cadets were forbidden from crossing the line and could only walk in one direction, which meant that if Malespere wanted to use the bathroom, just one door to the left of his room, he had to walk all the way to the far end of the Brute Squad hallway, around the end of the ‘highway’, all the way to the opposite end of the hallway, then back to the washroom. (This led to much confusion and several collisions before everybody got the hang of things.)
On the other hand, they also learned that aside from doing things to make lower-years miserable, the Academy also had several students who absolutely loved pulling pranks. The first of which was evident the third morning when, upon marching past, the cadets noticed that the large gold and silver Starfleet insignia that dominated the front entrance of Khitomer Building had been painted blue and white. (They were later informed that those were the colours of the Andorian Sector, who where therefore the most probable suspects.)
The third evening, they were informed that their first inspection would be taking place the following morning.
“We’ve shown you how to iron, how to polish and how to make your beds!” Buhras declared, walking up and down the hall (ignoring the highway). The Brute Squad cadets were all standing next to their doors, “You know how to dust! You know the standard, where everything belongs! When we inspect you tomorrow, everything had. Better. Be. PERFECT!” She pulled an isolinear chip out of her pocket and stood next to a display panel on the hallway wall.
“This chip,” she declared, “Activates the viewscreens in your rooms!” she slid it into one of the many slots. Immediately, on the desks in each room, the computer displays that up until now had been powerless flashed to life. She removed it, and they all went dead again.
“If tomorrow’s inspection goes well,” Buhras continued, “You will get an hour of viewscreen time tomorrow evening. You will be able to communicate with your friends and family. You can check the news, see what is happening in the galaxy! If not, well…”
“There will be consequences,” Kethnor said calmly, yet with a toothy smile.
“Get to work!” Buhras declared.
Burhas and Kethnor joined Mecablox and Vexnar in the Fort Pike security room.
“That was a nice touch, with the display screens,” Mecablox said.
“It does seem to have done the trick!” Buhras said, sitting down in front of the bank of security monitors and checking her reflection, making sure her hair was just SO. On the screens, Brute Squad cadets were running madly up and down the hall, tripping over each other to avoid crossing the ‘highway’. The security cameras didn’t show the interiors of the rooms, but through the doorways they could see clothing items being franticly re-arranged, ironing boards being swapped like movie disks and garbage receptacles being frantically emptied into the matter reclamation unit. Several cadets were lined up at the laundry alcove, waiting impatiently as the auto-wash unit ran its ten-minute cleaning and drying cycle13.
“How are they doing?” Vexnar hissed, “Are any worthy of my blade yet? I have not done an execution in months! Not since my last family visit to Andor!”
“You can’t kill anybody on Earth!” Mecablox reminded him calmly for about the fiftieth time, “This isn’t Andor, this isn’t your family Hive, and we do not fight to the death after the dessert course!”
“Perhaps if we did, we would not have such weaklings surviving long enough to enter the Academy,” Vexnar grunted.
“I think it’s time to go mix things up a bit for them,” Buhras said, a thoughtful look in her eye.
“Does anybody remember which shelf the phaser cleaning kit goes in?”
“I can’t find my dress boots! I just had them ten minutes ago!”
“Are we supposed to put the textbook padds on the desk shelf, or in the drawer?”
“How many pairs of underwear was I supposed to get?”
“I dunno, my species doesn’t wear underwear!”
“It’s a species thing! Look at Kodene, do you think squid wear underwear?”
“You’re not a squid!”
The Brute Squad cadets were frantically pulling all of their newly issued kit out of the drawers, shelves and cubby’s they’d been carefully placed into the day before. As it turned out, they didn’t know their room standard as well as they thought they had. (Unknown to them, Vexnar had snuck into their corridor during the day and replaced the old fashioned paper chart, illustrating exactly where everything was supposed to go, with a new, slightly different one. In addition, the more you rush, the more likely you are to make mistakes. And Brute Squad was rushing like the proverbial fat kid towards the Smartie.
Veksai was running at full speed down the hall, cursing the SNAP staff for making him run all the way down the stupid ‘highway’ just to read a frickin’ sign on the wall.
“No, the water purification tablets are supposed to go in the third drawer!” he called back to Nuhvel, “Not the field pack!”
“What about the sports socks?” Nuhvel called back.
“They’re not on the chart!” Bizkit called from her room before Veksai could answer, “I already checked!”
“WHAT?” Kumari shrieked, poking her head out of her room, “WHERE AM I SUPPOSED TO PUT THEM! OHHH, IF I WERE AT HOME, MY SERVENTS WOULD BE DOING THIS FOR ME!”
“Yo, chill!” Malespere said, “We’ll just stash them in our personal boxes!”
“We get personal boxes?” Baxter called.
“Yeah, right next to the bed!”
“Has anybody figured out what goes in this weird shelf above the bed?”
“I know what I usually keep next to my bed,” Quarterman said, a sneaky look on hir face, “But they said I wasn’t allowed to bring a dil-“
“STOP!” Kumari snapped, holding up one hand, “That kind of talk is NOT PROPER!”
“What, are you Catholic or something?” Quarterman asked.
“I am a PRINCESS!”
“Well, maybe you wouldn’t be so uptight if you had something to loosen yourself up with once in a while!” Quarterman snapped.
There was a collective groan of disgust from the cadets. It was interrupted when mid-classman Buhras strode through the doors leading to the Brute Squad hallway.
“EVERYBODY NEXT TO YOUR DOORS!” she cried out loudly.
There was a scramble as everybody complied. Buhras walked calmly up and down the hallway for a moment.
“The staff and I have noticed,” she snapped, “That even though you’ve been here for three days, you’re still not working as a team. You’re working like a gaggle of INDIVIDUALS!” Veksai winced as her voice rose, “YOU NEED TO WORK TOGETHER! THIS BEHAVIOR IS TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE!”
Some of the cadets started exchanging glances. What they hell was she talking about? Hadn’t they followed their instructions? Weren’t they doing everything the SNAP staff had told them to do?
“Push-up position!” Buhras called out. With a barely restrained groan, the cadets dropped down, holding themselves in the ‘up’ part of the push up. Burhas, having also assumed the position, waited until their arms were starting to quiver before she continued.
“I will be making some changes to your room standard,” Buhras finally said, “And, if things don’t improve tomorrow, we’ll just have to take a few extra steps to straighten you out. Recover!”
Everybody jumped back up to their feet. Buhras attached a list of changes to the wall next to the room chart, then left.
There was an immediate scramble for the chart.
“The phaser goes on the LEFT side of the closet now?” Bizkit whined.
“Why the hell did they move the maroon jacket beside the overcoat?”
“I don’t think I got a second pair of shoes-“
“I don’t even know what a flux modulator is, never mind why it’s supposed to go next to my desk!”
Veksai looked around. The smart thing for them to do, he realized, would be for somebody to take charge and put some kind of order into things. Hadn’t somebody been declared Squad Senior earlier that day? Hopefully they would do something. The last thing he needed was for the SNAP staff to get even bitchier.
Of course, it had occurred to Veksai that he could always take charge himself. He quickly rejected the idea. He had no authority over anybody here…it wasn’t like one of his classrooms, where the company had put him in charge. Here, he was just another cadet, another drone, doing exactly what he was told to do. Besides, he already had practice with the whole leadership thing, not all the other cadets could say the same. Better to let them start learning. (The thought that this was a pretty arrogant thing to think had likewise occurred to him…but his desire to stay off the sensor display was far too strong to resist.)
The point became moot anyway when Kodene, the days Squad Senior, blocked the list with two tentacles, using the rest to hold back the Squad.
“Back to your rooms,” it said slowly, “Derok, Igor and Malespere, you are now Team Seniors. You will copy this list, and pass it on to your teams. Anybody else who has issues, you will go to your team seniors, who will figure it out,”
It was the most words than Veksai could recall having heard the squid-alien say at a time. But, since it got him off the hook, he didn’t really care.
The next morning, the cadets were once again woken early to the screams of the Klingon opera and taken out for a run. Vexnar was leading the run that morning, which meant running through what felt like every thorn bush and poison ivy patch on campus. There were given ten minutes to shower and dress, then another ten to finish preparing their rooms for inspection. (Kodene spent most of that time trying to re-moisten its slimy hide.)
All the cadets were standing at attention next to their doorways. They’d spent the remainder of the previous night dusting, mopping, sweeping and doing other silly household tasks that cleaning robots had been taking care of for the past two hundred years. (Derok had asked Kethnor why exactly they were expected to do this stuff by hand. The diminutive Klingon had simply replied ‘It is tradition.’) They’d been ironing uniform parts, polishing boots, and trying to figure out just how exactly the stupid room standard was supposed to work.
Each Team Leader was standing in the portion of the hallway assigned to their teams. At 0700 hours sharp, the doors to their corridor opened and Squad Leader Mecablox walked in, dressed in a grey jumpsuit with yellow shoulders13. Deputy Leader Drain was right behind him, teeth bared. The three Team Leaders immediately came to attention. Mecablox nodded at Kethnor, the Team 1 leader, and the two of them proceeded in the first room: Derok and Guthar.
“WHAT IS THIS???” Kethnor shouted. Derok jumped as the Klingon’s arm thrust out the door of the room, a uniform jumpsuit clutched in one hand, “YOU CALL THIS IRONING!” The uniform was flung unceremoniously against the far wall.
“There’s dust in here,” Mecablox said calmly, “Be sure to get all the trim, and the doorframe,” Drain simply growled.
“THESE BOOTS ARE UNACCEPTABL! I HAVE SEEN LATRINES WITH A BETTER SHINE!” Kethnor snarled. A pair of dress shoes (Guthar’s) joined the uniform on the floor across the hall.
“Dry out your sink,” Mecablox said.
“YOU CALL THIS MAKING YOUR BED???” Kethnor shouted.
And so it went on. Each room had its flaws. Veksai had his boots arranged in the wrong order, Nuhvill’s bed was unacceptable. Kumari’s hair wasn’t properly done, Baxter had his uniform jumpsuit on backwards. Finally, after what felt like forever, Squad Leader Mecablox departed, leaving them with the Team Leaders.
The three of them stood in the center of the hall, looking at all the items that had been tossed around. Vexnar gave a hiss of disgust, his hand resting on the hilt of the ceremonial dagger he wore. Kethor, snarling softly, started pacing the hall and glaring at each cadet he passed. (Gallium cringed each time either of them passed.)
“This,” Buhras said softly, “Is unacceptable! You had all of last night to prepare for this inspection! This was your chance to show us what you could do!”
She was walking slowly up and down the corridor now, her voice growing louder.
“We went easy on you! We gave you the chance to show us that you could learn this stuff easily!” she was practically screaming now, “We tried to show you that if you make things easy for us, we can make things easy for you! WELL IT DIDN’T WORK! YOU HAD THE NICE GIRL, NOW YOU’RE GOING TO GET THE BITCH!”
She glared around one more time.
“Form up outside for breakfast.”
The group hesitated, looking down at their scattered positions.
“You have thirty seconds,” Vexnar hissed, “And, by the Hive Mother, you better start moving fast. Or this is going to be a very long and painful SNAP.”
Veksai started reaching for a sock that had been tossed out of his room.
“DID I F**KING SAY TO MOVE???” Buhras snarled, jumping towards him. Veksai jerked his hand back.
Buhras gave another sharp look around.
They jumped into action.
Next: SNAP is in full swing, and Brute Squad is already feeling the pain. But what they haven’t realized is that a new challenge is coming up on the horizon: Classes! Can they manage this extra burden, or will people start to, um, snap? Find out in Star Traks: Crash Course, 1.3 - ‘Jump Start’!
Barudans - A relatively new Federation race, the Baruda are about seven feet tall and covered in red fur. Most are quite frightened of humanoid beings, for the simple matter that they find heads terrifying. The Baruda themselves don’t have heads, their eyes and mouth being located in the center of their chests. Think of the Tennis-Shoe Monster from Bugs Bunny, and you’ll know what I mean. ↩
Mugato - I’m not sure. I think it’s some kind of poisonous, white ape. ↩
Colour - Starfleet uniforms have three colours denoting different career paths. Blue indicates sciences and medical, mustard yellow indicates engineering and operations, red indicates command track. Why that is, I don’t know, since the whole point of becoming an officer is to get into a position of command. But hey, whatever. Maybe it’s like a certain military college, where you have the engineers, the scientists, and the people that aren’t smart enough to be engineers or scientists…also known as ‘artsmen’. If I die in the next week, it was probably the artsmen that killed me… ↩
EMH Mark 1 - Emergency Medical Hologram. The EMH is a fully interactive hologram, designed to supplement a starship’s medical team. The Mark 1 EMH was largely a failure, due to its poor bedside manner. However, they have been found useful in a number of occupations that are too hazardous or tedious for living beings. Asteroid mining and lunch room staff are only two of these. Trek fans will recognize the EMH from Star Trek: Voyager. Voyager’s EMH, known as ‘The Doctor’, was a major character. ↩
Replicator Center - Sort of like a supply house. Replicator centers have a variety of replicators, capable of creating clothing, furniture, equipment or almost any other item you might need. Most also have holographic emitters or view-screens to allow users to browse through the replicator database in search of the items they desire. ↩
Nicondii - A highly skilled and industrious people, the Nicondii are characterized by their short stature, orange skin and tendancy to work in ‘sibling groups’. Multiple births of five or six children are the norm for Nicondii, and most sibling groups remain together for the majority of their lives, even going into the same profession. ↩
Hermat - A creation of celebrated Trek author Peter David, the Hermat are a hermaphroditic species. That is, their anatomy includes male and female characteristics including breasts and both male and female genitlia. All Hermats are fully fertile and can act as mother or father, depending on…well, OK, I have no idea how they decide that part, but you get my meaning. Hermats have their own unique set of pronouns: hir for ‘his’, ‘hers’, ‘him’ or ‘her’ and s/he (pronounced ‘sha-he’) for ‘he’ or ‘she’. ↩
Chrono - A futuristic watch. Although honestly, a watch is a watch. It tells time. Do you really think watches are going to change much in the next 400 years, cuz I sure don’t. (Note from 2020 edits, OK, I was wrong. Smart watches area thing now.) ↩
Holo-generator - It generates a hologram. Handy for public demonstrations. ↩
Slidewalks - A sort of a cross between a sidewalk and a highway. Slidewalks consist of several ‘lanes’, each of which is cable of moving a person at a different spead. As one moves from the slidewalk next to the street to the one furthest, one finds oneself moving considerably faster…like express and collector lanes. A handy method of public transit. Unless it rains a lot… ↩
Tellarites - One of the founding races of the Federation, Tellarites are short, round, furred and have pig-like snouts. They’re pretty ugly, very loud and very outgoing. Home planet is Tellar. ↩
Hypospray - Used for injecting drugs, hyposprays penetrate the skin with intense, high-pressure jets of drug, as opposed to needles. ↩
Autowash - This is a laugh. During basic training, I would have killed for a machine that only took ten minutes to do laundry. I’m not kidding. ↩