Log Entry 121229.42

I'm shattered.

Nine of us piled back over to Al's quarters to clean the place up, and it took all nine of us plus a great deal of our replicator rations to get it respectable. Al owes us all—big time! The upshot is I've had no sleep.

At 0500 hours, I said my farewells to everybody and headed back to my quarters to pack for my own departure. I didn't have much so it wouldn't take long, and Luke, bless him, had volunteered to take care of Beastie for me. Not that it's a big favour. He dotes upon that blessed cat and Beastie can wrap Luke around her little paw.

Anyway, 07:45 and I was in the shuttle bay. The shuttle was already there and the pilot was undertaking the last of his pre-flight checks. Tez turned up shortly afterwards because, of course, his place had been secured at the Academy a good week earlier. He looked pretty shattered too (he'd been with us, helping with Al's quarters) and yawned widely as he walked in.

We greeted each other warmly with a gentle hug. He really is a cuddly old bear, and he always has this wonderful scent about him, like fresh oregano. I always find it very difficult not to draw in deep breaths around him; he smells so delightful.

Anyway, the two of us waited, quietly chatting. Tez was assuring me that Al had nothing to worry about. Her quarters would pass inspection no problem at all.

No one else was coming to see us off as we had said our farewells last night, and it was probably better that way bearing in mind that Rutter would be arriving soon. Sure enough, in he walked.

Rutter was, as usual, immaculately presented. He always had looked the part of an officer and he made me feel quite scruffy. I wasn't, but somehow he made me feel that way. Maybe it was my old rucksack that sat beside me, so tatty and crumpled compared to Rutter's smart rigid case.

Either way, he didn't greet either of us. In fact, he ignored us and stood at ease, staring straight ahead at the awaiting shuttle and its pilot.

"Ladies, gentlemen. Are we ready to board?" asked the pilot.

We all filed in and took our seats.

Shuttles are not large at the best of times, but this one seemed smaller than usual. I wasn't looking forward to the next eight hours cooped up with Rutter. It wasn't filling me with a huge amount of joy, and the atmosphere was really dour. The pilot wasn't oblivious to it either. Having taken the shuttle away from the Drakonia and set a course, an awkward silence settled. The pilot busied himself with various checks until he ran out of the things he had to do ... and then all the other things that he could think of to do that didn't actually need doing. Finally, he puffed out a breath of air and turned in his seat to look at the three of us. We must have looked really odd sat like fresh icicles, cold and stiff.

"So, you're The Misfits," he smiled.

"I'm not a misfit!" exclaimed Rutter indignantly.

"I think you'll find that you are," declared Tez. "There aren't many Ensigns that get sent back to the Academy for a refresher course in manners. In fact, I think you're unique ... and in so many ways; none of them good."

I was startled by Tez's remarks. He was usually such a mild-mannered individual. He'd lost none of his jolliness, but his tone indicated that he was looking for a conflict, and looking forward to getting one too. He was a true Tellarite after all.

"What's that supposed to mean, Tez?" shouted Rutter.

"Tezenia to you, Rutter. Only my friends call me Tez, which is virtually everyone I know. I expect that's why everyone calls you Rutter rather than Frederick."

"I have friends—"

"Only latinum-plated ones. All show, no genuine value—"

"I have friends, and proper friends, not the bunch of freaks you hang around with you horrible, stumpy little man!"

"My kind are all stumpy little men, except the females of course, but are all humans overbearing prigs like yourself?"

"I am not overbearing!"

Tez considered for a moment.

"True. I withdraw the statement. To be overbearing you would have to have a certain presence; fill the room with a sense of foreboding when you entered it, but you don't do that. Dread maybe, but not foreboding. And even then it's the sort of dread you feel when a real bore enters the room."

"I'm NOT a bore!"

"Maybe not by birth, but you've worked very hard at it, I can tell. You've done very well, though, excelled at it even."

"If anyone's a bore around here, it's you! B. O. A. R! Boar! You cloven hoofed, over-sized hairball!"

"Over-sized? A moment ago, I was a stumpy little man, but then verbal communication was never your strong point. Your mother should have taught you better."

"My mother taught me just fine."

"Let's hope she is a better Admiral than she is a tutor."

Rutter's face filled with rage and his lips pursed as he struggled to contain his anger. Eager not to get involved in another physical altercation, he got up and disappeared into the aft of the shuttle.

I grinned at Tez and he smiled smugly back at me.

"Sorry," I apologised to the pilot, smiling weakly.

"Not at all," he grinned, obviously amused by Tez's assault on Rutter. "I'm just trying to figure out which one of the pair is the Tellarite."

"Oh me, definitely," said Tez. "A Tellarite would never surrender in the middle of an exchange."

He smiled and saw my surprise.

"Problem?" he asked.

"No. I'm just not used to you behaving ... well, like a Tellarite."

He laughed.

"I'd never get to be a Starfleet captain if I behaved like a Tellarite with crewmembers. So, as you Humans say: when in Rome."

I laughed and so did the pilot.

Tez is a wonderful character and one day, he will make an excellent starship captain.

The rest of the flight passed by uneventfully, but that's probably because Tez and I fell asleep.

Log Entry 121222.41

Rutter, seething, disappeared within moments of leaving the Briefing Room, leaving Al and me alone in the corridor.

"Blimey Al!" I exclaimed. "That was your exit card!"

"I know," she said, sounding both annoyed and surprised at herself.

"I thought you wanted out! What on Earth was going through your mind?"

Al shook her head.

"To be honest, I'm not entirely sure," she said, grabbing my arm and pulling me down the corridor. We had so little time before she was due to depart.

"I knew it was my way out but ..." she paused and heaved a sigh. "When Bryant said you'd been enrolled into this Cadet Development Program thing, I was fuming with envy. Why the hell should you get yet another break? What was so special about you? Why did I never get any breaks? It was all sour grapes and I knew it, but it didn't stop me feeling that way."

As we rounded the corner to Al's quarters, we found Luke and Midas waiting for us. She growled with Klingon impatience. There was so little time before her shuttle would take her away and we needed to talk. With our futures so heavily intertwined, I needed to know her plans, and it seemed that she was equally eager to discuss them with me.

Al ignored the pair and went inside while I spoke to the guys. I gave them a quick overview as they needed to realise we had less than two hours to get Al packed, and then I sent them on their way.

"Girl talk!" exclaimed Al as the door shut behind me. It had been the only thing I could think of to get rid of them without causing offence, but I didn't answer her. Al's quarters were still in complete turmoil. I'd forgotten about that.

Al was racing around the room, sifting through the debris for ... well, uniform, I think. It was hard to tell with all the mess.

I struggled to find my voice.

"Yes, I know, but I needed to get rid of them. As it is, they're rounding everybody up to see you off in the shuttle bay, so come on ... you were telling me about your sour grapes."

"What? Oh. Yes. Well, then he offered me the same thing. I was going to tell him to shove it. That was my first instinct because that's what I'd normally do." She was talking at Warp Nine.

"—It's what I've always done, and then your little voice started chirruping inside my hand like an annoying, squeaky little mouse! Raktajino or Earl Gray! ... You can never be at peace with yourself, not as long as you deny who you are ... The Earhart could be your opportunity too."

Despite her whingeing impression of me, I couldn't help but smile. I'd had no idea I'd had such an impact upon her.

"—And I thought what the hell! My whole life, I've amounted to very little because I never had a chance. I was screwed from the moment I was born ... and then suddenly ..."

Al stopped moving and shut up. Her gaze fixed upon a point beyond normal vision.

"... I was being offered exactly that. For all the wrong reasons, of course. That ... P'Tok ... wanted me to refuse! But I thought, no, bugger you mate. I'm staying!" She was back up to full speed again and ranted for another ten minutes at least. I was waiting for her to draw breath. I never knew someone could talk for that long without breathing, but Al seemed to manage it as she ran back and forth selecting items at random and hurling them into a holdall.

"What are you smiling at?" she suddenly demanded.

I couldn't help it. I was grinning like a Cheshire Cat.

"I was just wondering why your packing what you are? You've just thrown the remains of a book in your bag!"

Al glared at me and then at her holdall. Sure enough, on top of the motley collection she had hurled in there was the front cover of an old book and its first few pages. She sighed heavily.

"See. There I go again. Can't even pack a bag right!"

I walked over to the holdall and upended it.

"And how am I going to get this lot sorted out before I go?" she asked, indicating the room. "Bryant'll kill me when he sees what I've done here."

"Don't worry about it—"

"How can I not worry about it? I've got less than an hour now!"

"AL! SHUT UP!" I screamed at her.

She froze, glaring at me, her lip twisting into a sneer.

"I'll get this sorted out," I promised her. "I'll get everyone to help me and it'll be cleaned up before I go. In the meantime, let's pack what you need. What is it with books anyway? Who has books anymore?"

Al slumped onto the bed as I folded some of her clothes.

"Oh, bloody hell, Jen. Why am I such a misfit?"

"You're not a misfit—"

"Yes, I am. Rutter's right ... misfit. Neither Klingon nor Human."

I sat beside her.

"Is that why you hate your Klingon side so much? Because without it you could be just one thing ... all Human?"

"No, it's because my plonker of a father—the Klingon—got himself a nice honourable death before I was two years old. My mother, on the other hand—the Human—well ... she's dead, so I got landed with Aunt Edith."

"At least you had someone."

"Oh stop being such a bloody optimist. She was an old age pensioner who lived in a remote farmstead in the mountains of Oveda Prime with nineteen cats and a cockatiel named Rodney. I was eight years old before I saw another two-legged being."

"Oveda Prime has the largest number and variety of birds of any known planet. Birds have only two legs," I chirped.

The look Al gave me was deadly, but soon melted into a smirk as she playfully hurled the remains of the book at me.

"And she didn't do technology. No on-line education for me," Al huffed. "My schooling was by books that were at least a hundred years out of date."

"So what you're saying is, if your Klingon father hadn't died, you might have had a better chance in life?"


"So, it's his fault."

Al scowled.

"You should forget about being a Cultural Advisor. Psychiatry's more up your street."

I laughed.

"Nah. How people think is interesting, but I've got too many hang-ups of my own."

Al scowled furiously at me, dubious that I had any baggage.

"Seriously, Al. We all have our problems. Look at Ensign Rutter."

She scoffed.

"He's had it all. Both parents were there for him and undoubtedly helped to pave the way, and being successful admirals, I'm sure those pavings were hefty ones. No expense would have been spared for his comfort or education, and look what a twit he is! Bryant summed it up. He's a xenophobe. How does a xenophobe get through the Academy? Pound to a penny, if it were you or I, no way would we have got through the first year. And does he have any real friends?"

Al sniffed deeply. "True, but it just seems that life has been so unfair for me ... until now."

We both beamed a huge smile at each other.

"So what are you planning?" I asked.

Al slapped her hands on her thighs, rose and swept a uniform up from the floor.

"You had your fairy-godmother in Jarrod," she said as she folded the uniform. "Maybe T'Roc is mine. I'm seizing this opportunity. I'm going to go with the Marines, and I'll try to hone this Klingon temper into something useful for a change."

"I think you've made the right decision under the circumstances."

"What circumstances?"

"Well, the Marines! I wouldn't fancy that at all."

"I'd rather have the Marines than Rutter."

"We're both saddled with Rutter."

"Yes, but for the first three months, you have him all to yourself!"

Oh bugger, I thought, but there was no time to dwell upon it.

We had Al's bag packed and left the chaos of her quarters behind shortly afterwards. When we reached the shuttle bay, we found quite a crowd of people waiting for us: the whole of the Games Club plus a few others beside. I saw Al swallow hard. She had not expected this many people and I could see that it moved her, but she wasn't going to show it. She thrust out her chin and cricked her neck before she stepped forward to greet them.

As I watched them saying their farewells, I saw them with different eyes. Ensign Rutter had called us misfits and perhaps we were an unusual bunch, but not in a bad way.

Midas was part Human and part Vulcan. He stood back and let everybody say their goodbyes with the dignity of a Vulcan, but when it came to his turn to say farewell, he embraced Al warmly and she let him. I wondered about his history and parents too.

Tez was there as well, and suddenly it struck me that he was far too jolly for a Tellarite. By nature, Tellarites are argumentative individuals seeking conflict and the upper hand via snide remarks. What was his story then?

Each and every one of us were such unique individuals, fascinatingly so.

Perhaps Al was right. Maybe psychology was more my forte, but then, to understand someone's psychology you had to understand their culture.

I shook myself back into the present as Al stood before me again.

"Cadet Johnson!" a voice boomed out across the bay. We turned. A Marine stood by a shuttle. He was tall with rugged features and wore his dark uniform well. He didn't smile but his face was not unfriendly. No doubt he had heard all about us. Perhaps we amused him.

"Yes sir," shouted Al proudly. She stood to attention and saluted him.

"At ease soldier," he grinned.

With a distinct spring in her step, Al disappeared with him into the shuttle and a few minutes later, she was gone. I stood and stared at the closed shuttle bay doors for a while.

"Come on," said Luke. "I believe we have a big mess to clean up."

Log Entry 121215.40

As expected, we have been summoned to the Briefing Room to stand before a Disciplinary Committee. We have already given our evidence individually, and now we must prepare for the verdict and face the consequences of our actions. Starfleet isn't playing favourites though. All three of us have been called.

As we marched through the ship, I felt ashamed, but also angry at the insinuation that I wasn't as fit to serve Starfleet as some others were. Al, who walked behind me, said afterwards that I marched and held my head like a Klingon. She found it inspirational and followed suit. Goodness knows what Rutter thought as he brought up the rear.

The doors to the Briefing Room slid open revealing Captain Burrows, First Officer: Commander Smithy, Second Officer: Commander Shaney, Lieutenant Bryant and Commander Jarrod sat along one side of the long table. We came and stood to attention before them. The five officers glared disapprovingly at us for what was only a few moments, but seemed like an age.

"The behaviour displayed by all three of you of late is appalling," began the Captain. "It has been recommended to me that I dismiss you entirely and, indeed, I have thought about it, but your behaviour reflects directly upon me. It suggests that my command may have been lacking and so, to dismiss you would be to admit defeat ... to surrender from the battle so to speak.

"Each and every crewmember must be educated, his or her skills honed in order to serve Starfleet and their captain to the best of their ability. Maybe I have been remiss in my duties of late, and that is why this recent string of events has been allowed to take place, but I do not intend to let this continue, despite any new postings you may have. By the time you reach your new Captains, you WILL be worthy of those posts and thus, I hereby order as follows:

"Ensign Rutter: If I could have stripped you of rank, I would have done so. Your xenophobic tendencies have not gone unnoticed. Even your parents, the Admirals Rutter, have expressed concern over your cavalier attitude towards non-commissioned staff, especially non-Humans. This is something we must address and thus, I rule that for a period of three months, you shall return to the Academy to refresh yourself as to the courtesies relating to culture and race. After that time, assuming you achieve a satisfactory grade, you will be posted to the USS Earhart where you will serve under Captain T'Roc.

"Crewman, Third Class, Jenny Terran: Taking into consideration that your posting to the USS Earhart has already been confirmed, Captain T'Roc has enlisted you into the new Cadet Development Programme that was announced yesterday while you were in the brig. As you will be unaware of this programme, Commander Jarrod will enlighten you," and he signalled the Commander to take over.

"At ease," she commanded. She stood up, approached and handed each of us a datapad to study.

"As Ensign Rutter so kindly pointed out, after the Battle of Wolf, Starfleet needs to replenish her ranks, both commissioned and non-commissioned, but NOT out of second-rate candidates. As part of this process, Starfleet has recognised that she already has many serving crewman with experience that will stand them in good stead for commissioned posts. Many of these crewman have the ability and potential to make good officers, but are unable or unwilling to spend four years or more at the Academy. To this end, Starfleet Academy is piloting a new scheme whereby serving crewmen can join the Cadet Development Programme. This will involve an intensive three months at the Academy to gain the basic training and etiquette necessary to be an officer, followed by a nine month posting aboard a Starfleet vessel under the guidance of the ship's Training Officer and a mentor who is no more than two years out of the Academy. This will be followed by a further three months at the Academy and another nine-month posting. This process will be performed at least four times with a final two month posting at the Academy. During this time, Cadets will be rigidly tested and challenged, and expected to pass all of the components of their courses."

Jarrod returned to her seat and the Captain took over again.

"Crewman Terran: You are hereby assigned the rank of Cadet, Fourth Class. You will be immediately transferred to Starfleet Academy, San Francisco to commence your first three months of training. Perhaps there you will learn the Starfleet disciplines that you are so distinctly lacking. After that period, you will be assigned to USS Earhart under the mentorship of Ensign Rutter."

The Captain paused, his eyes playing between Rutter and me to gauge our responses. I was just wondering what sort of mentorship I could expect from Rutter when the Captain added, "Be warned that, in this instance, your successes and failures will be equally shared between you."

It seemed that the Captain had already thought of that too. He had bound the two of us together, whether we liked it or not, for at least the next FOUR YEARS AND TWO MONTHS!

"Crewman, Second Class, Alice Johnson: You have already expressed your deep dissatisfaction with regard to your new posting to the USS Earhart. This is not a holiday camp and your comments, although noted, will be ignored. You will be posted to the Earhart as previously advised and you will serve Captain T'Roc.

"However, perhaps because of your shared heritage, the good Captain feels that with the correct training, you have a great deal to offer Starfleet and that Starfleet has a great deal to offer you. Thus, she has also reserved you a place on the Cadet Development Programme. However, your first period of training will be with the Marine Corp where you will undergo their basic training and learn their disciplines. Thereafter you will return to the USS Earhart and join the Security Department. You too will continue your programme with Ensign Rutter as your mentor, and similarly, your failures will be his failures and vice versa. What say you?"

Al, I could see out of the corner of my eye, was speechless, but her mind was working overtime. She might not care about her future in Starfleet, but if she could exact her revenge upon Rutter and bring him down ... she would!

Jarrod stood up and handed her a second datapad upon which to sign her agreement to the deal. I had effectively already signed up during my conversations with T'Roc, but not Al.

She looked at it. I could see she was realising that this could be her 'get out of Starfleet free card'. All she had to do was refuse to sign and I suspected a dishonourable discharge awaited her, despite what Bryant had said. And then ... she signed! My mouth gaped and I looked at her. She seemed smug.

As I looked back at the Captain, he too had a look of surprise on his face. She had signed up for another four years plus! He'd expected her to refuse too. Damn him! And then he smiled wickedly.

"Crewman Johnson: You are hereby assigned the rank of Cadet, Fourth Class and ... oh, I might have forgotten to mention it, but that thing about your failures will be Rutter's too ... just in case you have no care for a career with Starfleet, but have designs to sabotage Mr Rutter's future ... it works three ways. If you fail, he fails; if he fails so does Terran. All three of you are bound together. You either all succeed ... or you all fail. You are now reliant upon each other for your futures.

"Ensign Rutter and Cadet Terran, your shuttle leaves tomorrow at 0800 hours. Cadet Johnson, you depart in two hours. Ladies and gentlemen, I wish you well. Dismissed."

Sincerity was lacking in his voice as he spoke. He was pleased to see the back of us, and I couldn't blame him.

But, by whatever it is that atheists swear by, I swore that I'd prove him wrong!

Log Entry 121209.39

I am writing this from the brig so, as you might have gathered, things have not gone well.
Al was quiet throughout her shift. She threw herself into her work with a vengeance, trying to shake off her anger and relieve her tension. It seemed to work too.
We were both working in the cargo bay, which is particularly full at the moment with a shipment of supplies that are bound for a mining colony on Marcus IV. Some of the crates contain potentially volatile substances and delicate equipment, and our job was to check everything off against the manifests and perform a 'Storage Conditions Check' before we leave the Starbase. This is were you do a full sweep of all the cargo to ensure that incompatible substances are not stored next to things they don't like and stuff like that. Most of that is done when the cargo is loaded, but because we often don't know what's coming aboard until we get it, we have to do a full survey afterwards.
For most crewman, this means logging what is where on a datapad and letting the computer tell you what, if anything, needs shifting. Not with Al though! She not only has a real knack for spatial awareness but an incredible knowledge regarding the materials. She seems to be able to plot things three-dimensionally in her head, instinctively knowing what needs to go where, and shifts them around before the computer has made any recommendations. She knew all about the substances and equipment and didn't need to look anything up, whereas I did! But every single time, Al was right and the computer only served to confirm her amazing ability.
It was all going very well... until Ensign Rutter turned up.
The Ensign is the sort of guy that turns a girl's head, literally. He's tall with dark hair and tanned skin. He has some beautifully chiselled features and whenever he enters a room, all the females turn and look. And yes, I admit it, even I found a flurry of butterflies in my tummy the first time I saw him. It was short-lived though.
He's a bit aloof and only ever hangs around with the prettiest of girls that are as visually perfect as he is. He's also very popular with his fellow Ensigns, but I suspect many of them are just hangers-on that want to be part of his 'in-crowd'. Needless to say, both his parents are Admirals, and don't we all just know it.
Anyway, in he comes, sweeping past us as though we weren't even there and dumps his datapad down on top of the pile of crates that Al has just picked up, seemingly oblivious to her presence.
Al's face filled with her irritation, but fair play, she bit her lip, put the boxes down and wordlessly removed his datapad before continuing with her organising.
Rutter reappeared a few moments later.
"Where's my datapad?" he demanded.
"Over there," said Al, pointing at the thing right in front of his nose.
"Over there, Sir!" he snapped back.
Now, granted. Crewman should address all Ensigns as 'sir' (even if they are complete knobs) so I bit my tongue as did Al, but he couldn't just leave it there, could he? No.
"Well, let's hear you say it then!" he demanded.
Al's eyes narrowed. She straightened her back, thrust her shoulders back and turned to face him square on.
I gulped.
"Over there... Sir!" she spat.
"And what made you feel you should interfere with my equipment, Crewman?" he asked haughtily.
I couldn't help it. A titter escaped at the thought of Al interfering with Rutter's 'equipment'. He could have chosen his words better.
Rutter turned, glared at me and stomped over.
"Anything amusing you, Ensign?" he asked.
"No, no," I hastily backed down, desperately trying not to exacerbate the situation, but also forgetting to say 'sir', which Rutter instantly reminded me of.
"Sir!" he shouted, and a little bit of spittle came to settle on my forehead, but he was oblivious to it.
I felt my lips pucker with curbed irritation.
"Say it, don't spray it... sir." The words tumbled out of my mouth before I knew it. I was also painfully aware that there was not one iota of respect in my voice.
"Do you have a problem, crewman?" he said, his mouth twisting into a snarl.
There were so many things I could have said to that, but I could see Al out of the corner of my eye, shaking her head, so I resisted.
Ensign Rutter then stepped right up to me so that our toes nearly touched. He leaned over me, all six foot two of him towering above me. It was deliberately intimidating and forced me to lean precariously backwards. It's hard to practise what you preach about restraint sometimes.
"Actually, yes sir, I do have a problem."
"What?" he exclaimed and sneered at me as though I were a complete gibbering idiot.
"Respect is earned not demanded. If you want people to address you properly and respectfully, you need to treat them with a little bit of consideration rather than looking down your nose at everybody ... Sir."
He harrumphed.
"Why would I expect anything more than this from one of the Misfits?"
My jaw gaped.
"I beg your pardon!" I exclaimed.
Al came up to my side, placing a calming hand on my shoulder. I heard her whisper, "Let it go," but the hell was I!
"You heard me! Misfit! Like the rest of your bunch!"
"Excuse me... PAL... but Starfleet is not an exclusive members only club for the Human race, you know!"
"Yes, I have notice standards drop since the Battle of Wolf!"
I gasped. Starfleet and her allies had lost over eleven thousand personnel and thirty-nine starships in the battle against the Borg. It was a known fact that Starfleet was still suffering from that loss, trying to replenish her ranks, but to insinuate that we were second-class!
A veil of red mist descended and before I knew it, I had lashed out. My punch missed as Rutter ducked, but my knee rose up and caught him square on his chin, repelling him backwards. He tumbled, rolled over, quickly regaining his feet and lunged at me. He hit me square in the gut and we plunged into a pile of containers.
"STOP! YOU IDIOTS!" shouted Al and dived in after us, pulling us apart.
Her strength was startling! I had always known she was powerfully built but to feel it first hand was amazing.
Before I knew it, I was on my knees with my right arm locked at right angles to my body, being pushed hard behind my back. Incredibly, she had Rutter in a similar pose! We must have looked like a pair of bookends!
And that was when Bryant entered.
And that is why we are in the brig.