Commander Elizabeth Shawell surveyed the expectant, excited new intake of cadets with a smile. For the next two days, youll be seeing your advisors and counselors and finalizing classes. Since we dont want you to become bored, I have a little project to occupy you in any time you have to spare from drills and everything else.
She gestured to the large hangar behind them. Im head of the engineering department. Some of you are already planning on heading in my direction, but I intend all of you to have a thorough knowledge of engineering before you graduate. However, theory does not make an engineer! Inside, you will find a work bench for each of you. Your assignment is to build a kite.
She saw surprise mingle with disappointment on many of the faces as the cadets found themselves with what many considered a childish assignment. It was a simple assignment: its value lay in how much their instructors would learn about their ability to follow instructions and organize their time as they carried out an entirely practical assignment. Academic brilliance was far from all Starfleet needed, and it did not necessarily combine with common sense. She would be grading the result; the Academys psychologists would assess the less obvious aspects.
To pass, it must fly. It must be at least three meters long, though the larger it is, the more points you will earn. Points will also be given for elegance of design, durability, even decoration. You may not discuss this project with anyone else, talk to or help each other, nor may you consult the computer. Any questions?
Shawell saw a tentacle waving and smiled. She did not know what to expect from the Academys first Salixa cadet, but she had already been told it wanted to become an engineer and Shawell had been looking forward to encountering it. Yes?
Not understanding term kite,' Commander. Translating as mathematical symbol, Lethende told her plaintively. Not knowing how to make mathematical symbol fly!
I am also confused, Commander, Sener admitted, and added, reproachfully for a Vulcan, and your ban on using the computer precludes any research!
Ill just get everyone settled, Cadets, and then Ill explain to anyone who comes from a background where they didnt fly kites as a child. Shawell had charts ready for just that eventuality. Inside, Cadets!
Commander Shawell strolled along the rows of work benches, eyeing the various models with interest and grading them for design, decoration and size. She wondered how some of their creators ever expected their designs to get off the ground. She stopped to assess Chekovs. Now that is the most beautiful kite Ive seen!
Thank you, maam! Chekov looked up from where he was putting the final iridescent blue marking on a kite designed to imitate a tropical butterfly.
The commander studied it for a few more moments before she walked on. She added words of praise for some of the other designs, then continued down the long ranks of work benches.
Salford looked up confidently as she approached. Mines going to win the points for being the largest, maam!
Shawell surveyed the huge kite and wondered if it had occurred to the cadet he would fail the entire assignment if his kite did not fly. The design was crude, and the struts were far too heavy; the cadet had not even put on a tail. Is it finished?
Oh, yes, maam, Salford assured her confidently.
Take it outside then.
Outside? The cadets jaw dropped, as if, Shawell thought in annoyance, the news has come as a complete surprise to him.
Take it from me, Cadet; kites dont fly well indoors! The commander looked around as the nearby cadets sniggered. Right, whos ready to try? She nodded at the sea of hands. Anyone who hasnt quite finished, you may continue. It will take me a while to grade these. Those of you who are ready, bring your kites outside, and Ill start assessing them. Your overall mark is going to depend on how well they fly, of course.
She watched with interest as the cadets began to maneuver their constructions outside. Salford was not the only one receiving a shock. Other cadets had also built their kites entirely with size in mind without ever apparently remembering the whole object was for them to fly.
Gasping, Salford lowered his kite to the ground. From the moment Shawell had told them the largest kite would gain the most points, he had been determined to build one larger than any of his classmates' and covert glances as he left the hangar had seemed to confirm he had, but until now, he had not realized how heavy it was. He cast a scornful glance at Chekovs beautiful kite, which was only a quarter the size of his. You wont win with pretty! Im surprised you havent gone running home to your mommy already! Someone told me you want the command track! In your dreams, Chekov! A shrimp like you will never amount to anything!
I cant believe you think being bigger than me automatically makes you better. Chekov gazed at him in sheer disbelief.
Salford smirked. Youll never amount to anything, shrimp, and youll never get command! Someone of your size as a command officer? Dont make me laugh!
Tell me, does the name Horatio Nelson mean anything to you? Chekov knew not everyone shared his love of history but he could not believe the blank expression his question produced from someone aiming at a Starfleet career. He grinned. Or Admiral Nogura?
I am gratified you included me in such exalted company, Cadet Chekov, a quiet voice remarked. The cadets spun around to see the Starfleet admiral that had approached unseen. Despite the way they came instantly to attention, all the faces except one wore enormous grins.
Chekov recovered from his shock. I could hardly do anything else, sir!
I may be gratified you included me in such exalted company when you thought of small people who had achieved success in a naval or Starfleet career, but I am appalled your classmate has apparently never heard of Admiral Horatio Nelson! Nogura continued. He looked along the line. I do trust no one else is in the same state of abysmal ignorance?
Sir! No, sir! a chorus of virtuous young voices assured him.
Please stand at ease. Nogura found his waist promptly wrapped in a tentacle.
Not knowing about Human called Horatio Nelson. Not being angry? Lethende asked anxiously. It did not want to be classed with Salford.
Nogura simply patted the tentacle. I was speaking to the Human cadets primarily, Cadet Lethende. I am sure Cadet Chekov will enlighten you.
Of course, sir, Chekov responded promptly.
Nogura smiled at Shawell. I am sorry for interrupting your class, Commander. It was such a pleasant afternoon, I decided to stroll up here and observe. Please continue.
Aye, sir. Shawell informed the cadets the object now was to get their kites into the air, and keep them there for ten minutes. The cadets began to launch their designs, with varying degrees of success. Some refused to fly at all, others crashed. Most at least flew, some swooped and turned gracefully, Lethendes soon joining them.
Salford grinned as his turn approached. It had been unfortunate the admiral had overheard him telling Chekov he would never amount to anything because of his size, and was infuriated to discover the admiral somehow knew the younger cadet, but once his kite was in the air, he would be the one to impress Nogura.
Salford began to run as the other cadets had done, only to find his kite was too heavy to pull. He fell, the kite landing on top of him. Salford sat up to find himself covered in the remains of his kite and surrounded by grinning classmates. As he gasped for breath, he saw Chekovs butterfly kite float up into the air, followed, much to his annoyance, by murmurs of admiration as the iridescent colors caught the sunlight. Nogura was smiling as he watched it.
Shawell moved along the line, telling the remaining cadets to launch their kites one at a time, only to whirl at the cries of alarm as a freak gust of wind blew across the headland far more strongly than the breeze the forecasters had predicted. Many cadets lost control of their kites or found them collapsing as the wind proved too strong for their fragile construction, but it was the sight of Chekov being carried out over the bay which turned her white. A despairing tentacle had stretched up after him, but Lethende had not been able to catch its friend in time. Chekov was being carried out over San Francisco Bay on the end of a line attached to a craft which had never been intended to carry the weight of a person. Shawell knew it was a combination of the boys own light weight plus the size of the kite and the sudden gust of wind which had produced this potential tragedy. Chekov was already so high a fall would kill him.
Nogura whipped out his communicator. Nogura! Patch me through to Centroplex, no, to the Enterprise! the admiral corrected himself as he thought of the approaching starship.
Aye, sir! a startled voice responded.
Enterprise here, sir, a voice acknowledged.
Nogura. Captain Pike, due to a freak gust of wind weve got a cadet heading out over the bay suspended from a kite. Please retrieve him for me.
Aye, sir. Were on it.
Chekov swung dizzily on the end of his kite string; the sudden gust of wind had taken him completely by surprise. Before he knew what was happening, he was out over the bay, with only a terrifying drop beneath him. Just as he saw the material begin to peel away from the starboard strut, a transporter beam gripped him. He materialized in a transporter room.
Chekov took a breath. Permission to come on board, sir?
After the signal from the bridge, that finished off the transporter operator. He was laughing so hard he could hardly signal the captain. Ive got him, sir!
Well done, Ensign. Right, lets send him home before he gets into any more trouble! Pike was laughing too. Cadet, do you realize youve just made history? Youre probably the first cadet ever to be personally ordered rescued by the admiral!
Thank you for the rescue, Captain, and you too, Ensign. He returned to his position. Energize, if you please, sir.
The ensign was still grinning. Where shall I send him, Captain?
Lock on to the admirals signal. That will do!
Weve got him, Captain Pike. Thank you for your assistance.
My pleasure, sir. Anything else?
No, thank you, Captain.
Nogura smiled at Chekov. I trust you are all right, Cadet?
Yes, sir! Thank you!
The admiral succumbed to the prompting of his disciplinary self. I trust you remembered boarding protocol, Cadet?
Oh, yes, sir, Chekov assured him earnestly and heard Shawell choke but before he could wonder why, he felt himself lifted in a tentacle as Lethende brushed him down.
Friend not being hurt? Knowing friend being in trouble as usual but not being hurt? Lethende patted him frantically.
No, Im all right! Chekov assured it. Put me down!
Being sure. Now, put me down!
Thinking it being better idea keeping one tentacle around friend until graduating! Lethende told him, before, to the general horror of everyone present, it patted Nogura on the head. Thinking admiral being pleased too, liking finding out reflexes not being slowed by being very, very old Human and being in office instead of ship. It patted Nogura again. Doing very well!
Nogura did not bat an eyelid. Thank you for that tribute, Cadet Lethende!
Cadet Chekov reporting as ordered, sir.
Stand at ease, Cadet, von Steuben ordered. I am pleased you and Cadet Lethende have become friends. The commandant winced as he thought of Shawells awed description of events. I do not want to make this official as the being is new to Earth and has little experience of Humans or Starfleet, but would you please explain to Cadet Lethende that patting Admiral Nogura on the head is not accepted Starfleet practice?
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