Jade shows an aptitude for Boost, earning advanced training.
With our implants installed, training accelerated rapidly. The teaching programs built upon the foundation the instructors laid down during the first few months we were at the Academy, leaving the instructors free to sculpt that knowledge into the skills we’d need to do our jobs. That’s what Linda told me during one of our Boost training sessions, anyway.
I guess you need this kind of approach if you’re going to teach a bunch of cadets everything they need to know in only two years. Even when we graduate from the Academy, we’ll spend God knows how long training in the field, directly under the supervision of a Master Scout. We couldn’t go on missions without a Master Scout until we were promoted to Scout First Class.
“I must warn you of something, Jade,” Linda said while we rested after a Boost training session. “You’re on your way to becoming the youngest Scout First Class in the history of the Scout Corps. And, I mean youngest by a lot. David Rice was the second-youngest to achieve that rank, he was twenty-two—almost twenty-three—when he got his promotion. You’re on track to reach that rank shortly after your twenty-first birthday.”
“Why did you call it a warning?”
“There are already people who don’t think you belong here—along with Chris and most of the other cadets from lost colonies. People like MP Berela, who are certain you’re too backward to succeed without their guidance. People who will want to give you the trappings of galactic civilization, making you dependent on them for handouts, rather than teaching you how to achieve those things on your own. No matter what you do, those people will never believe you could overcome your…handicaps…without their benign intervention.”
I shrugged, “I heard that sort of thing back home from people who believe it’s not proper for a girl to fly airships. I’m sure I can handle the Federation version of it.”
Linda laughed, “Yes, I’m sure you can, though no one from the Federation will ever suggest your sex is a handicap. I just wanted you to be aware of what you’ll hear from people.”
“What about Chris? Will he hear the same thing?”
“Sure, but he’s a little closer in age to the other cadets, so he might not hear it as often as you will.”
“Since we’re both going to be working back on Aashla, maybe we’ll have a chance to prove ourselves before we have to face too many skeptical galactics.”
“That’s what we call everyone who isn’t from Aashla.” I thought about that for a second, then amended, “Except for David, Martin, and Princess Heidi, of Tarteg. They’re honorary Aashlanders.”
My training with Linda was my favorite part of the school day. When we first met, I thought she was so nice that she couldn’t be a ‘real’ Scout. I learned differently in our sessions together. She drove me hard, and knew all sorts of stuff about Boost and its effect on people. I’ve read all the David Rice stories, so I wasn’t surprised when he turned out to be the exception to just about every safety warning she taught me.
“Remember, Jade, you’re not David Rice! Don’t let your desire to emulate him override your common sense, much less the safety protocols we’ve installed in your implants.”
“I’m deadly serious about this, Jade. Discuss it with Chris, then try imagining how he’ll feel if you suffer Boost Burnout and die. In fact, consider that an order. You should have a serious discussion about it tonight, when you’re teaching Chris, Joy, and Pete the stuff I taught you, today.”
I didn’t realize Linda knew I was doing that. It was my way of helping my friends and my true love learn more about Boost. It was also supposed to be a secret.
My face must have shown something, because Linda smiled in reassurance. “Don’t worry, Jade, every advanced Boost student teaches their friends what they’re learning.”
“And it’s okay?”
“Sure. Tutoring your friends reinforces what you learn from me and helps speed your friends’ learning. That’s a win for the Academy, no matter how you look at it.”
Once I realized secrecy wasn’t necessary, I moved my little class out of our dorm room and into the courtyard. Then, I opened it to anyone else who wanted to join us. Before long, the other advanced students joined their groups with mine and the nine of us ended up teaching the entire cadet class. Even the snooty Federation girls who turned their noses up at us lost colonists joined in. Most of them even lost their snootiness and began treating me as an equal.
Meanwhile, my second favorite class was flight training under Master Scout Engles. Every class had us using the flight simulators, which was pretty patchless, and we had to learn fast. Every two weeks, we ran through simulator trials that measured our progress. We cadets just thought the trials were little more than a fun competition, until two cadets who had horrible scores in the first trial were washed out.
Joy and I weren’t in danger of washing out—we both always scored near the top, and each of us topped the scores a couple of times—but some of the cadets had a lot more trouble keeping up. It was Joy’s idea to offer after-class tutoring to anyone who needed the help. Master Scout Engles enthusiastically endorsed the idea and taught us how to run the flight simulators. Our efforts couldn’t stop some cadets from washing out, but I think we reduced the number.
Then, without quite realizing how much time had passed, the entire cadet class was taken to the space station orbiting Sescaga to learn in real ships and in real space! It was…
None of those words come close to describing how I felt flying through space. If I can spend the rest of my life flying around the galaxy with Chris, I’ll be content.
The days flew by and, suddenly, it was time for our first cadet cruise. We did pretty well, I think. None of us washed out after the cruise, anyway. After the cruise, we got a break before the start of our second—and final—year at the Academy. We had more than enough time for a visit home—and we were taking guests.
Months before, Chris and I invited Joy and Pete to come home with us during the break. I was totally casual about it, too.
Just before we turned out the lights in our new room in the space station, I asked, “Joy, do you want to meet David during the end-of-year break?”
“That would be cool! Is he coming to pick you and Chris up?”
“No. Before he and Megan left, Martin said they’d come back and give us a ride home.”
“Oh. Then, how would I meet David?”
“You know, for a really smart girl, you can be pretty dumb at times. You meet him by coming home with me during the break.”
“Will I get to fly an airship?”
“I don’t see why not.”
“Yes! That would be patchless!” Joy fell silent for a brief second, then asked, “Is Chris inviting Pete?”
“That is so zing! I wasn’t looking forward to spending a couple of months apart from him.”
Pete’s response was similar to Joy’s, even to the point of asking if Joy was going.
Boarding Martin’s ship, we were all extremely excited. Chris and I were looking forward to seeing our home again. Joy and Pete were looking forward to seeing Aashla in person.
I wonder how we’d have felt if we had known what was to come?
What does Jade mean by that? You probably won’t find out in Chapter 35, coming Friday.