Log Entry 130427.59

As the turbolift doors opened, the bridge was revealed in all its glory and I felt my jaw drop. I had never stood on the bridge of a starship before. It was breathtaking!
Around the periphery of the room were the various operational stations with the huge viewscreen to the fore. In the centre were the command chairs for the Captain, First Officer and appropriate advisor of the time, and in front of that the stations for navigation and helm.
We were preparing to leave spacedock, so it was efficiently busy. Comms was relaying the verbal confirmation of clearance for departure and helm control its digital agreement. Ahead, I could see the grim, grey shipyard on the viewscreen, with all its debris and chaos, and just beyond its talons, the openness of space: quiet, black and sprinkled with tiny white stars. And then we were moving!
Stupidly, I had expected to hear the roar of engines, feel the thrum of ... well, not turbines. She doesn't have turbines, but you get my drift. She slid silently and gracefully away from the pylons, slipped out of spacedock's grip and suddenly we were out into the void of open space. It was absolutely beautiful and I found myself having to fight back yet more tears of emotion.
"Yes, it is pretty overwhelming the first time, isn't it?"
I turned. It was the Captain speaking to me. I smiled weakly.
"Come, take a seat for a moment. Your first time on a bridge?"
I nodded dumbly as I came and sat in the command seat beside her—I was sitting in a Command Seat! I felt like a kid on a school trip being allowed into the cockpit of a shuttle.
Suddenly, the warp drive kicked in. The blackness of space was sucked into an awesome black velvet tunnel streaked with veins of white, gold, blue, purple and red.
I must have looked incredibly awestruck because I heard someone laugh behind me. I turned, my mouth still slightly agape, and found Jarrod looking at me.
"What are you doing here?" I demanded and immediately bit my lip. That really was not the way to address a superior officer. Fortunately, she just laughed again.
"Oh, Terran. You'll never change. It's 'what are you doing here, sir!'" she teased.
It melted my tension and I felt my shoulders physically drop.
"I am sorry, sir. It's just all a bit ..."
"Yes, well get used to it. This is a starship and that," she pointed to the viewscreen, "is warp travel. And I'm your new XO, by the way."
"Oh, congratulations," I exclaimed with true delight in my voice.
"Thank you, cadet," and then she threw a poorly hidden scowl at T'Roc giving me the distinct impression she had been press-ganged into the role. As for T'Roc, she almost ignored Jarrod, but smirked smugly to herself as she checked over her instruments.
"Ladies and gentlemen, I shall be in my Ready Room. Cadet Terran, would you join me."
T'Roc got up and swiftly left. I scurried along behind her, sorely conscious that I looked like a little puppy dancing at her heels. How do officers get that air of ease and confidence about them? Does it come with time or do you have to practise it, I wondered.
In the ready room, T'Roc settled herself into her chair, leaning back leisurely. I sat in front of her and waited.
"As you might have gathered, things have not gone quite according to plan," and she waited for me to respond.
"Really?" I enquired innocently enough, but my eyes told her I wasn't going to be drawn into an unguarded comment. I think my Starfleet training is starting to kick in.
"Yes," she drew the word out and tented her fingers over her mouth.
"But fortunately, I have been able to persuade Commander Jarrod to step up as my First Officer. I need people I can rely on around me and Katy—Commander Jarrod, that is—is not only highly competent but she has earned the promotion five times over."
I really, really wanted to say that she didn't look very keen about it, but it would have been highly inappropriate to comment.
"As for my yeoman, she discovered yesterday that her bout of flu is, in fact, a bout of pregnancy. Under the circumstances, I have had her reassigned to a Starbase, which means I have no yeoman.
"Now, I'm good at many things but organising my diary and getting reports in on time are not on that list, so I need to impose upon you, Jenny. I want you to be my yeoman. It will fill your otherwise sparse list of responsibilities, back up your training and give you an excellent insight into the administerial workings of a starship. I take it you are agreeable."
I tried not to grin, but I couldn't help it. T'Roc wasn't asking. She was assigning me new duties whether I liked it or not and was merely following protocol by running it by me. As it was, I didn't mind. I had already wondered what duties a Cultural Advisor would be undertaking when not culturally advising and (because I hadn't checked my roster) had no idea what else I would be assigned to. Yeomanry sounded a good way to fill the void. It was certainly better than crawling through Jeffries tubes, playing gofer to the engineering staff or refitting the carpets.
"I'd be delighted," I beamed.
"Good!" she snapped and immediately leapt forward, grabbed a couple of datapads and threw them at me.
"I need you to check crew rosters, PDP training schedules and organise a meeting for me with my new Chiefs of Staff and another between the PDP cadets, their mentors and the Training Officer. I also need you to make sure I don't miss a reporting deadline—all of which are detailed on those somewhere—and check crew and equipment manifests.
"I have a small contingent of marines on board that were posted to me last minute. I want to see their personnel files. I'd also like an analysis of my crew by species and details of any foibles those species may have ..."
Her list continued on and on and on. Fortunately, I had the foresight to fire up a datapad and make some notes.
"Any questions?" she finally asked.
"Um, no—yes. Do I have enough clearance to access this information and where's the best place to do it?"
"You should have clearance, but any problems, let me or Commander Jarrod know, and you have an office on B-Deck. You'll find it on the schematics, which I recommend you study. Personally, I always make it a priority to know my vessel and my crew inside out. I suggest you do the same."
She was very cold and factual as we discussed things. Very unlike the T'Roc I had met on the Drakonia, but it didn't surprise me.
On the Drakonia, she was a visiting dignitary relaxing with old friends. Here, she was the captain of her vessel and she had to get things in order quickly. As she had pointed out, she has a young, inexperienced crew. They would take a lot of guiding and encouragement. They ... we ... needed to appreciate when we could be jocular and when there was business to complete, like now.
Our meeting concluded, I was dismissed and made my way down to B-Deck. T'Roc was right though. I do need to familiarise myself with the ship. I had to study each door to find the one marked 'Yeoman's Office'.
Inside was quite a surprise. It's not a big room by any means, but bigger than I had anticipated. There was a desk with a chair and seating enough for three visitors. Storage on one wall provided ample space for datapads and reference materials while on the other wall, a watercolour of the Earhart hung to which I was instantly drawn. The colours were beautiful and the detail exquisite. It was signed Eleanor Barnham. Who was Eleanor Barnham, I wondered.
I sat at my desk—quite a lovely piece of furniture with a smoky-blue glass top and brushed aluminium legs—and activated the computer.
"Computer, who is Eleanor Barnham?" I enquired.
"Ensign Eleanor Barnham was the Captain's yeoman aboard the USS Earhart from 2365 to the ship's disappearance in 2368. Her whereabouts is unknown."
Suddenly, I felt very humbled. I was sitting in a dead woman's chair—at least it was likely she was dead. My eyes rose to the picture again. For a moment, I toyed with the idea of removing it, but it was short lived. That picture had a right to be there. It was only fitting that it should stay. This time, a tear did escape my eye, but just the one. I had work to do.

Log Entry 130420.58

Well, that's a heck of a mission, but I'm in. I wonder if anybody will bow out. I don't doubt we'll know soon enough, but in the meantime, Al, Rutter and I registered and then went to find our new quarters.
The Earhart is very different to the Drakonia. Everything is just that little bit smaller, neater and newer. She really does feel like a brand new ship. I know you'll laugh, but I couldn't help noticing the carpets, all beautifully fitted and never been tampered with. They may not be my problem any more, but old habits die hard!
Arriving at our quarters, we discovered that we are all located within a spit of each other—Al and I are actually neighbours.
The door to my room opened at my bidding, and instantly there was a yowl followed by the dull, heavy thud of four fat paws hitting the deck. Shamefully, I can't say that I had missed Beastie while I was at the Academy. I was way too busy there, but it sure was good to see her.
I dropped my things and sank down onto the floor to greet her as she waddled over, her belly swinging from side to side. She meowed and pirruped at me urgently, rubbing every inch of her body against as much of me as she could. It was so funny. I had no idea a cat could be so expressive about her adoration for someone. In the end, I had to pick her up and carry my bags in one at a time. Even then, she kept pushing her damp little nose into my chin and purring loudly.
Finally inside, I had the chance to consider my new home and I've instantly fallen in love with it. When you've always lived your life in someone else's home where nothing is new, and then to suddenly find yourself in a set of pristine new quarters that are all yours, well ... I had to swallow a tear. Yes, I had my own place on the Drakonia, but it was a bit shabby. It was just another room I occupied, but this? It feels so different. It feels like ... home. Finally, I know what home really feels like.
I don't know how long I sat on my little sofa with Beastie nestled in my lap, kneading my legs and purring wildly, but it had to be the best part of thirty minutes. They aren't huge quarters by any means, but they are bigger than I had anticipated. I have no less than three rooms!
The bedroom has a bed (of course) with bedside cabinets to either side, a range of fitted wardrobes with dressing table and mirror and an en-suite bathroom with shower. The main room is much bigger with a small sofa, coffee table and a fully equipped study area.
The best bit though is the view—yes, I have windows! Is this a perk of being an cadet or ensign? If so, I'd have joined up sooner! Now, as I sit on the sofa or lie in bed, I can watch the stars streak by. To begin with, I was a bit disconcerted that there weren’t any curtains and then I thought, duh, what do I need curtains for? Who's going to see me getting out of bed?
The door chime awoke me from my reverie and I found myself tittering excitedly like a mad woman.
"Open," I commanded, and the door slid aside to reveal Luke.
I was delighted to see him, and he looked so healthy and vibrant.
"So, what have you been up to?" I asked, and that's when he showed me his pips. "Lieutenant, Junior Grade!" I exclaimed. "Well done."
He grinned proudly.
"And they didn't come with the job. I earned these babies."
I really wanted him to tell me all about it, but I didn't have the chance. Apparently, I was due on duty in fifteen minutes and I hadn't even checked my roster. How remiss is that? Been here nearly ninety minutes and other than cuddle the cat, I've not organised myself at all.
I spruced myself up very quickly while Luke fed the cat and settled her down for her mid morning nap (that's the one she has before her main snooze) and then the two of us headed up to ... the bridge!
Oh my! I'm on the bridge!

Log Entry 130413.57

Well, having made a complete prat of myself with Rutter over his non-existent romance, I've decided I really must try not to jump to any more conclusions, no matter how compelling the evidence might be. That was the thought going through my head as Rutter brought the shuttle to a smooth standstill in the shuttle bay of the USS Earhart. He insisted on showing me the proper shutdown sequences and post-flight routines, so to try to compensate for being such a nerd, I paid special attention. Once that was complete, we collected our stuff together and disembarked. I half expected Rutter to push off at that point, but no. Strangely, he stuck with me.
The Earhart was very busy with people coming and going. Indeed, no sooner had we left our shuttle than it was claimed by another officer and was jetting off again. We, meanwhile, had a meeting to attend in one of the cargo bays.
As we trotted through the corridors, the Earhart felt distinctly smaller than the Drakonia. The corridors, although not cramped, were certainly less spacious, but I should have expected that of a ship about one-quarter the size of the Drakonia. Hoards of people were going about their business. The Earhart had been undergoing upgrades and inspections during her months in dry dock, so the majority of her crew seemed to be arriving today. This perhaps added to the impression.
The cargo bay, too, was bustling with at least half her crew present. So many new faces to get to know, but among them should be some old friends as well. I could see we are quite a young crew too. I just hope our lack of experience doesn't hold us back.
As my eyes scanned the uniforms and faces, there was an air of excitement among us. My eyes were drawn to a group of people: marines, six of them. They stood out in their severe black colours and calm demeanours, and told me instantly that whatever our first expedition was, it had to be important. You don't get assigned marines to attend the Klingon's Spring Ball or whatever.
One of the marines looked particularly odd. Standing significantly shorter than the rest, he was quite stockily built with a bush of thick, black Klingon hair. His back was to me, so I couldn't see his face, but there was something else odd too. His stance was very ... feminine.
I craned my head to look closer and spied his hands: small hands with long, slender fingers. This wasn't a male at all. This was a woman, and then she turned around.
"Al!" I screamed and began barging my way past the people between us.
She looked up and as her eyes met mine, her face lit up.
"Jen!" she bellowed and ran towards me.
We met somewhere in the middle and hugged each other warmly.
"You look fantastic!" I screamed, and she did.
Dressed in the garb of a marine, her olive skin tones and thick, black hair gave her a healthy, natural glow that I'd never seen her with before. As a peroxide blonde, she had donned bright clothes and colours to compliment her big, curling locks. Now, her hair settled around her shoulders in typical Klingon splendour: a mass of unruly, crimped ebony hair feebly held back by a simple black cord. She stood taller too. Her shoulders were pushed back and her chin held high. Could I see the faint traces of brow ridges too?
She grinned.
"Yeah, well. Not a lot of time for fixing your roots as a marine so I've gone back to my natural colour. You look pretty good yourself, despite picking a fight with the nagagh tInr."
"Urtok ... nagagh tInr. It more or less means 'big tower'. It's what we call him. What? Klingon not in your diction?"
I laughed.
The room suddenly stilled. The Captain had entered.
T'Roc also seemed bigger than the last time I had seen her, and her presence was so strongly felt that she did not need to quieten the room. It did so naturally. To my surprise, Commander Jarrod was by her side. Casually, she pushed a nearby container to T'Roc's feet. T'Roc mounted it, signifying that a speech was forthcoming.
"Good afternoon, crew," she began. "And welcome aboard the USS Earhart. Today is a very special day. The Earhart will be setting out on her first voyage following her rebirth, her second maiden voyage if you will. She is newly fitted with the latest equipment and technology, has a new crew and Captain. Together, we will be taking her into the stars because we have a mission.
"But this is no ordinary mission. This is one at which we must not fail because this is our first one ... and because, it seems, that Starfleet is anticipating our failure. Why? Because we are what we are: an inexperienced crew lacking in skill and qualification—at least, that is what they tell me ... but I tell you this ...
"Our full crew should number one hundred and sixty-eight personnel. Our compliment is one hundred and forty, but that is not because I have been left with only the scrapings from the bottom of the barrel. Indeed, I have refused applications from personnel to join our crew. The Earhart has a reputation that she needs to dispel and she cannot do that with a second-rate crew. Each and every one of you has been personally vetted and selected. Each of you has been permitted to come aboard this ship because I have found something in you that is of great value to me. It may be your spirit, your personal experiences, qualification by experience, your academic achievements or character. Each of you, I WANT aboard this ship and each of you has a very important part to play.
"But do not puff yourselves up with misplaced pride. I and Starfleet are fully aware that for some of you, your time in Starfleet has been far from glorious. I have heard officers whisper in the comfort of their scotch and Romulan ale that we are little more than a 'shoddy assemblage of second-rate, poorly qualified Starfleet personnel assigned to an accursed ship', and it is true. Some of you have been able survive with your mediocrity. You have been allowed to misbehave and bicker like schoolchildren ... but playtime is over. You have donned the uniforms of Starfleet; now you will earn them.
"In the past twenty-four hours, I have come to learn that our mission, previously considered to be fairly routine, is likely to be a perilous one. So perilous, I must warn you. For those of you on the Professional Development Programme, you may have appointments with various Academies in nine months time, but there is a distinct possibility that you will be late for that appointment. You may not arrive at all. That is the gravity of this mission."
T'Roc paused allowing her words to permeate into each one of us and then drew a long, hollow breath.
"It was suggested that this mission should be handed over to a more experienced ship, but two things prevent that. The lack of an available starship and the uncertainty as to how serious this mission actually is.
"And now you are confused. I talk about a mission that Starfleet considers both important and perilous, and yet not serious enough to assign to another ship. That is because the situation is curious. In truth, we do not know what we will be facing, so let me tell you about the mission.
"As you know, the Earhart disappeared a little over a year ago. She disappeared without warning or trace and then reappeared four sectors away. Her databanks stopped abruptly without explanation and her crew was gone. Since then, probes have continually been sent into the area, but shown nothing. Then, four days ago, a carrier passing the area of the Earhart's disappearance picked up some unusual readings. They diverted to investigate and found a graveyard of corpses floating in space: the former crew of the Earhart. And then, thirty minutes later, they found they had company.
"Five life forms had materialised on their ship: more former crewmembers of the Earhart. Three of them materialised inside walls and bulkheads. The remaining two life forms were alive, but not well. Emaciated and dehydrated, their minds were blank. They died within hours.
"Starfleet do not know the gravity of this situation and probes have failed to reveal anything. It demands a starship to investigate, but until they know more, Starfleet are reluctant to recall and assign a more experienced ship to this expedition. So they are happy to send us, and if we are lost ... we are expendable.
"For these reasons, this mission is not compulsory. If you wish to reject it, you may do so. You will be taken back to the station, you will be assigned another posting and your records will not be blemished by your decision, but if you stay ...
"Ladies and gentlemen, you have one hour to make your decision. After that time, those wishing to leave should report to the shuttle bay. Those wishing to stay should sign onto the ship's crew registry, dock your belongings into your quarters and take up your stations. We depart in one hour, thirty minutes."

Log Entry 130406.56

After all our messing about, I was running late and by the time Bairn and I got back to our dorm, Rutter had disappeared. We hastily gathered my things together and left. Bairn said she had something to tell me but there wasn't enough time, so I promised to contact her as soon as I reached the Earhart. Whatever it is, she was really excited about it. Maybe it's to do with Rutter. I'll find out soon enough.
At the shuttle pad, there was no sign of Rutter. Apparently, he was already aboard the craft waiting for me, so Bairn and I hugged and said our farewells. I am going to miss Bairn so much. I remember at the beginning of my stay that I said we'd never be the firmest of friends. Could I have been more wrong?
Aboard the shuttle, Rutter was seated in the pilot's chair undertaking the prerequisite routine of pre-flight checks, but this was not the new Academy Rutter with a wry humour that I had become so accustomed to. The old, cold, icy Ensign Rutter had returned. He continued his pre-flight checks as I stowed my stuff away already missing my Rutter.
My Rutter?
I chuckled to myself. He wasn't my Rutter at all, but at the Academy, we had settled into a somewhat cool friendship over the past few months. I no longer despised him and he no longer looked down his nose at me. Actually, that's not quite true. He still looks down his nose at me but no longer contemptuously. Now, it's more like he tolerates me, rather like an old dog does a young, exuberant puppy.
"So how long have you and Bairn been an item?" I ventured.
"We're not," he said coldly without even deigning to look up from his checks.
Silence fell. I could see this was going to be a long trip.
"I could always ask Bairn."
"You do that."
"I will. Regardless of what you tell me, I will."
"Jolly good."
He was being dismissive.
I sat down in the co-pilot's seat and began looking over the console. I had completed the familiarisation section of the Shuttle Pilot's Course so I did know what I was looking at. It felt smug and warm knowing that I was more qualified than I was those few months ago, even if it was only a little bit.
Rutter finished his checks, got cleared to lift off and we soon departed. San Francisco looked as beautiful as ever with the sun shimmering brightly over the ocean's waters.
"So when did you first fall for her Orion charms?" I pursued as we disappeared into the clouds.
"I didn't."
"It looked like it to me."
"Did it indeed."
"So was it at the party?"
No response.
"Or was it earlier than that? It obviously wasn't the first time you saw her—"
"For goodness sake, Terran! Will you shut up!" he shouted angrily. It quite took me aback.
"Bairn and I are NOT an item!" he growled.
"Well it looked like it from where I was standing."
"You weren't standing. You were on your hands and knees and as usual, you got it completely wrong!"
"You were on the bed with her!"
"So, how did you get there if you weren't invited?"
Rutter sighed in annoyance.
"Are you going to be like this the whole trip?"
"Yes, so you might as well just tell me. How long have you and Bairn been an item?"
"We aren't!"
"Then let me rephrase the question. When did you make first contact?"
"About twenty-five minutes ago. Now that's enough. I don't want to talk about it!" and he began to blush.
"Rutter loves Bairn. Rutter loves Bairn," I sang. Tez was right. Winding him up was fun.
"Terran, can I remind you that I have a phaser and it has a stun setting. If you want to spend the trip in an unconscious state on the floor, I'd be more than happy to oblige."
"Then talk to me Rutter!" I pleaded. "For goodness sake, we're stuck with each other for the next four years. We're as good as friends now!"
"No, we're not."
"Yes, we are."
"No, we're not."
"Whether you like it or not, we are friends. We may not be bosom buddies, but we are friends. And stop calling me Terran. My name is Jen."
"Look Terran, I admit, we might not be sworn enemies anymore but we are NOT friends."
"Call me Jen anyway."
"I'll call you Frederick ... or Fred ... or Freddie."
"No, you won't."
"Why not?"
"Because no one calls me by my given name."
"What do they call you then?"
"Rutter. Just Rutter."
"What? Even your friends?"
"I don't have any. Remember?"
"Hmm. What about your parents? What does your father call you?"
"And your mother?"
"Do you have any brothers or sisters?"
"Not any more."
The past tense did not bode well, and sadness flashed across Rutter's face.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to pry."
"Yes, you did. You always do."
"Okay. Yes, I did, but I'm still sorry."
An awkward silence fell.
"Katy. Her name was Katy," he finally said.
"Katy. And what did Katy call you?"
"Rutter," and he smiled at the memory.
"So are you saying that even as a tiny baby, from the moment you were born, everybody has always called you Rutter?"
He looked up into the air and grinned as he thought.
"Pretty much," and he shrugged.
We escaped Earth's atmosphere and the blackness of space enveloped us. We remained silent for some time, until we cleared the outer limits of our universe and entered warp drive.
"What happened to her? Katy, I mean."
He sighed.
"She died."
"Drop it, Terran." His voice was threatening. He didn't want to talk about Katy.
"Okay, so what about Bairn? Can we talk about Bairn?"
"Are you always this stupid, Terran? There is nothing to talk about."
"You were in her bed!"
"By accident!"
"How the hell do you fall into bed with someone by accident?"
Rutter heaved a heavy sigh.
"Okay. I give up. I'll tell you, but on one condition."
"What's that?"
"You will never, ever mention it ever again!"
He was serious too, but reluctantly I agreed.
"Bairn's got her new posting. She's been assigned to the Vulcan Medical Institute's Interspecies Medical Exchange."
That was fantastic news and I veritably squealed with delight.
"I just happened to be there when she got the news."
"Yeah, right, but why?"
"Because I was looking for you, dumbass!" and he rolled his eyes.
"Bairn's a very excitable young woman and she was reading the communiqué when I arrived. She got a little overexcited and used me as a Terran substitute. She threw her arms around me and I lost my balance. We fell onto the bed and that's when you tumbled in through the door and, for some inexplicable reason, Bairn thought it best to try and hide me."
"Oh," I was truly disappointed.
"So there is nothing going on between you two then?"
"No. Nothing. So, if you've finished jumping to conclusions, I've got a career to concentrate on and so has Bairn ... So have you for that matter."
I shrugged. That was true.
"So ... do you want to fly this thing or gossip all the way to the Earhart?"
That was one way to distract me. Why didn't he use it sooner?
Our journey continued on in a very professional manner. He was much more comfortable in his mentorship role and I loved piloting the shuttle. It was a nice, simple trip; a good one to cut your teeth on, and Rutter soon settled himself beside me with a good book.
"No point keeping a dog and barking yourself," he explained. Now why did that remind me of the way Tez had treated Rutter?
The flight was only a couple of hours long and Rutter let me fly it for most of the way, only taking the helm again just before we dropped out of warp.
"Don't want you crash-landing into the Earhart," he teased.
As the warp engines died and the world stilled, she came into view and I gasped. She was the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. They always say that your first ship is the one you love the most and this was, to all intents and purposes, my first ship—my first proper posting, but even if she had been my twenty-first, I still think she would have looked beautiful.
Snuggled inside the docking clamps of the dull, grey shipyard, she shone with an angelic glow. The USS Earhart, NCC-7766.
I instantly recognised her as a Pioneer-Class Explorer designed for deep-space exploration. With a mere fifteen decks and accommodation for 168 personnel, she measures 345 meters long, 144 meters wide and 57 meters high.
No, she's not a big ship, but she is beautifully sleek.
Rutter read my mind.
"Stunning, isn't she? One of the fastest ships in the fleet, well armed, with advanced shielding. They only built three you know."
"Why only three?"
Rutter shrugged.
"And if she were any other ship, people would be fighting to serve aboard her."
"Their loss," I said.
"Our gain," he confirmed.