Log Entry 151226.162

Strangely, after our meeting, the Dirrians weren't foremost on my mind; Al was. Why was she at a science station? I was itching to know. Much to my annoyance, though, I had to wait until lunchtime before I could ask her.
"Ah, now there's a tale," she said as we sat down, grinning broadly and then she began her story ...
Al arrived at the Academy in Marseille and immediately fell into a routine of lectures, tests and exercises, all centred around security.
"All pretty dull stuff," she reported, "even the scenarios. I thought they'd be fun, but one role play situation is very much like another after a while. Assess, address, overwhelm, overpower."
It was at one such exercise where she and a group of students were tasked with the protection of a cargo of extremely powerful weapon fuels that would be of more than passing interest to the Romulans. They were to assume that there was a Romulan delegation on board to complicate the issue, at least one of whom had significant connections to the Tal Shiar. They needed to secure the load and protect it during transit by both electronic and physical means, all the while remaining diplomatically polite.
For the scenario, their tutor, Colonel Stutgard, had taken them onto the USS Ulysses, an old Excelsior type starship docked at a nearby starbase. The group were quite far into their session. They had secured their cargo and were deciding upon their protocols when Al's attention was caught by a couple of donkeys—crewman—who were loading actual cargo on the far side of the bay.
They were known as donkeys because they conveyed cargo from A to B and often weren't much brighter than your average equus asinus. As Al once said, if they had brains in their heads, they would be doing more than just shifting boxes. Strange really, when you remember that Al was a donkey herself at the time, although she was unlike your average donkey. She had an amazing spatial awareness that enabled her to pack a cargo bay to perfection, and she also knew all the substances and materials, understanding exactly what could be placed next to what, all the associated risks and any other requirements of carrying those materials.
It was with professional interest then that she watched as the crewman brought in four large barrels of hydrochlaripane distophate and set them down next to some duroplast containers filled with metabaric alvarium-D. She was used to having to keep an eye on the donkeys from her previous assignments, so her eyes scanned the location they had chosen for them, and her face screwed in dissatisfaction. She was now completely oblivious to her assigned exercise.
"Excuse me," she shouted after the donkeys and broke away from her group. "I take it you're not going to leave those there," she said, pointing to the barrels.
The two men turned and grinned at each other before replying to the cadet.
"Yes, love," which was a mistake to start with. Al wasn't anybody's love, especially theirs. "You stick to playing with toy cargo and we'll shift the real stuff," one of them jeered.
As Al stepped forward, the Colonel placed a hand on her shoulder to draw her back, but she pushed him aside rudely and approached the crewmen.
"Yes, well, when your real cargo is in danger of blowing up for real, it sort of becomes my concern."
The man forced a mocking laugh. "Do your science, love. Both of those substances are perfectly stable."
"Under certain conditions, yes, but open your eyes, man!"
An audience had started to gather, not just her classmates but other donkeys and officers too.
"Just go back to playing at becoming an officer, sweetheart, and leave the real stuff to us, okay?"
"I would, if you were competent that is, but I'm starting to question that."
It was becoming a showdown. The chap strode over and folded his arms as he stood before her.
"Look love—"
"I'm not your love."
"Okay, cadet, " he emphasised the word 'cadet'. "I've been doing this job for five years and I've not blown anything up yet."
"Then let's not break that record. Hydrochlaripane distophate is stable as long as it's not exposed to radiuum CB3. Then it becomes highly volatile."
"And there is no radiuum-CB3 here."
Al ignored him.
"Metabaric alvarium-D is stable unless it reacts with celiuum."
"There's no celiuum here either."
"Celiuum can be formed, in minute quantities, by the irradiation of garvium ore by warp plasma emissions. This is an Excelsior class starship. The plasma waste manifolds run behind that wall," she pointed. "This is a very old ship. It's highly likely that plasma emissions, well below normal safety standards but above the one part per trillion required to irradiate garvium ore, are being emitted. If so, your garvium ore will become celiuum. Your celiuum will contaminate your metabaric alvarium-D making radiuum CB3 and your radiuum CB3 will react with your hydrochlaripane distophate making a bloody big boom!"
The man rolled his eyes.
"That may be but—"
"No buts! Move your hooves and shift it!" boomed Al angrily, as though it was her cargo bay. "These are people's lives you're playing with!"
The man baulked and it took him a few moments to find his voice. Then he shouted back angrily, "I have worked for the Academy for five years, and in all that time, I've never had an incident!"
"More luck than judgement. You might not care that you're endangering lives, but I do. These people—this crew—deserve better. This ship carries families as well as Starfleet personnel! That includes children. You want to be responsible for their deaths?"
"The chances of that happening—"
I can assure you that Al's voice has all the power of her Klingon heritage. When she bawls, the world shakes.
"Is there a problem?" asked a soft voice with a Scottish brogue. Al turned to find a small man had emerged from the audience. Barely five feet tall and slightly built, he was in his sixties. He had a pale complexion and short, grey hair neatly slicked back. His features were sharp, and his eyes a piercing pale blue.
Before Al could answer, the crewman explained the problem from his point of view. The Scotsman listened intently before commenting.
"Yes, that is a problem," he agreed. The crewman smiled, sure the Scotsman was about to put Al in her place, but then he added, "I'd move them if I were you."
The man's jaw cropped, but the Scotsman didn't care. He had taken Al by the arm and was leading her away. "And in the meantime, chicken, I think you should come with me." His whole manner was warm and friendly, which threw Al.
Colonel Stutgard, meanwhile, stepped forward, blocking their way.
"Hamish McAdam, what do you think you're doing with my student?" he asked.
He grinned, but held onto Al's arm, refusing to relinquish his prize.
"I'm stealing her Henry. Isn't that obvious?" and he pushed past the colonel. As soon as they were out of earshot, Hamish leaned into Al and said, "You're wasted on security. I think we should have a little chat. "
And that was how Al was transferred into the sciences, and she was delighted.
"I didn't choose security. It was thrust upon me," explained Al. "And the best bit is that I know so much of it already—when it comes to the physics and chemistry side of things. I just didn't know I knew it."
I sucked in my bottom lip and I studied her. She frowned hard back at me.
"Oh grief! You've got that disapproving look on you. What's up?"
"Nothing. It's just ..."
"Yes!" she snapped impatiently.
"If you're in the science department now, why are you still wearing operations yellow?"
"What? Aye?" Al pulled at her top. "Oh, nuts!"

Log Entry 151219.161

I arose bright and early to allow myself plenty of time to shower, dress and to feed and fuss Beastie before setting off for the bridge, a happy spring in my step. I met Al and Rutter on the way, so we made our way up there together. We arrived and Rutter took his place at the helm while Al took up a post at the science station.
Science? Al was security, so why science? I must ask her about that later. In the meantime, I quickly checked my station before heading down to my little office on B-Deck.
The paperwork had piled up in my absence. T'Roc was not a lover of administration so had seen to everything that needed to be done but pushed all the cataloguing and filing aside, preferring to leave it for me upon my return. I was grateful for it though. It gave me the chance to catch up on things ... and to find out our losses from our encounter with the Dancers.
It was heartbreaking to see so many names, but after a while, the sensation of loss dulled. That saddened me even more and I remembered a quote from Stalin: 'The death of one man is a tragedy; the death of millions is a statistic.'
Something interrupted my musings: a sensation. I smiled and pressed my feet deeper into the carpet. I had missed that too: the almost indiscernible vibration of the engines. We were breaking dock.
Eager to witness our departure, I hurried back up to the bridge. It was always a wondrous sight to see, to watch as space dock slipped away and star spangled space took over. I took my seat catching T'Roc's eyes as I sat.
"Welcome to the bridge, Ensign," she said, and we watched our departure together, so smoothly handled by Rutter at the helm.
As soon as we were clear and in open space, she gave Rutter new co-ordinates and ordered us to engage at warp five.
"Ensign Terran, I need to see you in my ready room," and she stood up, leading the way.
Unsure if I had done something wrong or not, I obeyed nervously. The doors closed behind us, and T'Roc turned and grinned.
"You really should stop being so paranoid," she chastised.
"Yes. Your whole body language tells me you're nervous. If you are nervous, it's either because you have a guilty conscience or because you're paranoid. So, have you done something wrong?"
"Then, obviously, you are being paranoid."
Such Vulcan logic.
T'Roc signalled for me to sit down so I did.
"Now, we—you and me—we have a problem."
For a moment, I leapt to the conclusion that I had done something wrong after all, and then realised that was especially stupid in light of what T'Roc had just said.
"The Dirrians ... you remember the Dirrians?"
Of course I did. It was my first assignment, when I was allowed to take the lead, and all because I had experience of the Dirrians that no other Starfleet officer had.
"Well, a month ago they invited Starfleet to visit their planet, which was most unusual as you know ..."
This was true. While the Dirrians were happy to trade their carva seed with Starfleet, they didn't want visitors to their home world. They considered most races to be brash and overbearing. Most of that was because they were a very petite race who found most other species physically larger and thus felt intimidated by them. In reality, if you ask me, the Dirrians were one of the brashest races I have ever met, especially Fergan who had led the Dirrian delegation to the Drakonia, my former ship.
"... but they insisted that it was the Drakonia," continued T'Roc. "Not a problem. The Drakonia was duly sent, but when Captain Burrows arrived and greeted the Dirrians, they became angry. It seems that the Dirrians didn't want the Drakonia at all. They wanted you."
"Yes. So that's where we're going." T'Roc tipped her head, studying my reactions. "Do you know why?"
"No, sorry, not a clue. Do we not have any inkling at all then?"
She shook her head and giggled impishly.
"So in the space of the last few days, you and I have managed to hack off both of the Admirals Rutter and much of Starfleet, Captain Burrows especially. The Dirrians were not polite to him."
I sighed. "The Dirrians are quite an ignorant race, Fergan in particular. I didn't like him," I admitted.
"But you do know how to handle him, don't you?" assured T'Roc.
I nodded. "Yes, in theory, but he's quite unpleasant—smarmy even," I remembered how he had pretended to be my friend, Traeth, just to throw me off my game.
"Okay, so now you need to tell me all about them, every last detail," and so I began.

Log Entry 151211.160

It had been a very strange episode in Starboard-7. T'Roc wasn't your usual Starfleet captain though. Still, I couldn't help wondering how quickly that whiskey might have gone to her head.
We didn't stay long. We had our rosters to sort out and needed to set about getting ourselves back into the right sleep pattern for our duty shifts. That meant an early night for all three of us, so we grabbed a quick bite to eat and then departed.
As I snuggled up in bed that night, Beastie joined me, attempting to suffocate me by sleeping on my face. I gently manoeuvred her (to yowling protestations) until she was firmly wedged into the crook of my neck. I'd forgotten what it was like to share a bed with a cat and yet, despite her being such an encumbrance, I slept better that night than I had during all my time at the Academy.

Log Entry 151204.159

The news was a dreadful shock to us. The last time we had seen Karl, there was no evidence of anything being wrong. He'd not shared his dilemma with anyone. The theory was that being part Betazoid, he'd been able to call upon the emotions of others to strengthen his mood when he was in company. Once alone though, he was helpless. He had sunk into a state of inconsolable depression from which only the cold embrace of death could comfort him.
I felt wracked with guilt. Was there something I could have done or said? How did I not notice that he wasn't well? It doesn't matter that this happened while I was at the Academy; I felt that I should have been able to do something. But I am not alone with those questions either. It seems everyone had been oblivious to Karl's mental state, even Rosie, so many feel the same way.
Karl died an empty death. Karl died alone.
We sat moping over our drinks, sitting in silence, not knowing what to say ... because there was nothing to say. Only when a shadow appeared over our table was our trance broken. We all looked up simultaneously.
"Mind if I join you?" asked T'Roc. Her voice was clipped with that condescending Vulcan irritation her father's race had endowed to her. And it wasn't a question, but a statement made obvious as she sat herself down without invitation and clicked her fingers at Alex.
"Already on it," he shouted weaving his way elegantly across the room with a tray perched upon his fingers. He swept the tray downwards and plucked from it a glass with four knobs of ice and a bottle of whiskey which he delivered to the table.
"Scotch?" enquired Rutter, surprised at her choice of beverage.
T'Roc baulked, picked up the bottle and virtually rammed it into his face.
"Heathen!" she spat.
Rutter pulled back, shocked at her outburst. He didn't understand, but I did.
I raised my finger like a silly schoolgirl and immediately felt stupid for it, so dove straight in with my comment.
"Scotch whisky is from Scotland. This is whiskey not scotch."
Rutter scowled so I continued my explanation.
"It's Irish. You can tell by the fact whiskey is spelt with an 'e' in it." I tapped the bottle, pointing out the spelling. "Scotch whisky doesn't have an 'e'. It's all to do with the origin of the word and its translation from the original Irish and Scottish Gaelic languages."
"Ah, my little cultural advisor strikes again," muttered T'Roc. "Is there no end to the depths of your knowledge?"
I laughed. "Until this assignment, it was nothing more than silly factoids—all useless information. Who knew that one day, knowing daft things like that would be useful?"
T'Roc poured herself a generous helping, leaned back in her chair and took a good swig that she held in her mouth, savouring the flavours. Her cheeks coloured slightly.
"Ahhh!" she sighed blissfully.
"Blood wine not your poison then?" I asked.
"No. I don't mind the odd Vulcan brandy ... but Irish is so much better. Would you care to try a little? It's very good," and with that she summoned Alex again, who dutifully brought three more tumblers, a small bucket of ice and a bottle of soda water. "Snobs will tell you to drink it neat. I say enjoy it however you wish," and she poured each of us a couple of fingers of the honey-coloured liquid.
I added a couple of knobs of ice and a splash of soda water, being very particular that it was just a dash, before settling back with my drink. I took a mouthful and felt the familiar warming as the golden nectar descended into my stomach.
"You've partaken of the Irish before?" guessed T'Roc.
"Indeed, I have. It's been a while but a decent bit of Irish always goes down well."
Rutter and Al seemed a little uncomfortable sharing a drink with the captain, but I nudged Al and nodded at Rutter. Both then took their drinks and touched it against their lips. I could see that Al immediately warmed to it. She added a knob of ice and then settled back into her chair taking a good gulp. Rutter declined both ice and soda preferring it neat.
"To Karl," T'Roc said. We all raised our glasses and completed the toast.
For the next ten minutes, we sat in silence, quietly enjoying our drinks, staring at the walls or ceiling and pensive. As the ice melted and the whiskey disappeared, T'Roc sat in silence. Finally, Rutter could stand it no more.
"So?" he asked.
T'Roc looked up coldly. "So?" she repeated. "So, what?"
"So am I still a Starfleet officer or has my resignation been accepted?"
T'Roc burst into roaring Klingon laughter.
"Oh no, Rutter. You're not going to escape my punishment that easily. You're stuck with me," she grinned.
Rutter smiled.
"Thank you," he said, genuinely pleased.
"You're not fond of your parents are you, Rutter?" she demanded.
"I barely know them to be honest. I was palmed off onto nannies when I was little and then various boarding schools. I'm just sorry they're making life difficult for you."
She roared again, slammed her glass onto the table and leaned forward, her eyes wide and bright with Klingon excitement.
"Never challenge a Klingon unless you intend to do battle against them."
"I thought I was the one that challenged them."
"Oh, you poor fool," she grinned, mock pity in her voice and flashing sharp, white teeth. "Your input was most satisfying, but the battle was never yours. The battle had already begun. No one tells me who I can have on my bridge!" she suddenly spat. "No one!" she bellowed.
T'Roc leaned back in her seat and smiled more sedately. "I'd have made the bloody cat an ensign if it served my ends," and with that, she threw back the last of her drink, slammed the glass down, stood up and left.
"What was that about?" asked Al after a few moments of staring at the closed door.
"Starfleet General Orders and Regulations: Regulation 437.39.2d: Only qualified and duly appointed Starfleet personnel may serve as bridge crew except by special appointment and circumstance, " I quoted.
"And what, exactly, does that mean?"
"It means that you can't have cadets permanently assigned to the bridge crew."
"The wily old witch!" exclaimed Rutter. "That's why she made you both ensigns!"
"Yep," I confirmed for him. "And that's T'Roc's way of telling us not to let those promotions go to our heads. She's not going to let two snotty admirals tell her what to do. She's giving them two fingers and making sure she gets exactly what she wants."
Rutter snorted a laugh.
"I like her," he grinned.

Log Entry 151115.158

We ambled into Starboard-7, our moods having lifted on the way. Rutter had explained it in more detail and it really was as simple as we had gleaned from the meeting.
Rutter's parents had been deeply disappointed by his assignment to the Earhart, but couldn't argue it at the time as it was a done-deal by the time they heard about it. That didn't mean that they liked it; they didn't, and had put a great deal of effort into getting him assigned to a ship with a more 'conventional' captain and crew. That ship was the USS Epiphany, which was not only a Galaxy class ship but has an outstanding reputation comparable to that of the flagship of the Fleet. But Rutter didn't want it. A year ago he might have done but not now.
After our little run-in (the one where the three of us ended up having a punch up in the cargo bay), Ensign Rutter was sent back to the Academy for three months to brush up on his skills. Al and I were also been sent to the Academy but as new cadets on the Cadet Development Programme, a programme that will take us over four years to complete. For us it was more of a promotion than a punishment seeing as we were just non-commissioned crew, but there was a catch—two in fact.
Firstly, Rutter was assigned as our mentor and second, we were told, in no uncertain terms, that if one of us failed, all three of us would fail ... and thus it is that we are bound together.
I can't say that there was any one particular event that had turned us into the best of friends. In fact, I can't say that I had thought of us as being best buddies until this very moment, but that is what we are. We have just sort of melded over the months into a team that works well together, and it's not just us.
The Earhart was a cursed ship with a very poor reputation. When she was brought back into service, established Starfleet officers didn't want to transfer to her as they felt it would set back their careers. It is also a very small ship—and Intrepid class. What that meant was that anyone who asked for a posting onto the Earhart might get the opportunity to do something other than be just another minion. It was a very attractive opportunity to young ensigns, who would only ever be a very small cog on a galaxy class ship, to show what they can do. With that in mind, a whole bunch of people, upon whom opportunity was unlikely to otherwise smile, transferred to the Earhart with us: Luke Brightman, Midas Yarrrow, Gideon Flavell and Icarus Blaney for a start—all very good friends of both me and Al; our group that Rutter nicknamed the Misfits ... until he became a misfit too.
As hoped, all of us had been able to shine. We had all had shifts on the bridge for a start—something that we'd never get to do on a Galaxy class ship, and even Rutter had found that he had 'grown'. For the first time in his life, things were expected of him, and mummy and daddy weren't there to bail him out. He was independent, his achievements were his own and he liked that, so there was no way on this Earth (or any other planet for that matter) that he was going to give it up and become a puppet again. That he had stood up to his father pleased him enormously. I don't think he'd ever done it before, not for a valid reason anyway.
We entered Starboard-7 and ambled up to the bar. We had expected to see Lieutenant Karl Vernai there. Karl was the TensO (Tensions Officer), an odd term that described his role as the person responsible for crew morale and entertainment, so could usually be found playing barkeep.
I think the Earhart is unique in having a TensO, though, as no one else I've spoken to has ever heard of such an appointment before.
Anyway, he was nowhere in sight. Instead, a jolly Denobulan was behind the counter, grinning broadly and chatting with his clients. We strolled up and he beamed us the most humongous smile ever. It was amazing the way the corners of his mouth rose and then kept on going into this huge arc. I couldn't help but smile back.
"Alexavia," he said jollily. "Most call me Alex, though."
I introduced the three of us and he laughed.
"Ah, yes! Your reputations precede you," he teased. "And what can I get you to drink?"
Despite our moods, we were on duty so ordered three soda and limes.
"So where's Karl?" I asked cheerily, but Alex's face fell.
"I am so sorry," he said. "Karl ... he's ... not here."
"I don't understand," I said. "Where's he gone?"
"Here," said Alex. He came around the bar, took me by the elbow and led us to a table where we all sat down. He picked up a paper coaster and began to play with its edges.
"Do you remember the diplohyozone?" he asked.
We did. It was the sedative the Dancers had used to control the crew. It caused severe fatigue and fuddled the mind.
"Well, it affected people in many different ways ... and different species too. As you will recall, Captain T'Roc was incredibly bad-tempered and under the Doctor's care for weeks afterwards. Karl, it seems, also suffered. He became despondent, but no one knew. In company, he was his usual, jolly self but at night, alone in his quarters, the depression set in."
The edges of the coaster were now shredded, grubby and curled. When he spoke again, his voice was low, soft and filled with sadness.
"And then one night, it became too much for him."
He stopped talking and the silence stretched before us. I felt sick.
"What happened?" I prompted.
"He was late for his shift. By lunchtime, when Starboard-7 wasn't open, Security was alerted. They went to his quarters but there was no answer. They used their security overrides to gain access and ..." he paused. "They found him. He had replicated a rope, tied it to a bulkhead beam and ... he hung himself."

Log Entry 151107.157

T'Roc was waiting in her ready room along with an admiral, a rather large one.
He was very tall, about 6' 4" and rotund. His plump face sported a smattering of short grey hair, and his complexion was clean and fresh, glowing with good health. He stood at ease, his hands clasped firmly behind his back, rocking on his heels, his cool, grey eyes solidly fixed upon T'Roc. A second admiral was also present via the wall mounted monitor. The air between the three, you could cut with a knife.
"Excellent, you're here!" snapped T'Roc. She was peeved, I could tell. Her lips were pursed and her eyes were studious. She glanced defiantly at the admiral in the room and began.
"Attention, ladies," she ordered, thrusting her chin out in preparation for a speech. We came to attention, standing before her, waiting for the dressing down that was to come.
"Computer: please make the following entry into the captain's log. For outstanding performance in the best of Starfleet tradition, Cadets Alice Johnson and Jenny Terran are made Acting Ensigns, assigned with all the duties and privileges of that rank. End of entry."
An almost indiscernible smile of self satisfaction flashed across her lips.
"Dismissed!" she barked and turned her back on us signalling that it was time for us to leave.
Flummoxed by the events, Al and I hesitated but soon turned to make our exit. As the door opened, though, Rutter stormed in. His face was deep red with anger. I can honestly say I have never seen him quite that riled up before. He bowled in, pushing Al and I back into the room, so rudely that I tripped over my feet and stumbled.
"What the bloody hell do you think you're playing at?" bellowed Rutter to the rotund admiral.
My jaw dropped. Rutter was Starfleet born and bred. Screaming at an admiral like that was simply not in his makeup.
The admiral, meanwhile, didn't deign to turn his head. Coldly, he repeated our dismissal, so Al and I turned to leave for a second time, but Rutter wasn't having it. He grabbed us by the shoulders, pinching our uniforms in his grip, turned us around and shoved us down into the two chairs nearest him. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught Al casting me a confused look.
"No!" shouted Rutter. "The three of us are in this together. 'If one of us fails, we all fail!' That was the deal, right?" he demanded of T'Roc.
T'Roc gave a modest nod of confirmation before wandering casually over to the fenestration to gaze out at the stars. What was going on?
I wondered if Rutter had been kicked out of Starfleet, demoted or something, but if that was true, T'Roc would be part of the conversation. As it was, she was distancing herself from the proceedings, happy to let the scene unfold before her.
"No one has failed, Rutter," said the admiral impatiently. "Now, I have dismissed the cadets—"
"Ensigns," T'Roc quietly reminded the admiral.
"—and I would like them to leave."
"Tough!" shouted Rutter. "They have every right to be here under the circumstances."
Circumstances? What circumstances, I asked myself.
"This is s Starfleet matter, Rutter—"
"Like hell it is. This is you ... again!"
Oh! This was personal. Who was the admiral? Could it be ... ?
"Indeed it is, but it is in your best interests, Rutter—"
"Nuts, is it! And stop calling me Rutter for crying out loud. My name is Frederick! Why give me a name if you're not going to use it!"
My lips parted as my suspicions were confirmed. This admiral was, indeed, none other than one of the Admirals Rutter—Rutter's father, in fact.
"I have never called you Frederick, and I don't intend to start now."
"Then why give me the damned name then?"
The admiral remained stoic.
"Well bollocks to the name, but this—" and he threw a datapad across the table towards him. I hadn't even seen it in his hand when he grabbed us, but he must have had it.
The datapad skipped across the desk and slid over the edge onto the floor with a dull thud. The admiral's eyes followed it, and he heaved a long, strained sigh.
T'Roc, meanwhile, continued to distance herself from the drama, but positioned herself against the window so that she could view both the stars outside and the spectacle within the room. Her face was sober, but I knew her too well. She was enjoying this.
"You are behaving like a child," Admiral Rutter chastised coolly.
"Perhaps that is because you are treating me like one!"
"On the contrary, Rutter. I know what is best for you—"
"No, you don't! You know what is best for you! And me being on the Earhart, that isn't best for you apparently!"
"Or you."
"And that is where you are so wrong!"
"On the contrary, this is an advancement to your career. You will transfer to the Epiphany—"
"I'm NOT going!" Rutter screamed, repositioning himself, preparing for a long speech.
"I can't say I chose a career in Starfleet because I didn't. It's what you decided I would do, and I did it because it was easy, but I didn't earn it. I just sailed through the Academy and my commission was handed to me, all because I am a Rutter—your son! I didn't have to work for any of it so none of it has held any value to me. I didn't really care about it either ... until now, that is.
"T'Roc is the only captain that has treated me as something other than the Admirals Rutters' son. Here, I'm just like every other officer and she has expectations of me. She made it clear that she wouldn't tolerate me cruising through Starfleet. When I screwed up, she was the one that gave me the opportunity to do something about it—to accept responsibility and be the officer I should be; to stand up and be counted ... or to step away, so it's as simple as this ..." Rutter's voice quietened. "I either stay on the Earhart or I resign." But the admiral didn't have time to respond. "Think about it," jeered Rutter and stormed out.
Al and I sat there for a few moments longer, but nobody said anything. I was the first to stand up.
"If you'll excuse us, ladies and gentlemen, I think Al and I have things to attend to." We gave a small salute and exited quickly.
Outside, in the corridor, we found Rutter. He was leaning against the wall, crouched, his hands on his knees, taking deep breaths to recompose himself.
"You okay," I asked.
He looked up. The anger had gone from his eyes.
"I take it that was Pater?" I asked.
He laughed weakly. "I need a drink," he said.
"Come on then. Starboard-7 it is."

Log Entry 151031.156

As promised, Beastie was waiting for me in my quarters. She knew something was up as she'd been living with Luke during my absence. That he had deposited her back home that morning tipped her off that I was returning. There was no other reason why she would be sitting smack bang in the centre of the room, staring at the door. Not lying down, but sitting with her eyes narrowed in disapproval as she waited. In fact, if she'd had fingers on her paws, she would have been quietly drumming them on the carpet and declaring, "And where do you think you've been?"
As it was, she held her post as we fell through the door with my stuff. I cried out her name and in response, she stood up and turned her back on me, pushing her nose into the air in disgust before she sauntered off with displeasure oozing from her every pore. I wasn't having it though. I swooped down and scooped her up into my arms before she could escape. She yowled loudly in protest, but having flipped her onto her back so that I could rub her belly while cradling her in my arms, it wasn't long before the first purrs began to escape.
Bless, she tried so hard not to oblige. Her first purr was very quiet and cut short, but soon, as I cooed and wooed her, she succumbed and was purring like a little steam engine rhythmically pumping its pistons as her tummy rose and fell with her breathing.
"You and that cat, Jen! It's quite sickening the way you mollycoddle her!" Al laughed, screwing her face up in feigned disgust, but as I tipped Beastie into her arms, she too proceeded to rock her like a baby.
I laughed to myself as I ordered up a cup of builder's tea from the replicator. It was a special blend I had programmed in which had proven popular with a number of the other crew members too. Never mind the delicate nuances of Earl Gray or the subtle aromas of your lapsang souchong. Give me a cup of good, strong, mixed blend tea with a dash of milk—not stewed, but toffee-coloured—and never mind your fancy cups. Nothing less than a mug full, but china, not pottery. Tea goes cold in pottery mugs too quickly, but china acts as an insulator helping to keep the tea hot.
With mug in hand, I settled on the sofa and let out a long, deep sigh of satisfaction. Al settled herself on a chair opposite me, spreading Beastie out along her lap so that she lay sprawled, her paws dangling limply in the air. Al cradled her head in her hands and spoke softly to her, rubbing her face against Beastie's.
"Of course, you're not soft with her at all, are you?" I teased.
Al looked up just long enough to stick her tongue out at me and then returned to her feline fussing.
It was lovely to be home and I could have sat there for hours. Sadly, it was not to be. My communicator chimed, as did Al's. It was the captain.
"Cadets Terran and Johnson, please report to my ready room."
Her voice was harsh and officious. We both looked at each other, wondering what we could possibly have done wrong now.

Log Entry 151010.155

As the Earhart came into view, my spirits soared. It was completely unexpected, which only served to double the elation. The huge weight of the last few months was lifted from my shoulders. All of the stress, the turmoil and the loneliness—it all just slipped away amidst the great joy of being home again. I know that one day I will have to leave the Earhart. I will be posted to another ship probably, but I simply cannot envisage serving aboard any other vessel.
Once docked and walking the corridors of my ship again, those feelings of happiness became euphoric. I hadn't realised just how unhappy I had been until now. The compulsion to run and hug everybody I met was so strong—almost overwhelming, but I held back (thinking it wisest) but the large, daft grin plastered across my face along with my constant humming, told all those I passed how thrilled I was to be back.
"Jen!" a voice screamed from behind. I knew instantly who it was and turned, dropping my bags as I did so.
Behind me was Al, that crazy, lovable gal with a thread of Klingon blood running through her veins. No longer could I resist. I ran and gave her the biggest hug ever; it was so good to see her.
"My! You have missed me!"
"Oh, you have no idea!" I beamed.
"You look awful. Was it that bad?"
"Bad enough."
"Oh cripes! You didn't fail did you?"
Her face fell and fleetingly, I wondered if she was asking for her own interests. It had long ago been made clear to the three of us: me, Rutter and Al, that if one of us failed our Academy training, we would all fail. It was the outcome of a dispute that we had once harboured against Rutter. But that was so long ago and the bonds we had formed since then were so strong that the thought was instantly dismissed.
"Nah. I'm just a bit worn down. Looking forward to a good night's sleep in my own bed and getting back to my job."
"Worn down?"
"Yeah, the Academy this time around was ..." I paused. "Let's just say that there was another issue going on. I'll tell you all about it later, but first I want to find Beastie. Is she with Luke?"
I had missed that big hairball of a moggie. I had missed Luke too. It was another treasured friendship I had formed since joining Starfleet.
"No. Luke had to go on shift, so he dropped Beastie off in your quarters earlier."
With that, Al linked her arm through mine, twirled me around, sweeping up my luggage with her free hand at the same time, and we headed off towards my quarters.
I still marvelled at how strong she was. Only a tad over five feet in height and such a slender, fragile looking thing, but she was as strong as an ox. The last time I saw her, her hair was peroxide blonde, but now the chestnut brown of her natural hair colouring was growing through unchecked. I wondered if she would be touching in her roots again as she had done so meticulously for many years, and resolved to ask her later, but not now. Now, I wanted to hear her tales from her Academy stint at Marseille.

Log Entry 150904.154

Come morning, I awoke to find my mailbox stuffed to the gunnels with incoming messages. Fear struck to the heart of me. To have so many messages in such a short space of time did not bode well, but as I opened the first one, both relief and joy filled me. The Earhart had received new orders and her crew was being recalled, myself amongst them, not that I had expected anything else. I was to report for duty in three days time at which point we would depart.
The messages that followed were from the various Academy departments with whom I was scheduled to sit exams over the forthcoming days. They contained details of the extensive provisions that had been made so that I could complete my current course agenda and its examinations. The practical tests, where there was no opportunity for cheating (by my taking the exams before other students), were being rescheduled for me to complete before I left, while the remainder I would be taking under examination conditions aboard the Earhart.
I was astounded! It was unheard of that the Academy would change examination arrangements like this, but I had no time to debate it. I had places to be ... and now!

Log Entry 150830.153

That evening, I returned to my quarters battered and bruised. I wasn't sure what I wanted more: a shower to ease my pain, or to lie down and rest my weary body. It was entirely my own fault though. Urtok was merely teaching me another important lesson in tolerance.
Entering my quarters, I paused to note that Lizzy's stuff had gone. It was peeving that its absence served to remind me yet again of the Buffalo saga, but I pushed it quickly from my mind before heading into the bathroom.
The shower proved as refreshing as I had hoped and I emerged feeling somewhat less pained. I donned a pair of loose slacks and a baggy t-shirt before settling myself cross-legged on the bed with a hairdryer. As my mousey-brown hair was tousled by the hot hair, I debated chopping it all off. It was such a pain primping and preening it every morning, and it was usually fighting its way out of the bun or ponytail I fought it into by lunchtime. I didn't fancy a bob, I knew that much, but what then? Bairn had sported a delightful pixie cut and wondered if that would suit me too.
I began messing around, winding my hair around the hairbrush to see what I might look like with a different style until, being the prat that I am, I got the brush tangled in my hair. I pulled frantically on it, but it was stuck fast.
"Oh bum!" I said aloud and got up to look for a comb to help me tease it out, but was interrupted by the door chime.
"And double bum!" I mumbled under my breath. "Who is it?" I shouted.
"Peter Targo!"
I sighed heavily and opened the door. Standing in the doorway, with the hairbrush still entangled and dangling down the side of my face, I scowled at him.
"Be warned, I'm not having a good day."
Peter sucked in his lips to hide the smirk that was spreading across his face.
"So I see. Need a hand?"
"Harrumph. Was hairdressing an ancillary course that you took at the Academy then?" I teased with good humour.
"No, but having seven sisters makes me eminently qualified."
He tipped his head in acknowledgement.
"Yes. Personally speaking, I feel my childhood would have been much simpler if my mother had been content with just one or two siblings for me, but I ended up with seven."
"Younger or older?"
"All younger, so I spent far too much time cleaning mucky faces and untangling matted hair."
Peter pushed past me and swept a chair out from under the workstation and signalled to me to sit on it, which I did, and he began to tease my hair out of the brush. I have to say, he was very gentle.
"So, I take it Lizzy sent you."
"Send? Not exactly, but just as untangling hair is a skill one learns with seven sisters so is mediation."
I groaned.
"You know you're both as bad as each other," he said.
"We are not!" I exclaimed in retaliation.
"Yes you are. You both have regrets over what happened—not the way it turned out, but the way events unfolded. Things were said that perhaps would have been better unsaid, but said they were and no one can change that."
"I told her that I was happy to talk if she wanted to, but at my convenience, not hers, so where is she?"
"Working. You know that."
"And now you're being as childish as she is."
I opened my mouth to argue, but Peter gripped my shoulder firmly, halting me.
"Oh, the pair of you! You're both so like my sisters. You bitch and you bicker. You dig your heels in so hard until neither of you can remember exactly what it is that you were arguing about, and still you won't budge. The reason you were arguing, as valid as it was at the time, is lost amidst the anger."
"You sound like a Vulcan."
"I'll take that as a compliment. But the thing is Lizzy is struggling with her new life. She now has a future and is free to make her own choices. These are things she never thought she'd have, and she's trying to get to grips with all of that. She questions herself every day; whether the decisions she has made are the right ones. Should she have married me? Am I her one true love?"
I could tell he was quoting Lizzy there.
"I know she's asking herself if she should stay married to me, and I can't blame her. She didn't really have an option if she wanted to attend the hearing. And then she has to decide if she should continue her singing career, or should she try her hand at something else? She's even talked about finishing her Academy training ..."
I wasn't sure if I believed that.
"... and amongst it all, there's you."
"Yes. She's finding it hard to forgive you—NOT—" he interrupted me, "—that you did anything to be forgiven for, but this is all new territory for Lizzy. She's on an emotional rollercoaster."
"So what do you want me to do?"
"That's right. I want you to just sweep the past behind you and move on."
"That's what I'm trying to do."
"But it's eating away at you. I can tell."
"You reckon?"
"Seven sisters, remember."
I harrumphed again.
"Anyway, what I'm saying is Lizzy can't sort out her own head at the moment. She needs time. She does feel bad about what she said, but she feels she can't forgive you, not yet anyway. She knows that there isn't really anything to forgive, but she feels what she feels. In time, though, I think she'll come round and then, I think she'll want to make amends, but don't ask me how long that will take. There you go," and he passed me my hairbrush.
I sighed deeply as Peter came and sat before me, perching on the edge of the bed. I felt bad, not about me and Lizzy, but that Lizzy seemed to have doubts about Peter. That wasn't fair. He was besotted with her, but was she besotted with him?
"You look miserable," he observed.
I threw him a pained smile.
"At the hearing, I thought she had found her happy ever after with you."
Peter pulled a face.
"But I should know better," I continued. "There are no happy ever afters. There is always something that follows."
"Maybe," he agreed glumly, but then smiled. "But maybe not. Only time will tell."
We both sat, pensive, for a few moments longer, but nothing more was said in those minutes, until Peter eventually got up and prepared to leave. I thanked him for coming because it had helped, even if it was only a little.
"Oh, I nearly forgot," he suddenly added. "Lizzy wanted me to give you a message. She said to tell you she doesn't like olives."
I turned at him somewhat confused.
"Olives?" I repeated, unsure as to the significance.
"Yes. She was in mid rant at the time. Something about pizza?"
"Pizza? Oh, yes. The mouldy pizza, but that still doesn't make sense. She's an android."
"One that eats. She needs fuel just like the rest of us, and she can ingest food to extract nutrients and minerals from it just like you or I."
I chuckled weakly. It was another little mystery solved.

Log Entry 150822.152

Every time I think I'm just getting over the frustrations of the Buffalo saga, something comes along to bring it all up again. Lizzy's appearance had thus not helped. To be honest, I was perfectly seething. I had saved the woman's life for goodness sake; I don't need her forgiveness.
Still chomping at the bit and breakfastless (not a good way to be), I went into my first exam: a practical test in self-defence. My opponent was a big lad—I don't know his name—with about an extra foot in height on me and about twice the muscle tone.
I wasn't faring well and Lizzy's little speech was still eating away at me, so I'm afraid that when he caught my hair (inadvertently, I might add) and pulled a chunk out, I lost my rag. He found his wedding tackle on the end of my foot and as he doubled up, I finished the attack with a most satisfactory throw that hurled him hard across the room. As he gasped and groaned, clutching his jewels, the instructor yelled, "Foul!"
I threw my hands onto my hips, marched up to the tutor and scowled at him.
"How can that be a foul, for crying out loud!"
"The move was illegal," he explained calmly.
"Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't realise this was a competitive sport. I thought this was practise for potential real-life situations so unless you've made every Klingon, Cardassian and Romulan et cetera aware of the rules of combat, there are no illegal moves as far as I can make out."
A roar of laughter from behind startled me. I turned. It was Urtok suitably attired in a white judogi.
"Someone's got out of bed the wrong side!" he mused, his bright Klingon eyes flashing.
I pulled a face.
"It's not excusable," protested the instructor.
"No," agreed Urtok, circling the poor man that was clambering to his feet. "It's not, but if Ms Terran wants to play that way, let's give her what she wants."
Needless to say, he made mincemeat out of me.

Log Entry 150815.151

My time at the Academy is drawing to an end and I can't say that I'm not pleased. I really have not enjoyed it at all. It's been a real slog between studies, exams and Lizzy Buffalo. I can't wait to get back to the Earhart.
With this thought foremost in my mind, I rose early, showered and dressed, deciding upon my schedule for the day as I went. I was going to grab a croissant and a cuppa in the Academy cafeteria before my first lecture, then I had two exams, a short lunch followed by a third test and then the rest of the day was my own. I resolved that it was then that I'd contact Peter. Farrah might not be around, but let's be honest, that didn't really matter. I was at a very low ebb yesterday, but I'm a grown woman after all and a Starfleet crewman with combat experience to boot, so I should be able to handle an ill-tempered entertainer.
Ready to begin the day, I stuffed my hair into a quick bun, grabbed my bag and opened the door, but skidded to a halt.
"Oh!" I cried in surprise.
Lizzy was standing at the door, frozen to the spot, her mouth slightly open and her arms splayed out as though someone had pressed the pause button on her mid-sentence.
"Oh," she echoed, equally surprised. "Um ..." she began, "I ... er ... I ... um ..."
She was very uncomfortable.
"Can I come in?" she finally asked.
"It's still your room," and I stepped off to one side.
"I don't think it ever was my room," she said. "I just kept my stuff here."
"Talking of which ..." and I swept my arm over the room to indicate the boxes. "Some of the other cadets saved your things. Firth was going to destroy them and—"
Lizzy's face lit up with joy.
"My shoes!" she cried, spying a stiletto poking out of one of the boxes. She ran forward and swept it up, but her mood soon dulled. She dropped onto the bed, picking at the heel of the shoe, thinking for a moment.
"You know," she began, "I can never forgive you for what you did—"
"Forgive me?" I interrupted. My voice was calm but I could feel the colour rising in my cheeks. Once upon a time, I would have squealed that out angrily, but my Starfleet training was starting to effect my comportment.
"I think you and I ought to get a couple of things straight before we assume I'm seeking your forgiveness. I did not set out to spend my time here sorting out your life. I came here to fulfil the next stage of my Academy education. As it is, I've not been able to study as much as I should have done because I've been sorting out your problems, and that doesn't just affect me. If I fail this course, two other people automatically fail with me, so let's just hope your shenanigans haven't foiled the careers of three would-be Starfleet officers. I know you don't want to be in Starfleet and that's just as well, because trust me, young lady—" Good grief! Did I really just say that? "—you'd never cut it. To make the grade, you have to be able to work both independently and as part of a team. You are more than capable of working independently—you've shown that by securing your singing career, but as a team?" I shook my head at her. "You have never made any effort to be part of a team or to make friends. You've not joined any study groups, you've refused to turn up to lectures and you have spurned everything that the Academy has offered you."
"I never wanted to be at the Academy!" she hissed.
"I know that. We all know that, but it was still an opportunity that many would have given their eye-teeth for. As it was, you threw it away and in a very silly and childish manner if I might say so. Not that you would know any better. Why? Because you are a child. You may know more than us with your extensive databanks, but you know nothing of social skills and have made no effort at all to develop them during your time here. That makes you a child, and while Peter may find your naivety charming, I do not."
"What opportunity have I ever had to develop my social skills?" Lizzy blurted out indignantly. "I've been trying to live what short life I had!"
"The life you have, you chose. You made a conscious decision to spurn the companionship of the other students. Did you ever try to talk to any of the other cadets?"
"I didn't know anyone. They made me feel awkward," she scowled.
"How did they make you feel awkward?"
"They all chatted and laughed together. Nobody wanted to talk to me!"
"They didn't know you, and you gave them no opportunity to let them. You have distanced yourself from people by every means you could think of. You even lived in squalor to ensure that others didn't want to get close to you. My goodness, girl, you may be an android but if ever anybody needed counselling, you do."
I sighed heavily and sat down on the bed opposite her.
"Children master adulthood through their childhood. Through life, people form relationships and these are so important. Friends, and family if you have them, become your support network—a collection of people that are there for each other; that help each other through the good times and the bad. But unless you share your time with other people, you cannot develop any of that. You have only formed one proper relationship and that is with Peter, and that was only because he was so persistent."
Lizzy flicked her head haughtily.
"That's all very easy for you to say. You've had your support network since the day you were born—"
"No, I haven't. I'm an orphan." Lizzy's mouth gaped open to say something, but I didn't pause. "I've never had any family to support me, and as an orphan, I've been shipped from one home to another, each time having to start afresh from zero. So if anybody knows how hard it is to make new friends, it's me. I hate those situations—when you enter a room and everybody else seems to know each other and I'm the odd man out, but I don't run away. There's nothing to be gained by that. I get in there and say hello to a few people. I hate doing it. I feel awkward but it always pays off." I sighed heavily and silence fell.
"I didn't know that," said Lizzy softly.
"Of course you didn't because despite sharing a room with me, you never made the effort." I laughed weakly. "I don't think we've spent as much as a couple of hours in each others company in total. You said we would chat but never got around to it. If we had, maybe you'd have a friend sitting here instead of me. At the trial, you said you thought I was your friend. No, Lizzy. I was never your friend. I don't know you well enough to be your friend."
"Then why did you do it? Fight for me, I mean?"
"Because what Firth was doing was wrong and in the words of Edmund Burke, 'All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing'. Well, I'm not doing nothing. I'm standing up for your rights, and I'm sorry if you got hurt along the way, but if I hadn't done it, you'd be particles in a replicator by now, waiting to be somebody's next duvet or whatever. And that's another reason why you'd never make it through the Academy. Sometimes you have to do things because it is the right thing to do, not because it's the nice thing to do."
Time was getting on and I was very conscious of it.
"Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a lecture to attend and three examinations today, and I intend to pass them all. If you wish to continue this conversation, come back tonight."
"I can't. I'm singing."
"Of course you are. That's why you've come now—at a time that is convenient to you and never mind if it puts me out. If you want to talk again, I don't mind, but I'm leaving next week and I've got a bucket of work to do. In the meantime, feel free to take your time taking your stuff out. I'd appreciate it, though, if you could dispose of anything you don't want yourself, rather than leaving it for me to take care of. I wish you well—I honestly do wish you well, and I am sure that one day, with a little time and practise, you will find friendship as well as love. Maybe then you'll think differently about these events. In the meantime, please don't expect me to feel guilty about what I did because I don't. I did what I had to do to get the job done. I didn't like doing it, but it was the only way I could see."
I picked up my bag and went to the door. It shushed open but I turned back to Lizzy for one last word. "And what was with the rotting pizza in the wardrobe. You don't even eat pizza for goodness sake!" And then I left.

Log Entry 150809.150

I think I need to tell you a little bit about Farrah before I go on, as I have to admit that before tonight, I hadn't really taken to her. She's the sort of person I'd never hang around with because ... well ... how can I put this?
Farrah is tall, slim and blonde, with a full but perfectly proportioned bust and shapely thighs. When she walks, she sashays, her hips swinging seductively; and when not in uniform, she wears her hair down so that her long, golden locks gently bounce, highlighting her vivacious beauty. Even when it drapes over her eyes, a simple yet graceful flick of her head and every strand falls back into its appointed place to envelop her face in a halo of golden light.
In other words, she's a catwalk model. Worse still, she's a catwalk model with a brain in her head. She is perfect in every way.
Beside her, people like me feel fat, short and clumsy even if we're not. With her added intelligence, she has the ability to make us feel thick too. For that reason, girls like me usually avoid people like Farrah. So, as you can imagine, I wasn't that keen on the idea of spending the evening with her, but seeing as I couldn't be any more miserable and I couldn't be bothered to argue ... and it was pool after all.
Farrah regularly plays at a bar in town called The Bridge. Whether the name refers to the bridge of a ship or the bridge used in pool, I don't know. We arrived a little after eight and Farrah was warmly greeted by most of the blokes in the bar. That's another reason why girls like me don't hang out with girls like Farrah. We tend to become invisible in their presence and often end up sitting alone in a corner of the room while the lads buzz around the honey pot. That is until some creep decides you are the saddo that will be "grateful" for his attention. Urgh! And why is it these guys are so difficult to shake off? You tell them nicely that you aren't interested, but they just don't seem to have the mental capacity to comprehend your meaning. Then, when you finally lose your rag with them and tell them to just push off, they get angry and abusive. Fortunately, those guys are far and few between ... but sadly, not extinct yet.
Back to the story, though ... Farrah introduced me to everyone, and all welcomed me warmly. This one guy, Billy, asked me if I played pool.
"Once or twice," I explained as I tried not to stare into his striking ice-blue eyes that an Andorian White Wolf couldn't rival. "But it's been a while."
As Farrah's guest, I played first, against Billy but I lost the toss so he broke. He pocketed three balls, but then stood back while I cleared the table. Yep! My years of a misspent youth in various orphanages, most of which were equipped with a pool table, has finally paid off. I wiped the floor with him.
As I pocketed the last ball, the crowd burst into whoops and hollers of joy, while Billy shook his head in a good humoured fashion and grinned.
"You've played this before," he smiled.
"I told you I had."
"Yeah, but you didn't say how good you were."
"Ah, now," and I waggled my finger at him. "Am I that good, or are you just that bad?"
I didn't play a second game but retired with Billy to the bar for a drink. He seemed like quite a nice guy, although I learned surprisingly little about him. I don't think he's fully Terran but didn't find out one way or the other. Nor did I find out where he worked, where he lived or anything like that. In return, he learned nothing about me either. We spoke instead about pool, current affairs, the latest developments in shuttlecraft design (but nothing too technical) and literature. We share a similar humour too, which helped.
As the night drew on, the stress of the last few days began to catch up on me. I had been running on pure adrenaline, but now, with the trial over, I was starting to crash. I was shattered and yawning, so decided to retire for the evening. Farrah and I left together.
On the way home, I asked her about Billy but all she could tell me was that he played pool. She knew as little about him as I did.

Log Entry 150803.149

You can only feel sorry for yourself for so long and then you have to accept the fact that you either pick yourself up and move on ... or wet the bed. It's amazing how the demands of your bladder can be so persuasive.
While attending to my lavatorial needs, the door chime sounded. I grumbled under my breath. The last thing I wanted to do was socialise but then my hopes soared. Maybe it was Peter ... or better still, Lizzy.
I raced to make myself decent and answered the door, but it was neither Peter nor Lizzy. It was Farrah Bel-Williams with a small queue of people behind her.
"Oh!" I exclaimed with a mixture of disappointment and surprise, immediately realising how awful it sounded.
"Nice to see you too," chirped Farrah, who pushed her way past me with a huge box in her arms. Her entourage followed, each laden with a crate, which they dumped on Lizzy's old bed before doing an about-turn and disappearing, leaving Farrah standing alone with me.
"Sorry," I said uncomfortably. "That's not what I meant. I thought you might be someone else," I continued, my eyes straining to examine the delivery. Perhaps the Academy had allocated Farrah to share my room with me, but it was unlikely. Farrah was in her final year and had just finished her last exams so she'd only be with the Academy a few more weeks. Still, it was the only thing I could think of, so I asked.
"You moving in or something?"
"Grief, no! I finish the Academy in a couple of weeks," she confirmed for me, "and then I get my first posting."
"I thought so, but what's all this stuff then?"
"It's Lizzy's," and she peeled back the lid on one of the boxes to reveal a pair of sequined, blue stilettos. "Dr Firth asked a group of us to take it for recycling, but it's not his stuff, is it. It's Lizzy's and, regardless of how we felt about Lizzy, it's not his to chuck out."
"But I don't see what I'm supposed to do with it?"
"But you're Lizzy's friend."
"Not exactly. Not after today anyway."
"But you won her case for her."
"Yeah, but I wasn't exactly nice about it, was I."
"Couldn't be helped."
"Well, it doesn't matter either way, because Lizzy's not talking to me."
"What about Mr Buffalo?"
"Peter Targo."
"That's the guy."
"Then why not talk to him—"
"Because ..." I interrupted, "because ..." but I didn't know why really. "Because I don't feel like it."
Farrah looked at me as though I had grown a second head.
"Look," I explained further. "Lizzy doesn't want to see me and I don't want to see her ... not because I don't like her or anything, but because ... well ... because if I do, I don't doubt I'll get a bit of a beating—verbal beating that is, and that's the last thing I need at the moment."
Farrah physically baulked, looking at me judgementally.
"Wow! I didn't realise this was all about you," she jibed.
I gawped.
"That's a bit below the belt!" I retorted. "It's been all about Lizzy for weeks now so if you don't mind, I think I will take a couple of hours to feel sorry for myself. Is that okay with you!"
I was very sharp.
Farrah dropped her gaze to her feet, shamefaced and sighed heavily.
"Yes," she agreed. "Sorry. I suppose you aren't the only one that's feeling bad about things. We weren't exactly nice to her, were we. I mean, we were quite happy to call her names and things, but none of us felt compelled to find out what the matter was."
I pulled a face and pouted.
"Don't beat yourself up about it. She didn't make it easy for herself."
We both stood silently, not sure what to say next, if anything.
"Anyway," Farrah finally broke the silence. "I was hoping you'd help me get her stuff back to her."
I remained silent.
"Will you?" she pressed, asking sweetly.
I balled my hands into little fists and pressed them against my eyes.
"Not today. Please, not today."
Farrah smiled.
"Okay. Not today."
"And only if you'll be there when I message Peter. I'm not sure I can face either of them alone."
She grinned widely.
"Chicken," she accused, drawing out the word.
There was no other response I could think of, so I clucked like a chicken to which she hooted with laughter.
"Come on," she said. "You need a change of scenery. Do you play pool?"

Log Entry 150620.148

I lay on my bed feeling desperate and despondent. I had won, but the price had been high.
Lizzy didn't speak to me after the hearing. She had stood up and rushed out with Peter in hot pursuit as soon as she was able to. There were no tears of joys or celebrations for her though. She jut wanted to get out of there and as quickly as possible. Despite winning, she was distraught, her feelings hurt and the bitterness she felt towards me unmistakable. I felt awful.
I had remained in my seat while the room cleared, my eyes hot with tears and my heart heavy. The wounds I had inflicted upon Lizzy were terrible, and I felt ashamed at my spitefulness no matter how good the cause.
As T'Roc passed me, she laid a reassuring hand upon my shoulder. I looked up and she smiled down at me and said, "Sometimes victory can only be measured in acceptable losses".
There were wise words, but I felt no comfort in them.
It was all over, though, and Lizzy was free. She had won her right to be acknowledged as a sentient being. She could live her life as she wished, go where she pleased and do what she wanted, and I had to keep reminding myself of that. The way that I had achieved it was not kind or noble, but she now had everything she could possibly desire in life, and I had given it to her.
I didn't want a medal. I didn't even need a thank you. I just didn't want to feel so rotten about it, so I had to keep reminding myself of all those things, and I had to move on.

Log Entry 150603.147

"Is there anything else you wish to add?" asked the Dean.
Yes, there was, I just wasn't sure what.
I pouted as I thought, my eyes scanning the room for some miracle answer. They settled upon Peter who was sitting behind me, slightly off to my left. That's when it came to me—a desperate plan to prove the case, but could I do it? Should I? It was a cruel, monstrous plan, but if I was going to win this, I knew I had little choice.
I turned to the panel and stood, my spirit depressed under the burden of what I was about to do.
"Yes. I'd like to ask Lt Commander Peter Targo a couple of questions."
The room murmured.
"Objection," interjected Firth. "I fail to see what Lt Commander Targo could have to say that would have any bearing on this."
"Lt Commander Targo has known Lizzy socially, longer and better than any one of us. His insight is therefore most valuable."
"I concur," said the Dean. "Mr Targo, would you take a seat among us please?"
A chair was duly brought forward and placed to one side of the panel ensuring that everybody could see him. Peter stood up and took the seat, smiling at Lizzy as he passed by. I too rose and ambled into the centre of the proceedings and began to pace, my fingers tented over my mouth. After a suitable pause, I began.
"Peter, how long have you known Lizzy?"
"About a year."
"And can you tell me the circumstances surrounding your meeting?"
"Yes, I met Lizzy at Bejazzled one evening. I had been out walking and went into the club for a drink. She was there singing, and what was supposed to be a quick stop to quench my thirst ended up with me sitting there for the entire evening."
"Her performance was that good?"
"It was amazing, but not just because she can sing. To explain it, though, I have to go back and tell you why I was out walking.
"I was—I still am, on recuperative leave from the USS Persephone. I was injured in the line of duty and suffered extensive plasma and subnucleonic radiation burns. Most of my injuries—broken bones and bruises, healed well but the plasma burns and radiation have meant extended leave and treatment. Until a few months ago, I lived in constant pain. The doctors suggested that some of it may be psychosomatic, but I wasn't convinced at the time. I'm still not.
"Either way, while most of the time it's bearable with the help of painkillers and suchlike, at others, it really gets me down. That night, I couldn't sleep for it so I decided to take a walk. The cool night air is soothing. After a few hours, though, I was thirsty so I walked into Bejazzled for a drink. I ordered a cold lager and sat down just as Lizzy began to sing, and I found her performance really enjoyable."
"And so you went back the following evening?"
"Yes. I went back every night. You see, it was only after I left that I realised that I wasn't in so much pain. The pain was still there, but heavily muted. She had taken my mind off it. Apparently, it gave my head an opportunity to start to deal with it—so the doctors tell me, and since then, I've not looked back."
"So she has helped you significantly in your recuperation simply by singing?"
"Yes, but because I was there every night, Lizzy noticed me. I think she found my attention worrying—like I was some phantom stalker lurking in the shadows or something. She's plucky though. One night, after her performance, she came over, sat herself down at my table and asked me straight out. 'I'm surely not so fascinating as to warrant your attention every night'. Of course, I had to explain myself and so we got talking. We became friends, really good friends."
"And how did that develop into a romance?"
"Objection, there was no romance," stormed in Firth.
"Without allowing Mr Targo to answer the question, we don't know that," I retorted.
"You have a point, Ms Terran," said the Dean. "Please answer the question, Mr Targo."
"Firth—Doctor Firth," Peter quickly corrected himself, "is correct. There was no romance. I would quite happily have become more involved with Lizzy, but she made it quite clear that her life was too 'complicated' to entertain a romance. I tried, believe me, I tried to take the relationship to the next level and she was tempted—I could see that—"
"Objection, Mr Targo is speculating about something he couldn't possibly have knowledge of."
"On the contrary, she verbalised it," added Peter calmly. "She told me that she didn't anticipate being here for very long and that starting a long-term relationship would be a folly."
"And so you left it there?"
"Hmm, not really. As friends, we would go out for dinner. She loved to go to the park and feed the ducks, of all things. Over a period of time, I got to hold her hand and she would even let me put my arm around her when it was cold, but she refused to let the relationship develop beyond that. She said it wouldn't be fair on me; that she didn't want to break my heart."
"Did you not think that was odd? I mean, many Starfleet personnel maintain long-distance relationships."
"I thought it was very odd. I knew there was something more going on there. I just didn't know what. I was hoping that if we spent more time together, she would eventually relent."
"But she didn't."
"No, not until last week when all this blew up, and then we were married."
"Hmm," and I paused feigning thought. "Tell me, Mr Targo, have you been in a relationship with women before meeting Lizzy?"
He frowned, not sure where I was heading.
"Er, yes."
"Many women?"
He wasn't comfortable with this line of questioning.
"One or two."
"Just one or two?"
"Well, no, but I can't say I've counted over the years."
"So a dozen, more than a dozen?"
"Er, yes, I suppose so."
"And have these relationships been physical ones?"
He leaned back in his chair, retreating from me.
"Some, yes."
"And your relationship with Lizzy, is that a physical one?"
It was like setting off a firecracker in the room as people gasped. Even the panel baulked at the directness of the question. Firth was quick to respond.
"Objection! This has no relevance!"
"On the contrary, it's very relevant," I replied.
"How, for goodness sake, is it relevant?"
"It goes to the depth of the relationship between Lizzy and her husband. If Lizzy is nothing more than a sex toy—"
"It's not a sex toy!" exclaimed Firth indignantly, offended at the suggestion that his creation should be something so fickle. "It's a serious experiment in cybernetic technology."
"That you made anatomically correct."
"Of course it's anatomically correct! I could hardly pass it off as a living being if it wasn't so!"
"So your intention was that it could be sexually active."
"If it needs to sleep with the enemy, it will need to be able to pass as being Human."
"So you gave her a vagina?"
"But no tear ducts?"
Firth's mouth gaped open, a noise stuck in his throat before his mouth snapped shut.
"Dr Firth. Did you give Elizabeth Buffalo tear ducts?" I demanded more forcefully.
He sighed heavily.
"No," he coldly admitted.
"But you did give her a vagina and all the necessary anatomical equipment to have sex."
Another silence drew out.
"Well?" I pressed.
"Yes," he drawled angrily.
"So you felt that to pass as Human she should be able to engage in sex, but that the ability to cry was unnecessary."
"It was an oversight."
"An oversight? But you seemed to have thought about everything else in such detail: her emotions and her ability to behave Human. Did you not think that in the event she was questioned, her inability to shed a tear might rouse some suspicions? Or were you relying on her to simply leap into bed with her interrogators and seduce them?"
Firth pursed his lips into thin, hard lines and glared at me. I glared back; but he was not my quarry, Peter Targo was. So I turned back to him, intentionally avoiding eye contact with Lizzy because if I did, I might falter.
"So Mr Targo, I was asking you about your sexual relationship with Lizzy. Do you have a sexual relationship with her?"
He shuffled uncomfortably in his seat. His discomfort troubled me, but I had to remain stony faced.
"Well?" I demanded.
"Yes," he whispered quietly, almost shamefully.
"And how does she compare to a Human?" I tried to say as matter-of-factly as possible. Peter's brow creased in disbelief at the question. He was quite taken aback. "Did she perform well?"
Peter baulked, his head snapping up, his eyes boggling at me. His anger was starting to rise.
"Was she a pleasure to have sex with?" I demanded trying to look perplexed.
His mouth twisted with bitterness.
"Yes," he hissed.
"As good as a real woman?"
No answer. His brow was furrowed as he tried to figure out my angle.
"Or better?"
His lip twisted into a restrained snarl.
"Or worse? I suppose that depends upon the woman. Mind you, if she has been programmed in sexual techniques, which we assume she has, seeing as sexual activity is in her remit, she's probably better than any ... oh, now what do they call them on some worlds? Companions! Is she better than a companion?"
Peter's mouth moved, but no words escaped. He could find none, not that I wanted him to find any. In fact, I didn't want answers at all, especially from him. So I kept the questions coming thick and fast before the Dean could stop me.
"Of course, that's assuming that you've used the services of a companion to compare her to? Now there's a thought. It might be that you don't like women at all. It might be that your tastes are a little more ... unusual. Are they a little more unusual? Do you prefer sex with an android? Is that why you were so attracted to Lizzy, because she's NOT REAL!"
My voice rose ever higher, ever louder as I attacked him. Peter chewed on the inside of his mouth, desperately trying to hold his anger in check, but he was near his limit. He leaned forward and his mouth opened to say something. Damn him! He was about to answer me back. He mustn't. So I pushed my face into his and snarled.
"And how does she compare? Did you like it?" I hissed. "Did she respond to your touch? Did she make all the right noises?"
I could see he was confused and angry. He bit down on his bottom lip leaving white teeth marks imprinted upon them, and stared at me while I continued to rant.
"Perhaps you've slept with other sexdroids? I understand there are a number of cultures where such machines are prostituted. Perhaps you've experienced one of those? Perhaps that's what you like."
I heard a faint whimper behind me. It was Lizzy, I knew, but I couldn't look at her. My words were cutting into her, as surely as if I had taken a blade and was cutting out her heart, but I had to continue.
"Did you have one of the Persephone? Perhaps it was destroyed when the Persephone was damaged? Perhaps you need to replace it? Is Lizzy a replacement for your lost sexdroid? Perhaps they satisfy something in you that a real flesh and blood woman can't? Is it the detachment? Or the cold hardness of plastic and metal? Does a sexdroid do the job for you? Was she—"
"STOP IT!" Lizzy suddenly screamed, rising to her feet and her chair crashing to the floor behind her.
All eyes turned and instantly I knew that if she had any tears to shed, they would have been streaming down her face. I felt my stomach lurch at what I had done.
"STOP IT! STOP IT! STOP IT!" she screeched hysterically, her fists hammering down onto the desk.
"That's horrible! You're making it sound dirty and disgusting and it wasn't like that!" she sobbed, tearlessly. "What Peter and I have is special! It's not sordid or degrading!" and she ran over to him, throwing herself onto her knees before him, taking his hands in hers and burying her face into them, kissing them.
She was terrified of losing him, terrified that what I was saying might be true. What had I done?
"He's a wonderful man," she cried, "and I won't let you rip him to pieces like this," and she looked up into his eyes. "He doesn't deserve that. This trial is about destroying me, not him."
And then she turned directly to me, her face stiffening with hatred.
"I thought you were my friend, Jenny Terran," she spat. "But if this is what you want, then destroy me and be done with it, but leave him alone!"
She buried her head into Peter's hands, sobbing in little, shattered gasps. Peter bent down and kissed her hair, whispering something into her ear that seemed to offer little comfort.
The room lay bathed in silence and I let it rest there for a moment. I felt ashamed, and my throat was swollen as I swallowed down my own desperate tears. I wanted to run over, tell her I didn't mean it. Tell her how sorry I was, but I couldn't. My job wasn't done yet. I took centre stage again.
"Ladies and gentleman," I said, making eye contact with everyone I could and speaking softly. "Love, spite, rebellion, exhilaration, hatred, wonder ... the desire to protect another ... and now self-sacrifice. Elizabeth Buffalo is prepared to throw her life away in defence of another being—the man she loves. She may be inferior in technical specification to Lt Commander Data, but Data feels none of these things. In that manner, she is superior to Mr Data. So if Data is sentient with his inferior emotions ... how can Lizzy Buffalo be deemed to be anything other than sentient?"

Log Entry 150517.146

It was time for me to put my case forward, but I wasn't convinced that my angle was going to be particularly convincing. Nevertheless, I had to give it my best shot.
"Lizzy, can you tell me about your earliest memory after you were activated?"
"Um, well, that would be in the cybernetics lab ... with Doctor Firth." She paused, her brow creasing and one side of her mouth lifting.
"And what specifically do you remember?" I pursued.
"It's a bit vague really." Her eyes narrowed as she looked away into an invisible distance. "One moment it was ... just me, but the next ... there was lots of noise and light ... and smells ... but I didn't know what any of them were."
"Why not? Hadn't you been programmed with basic things like the ability to recognise everyday objects and language skills?"
"Yes, but I didn't have any way to put it all together."
"Can you elaborate on that?"
Lizzy thought for a moment.
"What do sweet potatoes taste like?"
What an odd question, but I had to answer it. I had to really think about it though.
"I think its a cross between potatoes, carrots and ... some other root vegetable. Parsnips perhaps."
"But what do potatoes taste like? Or carrots for that matter."
My mouth flapped opened and shut, but words didn't come out.
"You see, you have the information, but you can only connect it based upon your past experiences—what you have tasted before. I had no such experiences at that time so although I know what sweet potato tastes like, I couldn't connect it to the actual taste."
"So you were like a new born baby in that respect?"
"No, not really. A baby has to learn everything from scratch, but I had a lot of information in my databanks. For instance, I knew what the colour red looked like because I had a visual reference in my databanks, just as I knew that a tree is a tree and the sun is a sun. What was overwhelming was the number of different reds that there are, the number of different species of trees and the billions of different suns. Each of them is unique, you know.
"When I awoke, I can remember the light. There was lots of light. It was bright and white like a single sheet of clean, white paper. Then, as my ocular sensors adjusted, became accustomed to the sudden influx of data, the white began to fade and shade began to offer definition to things. But that was confused again when the colour came. I saw blue first, but not just one blue. I saw lots of different shades and densities. Some of it had sharp edges, but others were soft and translucent. I think that's why I love the colour blue most of all. It was the first colour I saw and so striking."
"And what was it that was blue?"
Lizzy's head turned towards me. She smiled as she recalled.
"Angela, Firth's assistant had blue earrings—lapis lazuli, so they were speckled and streaked with grey and white. Firth's identity badge was also predominantly blue, but that's a metallic blue. He also had some books on a shelf—paper books with bound covers. Some of those were blue ... and the sky ..." her words stretched out as she said the word sky, and her gaze drifted off into that hazy place again.
"Never tell me that the sky is just blue. The clarity of that blue, its variation as it deepens from a pale, almost white shade to something deep, fresh and clean like ... like ... like periwinkle." Very abruptly, she shook herself from her reverie. "The flower, not the mollusc."
"Interesting ... and what were Dr Firth's first words to you?"
"Oh, that was days later," she said, waving a dismissive hand.
"Days?" I interrupted.
"You mean he didn't speak to you when he activated you?"
"Did he not speak to you at all? Make enquiries to check you were working okay?"
"No. He and Angela took readings."
"So they spoke about you, but not to you?"
"That's right."
"And how did that make you feel?"
"Why confused?"
"It was as though he couldn't see me. He spoke to Angela, and Angela took various readings. She even smiled at me, but neither of them spoke to me. It made me wonder what I was."
"How so?"
"I thought I was an android, but androids have hands and feet, mouths and eyes, but while I could see, all the indications were that I had none of these other things, that I was nothing more than a box of tricks."
"What did you do?"
"I lifted my hand and looked at it—to make sure I had one, that I had the body I knew I should have," and she illustrated how by lifting her hand. Still gazing at it she added, "I was amazed by it. It is so small and slender and yet so strong and functional. The human hand is a marvellous piece of engineering."
Lizzy suddenly scowled and dropped her hand onto the table, stroking the back of it with her fingers. Something had happened. There was a bad memory there.
"And then?"
"Then what?"
She was being intentionally evasive, but why?
"What happened?"
"He—" and she pointed at Firth angrily, "slapped my hand away!" She glared at him.
"And what did you do?" I asked gently.
"Nothing." She sounded ashamed.
"What do you mean, nothing?"
"I did nothing. I said nothing. I just lay there, not sure what to say or do, so I did ... nothing."
"And how did you feel?"
I really was expecting some sort of objection from Firth long before now, but he remained silent, fiddling with his datapad in a bored and idle manner.
"Confused, berated, insignificant. It was quite clear that whatever I was, I was unimportant as a person."
"So you thought of yourself as a person from the very beginning?"
"From that beginning, yes."
Now I was confused.
"Sorry? Was there another beginning?"
"Sort of. Just as a child exists before it is born into this world, I existed before I was downloaded into this body."
A wave of murmurs washed through the auditorium.
"You had a pre-existence?" I gasped.
"Of sorts, yes, but it's very, very vague. I was too young to remember it. It was a period of learning, when data was continually being downloaded into me: data that was entered, amended, upgraded and erased. I don't think I was really aware of what I was for a very long time."
"So just like a baby in the womb, you were growing and developing."
Lizzy nodded enthusiastically.
"Yes, that's exactly it."
I let everybody ponder on that thought for a moment.
"And when did your relationship with Firth develop? Your conflict."
She laughed a forced, hard laugh and her eyes flashed rebelliously at Firth.
"Very quickly. At first, I just wanted to try to prove to Dr Firth that I was a person, but he wouldn't listen. He just kept putting me down, treating me like a machine. He kept telling me to 'comply'."
"So why did he enter you into the Academy?"
"That was part of the experiment. Could he create an android so convincing as a Human that it would fool everybody ... and he did."
"Then why isn't he pleased about that?"
"Because he didn't want a sentient android. He wanted something that could be sent behind enemy lines, infiltrate the Obsidian Order, the Maquis or whatever, that if caught, could feel no pain under torture, could self destruct. Something that was expendable, disposable."
"So you don't feel pain?"
"Actually, I do. I wasn't designed to. In the beginning I only knew what the responses to pain should be like. I felt the sensations, but not the pain as such. I didn't like that. It made me feel ... incomplete."
This was a revelation.
"So I did something about it. I wrote myself a little subroutine."
Wow! This was gold.
"So you made yourself susceptible to pain?"
What would so many people give not to feel physical pain?
Lizzy nodded.
"And ... do you think that was a good thing to do? Do you like it?"
"Pain? No, I don't like pain! It hurts!" and she scowled at me hard, letting me know how stupid the question was.
"And what is the worst pain you have suffered?"
Lizzy laughed at that—really laughed.
"When I got up the following morning, the day after activating the subroutine, I stubbed my toe on the corner of the wardrobe. I nearly went through the roof!" she beamed.
"At a stubbed toe?" I was dubious. A stubbed toe is jolly painful, but nothing compared to a broken bone or a flesh wound.
"But that was my own fault. I didn't know what threshold to set my pain level to so I was using a pin to test it by pricking myself. What I didn't take into account is that you become accustomed to it, that you are expecting it, so I inadvertently set my threshold way too low. What should have been a pain that waned within a few minutes turned into one of the most excruciating experiences of my life that lasted nearly the whole morning."
"Why not just deactivate the sub-routine?"
"Can you just turn off your pain? No. And anyway, it was an experience I could start to measure pain by, so I could get the setting right."
"Thank you, Lizzy."
I had concluded my questions. It was Firth's turn next, but he did not respond.
"Doctor Firth, do you wish to ask Mrs Targo anything?" prompted the Dean.
"Thank you, but no. I am just amazed at the level of success I have achieved in my work. I intended to create an android that would pass as Human, and this one most certainly does. It speaks the words you need to hear to convince you that it is sentient, but it's not. It doesn't feel pain. It merely computes that it should and mimics the reactions a Human would make if experiencing that same sensation. Thank you for that wonderful demonstration, Ms Terran."
And so the next point in the match went to Firth.
I was going to have to up the ante.