U.S.S. Pershing Logo
Eriatat Cluster: Federation Occupation Zone, Cardassian Space.
Laria moved from console to console in the Pershing’s Astrometrics lab, furiously pushing buttons and recording measurements. She didn’t even notice the doors open. Tigranian walked in wearing his faded “Zef: The Fighting Phoenix” t-shirt.
When he saw her working, he grumbled.
“What are you doing?”
“I wanted to get this experiment done before we headed back to Deep Space Nine tomorrow,” she said not stopping her efforts. “I’m bouncing graviton waves off the proto-stars in the cluster to try to gain a more efficient measurement of their rate of fusion. That way the computer can analyze the data while we visit Bajor and it’ll be done before we get back,” she said looking at him with a smile.
“You know that’s not what I meant, L. First, you’re in uniform on your day off. Second, Alex worked really hard to put this party together and you will be there; not only for her, but because you’re a Starfleet Officer and an Academy Alum.”
“Daniel, please no,” she said petulantly. “I hated going when I was a cadet because it was one of the only days off at the Academy, and instead of sleeping in and then spending all day with a book, I had to put on my dress uniform and stand outside for five hours while drunk firsties screamed in my ears. I don’t even know the rules.”
“You mean you watched for four straight years and you still don’t even know the rules?”
“To be honest, I wasn’t paying attention that much. Besides, we’ve lost for one-hundred fifteen straight years. Why bother?”
“And this year will probably will be one-hundred sixteen, but that’s not the point. It’s about tradition and camaraderie. Two things I take very seriously. Now, Lieutenant Amira, we have just enough time to run back to your quarters, have you change into something more comfortable, and then head to the mess hall. Your proto-stars will still be here after the game is over.”
When he used her formal title, Laria knew she had already lost.
“Yes Sir…” she said trailing off.
“Good, I even brought you my Starfleet Academy sweatshirt you love to steal all the time.” He threw a red hoodie at her that plopped over her head. She let out a deep sigh so that the fabric rose and fell with her breath.
“Great…” she muttered.
* * * *
Fifteen minutes later, Tigranian and Laria walked through the doors of the mess hall. Alex put down her red plastic cup and walked over. She wore a bright gold “Starfleet Academy: Home of the Fighting Phoenixes” t-shirt and the words, “Go Fleet!” were painted in red on her left cheek.
“Great! You made it!” she said throwing her arms around them both. “I was worried you were gonna miss strike-off. Food’s all set up on the buffet and the keg is on ice in the corner.”
“Thanks, Alex,” Tigranian said with a smile.
“Thanks,” Laria said faking a smile.
“Are you kidding, this is my favorite day of the year!” Alex said picking up her beer from a nearby table. She raised it in the air, turned to the other assembled officers and shouted.
“BEAT SCIENCE!” they all shouted back in unison.
“That’s another reason I hate this…” Laria whispered to Tigranian.
Katie jumped up on one the tables. She was completely decked out from head to toe in Academy spirit gear. She had a huge floppy “Zef: the Fighting Phoenix” hat on her head. Half her face was painted red and the other half painted gold. She whistled as loudly as she could while raising both her arms into the air.
“Oh no,” Laria said. Tigranian laughed and joined as the rest of the Pershing’s officers followed Katie’s lead. They all started chanting in unison while banging their arms up and down.
S-F-A! RA RA!
S-F-A! RA RA!
TEAM! TEAM! TEAM! AHHHHH!
“Did you really just do the ‘rocket?” Laria said to Daniel while rolling her eyes.
“I did!” Tigranian said laughing. “I haven’t done that in years!”
“Yeah, no one’s made me do that since I commissioned…” Laria muttered.
“So, about a year ago?” Tigranian replied sarcastically.
“I hate you…”
He smiled and then kissed her cheek.
“Why don’t you go over get us some seats on the couch in front of the big screen? I’ll grab us some beers.”
“Earth beer?” she complained while making a face.
“Fine, I’ll see what else they have for you…”
“Thank you,” she said returning a peck on his lips.
Tigranian walked over to the keg, pumped the handle, and started filling a red plastic cup with lager. Annabeth came over to him. Her blonde hair was in pigtails. The right one had a red hair-band and the left side a gold one. Her t-shirt said, “Go Fleet!” in bold letters.
“Why is she in such a great mood?” she asked nodding her head towards Laria.
“Oh, she’s a little grumpy because I dragged her out of her laboratory to watch sports.”
“That’ll do it.”
“Do you know if Alex has anything else to drink?”
“Yeah, she has a bunch of stuff in the cooler by the buffet. I think there’s a couple of bottles of Denevian Mead in there. She knows Laria likes those.”
“Tell her ‘thank you’ for me.”
Tigranian walked over in front of the screen where Laria was sitting on a couch next to Phil and Scharr. The captain squeezed in and wrapped an arm around his par’Mach’kai’s shoulders. He handed Laria a bottle of mead and she rested her head on his shoulder.
“At least this won’t be all bad,” she whispered in his ear. He placed another peck on the top of her head.
“It’s time! It’s time!” Alex shouted as she hopped over to the couches. “Computer, turn to channel SFN: Sports.”
The giant high-definition screen activated. A few seconds later, a brilliant view of San Francisco Bay appeared. A very chipper announcer began his narration.
“Hello and Happy Federation Day to everyone watching at home station and on the ships around the stars! This is SFN’s live coverage of the 116th Annual Starfleet/VSA Game where the Fighting Phoenixes of Starfleet Academy take on the Kolinahrians of the Vulcan Science Academy. I’m Chip Williams here with co-commentator, Ritat Zax, and we’re coming to you live from New Candlestick Park in beautiful San Francisco, California on Earth. It’s a beautiful day for Parrises Squares and everyone here is ready for another round in one of the most classic rivalries in college sports. THIS is the Federation’s Game…”
The camera panned across the stands. One side of the stadium was completely packed with every single cadet in Starfleet Academy. They all wore their black and grey uniforms, waved and cheered, and pointed into the camera shouting “BEAT SCIENCE!” and “GO FLEET!” Some held up colored signs while others already appeared to be extremely lubricated despite the fact it was still before noon on Earth.
A row of Admirals in their dress whites sat in the front row of the stands smiling and laughing with one another. On the sideline, cheerleaders dressed in uniforms with “STARFLEET” in giant gold letters across their chests waved red and gold pom-poms. They led the crowd in pre-game excitement.
“I still can’t believe those cheerleaders are all cadets,” Phil said staring at the screen. “Each one of them is a future Starfleet officer.”
“Hey,” Annabeth said looking over to him. “I was one of those cheerleaders!”
“You were a cheerleader at the Academy?” Katie said surprised.
“Yeah, she still even has the outfit…” Alex said with a grin.
“How do you know that?” Laria said confused.
Tigranian coughed loudly and took a sip of his beer.
The camera then panned over to the Vulcan side of the stadium. One thousand Science students all sat completely silently in their black robes. Each one staring down at the Parrises Squares pitch completely emotionless in stark contrast to their Starfleet rivals.
The announcer’s voice over began again.
“This is a rivalry that goes back over a century and has developed some pretty distinct traditions. One of those is spirit videos made by the cadets at both schools and often featuring their current leadership. This year’s official spirit video by the Vulcan Science Academy has already hit one trillion views on the information net.”
The camera cut to the picture of an older Vulcan male in a black robe sitting in an office made of sandstone.
“I am Suron, headmaster of the Vulcan Science Academy,” he said in a completely deadpan voice. “To the personnel of Starfleet Academy, we have defeated you for one-hundred fifteen straight years. Vulcans are physically stronger than most other humanoid species, process oxygen in their blood more efficiently, and also have greater mental acuity. It is illogical to continue with this game. We grow tired with the tedious exercise of coming to Earth. Please end this tradition as you have no statistical chance of victory.”
“Man, that Vulcan trash-talk gets worse every year,” Phil said.
“Yeah…” everyone else said nodding in agreement.
Admiral Paris and Suron both walked out from their respective sidelines. They met in the center of the pitch in front of the goal ramp. Paris offered a quiet nod to Suron who responded with the Vulcan hand salute. They each turned to face a flagpole at the end of the stadium.
“Please rise for the Anthem of the United Federation of Planets.”
The entire stadium rose to their feet. All of the officer’s in the Pershing’s mess hall followed suit.
“Corps of Cadets!” Admiral Paris announced towards the stands. “Present Arms!” Every cadet executed a crisp military salute in unison. Suvon merely nodded to the Vulcans who each executed the hand salute.
A drumroll echoed through the stadium from the Academy band. Then, the brass instruments began the strains of the anthem. As the music reached crescendo, four Nova Squadron attack fighters streaked in from each of the cardinal directions trailing blue and white smoke from their wings. Just as they were about to collide mid-air over the stadium, they each executed a ninety-degree turn upwards and flew straight to orbit, trailing the colors of the Federation the entire time.
“Order Arms!” Paris commanded. A huge cheer echoed through the Federation stands. The Vulcans silently took their seats.
“Look at Nova Squadron!” Phil said running over to grab another beer before strike-off. “Perfect as always!” Katie grabbed a bowl of potato chips.
“Yeah, they pulled up before crashing into each other. Very impressive.”
“Could you do that?” Phil said taking his seat next to her. “You have no idea what’s it’s like to feel the raw power of an attack fighter at full impuse. That’s real flying! Man, I miss it.”
“Well, when your old ship gets here in the morning, you can look at it and cry…” Katie replied with a chuckle.
“Children, please,” Tigranian said sarcastically before taking a bite of stuffed Trillian hot peppers. “The game is about to start.”
“The Vulcans have won the coin toss and elected to receive the strike-off,” Williams’ voice-over returned.
“The special teams for the Kolinahrians have put up some huge numbers this year. We’ll see what they can do now,” Zax commented.
The Phoenix’s took the field with their bright red and gold uniforms, helmets, and pads. Each held a long black mallet in their hands. At the far end of the pitch, The Vulcans dressed in grey and green prepared to receive. A referee carrying a small, round orange ball placed it the middle of a one meter by one meter square directly in front of the Starfleet players. He stepped off to the sideline and blew his whistle.
The Starfleet power forward ran ahead and nailed the ball with the end of his mallet. It flew across the pitch and right into the waiting arms of the Vulcans’ receiver. The other Vulcans ran ahead, and knocked every single Starfleet lineman away from the ball. In a move of desperation, three Starfleet Academy players linked their arms together and tried to stop the running Vulcan from making it to the goal ramp in the center of the pitch. Almost effortlessly, the Vulcan plowed through all three of them at full speed, sending all the Starfleet players flying in every direction.
“Oooooo,” the collected crew of the Pershing said in unison.
“That’s definitely a broken arm,” Katie said taking a bite of potato chips.
The Vulcan continued up to the top of the ramp and threw the orange ball into the goal.
“Goal for the Kolinahrians!” Williams said. “And first blood belongs to the Vulcans again this year, Ritat.”
“Yes, indeed, Chip. A flawless strike-off return from Senior Science Cadet Selux. That puts the Kolinahrians up 5-0 over the Phoenixes with 14:56 left in the first quarter.”
Laria flashed Tigranian a look who merely shrugged his shoulders. She took a long sip from her bottle of mead and rolled her eyes once more.
“Only 3,596 seconds left…”