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Mary Wickerage from Long Island, called Mary by her mother and Wick by everyone else, had always been good at science, but she still had not anticipated her high-school physics to teacher take her aside after class and ask what her plans were after graduation. At her uncertain reply, he said:

‘Have you considered Starfleet?’

‘I’m a pacifist,’ she answered automatically.

‘Starfleet doesn’t wage war,’ Mister Perch said. ‘It would be an amazing opportunity for you. You’re smart, inquisitive and brave enough to go out there. Physics is what you really enjoy, isn’t it?’

‘Well, yes,’ she said hesitantly.

‘You wouldn’t be able to get a better education at any university. Apply to the Academy.’ Wick had thanked him and said she would think about it, and even if she at first thought she had said that as a nicety, that evening she started looking through the application forms. Her spare time became consumed by application writing, along with the additional studying. Her father was exhilarated by the idea, her mother scared but proud.

The answer to the application arrived two weeks after her exams. “Dear Miss Wickerage, we were grateful to receive your application and are pleased to inform you that you have been offered a place at the Federation Starfleet Academy, San Francisco”. Further down it said: “Cadets must be in accommodation at 25 September (Standard) at the latest”. Three months had never seemed so long when they were ahead of her and so short when they finally had past. Precarious in her new uniform, the bright red of the turtle-neck and the maroon of the jacket clashing, she hugged her parents good-bye and set off on her own to the shuttle which had been dispatched for her and the two other people who were at the Academy in her home town. When she walked down the street, she saw heads turning, and she felt that the uniform was something she could get used to.

The first few days in San Francisco were a blur of interior decorating, meeting neighbours, getting hold of course-books, buying new PADDS, calling her mum to cry about not being able to find a kettle in any of the shops, but most of all she walked around in awe at this new place. On her second day, she saw her first alien, a Tellarite girl with a far too short skirt. On September the 25th, they matriculated and she got the first glimpse of her teachers, a long line of imposing, maroon figures, who only later would be given names and faces.

She made acquaintances quickly, but did not make any friends until after a week, when the Asian girl before her in the queue in the cafeteria told her to come sit with her and her friends when she handed over the serving-spoon in the soup. She saw her waving over the sea of red in the mess hall and went nervously to join them.

‘Sit down, sit down,’ the girl who had spoken to her said, drawing up a chair. ‘You’re a first-year, aren’t you?’

‘Yeah.’

‘What’s your name?’

‘Wick,’ she answered, feeling inane. One of the girl’s friends, a tall boy with perfectly undulated hair, laughed scornfully. ‘Well, I’m called Mary Wickerage, but everyone calls me Wick,’ she explained, at the same time as the girl turned to the boy and beat him over the arm playfully. Then she turned back and introduced the people at the table.

‘Well, I’m Yukiko Tatakusagi, that-’ she indicated the smirking boy she had struck ‘-is Tom Bithenhew and that’s Angie Few.’ The fourth person at the table, a girl whose eyes looked too big for her face, waved at her.

‘What’s your subject?’ Tom said, leaning forward. He had a perfect English accent – Wick thought that that must be how the hero in those detective stories her mum used to go on about must look.

‘I came here to do astrophysics, but I guess I’ll need to do more.’ At that, Angie let out a squeak and clapped her hands.

‘Astrophyscis? Amazing!’

‘Do you do it as well, then?’ Wick said, happy to meet a fellow enthusiast.

‘Please, don’t get her started,’ Yukiko said but laughed.

‘I never thought I’d ever meet anyone who’d want to talk about it,’ Angie squeaked. ‘It’s amazing, isn’t it? Do you read the Quarterly?’

‘Sure.’ Her parents had given her a subscription for her birthday, and although she had told her friends that the journals were terribly dull, she had kept them on a PADD on her bedside table and marveled at the theories expounded in them.

‘Did you read the article on the impact of ion storms in the beta quadrant in the last issue?’ She scrambled her head, and then remembered the piece.

‘Yes – that was pretty amazing. Dense prose, but really interesting. Is that your field, then?’ Angie did not answer the question, but only moved her tray, heaved herself up on her elbows and said excitedly, pointing down:

‘He’s here. He’s teaching at the Academy.’

‘Captain Spock?’ Wick asked, making Angie smile rather inanely. ‘I didn’t see his name on the astrophysics department…’

‘He mostly trains command cadets, but he does lecture courses in astrophysics as well,’ she said, looking almost as if she would melt.

‘Well, she’s gone and done it,’ Tom said, smacking the table and addressing Yukiko: ‘Congratulations – you bring her here, and she gets Angie talking about one of the few topics I cannot stand.’

Despite that this first encounter was slightly bizarre, Yukiko, Angie and Tom became the three people Wick saw most of in the whole Academy. Lunch became almost compulsory, and when they did not have lectures they would meet for breakfast, coffee or varying amounts of alcohol. Their courses overlapped well. Wick took astrophysics, comp-sci and xenobotany; they all took the latter, while Yukiko did comp-sci and xenoanthropology, Angie did astrophysics and quantum mechanics and Tom did history of space-travel and quantum mechanics. It was not hard to see that they all had their eccentricities; Yukiko usually seemed average, but she had a tendency of adding profanities from other languages, both Terran and extraterrestrial, when she spoke. Tom claimed not to like Americans and had a streak of xenophobia which he did not try to hide. Angie had three obsessions; astrophysics, chocolate and Captain Spock. This last hang-up was usually what lead her to accuse Tom of being a xenophobe.

‘I don’t hate the bastard because he’s Vulcan, I hate him because he, like all Vulcans, have a stick the length of a warp-core up his arse.’

‘How can you say things like that about your lecturer?’ Angie exclaimed, turning red.

‘Because I keep my crushes to a minimum,’ he snorted. ‘Adolescent crushes on teachers are bad taste.’

‘Usually you can’t help them, you know,’ Yukiko noted.

‘Well, you’re quite good at hiding yours. Would you like to offer a sexualised comment on the rear admiral while we’re at it?’

‘I’m not crushing on the admiral – I just think he’s a good lecturer,’ she answered. ‘You should all do the tactics course next term. I did a basic course in diplomacy with him last term, and it was really interesting, so now I’m doing that, but they give it every term because it’s so popular. I guess the best thing would be to have him as a supervisor, but I don’t think he does them.’

It took Wick a month before she was able to place names on her lecturers and on the teachers which were being talked about. The captain was one she learnt at once, of course. She would have even without Angie’s fangirling, which was not as crush-like as Tom always claimed it was, but mostly amounted to an exaggerated respect for the man. Still, Wick understood why he made such an impression, and indeed, he made it on her as well. She recognised the precise prose from the article she had read in his way of speaking, and his relentless use of logic was fascinating. For being such an old man, he was quite handsome too. When she had read up on Vulcans more, she revised her opinion slightly, as she realised that fifty years was very little to a Vulcan; however, he looked his age in human years, but still had a strong integrity and charisma. He, more than any other teacher, came to represent the Academy to her. She grew accustomed to seeing him in the corridors, during seminars and sometimes even on the street on her way back to her dorm, which lay half an hour from the campus. Then, she tended to see him walking along with another officer. She had seen that man around the Academy a few times; she thought he held lectures on the time-slot after astrophysics, as she had seen him wait outside the lecture theatre several times.

The temperature started dropping, and the warm uniform which had been so uncomfortable a few weeks ago was very welcome. Angie pointed out that Captain Spock had started wearing a regulation coat outside.

‘It must be so cold, living here, if you’re raised on a desert planet,’ she said slightly dreamily.

‘He’s being kept warm, all right,’ Tom snorted. He seemed fond of coming with implications about teachers’ sex lives, often employing some quite old morals when he did so. It was common knowledge that Tom had no problems with rampant sexuality in reality – Yukiko claimed that early in their first year, they had “hooked up” briefly, but Tom had lost interest and tended to make out with male engineers at cadet parties instead. Still, he would happily derail against teachers, implying that they were perverse in some way. He kept making hints about the captain, and Yukiko would smile and Angie would become indignant. Wick did not understand what he thought the captain was doing, but at the end of the term, she was rather certain that Tom had serious doubts about their lecturer’s sexual orientation – late one night, he had come back to the idiom he had used to describe him earlier, and had said:

‘That stick isn’t the only thing up…’ He had been interrupted by Angie throwing a cushion at him, and a drunken pillow-fight had ensued, which had been broken up by the custodian in Yukiko’s hostel.

As Yukiko had spoken so highly of the tactics course, Wick decided to take it for next term, as did both Angie and Tom (who for once admitted a genuine interest in something). Although Yukiko had done the course, she tended to go to the lectures anyway, partly because she liked the subject and the lecturer, and partly because it was the only subject they shared, as both Wick and Tom had dropped comp-sci. Wick was surprised when the lecturer walked in, and she noticed that it was the same man she had seen along with captain Spock last term. Tugging his jacket, he cleared his throat and the lecture theatre fell silent.

‘Good afternoon, everyone. I – am admiral Kirk. I’ll be holding this course in basic space tactics this term. If you’ve got them, ask questions, whether during the lecture or after. Now, tactics is a vastly oversimplified term…’ Wick forgot her surprise as she let her stylus whirl across her PADD as she made notes, smiled at the admiral’s strangely placed pauses and listened in awe at some of the scenarios he used, which were obviously ones he had seen in real life. Of course she knew about him from before – how could anyone miss who he was? – but she had not recognised him from the holovids she had seen when she was younger. It must have been fifteen years since most footage was taken, and he had turned slightly grey, his hair had started to curl and he had gained weight. Still, she was amazed at the presence of such a historical figure that she was even distracted from her friends’ banter at the end of the lecture. She noted his stupid pauses and they all agreed. For once, Tom did not come up with any insinuations but said he quite enjoyed it.

Tactics quickly turned into their quartet’s favourite lectures; with dusty Sinclair for xenobotany and Anvil for most of the astrophysics, the competition was not hard, but Kirk would have stood against almost anything. Wick almost felt like she was losing her enthusiasm for astrophysics when Spock only took every third lecture the first half of term – Anvil had a tendency to turn everything into numbers, rather than anything more constructive – but his lectures tended to avert her thoughts of perhaps dropping science and attempting to become a navigator instead.

That the captain only lectured her every second week did not mean she stopped spotting him around the campus. Some of this appearances were rather unexpected, the first of which occurred during a tactics lecture in the second lecture. Admiral Kirk was expounding a scenario involving a number of cloaked war-birds and a partly disabled ship, making shadows where he gestured at the projected slide, when the door to the theatre opened. He did not even turn around to look at it or pause in speaking, but only gave a minute nod for a greeting as the door closed and the late-comer slipped in. It took a moment for Wick to realise that it was not a discreet cadet; the fact that Kirk had not said anything suddenly made her wonder and she looked up from her notes. Her eyes fell on Captain Spock, who stood against the wall, listening to the lecture. At odd times, she glanced at him; he always seemed concentrated on what Kirk was saying. During the break (which they all were thankful for when they had two hour lectures), Spock approached the desk and spoke to the admiral silently. When he approached, Wick thought he might need a signature for something, as he was carrying a PADD, but well there, he made no attempt to present it to his superior, but seemed satisfied to talk.

When the lecture ended and they all headed for lunch, Wick noted:

‘That was sort of weird, with Captain Spock just coming into the lecture like that.’ Yukiko seemed to try to hide a smile.

‘They’re old friends,’ Angie offered, walking at the same time as she was reading something on her PADD, most certainly notes on the course literature for astrophysics. Her dedication gave Wick a slight stomach-ache.

‘Well, I know that,’ she answered. ‘I’ve seen them together before, although I hadn’t realised that was Kirk then.’

‘Where was that?’ Yukiko asked.

‘Oh, on the way to my dorm, close to Bay Street – I guess he lives around there somewhere.’ Tom gave a whistle.

‘That’s a piece of evidence I’ve never heard before.’

‘Evidence?’ Wick repeated, and the Englishman put an arm around her shoulders.

‘My dear Wick, you have just made your first discovery of the greatest of the Academy’s secrets.’

‘It’s not a secret, it’s a rumour,’ Angie pointed out quickly.

‘Well, the jury’s still out on that one,’ Yukiko pointed out. ‘But I think there’s some truth to it.’

‘Sorry, I’m not following,’ she admitted, looking at them all; Angie was blushing, Yukiko looked amused, Tom looked immensely pleased with himself.

‘Well, rumour has it that they don’t only know each other on a professional level,’ Yukiko said diplomatically, but Tom interrupted her:

Rumour has it Captain Spock bends over for the admiral.’

‘You’ve made that one up to gratify your own dirty imagination – we know nothing of what they do,’ Yukiko pointed out. ‘Wick, ignore Tom, but those two are obviously very close.’

‘I’ve noticed Kirk waiting outside our astrophysics lecture, but I guessed he had a lecture in there afterwards,’ Wick said, feeling rather puzzled at all this.

‘Yeah, they do that kind of thing, and they tend to leave campus together. Oh, and sometimes they touch – not much, mind, just much more than a Vulcan should be comfortable with.’

‘There is nothing to say they’re together,’ Angie argued.

‘You’re just saying that because you’ve got a crush on Spock.’

‘You’re just saying they must be lovers because they like each other and neither of them are married.’

‘Well, it’s hardly a secret that Kirk’s conquests back in the day went both ways,’ Tom pointed out.

‘What about Spock’s?’ Wick asked.

‘Spock’s? He didn’t have any,’ Tom snorted. ‘Too busy being buggered by his captain, I guess.’

‘You know you’re vile, don’t you?’ Yukiko noted and rolled her eyes. ‘I think they’re really sweet. You’re just reducing it to sex.’

‘Everything can be reduced to sex,’ he claimed and sauntered off to occupy their usual table, at which they let the topic rest.

The topic was not brought up until next week, as they left the Academy after an evening lecture in philosophy and history of extraterrestrial science. Wick had been thinking about what they had said, and when Angie and Tom had gone in the opposite direction and she and Yukiko started to walk, she asked:

‘Do you really think Captain Spock and admiral Kirk are a couple?’

‘Yeah,’ Yukiko answered, turning her face upwards towards the sky. It was clear, but the lights of San Francisco blotted out most of the stars. ‘I sort of wondered if it was an overinterpretation first. I mean, students make everything be about sex. But still… I think they are. But sort of more husbands than fuckbuddies, if you get me.’ She glanced at Wick, who nodded. ‘What do you think?’

‘I dunno,’ she said. ‘It sort of feels like snooping, just talking about it.’

‘True,’ the other girl admitted. ‘That’s sort of the reason why I get annoyed at Tom, who can’t seem to stop talking about anal sex.’ Then with a dismissive gesture, she said: ‘Don’t mind Tom – he’s a really sweet guy. He’s just putting on a performance. I mean, even the accent is fake. He’s from a small village outside Birmingham and his parents are bankers. He’s just pretending to be an heir to some title.’ Wick chuckled at that.

‘I sort of like him, even if he’s completely rude. He’s very funny.’

‘Yeah. And seeing him and Angie bite each other’s heads off…’ They both laughed. Then Yukiko came back to the old discussion.

‘Don’t you think it’s pretty romantic – to travel together up among the stars with the person you love?’

‘Is that why you’re joining Starfleet?’ She snorted.

‘I don’t think so – don’t really believe in love. Other than for my teachers, obviously,’ she said. Wick laughed, and they walked in silence for a while.

‘Have you been on any training cruises yet?’ Wick asked after some time.

‘No, not yet,’ Yukiko said, starting to chew a finger-nail. ‘I guess my first one will be the one next March. You should try to get onto that. It’s the Enterprise as well, so it’ll probably be really interesting.’

‘Yeah, I might,’ Wick answered, thinking about space. Of some reason she had stopped trying to imagine how it would be, but now she realised how vast space must feel. So much for all that astrophysics, she thought, shrugging to herself and pushing the thought aside as a bit too philosophical for this late in the evening.

***

‘That was the worst lecture ever,’ Angie said when they came to the corridor where they usually met before going to lunch. Surrendering to the emotions she had been trying to master ever since they left the lecture theatre, she slid down the wall to sit on the floor and started crying. Wick bit her lip, then sat down and put an arm around her. Only a few minutes passed before Yukiko and Tom came along.

‘What’s up?’ Yukiko asked when she saw Angie crying.

‘Really bad lecture,’ Wick answered, hoping that they did not have to explain. Tension was mounting within her as well. What’s important is the subject, not the teachers. It’s what’s being said in lectures which is important, not the lecturer.

‘”Bad”?’ Tom said. He was trying to sound indifferent, but there was a streak of worry in his voice. ‘But it was astrophysics. It was Spock.’ Angie burst out crying again, and Wick patted her hair awkwardly.

‘That’s sort of the problem,’ she said.

‘How was that ever a problem for Angie?’

‘Shut up, Tom,’ Yukiko said and then turned to Angie and Wick. ‘He has a point, though. What was so bad?’ Wick waited for Angie to answer, but when she only continued to sob, she told them.

‘He screamed at her.’

Screamed?’ The third girl repeated incredulously. ‘He never screams.’ Tom glanced down the corridor, as if to make sure no one was watching, and then crouched and offered Angie his handkerchief. She muttered thank you and blew her nose forcefully in it.

‘He did scream,’ she explained. ‘Several times.’

‘What happened?’ Tom asked, looking to Wick. ‘Hasn’t anyone told the bastard that making your students cry is bad form?’

‘I don’t know what was going on,’ Wick admitted. ‘He was just really irritable, and Angie was a few minutes late…’

‘My bike broke half-way to campus,’ Angie explained, starting to sob again.

‘…And he just screamed at her – told her that it was unacceptable to be late.’ She paused to collect her thoughts, as it started to dawn on her how much it had shaken her. ‘He did it a few other times as well at other people – this one guy asked a question, and a pretty advanced one at that, and Captain Spock basically told him he was an idiot who didn’t get it. And then…’ Angie made a breaking gesture with her hands, and Wick explained: ‘His PADD broke in two.’

What?’ Yukiko exclaimed.

‘You can’t break a PADD in two,’ Tom said. ‘I’ve tried. You can smash them, sure, but only if you throw a computer terminal on them or something…’

‘He broke it. Snapped it in two,’ Wick repeated. ‘He didn’t even seem to be trying – it was just suddenly in two.’

‘And he sort of…. looked at it, as if he hadn’t noticed it was there,’ Angie said. Yukiko sighed and then said:

‘Angie, come here.’ The girl scrambled to her feet and got a proper hug from Yukiko and then from Tom. Wick was given the same treatment.

‘Let’s get off campus for lunch,’ Tom said, offering his arm to Angie. ‘Get away from all these Vulcan bastards who don’t know how to treat a lady.’

‘You’re being silly,’ Angie muttered, but accepted the arm. He offered his other to Wick, and Yukiko in turn took Wick’s other arm. They ended up missing their two o’clock lectures and were drunk by three o’clock, but as Tom put it, ‘that’s one of the perks of being a student.’

***

Wick was rather surprised to see all three of her friends come to their ten o’clock study session, considering they had spent the afternoon and evening in a state of complete intoxication. Especially Angie was obviously hung over, but she seemed much more collected than the day before. One of Wick’s neighbours, who studied medicine, had given her some of his stash of detox, so she had gone to bed almost sober, and all she felt was a slight discomfort in her head.

‘Let’s get this bitch done,’ Yukiko said when she slapped her PADDs down on their table in the cafeteria.

‘What’re you working on?’ Wick asked.

‘Timed essay – need to hand this in to Professor Price today at three o’clock,’ she said, pushing over one of the PADDs, which had a particularly nasty question on xenoanthropology. ‘Someone please tell me why I need to be able to write an essay in twelve hours – when will I use that skill after graduation? And what kind of pekh-razh-nirak gives someone an assignment at three AM?’ Tom came over with coffee for them all.

‘I got laid yesterday,’ he volunteered.

‘Who was it this time?’ Angie asked disinterestedly.

‘Gerald. Or Rob. Or both. One of them brought some kind of Andorian grass, so I’m a bit fuzzy about it all,’ he admitted. ‘I tried to make Yukiko have a foursome with us, but she went to bed instead.’

‘Because of this fucking essay,’ she answered.

‘Timed?’ he asked, looking at the PADD Wick was holding. ‘Just skip the lectures.’

‘No,’ she groaned and took her coffee cup. ‘It’s tactics today. It’s the only thing which’ll cheer me up now.’

‘Are you feeling better today?’ Wick asked Angie and handed back Yukiko’s PADD.

‘Yeah,’ she answered with a shrug. ‘I sort of overreacted. I just felt really useless.’

‘He was completely out of line,’ she offered.

‘Loads of lecturers do that kind of thing all the time,’ Angie pointed out. ‘The only reason why you’d think he was out of line is because he’s usually not like that. I’m sure he was just… having a bad day.’

‘You’re just defending him because you’ve got a crush on him,’ Yukiko said, scratching away on her essay already. ‘How drunk were you yesterday, Angie?’

‘Very,’ she said, and then added, as if it were a foreign word: ‘Rat-arsed. No one offered me a foursome, though.’

‘Both Gerald and Rob are very obliging gentlemen, and there’s always a fourth party you can find to seduce,’ Tom said, and Wick kicked him under the table. ‘Perhaps dear Mary would be up for it,’ he added, which led to yet another kick. They worked in silence for a while, until Angie said:

‘Not looking forward to astrophysics that much today.’

‘Is that your eleven o’clock?’ Yukiko asked, not looking up from her essay. ‘What solar-system are the Ithenites from?’

‘It’s close to Orion, isn’t it?’ Wick said. ‘And yes, it is.’

‘Perhaps he’ll apologise,’ Yukio offered.

‘He damn well should,’ Tom interjected, and then they fell silent again and continued working.

Five to eleven, Wick put down her stylus.

‘Lecture time?’ Tom asked, and she nodded as she and Angie collected their things.

‘See you at lunch.’

‘Cheerio,’ Tom said after them while Yukiko waved good-bye without looking up from her PADD.

***

The group reassembled at one o’clock for lunch.

‘How’s your essay gone?’ Wick asked when they met them in the queue.

‘Almost finished - I just need another half-hour or so,’ Yukiko answered. Her eyes were glassy from hovering over her PADD and too much coffee. ‘Was Spock more bearable today?’ For a moment the two astrophysics students did not answer. ‘What?’

‘He wasn’t there,’ Angie said at last, sounding somewhat shocked.

‘Perhaps they sacked him,’ Tom suggested cheerfully, and possibly not seriously.

‘Don’t be stupid,’ Angie bit back. ‘It’s really strange - he’s never missed a lecture before. They had called in Mister Anvil instead.’

‘I talked to one of the fourth-years, and he said that Spock had never had someone replace him for a lecture before,’ Wick offered. Yukiko shrugged while she helped herself to mashed potatoes.

‘Perhaps he’s on leave - you know, even Vulcans must get overworked. That might be why he was so weird yesterday.’

‘I guess...’ Angie said hesitantly. Still that was all they said on the subject. When they returned to their table they talked about training-cruises, upcoming exams and different simulations, while Yukiko scribbled away on her essay. Quarter to two she sealed the PADD, threw down her stylus and shouted:

‘Done! I’m going to get dessert.’

After she had finished the chocolate cake she had gotten herself as a celebration, the others followed her when she handed in the essay and then headed for the lecture theatre where the tactics lectures were held. When they turned the corner, an unusual sight awaited them.

‘What’s going on?’ Yukiko muttered as they approached the crowd around the door. It seemed like they were looking at some notice attached to it. Joining the crowd, Tom went up on tip-toes to look over people’s heads.

‘What does it say?’ He squinted a little and then went down onto his heels again.

‘The lecture’s cancelled,’ he said, sounding almost stunned.

‘Cancelled?’ Wick repeated. ‘What, he’s not coming?’

‘Doesn’t seem so,’ he sighed.

‘But...’ Yukiko looked like she had been personally insulted by the cancelled lecture. ‘He can’t do that - I was really looking forward to that! And I could have spent another hour on my essay...’ Angie, who had been quiet all the time they had stood there, now spoke.

‘It’s weird, isn’t it? Two cancelled lectures in a day.’

‘Doesn’t often happen,’ Tom concurred, and then looked at her. ‘Angie, did you just admit that there’s a connection between them?’

‘I didn’t admit anything - I was just observing,’ she said defensively. ‘That’s what scientists do.’ While Tom found yet another snide comment on that and the playful fight took off, Wick had to agree that two cancelled lectures in a day was very strange.

***

The day of the cancelled lectures had been Wednesday, and for the rest of the week, it seemed like all lectures with Admiral Kirk were cancelled, and even if Captain Spock was scheduled to take the lecture on Friday, Anvil stepped in. It mystified them all to such an extent that they could not even discuss or joke about it. It struck them all as a downright odd coincidence, but there was really no way to explain it. However, when they got to the lecture theatre on Monday for tactics, the door was unlocked and people were taking their seats. There was no sign of the admiral, but exchanging looks and shrugging, they decided to sit down in the third row as usual. Wick was busy starting up her PADD when Yukiko nudged her. Looking up, she caught sight of Admiral Kirk entering. His state made them all exchange glances and the murmur of whispering voices filled the theatre.

‘What the hell has happened to him?’ Tom muttered under his breath, voicing what they all wondered. One of the admiral’s arms were bandaged and in a sling, obviously broken, and there were bruises on his throat, half-hidden by the high-necked shirt.

‘Looks like he’s fallen down a stair or something,’ Yukiko said. In a way it did - now Wick noticed that he walked with a slight limp, so the military stance he usually had was ruined.

‘Or like he’s been beaten up by a Vulcan,' Tom added.

‘That’s ridiculous,’ Angie said quietly. ‘What are you imagining, Tom? That they managed to get leave for five days to beat each other up for fun? Practice sadomasochistic sex?’

‘I was just observing,’ he said. ‘Mark my words, your next astrophysics lecture will be with Spock.’

‘Oh, shut up, both of you,’ Wick whispered, as a half-Romulan lieutenant had turned around promptly and glared at them when Angie had said “sadomasochistic sex”. When she had turned around again they all exchanged looks, and even if they did not say more, it was obvious that they were wondering what could have happened.

At that point, the admiral called the attention of the class.

‘First, I’m sorry about the cancelled lectures - they’ve been rescheduled to eleven o’clock next Tuesday and Thursday, which should fit into your time-tables.’ He tapped the computer-console connected to the projector and a tactical map appeared on the wall behind him. ‘Last week we started discussing tactics of Romulan birds-of-prey - you may remember this example.’ He glanced up at the projection and then said off-handedly: ‘You’ll have to do with me only using one arm. Now, there is nothing random about a Romulan attack. Their advantage is not that they have the cloaking device - it’s that they know how to use it as a part of a further tactic...’

In Tom’s favour, as the admiral turned a little to reach a certain part of the projection and moved his head, Wick thought she saw something which she for a moment thought looked like a love-bite.
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