Lieutenant Bryant was fuming, but I managed to persuade him to let me go and find her. I don't know why, but I just had a really bad feeling about this. Al has a little bit of Klingon blood in her and from what I'd heard, it was a Klingon temper that was being exercised these days.
I arrived at her quarters and rang her door chime countless times, but there was no answer even though the computer confirmed she was in there. I started hammering on the door.
"Al!" I screamed. "Let me in. I'm not going away!" but still she didn't answer so, in true Jenny Terran form, I just kept pounding on the door.
A good fifteen minutes later, after continued ringing, shouting and hammering, the door suddenly slid open. It caught me by surprise as did the sight of Al. She looked awful, haggard almost, and glared at me with fury filled, Klingon eyes.
"WHAT!" she spat. She stood rigid, her fists clenching and unclenching fitfully. Her stance, her demeanour, everything spoke Klingon. I could see very little Human in her at that moment.
"Can I come in?" I asked nicely, trying to appeal to her human side, but unsure that was the best way to deal with an angry Klingon.
She debated and then stepped to one side, and my jaw dropped in awe. The place was trashed. Broken furniture lay upturned around the room, the cushions ripped open and the stuffing pulled out. Books, clothes, datapads, pictures, everything was strewn everywhere.
Gingerly, I stepped into her quarters and the door shushed shut behind me. My feet began to crunch down on smashed china and glass.
"My god, Al! Did you do this?" I asked. It was a stupid question.
"WHAT... DO... YOU... WANT?" she spat again.
I turned and looked at Al, all five feet, one inch of her with her curly, blonde hair and deep olive-coloured skin. I had always seen her as a bubbly Human, but now it all suddenly looked so artificial and staged.
And suddenly, I got it!
"Al... Just how much Klingon blood does run through your veins?"
The broken vase that hurtled towards my head told me. I managed to duck the missile and found myself sheltering behind the remains of a table. What the hell was I supposed to do now?
After a few moments, I decided to brave it. I stood up and went over to the food replicator, righting a sofa on the way.
"Two Earl Gray teas," I ordered, knowing it to be Al's preferred beverage. "No sugar, no milk."
Two delicate china cups appeared and I took them over to the sofa.
"Come on, Al. Sit with me. Let's just sit for a while and take stock."
I knew how stupid it looked. A cup of tea was hardly going to sort out Al's problems, but it would serve to soften the atmosphere; it installed a pause in the moment of chaos, and allowed time to reason. It was something for which the British were famous and mocked for, but also something that often worked.
"What. Not raktajino!" she hissed like a true Klingon.
"I can get you raktajino if you want, but I know you prefer Earl Gray."
"I HATE EARL GRAY!" she boomed.
"Then why do you drink it?"
"Because it's hu-man!" she spat, stretching out the word.
I got up and ordered a raktajino.
"There," I said, settling back down on the sofa, trying to avoid the great gash in the middle. "Now you have the choice."
To my surprise, Al's face softened a little. The corners of her mouth and the muscles around her eyes relaxed. For a moment, I thought she was going to weep, but she didn't. She just stood there, looking lost and alone, torn between two cultures.
"I thought it took several generations for brow ridges to disappear from a child of Klingon heritage." I chose my words carefully. I didn't want to say hybrid, cross, half or part. I didn't want to imply she was an incomplete person. She most certainly was not that.
"It does," she replied coldly.
I stared at her for minutes, it seemed.
"Surgery?" I ventured.
"And your blonde hair?" but now I was looking, I could see dark roots coming through.
"Come on Al. Accept the fact that I've figured it out and come and talk to me. I am your friend after all."
She hesitated but then she came and sat, staring at the two beverages: the tea in a delicate china cup and saucer and the raktajino in the metal mug.
"They are so different," she said. "Earl Gray tea and raktajino. One has a fragrant bouquet and a delicate flavour. The other is strong and pungent. One you serve in a fragile cup, the other in rigid metal. But if you blended the two drinks and their receptacles, what would you get? Something better or something vile and too repugnant to drink?"
"With work and some expert blending, I think you could make something quite different and very palatable."
"You can't. The Klingon always wins!" spat Al.
"No, it doesn't. T'Roc seems to have managed it."
"Damn T'Roc!" she bellowed.
"Why? Because she has achieved what you haven't?"
"You've never seen her lose her temper! She'll be as bad as any Klingon then, you mark my words!"
"Oh, I don't doubt it. The difference is with T'Roc the battle would be on the outside, not the inside."
Al glared at me and swallowed hard, and then she looked away.
"Is everything in your world so idyllic?" Malice infected her voice.
"No. In an idyllic world, I would have had parents and just one home, not dozens. I might have actually achieved something rather than being a glorified cleaner on a starship."
"But you have achieved something. You have your fairy godmother!"
I burst into laughter. I couldn't quite see Jarrod in a frilly dress with little glittery wings and a wand.
"I have been given an opportunity that I intend to take... and you? What about you?"
"I have been given no such chance!" she spat. The vehemence of a Klingon rose in her again.
"You don't know that. The Earhart could be your opportunity too."
"I shunt cargo about. I am strong. I am nothing more than a workhorse, a forklift truck with legs!"
"And I clean Jeffries tubes and food dispensers. I sweep up after everybody else... today at least," and I sipped my tea.
Al glared at the beverages again. Her hand moved to take the tea, wavered and then took the coffee instead. I smiled to myself.
"T'Roc has learned to accept what she is, who she is. It has taken her a long time, but she does seem at peace with herself."
"I can never be at peace with myself."
"No, not as long as you deny who you are."
"Since when did you become a psychologist?"
"Oh, I'm not a psychologist, but I've lived all my life with people who are broken, people without parents. We've never had someone for whom we were their first concern. Don't get me wrong! Not all orphans are broken... just most." I sighed. I wasn't going to lie about that. "In fact, most people carry a burden of something about with them. Most of us have been, or are, damaged by something. Few of us have escaped life unscathed, and if we had, it would probably be because we haven't actually lived it, been anywhere, done anything. In the words of Kahlil Gibran, 'Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.'"
Al looked at me coldly, no longer glaring, but I couldn't read anything in her eyes.
"Come on, Al," I finally said. "You're late for your shift. We'll clear this lot up later."
To my relief, she followed