Notes: Ah yes, plot! Muhuahahaha!!! *rubs hands together gleefully* There will still be plenty of time for development, but we’re picking up a little speed now. All sorts of bits and pieces are going to start to come into play, and hopefully I’ll stitch them together into a cohesive tapestry. However it falls out though, we’re going to have funJ
Title: The Academy
Part Fourteen: Bill Me Later
The first meeting of Grennson’s club went about as Cody thought it would: there were basic introductions, a general feeling out of who would get along and who would make trouble (Ten, Ten, and Ten again, with a side helping of Xenia) and a tentative schedule for who would talk about what in the coming weeks. Once everyone was gone Grennson took Cody aside and apologized for bringing a psychic into their quad.
“I thought she would be interesting,” he said, his quills flattening down like they did when he was feeling abashed. “I forgot about everything else. I don’t think she’ll be a problem, but if you aren’t comfortable having Pamela in your presence, I’ll ask her not to attend next time.”
“I appreciate that,” Cody said, “but I’m sure it’s fine.”
“Because you’re a study in naiveté,” Ten called out from their room.
“Because she said she wouldn’t,” Cody continued loudly, “and you trust her. Plus, this gives me a reason to work on that mind-shielding thing. It’s something I’ve got to learn anyway, so I might as well get started now.”
“Why do you have to learn it?” Darrell asked.
Cody shrugged. “Part of covert ops. I have to be able to hide what’s really going on under duress.”
“Did it never occur to anyone that you are possibly the worst choice for hiding things ever? Because you are,” Ten proclaimed. “You’re naturally honest, whenever you tell a lie it looks like you’re coming down with a fever.”
“Which is why I have to learn to get over that,” Cody said, then turned back to Grennson. “Any help you can give me would be great, but I think I’m going to ask Kyle for help too. He’s apparently really good at shielding his thoughts.”
“Because he was taught to lie straight out of the womb.”
“Ten, for fuck’s sake,” Cody sighed. “Can you give him a break?”
“It’s not like I’m saying these things to the little princeling himself!”
“I thought the Federation was a democracy, not a monarchy,” Grennson said, his quills perking up a bit.
“Technically it is a democracy, although there are nations and sometimes entire planets that are ruled by monarchies,” Darrel said. “The groups with the most power tend to last, though. The Alexanders have been working in the upper echelons of the government for the last dozen generations or so. They pass control back and forth with a few other people, but it doesn’t really change.”
“We need a revolution,” Ten huffed as ze peered at the gene sequence ze was modifying. “The Federation is stale and repressive.”
“How is it repressive?” Grennson asked.
“How is it…look around you!” Ten said. “There are a limited number of archetypes than someone who wants to go places has to fit into. The Federation is supposed to be accepting of all races, creeds, orientations, physiognomies and species, but it isn’t! If you fall into a category that doesn’t have adequate representation in the Central System, you can kiss your support goodbye. Look at Cody and the rest of the naturals.”
“Pandora was built to be a safe haven for us, not an exile,” Cody argued.
Ten rolled hir eyes. “And there’s the naiveté. If the Federation really wanted to do something for naturals, they would work to integrate them into normal society, not dangle a prize in front of your faces that sends you to the Fringe where you won’t be in their faces. Naturalism is a difficult problem but people have been diagnosed with it ever seen Regen first came into mass use, and there is no reason that it should still be unsolved, except for the fact that there hasn’t been the push for it. Not enough representation, not enough special interest, not enough money. So they give you a backwater planet and tell you it’s the safest place for you instead, and then you’re out of sight and out of thought. Problem solved.”
“Ten is right,” Darrel said, surprising everyone. “I mean…not about everything, but about this? Yeah. The Legacy system is a symptom of it. You only get to be a Legacy if you come from the right kind of family. When my father’s station was destroyed, there were plenty of civilian researchers and workers on it in addition to the military personnel. The survivors with Federation-approved educations got tax breaks and grants to move them back to the Central System, while the people whose parents were miners or shippers were given a one-time reparations payment. I became a Legacy, but a lot of the kids I would have gone to school with didn’t get anything.”
“The Federation isn’t a democracy, it’s an oligarchy,” Ten added. “It always has been and it always will be. Think about it,” ze said as Cody opened his mouth to object. “Really think about it and then tell me differently.”
The thought bothered Cody. He’d been raised on a planet where the catchword was equality, despite one’s Regen status. On Paradise, he’d been treated the same. The idea that his treatment was the result of his grandfather’s influence instead of his own merit was…unsettling.
When Cody started thinking about things, he tended to think long and deep rather than make quick judgments. So he went to classes and he studied and he spent time with his quad mates, and he thought about what Ten and Darrel has said. And the more he thought, the more it seemed like they were right. Cody could still see a certain amount of reason with setting naturals apart on Pandora, but how much different could his life have been if he’d grown up in the Central System?
Garrett was another example. Garrett was the son of a retired general and former governor, he had a doctorate in a valuable field, he was handsome and intelligent and wonderful, but he’d had problems when he was Cody’s age. Problems that had gotten him locked away, issues that had branded him as unstable for the rest of his life, even after decades and decades on effective chemical stabilizers. Cody knew that his dads had thought about having other children, not because they didn’t love Cody beyond all reason but because they were still relatively young, they had a good life together and now that Cody was gone, they might have more time than they knew what to do with. But no reputable fertility clinic would help them procreate, and Cody knew that Jonah would never go back to an unlicensed facility, not after what had happened with Cody.
The event that cemented the growing discontent in Cody’s mind was his Current Politics and Policies lecture mid-week. The lecturer was a retired colonel and a sociologist, and Cody had enjoyed a lot of his lively lectures, but today he brought up a new policy that made, to Cody, no sense at all.
“One of the newest pieces of progressive legislation to come out of the Federation parliament is a tightening of major port controls on all Federation planets,” Colonel Friehoff said. “Smuggling is the largest economic problem our government faces, and giving the Federation system the authority to deny access to ships without current Federation and home-planet registration will give local governments another tool to fight the smuggling epidemic. Now—yes, Cadet Helms?”
“What about ships that don’t have a home-planet registration?” Cody asked.
Colonel Friehoff smiled the smile of tedious repetition. “Then they won’t get to land at Federation-controlled ports.”
“But that discounts the entire population of Drifters,” Cody said.
“Drifters are a big part of the problem,” Colonel Friehoff replied pointedly. “As a people, they’re naturally inclined toward larceny in order to make ends meet.”
“Drifters are considered an autonomous people, but they’re still Federation citizens,” Cody argued. “If they can be prosecuted by the Federation, they should also be protected by the Federation. That means they get Federation rights. Denying them access to all legal ports is just going to make their situation more difficult.”
“Drifters have exercised extreme levels of autonomy for nearly a millennium now, any semblance of credibility as to their status in the Federation has long since been eroded by their insistence upon nomadism.”
“You tax them,” Cody insisted. “You tax them and allow them nominal representation in the government.”
“Which they generally ignore.”
“Maybe because they’re ostracized no matter what they do. I’d be inclined toward larceny too if I couldn’t get proper medical care or education.”
“That sounds like a personal failing, Cadet Helms,” Colonel Friehoff said dryly, and some of the class laughed. “Drifters have the option of settling a planet of their own and have chosen not to do so, probably because they don’t have the will for the work that would entail.”
“Or maybe because the only planets they’re being offered are undeveloped Fringe leftovers that are mostly safe havens for pirates nowadays.”
“Plenty of Drifters have connection with the growing piracy problem on the Federation’s borders.”
“And plenty more are victims of piracy,” Cody snapped, remembering Jack’s face the last time he’d talked to his other biological father. One of Jack’s friends had lost her ship, and over a hundred members of her family, to a pirate attack. It was happening more and more often, but weaponry was such a heavily regulated commodity that it was almost impossible for Drifter ships to get modern upgrades.
“Integration has always been the goal with regards to those members of Federation society who insist on living outside the normal lifestyle,” Colonel Friehoff said firmly. “Perhaps the danger of Drifter living will convince them that it’s time to become productive members of society instead of social pariahs.”
“But they’re socially isolated in large part because of—”
“Cadet Helms, clearly you feel strongly about this issue. I suggest you turn it into a research paper for the end of the term. Now, however, we need to move on.” Colonel Friehoff started talking about Regen tariffs and left Cody silent and fuming in his chair.
Instead of meeting with Phil that evening, he begged off and went to the paraball field after class. As he sat down in the stands he caught Darrel’s eye, and waved him over.
“Hey,” Darrel said, absently twirling his stick as he ran over. “Everything okay?”
“Yeah, but could you let Kyle know I’d like to speak to him sometime tonight? Whenever he’s got time,” Cody amended. “I don’t want to interrupt your practice.”
“We’re just warming up. If it’s quick he could probably come over right now.”
“Thanks.” Darrel ran off and a few minutes later, Kyle jogged over to the stands.
Cody was slowly getting used to the way everything inside him seemed to wobble when he watched Kyle move. He was good looking in the same way Garrett was, so handsome you had to look twice just to check that you weren’t hallucinating something, and he ran so smoothly it was like his feet barely touched the ground. He was smiling when he approached the stands, and Cody swallowed hard.
“Hey,” Kyle said easily, hopping over the divider and coming to sit down. “I didn’t expect to see you again until Saturday. Are you looking to set up a time to race?”
“No—although yes, that would be great, really,” Cody babbled, then firmly reeled his tongue in. “But no, I’ve got a couple questions for you.”
“Well, the first one is…I’d like to learn the shielding. How to hide what I’m thinking? That.” So smooth. Not.
“I see.” Kyle’s expression became concerned. “Is there any particular reason you’re worried about that? Because if it’s because of Pamela or any other psychic, you can take your concerns to the counselors and they can intercede on your behalf.”
“Pamela’s been fine, I’ve only seen her the once,” Cody said. “I just really want to learn how to do it.”
“Uh-huh.” Kyle leaned back a little, looking a bit smug. “You know, you don’t have to manufacture reasons to spend time with me. I’ll fit you into my schedule no matter what.”
“I’m…” And here came the blush, like a crimson wave up his body. “That’s really nice, but I genuinely want to learn how to shield. It’s a personal issue, nothing bad, but it’s important to me.”
“Okay,” Kyle agreed. “We can do that. What’s the other question?”
Cody drew in a deep breath and marshaled his thoughts. “What do you know about FB-458-D9? It’s the bill on regulating ports in order to decrease smuggling.”
Kyle frowned slightly. “Not much. I don’t actually follow the government’s every move, despite my brother’s position.”
“But do you think you could get a copy of it?” Cody pressed. “I tried, but apparently you have to be a senior cadet and you have to have a specialty that directly related to government in order to get access to the complete bill, and you’ve got that.”
“I can look it up. Why are you interested?”
“Because one of my lecturers brought it up in class the other day, and he made it sound like a good thing, but to me it seemed really restrictive and discriminatory. I want to talk about it at the club next week.”
“Huh.” Kyle’s frown got deeper. “I can get a copy, but I won’t have much time to read it. Those bills tend to be very dense. Do you mind me offering you a suggestion?”
“Ask your grandfather about it,” Kyle encouraged. “He’s in a position to follow the parliament, and he’d probably be able to explain this way better than I could. Maybe you could even have him talk about it to the rest of us.” Kyle smiled brightly. “I’d love to meet him.”
That was actually a really good idea. Cody hadn’t talked to Miles in a few weeks, and this would be a great reason to get in touch. “I’ll do that. Thank you.”
“My pleasure.” Kyle stood up. “I’m swamped this week after classes. Can we wait until the weekend to start on the shielding?”
“And save some time for a race, okay? I’m going to win the next one, I swear.”
“You can try,” Cody teased, and Kyle laughed. The wobbly feeling increased.
“I’ll send the bill to you as soon as I get it, probably tomorrow. See you later, Cody.”
“Yeah, bye.” He watched Kyle jog away and exhaled slowly. Now as soon as Cody got his heart to stop racing, he’d be all set.