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USS Excelsior Logs and Narratives
 
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The brave crew of the USS Excelsior posts their official duty logs and creative personal logs along with intriguing stories for history to review. Excel Website
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  Ensign Chen Xiaozhe, SD
 
"Rebirth" (DL Ensign Chen Xiaozhe)
 
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The Academy refresher classes had been some of the hardest things he'd ever done. Not hard in the same way that things were back on Degrara but hard nonetheless. Life had kept flowing while he was in stasis. Even though in his mind, he was engaged in a life-and-death struggle against the Klingon Empire only a few weeks ago, nearly a century had passed. Technologies had developed and been refined, procedures changed, policies had been revised. A lot of the world he knew had been turned upside down. But Chen liked a challenge and this one wasn't trying to kill him, so he was pretty sure it wouldn't win and it didn't.

The powers that be had insisted that before he even begin the refresher classes that he take some personal time off and so he took leave in San Francisco. He figured that would make it easier to spend some time on the Academy campus and get an early start on the classwork. He was pretty sure that some headshrinker would be asking him in detail about how he spent his time off and so to make sure he honestly had the right things to tell them, he made up a list of recreational activities and taped them to a dartboard. Three darts into the board would decide what “fun” activities he'd been engaging in that day at a minimum while he did his best to hit the books and acquaint himself with the layout of the Academy and catch up on current events. He did things that he wanted to for the fun of it as well—klin zha, Klingon chess, being among them. Chen learned klin zha on Degrara, trying to keep himself occupied in the long, quiet, empty nights and learning about how his enemy thought and viewed the world at the same time. He found he had both a liking and an aptitude for the Klingon game, even the Reflective side. Chen enjoyed playing klin zha with an elderly man he'd met in the park but he wanted to make sure that he had a well-rounded list of recreational activities that he had pursued so the headshrinkers wouldn't think him obsessed.

But in all honesty, what else could you call it, he thought to himself. What else is there for me any more but to excel at being a fleet officer? No friends, no family to speak of. No one who even remembers me from my—former life. That's what this was—a new life. While walking on the grounds, he saw a caterpillar crawling on a tree branch. He closed his eyes and clapped his hands together three times and prayed, knowing that when the caterpillar became a butterfly, it would take his prayers to the Buddha. Prayers for life, and love and redemption—he didn't feel guilty for what he had done on Degrara but, some how, he knew he needed cleansing all the same.

He supposed that cleansing was on his mind, too, as he did laps in the Academy's Olympic-size swimming pool. Water—a universal symbol of clarity and spirituality. Nothing seemed clear in his life any more. The Federation that he given his all for was gone and a whole new society sprung up in its place. A Federation that was allied with the Klingons. Chen shook his head. He still just couldn't quite get his head around it. Life and death. That's what he thought the struggle with the Empire was. Either we'd win and the Federation would survive or they'd win and it wouldn't. But it wasn't so. The status quo was like some sort of strange, demented tie. It just did not make sense.

Time passed.

His classes done and his marks high, all he had to do now was wait. Chen expected that he'd be waiting a long time and so tried to relax and not think about how long it would take to get a ship assignment. He visited night clubs in Rio and walked the streets of New Orleans and took in museums in Rome, Paris and Athens. He was bounced from odd job to odd job as he expected to be. Every week, he met with a counselor and told them what a great and relaxing time he was having. He half-believed it. He just put the waiting out of his mind—what else was there to do?

One day—the waiting ended. He received a communique from Star Fleet Command for re-assignment aboard the Excelsior as Ops officer. He read the communique over and over again, beaming with joy that he was finally getting back on track.

Rising with the dawn the next day, he took a shuttle to Beijing and went to temple and burned his old uniform as an offering and lit three sticks of incense from its flames, watching the little grey curls of smoke rise gently into the silent, morning air. Like the caterpillar in the garden, he had burst free of the chrysalis and was free to stretch his wings and fly.

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