(This is essentially Star Trek fan fiction with the serials filed off)
The word sat on his assignment slip, staring up at him with beady little letters. Was that a sneer, crossing the t? And what was a y, except a slant-mouthed grin, mocking his hopes and dreams? Mocking four years of training at the Academy. Courses in astrophysics, hand-to-hand combat, engineering, diplomacy, military tactics, languages. A captain had to know a little bit of everything, if he wanted to keep his crew alive out in the void. But his favorite classes had been the ones on leadership.
So many courses in leadership.
And now, because of one little test, a simple mistake, he was sitting in a transport ship onroute to the finest vessel in the fleet... with an assignment slip that read "Security."
They called it the "Psych Test." Oh, not officially. Officially, it didn't even have a name. If someone asked about psych tests, they'd be told that all candidates were evaluated several times during the selection process, always by qualified psychotherapists. And all those papers and notations counter, sure. But not as much as the Psych Test did.
To hear the rumors, no one's was the same. Every test was tailor made to poke you in the dark places behind your eyes, at the little weaknesses that instructors and therapists (and your friends? There was no way they could have known about the cat if Jenkins hadn't told them...) had dutifully noted down. Members of the fleet had to be better than their weaknesses. Couldn't freeze in front of phobias, couldn't lash out in irrational anger.
When he was a kid, he'd had a cat. Siamese, beautiful eyes, name of Sparky. Sparky had disappeared one day, and he'd gone out of his mind with regret. Until a few weeks later, when his older brother had given him a present, out of the blue.
They'd never really gotten along, he and his brother, but the gesture was touching. And so, happy but a little wary, he'd opened the box, and looked inside, and after that he and his brother didn't talk much. Breaking someone's jaw in three places will do that to a relationship.
So when, in the last month of his time at the academy, he'd walked around a corner, to see a cadet he didn't know torturing the cat... He hadn't reacted well.
The scene was ludicrous, of course. It was the middle of the day, in a white, aniseptic-looking Academy corridor. And there was this guy, standing there with a knife, just... playing.
He wondered, later, how they'd simulated it all so well. That cat had looked REAL. And the look on the other cadet's face... He had seen that look before, on his brother, just before he stretched himself to find some new measure of cruelty. Either that kid was a great actor, or he was well on his way to failing his OWN psych test.
In any case, he'd reacted.
Cadets were allowed to carry sidearms, but never to draw them - the idea was to get used to them at your side, and, more importantly, to get used to NOT using them. He'd never fired his before. But he'd always liked to tinker...
They asked him, at the debrief, WHY he had altered the laser pistol. They were finely calibrated not to do any lethal harm, in case someone got antsy (or freaked out when the people in charge INENTIONALLY pushed their freak-out buttons). It wasn't against the rules, he said. He'd just wanted to know how they worked. He just wanted to know, if something bad happened at the Academy, that he could protect people.
They didn't bother to ask him what he thought could go wrong at one of the most heavily defended institutions on the most heavily protected planet in the universe.
So yeah, he'd shot the guy. Cranked his pistol past the easily-bypassed governing mechanism, past "stun" (because this was a big guy, and he wasn't taking chances) but not, NOT, he kept pointing out, up to Kill. He was never going to kill the guy.
They didn't seem impressed by that, oddly enough.
And the guy had crumpled, and his faculty adviser had run into the corridor and yelled at him to drop his weapon, and there had been a LOT of meetings, and now here he was, sitting on a transport with all the command track knowledge he could ever need and an assignment slip that said