Personal Log 3-13: Not Your Normal Comb-Over

How I Flunked Out of Starfleet Academy Part 13

I picked up two plates of spaghetti, moving slowly so I wouldn't drip or spill.
"Faster!" Miranda whispered. "You're falling behind."
I hurried into the dining room with the plates. I set them in front of two officers, then hurried back for more. Plate after plate of noodles and red sauce and not a drop on my white uniform.
"Head table, now," Miranda shoved a plate into each hand. "The Admiral still hasn't been served. Go!" She pushed me back into the dining room
I swallowed a huge lump stuck in my throat. Or tried to. My mouth dried out at the thought of approaching Stanbol. The captain was beyond intimidating. I'd faced Williamson before, several times. He didn't scare me quite so much. Until I caught sight of the gleaming rows of medals across his chest. I froze in place, spaghetti plates clutched in my hands.
"Move." One of the other servers nudged me from behind. "Captain and Admiral. Now."
I forced one foot to move, then the other. The quivering mound of spaghetti slipped to one side. I straightened the plate, centering the mass of food. I focused my attention on the noodles as I walked slowly across the room to the head table. I could do this. I would impress Stanbol with my grace and poise as I served him his spaghetti. He would grant my request to be transferred to engineering. I could do this.
"Faster," Miranda hissed behind me.
I jumped and increased my pace. I had a death grip on each plate, terrified that I would somehow dump spaghetti on the floor if I didn't hold onto it tight enough. I was paying more attention to the plates than to my feet.
Nicole stuck her foot out as I passed her. My foot connected with hers. I stumbled forwards. The spaghetti slipped across the plates. I scrambled to find my balance, focused on keeping dinner on the plates. Red sauce dribbled across the dark blue carpet. One foot snagged a chair. I staggered forwards. Spaghetti and sauce flew through the air. I landed on my belly on the floor. The plates bounced off the wall, leaving trails of noodles and sauce behind. The room went dead silent.
I slowly lifted my head.
Captain Stanbol rose to his feet. Spaghetti noodles draped over his head, hanging from his ears and cascading down his dress uniform. Admiral Williamson hadn't escaped, either. He was festooned with noodles and sauce. A single meatball balanced on top of his head.
I scrambled away on all fours, tears blurring my eyes. I dove through the service door, running through the ship to the tiny corner bunk I'd been assigned. I crawled into the darkest corner and curled up in a ball.
My career in Starfleet was over before it began.

Personal Log 3-12: The Spaghetti Incident

How I Flunked Out of Starfleet Academy Part 12

I stood at stiff attention, a pile of starched napkins sitting in my hands like slices of cardboard. Captain Stanbol and his command officers had enough medals they could have been used as ballast. They mingled with my fellow cadets, now Ensigns in command red. Nicole smirked when she caught sight of me. She turned to whisper to Rachel. I ignored the flush of shame creeping up my neck. Why couldn't I have been assigned to Special Ops, or Engineering, or even Medical?
Starfleet Janitorial needs YOU! My life had become a joke. I thought the Academy turned out officers. I thought I'd be one of the privileged few commanding a ship. Yes, I'd pictured myself sitting in a captain's chair someday. My ears burned with embarrassment. I could never show my face back home, not as a starship kitchen slave.
"You! Are you deaf? I said, I need a clean napkin, this one is soiled." Rachel tossed her napkin in my face. She lifted one boot, twisting her foot side to side as she inspected it. "I see a spot. Wipe it for me, Stevens."
I took the dirty napkin and tucked it over my arm, like Miranda had instructed. I lifted the top stiff square from my pile, proferring it to Rachel. "Your napkin. Sir."
She folded her arms over her chest. "I said to clean my boot. I seem to have gotten a smudge."
Two could play her game. "Article Thirty-Nine, Subsection B, Paragraph Nineteen. An officer is responsible for the cleanliness and appearance of his or her quarters and all personal belongings including uniforms. Shall I continue to quote or shall I report you to your commanding officer for breach of protocol?"
She snatched the napkin from me, then stalked away. Nicole shot a glare my way before hurrying after.
"Nice shot," a short balding man said near my elbow. He really was that short. "Those cadets are really too big for their britches." He wiped crumbs from his hand onto the flamboyantly pink shirt covering his paunch. "Name's Birkin. I'm a science specialist."
I offered him a napkin. "Adrian Stevens." I wasn't sure what else to add.
Birkin wrinkled his nose at the over-starched cloth. "I'd rather use my shirt. You know anything about subspace interdimensional string theory?"
I blinked. I'd never heard of it.
Birkin shrugged. "How about cards? I've got a deck of Uno cards in my cabin if you're up for a game sometime."
Miranda appeared in the far doorway, her white uniform gleaming. "Dinner is served."
I stayed at my post while they meandered into the dining room. Miranda signaled me with a twitch of one white-gloved hand. "I need you to serve. We're short staffed tonight. Go help with the plates."
The salads and rolls went well enough. I slid a plate in front of Birkin. He winked at me. I was getting the hang of serving. I set four more plates in front of various officers. Miranda kept me to the lower tables, though. I wasn't allowed near Stanbol or Admiral Williamson at the head table. Nicole and Rachel were at the table with the captain but I made myself not care. Someday, I would be up there just not today. I finished my table then stepped back near the wall to wait for the next course.
I cleared the salad plates, balancing them in a precarious stack as I carried them to the service door where Miranda stood guard. I set them in the cart then turned to pick up the main dish plates.
Spaghetti? Who served spaghetti and red sauce with meatballs to officers in dress whites? Maybe this wasn't going to be as easy as I thought.

Personal Log 3-11: Into the Breach

How I Flunked Out of Starfleet Academy Part 11
"All hands, prepare for warp speed."
I felt the engines rumble, even though we were three decks above them. The old Voyager still had some guts. I held onto the edge of the sink. Soapy water slopped over the edge, soaking the front of my uniform despite the stained apron I'd tied on.
"Keep scrubbing." Sergeant Schuler glared as he stomped past. The stench of freshly chopped onions made my eyes tear up. "And don't you dare cry, Ensign. You're in Starfleet now. You should be proud."
I muttered under my breath, "I'm so proud to scrub your dirty dishes, sir. This is what I traveled seventeen light years to accomplish. My mama would be so proud."
He slapped the back of my head. "Show some respect. I want to see my face in those pots, Stevens. Put some elbow grease into it."
I waited until he left before telling him where he could use some elbow grease.
"Schuler?" I snuck a peek at the owner of the sweet voice. She was young with long brunette hair fastened in a ponytail. "I need some assistance serving in the captain's mess tonight."
"No." Schuler refused flatly. "I'm not getting into a dress uniform. I've got too much to do here."
"How about that new Ensign? Adrian, wasn't it?"
I hefted a huge pot out of the sink and into the rinse water. I only splashed a little. My squashed hopes rose. Maybe I could impress Stanbol with my grace and manners while serving. Maybe I could redeem myself. I regretted the juvenile tricks I'd played on Nicole and her friends. Even if they had deserved every uncomfortable moment.
"You really want her, Miranda?" Schuler ripped open a stasis pack with his teeth.
"I need the extra hands. The captain's hosting a gathering for all the command officers and the newest command trainees."
He dumped freeze-dried onions into the soup. "Take her, then. But she still has to report back here to finish scrubbing the pots."
Miranda tapped my shoulder. "Follow me. And leave that apron here. Do you have a dress uniform? No matter. I can get you one from stores."
I followed her from the galley. She walked like she owned the ship, which she sort of did. She wore Quartermaster's stripes on her sleeve, which meant she was responsible for every item brought on the ship for consumption or disposal. She was the one who made certain we had enough food, toilet paper, cleaning supplies, paper, you name it. She tracked it.
An hour later, I was scrubbed to her exacting standards and wearing brand-new dress whites that mostly fit. My hair was trimmed and glued to the back of my head in a bun that felt like a rock. Miranda smiled her approval. "We'll let you fetch clean napkins. And maybe serve the rolls. I wouldn't trust you with anything else, not until I've tested your etiquette protocols. Dave, show her how it's done."
I stared at Dave's immaculate uniform and hair while he instructed me on how to offer rolls to my betters. I bit my tongue and didn't say what I thought of it. I would have ended up scrubbing toilets. Probably with my tongue.

Personal Log 3-10: Reporting for Duty

How I Flunked Out of Starfleet Academy Part 10
The Voyager shuttle bay was a zoo. Officers hurried everywhere, barking orders at the cadets and crew members. The mood of the ship was controlled panic.
"General Studies? Good. Alex, report to deck seven. Special Ops Commander Raphael needs a new gadget tech. The last one disintegrated after playing around with the weapons settings. Wyatt, report to the bridge. They need an errand boy. Christine, report to Sickbay as an assistant. And Adrian," the duty roster CO paused to glare my way, "report to Mess Hall C. You're on KP duty."
Alex danced away, like a kid who's just been handed the keys to a candy factory. Wyatt, unfazed as usual, slouched his way to the nearest turbolift.
Christine squeezed my hand. "It's not serious. It's just a training flight."
"You're in Sickbay. You'll be fine."
"But I faint at the sight of blood."
I couldn't dredge up much sympathy for her. She wasn't going to be up to her elbows in dirty dishes. At least it wasn't toilet scrubbing duty. I squeezed her hand back as we walked along the corridor. We reached Sickbay. She let go, glancing over her shoulder as she entered. I faked a smile for her.
I shoved my hands in my pockets. Kitchen duty wasn't too unpleasant. It was the only thing I'd shown any aptitude for so far. It made sense that I would be assigned there. I wasn't paying any attention to where I was walking. I figured I'd find the Mess Hall eventually. Or somewhere more entertaining. I walked into someone.
"Pardon me," he said. "Stevens, isn't it?"
"Sir." I swallowed a knot the size of a full-grown tribble and snapped a salute. Just my luck to bump into the Captain.
"I've seen your reports. Interesting reading, Ensign. I trust there will be no incidents of short-sheeting, or inexplicable plumbing malfunctions while you are on board. Do I make myself clear, Stevens?" Captain Stanbol speared me with a steely gaze.
"Yes, sir. I mean, no, sir." I floundered for the right response.
He smiled. "Good. Because if you screw up here, you'll be talking to me, not Admiral Williamson. And I'm a lot meaner. I believe you are needed in the galley which is that way." He pointed down the corridor behind me.
"Thank you, sir." I saluted, standing stiff at attention until his footsteps faded. Only then did I dare relax.
I didn't care if we were at war with the Klingons, Romulans, Andorrians, Ferengi, and the Paklids. Captain Stanbol made it clear he was at war with me. He was a lot closer and more dangerous. I'd have to watch every move I made, because I knew he was going to be watching, too.

Personal Log 3-9: All Hands on Deck!

How I Flunked Out of Starfleet Academy Part 9
“What do you think’s going on?” Christine whispered.
Alex typed on his pad while he talked. “I heard the Klingons finally attacked. It’s about time.”
We stood near the door to the shuttle dock. Lieutenant Hall directed cadets, now ensigns, to various shuttles based on the color of their pips. General Studies were relegated to waiting, like usual.
“Do you really think the Klingons would attack?” Christine asked me, her face pinched with worry lines.
Wyatt opened one eye a crack as he shifted his position. “We’d whup them if they did. And they know it. I’m sure this is just a drill cooked up by Admiral Williamson to keep us guessing.”
I couldn’t resist adding to the angst. “He’s trying to flush out that Romulan spy we heard about.”
Christine twisted her hands in her sleeves.
“Maybe the Andorrians have finally rebelled and we’re being sent to bring them back to the Federation. I always wanted to see some action.” Wyatt slouched against the wall.
Alex snapped his pad shut, sliding it into his pocket. “It’s the Klingons. I’ve been studying the situation for weeks now. When I’m not programming ship controls. They’re making a bid for the Naralax Sector. We can’t let them have it.”
“You programmed the ship’s controls?” Christine opened her eyes wide in terror. “We’re going to die for certain.”
Alex sputtered in outrage. I snickered.
Christine turned to me. “Why are they making us ensigns and sending us out in a decrepit old ship to fight? It doesn’t make sense.”
“Something big happened,” Wyatt said. “I think we’re about to find out what.”
Lieutenant Hall motioned us across the much emptier docking bay. Most of the shuttles had departed. “You four, shuttle sixteen. On the double. You’ll get your ship assignments when you arrive at the Voyager.”
We hurried across the docking bay to our assigned shuttle.
Alex was the first to board. He froze just inside the hatch. “It has to be the Klingons. They’re evacuating the entire Academy.”
I peered around him to see the shuttle full of officers and teachers. I pushed his shoulder. “They saved us the four seats at the very back. Move it, Alex. We aren't at war with the Klingons.” I wasn't too sure, but I kept my mouth shut. Alex panicked was better than Alex screaming and curling into a fetal position.
We took our seats and strapped in for takeoff.

Personal Log 3-8: Whispered Secrets

How I Flunked Out of Starfleet Academy: Part 8
"Did you hear?" Nicole waved her cronies in close. She sat on her bunk as if it were a throne and the curlers in her hair were a crown. She whispered something too low for me to hear. The other girls sat back with squeals of alarm.
"I heard it was one of us, too." Nicole slid her gaze to my end of the room. Her friends copied her. All of them stared at me.
I pretended I didn't notice. They huddled together, whispering.
"What's all that about?" I asked Christine. I'd spent most of the day locked in the staff break room with the broken replicator. Turns out the thing just had some wires crossed and an old piece of toast jammed into the heating coil. Once I cleaned that out and checked the circuits, it worked fine. DeSoto was impressed. Maybe. It was hard to tell with her.
Christine tugged a curl. "There's a rumor that our training flight might be cancelled. I heard there was a spy in the Academy, selling secrets to the Romulans. They might hijack our ship when we go."
“That would be just my luck if they cancel it.” I didn’t want to admit it, but I was looking forward to the training flight. DeSoto promised I’d be in engineering, although I suspected I’d be spending my time fixing replicators and scrubbing toilets.
Christine’s eyes were huge. “We were supposed to take the Phoenix, but last I heard, we’re being reassigned to the Voyager and Admiral Williamson is personally taking command.”
Annika, the cadet across from us, leaned forward on her bunk. “They’re only putting us on the Voyager because they’re going to scrap it. They don’t care what you break, Adrian.” She smirked.
I stuck my tongue out at her.
“Cadets! Attention!”
We scrambled off our bunks at the sound of Sergeant Warner’s voice. I tugged the blanket straight then took the stance - arms at my side, eyes staring at the wall above Nicole’s head.
Sergeant Warner frowned as she stalked down the aisle between our bunks. “Out of uniform, out of order, you make a disgrace of Starfleet. But, it’s out of my hands. You have fifteen minutes to report to the shuttle dock. The Voyager leaves orbit in two hours.” She paused to glare at me, then across at Nicole. “I expect you to act like officers of Starfleet, not children at summer camp. Prove to me that Admiral Williamson’s faith in you is not misplaced. As of this moment, you are all promoted from cadet to ensign. Don’t disappoint me.”
She marched from the room, trailed by her assistant, Corporal VandenBerger. They stopped again at the door. Warner turned to study us one more time. “Did I mention you may not be coming back? Pack your things, ladies. You’re down to twelve minutes, thirty seven seconds.”
The door shut behind her. We stared at each other. The room exploded in a frenzy of packing.

Personal Log 3-7: Adrian vs. the Replicator

How I Flunked Out of Starfleet Academy: Part 7

DeSoto glared. Her hand scratched around the top of her cast, apparently without her knowledge. I shuffled my feet. I was starting to really hate the scrutiny. I'd tried my best, I really had. It wasn't my fault the fake warp core had exploded for real. I only touched a few dials and conduits. The other cadets would recover, eventually. McKay was the one who dropped the screwdriver into the circuitry. After I pushed him. But he'd deserved a lot worse.

"Stevens, I have never in all my time working with warp engines seen anything like that. I don't even know how to program the simulator to do that. And don't try to explain. I really don't want to hear it."

I opened my mouth, then shut it again.

"The real question is what to do with you." DeSoto fiddled with her crutches. Rumor had it that she'd be back on duty in another couple of weeks, right after our first training flight. "Commander Williamson won't let me release you. He says you belong in engineering. But, I can't have you killing the other cadets, even on accident. I could have Sergeant Warner keep you in the barracks on cleaning detail. Or assign you to kitchen staff."

I hung my head, shoulders slumping in defeat. Nicole would never let me forget my failure if DeSoto did either. I'd have to withdraw from the Academy in shame. Except then Nicole would win and I couldn't let her do that.

"Come with me." DeSoto stood, grimacing as she tucked the crutches under her arms. "I hate these stupid things. Can't get off them soon enough."

I followed her thumping progress down the hall. We passed the warp core mock-up and the other ship systems rooms. She opened the last door on the hall.

"You are not to leave this room until you fix the problem. Everything you need is inside. Do you understand?"

"Yes, sir." I entered the room, curious now.

It was the staff break room. The door shut behind me. I heard the click of a lock. I resisted the urge to smash the tables and chairs into the wall. She'd tricked me. I dropped into a chair, fuming.

The room held three round tables, a dozen chairs, a sink, and a food replicator unit with an "out-of-order" sign. A toolbox and datapad sat in front of the unit.

What had DeSoto said? Fix the problem. It was obvious to me what problem she meant. I crossed to the replicator. I stared at it for a long moment before pulling the sign off. I punched the button for a sandwich. I was a bit hungry. The machine hummed to itself. The door slid open. My sandwich sat on a tray, a blackened lump of charcoal. The unit really was broken.

I dragged a table and a chair over to the unit. I sat while I opened up the toolbox. It held all the normal tools for basic repairs. I tapped the datapad. The only item was the manual for the replicator.

I started reading. DeSoto meant what she said and she told me I wasn't leaving until I fixed the problem. I assumed she meant with the replicator, so I got busy figuring out how it worked.

I tested a few more dishes. All of them, even the salad, came out as smoking lumps. Food replicators are supposed to take a variety of yeast cultures, stored as dry powders, mix them with the appropriate liquid, and create an approximation of whatever food was programmed. The taste is a little odd, but easy enough to get used to. They were a staple on starships mostly because yeast culture was much easier to grow, store, and transport than fresh foods.

I got to the troubleshooting section of the manual. I scrolled through to the list of things to test when the cooking unit was out of whack. I punched buttons on the panel, accessing the unit's programming. I didn't see any errors there, at least not ones that matched the manual, so I moved on to other steps.

I unfastened the screws holding the front panel on. I couldn't help my grin as I poked into the innards of the mechanism. I enjoyed this, even if it was a food replicator and not a warp core. I didn't have any bossy arrogant cadets screaming at me. Just the stench of burnt food.

Personal Log 3-8: Whispered Secrets