Author: Brendan Chris
Cadet Arc Igor rolled over in his bed, his eyes catching the digits on his alarm clock. 0559 hours. Any second now, he’d hear the sound of that bass drum, followed by the chorus of deep, Klingon voices marking the start of his hellish rush towards morning athletics. He’d already shaved the night before, so that would be quick. He was already wearing his athletic gear under his bed-sheets, so he wouldn’t have to change-
HIS ATHLETIC GEAR!
Looking under the covers, Igor was greeting only by the sight of his nearly naked body. SHIT! 0600! They’d be playing that song any second now! There’s no way he could get dressed in time, it was going to be a mad dash to…to…
Wait a minute.
0601 hours. No music.
Then it kicked in. SNAP was over. SNAP had been over for two weeks. There would be no wakeup music. No morning athletics. In fact, the only thing they had scheduled that morning was a squadron muster in the Fort Pike courtyard, and that wasn’t until 0730! Hell, he could just roll over, go back to bed and sleep for another hour!
Still, certain calls of nature demanded Igor’s attention, and so he climbed out of bed anyway. On the bunk below him, Baxter let own a low groan, then rolled over in his bunk. Stepping outside his door, Igor was nearly flattened as Gallium went racing down the hallway at top speed. Down the hall, a junior-classman from another sector was banging on Kodene’s door, yelling that he was late for the morning security duty briefing.
“Whoah!” Igor grumbled, still half asleep.
“Sorry Igor!” Gallium called back, “I’m going to be late!”
“Morning run! I want to get to the Golden Gate bridge and back before breakfast!’ Gallium called, then disappeared.
“But we don’t have athletics this morning,” Igor objected, “Do we?”
“No,” the blue-skinned Bolian cadet replied, “I just enjoy a morning run. See ya!”
Dodging the still-present hole in the floor, he left.
“He’s crazy,” Igor muttered.
“Dude, you’re crazy,’ Nuhville muttered, lying in bed.
“No, I’m hungry,” Veksai said, pulling on his cadet uniform with its fresh, mustard-yellow shoulders, “And if you want to eat before the muster thing, you should probably get up,”
“I’ll eat after,” Nuhville groaned.
“Don’t you have class right after?”
“Not until 1000 hours,” Nuville said, pulling his covers over his head and promptly ignoring his roommate.
“I f**king hate artsmen,” Veksai muttered, heading out the door.
<EngOps are crazy,> Nuville thought to himself before falling asleep.
For all of the Brute Squad cadets, the last two weeks had been…calm. Strangely so, after the constant demands of SNAP and the barely organized chaos of the Survival Challenge.
Everybody could still remember the aftermath of that event, even if the challenge itself was something of a blur. They’d completed the challenge, working their way through the holographic scenario that tested their skills, their wits and their determination. They’d rushed across the Parade Ring, racing the Terran Sector lower-classmen as each squad tried to be the first to place an orb representing their Sector star in the monolithic Federation emblem adorning the entrance to Khitomer Building. Brute Squad had barely - BARELY- managed to slip in ahead of Kirk Squad.
Unfortunately, they still didn’t will the challenge.
They’d placed well, with the best overall time. They’d also been the only lower-classman squad to run the challenge without having anybody sitting on the sidelines due to injury. Unfortunately, the points they’d lost due to minor penalties and errors had added up to cost them the lead.
Of course, nobody had really cared about that at the time…
Two Weeks Ago: End of SNAP:
The careful discipline they’d worked hard to build for the challenge had fallen apart with the chime that marked the end of their challenge, with cadets and SNAP staff falling all over each other shaking hands, slapping backs and celebrating a job well done. They’d been reigned in by their SNAP staff long enough for the Cadet Executive Officer (senior-classman Burch) to order the Academy to attention and for a group of senior officers to distribute commemorative coins to each of the cadets.
“What is this thing?” M’kr’gr growled, looking at his coin as if it was going to bite him.
“It’s a coin, silly,” Bizkit said, “It’s, like, so you remember. Like a souvenir!”
“I will never forget this day,” M’kr’gr said. He stared at the coin, which had the Academy logo engraved in one side and the Federation emblem engraved in the other, “I don’t need a petty souvenir to remind me,”
“Yeah well…it’s a tradition,” mid-classman Buhras interrupted, “C’mon, there’s something else we have to do!”
She’d led them at a run from the Parade Ring to the end of the Academy campus, a good ten-minute jog. They found themselves near the water, where an old but large and sturdy pier jutted out into the bay. “You’re all filthy!” she said.
“Excellent,” M’Kr’gr growled understanding immediately what would come next. With one hand, he plucked Buhras out of the air and tossed her, screaming, into the water.
Taking his cue, the rest of the cadets pounced on the SNAP staff. Fastocheni and Igor haled Vexnar to the edge of the pier and proceeded to chuck him into the water. Baxter and Malespere tossed in Kethnor, while Mecablox simply jumped into the water of his own accord. Drain was barking happily, even as Bizkit and Quarterman tossed him off the pier.
“Oh my Gods!” Kumari gasped, half in shock and half in delight.
“Payback time!” Veksai laughed.
One after another, the Brute Squad cadets jumped off the pier, splashing around in the bay.
The weekend had been a badly needed break. Even as the lower-classmen trudged back exhausted to Fort Pike, they’d been set upon by the junior-classmen. The juniors, true to their role, were there to help out. They’d collected Brute Squad’s filthy uniforms and had a bin of warm blankets ready.
Veksai was walking back into the Brute Squad hallway wanting nothing more than a hot shower, when he saw something that took his breath away:
Miss Buhras was tearing down the highway. The hated, hated hightway. That path they’d had to follow, taking them all around the corridor just to get one or two doors down.
“YES!” Veksai exclaimed, “Thank God!”
“I could leave it up for another day if you like…” Buhras offered.
“No, no. That’s fine.” Veksai said, holding up his hands in surrender.
Glancing at his terminal, he was somewhat surprised to see a blinking ‘MESSAGE WAITING” indicator.
Their communications had been enabled! His eyes almost bugging out, Veksai logged in to his FedNet account. Everything was available! Galacti-Tube, holo-show downloads, even Federnet Social!
Remembering that his parents were waiting outside Fort Pike, Veksai reluctantly shut down the system and headed for the showers.
Fort Pike had emptied out quickly.
Those cadets who had family on campus watching the Survival Challenge took a few moments to show them around, though nobody wanted to linger in Fort Pike. Veksai and his parents left for dinner in San Fransisco, Kumari and her parents were off to some posh royal retreat in the tropics and Igor and his sister went off to his sister’s apartment near Federation University. (His sister was an FU student.)
Soon, the SNAP staff found themselves in an empty corridor.
“By the Prophets, I’m glad that’s over with!” Buhras said, flopping down in a chair in the dilapidated Fort Pike lounge.
“Yes,” Vexnar agreed quietly, “Do you realize I haven’t had a really good fight in over a month?”
“I’ll fight ya!” Buhras giggled, jumping back to her feet and putting up her fists.
“You don’t even have a dagger!”
“You can’t draw blood with your bare hands!”
“Forget it,” Vexnar said, “I am going to the Warrior’s Den. Perhaps Senzix will be there. Now there is a girl who knows how to fight!”
“Isn’t she the 4th Order Andorian Pleasure Mistress?1” Kethnor asked.
Vexnar just grinned.
“I thought you wanted to fight?” Drain asked, scratching his ear with his lower foot-paw.
“An Andorian Pleasure Mistress can do more damage than a platoon of Federation Marines. Weren’t you paying attention in Federation Cultures 201?” Mecablox asked.
“Nope, he was taking a cat-nap!” Buhras giggled.
For some reason, Drain must have found this incredibly funny, as he promptly broke into a series of growly giggles.
The next day was the traditional Entry Ceremony2. Still separated from their respective Sectors, all the lower-classmen in the Academy were formed up around the Parade Ring in their Squads. Dressed in the drab SNAP uniforms, they were a strong counterpoint to the formal (but outdated) maroon uniforms worn by the junior, mid and senior classmen formed up behind them.
Standing there on Parade, Gell Gallium was almost bouncing on his tip-toes. He’d done it! SNAP was over! No more of, well, any of that crap! And soon he’d have his comm-badge!
The comm-badges weren’t particularly special, except to a cadet just finishing SNAP. They were simply communication devices that were worn on the uniform. Every single member of Starfleet wore one to keep in contact. The exceptions of course, were the SNAP cadets.
Along with the grey shoulders on their uniforms, the lack of comm-badge was yet another marker that just screamed out to the Academy that the cadet in question was on SNAP and was not officially an Academy cadet yet. It was just one more little thing that set them apart from the higher years, and it was one more thing that they’d grown to resent as SNAP went on.
But now, Gallium reflected, now they’d have their own badges! And properly coloured uniforms! And their distinctive Sector patch! Ohhhh, he could hardly wait!
Within minutes, though it seemed like hours, the cadets had been badged. And the command they’d been waiting weeks for was finally being given.
“Cadets of 62000 will join the Academy!” senior-classmen Burch called, “To your Sectors, quiiiiiiick….MARCH!”
As they marched, following the other lower-classmen squads as they curved around and marched into the waiting Sectors of higher years, many of the Brute Squad cadets couldn’t help but feel that the hard part was over. They were officially part of Antares Sector and the Academy now. Now they could sit back and focus on their studies.
Sunday evening, however, saw that illusion shattered.
Several of them still hung over from the prior evening’s ‘SNAP Got Snapped!’3 party, Brute Squad sat in the Sector Lounge while their former SNAP staff (now simply their Squad Staff) laid down a few ground rules.
“Back on campus by 2200 hours,” Buhras was saying, “0100 on weekends. You have to wear Class-D uniforms when you leave campus. You’ll take turns doing Security Duty in the Fort Pike monitoring room every evening. Ummm, mandatory sports are twice a week, 1900-2200 is quiet hours in quarters. What else?”
“Rooms remain at SNAP standard,” Kethnor growled.
“That too,” Buhras agreed, “Oh, and you’re not allowed to wear civilian cloths at any time!”
There was general groaning from the cadets. Veksai’s face was turning a very unhealthily shade of emerald green. Who the hell were these people, telling him how to dress in his off hours?
“What’s a Class-D uniform?” Wind, the somewhat blond-acting Asian girl asked.
“Did you ever see Admiral Kirk’s logs from around the V’ger incident?” Mecablox asked.
“You mean that big space-cloud that tried to eat Earth?” Wind asked, “I think we studied it. It ate a space station too, didn’t it?”
“You mean,” Gallium asked, “The Class-Ds are those incredibly drab grey and blue things?”
“The ones that hide nothing?” Quarterman asked, “Cuz I’m pretty sure I could see Scotty’s jumk right through those things!”
“Ewww!” Bizkit cried in disgust.
“Those are the Class-Ds” Mecabloxs nodded.
“What’s with the obsession with, like, totally out of date clothing here?” Gallium asked.
“Tradition,” Vexnar hissed.
“Yeah, but, c’mon!” Gallium went on, “We need a bit of fashion sense here! We can’t go around wearing outfits that look like pyjamas!”
“I’ve already been using mine as pyjamas,” Wind giggled.
“This is not open to discussion,” Mecablox said. Seeing that there were no further comments, he returned to his room. The rest of the Squad Staff followed suite.
The Brute Squad cadets looked around at each other, confused. There were no boots that needed polishing, no uniforms that needed ironing and no room inspection the next morning. What the heck were the supposed to do with themselves?
“So,” Bahred asked, “Now that that’s over with…who the hell are all you people???”
Weeks later, where the story originally started:
“Are you ready for the Non-Einsteinian Physics mid-term?” Kumari was asking Veksai.
“Is anybody?” the half-Orion asked morosely. Having been outside the Federation educational system for some time he’d been burying himself in his books, trying to get caught up.
“I dunno,” Kumari said, “I bet Bahred is,”
“I heard that!” Bahred called from across the table, “Wait, what?”
Veksai, Malespere, Kumari and Bahred, along with a couple dozen other EngOps students, were in the lower-classman Physics Laboratory. While they were ultimately studying different subjects, first year EngOps was common to pretty much all students. Their current experiment saw each of them tinkering with a tiny anti-matter reactor connected to a single warp coil.
“OK,” called out the professor, “Once the lab assistants have ensured that your magnetic connections are correct, I’ll turn on the antimatter flow. We wouldn’t want any massive explosions after all, do we?”
“What would happen if we hooked this up wrong?” Bahred wondered, eyeing the contraption he’d been working on.
A lab assistant looked over his shoulder, then switched around a couple of conduits.
“In your case, you would have caused an explosion big enough to vaporize everything in this room.” the assistant said.
As Bahred turned ghostly pale, Malespere chuckled.
“Don’t worry,” the assistant said as he checked Veksai’s connections, “They designed Khitomer building with internal force-fields, just in case. Somebody standing even just outside this room would be perfectly safe.
At least three lower-classmen bolted from the lab.
Once the antimatter flow was turned on, they started taking measurements on their coils.
“Carefully increase the plasma flow,” Kumari mumbled, reading off her padd, “Then look for a static field of fourty-five milli-Cochranes.” She reached for the adjustment controls, just beyond her slender arms. Stretching, she stabbed at the control, accidentally knocking her mini-reactor into her warp coil.
There was a sharp flash, then a bouncing orb of light shot out of Kumari’s coil, ricocheting around the room, bouncing repeatedly off the containment force-field and sending cadets and lab-assistants scrambling for cover.
“Oopsies,” Kumari whispered.
“Nicely done,” Veksai commented angrily, “Hey, we’re still alive over here, why don’t you try killing us again!”
“I’m so screwed in this class,” Kumari groaned.
A few levels up, Fastocheni and M’Kr’gr were in a different EngOps class, n-Dimensional Calculus.
“Und zo,” the professor (some sort of purple alien with big ears) was saying, his accent so thick as to be almost unintelligible, “Vonce u gets into za seventh dimension, ze karls bagin to-“
“I am not prepared for this mid-term,” M’Kr’gr admitted quietly to Fastocheni.
“Me neither, man,” the slender Italian agreed, “I mean, I’m good with all the three-dimensional stuff, but past that…”
Suddenly, one of the other cadets fell to the floor, clutching his head and screaming.
The cadets jumped to their feet in alarm, one of them hitting his comm-badge and calling the medical team.
Rushing to the cadet, the professor knelt down.
“Vhat do you zee?” he asked insistently.
Gasping in pain, the cadet clutched his head.
“The six-dimensional hyper-paraboloid!” he said, then passed out. Within seconds, a medical team had materialized in the room and quickly beamed away with the cadet.
“Oh, zis is most excellent!” the professor said excitedly.
“Huh?” one of the cadets said, “Is he gonna be OK?”
“Ze standard humanoid brain iz chust not capable of pervecing in more zan tree dimensions,” the prof said excitedly, “Even Vulcans can only vizualize four, maybe fife! But effery vonce in a vile, we haff cadet who can do it! Iz ecsellent”
The cadets looked at him in horror.
“Vell, ze seizures caused by such hyperdimensional zinking are unpleasant,” the professor admitted, “But zink of ze boon to mathematics!”
Fastocheni and M’Kr’gr exchanged glances.
“We are so screwed in this class,” Fastocheni said.
Later that evening Igor, Fastocheni and M’Kr’gr were gathered in one of the rooms in Fort Pike, studying.
“Has anybody seen Baxter yet tonight?” Igor asked, “He borrowed my tricorder, and I can’t work on Intro to Isolinear Circuitry without it,”
“He’s on duty in the security room, isn’t he?” Fastocheni asked.
“No, Fast,” his large, scaly roommate reminded him, “His shift ended half an hour ago,”
“Oh.” Fastocheni sat there for a minute.
“Wait, that means I was supposed to be on duty half an hour ago!” he suddenly exclaimed, grabbing his uniform jacket and bolting for the door.
He almost crushed Gallium on his way out.
“Whoah,” Gallium jumped back, “What’s the rush?”
“XL will tell you!” Fastocheni shouted back over his shoulder, running down the hallway and jumping gracefully over the hole in the floor.
“XL?” Gallium asked.
“That would be me,” M’Kr’gr said, flexing one arm, “It means ‘Extra Large’.”
“But you’re not that big,” Gallium said innocently.
M’Kr’gr bared his teeth.
There was a knock at the door. This time it was Veksai. The greenish alien was standing there, his face half hidden by a textbook padd.
“Does anybody in here understand this question on graviton repulsive forces?” he asked, barely seeming to be aware of who was in the room.
“My girlfriend says-“ Gallium started.
“You don’t have a girlfriend!” Igor interrupted.
“Yes I do! She goes to FU!” Gallium said.
Become more aware of his squad-mates, Veksai lifted his gaze from the book.
“Gallium,” he said, “Didn’t I hear you saying today that you wanted to get involved in…what was it…the Uniform Redesign Committee?”
“Oh yeah!” Gallium perked right up, “We’re bringing back a distinctive uniform for the Academy, instead of just using these active duty version during the day!”
“Wait,” Igor said, “You mean, instead of wearing what the rest of the fleet wears, at least during class, you want us to go back to some old thing that they got rid of years ago. Just like the Class-Ds we have to wear off campus, or those maroon outfits we wear for formal crap?”
“Oh yes!” Gallium exclaimed, “Only we’re going to totally update them, it’s going to be fabulous! We’ll make them more comfortable, more stylish, and maybe add a few accessories to spruce them up a bit!”
Igor, M’Kr’gr and Veksai exchanged a knowing look.
“His ‘girlfriend’,” Veksai said, making little air quotes with his free hand.
“Indeed,” M’Kr’gr narrowed his eyes.
“What?” Gallium asked innocently, looking around.
“Nothing,” Igor said, “It’s the 24th Century. Whatever floats your boat. Nobody cares.”
“But we do like to gossip,” added Veksai.
“I am going to the gym,” M’Kr’gr said, “Veksai, are you coming?”
“Later,” Veksai said, turning to leave, “I have to get this stuff finished.”
“Guys?” Gallium called after them as they went their separate directions, “What were you talking about? GUYS????”
Malespere, Kumari and Bahred were likewise studying in Malespere and Bahred’s room just down the hall. Malespere had found a large, interactive wall display and had it hanging from one wall. It was covered with equations and diagrams, not that they all necessarily understood what it all meant.
“So, wait,” Bahred was saying, “The structural integrity field strength has to exceed warp field intensity by a factor of what?”
“It’s right here,” Malespere said, pointing at a bizarre-looking equation.
“No, that can’t be right,” Kumari said, exasperated, “That gives me the same answer as the inertial dampening field intensity, and I’m pretty sure that’s wrong!”
Without warning, Veksai appeared at the door.
“Hey, have you guys started working on the graviton repulsion questions yet?” he asked.
“No man,” Bahred said, “We’re still working on the warp acceleration question,”
“Crap,” Veksai sighed. He looked at the display for a moment, then frowned.
“What are you doing?” he asked.
“Structural integrity strength,” Malespere said.
“Oh. You’re using the wrong formula,” Veskai said, turning to leave, “You need the hull stress tolerance for that one, not the acceleration neutralizer. I was banging my head over that one for over an hour,”
“That guy is strange,” Malespere said.
“A bit,” Kumari agreed.
“Huh? Why?” Bahred asked.
“He’s like, always studying by himself,” Kumari said, “He only comes out to ask questions!”
“He’s just weird,” Malespere added, “I mean, he’s all green, and stuff, too!”
“So?” Bahred asked, “So’s M’kr’gr,”
“And Vexnar is blue,” Kumari added.
“Yeah, but at least they ACT alien,” Malespere said, “Veksai, I mean, he’s half alien. He should act it, right?”
“He’s what, half Orion?” Kumari asked, “Or half…whatever M’Kr’gr is?”
“Orion,” Malespere said, “Pack of pirates,”
“He does have this really annoying habit of calling me ‘human female’,” Kumari said thoughtfully.
“See?” Malespere said, “Who knows what’s next?”
There was a crash as M’Kr’gr knocked on the door.
“Gym time,” he said flatly.
“OK, just let me wrap up here,” Malespere said, grabbing his stuff.
Despite the worrying, the fretting and in some cases the near-panic, the mid-term season didn’t result in the spontaneous combustion of any of the cadets.
“I’m surprised,” Veksai was saying to Fastocheni and Lucille Verone, a slender, dignified girl from one of the Federation colonies. Verone was a member of Brute Squad, but Veksai had only started to get to know her after SNAP had ended.
“Why, you did that bad?” Fast asked.
“No, I did good,” Veksai said, “Really good. That’s the surprise,”
“Oh, well that’s excellent then, right?” Verone asked.
“No,” Veksai groaned, “Now I have to try to keep my marks up through finals! It would have been easier if I’d just barely passed…it would have been easy to improve!”
“Don’t be so negative,” Fast said, “K, I gotta run, Melody is here,”
“Melody?” Veksai asked, watching as Fast left, moving…uh, ‘fast’.
“His girlfriend,” Verone said.
“Oh, right.” Veksai sighed, “I forgot you kids change partners every two weeks,”
“Hey!” Verone sat up, “Sylvester and I have been together for over a month!”
“Ok, ok,” Veksai held his hands up in surrender, “It just seems that since SNAP ended Fast is always off with somebody,”
“I don’t see YOU with any pretty young ladies,”
“I’m sitting here with you, aren’t I?”
“Yeah, well,” Veksai stretched, “I like my girls older. And greener.”
“Don’t be picky!”
“I like picky!” Veksai grumbled, “If I’m not eager to see my date after we’ve been together for a few weeks, then what’s the point?”
“Sounds like you’re no better than all the ‘kids’ around here,” Verone observed.
“Did I say I was?”
“Yes. Yes you did.”
Suddenly, Team Leader Kethnor poked his head into the room.
“Has anybody seen Nuhvill today?” he demanded.
“Uh, nope,” Veksai, Nuhvill’s roommate said.
“I see. I needed him to clean the Brute Squad hallway. Since he’s not here, you get to do it. Enjoy!”
“F**k,” Veksai muttered.
“Drive-by shafting!” Verone observed.
“This multi-dimensional vector stuff sucks,” Igor said, scratching his head. Baxter, Igor and Kodene were lounging around in Igor & Baxter’s room. Well, Igor was trying to study, but with the two (now three) artsmen in the room that really wasn’t working to well.
“Vector studies in arts is easy!” Baxter said, “See, if you start drinking at O’Ryan’s, then go drink at the The Platform, then stumble over to Groxmor and Firkin, then drag yourself back to O’Ryan’s for a nightcap, your vector sum is zero! Cuz you’re back at the same bar!”
“Hey! Guess what tomorrow is!” Gallium said excitedly, jumping into the room.
“666 To Blast-Off!” Baxter said, pumping his arms, “Booze and whores!”
Kodene and Baxter exchanged a high-five.
“Uh, no,” Gallium said, as Baxter started looking for something to wipe the slime off his hand with, “Our Bajoran exchange students arrive tomorrow!”
“After mid-terms?” Igor asked.
“Well, they were delayed. Heard of space-buffalo, I think.”
“And it’s 666 To Blast-Off,” Baxter said, “The senior classmen are gonna be haaaammered!’
As if to punctuate the point, he head-butted Kodene. The squid-alien simply picked the human up with one tentacle, then held him dangling near the ceiling.
“666 what’s?” Kodene asked in its low, slurping voice.
“Stardate things,” Gallium said, “I dunno how it works. But in 666 of them, the senior-classmen are gonna graduate,”
“What does that have to do with us?” Igor asked, giving up on his studies and turning off his padd.
“You guys don’t know?” Gallium looked horrified, his blue skin turning even bluer. “Quick! We need to find some senior-classmen!”
“Why?” Igor asked.
“Because we totally get to be them tomorrow!”
The next day:
Renath Ablis, Jekir Sentol, Ceder Cres and Terim Ungar sat calmly in the small shuttlecraft that was delivering them from Spacedock down to Starfleet Academy. Their home planet, Bajor, had been through drastic changes in the past two decades. From being occupied and enslaved by the Cardassians4 to being abandoned, to becoming a major commerce hub to becoming the front line of a massive war, Bajor had been in the middle of a multi-way tug-of-war for some time now. But with things now finally calming down the Bajoran people were becoming accustomed to a certain level of stability, and were becoming more comfortable with their role in the greater galactic picture.
To help with this, the four young Bajorans were being sent to Starfleet Academy, one of the most respected institutions of learning in the entire Federation, to learn skills and techniques that would better serve them and their world. There had been Bajorans at the Academy before, but instead of becoming officers these Bajorans would be returning home to pass on what they’d learned.
“Have any of you been on a Federation facility before now?” Ablis asked.
“We were all on Deep Space Nine,” Sentol pointed out, “Colonel Kira keeps things very…orderly,”
“So did Sisko, before her,” Ungar said.
“I expect,” Cres added, “That it will be just as tightly disciplined here,”
The shuttle landed in the Khitomer Building hanger bay. The four students were met by a young Starfleet Lieutenant and escorted down to ground level.
They found themselves staring in shock at the scene that greeted them.
All around the towering building, cadets were moving between classes. Half of them sported formal-looking maroon tunics, the rest standard Starfleet uniforms. There appeared to be some sort of mix-up, as none of the maroon tunics fit. Large, older cadets with broad shoulders were squeezed into tunics that couldn’t even be buttoned up properly, while younger, slimmer cadets practically swam in larger garments. Even stranger, the younger cadets seemed to be in charge.
“HEY! LOWER!” a short, furred cadet screamed at an Andorian cadet almost twice his size, “SWING THOSE ARMS WHEN YOU’RE MARCHING!”
“YES, SENIOR-CLASSMEN!” the Andorian shouted, a broad grin on his face.
Further down the Parade Ring, another younger cadet was assigning push-ups to an older Centaurian and a young, black human was accusing a very, very muscular Rigillian of insubordination.
The Bajoran exchange students exchanged a glance.
Looking slightly embarrassed, the Lieutenant escorted them to the Replicator Center, where they were outfitted with the equipment they’d need during their stay. As it was now later in the evening, they expected to find the campus fairly quiet, with most of the cadets inside studying.
The younger cadets had vanished, but the older ones, the senior-classmen, were running around the campus in costumes, carrying large bags of candy. As they were escorted into the building they would be staying in (Fort Archer), they found that the candy was coming from the lower classmen! The seniors would show up at the lowers rooms, demanding and receiving candy.
“What bizarre sort of planet is this?” Cres whispered.
Looking out the window of Fort Pike, Veksai and Gallium exchanged a glance.
“Some first impression, huh?” Veksai observed, taking off the senior-classman maroon tunic he’d been wearing as part of the day’s ‘traditional festivities’. “They had to come on lower-senior swap day,”
Down the hall, Malespere, Bahred, M’Kr’gr and Ross, a human from Vulcan Sector, were making plans of their own ‘traditional festivities’.
“Look, I have the supplies,” Malespere said, “it’s gonna be awesome!”
“When’s he leaving for the party?” Bahred asked.
“It starts at 2200h,” M’kr’gr said, “We will have several hours to complete this task,”
“No we won’t,” Malespere said, “We have to get all the senior classmen!”
“Naw,” Bahred said, “Veksai has Rian’s room, Guthar and Kodene are taking Mecablox’s room, and Verone has…uh, Picardson’s?”
“Whaterver,” Malespere said, “Good, then we just have to worry about Parami’s room,”
Some time later, Senior-Classman Parami was stumbling back to his room. As the Antares Sector Cadet Leader he played a large role in working with Lt. Wellington to take care of the day-to-day running of Antares Sector. Still, 666 to Blast-Off was a chance for all senior-classmen to get out and let loose.
Enjoying the drunken stupor brought on by too much synthehol, he reached his room, then stopped as realization hit home.
666 to Blast-Off was also the night when the lower-classmen were expected to sabotage all the senior-classmen’s rooms.
Almost fearfully, he tapped the open panel for his door.
Peering in carefully, he saw…nothing?
His bed, his desk, all of his possessions, everything was gone.
Looking down the hall, he could see several members of Brute Squad huddled behind a corner, snickering.
“Very funny guys,” he laughed, ‘What did you do, beam everything to the Sahara Desert?”
“Look up!” somebody called.
Everything he owned, from his bed to his paperback copy of ‘The Hunt for Red October’, was hovering near the roof, tiny antigravity units blinking as they held everything up.
“Cute,” he muttered.
Suddenly, one of the books flew right at him. Ducking, he managed to evade the book, just as his computer display set itself on course with his head.
“HOLY CRAP!” he shouted, as his possessions started flying right at him.
He ran down the hall, chased by the contents of his room, as the Brute Squad cadets laughed hysterically.
Renath Ablis and Jekir Sentol lay wide awake in their shared room, listening to the screams and curses of the Terran Sector senior-classmen. Outside their window a big, burly, red-headed cadet was running down the street, chased by flying furniture. Down the hall another senior-classmen was drunkenly trying to use a phaser cutter to slice though the doors to his room, which had been wielded together. Another cadet was trying to get his room out of a subspace pocket and had only succeeded in making half of the building (and half of the Terran Sector cadets) disappear into an artificial subspace anomaly.
“And these people are the future leaders of the quadrant?” Ablis asked aloud.
“May the Prophets help us all,” Sentor sighed.
“I don’t know why they don’t just call this the Starfleet Academy Christmas Ball,” Veksai grumbled, standing outside the entrance to the fitness complex, which had been temporarily redecorated for the ‘Starfleet Academy Non-Denominational, Non-Discriminatory Festive Meal and Socialization Event’.
“Something to do with the Political Correctness Riots of the 21st Century,” Gallium said.
“You’re just a fountain of useless information, aren’t you?” Veksai muttered.
“So are you!” Gallium shot back.
Hundreds of cadets were making their way into the cavernous building. All of the males were wearing the formal maroon tunics, while the females (and Quarterman) wore gowns, dresses, tribal wear, leather, or whatever their species considered as ‘formal wear’. (Vexnar’s date’s dress included enough metal spikes to build a Constitution-class starship.) It was the first time wearing the formal jackets for the most of the lower-classmen, and Veksai had to admit that it was impressive, if uncomfortable. Looking across the crowd of maroon, he wondered if this was going to be a classy, formal event, or a cheap drunk-fest.
Across San Francisco Bay, Fleet Admiral Ra’al and Admiral Harlan Baxter were standing in the courtyard on the roof of the towering Admiralty building. Across the water they could see Starfleet Academy, lit up like a Christmas tree. The booming beat of dance music could be clearly heard over the water.
“How much bad PR do you think we’ll be getting out of the Academy Ball this year?” Baxter grumbled, his traditional cigar held in one hand.
“As the commander of the Explorer Project5, you are hardly one to talk about bad PR,” Ra’al said haughtily.
“Don’t remind me,”
The next day…
“Well, that was disappointing,” Veksai grumbled.
“Are you whining again, half-breed?” M’Kr’gr complained.
“Are you whining about me whining, meat-bag?” Veksai shot back.
“I would have though,” Veksai said, “That an Academy-run function like that would have been more…I dunno…dignified?”
“You mean with less puking?” Fastocheni asked.
“You’re just upset because you had to go stag,” Fastocheni observed.
“Hey, just because my girlfriend can’t slice my uniform off me with an epee doesn’t mean-“
M’Kr’gr sat up.
“She can do that???” he demanded.
“Weapon skills are SOOO hot in a woman,” M’Kr’gr mused.
“Oh brother,” Veksai groaned, “I’m outta here.”
No sooner had he departed than the door chime sounded again. M’Kr’gr moved to answer it, finding himself face to…er, well. He wasn’t sure what exactly he was facing.
“Is Fastocheni here?” the thing asked, its voice issuing from a mechanical device on it’s…back.”
“Uh, Fast?” M’Kr’gr grumbled, “There’s a talking pile of rocks at the door that would like to speak with you,”
“Thanks!” Fastocheni said, hopping of his bed and greeting Hoget, a Horta6 cadet. Hogat was on the fencing team with Fastocheni, but so far nobody except the fencing team had seen just how the armless, legless, rocklike alien managed to hold a sword.
“Have you been studying for our Non-Einsteinian Physics final?” Hoget asked. A textbook-padd and a study padd were balanced on his back, where equations could plainly be seen.
“Yeah, man!” Fast said, “M’Kr’gr and I were just looking at that,”
“Did you get acceleration greater than the speed of light for problem 23-2?”
“Uhhhh…no. That’s not supposed to happen until we get into warp propulsion theory,” M’Kr’gr growled.
“That’s what I thought,” Hogat replied, “Why don’t you come study in my room, instead of in this…place?”
Hogat was a member of Altair Sector, which lived in Fort Gillam. As they walked down the tree-lined pathway between the buildings, Fastocheni couldn’t help but notice how empty the Academy seemed.
It was finals season, with final exams in progress and the cadets counting the days to a much needed winter vacation. Depending on who you asked, it was either the best or the worst time of the year.
Fort Gillam was a study in contrasts to Fort Pike, being one of the more recently renovated buildings on campus. The layout was identical, but the spotless corridors and glass doors gleamed like new. The high ceilings and wide windows let in the natural light and the furniture was completely intact. Some of Altair Sector cadets stared as both Fastocheni and M’Kr’gr swerved around a nondescript section of floor, as though unconsciously avoiding something.
“Man, I can never get over how nice these rooms are,” Fast said as they settled in to begin studying.
“I would prefer Fort Pike,” Hogat said, “The dark, the dank…so much more like my own home.”
“I agree M’Kr’gr,” If they would only install a swamp in the basement, it would be perfect,”
“You guys are nuts,” Fastocheni said, flipping on his padd, “I hope they renovate it soon!”
“I’m really starting to love exam season here,” Veskai said. He, Gallium, Quarterman, Baxter and Kodene were seated in the dining hall, picking at the daily special and wondering just what the holographic lunchroom staff had done to it this time. Last week, Malespere had found a severed human hand in his jambalaya. Luckily, it had been holographic and had vanished as soon as he’d tried complaining about it. Unfortunately, Kumari had puked all over the floor, and human vomit didn’t vanish as easily as holographic body parts.
“You’re nuts,” Quarterman said, “I hate it,”
“It’s great!” Veksai went on, “We don’t have classes, we don’t have morning musters, we don’t have Team Leaders popping by at all hours of the day to give us random jobs…we just have to study and write exams!”
“That’s the part I hate!” Quarterman snapped, grabbing hier fork and holding it against the green cadets throat, “You hear me? I HATE IT!”
“Whoah!” Baxter giggled, ‘“Somebody went and grew some balls!”
“I ALREADY TOLD YOU, I WAS BORN WITH THEM! I CAN’T HELP IT!” Quarterman screamed.
Cadets at the neighbouring tables were starting to stare.
“C’mon, let’s go back to Fort Pike,” Gallium said, trying to reassure the Hermat.
“It’s OK,” Baxter was saying to the staring cadets, “Hier species is supposed to have them,”
Quarterman wasn’t the only cadet suffering from stress. As they walked back into Fort Pike they could see lower, junior, mid and senior cadets huddled over their desks, cramming for whatever exam was next. (Or in a few cases, relaxing after having just finished an exam.)
“I am surprised that there is no silly human tradition that deals with this exam stress,” Kodene observed.
“There is,” Gallium said, “There’s an attack against Terran Sector tomorrow night,”
“Excuse me?” Veksai asked, eyebrows raised, “An attack?”
“Yeah!” Gallium said, “Y’know, with snowballs…”
Veksai crossed his arms.
“That is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard! Do you SEE snow on the ground???”
“Well, no, but-“
“How are you going to throw snowballs without snow?”
“Maybe they’ve got some kind of self-replicating snowball cannon,” Kodene wondered. It hadn’t been this talkative in at least two days.
They’d returned to their respective rooms when junior classmen Adeth and Junethec wandered into the Brute Squad hall. With the end of SNAP the lower-classmen had been able to get to know their Sector-mates a bit better. Nuhvill and Adeth had been quick friends, each enjoying the same ‘relaxed’ approach to their time at the Academy. How it was exactly that a boy with the body of a lizard could have red hair was something of a mystery, but when somebody had asked him about it he’d just loudly declared that ‘the carpet matched the drapes’. He wasn’t the same species as M’Kr’gr, but given the number of races in the Federation nobody was that surprised that two completely different species could both be green, reptilian and scaled. Junethec was almost bouncing on his feet, his tail swishing from side to side as he looked around the corridor. (Some of the Brute Squad cadets had observed that Veksai moved much like Junethec if the former drank too much coffee.)
“Hey, lowers!” Adeth called out, “We need a couple people with some technical know-how!”
Veksai popped his head out of his room.
“And the willingness to get into some trouble!” Adeth added.
Veksai’s head vanished. Baxter and Derok both jumped out into the hallway.
“Well, the trouble thing is more important that the techie skills thing anyway,” Junethec said.
As they left, Bahred popped his head out of his door.
“Where are they going?” he asked.
“I dunno,” Veksai said.
“I bets is has to do with the snowball fight tonight,” Malespere called from deeper in the room.
“Bets?” Veksai raised an eyebrow, “Did you turn your translator off again?”
“Yeah, man!” Malespere said, “I totally gotta get language thing down! What are you taking for yard language credit, anyway?”
“Andorian,” Veksai said, “And I think you mean ‘your’.”
“You gotta practice that more, man, or you’ll never get it!” Malespere said, “You gotta talk the talks, then walk the walks!”
“Malespere, have you ever listed to native Andorian?” Veksai asked.
“Turn your translator back on,” Veksai said. Once Malespere had complied, he spoke again.
“K’veltz nazz varrrrx!7” Veksai said calmly.
“Thank you,” Vexnar said, smiling as he walked by, “Your Andorian is improving!”
Malespere listened to the translation, his face darkening.
“F**k you too, asshole!” he snapped, throwing a shoe at his door panel, causing the doors to hiss shut.
“What did you do that for, man?” Bahred asked, now shut out of his room.
“This is why I don’t practice Andorian in Sector Lines,” Veksai sighed, “The language is 80% profanity. I was actually being polite!”
Across the campus Renath, Jekir, Ceder and Terim were seated just outside a spacious Fort Archer lounge. The skylights and glass walls gave a splendid view of the surrounding campus and a small terrace gave loungers a chance to sit outside. The coastal winter weather wasn’t exactly great for sunbathing, but sometimes you just needed some fresh air.
“This is much better than winter in Dakar province,” Ceder said, “By now we’d have two feet of snow, and exposed flesh would freeze in under a minute,”
Looking out at the deserted campus, Renath agreed. The grass and trees were still green and only the chill and the damp air darkened the day. He didn’t know if this part of Earth was always like this, but it wasn’t that bad of a way to spend winter.
Noticing something out of the corner of his eye, he pointed.
“Is that somebody on the roof of Khitomer building?” he asked.
They all looked. Sure enough, four tiny figures were up there.
“What are they doing?” Terim wondered.
“Probably another foolish human prank,” Jekir said, turning back to his textbook padd.
There was a flash of light, followed by a loud humming sound from the very peak of the building then a hazy, dome-shaped shield flickered into existence, covering the entire Academy like a bubble.
“I didn’t know this place had its own defensive shield,” Terim said excitedly, digging into his Academy Handbook.
“Shield?” Jekir jumped to his feet, “Is the Academy under attack?”
Looking out at the still, calm streets, Renath doubted it.
There was another hum, this one quieter and seeming to come all around them. Within minutes, big fat snowflakes were forming in the air around them, starting to whip around as temperature differentials started creating gusts of wind.
“I hate winter,” Ceder grunted.
“What the hell is going on out there?” Igor wondered, peering out his window. High above, he could see a pale blue dome arching over Fort Pike. The scattering of snowflakes had turned into a full-blown blizzard, with snow banks already forming around the neighbouring buildings. From the outside the Academy resembled a freshly-shaken snow globe!
“It’s snowing,” Bizkit observed, her face screwed up in confusion.
“On the Pacific Coast?” Veksai wondered.
“What’s going on?” Team Leader Kethnor asked, stepping into the room. He looked out the window, “Ah, I see the Academy’s weather control system has been hijacked. Do you know what that means?”
“No-“ Veksai started saying, until a snowball smacked into his face. Gallium was standing behind Kethnor, a second ball ready to throw.
“Somebody help me beat up Gallium,” Veksai said darkly.
Kethnor looked at the two of them, comparing the tall, broad-shouldered Veksai with the small but fit Gallium.
“You need help?” he asked incredulously.
Apparently, this was yet another one of those traditions that had been running for who-knows how many years. Once the artificial snowfall had deposited a couple feet of snow the air abruptly cleared. Cadets began pouring out of the dormitories, gathering in the pathways and moving out with one destination in mind: Fort Archer!
One of the first dormitories built on campus, Fort Archer was at the edge of the Academy, on San Francisco Bay. Nobody knew why, but as the Academy had expanded newer dormitories were built further inland, leaving Fort Archer and the Terran Sector cadets that lived there somewhat isolated from the rest of the Academy. The instant the snowfall had cleared several Terran Sector cadets ran out of the building, rolling massive snowballs and starting to create snow fortifications for the oncoming attack.
As the first wave of attacking cadets came into the clearing in front of Fort Archer they were easily dispatched with a wave of fire from the defenders. The second wave managed to get a round of ordinance off, with tightly packed snowballs pancaking against the stone walls of the building. The third wave managed to keep the Terran Sector cadets pinned down, long enough for several smaller groups to start a close in assault.
“This way!” Malespere called, ducking down behind a decorative bench. Bizkit, Baxter, Bahred and Kumari were right behind him, snowballs in hand.
“FIRE!” Malespere called, launching his snowball. The others let loose, and the projectiles arced just over the defensive snow wall, landing right on the defending cadets. Repacking fresh ordinance as they moved, Malespere led the others across a clearing and behind a tree, taking a few hits on his jacket on the way.
They were almost there! Snowballs were still flying between Terran Sector and the attacking cadets, leaving only a few defenders free to watch for fresh assaults. If the entire Academy had come out against Terran Sector it would have been an easy victory, but as with many things not everybody enjoyed this particular tradition.
Across the field opposite Malespere and his group, Kethnor and Vexnar were creeping towards Fort Archer. There was a flash of energy from the defenders, then a massive clump of loose snow flew into the air, crashing down on the mid-classmen. Somebody had dragged some sort of snow cannon out of Fort Archer!
“MOVE!” Malespere cried, “Before they fire that thing at us!”
Sprinting at full speed, the Brute Squad cadets barely missed being flattened by the second blast from the cannon. They managed to dodge the increasing volume of fire directed at them, as more Terran Sector cadets became aware of the flanking attack.
“TAKE THE TRENCH!” Malespere screamed, remembering something that the insane Colonel Lazlo had taught them.
They dove for the edge of Terran Sector’s defending wall. The instant they did, the nearest cadet pulled on a rope, then scrambled back.
A rope! That was the best they could do! HAH! Malepsere wound up, getting ready to nail the kid with his snowball, then Kumari screamed.
Malespere barely had time to look up and see the column of snow falling towards them before it hit, driving him to the ground and burying him in freezing coldness. The rope, as it turned out, was attached to a metal sheet that had been holding up the snow that had collected on that part of Fort Archer’s steep roof. When the plate had swung down, presto! Avalanche!
“We’ve had years to practice defending this place,” the Terran Sector cadet said smugly.
A blob of wet snow slid down Malespere’s back.
Exams were over. Following the snowball fight the Academy’s defensive shield and weather control system had been shut down, allowing the campus to return to normal weather conditions. As the exams wound down there was only one thing on everybody’s mind:
Standing in the shabby foyer of Fort Pike and dressed in his civilian cloths, Veksai contemplated the Sector Status Board displayed on one wall. Used to track the status of every Antares Sector cadet, the board displayed dozens of names. Some of them were unfamiliar, some of them slightly familiar (like Adeth or Parami) and others, well…
Veksai located Brute Squad’s listing on the board. Igor, Bizkit and Derok were already gone. M’Kr’gr and Veksai would be sharing a shuttle to Spacedock, where they would be returning to Paria and Waystation, respectively.
Having already said his goodbyes, Veksai took a moment to contemplate just how much his life had changed. Yeah, there were things about the Academy that he didn’t like. He absolutely hated the in-town dress code, the pointless security shifts and the impression that he wasn’t trusted to tie his shoes, let alone take care of his own physical fitness. And yet, he was bettering his education, preparing for a no-doubt interesting career and meeting people that after SNAP, he knew he would never forget. When he compared that to working in an almost-dead-end job for Dillon Enterprises, being ground into the dirt by a soulless mega-corporation, the Academy was definitely a step up.
“Are you ready to go?” M’Kr’gr growled politely.
Veksai tapped the panel, changing his status from ‘On Duty’ to ‘On Leave’.
“Yeah, yeah I am,” he said.
<As long as it’s not for too long,> he added to himself.
Next: With their first year halfway finished, Brute Squad faces a new Academy challenge. No, it’s not SNAP. But after going through one semester of gruelling academics, mandatory everything and the ‘gentle discipline’ of mid and senior classmen, do they really want to come back and go through all of that again? Find out at some point in the final Year 1 story of Star Traks: Crash Course.
You think human S&M women are rough? Vexnar bit the head off a squirrel, and Pleasure Mistresses still frighten him. (Of course, they turn him on even more, which is all the more frightening.) ↩
Entry Parade - Yup, this is a blatant rip-off. A certain Canadian school offers distinctive cap-badges upon completion of a certain orientation period. Trekkie spoof. ↩
A certain university in Canada had an equivalent, known unofficially as the ‘Frat & Puke’. ↩
Cardassians: Bad guys, and ugly too. ↩
The Explorer Project is the Starfleet program featured in Star Traks: The Vexed Generation. The USS Explorer and the USS Tracker are both assigned to this project, and either ship is capable of providing Starfleet with ample embarrassment. ↩
Horta - From the original Trek, these aliens resemble piles of rocks. They live underground and use powerful acids to burrow through solid rock. ↩
I have no idea what this means. I borrowed it from a scene in Star Traks: The Lost Years story 9. All I know is that it’s polite for Andorians. ↩