Saturday, December 31, 2016

Star Trader Update - Academy Brats .020.1

As promised, today we start a New Serial Story.
For those of you who are new to the site,
I post a new chapter each Saturday. 

For this edition I will be shifting gears from fantasy to science fiction. We are going back to rejoin 3su, Star Trader to the known Verse, on one of her missions. 

It seemed like an easy and lucrative job when she accepted it. But, as we all know often what we expect is not what we get. Things can turn ugly very quickly in space. 

Star Trader Update
Academy Brats .020

“Well… How do I look?” I stood on the bridge of my ship in my new spacer suit.

“Like you could seriously kickass,” Ma-rye-a, my ship, answered.

This was quite the comment from my normally reserved co-pilot. I straightened up a bit taller in my new spacer boots. The suit was striking, black with red stripes from the mandarin collar down over the shoulders to the cuffs and from under the arms down the sides of my legs into the top of my boots. And within the red strips, running the full length of both arms were black and red embroidered dragons. I had spent some serious coin having that detail added.

“The strips are very slimming,” Cassie commented. “We were right to choose this one.”

Cassie was my ‘personal’ AI. She surfed the NET for anything she thought might interest me during my downtime and she was my fashionista. Daniel, my programmer friend, gave her a recent upgrade to bring her in-line with the latest trends and interests of the younger crowd. I was pushing sixty. She kept me young and she would help me entertain my passengers on our upcoming mission.

“Very nice,” Moby added, “but from my view point I think we best lay off the chocolate or you won’t be able to fit into it on the return flight.”

I looked over my shoulder at one of the numerous 1080PMC lens my disembodied crew used to observe me throughout the ship. “Shift Moby’s view to front,” I ordered Ma-rye-a. I would not have my AI cook cutting off my chocolate.

“I think you look great, Cap. The Phase II Blaster is a killer.” Sam was my security, freight and maintenance AI. The muscle aboard my ship. I could go naked for all he cared, as long as I had a blaster on my hip. He picked this new model out recently based on the information he received from the upgrade Daniel gave him.

In fact, my IT guru friend had given all my ship’s AIs upgrades. I wanted them to have the latest information, trends and mumbo-jumbo so they could deal with the four teenagers, from sixteen to nineteen, I was being commissioned to transport to the Galactic Academy. Their parents were paying a ship-load of money to have them privately transported to their new school. I was going to see that they had the ‘Class A’ treatment their parent’s money bought them.

“You haven’t chimed in, Horus.” Horus was the final member of my crew. He was my second brain. The AI Daniel’s program had mixed between a loyal British butler, and a wise elderly grandfather with all the answers.

“I think you will make a splendid impression.”

That was Horus for you, restrained, understated, but honest. I would make an impression and that was what I was after. Show the parents that they picked the right person for the job and that their precious youngsters were safe with me, my crew and my ship. And, show the teens I was not going to take any shit from them.

I was given a dossier on each of them by their parents. They were all human, this being a strictly human colony on Novus 3.

I knew Callen was the youngest at sixteen and extremely bright. He graduated top of his class two years earlier than his fellow classmates. His interests were computers, programming, gaming, etc. He hated any kind of melons and loved chips of all types.

Drake was the other boy. He was the oldest at nineteen. He was into sports of all types. Very athletic and lettered in Hardball and Maxloop in his first year of college. He was a vegetarian and put only whole grains in a body he considered his temple. Cassie found pictures on his Social Media of him flexing his muscles for his friends. Drake had a crush on Mims, one of the girls in the group. I was warned in his file to see that the crush was not acted on during the flight. His parents wanted him clear headed and emotionally uninvolved when he arrived at the academy. And, they certainly didn’t want a grandchild to spoil their plans for their wonder-kin.

Mims was eighteen, so of legal age, but from her dossier she sounded a bit innocent. She liked mythology and research. She hoped to get on an exploration ship once she graduated the academy. She was fluent in six languages and loved books and chocolate. A young woman I could learn to like.

Tiff was short for Tiffany, but she disliked the full name. I was not to address her as anything other than Tiff. She was seventeen, hated lima beans and loved fashion. I thought this one might be the problem child of the bunch. She sounded like an air-head, but she must have had some brains because her IQ was off the charts – higher even then Callen’s. I thought she and Cassie might hit it off.

I took a big chunk of the advance the parents gave me and did some upgrades to Ma-rye-a. My guest quarters were high-end and could accommodate two passengers in a very spacious room which could be shared or divided with a movable wall into two separate rooms.

Sam and I permanently fixed the wall in place and I had a crew from the refitting station remove the two large beds and install two smaller beds on each side of the partition. The girls would have one room and the boys the other. It might not be the best set up since they all seemed so different in interests, but with luck they wouldn’t be doing much more than sleeping in their rooms.

The vid room was the other area on the ship that got a major makeover. In the past, I had just four comfort chairs – a bit of rearranging, and a non-structural wall removed, made the area almost half again as big. The newest model of Comfort chairs were installed. They not only conformed to your body profile, but they had heat, cooling and massage options. They were each equipped with over-the-head retractable gaming consoles and the sweetest little prep unit for snacks and drinks right off the side. Even thought to have a left-handed unit installed for Callen.

I replaced the big screen in the vid room with a three-quarter wraparound, equipped with full audio features. It could be accessed from any of the chairs and sound could be either room or headphones, in case some wanted to game and others wanted to lounge with a movie, news, or documentary. The screen also had the function of splitting into an almost infinite number of smaller screens.

I have a huge personal movie collection on file. Cassie locked out anything inappropriate for the teens. People didn’t sensor much of what the youth of the Verse watched anymore, but I would feel uncomfortable letting them watch some of my stuff. Besides, there was that whole Drake/Mims thing to keep under control and some hot bodied romance vids were not going to help the situation any.

Ma-rye-a interrupted my mental review of the preparations I made. “Sam tells me the pod is ready and I just received clearance for you to enter Novus 3’s air space.”

I was invited to the launch party for the academy bound teens by their parents. I was headed down to make an appearance, meet my future shipmates, spend the night at a plush resort at their parent’s expense, and then bring them back for the month-long trip to their new school.

I picked up my new, very pricy, Galor bag and headed for the pod bay.


*****

There is nothing quiet as refreshing as a Muldavian Spritzer and I was holding one that had been skillfully concocted by the mixologist from the bar at the launch party. The drink was not only delicious, but this woman had managed to make the rainbow colors swirl in such a way that it gave the appearance of holding one of the Verse’s wonders right in your hand, a Muldavian Sunset. I sipped at it, doing my best to make it last. I wished this wasn’t such a glamorous affair… I would have taken out my mini flat and snapped a photo of it to share with my crew and friends, but then again… if it wasn’t such a glamorous affair there wouldn’t have been a superior – and I am sure astronomically expensive – master mixologist at hand.

I was introduced to all the teens I would be transporting. Tiff was the only one who paid the least bit of attention to me and that was only because she was interested in my outfit. Basically, it was ‘hello,’ ‘pleased to meet you,’ ‘oh, excuse me I see someone more interesting then you.’ What can I say, they were kids?

I did get a lot of attention from the parents. Mr. and Mrs. Drumbold, Drake’s parents, seemed to be the driving force behind hiring me. It turns out they were the ones who approached the agency I was registered with for a ship to transport the teens. They asked to come onboard and see the facilities, even though I sent them detailed pictures of Ma-rye-a inside and out through the agency. I told them I would be pleased to have them visit before our departure. They said they had their own transportation and would convoy up with us in the morning. Mrs. Drumbold hung back when her husband went off to see to some party guest’s request.

“I hope the agency made it very clear to you that the reason we were employing a private transport was not just for the prestige.” She was tall and willowy like a model. She wore a stunning iced blue gown made of material so soft it flowed around her like waves rippling over a sandy beach.

“I understand you want a bit of a chaperon for this trip.” I turned my eyes toward Drake and Mims as they stood with three other guests. They were holding hands and looked as though they could hardly wait to be out of the sight of their parent’s prying eyes.

“Exactly,” Mrs. Drumbold said, “and more than a ‘bit’ is needed, I would think.”

“I’ll see to it,” I assured her. “I can have eyes everywhere aboard my ship. No hanky-panky on my watch.” I grinned, but she didn’t smile back. She was taking this all very seriously. I made a mental note to put everyone on watch so I was sure to receive my bonus when we arrived at the Academy with both teens unsullied.

After Mrs. Drumbold moved on to more interesting company, I stood watching my future charges trying to get a feel for their personalities. Drake and Mims hung on each other and basically stayed with the same group of five to ten teens. Drake was the typical jock, loud and very overt. He wore his hair short and his pants tight. Mims was a lovely brunette with blue eyes and a sweet smile. She seemed to be content in Drake’s shadow.

Tiffany was like a butterfly in a field of sweet flowers – she flitted from group to group. She seemed to be accepted by everyone and welcomed by many. She wore her hair short and bright red with a bond streak in the front which often hung over one eye. I wouldn’t have understood her outfit if I hadn’t been with Cassie earlier and seen the latest fashion on the NET. She wore a red halter top with a miniskirt and over the knee boots. This was topped off with a red cape which was so long it drug on the ground behind her. I swear she looked like some twenty-first century cartoon superhero. But hey, per the fashion industry she was cutting edge.

As I suspected, Callen stayed mostly to himself. He seemed to have one friend who hung out with him by the hors d’oeuvres table. His friend looked younger than him and couldn’t seem to hide the fact that he was distort over Callen’s impending departure.

Mr. Marzolla, Callen’s father saw me watching him. “That’s his best friend, Antons Sorra. He’s a clever boy, but not near as smart as my Callen. Frankly, I don’t see what they can find to possibly talk about.”

Didn’t Mr. Marzolla know his son was slick? The body language, the eye contact, the raw emotions were all there to see. Some kids experimented with same gender sex when they were first getting to know their bodies. Some kid were just born slick. I imagined Callen was one of the ‘born to it.’ He and Antons were a couple. He was not only leaving home, he was leaving what was probably his first lover.

Once humans emerged from Earth and started exploring the Verse they saw the diversity of the way love and relationships could form in other species as well as themselves. As a race, we became more open and tolerant. I found it odd that the father did not recognize it in his son, and equally odd the son had kept it quiet. I wondered if the population on Norvus 3 had some sort of odd religious taboo or other arcane laws about same sex relationships. I would have Cassie do some research. I wouldn’t want to violate some rule I was unaware of while transporting the group.

I turned from studying Callen, to his father. “He’ll make new friends at school.” It was a safe comment and a true one. Callen was blond, blue eyed and delicate looking. He would attract more than his share of suiters.

“I hope you are having a good time,” Mrs. Mollard said, as she joined us. She was a short stocky woman with mousey brown hair. She didn’t look like one of the rich except for the fact that she was literally dripping in diamonds. Even the bodice of her gown seemed to be embedded with them. I wondered if she came with a personal guard detail to make sure someone didn’t whisk her and her fortune away. I looked over her shoulder, but didn’t see anyone lurking other than her husband.

He stood a good foot taller than her, maybe even a foot and a half. He was as unadorned as she was bedazzled. He wore a simple black and white dress suit impeccably cut to his slim frame. They were total opposites to each other.

“I am… thank you. It is a lovely party.” I sipped at my drink. It did go down ever so smoothly. “And the kids all seem to be having a good time.”

Most of them had relaxed enough that the older ones were starting to dance. Drake guided Mims out on the dance floor and they began to gyrate to some discordant music I was unfamiliar with.

“Maleficent is quite an accomplished dancer,” Mrs. Mollard said.

Geez, no wonder she went by Mims. Why would a parent name a child Maleficent? And as for dancing, well… she could follow the beat, but she wouldn’t be winning any competitions.

I decided to change the subject before I was asked my opinion of Mims dancing. “I haven’t met Tiff’s parents yet.”

“They are on holiday,” Mrs. Mollard said. It seemed she did the talking for her, and her husband. “They left Tiff with us. We’ll see she gets onboard and settled.”

Another red flare went up in my head to watch Tiff. Parents who didn’t have the time to see their only child off for a four-year stint at the Galactic Academy didn’t get a very high rating in my book. And kids brought up by uncaring parents were usually more prone to trouble.

“The freight shuttle is loaded and on its way to your ship,” Mr. Drumbold announced, as he walked up to the group. “Your AI crew should have no trouble transferring the cargo.”

This was a test. Mr. Drumbold asked six pages worth of questions when he found out I had an ‘all’ AI crew. He was concerned for security, service and basic comfort of his son, and the others. I assured him they were safer with my crew then a humanoid staff.

I bushed off the challenge. “Sam will be able to see to the unloading.” I confidently sipped my spritzer. I had worked for far more demanding employers than him.

If you are finding this story interesting,
Check out 3su's earlier adventures on the Star Trader Updates Blog,
Start with In The Beginning for an introduction to her world,
Follow her on her first full adventure in Power Play,
Body Bags and Other Dark Places will put the fear back into your space travel,
Councils, Contracts and Confusions explores the inner workings of the known Verse,
and 3su gets in over her head in Special Delivery


Star Traveler Art by Sherry D. Ramsey

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