Star Trek is the property of Paramount, and was created by Gene Roddenberry. Star Traks is the property and creation of Alan Decker. The number of Star Traks spin-offs is growing rapidly, so if I try to list them all here, the disclaimer will be longer than the actual story. Star Traks: Crash Course is the demented creation of Brendan Chris. The events and characters depicted in this story are completely fictional. Any resemblance to real people or events is intended as humorous flattery. However, if there isn't a character that resembles you, try not to take it personally. Or maybe you should. Maybe I just don't like you. (But that's probably not the case.) (But maybe it is.)

Author: Brendan Chris
Copyright: 2008

“And so,” Dr. Robert Tulson1, physicist extraordinaire said, standing at the lecture podium in one of Khitomer Building’s many lecture halls, “The people of Vandis 3 used the Temporal Translation Device to go back in time and witness one of the pivotal points in their planets history,”

Tulson paused for a moment, looking out at the class of lower-classmen he taught during third period.

“ZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzz,”

Tulson gripped the sides of the podium in frustration, his eyes darting around as he tried to find one, just one, conscious student.

“Did I mention,” he said, “That they renamed the device the ‘Flux Capacitor’, and that they installed it in an ancient Terran DeLorean motor car?”

No response.

“Anyway,” he continued, “they accidentally changed the course of their planets history and erased themselves from existence,” his eyes were starting to blaze, “And if any of you people were ACTUALLY AWAKE, you’d be asking ‘Oh, but Dr. Tulson, if they’d erased themselves from existence, how do we know about it?’. Arrrghhh!”

He started fishing around in his pocket, looking for the data chip he always kept during SNAP.

“I didn’t want to have to do this,” he said, “But you students leave me little choice,”


Marc Malespere was drifting.

Slowly, gently, he moved through the vast clouds, soaring away, away from San Francisco, away from the Academy and away, far away from SNAP. He could see China, India and then Eastern Europe as it moved beneath him. Soon, he’d be home, and he could spend some time climbing the cliffs near his parent’s home. Yes, that would be nice.

Of course, he wasn’t aware that he was dreaming, or it might have occurred to him that his newfound ability to fly would make rock-climbing pretty much obsolete.

Still, it was a pleasant dream. Peaceful, relaxing. Completely unlike the past week. SNAP was continuing in earnest, and things were not getting better.

It wasn’t that the SNAP staff was taking new steps to challenge them. The morning fitness training, the inter-Sector sports, the inspections and the hated change parades were continuing pretty much as they had throughout the first two weeks. The junior, mid and senior classmen continued to condescend towards them in the halls between classes and on the paths between the various Academy buildings. Of course, they still spent most of their time segregated from the rest of the Academy, their time outside of class spent with only their SNAP staffs and each for company.

No, it wasn’t the tasks that were wearing people out…it was the ongoing nature of SNAP. It. Didn’t. End! The constant pressure, the physical demands, the stress of having Vexnar, Buhras or Kethnor barking orders, giving criticisms or generally telling them that they had to work harder if they wanted to stay at the Academy, all of it was contributing to the strain the cadets were feeling. The movie night put on by the Antares Sector junior-classmen had helped, but it had come with its own cost.

Actually, the junior-classmen were probably the only people at the Academy who were trying to make life bearable for the lower-classmen. Not openly, of course. No, out in the open, they gave the lower-classmen the same looks as the mids and the seniors…that same combination of amusement, distaste and pity. And they weren’t allowed in the Brute Squad corridor…nobody was except Brute Squad and the Brute Squad SNAP staff.

On the other hand, that didn’t always stop the juniors.

He wasn’t sure if it had happened before or after the movie night, but Malespere could remember being woken up in the middle of the night by a boy he didn’t recognize. It had taken him several minutes to realize that the boy was speaking to him, and that he was holding something out to Malespere in one outstretched hand. It took a couple more minutes for him to realize that the object was in fact a small cheeseburger, and that the boy was telling Malespere that it would get better, much better. Exhausted, Malespere had simply gulped down the burger, thanked the junior-classman, then fallen back into a deep, dreamless sleep.

The next day, he was sure that he’d imagined the visit until he heard Baxter saying that somebody had brought him a slice of pizza. He’d asked Kumari if anything similar had happened to her, and she’d admitted that she’d been brought a donut two nights before. (She also expressed her annoyance that it hadn’t been served on a silver platter, as befitting her social status.)

The junior-classmen aside, Malespere was wearing out. They all were. Gallium had forgotten to dodge the hole in the floor, falling through again and broking his leg. Veksai had torn ligaments during one of their afternoon runs and Quaterman had broken her foot. The Academy infirmary had healed all those injuries within an hour or two, but that didn’t change the fact that they were tiring out, stressing out and just plain wearing out.

The effect wasn’t limited to the cadets, either. They’d seen one of the other lower-classmen squads doing punishment fitness training after one of their staff flipped out over a relatively tiny mistake, something that even the picky SNAP staff members would normally care about. Two days later, they’d been learning some Andorian aerobics moves with Vexnar when the Andorian had had a small outburst of his own.

“No, no NO!” he had hissed, stalking over to Baxter and glaring at the slightly overweight human, “The x’vixxinithix movement is fluid, graceful! You are…you are…I do not know what you are doing, but it is not graceful!”

“Hey, I’ve been driving this body since I was born, and this is as graceful as it gets!” Baxter objected.

“No, move your arms like so!” Vexnar said, trying again to demonstrate the movement to Baxter, “The point is to bring your arm around so your knife slices your opponent’s vital arteries; it is a beautiful, deadly move!”

“I, like, don’t even have a knife,” Baxter objected.

“Neither do I, and that is perhaps a good thing right now!” Vexnar snapped.

He’d moved down the line to where Veksai was flailing his arms around, looking like he was trying to direct air traffic.

“No, no, NO!!” Vexnar snapped, “Haven’t you ever killed anybody in a knife fight before?”

“Um…no…” Veksai said slowly.

“None of us have,” Gallium pointed out, “We’re only like, eighteen Standard years old,”

“Speak for yourselves,” Veksai muttered.

“You…have never…killed…”

Vexnar’s eyes had darted around the group, growing more and more frustrated, until, finally…

“ARRRRGGGGGGGHHHHHHH!!!!!” The Andorian screamed and bolted into a run. The cadets watched, shocked, as he started chasing after a small, black squirrel. Chittering in alarm, the squirrel attempted to dart up the nearest tree, but Vexnar was too quick. In one, fluid motion he’d grabbed the squirrel and brought it to his mouth. There was an alarmed squeak, the crunch of bone and a gulp. A moment later, Vexnar was again standing at the front of the group, wiping blood off his chin.

“Delicious,” he said, “And if you do not master this move, you are next!”


As Malespere drifted from memory to memory, Dr. Tulson was fitting the data chip into the receptacle port in his podium. He almost hated what he was about to do, but this sleeping-through-class thing was really getting ridiculous.

He activated the LCARS2 Media Player, selected the audio file in question, activated the room’s audio system and pressed ‘play’.


‘ooooooooooooom Do’! paaaaarHaaaaaaaa’ ech maaS! SoooooooooooooH choooooooH laaaaaaH!!


Instantly, every student in the hall snapped to full alertness. Some even jumped out of their seats, their hands reaching for soap, razors or PT cloths that weren’t there as the hated morning wake-up music blasted through the room.

Tulson killed the playback as soon as it was evident he had regained their attention.

“Sorry everybody,” he said. He stopped for a moment, “Actually, no. I’m not, really. By the way, did you know that that song has been used to wake up military cadets, at one institution or another, for over three hundred and fifty years? Granted, they only translated it into Klingon about thirty years ago.”

Everybody stared back at him.

“You know, we professors hate SNAP just as much as you cadets do,” he sighed, “No, it’s true,” he assured them, noticing the looks of disbelief, “Do you have any idea how hard it is to teach you people anything in the shape you’re in? Academically, this whole month is a waste! Even those of you who are awake in class are too exhausted to retain anything, and the rest of you are practically comatose!” he started rubbing the bridge of his nose, “Another example of paramilitary stupidity. No, they couldn’t just put you through a proper fitness routine and give you an orientation day. Nooo, they have to put you through this ridiculous rite of passage. Did you know that in the old United States, the first-year cadets suffered for their entire first year? I suppose I should be thankful that the Federation mentality is closer to some of the more, shall we say, relaxed nations, eh?”

The cadets were still staring at him. Was this still a temporal physics course, or had they slept right through physics and into history?

Tulson’s tirade was interrupted by the bell.

“Homework, and I know you have mandatory study time to do it so don’t bother trying to tell me that your SNAP staff won’t allow it, has been transmitted to your data padds. See you tomorrow,”


“AAAANNDDDDD…PLAY BALL!” Buhras shouted, chopping her arm down and giggling.

“GO! Run, you filthy p’taks!” Kethnor shouted, “Run like your lives depend on it! Which they do!”

“Which they do!” Vexnar echoed.

“GET HIM!” Baxter snapped, throwing a ball at one of the opposing cadets.

“I’m hit!” Quarterman cried.

“Igor!” Malespere called, “The blond guy! NOW!”

They both threw balls. Malespere’s missed, but Igor’s shot winged the boy in the side of the head.

“HEY!” one of the other SNAP staff members called, “No head shots!”

“Weaklings!” Kethnor called back, “Have you no will to fight!”

“Don’t you go using that as an excuse to start breaking my cadets, Kethnor!” the other junior-classman, a black human, shouted back.

“Weaklings,” Kethnor said again, “Very well. Brute Squad, do not aim for the head! We will play this according to weakling rules,”

“Who decided that dodgeball was a professional, paramilitary-style game, anyway?” Veksai complained, ducking as one of their opponents targeted him.

“Screw professionalism!” Igor shouted back.

Another ball slammed into the back of Veksai’s head. He saw stars for a few moments, then shook his head and decided that Igor was right.

“AHHHH!!!” Kumari wailed, running daintily across their half of the playing field, arms covering her head as foam balls flew past, “They’re after meeeee!”

At the sidelines, Vexnar slapped his hand over his face in a far-too-human gesture.

“That’s sure a group of winners you’ve got there,” junior-classman Beano-Marine, SNAP staff for Rigel Sector, said.

“Be silent, or I will eviscerate you,” Vexnar grubled.

“C’mon, Brute Squad!” Buhras called out, “Send these Rigellian slugs packing!”

“Is that who we’re playing against?” Fastocheni asked, snagging two foam balls up off the ground, “I thought we were playing Risa Sector,”

“Shut up and give Kodene your balls!” Bizkit snapped. The tiny girl was easily dodging the enemy’s shots.

“Give him my what?” Fastocheni stopped, stared at her in surprise, and was promptly struck by no fewer than four enemy balls.

Bizkit, not bothering to answer, grabbed the two foam balls he had been holding along with the ones that had struck him. She threw them all at Kodene, the large, squid-like alien snagging them with his tentacles and firing them across the border at the Rigel Sector cadets. (Decker Squad, actually.)

The game was quickly over. Surprising, Brute Squad had won, sending Decker Squad running home with their tails between their legs. (Literally, in a few cases.)

As the loosing team, Decker Squad had the honour of doing thirty push-ups, fifty sit-ups and twenty squats.

As the winning team, Brute Squad had the honour of doing thirty push-ups, fifty sit-ups and twenty squats.

“One more week,” Gallium muttered to himself as they began the jog back to Fort Pike.


“One more week!” Mecablox said loudly, walking up and down the Brute Squad corridor, “You have only one more week until the SNAP Survival Challenge!”

Brute Squad was seated in their corridor, listening attentively to their Squad Leader as he spoke. Seated, in this case, meant that they were leaning up against the walls in a sitting positing, but with no seats underneath them. Legs were quickly becoming sore from attempting to hold the somewhat uncomfortable position.

“You will be competing against all of the other lower-classmen Squads, one from each Sector,” Mecablox went on, Deputy Drain following him, “And they will all be trying to win. Will you?”

“YES, MR. MECABLOX!” the cadets shouted.

“Good. We will continue to prepare you throughout this week. But first, I wanted to let you know who the staff has chosen as your Squad Captain for the Challenge,”

Ears perked up and the cadets exchanged glances. Squad Captain? They needed a Squad Captain?

“You need a Squad Captain,” Mecablox explained, almost as if reading their minds, “because the nature of the Survival Challenge will require teamwork, strategy and planning. We have been teaching you teamwork, and you will learn some strategy this weekend. But you must also have a chain of command, and a leader to guide you through the Challenge!”

Baxter had a smug look on his face. Bizkit, sitting across from him, assumed that Baxter thought he would be put in charge. (She also vowed to quit right then and there if that was the case.) Gallium, being somewhat less cynical, figured that Baxter was feeling overly confident about their chances for the Challenge. Unknown to either of them, Baxter had just released what was, in his opinion, one damn fine ripper of a fart and was feeling especially pleased with himself.

Veksai, trying hard to ignore the screaming pain in his legs and the foul odour in his nose, was reasonably sure it wouldn’t be him. He hadn’t distinguished himself in any way, other than his ability to tear ligaments. He was far too concerned with trying to figure out who would be put in charge. He didn’t know his fellow cadets very well yet, but was very sure that some of them had no business leading a little old lady across the street. So who would he end up having to obey for this mysterious Survival Challenge? Would it be Igor, the slightly bumbling Russian? Kodene, the squid-thing that never seemed to speak? Gallium the nervous Bolian? Derok, the obnoxious Tellarite?

“We have been watching you all carefully,” Vexnar was saying, his eyes narrowed, and we have determined that one of you may…MAY have what it takes to lead the Squad,”

Now everybody was paying rapt attention.

“Mr. Malespere, you will be Squad Captain,” Mecablox said, without further pre-amble, “By the way, you may all stand up now,”

There were groans as the cadets straightened their legs. Bahred, Fastocheni and Kumari moved immediately to congratulate Malespere. Baxter hurried straight for the washroom and Veksai let out a breath of relief. Malepere seemed like a competent fellow. He could handle things as well as anybody else.

One less thing to worry about.


The next morning found the Antares Sector Flag mysteriously fluttering in the breeze over the Spock Library and cadet Wind looking extremely tired, almost as though she had missed sleep. They were awoken to the sound of a song few of them recognized, in a language that sounded a lot like the Andorian curses they’d heard Vexnar throwing around. (It was in fact ‘K’thlexxix Vix’, which roughly translated to ‘Somebody Killed Me’. It was one of Vexnar’s favourites.) As soon as the cadets were dressed, Deputy Drain marched them outside where he instructed Malespere to start the morning exercises.

“Just take them around the campus,” Drain instructed him, lifting a hind leg to scratch behind his floppy ear, “And watch out for…OH! Squirrel!”

Drain immediately dropped to all fours and took off after said squirrel, barking happily. (Luckily, the squirrel managed to escape.)

Malespere started the run, Drain catching up easily. He wasn’t really surprised that he’d been picked for Squad Captain. The SNAP staff had been dropping little hints for the past few days that something was coming up. Now he just had to figure out who he wanted as his second in command.


“OK, M’Kr’gr and Bahred, you’re gonna be my 2ICs,” Malespere said. The Squad had been granted time to hold a small meeting after breakfast. After of course the post-run, pre-breakfast ten-minute shower and change.

“Don’t Starfleet people usually only have one second-in-command,” Gallium asked, “And isn’t he or she usually called ‘Number One’?”

“Um,” Wind raised her hand, “If the person is second in command, shouldn’t they be Number Two?”

Kodene wrapped a tentacle around Wind’s mouth while Veksai chuckled.

“Whatever,” Malespere said, “Look, I want the extra input, and I think both of these guys have what it takes,”

“Body odour?” Baxter chuckled, pointed at M’Kr’gr.

“Claws,” the reptilian boy said, extending his middle finger (and claw) in Baxter’s direction.


Shortly afterward, Malespere (under the direction of Team Leader Buhras) marched them to the central Parade Ring that surrounded Khitomer building like a ring. How surprising. With a name like Parade Ring, you’d expect it to be some sort of dodecahedron, right? Anyway, Mecablox, Vexnar, Kethnor and Drain were already waiting. A part of the lawn bordering the ground had been cut to resemble the Mutara Sector logo, either by Mutara Sector’s junior-classmen or by lower-classmen taken out on a late-night prank by their junior-classmen.

On the flat terrain, several strange structures were in various stages of contruction. The one closest to them appeared to be complete, but none of the cadets were able to get a very good look at it, what with their eyes being forbidden from moving.

“Squad dish…smish!” Deputy Drain called, the words coming out slightly mangled through his large canine teeth.

The cadets followed their SNAP staff to the nearest structure. Now that they could get a closer look at it, they could see that it was a hollow box with walls made of a strange, mesh-like metal. Sparkling technological components glimmered in the sunlight, but nobody could quite figure out what the bizarre thing was supposed to be. It was definitely big, easily one hundred meters to a size. Gallium quickly counted the structures and came to conclusion that there was probably one going up for each Sector. Or for each lower-classmen Squad.

“Do any of you know what this?” Mecablox demanded, gesturing at the box.

“The box your mom’s underwear came in?” Baxter chuckled.

Mecablox shot Kethnor a glance.

“Ten centimeters!” the diminutive Klingon intoned, a dark smile on his face.

The cadets, with a groan, immediately dropped to the ground, laying flat on their backs and lifting their heels, legs extended, ten centimeters off the ground.

“This…is…not…an exercise…for…tall…people!” Veksai grunted.

“No…shit!” Fastocheni agreed.

“Your mom!’ Baxter giggled, apparently unaware or uncaring that he was the cause of their current situation. Igor waited until the SNAP staff wasn’t looking, then smacked him upside the head.

“Everybody up!” Mecablox said sharply. The cadets and staff jumped to their feet, though Drain took a few moments to chase his tail before rising.

“Now then, does anybody know what this is?” he asked again.

“I believe,” Kumari said primly, “that it is an outdoor holodeck3. My father, the king, had one setup during my own royal confirmation.”

“Oh really?” Derok asked, standing up on this tip-toes. The others simply rolled their eyes.

“Ms. Kumari is correct,” Mecablox said.

“That’s Princess Kumari,” Kumari muttered, too softly to be heard.

“It is a holo-patio,” Vexnar hissed, crossing his arms angrily, “Yes, I too believe that is a stupid name,”

“Well, if holo-decks are on ships, and ships have decks,” Derok went on, “And if outdoor places have patios, then-“

“Shut up,” Vexnar hissed.

“Yes, Team Leader!” Derok said, “I’ll shut up! I’m shutting up right now! I’ll do the best job of shutting up that you’ve ever seen!”

While Derok yammered on and Vexnar turned an even deeper shade of blue, Buhras had approached one corner of the holo-patio and detached a large control padd. She tapped at it. Suddenly, there was a veritable storm of holographic sparks, then part of the interior of the box suddenly appeared to take on the appearance of the bridge of a Federation starship.

“Oh, that is too cool!” Malespere breathed. The cadets started walking slowly around the holo-patio, noticing that the view always made it seem as though there were simply walking along the bridge, with their backs to one wall. They could always see what was happening inside the holo-patio, but their view was never obstructed by the walls that must be visible to anybody inside.

“How do they do that?” Veksai murmered, “Are the holograms actually opaque in only one direction, or are they actually using real-time holo-images and projectors to recreate-“

“These holo-patios have been specially outfitted for spectators,” Mecablox continued, cutting off Veksai’s string of pointless techno-babble, “But to the user, it is the same as using an actual holo-deck,”

“Hey, Vexnar!” Buhras called with a laugh, “I found your ‘Family Meal’ holo-program!’

“Really?”

She tapped a button and the starship bridge vanished, the holo-patio showing instead the interior of a large, Spartan building. The furniture was large and boxy, with spikes on every surface. Nearly thirty Andorians of various ages were dining. Vexnar quickly entered the holo-patio, the cadets noticing that as far as they could tell, he was part of the simulation. As soon as he sat, the holo-characters simulating his family began to move and speak.

“Pass the zenthar lung,” one middle-aged Andorian asked.

“Where is the spleen pie?” demanded another.

“I have decided to join the diplomatic corps,” a young male added.

Faster than the eye could see, a knife suddenly flew across the table and lodged itself in his chest, pinning him to the chair as his blood (and his life) drained out onto the floor.

“Who dared to kill my tertiary son?” one of the older Andorians demanded.

“I, Xenzar, your primary cousin!” a young female declared, “Diplomacy is a coward’s path, not fitting to a warrior of the 12th Hive!”

“He had demanded my permission yesterday,” the first Andorian said angrily, “And I had granted it! There was no need to…” He trailed off, noticing only then that another wicked, serrated knife had appeared in his abdomen. He gave a soft wheeze, then fell back.

“To attempt diplomacy is bad another,” an old, grizzled Andorian said from the head of the table, another knife ready for the throwing, “But to actually grant permission? The dishonour! Excuse me, I must mutilate the corpses quickly. Perhaps we will have fresh spleen pie for dessert!”

“This spleen is not fresh??” Vexnar demanded, lifting a plate of…something. Some of the other family members looked slightly embarrassed, others were beginning to look very, very angry.

“Sometimes,” a middle-aged female said, “one must use canned spleen…”

“CANNED SPLEEN??!!!??4

The Brute Squad cadets watched in horror as Vexnar’s family erupted into a full-fledged battle to the death. Table knifes were used initially as weapons, at least until the Andorians had the chance to grab some of the spears and swords off of the walls. (Veksai had assumed they were there for decoration. Apparently that was not the case.)

After several moments of bloodbath, Vexnar emerged from the holo-patio. His left arm was missing from below the elbow, bluish blood spurting onto the ground. In his other hand, he held his severed forearm. Yet he looked happier than he had in several weeks.

“You disabled the safety protocols,” he said to Buhras, pointing his severed hand in her direction.

“Yup,” she shrugged.

“Thank you. That was quite a bit of fun,” Vexnar wheezed, right before passing out from blood loss.

“Medic to the Parade Ring, Antares Sector,” Mecablox said calmly, tapping his comm-badge.

“Andorians sure are f**ked up people!” Baxter said, eyes wide as he stared at the carnage still being displayed by the holo-patio.

“They’re not so bad,” Veksai said. Igor, Baxter and even Kodene shot him surprised looks.

“Well, at least it looked like they were having fun,” he shrugged.


Once they’d had a chance to see how the holo-patio worked (and once Vexnar had returned from the infirmary, arm re-attached) they were unceremoniously loaded up onto a runabout5 and taken…somewhere. Looking out the window Bahred knew they were still on Earth, but he had no idea if they were still close to San Francisco or if they’d left North America entirely. Malespere had tried asking Team Leader Buhras where they were going, but she would only giggle and say that they were heading out for some ‘training’. Kethnor added that if Bahred did not stop asking annoying human questions, the entire Squad would be running back to the Academy. As much as Bahred doubted that they would make good on that threat, he decided that it would probably be a good idea to obey anyway. Next to him, M’Kr’gr was picking at his scales.

“We should talk strategy,” he said, after a few minutes.

“Gee, what an excellent idea, skinny!” Vexnar said in a mocking tone. “After all, you only have zero clues as to what kind of challenge you will be facing. What an excellent time to plan strategy!”

M’Kr’gr growled at Vexnar, baring his fangs. ‘Skinny’ was the nickname the staff had taken to using around him…ironic, considering he was easily half-again as wide as the other cadets.

“Ignore him,” Buhras said with a grin, “It’s never too early to start planning.” She gave Vexnar and Kethnor a shove. “What do you say we head up front, boys?”

Baring his teeth at M’Kr’gr one last time, Vexnar followed the other two staff members out.

“Anybody else notice that those three have been getting a lot less…evil, lately?” Quarterman asked.

“Oh, totally,” Bizkit agreed.

“What planet are you on?” Igor grumbled.

“I agree!” Derok shouted, jumping to his feet, “Wait, what were you talking about?”

“OK, so, like, strategy,” Malespere said, turning to face the group, “Let’s get some ideas going, people!”

“Little Boy Blue has a point,” Fastocheni said, using the Squad’s secret nickname for Vexnar, “I mean, we don’t know what this challenge is, right?”

“It doesn’t matter,” M’Kr’gr said, “Some things can be planned anyway. Such as, how shall we divide the Squad? What strengths and weaknesses do we have?”

“Veksai’s really good at being old,” Quarterman pointed out with a grin.

“And you’re really good at being a total bi-“

“Oh, you know you want some!”

“Hey, shut up!” Malespere called.

“You shut up!” Nuhville shouted.

“We all get to shut up!” Baxter giggled happily.

The cadets stared at him for a moment, then broke into giggles.

Once the moment had passed, Malespere was just about the resume their discussion, when they felt the jolt of the runabout landing on solid ground.

“EVERYBODY OUT!” Buhras shouted, “Let’s go!”

Rushing for the door, the cadets swung past the small craft’s cargo area, grabbing their training phaser rifles from the rack. Exiting the runabout they found themselves standing in a clearing. Forest surrounded them on all sides, with towering mountains visible in the background.

“What are we doing out here?” Derok wondered as they formed up. The cadets around him winced, expecting some kind of retribution from the staff. Instead, Mecablox simply answered, calmly:

“We are here for some training. From a specialist.”


“Which group do we have now?”

“Uhhh…” the uniformed man consulted his pass, “Antares Sector, Colonel.”

“Starfleeters,” the colonel said, his lip curling in disgust, “Even worse, Starfleet cadets. Again. I think I’m going to puke!”

“Of course, sir,”

“How many more Sectors after this one?”

“Uhhh… a lot, sir,”

“Are any of them Marines?”

“No, sir.”

“Blast it, O’Neal! We have better things to do and more important enemies to blast!”

“Perhaps sir, if you hadn’t suggested to Captain Beck that Starfleet Academy didn’t know a thing about combat training…”

“SHUT UP, Lt. Colonel!”

“Of course, Colonel.”


The SNAP staff was looking worried.

They’d been waiting for about five minutes. The cadets were formed up with Malespere front and center and Bahred and M’Kr’gr behind. Nobody was sure what it was the SNAP staff was waiting for, but they must have seen it coming, as all five of them suddenly turned, gave Malespere a quick nod, then rushed back into the runabout.

Quiet murmurs broke out between the cadets. What was going on? What sort of training was this?

“STOP TALKING, MAGGOTS!”

Three weeks of SNAP instinct kicked in as each cadet immediately shut up and straitened up. Well, Nuhvil and Derok each needed an extra elbow in the side to remind them, but still.

A tall, slim man sporting a large, black moustache emerged from the bushes, wearing green-patterned camouflage fatigues. He sported an odd-looking helmet, which he’d covered with leaves and branches in an attempt to further improve his ability to blend in. Two other men and one woman followed, similarly dressed. The first man marched stiffly up to Malespere and came to attention, slamming his foot against the ground so hard that his entire body quivered.

“Well, maggot, what do you do when approached by an officer?” he demanded.

“Huh? OH!” Malespere quickly saluted.

The man ignored him, walking past and surveying the first row of cadets.

“Disgusting!” he spat, “The only thing worse than a Starfleet officer…is a Starfleet cadet!” His voice took on a mocking tone, “Oh, please don’t blow us up, Mr. Alien, sir! Let’s talk about our problems! Ohhh, look! A spatial anomaly! Let’s go study it! Oh no, the galaxy is about to explode, let’s all grab our loved ones and have a nice, fluffy group hug!”

He spat again, literally this time.

“I am,” he declared, “Colonel Martin Lazlo6, Federation Marines! And let me tell you, the smartest thing any of you maggots could do right now would be to quit this sloppy Starfleet crap and join the a real fighting unit! In fact, Corporal Sheppard has a pile of Starfleet resignation forms and O’Neal here was good enough to bring some Marine applications. I’m confident that by the end of the day, you’ll see the wisdom of joining the marines!”

Behind him, the other three marine were exchanging sceptical glances.

“DROP AND GIVE ME FIFTY PUSH-UPS!” Lazlo screamed.


From the safety of the runabout, the SNAP staff watched as Lazlo started punishing the crap out of their cadets.

“What does he think he’s doing?” Buhras snapped, “Those are OUR lowers! Nobody gets to push them around but us!”

The push-ups had been replaced with sit-ups, then squats.

“Has anybody else noticed the way his moustache vibrates when he shouts?” Mecablox observed, “Sort of like a chipmunk…during an epileptic seizure.”

“I agree with Adi,” Kethnor said, watching as one of the marines (Copeland?) leaned right into Derok’s chubby, Tellarite face and commenced screaming, “Nobody grinds down my lower-classmen but me!”

“Marines,” Vexnar snarled, “They disgust me!’

“Really?” Drain asked, wagging his tail, “I thought you’d like the killing and the maiming, and all that stuff,”

“Killing and maiming are an art form!” Vexnar said, “And these…marines…have no appreciation for the subtlety of a proper maiming!”

Lazlo and his men were now in the process of breaking Brute Squad into two teams.

“Exactly what are they supposed to be learning?” Drain asked, sniffing at some interesting odours in the carpet.

“If this keeps up,” Buhras said, watching as Lazlo suddenly assigned more push-ups, “They’re going to learn just how much they miss us,”


“LOWER!” Lazlo screamed, bending down to better scream at Kumari, “I want to see that little brown nose of yours TOUCH THE F**KING GROUND!”

“I miss Ms. Buhras,” Kumari whimpered, straining to complete the push-up.

He jumped up, then returned to the front of the group.

“Team attacks!” he shouted, “Are the most elementary part of any sort of attack force! You must be able to work as a team, to anticipate your enemy’s movements and to avoid shooting your own people! Copeland, Sheppard! Reference: dead oak tree! TEAM! TEAM! TEAM!

The two marines immediately dropped to the ground. The female, Sheppard, starting shooting her phaser rifle at the indicated tree, while Copeland jumped up, darted a few feet ahead, then dropped. He immediately began firing, while Sheppard jumped up and darted forward. They continued to leap-frog until Sheppard was close enough to throw a photon grenade at the tree, which promptly exploded. The two marines quickly secured the area then took up defensive positions on either side.

“That is precision!” Lazlo declared loudly, “That is discipline! That is something that Starfleet is far too wishy-washy to give you!”

“I think I like wishy-washy,” Derok groaned.

“IF YOU CAN STILL WHINE, YOU”RE NOT SUFFERING ENOUGH!” Lazlo barked.


Under Lazlo’s ‘tutelage’, the cadets spent the remainder of the day running through trees, shooting at each other, crawling through the muck and in generally wearing their already tired bodies out even more. Malespere really didn’t see how these ancient ground tactics would help them with a holographic survival challenge, especially considering that the vast majority of the squad really wasn’t getting the hang of it. Kodene somehow kept getting itself turned around, Baxter got lost in the trees, Bizkit had snagged the back of her uniform on a low branch and been stuck hanging there for nearly an hour before anybody had found her and Veksai had ‘accidentally’ stunned Baxter and Derok at least twice. If nothing else, he concluded, it was giving everybody a chance to get used to having himself in charge of the squad, with Bahred and M’Kr’gr acting as Team Seniors.

Finally, after a ‘cool-down session’ which seemed just as exhausting as their actual exercises, they were allowed to return to the runabout.

“That’s right…go crawling back to mommy!” Lazlo shouted from behind them, “Wimps, all of you! MAGGOTS!”

He spun back to O’Neal.

“Who’s the next batch?”

“Uh, Ganjitsu Sector…Sulu Squad,” O’Neal replied, checking his padd.

“I WILL DESTROY THEM!” Lazlo vowed.

“Uh, riiight.”

“Sir,” Corporal Copeland spoke up, “The cadets are gone. You can stop acting now.”

Lazlo looked confused.

“Acting?”


“Look at them, don’t they look sweet?” Buhras said softly, giggling slightly.

Vexnar and Kethnor looked at her like she was crazy. The Brute Squad cadets had piled back into the runabout, trailing mud and bits of foliage behind them, then proceeded to fall asleep in their seats as Mecablox and Drain ran the craft through its pre-flight check7. Kodene had slipped out of its seat with a slimy PLOP, its tentacles now unconsciously twining around the seat supports. Nuhville and Baxter were snoring loudly, while Wind was drooling on Derok’s shoulder.

“They have performed…adequately, so far,” Kethnor said grudgingly, “I have heard that Altair Sector has had no end of problems with their lowers.”

“Is that why they renamed their lower-classmen squad ‘No-Name Squad’?” Vexnar asked, interested.

“It is,”

“Less than a week,” Vexnar said, sounding almost relieved, “Then I can end this SNAP foolishness and return to my studies. Did you know that I need a Xeno-Biology credit from the Academy before the Andorian Society of Killing will credit me with my Killing and Maiming certification?”

“That’s all well and good…for a security specialist,” Buhras said snidely, “I’m falling behind in Temporal Mechanics. And I know that Drain is on the verge of failing his second language credit,”

“You are all weaklings,” Kethnor said slowly, “But I also am having difficulties with my Warp Field Mechanics class,”

“Shut up,” Buhras grunted.

“You shut up!”

“No, YOU shut up!”

Bickering, the SNAP staff left the passenger section and headed up to the cockpit, unaware that more than one pair of ears had overheard their conversation.


Sunday was fairly quiet. Or so it seemed, anyway. After running through the bushes, crawling through the mud and wading through a swamp or two with Colonel Lazlo, the standard SNAP routine suddenly felt like a holiday. Well, Sunday technical was a holiday, what with four whole hours between breakfast and lunch where the cadets could actually do anything they wanted.

Almost.

“I really wish this stupid thing worked right now,” Veksai muttered, glaring at the monitor screen for his computer terminal and trying to stretch the aches and pains out of his lanky frame. Buhras had disabled most of the amenities in their rooms weeks ago, and kept the isolinear chips that would reactive them in one of her pockets. “At least then I could check the frickin’ news!”

“Huuugghhh,” Nuhvil groaned, rolling over on his bed but not waking. Veksai really had no understanding of just how any sentient being could sleep as much as Nuhvil did.

Across the hall, Gallium and Kodene had dug out a deck of playing cards. Kumari and Bizkit were trying to get caught up on their ironing, Quarterman and her roommate, a girl named Ganderouge, were arguing about something that sounded silly and Baxter and Derok were trying to convince Wind that a hydrospanner could be used as a toothbrush.

Fastocheni made his way around the highway, that ever-so-annoying dividing line that forced the cadets to walk the entire length of the corridor every time they wanted to go somewhere, and dropped by Veksai’s room.

“Have you seen M’Kr’gr?” he asked.

“Yeah, he’s with Malespere and Bahred,” Veksai replied, giving his monitor one last, half-hearted poke, “They’re planning more strategy, I guess,”

“Yeah, so,” Fastocheni stood in the door, looking uncomfortable.

“Is there something else?” Veksai asked, watching with a combination of amusement and annoyance as the younger boy shifted his weight.

“What’s it like?” Fastocheni blurted out, taking a seat on Veksai’s bed.

“Huh?”

“Being half Orion,” he explained, “That’s gotta be, like, different, right? Did it make it harder to get into the Academy?”

“Uh, you’re living with a giant lizard that happens to have fangs and claws, and you’re asking me about being different?” Veksai asked, one eyebrow raised, “Not to mention having a giant squid as a neighbour…”

“Well, I mean,” Fastocheni looked flustered, “Well, M’Kr’gr and Kodene are, like, obviously different, right? I mean, if you hadn’t told us you were half Orion, I wouldn’t have even known,”

Veksai looked at his greenish skin.

“Yeah, a lot of people just tell me I shouldn’t have eaten the seafood,” he joked, “But aside from this overwhelming urge to kill people and steal their stuff, being half Orion8 isn’t all that bad,”

Fastocheni’s jaw dropped.

“I’m kidding,” Veksai said dryly.

“Well, I mean, you see all this stuff in the news, like with the Orion Syndicate and all that…”

“I promise not to kill you, or pay to have you killed,” Veksai chuckled.

“Uh…good…” Fastocheni fidgeted for a moment, “Hey, did you hear?”

He looked at Veksai expectantly.

Veksai stared back.

“Hear what?” Veksai finally asked.

“Oh! Sorry. Did you hear that we lost Zenith and Val’gural?”

“What? Really?” Veksai jumped out of his chair, “Why? When did this happen?”

“Zenith just quit, decided he really didn’t want to be here anymore,” Fastocheni said, “And Val’gural is joining the marines,”

“Really?” Veksai’s eyebrows had almost reached his head, “He liked that happy-hardcore-horses**t that Laz…that Colonel Lazlo put us through?”

“I think he liked the fact that most of that stuff is done with hand signals, and without speaking.” Fastocheni explained, “He figures he can advance faster in the Marines than he can in Starfleet,”

“I guess that makes sense,” Veksai mused. Being Barudan and totally mute, Val’gural’s communication skills really weren’t the best. Most of the time their attempts to understand him had turned into an impromptu round of charades.

“Anyway, Drain has a couple of junior-classmen helping them load up their stuff right now.

“BRUTE SQUAD! IN THE CORRIDOR! NOW!”

“Here we go again,” Veksai sighed.


After lunch the cadets were marched down to one of the many buildings that dotted the campus. This one as it turned out housed several indoor Olympic-sized swimming pools. (Along with saltwater, swamp-water and mud pools for some species.) After swimming a few laps and warming up, they were suddenly told to get back into uniform. Expecting to return to Fort Pike or head out for more training, they were taken offguard when they were told to get back into the pool.

“But we’ll get our uniforms wet!” Kumari said, “How…tacky!”

“Oh, so if you’re stranded on some alien planet, you’re going to get changed into your swimsuit before you dive into the water to escape the giant alien squid-thing trying to kill you?” Buhras snapped, “No offense, Kodene,”

“None taken,” the giant squid-alien said, “But humans are…easier to catch…in water,”

Buhras chuckled.

“GET IN THE F**KING POOL!” she snapped.

Unsurprisingly, Kodene was as efficient as ever in the water. The rest of the cadets, unused to swimming while fully dressed, floundered somewhat. When the exercise finally ended and they pulled themselves out of the water, they resembled a pack of wet rats. An pair of Ensigns dutifully recorded their performance, then dismissed Buhras.

Once finished with the pool the cadets were summarily marched off to first aid training, followed by supper, a run around the campus and finally sleep.


There was a definite and growing sense of excitement as SNAP entered its final week, and not just on the part of the lower-classmen. With the prospect of the Survival Challenge looming ahead, each of the Academy Sectors was eager to see their own lower-classean Squad emerge victorious, a sense shared by the lowers and by their SNAP staffs. Evening time that had previously been dedicated to extra physical training or other forms of SNAP torment (such as change parades or bed parades9) were now dedicated to practicing various techniques that might come in handy during the Survival Challenge. Monday night saw several sectors sneaking down to the holo-patios…the Survival program hadn’t been loaded yet, but the cadets were able to use the devices to simulate different training facilities and locations. Academy Security put a stop to this practice as quickly as possible, leaving the cadets to find other ways to practice. Of course, some Squads snuck out to the holo-patios in the middle of the night anyway.

Tuesday night Malespere, under the direction of Team Leader Kethnor, had marched the squad to the Montgomery Scott Engineering Building, a gleaming metal-and-glass affair that primarily held laboratories and the Starship Operations department.

“We have learned additional details regarding the Survival Challenge,” Kethnor said once the arrived, “We have learned that each Squad will be undertaking the same challenge,”

“Only fair,” Quarterman grunted.

"”And, because Starfleet officers are expected to posses a certain a degree of versatility, the Challenge will involve a number of different tasks.” Kethnor explained, “In fact, the junior-classmen of each Sector was responsible for designing a portion of the challenge. I, of course, cannot tell you which part of the Challenge was designed by our own Antares Sector juniors, but if you by chance see them before the Challenge, you may want to ask.”

He paused for a moment.

“You must therefore know, weakling humans, that while physical fitness plays a major role in this Challenge, it is not the only aspect of your training to date that will be challenged. There will be technical challenges, ethical challenges and situations that require quick thinking and quick responses. That is why tonight we will be reviewing some of the basic engineering procedures you should have been taught during your Starship Operations 101 class,”

Veksai, Bahred and Fastocheni nodded, as did a few other cadets. The majority exchanged somewhat confused glances.

“I think I slept through that class,” Nuhville said.

“Likely,” Kethnor agreed. “Hence, the practice,”


After practicing basic operations for two hours, they were then marched to the Leonard McCoy Medical Center where, despite the unpleasant memories of their initial check-ups, the cadets spent another two hours with the EMH programs reviewing first aid procedures. Wednesday evening saw them sitting through two mind-numbing hours of tactics and team strategy briefings. (Malespere, Bahred and M’Kr’gr paid rapt attention, unlike the majority of the cadets.) Wednesday also saw them put through a fairly brutal physical workout, courtesy of all three Team Leaders, all three of whom reminded the Squad constantly that they were working to distinguish themselves in the competition. Both days also saw them practicing for the Entry Ceremony, where they would officially become students of the Academy.

Finally, it was Thursday evening.

“Less than 24 hours of SNAP left!” Bizkit exclaimed, practically vibrating on her feet.

“Thank God,” Veksai said, leaning against one wall, “I just want this crap to be over with!”

“No more morning PT!” Baxter exclaimed.

“Well, less anyway,” Team Leader Buhras said, stepping into the corridor, “Don’t lean on the walls, they can hold themselves up!”

Veksai straightened.

“No more morning inspections!” Derok said happily.

“Well, fewer inspections,” Buhras shrugged.

“No more change parades!” Nuhvil exclaimed.

“Who-hoo!” Buhras agreed, exchanging high-fives with the cadet.

“So what are we doing tonight?” Wind asked, “Are we going in the pool again?”

“Why would we-“ Veksai started to ask, then stopped when he realized it was Wind speaking. (She had a way of asking strange questions.)

“No, what you do tonight is up to Mr. Malespere,” Buhras said, “Oh, by the way, if any of you have holo-imagers10, give them here. The junior-classmen will be taking photos for you, if you want.”

“Doesn’t the holo-patio thing automatically record everything anyway?” Gallium asked as Veksai and several others went to find their imagers.

“It is traditional for the juniors to take images,” Kethnor said as he and Vexnar came up behind Buhras.

“I’m gonna go and get Malespere,” Buhras said, heading down the hall.

There was a moment of silence.

“I can hardly wait to see my parents!” Bizkit said, once it became evident that neither Team Leader was about to start shouting orders or commands, “I hope they’re still able to make it!”

“Oops,” Kethnor said, “I forgot! Buhras was to install this tonight, so that you might check on such things.” He plugged an isolinear chip into the wall panel. With a chirp, a set of lights began blinking.

“The communications functions of your terminals have been enabled,” he said.

Bizkit squealed with excitement and bolted for her room.

“You forgot?” Vexnar sneered.

“I forgot,” Kethnor snarled, “Do you want to make something of it, Andorian?”

“I will kill you, Klingon!” Vexnar seethed.

“I will main and decapitate you!” Kethnor shot back.

“Uh, should we be worried?” Derok asked Veksai as the latter ducked into his room to check his messages.

“Naw, it’s just how Klingons and Andorians do things,” Veksai said, “This is practically pillow-talk!”

Both Kethnor and Vexnar stopped arguing and turned to fix very cold glares at the (yet junior) cadet.

“Um, no offense or anything,” Veksai muttered, ducking into his room before they could assign push-ups or something.

“Wheeee!” Bizkit came hopping back out of her room, running the lengthy of the highway and dodging the gaping hole in the floor at the far end, “My parents are going to watch tomorrow!”

“Yeah, mine are coming too,” Gallium said.

“Isn’t it sweet,” Vexnar said to Kethnor, “The weakling human parents are coming to watch their weakling spawn,”

“It is almost…cute,” Kethnor said. His voice sounded disdainful, but there was a hint of a grin on his dark face.

“HOLY SHIT!”

“EEEEEKKKKKKKKKKK!!!!!”

Simultaneously, two shouts broke out from two different rooms. In seconds, Veksai and Kumari were back in the hall, looks of shock on their faces.

“MY PARENTS ARE COMING!!??” Veksai exclaimed, a mix of amazement and disbelief on his face.

“MY PARENTS ARE COMING!!??” Kumari screamed, a look of abject terror on her face.


“I don’t get it,” Malespere asked, “What’s the big deal?”

“Well, it’s just,” Veksai looked embarrassed, “My parents live two systems over. It takes a couple of days to get here…and I don’t think I even told them about the Survival Challenge. It’s great! But such a hassle for them…”

“Ok, one down,” Malespere turned from Veksai to Kumari, “What’s your story?”

Kumari looked even more embarrassed, surrounded as she was by the other Brute Squad cadets and the three Team Leaders.

“I, uh, never told my parents I was joining Starfleet,” she muttered.11

“She’s got me beat,” Veksai said, raising his hands in mock surrender and moving back into the group.

“So, they obviously found out, right?” Quaterman said, “What’s the big deal? You’re a big girl now,”

“I’m also, like, heir to the throne!” Kumari protested.

“Really?” Baxter giggled, “I don’t think you mentioned that,”

“Except for every minute-“ Derok said.

“Of every day-“ Quarterman added.

“Hey, shut up!” Kumari snapped, visibly upset.

“Yes, do shut up!” Kethnor ordered, “Family expectations can be…difficult to live with. On Qu’nos12, family structures are strict, family approval must be sought for most life decisions and punishments can range from exile to the removal of family titles,”

“On Andor-“ Vexnar started.

“Yeah, they saw how Andorian families behave already, thank you,” Buhras giggled.

“Do not force me to eviscerate you!” Vexnar shot back.

“OOhhhhh!!!” Kumari groaned, then ran for her room, ignoring the highway.

“I’ll talk to her,” Malespere said.

The remaining cadets exchanged looks. Obviously they’d said something wrong, but weren’t sure what.

While Malespere was talking to Kumari, Bahred and M’Kr’gr once again went over the team assignments for the Survival Challenge, had the cadets double-check their equipment and finished up some of the last minute preparations. Halfway though Malespere and Kumari re-emerged, Kumari looking somewhat better than before. Soon, it was time for bed.

“Good night, lower-classmen,” Squad Leader Mecablox said, having popped in along with Deputy Drain to say goodnight, “Tomorrow, it will all be over. Sleep well!”


Despite the excitement brought on by the imminent end of SNAP and their official entry into the Academy, the cadets had no difficulty falling asleep. All too soon, they were awoken by the familiar crash of drums and singing voices of that bizarre wake-up music…


OOOOO Fooortuuunnnaaaaa!

Veeerruuut lunnna!

Staaaatu variaaabliliiiiiiiiiis!


“Woah, that’s different,” Bahred said to Malespere as he quickly shaved, “It sounds, like, as if actual people are singing, instead of raging Klingons.”

“KLINGONS DO NOT RAGE!” Kethnor snarled from the hallway. He paused, then thought for a moment.

“Actually, yes we do. In fact, it is what we do best.” he corrected himself, “Carry on!”

“Sounds Italian,” Fastocheni observed as he and M’Kr’gr rushed out of their room and took their place in the corridor.

“Says the Latin Lover over here,” Quarterman teased from down the hall, checking Bizkit’s uniform over for lint. Fastocheni blew her a kiss.

“Enough clowning around!” Buhras snapped, “We’re going light today, kids. Just a light jog. Don’t want you worn out before the Challenge starts!”

As promised, Mecablox and Drain led the cadets (Malespere in the lead) through a relatively light jog around the campus, just enough to wake everybody up and get the blood moving. (As if blaring Italian Opera first thing in the morning didn’t accomplish that.) Soon enough the cadets were showered, dressed, inspected (in that order) and sent off to breakfast.

Later as he sat in class, Gallium wondered just what chance they had of actually learning anything that morning. He looked around the lecture hall in which he and fourty other ‘Artsmen’ were supposed to be studying the cultures of several key races in the Federation. He wasn’t really sure why the EngOps (Engineering & Operations) and SciMed (Sciences & Medical) cadets kept calling them Artsmen; they were technically Command track. Which, Gallium reflected, made even less sense, since everybody training to be an officer was training to be in command of something. Perhaps the other cadets called them Artsmen because they were not studying for a science or engineering speciality, and were enrolled in a relatively easier course, much like the Arts students of Earth’s 20th Century? A sort of tradition, going back hundreds of years and applying to generations of cadets who (in their opinion) didn’t have the drive or the intelligence for Engineering or Sciences?

Naw.13

Anyway, he certainly wasn’t paying any attention to Professor Smern’s Cultural Studies lecture. The Vulcan was going on in his dry monotone, explaining the illogic of SNAP and of the Survival Challenge. None of the lower-classmen cadets were arguing with him. With Smern, there really was no need. The man seemed to argue with himself, coming up with arguments, counter-arguments, explanations, questions, etc. The man’s ability to argue with himself was impressive, but really left little chance for the cadets to become involved in the lesson.

Attempting again to get back to the point, Gallium really didn’t think anybody was learning much of anything that morning. A few rows back Nuhville was passed out and snoring. Next to him Derok was trying to pay attention, but kept making little doodles of the Brute Squad cadets in stick-figure form, being eaten by a giant alien that might have been a stick-figure version of M’Kr’gr. Baxter, a few rows forward, was staring at a pretty, blond female cadet with an expression that could only be described as ‘late-teenage lust’, and Gallium was willing to bet he knew exactly what Baxter was thinking about…and it sure as hell wasn’t Cultural Studies.

Nope, there was no way anybody was learning anything that morning.


After lunch, Brute Squad gathered in their old Fort Pike corridor, affectionately known as the Sector Lines. The SNAP Countdown display showed 0 Days, 0 Hours, 30 Minutes to go. Instead of the standard cadet jumpsuit, they were dressed partially in field gear: the heavier boots and trousers used by Away Teams when visiting unknown or potentially hostile planets. Instead of the standard uniform jacket, they wore instead long-sleeved shirts decorated with the red-and-white14 Antares Sector colours. In addition, the cadets had appended their own designs: M’Kr’gr and Bahred had scrawled ‘2IC’ on their shirts with thick, black ink, large ‘A’s had been scrawled across several backs, Baxter’s shirt declared him to be ‘Hard’ and several shirts, including Veksai’s and Kumari’s, declared them to be ‘Brutes’. Malespere, though nobody could figure out why, had scrawled ‘And that’s how hard the rock pile is!’ across the front of his shirt. As they finished positioning themselves next to their rooms, Squad Leader Mecablox stepped in followed by Lt. Wellington, the commanding officer of Antares Sector.

“Brute Squad, Atten-tion!” Mecablox called.

As the cadets came to attention, Wellington became to walk slowly down the center of the corridor.

“Good afternoon, Brute Squad,” he said.

“GOOD AFTERNOON, SIR!”

“Ready for the big event?”

“YES, SIR!”

“Are you ready,” Wellington went on, his voice growing louder, “To go out there, and show the rest of this Academy what you’re made of?”

“YES, SIR!”

“ARE YOU READY,” Wellington shouted, “TO PASS THIS CHALLENGE AND END SNAP, ONCE AND FOR ALL???”

“YES SIR!” the cadets screamed.

“WHO ARE YOU?” he demanded.

“BRUTE SQUAD!”

“NOW GET OUT THERE, AND SHOW THEM WHAT YOU’VE GOT!”

They bolted for the door.


After quickly forming up outside Fort Pike (during which point some clever junior-classmen started playing ‘The Final Countdown’ through his dorm window) the cadets started jogging from Fort Pike to the Parade Ring around Khitomer building, and towards the waiting holo-patios. As they ran they noticed that they were being joined by several other cadets, each wearing a red-and-white Antares Sector t-shirt. Gallium immediately recognized T’Henki and Meltan, the two Vulcans taking position on either side of the Squad. Maretan, Lafonge, Dril, Adeth and several other junior-classmen soon joined them. But several older cadets were likewise trickling in, falling in to either side of Brute Squad as they jogged down the road. Gallium recognized senior-classmen: Parami, the hulking Antares Sector Cadet Leader and mid-classman Noig, the Antares Sector Cadet Administrator. He could assume that the other cadets were likewise senior Antares Sector cadets, there to show their support for Brute Squad.

As he led the Squad and its surrounding gaggle of junior, mid and senior classmen, Malespere reflected on something they’d been told early on in SNAP: that everybody in the Sector had their eyes on Brute Squad. They were lower-classmen; they hadn’t yet earned their place in the Sector and nobody knew just how many of them would actually make it though SNAP. And while they had been kept strictly segregated from the senior cadets, that didn’t mean that the senior cadets hadn’t been watching their every move, pumping their SNAP staff for news and gossip, trying to find out which cadets (if any) would be good additions to the Sector. Now with the end of SNAP upon them and the lower-classmen on the verge of joining the rest of the Sector, it was time for the senior cadets to come out and support their lower-classmen.

As they entered the Parade Ring they could see the lower-classmen Squads of each of the various Academy Sectors, each surrounded by their senior cadets. To their right was Mutara Sector in their blue and purple t-shirts. To their left was Antedian Sector, with their white and silver. In both directions following the Parade Ring as it curved around Khitomer Building, they could see the clashing colours of the various Sectors, almost too many to count. The energy was incredible: thousands of cadets just waiting for the Challenge to start. Lower-classmen Squads filled with nervous energy, waiting for their chance to show the rest of the their Sectors what they could do. Surrounding the Parade Ring were rows of bleachers on which parents, family members and friends were able to watch. While most of them couldn’t quite understand what the big deal was, most could recognize that whatever was about to happen, it was something that the cadets were taking extremely seriously. Every change parade, every push-up, every round of that incomprehensible wake-up music and every ounce of pressure put on them by their SNAP staffs had been leading them to this moment.

They formed up and fell silent as gigantic holographic screens projected on the walls of the towering building displayed the image of the school Commandant, Admiral Decrefils. After a brief speech, which boiled down to ‘congratulations and good luck’15, he stepped back from the podium and said:

“Lower-classmen Squads, take your places and prepare to begin!”


“This is it, guys!” Bahred said, almost quivering with nervous energy as Brute Squad filed past him into the as-yet-empty holo-patio, “Everybody ready?”

“Ready to kick some ass!” Bizkit cried out, nearly bouncing on her tip-toes.

“Who-hoo! Ass-kicking!” Derok shouted out, “Wait, not mine, right?”

“Only if you screw up, you f-“ Nuhvil started to say.

“OK, let’s f**king do this!” Malespere said, holding a padd that would keep him updated on their challenge objectives.

Through the thin mesh walls studded with holo-projectors, they could still hear the roar of the crowd outside. They couldn’t see the other Squads, nor would they know how each had done until the end. But the energy was still palpable, regardless.

“Stand by,” announced the toneless voice of a computer as the holo-patio suddenly began to power up.

Suddenly with a shower of holographic sparks, the empty room suddenly shifted. The cadets found themselves in a clearing, with thick forest surrounding them on all sides. There was a crash of thunder and a flash of lighting as torrents of rain began to fall on them.

“My HAIR!” Kumari squealed.

Malespere’s padd began beeping. The other cadets watched him in anticipation as his eyes darted over the display.

“There’s a transporter beacon a kilometre north of here,” he shouted, trying to make himself heard over the storm, “We’ve got to get over there, now!”

Bahred and M’Kr’gr quickly organized their teams, and the cadets started rushing through the brush, pushing aside trees and trying to avoid the growing puddles. Their shirts clung to them like second skins and soon each had mud halfway up to each knee.

They soon came across a shallow ravine. Looking around, they quickly found a path down.

“Try to find a way back up!’ Malespere shouted, eyeing the sheer rock face that formed the other side of the ravine. It was too smooth even for him to scale, and even if his climbing skills got him up, they didn’t help the others.

“Look!” Fastocheni pointed up, “Vines!”

There were indeed several vines clustered up towards the lip of the ravine. If they could somehow pull them down…

“Help steady me,” Kodene said in its deep voice. It whipped it’s tentacles around, gripping the rock wall with its suction cups and trying to wriggle its way up. With Fastocheni and Veksai holding it steady, it managed to snag two of the vines and knock them down. A few feet down Nuhvil was helping Bahred climb onto M’Kr’gr’s shoulders. They succeeded in knocking two more vines down.

Within a few minutes, the Squad managed to clamber up and over the edge, though the rain made things more difficult.

“OK!” Malesphere shouted, “Let’s go!”


After a few more minutes or rushing the trees abruptly gave way, revealing a river. The surface of the water shimmered as the rain fell, and another bolt of lightning illuminated the scene. A single rope was suspended over the water and it was pretty obvious what was expected of them.

“Do you get the feeling,” Veksai tried to make himself heard over the din, “That it seems like somebody set this thing up as some kind of giant obstacle course?”

“Shut up!” Malespere shouted, “Everybody, over the river! Let’s move!”

With a frantic energy they started jumping onto the rope, dangling by all four limbs (or by all tentacles) as they slid down the rope.

“STOP!” Malespere suddenly shouted, pulling back on Igor before he could get on, “SHIT!”

As they approached the middle of the rope the combined weight of the half-dozen cadets already crossing had pulled the rope lower and lower until now Bahred was being dunked in the river, sputtering as he pulled his head up for air.

“GO!” Malespere shouted, trying to make himself heard. They needed to get some people over, so the rope would tighten up! He should have only sent over a couple at a time! If they lost anybody in the river, the holo-patio safeties would keep them from being too badly injured, but they’d lose the Challenge! DAMN!

But Bahred had let go of the rope with his legs and was using his hands on the rope to pull himself towards the far bank. As the rope began angling up, he swung his legs back up and pulled himself onto the far bank.

With the reduced weight Veksai and Gallium received only mild dunkings and Wind didn’t even touch the water’s surface. Soon everybody was across.

“Let’s go! Come on!” Malespere shouted, urging them on as they starting rushing again for the beacon.


Malespere wasn’t the only person urging them on. As they ran Fastocheni and M’Kr’gr were urging on the slower runners, and outside the holo-patio they could hear the shouts of their SNAP staff and the senior cadets. Every few hundred meters, they’d come across another obstacle. There was a thick, muddy swamp which almost swallowed Bizkit, a thick cluster of thorny plants that required them to crawl through the muck on their bellies and a thin pass between two seemingly endless rock walls that was plugged up with logs and debris. After lifting away the blockage they found themselves less than fifty meters from the beacon. Even the rain was letting up.

“Is that it?” Baxter asked, his breath coming in gasps as he tried to scrape some of the mud off his sleeves, “Cuz that, like, wasn’t all that bad,”

“Speak for yourself, fatty,” Quarterman growled.

“They said there’d be other stuff,” Veksai wheezed, trying to catch his breath, “So far, they haven’t-“

“SHHHH!”

Malespere suddenly started making a frantic hand gesture. It took a moment for everybody to realize that they’d learned it from the marines the previous weekend. It meant ‘GET THE F**K DOWN AND SHUT THE F**K UP!’.

Malespere scuttled back to the center of the group, staying low.

“I can see people at the beacon,” he said, “Nuhvil, Kumari, go check it out!”

“Why us?”

“Don’t argue!”

“Fine!”

The rest of the squad waited while the two cadets slunk away slowly through the brush. Several minutes later, they returned.

“There are six…things around the beacon,” Nuhvil reported.

“Things?”

“They’re big, sort of orange,” he said.

“And they have really big, ugly hair,” Kumari added.

“Kazon,” Gallium said, “nobody else in the galaxy has hair as bad as them. We had an introductory class on them two weeks ago,”

“So we ask them to let us at the beacon,” Baxter said, “no biggy,”

“Weren’t you paying attention in that class?” Kodene growled.

“Probably not. So?”

“Kazon are hostle,” Gallium said, “I say we use these,” he indicated the training hand-phasers they’d been given for the challenge.

“OK,” Malespere said, “Bahred, take your team in and secure the beacon!”

“You got it!”


“I’m not sure I want to watch this,” Buhras said, standing outside the holo-patio and watching as Bahred led several cadets toward the enemy.

“Go team!” Drain barked happily, scampering around the box-like structure on all fours. In the next holo-patio over, Mutara Sector’s lower-classmen had just lost half their Squad to the Kazon, having been taken totally off-guard.

As they watched, Bahred, Baxter, Kodene, Bizkit, Derok and Fastocheni burst out of the bushes, firing at the Kazon. Bahred and Kodene were at least taking aimed shots, while Bizkit and Fastocheni seemed to be having some trouble with mud in their weapons. Baxter and Derok simply held down the triggers on theirs, spraying the beams around like water from a garden hose while giving out loud war cries.

Still, within seconds, the Kazon were down.

On the other hand, so was Fastocheni.


“You idiot!” Quarterman shouted, running up to Baxter, “Do you know how many points we’re going to lose for this? What kind of moron are you!”

“A damned sexy one!” Baxter replied, “C’mon, I got some of the Keflon, didn’t I?”

“That’s not how you use a f**king phaser!” Veksai snapped, “And they were Kazon, not Keflon!”

“Hey, SHUT UP! All of you!” Malespere called, “We’re not finished yet! Bitch later!”

They ran up to the transporter beacon, a cylindrical device about three feet high. M’Kr’gr had slung Fastocheni over one shoulder and was carrying him.

Malespere’s padd beeped. He quickly read.

“OK, people!” he called, “We made the first objective! Now, there’s a Waystation-class starbase in orbit of the planet that’s been captured by a group of radical Andorians! We need to get up there and free the command crew!”

He stared at the beacon for a moment.

“Anybody know how to use this f**king thing?” he shouted.

“I guess this is the ‘intelligence test’ part of the scenario,” Bahred mused.

“Did anybody stay awake in Introduction to Federation Technology?” Bahred asked.

“Did anybody who was awake UNDERSTAND Intro to FedTech?” Kumari whined.

“Oh, let me in here!” Veksai said, pushing his way towards the device, “You said we need to get up to the starbase, right?”

“Yeah, and quickly!” Malespere said.

“You actually remember that class on transporter systems?” Bahred asked as Veksai tapped away and the control panel.

“Nope,” Veksai replied.

“Then how-“

There was a shimmer as the cadets dissolved in transporter beams, appearing on a broad transporter platform in the middle of a huge, empty cargo area.

“Did you do that?” Bahred asked.

“Yup.”

“Sweet!”

Malespere gave a signal and the cadets, after wracking their brains to remember what that particular signal meant, spread out and started securing the cargo bay. Quarterman was helping Fastocheni to his feet as the slim cadet recovered from the stun blast.

“So how do we find the command crew?” Bahred asked.

“Has anybody actually been on a Waystation-class station before?” Malespere asked.

“I lived on one, but I only ever saw the civilian areas,” Veksai shrugged.

“Hey, dudes!” Baxter called.

“We don’t have time for jokes, Dylan!” M’Kr’gr grumbled.

“But…”

“It’s a big station,” Veksai said, “They could be anywhere!”

“We could ask the computer,” Igor suggested, “It’s supposed to track everybody, right?”

“Guys…”

“Baxter, WHAT???” Malespere snapped.

“I found a map,” Baxter said, holding up a large padd, “It was just hanging by the door.” He handed the padd to Malespere.

“Take a f**king chill pill, dude!” Baxter said.

Malespere and his 2ICs gathered around the map. The station consisted of two giant saucers connected by a solid-looking connecting tube. Overall, it resembled a barbell standing on one end.

“OK,” Malespere pointed, ‘We’re here, at the bottom of the upper saucer,” he said, “The baddies are probably here,” he pointed at the operations tower at the top of the station, “And they probably have the command crew locked up…somewhere…”

“I said to ask the computer!” Igor called from his stakeout point.

“Oh, right. Uh, Bahred, you do that,” Malespere ordered, turning back to the padd.

As Bahred spoke to the computer, Malespere looked around the cargo bay again. Surely if this were a real hijacking, the Andorians would already know they were there. Would the holo-simulation be that realistic?

“The computer says the command crew is locked in Docking Bay 3,” Bahred reported, “Oh, and the turbo-lifts are busted too, by the way,”

They consulted the map. Bay 3 was one of the main docking bays, located on top of the of the upper saucer.

“So we only have to climb about…thirty decks or so,” M’Kr’gr shrugged, “Excellent!”


Thirty-five levels worth of Jefferies16 tubes did not fit everybody’s idea of a good time. With their hands and boots still slick with mud and rainwater, the ladder rungs became harder and harder to grip. Bahred and Malespere were bringing up there rear, closing off each level they passed. The better avoid having anybody who slipped fall down dozens of decks worth of tube before splattering against the bottom17. By Malespere’s count, they were just seven levels below the docking bays, when there was a sudden slowing of pace.

“Hey, let’s go up there!” he called out.

“Hold on!” somebody’s voice called back, “I need a breather!”

“We’ve gotta keep pushing!” Bahred shouted up the tube.

“I said hold on!”

As this was happening, Veksai found himself stuck in the middle of the line of cadets, clinging to the ladder. It wasn’t hard to figure out what has happening: The first part of the Challenge had been to test strength and agility, the second part was to test their wits and technical know-how. Now, their endurance was being tested. And from the sounds of it, they were in danger of having serious problems.

“HEY!” M’Gr’Kr’ snarled from the head of the line, “Listen, and listen good! There are dozens of other Squads out on this Parade Ring, and each one of them wants to win this race! If you just hang there, you’re not the only one losing, you’re pulling the rest of us down with you!”

“But-“

“Kodene, pass her up,” M’Kr’gr said.

With that, Kodene snagged the complainer with one tentacle and deposited her on M’Kr’gr’s shoulders.

“We’re going up,” M’Kr’gr said simply, then resumed climbing.


The cheers from outside the holo-patio renewed as Brute Squad resumed its climb. Soon they’d reached the docking bay level, and were running down the corridors at full speed.

There was a flash of light, and Igor dropped to the carpet, stunned.

“ANDORIANS!” Derok screamed, ducking into a doorway.

“Fire!” Malespere shouted, dropped to the deck and firing his training phaser.

“There’s more coming from behind!” Bahred called as blue faces started coming around the curve in the corridor.

“COME ON!” he screamed, pushing the Squad forward and into the docking bay.

They were on the lowest level of the multi-level bay. The massive docking bay door was closed and whatever was above them was hidden by the second-level deck. Suddenly they heard a voice cry out from above them.

“UP HERE! LET US OUT OF HERE!”

“The command crew!” Bahred exclaimed.

“But how do we get there?” Nuhvil called.

“There’s a stairway behind the Departures lounge!” the voice called back.

“We can’t get back out that way!” Igor said, firing his phaser through the exit door as another Andorian tried to push though.

“We’ve gotta get up there!” Malespere cried.

“We’ve gotta get one of us up there…” Bahred mused.

He an Malespere looked at M’Kr’gr and Kodene, then at Bizkit’s slim, tiny body.

“I have an idea!” they both said.


Thirty seconds later Bizkit let out an ear-splitting shriek as she was tossed unceremoniously up onto the upper level. (She was pretty sure Kodene’s suction cups had left marks. Did that mean it’d given her a hicky? EWWW!) With the sounds of phaser fire coming from below she found herself facing a group of Starfleet officers, each bound at the wrists. She quickly freed them.

“SIMULATION COMPLETE!” intoned the computer.

Abruptly, the simulated starbase faded away, showing the interior of the holo-patio. Buhras and the rest of the SNAP staff rushed them.

“HURRY!” Buhras shouted, “YOU’RE NOT DONE YET!”

The holo-patio had produced a deep red sphere, which Buhras thrust into Malespere’s hands. She pointed at the arched main entrance to the Parade Ring where a massive blue and white stone Federation emblem stood against Khitomer Building, circular with the various stars of the Federation depicted in white.

Except, the cadets realized, the centers of the stars weren’t white. They were black. Like holes…

Malespere stared at the crystal orb in his hands, realization striking home.

“LET’S GO!” he shouted, bolting for the emblem.


The cadets ran full tilt, passing holo-patios where other Squads were still completing their Challenges. Just around the Ring, they could see another Squad dressed in the Blue and Tan of Terran Sector rushing for the emblem, a deep blue orb clutched in the hands of their Squad Captain. Brute Squad fought to put on an extra burst of speed as their senior, mid and junior-classmen ran alongside, urging them on. They were covered in mud and exhausted, some of them stumbling more than running.

“THIS IS IT! BRUTE SQUAD!”’ Buhras shouted running ahead of them and pumping her fists, “THIS IS THE END!”

With one last burst of speed, Malespere flung himself at the emblem, finding the empty spot where the Antares Sector star should have been and thrusting the red orb into the receptacle. A loud chime rang out, and the orb shone with a brilliant red glow. A split second later there was another chime as the Terran Sector orb was slammed into place.

“WHOOO!!!!!!” somebody shrieked. Nobody knew who it was, but within seconds, the entire Squad was falling all over each other, hugging, shaking hands and laughing.

It was over. The gruelling PT, the brutal mornings, the planned-to-the-minute days. It was finally over.

SNAP was over!

And their time at the Academy was just beginning…


End


Dedicated to Savage Flight, FYOP 2007. “Hard as F**K!”


Next: SNAP may be over, but life at the Academy is just beginning. For Malepsere, Veksai, Igor and the rest of the Brute Squad cadets, it’s time to find out just how life changes once they’re actually part of the Academy. Was it worth going through a month of SNAP? Find out someday (I dunno when) in Crash Course 1.5!


  1. Dr. Tulson was first featured in the very, very, very first Star Traks story, written by Alan Decker. In that episode, he’d been kidnapped by the evil Joegonots and forced to build a transference beam that the Joegonots could use to take over the galaxy. He was later rescued by Captain Rydell and the crew of the USS Secondprize and the Joegonot threat was eliminated. In a nearby parallel universe, the transference beam was turned into a Happy Ray and used to enslave billions. But that’s another long story…and another reason to read the other Traks series! 

  2. LCARS - Library Computer Access and Retrieval System - the Starfleet computer operating system. Think of it as ‘Windows for Starships’ 

  3. Holodeck - A room capable of creating realistic and fully inter-active holograms. And lots and lots of interesting malfunctions. As you can imagine, what happens in the holodeck, stays in the holodeck. 

  4. Spleen - In Star Traks: Waystation we learn that the Andorians take their spleen pie very seriously. 

  5. Runabout - A small space craft about the size of a modern motor yacht. Larger than a shuttlecraft but smaller than a starship. 

  6. Colonel Martin Lazlo - A character on Star Traks: Waystation, Lazlo commands a group of marines stationed aboard the, er, station. He butts heads constantly with Captain Lisa Beck, the station’s commanding officer. He also really likes blowing things up, but usually just ends up getting himself into trouble. Sheppard, Copeland and Lt. Colonel O’Neal are also ‘borrowed’ from Waystation. 

  7. Yes, I realize that today, the concept of a cadet piloting a flying vehicle is crazy, but this is the 24th Century. Give me a break. 

  8. Orions - Not much is really know about the Orions, other than that many of them like being pirates. Trek also has a lot of references to a crime group called the ‘Orion Syndicate’, which seems to me to be a sort of interstellar mafia. So when it comes to Veksai, I’m making this up as I go. And no, I am NOT a psyco-killer, or a kleptomaniac. 

  9. Bed Parades: When cadets are made to practice getting out of bed. I’m not kidding…the wake-up music is played, cadets rush to get shaved, bush teeth, make beds and dress for morning sports…at which point the staff decides they were too slow and sends them back to bed to try again. 

  10. Holo-imager: Like a camera…only it takes 3D images. 

  11. Just for the record, the person who inspired Kumari did in fact inform her parents of her decision to join the military. At this point, I’m taking dramatic license and having a bit of fun. Actually, come to think of it, I’ve been doing that since the first page of the first story. Did I forget to mention that? 

  12. Qu’nos: The Klingon homeworld. 

  13. OK, I’ll confess, this is TOTALLY me being a smart-ass engineer. Artsmen work hard. In fact, I bet they spend as much time writing essays and papers for class as I spend writing these stories for this website. 

  14. Is it a coincidence that the red-and-white colours of Antares Sector correspond with the red-and-white of the Canadian Flag and the colours of Canada’s Royal Military College? And that white happens to be the colour of RMC’s #10 Squadron? Sure, a coincidence. Let’s go with that. 

  15. Honestly, why can’t the real speeches be that short? Asking for a friend. 

  16. Jefferies Tubes: Maintenance crawlways. 

  17. It’s a simulation, they wouldn’t actually splatter. But it would probably still hurt.