Author: Brendan Chris
“You are hereby promoted to the rank of Ensign, with all the privileges and responsibilities of an officer in the fleet,” said Rear Admiral Amouren, Commandant of Starfleet Academy, as he presented Ensign Gel Gallium with his commissioning scroll. Several of the middle and senior-classmen of Antares Sector started to applaud, having gathered in the Memorial Hall of Khitomer Building to witness Gallium’s early graduation. Gallium’s father, First Officer of the USS Klien, beamed proudly as his son received his pips and a new, standard-issue comm-badge to replace the Academy version.
As they watched, Steven Veksai shook his head.
“I’m happy for him, really,” he said, “But…next semester is our last chance to enjoy being students. I missed out the last time I went to college because I spent too much time working. I WANT that proper graduation parade,”
“Me too,” Fastocheni said beside him.
“Wha…oh. Shit, man. I’m sorry,” Veksai cringed. Fast had been struggling to actually graduate on time after having trouble with one his classes. He hadn’t meant to strike a nerve.
“Don’t worry about it,” now Fast was beaming, “I got some of my exam results from this semester back a little early…and I’ll be on that Parade Ring with the rest of you!”
“That’s great!” Veksai grinned, “You must be relieved, right?”
“You have no idea. Now we just have to wrap up one, last semester and we’re good to go,”
“Seven down,” Veksai nodded, “One to go.”
Two months later…
“Professional Development tomorrow morning for senior-classmen will be a briefing on Fourth Fleet activities over the past year with Fleet Admiral Ra’al,” Sector Leader Akavarti Kumari said to the gathered Sector pipmen, “Middle-classmen have Captain Smith on new Starbases being opened in the upcoming year, juniors are with the DirKat to be lectured on their latest round of stupidity, and the lowers have a Leadership lecture with a Captain Andy Baxter. Um, there’s a note here that if anybody gets the bright idea of locking him in a shuttlepod the entire lower-year class will be wearing Class-D uniforms for the next month ,”
“What a lucky family they are,” Squad Leader Ganderouge remarked coldly.
“Hey, I don’t even want to go there,” Kumari cut her off sharply. Ganderouge gave her an angry look, but said nothing. “Where was I? Oh yes. Thursday morning is Squad Leader time, so whatever you’ve got planned, go for it. And Friday morning is free.”
“Not for the lowers it isn’t,” Malespere smirked, “They’re learning how to give briefings,”
“Does anybody else have anything to pass on?”
There was a collective holding of breaths as the Squad Leaders, deputy Sector Leader, Sector Administrator and Kumari hoped that maybe, just maybe this week’s Sector HQ meeting would be different. Maybe this week everything would have been nice and quiet, and the various cadets of the Sector had done exactly what was expected of them.
“I have stuff to pass on,” Veksai spoke up, pulling out a padd. The collective holding of breath was released in a collective groan. It had been over a month since the new semester had started, and if they were sure of one thing it was that the Sector was still recovering from Dylan’s negligence. Veksai’s job as Sector Training Officer, inherited from Dylan, was to enforce discipline, proper behaviour and to basically put the ‘military’ in ‘paramilitary’. After a semester of basically having free reign, having an STO who was actually doing his job was coming as a shock to certain members of the Sector.
“Igor, Malespere, I still have people from both of your Squads that missed class last week, they need to go on report,” Veksai started reading, “And I’m still waiting for all three of you to finish the paperwork on everybody that skipped class last semester,”
“There was like twenty reports to fill out!” Igor exclaimed.
“I know,” Veksai rolled his eyes, “But somebody, not mentioning any names, royally screwed up the reporting last semester. Umm…what else? The Academy Training Officer wants Quadrant-level inspections held next week,
“That’s going to take hours!” Igor objected.
“Apparently they have a plan to keep it short,” Veksai said, not sounding all that confident.
“That I’d like to see,” Igor sighed.
“We’ll try. What else…the Quadrant Chief checked Mr. Pwall and Mr. Wronski’s room the other day and says, quote, ‘Straighten that room out before I have to have the hazmat team come in and do it for them’. His version had more profanity. B’kar was caught swinging from the trees in the Xeno-biology lab, and Mr. Labal was wearing a non-regulation belt,”
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Ganderouge crossed her arms, “They actually checked his belt?”
“Don’t look at me, I’m just the messenger,” Veksai raised his hands, “This is the stuff that came down from the ATO and the Chief.”
“Anything else? Kumari looked around the room. This time there was no reply.
“Dismissed,” she said.
As the others dispersed, Kumari and Veksai lingered.
“I don’t know what the hell Comel is thinking,” Veksai fumed, referring to the Academy Training Officer, another senior-classman cadet, “the Commandant’s inspection isn’t for three more weeks. You and I have it worked out so we can do a Sector inspection in half an hour. We don’t need him barging in and sticking his fingers in our business!”
“It’ll be over quickly. By the way, the SecCom wants to see you later. There are a couple of…new issues…you need to be aware of,”
“Oh great. What is it this time? Was somebody caught f**king on the roof of the Spock Library? Did Petalszan get into another bar fight? Oh, even better, was somebody trying to reprogram the replicator to churn out Romulan Ale?”
“Well, it’s one of those. But I can’t tell you which one,” Kumari said.
“I can’t belief how calm you are about some of the stupid stuff that happens here,” he said, “I mean, I know it’s still a university, and university students do dumb shit. But between the students themselves and some of the MORONIC decisions made by the senior pipmen, I’m about ready to beam somebody into space!”
“And that’s why I’m the Sector Leader and you’re the Training Officer,” Kumari smiled, “I can stay calm because I know you’re taking care of the wrath and rage. That’s part of why we make a good team,”
“We do, don’t we?” Veksai smiled back. “Anyway, I’ve got to meet Guthar in the Bio-Neural lab. We’ve almost ready to start testing our project. Presentations are in just over a month!”
It wasn’t only Antares Sector that was having adjustment issues, as it turned out.
M’kr’gr was wandering the halls of Fort Archer, one of the many dormitories on campus. He was no longer a Sector Leader, which was something of a relief. His schoolwork had gone completely to shit, what with all the time he’d had to spend doing not only his own duties but Dylan Baxter’s as well. Granted, he wasn’t exactly hard at work studying at the moment, but at least this was temporary. It was his turn to be Academy Duty Officer.
Unlike active starships, which had personnel manning stations 24/7, or active starbases that stayed on a 24, 26 or 29.35 hour clock (depending on their host planet), the Academy effectively shut down for the night. Professors, whether civilian or Starfleet, had their own lives and generally lived in the city of San Francisco, or at least close enough to get to work via a quick tram ride. The fitness staff, technicians and other support staff likewise vanished after their workday was done. That said, the Academy was still a sensitive installation, and security staff were always on duty. But even with a full time staff of security personnel, somebody still had to babysit the thousands of cadets, track any notable (read ‘stupid’) incidents and respond to other issues. And for that, the Academy had a Duty Program. The lower-classmen of course manned the security rooms in their individual dorms, with junior- and mid-classmen taking on more responsibility. Finally, the senior-classmen rotated through the task of Duty Officer, basically taking responsibility for the entire campus for the night.
And M’kr’gr was…well, loving it wasn’t exactly right. He’d had to endure an early morning handover meeting, something of a pain. And instead of going back to his room at the end of the school day to tackle his mountain of homework, he had reported to the Duty Room at the base of Khitomer building to brief the junior-classmen that would be acting as Quadrant Guards for the night. Now however, he was simply doing his rounds. Walking from dorm to dorm, through every hallway on every floor. He passed lower-classmen squads undergoing uniform inspections, no doubt due to some sort of foul-up on their part. He passed junior-classmen clowning around in their Sector lounge, watching the viewscreen and eating various species-specific snacks. Walking through the Vulcan Sector lines in Fort T’Pol he even found a number of cadets hunched over their desks, diligently working on their homework.
So as he walked through the quieting halls of Fort Archer, he allowed himself a contented sigh. So far, everything on campus was going well. Cadets saw him passing in the hallway, noted that he was dressed in his Class-D uniform, realized that he was on-duty and promptly ignored him. Or quickly hid any contraband they might have had before he had the chance to see it.
Not that he really cared. Contraband regulations, like so many rules, had to be taken with a grain of salt. Sure, if somebody plastered Risan pornography all over the wall there would be a major discipline issue. (And if it was Andorian pornography, probably a few cases of indigestion and nausea as well.) But if said somebody wanted to enjoy a ‘private moment’ in their own room with the door closed, it was none of his business.
In any event, he’d seen no sign of contraband, no illicit activities, absolutely nothing out of the ordinary. He gave a small smile. Tonight, this was HIS Academy. He may not own it, but he was responsible for it. Anything that happened here tonight would go through him, and he would be the one answering to the DirKat the next day.
Finally, he found himself stepping into Fort Angrigon, home to Rofs Sector and Quebec Sector1. Once again, he started at the top floor and began working his way down. And once again, he didn’t see or hear anything out of the ordinary.
He reached the lower level and turned a corner into the Quebec Sector lounge. Nearly a dozen cadets were gathered on sofas around the viewscreen, playing a video game he didn’t recognize. A discreet tone from his Universal Translater informed him that the dominant language had switched, though of course he only heard them speaking Parian thanks to the small device.
He frowned. Something in the room was off. He couldn’t quite put his finger on it…maybe it was the way the two cadets nearest him seemed to suddenly look away as soon as his attention came to bear. Maybe it was the way the two playing the game seemed to purposefully ignore him.
Or maybe it was the faint smell in the air. Not quite ale. More like…
More like a very strong beer he’d once sampled on a trip up to the northern half of North America.
He stepped over to the nearest coffee table, picked up one of the half full cups and sniffed it, noticing the immediate look of guilt on the nearest cadets.
Yup. Beer. And far stronger than anything you’d find at Scotty’s.
He stormed over to the viewscreen and hit the cut-off button.
“You must,” he growled, “Be joking. Not only are you breaching Academy regs by drinking alcohol in the dorms - alcohol, not even synthohol! But you are doing it here, in the lounge. In plain sight. Where ANYBODY can see you?”
“How stupid can you be?!?” M’kr’gr demanded, unaware that his claws were easing out of their finger-sheaths, “What if I’d been the duty security officer?? You would all be dragged in front of a review board! What idiots!”
“Don’t you have ANYTHING to say for yourselves?”
“Are you planning to kill us?” one cadet asked quietly, in heavily accented Standard.
M’kr’gr looked down and noticed that his claws were out. On top of that, his fang teeth had been on prominent display with every word he’d spoken.
He cleared his throat.
“No, I’m not planning on killing you. But I will be reporting this to your Sector,”
With that, he turned on his heel and strode off to find the Quebec Sector Training Officer.
The next day, he was relating the event to Fastocheni, his former roommate.
“I don’t like being the bad guy,” he said, shaking his head, “I mean, yes, I like the idea of bringing terror to my enemies and destroying all those who oppose the Federation. However I do not like getting our own people into trouble. And as odd as they may be sometimes, Quebec Sector are still our own.”
“What else could you do?” Fast shrugged.
“I could have just ignored the smell,” M’kr’gr said, “I could have written it up to my imagination and gone on my way.”
“So why didn’t you?”
M’kr’gr thought for a moment.
“Before I was a Section Leader, I may have done that,” he said, “But after last semester…after seeing things from the upper side of the chain of command…and after seeing what happened when Dylan started ignoring what was going on around him…” he shook his head, “I just couldn’t.”
“I guess that’s one of the things they want us to learn here,” Fast said, clapping a hand on his shoulder.
“This is it,” Veksai said, sitting next to Guthar in the Bio-Neural Research Lab in the Samual Anders Neuroscience building2. “If this works, then all that’s left to do is a few minor tweaks, a week or two to add the last bits of functionality and we’re done,”
“Don’t forget the report,” Guthar added, “And the presentation to the Project Review Board,”
“I was trying to forget those parts, actually,” Veksai sighed, “But yes. Those too,”
They were sitting in the same lab they’d been using for nearly a semester and a half now. Several workstations lined the walls of the oval room, with large display screens showing lines of code, linked structures of data object hierarchies and various reference guides. (Galactic Google was open on several screens, showing details on neural programming.) In the center of the far wall was a large, bubbling tank. Inside, strands of bio-neural circuitry hung suspended in the liquid, the living brain tissue pulsing gently as nutrient fluids were forced through feeding tubes. The setup was less compact and more elaborate that the small gel-packs found in newer starships, but the lab was intended for research and experimentation. Next to the tank was a small but heavy hammer and a sign that read ‘In Case of Sentience and/or Homicidal Dialogue, Break Glass!’
“Hit the button already!” Guthar urged.
Bracing himself, Veksai reached for the ‘Execute’ button. This was it. Months of design work, coding and preparation had gone into this moment. They’d tested each component of their software as it had been completed, following proper engineering practices. But this was the first time the whole system would work together, feeding incoming sensor data into several different neural nets where it could be analyzed independently for…well, hostile tampering best described it without getting too convoluted.
Veksai hit the button.
Two screens abruptly shifted, showing lines and lines of sensor data as it was fed into the system, too fast for the eye to follow. Two more screens broke into multiple views, representing the various virtual components of the system while two more configured themselves to show the results.
Nothing was coming up on the last two screens.
“Shit,” Guthar observed.
“No kidding,” Veksai grumbled. They looked over at the component display. Guthar tapped a few buttons, then one of the components turned red.
“Sequencing issue,” he reported.
“Crap,” Veksai let his head fall to the console with a soft ‘thud’, “I thought we’d fixed that,”
“So much for going to town today,”
They looked over at the tissue tank, then sighed.
“Stupid disembodied brain,” Guthar glared.
“What’s up, Mr. Veksai?”
They turned to see one of the new Brute Squad lower-classmen, Cadet Prent, standing in the door to the lab.
“How the hell did you get in here?” Veksai demanded, “This is a restricted level!”
“Oh, one of the other seniors let me in,” Prent said, suddenly looking nervous, “Um…my Squad Leader told me to talk to you about the parade assignments for next week?”
Veksai looked at Prent, then over to the neural tissue bubbling in the tank, then over to the error message blinking over the diagram of the sequencing software.
“This isn’t exactly a good time, kiddo,” he said.
“Really? Whatcha doing?” Prent asked, stepping into the room.
“We’re trying to get brain-in-a-jar here to analyze sensor readings for signs somebody is co-opting the sensor beams to feed back a hidden signal,” Guthar said.
“Do what to the who now?” Prent wondered.
“Don’t worry about it,” Veksai said, “Look, just…come see me in Fort Hillier later tonight, OK? We’ve got to get back to work. And stay out of the restricted sections!”
“Yes, Mr. Veksai,”
As Prent left, Veksai shuddred.
“I hate it when they call me ‘Mister’,” he complained, “It just makes me feel old.”
“You are old,” Guthar pointed out.
“Hey, shut up,”
“But Prent is a good guy,” he said, “Most of the new lowers are,”
“I know,” Veksai agreed, “Prent’s in the same computer systems engineering stream as us. And Icrus and Sutharn are just hilarious. But they’re so young!”
“I know! Even I see that,”
“It’s too bad we won’t really get to know any of them before we leave,” Veksai mused, pulling up the code for the sequencer, “But I guess I see what they meant when they told us years ago that the senior-classmen didn’t really care about the lowers. No, that’s not really true. We just don’t have the time to really know them very well,”
“We’ll run into them again later,” Guthar said, “After graduation,”
“Yeah, you’re probably right,” Veksai stared at the screen, “Hey, here’s the problem. Let’s just…there!”
He hit the buttons to recompile and execute the code. This time, the final two screens lit up with results of the analysis.
They both fell back in their seats, letting out relieved breaths.
“And that’s that,” Veksai said, “Our final design project works! All that’s left now is some tweaking, more testing…and about two hundred pages of documentation,”
“Hurray!” Guthar replied.
If idle hands were the devil’s plaything, then the senior-classmen should have been positively angelic. And yet, it didn’t seem like anything was really happening. The annual exchange with the Imperial Klingon Academy took place, as it had since the signing of the peace treaty, and only two cadets suffered accidental amputations at the hands of Klingon cadets with more desire to show off than they had skill with a bat’leth. Veksai and Kumari took part in the exchange as members of the Andorian water-polo team and Rigellian Interpretive Dance Group respectively, but when all was said and done the whole experience could be summed up with the phrase ‘Wow, I’m sure glad I don’t go to THAT school!’. M’kr’gr and the rest of the seniors going into the security field spent several weekends on Mars learning the basics of low-gee combat training, Derok and the xeno-politics students were invited to attend a session of the Federation Council and a minor accident in the Experimental Teleportation Lab accidently opened a rip into an alternate universe until one of the professors was able to get things under control.
All in all, a fairly uneventful semester in the grander scheme of things. Which isn’t to say that the senior class was bored.
“I swear to God, if I have to have one more junior-classman put on report because they can’t keep their rooms to standard, I’m just going to make it RAIN extra duty!” Veksai cursed, sitting at his desk and glaring at the notes he’d made during the latest inspection, “It’s ridiculous! Even the lower-classmen are doing a better job of meeting the standard!”
“That’s because Malespere, like, rapes them if they get out of line,” Igor said blandly from the door.
“He doesn’t rape them, he just harps on every little detail,” Veksai replied, “Which…actually…good on him. I thought he was going to be an absolutely terrible Squad Leader.”
“But you know it’s all just about making himself look good to the Quadrant Commander,”
“Yes, yes I do. But it’s making my life easier, so all the power to him,”
“He’s, like, making them give briefings at 0600h! I know everybody has to give at least one briefing before graduation, but it’s kinda early!”
“I know,” Veksai sighed, “But he’s convinced that now is the time. And really, he’s only doing it during Squad Leader mornings. So he’s well within his rights,”
“I still think it’s a bad idea.”
“I agree. But we only have so much…influence…on the Squad Leaders and their leadership styles,” Veksai paused, then chuckled, “Geez, it’s like we’re turning into officers or something!”
“Scary,” Igor agreed. There was a soft knock at the door, then Kumari poked her head in.
“Got a second?” she asked.
“For you, my dear, I have entire minutes,” Veksai replied, his voice oozing with fake charm.
“Uh huh,” Kumari smirked. Veksai’s odd sense of humour wasn’t exactly new to her, “I think a few seconds will work just fine,”
“I’ll just…go…water my phaser…” Igor said, shuffling out of the room.
“What’s up?” Veksai asked.
“All ready for exams next week?” she asked, deflecting the question.
“Yeah,” he said, “Can’t believe it’s been nearly four months already,”
“Time flies when you’re having a good time,” Kumari joked.
“Hmm. Your parents coming to the Commissioning?”
“They are,” Kumari bit her lip, “Father….I sent father some holos from the Holiday Ball. I think it’s really sinking in that I won’t be coming back to the throne for a long time,”
Veksai had forgotten that Kumari had come from royalty. During their lower year, she’d practically reeked of spoiled princess. Well, that wasn’t fair. But she’d been accustomed to a certain amount of subservience in the people around her. But the Academy had cured her of that in a hurry.
“My parents aren’t sure if they can make it,” Veksai said, “It’s…well, it’s a busy time at home,”
“Oh,” Kumari was quiet for a moment, “Worried about your exams?”
“Naw. We’ve written what…forty exams in the last four years? What’s five more? You?”
“Worried about Hull Strength,” Kumari said, “The course made sense when it was just the strength of the materials involved, but once they brought structural integrity fields and inertial dampening in, I got lost,”
“Glad I’m not doing that,”
“I saw your project presentation,” Kumari laughed dryly, “I’d rather have SIF/IDF equations instead of bio-neural programming!”
There was quiet for another moment.
“Those the FURs for the SecCom?” Kumari asked, pointing to a pile of padds.
“Yeah, Kodene dropped off the ones from his squad half an hour ago,” Veksai said, handing over the weekly pile of Fuck-Up Reports. (Not an official acronym.)
“Smaller than usual,” Kumari remarked.
“That’s because we’re not dealing with the leftover crap from last semester,” Veksai grumbled, “Just the ordinary crap from this semester. I never realized just how often people got in shit here…or the documentation behind it! I guess it’s just not really advertised.”
He tossed the report he was working on back on the desk.
“It’s like we’ve barely started to accomplish anything,” he said, “We’ve been…well, you’ve been running the squadron all semester and I’ve been helping. And just when it looks like we might be about to make progress, it’s going to get handed off to a pair of middle-classmen going into senior year, and they get to start the whole learning process all over again,”
“That’s the whole point of the pipman process,” Kumari pointed out.
“I know. I just…wish we could have done better,”
“Hey,” she said, “We did great. Captain Carter has nothing but good things to say about our work, and I know…well, I couldn’t have made it through the semester without you,”
Veksai smiled, remember again what Kumari had been like in lower year. Or, more accurately, what he’d thought she had been like. He remembered how young she looked…how young everybody else had looked. At the time, he’d found it hard to believe that in only four years those kids would be commissioned officers in the fleet. Now, seeing the changes in M’kr’gr, Kumari, Igor and most of the others, his early opinions seemed more than just a bit condescending. Sure, when they got to the fleet they were all going to be regarded as wet-behind-the-ears junior officers…but they’d come a long way.
“Anyway, I should go take these to the Lieutenant,” she said, gathering the FURs again, “See you later,”
“Yeah,” Veksai said absently, “Later…”
Exams came. Exams went. If there were last minute meltdowns resulting in some poor senior-classman having to repeat a year, Antares Sector didn’t know about it. For most of the Academy, the drudgery of another two weeks of study, eat, study, sleep, study, write exam, repeat as needed was just that…repetitive drudgery. As always it was an improvement over daily Academy life, as nobody had any tasks or responsibilities other than writing exams, but there was still the sense that there was still one, two or even three years to go before it would end. For the seniors though, it was the final countdown. Three exams until grad…two…one, until the last group of senior-classmen walked out of the exam hall, leaving their answers written on old-fashioned paper to prevent any kind of electronic tampering.
And with that, it was over.
M’kr’gr, Veksai, Fast, and several dozen other seniors who had been writing various exams in Exam Hall 4 stood together outside the hallway, just sort of staring at each other. It was over. It was really, truly over. No matter what happened now, barring having failed an exam, they would be graduating, receiving their commissions and departing for ships and starbases all over the Federation in a mere three weeks. It didn’t matter what shape their rooms were in, mandatory intramural sports were finished and classes were done.
All that was left what that one, last event. What they’d been working up to for four, long years. The one event that would make everything they’d worked and suffered through worthwhile.
All that was left was the Commissioning Ceremony.
“NO!” Chief Buznar howled at the top of his lungs, his voice further amplified by the sound amplification system around the Parade Ring, “It’s a LEFT turn for all of the GRADUATING cadets! Those of you that AREN’T marching off the ring DON’T MOVE! It’s EASY!”
He sighed. Standing on the dias that would soon hold the Commandant of the Academy, Fleet Admiral Ra’al, and possibly a Federation Council delegate or two, he couldn’t help but feel just a hint of frustration. He was only wrapping up his second year as Academy Chief, a position that corresponded to the Sergeant-Major in the human armies of old (and the Chief Executioner in the old Andorian militaries). Still, it felt like he’d been there for two decades, trying to instil some sense of duty and honour in the young cadets…and not always succeeding. Not to be racist about it, but some species definitely picked up on it a lot better…one just needed to know how to deal with them. Andorians, for all their violent ways, were actually easy to deal with. Honour was a routine part of their culture, and if anybody got out of hand he simply had to begin calling out the ritual words of disgrace. Worst case scenario, he could hire an assassin from the Andorian Assassins Guild. Not to kill any students of course, that wasn’t in his job description. But waking up one evening with a trained Andorian assassin sitting at one’s desk with a wickedly sharp knife put even the most rebellious Andorian cadets back in line.
If only he was allowed to use that approach with some of the other species.
Humans weren’t the worst, at least. But they weren’t the most intelligent group. Or the strongest. And definitely not the most disciplined. At least, the young ones sure weren’t. But the Academy wasn’t about what the cadets were…it was about what they would become. And Buznar knew perfectly well that any newly commissioned Ensign that showed up on a Starfleet ship with the wrong attitude would be sorted out very quickly by both his/her/its fellow officers and by the senior enlisted members under their command.
So despite what most of the thousands of cadets standing at attention around the Parade Ring thought, he didn’t hate them. And he wasn’t there to punish them, or to make their lives miserable, or to see how many he could make pass out from standing too long in the warm sun. He was there to try to teach them some of the self-control they were going to need before they learned it the hard way. And, for the next few weeks, he was there to give these ungrateful little bastards a successful graduation ceremony they’d remember for the rest of their lives.
That wasn’t entirely fair, he chided himself. Most of the graduating cadets understood. Well, many of them, anyway. The ones that didn’t could go to hell. But to the other three-quarters of the Academy, graduation was still years away.
But it was the cadets graduating in under three weeks that he was worried about now.
“OK people,” he snapped into the microphone, “I want all the Sectors back at their march-on positions. Graduates, we’re taking this from the top, so clear back out. Remember, Training Officers should be holding your bat’leths, Andorian Assassin swords, katana, claymores or whatever the hell your culture dictates you carry, in a sheathed-carry grip. LET’S GO PEOPLE!”
The next two weeks were a blur of parade practices and paperwork. Veksai had never realized just how much bureaucracy was involved in getting a Starfleet commission. In the months leading up to graduation they’d all been subjected to thorough medical examinations…though thankfully not as thorough as the invasive exams they’d received on enrolling. Now they were running all over campus, pressing their thumbs to thumb readers to indicate that yes, their text padds and other gear had been returned, their Class-D, Class-E and other uniforms not needed for graduation had been returned, their names were spelled properly on the commissioning scrolls and they’d returned all borrowed equipment to the gym. He would have expected that the problems there would be with cadets like Kodene, who’s name looked more like paint splatters when written in the native Velvattian script. But no. Kodene and M’kr’gr’s names were both unintelligible but apparently correct, while his name had been spelt ‘Veksky’ in neat, English letters.
Bureaucracy aside, he hadn’t really given much thought to the social aspects either. The graduation guest list had been posted, and aside from the crazy number of family members that were coming to see their offspring graduate, the number of VIPs was a bit surprising. Fleet Admiral Ra’al, Admiral Janeway, the head of Humanoid Resources, the 4th Fleet Admiral, the 2nd Fleet Admiral, the head of Starfleet Intelligence and a spattering of other senior officers were all on the confirmed list…as were his own parents. That had been a wonderful surprise, he’d half expected them to miss the event just because spring on Earth corresponded with the peak of the work season on Shallas IV. But no, apparently they’d both put their feet down and firmly declared that they were travelling to Earth and to hell with everything else.
There was also the traditional Senior-Classmen Wine & Cheese. Well, in Standard it was Wine & Cheese. In Andorian the approximate translation was ‘Blood & Gore’, to the Bolians it was ‘Beer & Sausage’ and to the few Klingon cadets it was ‘Gigantic Waste of Time’.
“Can you imagine how boring this would have been three hundred years ago?” Quarterman giggled, looking around the Uhura Ballroom at the thousand or so cadets as they mingled around the various food & drink stands.
“I know!” Kumari nodded, “I mean, we had a little ion storm problem back home when I was sixteen, so we had nothing but local food for nearly a month. I was so bored, I nearly died!”
“Princess,” Bizkit fake-coughed into her sleeve.
“Totally,” Kumari agreed,”
“Hey, look!” Wind spoke up, “Somebody’s trying the Klingon table!”
“Are they Klingon?” Quarterman asked, not looking.
“Well…yeah…” Wind said quietly.
“Then that’s boring, “
“Oh, Cuirass is trying the Andorian…whatever it is. Bile wine?”
“Yup,” Kumari nodded. “And three…two…one…there he goes!”
The girls laughed as Cuirass’ eyes bugged out, then the gangly blond cadet made a break for the bathroom and the toilets within.
A few stands down, Veksai was sampling the Rigellian fungal-cheese.
“This is pretty gross,” he said, as calmly as possible.
“Yeah, but the beer is great,” Igor said happily, refilling his glass from the ornate bottle sitting at the stand. Next to him, his girlfriend Janin gave sort of a resigned smile.
“That’s not beer,” Veksai informed him.
“What is it?” Igor asked.
Veksai picked up the descriptive card.
“Closest translation is ‘fermented yak sweat’,” he read.
Igor considered this.
“Could be worse,” he said, taking another sip, “Could be a LOT worse,”
It was time.
Veksai stood next to the lower-, junior- and middle-classmen from Antares Sector that had been chosen to take part in the graduation ceremonies. The night before there had been a smaller, closing-of-the-year ceremony held on campus, with a number of groups such as the Andorian Chess Club and the Sharpshooting team demonstrating their talents. The evening had closed with a performance by Starfleet’s elite Orbital Skydive team, dedicated to the graduating class.
Now, with all the preparations finished, it was time to graduate.
Ahead of him, Veltran Sector had just begun marching towards to the parade square, the sound of a Terran bass drum keeping the pace.
“Antares Sector, quick march,” he commanded.
They’d rehearsed this dozens of times over the past three weeks…it felt more like hundreds, really. But what they hadn’t rehearsed was the atmosphere at the Academy on graduation day.
They marched around a corner, off the side path where they’d formed up and onto the street leading to the Parade Ring. Banners were hanging from posts spaced around the outer edge of the ring, off the Commandant’s Dias, even off Khitohmner Building itself. Photo-bots were hovering around, recording the event. And the stands setup around the ring were filled with thousands of spectators. Parents and family, mostly. But visitors, tourists, even more than a few dignitaries had come out for the vent. As Veksai marched Antares into their position on the Parade Ring, he couldn’t help but scan the crowd for the faces of his own parents…who were seated under the Antares Sector banner, right next to Kumari’s parents.
Speaking of, Kumari and the other Sector Leaders were falling into the parade, replacing the Training Officers, who marched to their positions next to the Sectors. Veksai admitted to having mixed feelings about his pip position when it came to graduation. As Training Officer, he had the privilege of marching his Sector onto the ring, and he was wearing a rather impressive Andorian War Helmet (slightly modified to better suit the Academy formal uniform), as opposed to the silly-looking maroon caps the rest of the graduates were wearing. But as the graduating cadets marched into place between the Commandant’s Dias and the Sectors, he couldn’t help but feel a tinge of regret that he wasn’t marching on with them.
As the Commandant, the Fleet Admiral and the Council Minister of Defence began inspecting the graduates (on a speedy hover-cart, thank God), M’kr’gr couldn’t help but marvel at the variety of races and species on the parade, even just in the small part of it visible to him. And even within each of the species were dozens of distinct cultures, belief systems and attitudes. That they could all conspire to put together a training center that they each found at least tolerable was a testament to diplomacy. He remembered the friction he himself encountered during his first year, trying to deal with people who had never seen a Parian before. Even in his last year, he still had a way of terrifying people that didn’t know him…but thankfully they had been a constantly shrinking minority.
At the conclusion of the inspection, the Commandant returned to the dais and the march-past began. As Kumari took her position at the head of Antares Sector, with Veksai behind and to her left and the Sector following them, she felt a surge of pride. She’d been accustomed to holding a position of authority…it was inevitable when you were heir to the throne and surrounded by servants. But that had meant nothing to anybody here. She’d earned the position of Sector Leader entirely on her own abilities, her father’s position as King of a (she now knew) minor colony meant nothing. As she led her Sector past the Commandant and the dignitaries, she had to wonder how many years it would be before her role as a Princess would mean anything again.
There were speeches of course, following the march past. There always were. The Commandant said they were great. The Fleet Admiral implied they were adequate. At this point, the graduates really didn’t care. They were now mere minutes away from becoming new Ensigns. Four long years of work, five minutes to go, nobody really wanted to wait any longer.
The speaches finished, and it was time to get down to business.
“Pipmen will join the graduating class, quick march!”
With that, Veksai, Kumari and all the other Training Officers and Sector Leaders turned neatly and left their Sectors. They marched away, leaving behind not only the cadets that weren’t graduating, but also, finally, the pip positions they’d held for the last semester. Scooter was the Training Officer now, and Labal would be taking over as Sector Leader. With no small amount of relief, Veksai and Kumari took up their positions with the graduating cadets. Antares Sector and Brute Squad were, for them, now a thing of the past.
“Class of 6200 will advance for commissioning, quick march!”
As the graduates stepped forward, Veksai flashed back to a very similar moment nearly four years ago. After the Survival Challenge, when they’d been presented with the Academy comm-badges. Now, they’d be taking those badges off, removing their Academy pips and donning the apparel of commissioned officers.
Finally, the senior officers present stepped onto the parade square to present the commissions.
“One last note,” Admiral Ra’al said dryly into the microphone as she left the dais, “Starfleet recognises the importance of family to our officers. We realize that while our officers have volunteered to serve far from their homes, you have been conscripted into having your family members separated from you. Please, any who wish to cross the Parade Ring to be with your young ones as they receive their commissions, feel free to do so.”
There was a moment of uncertain quiet, then small groups of parents stepped tentatively onto the Parade Ring. Veksai would have chuckled, if he wasn’t so worked up over getting commissioned. But yes, the ranks of silent cadets and the careful precision of the parade generally made one apprehensive about stepping onto the ring.
But seeing that those first few parents and siblings were genuinely welcome to join their children, the trickled turned into a steam, then into a flood. Graduates found themselves surrounded by smiling family members, holo-cams, recording devices and more than a few happy hugs.3
The next thing he knew, an Admiral was handing him his commissioning scroll while another officer unsnapped his pips, replacing them with gold Ensign pips. His Academy comm-badge was likewise replaced with the Starfleet version. The Admiral shook his hand, posed for a photo (snapped by his grinning mother), then moved on to commission Guthar.
Within minutes every graduate had been commissioned. After a few more moments spent clearing relatives off the parade ring, it was time to wrap things up.
“Officers, about turn,”
The graduates turned away from the dignitaries and spectators, back towards the ranks of cadets.
With a few careful commands, the cadets lifted their ceremonial phaser rifles into a salute, then fired a shot into the air, the beams shining brilliantly even in the bright sunlight. Again, the salute was given, only this time three dots became visible to the graduates, high in the sky behind the Academy buildings surrounding the Parade Ring. The dots were growing quickly, grey tinged with red.
As the third salute was fired, the dots resolved themselves into three starships, their shields still glowing from the heat of re-entry. With a deafening roar, the first Sovereign-class ship flew overhead, it’s sleek, blade-like saucer cutting through the air above the Academy. Right behind it were two Intrepid-class ships, their smaller, rounder hulls flashing in the sun as they curved away to either side. Seconds later, the wake of the ships crashed across the ground, a brief burst of pressure that rattled windows and blew more than a few caps to the ground.
As the graduates turned and marched off the Parade Ring, past the Federation Emblem with its dozens of fist-sized, glowing stars and down the main avenue to the Academy gates, the realization came crashing down….their time at the Academy was over.
But the adventure was just beginning…
And with that, Star Traks: Crash Course draws to a close. It’s been an interesting experiment, trying to take four years at the Royal Military College of Canada and to convert that experience into something that would fit in the Traks universe. Whether or not that experiment was a success…well, I guess that’s up to you. It’s very unlikely that there will be another Crash Course story…even though it would be possible to go back and flush out more events and details for the four-year span it covered, I think it’s best if the series remains as it is: written as events unfolded. That said, I fully expect that some of the new graduates will eventually find their way into one of the many Star Traks series still on the go.
Thank you for reading, and have a happy holiday.
Brendan Chris, Friday, December 30th, 2011
Yeah, I know Quebec isn
t a planet, star system or anything else that the other Sectors are based on. But its Quebec, and they ALWAYS want to be their own whatever. (A little Canadian humour there…) ↩
Yeah, I know he’s not from Trek. But I’m running out of names for buildings, and in his case bio-neural research seemed appropriate. ↩
Yup. I’m actually rather proud to say this is completely based off a real scene. Took us all completely by surprise when the Chief of Defence Staff invited the families to come onto the parade for commissioning. Took forever to get things under control for the parade could continue after…but it was great. ↩