Academia: Year One


TO: Admiral Althea Hamilton, Queen's Brigade (Army Depot #A-5564)

RE: Response to position as Parliament/Tujin ambassador

Admiral Hamilton:

Like most sane, normal people, I don't like the Tujin race very much.  They're quarrelsome, stuck-up, self-absorbed, and Mightier-Than-Thou-And-Damn-Proud-Of-It jerkwads.  Yeah, every once in a while, someone like, say, Ra'liton lu ma'Aq de Terre will show up, with a creepily long name and all the fun psychosis that come with the Tujin package.  He's a great guy, which means he doesn't fit in well on his home turf.

                But the Tujin tend to be more like his big sis, Himu: loud, narcissistic, utterly convinced they're the greatest single species in the universe.  She has the distinction of being a complete bitch, though, and only the second one of her species I ever met, so that might've affected how I tend to look at the Tujin races.  Add in that their home galaxy is one of the wealthiest in the Empire and that they lord their money over every poor guy in the academy doesn't make it easier.

                When you think about it, though, any species that engaged in a civil war - the Trans-Tujin War for all those high schools students like me who don't give a crap about stuff that happened God-knows-how many thousands of years ago -  for eight-hundred years and attempted to do some kind of religious genocide doesn't have a lot going for it.  For Christ's sake, they tried to wipe out their own subcultures! 

                Once you get past the fact that they have some belief they're the most beautiful beings in the entire Empire – which is funny in an are you crazy? sort of way, as they tend to be mediocre – you have to deal with this entire species of people who, unlike the Densadron species who tend to be all stupid, have different 'smart levels' and all act the same – damn – way.  There's differences, of course, like Himu's more narcissistic than noisy, her older brother's more of a punch-'em-and-grind-'em-in-the-dirt guy, and her mom's a lot like Satan in retrospect, but it's all pretty much the same.

                I mean, fine, great, we should all accept one another, and I can get along with Himu now without trying to gouge my eyes out or demand to know why she can't be nice to people who aren't as rich as her, and there are several Tujin I don't mind spending time with, but the Ra'liton family can go to hell.  Okay, I technically owe her great-great-great-great grandfather my graduation degree for founding the original navy academy, and the Imperial Parliament agrees with the outdated Spacer Council that we still owe the line of marksmen the Ra'liton family churns out, but – God! 

                Maybe on an off day I can be friends with Himu, but until her whole freaking species – much less her! – learns to breathe without snidely commenting on how horribly passé, darling, a person's outfit, hair, or personality is, I'm not going to be any damn ambassador to the Tujin homeworld.  Send someone like Captain Glidewell.  I don't know if I can be trusted to not commit mass homicide on the first day.

                With as much dignity as I can afford,

                Captain James P. Hawkins.

Letter infamously sent by Captain Hawkins to Admiral Hamilton, circa OL 360

Excerpted from Navy Beats Army: A Tribute to Military Tradition

Mumaq Presses (renewed OL 368)

                Why the hell does the navy let pretentious, cocky morons like him join?  He can't even write a formal letter!

Attributed to Admiral Hamilton upon reading Captain Hawkins' Parliament/Tujin letter


                Jim thought it was a nasty irony that, in the one place he had been completely certain he would never have the unwanted opportunity to wash dishes, serve food, and bus tables, he found himself doing exactly that.  Cardigan had somehow pinpointed him in the crowd of exhausted freshmen, which was either another example of God laughing at him or a representation of the tiger's admirable navigation skills, and hauled him to the dormitory showers, granting him the first shower.  He had come out, adjusting the scratchy white towel fastened around his waist, and, rubbing soapy water out of his eyes and wrinkling his nose in irritation and sharp pain, found an exact uniform had been laid out on the bench.  It was certainly not that he was shy or embarrassed, or anything akin to that at all, but he had grabbed his uniform and immediately ducked back into the shower stall.  Yanking the short-sleeved charcoal undershirt on and then the sleeveless sweater of black wool, he had somehow pulled the ebony trousers on, buttoning the latch and stuffing feet clad in now soggy black socks into the mud-streaked boots. 

                None of it was comfortable, he was sweating almost as much as he had when actually exerting himself, and he had yet to be told what it was he should do while in the kitchen.  It seemed to stretch for nearly a mile, counters and stoves and God knew what else forming a massive entangling labyrinth of cooking equipment frequented by bustling men, women, and robots.  "This is insane," he gritted, checking the red knot of the tie Cardigan had helpfully supplied him and looking about for his unwilling companion.  She, and he used she in the loosest of terms, was late, but it looked as though no one actually cared that she was. 

                "Take this out front," a robot of a husky build snapped, dropping a large metal box of rolls into his surprised arms, his elbows snapping up out of reflex.  "Hurry it up and don't spill or your pay will be deducted."  There was an odd clicking sound deep within the recesses of the robot's innards, and it reconsidered its words in comparison with the slightly irritated boy currently glaring at it with the intent to paralyze.  "Hurry it up," the robot corrected, "or I will inform the Head Dean."

                Jim sighed and traipsed after a small woman with flowing gossamer wings, her face naked of any features, a straight, bare slate that showed neither emotion nor any expression at all, and he narrowly avoided clocking his hip into a silver counter that jutted brashly into the open.  An itch was slowly forming at the back of his neck, ragged ends of his slashed hair bristling against the skin, and he rolled his shoulders, grimacing as he tried to rid the feeling from his body.  The woman sped up, turning and vanishing around a corner, and he swore, hurrying and catching the edge of the laden box as it threatened to spill out of his grip. 

                The noise level, changing with suddenness from the dull, flickering hum he had heard through the vents into a full-out assault of jabbering students, was raised quickly when he rounded the corner and he paused, seeing with greater perception than before the full implications of the school.  The mess hall was brimming with students, in uniforms of blue, red, black, and a few other tones in between to denote achieved ranks and whatnot, more students in the younger grades than the elder.  This was just a bit too large of a student body for his liking; Jim, despite a few qualities having been thankfully and perhaps grudgingly changed over the course of the late spring and summer, was still not overwhelmingly gifted in social situations that called for little things such as humility, deference, and age-related rank.  He felt a mild sense of doom inside, not wanting to admit that, having hailed from Montressor the small planet, he was only slightly overwhelmed by the massive population, and when overwhelmed, he tended to get defensive.

                "I seem to be staring at the same heinous collective of students," came Rubin's odd voice, a rumbling mixture of feminine and masculine inflections that granted it a genderless tone, "and yet somehow I cannot find the stupefying radiance your eyes are quite compelled to staring at.  If it does not irk you to perhaps move aside that others may pass, then by all means do shove."  The small humanoid ducked around him, clutching stubbornly in her thin hands a metal box of exact proportion to his own with some sort of mass-cooked eggs within it, and she walked stiffly to the robots in the front of the mess hall.  With a grunt, she dropped the box into the waiting cylindrical arms of one and it caught the object with aggravating ease, turning and whirring forward as Jim supposed he was meant to do the same.

                "How'd you," he gritted, the box being more awkward than heavy, and he managed to pass it on to the next irritated-looking mechanical creation, "manage to carry that?"  He winced, pulling back as the robot moved forward to impatiently wait next to the row of others closest to the students, and rubbed at his elbow, the corner having jabbed the sensitive skin exposed by his uniform.  "Crap," he muttered to the air before him, studying the just acquired red scrape along his sun-browned skin, "I hope that fades before Mom gets here."

                "It was remarkably simple, Jim," she replied with a near cruel droll to her voice, ignoring very easily his last remark.  "I merely locked the joints of my knees in place like so," she demonstrated with obnoxious ease, "and strode forward whilst maintaining an even, balanced grip under the box to keep from mistakenly lurching it out of my grasp.  It was a matter of symmetry and mathematical coordination, the likes of which are quick to learn."  There was a defined insult in her words and he stuck his tongue out at her back, finding a shameful satisfaction in the infantile victory as she had the back of her scarlet-locked head facing him. 

                Jim sighed, then, rolling his shoulders back, uncomfortable in the stiff hems of his unexpectedly enclosing uniform, and he scratched forcefully at the back of his neck, trying to rid himself of the entirely unwanted coarseness of bristled hair sweeping along the skin.  He winced, a fingernail catching along the stretch of neck he was hoping to cure, and drew his hand away, crossing his arms over his chest.  "Why're we waitin' here?" he asked bluntly, watching as the students slowly fell silent, each class noting the one above it shushing one another.  "Please tell me nobody's doing any announcements."

                "Silence," Rubin replied, annoyed.  "A few things are somewhat more important than whether or not you can toss in another sarcastic quip, and it might do us some good to see what the eating patterns are.  Besides," her voice adopted a tone that he would have thought a bit kinder, "I have attended a military preparatory school for the past ten years, and am thusly a bit more wise to how the chain of rank operates."

                "Oh, thanks," he shot back as her lips twitched up in an expression meant to resemble that of a smile, "that was so helpful I can't even remember what life was like before you could help.  Tell me, what're your secrets?  Did you kill anyone for them?"  He flashed her a grin when she gave him a hardly enthused look, every pound of cheeky obnoxiousness that was engrained into his very personality wrapped up into that smile in some subconscious habit of annoyance.  The robots hummed on the edge of his hearing as the third-class students gradually became aware that the juniors had drifted into a silence that was not quite reverent, and he ignored all three stately.

                "And how, pray tell, doth thee breath come the bittersweet light of dawn?" quipped the odd tri-eyed alien, black uniform insignificant with her swarthy skin.  "It strikes me as a miracle on par with raising the dead or the ilk."

                Jim snorted disparagingly.  "Breathing," he drawled, "how do I do it?  Well, first I use my nose--"

                "Silence," she said again, cutting him off as her voice dipped once again into a slightly rude monotone.  "Mum is very easily the word to be used in this sort of situation.  Research into a thing known as tact: it tends to be horrendously useful in everyday life."  She stiffened her back, taking a precautionary step back to the five foot entrance from the tunnel systems of the kitchen, and slapped her arms to her sides with an equal sternness, facing the robots, which were beginning to clack most fearsomely.

                "Stop talking like that," he muttered, mimicking her movements and keeping his arms crossed over his chest, wrinkling the be-damned tie.  "You're sounding way too much like my mom, and it's freaking me out."  A shrill burring came forth from the robots and one of his eyes widened sardonically as he studied the perfectly motionless silver creations, irritatedly reaching back once again to scratch at his neck and around the woven collar of his required sweater.  "Crazy noise," he suggested, touching a hand to his ear protectively.  "Supposed to happen or danger signal?"

                "This is an example of why we precisely should be grateful we are not eating on this morn," she answered calmly, as the robots ceased their high-pitched whine and settled for a static noise akin to that of a malfunctioning public address system gone haywire.  "As well," she continued without missing a beat, "as a show of how little our board of education truly cares about the state of robots.  It is very much a pity that many continue to believe robots are incapable of individual thought, and therefore are often ignored when in servitude positions."

                Before she could continue in her pleasant, conversational tone, one that suggested she was more interested with the debate she was opening in a clinical term than that of a partial view, and before Jim could rub tiredly at his eyes, a booming voice emanated as one from all of the ten plus robots.  "The student body," the voice started in a crackling sound, "will now eat."  Jim, made more aware of his achingly empty torso and the fact that he had last dined on mud, such as the case was, grimaced and shared his feelings with a scuffle of his foot over the floor and a low mutter.  "Before you may come forward to eat, though," interrupted the multi-broadcasted speaker, giving pause to the many excited, tired freshmen standing up from their sectored tables, "it should be duly noted that all third- and fourth-class students will be serving the upper classes before they are allotted their share of the leftovers.  Take care to sit on the edges of your seats!"  The voice cheerfully finished with, "Eat hearty, lads an' ladies!  First lunch isn't until two, and that leaves you eight hours!  Use your thirty minutes for breakfast wisely."

                Jim distinctly heard one of the robots groan, "Here comes the brutal agony," immediately following the obnoxious click of the broadcast flipping off, and he muffled a personal laugh at the unexpected words.  There was an uncomfortable wave of the freshmen glancing with something akin to horror at one another, having not been prepared for this sudden development, and then the fifth- and fourth-years proceeded to swarm down upon them. 

"Thank God I can't stay out of trouble," he remarked dutifully as the youngest two grades were turned out of their chairs and sent hurriedly over to the robots holding the breakfast foodstuffs.  He thought it incredibly amusing, but winced and scratched again where his uneven, bristling hair swept in crescent waves against the skin of his neck.

                And somehow, he found himself loving every horrible second of his admittedly short time spent thus far at the academy.  Granted, he was not particularly fond of waking at ungodly hours to spend an hour exercising, though he doubted he ever would, and he was incredibly hungry, but – he smiled, leaning against the wall.  Five months ago, the only thing he would have seen himself doing was community service in some form of punishment for a juvenile delinquent's prank or two.  Even having the chance to prove he was a damn good person, much less a halfway decent spacer, was something he was more than willing to suffer all sorts of ironic and cruel things for.

                Including, he thought with a sardonic laugh, Rubin asking him in a mildly irked voice, "What in the thrice-cursed Densadron hell are you so disgustingly pleased about?  Must I remind you that we are being punished?"  He merely laughed harder, and she smiled shortly, more of a weary grimace than an expression of amusement.


                Imperial History, Military I came first on his schedule, as yet another example of the universe's apparently undying sense of incredibly twisted humor.  Not only had Jim developed quite a record back home for falling asleep in each history class he had ever been enrolled in, he had also managed to fail spectacularly every test, quiz, worksheet, lecture, and the occasional polling of students.  So it was with a strong sense of crippling nausea and a general moodiness that he entered the antechamber that was the Military Histories room, pocketing his silent guide-light and holding the dog-eared tome Cardigan had hurled at his head when he went looking for the hand-me-downs after breakfast.  Until he stepped into the room he still felt some degree of hope, but once he saw what the large chamber's interior offered to him, the shred of hope screamed miserably and promptly died.

                In three words alone could he sum up his emotions at the time: oh God help.  Jim thought it sufficient and quick enough that maybe God would be able to grant him a miracle if He was so inclined at the moment, barring any assassination attempts on the Queen or another revolt from the happily nicknamed String of Dissatisfied Planets.  He closed his pale eyes as hard as he could, muttering a half-remembered prayer he could recite from habit but could never truly recall the words or rhythm of, and fumbled out of the wide doorway, shaggy and ill-kempt hair twisting lazily about under the air steadily pumping in the room. 

                The Military Histories chamber was the sort that many a youthful teacher's aide dreamed deep fantasies about working within: immense maps drawn with thick Caromian ink were nailed to the walls; immense holo-globes representing individual planets steadily, lazily twirled in continuous orbits around one another before they blinked and faded out to be replaced by new diagrams; heavy tomes were placed on nearly all surfaces to be seen, old books with faded covers and torn pages exposed to the immense globular lamps hanging from ceiling and walls; when he stepped on the floor, a spiderweb of river systems and detailed landscapes appeared underfoot, a to-scale-map of the academy's world of residence; and each of the stretching single-desks that were attached to each of the inclined rows formed a sort of ampi-theatre, with every one of the desks' sides carefully showing a mapped battle strategy of some sort.  Doppler, he believed with a grand conviction, would have himself buried in this room if the chance presented itself.

                Unfortunately for Jim, the same qualities that would have the family friend in a seizure of sheer joy could present a threat he had somehow not fully realized upon his acceptance at the prestigious academy.  For some horrid, unexplained reason he had blithely ignored that he would need to have a rudimentary knowledge of the required high school courses, and then what with his not having actually finished high school – and by a grudging actually he meant he had recently foregone both his junior and senior years – he decided he was Screwed.  No simple matter of standard capitalization for him, his meaning and inevitable in-class agony could only be truly communicated to himself with a capital 's' and a self-deprecating burst of anger.

                Well at least it wasn't math, he figured as he claimed a spot in the fifth row up, trudging to the middle-most seat and plopping into it.  He immediately hunched over, dropping his book to the desk before him and doing his best to stare in a convincingly studious manner at the twenty-thousand page – or so it seemed with jaw-dropping width – tome already opened in front of him.  He paused, discovering an actual interest in the pages, seeing a large, heavily detailed oil painting of what looked like an emaciated Lupine leading a highly fatal charge against some particularly nasty Tuskrus forces.  Jim was not the galaxy's most patient person, nor was he famous for his ability to plan something out meticulously so much as halfway, but even he doubted he could ever get an incentive or pissed-off enough to try the same thing.

                It was while he was studying with a degree of morbid fascination the painting that the bells screwed into the walls rang into noisy and quite frankly annoying existence, and he glared pointlessly at the ornate brass curves as they fell into disapproving silence.  Flipping the pages with a careful slide of his palm under the right one, he was presented with a long, small-set text in a calligraphy style that had long since been dead in any form of social circles, be it education, wealthy, or handyman.  He allowed himself a second of peering curiously close to the pages and raised his body somewhat off his chair to lean his face close to the worn paper, before snorting and falling back, bored with trying to decipher something that had probably never been legible even when the style was popular. 

Falling back into his chair, he noted that the first three rows were filled with happily giggling and discoursing first-years, waving inked pens and fingers at one another in vibrant young adult communication.  The next two rows, fourth and fifth, were sparsely populated with the occasional serious-faced student vastly enraptured with his or her class book, and he realized with a doubled sense of ill-fated nausea that he stood out in an isolated manner in the fifth row, middle seat. 

"Crap," he muttered, thick brown eyebrows rising slowly with despair, "my plan's been thwarted."  The whole goal of choosing a row between the top and bottom, and then a middling chair, had been to avoid being spotted by the professor, blending indistinctly into a crowd of brightly conversing peers and doing his best not be noticed or called upon.  With this having failed and the bells having already screamed their furious, shrill warning to race to class, he was effectively stuck: if he tried to move to a new seat, he would be noticed by the professor currently entering the room, and if she noticed him in any way, he would stand out in her memory enough to be possibly called on.  This he wanted to pass by at all costs.

If he did not move, he had only the slimmest of meager chances at escaping with his dignity and grade intact.  Oh God help, he found himself thinking once again, slinking down in his chair as he fiddled fingertips along the edge of the text staring mindlessly at the ceiling above.

"Welcome!" shouted the professor, a delicate Mouse with a crop of thickly curled black hair tied into a simple bundle at the apex of her head.  She waited for the students to quiet somewhat, lifting a bit of faded red chalk and twitching her large, fan-like ears patiently as Jim nervously tried to pretend he was invisible.  "I'm Professor Danya Muldei, and you will call me Professor Muldei under all circumstances," she called in a voice that was surprisingly deep and loud for her species, her tone working as a buffer to her words.  "I'll be teaching basic military history, for those who don't know what you're doing here."  She smiled briefly.  "Except for the few who could afford the preparatory schools on the Prego moons," Professor Muldei lowered her head to a painfully thin being sitting directly below Jim, a slender male with pale orange scales and thick webbing around both ear and finger, "I'll bet you all happen to be expecting some sort of orientation on the first day.  Time to settle in with the rhythm, if you will."

Her ensuing cheerful smile did wonders for drastically worsening the stressed headache Jim was beginning to develop.

"We're going to take a wild leap directly into our books, lady-n-gents," she informed the class, earning her a wide array of gapes, gawks, and groans.  Turning to a small blackboard erected behind her massive, tidy desk, she quickly wrote a string of foreign characters that had little effect on Jim whatsoever, though he wrinkled his nose and frowned his eyebrows together as he puzzled the slightly familiar curves and dashes.  A surprised flare of remembrance came, then, as he recalled it as being one of the alien languages that had flashed in the door test the night preceding, and he thought it to mayhap be the fluid script of Tujin as she continued, "First off, we'll be looking at the Trans-Tujin War of the PEA.  That's Pre-Empire Age, for you ninnies that failed high school history."

Jim made a face.

"Before we start reading our books," she turned from the board, tossing the chalk to her desk and patting her small, furry paws together with a brilliant pearly smile, "does anyone know anything about the TTW, as we in the history biz like to call it?"  She glanced expectantly about the room, apparently not seeing Jim as he did his damnedest to wish himself invisible, and a sour expression passed over her dainty features that seemed to accompany her single eye twitch.  "Every year," she sighed, her ears contracting slightly and tilting downwards, "no one knows.  I have classes filled with seventeen- and eighteen-year olds who made it into one of the most selective military academies in the universe, and no one ever knows."

The young man with the immensely slight person and scales shyly raised his webbed hand, the lamp-light reflecting casually from his scales where they peeked out from the hem of his own black uniform.  "Miss Professor Muldei, ma'am?" he questioned in a quiet voice, one that rippled slightly like a pool of water that shifted just so under a grumbling rain storm beginning to erupt.  "I sort of know a little about the war, ma'am."

"I don't doubt that, Mister Terre," she smiled, though it looked marginally more tired than her previous ones.  "You are a Tujin, after all, and I'd be horrified if you didn't know at least something about it.  It was your genus involved in it, after all.  However," Professor Muldei continued, "I want to know that maybe just one person here other than a Tujin can make even a guess."  She looked glumly about the room, resting a tiny paw on her desk and appearing as though her entire soul had just gained thirteen unlucky pounds as the white ruffle of her undershirt quivered with her disappointed breath.  "Why did it start?  What were the factions?  Historical effect?  Anyone?  I'm prodding here, the least you can do is respond."

As the lanky Tujin, apparently Terre by name, sighed and leaned forward to forlornly twist a finger over the cover of his shiny new textbook – as opposed to Jim's worn, scratched one – the boy sitting one row above him, scratching with a glower at his irritated neck, slowly paused.  God had listened, he thought with amazement and a sarcastic twitch of his lips in an almost smug, but fortunately grateful, fashion; how else could it be that the one week he had dug his heels in at Benbow High would have been about the Trans-Tujin War?  Granted, he could remember only fuzzy bits, and not very many fuzzy bits at that, but if he could pretend he knew what he was doing, there was the possibility he might be secured from trying to prove his historical mettle in class for a few days.

"Religion," he stated in a bored voice, rifling through the pages of the ancient book that had cheerfully revealed war paintings of dubious military idiocy.  "The," he hesitated, and then shrugging finished, "TTW was started because of religion."

Terre dropped his head back curiously, solid dark green eyes blinking a slotted silver pupil with a startled interest in the student who had spoken up, and a hesitant expression of delight blossomed on Professor Muldei's face.  "Precisely!" she cried, clapping her paws together as the young men and women of varying species in the front row glanced at one another.  "Religious differences were the root cause of the Trans-Tujin War!  When Shorim'ni lu ti'Po de Moli of the Nebulan offshoot colony returned to Hjuy, he introduced the first monotheist religion on the Tujin homeworld."  She was clearly relishing her sudden encouragement that hope still existed for the young individuals who would eventually grow to lead the Empire, and strode in quick steps to one of the holo-globes. 

"Of course, at the time," she beamed, clicking a button and causing the entire string of countless globes to shimmer and warp into a giant diagram of a flattened, two-dimensional galaxy, "the Tujin had created their own empire in their solar system and the few systems closest.  Travel beyond that and into surrounding galaxies wouldn't show up for a few more centuries, and not in the Tujin's galaxy, so they had limited contact with any other cultures.  When Moli came home, converted to the single-deity religion the Nebulan's Tujin species believed in, the rest of the Tujin genus was horrified."

Casually flipping through the painting book once again, thankful and relieved that his potential dissection in front of the class was ended, Jim froze his fingers, having found a detailed painting replicate that needed to be folded out much as a poster would from the book.  "After all," he could hear Professor Muldei saying with great energy, her voice and manner keeping the rest of the class in thrall though her words would usually turn them away, "the Tujin are traditionally polytheists.

"They have a string of gods and goddesses that aren't based on nature, but on parts of the personality.  Joy, anger, rage - they even have a god for schizophrenia, but he isn't well-known.  That the Nebulans were convinced one god existed was weird enough, but that they dared share it with a governor the Emperor had assigned?  Heresy, people.  They used to burn you and skin you alive for that sort of thing."

The painting was gorgeously done, a piece of oil-work that showed minute detail in every speck of paint and had a sweeping, airy feel to it, as though the artist had sought to imprison the gently breathing moments of light that passed him or her by.  Jim frowned, brushing his fingertips along the aged paper surface, trying to capture the thought this replication gave to him.  It brought to eyes the intricacies of some metalwork, deep in the bowls of a mechanism that was somehow bright, and he could nearly grasp what it was he could almost touch his mind against.  For a moment, he wondered if he was looking at some painting of the Treasure Planet's mechanical entrails, but the designs and overall aesthetic of the metal painted was too ornate, too delicately done.  He still wanted stubbornly to know what it was, and glancing with squinting eyes at the opposite page with its cryptic lettering and indecipherable script proved to be nothing more than a waste.

"Does anyone know that kid's name?" Professor Muldei asked, the sort of question that innocuously drew attention to it from the person being addressed, in a cosmic constant that made horribly little sense.  "Wait, I know your face," she interrupted herself with a wave of her hand, her round ears looking considerably perkier than before.  "Jim Hawkins, right?  'Melia's cabin boy on her last voyage?  Wonderful!  You're quite a hero to my son, you know?"  She smiled, a kind one that somehow managed to preserve her professional aura, and she continued, "Once we get to the Flint section in the second semester, I'd like if you could share a little on the voyage."

                She had no need to explain what, exactly, she meant by her words, and he smiled, feeling a sense of pride at the intellectually pleased look on her face; for some reason he was reminded of his mother, in a distant way, at the look that touched her small, pointed features.

                "Anyway!" she declared, lifting into her dainty paw a small pointer of but an inch in length, and she tapped it once on her palm, causing a brilliant stream of narrow blue laser light to pour from its mouth.  "Two weeks after Moli's return to Hjuy, a few of his Nebulan emissaries acted in self-defense at a political meeting when a bishop under the church of Arepocht – remember that lesser god of schizophrenia? – attacked one of them with, according to legend, a rather large butter-knife…"


                "Professor Muldei," Jim approached once the bells had exploded cruelly again, "can I ask you a question?"  He asked it in a neutral tone, wary of sounding too curious or interested, and kept his worn textbook tucked safely under his elbow, as he was trying to keep from dropping the heavy tome that he had found himself intrigued with during the class.  If she, for whatever reason, said no, he could always 'borrow' it for a few days and return it no worse for the wear.  "Just want to ask if I can borrow this."  Had the book been a few hundred pounds lighter, he might have glibly lifted it nonchalantly with one hand and smiled the charming smile his mother swore would have him deeply in trouble whenever he began dating.

                "Oh, that's an old one, isn't it," she commented with an arched eyebrow, clipping tiny claws over the panel of the holo-globe controls, switching it back to the preprogrammed cycle of assorted planets.  "Walter Watson's Coming Forth From The Forefathers.  Incredibly difficult to read, considering the language he used has been dead for the past two hundred years."  She grinned, a sort of cheeky expression that caught him off guard with the strange likeness of it to his own somewhat irritating smiles of obnoxious challenge.  "I have a translation holo somewhere in here," she continued, crossing her thin arms over her pale green waistcoat, "so if you can come by during your dormitory's lunch, I'll be able to give you the holo."

                He grinned right back, copping off a cheap, cocky salute and earning a highly disappointed look from the professor that he completely missed as he hurried into the hall, digging out his guide-light miraculously and letting it lead him innocently to his Beginner's Physics and Chemistry class.

                "I'm forty-five," Professor Muldei muttered to herself, as the first of the next batch began trickling in.  "You'd think after now I might be able to get some sort of respect.  Maybe I'm not being strict enough?"  She smiled at a nervously shuffling first-year and gently motioned for the young man to move to a seat in the front row where she could make sure he would adapt well enough.


                Jim managed to drag himself out of physical science, followed by some kind of math class he had thought was trig but had involved mathematics he had never known existed, and clambered out of an alabaster door in one piece.  He eyed his guide-light, considering whether or not he could technically get away with crushing it and pretending it had malfunctioned, making it thus that he could not conceivably go to the rest of his classes if he did not know the way.  His sense of morals, stubborn determination to be the best damn spacer the academy had ever seen, and the love for mechanics of any sort that he held deep within his soul prevented him from doing so.  "You're lucky," he dourly informed the ball of metallic light that led him through the heated, pressing crowd to Vehicle Design and Building, "that my one true love is engineering.  Be grateful."

                He ducked under a gangly Macriki currently trying to engage the wall in a form of sport involving a rubber ball and doubtlessly a moment of hooky, and he overshot the door the guide-light had patiently waited in front of.  Skidding, trying to stop his hurried walking momentum and turn at the same time, he wobbled pathetically and managed to scuffle across the slippery floor in his new boots.  He was immensely thankful that the math class – whatever it was, and he hoped like hell he would manage to figure it out before a major exam of any kind – had been near enough to his dorm that he could pop in and drop the tome in, though it had made him late for aforementioned math class.  Odds were if he was still carrying the obscenely heavy thing, his face would be one with the tiles at the moment.

                A particularly dark tunnel awaited him when he went through the door, hunching over as his new boots rubbed over the suddenly scoured floor he was walking across.  The ceiling was gradually slanting lower as he walked, crushing down slightly in a very inhibiting way, and he lifted a hand to pin against the wall, keeping his balance in a cautious way as he trudged after the flickering atomic white of the guide-light.  It blinked and dodged up to another set of doors, a black substance dripping along the frame in a most unpleasant manner, and he touched two fingers to the thick liquid, curious and somewhat derailed for the time being.  The texture was oily and all together slick, the smell a heady sort of familiarity, and he flicked it off his fingers as best he could, using his other hand to push through to the other side of the door.

                A second courtyard faced him, one that was a great deal more artistic than the one involving morning exercises, with large gazebos and a multitude of platforms and swooping ivory designs, and the large expanse of grass and white constructs was cradled between the Math-and-Histories building as well as the Shop.  Jim paused, kneeling slightly to rub his fingers hard in the remarkably wet grass and rid himself of the still-clinging droplets of motor oil, and grabbed the fading metal sphere before it could plummet into a spot of mud near his knee.  Pocketing it, he stood and brushed his knees out of habit, taking a step toward the shop building and noticing a large sign that had been hastily nailed over the broad doors granting entrance to it, drawing the sphere back out of his pocket as he read the sign.

                Jiuml'Kii toauw ghVaurII bushao-vinotee, it read simplistically in Cal'lr, and directly below it was the standard Empirical language, Renovating.  A-C to Courtyard 1, D to Courtyard 2, E-G to Courtyard 3.  Others cancelled. 

                "I'm in Class D, right?" he thought to ask the guide-light in his palm, fingers curling over it in a cage to keep it from rolling pointedly out of his grip.  "Cripes," he swore under his breath, stabbing it back into his pocket as he shifted his weight and tried to make a decision.  "Of course I'd leave my schedule back in the room, 'cause I'm obviously too stupid to think I'd need it."  He smacked the heel of his palm dramatically to his head, muttering a few choice words he had picked up from Birdbrain Mary, and finally shrugged for his own benefit.  If he missed it, he missed it, and he'd have to find a way to make up for it later, but as for now he doubted there was anything he could do if he was in the wrong place.

                He traipsed quickly over the spongy ground, a surprising wetness considering the heat the trio of – admittedly small – suns was cheerfully presenting to the world that held a good chunk of the Royal Navy Academy on board, and jogged up the few carefully hewn steps to the nearest gazebo.  Sliding easily onto one of the pearled benches, he ran a hand through his shortened hair and picked at his tie, the knot loosening a bit more over the gradual day and proving to be an annoyance much as the black sweater was.  He scuffled his boots over the tiles under the long table, folding his arms in front of him and resting his face in the cradle it formed, steadfastly ignoring the ache in his stomach where food would have been if he had eaten breakfast. 

                Jim had nearly drifted into an unexpected, cloying summer when a noisy explosion of resonating sound smacked the table directly against his ear, giving him good reason to snap up and tense his muscles in basic aggressive defense.  "What?" he snapped off, peevish, and rubbed a hand quickly over his face in waking ritual.  He opted to not say anything else, instead letting his smoldering glare deliver the gist of his current feelings for the rest of sentient life in the universe.

                "Excuse me, troll, didn't mean to ruin your life," an older voice snapped right back, in a droll tone that lilted in a snobbish manner and served to tighten the irritated kink between Jim's shoulders.  A tall third-year of the same species as Terre – derived straight from the Tujin genus – and featuring the same orange scales and forest green eyes, all but sneered at him, looking as though spitting on him might just be a waste of saliva.  "But, you know, then again, I'm the lieutenant-rank here," she continued, nearly nonexistent eyebrows tilting threateningly as her short red hair and red lips began to shift colors to a muted blue, "and you're the lowly troll-faced freshman, so no loss there."

                "Are you trying to make a point or something?" Jim said, biting the side of his tongue before he managed to say something he knew he would regret in terms of his mother inevitably finding out.  He failed resoundingly at his attempts to keep his tongue and mind under reasonable control.  "I sat here first," he continued, sky-colored eyes narrowing to wrinkle angrily, "and I'm not moving.  Why should I?"

                "Because," the upperclassman returned in a slowly cruel drawl, adopting a saccharine expression that belied her harsh tone, "I'm the rich junior and you're the poor newbie.  You aren't even sixteen, are you?"  She smiled condescendingly, the icy blue colors done in melting her hair and lip color to change, and motioned for several other girls, as well as the occasional man, from her same age group to claim the remaining spots on the two long benches.  "Now, if I haven't been too clear, little troll," her expression turned ugly, the fanned webbing around her sharp ears twitching in silent threat, "move."

                Jim grinned in a fashion that was just as ill-suited as her earlier sweet look.  "No," he answered in a light tone and leaning slightly over his elbow as he smiled confident challenge at the older students.  "I can't think of any reason why I should.  So shut up and go away."  His lips curved in such a way as to irritate most everyone he knew, the same sort of smile that had earned him many a pop on the back of his head and quite a few curse-spattered death threats from his peers back home.

                A murderous cloud passed over her marine features, a dark swelling that ominously forebode of the same kind of harsh promise of death, loss of blood, and pain, not necessarily in that order, and she snapped her crystal-webbed fingers in the time old tradition of a popular social clique boss.  "Sit down," she said coldly out of the corner of her mouth to what he assumed were her groupies, such as the case may be.  "And you, what makes you think you can get away with ordering me around?  Do you have any idea who exactly I am?"

                He leaned forward, asking in a mockingly breathless voice, "Why would I care?"

                "I am Ra'liton lu ma'Ri de Himu!" she snapped, the shades of her lips and hair darkening into a whipped frenzy of oceanic dark blue, a faint mist of green pervading through.  "I own this academy and you are going to move!"

                She, he realized as he rolled his lips in to keep from laughing in her face, was throwing a tantrum.  As it was, he ducked his head, still insistently shaggy brown locks falling in quiet sheaths to hide his closing eyes as he let one muffled snicker free, and he was quite unable to still his shoulders from quivering with the internalized amusement.  Promptly, he was shoved with an unknown strength in his shoulder, causing him to snap his eyes open and windmill somewhat, nearly toppling off the bench.  "Hey!" he cried, in childish response as he glared at her.

                "What?  Like I pushed you," she snorted, smirking as he straightened and jerked at his sleeves to straighten them out.  "But get the hint anyway, troll, and pick your sorry butt off this bench and go sit with the other poor trashlings."  She smiled a cool, icy look of sadistic meanness, the dark red quartz of her uniform suddenly looking nauseatingly hideous to him and somehow managing to taint his perception of the same lieutenant uniform Mister Arrow had sported.

                "Make – me," he gritted, wanting more than anything to be able to kill her with a glance.  Her jab at money had stung, though he had no idea where she could have guessed how hard life had been for the Hawkins family, and it only served to further cement his decision that he did not like her very much at all.  Himu's expression told him succinctly she wished looks could kill as much as he did, but for a slightly different reason.

                "Good midday, students," a light masculine voice interrupted as a well-dressed Weasel marched resolutely into the courtyard, lapels of his ruddy brown overcoat flapping in the mild wind.  He smiled in an absent, kindly fashion at them all, the bundle of his scarf simply hanging limply around his neck, and whipped off his overcoat and then the scarf, glancing congenially at the large slew of students spilled onto the grass and in the several gazebos closest to the space he had chosen as his makeshift desk.  "I'm Professor Holiban, Xats being first, and I'll be working with yall herein out.  Want to get started right off?"


Notes:  Danya Muldei is a double-purpose pun – it's actually derive from Dana (as in Dana Scully) and Mulder (as in Fox Mulder) from 'The X-Files.'  Though I do ship MSR (Mulder-Scully Romance), it's more of a jab at my best friend's (no longer existent) inability to say Mulder and Scully correctly: to Becky, for quite a few months, it was Moldy and Sculler.  It's all in good spirits, Beckna-girlie!  ;]

Arepocht was formed from two different god names: Ares, the Greek god of war (Mars in Roman mythos), and Huitzilopochti, the Aztec sun-god. 

Nine pages and I still haven't finished the first day of Jim's school life.  Urf.  0o;

Thanks go out to Tmyres77 (glad you liked the A/D stuff!  I had fun writing it), JuuChanStar (I haven't read your S/S fic yet, though I'm planning to ^^), and SolarSurfer (I know…*sheepish look*  I'm going to pull through and change the eye color stuff…I thought they were green for some reason   0o).  Very appreciated, all.

Palla.  (Reminding ya'll that feedback gives me wings!)