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.