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!"
"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."