Log Entry 140727.109

The next morning when I checked my messages, I found a summons from the Captain. I cussed under my breath. I could do without that. I had enough on my plate already without taking on whatever new little tasks T'Roc had in store for me. When I bumped into Al on the way there though, we both knew what the summons was about. That damned Rutter! He'd grassed us up!
Sure enough, as we entered the captain's ready room, Rutter was there, sitting informally on the sofa to one side of the room. The Captain was there too, relaxed in the swivel chair behind her desk, her arm splayed over the back of it, but her eyes were hard and unyielding.
We stood to attention before her. She did not tell us to stand at ease, which spoke reams.
"Right then, ladies. It has come to my attention that you are somewhat behind on your studies."
I couldn't argue the point, even though my brain was screaming for me to blurt out, 'yes, time has got away from us but we've been a bit preoccupied saving an entire civilisation and bringing peace to a race that have been at war for generations,' but T'Roc already knew that, so saying it would be futile. I did, however, afford Rutter a glare that could kill.
"And there's no point you glowering at Rutter. If anything, he's done you a favour because you can't afford to neglect your studies. Yes, you have been a little busy. Yes, you have saved a world—" could she read my mind? "—but as an officer of Starfleet, you need to know how to organize your time, how to prioritise, and sometimes that means squeezing a thirty-hour day into a standard Terran twenty-four hours." She chuckled lightly and added under her breath, "No pun intended."
She paused, saying nothing for a good while, and then she stood up and began to pace the room. She turned and stared out of the window for a while too, watching as the stars streaked past us.
"But in this instance," she finally said, "I'm going to cut you some slack."
She turned to face us again. I won't say she had anger in her eyes; it was more cross than angry—the sort of cross a parent saves for a naughty toddler.
"But trust me, I'm only going to do this once because, like Rutter, I too have something to lose if you fail at the Academy, but don't think I'm going to favour you; I'm not. I am many things but not soft ... and like yourselves, I was also once young and stupid, but that's probably where the similarity ends because, despite my mixed blood and the lack of acceptance by some of my kinsmen, I was raised by a very passionate Klingon mother who loved me dearly, and a very logical Vulcan father who adored me, despite whatever fancy terminology he decided to label it with to de-emotionalise it. They were ... as you would say, Jenny ... in my corner."
She laughed again and her face warmed.
"When I was six years old—"
It was odd how T'Roc would melt into the warm embrace of a memory and share it in seemingly, the most inappropriate of circumstances. Not at all Klingon, Vulcan or Starfleet, but regardless, you always knew it was something worth listening to.
"—at breakfast one morning I announced that I wanted to be a hairdresser. My Mother gave me such a scowl, but my father? He didn't turn a hair. He didn't even deign to look up from his breakfast as he spoke.
"'There are people in life who seek out adventure but it is not for everyone. Some become mere pilots who guide us to new worlds, or scientists who make great discoveries in their field, or medics who heal and save lives. There are even great Warriors,' his eyes did not move to my Mother, but the sentiment was made on her behalf, 'who will fight for their nation, inspiring their soldiers and protecting their people, freedom and way of life ... and then there are those that will cut hair.'
"He said no more than that, and he didn't need to. Suddenly, I didn't want to be a hairdresser anymore. Suddenly, I wanted to be," she roared with Klingon laughter. "And that's another tale. The thing is, he never actually said no to me, because he understood his child."
She turned and smiled mischievously at me.
"As I understand mine."
A strange mixture of emotions swirled through me. I was both offended and touched at the same time.
"So, I'm putting you both on half-shifts until the Academy. In return though, I expect you both to excel," and she threw us one of her hardened, smug smiles.
"Dismissed!" she suddenly barked, indicating that the meeting was over and that debate was not an option.
"Thank you," I whimpered pathetically as we left the room with Rutter bringing up the rear.
Once the door had shushed behind us, he coughed. We turned and looked at him. We both knew we should thank him, but neither of us wanted to.
"You bugger this up now," he lectured, waggling a finger at us, "and I'll flog you to the first Orion slave traders I can find, and trust me! No one will miss you!"
Al pulled a face of mock affection.
"Awww!" she cooed and then threw her arms around him. "We love you, Rutter!" she tormented in a silly voice.
Rutter hastily fought her off and pushed her away.
"Don't take the Mickey!" he chastised, pulling at the hem of his jacket to recompose himself before stomping off.
"Thank you, sir!" we both chorused after him. He returned our thanks with a two-fingered salute.

Log Entry 140720.108

My first shift back involved shifting the mountain of administration that had accumulated while I was on Risa. Not that I could clear it all in one shift, but I could organise it into projects and then tackle each one in turn. Overall, it was a very productive day but while normally, I would have been happy to stay on and do a bit more, I had more pressing matters to attend to: studying.
Al and I were both finishing our shifts at the same time, so we arranged to meet and study together at my place. Indeed, I had only been home fifteen minutes when the door chimed. I bid her to enter and she bundled in through the door with an armful of study material. We had a number of courses in common or that crossed over, but more than anything we were hoping that if we worked in the same room, it would focus our attention onto studying, and it worked.
While Al organised our work area on the desk in the middle of the room, I prepared a quick, easy meal via the replicator. Nothing too complicated and something we could munch on as we worked. We were soon sitting down on opposite sides of the table, knuckling under. We worked in silence most of the time, only lifting our heads to pick each other's brains or swap ideas.
At one point, the door chimed. We looked up and our eyes met for a moment. The unspoken communication made, we ignored it and returned to our books.
An hour later and the door chimed again. This time we didn't even look up, but a few moments later, it sounded again ... and again ... and again.
We tutted in unison knowing we'd have to answer it. I sighed heavily as I got up and opened the door to Rutter.
"Everything okay?" he asked, swanning into the room, his eyes scanning for anomalies.
"Yes. Just studying."
"I assume you don't have a problem with that?" added Al, an air of sarcasm in her voice.
"No problem at all. Just wondered where you were," and he picked up one of my datapads. His eyes narrowed as he looked at it. He frowned.
"Um, correct me if I'm wrong but isn't the introduction to Klingon physiology at the beginning of the xenobiology course?"
I snatched the datapad from him.
His eyes wandered over to Al who refused to look up at him.
"Okay ... so just how far behind are you two?"
"What concern is it of yours?" asked Al, deigning to look up from her work.
Rutter grabbed the back of her chair and swung it round to make her face him. He bent down to look her square in the eye for added effect.
"Your failures are my failures, remember!" he said sternly into her face. "So it's very much my concern!"
I was amazed. A year ago, this type of situation could easily have turned into another brawl between the two of them. As it was, this was a Starfleet officer talking to a junior member. He really had grown up in the last year.
So had Al. She took a deep breath, a habit she had taken to when controlling her Klingon temper. She cleared her throat before she spoke.
"In all honesty?" she asked. He didn't respond. She continued. "Not a lot. We were a bit busy saving a planet."
Rutter straightened up and addressed me.
"And you?"
"Pretty much the same boat," I confessed, looking somewhat shamefaced.
"And how long have you got before you return to the Academy?"
"Three weeks," we chorused.
Rutter rolled his eyes before dropping his head into his hands.
"Brilliant!" he exclaimed softly and left us.
We looked at each other for a moment, but there was nothing to say, so we buried our heads back into our work.

Log Entry 140713.107

It was good to be back aboard the Earhart. It was doubly good to be greeted as warmly as I was by Beastie. She warbled and pirruped as she madly wrapped herself around my caressing hands, and rubbed up against my face as I lay on the bed fussing her.
Having spent a good half hour devoting my affections to Beastie, I turned my attention to more pressing matters. I checked my rota and was delighted to find that I didn't have a duty shift for another twelve hours. It meant that catching up on the sleep I had missed last night would take me neatly into my new 'time zone', so as fatigue began to claw at me and slumber begged to be indulged, I fell happily under its spell without any sense of guilt. I welcomed Morpheus's warm embrace.
* * * * *
The gentle warbling of the internal communications system stirred me. Bleary eyed, it took me a moment to get my bearings though. The enormous, fat, brown tribble camped on my pillow, smothering my face didn't help. Usually, Beastie slept in her own little bed that was perched on a unit in the corner of the room, a spot she had chosen to favour herself.
I reached over to the comms system and tapped the channel open.
"Have you checked your mail yet?" It was Al.
"Nah," I muttered.
"You should."
"Why?" I yawned.
I didn't want to move. I wanted to go back to sleep. I'd been having such a lovely dream although, as the seconds passed, the memory of it was slipping away from me. Desperately, I tried to recall it, to recapture it so that I could slip back into it.
"Our orders are in."
"You should read them."
"Yeah. Later."
"Now." There was an urgency in her voice.
I sighed despondently and explained, "I've looked at my rota and I don't need to be anywhere for another ..." I checked the time, "eight hours."
"If you're in the same boat as me, your next shift is the least of your worries."
"Boat?" My mind was still fuddled by slumber.
"Yes, boat. Are you listening to me?" There was a long pause while Al waited for an answer that wasn't coming. "Have you done any of the Academy work you were set?"
"A bit. Why?"
"For crying out loud, Jen!" Al screamed, finally losing her temper with me. "Slap yourself awake, get your idle butt out of bed and read your flipping mail!"
"Oh, all right!" I moaned and heaved myself upright.
I yawned widely and rubbed my sleepy eyes trying to get them to focus. Beastie gave a small yowl of discontent as I nudged her out of the way.
My eyes soon picked up on the message Al was concerned about. It was from the Starfleet Cadet Development Coordinator instructing me to report to Starfleet Academy, San Francisco in ...
"Three weeks!" I screamed.
"I know!"
"But there's s'posed to be nine months between our stints at the Academy!"
"And it's been over eight months already!"
"Oh, knickers! I've done bugger all!"
"Ditto! That's why I'm panicking! We've got just three weeks to cram nine months of study into!"
"Oh, nuts!"
"What we gonna do, Jen?"
I thought for a moment.
"Well I'm going back to sleep."
"SLEEP! How can you sleep?"
"Easily. I'm tired."
"But we have to study!"
"Yeah, but not now. I need to sleep first, then I have a shift to do and then I'll worry about studying."
"What! Are you mad?"
"No, but a few more hours isn't going to make a scrap of difference in the big scheme of things."
"No buts. Fretting isn't going to achieve anything so I'm going to prioritise: sleep, work, study. Night, Al!" and I flicked the comms channel shut somewhere in the middle of Al's next sentence. I sighed, threw myself back onto the pillow and allowed myself to drift back into a soothing, deep slumber.

Log Entry 140706.106

I staggered from the depths of sleep into a confused consciousness, not that I had slept much in the first place.
A wall of cloth before my eyes foxed me for a moment, and then I remembered. It was the back of a sofa.
I turned to Luke who was lying behind me, partially spooned into my back in order to make the most of the limited space we had. He was already awake, staring blindly at the ceiling. He turned, gave a small, wry smile and yawned widely.
We had hoped that Rosie and Lulu would have called it a night at some point and retired to the bedroom so that we could make good our escape, but no such luck. They lingered on the sofa for hours, chatting and laughing as they downed the Romulan ale. As the night deepened and a chill set into the air, they retired only as far as the log fire where they snuggled beneath blankets on the rug, at which point we were forced to listen to their love-making.
I had put my fingers in my ears to try and shut it out, but failed. Those noises will live with me forever. Even now, I blush every time I think of it and have no idea how I'm going to be able to look Rosie in the face ever again.
Anyway, as we lay there, cramped and stiff, we could hear Rosie and Lulu packing their things up and preparing to leave. Apparently, Lulu is an astral chemist and had managed to wangle a twenty-four hour break to meet up with Rosie for their anniversary. Both then had places to be: Rosie on the Earhart and Lulu, the Interplanetary Science Centre on Empathos IV.
They had a final kiss and a cuddle and, at last, left the room. Even then, we waited a good few minutes to make sure they weren't coming back before emerging from behind the sofa.
"You prat!" said Luke.
"Yes, I know. You don't have to rub it in. Come on. Let's get out of here."
Like criminals, we skulked out of the suite and back towards our own rooms. Our route back meant that we passed Rutter and Luke's room first, but when we arrived, we found it empty bar the housemaid who was cleaning it. She was very sweet and handed Luke a little note from Rutter. He opened it and sighed deeply.
"What is it?" I asked. "What does it say?"
He handed me the note.

Have no idea where you are, but hope it was worth it because you're running late. Had to vacate the room so I've packed the rest of your stuff up and will meet you in Al and Jen's room. If you're still not back in time, I'll get your stuff onto the Earhart for you, but I'm not signing you in. If you miss the boat, that's your tough luck, mate!

"Oh knickers!" I mumbled under my breath, and Luke then gave me the wickedest smirk you ever saw.
"What?" I asked, suspicion rising in me.
"Oh, nothing," he said, his broad grin tainting his words, but as he turned from me, I grabbed his arm.
"Hang on!" I said. "We can't go to my room together. They'll get the wrong idea."
"You're right," smiled Luke, pulling a face and then, as I dropped my guard, he yanked himself free from me and fled.
"Luke! You ...!" I shouted as I ran after him, but he had reached my room and pressed the chime before I could stop him.
As I skidded to a halt at his side, Al opened the door. A look of startled amusement spread over her face as her eyes flitted between the two of us. She smiled humorously and stood to one side allowing us to enter.
Inside, our cases were all packed and ready to go. Rutter was sitting on a sofa with his feet up, sipping a cup of green tea. He looked up and laughed loudly at us.
"Where the heck have you two been?" he jeered.
I opened my mouth to speak, but nothing came out. What could I say?
"Yes, Jen," piped up Luke smugly. "Where have we been?"
He was wearing a lop-sided smile, so cheeky that I felt a strong urge to slap it off his face. I chewed on my bottom lip.
"No! Don't tell me!" shouted Al, holding up a hand to stop us. "Come on! We're late!"
She picked up her bags and pushed her way past me. Rutter did likewise.
"Would you like me to carry your bags for you?" teased Luke as he picked up my holdall along with his things.
"No!" and snatched my bag from him before stomping out of the room in an angry sulk. He caught up with me quickly enough though.
"Why did you say that?" I demanded.
He face shrugged.
"Dunno, but maybe it'll make you think about your actions before you go steaming in next time."
"You know they'll talk."
"They'll talk anyway."
"Yes, but now they'll have something to really get their teeth into."
"So what would you suggest, Jen? We can either tell them the truth—"
"No way!" I bellowed. "What happened last night stays between the two of us! We must never speak a word of this to anyone!"
Luke readily agreed.
"So does that mean we lie? Because if you think I'm going to lie for you, you're wrong. I'm not saying I'd never lie for you, but not over something as trivial as this."
And he was absolutely right of course.
"No," I agreed reluctantly. "I'm not going to ask you to lie."
"Then we just let them talk. And the more we feed them with possibilities, the more they'll think there's nothing going on."
I thought about it for a moment.
"Oh! I see! Reverse psychology!"
"Yeah. I knew you'd get it in the end."