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!