Nine of us piled back over to Al's quarters to clean the place up, and it took all nine of us plus a great deal of our replicator rations to get it respectable. Al owes us all—big time! The upshot is I've had no sleep.
At 0500 hours, I said my farewells to everybody and headed back to my quarters to pack for my own departure. I didn't have much so it wouldn't take long, and Luke, bless him, had volunteered to take care of Beastie for me. Not that it's a big favour. He dotes upon that blessed cat and Beastie can wrap Luke around her little paw.
Anyway, 07:45 and I was in the shuttle bay. The shuttle was already there and the pilot was undertaking the last of his pre-flight checks. Tez turned up shortly afterwards because, of course, his place had been secured at the Academy a good week earlier. He looked pretty shattered too (he'd been with us, helping with Al's quarters) and yawned widely as he walked in.
We greeted each other warmly with a gentle hug. He really is a cuddly old bear, and he always has this wonderful scent about him, like fresh oregano. I always find it very difficult not to draw in deep breaths around him; he smells so delightful.
Anyway, the two of us waited, quietly chatting. Tez was assuring me that Al had nothing to worry about. Her quarters would pass inspection no problem at all.
No one else was coming to see us off as we had said our farewells last night, and it was probably better that way bearing in mind that Rutter would be arriving soon. Sure enough, in he walked.
Rutter was, as usual, immaculately presented. He always had looked the part of an officer and he made me feel quite scruffy. I wasn't, but somehow he made me feel that way. Maybe it was my old rucksack that sat beside me, so tatty and crumpled compared to Rutter's smart rigid case.
Either way, he didn't greet either of us. In fact, he ignored us and stood at ease, staring straight ahead at the awaiting shuttle and its pilot.
"Ladies, gentlemen. Are we ready to board?" asked the pilot.
We all filed in and took our seats.
Shuttles are not large at the best of times, but this one seemed smaller than usual. I wasn't looking forward to the next eight hours cooped up with Rutter. It wasn't filling me with a huge amount of joy, and the atmosphere was really dour. The pilot wasn't oblivious to it either. Having taken the shuttle away from the Drakonia and set a course, an awkward silence settled. The pilot busied himself with various checks until he ran out of the things he had to do ... and then all the other things that he could think of to do that didn't actually need doing. Finally, he puffed out a breath of air and turned in his seat to look at the three of us. We must have looked really odd sat like fresh icicles, cold and stiff.
"So, you're The Misfits," he smiled.
"I'm not a misfit!" exclaimed Rutter indignantly.
"I think you'll find that you are," declared Tez. "There aren't many Ensigns that get sent back to the Academy for a refresher course in manners. In fact, I think you're unique ... and in so many ways; none of them good."
I was startled by Tez's remarks. He was usually such a mild-mannered individual. He'd lost none of his jolliness, but his tone indicated that he was looking for a conflict, and looking forward to getting one too. He was a true Tellarite after all.
"What's that supposed to mean, Tez?" shouted Rutter.
"Tezenia to you, Rutter. Only my friends call me Tez, which is virtually everyone I know. I expect that's why everyone calls you Rutter rather than Frederick."
"I have friends—"
"Only latinum-plated ones. All show, no genuine value—"
"I have friends, and proper friends, not the bunch of freaks you hang around with you horrible, stumpy little man!"
"My kind are all stumpy little men, except the females of course, but are all humans overbearing prigs like yourself?"
"I am not overbearing!"
Tez considered for a moment.
"True. I withdraw the statement. To be overbearing you would have to have a certain presence; fill the room with a sense of foreboding when you entered it, but you don't do that. Dread maybe, but not foreboding. And even then it's the sort of dread you feel when a real bore enters the room."
"I'm NOT a bore!"
"Maybe not by birth, but you've worked very hard at it, I can tell. You've done very well, though, excelled at it even."
"If anyone's a bore around here, it's you! B. O. A. R! Boar! You cloven hoofed, over-sized hairball!"
"Over-sized? A moment ago, I was a stumpy little man, but then verbal communication was never your strong point. Your mother should have taught you better."
"My mother taught me just fine."
"Let's hope she is a better Admiral than she is a tutor."
Rutter's face filled with rage and his lips pursed as he struggled to contain his anger. Eager not to get involved in another physical altercation, he got up and disappeared into the aft of the shuttle.
I grinned at Tez and he smiled smugly back at me.
"Sorry," I apologised to the pilot, smiling weakly.
"Not at all," he grinned, obviously amused by Tez's assault on Rutter. "I'm just trying to figure out which one of the pair is the Tellarite."
"Oh me, definitely," said Tez. "A Tellarite would never surrender in the middle of an exchange."
He smiled and saw my surprise.
"Problem?" he asked.
"No. I'm just not used to you behaving ... well, like a Tellarite."
"I'd never get to be a Starfleet captain if I behaved like a Tellarite with crewmembers. So, as you Humans say: when in Rome."
I laughed and so did the pilot.
Tez is a wonderful character and one day, he will make an excellent starship captain.
The rest of the flight passed by uneventfully, but that's probably because Tez and I fell asleep.