Author: Brendan Chris
“The test will begin in glorx seconds. Glorx…glorb…fingle. The test is underway.”
“Let’s DO this!” Marc Malespere cried, flinging himself into motion as the Academy Fitness Test (AFT) began.
“Wha?” Kumari exclaimed, stumbling as the testing apparatus lurched into motion, “No fair! What language is that anyway?”
“Who cares about the language?” Veksai grumbled, “Who the hell invented these ridiculous things?”
“The Vulcans,” Bahred said. He was having no difficultly whatsoever.
The bizarre contraptions used for the first part of the test resembled giant hamster wheels. Dozens of EngOps cadets were lined up in the Academy Fitness Center, trying to keep up as the wheels began to turn. Unfortunately for the cadets, the wheels didn’t just spin…they spontaneously (and without warning) changed speed and even pivoted. In the end, the cadets had to pay careful attention to make sure they matched the movements of the spinning wheels, which to Bahred seemed like an odd combination of a treadmill and a mechanical bull. So far though, aside from the initial surprise, they hadn’t had much trouble keeping up with the changes. On their first AFT during SNAP, Kodene had simply twined its tentacles around the wheel and allowed itself to spin with it. Unfortunately they’d disqualified him and made him take the retest after that.
“Level five,” announced the computer voice. There were yelps all around the room as the wheels pivoted hard to the left. Two cadets fell to the floor, hitting the mats with a thud. One of the test administrators walked over to the closets one.
“Rigillian, male, eighteen standard years,” the administrator said calmly, “Level five. You fail. Re-test is in two weeks,”
The Brute Squad cadets would have watched as the dejected cadet left the room, but they were understandably busy.
“Level six,” announced the voice. This time over a dozen cadets fell (or jumped down) from their wheels.
“Are we done?” Baxter asked, sweat already pouring down his face.
“Only if you’re a woman, a Horta or over forty standard years old,” Gallium gasped.
“We are so not done this!” Malespere exclaimed, “Let’s go people, let’s show them what Antares Sector can do! Let’s PUSH IT!”
“AIIIIIEEEEE!!!!!” Kumari cried, falling from her wheel and cart wheeling through the air.
“Human, female, eighteen standard years. You pass,” one of the administrators said, leaning over the Indian girl.
“Thanks,” Kumari said, holding her head and trying to make her world stop spinning.
After several more tests the cadets were excused for the day. Veksai, Igor and Fastocheni were walking back to Fort Pike when Gallium jogged up beside them.
“Hey guys!” he said “Guess what I got my girlfriend for Valentine’s Day!”
“It’s not Valentine’s Day yet,” Igor said, “It’s still January! We’ve only been back at school for two weeks!”
“Girlfriend,” Fastocheni mused, “Would this be the girlfriend that none of us has ever met?”
“That some of us think may be fictitious?” Veksai suggested, exchanging a glance with Fast.
“She’s real!” Gallium protested.
“Annnnd…you bought her a thong…” Igor said slowly.
“I think he bought himself a thong,” Veksai suggested.
“Ooohhh, good thought!”
“It’s not for me, and I’m not into that kind of thing!” Gallium said.
“Hey, aren’t you on the uniform redesign committee?” Veksai asked suddenly, “Y’know, the one that’s trying to give us something a bit more distinctive than the regular fleetwear?”
“Oh, it’s going to be fantastic!” Gallium said, excitedly, “We’re modeling the new designs for the Commandant next week! They’re going to be great! Oh, and we found this great fabric…it’s so stretchy, it makes it easier for the uniforms to fit different species…”
The other cadets exchanged a look.
“What?” Gallium asked, looking at the three of them in confusion.
“You are SO gay,” Igor giggled.
Unfortunately, a passing senior-classmen didn’t appreciate Igor’s opinion, which led to a very vocal dressing-down and an impromptu lecture on humanoid equality and freedom of adult consent. Once they were finished being yelled at they resumed their trek back to Fort Pike.
After three weeks of holiday vacation Brute Squad, Antares Sector and the rest of the Academy had returned from visiting friends, family and so forth to face another semester at the Academy. For some of the lower-classmen cadets the decision to return had been an easy one, though for different reasons. Gallium had fallen right into the Academy lifestyle, and nothing short of a restraining order could keep him away. Veksai on the other hand didn’t see that he had much of a choice. He’d pretty much given up the life he’d had for the Academy and turning back wasn’t much of an option. That wasn’t to say he wanted to…he’d actually found that by the time his vacation was ending he was almost eager to get back to see the rest of Brute Squad again. Some cadets however were not happy to come back, and some had even gone so far as to resign.
It was something that intellectually everybody knew could happen. They weren’t bound to the Academy or to Starfleet until they started their junior year; they could leave at any time. One bit of paperwork and poof…they could be civilians again. Brute Squad had lost Zenith and Val’gural before SNAP had even ended. Still, after all the work they’d already put into their first few months at the Academy, after the chaos of SNAP and the victory of the Survival Challenge, the idea that somebody would up and quit just when things were getting easier seemed…alien.
The second semester was definitely ripe with changes, and the loss of some classmates wasn’t the least of them. Two more changes were waiting for them when they got back to Fort Pike.
“Here are your new staff and room assignments,” mid-classman Kethnor said, stopping Veksai and handing him a padd as the group of cadets entered the Brute Squad hallway.
“We change rooms and Team Leaders every semester,” Gallium said, “Didn’t you know? We have a new Sector Leader, a new Cadet Executive Officer, all that stuff.”
“I…I never really thought about it,” Veksai admitted, “Soo…our SNAP staff is-“
“No longer your concern,” Kethnor said gruffly, “Do not get all sentimental, human. Your new Team Leader will be more than adequate. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go hunt and kill something,”
They watched as the former SNAP Team Leader stalked away.
“Wait, you’ve got junior-classmen Prithar for your Team Leader?” Igor asked, looked at the padd.
“Yeah, and you for a roommate,” Veksai said, frowning. He shrugged. “I can live with that.”
“Just don’t go ‘pirating’ any of my stuff!” Igor said.
“Is that an Orion joke?” Veksai chuckled, “Please. If I’m going to steal something, it may as well be something worth stealing!”
“I’ve got mid-classman Noig as a Team Leader,” Gallium said, “But that doesn’t make sense…I know he’s in Panther Squad this semester.”
“That can’t be right!”
Having noticed their confusion, mid-classman Buhras sauntered over.
“What’s up?” she asked. They quickly explained the situation.
“It’s all right,” she said, her usual giggles replaced by her more serious ‘business face’. “We’re spreading you out throughout the Sector. Antares does it every year.”
“Sooo…we’re not Brute Squad anymore?” Veksai asked.
“Somebody will be,” Buhras said sharply, “Antares has three Squads, and you need to learn that you’re part of our Sector now, not just part of your own little lower-classman Squad. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I…I have to go…yell at Malespere for…for something…”
She turned and stalked away, much like Kethnor had.
“I think they’re really going to miss us,” Fastocheni observed.
That weekend was a frenzy of activity. No matter whether you were moving from one planet to another, or just to another floor in the same building, moving days were ALWAYS frenzies of activity.
“Why are we moving out of our hallway?” Quarterman demanded, “What’s the point? I wanna live next to you guys, not a bunch of strange senior cadets!”
“I hear they want to mix us up with the rest of the Sector,” Derok, the Tellarite cadet, said while watching hier pack hier things into a box, “Like, to let us get to know everybody better,”
“Does every Sector do this??”
“Nope, just Antares!” this time it was mid-classman Drain, the dog-like alien having just stopped by the door, “We do things a bit differently. Lt. Wellington and the Antares Sector Leaders usually find that this helps you lowers blend in,”
“That’s smart!” Derok exclaimed, “Why doesn’t everybody do it?”
“Because breaking up the lower-classman squad probably takes away their easy source of slave labour,” Quarterman groused.
“Bingo!” Drain said. He broke out into gruff chuckles, having apparently found the word amusing for some reason.
“So cutie, what brings you down here?” Quarterman asked, eager for an excuse to stop packing “You just chatting or did you want to spend some time with little old me?”
“Actually, I’m waiting for you to get out. This is my room now,” Drain said.
Quarterman started turning red.
“Do you hear shouting?” M’Kr’gr asked Fastocheni as the two of them packed up their room.
“Somebody must have made a joke about Quarterman having balls again,” Fast said.
“I really don’t want to think about it,” Fast cut the reptilian cadet off, “Um, how was your holiday?”
“You mean my week-long trip to the Parian system, which left me with barely a week to visit my ‘family’, which consists of near-identical, artificially created clones?” M’Kr’gr growled.
“My girlfriend was happy to see me,” Mr’Kr’gr shrugged.
“If you’re all clones…”
“We are different enough!” the reptile snapped. He was getting tired of explaining just how a species that had been artificially created now found itself having to kick its reproduction into overdrive to perpetuate the species.
“Sooo…” Fastocheni said slowly, looking for a change in topic, “I hear everybody else is moving out of Fort Pike.”
“You hear right,” Veksai said from outside the door, a large box of uniform parts in his hands, “We’re going to be the only Sector living here,”
“Feels like we were already,”
“Veltran Sector was up on the fourth floor,” Veksai explained, “They’re going into Fort Elgar, the new building. Bajor Sector was on the third floor, they’re going into Fort Castellani-“
“Veltran Sector? Never heard of that place. Why do we have a cadet Sector named after them?”
“They’re relatively new, I think,” Veksai shrugged.
“Whatchu guys talking about? Dylan Baxter asked, stopping and joining the conversation. (It was a constant truth of living in the cadet dormitories…people wandered in and out of conversations like birds flitting in and out of trees.)
“How come everybody except us is moving into new and renovated buildings while we stay in this death-trap,” Fastocheni said.
“Aww, come on,” Baxter laughed, “Who cares? What’s to say those other buildings are any better?”
“I did an article on them for the Academy newsletter,” Veksai sighed, “Y’know, ‘Explorations’?”
There was a loud THUD from the general ‘up’ direction; probably a Bajoran Sector cadet dropping something. A small piece of Fast and M’Kr’gr’s ceiling cracked, broke and fell to the floor.
“Very nice,” Veksai said dryly.
“So, you like, write stuff?” Baxter said, suddenly yet unsurprising distracted from the previous topic, “That’s cool!”
“He goes into town every weekend,” Fastocheni said. He and Veksai often left the building around the same time, though Fast was off to fencing as opposed to town.
“Aww, I’m too hung over to do anything useful on the weekend,” Baxter giggled.
“Life of an artsman,” Veksai grumbled.
“Dude, you should like, totally write something about us!” Baxter exclaimed, “Like a story, or even a mini-series! That would be SOOO cool!”
The former Brute Squad cadets exchanged a glance.
“Why would I want to do that?” Veksai wondered.
“Because we’re cool and exciting!” Baxter said happily.
“No comment,” Veksai said, picking his box back up and heading towards his new room.
“What do you think, frog-face?” Baxter asked M’Kr’gr, punching the larger alien on the shoulder.
“Get out, human,” M’Kr’gr growled.
“Geez, get a sense of humour!”
As the weeks passed the Antares Sector lowers fell back into a routine. It was almost the same routine they’d had in the first semester: classes, mandatory sports, duty shifts, studying, Sector briefings, Academy form-ups and etc. The difference was that instead of being tossed into the fray like they were with SNAP, this time they were given more of a chance to ease into the semester. And unlike the first semester, there was actual free time for leisure activities right off the start…though more for some than for others. Fastocheni, Lucile Verone and Bahred were all on Academy sports teams, which saw them leaving for various games and competitions on the weekends. Veksai, in addition to his weekend forays to town, played with one of the Academy music groups and wrote for the Academy newsletter. And the artsmen cadets could be found suffering from genuine alcohol hangovers every single weekend.
By all rights, it should have been an easier semester than the first one.
Should have been, Veksai mused as he stepped off the tram and onto the bustling streets of San Francisco. He was walking towards one of his favourite coffee shops, padd in hand and ready for a productive morning. He was also wearing the drab Class-D uniform that lower-classmen were forced to wear whenever they left the Academy. Around him he could see more than the occasional stare as civilians walked by. A group of young students wearing Federation University jackets gave him a mocking glance as they passed by. Not two minutes later a Vulcan child pointed and asked his mother ‘why is that human dressed so illogically?’.
Veksai fumed. He wouldn’t be dressed like this if some uppity senior-classman (whichever one it was) hadn’t decided that the lower-classmen had to wear uniforms in town for another semester. He was years older than these people, what f**king right did they have to tell him how to dress during his off hours! Wasn’t it enough that the Academy had determined his course schedule, his roommate, his cloths while he was on duty and most of his extra-curricular activities, they wanted to control what he wore in his off-hours too? Wasn’t it enough that they were piling assignment after mid-term after quiz on him? Wasn’t it enough that he was trying to do, in four years, a compressed degree program that would take the average university student five or six?
Unaware that he was now scowling strongly enough to frighten small children he entered his café of choice, a small, comfortable establishment owned by a young human couple. He could have gone to the Beanus Coffee Hut closer to the tram station or to Scotty’s, one of the lounges on the Academy campus. But something about putting a large body of water between himself and the Academy had become very soothing.
He settled himself into an empty seat, coffee, padd and some sort of Vulcan pastry all arrayed in front of him on the table. He opened up his current story, something about a group of officer-cadets at one of Earth’s 21st Century military colleges. Hmmm. If Kumari were a girl in the 2000s would she still be a princess? Probably not, Veksai decided, but she’d probably still act like it.
Burying himself in the imaginary and trying to forget how stressful his life had become, Veksai started writing.
As Veksai tried to forget that he was in public wearing a uniform that looked like footie-pyjamas, Kumari was in one of the lower-classman laboratories in Khitomer Building. She was still having a really hard time in her Non-Einsteinian Physics class and had logged herself for some extra lab time. Unfortunately that meant she was all alone in the lab. There were no lab assistants, no professors and no other students. Just herself, a complicated looking assembly and the automatic computer safety cut-offs.
After nearly an hour of painstaking work she was almost ready to start her experiment. It wasn’t too bad: a simple shield generator sat on her work-bench and a low-powered phaser array had been carefully calibrated to fire a beam that would cause the shield to destabilize. All she had to do was take some measurements and then she could enjoy the rest of her weekend.
It was Crott, one of her classmates. A Brikar, Crott resembled some kind of walking geological formation. His head was blocky and his extremely thick skin looked almost like granite. He was also loud, slightly obnoxious and not especially careful when it came to the softer-skinned beings around him, leading to a few minor injuries.
“Hi Crott,” Kumari said, “What’s up?”
“I’ve got an itch I can’t scratch,” Crott said in his deep, deep voice, “I need some of the…oh, there it is! Most excellent!”
To Kumari’s dismay, he proceeded to activate her experimental phaser, then stood right in front of it, sighing in pleasure as the beam seared into his back, barely leaving a mark on the thick, dense hide. After a few moments, the beam cut out.
“Much better,” he said. As he turned to leave, one heavy arm brushed against the weak shield bubble. With a small puff of smoke and a half-hearted spark, the generator died.
Kumari could only stare in horror at the ruined mess of her experiment, her heart dropping as she considered just how long it was going to take her to fix this mess.
Later that evening Igor and Gallium were seated in Scotty’s, the Academy lounge most popular with the human students. The Andorians and the few Klingon students preferred The Warrior’s Den, with its heavy metal architecture, sparring ring and in-house infirmary. The Vulcan students preferred the soothing teas and utter silence of The Meditative Sphinx. The two cadets sat in a pair of armchairs next to a panoramic wall of windows that looked out at the Academy grounds.
“Aw, c’mon man! I know I’m good in bed!” Malespere was boasting loudly at a nearby table, “I always get off!”
“That’s an interesting way to put it,” Gallium mused.
“I don’t want to think about it,” Igor said.
“Huh. Hey, did T’Henki talk to you about the Sector photos we’re taking next week?”
“No,” Igor said, “She never talks to me. Actually, I don’t think any of the higher years talk to me much…or to most of us!”
“Oh, no!” Gallium said, “Malesphere and Buhras get along really good. And T’Henki and I are both taking the emergency medical course together.”
“Yeah, that doesn’t do the rest of us much good,” Igor said, “I dunno…I just thought that we’d be treated a bit…differently, now that we’re spread out in the Sector,”
“We are,” Gallium said, his face looking as earnest as ever, “you just haven’t noticed yet!”
They watched as Malesphere continued joking around with the other cadets, none of them people that Gallium or Igor knew.
“You boys having fun?” Bahred asked, coming up and taking a seat. The three of them looked slightly ridiculous sitting in the lounge, a pitcher of synthoholic1 beer in front of them and all three of them still dressed in the ridiculous Class-D uniforms. Behind them a fish aquarium bubbled, tiny multicoloured fish swimming happily away.
“Who are those guys that Malespere’s hanging out with?” Gallium asked.
“Red Squad,” Bahred said, “Marc’s trying to get onto the Squad,”
“Huh?” Igor looked confused, “He’s leaving Antares Sector?”
“No, no!” Bahred said quickly, “He’d just be living with them, and doing different extra-curricular activities and stuff,”
Red Squad was the Academy’s ‘elite’ cadet squad, as much as a cadet could be elite. Aside from their standard classes, members of Red Squad were given the privilege of receiving advanced training, extra PT workouts and of taking part in the annual Solarious Contest, in which teams from Starfleet Academy, the Andorian Death Squads, the Klingon Imperial Academy and various other military and para-military training centers competed in a variety of tasks. Few cadets were chosen for Red Squad due to the physical and mental demands. (And because relatively few cadets applied.) On the other hand, the superior attitudes adopted by many Red Squad members had fostered more than a bit of resentment among the other cadets. Malespere however had found the ‘Let’s f**king do this!’ attitude of Red Squad to be a perfect match for his own.
Akavarti Kumari trudged over to the table, a long look on her face.
“What’s up, Varti?” Bahred asked.
“Lab experiment. Crott’s an ass. I’m very tired.” Kumari said, plopping into a seat, “And what the heck is Marc doing?”
Malesphere, by this time, had his hands on those of a female Red Squad cadet and was turning his most charming smile in her direction. The girl giggled, evidently flattered.
“He’s…working on his social networking,” Bahred said.
They turned and were utterly unsurprised to see Dylan Baxter and Kodene walking (and slithering) towards them. Baxter had another full pitcher of beer in his hand, and Kodene had a strange, bulbous, steaming barrel of some Velvattian beverage. Quarterman was close behind.
“This is turning into a Brute Squad night,” Igor commented.
“Nothing wrong with that!” Gallium said cheerfully.
“Who’s ready to get haaaaaammmered?” Baxter asked, sloshing beer on his shoes as he plopped into another chair.
“Not me,” Kumari groaned, “I’ve had SUCH a bad day,”
“Bad day?” Igor leaned on the table, “This is turning into a bad month! I failed my n-Dimensional Hyper-Calculus test last week!”
“Then you really need one!” Baxter said, passing them glasses.
“Maybe,” Kumari muttered, taking a sip. She looked out across the lounge and noticed a tall, red-headed human looking her way. He quickly looked away, then moved towards the bar.
“So, like, are you guys coming to The Platform this weekend?” Baxter slurred, referring to a popular club in San Fransisco, “Everybody’s gonna be there! It’s gonna be awesome!”
“I have to work on my n-Dimensional Hyper-Calculus,” Kumari said, her eyes still off in the direction of the red-headed cadet.
“I have to study, too,” Igor said glumly, “Before I fail the whole course,”
“I should be studying,” Quarterman said brightly, “But I wanna come too!”
“Atta gurl!” Baxter exclaimed, holding his hand up for a high-five.
“No can do bro,” Bahred said, “I have swim team practice Sunday morning.” His eyes flickered over towards Kodene, “Um…”
Kodene turned its heavy bulk in Bahred’s direction.
“What,” it said, vapours from its drink escaping its vertical mouth-slit.
“Ah, well, nothing,” Bahred said quickly, “It’s just…the last time I swam against a Valvattian, it tried to eat me,”
“Humans are delicious,” Kodene said.
“HEY!!!” Quarterman snapped, “What kinda thing is that to say?”
As the conversation/argument ensued, nobody noticed Baxter staring at one of Kodene’s egg nodules with an expression mixed between bewilderment and fascination. Kodene was usually very carefully about packaging them in stasis pods and shipping them back to its homeworld. Being a bit drunk, it’d missed a couple that night. Baxter slowly reached out a finger and poked the nearest pod. It fell off, with Baxter barely catching it. He stared at the tiny pod, about the size of a grape, with a small outline already visible inside.
“Nastly, “ he muttered, tossing it over his shoulder and into the fish tank.
“My girlfriend and I are going to Los Angeles next weekend,” Gallium was saying.
“His ‘girlfriend’,” Igor made little air quotes.
“Pool, now,” Kodene said, “I am going to destroy you,”
“UHHH I GOTTA GO!” Bahred said quickly, slipping out of his seat and rushing for another crowd of cadets, slipping frightened-looking glances in Kodene’s direction.
“You’re on!” Baxter said to the squid-like alien, the two of them heading to one of the pool tables lining the far wall, “Hey, what’s with Bahred? He that scared of people playing with big sticks?”
“You gonna come watch?” Quarterman asked Kumari.
“Hmm? No,” the brown-skinned girl said, “I’m trying to figure out who that is,” she pointed at the red-head.
“Never seen him before,” Quaterman said, “Go say hi,”
“What? No! Why?”
“Go see him, yes, because you’re interested. And he’s looking back right now, so he’s interested too,”
“Then why doesn’t he come over here?”
“Wow, you really haven’t dated much, have you?”
“Uh-huh,” Quarterman crossed her arms, “Varti, we don’t even have men on my planet and I still know that the cute ones like that are too terrified to come talk to anything that has a pair of breasts,”
“Guys are scared of them,” Quarterman said, cupping her own playfully and drawing many interested looks from the surrounding male cadets, “It’s funny!”
“I just don’t get how you manage on a planet without men,” Varti said, shuddering delicately.
“Well, sometimes I’m the girl, sometimes s/he’s the girl,” Quarterman’s eyes took on a mischievous gleam, “sometimes we’re both the girl,”
“OK, fine, I’ll go talk to him!” Kumari sighed, draining her beer and rising. She sat back down, “Later.”
“Honey, you need to grow a pair,” Quarterman said, eying one of the cadets who was still looking in hier direction.
Mid-term season came, mid-term season went. As it had been in the first semester, second semester again saw it as a time of stress, studying and in some cases near-panic. Kumari, Bahred and Malespere responded by tightening their group study sessions, while Veksai once again withdrew to his room, buried himself in his work and only occasionally popped his head out to ask a question, or to answer a question somebody had brought to him. Veksai had been surprised at how quickly his academic skills had apparently returned; even through the workload was heavy he wasn’t freaking out as badly as he’d been in during the first semester. Of course, he’d been playing catch-up after over half a decade outside the educational system…
Many of the cadets were still juggling multiple tasks. Everybody was again playing on one of the Sector sports teams except for the cadets like Fastocheni and Wind, who played on Academy teams; fencing and Tae Kwan Do respectively. Everybody had been surprised by Wind. The quiet, shy Asian girl didn’t say much around the Sector lines, but she was apparently capable of breaking a Klingon in half. Language lessons were continuing, with much grumbling about how pointless it was to learn another language with Universal Translators everywhere. Still, Vexnar was more than willing to help out those cadets who needed to work on their Andorian and Kethnor (and anyone studying Klingon) could be heard shouting up a storm at least once a week. Various other bits of Academy minutia were piled atop the plate as well. Duty shifts for the lower-classmen, Academy form-ups twice a week which saw all Sectors of the Academy gathering on the Parade Ring to be addressed by the Commendant or the Director of Cadets, the DirKat, usually before the sun was fully up. Garbage sweeps around the now-nearly-deserted Fort Pike, morning exercises, briefings, meetings…it was amazing the sort of things you could squeeze into that first hour of the day before classes started. Once a week half a morning was set aside for various serving officers or officials to come in and speak to different cadet groups. One morning saw the lower-classmen listening to a rather boring, long-winding briefing about the importance of Humanoid Resources by a tall, blond woman with black eye shadow, lipstick and nail polish. The mid-classmen on the other hand, enjoyed a briefing by an older looking Admiral on the upcoming expansions to the Waystation Project, whatever the hell the Waystation Project was. Adon Solaris, one of the Antares Sector mid-classmen, had dozed through the briefing and for some reason thought it had had something to do with dumbbells.
Through it all, hard at work, usually tired (in the case of the Eng/Ops students) or hung-over (in the case of Baxter, Kodene and Nuhville), the lower-classmen did notice that the semester was a lot more…comfortable than the last. Their dispersal into the Sector had actually turned out to be an excellent move, as they were now becoming friends with the mid-, junior- and even senior-classmen of the Sector. Friendships were forming between cadets of different Sectors, usually through shared classes or sports teams and many lower-classmen were finally starting to feel comfortable living on the campus.
A few others, not so much.
“You don’t look so good,” Cadet Cheng, an older lower-classman and one of Veksai’s classmates said to him one morning.
“I don’t feel so good,” Veksai muttered. They were sitting in one of the lecture halls, waiting for their Linear Temporal Theory class to begin.
“Too much schoolwork?” Cheng asked.
“Naw, the schoolwork’s not as bad this semester,” Veksai said, looking around, “it’s…well…living with a bunch of nineteen year-olds. It’s getting to me,”
“Ahhh,” Cheng nodded, understanding.
“I lived on my own for years, now I’m sharing a room with a nineteen year-old kid with stinky feet,” Veksai grumbled, “I mean, don’t get me wrong, Igor’s a good guy, I just don’t him sleeping three feet away from he. And frick’n Baxter is always running or stumbling up and down the halls shouting about something or other…and yesterday, a pack of Red Squad cadets ran by carrying a dead fish! What they hell were they doing with a dead fish in the middle of Fort Pike?”
“Ohhh…so that’s where it came from. Somebody put a dead fish on one of the Red Squad cadets’ pillow.
“WHO THE HELL DOES THAT!” Veksai exclaimed, “That’s…that’s…NUTS!”
“It’s all in fun, right man?”
“Yeah, well,” Veksai grumbled, “Sometimes I think it would have been easier if I’d just stayed on Waystation and gone to the Academy Annex. At least then I’d only have the classes, not all this extra crap,”
“Yeah well. Here you get the extra prestige of going to the Academy itself, right?” Cheng said.
“Whoop-de-doo,” muttered Veksai as the professor walked in to begin the lecture.
Later that day Veksai was getting back into Fort Pike when Malespere came up the hallway, a big grin on his face.
“Did ya hear the news man? I totally made Red Squad!” he exclaimed.
Veksai smiled politely.
“That’s…nice. I’m sure you’ll…enjoy it.”
“Dude, you’ve been writing for the Academy newsletter, right?” Malespere asked.
“You should totally do a piece on Red Squad! I mean, we’re totally the best here at the Academy, I bet everybody wants to know what we do!”
Veksai smiled politely again. Fat chance!
Strangely enough, less then a week later his editor, mid-classman Armand, sent him to the phaser range to interview Red Squad cadets. So, padd in hand, he found himself talking to several different cadets, each of them saying almost the exact same thing.
“…totally wanna represent the Academy, show those other teams we’re the greatest…”
“…Starfleet Academy has won the Solarious Competition four years in a row, and I want to make sure that…”
“…we’re totally a team, and we’re totally committed to being the best, and you know of course we are the best the Academy has…”
“…knowing you are the best…”
“…really tough to get on the squad, only the best make it, of course…”
“…it’s good that they moved us into our own building, away from the rest of our Sectors, so we can really focus on our own team dynamic, without being distracted by…y’know…the ‘average’ students…”
Veksai kept his mouth shut and avoided pointing out the fact that less than 10% of the Academy even bothered trying out for Red Squad.
“It was nuts,” Veksai was saying to Gallium as the two of them sat in Fort Pike’s dilapidated lounge. The replicator was broken, the walls were damaged, and the only channel that was coming in on the viewscreen was UFPN. “It was like talking to a bunch of brainwash victims. Are you guys really that…impressionable?”
“What do you mean ‘you guys’?” Gallium wanted to know.
“Some of us,” Veksai gave a wry grin, “Are older and a bit more worldly than the rest of you,” And far more mature, he mentally added as a trio of Red Squad cadets came barrelling past the lounge door, a very large pot spewing purple steam suspended between them.
“I don’t even want to know,” Veksai shook his head, “At least they’re a bit more creative than frickin’ Baxter and his drunked antics. I swear, sometimes it feels like I’m living in a nuthouse!”
“Baxter’s antics can be pretty creative,” Gallium said, giving that oh-so-earnest expression he always got when he was explaining something, “Did you know he threw his shoes out the window of his hover-car two weeks ago?”
“Why the hell would he do that?”
“He was drunk,” Gallium shrugged, “Kodene was piloting, and Baxter got all excited because Valvattians don’t wear shoes,”
“Again, drunken antics,” Veksai sighed, “Like Quarterman chasing after cadets of any conceivable gender, or Vexnar climbing onto the roof and singing Andorian love ballads.”
“Is that what that was? I thought he was just howling at the moon,”
“The point is,” Veksai said, “It’s scary, honestly. I mean, I know I’m not perfect, but at least I seem to be aware of just how much some of us have started to change since we got here. I understand that Red Squad has some really good people, and I understand that they need a certain amount of, um, team spirit. But I really have to wonder if the cadets in Red Squad understand just how that sort of elitist attitude affects the way the rest of the Academy looks at them.
“I dunno,” Gallium shrugged, “I really don’t pay much attention to Red Squad,”
“Why not?” Veksai leaned forward, “You’re in really good shape, you’ve got a lot of drive…you probably could have made it onto Red Squad!”
“Yeah, but I have too much other stuff to do,” Gallium said, “Extra training? You’ve gotta be nuts to sign up for that. Besides, I like living here with the rest of the Sector, especially now that the higher years are starting to treat us like living things instead of furniture,”
“Hmm? I hadn’t really noticed,” Veksai mused. He sighed.
“Huh. I thought an old man like you would notice things like that.”
Veksai felt a sudden flash of anger.
“Old man? I’ll show you old man!” And he proceeded to grab Gallium by the scruff of his blue-skinned neck, toss him out of the lounge and slam the ‘door close’ button.
“Feeling better?” Gallium’s muffled voice came through the panels.
“Much, actually.” Veksai admitted, “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome. Think nothing of it,” Gallium replied through the door.
As finals approached the lower-classmen glanced with amazement at their calendars, wondering just where their first year had gone. The restrictions on wearing civilians clothing was lifted on campus and finally, a week before finals were to start, lower-classmen were allowed to wear their civilian cloths to town on their off-hours. The senior cadets at the college made a point of informing them that if fewer lowers had been caught trying to sneak off campus in civilian cloths earlier in their year they would have earned the privilege weeks, if not months sooner. (Of course, those lowers who had been caught never seemed to understand just why everybody else was now pissed off at them.) Malespere was almost never seen in the Antares Sector lines, having taken up residence with Red Squad, thought he still came by to visit Kumari and Bahred and to explain to anybody who would listen just why Red Squad was so great. Veksai continued throwing Gallium out of random rooms, and found that this simple action, in combination with the onset of spring, was doing wonders for his mood. Every week it seemed something new was happening, though as lower-classmen still rushing to get their studies in, they were unaware of much of it. The annual Quo’nos Exchange weekend, which saw an exchange of cadets between the Klingon Imperial Academy and Starfleet Academy blew right by. They noticed the extra Klingons walking around, which in the past would have been far more exciting, but having lived with Kethnor for almost two semesters had desensitized them somewhat.2
Finals came and went, much as they had before Christmas. The biggest change was the growing undercurrent of excitement among the senior-classmen. For them these were the last exams they would write before graduating the Academy and leaving for their first postings. As lower-classmen it was hard for much of the former Brute Squad cadets to imagine what they were feeling, though Veksai was reminded of what it had been like for him to graduate college the first time. Granted, his little diploma didn’t require anywhere near as much effort as the Academy was demanding, and an Academy degree was far more prestigious…
Veksai smirked to himself, shaking his head. When he’d been lecturing Gallium on just how much the younger cadets had changed since joining the Academy, he hadn’t, for one second, believed that he was immune. He’d always felt a strong distain for anybody who paraded around their credentials, feeling that somebody’s skills and abilities spoke louder than a piece of paper declaring them a university graduate. Now, here he was, considering just how much an Academy degree would help his future.
Silently vowing to never, ever hide behind his credentials Veksai leaned back in his chair, looking around at the small room in Fort Pike that he now shared with Igor. Igor was fast asleep on the other bunk, his large (and incredibly smelly) feet hanging off one side, as usual. The walls were cracked, the paint chipped and peeling, and the desks and computer terminals were more than a bit battered. They’d been told by Lt. Wellington, the Antares Sector Commander, that they would be moving into Fort Hillier when they returned from their summer training. They’d also been told by the mid- and senior-classmen that the same promise had been made for the past two years, and not to bank on it.
Personally, Veksai wanted to move into a building that didn’t have an irremovable growth of mould filling the bathtub.
“Ladies, gentlemen and other distinguished guests,” senior-classmen Black, current Cadet Executive Officer declared, his amplified voice carrying over the Parade Ring as his image was projected up onto the sides of Khitomer Building, “Welcome to Graduation Parade Ceremonies for the Graduating Class of 59000!” He paused, looking sternly out from the camera, “At least, that’s what the MC is going to say, right before Commodore Lahaw’soon marches on to address the parents and such. You’re going to be standing at ease for a good half hour when he’s doing that, so let’s practice that now…”
Standing in rank with several other members of Antares Sector, M’Kr’gr groaned inwardly. Towering a good half-foot over the rest of the Antares cadets (except for the gigantic junior-classman Dril) any movement he made would be spotted immediately by the drill instructors patrolling the Parade Ring.
Just like the Entry Ceremony and their weekly morning formations, each Sector was formed up on the outer edge of the Parade Ring. Terran Sector, having won the Commandent’s Cup last year, was formed up directly in front of the podium on which Black was standing, with the rest of the sectors being arranged based on their rankings. Antares Sector, being midway in the rankings, was formed up on the far side of the building watching one of the screens. The ring of cadets completely surrounded the building, with the lowest ranking sector formed up on the opposite flank of Terran sector from the second highest ranking sector. Unlike the standard parades, the cadets on parade consisted primarily of lower and junior-classmen, there to perform the graduation parade for the senior-classmen who were formed up in a similar ring along the inner edge of the Parade Ring, with each Sector’s senior-classmen facing their comrades. The lower years held phaser rifles set to fire only ceremonial shots, while the senior-classmen held ceremonial swords, each one a design based on the home-world of the graduating cadet in question. During a practice session for the parade the Andorian cadets had been quick to brag that they had the biggest equipment on parade, hefting gigantic, multi-bladed monstrosities. The Bajoran cadets, sporting compact short-swords, were quick to counter that it wasn’t the size of your blade that mattered, but the sharpness of the edge. The lower years, bored with the whole argument and having been waiting for ages to return their phaser power packs to the armoury, had revived an old Earth tradition known as ‘The Wave’ and managed to pass the wave through the ring-shaped throng of cadets surrounding Khitomer building three times before one of the drill instructors, a crusty-looking Chief Petty Officer climbed up on the podium and screamed, in an amplified voice, that ‘You DO NOT do the WAVE during an AMMO DECLARATION!’3.
There was a grunt followed by a splat as Cadet Guthar lost his battle against the shining sun and passed out, falling to the concrete surface of the Parade Ring and breaking his nose. One of the response teams patrolling the Parade Ring (knows as the ‘Pancake Patrol’) rushed forward to retrieve him. A few files down Gallium was turning an unhealthy shade of teal.
“Ok everybody, that’s enough of that,” Black announced, “Let’s go through the march past again, then we’ll practice the marching off of the graduating class. Another three or four hours and we’ll call it quits.”
Baxter abruptly doubled over, spewing vomit all over the concrete.
“Welcome to ‘Drill Fest 59’ Vexnar commented snidely.
A week later, it was time for the real thing.
The cadets were formed up around Khitomer Building, exactly as they had been for the practices. Now however, instead of wearing their standard grey uniforms they were dressed in the formal maroon tunics, tunics that hadn’t been worn by an active officer in over one hundred years. Next year’s Sector Leaders stood in front of their mid-,junior-and lower-year cadets, the current Sector Leaders having joined the graduating cadets in the inner ring. Mid-classman Buhras, soon to be senior-classman & Sector Leader Buhras, stood in front of Antares Sector, struggling to keep her customary grin hidden.
“…this is what Starfleet Academy is all about, ladies and gentlemen:” the Commandant was saying to the crowd of spectators, primarily consisting of proud parents, “Producing leaders! Young beings who will now go out into the Fleet, bringing with them the knowledge and experience they’ve picked up during their time here.”
He continued speaking for some time, but most of the Antares cadets weren’t paying attention. The lower-classmen, having never seen an actual Academy Graduation Parade before, had their eyes locked on the senior-classmen. No, that wasn’t really accurate anymore, was it? The Commandant had already distributed the commissioning scrolls; they were now looking at the newest commissioned officers in the Fleet. Ensign Mecablox stood next to Ensign Parami, Ensign R’karsen and the rest of the Antares Sector graduates. Any minute now the Commandant would finish his speech and then next year’s Cadet Executive Officer, mid-classman Plasem, would give the order for the graduating class to march off the Parade Ring and down the main thoroughfare to the Academy gates, where they would be dismissed for the last time4.
“Class of 59000, will march off, in Sectors,” mid-classman Plasem called out, “Slow, march!”
The graduating cadets began moving on their path off the Parade Ring taking slow, deliberate steps as the Academy Processional was played. Watching them carefully, M’Kr’gr felt a sudden stab of determination: One day, that was going to him up there, sword in hand moving off the Academy grounds as a newly commissioned ensign. Around him Fastocheni, Igor, Veksai, Quarterman, Kumari and the rest of the Antares Sector lower-classmen, along with all the Academy cadets of all years, stared at the departing class, the exact same thought in each of their heads:
One day, that’s going to be me.
Next: So what do cadets do to pass the summer? Tropical vacations? Exotic travels? Relaxed weeks spent sitting on one’s ass doing nothing? Find out as former Brute Squad compares notes and prepares for a new Academy year in Crash Course 2.1: ‘New Arrivals, Round 2’.
Synthohol: Like alcohol, but with no hangover. Also the effects can be dismissed with a mental effort. <sigh> If only… ↩
Exchange Weekend - I was actually out of town for the first exchange weekend and didn’t experience much of it, other than having several American cadets tell me how much more laid-back and relaxed everybody at RMC is compared to Westpoint. I’ll probably write more about it for Year 2. ↩
Yes. Something very similar to this actually happened. ↩
A little side note: The land on which RMC’s current main gate sits was part of Navy Bay when the college was founded in the 1870s. A large portion of the bay was filled in during the mid 1900s, making space for sports fields and a new entrance. The old entrance is now the site of the Memorial Arch, built in the 1920s. It is now a tradition that cadets arriving at the college are marched through the Arch at the beginning of FYOP. Following that, they must never again pass under the Arch until they graduate, at which point they are marched through the Arch again as part of the graduation parade. ↩