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February 12, 2263

Chekov found he was joined in the shower by the Salixa, another ‘casualty’ of the bridge-building exercise. He rubbed vigourously at his gritty hair. “How’d you fall in, Lethende? I’d have thought those tentacles of yours were long enough to reach over that ditch.”

“Being long enough,” Lethende agreed. “Being told not to use them in order to experience limitations of humanoid reach.”

“I suppose I can see the point of that.” Chekov nodded. The two of them had an unexpected free hour, and his thoughts turned towards their plans. Drill was a complete mystery to the Salixa; its friends had started to worry it might even be dropped if its performance did not improve. The Academy made some allowances for cadets of different races, but they were not sure how much. “You remember what we had planned for later?”

“Hoping you forgetting. Not seeing point.” Lethende slid out of the shower.

“That is why we’re going to do it,” Chekov told it. “Come on.”



“Getting it right this time,” Lethende proclaimed.

“I won’t hold my breath while I’m waiting,” the first voice retorted. “Attention!”

Commandant von Steuben exchanged an amused glance with Peters as he recognised the voices. “Shall we find out what Cadets Chekov and Lethende are up to this time, Andrew?”

“It ought to enliven our day, sir.” Peters had left his fellow instructors to continue with the remaining leadership tests to meet with the admiral in command of Starfleet Academy.

The commandant made it clear to every instructor he expected to be kept up to speed with all the scuttlebutt as well as by their reports, just as he refused to run the Academy from his office. He was, as usual, particularly interested in how well the new class was settling in.

They turned the corner in time to earn a startled squeak from the first Salixa to enter the Academy and an equally desperate yell from Chekov, “Halt! Lethende, halt!”

The confused alien did not stop in time. It crashed into the two officers, bringing them all down in a tangle of writhing tentacles. Aghast, Chekov ran up. “Admiral! Are you all right, sir?”

The admiral tried to move, only to yelp as his leg responded with a spurt of agony. “Ow! No, Cadet, I rather think you and your playmate have twisted my ankle! What about Lieutenant Peters?”

Chekov swallowed, as he looked at the gasping lieutenant, but Peters only waved him in the direction of the admiral. “He’s just winded, sir. Lethende, can you get up without moving either the admiral or the lieutenant?”

“Being careful,” the Salixa promised and within a few seconds it was once more as vertical as it ever was.

“I’ll summon medical, sir.”

The commandant waved a hand and grimaced as a fresh wave of pain hit him. “The sooner the better, Cadet.”

“Aye, sir.”

“Not being problem.” Lethende curled a careful tentacle around the admiral. “Carrying to Sickbay? Getting there faster.”

“Take Mister Peters first and come back for me, Cadet,” von Steuben ordered.

“Admiral not understanding. Being able to carry both,” Lethende assured him. “Supporting admiral so leg not hurting much.”

Despite the pain from his ankle, the admiral grinned. “If you’d be so kind, Cadet Lethende.”


“Ah, Cadets Chekov and Lethende! Do come in,” von Steuben invited. His ankle had not kept hims in Sickbay for long; the injury had been uncomplicated.

“Sir! Cadet Chekov reporting as ordered, sir!” Chekov snapped to attention.

“Sir! Cadet Lethende reporting as ordered, sir!” Lethende wrapped its tentacles around it to form an upright column.

The admiral eyed the pair; one was a very worried young man. He trusted the second was just as apprehensive. “It might interest you to know that never, since Starfleet was founded, has any cadet ever put the commandant in Sickbay before. You have achieved a first, gentlemen. Now tell me how it happened and who was responsible?”

Chekov swallowed. “I was, sir.”

“Go on.”

“Cadet Lethende has been having a lot of trouble with parade drill exercises, so we decided to give it some extra practice.” Chekov swallowed again. He could not read anything from the commandant’s expression. “I suppose you might say it was Peter the Great who was responsible for what actually happened, sir.”

The admiral raised his eyes. “Do tell. Consider that an order, Cadet.”

Chekov winced. “When Peter was trying to train farm boys for his army and they couldn’t remember which foot was the right, he made them stick hay in one boot and straw in the other.”

“Ah, yes, ‘hay foot, straw foot’.” von Steuben directed a fascinated eye at the many-tentacled being standing next to the young cadet. “I remember the tale but how did you apply it to Cadet Lethende?”

“I thought it might help if Cadet Lethende concentrated on using just two major tentacles to move forward, sir,” Chekov explained. “But I couldn’t have made my instructions clear enough because Cadet Lethende thought I meant it to use only two tentacles on which to balance. When it saw you and Lieutenant Peters it was startled and overbalanced. I’m very sorry you were both hurt. Might I ask how Lieutenant Peters is, sir?”

“He’s fine.” The admiral approved of the way the cadet had not made any excuses. He appreciated still more why Chekov had been with the alien cadet. “Cadet Lethende, do you have anything to say?”

“Being very sorry for what happened, Admiral. Not being Cadet Chekov’s fault. Being only trying to help me. Being friend. Not being angry with friend for trying to help poor, bewildered Salixa? Being my fault for not understanding.”

The admiral leaned back, a twinkle in his eyes as he looked at the abashed pair. “Very well, gentlemen. I accept your apologies. You may go.” He kept a straight face as he saw Chekov gape at him and assumed the Salixa was doing whatever its equivalent was. “Since you are the first cadets to attempt to assassinate the commandant as a way of getting through the course, we haven’t written the regulations to cope with you yet. Cadet Chekov, I would really like not to see you again for some considerable time! You may go!”

“Aye, sir.”

As the cadets left, von Steuben found he had earned himself an approving pat from a minor tentacle. He waited until the door was safely closed before he allowed himself to laugh.

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