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"The defect is inoperable. There is no recommended course of treatment."
"The house of Sukaan would be diminished by his inclusion."
"Perhaps we were in error when we decided to suppress his first Pon Farr. We have only prolonged his suffering."
"The family elders were quite correct when they forbade him the Kahs'wan. One without the ability to think logically and control his emotions should not be given a voice in our house."
"He will not live long."
"He will not prosper."
* * * * *
Valaan opened his eyes, and looked curiously at the young man who was speaking to him.
"The shuttle has landed. It looked as if you were asleep." The young man said hesitantly.
"I was. Thank you." Valaan said softly, then reached under his seat to pick up his small carry-on bag.
"Yeah. No problem."
As Valaan stood, he noticed that nearly everyone else had left the shuttle.
He took a deep breath to calm himself, then worked to hide any trace of emotion from his expression as he approached the shuttle's door.
* * * * *
After retrieving his tattered duffel bag, Valaan stepped away from the shuttle, and noticed that there were about fifty or so people standing in loosely formed lines, facing a large, majestic building.
He quickly walked to take his place at the end of one of the lines and dropped his duffel bag on the ground at his side.
A Starfleet officer approached and looked over the group before briskly saying, "I am Commander De Gama. Welcome to the Starfleet Academy."
"Take a moment to look around you. One third of the people standing here will be gone before the end of the month." The Commander said seriously.
Valaan cautiously looked down the row of new cadets and thought about Commander De Gama's words.
"Of those that survive the initial cut, fully half will either choose to leave, or be asked to, before completing their training." Commander De Gama said ominously.
"This isn't a party. It isn't a social club. Those of you who are here dreaming about piloting a starship, keep in mind that 95% of your classmates have exactly the same dream. It comes true for about one out of every 300 graduates. Only the best of the best make it." Commander De Gama said firmly as he looked up and down the rows.
"If any of you aren't ready to dedicate one hundred percent of your effort,and attention toward your studies, the shuttles are right there. You'll be saving us all a lot of time and trouble if you just get on one now."
After a moment to look over the assembled group, Commander De Gama said, "Good enough. Then let's begin."
"This is Dr. White, he is a counselor as well as being a Lieutenant Commander. I'm going to ask him to take the first group of you who are here for the accelerated training course." Commander De Gama said seriously, then after a nod at Dr. White, he stepped away.
"E-1 Crewman training... stand by me when I call your name." Dr. White said as he took a few steps back from the gathering.
Valaan quickly picked up his duffel bag and was ready to go when called.
"Mitchell?" Dr. White asked, more to his padd than to the group before him.
"Yes sir?" A young woman asked cautiously.
"Just taking role. Stand over here by me... Harper?" Dr. White asked as he looked at the group.
"Yes sir." Answered a timid young man who looked to be on the younger side of 18 years old.
"I'm guessing that you're Valaan." Dr. White said with a glance in Valaan's direction.
"Yes sir." Valaan said, trying to keep from smiling as he moved to join the group.
From his cursory inspection, it seemed to Valaan that he was the only obvious nonhuman among the new cadets.
Dr. White glanced around the substantial gathering and asked, "Chu?"
"Yes sir." One of the young men said quietly before joining the increasing group at Dr. White's side.
"Carter?" Dr. White asked cautiously.
"Deidre Carter?" Dr. White asked again, then made a note on his padd.
"Sharan?" Dr. White called as he glanced over the group one time, then made another note.
"Wyndham?" Dr. White asked and another young man walked to join the group.
"Richardson?" Dr. White called out, then waited for a moment.
"Levis Richardson?" Dr. White called, a bit more loudly, then made a note on his padd.
"Those who weren't called, wait and someone will be here to attend to the next group shortly." Dr. White said quickly to the remaining people.
"Come along." Dr. White said, as he led his group into the building.
* * * * *
After leading them onto an elevator, and selecting the floor that he wanted, the counselor turned and said, "I'm going to be the adviser for this group. All that means is that if you have any questions or concerns about what is expected of you at the Starfleet Academy, you may come and ask me. I'll do my best to answer your questions or guide you to resources so you can help yourself."
The group walked off the elevator into an empty hallway.
"Let me see... " Dr. White said as he looked at his padd, then smiled as he continued, "This is simple enough."
"As you probably know from the admissions literature you were provided, cadet officers share quarters, two to a room. Cadet Crewmen are housed in barracks." Dr. White said as he started walking.
"A duck with seven tongues lives here." He said as he stopped outside a door.
Bewildered looks flashed around the group.
Valaan fought to maintain an emotionless expression, then purposefully quirked an eyebrow of inquiry at Dr. White.
"Just a little mnemonic device to help you remember where you'll be living. A duck with seven tongues, Block D, room 7 T." Dr. White said as he opened the door.
* * * * *
The group walked into the room and found four, two-tiered bunk beds jutting out from one wall. Between the beds were cabinets, each one had a small placard with a name.
"In the next few days, it's possible that you'll be receiving cadets to fill the other three beds. For right now, find your assigned bunks and stow your gear. As soon as you're ready, I'll take you on a brief tour, so you'll be able to find your way around." Dr. White said seriously.
Valaan walked down the rows of beds and spotted his name on one of the cabinets. Since his name was on the lower cabinet, he reasoned that his would be the bottom bunk.
"You have a small lavatory in here, the shower facilities are at the end of the hall." Dr. White said as he watched the group finding their bunks and stowing their belongings.
Valaan efficiently stowed his duffel bag, then walked to the end of his bunk to await further instructions.
"I'm on top of you." a young female cadet said as she walked to Valaan's side.
Valaan quirked an eyebrow at her in question.
She giggled and said, "I mean, I've got the top bunk."
Valaan gave a single nod, then waited as she quickly put her gear away. He had noticed that the cabinet above his was labeled 'Mitchell'.
Based on their momentary interaction, Valaan already knew that he liked her. She seemed to be a very friendly, and open type of person.
"It looks like all of you are ready. I think our first job will be to get you out of those civvies, and into some proper cadet uniforms." Dr. White said, then started walking toward the door.
"I'm Melanie." the young woman said as she fell into step at Valaan's side.
"I am Valaan." He said as they walked down the hallway.
Valaan was paying careful attention to where Dr. White was leading them in case he needed to find his way back to the barracks on his own for some reason.
When they finally stopped outside a door marked 'quartermaster', Melanie quietly said, "I think it's really great that you're going to be training with us. I thought that most Vulcans automatically went into the officer's training course."
"I believe that is most common." Valaan said quietly, not wanting to admit that he hadn't been able to meet the minimum test requirements for the officer's program.
"I'm going to leave you here while I try to locate our missing cadets. Once you've received your uniforms, return to the barracks and I'll meet you there." Dr. White said, then turned to leave.
One of the young men walked through the door that they were standing before, and the rest of the group followed.
* * * * *
"My, you're a big one." The quartermaster said, as he scanned Valaan to get the measurements for his uniforms.
"Yes sir." Valaan said, fighting to keep any trace of offense from his voice.
The only outward manifestation of his difference from other Vulcans was his 'larger than average' stature.
"You don't call me sir. I work for a living." The quartermaster said firmly. "I'm a crewman, an E-5."
"How am I to address you?" Valaan asked cautiously.
"Well, if you MUST use a title, you can call me Petty Officer Altman, but if you're asking what I'd prefer, I'd rather that you just call me Phil."
"As you like." Valaan said in his best Vulcan formal tone, then added in a more casual voice, "Phil."
The quartermaster was a little bit surprised that the Vulcan had chosen to use his name, but before he could think too much about it, he noticed Valaan's measurements and shook his head, expressing his frustration.
"I'm afraid that we're not going to have any uniforms in stock that are going to fit you properly. We're not used to having to outfit a body builder... at least not one as big as you." Phil said frankly.
"I rarely find clothing made in my size." Valaan said with resignation.
"I'll go ahead and get you something for now. If you can tell me where your barracks are, I can get with you later about alterations." Phil said seriously.
The image of a duck with seven tongues flashed in Valaan's mind and he couldn't restrain a smile as he said, "D 7 T."
Phil looked on with surprise at the amused smile, but quickly made note of Valaan's barracks.
"If you'll wait over there now, I'll get the rest of the measurements before I go to get everyone's uniforms." the quartermaster said professionally.
"Thank you Phil." Valaan said sincerely, then stepped away so that Melanie Mitchell could step forward to get measured.
* * * * *
"When you get back to your barracks, you should change into your uniforms. You're cadets now and you're supposed to wear your proper uniforms any time you're on duty... which is pretty much all the time." Phil said as he handed out the? jumpsuit uniforms.
"All the time?" One of the young men, Cadet Chu, asked cautiously.
"If your group completes all your assigned tasks and tests, you may be granted a day pass as a reward. You can wear your civvies at that time. Otherwise, you'll be expected to be in uniform." Phil said seriously.
Cadet Chu nodded that he understood the answer.
"Valaan, your uniform isn't going to fit correctly, but if anyone asks, let them know that it's the best we can do at the moment. We should have fitted uniforms for you later today, or by tomorrow at the latest." Phil said to Valaan with a slight smile.
"Should anyone ask, I will inform them. Thank you, Phil." Valaan said gratefully.
* * * * *
"Dr. White isn't here yet. What do you think we should do?" Cadet Chu asked as he looked around the barracks.
"We were instructed to change into our uniforms." Valaan said, consciously working to make his voice toneless and impassive.
"Yeah... Do you want to go in and change first?" Cadet Chu asked, directing his question to Melanie.
"Sure. It'll just take me a minute." She said, then walked to the bathroom at the far end of the room.
"We could change in here while she's doing that." Cadet Wyndham said cautiously.
"Yeah. Let's." Cadet Chu said as he started to undress.
Valaan undid the sash on his Vulcan desert attire and quickly shrugged it off.
"Oh man!" Cadet Wyndham said as he stared at Valaan.
"Is something wrong?" Valaan asked, self consciously.
"No, I just... I never thought a Vulcan could be so... big." Cadet Wyndham said in amazement.
"Most aren't." Valaan said, fighting to keep any tone of emotion out of his voice.
He quickly skinned off his worn soft linen pants, then stepped into his crewman's jumpsuit uniform.
One by one the others in the room got over their surprise at Valaan's appearance and began to change as well.
As Valaan was dressing, he caught a glimpse of something unusual. The youngest of the cadets, Harper, seemed to have something that looked like a medical device attached to his wrist. But before Valaan could see enough to identify what it was, Cadet Harper had pulled on the upper part of his jumpsuit and the device was hidden under his sleeve.
When Valaan finally got his own jumpsuit completely on, he began to close the front and realized what the quartermaster had been talking about.
While the jumpsuit was loose and ill fitting around his waist, the top of the jumpsuit was virtually sucked tight to his skin. To make matters worse, the legs of the jumpsuit uniform didn't quite make it all the way to his ankles.
"Was I in there that long?" Melanie asked with a chuckle as she walked out of the lavatory to find everyone else dressed.
"We just thought it would be faster if we changed while you were in there." Cadet Chu said frankly.
Melanie nodded, then turned her gaze toward Valaan.
"Are you sure you're wearing that thing right?" Melanie asked with a pained expression.
"I can't think of another way to wear it." Valaan said and wasn't able to restrain a small smile when he said it.
"I guess not." Melanie said with an answering smile, then whispered, "But just so you know, it looks pretty bad."
"The quartermaster said that more appropriate uniforms would be provided as soon as possible." Valaan said seriously.
Melanie thought for a moment, then said, "Oh yeah. I think I heard him say something to you about that. Well good. I'm glad you won't have to go around looking like that for the next few months."
Valaan nodded his agreement.
"Do you guys want to get unpacked while we wait for Dr. White?" Cadet Chu asked casually.
"It sounds like a plan." Cadet Wyndham said as he moved to his bunk.
Valaan gave a single nod, then walked to his locker.
"So what's your specialty?" Melanie asked as she started to take her clothes out of her suitcase and put them away.
"I qualified for engineering." Valaan said carefully, remembering how worried he had been that his test scores wouldn't be good enough to qualify him for anything.
"Oh, you're lucky. You'll probably get a posting right away. I'm medical. So it could take a while before they have a place for me." Melanie said casually.
"I see that you're making yourselves at home." Dr. White said from the doorway. "Good. Finish up and I'll show you around the academy facilities and let you know where to report in the morning."
Everyone hurried to finish unpacking, then as each was finished, they moved to the end of their bunks to wait for further instructions."
"All of you..." Dr. White began to say, then stopped when he saw Valaan and amended, "Most of you look very good in your uniforms."
"The quartermaster said that he did not have the required size of uniform for me in stock. He is arranging for alterations to be made and I should have more appropriate uniforms by morning."
"Good." Dr. White said with a pained look at Valaan, then said to the group, "Come with me and I'll show you around."
* * * * *
The group walked around the lower levels of the academy and were taken on a tour of the classrooms and the public areas. Afterward, they went outside and were shown the practice field behind the dorm building.
Dr. White concluded the tour back inside the main building at the mess hall.
"Go ahead and get yourselves something to eat. At 18:00 hours, report to the auditorium for orientation. You'll also receive your study materials at that time." Dr. White said professionally.
He looked around to see that everyone understood what he was saying, then left them to have their dinner.
* * * * *
"It looks good." Cadet Chu said as he led the way through the serving line.
"Yes. A nice selection." Melanie observed.
"I don't know what that is." Cadet Wyndham said as he pointed at a dish of dark orange vegetables.
"That is a Vulcan root vegetable. The name roughly translates into your language to mean... Hell's Radish?" Valaan finished uncertainly.
"I think I'll pass." Cadet Wyndham said as he moved his serving tray down the line.
"Aren't you going to have some?" Melanie asked Valaan when he also moved past the Vulcan food selection.
"No. I believe it would be best for me to adjust to eating Human food. I think it would be counterproductive for me to have Vulcan food at this time." Valaan said as he made two selections from the hot vegetable side dishes.
"Are you a vegetarian?" Melanie asked when she noticed that Valaan had bypassed the meat selections completely.
"Not strictly. But I grew up among vegetarians and never acquired a taste for meat." Valaan said casually.
"I guess that makes sense." Melanie said, then walked to the drink station.
Valaan walked past her to a well stocked salad bar and prepared himself a plate full of salad.
"That looks good." Melanie said as she moved to his side.
"Yes. The variety of fruits and vegetables provided is most appealing." Valaan said, then moved back to the drink station to get himself a glass of water.
"I see an empty table over there." Cadet Chu said as he motioned toward the far side of the room.
Valaan and Melanie fell into step, side by side, as they followed.
* * * * *
"We have another cadet for your group. His ship was delayed." Dr. White said as he led an Andorian boy to the table.
He was a slender boy and appeared to be young, probably less than 18 years old. The black silky robe he was wearing hung loosely on his slender frame. His delicate facial features might have been considered attractive except for the cold, distrusting look in his eyes as he looked over the people sitting around the table.
"This is Cadet Crewman Sharan." Dr. White said to the group, then turned to the boy and said, "Why don't you get yourself something to eat, and your bunkmates can show you where to stow your gear afterward?"
"Yes sir." the boy said quietly and sat his silvery bag by an empty chair at the table before walking toward the serving line.
"Would you take Cadet Sharan to the quartermaster to get him some uniforms?" Dr. White asked hopefully.
"Yes. Of course." Cadet Chu said immediately.
"Let me know if he needs any help adjusting to being here." Dr. White said with concern, then rushed away.
"I wonder what's up with that?" Cadet Chu asked curiously.
"Yeah, they were all, like, 'you'll either fit in or leave', when *we* got here." Cadet Wyndham said speculatively.
"It doesn't matter. He's part of our group, so we'll work together to help him." Melanie said frankly.
Valaan smiled at her statement and nodded his agreement.
"I guess we should introduce ourselves." Cadet Chu said hesitantly. "I'm Richard Chu, you can call me Rich if you want."
Everyone smiled and seemed to be in agreement, then Melanie said, "I'm Melanie Mitchell, and I guess you can call me Mel."
After a moment, Valaan realized that he was next in line and quietly said, "I am Valaan. You may call me Valaan."
There were a few chuckles at the statement, then Cadet Wyndham said, "I'm Roger Wyndham and I guess you can call me Roger."
Smiles and nods went around the table, then everyone waited for the quiet, young looking teen to introduce himself.
"I'm Terry Harper." He said shyly, in a barely audible voice.
Silence fell over the group as no one seemed to have any idea of how to strike up a conversation with a group of complete strangers,
Sharan walked to the silent table and took a seat. He felt distinctly uncomfortable with the silence.
Finally he asked, "Should I sit elsewhere so you can feel free to talk?"
"No." Melanie said immediately, then quickly added, "We're not talking because none of us know what to say. We all arrived today, just the same as you."
Sharan looked around the table and his gaze finally settled on Valaan.
"I heard that Vulcans thought the duties of a crewman were better suited to other races and a waste of their abilities." Sharan said coldly.
"I had heard that Andorians believed that the duties of a crewman were beneath their dignity." Valaan said simply, then added, "It appears that we were both misinformed."
After a moment to consider, Sharan nodded and grudgingly said, "It appears that we were."
"I am Valaan, and if you should need any assistance, you need only ask." Valaan said carefully.
"That'll be the day." Sharan said with a snort of derision.
The others around the table were staring at the pair of aliens, not understanding the automatic animosity between them.
"He's only offering to help you." Melanie said gently.
"He's doing what all Vulcans do, he's acting like he's superior to everyone else." Sharan said angrily.
"Does that only go for Vulcans, or will you be upset if the rest of us offer to help you?" Roger asked quietly.
"I don't need anyone's help! I can do things for myself." Sharan snapped.
"Fair enough. We won't offer." Roger said reasonably.
* * * * *
"If you're finished with your meal, we'll take you to the quartermaster to get your uniforms." Cadet Chu said in a neutral tone.
"I'll find it myself." Sharan said firmly.
"We're not doing this to help you. We're following our orders." Cadet Chu said seriously.
Sharan looked around the table, then picked up his tray and walked toward the drop-off window.
The rest of the group exchanged glances as they stood more slowly to do the same.
* * * * *
After getting Cadet Sharan's uniforms, the group made their way back to the barracks.
"Your bed is over there, top bunk." Cadet Wyndham said as he made a casual gesture. "You need to change into your uniform so we can go to our orientation."
Cadet Sharan quickly stowed his gear, then began to take off the robe that he was wearing.
"The bathroom is right over there." Cadet Wyndham said frankly.
Sharan looked around the group and said, "I realize that I will have to conform to certain of your Human customs while I am here. But I refuse to behave as though I am ashamed of my body."
"It's just common courtesy when there is a lady in the room." Cadet Chu said seriously.
"If she's offended, then *she* can leave." Sharan said as he continued to undress. "I have a beautiful body that I am proud of."
"It's okay guys." Melanie said quickly, "I'm pretty sure that I'll be able to control myself."
A few smiles and snickers went around the room at the comment as everyone waited for Sharan to change into his jumpsuit uniform.
When Sharan was finished changing, Cadet Chu asked, "Are we all ready to go?"
Murmurs of agreement went through the group as they headed toward the door.
"Sharan." Melanie said as she walked to his side.
He looked at her with caution and seemed ready for another verbal battle.
"You do have a beautiful body. I'm glad you don't want to hide it." She said, then preceded him out the door.
* * * * *
When the group arrived in the auditorium, they found other new students dressed in their cadet uniforms and talking in small groups.
After a few minutes of standing and waiting, a speaker on the stage told everyone to take a seat.
The welcoming speech was long and boring and provided very little useful information.
The speaker did make a point of telling the cadet crewmen, several times, that they would be expected at 06:00 on the practice field behind the dorm building.
At the end of the speech, an ensign called for them to form a line, then the slow process of getting their study materials began.
Some students were just given a data padd. A few were given 'tools of the trade' of their respective chosen fields.
Valaan's kit contained tools and a tester, as well as a myriad of different electronic and mechanical components.
Terry was the last of them to get outfitted.
As soon as he was ready, the group walked together to D 7 T.
* * * * *
"I sleep nude." Sharan announced to the room.
"Well, it's against regulations, but I won't tell." Roger Wyndham said without concern as he gathered the things he would need to shower.
"As long as Mel doesn't mind, it's alright with me." Richard Chu said casually as he got sleep pants out of his locker.
"I've got three older brothers. Knock yourself out." Melanie said as she fussed over the things in her cabinet.
Valaan was uncertain if he should take his shower at the same time as the others, but decided that, given Sharan's behavior, any unintentional lapse in proper etiquette would likely be overlooked.
He got a pair of gray sleep pants, an oversized shirt, a towel and a small case of toiletries out of his locker, then joined Roger and Rich as they walked into the hall.
* * * * *
"Hey, look! We've got lockers in here too. That'll be handy." Roger said as he placed some things on the counter by one of the sinks.
"And a fresher. This'll be a lot better than having to do laundry all the time." Rich said as he started to take off his jumpsuit uniform.
Valaan nervously began to remove his uniform, not entirely certain he was doing the right thing.
As soon as Roger was out of his clothes, he tied a towel around his waist.
"Valaan, do you know how to run one of these things? I've never used one." Rich asked as he stood naked in front of the fresher.
Trying to look casual, Valaan tied a towel around his waist, then walked to Rich's side.
"Drop your clothing in, then press the start button." Valaan said, then dropped his own clothing into the fresher.
"I guess you couldn't make it any simpler than that." Rich said with a chuckle.
"Is it okay if I come in?" Terry asked timidly from the doorway.
"You don't have to ask. Come on." Roger said with a cautious look at Terry, then walked into the shower room.
Rich followed as Valaan looked at Terry with concern.
"It appears that you are uncertain of what is acceptable behavior in this new situation." Valaan said quietly.
"Yeah." Terry said as he slowly started to undress.
"I am new here, just as you are, and I am just as uncertain. Be comforted in knowing that you are not alone." Valaan said, then picked up his soap and shampoo as he started to walk to the shower room.
"Thanks." Terry said sincerely.
Valaan noticed that Terry stopped just short of revealing the device on his forearm before glancing up at him.
Valaan only paused long enough to give him a single nod, then continued into the shower room.
* * * * *
The shower room was divided into two banks of showers separated by a tiled wall. Rich and Roger had chosen the showers on the right, so Valaan automatically walked to the first shower on the left.
As Valaan started his shower, movement drew his attention and he noticed Terry walking slowly into the shower room with him.
Valaan made a casual gesture toward the hooks on the wall, just inside the door.
Terry nodded, then took off his towel and hung it on one of the hooks.
Valaan went back to showering, but turned suddenly when he heard Terry say, "Shit!"
He turned in time to see Terry slam his shoulder into the wall, then fight to maintain his footing.
"Do you need help, Terry?" Valaan asked cautiously.
"No. Just give me a second. I'm not hurt; just frustrated." Terry said as he rubbed his shoulder.
Valaan's look of concern prompted Terry to say, "I'm fine. Really."
After a moment, Valaan asked, "If at some point you are not fine, will you ask me for help?"
Terry took small, careful steps toward the shower as he seemed to be considering.
"Yeah. Okay." Terry finally relented. "If I need help, I promise that I'll ask."
"It appears that you did not bring soap. You may share mine." Valaan said quietly.
"Oh, um, thank you Valaan." Terry said hesitantly.
"You seem tense. Allow the warm water to relax you." Valaan said as he turned under the shower's spray.
After getting his shower set to a comfortable temperature, Terry closed his eyes and stepped under the water.
"Valaan." Rich said quietly from the doorway to get his attention.
"Thanks for helping him calm down." Rich said, then tilted his head slightly in Terrys direction.
Valaan smiled at the words of appreciation and gave a single nod, then went back to the business of showering.
* * * * *
"Thanks for the soap and shampoo." Terry said, trying to sound casual even though he was obviously concentrating on each step he was taking.
"If we're going to share a room, we should be willing to help each other." Valaan said carefully as he started to dry himself.
"Is that logical?" Terry asked curiously as he opened his locker and took out a small pouch.
Valaan was surprised by the question, and finally answered, "I don't know. But if we are concerned for each other and help each other to succeed, our time here will be much more pleasant."
"Yeah. I think so too." Terry said with a smile, then sat heavily on the bench.
Valaan noticed that his jumpsuit uniform had been taken out of the fresher and was neatly folded and sitting on the bench in front of his locker.
As Valaan was beginning to get dressed in his sleep pants, he noticed Terry taking the small device out of the pouch.
Although Valaan didn't stop and watch what Terry was doing, by the time he was finished dressing, he had seen Terry put a device on both wrists and both ankles.
As soon as the last unit was attached and activated, Terry seemed to be transformed. Before it had seemed like every movement required absolute concentration, but since the devices were activated, Terry could move comfortably and casually, seemingly without any effort at all.
"Valaan?" Terry asked as he put his pouch and towel into his locker.
"Yes?" Valaan responded.
"Thanks for offering to help and... not asking a lot of questions and stuff." Terry said quietly.
Valaan nodded, then gestured toward the door.
Terry smiled at the reaction as he fell into step at Valaan's side.
* * * * *
Terry and Valaan walked into the barracks to find the others sitting on their bunks, reading their data padds.
Both automatically went to their own bunks.
"I suppose *you* won't even need to study." Sharan said darkly, directing his statement toward Valaan from his place on the top neighboring bunk.
"Not unless I want to pass the classes I will be taking." Valaan said as he took his data padd from his locker.
"You mean you haven't memorized it all yet? What kind of a Vulcan are you?" Sharan asked with a sneer.
Valaan lowered his padd and said, "I am the kind of Vulcan who has to work hard and study to pass his classes. Now if you will excuse me..."
Sharan rolled his eyes dismissively, then went back to reading his own padd.
* * * * *
Valaan was surprised to find that the padd was loaded with a general overview of all the classes offered at the academy and the complete text of all the class books he could possibly need.
He had thought that he would just be given the books for the classes he would be taking in the current term.
As he searched through the menu of the padd, there was only one folder that contained anything that was specific to him. In that folder he found a listing of his aptitude test results and a corresponding list of classes offered.
There were no instructions telling him which materials he should study to prepare for the next day's classes.
The door opening drew Valaan's attention away from his padd and he saw the crewman from the supply room walking into the room.
"Valaan?" Petty Officer Altman asked, as he looked around.
"I am here." Valaan said as he stood from his bunk.
"I brought your uniform." Phil said, as he offered it to Valaan.
"Thank you, Phil. I appreciate your extra effort on my behalf." Valaan said as he accepted the jumpsuit uniform.
"I was happy to do it. Now if you'll go ahead and try it on, I'll make sure that it fits before I order more uniforms for you." Phil said seriously.
"Yes. Of course." Valaan said, then took his uniform to the small lavatory so he could change.
* * * * *
Phil nodded with satisfaction as he looked at Valaan critically. The custom tailored uniform fit comfortably across Valaan's broad, muscular chest, allowing him free movement, then tapered down to his narrow waist. The length of the uniform was even right, giving Valaan a very professional appearance.
Finally Phil said, "I'll put in the work order and have three more uniforms made for you. Stop by the quartermaster's office after dinner tomorrow and they should be ready."
"Thank you, Phil. I will do so." Valaan said gently.
Phil smiled at Valaan's quiet and respectful tone.
"If you run into any problems, just give me a yell. I've been around for a few years and I know how things work." Phil said in a quieter tone.
"I will remember. Thank you." Valaan said with a grateful smile.
Phil nodded, then left the room.
* * * * *
"You look a lot better." Melanie commented from her bunk.
"Thank you." Valaan said with sincere gratitude, then walked to his own bunk and picked up his padd again.
After looking through the course studies screen of the padd, Valaan barely heard Sharan whisper, "You *do* look better."
"Thank you." Valaan said in a voice so low that he knew that only Sharan's superior Andorian hearing would be able to pick it up.
Valaan glanced at the top neighboring bunk in time to see Sharan quickly look away.
"We're both new here, and we're both cadets." Valaan said in an absent tone as he directed his gaze toward his padd.
"The completion rate for crewman at the academy is less than fifty percent. We don't have to be friends, but if we are to survive here, it may be necessary for us to be comrades." Valaan continued hesitantly.
Valaan chanced a glance at Sharan's bunk and found him staring vacantly at his padd.
After a long silence, Sharan barely whispered, "When Andorians and Vulcans form alliances, the Andorians tend to end up worse off for having had the experience."
"Yes. History does tell us that." Valaan admitted.
Movement drew Valaan's attention as Sharan turned to look at him with surprise.
"But I am not asking you to make an alliance with me, nor am I offering to make one with you." Valaan explained as he looked Sharan in the eyes. "I am suggesting that we both work for the benefit of our team."
Sharan's eyes were distant and unfocused as he seemed to be considering the words.
"If it is necessary to help each other, to help the team, I will be willing to do so." Valaan whispered, not wanting to disrupt the tentative peace that they had established.
"For the sake of the team." Sharan said under his breath.
Valaan couldn't be sure if Sharan were agreeing to his terms or just voicing his thoughts.
After a long silence, Valaan finally concluded that it didn't matter and went back to reading his padd.
* * * * *
"Is everyone ready to call it a night?" Roger asked, breaking the long silence.
Valaan looked up from his padd and realized that he hadn't actually read anything for the past ten minutes. He had just been staring at the padd as his mind wandered.
"Yeah. I think I was a little bit asleep already." Melanie said with a chuckle from the bunk above Valaan.
"I'm ready." Rich said as he sat on the edge of his bunk and put his padd into his locker.
Valaan also put his padd away, then noticed that he was still wearing his uniform.
He picked up his sleep pants and was about to go to the lavatory to change when he noticed Sharan undressing.
No one seemed bothered by Sharan's action, so Valaan decided that changing in the main room would not only be a symbol of support that might be significant to Sharan, but might also serve to put the others at ease.
When Sharan finally removed the last of his clothes, he glanced around the room to see if anyone had an objection.
Either no one objected or they did a masterful job at hiding it.
Valaan finished changing into his sleep pants and climbed into his bunk.
"Goodnight everyone." Roger said as he turned off the light switch.
Rather than turning off, the lights began slowly dimming as Roger crossed the room, stopping at a dim illumination just short of going completely out.
Being in a strange room among strangers was a bit unsettling to Valaan, but despite the fact, sleep claimed him quickly.
To Be Continued...
Editor's?Notes: Well, it seems we have another interesting story here. Valaan has begun a new stage in his life. It will be very interesting to see what will happen to him and the people around him.? I think that everyone there will learn some valuable lessons, and maybe make some new friends. I think I should stop there, because almost anything else I could say, would, in effect, be a spoiler.
I will say that I am very impressed with this story.? I suppose that isn't a surprise. It's a story by MultiMapper, after all.
Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher