Mecha Academy Episode 1 - Roommates
Chapter 2 - Ghosts of History
"I thought about that, but apparently the powers that be thought I'd be perfect for armoured infantry. You know, the big suits?"
"It's going to be quiet without them always fighting."
"I mean, look, I'm just another cadet here, like you, okay?"
"Sir, I can sleep on the cot. Mistakes happen."
"What the hell are you doing here?"
Lars stared as one of his new roommates tried to throttle the other. He started to step in to break up the fight, only to have his arm held back. Lars twisted to see who wanted to stop him and saw a new person, a young man with a concerned look on his face. "What?"
"Dude, that is the most dangerous place to be right now."
"We have to stop them!"
"Not if we get hurt instead."
Rhiannon slammed the other woman against wall a second time. "Who the hell let you back in, traitor?"
Miyami ran into the bedroom. "Rhiannon!"
The woman against the wall let her arms go limp. She stared down at the floor, unable to meet Rhiannon's eyes. "Well?" Rhiannon demanded. She growled, then tossed the woman to the floor. "I need air." She stormed out of the dorm, pushing past Lars and the newcomer.
"What just happened?" Lars said, still bewildered from the fight.
The woman picked herself up from the grey carpet. "She and I, we've met before."
"What did you do, kill her best friend?"
"Something like that." The woman fixed her sweater.
The newcomer stepped in to middle of everyone. "Look, it's in the past, right? We can move on." He grinned. "I'm Ric. Ricardo Ortiz, but just call me Ric."
Lars shook Ric's hand. "Lars Thorensen. And this is Miyami Watanabe."
Miyami waved. "Hi." She stared at the other woman.
"Dusty Tyler." She stepped out of the bedroom. "I can move the cot out somewhere else."
"There's no need for that," Ric said. "Look, we all just got here. Must be a case of mistaken identity. The Guard wouldn't let a murderer enlist, let alone attend an academy. It's just hyperbole, right?"
Miyami tapped at her tablet. She read the results of her search, then snapped her head up. "How?"
Dusty grabbed her jacket. "I'm going to the base exchange. I'll see everyone in the mess or at the assembly after. Or not." She walked out the door, her pace quick.
Lars watched as the door closed behind Dusty. "Okay, still not understanding what just happened here."
Miyami thrust her tablet into Lars' hands. "Here. Read. I don't blame Rhiannon."
As Lars read the news article, his eyes grew wider. A defection on Curren involving married scientists and their children resulted in the death of the heir to the Duchy of Bourgon, Rhiannon's brother, when a gunfight broke out. Lars swore under his breath.
"What is it, dude?" Ric asked.
Lars just handed the tablet to Ric. "This has to be a mistake. How would the daughter of defectors ever get back to the Empire, let alone in the Guard?"
"She didn't deny it," Miyami said. "You all heard her."
"What can we do?"
Ric shrugged. "If we tell anyone, all we can say is that Rhiannon attacked Dusty. Guys, we don't have enough to go on."
Miyami snorted. "No, just the words of both of them." She rolled her eyes. "I'm going to go find whoever is in charge of the dorms." She snatched her tablet out from Ric's hands.
Lars stepped out of the tiny woman's way. "Dusty mentioned Commander Haag."
"I'll start with him, then." Miyami stormed out of the dorm room.
Rhiannon stopped her angry pace when she realized she had no idea where she was. All she knew was that she was out in a courtyard surrounded by buildings she had no idea what purpose they had. She forced herself to take deeper breaths and let them out slower than she had been. Closing her eyes, she tried to let her emotions flow out of her, let the anger recede. All she saw, though, was that woman's face, not from the dorm but from two years ago, sitting in the back of of an escaping fancar while her own brother bled to death. A tear trailed down her cheek.
After a moment, Rhiannon regained her composure. She pulled up the map of the academy on her tablet, looking for the administrative building. After orienting herself, she walked at a calmer pace to the building. There had to be a way to get Tyler out of her room, even out of the academy. No way was she going to let a traitor sully the Guard's name or her brother's memory.
Rhiannon paused once inside the admin building to read the directory. Finding the Office of Student Affairs listed, she noted its location. As she looked for the office, she began composing her arguments in her head. She wanted to make sure that her reasons came from logic, not an emotional reaction. The problem was Tyler, not herself.
The Student Affairs office was still open, though no one was inside when Rhiannon entered. A chime rang when the door closed behind her. Rhiannon stood at the counter, waiting to see if anyone appeared. A tall man wearing the orange and black of the Star Guard emerged from an office. He looked around, then approached Rhiannon. "Yes, Cadet?"
Rhiannon looked at the officer's rank insignia before answering. "Commander, I think there's a problem with my room assignment. One of the people assigned shouldn't be here at all."
The Commander raised an eyebrow. "That's some accusation, Cadet. Are you saying that one of your roommates cheated to get into the academy? Do you have proof?"
"No, sir, not that." Rhiannon took a breath. "Sir, I think she's a spy, sent by the Republic."
"Cadet, that's a more serious accusation. You do have evidence, yes?"
"Sir, I saw her parents defect two years ago. They took their entire family." Rhiannon felt her legs start to shake. She gripped the edge of the counter to keep herself steady.
"Can I get your name, Cadet?" The Commander stepped over to a nearby terminal and started typing.
Rhiannon nodded. "Tudor. First name Rhiannon."
The Commander stopped typing mid-word. "What dorm are you assigned to?"
"Here, sir." Rhiannon showed the Commander her dorm assignment.
"I see." The Commander let out a slow breath. "I will look into this."
The Commander fixed his gaze on Rhiannon. "I will look into this. In the meantime, wander around the campus until dinnertime."
"That's an order, Cadet. Dismissed."
"Hey, dude, top or bottom?" Ric asked.
Lars blinked. "What?"
"Top bunk or bottom bunk? I don't care either way."
"Oh, right." Lars shrugged. "I'll take the bottom, then."
Lars dropped his suitcase on the bottom bed. "I'm good. I doubt you want someone my size over your head."
Ric laughed. "So, where are you from?"
"Here. My folks have a farm about a five hours drive from Shelter Cove."
"You must know the all good places there to find girls."
Ric leaned against the room's dresser. "Come on. Look at you. Girls must have been throwing themselves at you in school."
Lars felt his cheeks grow warm. "Not really. It's a five hour drive, remember? I went into Vaughan's Landing. It's closer to home."
"First leave we get, you and me, we're scoping out the nightclubs."
"What about the girls?"
Ric grinned. "That's what we're scoping for."
"I mean Miyami and them."
"Dude, we'll be lucky if any of them are alive by the end of the week. Besides, they can do their own scoping. We'd just be in each other's way with them."
Lars sat on his bunk. "What do we do? About Rhiannon and Dusty?"
Ric pushed off the dresser to join Lars at the bunk bed. "What they have is far beyond what we can deal with. We'll just stay out of their way."
"That doesn't sound right, though, y'know?"
"Dude, Rhiannon was beyond pissed, and I can't really blame her. You read the news."
"It just doesn't make any sense."
"Welcome to the military, dude!" Ric pulled Lars to his feet. "Some air will do us good. Let's go see what's on campus. I'm sure there are worthy sights." He nudged Lars in the side.
Lars sighed. "Sure. As long as we're not late for dinner."
"Come on!" Ric pulled Lars out of the dorm room.
Outside, Ric slowed his pace, taking in the scenery. Lars trailed him, unsure of what was happening. "What season are we in?" Ric asked.
"Early fall. Almost harvest season."
"Harvest? You guys have any harvest festivals?"
"Nothing big. A few fairs. I think Vaughan's Landing has one in a few weeks."
"What's it like?"
Lars shrugged. "Nothing big. A few rides, Lots of games where you can lose money fast. Food stalls. The Landers have a great roast going every year, and the Heibergs are trying out some new livestock."
"Great! Let me know when you're going, dude, and I'll join you."
"I don't know if we'll have any leave."
"It's harvest time! They're not going to keep us cooped up here. So, dude, what's your major?"
Lars felt the whiplash of the sudden change in topic. "Major? History, I think."
Ric took a good look at his large roommate. "Never figured you for history, dude. I would've said engineering or chemistry."
"No thanks. I sucked at math in school and I've seen the schedule for engineering students here. I'm not that crazy." Lars laughed. "What about you? What's your major?"
"Haven't decided. I'm in as a general Arts and Sciences. I want to see my options before I decide."
"Good luck making a choice."
A blonde woman the two men's age approached. "Excuse me? I think I'm lost." She looked up at Lars. "I'm trying to find the library." She held up her map of the campus.
Lars looked at her map then at the buildings around them. He pointed to his left. "I think it's that way, between the two dorms there."
The woman leaned in. "Are you sure?"
"I think so." Lars checked the map again. "I'm sure. It's that way."
"Thanks!" The woman left in the direction Lars had indicated.
"Dude, you should have gone with her," Ric said.
"But she didn't ask." Lars stared after the woman.
Ric laughed. "She didn't use words, dude. Body language."
"I'm not so good at that."
"I noticed. But if she's lost, she's in our year. You'll see her again."
Lars shook his head. "Probably. Where are we going?"
"I hear the base exchange is popular."
Miyami stopped on a patch of grass. She swore she recognized the building she was in front of, having passed it at least three times. "Why can't they just number the buildings like sane people?" she grumbled. She looked at her map, trying to find the building on it. She twisted her tablet around, trying to orient it with where she was, with the building on her right. "You have got to be kidding me." She turned around, facing the way she came. Hoping the building she saw a few hundred metres away was the one she wanted, she began walking again, picking up her pace to make sure the office didn't close before she arrived.
She arrived at the Office of Student Affairs almost breathless but before it closed for the day. Behind the counter, she saw just one man in a dark orange shirt and black pants straightening a few things up. Miyami approached the counter and waited for the man to notice her. After a few moments, he did, and asked what she wanted.
"It's about my dorm assignment," she said, adding, "sir," after a moment of hesitation. "I think there must be a mistake."
"What sort of mistake, Cadet?" the man in uniform asked.
"Well, there's two people who shouldn't be together, and one probably shouldn't be here at all. Sir."
"Let me see your assignment details."
Miyami handed him her tablet with the information open. As he read, she continued, "It has to be a mistake putting Lady Filton, er, sorry, Cadet Tudor in with her, after all that happened."
The man gave Miyami her tablet back. "I am aware of the problem, Cadet."
"But, sir, how did she get in?"
"I am aware of the problem, Cadet. This is beyond your pay grade. Don't worry about it."
"It's almost dinner time," the man said. "Go to the mess and eat. Let me work on the problem."
"Yes, sir." Dejected, Miyami put her tablet in her bag. She walked out of the office far slower than she had when she arrived.
Once out of the admin building, Miyami took her time making her way to the mess hall. She spotted Ric and Lars across the courtyard and waved, but her two roomies were looking the other way at something that she couldn't see. No matter to her, Miyami needed time to herself to work out what happened in her new bedroom. Why couldn't that clerk understand the problem? Lady Filton—Rhiannon, Miyami corrected herself -- Rhiannon shouldn't have a living reminder of her brother's needless death in the same room.
Hearing her name, Miyami looked around. She heard her name called out a second time. By the mess hall just off the courtyard, she saw Rhiannon waving to her. Miyami dashed across the courtyard, taking the direct beeline to her new roomie. "Hi!"
"I was hoping to find you," Rhiannon said. "They're starting to serve dinner and I hate eating alone. Are you ready to eat?"
"Sure! I just need to wash up."
"No rush. Have you seen the guys? Lars and whatever the other one's name is?"
"Rich? Ric? Something like that? Not too long ago, heading towards the parade ground, I think. Their attention was elsewhere."
Rhiannon smiled. "Probably a girl. I do owe them an apology for my behaviour. I owe you one, too, Miyami."
"I completely understand, Rhiannon. I can't imagine what it was like seeing her."
"I suppose." Rhiannon cast her eyes down to the pavement. "Still, I don't lose my temper and slam everyone I meet."
Miyami gave her roomie a quick hug. "You had no way of knowing she'd be there. I don't blame you."
"Thanks." Rhiannon opened the door to the mess hall. She stepped aside to let Miyami enter first. The crowd inside was small but growing. Students wandered around, looking for people they knew or a place to sit. "Go clean up. I'll meet you in line."
Miyami ran off to the women's restroom, squeezing by a small crowd to get inside. Several of the stalls were in use, but all Miyami wanted to do was wash her hands. She ignored the idle chatting between a couple of fellow students, just wanting to get back out as soon as she could. The water from the sink took a few moments to warm up, but Miyami managed to get lathered up, washed, and rinsed without too many problems. On her way out, she had to jump back from the door as a tall blonde woman entered. "Whoa, sorry," Miyami said.
"No, my fault. I should have been more careful." She thrust out her hand. "I'm Susanna. First year."
Miyami shook Susanna's hand. "Miyami."
"You're from off-world, aren't you?"
"Yeah, from Midori Ryu." Two young women squeezed past Miyami and Susanna. "We should move."
"Right. And I kinda have to go. Like, now."
Miyami stepped aside to let Susanna into the restroom. "I'll see you around!"
Making her way through the crowd, Miyami found Rhiannon near the line up for dinner. They joined the line, watching the other end to see what choices they'd have. "Sorry for the delay," Miyami said.
"Don't be. I got to see who else is in our year."
"Same here. Almost got run over by a possible classmate coming out of the women's room."
"I wasn't expecting so many people."
Miyami looked around. "Yeah, same here. It's not like high school. Not like my high school, at least. We had decent funding so our classes weren't huge."
Rhiannon couldn't meet Miyami's eyes. "I went to a private school. Over protective parents, you know?"
"Yeah. I mean, my folks weren't happy I was coming here." Miyami flashed a smile. "But, we're here, right? That has to count for something."
"We got this far. We're going to make it through and graduate!"
A young woman behind them coughed. "I'd like to get food tonight."
Miyami ducked her head. "Sorry." She moved up, closing the gap in the line up, Rhiannon right behind her.
"We were caught up in the moment. Don't worry about it." Rhiannon peered down to where the night's dinner was being served to see what her choices would be. "I don't suppose you got to the base exchange? It sort of slipped my mind earlier."
"No. That Tyler girl was going there and I wanted to avoid her."
"Miyami, dear, please, don't worry about her, okay? I'm dealing with her. I talked to a Commander in Student Affairs already and he's going to find out what's going on." Rhiannon sighed. "It's nothing you have to worry about."
"Alright." Miyami picked up a tray as the line moved. "Still, it's not right."
"It isn't." Rhiannon picked up her own tray. "But, the problem's being looked into. That's what matters. Looks like you're up."
Miyami looked at the offerings, a choice of vegetable soup or a garden salad, fish of some sort on a bed of rice or lasagne, and pie for dessert. Choosing the soup and fish, she moved down to the cashier, who verified her meal ticket. Rhiannon joined her soon after. Together, they found a free table and sat.
"I am famished," Rhiannon said. "And this looks decent."
"I know. I heard horror stories about cafeteria food." Miyami scooped a spoonful of her soup, blowing on it to cool it off before eating it.
"It's good." Miyami had another spoonful. "You should've had this instead of your salad."
"Maybe tomorrow." Rhiannon began on her garden salad, adding a packet of vinaigrette dressing to it. "Have you thought about what you're majoring in?"
"Civil Engineering. My folks probably wanted me in business, but I prefer something solid. I want an actual building, not a business. Besides, my older brother is going to take over the family business when my folks retire. And he's welcome to it. What about you?"
"Mathematics, but I might have to minor in Political Science. I have to keep Mom and Dad somewhat happy."
"That's an odd mix. Do you think trig ever gets all political and have elections?" Miyami saw Lars and Ric enter the mess hall. She pointed them out to Rhiannon, then waved to get their attention. Ric waved back, then pointed at the line to get dinner.
"The gang's all here." Rhiannon cut a piece of her lasagne. "Maybe they got to the exchange. Would be nice to have a snack before bed."
"Is that allowed?"
"Why wouldn't it be?" Rhiannon savoured her bite of lasagne.
Miyami shrugged. "Aren't they counting our calories or something to make sure we eat healthy?"
"That's easier to do if we're not hungry. And there might be days when we're too busy studying to get here to eat."
"Never thought about it that way."
"If they are going to put us on a diet, they'll have to tailor it for us. All of us had to pass a physical before being admitted, so if there was someone here who needed a diet, they'd know. I mean, I'm not on any restrictions. Are you?"
Miyami shook her head. "No one told me anything."
Ric was the first of the two men to arrive at the table. He sat down across from Rhiannon. "Hey, ladies. Miss us yet?"
"Hi," Lars said as he sat down beside Ric. Along with his fish entree and salad, he had half a dozen glasses of water.
"I saw you two earlier," Miyami said. "The other side of the courtyard."
"You did?" Lars downed one of glasses of water in one gulp. "I never saw you. Sorry."
"You were looking the wrong way."
Rhiannon took a sip of her juice. "I don't suppose you found the base exchange?"
Ric smiled. "Sort of."
Lars rolled his eyes. "What he means is that we found everything else but, including the officer's club, the gym, the skating rink, and the pool."
Ric perked up. "Wait, there's a pool?"
"It's on the map." Miyami pulled out her tablet. "Here." She pointed at the pool on her copy of the academy's layout.
"Good to know." Ric peered closer at the map. "And there's a couple of places that look café-like."
"We're not going to have time to get to them tonight," Rhiannon said. "We have the assembly after dinner, remember? And I really want to get to the exchange before then."
Lars head turned as he followed someone who just entered the mess hall. "Isn't that Dusty over there?"
Rhiannon craned her neck to see. "Don't even think about calling her over. I will walk out if you do. She's not going to be here long anyway."
"I wasn't going to do anything." Lars held his hands up in surrender.
"I don't think she saw us," Miyami said.
"Good." Rhiannon returned to her meal. She set down her knife and fork. "I've lost my appetite."
"A walk will help," Ric said. "Go get fresh air. Find the base exchange and pick up something for later. It'll help."
Rhiannon tried to smile. "Thanks, Ric."
Ric pointed at her food. "Do you mind if I finish that for you?"
"I'll promote you to goddess if you remembered sugar."
"Your success here isn't going to depend on you. You will have to learn to work together as a team."
"Sir, I need to move to a different dorm."
"That's not a record I ever wanted to see set."