Author: Brendan Chris
By Brendan Chris, with contributions by Eric Castellani and story elements from Sam Mercier and Eric Elgar.
Ahh, summer. A time for young people across the quadrant to relax, chill out and take a break from studying. Whatever planet they were from, whether they were students of a university, college, secondary or primary school, beings of all races were able to take a couple of months out of their respective years to kiss their academics goodbye and do something completely unrelated to their studies.
That is, except for the students of Starfleet Academy.
No sooner had the Graduation Parade finished than a mass exodus from the Academy had begun. Former senior-classmen, now commissioned officers, rushed to pack up their belongings and report to their first assignments whether that was a ship, a starbase or even one of the specialty training centers. Former mid-classmen, now senior-classmen, rushed off to advanced training where they would be educated on how they would actually apply their Academy knowledge aboard ship.
As for the former lower-and junior-classmen, it was time for them to get a bit of a taste of just what life in the fleet would be like.
Three months later…
Steven Veksai sat in the food court of the Starfleet Square Mall aboard the Federation Outpost Waystation, wondering just where his summer had gone.
When the summer assignments had come out, Veksai had crossed his fingers for a starship assignment. Having lived on Waystation for several years prior he already felt like he had a decent understanding of life aboard a space station. Unfortunately, the Academy apparently felt that space stations and Starbases were safer environments for first year cadets. It also helped that space stations weren’t likely to get called away on emergencies the way ships were, thus causing said first-year cadets to miss their return to the Academy.
And so Veksai and the other four-dozen cadets sent to do their Basic Officer Training at Waystation’s Academy Annex1 spent a good two months in intensive training, bouncing between classes in the Annex itself, a gruelling routine of discipline and fitness on the Annex training decks in Waystation’s lower saucer2 and even two weeks of away-team exercises on a nearby planet. Following the completion of that course he’d found himself working on Waystation’s science team, doing incredibly important work like fetching raktagino, duplicating documents and hunting through the storage bins for whatever spare part the latest stuck-up scientist was demanding.
Now that assignment was ending and it was time to return to Earth and the Academy for another year. And Veksai found himself really hoping that the stories about the second year being easier were true. The last year had been a good but very tough year, full of changes and challenges. Still, he was really looking forward to getting back to the Academy and seeing the rest of the former Brute Squad cadets. Kumari, Gallium, Bahred, Igor and all the rest. He also couldn’t wait to see the new group of lower-classmen and watch as they went through all the ridiculous crap he’d been put through the year before.
Yup, it was going to be an interesting year!
Aboard the U.S.S. Richelieu, Derok and Gallium were hard at work.
Like Veksai they’d gone through Basic Officer Training, along with the other few dozen cadets that had been part of their training group. A Nebula-class training vessel, the Richelieu was a floating training center. Capable of carrying several hundred crew the Richelieu served multiple purposes: Senior-and mid-level cadets were given the task of actually running the ship under the supervision of experienced officers. Junior level cadets were put through their officer training. Like Veksai, Derok, Gallium and the rest had been subject to hours of classes, countless inspections, endless evenings spent polishing boots, cleaning phaser rifles and ironing uniforms, and undergoing exhausting physical fitness sessions. Everything from sessions in the ship’s gym to running laps around the ring-shaped corridors. They’d even stopped for away-team exercises while the senior-classmen were conducting a study on a planet.
And now, with their basic training finished, they were scrubbing the deck.
“I really don’t understand how this is ‘on the job training’,” Derok complained, “I mean, when I’m an officer, how often am I going to scrub the floor?”
“We’re on a ship,” Gallium corrected, wincing as one of Derok’s large, furry feet swung past his face, “It’s called a deck, not a floor. And besides, it’s our last day.”
“And the bathroom’s a ‘head’,” Derok continued, “I know. But now every time I go, I can’t help but think that I’m pooing on somebody.”
On ships, space stations and outposts within the general vicinity of Earth, Antares Sector cadets stopped what they were doing as their padds, comm-badges or computer terminals beeped, blooped, vibrated, flashed or otherwise informed them that a message had come in. Checking, they fond the message was from Academy, from the new Antares Sector Administrator.
TO: ANTARES SECTOR CADETS: MID, JUNIOR & SENIOR YEARS
FROM: SENIOR-CLASSMAN NOWEL, ANTARES SECTOR ADMINISTRATOR
SUBJECT: LIVING ARRANGEMENTS
At the conclusion of the last school year, we were informed that we would be moving out of Fort Pike and into Fort Hillier to allow for the renovations of Fort Pike.
These renovations have been put on hold. As such, we will be remaining in Fort Pike for the next school year. Please note the following:
1) Additional vaccinations will be distributed immediately on your return to the Academy to protect you against tetanus, asbestos poisoning, toxic moulds and fungal growth. As yet, there is no vaccination for the unknown disease known as the Pike Plague. 2) The growth of mould in the men’s bathtub has gained sentience. Going forward, it would like to be known as ‘Roger’. 3) The exploding toilet problem has been resolved. (We hope. It took a week to reconstruct that mid-classman’s colon.)
Thank you, and may God have mercy on our souls.
Gallium and Derok exchanged glances. Setting down his padd, Veksai gave a mental shrug. At least he wouldn’t have a roommate this year.
As M’kr’gr and Igor rode the tram across the Golden Gate Bridge towards the Academy Igor couldn’t help but notice how different things were from the year before. Back then he’d been on a shuttle, crowded in with another dozen lower-classmen on their first approach to the Academy. They’d been scared and a little excited, with the rumours and stories about SNAP circulating through the shuttle.
This time, his biggest worry was that M’kr’gr was going to drool on him before they arrived. The giant lizard had fallen asleep after he’d boarded the tram several stations back after saying a brief hello.
As the Academy campus came into view, dominated by the gleaming spire of Khitomer Building, Igor tried to mentally ready himself for another semester.
Veksai was walking around the Academy grounds, feeling almost like a stranger in his own house. He’d arrived at the Academy a day or two earlier and been shocked at just how…relaxed…everything was.
Unlike his arrival a year earlier, nobody met him or the other returning cadets in his shuttle. Nobody had been there screaming at them to get their gear, or to assign them to their Sectors. He’d simply walked over to Fort Pike and been given his new room assignment by Administrator Nowel. Now he was free to do whatever he wanted until Monday, when the Sector Seniors would start putting everybody through the process of getting ready for another semester.
He started as he heard screaming in the background. Spinning around, he relaxed when he realized that the target wasn’t him, but instead a batch of brand new lower-classmen. He watched as about two-dozen scared looking beings of various races climbed unsteadily out of a nearby shuttle while a senior-classman Veksai didn’t know screamed that they were wasting his valuable weekend time.
As that particular group of lower-classmen were sorted into their Sectors and led away from the landing field, Veksai realized that this year was definitely going to be different.
For him, at least.
“HEEEYY!!!” Dylan Baxter shouted, throwing his hands in the air, “DUUUDE!”
“HUMAN!” Kodene exclaimed, slapping two tentacles against Baxter’s outstretched hands with a slimy slap.
As the human alcoholic and the squid-alien jabbered about just how much they’d drank over the summer, M’kr’gr and Igor walked through the front doors of Fort Pike. As usual, one of the sliding door panels got stuck halfway through. A firm shove from M’kr’gr knocked the door back on it’s track. Hearing the commotion, Veksai and Fastocheni came down the hall leading to the Panther Squad living quarters.
“Hey everybody!” Veksai said excitedly. Fastocheni and M’kr’gr immediately started comparing summer notes, the two former roommates suddenly in their own little world. “Igor, how’s the lady friend?”
“What’s with this?” Baxter interrupted, pointing at the doors leading to the Brute Squad hallway. The doors had been sealed, ‘Do Not Enter’ tape criss-crossing the pitted panels.
“SNAP,” Fast said, “Some of the lower-classmen are already here. Since we’re the only Sector in the building now they’ve got the lowers using the back entrance,”
“The lowers,” Veksai shook his head, “That just sounds weird, coming from you. WE used to be the lowers!”
“And now we’re the juniors!” Baxter said excitedly, “No more bulls**t for us! Time to paaaarty!”
The group moved down the hall to the Antares Sector lounge. Some of the furniture had apparently gone missing over the summer, probably due to the faulty security system, but there were still enough seats to go around. They were soon joined by Bahred, Kumari and Malespere, who of course had been all but inseparable since their return a day earlier.
“So, like, how was your guys’ courses?” Malespere asked.
“Yes!” Kumari seconded, a mock-serious expression on her face, “Details!”
“Oh man, we had the best staff!” Baxter said, a wide grin on his face.
“Really?” Veksai asked, surprised, “My staff hated us!”
“Because you’re ugly?” Baxter giggled.
“Noo, because we’re cadets,” Veksai said, “It was like…like they didn’t trust that we actually knew how to do anything. Like, this one Lt. Commander I had to work under…
It was near the end of my basic training. Our training group had been loaded up in a runabout and flown to a nearby planet for away-team exercises. We each had to take a turn commanding the team through a basic mission. With the number of cadets training at the Annex, some of the regular Waystation officers were helping out. My squad had been assigned to Lt. Cmdr. Russell, Waystation’s security chief. Our sister squad was working with Lt. Cmdr. Porter, Waytation’s Chief of Operations.
I had a pretty easy task: A shuttle had ‘crashed’ on the planet, and I had to lead a team to find the wreck and any survivors. We found the wreck using a tricorder, and when we reached it I ordered my team to setup a perimeter and start first aid. Things were gong well.
When we got back to our landing site, Lr. Cmdr. Russell decided that things had been too easy.
“Empty your pockets,” he ordered me.
What was this all about? OK, fine. There’s a stylus, a tricorder, a data padd.
Oops. We weren’t supposed to be carrying data padds in the field…
“WHAT’S THIS?” Russell demanded.
“Um, I forgot to drop that off after our practice-“ I started.
“CHEATER!” Russell interrupted, having activated the padd, “You had mission notes with you the whole time!”
What was he talking about? Mission notes?
“Do you know how serious this is?” Russell demanded, “I could have you kicked out of the fleet for this!”
“Shut up, cadet!” Russell snapped, “I have to talk to the other officers about this. You sit here and start thinking about how to explain yourself!”
And he stalked away.
For the next hour, I was either answering the Lt. Cmdr.’s questions or pacing in front of the rest of the squad, sweating. I knew damn well I hadn’t cheated, but if Russell thought I had…
Finally, after making me explain step by step why I’d handled the mission the way I had, Russell gave a small grin.
“It sounds like you knew what you were doing after all. Good planning,”
And he left.
I found out the truth later, during my ‘on the job training’ aboard Waystation. I was cleaning up one of the science labs when Lt. Cmdr. Porter passed by.
“Cadet,” he said.
“Sir,” I replied formally, coming to attention.
Porter looked around, the lowered his voice.
“You do realize that Russell never thought you were cheating, right?” Porter asked. He dropped a padd, the same padd Russell had confiscated from me, on the workbench, “Sean, well, he just wanted to mess with you a little bit. See how you’d react. Y’know, how you’d handle yourself under a bit of pressure.”
I looked at the padd. There was nothing on it but a few pictures of myself and some of my Academy buddies. There was no way that could be considered cheating!
“I see,” I said carefully, “Thank you sir,”
“And drop the formalities,” Porter said, turning to leave, “This isn’t the Academy.”
I waited for Porter to leave the room.
“That son of a bitch,” I fumed, “THAT BASTARD!”
“Oh my God!” Malespere exclaimed.
“I know!” Veksai almost shouted, “It sucked!”
“No! Man!” Malespere shook his head, “That is, like, the best test ever!”
“Man, getting into that kind of situation, finding out how you’d handle yourself under pressure,” Malespere rubbed his hands together, almost gleefully, “Everybody should have a test like that!”
“Maybe if it’d happened to you, you’d change your mind,” Veksai grumbled.
“Mmmm! But it did! Or something sorta like it…”
I was in charge.
About time too. I mean, I’d been in the Starfleet Scouts and the Junior Redshirts for years, and I’m like the only guy here that’s fully EVA qualified. This whole training course was a snap! Uh, pardon the expression.
“Malespere!” It was Petty Officer Patela, one of my staff, “Get over here!”
“Yes PO!” I snapped, jogging smartly over and standing at attention.
“We’re beaming back up to the Richelieu in two hours,” Patela said, “I want those cargo containers packed and sorted and over by that tree. Everything goes! I want all weapons packed in this container here…”
I made careful notes on my field padd. This would be a easy.
“Brock!” I ordered, “Start getting the field shelters packed up! Johnson, I want all the individual field packs stored in the containers…”
I quickly relayed my orders. Within minutes, the forty-something members of our away team exercise were hard at work.
“MALESPERE!” This time it was Chief Swert, “What the f**k are you doing??”
I ran over and came to attention.
“Why? We’re doing another target exercise before the Richeleau beams us up! Now, I want everybody formed up here with phaser rifles and training power packs in five minutes!”
Huh. That was odd. OK.
I quickly started snapped orders. Cadets dropped their equipment, then bolted for the form-up point.
No sooner had they arrived, then another voice shouted.
“MALESPERE! GET YOUR ASS OVER HERE!”
“Yes, Master Crewman!” I ran over to Master Crewman Huksra and yet again came to attention.
“What the xixnix is everybody doing standing around?” Huksra demanded, spittle flying into my face as he screamed, “The Richelieu is beaming us up in fifteen minutes and the cargo transporters are down! Empty out those containers! NOW!”
Don’t these people ever talk to each other??
“They’re f**king with us,” Cadet Muxra, my second-in-command, muttered to me as everybody scrambled around, yet again, in an effort to obey the staff’s orders.
“No s**t,” I muttered back.
“MALESPERE!!! GET YOUR ASS OVER HERE! NOW!”
I ran over, nearly tripping on an exposed root this time, and came to attention yet again.
“Yes, PO Patela?” I replied.
“What the f**k is going on? I told you to pack these cargo containers!”
“Master Crewman Huksra said-“
“I don’t care what Huksra said!” Patela cut me off, “I want these containers packed, stacked and ready to go! YESTERDAY!”
I turned and gave the orders to my Team Seniors, who quickly got the rest of the away team moving. No sooner had I finished when…
Chief Swert. Crap.
“Chief!” I came to attention.
“I told you we had a targeting exercise!”
“PO Patela said-“
“I don’t care! Get those weapons out and get formed up at the targeting range!”
Three voices together. And this time I didn’t have time to relay the orders.
“I said PACK the containers!” Patela shouted.
“I said pack INDIVIDUAL gear!” Huksra snapped.
“Phaser exercise! NOW!”
OK, sometimes being in charge really sucked ass.
“At that point,” Malespere finished, “I knew they were just messing around with me,”
“Fun,” Veksai grumbled, “At least you found out right away.
“Maybe,” Igor suggested, “It’s like, some sort of super-secret test that they make lots of people do!”
“Or maybe,” Veksai muttered darkly, “All the staff in the fleet just hate us all,”
“I don’t think so,” Fastocheni said, an intent yet thoughtful look on his face, “Our staff didn’t pull anything like that on us, right?”
“No,” Igor shook his head, “But we had a pretty cool staff though,”
“Unless we did something to piss them off…” Fast said.
It was Tuesday morning of week six. I was doing my course from the USS Richelieu and we’d beamed down to this planet the night before for training. We were woken up by the sound of portable air raid sirens…three of us had to have new ears cloned after that. Anyway, we were rushing to get out of the shelter and formed up for a weapons inspection and fitness workout. You guys know what it was like…the tension among us was going up, and our patience was going down. It was a warm and sunny day; even the petty officers running our course were in a good mood.
Looking back, I guess that should have been our first warning. Anytime staff is in a good mood it leaves you wondering what they’ve got planned for you next.
PO Johans was walking up the front rank, checking each member’s phaser rifle as he went. Of course, he always had some ‘constructive criticisms’ to pass on.
“The focusing crystal is dirty,” he barked, “Twenty pushups,”
“There are smudges all over the handgrip? What did you do, wipe your ass with it? Thirty pushups!”
“Dead power cell. Congratulations, you’ve turned three hundred years of advanced particle weapons research into a club. A fit weapon for any cave-man! Twenty pushups.”
Suddenly he stopped. He was examining someone’s rifle very carefully, but I couldn’t see who it belonged to.
“Who can tell me,” he snapped, “How many field-serviceable components are in the Mark VII phaser rifle?”
Hands went up throughout the squad.
“Eight, Petty Officer Johans!”
“And how many does this one have in it?” he snarled, thrusting it back at its owner. The cadet, paling, quickly counted.
“S-seven, PO,” he stammered.
The PO glared at us all.
“Sort yourselves out!”
He stalked away.
It was instant chaos.
“I’m missing my power coupling!” the cadet wailed.
“WHAT? THAT THING’S TINY!” somebody else exclaimed.
“Could have been swept out the door-“
“-kicked into a corner-“
“-we were in such a hurry!”
“-must have tossed it out with the trash-“
“OMIGOD! THE SHIT’S HIT THE FAN!”
“What? What fan?”
PO Johans stalked back towards us.
“2 Section,” he snapped, “Find that coupling! The rest of you, kit up!”
It wasn’t too long before 2 Section was on their knees, picking through the ground, skimming through the trash and turning the shelter inside out, hunting for a needle in a hay stack. All the while the rest of the squad was led in a round of push-ups, packs of supplies and equipment strapped to their backs. Push-ups turned into leopard crawls, straining cadets crawling through the gravel-filled grass (myself included). Crawling turned into a never-ending round of ‘ten centimeters’; flat on our backs, legs straight and boot heels hovering ten centimeters above the ground until the bloody power coupling could be found. WELL WE FOUND THAT F**KING COUPLING! “‘Bout f**king time,” PO Johans snapped, looking at his wrist chrono, “And guess what? We’ve got about fifteen minutes now to get to the phaser range, thanks to you lot. Time for a light, four kilometer run!”
Of course, we were still loaded down with equipment. ‘Light’ run, right!
“By the way,” the PO said, “I’d like you to meet your new team members. They’re a little slow, so you’re going to have to help them over to the range,”
He gestured at a pair of very full (and very heavy) water containers.
“Meet ‘Mr. Jerry’ and ‘Mr. Can’,” PO Johans smirked.
“So, what you’re saying is that your staff hated you,” Baxter giggled.
“No,” Fastocheni said, “I’m saying that when we screwed up, they came down hard on us. Anyway, that is one morning I will never, ever forget,”
“I’ve got an afternoon I wouldn’t mind forgetting,” Igor said.
I was posted to Waystation’s Academy Annex for my summer training, same as Veksai. I was on one of the other summer courses so I was working with different officers. We’d all heard that Waystation used to have a Federation Marine unit that vanished into some kind of space hole, and I really think these guys had spent too much time with the marines.
We’d been doing OK for the first couple of weeks, then things went to s**t. We were doing our Away Team exercise, and two people managed to get infected by these bizarre squirrel-things that didn’t even come from the planet we were on. Anyway, they had to be quarantined and treated. We didn’t think it was a big deal, until the exercise was ending.
“Weapons check,” Ensign Jacobs ordered, “Phaser rifles, hand phasers, photon mortars and ALL training power packs and rounds must be turned in! I need all the actuator crystals separated and accounted for!”
“I didn’t know you could count,” Ensign Shust muttered next to him.
“Hey, I can count well enough that Lt. Cmd Russel put me in charge of an entire cadet course!” Jacob shot back.
“He put US in charge,” Shust muttered back, “Along with Lt. Waits and Ensign/Yeoman Jones,”
Anyway, I wasn’t supposed to hear that part of the conversation. All I know was, we were turning in all our weapons and stuff when all hell broke loose.
“We’re short a hand phaser and the actuator crystal from a photon mortar,” Jacobs said, once everything had been turned in.
The three staff officers exchanged a very worried glance.
“Do you people realize what this means?” Shust snapped angrily, “We have weapons…weapons capable of KILLING SOMEBODY unaccounted for!”
Before I knew what was happening we were running at full speed down to the transporter room. Within minutes, we were all back down on the planet surface, combing the training area for the missing ordinance.
It was nearly half an hour until Zandar, one of the other cadets on my course, figured it out. When the two infected guys had gone into quarantine, nobody had thought to get their weapons. And they were sitting in intensive Disney therapy until the mind-control squirrels fell off from cuteness overdose.3
I’m so glad I wasn’t the Course Senior that day. We could hear Ensign Jones screaming at the poor guy from across the field. She seemed like such a nice girl the first time we met her. It was hard to believe she could be so angry.
“It’s time to go swimming!” Jones snapped, after forming everybody up, “You’ve probably noticed that there’s no swimming pool nearby. Well guess what…it’s right here.”
She pointed at a plain-looking patch of ground.
Jacobs dove to the ground and started pulling himself across the field, using only his arms. Our jaws dropped.
“Everybody! Five laps! Now!”
So we all had to lie flat on our bellies, then pull ourselves across the dirt. My arms were just burning, even by the fourth lap. Then she had us doing push-ups. Then squats. Then a run. She was unstoppable!
It went on for over two hours. I mean, when we finally beamed up to the ship that would take us back to Waystation, we all felt like we’d been beaten half to death.
The whole time, she never stopped smiling.
“I remember that,” Veksai said, nodding, “you guys came back to the station looking awful,”
“I thought it was never going to end,” Igor said, “It was like, we were just going to keep going until we passed out and died.”
“We all got jerked around a bit,” Kumari said, “But that’s just brutal,”
“How about you, M’kr’gr?” Gallium asked.
“My staff did not bother me,” the large reptile said quietly, “And I did not eat them,”
“Um, fair enough,”
“So, another year at the Academy, then we’re back out on training again, huh?” Baxter said.
Everybody exchanged glances. Few looked particularly happy at the idea of returning to the USS Richelieu.
“It wasn’t that bad,” Fast said, “We had some good leave time. And anybody posted to the Richelieu actually got to take leave on some nice planets, right?”
“Yeah, and those of us on Waystation or at one of the other Academy Annexes got to just…sit there,” Veksai said.
“Aww, those places are almost cities themselves,” Baxter said, “Must have been easy to find a little s’vazzztz-ing.”
“What?” Kumari looked confused.
“It’s Andorian,” Veksai said automatically. (He was taking Andorian as his second language credit.)
“What does it mean?” Kumari asked.
“It means ya get a piece of the action!” Baxter gave a wide grin, then mimed slapping somebody (presumably somebody female) on the buttocks.
“You are such a pervert,” Kumari said.
“That’s why we love him,” Quarterman said fondly.
Veksai rolled his eyes.
“Looks like it’s time to get going with year two,” Fastocheni said, ginning.
Next: With the arrival of the new lower-classmen, Year Two is officially underway. Veksai, Igor, Gallium and the rest of already survived SNAP themselves, but what will it be like seeing SNAP from the other side? Find out in Crash Course 2.2 - New Arrivals, Round Two.
Alan Decker first floated the concept of the Starfleet Academy Annexes in the early Waystation stories. I’m sort of using them here to parallel the Canadian/American training systems, where officer-cadets do their academic training at RMC/Westpoint and then go off to various training bases/facilities for summer training. ↩
Waystation is shaped like a giant barbell. The upper saucer contains docking facilities, commercial spaces and command & control facilities. The lower saucer is dedicated to living quarters and other facilities, such as the Academy Annex. ↩
See Star Traks: Waystation - ‘Send the Marines’ ↩