Note on 6/16/21: from this point forward, since Jackson is my main character that is now the CO of the Nova-class USS Solstice, he will be going through the Academy as a CONN-bound officer with intent to still be a small craft/fighter pilot. His father is now a Captain and not a Colonel.
It was the night of the Spring Formal. Jackson and Jeremy got into their formal mess dress uniforms and headed out to the stadium field where the dance was to take place. The walk down to the field included just about the entire Corps of Cadets, save for those who were either too sick to attend or just flat-out didn’t want to go.
As they got closer, Jackson got progressively more nervous. When they got to the line at the entrance to the stadium, Jackson let out a big sigh.
“You alright bud?” Jeremy asked.
“Mostly,” Jackson replied.
Jeremy snickered. “What’s up, man? I never remember you being this nervous to go to a dance.”
“I’m not nervous…I’m just…ok, maybe I’m a little nervous.” Jackson looked down at the plastic container with the corsage he picked out for Kayla and fiddled around with it a bit. The two of them signed in at the front table and proceeded under the bleachers and onto the field. A large portion of the field was a dance area, with some tables off to the side for some to sit at and eat throughout the night. Foods of all types were going to be served, from traditional Terran meals to Ferengi and Rigelian delicacies.
After talking for a few minutes, Jackson noticed a group walking over towards them. Kayla and T’Shaar were walking with two other cadets that Jackson didn’t recognize: a female Asian human and a female Andorian.
“Wow, Kim, you all look amazing!” Jeremy stated.
“Aww, thanks for noticing,” the Asian woman replied.
“Jackson, this is my date Cadet Kim Yoon.”
Jackson shook Kim’s hand. “Pleasure to meet you. I didn’t realize Jeremy had enough extra credits to pay for a date.”
The group chuckled, all except for T’Shaar. “You owe me dinner,” Jeremy said as Kim slyly smiled back to him, causing a confused look on Jackson’s face. “I bet Kim that you would say something nice followed immediately by a smart joke.”
“Glad I could help out,” Jackson replied. “And am I correct in assuming that this is your date, T’Shaar?”
T’Shaar nodded and took the Andorian’s hand. “You are correct. May I introduce Cadet Pasha Zh’than.”
Jackson and Jeremy nodded and said hello. ‘What, no joke for me?” Tasha inquired, her antennae twitching a bit.
“Nope, not when I know your date can kick my butt,” Jackson replied. He turned his attention to Kayla, who looked gorgeous in her mess dress uniform. Even though the others were all wearing the same uniform, she just looked world above them. “Hi, Kayla. You look amazing,” he slowly said.
“Thank you,” Kayla replied. “You look splendid yourself.”
There was a silence for a few seconds before Jackson opened the plastic container and took out the corsage. He held out his other hand in an accepting manner. “May I?” Kayla nodded and Jackson slipped the corsage onto her wrist. He took the hand with the corsage on it and kissed it, causing Kayla to blush and giggle. “So, uh…shall we get some refreshments?” Jackson said, trying to relieve the awkward moment.
“I could certainly go for a cold drink,” Pasha replied. She held out her arm for T’Shaar to take, and the two lead the group over towards the closest refreshment bar. The rest of the group got together in their pairs and all got drinks, then headed over to the table with their ticket number on it. The rest of the dance attendees shuffled in while the group talked over their drinks. After a little while, an officer walked up to the microphone in front of the band. Porter recognized the individual as Rear Admiral Bhatti, the Commandant of Starfleet Academy.
“Good evening, Cadets and invited guests, and welcome to the Spring Formal! I’ll keep my comments short, since I know you’d all rather hear the band than listen to me babble on.” The admiral paused while some cadets applauded his comment. “I wanted to thank you all for being here tonight. The Spring Formal has been a tradition of Starfleet Academy since the earlier days of Starfleet, and if you might be thinking that a dance isn’t necessary at Starfleet Academy, just remember that James Kirk, Jean-Luc Picard, and Kathryn Janeway all also attended this dance.”
“So did Michael Eddington!” one cadet yelled out, drawing a few boos.
“Yes, yes, thank you for that,” Bhatti said. “Anyway, the staff will start serving meals shortly. Other than that, enjoy your time, and remember that all the Academy’s rules still apply today and during your off day tomorrow! Now, take it away, maestro!” Bhatti gestured to the band, who started playing their first song as the admiral walked off the stage.
As the music played, the crew at Jackson’s table started chatting amongst themselves again, sipping their drinks and pausing when the waitstaff passed out the appetizers and refreshed their drinks. The conversations bounced back and forth between talk of Academy work and personal stories. So far, the night was going alright, especially considering that Jackson originally didn’t want anything to do with the dance.
“So, Jackson,” Pasha said from across the table, “I’ve heard you’re quite a good pilot. Am I correct in assuming that you also want to command a starship someday?”
Jackson nodded as he wiped his mouth. “Someday, perhaps. I know there’s a long way to get there, but there aren’t too many CONN officers beyond lieutenant commander these days. Well, unless Starfleet goes back to the rank and officer structure like back in Kirk’s days.”
“Well, you never know what Starfleet will be like in a decade,” Jeremy replied. “We could be in another war, and promotions fly off the shelves during war.”
T’Shaar sighed. “I will never fully understand the human predilection for looking for battle.”
“I don’t hope for war,” Jeremy said turning his full attention to T’Shaar, “but as a prospective security officer, I certainly don’t mind being ready in case a fight comes.”
“Seems logical,” Pasha answered, slightly emphasizing the word ‘logical’. The others nodded in agreement as they continued to eat and move to the next topic of conversation.
Jackson took his napkin from his lap and placed it on the table, then pushed back from the table and stood up. “Excuse me a minute, I think I want to try a different drink. And yes, whatever I get, I’ll bring you one, too.” Jeremy’s hand went from raising a finger in inquiry to an open pal for a high-five, which Jackson slapped on his way by.
He walked over to the drink bar and looked at the options.
“What can I get you?” the server asked.
“Hmm, I’m not sure. What would you suggest?”
“I would suggest the Ferengi ale,” came a voice from behind.
Jackson turned around to see where the voice came from. “Hey, Terik,” he said to the approaching Red Squad member. “The Ferengi ale, eh? I’ll take two, please” Jackson said to the server, who went about getting the drinks ready.
“One for you and one for the lady?” Terik asked.
“Nah, one’s for my buddy Jeremy,” Jackson replied. “How are you?”
Terik picked up a bottle from the table and opened it. “Oh, just loving this dance…again. You?”
Jackson took the drinks from the server and turned around to face towards Terik. “Well, it certainly beats doing classwork…not by much, but still…”
“You’re not wrong.” Terik replied. He took a sip from the opened bottle. “So, have you and Kayla made your relationship official with a kiss yet?”
Jackson nearly spit out the drink he was sipping. “What? Wow, skipping the small talk all together.”
“Hmm, the topic took you by surprise, you’re trying to avoid the question, and you’re blushing. I guess that means the answer is ‘no’, which means I must ask ‘why?’” Terik inquired. “And before you answer, I’m just going to hazard a guess that you’re still a little shy about it all.”
“Well…ok, I’ll admit that I’ve been a little slow on the get-go. If I’m being fully honest, I’m a little nervous. I mean, I think she likes me, and I definitely like her, too…but, it’s like…” Jackson knew what he wanted to say, but at the same time, didn’t really know how to say what he wanted to say.
“Then go for it! Like Zefram Cochrane said, go boldly!”
There was a pause while Jackson thought about his options. “You know what? You’re right. I need to be the Starfleet officer that I’m aspiring to be and go for it!”
Terik raised his bottle and the two clinked drinks. “That-a-boy! You’ll have to let me know how it goes when I come back.”
Jackson looked over his glass with curiosity. “When you come back?” he inquisitively replied.
“Yeah. Red Squad is going to be sent out on some special training for a couple months, and we’ll be back just before graduation.”
“Where are you going?”
Terik took a big swig from the bottle. “No idea. All they’ve told us is that we’ll be doing some special training away for a while.”
“Wherever they’re sending you, be safe. We don’t need another USS Valiant out there.” Jackson referred to the incident where almost all of Red Squad was killed while their leader, who was appointed as captain of the Defiant-class training ship after all the regular officers died, attempted to take down a Dominion battleship alone.
Terik sighed. “I know…they tell us that story as a cautionary tale. Unfortunately, many members of Red Squad throughout history have been quite full of themselves.”
“Well,” Jackson started saying as he looked around the field, “I don’t think you’re like that. I’m sure you’ll do fine, and I can’t wait to watch your graduation.”
The big hand of Terik patted Jackson on his shoulder. “Thanks, bud. I really appreciate that.” Terik finished his drink and handed the empty bottle back to the server. “Now, go find the right time to give your red-headed lass a kiss, and enjoy the rest of your night.” Terik gave a slight salute and headed back to his table as Jackson nodded to him and went back to his own table.