Now available, The Fugitive Snare, book 3 of the Adventures of Matt & Michelle. Click the title to view it.
Chris and Jade follow their guide, Linda, into the Scout Academy.
“This is the Academy dormitory,” Linda said. “You will both stay here, though in separate rooms, and with roommates of the same sex as yourself. I’m afraid the Academy is rather old-fashioned, in that way.”
Linda practically had to shout to be heard over the chaos just beyond the doors. Academy guides led groups of cadets in all directions. Every guide spoke loudly to their own charges, and many of those charges spoke just as loudly over their guides. Did nobody outside of Aashla have manners of any kind? I mean, come on, why would not you pay attention to the person assigned to make sure you got where you are supposed to go and knew what you are supposed to do when you got there? I don’t know, maybe all these galactics already know that stuff. All I know is, Chris and I did not.
“According to my information, the two of you are a couple. Is that correct?” Linda asked.
Chris nodded, “We are betrothed.”
Linda’s brow wrinkled as she concentrated. “Betrothed? I am not familiar with that word. Is it Aashlan?”
My eyebrows shot up in surprise, then I realized that Chris had used the Aashlan word. I wracked my brain trying to come up with a gal base word that meant the same thing, and couldn’t think of one. Apparently, Chris couldn’t either.
With a quick glance at me, Chris said, “It means we are to be married.”
It was Linda’s turn to have her eyebrows shoot up in surprise. “Is the information on my sheet wrong? It says Jade is only seventeen, and you, Chris, are all of eighteen.”
“No, that’s right,” I said. “But I’ll turn eighteen in three months.”
“And I’ll be nineteen shortly thereafter,” Chris added.
“Oh,” Linda said faintly. “Isn’t that a bit…young…to get married? Here in the Federation, there are people who would say I am a bit young to get married.”
On Aashla, an unmarried woman of Linda’s age would already be considered a spinster by many people. I didn’t say that out loud, of course. That wouldn’t have been polite. Then again, based on what I’ve seen of the Federation so far, voicing my thoughts would have been right in line with the rest of the rudeness I saw all around me.
I looped one arm through Chris’s and smiled at Linda. “When true love crashes into a cliff next to you, a smart girl latches on with both arms and doesn’t let go!”
Chris grinned, “And when the girl of your dreams quite literally falls into your arms, a smart man does not question providence.”
Linda knew she was missing the context of our remarks, but she smiled pleasantly and nodded politely. “It seems as if the two of you have quite a few stories to tell!”
“Sort of,” I said, “but it’s really all part of the story of how we met David.”
Leading us through a doorway on the far side of the chaotic lobby, Linda shook her head in wonder. “I must admit, you two are the most interesting pair of cadets I’ve ever had the pleasure of guiding. Now, let’s get Jade to her room, and then I can lead Chris to his room.”
Several minutes later, she ushered me into my dormitory room. “I’m sorry it’s so cramped—especially, with two of you in here—but that’s supposed to be part of the charm of dormitory life.”
I sized up the room and came to a different conclusion. “It’s a lot bigger than the room I share with my sister, back home.”
“Well, you’ll probably be the only cadet happy with the size of her room!” Linda mused.
“No she won’t,” Chris interjected. “At least, assuming my room is just as big.”
“It will be. All of the dormitory rooms are the same size.” Linda looked around the room, which was completely empty except for furniture. “It looks like your roommate isn’t here yet, Jade, so you get the first choice of beds.”
I looked at the two beds and saw they were absolutely identical. The only difference between them was that one of them was on the right side of the room and the other one was on the left side of the room. Since I was carrying my bag in my right hand, I tossed it onto the right bed.
“I need to get Chris to his room now,” Linda said. “Will you be okay on your own for a while?”
I’ve piloted massive airships, fought trogs and the raiders, represented my family in business deals, and wandered through dozens of ports all over Aashla by myself. And Linda wondered if I would be okay in a dormitory room on my own?
“Yes, Linda, I’ll be fine. Though, if you could tell me where I can find Chris later, I’d appreciate it.”
“Of course,” Linda nodded. “He’s in room B seven. There are maps at every intersection showing where you are in the building. Do you want me to show you how to use them?”
“Linda, I’ve navigated across deserts with the sun and the stars as my only guides. I think I can use a map to find Chris’s room.”
“I am sorry,” Linda said. “Even though I’m a Master Scout, I don’t have much experience with people from lost colonies. I’m afraid I’ve made some assumptions about you two that just aren’t warranted. I’ll try to do better.”
I smiled in forgiveness and didn’t roll my eyes until after Linda and Chris had left. God, I hoped Linda was the exception rather the rule, among people at the Academy. Then, I began unpacking my bag. Just as I finished, I heard a new voice outside my door.
“This is your room, Joy,” a woman said. “We’ve put you with a girl from an undeveloped world—Aashla. Perhaps you’ve heard of it? It was in the news a few years back. Anyway, being from a more advanced lost colony, we’re hoping you can take this girl under your wing and help her adjust to our modern ways.”
If Callan were here, I’m pretty sure she’d tell me to ignore comments like that one and simply show people how wrong they are through exemplary behavior. I’m also pretty sure Callan would have had trouble taking her own advice. I’ve seen how she reacts to people who assume she’s nothing more than a barbarian princess. It is not pretty. Still, I decided I would try to be polite. So, I smiled politely and waited as the door opened.
The woman who had spoken outside entered. She was looking over her shoulder, though, and didn’t see me. “You should have a few moments to put away your things and prepare yourself for—”
A second woman, maybe two or three years older than me, followed her guide into the room. She saw me at once and interrupted her guide. “Hi! I’m your new roommate, Joy.”
Pointing at myself, I said, “Me Jade.” Pointing at Joy, I added, “You roommate Joy.”
Okay, so I didn’t try being polite. What can I say? I’m more comfortable with snark. In my defense, I am still a teenager.
Joy’s guide blushed deeply. “Well, I see you’re already here. Ahem. Well, I’ll just leave the two of you to get to know each other.”
The guide beat a hasty retreat. I waited until the door slid shut before collapsing onto my bed, laughing. “I’m sorry, Joy, I just couldn’t help myself. Your guide was expecting a barbarian, so I gave her one!”
Plopping down on the bed opposite me, Joy shook her head in wonder. “Damn, I am good! You’ve only spent one minute basking in my glow and, bam! You’ve already learned to speak all civilized and stuff.”
Then, Joy dissolved into laughter, as well.
I got the feeling my roommate and I were going to be good friends.
Are Chris and Jade going to face prejudice from almost everyone they meet? Find out more in Chapter 16, coming Wednesday.