A/N: Just for the record, I picture the desks as being different than laptops. The desks used in Battle School, as I picture them, look much like my laptop table. They look like one of those MyPlace Mega Laptop Workstations, only instead of being a surface, the center has an area where it is a touch-screen, and a perfect one that is not too unresponsive, nor too sensitive. They are also that easy for storage, and durable.
Also with the Game Room. Some of these games may/may not exist. I just make up what the arcade looks like to me as I go along. I made mostly space-theme ones that would appeal to the Battle School kids.
Also I might mention that I make up the descriptions of OSC characters as I see them in my head. I don't know if Crazy Tom and a select few others are actually older than Ender, all I know is that they are to me. Well Crazy Tom mostly because he reminds me of a friend of mine from middle school.
"Well if it isn't the little Jiezhen! Gonna give us your homework so we can copy, Jiezhen! Ruòxiǎo Jiezhen! Gonna give us your lunch money?" the main bully, Rong An, sneered. His followers let out a flow of Chinese insults at Jiezhen. Jiezhen's most common nickname, Ruòxiǎo Jiezhen, meant Weak and small Jiezhen. Rong An and his friends spoke in the same accented English that Jiezhen spoke, though Jiezhen spoke English far more fluently.
Not that Jiezhen was really that weak or small. He was slightly shorter than what he considered average, at about five foot one, but he was still growing. Jiezhen was stronger than he looked too, but it was hard to show it when a crowd of boys were allowed to punch you in class and you couldn't do anything about it without the teacher seeing. Rong An was bigger than Jiezhen, but he was somewhat of a coward, Jiezhen learned. He and his crew only bothered Jiezhen when they were sure that a teacher was around to prevent Jiezhen from retaliating without getting in trouble.
Now their egos had grown, so Jiezhen was quite sure that they had the impression that beating Jiezhen after school would be some sort of proof that Jiezhen was bound to the will of servitude that they had fabricated. Jiezhen was tired of being bullied by them. It was time to strike back.
"So you really need four men backing you before you fight small and weak Jiezhen?" Jiezhen taunted, in Chinese. Rong's face flushed with anger and he ordered the other boys back.
"I can take you on my own, weakling." Rong said in perfect Chinese, staring Jiezhen down. Jiezhen made his move in an instant, a kick off the wall that launched a second kick right into Rong's face. Jiezhen grabbed Rong, lifted him and threw him down on the ground, hard. Rong hit the ground with a slam and gasped for air. His buddies moved towards Jiezhen but Jiezhen did a sweep kick and knocked Rong's friends off their feet. Jiezhen then stomped on Rong, even jumped on him once, kneeing Rong in the crotch but Rong just groaned.
"That's what happens when you mess with me." Jiezhen said, in his heavily accented English. Then Jiezhen picked up his school bag and walked away. He had walked a few blocks closer to the school when he heard the ambulance arriving in the area he had just left.
When he was leaving school that day, a man from the I.F. had arrived. Jiezhen Han was wanted to to go to Battle School. From that day forward, Jiezhen decided that it was time for him to get a new name. From this day forward, he would be called Jaiden.
Jaiden boarded the shuttle that would soon lead him to Battle School. There were many other boys in the shuttle already and the rest filed in behind him. He chose a seat in between an older blond boy and a Chinese one about his age. The other Chinese boy was in the aisle seat; the window seat was taken by a small, very young Korean boy.
"Lo, what's your name?" the Chinese boy said in a slight drawl and a thick accent like Jaiden's.
"Jaiden Han. What's yours?" Jaiden asked.
"Wei-Minh Liu." the Chinese boy replied.
"Tom Avery." the blond said, with a nod. "And the little one is Sung Kim Seoul." he added.
"Nice to meet you Tom, Wei-Minh and Sung Kim." Jaiden replied. The former two returned the comment with a "Likewise" but the latter remained quiet.
"I'm from China." Jaiden explaied. "Beijing, to be exact."
"Tianjin." Wei-Minh said with a slight nod.
"I'm from the United Kingdom." Tom said, lacking an accent. "But I have no accent because I was raised by my uncle from the United States until I was four."
"From Seoul. Like my surname." Sung Kim said quietly.
The shuttle took off just then. Jaiden felt disoriented for just a moment, then he felt thrill rush through him. When closer examining the situation, he found that it was simply because he had grown to like the disorienting situation. He began to feel the null-g kick soon enough once they had left Earth.
Commander Albreich smiled at them. He was upside down now, but Jaiden noticed that Sung Kim was the only one truly amused by this. The little boy laughed.
"What is so amusing, Sung Kim?" Commander Albreich asked. The little boy looked up.
"You are upside down, which makes me think of how odd gravity is. You see, only one side of the Earth is always what we call right side up, so there is a side of the Earth that is upside down too. Only we are all upside down or sideways without even noticing." he said. None of the other kids laughed at the reasoning, though Jaiden stopped to consider the thoughtful logic before he smirked. Commander Albreich must have wanted this to happen.
"I can see that other than Sung Kim, none of you are intelligent enough to process this fact. Sung Kim Seoul here is the one who received the highest possible score on the exam, an exam which some of you barely made the mark on." Commander Albreich said. Jaiden could feel resentment from the boys, directed at Sung Kim. Sung Kim seemed to not care.
When Commander Albreich left for a moment, one boy unbuckled his belt. He drifted behind Sung Kim, then grabbed the small boy by the head. He grinned and was about to say something stupid, but Jaiden watched in shock at what happened next.
The small boy's tiny fist flew back and hit the older boy square in the face, right in the nose. Blood streamed out and floated in the air due to the lack of gravity. Next, Sung Kim grabbed the boy's arm with a sharp twist. Jaiden heard the snap and immediately assumed that an arm had most definitely been broken. Then, Sung Kim hurled the boy over the seat as far as he could. The boy's leg hit the seat at an odd angle. Another snap and a sure broken leg too. Sung Kim, mad as hell and swearing in Korean under his breath, slouched in his seat and looked out the window.
Commander Albreich came in, pleased. He grabbed the boy and examined.
"Broken nose, broken arm, broken leg...you're lucky Sung Kim has more manners than to finish you on the spot. Looks like someone made a bad choice. Oh well, little Launchy. It seems you are iced before you even get to Battle School." Commander Albreich said. The other kids stared with a mix of fear and shock. Well almost all of them. A boy from the seat in front of Jaiden turned and grinned.
"Hey nice job! You really showed him up, didn'tcha?" the boy said. Sung Kim looked up, puzzled but no longer upset. The boy had kind of dark skin and dark hair. More athletic than Jaiden in fact, with his muscles. A rather tall blond boy sat beside him.
"Dang! That little kid took care of him." the tall one commented.
"Who are you?" Jaiden asked.
"Ike Savage. And Cooper Barnes. And there's a tall black guy sitting next to me on the other side, but he's asleep. His name's Damon King." the slightly muscular one said. He reached from over the chair and shook Jaiden's hand. Though seated, Jaiden put his hands together and bowed respectfully.
"Who's the little guy?" Ike asked.
"That's Sung Kim Seoul, Korean prodigy at age five. And I'm Tom Avery, from the United Kingdom." Tom said.
The trip was long, but soon Damon woke up and Jaiden saw the look on his face when he heard of what Sung Kim had done, but he grinned. "Tough little guy." he'd called Sung Kim and Jaiden saw the small boy look more proud than anyone aboard the shuttle had ever seen him, though he wasn't too open about it.
They soon arrived at the school and were taken to the barracks. Jaiden sighed. He had been last in line, and the only space left was the low bunk by the door. Jaiden found a piece of paper taped to the inside door. It read:
PLACE YOUR HAND ON THE SCANNER
AT THE HEAD OF YOUR BUNK
AND SPEAK YOUR NAME TWICE.
Jaiden then noticed a sheet of opaque plastic. It must be the scanner. He took his left hand, pressing it firmly to the scanner.
"Jiezhen Han. Jiezhen Han."
He spoke in a quiet voice...enough for the scanner but not enough for anyone to clearly hear him. To them, it sounded as if he had said Jaiden instead of Jiezhen. The scanner glowed green.
Jaiden pressed his left hand back to the scanner and the locker and three compartments popped open. One compartment contained four jumpsuits identical to the one he wore now. The second compartment held a desk. Jaiden, to best describe a desk had compared it to a small desk-like surface that fit perfectly on his lap. Yet it was like a computer all the same. Interesting, he thought. Desks are always interesting. Jaiden could not wait to give his desk a try later on.
The largest compartment and also the final one had the most interesting thing in it. It looked like a spacesuit and it came with a helmet and gloves. But it was missing all of the airtight equipment. It was padded thickly and a bit stiff, but looked comfortable enough. And he noticed what looked like a gun, like some sort of pistol. Like a pistol laser gun. The end was glass. It couldn't be a real weapon...not at school.
"Those guns in your compartment...not laser guns, kiddies." Commander Albreich said, but everyone else had not yet opened their lockers. "The beam is well focused, tight. You can make a three inch circle of light on a wall a hundred meters off. But that's just what I was told to tell you. Heh, but since you can't even open your lockers, it seems I can't tell you what the gun's for. Except for Jaiden Han and Sung Kim Seoul." Commander Albreich said, smirking. "Looks like you guys gave Han the chief officer's bed. Looks like Han is chief officer, neh?"
They all gaped.
"Ha, you all look like a bunch of fish out of water. Dinner will be ready in ten. Yes, ten minutes. Glub glub, little fishies. The lighted dots on the floor will lead you wherever you're supposed to be. Just look for your colors. Blue, yellow, blue." Commander Albreich said. "The dots in that pattern lead you to your location. If you get lost, tell 'em your in Albreich's bunch. Don't murder someone or get in any bad fights, because we'll ice you out then. And just for some of you that don't know already, whe you're iced, you're out. It means we'll send you back Earthside and just chuck you out of Battle School. Got it?" he said.
The bewildered kids around him merely nodded.
Everyone followed the blue, yellow, blue path down to the lunchroom. But not without being noticed in the halls. The older kids stopped to jeer at them.
"Launchies!" "Shrimps!" "Fresh meat!" "I see little mice scurrying through the halls!" As they passed a hall where apparently a Cat Army was, they heard an additional yell of "Don't play with the cats, little mice!"
Jaiden kept his mouth shut and kept walking. It was all meaningless banter and they were just asserting their dominance over the new kids. There was no serious damage being dealt to him, so no harm done in a little insulting. Insulting them back would only further entertain these older kids, so Jaiden kept his mind off them.
When they finally reached the lunchroom, Jaiden obtained his food...and a fair portion of it too. Some kids complained about their food sizes and they had given Sung Kim one hell of a lot of food. Sung Kim walked over to some kid and dumped the rest of his food on their tray. Once out of the lunchroom Albreich showed them to the gym and he and the trainer explained things to them.
They returned to the barracks for a nap. Some of the kids grumbled and complained, saying that it made them feel like preschoolers. Jaiden found their complaints outlandish. A nap was always had its benefits, and once they began training they'd be begging for their nap. Some of the complainers nodded off early though because of how exhausted the journey from Earth had left them. Jaiden and Ike had bunks right beside each other, but Damon had the bottom bunk beside Jaiden. Sung-Kim was above Jaiden and Ike was above Damon. And very near them was Tom on bottom bunk and Wei-Minh on top. Cooper had gone off to the back of the room more, sharing a bunk with a boy he had met earlier in the lunchroom, also a Launchy.
Jaiden soon nodded off and he was the last of his friends to do so because he had taken a nap on the shuttle so he was not as tired. He fell into a light sleep, enough to wake easily should Albreich return for them. Damon was sleeping like he had been awake for two days straight and Ike must have been pretty tired too. But Jaiden noticed that no deep, even breathing came from Sung Kim. So he was laying there, awake but pretending to sleep. Then again, Sung Kim had slept on the shuttle for about an hour more than Jaiden had.
Soon Jaiden awoke, just before Albreich entered. Albreich had an airhorn. The instant that the noise had been emitted, several boys jumped or flinched, a few even fell out of their beds. A Spanish boy named Bonzo complained loudly; he had fallen from one of the top bunks. Albreich merely smirked and told them to get out their desks. They were next instructed to type their name and password. Jaiden quickly punched in his choices, his desk tilted at such an angle so no one could see. Name? Jaiden. Password? Rong. He was able to pick up some other passwords but decided against using them for now. Some were related to home. Mattias Hansen was Danish, and his password was "Copenhagen", and Spanish Bonzo Madrid's password was "Cartagena". Some used a password based on interest. Wei-Minh punched in "Karate" as his password, and Damon's was "Football". Yet some were more interesting. Sung Kim put in a foreign word as his password, though romanized, of course. Jaiden guessed it was Korean.
They were then told to protect our desks, and Jaiden had made a point to protect his. Albreich also told them about a fantasy game on the desks, which they were allowed to play permitting they had the time. Albreich then led the boys on a tour.
They were taken to a game room and there was a four-sided simulator game there, with four tiny ships. A squadron, and Jaiden became instantly attracted to the game, where the objective seemed to be to destroy the fleets of the other four players or to wipe out each other fleet's slow mothership...a simple objective, really. He had loved playing games, but there was not many at home to play. There had been an arcade back home, an arcade in which there were several different games he had played on rare occasions that he had been let out earlier than Rong's gang. He had experimented. But those games required small shining tokens. These games had no token slot...all of them were free. Jaiden decided that a school with an arcade was where he needed to be.
Albreich let them run loose through the empty game room, where they all were allowed to experiment the games at hand. Jaiden looked around at other games. There was a whole row of sit-down games that came complete with one of those lowering game helmets. Jaiden recognized the insignia on the machine, as it was akin to the small insignia he had seen on his desk. It was a more realistic and higher quality experience, but still the same fantasy game.
There was a row of what looked like Earth's race-car games, in which the player sits down and has a steering wheel, brakes and shift stick, however this was a different kind. Each seat and each machine had custom colors which corresponded with the racing vehicle in-game and there was a huge line of them...about ten in total. He looked at the colors and names of the ten machines. The black and yellow one against the wall was The Charger, the next machine was blue and white and called The Dolphin, the blue and yellow one was The Bruin, the red and black one was The Black Widow, the black and blue one was The Shark. The next five, he then looked at. There was a black and purple one called The Panther, a green and yellow one next to it was named The Mantis, a green and black one nearby was The Scorpion, the orange and black one was The Tiger, and the last machine was a red and white one dubbed The Lion. The game was called "Z-Grav Racer 4".
There was a whole other set of games as well. There was one game called Bugger Ball Bumble, in which the only control the player had was of the stick of a net, where they tried to catch as many of the leaping balls with Bugger faces on them as possible. There were some normal machines there, such as the traditional Pac-Man machine, a ski-ball machine, a basketball machine. There were four double-shooter machines, but rather than shoot zombies, the objective was to shoot Buggers. "BUGGER HUNTERS" the letters proclaimed above the double shooters. There was one machine there that was a normal Jurassic Park shooter though, but most of the other machines involved spaceship fights or in some way they were Bugger referenced. Cooper had run off to play Bugger Hunters with his new friend, a Muslim boy named Alim.
Jaiden wanted to give the four-sided spaceship game a go, but there was too big a line right now as all the kids here were in a game frenzy. Instead, he opted to join Damon and Ike in the trial of the Z-Grav Racer 4 game. Jaiden looked down the row of them starting from the corner all the way down: Charger, Dolphin, Bruin, Black Widow, Shark, Panther, Mantis, Scorpion, Tiger, Lion.
Damon stepped over to #3, which was The Bruin. He then claimed the blue and yellow vehicle for the game. Ike had different interests. He was staring at #4, The Black Widow, which was decked out in black and red. Jaiden was more interested in #5 than any of them. First off, #5 was practically in the middle so it was ideal positioning. Secondly, #5 was The Shark and it was really cool all black and blue like so to Jaiden, so that was why he chose it. Damon sat in The Bruin, Ike took The Black Widow and Jaiden claimed The Shark, which would become his permanent vehicle of choice for all of the games of Z-Grav Racer that he would ever play.
The game started up. "Welcome Jaiden." the machine proclaimed. "Please take the racing gear provided."
Jaiden looked under his seat, where there was a slide out drawer that had a set of gloves and a helmet in his vehicle's colors...black and blue. Jaiden watched as Ike and Damon opened their drawers. Jaiden first pulled the black and blue gloves on, then putting on the corresponding helmet. He looked over and gave the thumbs up to Damon and Ike. Damon was in his own blue and yellow gloves and helmet and Ike was in the black and red. Both grinned.
Just then a boy took the seat of #6, on the other side of Jaiden. #6 was The Panther, a black and purple vehicle. The boy had brown hair and blue eyes and a smirk on his face. Jaiden soon noticed that he could hear Ike and Damon talking via a headset in the helmet.
"Nice to race with you boys. The name's Ben Ostrum." the boy in The Panther said with a grin. They introduced themselves politely. And by that time Wei Minh had joined, taking the wheel of #1, the black and yellow vehicle known as The Charger and Tom too joined, taking #2, The Dolphin in all its blue and white glory. Ben waved over some of his friends. Ben's best friend, Andrew Ngo, took #7, the green and yellow racer called The Mantis. A somewhat cocky boy named Leo Vargas joined them in #8, which was green and black and called The Scorpion. A skilled boy named Michael Kristof joined their game, taking #9 which was an orange and black vehicle called The Tiger. And finally Sung Kim Seoul joined them in the red and white vehicle at the end of the line, known as #10, The Lion.
All boys put their equipment on and Jaiden found that five was a lucky number when playing this game. Though all ten screens showed the gaming options, it was #5 The Shark, that got to pick.
The name Z-Grav Racer was a common misconception. The game not only had average car racing, but it also had spaceship racing and it involved racing slim, sleek racing spacecrafts that raced on strange planets, some made up and some like real planets. It was better than the Earth racing games! It gave more options, more time...and since it was free, more rounds. The game not only did racing though; if you picked ZX Star Commander from the list then you got to lead your ship into battle against the Buggers and of course, #5 The Shark was the default commander in-game, unless the driver of #5 modified game options to elect a different driver as the commander for the game.
The game already marveled the boys, who didn't know what to do. Finally they agreed upon racing through an asteroid belt and they began their race, grins on their faces. Fortunately for these boys, the Z-Grav Racer game was one of the lesser used ones so there was always playing vacancies. Most kids were busy with the four-sided spaceship game, if not for a good round of Bugger Hunters.
The graphics though, were spectacular. Ben, who had played (and won) many a good arcade racing game back home, insisted that this was truly state of the art graphics and he claimed it had to look like what a real asteroid belt race would look like. The helmets brought everything to life for them and the best part was that the way the machine was built, everything was so real that they forgot they were at Battle School for the moment and thought they were really in a race. Much to everyone's surprise, it was Andrew Ngo that had won the race, followed closely by Ben Ostrum. Jaiden felt pleased at coming in third place though.
"Pick Star Commander next." Ike suggested, and before long they were all agreeing it was the option they wished to try next. From within the menu of Star Commander were several wars, most of them fictional but some were real, such as the First Invasion. They chose to play through the First Invasion sequence. Their screens grew dark for a moment, and each saw something different.
Jaiden felt as if he were really in his ship, at the wheel of The Shark, which was the leader of his army. He saw the other nine ships, congregated around where his was.
"Time to hunt us some Buggers." Ben said, grinning.
Jaiden split their ships into patrol groups to protect Earth from the approaching Buggers. He partnered every two ships up. After a highly increasing battle, they finally beat the level and celebrated greatly and anticipated the scores. Astoundingly when it came to defense, Michael Kristof in The Tiger came in the lead, followed by Leo Vargas in The Scorpion and Sung Kim Seoul in The Lion came in third. When it came to accuracy it was Ike Savage in The Black Widow and Ben Ostrum in The Panther, tailed only by the scores of Jaiden himself in The Shark. And yet, when it came to most damage done to the enemy, Damon King in The Bruin did the most damage, followed by Andrew Ngo in The Mantis and Wei-Minh Han in The Charger. Though when it came to overall stats, it was Tom Avery in The Dolphin that had won. So when it was determined that they were allowed to play another match, Tom got his turn being commander to reward his performance from the previous match. This time when he did extremely well, Ike responded by calling him "Crazy Tom" in a joking manner.
They left it at that, and before they were fully aware of it, the boys had formed a friendship through serving in the fictional wars they had fought together only moments ago. So when they were later called to the mess hall to eat dinner, they ate together. Cooper spent more time with Alim, as the two had so much fun hunting Buggers together. If only they knew, Jaiden thought, recalling the epic and suspenseful battle they had against the Buggers only an hour ago, led by Tom.
They had a free day tomorrow, as they were Launchies, so Jaiden had already planned a schedule with the others after they worked out in the gym for a sufficient amount of time that morning.
The boys walked in their careful group together, back to the barracks. They all had a free hour to use their desks, but Jaiden did not feel like starting on the fantasy game. He idly played with the keys for a moment before he began to draw a picture via his desk of the war they played out earlier. He captured the right moments too, the blue and white of The Dolphin as it came in to help out the The Mantis in the midst of a stellar shootout. The black and blue of his own prize vehicle, The Shark as it aided The Black Widow and The Bruin in a frontal attack against the Bugger fleet. The Panther as it tore past the cosmos, seeking out its hidden Bugger enemies, aided in its search by the orange streak of The Tiger and The Lion. And a last ditch moon defense, spurred on by The Scorpion and The Charger. He went through the FlipBook images he just created and was proud of himself because they turned out so well. He showed them to Ike and Damon, who were just as amused but he did not show Sung Kim, who seemed to be thinking deeply. It helped him and the other boys fall asleep quicker, having new friends and new things to look forward to. Jaiden thought of Rong An for a moment...without the bully this would not be possible. But his last thought of the day was that of his newfound friends before he drifted into sleep.