Notes: Hey there darlins! So, while this is technically the last part of The Academy, please keep in mind that I’m going to be posting snippets from our boys’ break every so often, so you’ll still get to see plenty of them. Also, I…I did this thing. Where I wrote a plot bunny into the end of this fic to set up something else which, if you’re interested, could also be a story for you guys, because clearly I’m insane and need to be writing more of this. It’s just, arg, I keep writing people I find interesting and then abandoning them and now I see a way to reel them all back together, courtesy of our dear Admiral Liang, and why not? It could be epic. This damn thing is already epic, this is a 100k+ word novel now. I’m going to get it, and Love Letters, onto their own pages this week before starting Soothsayer, so you can read them in one long go instead of searching through tens of old posts to put it all together.
Also, Soothsayer’s format is going to be a little different, but we’ll talk about that when we get there. Probably next week, possibly the week after and next week will be a snippet from these guys, depending on…everything. Anyway, let me know if I should write the story I hint about at the end of this one!
Thank you so much for reading, everyone, I appreciate it and all of your comments and encouragement along the way. This story has been such a long, fun journey for me to write. Stick with me for Soothsayer, I promise it’ll be lots of fun, and again, you haven’t seen the last of our boys. I mean, I’ve left Ten and Cody frustrated…can’t be having that.
Title: The Academy
Part Thirty-Seven: Flying, Or Fleeing
The Academy’s regular school year finished up much like it had every other year that Sigurd Liang had been in command. The tests ended, results were announced and those cadets that had failed in certain subjects were pulled aside for additional work or, in the few cases where things had reached a tipping point, released from their service. There was a brief ceremony for those who were graduating, and official first assignments for the cadets whose records were good enough to get them onto a ship without needing additional training or education. There was the inevitable space port traffic jam as parents descended upon the Academy to retrieve their children for the break. There were a few press conferences, a few parties to attend, plenty of soothing and discrete directions to be done, and this year there was the very public send-off of the most troublesome quad in Hebe Tower to contend with as well.
Actually, that part went swimmingly. The diplomat in charge was Jason Kim, former Federation officer and currently the only human to hold dual citizenship with an alien race. Sigurd had first met Jason decades ago, when Jason was fresh from his own stay at the Academy. He’d come onto Sigurd’s ship as an ensign, and before the end of his tour they had become, if not friends, at least amicable colleagues. That bonhomie hadn’t diminished with the passage of time, and Sigurd appreciated the brief chance Jason’s competence gave him to relax.
“It’s good of you to take them,” he murmured as they stood to the side of Jason’s ship, the Ysenniarr, a Federation diplomatic cruiser retrofitted to be more acceptable for Perel. The four young people in question were darting back and forth between classmates, a few parents—Jonah had stuck around, although Garrett’s tenure had been necessarily brief—and their baggage, which Ten, of course, was fretting nonstop over.
“It’s fragile,” Ten exclaimed again, loud enough that they could have heard hir across the entire campus, much less the moderate-sized landing pad they were all crowded onto right now. “Do you not understand what that word means, should I use something with fewer syllables? If you dislodge any of my set-up, I will—what kind of idiot are you, that one is clearly meant to go the other way around, are you malfunctioning? Have your circuits gone soft?” It was a little bit amusing to listen to the cadet castigating a robot, but Sigurd carefully kept any semblance of a smile off his face and watched as Cody came to the rescue, distracting Ten while the rest of hir things were loaded onto the ship.
“It’s what Grennson needs,” Jason said neutrally, but Sigurd felt the unspoken rebuke lurking within those words. He had promised to take care of Grennson, and despite his efforts the cadet, and his quad mates, had come close to disaster their first year. “I’m sure by the end of their break, there will be better preparations by all of us for what lies ahead.”
“Assuredly,” Sigurd replied. With most people he would have left it there, to maintain some of his air of implacability, but with Jason he felt compelled, obligated even, to continue. “I may yet make mistakes, but I don’t make them twice. I have leverage to utilize.”
“I don’t doubt it,” Jason said, glancing at him. “Don’t worry, Grennson wouldn’t hear of not coming back next year. He and Darrell have become as close as any brothers, and the other two have been drawn in as well. I’ll make sure they’re taken care of.”
“Their parents will be pleased to hear that.”
“Those who have them,” Jason agreed. “I have the approved list of contacts for everyone but Tiennan. Is that an oversight, or deliberate?”
“Tiennan hasn’t spoken with hir parents in many years,” Sigurd said. “And hir guardian is currently unavailable, so the list is correct. As long as ze can get in touch with Cody’s parents in case of trouble, Ten will be all right.”
“I never would have thought Garrett Caractacus would become so domestic,” Jason mused with a little smile on his face.
“No one would have. One of the universe’s mysteries,” Sigurd said. “It looks like they’re finished with loading. I hate to rush you, but our port schedule is very finely tuned right now, and we can’t afford a delay.”
“I understand.” Jason turned and held his hand out to Sigurd, who shook it firmly. “Good luck, sir.”
“I think the one of us needing luck for the next few standard months is you,” Sigurd replied urbanely. “Have fun with the children.”
“I plan to.” Jason left him and headed back to his ship, where his husband greeted him with a Perel embrace. Cody was saying a lengthy goodbye to his father that Ten eventually interrupted so that ze could get a hug of hir own, and then Jason was ushering them all onto his ship. The door closed, and Sigurd stepped back into the safe zone so that the ship could take off.
He felt a presence at his back, but didn’t need to look to know who it was. “So, Master Sergeant, they’re all still in one piece.”
Jessup snorted quietly. “Not for lack of some folks trying, sir.”
“True. Yet they survived, thanks to the bonds they forged together.”
“Don’t forget the part you played in their making it through the year, sir,” Jessup said, but Sigurd shook his head.
“Nothing I did was noteworthy. The safety of my cadets is my responsibility, and whatever lengths I go to ensure that is nothing more than expected.”
“Beg to disagree, sir.”
Sigurd shrugged. “Regardless, I believe you now owe me some instruction in remedial field maneuvers, Master Sergeant.”
Jessup sighed. “Lane will kill me,” he muttered. “I promised her a beach vacation.”
“We can’t have your wife committing homicide on my best sergeant,” Sigurd said. “Take the additional vacation, but I expect you to give four hours every afternoon to cadet assessment via Hermes. Sound fair?”
“That’s…very generous, sir,” Jessup replied, the surprise clear in his voice. “Very generous of you.”
“I have my moments,” Sigurd murmured. And my motivations. “Leave today and you’ll be back in time for the hands-on work at the end of remedial term. Give your wife my best, Master Sergeant.”
“Thank you, sir.”
The sound of the Ysenniarr departing covered his assistant’s retreat, and by the time the ship had vanished, Sigurd was alone. He shared a nod with Jonah Helms before turning and heading back to his office—they had already said everything that needed saying to each other. Back in his office, Sigurd set his official hat and jacket aside, then said, “Hermes, activate Mercury protocol.”
“Protocol active, Admiral.”
“Get me Hummingbird.”
“Initiating contact.” If Hummingbird was in a secure location, she would respond to his call; if not, she’d get back to him as soon as she could make things secure. Sigurd had a lot of operatives, but Hummingbird had always been a favorite. It was partially on her recommendation that he’d allowed Cody into the Academy in the first place, although she’d warned him that Cody would never make much of a spy. Well, she’d be happy to be proven right.
Thirty seconds passed, then a minute…two minutes…Sigurd was resigned to calling back when suddenly the connection came through. “Good evening, sir.”
“Hummingbird.” Sigurd smiled reflexively. Tamara Carson had come to the Academy from Pandora with one goal in mind, and she’s pursued it with such single-minded purpose ever since that Sigurd had to admire her. She was his best and most loyal protégé, and had no compunctions about officially “flunking” out of the Academy before unofficially joining his personal operation. Her father had been less pleased, but Captain Carson had other concerns out on Pandora that overshadowed his dismay. “I’m pleased you could make contact, I thought for sure they’d have you at some official dinner.”
“I’m the Alexander’s ‘charity hire’ sir, I don’t get invited to those parties,” she said dryly. “I get to work late in the legal office instead. I was going to call you tonight, actually. I have news about Fledgling.”
Sigurd’s heartbeat sped up a bit. “I was hoping you did. What did they decide?”
“The Powers That Be have decided to make an example of Fledgling, as a sign of their disapproval of his unauthorized independent action on their behalf.” The irony in her voice was so heavy Sigurd could practically hear it thud against the floor. “He’s to be imprisoned while awaiting trial. They’ve determined to deactivate most of his mods, and despite how opposing council is pushing things, the trial could be a long ways off. I think the Powers have decided that this might be just the opportunity they need to get Fledgling out of the way themselves. Pay off a few guards, turn off a few machines, and let the prison do its work on him.”
“Damn.” Sigurd shut his eyes for a moment, feeling the paper-thin lids scratch uncomfortably. He had been worried something like this might happen. “Which prison?”
“It’s been narrowed down to two. Either Caravan or Redstone.”
Caravan was Sigurd’s preference. He had contacts there, people he trusted to assist him despite the Alexander’s overwhelming influence. Redstone…that was another matter. That was truly dangerous. “Keep me up to date, Hummingbird. I need to know the moment a decision is made.” If it was Redstone, Sigurd would have to scramble. He’d need to expand his net, exert his influence, all while keeping his operation strictly under the radar. “Have you heard from Puffin?”
“No,” Tamara said with a sniff. “She’s too high and mighty to check in on a regular basis, apparently. Where do you get these posh operatives, sir? They need some serious attitude adjustments.”
“We must make do with what we have,” Sigurd replied, already composing a message in his head to Garrett Caractacus. If anyone had the contacts to do what Sigurd had in mind… “Thank you, Hummingbird. Stay safe.”
“Thank you, sir. Get some rest.”
“Connection ended,” Mercury reported a moment later.
Sigurd stared at the top of his desk, threads of timelines and schemes and people whirling across each other in his mind. Nothing disturbed him like pointless loss of life, especially given his own unfair advantage in that arena. If the trial went poorly, if Kyle went to the wrong prison, if if if…he would wind up dead. Sigurd couldn’t allow that to happen. He was going to have to reach way, way out, plan for the worst and hope for the best.
Thank heavens it was the Academy’s break. There was no way he would be able to organize his movements at this level of complication if Ten were still here threatening anarchy with every other experiment.
To work, then. “Mercury,” he said, leaning back in his chair and steepling his fingers. “Get me Symone St. Clair.”