A/N: Gosh it's been forever since I updated... The competition still isn't over yet so I only wrote this out for stress relief, it's likely that the next time I get to write won't be till weeks later. Schoolwork... grumbles Oh well, R&R please, thanx!


Chapter 7

Give it back? Give what back? Jim thought bewildered, his mind going into overdrive. He looked over the three words again and again, trying to figure out who it might be from, what they wanted, and most importantly how they had managed to slip his schedule out of and back into his pocket without him ever realizing. He looked over at Jeff and Jade, both looking equally mystified by the appearance of the message. They didn't have time to think about this further though, as the bell rang, indicating the beginning of lunch.

Jim didn't bring the paper out during lunch, not wanting Drake to have the satisfaction of getting to him, if he was indeed the author of the note. Having absolutely nothing to go on, the trio's conversation soon turned to other topics, speculating what their teachers of other subjects would be like. By the end of lunch, the grenade incident was a thing of the past, and the icebreaker session proceeded without slip-ups.

The 16-year-olds were initially appalled by the idea of playing such childish games of 'tag' and 'whacko' for the icebreakers, no one making a move to start the activity, but were soon eased into the momentum by their senior student councilors who got the ball rolling. It was amazing how such a simple, innocent game brought the cohort of 60 students from vastly different backgrounds together, and by the end of the hour, they were glowing with energy, radiating youthful enthusiasm and mostly on good terms with their fellow year-mates. Jim was in one corner, smiling contentedly at the students milling around, the events of the day pushed to the back of his mind as he took in the pleasant scene, wondering how anyone could have the heart to attack such a well-meaning group of teenagers, much less have an enemy amongst them.

These thoughts were momentarily interrupted as Jade approached him, excitedly gesturing towards a group of students from Castor whom she had evidently gotten along splendidly with (meaning they were pretty much on the same intellectual wavelength as her). She looked so much more lively and carefree than she had been previously, that Jim couldn't help butgrin back. They were once again joined by the exuberant Jeff who was raving lyrical about their seniors' solar surfing exploits, and the prospect of joining a planetary solar surfing team. Coming from Montressor, Jim had never heard of such teams and was instantly alight with interest.

The cadets were finally herded toward Wing A for their tour, the final item for the day. The main attraction? The Library. And it was quite a sight to behold. The library was an immense chamber, with row upon row of holobooks, textchips, Liquid Crystal Records, visual databases – anything, you name it. It held an archive of resources for the galaxy that dated back to nearly a millennium ago, and hoverbots patrolled the aisles to assist any student in his or her queries. Lining the main aisle were busts of all of the Academy's most noted captains and admirals, and at the far end of the library were two rooms used in object analysis and handling of suspicious artifacts.

This was clearly the resource center of not just the school, but the entire Knowledge Hub District, with beings bustling in and out from countless different entrances around the chamber, some of which, Jim suspected, were portals. The cadets were given some free time to roam around, so Jim let Morph out of his pocket for some fresh air. To his great surprise, the shape-shifter zipped off purposefully toward an area they had not yet come across, stopping before a seemingly empty part of the library.

"What is it Morph?"

Morph pointed to the center of the floor excitedly, transforming into a miniature Treasure Planet. Sure enough, Jim could just barely make out the familiar markings of connected circles which had been etched onto the map of Treasure Planet. The markings were very faded, worn away by generations of shuffling feet, such that only parts of circles and lines were still visible. Testing the circles by stamping on them, Jim concluded that they weren't buttons or anything that could be activated – they were simply remnants of an old carving, long forgotten by the occupants of the Academy. He puzzled over this odd coincidence, realizing that the threat and the assassination attempt might have had something to do with this. Hailing a hoverbot for information came to naught, as their databases only contained entries for the past two or three centuries.

Jim stared intently at the floor for a few minutes, brow furrowed, attempting to memorize the pattern and location of the carvings, before going off to find his two friends, hoping either of them would have some theory on what the Treasure Planet map would be doing in the middle of the galaxy's most active hub districts. It was only after he found them that he remembered that Jade still had no idea about Treasure Planet or his year-long voyage to Flint's trove. Fortunately for him, Jade was the bookworm.

"Of course! It's just like a legend we have back home called 'Treasure Island', where the loot and riches of thousands lay buried under the sand of a deserted island. If I draw the analogy back to Earth, how would I explain a map of it appearing in say, the Natural History Museum in London? Of course this one must be much older and the legacy of Flint could have been much longer than anyone suspected…" she trailed off, apparently deep in thought, while Jim and Jeff looked on, neither having the foggiest idea where she was heading. Without warning, she sprinted off to the archive section, waving her hand indicating that they shouldn't wait for her. She still hadn't returned when the first years were dismissed for the day, so Jim and Jeff left for their dormitory, where they settled into armchairs and waited for her to return.

Jade wasn't in the cafeteria either when they went down for dinner an hour later, so they snuck some food back to the dormitory and tossed about their own theories on the map, since the first years hadn't been given any homework to do yet.

"You know, my older brother captains an expedition ship, those kinds that go on scientific exploration more than serve naval purposes. He might have seen some cases of this weird stuff, can't hurt to check." So the two boys set to work crafting a transmission to Jeff's older brother, adding as much detail as they could remember. Jade returned soon after, looking like she'd found something but wasn't quite ready to reveal what this was until she was absolutely sure.

The trio spent the rest of the night regaling in laughter as Jim recounted in more detail his trip to Treasure Planet, with Morph providing the visual aid and comic relief. It was still early when they retired to their rooms, but decided that it was best to be fresh and alert for whatever tomorrow would bring. Jim heard Jeff slip into a restful slumber almost instantly, but as the nightlights were turned off, Jim was once again left alone with his thoughts, and as he stared at the ceiling, slightly illuminated by the reflected light of surrounding satellites, he fell into an uneasy sleep, his dreams dotted with the disturbing events of the last two days.