Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Academy Post #16


Notes:  I had planned for this chapter to come from another perspective, but then I remembered that I’d kind of been neglecting the other POVs for a while.  So instead of Cody or Ten, today you get Darrell.  And he even gets some personal development thrown in there as well;)  Next week will be EPIC, btw!

Title: The Academy

Part Sixteen: If You Can’t Be Happy, At Least Be Something



                Darrell had known for a long time that no matter what he did with himself, it was never going to be quite enough for his family.  More than once he’d wondered whether it wouldn’t have been easier to have failed massively as a child instead of striving for perfection.  If he had disappointed them more early on, by now they might not care what he did with every second of his time.  Instead—

                “Honestly, Darry,” Nana sighed as she stared at him through the holoprojector.  “You couldn’t find time for the Athenian Society, but you’ve got room in your schedule for this little…culture club?”

                “Admiral Liang accredited it,” Darrell pointed out, yet again.  “It’s not like I’m wasting my time.”

                “But the Athenian Society is all about making connections!  Those are the people who are going to be allies to you for the length of your entire career.  The ones who will be in a position to help you, honey!  I just don’t see why—”

                “I did mention that it’s Grennson’s club, didn’t I?” Darrell demanded.  His grandparents always called him on Saturday mornings, and while the conversations were supposed to be brief, lately they’d been dragging on and on.  His mother usually poked her head in for a moment to say hello, but he never got to speak with her alone.  “It’s an honor to be included.”

                “If I were you, I’d be more careful about how much time of mine I let that alien monopolize,” Papa warned.  “He may have a certain cachet because of his…uniqueness, but he isn’t going to do much for you in the long run, Darrell.  You need human friends.”

                “I have human friends,” Darrell said, stung by his grandparents dismissal of probably the most important person in his life right now.  “They all want to know him too.  Grennson is—”

                “He’s a fad, honey,” his nana said.  “Don’t worry, it’ll pass.  At least President Alexander’s brother is in your little club, right?”

                “Yes,” Darrell said numbly.

                “Well then, that’s good!  Try and cozy up to him.  Knowing a boy like that will get you far once you have your own command.”

                He tried to stop it, he tried gritting his teeth and clenching his jaw and holding back the words, but they wouldn’t be stayed.  “What if I don’t want my own command?”

                “Darry!”  Nana looked shocked.  “Of course you want your own command!  Your father had his own command by the age of twenty-seven, don’t you want to follow in his footsteps?”

                “My father started off by commanding a Gage-class ship with less than a hundred crew,” Darrell snapped.  “He didn’t advance beyond that for almost a decade.  And even when, even when he was finally promoted to captain a larger vessel, instead of giving him a Basilisk or a Firebird, the admiralty put him in charge of Space Station 17.  A middle of nowhere, mining-support station with a skeleton crew and undersupplied defenses, and it didn’t seem to matter who he knew in school or how high up the chain of command his friends were, he still died in a raid, outgunned and outclassed and ignored.”

                “Darrell!” Papa shouted, actually shouted.  Nana was too paralyzed to shout, one hand covering her mouth.  “You will not speak about your father that way!  He was a hero!  It’s his legacy that got you into the Academy, you should show him some respect!”

                “I do respect him!” Darrell shouted back.  Somewhere in the back of his mind he knew this was a bad idea, but he didn’t care.  It had been grating on him all week, Cody’s happiness about talking with his grandfather and the impending visit from his dads, Grennson’s frequent discussions with Ferran and Jason.  Even Ten was surprisingly sanguine in hir own way, not bothering to talk about hir absent parents simply because ze really didn’t care about them.  Whereas Darrell lived in a constant state of anxiety, under the shadow of his father and the voluntary absence of his mother from his life, all control handed over to his grandparents like they could orchestrate him into actually being their real son.  Well, they couldn’t.

                “I respect him,” Darrell repeated more slowly.  “I respect his sacrifice, I respect that he was a great man.  But I’m not a clone.  I can’t do everything that he did, in exactly the way that he did it.  I just can’t, and asking me to is only going to make you upset with me.”

                “This isn’t you,” Nana spoke up firmly.  “This isn’t you, Darry, you wouldn’t never say these sorts of things without being provoked.  It’s that Perel, isn’t it?  He put you up to this, he’s making you feel things you shouldn’t be feeling.  They’re empaths, aren’t they?  They can control a person’s emotions.  I’m going to petition Admiral Liang immediately to get you removed from that quad, that alien is a destabilizing influence.”

                “I won’t go,” Darrell said immediately.  “I’m old enough to make these choices for myself, and I won’t leave my quad.  Grennson is my friend, and being an empath just means you can sense another person’s emotions, not that you can influence them.”

                “But we don’t know that!” Nana wailed.  “We don’t know what they’re hiding from us, Darry!  They’re aliens.  And Captain Kim has lived with them for too long, he actually married one of them, we can’t take his word for anything either.  No, I want you out of there.”

                “I’m not leaving.”

                “We’ll see about that,” Papa said.  He glared so fiercely that Darrell was suddenly glad to be on another planet, well out of hitting range.

                “I’m not leaving,” he repeated, and then turned off the projection, ending the call.  Darrell leaned back against the wall and stared at the blank space in front of him for a while.  He absently wondered why he was feeling…well, nothing, actually.  It seemed like he should be upset at his grandparents, at their interference, at how they constantly tried to diminish who he was so that they could turn him into someone else.  They hadn’t even asked about his studies, staunchly ignoring the fact that he was multi-track in command (naturally) and linguistics.  They didn’t bother to find out that after three months of private lessons, Darrell was able to speak Perel with more fluency than any person at the Academy other than Grennson, and that his extra efforts had gotten him a commendation from the Dean of the Linguistics Department.  They didn’t care that he was finally getting along with his quad mates, that he enjoyed Cody’s easy company and could actually stand to be in the same room as Ten now.  All they cared about were his efforts as a social climber.

                Well, fuck that.  Darrell knew what he was and wasn’t good at, and he’d done far better for himself getting to know people by being nice to his quad mates than trying to ingratiate himself with the other Legacies and members of the Athenian Society.  Darrell would never have approached someone like Kyle Alexander even to ask the time of day, much less talked him into joining Grennson’s culture club.  Yet Cody had not only managed it, but seemed to make Kyle glad to do it.  And the whole idea of the club in the first place…that was all Grennson. 

                What was their problem with Grennson, anyway?  They’d never been bothered by aliens before.  In fact, they’d been pleased when he’d first told them who his roommate was.

                The knock on the door pulled Darrell out of his reverie.  “Yes?”

                Grennson came inside, quietly shutting the door behind him.  “General Caractacus is due to call in about five minutes,” he said.  “Everyone is here.”  His voice was a familiar, soothing rumble, and Darrell just stared for a moment before nodding jerkily.  Right.  The club, yes.

                “I’ll be right out.”

                “You should feel free to take your time,” Grennson said, his quills ruffling a bit.  Darrell knew that expression; even though he felt comfortably distant from his emotions at the moment, that didn’t mean they weren’t there.  Grennson probably knew better than he did what was going on inside his head right now.  “No one will be upset if you’re a bit late.”

                Darrell shook his head.  “Xenia will make fun of me if I am.”

                “Xenia likes to do that, for many reasons.  That doesn’t mean it matters.”  Grennson paused for a moment before saying, “Your grandparents…”

                “I don’t want to talk about them right now, please.”

                “All right,” Grennson said equably.  “But I’ll be here to talk with when you do want to.  If you do want to.”  He wrinkled his milky nose.  “Did that make sense?  My Federation is more instinctual than practiced. Matriarch Jlinn despaired of teaching me proper grammar before my fathers and I left Perelan.”

                “It was fine,” Darrell assured him.  “I understood you.  Thanks.”

                “You’re welcome.” 

                After a little bit more quiet, Darrell got to his feet.  “All right.  We better get going, or we’ll miss out on some brilliant policy discussion.”  He rolled his eyes and Grennson chuckled.

                “Policy can be a very interesting topic,” he said as he opened the door.  “It’s quite important.”

                “I know it is, but—”

                “Shut it!” Xenia whispered from her place in front of the couch.  Cody already had his private holoprojector set up in the common room, and it was in the middle of connecting right now.  “We’re starting already, what the hell were you doing in there?”

                “Meditating,” Grennson said, at the same time that Darrell said, “Jerking off,” casually, like he didn’t care what any of them thought.  Not even Kyle Alexander, in the center of their couch like the sun of their particular solar system.  Cody and Ten were on his right, Pamela on his left, and Bartholomew and Xenai had the floor.  That meant Darrell and Grennson would be standing behind the couch if they wanted to see.  Not a problem.

                “Is meditating while jerking off some kind of tantric sex?” Ten asked curiously, but then the holoprojector came on and a warm, weathered face filled the screen.

                “Hi General Caractacus,” Cody said cheekily.  “Thanks for being here today.”

                “Hello, Cadets,” the general replied with a smile.  “Sorry to rush this, but I’ve only got half a standard hour, so let’s get going.”  They got through introductions fast, and then jumped into a discussion of FB-458-D9.

                Policy had never interested Darrell.  He thought it was boring, he just couldn’t help it.  In that way, at least, he’d been well-suited for command track: command was all about quick thinking and action, less about figuring out the ever-expanding web of Federation rules and regulations.  Listening to the general and Cody and Kyle made it interesting though, and even Ten and Bartholomew had some relevant questions that made Darrell stop and think.

                The Drifter bill led to a discussion of other controversial bills, including one that made Grennson’s quills stand on end.  “Closing the Mazzi embassies?” he said, utterly taken aback.  “Why?  They’ve been Federation allies for over a millennia!”

                “Just the embassies on Hartford and Whynot,” General—no, Miles, he said they could call him that—said, but he didn’t look happy.  “The only reasons cited in the actual bill are ‘security concerns’ but word is that the new local governments aren’t supportive of the idea of Mazzi in their cities.  The Mazzi have never allowed us to examine them—”

                “Nor should they!”

                “And there were some questions about whether or not a Mazzi swarm could have infiltrated government buildings or used pieces of itself as listening devices in private offices,” Miles finished.


                Darrell spoke up over Grennson’s stuttering.  “Do they have reason to believe the Mazzi actually have any interest in spying on us?  Like Grennson said, they’ve been allies for…since before we left the Home System.  They’ve never acted with aggression against us.”

                “They have when threatened by us,” Miles corrected, “but point taken.  And most people think that these are very thinly veiled excuses for xenophobia.  There’s growing support in a lot of local governments for this kind of action, though.  I’m not sure where the groundswell started, but it’s a reality in the Central System.”

                “But why is the Federation Parliament condoning it?” Cody asked.

                “They haven’t, officially.  Not yet.  But they haven’t vetoed the measures either.  It’s one of many things I’ll be looking into once I get there next week.  Speaking of that, Cody, you should expect a call from your dads today or tomorrow.  They should have all of one night’s layover on Olympus before they have to continue on.”  Miles shook his head.  “I’m sorry it couldn’t be for longer, but I really need their support.”

                “I understand,” Cody said quickly.  “It’s okay.”

                “I have to sign off, I’m afraid.  Good to meet you, Cadets.”

                “And you, sir.”

                “Thank you, sir.”

                “An honor, sir.”  They thanked him quickly and Miles’ end of the connection cut off a moment later.

                “Wow,” Pamela said after a moment.  “He’s handsome.  I see where you get it from, Cody.”

                Cody started to laugh.


Sunday, March 23, 2014

Random Sadness

It was a strange day today.

I was training at my bjj academy this morning and the only other girl in class--out of about 20 people total--got her knee taken out during a throw.  As in, afterward she lay on the mat unwilling to move and had to be taken out by paramedics on a stretcher with an IV of pain medication going.  It was a scary moment for all of the class, but I think illustrated an important point about this kind of physical training: you need to know how to protect yourself, because you can't count on other people to do it for you.

It wasn't her fault she got thrown, but her foot was planted hard and she didn't have time to take the weight off of it before she was done.  Her partner was a bigger, stronger person who probably could have gone easier, but with more time on the mat she might have realized she was getting into a dangerous position and pulled back sooner.  No one's fault, just a bad accident.  Still, I've been there, and I'm also waaay more careful now about how I endanger my knees.  Two surgeries is enough, thanks very much.  Lesson of the day: look out for number one.

Adding to the weird, the class instructor and I rolled later on and when I tapped him out, he swore at me.  He immediately apologized, saying his head wasn't in the right place, it was his fault, he didn't mean to make me feel bad...which, okay, thanks, but could you not yell at me for making you submit next time?  I already get shit from guys who don't like rolling with a woman, I don't need it from my teacher too.

Just...thoughts.  I like my ju jitsu, I like the club, I like almost all of the other students, but occasionally I'm reminded that maybe not everybody likes me back.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Academy Post #15


Notes:  I had a damn eye appointment this morning that lasted almost two hours and left me with dilated pupils.  My near vision is shot to hell, but I’ve got to write!  Forgive me if this part is less coherent than usual, I’m all blurry-brained.

Title: The Academy

Part Fifteen: Ghost Pirates…Maybe




The first sign that something was wrong was when Cody couldn’t get in touch with Miles.  It wasn’t that his calls didn’t get through to Paradise, it was that no one was picking up on the other side.  Cody tried not to let the silence get to him, but it was…strange.  Miles was never out of touch, and at the very least, Claudia should have been picking up.  Cody called three evenings in a row before finally resorting to using his grandfather’s official number instead of the private one.  He’s probably get diverted to autoreply, but it was better than—

“Governor Caractacus’ office, this is Thérèse Tousaint.”

“Thérèse!”  Wow, that was lucky.  Cody hadn’t talked to the former soldier-turned-nanny-turned-attaché in a long time, but her voice was associated with comfort in his brain, and his shoulders relaxed just having her on the other end of the signal.  “It’s Cody, I’ve been trying to get in touch with Miles for the past few days but the calls never went through on his personal comm.”

“There have been some routing problems,” Thérèse acknowledged.  “Miles and Claudia and the girls left Paradise very quickly, and it’s just been safer to have every comm signal routed through his official unit since then.  You still should have gotten forwarded, though, you’re on the list.  I’ll take care of it.”

“Why did Miles and Claudia leave Paradise?” Cody asked with a sinking feeling in his stomach.

“It’s nothing dire,” Thérèse promised Cody.  “There have been a series of incidents in the past standard month on the Fringe that have Miles concerned, and last week he decided to take his concerns direct to Parliament, since they’ve been slow to respond.  We’ll be at Federation headquarters in another ten days.”

“What kind of incidents?”

“I’ll let Miles explain, if you really want to know.  He should be free, let me get you to him.”  A moment later the blank display of Cody’s holoscreen was filled with a pair of big, staring grey eyes. 

“Boo!” the image shrieked.

“Aaahhhh!” Cody yelled, throwing his arms up dramatically.  The eyes pulled back to reveal a small, childish face.  Its owner laughed hysterically.

“I scared you!” Yvaine crowed.  “I scared you, I scared you!”

“Oh my gosh,” Cody breathed, setting a hand over his heart.  This was the third time Yvaine had answered the comm like this, and he knew the drill by now.  “You were so scary.  Whoa.  Ghost in the machine.”

“I’m the best ghost!”

“You’re the scariest of all time,” Cody agreed.  Ten had crept into the room and watched the exchange with a raised blue eyebrow, but Cody ignore hir for the moment.  “So scary.  Does your daddy know how scary you are?”

“Her mommy does,” Claudia said exasperatedly, pulling her daughter back from the projector a bit.  “Hi, Cody!  I’m so sorry we didn’t get your calls earlier, Thérèse is doing her best to figure out why the signal isn’t being forwarded.”

“It’s okay, it isn’t desperate or anything.  I just had a question for Miles.”

“He’ll be in in just a minute, he’s saying goodnight to Renee.  And you,” Claudia looked at her youngest daughter, “should be in bed too!”

“I had to be a ghost first, Mommy,” Yvaine said with all the self-assurance of a five-year-old.  “It’s impotent!”

“Important,” Claudia corrected.  “And you can be a ghost tomorrow.  Right now you’re a little girl, and little girls have bedtimes.”


“Yeeeees,” Claudia replied, standing up.  “Miles will be right in, Cody.  How’s school?”

“Fine.  It’s good,” he said.  Claudia smiled.

“I’m glad to hear it.  Oh, here he comes.  We can chat later, okay?”

“Okay.”  Claudia and Yvaine disappeared from the sitting room—there was a Federation logo on the wall behind the couch, so it had to be Miles’ official ship.  He didn’t use that unless he had to, it was way slower than his personal ship after Wyl had made some custom modifications to the engines.  Something was going on.

When Miles sat down a few seconds later, Cody was taken aback at first.  The grooves next to his grandfather’s mouth were deeper than he was used to seeing, and he seemed somber.  He smiled when he looked up, though.  “Cody!  I’m sorry we weren’t able to pick up your transmissions, hopefully that’s being fixed right now.”

“It’s okay,” Cody said.  “I’m not used to calling your official line or I would have done it sooner.”

“Not your fault.  What did you want to talk about?”

“First, why did you guys leave Paradise?” Cody countered.  “Thérèse said there was an incident.”

Miles sighed.  “There was, but it’s nothing you need to concern yourself with right now, son.  You’ve got plenty to deal with at the Academy.”

“I’d really like to know, though,” Cody said earnestly, letting his eyes widen just slightly.  Ten snickered from the corner, and Cody hoped his roommate kept quiet and didn’t give the game away.  Cody loved his family, but he wasn’t above using his supposed “cuteness” to help get the truth out of them.  That was something he’d definitely learned from Garrett.

Miles snorted.  “Seen it a hundred times, son.”  Damn it, right.  Garrett had honed his skills on Miles, no wonder it didn’t work on the man anymore.  “But I guess it doesn’t hurt for you to know.  There’ve been five different attacks on Federation-aligned Fringe planets in the past month.  They’re being called acts of piracy, possibly from unaffiliated Drifters.”

Cody knew he was gaping, but he couldn’t help it.  “Which planets?”

“The Spectrum cluster, plenty far from Pandora,” Miles soothed.  “There’s been a fairly substantial loss of life, though.”

“From pirates?  Cody wasn’t an expert on interstellar piracy, but this just didn’t seem right.  “But pirates don’t…I mean, don’t they generally go after ships in transit?  Or a star base, if they’re a really big group, but on the actual planet surface?  That just seems strange.”

“Especially strange since they attacked the capitals, using modern weapons, and got away before they could be properly identified,” Miles agreed with a grimace.  “If there’s one thing I know, it’s that Drifters don’t have access to the kind of weaponry that’s responsible for these attacks, not the way trade laws stand.  Even on the black market, modern plasma projectile technology is rare and very expensive.”

“So you don’t think they were pirates?”

“I don’t think they were Drifters,” Miles corrected.  “Whether or not they’re pirate attacks, well…the official word is that they have to be, because all of these planets are inhabited by small colonies with peaceful governments.  This isn’t a case of civil war, like what happened on Paradise a decade ago.  This is something else.  Piracy, maybe, but apart from destruction of property and loss of life, the ‘pirates’ didn’t really gain anything.  They didn’t take any ships, they didn’t take any slaves, and they apparently vanished directly after their attacks.  Very atypical behavior.”

“What is the Federation going to do about it?”

Miles laughed, but it wasn’t a nice laugh.  “Good question.  So far, they’ve promised to send in the Federation Corps of Engineers to help upgrade the defensive capabilities of these colonies, and to temporarily station troops in orbit in case of another attack, but the actual response has been very slow.  Aid was promised after the first two incidents and three more have happened since, but there isn’t one extra man or woman in orbit yet who can do a damn thing to help.  Which is why I’m going to inquire on this state of affairs in person at Parliament.  Jezria’s on her way as well.”

“Oh.”  The drawn expression on Miles’ face, the tired circles under his eyes—Cody knew he was leaving out the worst of this report.  People had died, a lot of people, and Miles was worried.  If he felt so strongly about this that he left the beautiful home he and Claudia had made on Paradise, just so he could get face-to-face with his old comrades, well…Cody swallowed past the lump in his throat.  “Be careful.”

Miles smiled.  “I’m not in any danger, Cody, don’t worry about me.  What was it you wanted to talk about?”

“FB-458-D9.”  When Miles’ brow furrowed, Cody continued, “It’s a bill that was just recently passed in Parliament, and it allows ports to deny access to any ships without Federation and home-planet registration.  It’s supposed to cut back on smuggling, apparently.”

“I had heard about that.  Anti-smuggling my ass,” Miles said.  “As if smugglers always use official ports.  It’s anti-Drifter legislation.”

“That’s what I thought!  How did it even get passed?”

“There’s…”  Miles ran a hand over his face as he considered what to say next.  “Humanity as a species isn’t very good at inclusion.  There was a period in our history, when we hadn’t gone any further than our own solar system, when scientific curiosity overruled most of our most toxic differences, and as a species we were mostly peaceful.  That’s when the Dorn and the Mazzi made contact with us. 

“Once we got warp technology and started to branch out, things changed.  There was no more common tie to Earth, groups began to newly differentiate themselves based on whatever traits they perceived to be the most important at the time.  Planet of origin, religion, philosophy, skin color…honestly, the only thing that held us together for centuries was the fact that we were pretty bad at terraforming planets, and the home system had the resources that outer colonies needed to stay alive.  Eventually the Federation was formed, things were formalized, and it’s been a fairly good system for keeping in touch ever since.

“There are still plenty of people who are more concerned with our differences than our similarities, though.  There are zealots on both sides: those who want to completely break away from the Federation, and those in the Federation who want to exclude anyone who doesn’t fit a certain set of norms.  Some of those voices have become a lot louder in recent years, and that bill is an example of their handiwork.”

“What does that mean for a place like Pandora?” Cody asked.

“Probably nothing,” Miles said calmly.  “Pandora is a model colony, very happily part of the Federation.  For Drifters, though, times are going to get worse before they get better, I’m afraid.  I’ll be bringing that bill, among others, up when I have my day in Parliament, count on it.  I’m not the governor of Paradise anymore but I do have a certain authority still, and Paradise is an important way station for Drifters in the Fringe.  Closing Rapture to their ships would be destructive, to say the least.”

“Yeah.”  Cody thought of Jack, who tried to be good to him even though he couldn’t be a father.  “I…so there’s a group of us doing a special club on multiculturalism, and I was hoping you’d speak to us this weekend?  Two days from now,” Cody clarified.  “About the bill, about anything you want, really.  It’s Grennson’s club, he’d love to hear from you.  I understand if you’re too busy, though.”

“We’ll still be en route then, I’ll make the time for it,” Miles promised him.  “Send me the specific time, Thérèse will make sure it’s on my schedule.”

“Thank you.”

“It’s my pleasure, son.  You talk to your dads lately?”

“A few days ago.”  Cody rolled his eyes. “They’re doing something involving hot springs, I didn’t want to know any more.”

“I sent them a message about meeting up in the Central System.  I’d like Garrett’s perspective when I get down to dealing with Parliament, and I don’t think Jonah’s ever been to Federation headquarters, so if I’m lucky they’ll come join me in a week or two.”  Miles smiles.  “If you’re lucky, they’ll stop by and visit you on their way in.”

“That would be great!”  Just the thought of seeing them in person made Cody grin.  “I hope they do.”

“Me too.”  A chime dinged on Miles’ side, and he sighed.  “I’ve got to go, son.  We’ll talk in a few days, all right?”

“All right.  I love you.  Tell Claudia and the girls too.”

“Love you, too.”  The signal closed and Cody sat back, his brain spinning with new thoughts.

“That was your grandfather?” Ten asked, sitting down next to Cody on his bed.


“He seems to not be an idiot.”

Cody chuckled.  “He’s really smart.  He was a marine general, then a governor.  Now I think he’s semi-retired, but he still does a lot of work for the Federation on outreach and stuff like that.”

“Do you think he’s right to be worried about the ‘pirates’?”

“I think…”  Cody paused, then said, “I think if he’s worried, it’s a bad sign.”


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Academy Post #14


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.”

“Fire away.”

“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.


Monday, March 10, 2014

300: Rise of an Empire

So, over the weekend my man and I went to see this movie:

Did I like it?  Why yes, yes I did, quite a bit actually.  Those of you who are discerning, elevated film watchers might now be asking yourself, "Why?"

The truth is, this movie is just the kind of camp I love.  It's incredibly violent without, for the most part, degenerating into porny, torturey rape and pillage (note I say for the most part--there's a glaring exception I'll get to in a moment), it has some very good actors who are capable of giving quite stirring versions of their frankly ridiculous speeches, it has a lot of gorgeous nearly naked men--always a win in my book--and most especially it has sea battles.

Yeah, you heard me.  I have a special nerdy love for sea battles.  My favorite time period is the Napoleonic era, but I'll take the Bronze Age in a heartbeat.

Oh, you sexy triremes you.  I don't care that some of the tactics seemed, well, ridiculous--major, major points for doing battle at sea and making it gripping and frightening and beautiful.

What, plot?  Well...there isn't much plot, honestly.  This occurs concurrently with the last 300 movie, and it's mostly "save a united Greece" for the Greeks and "kill all the Greeks" for the Persians.  We get a lot of speeches with a lot of yelling, especially about GLORY!  HONOR!  VENGEANCE!  FREEEEEDOOOOM!!! The most character development is actually given to our villain, the female commander of the Persian navy, Artemisia.  We get to see how she got to her position of power, why she hates the Greeks so much, we understand her motivation and admire her commitment even when we're supposed to be rooting for the other guys.  Her lackeys are, well, lackeys, but Artemisia more than makes up for the lack of depth in the rest of the bad guys.

Artemisia is the character I loved the best, but I took umbrage with a description of her given by one of the film's producers: "Talk about female empowerment!"  Yes, talk about murdering a young girl's family, turning her into a sex slave, raping her unto near death before abandoning her where she's picked up off the street for no apparent reason and turned into a merciless warrior, watch her learn to transform her pain at her own life into merciless hatred and blind ambition, watch her do the same thing to others that was done to her, watch her die at the hands of the only person in the whole damn movie she respected, and then equate that to the way women get empowered?  Yikes.  You broke and remade her for evil, you didn't empower her.

Anyway...yeah.  300: Rise of an Empire, lots of good, gory fun.