Log Entry 120922.22

Maybe volunteering to spend a day in the Jeffries tubes was not such a good idea. Ignoring the sore back, my knees are screaming in agony!
Luke and I met up first thing and got our Schedule of Works. We were running an inspection, upgrading some isolinear chips and recalibrating them. It's very precise work, simple but time-consuming. We divided the schedule up into two parts and I followed Luke into the first Jeffries tube. There he trained me on exactly what needed to be done and how to log any anomalies or problems so that when we met up at the end of each hour, we could swap schedules and he could address the problems I couldn't fix before he began his new one. The system worked very well and it also meant that each of us could give a quick double-check for clues in the area the other had just covered. As for clues to the Beast... there weren't any.
"Whatever this thing is, it's incredibly clean," I said to Luke.
"What of it's just using the vents and tubes to get from nest to food source?" suggested Luke.
"But we don't know what it eats."
"No, but..." and Luke pulled out a datapad and called up a schematic of the Jeffries tubes and vents in the area of our quarters, "...we know it frequents this area."
"But that's all we know."
"Is it though?"
"What do you mean?"
"It obviously doesn't go anywhere near the Engineers or Officers' quarters otherwise they would have heard it."
"But they just write it off as the deck plates moving."
"Not if they heard it, they wouldn't. An experienced officer or engineer would know it was something else."
"So why did you think differently then?"
"After the liberation of our colony, I worked on transport ships hauling cargo across the sector. Every night for three years, I listened to deck plates moving. True, each ship makes its own noises, but... we... I think you just get a feel for these things."
"Okay, so if we scrub out the tubes and vents near the Engineers and Officers' quarters and highlight the ones we know it inhabits, what have we got?"
It was still a very big area.
"Okay, what about potential food sources? Where could it get its nutrition from?"
We stared at the datapad.
"There isn't anywhere," said Luke despondently. "All food is replicated and scraps are decompiled for recycling, and we are nowhere near any storage areas."
"No, it's not like we have a real kitchen anymore. We had to make one for the Dirrian delegation."
We were feeling pretty down at that point, and then a flash of inspiration came to me.
"But what if a crewmember had made a kitchen in their quarters to produce real food?" I asked.
"Why would someone do that?"
I shrugged.
"Perhaps they don't like replicated food?" I suggested.
"So now we need to study the fads of crewmembers with quarters along here," said Luke, pointing to the datapad. "And how do you suggest we do that?"
"Galley. Process of elimination. We see who is eating there and who isn't. Can you get a schematic of who occupies which quarters?"
"Yes, I think I can," and Luke tapped away at the datapad. "Yes! Here we go."
We studied the list.
"Okay then. Time for dinner, I reckon," and we toddled off to the galley.

Log Entry 120921.21

Luke and I have formed a plan of action. We've designed and produced our humane trap, which is big enough to take a large Cardassian vole. We reckon the Beast is no bigger than that, otherwise it wouldn't be able to move into the smaller ventilation shafts from the Jeffries tubes. All we need to do now is work out what to bait it with. Should it be a food item and if so what sort of food; we don't know if it's a carnivore, omnivore or herbivore. Or should it be a comfort item: bedding, something that smells good, or something shiny.
For this, we have decided we need to do a bit of proper detective work and inspect the area we know the Beast is patrolling, to see if we can find any evidence as to its diet. We're not expecting to find much as nothing has been reported by other crewmen (which makes the Beast all the more mysterious), but there has to be something!
Luke has been able to wangle a shift of inspection duties in the Jeffries Tubes and, being an Ensign, was able to request me to assist. Today then, is a day in the Jeffries tubes! Everybody thinks we are mad though. Its the sort of day most dread: eight hours in the confines of a Jeffries tube, your knees scraping over hard floors and metal grids as you wander about on your hands and knees pushing your kit along in front of you, but for us? I have to admit it; I am filled with excitement!

Log Entry 120920.20

It seems that my little escapade last night resulted in a slipped disc. Soon sorted though, thanks to the wonders of modern medicine but still rather sore. As to my explanation of how I did it, my 'fixation´ about there being something in the Jeffries Tubes has not gone unnoticed, much to my annoyance.
Ensign Luke Brightman had the pleasure of witnessing my embarrassment too. He was there having a minor plasma burn treated when the doctor piped up, saying how a lot of new crewmen complained of such noises and that it was caused by the deck plates expanding and contracting against each other, and not "monsters taking over the ship!"
I was just about to explain that, actually, I had seen something when he added, "Ensign Brightman here, used to complain of the very same thing."
Still about to insist that not only had I heard something very real, but I had also seen it when Ensign Brightman caught my attention. He was staring at me in alarm, his eyes agog and frantically, if somewhat discretely, shaking his head.
I wasn't sure if he was trying to save me from further embarrassment or prevent his own dismal story being retold, but I kept my mouth shut and left Sick Bay, feeling a bit annoyed that I had said nothing.
I turned and found Luke was running after me.
"Hold up Jenny, we need to talk!"
Luke grabbed me by the arm and hurried me down the corridor and into the turbolift. Only now that we were truly alone did he speak.
"Was that you I heard scream last night?" he asked.
"I didn't scream!" I shouted indignantly. Luke cast me an 'oh yeah' kind of look.
"Our cabins are only three doors away. I heard you scream, and I heard you fall."
"Didn't come to my rescue though."
"Didn't know it was you then."
"So was that you messing around in the vents?" I asked, suddenly angry that it might have been Luke playing about with a torch or something.
"No!" he exclaimed. "I've long since given up my claims to hearing anything in the vents."
I looked at him dubiously.
"I thought it was just the deck plates moving."
"On an older ship, maybe, but even then it doesn't sound like that. That's why I'm so sure that there is something there... only I can't prove it. I'll just make myself look an idiot, again! What about you?"
"Oh, I don't think there's something there—I know there's something there!"
"You saw it?"
"What do you think I was squealing at?"
"It attacked you?"
"No," I said rather miserably. "It just made me jump."
"Well? What is it then?"
"I don't know."
"But you saw it!"
"I saw two huge, green eyes."
"Yes... eyes, but they were really big and bright. They shone out like torchlight!"
"Right," said Luke. "You know what this means?"
"We can report it?"
"No!" shouted Luke. "We have to catch it!"
"But it might be dangerous!"
"I doubt it. Whatever it is, it's been there the best part of a year. If we were prey, crewmen would have gone missing before now. Let's face it, Jenny. It's probably just a Cardassian vole or something."
"No, I've seen one of those before and it's nothing like that, but why haven't ships sensors picked it up?"
"Don't be daft, Jenny. We don't runs sweeps for alien life signs unless we have reason too. It's a waste of resources."
"Oh, yes, I suppose so."
And so Luke and I began to lay our plans to capture the Beast of the Drakonia!

Log Entry 120919.19

Last night, I heard it again. I woke up in the middle of the night to hear those familiar little noises. I crept out of bed, picking up my torch on the way, and stood on the chair, all in total darkness of course.
Gently, I eased the grill off the vent opening and peered into the inky gloom. I couldn't see a thing so I lit the torch and leant further into the void and shone its beam down either end of the shaft.
To the left was completely clear, but to the right... something was there. I strained my eyes to make it out. It appeared to be a shadow. I teased it with the beam. It was moving. I gasped. It stopped and turned to face me! A huge pair of brilliant green eyes shone out like searchlights! I gasped and leapt back in surprise, knocking the chair from under my feet, and fell backwards smashing my spine on the damned chair!
In agony, I managed to claw my way back onto the bed where I collapsed, staring at the vent opening. For a moment, I half expected it to come after me, but it didn't so I just lay there, staring at the gaping hole.
First visit of the day therefore, is Sick Bay.
What am I going to tell the Doctor?

Log Entry 120918.18

The carva seed is aboard and we are now en route for Andoria. I've also managed to find a minute to stop off at Engineering and enquire about any maintenance work that might be underway in the Jeffries Tubes and ventilation shafts. Apparently, there is nothing going on. In fact, it was more or less suggested that it was probably the imaginations of an inexperienced crewman half asleep in the middle of the night.
Like hell it is!
So, I've loosened the grill to the shaft in my quarters, sorted myself out a little torch and stood a chair underneath the vent ready. Next time I wake up in the middle of the night, I'm getting up to investigate!

Log Entry 120917.17

The latest reports regarding the USS Earhart are somewhat disturbing. Science Crews investigating the ship have confirmed that there is no organic matter to be found aboard the ship of any kind: no animal life, no plants or insects; not even bacteria have survived. It is as though the ship has been subjected to some form of baryon sweep, eradicating and sterilising everything in its path.
Ship's logs have been scrutinised but only serve to prove that whatever it was that happened did so without warning. Even personal logs reveal nothing, often stopping mid-sentence, so all we do know is the time the tragedy occurred. In theory, this will give the investigating team the ability to work out exactly where she was in Quadrant 624, and maybe this will give some indication as to events.
It has been theorised that a weapon was to blame, but if it was a weapon, why hasn't it been used again in the fourteen months since the Earhart's disappearance?
In the meantime, the future of the ship hangs in the balance. She may be fully functional, but who would want to serve aboard a ghost ship? Who would want to command her? A change of name has been proposed but that hasn't been warmly welcomed either. The USS Earhart was named in recognition of Amelia Earhart's achievements in aviation. To change her name may be considered a slight upon Ms Earhart. Scrapping has also been suggested, but she's barely seven years old. It will be interesting to see what they decide.
Noises in the Jeffries Tubes continue. Definitely going to Engineering today to see if I can find out why.

Log Entry 120916.16

The moment the Dirrians beamed aboard, I found myself in awe of them. When I knew Traeth, we were just children so I never appreciated just how petite he was. When the Dirrians materialised, their stature stunned me; they are such a delicate race—shorter than Bynars and built like matchsticks. They look frail and weak but to think that is a mistake; they have great hidden strength.
Traeth always used to tell me how he felt that, in Earth's lighter gravity, he should be able to fly—and I believed he possibly could. He was very athletic; he could run faster than I and leapt much higher too. When one of the boys in the foster home tried to bully me one day, it was Traeth that sorted him out by challenging him to an arm wrestling match. The boy laughed at the skinny kid who challenged him but soon paid the price of his folly. Traeth won the game with ease... three times.
The delegation of Dirrians gazed about the room, at me and my two colleagues and I knew I had chosen well. A smile tinged the lips of the Head of the delegation but only for a moment.
I stepped forward boldly and held out my arms, crossing them at the wrists to extend the traditional Dirrian greeting that is so similar to a Terran handshake. The leader of the delegation stepped forward and took my hands firmly. I returned the pressure, eager not to insult him with a limp grip that might suggest he was fragile and beamed a smile at him.
"Good afternoon, sir. I bid you a hearty welcome to the USS Drakonia. My name is Crewman Jenny Terran and I shall be your guide during your visit. These are my colleagues, Ensign Gideon Flavell and Ensign Luke Brightman. If there is anything you need, please just ask any one of us."
He smiled slyly at me.
"You are uncannily familiar with our culture," he replied, studying our hands, still holding.
"I am privileged to have spent much time in the company of a Dirrian."
He frowned.
"I do not see how that could be. Do you have spies on our world?" he asked with deep suspicion.
"No, sir. I assure you, that is not the way of Starfleet. No. Many years ago, two Dirrians ventured from your lands with their son—"
"That was a long time ago and they are both dead."
Of course, such a rare occurrence would likely be legendary amongst the Dirrians.
"Indeed it was, but Traeth, their son, was my friend. He told me much about his world and the ways of his people before he was able to return home."
"Hmm," he frowned and said no more.
"If you are ready, may I escort you to meet the Captain?" I enquired.
"You may."
"Thank you. May I also be so bold as to ask your name so I may formally introduce you?"
He smiled.
My eyes nearly popped out of my head and I found my mouth had gaped a little. I snapped it shut, but gazed hard into his face. Was this... could this truly be... Traeth?
He laughed.
"I jest... My name is Fergan and these are my colleagues, Jerrop and Sharney."
He was so blasé about the introductions but looked distinctly pleased with himself at having thrown me. I wasn't sure I liked this Dirrian.
I led the delegation to the Theatre Lounge with Luke and Gideon bringing up the rear. It was worthwhile as they sauntered, walking deliberately slowly, but I let them take as much time as they wanted. I think they wanted to see more of our crew and they weren't disappointed. We passed a number of people on the way and each time they stood a little to one side, smiled a greeting but did not bow, exactly as they had been briefed. Fergan seemed disappointed that he was unable to find fault with us, so far.
As we approached the Theatre Lounge, the doors slid open. The delegation entered to find our Captain seated, patiently waiting. He rose and I could almost see the cogs working as he went through the process we had rehearsed.
Count to five then stand.
Approach softly.
Do not climb the stairs.
Do not bow.
Extend hands.
Cross at the wrists.
"Greetings," beamed the Captain. "I am Captain Brian Burrows. It is an honour to have you aboard our ship. Please, won't you join me for some refreshments? We have a variety of dishes—none of them Dirrian I'm afraid but prepared in accordance to your diet and custom, I believe."
Fergan scowled and swept past the Captain, descending the stairs and making his way over to the platters of food, exquisitely prepared and arranged on the low tables. The Captain glanced at me unsure if he should follow or wait for the rest of the delegation to descend the stairs.
"Gentlemen," I smiled. "Shall we?" I encouraged them.
Soon all three members were studying the dishes so beautifully prepared. It was hard to tell what their impression was and for a while, we all seemed to be standing around doing very little.
"Shall we sit?" I suggested and immediately sat down. Captain Burrows took my cue, followed suit and we both beamed more smiles at the delegation. Soon, they too sat down.
"An interesting attempt," said Fergan. It wasn't intended as a compliment. "And what is this?" he asked, pointing at the dips. "This is certainly NOT Dirrian!"
"No, it's isn't, but I do remember how much Traeth enjoyed these little accompaniments to his food on Earth, especially this one. It's called riata and is made from yoghurt, cucumber and mint."
"Yes, a dairy product—made from the milk of cows."
"A meat product!"
"No, no. Traditionally, cows are kept for their milk. They live many, many years feeding off the grass in the fields."
He looked at it sceptically, picked up the little dish and smelt it. His eyebrows bobbed in surprise.
"What a wonderful aroma!" he exclaimed joyously and immediately seemed to reprimand himself for the outburst, grumbling something under his breath.
"That'll be the mint," explained the Captain. "Would you care to try?" and he picked up a dish of dipping vegetables.
Fergan took a baton of celery and dipped it into the sauce. Suspiciously, he dabbed a little bit onto his tongue and his eyes lit up as he gasped. It galled him to admit it, but he adored it and it wasn't long before the entire delegation were nibbling at fruits and vegetables from all over the galaxy, dipping them into sauces from an equal number of different worlds.
I looked at the Captain and the Captain smiled at me. We had something the Dirrians wanted! At last, I was able to take a back seat and let the Captain work his magic. It was a long haul, talks concentrating more on the food that the carva seed, so Luke, Gideon and I simply made sure that the dishes were refreshed and a steady supply of different fruit juices were on hand.
Of course, the Captain successfully negotiated for the carva seed in exchange for a wide variety of herbs, fruit, vegetables and our recipes! It was a sterling success!
After the delegation had departed, hours later, the Captain thanked me.
"Don't thank me," I said. "I couldn't have done any of this alone. Thank your crew—our voluntary cooks in particular. They've done a wonderful job."
With that, the Captain strode down to our makeshift galley and heartily thanked and congratulated them all. Needless to say, spirits are particularly high at the moment.
As to the carva seed, it will be coming aboard shortly and then we can make our way to Andoria while our Medical Centre starts work on producing the antidotes and vaccines.
It has been a very long day and my time as an acting Ensign is nearly up. It's been fun but I shall also be relieved once I have returned the Theatre Lounge to its former purpose and returned to the humble role of Crewman (3rd Class).

Log Entry 120915.15

The USS Drakonia has arrived at Dirria and we have taken up position in orbit around the planet. Thankfully, though, the Dirrian delegation does not arrive until tomorrow, because there is still so much to do.
The room is nearly ready—the furniture is in place and hydroponics are installing the last of the plant displays. They're doing an absolutely fantastic job.
The Greeting Party is all set too, and so is the menu thanks to a wonderful response from crewmembers. Replicators may be able to produce the raw materials but only a real person can do the presentation justice, so we've set up a makeshift kitchen to prepare the dishes. There was also a wonderful suggestion to provide dips for the Dirrians to try. That sounded like a great idea to me, a chance for them to sample some of our dishes if they wish, and I do recall that Traeth was rather partial to riata.
The Captain still needs coaching too, bless him. He has no idea how often he stands either with his hands on his hips or his arms folded in front of him. It's reached the stage now that he no sooner sees me than he starts to twitch!
It's not all plain sailing though. While there is an air of excitement on board, it is also tinged with sadness. News has reached us of the USS Earhart, lost over a year ago in Quadrant 624. She disappeared without warning or trace, just like her namesake over 400 years earlier. The area was scoured for months but no clues were ever found that might suggest what happened to her... until two days ago. She was found adrift, four sectors away from her last known position. How she got there or where she has been is a complete mystery and will probably remain so. Initial investigations reveal that her databanks stop abruptly without explanation, and her crew is nowhere to be found. She was a Marie Celeste, adrift amongst the stars.

Log Entry 120914.14

I'm not sure about this responsibility malarkey!
I've been to the Theatre Lounge; I'd call it more of a Presentation Lounge really but it's perfect. It's a lovely room, big enough to put on a performance to an audience of about thirty people. It has two entry doors, one at each end of the room. The one I'm interested in is at the 'stage' end. You walk through the doors, there's an area about three metres wide and then a series of three wide steps to bring you down to floor level. I've tracked down the furniture I need and requisitioned some plant displays too. I suspect the Dirrians love plants judging by the number of green spaces they have in their cities and I want to make them feel really comfortable.
Personnel is another issue altogether. I felt a bit weird asking the computer to provide me with a list of crewmembers that were less than 1.5 metres tall, but I've found my transporter guy!
Ensign Luke Brightman is a chirpy man with a condition known as 'dwarfism'. It's very unusual in this day and age, where genetic manipulation can correct these conditions during pregnancy, but Ensign Brightman tells me that his parents were colonists on a small outpost near the Cardassian border. When the Cardassian Wars came along, the outpost was taken and his parents imprisoned. Against all the odds, he was conceived and born. He amazes me though. Many would term his condition as an abnormality or a disability, but it's neither! After all, a Klingon isn't disabled because of his brow ridges. It's just the way he was born and he's more than capable of doing his job. He was delighted to help me when I explained what I needed and not a bit offended as to the reason why I had selected him.
I've also had a rethink about the greeting party. The Captain's reaction when I mentioned an all female party made me reconsider. I don't want the Dirrians to think we are a ship dominated by one sex or another, so I need to make sure I have a balance. I've also decided that I'm not going to clear the corridors during their visit. The Dirrians know we are not a petite race so, to a certain extent, they must take us as we are and I'd like them to see our diversity. I must ask about a staff briefing though, so that if any crew do come across the Dirrian party, they step back and give them some space.
Food is next on the agenda. Like all starships these days, the Drakonia doesn't have a galley. We have an area we call the Galley, but it's really just a posh canteen with replicators where you can sit and eat. The officers rarely use it but crewmen and ensigns do, especially the unmarried ones, otherwise you'd always eat alone, and it's perfect for the lunchtime break.
I have nothing to suggest in the way of Dirrian dishes so am going to go with the sort of things that Traeth liked to eat and what he told me about with regard to their eating habits. He wouldn't eat cooked food, or meat of any kind; the Dirrians only consume fruit and vegetables. The preparation and presentation is incredibly important though. Working on the basis that I'm not qualified to operate a toaster, I'd like to put out a ship wide request asking any crewmembers that have any menu suggestions or food preparation skills to come forward. I just need to clear that with the Captain at the meeting, which is where I'm off to now.

Log Entry 120912.13

It's as I thought. No one is going down to Dirria. Apparently, the Dirrians have made it quite clear that they don't want visitors. However, they are prepared to trade the carva seed and so they are sending a small delegation to the Drakonia. How do I know all this? Well, that's a story in itself.
Earlier today I was accompanying Midas Yarrow, carrying out routine maintenance to various communications points around the ship, and the last point of call was the big meeting room next to the Captain's Ready Room. We were just finishing off when the Captain arrived with the Second Officer and a number of other senior staff members. They were going to have a meeting about the Dirrians so we apologised for delaying them and finished off as quickly as we could. Midas disappeared with his tools and I was on my hands and knees picking up the last of the rubbish when I heard Cdr Shaney (Second Officer) say, "Once the initial formalities of welcome have been completed, I thought a small tour of the ship would be good before bringing them here to begin negotiations. Do we know how many to expect?"
"No," replied the Captain. "Which is why I want to make sure we have a table big enough for everybody to sit round."
Cdr Jarrod told me after the event that I was like a little meerkat. Suddenly, from nowhere, my head popped up over the edge of the desk, my eyes nearly popping out of my head. Everybody noticed me and immediately saw my alarm.
"Is there a problem with that?" asked Cdr Shaney, irritation edging his voice.
"Uhm... well... yes... seeing as you ask," I said, still on my knees.
The senior officers shuffled about a bit.
"And what would that be?" enquired Cdr Jarrod.
"Well, it's just not suitable, and bearing in mind how funny the Dirrians can be with alien species, I would have thought you'd want to enamour them, not... offend them."
Looks were cast in all directions and then Cdr Shaney stepped forward.
"Crewman, we have reviewed all the databases regarding the Dirrians. I think we can handle this," and he threw me a steely glare. I wanted the ground to open and swallow me whole.
"No, no, hang on a minute Commander," piped up Cdr Jarrod. "Terran here may be a little free with her opinions but she's not usually one to put her foot in her mouth without good cause. What's wrong with the room, Crewman?"
I picked myself up off my knees and approached, rubbing my sweaty palms nervously on the legs of my uniform.
"You can't negotiate with a Dirrian around a table. The table is not just a physical barrier between you, it's a symbol of distrust. They'll find it very... hostile."
The Captain frowned.
"And how do you know this?" he enquired curiously.
"My friend, Traeth, told me."
"Traeth? Who's Traeth?"
"He was a lad I met in foster care. He was Dirrian."
The Captain's eyebrows bobbed in surprise and then he claimed his seat at the table and sat down. His officers followed suit.
"Sit down, Crewman," he ordered, so I sat.
"Dirrian, you say. I'm not aware that any Dirrian has ever travelled off-world."
"Traeth's parents were astrophysicists and they were unique in leaving Dirria for their work. It was one of the reasons why, after their deaths, it was so hard to find Traeth's relatives so that he could return home."
"And you spent time with him?"
"Lots. We were best friends."
"Do you still speak to him?"
"No. He told me that once he returned home it would be impossible to communicate. The authorities would never allow it. I never heard from him again."
The atmosphere had changed. We had all come to realise that I had valuable information to offer. Inside, I felt decidedly happy that I could be of use but terrified at the same time.
"You do realise, Crewman, that if what you say is true, then you are probably the only person outside of Dirria who has any idea as to their customs."
I bit my lip nervously.
"So what would you suggest?" he asked.
I stared at him like a dumb idiot.
"Crewman," said Jarrod softly. "I think we'd like to hear what you have to say."
I swallowed hard to recompose myself and looked down at my hands folded in my lap. I was thinking that if I wasn't looking at all those officers looking at me, I might be able to say something intelligible. I drew a deep breath.
"You should entertain the delegation in an open room with a leisurely setting. A low coffee table would be acceptable with a selection of non-alcoholic beverages and some nibbles—fruit and vegetable only and nothing cooked. You must sit in the chair beside the delegation leader, not opposite him and..." how could I say the next bit without being offensive?
"And what?" asked the Captain.
"You should select your greeting party from the smaller members of your crew."
The Captain frowned.
"Smaller... crew members?" He sounded dubious.
"Yes," I shuffled nervously. "You see, the Dirrians are a very petite race, none of them are over a meter and a half tall and they are very slight in their build, almost like stick insects. It's one of the things they have against other races. They find us... large... clumsy... overbearing and intimidating. We offend them greatly, and you..."
Everybody knew where I was heading with this and all eyes moved to the Captain—our two-meter tall captain built like a bull. His eyes narrowed at me.
"Are you suggesting I'm too..."
"Big, yes, I'm afraid so. Is there someone else who can negotiate with them?"
"They asked for me personally."
"Oh," I said in a very deep, disappointed voice.
"What does 'oh' mean?"
I pulled a face.
"It means they have no intention of letting you have the carva seed."
He looked startled. I needed to explain further.
"They are asking for you because they know they will find you offensive. They can be suitably insulted by your mere presence and thus have justifiable reason for denying you the carva seed—in their eyes at least."
Disappointment and frustration resonated around the room. Even the Captain buried his face in his hands and threw himself despondently into the back of his chair. He stared at me blankly for a moment and then leaned forward again.
"What do you suggest, Crewman?" he asked.
I sat and thought for a moment. I looked around the room and at the great hulk of a man before me.
"We need another room, somewhere where, after you've walked into it, there are a couple of steps down."
"The theatre lounge," suggested one of the officers.
"Perfect!" I exclaimed and placed my fingers on my lips as I thought. "How are the delegates arriving? By transporter or shuttle?"
"Okay, so we need the shortest qualified crew member we can find on the transporters and then two females to greet the delegation with drinks. Having welcomed the delegation, they can then escort them to the theatre lounge."
"Why women?" asked the Captain.
"Women are usually more petite, that's all. The theatre lounge must be cleared of everything. Then we'll need a suitable number of couches and coffee tables as I mentioned before. When the delegation enter the room, they must find you seated, but as soon as the door opens you must stand up and approach but do not climb the steps! When you first speak to the delegation, they should stand above you."
The Captain stood up and paced the room as he thought. He stopped and turned, placing his hands on his hips and opened his mouth to speak—
"—And don't stand like that for goodness sake!" I snapped.
Like a schoolboy, he pulled his hands from his hips, dropped them abruptly to his side, and then he glared at me.
"Sorry," I whispered, "but the stance not only makes you look bigger and more aggressive, it is an insult in Dirrian terms—rather like a two-fingered salute."
He frowned at me and shook his head.
"This isn't going to be easy, is it?"
I had to agree. "They do seem to be setting you up for a fall but the very fact that they have agreed to meet means that all is not lost."
"You think we can win them over?"
"We can try our damnedest."
"What else do I need to do?"
"You need to speak more softly."
"Softly?" he enquired in his usual deep, booming voice.
"Yes sir. Softly."
He rolled his eyes.
"Of course, if you're wrong about any of this, I'll have you scrubbing plasma conduits for the rest of the trip."
I smiled.
"Can I recommend you begin interviewing for the position immediately then, sir?"
His eyes narrowed again.
"Hmm. That sure of yourself, aye? Okay. Well, seeing as you're the only one that seems to know how to handle these people, I am appointing you as our Provisional Cultural Relations Officer."
"Pardon!" I blurted.
"You heard me, Crewman. I need you to handle this thing for me and to do that you'll need a rank to get things done so Provisional serves the purpose. Cdr Jarrod, is that okay with you?"
"No problem at all, Captain."
"Right then. Let's give Crewman Terran time to start her preparations and we'll meet up again tomorrow."
The meeting was adjourned and we disbanded. Outside, Midas was waiting for me.
"Well?" he asked.
"Let's just say, I'm going to be a bit busy for the next few days."

Log Entry 120911.12

Despite feeling rather rough this morning (engineers have been tinkering about in the Jeffries Tubes all night again), I'm quite excited. We're on our way to a little planet called Dirria. It's a rather quaint little M-Class planet with a single continent that is covered in tropical rainforests. The cities are very reminiscent of the Mayan architecture with square, terraced buildings, ornate stonework and lots of rectangular green lawns. The people are fascinating too. They have a very rich culture filled with custom and traditions.
Most people have never heard of Dirria but I know it quite well (although I've never been there) because a few years ago, I was in a foster home with a young Dirrian boy called Traeth.
Treath's parents had been killed in a shuttle accident and he was in care while his family were being located. He didn't get on very well with the other kids because of his strange mannerisms but Traeth and I became firm friends. He told me all about his planet's rich culture and strange customs, and his descriptions were so vivid that he didn't need to show me the pictures he had. Traeth and I lost touch when he went back home but I still remember everything he told me about his world and I'd love to see it first hand.
I don't know if I'll be able to go to the surface but if I don't ask about the possibility of a bit of R & R there, I definitely won't get there.
As to why the Drakonia is on its way there, we have been sent to negotiate the acquisition of carva seeds, the active ingredient in the treatment of Pygarian Influenza. For most, this illness is not lethal but there are a number of races for whom it is very serious. For these people, the young and the old are most susceptible and mortalities are often high. An outbreak of Pygarian Influenza on an Andorian cruiser, that was not diagnosed until after it reached Andoria, means there is a very serious situation there.
I'll be honest though, I'm not hopeful that I will be able to visit, or any of the crew for that matter. As I understand it, the Dirrians are unimpressed by most other races, finding them brash and overbearing. Whatever, it's going to require a delicate hand to negotiate with the Dirrians.
Well, I have to get on with things. If I get a moment today though, I might just stop off at Engineering and see if I can find out what's going on in the Jeffries Tubes. If my curiosity is sated, I expect I'll be able to ignore the noises and sleep more soundly.

Log Entry 120910.11

Oh...! My...! God...!
I have just met Captain Burrows and he is absolutely ENORMOUS!
He's human but stands over two metres tall and is probably just as wide. It's not fat though; he's pure muscle from head to toe, but he's built like a bull!
He stepped into the turbo lift and it was like someone had turned the lights off. He positively dominated the space!
"Good afternoon, Crewman," he said.
"Good afternoon, sir," I replied.
"Captain Burrows, but you probably worked that one out for yourself," he smiled.
"Yes sir. Crewman Terran, sir."
"Ah, yes. I've heard all about you."
Oh bugger, I thought.
"Nothing good I hope, sir."
He looked at me.
"Don't you mean bad, Crewman?"
"Er, yes sir, I do. Sorry sir."
Thankfully, at that point the doors opened and the Captain stepped out leaving the lemon alone to stew in her own embarrassment.

Log Entry 120909.10

It's all gone very quiet—well, not totally quiet because as I'm sitting here I can hear somebody moving about in the Jeffries Tubes. Most people probably wouldn't notice it, but I can hear their movements echoing through the vents. It's undoubtedly just an Engineer having a tinker with something but it's still a bit distracting. Anyway, back to what I logged on for.
I've not heard anything since my meeting with Cdr Jarrod so I'm going to sit tight for a while. In the meantime though, my social circle has expanded.
Al and Midas invited me to join them and some other crewmates for a games night. There's a group of them that get together and play long forgotten games from the many species that we are. Last night they were resurrecting an ancient game from Earth called Dominoes and as none of them had played it before, they thought it would be a good time to introduce a new member as no one would have any advantages.
Traditionally fashioned out of wood, a double-6 set has twenty-eight little rectangular tiles, the ends of which have spots on each them ranging from no spots to six spots. In a nutshell, the objective of the game is that players, in turn, lay tiles matching up the ends with the same number of spots on, into a long line. The first person to place all their tiles wins that game. There is also a scoring system attached so that over the course of the evening there is an overall winner. It's quite a simple game and fun too (if you can't place a tile, you have to 'knock') but that makes it ideal for chatting and getting to know people while playing. In fact, if you ask me most games were invented, first and foremost, to help pass the time and develop social interaction. The winning just makes it a bit more interesting as it appeals to people's competitive nature.
Well that was the game, as to the players, Arcaran is an Andorian male. He's tall and lithe, and his antennae are continually on the move. He can be quite a serious chap and he has a very dry sense of humour.
Tezenia is just the opposite. He's a Tellerite; a slightly more portly man and very jolly, and last but not least, there were three other humans in the group: Icarus Blaney (such a great name), Susan Warwick and John Redmond.
That made eight of us in total. For the double-6 dominoes, we discovered that it was better to have two games of four running rather than one game of eight, so we switched from the double-6 set (so named because double-6 is the highest or 'heaviest' tile) to a double-12 set (where the double-12 is the heaviest tile). This set therefore has seventy-eight tiles and made the game play far more interesting.
Midas won overall, much to his delight and Tezenia came second. Arcaran claimed his antenna gave him away, and that wasn't entirely untrue. Their wiggling slowed dramatically whenever he had to knock!
Well, it's late now and I have an early start tomorrow so it's definitely time for bed.

Log Entry 120907.09

Today has been a bit of an emotional rollercoaster. I began with a sense of frustration as it dawned upon me, how could I read five years' worth of logs and undertake my shift all within the space of twenty-four hours? Then I realised that it was impossible and moved into being despondent and hopeless. Then I got angry that I should have been set up to fail at what sounded like such a simple task; and then I became philosophical.
Cdr Jarrod would know that it was impossible to read five years' worth of mission logs in twenty-four hours, even without a duty shift, sleeping or eating, so there was no point in getting my knickers in a twist about it. I also debated whether or not the object of the exercise was not the reading of the logs, but rather, how I dealt with the task... and then I wondered if I wasn't perhaps getting ahead of myself and jumping to conclusions.
I've got this stupid idea in my head that I'm being lined up for Starfleet but that is crazy beyond belief. They have a barrage of entrance examinations I simply wouldn't pass. Having been a foster child, in and out of various care facilities, I haven't had a stable education that has taught me much beyond the three R's. I know nothing about engineering, alien culture or history, calculus, temporal mechanics, blah, blah, blah, so that is most certainly not on the cards... but... oh, I don't know. It just doesn't feel... I can't even put it into words.
Anyway, I went back to Cdr Jarrod as requested and she asked me my opinion of the logs. Right, I thought. What the hell. Let's get some answers.
"Well, obviously I've not had time to read them all, but they are very interesting. Admiral Kirk was a most charismatic and resourceful captain, but then, so was Archer and Pike."
"Indeed, they were. Every Captain has given something to Starfleet that no other can give. Each of them had their own way of doing things and what worked for one man, may not work for another."
"But you could say that for any crewman, surely?"
A broad smile broke out on the Commander's face.
"My point exactly."
That flummoxed me. I didn't quite know what to say next, so I stood there like a right lemon for a while and I asked myself, what is this about? But, no sooner had the words formed in my brain than they tumbled out of my mouth!
"Tell me, Crewman. Do you not have a sense of adventure?"
"Of course I do. Otherwise I wouldn't be on a starship sailing across the galaxies." A little voice in my head was telling me to be more respectful but, as usual, there was a second little voice telling me to say it like it is. The second voice is usually the louder one.
"Yes, but wouldn't you prefer to be in the thick of it? Wouldn't you like to be included on the away missions—see these things first hand rather than just the odd tourist attraction when you've got a bit of R & R?"
"Commander. You obviously have an agenda here. Would you like to share it with me please?"
The Commander laughed heartily and threw herself back in her chair.
"My god, woman!" she exclaimed. "And still you can't see it!"
"See what?"
"You may be a crewman by title, but a crewman doesn't challenge a commander..."
"Sorry but—"
"No, no, no! What I'm saying is you're not talking to me like a crewman; you're talking to me like an officer or an ensign. You are bold enough to say what's on your mind."
I laughed then and the Commander frowned at me.
"My tutors at school called it impudence," I explained.
"I call it promise!"
"But this is daft. What exactly are you suggesting? That I go to the Academy? I'd never pass the entrance exam!"
"Only because you haven't had the education, not because you haven't got the acumen."
My mouth opened to say something and then snapped shut. The Commander laughed again.
"There's more than one way to skin a cat. There's more than one way to become an Officer. Are you interested?"
I stared blankly at her, my mind buzzing with questions.
"Why me?" I finally asked. "I mean, surely I'm not the first crewman of this ilk you've found."
"No, you're not," and she leant across the desk towards me. "But they aren't crewmen anymore." She then leant back in her chair, swivelled it around and stared at the ceiling, obviously reminiscing, "Some are officers and some didn't make it all. They couldn't hack it." She turned to face me again. "The point is that academics don't always have the... oomph that its takes to make a good officer. Sure, they've got the brains but do they have the people skills, the enquiring mind that works at tangents instead of dead straight lines? No. That's why Starfleet has to have a second entry method into Starfleet."
"What? Like a scholarship program?"
"Yes, if you like."
"I've never heard of it."
"Your knowledge of Starfleet is hardly encyclopaedic."
I couldn't argue with that.
"So. Are you interested or not?"
"What does this involve?"
"I asked if you were interested or not."
"And I asked what it involved."
She laughed again.
"It doesn't work that way, Crewman. Are you interested or not?"
I smiled. Of course I bloody was!

Log Entry 120905.08

I have reported to Commander Jarrod as ordered. When I arrived at her office, she was sitting fiddling with a tray of bits. It was one of those 3D puzzles where you have to fit all the pieces together to make one complete object. Anyway, I went in and stood to attention.
"Crewman Terran reporting as requested, sir," I said.
"Ah, yes, Crewman Terran. Sit down."
As I sat, she pushed the tray over towards me.
"Put that back together will you?" she said casually and then she began to talk.
I did a quick survey of the puzzle and then began trying to reassemble the thing. It looked ever so complicated and I had no idea what the end result was supposed to look like. I couldn't ask either, not without interrupting the Commander, but I noticed that the outside edges of the puzzle had oxidised, ever so slightly, to a different colour. That helped.
"I understand you spent a great deal of time with an Engineering Team yesterday."
"Yes, sir."
"You made quite an impression."
"I did?"
"Yes, Crewman, you did. Apparently you showed initiative, dedication to duty and good teamwork."
"Oh, thank you, sir," I said, still fumbling with the stupid puzzle.
"Tell me Crewman. You're a Junior Maintenance Technician; are you happy with that role?"
I looked up.
"As long as I'm busy and I'm doing something useful, sir, yes. Why?"
She smiled at me then.
"Yes, Lieutenant Bryant did mention your inquisitive nature."
"Sorry, sir."
"Don't be sorry. Without questions, one can never learn; although you can ask too many. Are you having a problem with that, Crewman?" she asked, and it was true. I had started to assemble the bits but not in one chunk. I had a number of bits on the go. The angles of the outside pieces suggested that there were too many bits to make just one object.
I looked up at the Commander and smiled.
"There are two puzzles here, aren't there," I said, not so much a question as a statement.
She smiled back at me and then pushed a datapad across the desk.
"Take that, Crewman and have a read of it. Come back to me tomorrow and tell me what you think."
I had now finished the puzzle and made two objects, a cube and a pyramid. With a good degree of satisfaction, I arranged them neatly on the tray for her and then took the datapad. I was then dismissed.
I was dying to know what was on it but my tummy was rumbling. I'd not had any breakfast yet, but I had a good three-quarters of an hour before my shift started so I headed to the galley for some grub. Having grabbed myself some toast and a cup of tea, I opened the datapad. It contained just one directory: the logs of Captain James T Kirk's first five-year mission on the U.S.S. Enterprise. It was a curious thing to give me to but then I remembered. Isn't that required reading at Starfleet Academy? Or am I reading too much into this?

Log Entry 120904 .07

Oh heck! I've just woken up and there's a message waiting for me. I am to report to Commander Jarrod, the Maintenance Chief, in an hour. I knew I should have cleared missing my next shift with her personally. I bet she's really miffed!

Log Entry 120904 .06

Oh my goodness! I am sooooo tired. I have literally only just come off duty. I have been up all night in the Jeffries Tubes with a team of engineers. It all started yesterday when I was completing the log entries for the inspections I had undertaken for Engineering. Everything was hunky-dory and I was just about to finish my shift when an alarm began to sound. Engineers suddenly went into overdrive and a team were hastily despatched to the Jeffries Tubes on Deck C. Someone barked at me to grab a couple of maintenance kits, which I did and followed. Before I knew it, there were five of us in the Jeffries Tubes checking out a major fault with... something-or-other. I kept thinking I should keep out of their way but as demands for various tools and equipment kept flying around, I just kept shuffling about between the two parties like the dogsbody that I am.
It was after about half an hour that Lieutenant Bryant looked up and exclaimed, "You're not one of my team!" I said, no, but I'm just doing as I'm told and passed him the inverter he had asked for. He looked at the inverter and then asked me my name.
"Terran, sir," I said and he scowled and said, "I asked your name, not your race," so I had to explain that it was both my name and my race. He seemed to mellow a bit then, but I think that had more to do with the fact they had finally identified the cause of the problem. The guys then worked all through the night.
At one point, Bryant said I could go, but I looked at the others. Bearing in mind we were five people in a confined space with no airflow, we were a right bunch of hot, sweaty, smelly and thirsty individuals, so I said okay but suggested I get some liquid refreshments for everyone first. Everybody thought that was a wonderful idea so I disappeared off and came back with water in emergency ration bottles—the anti-spill kind of course (yes, I even thought of that) and then I just got caught up in the whole affair again--holding this or pushing that.
Eight hours it took in total, seven before the airflow was restored and by the time we finally crawled out of there, we were all so bedraggled. Lieutenant Bryant logged my attendance and signed me off duty for the next shift I was assigned to, and now I'm going to bed. No, scratch that. I'm going to have a shower and then I'm going to bed!
Night all!

Log Entry 120903.05

This morning, I have enjoyed my first meal in company since I came aboard the Drakonia. It's not anybody's fault it's been that way. It's just that with my old shift pattern, I always hit the galley when nobody was there. Now though, I don't. There's always someone around and this morning, having fetched my breakfast, a couple of Crewmen called me over and suggested I join them.
Crewman Alice Johnson works in the cargo bay and on the hanger decks while Crewman Midas Yarrow is in Maintenance, like me.
Alice, or Al as we call her, is a bubbly, blond girl, heavily muscled and yet still very feminine despite being as strong as an ox. She says it's something she gets from her Klingon ancestry (although there seems to be nothing Klingon about her at all--no sign of brow ridges and she's only a little bit over five feet tall).
Midas too, is of mixed blood. He's part Vulcan which gives him a slightly impish appearance with his delicately pointed ears, but it's not just his appearance that makes me say that. He has a devilish sense of humour and is quite charming with it.
They've not said anything, but I suspect that their relationship is a little more than just friendship. They keep casting each other secretive glances, but they still made me feel very welcome.
Finally, things are starting to come together.

Log Entry 120902.04

When you think of turbo lift maintenance, what do you think of?

Lateral controls and stabilisers, inertial dampeners, magnetic clamps, voice interface--that sort of thing? Yes, that's what I think of too, so what did I do?

I fitted the carpet!

Log Entry 120902.03

Yes!!! I'm off the night watch!
Apparently, my handling of the Belinian Spider Moth did not go unnoticed. (I didn't like to tell anyone that my first instinct was to swot it!) As a result of this, I have been given new duties. Okay, so it's not very glamorous, but I'm now part of the Maintenance Team which means... I get to meet people! At last.
The down side is that having been starved of company for so long, I'm in danger of being little more than a gibbering idiot. The fact I'm so excited doesn't help either, but I've just got to keep it together and not babble. So, where am I off to now? I'm fixing one of the turbo lifts with an Ensign from Engineering. I suspect he/she will let me do little more than carry the toolbox, but it's a start!

Log Entry 120901.02

Well, I've been on the Drakonia for a month now, but it's been a bit of a lonely existence so far. The night watch is very quiet at the moment, but that just means we aren't being invaded or attacked, which is a good thing. I did find the most enormous Belinian Spider Moth in the cargo bay last week though. Freaked me out something rotten! It's not that I'm frightened of insects, but these things are over a foot long with a proboscis of over a meter. I think it got shipped out to some zoological breeding program. Apparently, they're quite rare. Good job I didn't just swot it as per my first instinct!
Food's not bad. I've been trying the different dishes in the replicator. My only criteria has been that it mustn't be moving when it arrives. Quite like the Klingon coffee but daren't admit that I put half a teaspoon of sugar in it.
Not met the Captain yet although I have passed him in the corridor a couple of times. I'm thinking I really must make the effort and get out during 'daylight' hours and socialise a bit.
Well, duty calls. Another nightshift, another gold-pressed latinum.