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matapam
02 April 2019 @ 10:48 am

Chapter Thirteen

A wonderful day at school

1 Rajab 1414

“At least you don’t look like a nasty mutant.”

Arno glanced up at the taunting female voice.   Nywr, of course. Head of the Mean Girls clique. “Hi, Neener, have an extra-large helping of bile for breakfast?”

He brushed past her. Fast enough to foil her attempt to block him, not fast enough to avoid contact.

“You touched me, you pervert!”

“So go cry to the principal again.” Arno shrugged indifferently. “I don’t care.”

And I am so glad I decided to do the hormone block! Gah, imagine being attracted to that!

In Algebra he sat, as usual, front and center, where the bullies had few opportunities to not get caught poking or less friendly minor assaults. He was getting quite good at holding a soft physical shield for hours at a time.

The teacher had stopped calling on him. Arno never got anything wrong for Mr. Igsu to correct in public. Much to Mr. Igsu’s irritation.

The only good thing about this school is NOT boarding here anymore! Last semester was . . . difficult. If we hadn’t been able to escape to Aunt Rael’s house for weekends and holidays, I think I’d have run away and turned into a teenage truant.

Still not totally a bad idea.

He escaped quickly, when the bell rang, and hustled for World History. He started to detour to avoid a crowd around some . . . Oh. Great. Ryol, at full volume.

“. . . try that again and I’ll do more than just punch you!”

Arno sighed. I thought Jay was exaggerating, when he said school was hell. But apparently he was understating the situation. And Ryol, being both pretty and very noticeable, is attracting all the wrong guys and alienating all the other pretty, intelligent girls. Ha! And claiming that she’ll have friends any day now.

Arno elbowed his way through the crowd.

“Listen you little halfbreed native bastard, I’m doing you a big favor. My dad’s a subminister and rich, you could a lot worse than being nice to me.”

And of course it’s Handy Andy.

Arno stepped into the very small open space around them. “C’mon Ryol, let’s get to class.”

Andy loomed, fists clenched, but Arno spotted the second worse asshole—Wrme the Worm—reaching for Ryol’s butt.

A quick chop to his fingers aborted that. Wormy growled and swung. Arno ducked and the clumsy roundhouse swished over his head and hit a girl in the crowd. She screamed, someone yelled that Arno had hit some girl, Andy punched, Arno sidestepped tried some judo, that just sent Andy staggering into the crowd.

Arno was shoved from the back and into Wormy’s next blow . . .

Most of them hadn’t a clue how to really fight. Someone tried something magical, and a fire broke out . . .

“Three days suspension’s kind of nice.” Arno ignored Mother’s glare. “I’ll polish off the two reports that are due in a week . . .”

“Arno!” Mother clutched her hands in her previously immaculate hairdo. “It’s bad enough you getting into fights, but what about Ryol? I will not have my daughter sexually assaulted!”

The front door closed on that comment and Aunt Rael popped into the dining room, where Arno was sitting. “So what happened?”

Ryol galloped down the stairs and threw herself at Aunt Rael. The tears on her cheeks were rage induced, and her explanation quite clear. Grabbed and kissed, she’d punched the idiot and yelled at him and everything escalated.

“And it wasn’t either of us that started the fire!” She wound down with an angry huff. “I don’t want to go back there.”

Rael drummed fingernails on the table, then pulled out her comp. “This is the remote school that Paer went to. Perhaps . . . Oh, stop scowling Raod, they’re both responsible kids. It might not be the sort of school experience you wanted for them, but they’re good academically, and the kids can pick up some online friends and get together occasionally. Maybe even frequently.”

Mother huffed. “Well . . . well. They’re almost halfway through their second semester.”

Arno eyed her waffling, and brought out the heavy artillery. “It keeps escalating. And they always blame us. We can’t have Dad getting the stink-eye at work because his kids are accused of burning down a school.”

***

“On grid school?” Izzo kicked back in the chair across the desk from his old friend. “Good idea, under the circumstances.”

“I always knew the potential for this sort of prejudice was possible.” Ox flipped through the school’s grid site. “Somehow I underestimated how vicious their fellow students could be. Ajki says they switched schools twice to get Jay somewhere that came down hard on bullying, even just verbal. Their curriculum’s solid.”

Izzo nodded.

Yeah, Jay’s had it all his life. Poor kid, paying for his mother’s actions, grabbing ‘Endi Dewulfe’ in full public sight and hauling him off to a bedroom.

The first of an rather mind boggling eighteen highly placed wives he got pregnant, impacting their husbands’ status. And Rael still fell for him. Amazing.

Their comms dinged in unison.

Izzo didn’t comment on Ox sitting in on this meeting with Ajki. Grooming his successor. I wonder who Ajki’s backing for President—not that anyone’s going to even hint nine months ahead of declaration day.

Internal Relations Director Ajki Withione Black Point was Xiat’s half-uncle. Ox’s half-uncle, Subdirector of Exploration Ajha’s uncle . . . No wonder they talk about Black Point Over Achievers. Come to that, their grandfather ran for president twice.

A gaggle of youngsters was leaving the main conference room. Ajki sauntered out after them, and gestured them into his office. “Sorry that ran late. The young analysts are so . . . verbose sometimes. The only good thig about the riots is that I can legitimately send the minions to keep an eye on the One Firsters.”

Izo sighed. “I was hoping they fade away.”

“Yeah, that’s high on my wish list as well. So, what are the Evac Worlds up to now? And how does it impact Interior?”

“Hopefully minimally.” Izzo caught Ox’s gaze. “The permanent gates are fast turning what was clearly XR business into something close to ‘awkwardly distant’ Interior business.”

Ox nodded. “Instead of a horribly expensive gate once a week, if that, they’re just across a somewhat restricted ‘bridge’ that doesn’t even charge a toll. Mostly.”

“Right.” Izzo shrugged. “Anyway, Lucky Thirteen was always a culturally mixed world. Everyone from Granite Peak welcome. Mostly Oners, but some part Earther, part Native, part Purp, it’s just a wild mix. And they want to open gates to Limbo, Tyrant, and Refuge.”

Ox nodded his understanding. “Which are also mixed up.”

Ajki snorted. “Sometimes I’m amazed at how much we’ve changed. What do you think, Izzo?”

“Limbo’s not a problem, as they’re part of the Empire. And Thirteen has a much larger population than either of the others, so I expect, in a general sense, the Oner culture to dominate. And gradually pull the others into our sphere of allies, which is pretty thin. What’s your first inclination, on Tyrant and Refugee?” Izzo eyed the other director. “I need the view, from the Paris movers and shakers, and the War Party.”

“No way in Hell.” Ajki leaned back. “We’re all a bit sensitive to the idea of losing a colony. And maybe I’ll get over the visceral reaction once I think about it and look at the numbers. But if it comes up now, it’ll turn into an election hot potato.”

Izzo nodded. “I was afraid of that. Well, I’ll go give the Flu Crew the bad news.”

As they left, Ox glanced at his watch. “I’ve got to stick around for another hour, but unless you need to get back to Gate City, stay for dinner?”

“Sure. I’ll liaise with the office and kill a little time. See you there.” Izzo waved casually and headed for the elevators.

First, tell the guys to go ahead with the Thirteen-to-Limbo gate, and then tell the SGA gate traffic control that Thirteen will be moving farm equipment and livestock between there and Embassy. A straight gate would have been nice, but pass up a citizen-to-citizen assistance and teaching?

Oh hell no.

Those two worlds are going to think of the “the Old One World” as the place that some critical aid came from, and the government didn’t interfere or play for diplomatic points or concessions at all.

And a bunch of farmers who’ve made do, first when marooned, and the last few years, in a wilderness will have lots of good solid useful advice.