It was no surprise therefore that I was summoned to the Dean's Office after the contest. After all, I had effectively cheated, but I wasn't going alone. Bairn, Dr Morris and, most surprising of all, Rutter were coming along too.
Freshly showered and bathed in the scent of fresh lavender (Bairn had discovered this helped to counteract the effects of her pheromone technology), we arrived at his office and entered. I was feeling a little sick and muggy-headed from Bairn's concoctions but was adamant that I wasn't going to let it show.
Inside were the Dean, seven other senior staff members including Professor Jarrod, and Urtok. A tenth chair next to the Dean remained empty. As we filed in and stood before the board, the Dean looked up and scowled, a little confused as to why there were so many of us. We lined up and stood to attention, except for Dr Morris. She smiled at us: a small, soft, reassuring smile, and then claimed her place in the tenth chair. It piqued my curiosity.
"You're late, Philippa," mumbled the Dean.
"On the contrary, Charles. I was exactly where I needed to be."
Suddenly, I was getting the feeling there was more going on here than I knew about.
"This meeting is in session," declared the Dean. "Cadet Terran—" but he didn't get to finish.
"Oh now, Charles. I really don't think we should make this official," said Dr Morris softly. It was a statement rather than a suggestion, at which the Dean gawped at her. He too was beginning to suspect there was more to this than met the eye.
"I take it you have an explanation then," said the Dean dryly, and Dr Morris beamed him an all-knowing smile before turning to Urtok.
"How are you feeling?" she asked.
To be frank, he didn't look that good. Like myself, he was nursing a headache and was rather pale. Urtok growled quietly at Dr Morris and then turned to me.
"What did you do to me?" he demanded, his voice surprisingly frail.
I threw him one of my humble, 'sorry' smiles.
"She beat you, Urtok!" declared Dr Morris triumphantly.
"Yes, I know that, but how? What weapon did she use?"
"Precisely!" said the Dean. "T'Ker Chan does not permit the use of weapons—"
"But the rules of T'Ker Chan do state that 'with both parties evenly matched through handicapping, the use of guile, cunning and expertise will be the winner's road to victory'. Those are the weapons that Terran used."
Urtok sighed deeply. I got the impression he was eager to be away so that he could nurse his head. He turned to me and motioned with his hand that I should explain.
"This is a very long story, so I beg your indulgence." It was my subtle way of saying 'please keep it shut until I'm done', and seeing as my future at Starfleet could depend upon the outcome of this, I thought it best to be polite.
"It all started when Bairn and I realised that as an Orion, she could never have a proper career with Starfleet. She would be too distracting to her comrades and thus a severe liability. The question then arose as to whether she could become as mundane as a Human to males, and thus have the career she so desperately seeks. She was already taking pheromone suppressants, but they have a limited effect and can induce nausea, so we experimented with mannerisms and appearance. Shortly after our experiments began, we had to confide in Dr Morris."
All eyes turned to her and Dr Morris smiled at me again, encouraging me to continue.
"Dr Morris was kept abreast of our work and could have vetoed the project at any time. Everything was fully documented and as a result of our tests we were able to prove that yes, males can function normally in the presence of an Orion female. Full details regarding this will be in Bairn's end of year paper, but as a result of this experimentation, we wondered if the reverse was also possible. Could a Human become as alluring as an Orion?
"Further research by Bairn indicated yes, but we couldn't prove it without one final experiment. We devised a suitable test but Dr Morris forbade it. She said it pushed the boundaries too far so that was that ... until Urtok challenged me."
"Yes, he was the one that challenged you," interrupted Bairn.
"Does it matter who challenged who?" snapped the Dean.
A little alarm bell began to ring inside my head.
"Anyway, with the challenge, which I couldn't possibly hope to win, it changed things. We spoke again with Dr Morris who then approved our final experiment. This would prove that by tweaking Human pheromones, you can reproduce the Orion effect. Not that I recommend it. I don't feel too good myself," I added, looking sympathetically at Urtok.
"Without going into the technical data, the doctored Human pheromones are released through sweat. It was thus essential that I perspired heavily; the heavier the better; so I had taken something to encourage that too. The result, as you know, was that Urtok succumbed to those pheromones and that I did indeed win."
"But you cheated," said the Dean sternly.
"Uhm, yes and no." I sounded uncertain. "It depends how you view it."
I could tell they weren't impressed by that statement so I continued.
"Captain James T Kirk cheated at the Kobayashi Maru test. He reprogrammed the scenario to turn his no-win situation into one that he could win. What we did was no different. We used the tools we had available to us to turn, what was undoubtedly an event I could never have won, into one that I could. Our only weapon was our guile: a weapon allowed under the rules of T'Ker Chan."
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Urtok beginning to grin. He raised a hand to cover his mouth but it was too late. I had seen it.
"As far as I can see, all I did was comply with precedent and the only party that suffered from this was Urtok to whom I would apologise if he weren't a Klingon. As it is, it would be inappropriate."
Urtok huffed in agreement.
"A Klingon would never apologise for a win," he said. The rest of the board sat silently.
"Of course," began Dr Morris. "There is the other side to this."
The Dean cleared his throat noisily and shuffled uncomfortably in his chair.
"Yes, well. I don't think we need to go into that here," he mumbled.
"I think we do."
"But not in front of the cadets."
"Why not? Ensign Rutter knows all about it. What makes you think the cadets aren't going to find out about it sooner or later?"
There was some more shuffling in seats and whispering in hushed tones. After a few minutes, the board recomposed itself. The Dean wiped his brow and leaned forward over the desk. He rested his head on his chin and stared at us for several minutes as he considered. Then he sat up.
"Yes, this is a bit of a cock-up, isn't it?" and he smiled.
I gasped at his new cavalier attitude. He seemed both amused and annoyed at the same time.
"Ms Terran, you are a bane! You have an uncanny knack for fouling up people's plans."
Confused, Bairn and I glanced at each other, but neither of us had an answer.
The Dean sighed deeply and continued.
"There has been much debate as to whether Development Program students should undergo the infamous psych test. The argument against it was that many of our DP students will have already faced great fears and adversarial situations that would have tested their mettle. Making them face their own so-called 'greatest fear' seemed a little melodramatic as our greatest fears are often the smallest of things. In support of the argument was the premise that it seemed unfair for DP students to forgo that dreaded test. We decided, not unanimously I might add, that DP students should face the test, so we set one up for you.
"Our evaluation told us that you fear situations where violence threatens you. You have a very small stature and are unlikely to win any fight with your complete lack of combat skills. You also have issues respecting people that you consider contemptuous."
He wasn't wrong there, but I could have told him that.
"So we set up a little sting for you. Ensign Rutter here, whom you quite openly despise, was going to become involved in an altercation with some other cadets over his xenophobic tendencies. It was to become a physical altercation, only lightly so but physical nonetheless, and he was to be on the losing end. You were supposed to witness this whole fracas and intervene, thus coming face to face with the threat of violence as well as having to stick up for someone you despise. It would have been interesting to see just how deep your morals ran. Would you stick up for him—the underdog in this scenario—and risk harm to yourself, or would you turn your back?"
Boy! Their evaluation was good! Spot on, in fact.
"And it should have gone very nicely ... but you decided differently, didn't you?"
"I did?" I exclaimed, screwing up my nose in confusion.
"Yes, cadet. Because when you entered the Mess Hall and found him sitting alone, you walked up to Ensign Rutter and apologised! You weren't supposed to do that. Weeks of rehearsals and planning flushed down the toilet because of that."
He shook his head again.
"So then we had to think again. We wanted to know how you would react when faced with violence ..."
"Oh!" I exclaimed. Suddenly I got it. "The incident in the lift! It was a set-up!"
"Yes, and you were supposed to worm, or squirm, or whatever, your way out of the situation. Every indication stated that is what you would do. The last thing that was supposed to happen was for the challenge of T'Ker Chan to actually take place."
The Dean buried his head in his hands, and as I looked along the row of faces that made up the committee, I could see a mixture of amusement and ... was that shame I could detect?
"So it seems we have all learned some lessons here today. At least I hope so. I certainly have, but what about you Ms Terran. What have you learned from this?"
"That the best laid plans of mice and men ...?"
Urtok burst into deep, raucous laughter and a number of the other professors showed amusement too.
"Indeed, Cadet Terran, indeed," mused the Dean. "And as the custodians of the Academy, we must be more thorough in our planning and perhaps a little more moral.
"Ladies and gentlemen, I fear some of us may have become so obsessed in testing Ms Terran that we lost sight of the objective. We pushed aside our responsibility for her welfare just to prove a point. We should not have let the match take place but unfortunately, by that time, Urtok was also committed. For him to have backed down would have meant a loss of face for him. We placed both of these people in an impossible position. We manufactured this situation and this problem and thus, I for one would suggest that we learn from this, put the matter aside and move on. Do I hear any objections?"
I was dumbfounded by that speech. It was so magnanimous and suddenly, I held the Dean in very high regard. The Academy had made a blunder and as the head of the Academy, he took responsibility for that error. That is a man to admire: Charles Lorian Tucker.
As for objections, there were none.