Notes: Aaand goodbye fluff, hello plot. Okay, well, so there’s still some fluff in here, but we’re also kicking off the major plot arc, so that’s fun! I’ll probably write a Garrett/Jonah vignette later in the week, because I love them, so stay tuned.
Title: The Academy
Part Eighteen: Better Safe Than Dead
Cody woke up with reluctance, rolling away from the gentle hand on his shoulder. “Ten, stop’t,” he muttered.
“Not Ten, darling,” an amused voice said.
“Garrett?” Cody blinked his eyes open and looked up at his parent, then around the room. Oh, right—he’d opted to sleep on board their ship last night. Ten, being the only sober one out of the group, had had the unenviable task of herding Grennson and Darrell back to their quad, which ze’d complained about—loudly—while Cody had settled into his old bed with a sigh of satisfaction.
It was still so early, though, and there were no classes today. “Why’m I awake?” Cody moaned, turning his face back into his pillow.
“Your dad and I have to leave soon, Cody. He’s off dealing with the bay officer getting our clearance now, and you and I need to talk.”
That sounded serious. Cody forced his eyes open and sat up. “What’s wrong?” he asked, a little taken aback by how different Garrett looked this morning compared to last night, when he’d been so warm and charming.
“Probably nothing,” Garrett said, “but I have to make sure. Cody, do you remember the civil war on Paradise?”
“A little of it,” he said, frowning as he tried to remember. “You left Pandora for a long time after Miles was attacked.”
“Right,” Garrett nodded. “There are a lot of ways to resolve political disputes, Cody. The most civilized ways involve compromise and diplomacy, but a lot of people who rise to power are uncivil. The assassination attempt against Miles was one group’s bid to get their way through force. A lot of Central System elitists say that sort of thing only happens on the Fringe, but I’m here to tell you that that’s simply not true. Central dissidents are just more subtle about how they do their damage.”
Cody felt a shiver travel down his spine. “Are you saying you and dad could be in danger from…what, assassins?” he hissed incredulously. “Garrett!” His father was already shaking his head, though.
“The danger exists, but we’re going to be very well protected once we get to Liberty,” he said. “Honestly, I was more worried while we were travelling, but we’re nearly there now. My father has long experience with this sort of thing, and he’s not taking any chances with Claudia or the girls. Your dad and I will be with them, and we’ll be fine. The person I’m more worried about is you.”
“But I’m not even involved,” Cody protested. “I’m just a cadet, I don’t make any decisions.”
“But you matter to the people who are deep in the fight,” Garrett explained. “Miles is very persuasive, and once I’m with him and his mother is shamed enough to throw her weight behind us, we’ll be formidable. There are a lot of people who agree with us in the Federation parliament, but without a leader it’s easy for their views to be overshadowed by the people with the loudest voices and the closest supporters. Fringe planets have been ignored for a long time, but the piracy issue is a starting point for a whole referendum of change that Miles is trying to push through. This is making a lot of people very uncomfortable, and some of them would be more than happy to distract Miles from his goal by hurting the people he cares about.”
The shiver turned into a chill and settled into Cody’s bones. “Are you saying I’m in danger? Here?” The Academy was supposed to be a safe place for all cadets.
“It’s a possibility,” Garrett said unhappily. “That’s part of what I talked to Admiral Liang about yesterday. He assured me he’s got measures in place to keep you and others who might be at risk safe, but your dad and I don’t want to rely on that.” Garrett held out three small silver discs, identical to the buttons on the front of the cadet uniform.
“What are they?” Cody asked. Most buttons were just for show these days, since fabrics could be made self-sealing. These had to be something else.
“Wyl made them. They’re single-shot, five second inertial dampeners. They project a force field around you and will slow, and in some cases, completely repulse an object that gets within two feet of you. They’re single-shot because Wyl couldn’t fit a bigger battery into something that had to look like a part of your uniform, but they’re powerful.” Garrett poured them into Cody’s hand and closed his fingers over them. “Just in case. Only use one at a time, Wyl didn’t have time to test how the fields would interact with each other. You’ll have to hit them pretty hard to activate them, but be careful anyway.”
“Okay.” Cody looked at Garrett, so solemn and serious. “I’ll be very careful,” he promised. “You don’t have to worry about me.”
“Spoken like someone who doesn’t have a kid,” Garrett said, but he chuckled, and the atmosphere lightened a bit. “Worrying about you is our right, we’re your family.”
“I think you should be more worried about yourself,” Cody said, and now it was his turn to be serious. “Miles might be good at this, but he wasn’t good enough to save himself back on Paradise. He almost died. And now he’s going to be so busy, and you’re all going to be there with him. What if someone tries something on Renee or Yvaine?” Just the thought made Cody’s heart lurch.
“They’re going to be staying in my grandmother’s home,” Garrett said. “They’ll be lucky if she lets her little princesses out of the tower at all. They’ll be safe, though. My grandmother is a lot of things, but she knows how to secure a position.”
“Oh good.” Cody breathed a sigh of relief. “Will you be staying with her too?”
Garrett laughed sharply. “No, not even close. I’m made other arrangements for me and Jonah. We’ll be fine.”
“She’s kind of a bitch, isn’t she?”
“You’ve no idea,” Garrett agreed. “But she’s got her good points, and Miles isn’t above using her if it means his little girls are safe. Don’t be affronted for my sake.”
“I’m not,” Cody said easily. “Just wondering how many incredible presents I missed out on by not being perfect enough for her.”
“Perfect is overrated,” Garrett replied, but he was smiling now, so Cody counted that as a win. “And I think I hear your dad returning. Get dressed and we’ll have breakfast.” He left Cody’s room and Cody stared down at the buttons in his hand, vacillating between touched and scared. It seemed impossible that someone could be interested in hurting him, of all people. He was still a kid, for all that he’d insisted on being treated like an adult before coming to the Academy.
Cody put the buttons into the pocket of his uniform pants, sealed it closed, and headed for the bathroom. Ideally this would all come to nothing, but that didn’t mean he wouldn’t wear the inertial dampeners. Cody was hopeful, not stupid.
A few minutes later he joined his parents in the ship’s mess, where Garrett was just serving up waffles. They were made just the way he liked, soft and airy and smelling like cinnamon, and Cody shoved down the part of himself that clamored with homesickness and sat down to eat.
“Are you even botherin’ to chew?” his dad asked after a minute.
“Chew. Swallow. Then speak.” Jonah swatted the back of his head lightly. “You’d think we never taught you any manners.”
“These are the best thing ever,” Cody said, not at all apologetic. “If you didn’t get them all the time, you’d realize that.”
“You think Garrett makes these for me when you’re not around?”
“I would if you asked,” Garrett said, pouring cream over his own waffle. “Which you don’t. Your dad is usually too busy in the mornings to wait around for breakfast.”
“Someone’s got to get to work on time,” Jonah pointed out, and Garrett snickered. “But I guess I have missed them.”
“I knew this vacation would be good for you,” Garrett said smugly. “Four standard months of rest and relaxation, and now waffles with our son. Perfect.”
“It’s been a good break,” Jonah agreed, then he frowned. “I’m not happy about staying away from home for so long, though.”
“I said you could go back—”
“I said there was no way in hell I was gonna go without you—”
“I told you it was no problem, I’ve done this sort of thing a dozen times and you’re just going to be bored, but you insisted—”
“If you think I’m gonna go back to Pandora without any of my family, you’re crazy,” Jonah said decisively. “That’s never gonna happen, darlin’. Doesn’t matter if I’m next to useless out here, there’s no way I could leave you.”
“You’re not useless,” Garrett said, and his face was getting that mushy expression that Cody knew meant blatant affection was coming. Which, okay, he was glad his parents were still in love, but did he have to see all of that?
“When do you have to leave?” he asked, interrupting the eye-sex his folks were in the middle of.
“Soon,” Jonah said with a sigh. “Real soon, actually. Eat up, bucko.”
Cody cleaned his plate, had one more waffle even though he was stuffed, and a few minutes later stood on the landing platform and hugged his parents hard.
“Garrett talked to you this morning?” his dad asked quietly.
“Yeah,” Cody said around the lump in his throat. “I’ll be careful. You too, don’t do anything stupid just because you’re bored.”
“Think you’ve got me confused with someone else,” Jonah scoffed, then he ruffled Cody’s curls and stepped back.
“I’ve got something for Ten,” Garrett said, handing Cody a small, cloth-wrapped package before pulling him into an embrace. “Give it to hir for me, please?”
“Sure,” Cody said. “What is it?”
“It’s primarily decorative,” Garrett explained. “Something for hir hair. There are a few little surprises built in, but mostly it just looks nice. I had some made for me once I realized we were going to be subjected to the battlefield that is parliament, but I can spare one for Ten.” Garrett smiled coyly. “Ze’s nice, isn’t ze?”
“Well no, not exactly, but hir heart’s in the right place. And ze’s brilliant, so that counts for something.” Garrett kissed Cody’s forehead. “You’ve got good friends. Hold onto them.”
“I will.” A few more goodbyes and then his parents boarded their ship, and Cody stepped away from the landing pad and watched them take off a few minutes later. His eyes stung from the rush of wind, but he couldn’t look away. He didn’t even blink until they vanished into the sky.
Admiral Liang, after his meeting with Garrett Caractacus-Helms the previous day, had spent the entire night watching holofeeds from all over the Central System, but primarily from Liberty. Good tactics, he’d learned at an early age, were largely a matter of good intel, and he insisted on making himself as well-informed as he could possibly be, shackled as he was by his current position. Not that he’d willingly give it up, but there were times when he missed the freedom and maneuverability of a single command in space.
The holofeeds, coupled with reports he wasn’t allowed to let his Chief of Staff know about, were worrying. Things were moving at a faster pace than initial indicators had led him to believe, and if he wasn’t careful he’d be in danger of losing control of the local situation. Sigurd knew better than to underestimate the importance of the Academy in the grand scheme of the Federation’s military dominance, and so did others that he simply couldn’t ignore. If trouble came to him or his cadets, he needed to be ready for it.
And trouble, it seemed, was already here.
“Hermes, initiate Mercury protocol.”
“Initiated. What may I do for you, Admiral?”
“Mercury, I need you to securely contact Fledgling. Say that we’re moving to Phase Two.”
“Phase Two was not scheduled to begin for another seven-point-nine standard months, Admiral.”
“Apparently politics waits for no one,” Sigurd replied. “I need Fledgling to act on this as soon as possible.”
“I will pass on this information, Admiral.”
“Thank you, Mercury.”
“My duty, sir.” The AI subsided and Sigurd stared tiredly at the holofeeds, clicking them off one at a time before preparing for his day.
His duty, too.