Mr. Adventure’s Wild Adventure
As he sank down on a short stool that sat amidst a few sets of red and brown field jackets that were neatly hung on hangers in the auxiliary supply closet, Lieutenant Junior Grade Scott Heisenberg knew that his short and frankly dreary career in Starfleet had come to a resounding close with the noisy hiss of an automated closet door as it shut in his face.
“Join Starfleet: It’s the Adventure of a Lifetime!”
Heisenberg remembered that recruiting poster well, hanging in his high school physics class like an inspirational beacon of light during a dark chapter of his life. He had whiled away many an hour in that honor’s level science class staring at that recruiting poster with the bold-faced Microgramma Ext. type font that Starfleet always used for official documents, dreaming of all the cool planets he was going to visit, the hot alien chicks that he was going to bang, and the important missions that he was going to heroically fulfill like a modern day Greek Titan.
He had been a nervous, diminutive, pasty-skinned nerd with floppy feathered brown hair (for lack of a better way to put it) his entire life, watching from the sidelines as all of the so-called cool kids lived their much more exciting and glamorous lives all around him. But not anymore, man! He was a science dweeb, but science was his ticket out of his hometown of Boring, Oregon. Starfleet was going to take him to new, mysterious places, and science was the vehicle he was going to do it in.
Thanks to a glowing recommendation letter from his physics teacher, he hadn’t had any difficulties getting into Starfleet Academy upon his graduation from Boring Senior High School. He’d even snagged the prestigious “Emory Erickson Memorial Foundation Scholarship” in the process. The Erickson scholarship was one most esteemed awards for promising cadets in the fields of science and engineering. There were hundreds of applicants for the scholarship each year, but only one recipient – and the Erickson Trust committee members had selected him for the honor, and in his freshman year at the Academy no less!
San Francisco…the Academy…Starfleet Headquarters…it had all been exactly as he had always pictured it growing up, and he had been easily swept up by the glamour of it all. There wasn’t a single day that had gone by during his Academy years in which he had not failed to describe to his fellow cadets, in extensive detail, all of his big plans for his career after graduation: landing a posting on a starship immediately after earning his commission as an ensign, receiving a promotion to lieutenant after a year (no, six months!), getting a spot on the day watch bridge shift six months after that…he’d have his own ship in ten years…no, make that five years.
Yes, he was going places: at the tender age of seventeen, he had been able to see his entire thrilling career unfolding before his eyes through that detailed life plan of his. His fellow classmates had quickly dubbed him “Mr. Adventure” on account of his ambitions, and had frequently teased him between classes. But nothing had been able to dampen the new-puppy-like enthusiasm that he had experienced on the first day of classes as a freshman cadet and every day thereafter, not even the only half-benign taunts that he had endured from his peer group.
But after graduation, it had all gone horribly wrong somewhere. Rather than receiving that starship posting that he’d been expecting, he’d started his career as a night watch junior assistant transporter operating technician at Starfleet headquarters on Earth…which basically meant that he had spent his graveyard duty shifts running maintenance cycles on the transporter equipment and purging data buffers, making sure that the transporters were in perfect working order during normal dayshift duty hours.
Okay, maybe he had been getting a little bit ahead of himself, shooting for that starship posting fresh out of the Academy. Less than one percent of each graduating class received an assignment on a starship immediately after commissioning. There was no shame in being a part of the other ninety-nine percent, or so he had frequently told himself.
Besides…he was at Starfleet headquarters, which all-in-all was still a pretty sweet assignment, even if he was on the nightshift, because that’s where all of the action that didn’t happen on a starship happened. Those transporter systems weren’t going to maintain themselves. Somebody had to degauss those transporter pads with a magneton scanner and a micro-resonator, damn it, and he was going to do that work with pride!
The irony of his assignment to the transporter room wasn’t lost on the rest of his graduating class. “Have fun cleaning and replacing the you-compensators!” That had been the frequent jibe from his former classmates. Not a very witty jibe, he felt. The Heisenberg compensators were a crucial piece of equipment in the transporter operational hardware systems, responsible for countering the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle that ruled the world of subatomic particle physics. In essence, the Heisenberg compensators were the things that made transporters a viable method of traveling from one place to another. Of course they all had thought they were being terribly clever, pointing out the fact that he, Scott Heisenberg, would spend his many quiet duty hours working on a subsystem that bore the exact same name as his own. But he had never let the taunting get him down: he was doing something important in an important place, which was more than could be said for most newly minted ensigns in their first six months of active duty.
He’d really been hoping for something a little bit more upon finally receiving his promotion a year and a half later. More responsibility, more glamour, more hot chicks, more adventure…just more of everything from the institution that had promised so much to him during those long hours of high school honors physics back in Boring, Oregon. But at his promotional review board hearing, he’d heard a little bit about how his superior officers regarded his personality: something about a lack of tact, he’d been told. And that lack of tact had apparently been reflected in his new posting: nightshift assistant transporter operating technician at Old City Station. So basically he’d received a job almost completely identical to the one he’d already had at headquarters, except now he was working at some quiet, wayward transporter station that was hardly ever used by Starfleet personnel.
In other words he’d landed a job that was just about as far away from adventure as you could get in Starfleet while still actually being on the active duty roster. How was he supposed to become the next Johnathan Archer, the next Heihachiro Nogura, the next Christopher Pike, the next James Tiberius Kirk, when he was stuck in such a tedious job in such an out-of-the-way location?
In the following months he received one mediocre performance review after another. The daytime transporter chief frequently told him that “just sliding by” wasn’t going to cut it if he wanted his career to advance any further. He couldn’t help his bad attitude though; he was disappointed – both by the repetitive nature of his uneventful career and by the institution that he had once revered – and his disappointment was completely justifiable, he felt. Where were those strange new worlds? Where were the green Orion slave women and the chicks from Draylax with their three (three!) breasts and semi-prehensile tails? Where were those world-altering away missions? Where was the adventure?
So the fact that, on what had started as another not particularly eventful evening, he wound up facing Commander Nyota Uhura’s phaser and was forced into the auxiliary equipment storage locker with his hands held up in the air and the door locked after him…well, that was pretty much just par for the course in the infamous existence that was the life and career of Scott Heisenberg.
“Captain, you’re going to have to look at these personnel files eventually.”
Kirk shot Uhura a dirty look from across the table as she gently nagged him for the millionth time that week. They were in the process of filling all of the engineering and service positions aboard his new ship, the Enterprise-A. He couldn’t think of anything more boring than reading literally thousands of duty records for potential personnel. He’d much rather just be out there amongst the stars, leaving the nitty-gritty details of crew assignments in the much more capable hands of his senior staff, or spending some much needed and highly prized alone time with his bondmate. He’d been putting off this thrill-a-minute task pretty much since receiving his so-called demotion in rank from admiral back to captain.
Uhura had finally managed to corner him that morning. And yes, she’d rightly pointed out to him that this was one of his most important first duties as the new ship’s commanding officer. So here he was, reading musty personnel files, and begrudging Uhura for every minute of it.
“Alright,” Kirk sighed laboriously, “show me the lists of available personnel for our engineering team. Who’s got the glowing service records that merit the plum assignments that we’ve got open in the transporter room?” At this point he would have been happy just to take the names sitting at the top of every column, if only it would get him out of the briefing room a little sooner and back to the comforts of Spock’s waiting arms and warm bed.
Uhura chose to politely ignore her long-time commanding officer’s melodramatics. She had known ahead of time that getting him to sit down and do paper work was going to be a bit like pulling at hen’s teeth. “Well, Captain, I do actually have a recommendation for you.” She held out a data PADD towards Kirk.
“Scott Heisenberg, for daytime senior transporter chief with tracking towards junior assistant chief engineering officer?” Kirk read off the name questioningly. He scrolled quickly through the lieutenant’s file. Blah blah blah…mediocre reviews…blah blah blah…had just been acquitted in a court martial case…blah blah blah…hometown: Boring, Oregon. At that Kirk snorted silently to himself. Boring, Oregon…that was even worse than coming from the likewise poorly named Normal, Illinois or Downer, Minnesota…
“Not to squash your interesting proposal, Uhura, but Mr. Heisenberg’s name isn’t anywhere close to being on the shortlist of people I’d regularly consider for such an important job. His name isn’t even middle of the pack. So why are you recommending this guy?”
Uhura scratched uncomfortably at the side of her head. “Let’s just say that I owe him a favor. Or an apology. Take your pick.”
Heisenberg sat glumly in a chair that faced a long conference table in some out-of-the-way and barely used room in the personnel department at Starfleet headquarters. He’d been expecting to go through a performance review now that he’d been cleared of charges on that ridiculous dereliction of duty court martial. After all, what could he have done differently? Charged a superior officer, hoping to grab away the phaser before he was stunned? Single-handedly subdue an entire group of living legends with only his bare hands? Somehow avoided being inevitably locked in a closet? The only viable option that he’d had at the time had been the one he’d chosen: submitting meekly to Cmdr. Uhura and withdrawing to the auxiliary equipment locker.
At this point Heisenberg was seriously considering just resigning his commission. He wasn’t sure that he could live down the disgrace of becoming the “Closet Adventurer: Bold Seeker of Confined Spaces and Mothballed Clothing” any longer.
He didn’t even look up when he heard the doors to the conference room swoop open, admitting the board review member.
“So, Mr. Heisenberg, do you think you’re up to the challenge of starship duty? It’s a pretty different operational tempo from what you’re accustomed to at Old City Station.”
There was something…oddly familiar…about that male voice. Where had he heard it before? Heisenberg’s eyes suddenly widened as he placed it…holy crap on a cracker, that was Capt. Kirk asking him a question! “Sir?” he asked, his mouth falling open in mind-boggled amazement.
Kirk smiled politely at him. “Secure the hatch, Lieutenant. You’re drawing the attention of the local fly population with your gaping maw.”
“Yes, sir. Sorry, sir.” Heisenberg sat bolt upright in his chair.
“Now, do you think you can handle the responsibility that comes with being the daytime transporter chief?”
“Well, sir…” Heisenberg answered frankly, “yes, I do.”
“It’s not exactly the easiest job around. You’ll still have plenty of down time, even as the main transporter chief: lots of routine work to do…but you’ll have to be ready at a moment’s notice in case we need to beam away teams out during an emergency.”
“I understand, sir,” Heisenberg said, his heart racing a little bit.
“You’ll be our go-to guy for transporters. The whole ship will be depending on you there, especially during a crisis. And with tracking towards junior assistant chief engineer, you’ll see plenty of action down in main engineering too. Consoles have a tendency to explode around Commander Scott down there. And you might wind up pulling some extra duty time for away missions. Any of that bother you?”
Heisenberg shook his head quickly, barely able to contain a grin of delight. “It doesn’t bother me at all, sir. Not in the least. Only…”
“Why me, sir?” Heisenberg looked down at his hands. “I highly doubt that Starfleet considers me a prime choice for this job…not with my record.”
“It’s because of that record that you’re here, Heisenberg,” came the gentle answer.
“Sir?” He looked back up at Kirk, confused.
“Let’s just say that I’ve developed a keen interest in giving officers a second chance lately.”
“Because of your demotion, sir?” As soon as Heisenberg said it, he clapped a hand over his mouth. He could not believe that he had just said a thing like that to a man like James T. Kirk.
“Partially.” Kirk smiled at him, without a hint of anger or annoyance on his face or in his eyes. “I’ve gotten more than my fair share of second chances lately…professionally…personally…”
Kirk drifted off for a few seconds, leaving Heisenberg to wonder what those personal second chances were that Kirk was referring to.
“…and I’d like to see that you get another crack at getting your career moving in a direction that you like. Especially since I’m pretty deeply involved with why your career is currently stuck on a massive sand barge.”
Heisenberg glanced away, suddenly embarrassed. Had Kirk heard all of the nasty nicknames that people had been calling him lately? His face turned a bright red, the coloration extending all the way up into his hairline. “Really, sir…you don’t have to give me the job just because you feel beholden…it ought to go to somebody qualified.”
“You are qualified, Lieutenant. High marks from the Academy in both theoretical and applied physics. Winner of the Erickson Scholarship,” Kirk reminded him firmly. “And believe me, Lieutenant, I am beholden to you. The night you bowed graciously into a closet was part of a whirl-wind adventure that allowed me to get back everything that was important in my life. If you had decided to put up a fight, or had managed to alert security to my secret doings, my own life would be looking very different right about now. I owe it to you to help you get your life back on track, because you’ve already done the same for me in ways you have no means to comprehend.”
Heisenberg nibbled a bit on his lower lip, more confused by Kirk than ever. But the captain seemed to be pretty emphatic about what he was saying… “Alright, sir, you can count me in.”
“Great.” Kirk grinned a bit in relief. “Report to Cmdr. Scott in main engineering next week Tuesday, 0800 hours.”
Heisenberg stood up from his chair. He was now grinning from ear to ear, because he knew, one way or another, he’d never be bored while serving under a legend like James T. Kirk. “Yes, sir.”
His great adventure was calling.