11 May 2018

Mecha Academy - Episode 2 - Chapter 3

Episode 2 - By Your Leave

Chapter 3 - Crime Stoppers

"Let's not hit them too fast, fly boy."
"Sergeant Chang is going to work us hard if she hears about this."
"You are so oblivious."
"What have I done?"
The next morning, even Lars slept late.  The Thorensen family let them be, knowing when they got back in.  Lars wound up having to carry both Susanna and Miyami inside before he collapsed on to his own bed.  Rhiannon was the first downstairs mid-morning.  Lars' younger siblings, Lisbet and Bjorn, were in the living room using the entertainment unit.  There wasn't any sign of Karl or Heidi, though she did find a note in the kitchen on where to find the leftovers.  Rhiannon settled for a cup of coffee before trying to make a decision.

Lars joined Rhiannon a few minutes later.  He yawned as he poured his own coffee.  "Morning."

"Sleep well?"

"Yeah.  You?"

"I don't remember the last time I fell asleep that fast."  Rhiannon stretched her arms.  "Lars, about Susanna..."

Lars sat down at the kitchen table.  "What about her?"

"Is it me or is she coming on a little strong?"

"It's not just you."  Lars smiled.  "I don't mind."

"I saw how she and Vesta glared at each other last night during the dancing."

"I know."  Lars took a long drink of his coffee, trying to wake up faster.  "Vesta asked me to the end of year dance before we graduated.  It's how things are done on Tamar."

Rhiannon shrugged.  "I guess.  It didn't look like it."

"Susanna will find someone else sooner or later."

"What about you?"

"We'll be too busy once we get back to the Academy.  And I know where I can disappear to if I need it."

"But you shouldn't have to."

"Rhiannon, if things get really bad, I can go to Student Affairs.  Or actually talk to Susanna."

"If you say so."  Rhiannon sipped her coffee.  "Any plans for today?"

"I'm going to just hang around here.  I miss being home, you know?  I miss being able to go out in a field and just enjoy being outside without someone yelling at me to keep going.  What about you?"

"I'm not sure yet.  I think I want to go into town.  I'll have to call my parents at some point, too.  Not looking forward to that call.  They'll want to know why I'm here and not on a ship to visit them for the five hours I'll have before turning around to get back in time."

"The library should be open.  It has some rooms you can use if you need privacy."


Ric and Abby entered the kitchen hand in hand.  "Hi guys."  He stopped to pour himself a cup of coffee for himself and Abby.  "I don't think I've danced so much in my life."

Abby added cream to her coffee.  "You never left the dance floor, you dope.  Where did you find the energy?"

Rhiannon pointed at Ric's coffee cup.  "The power of caffeine compels him."

"That explains why he invited me.  I work at the spaceport's coffee shop."  Abby nudged Ric playfully.

"And you can dance," Ric said.  "Let's not forget that."

Lars got up to give his seat to Abby.  "Do you two have plans?"

"Ric wants to go back to the fair."  Abby shrugged.  "I'm going to see what trouble he can get into."

"I'll go see if my folks left the van.  If they did, I'll drive everyone into town."

"Thanks, dude."  Ric saw Miyami, still wearing the same clothes from the previous day, enter.  "There's my dance partner now!"

Miyami gave Ric a half-hearted wave as she shambled to the coffee urn.  "What was that we were drinking last night?"

"A local cider," Lars said.  "The verun fruit can be a little strong."

Rhiannon smiled.  "You kept your top on all night, if that's what you're worried about."

Miyami stuck her tongue out at Rhiannon.  "You know how long it took me to feel my legs this morning?"

"Does that mean no dancing tonight?" Ric asked.  He ducked when Miyami threw a dish cloth at his head.

"Let me check if we still have the van," Lars said.  He went out the back door.

Miyami got her cup of coffee.  "I just want to rest today."  She leaned against the counter adding her milk and sugar.  "I don't know if I can walk anymore."

"Lars can take us into town," Rhiannon said.  "I'm not doing much, just being a tourist."

"Ric and I are going back to the fair," Abby said.  "You might want to be somewhere else."

"Thanks for the warning.  Susanna's still asleep.  Should we wake her?"

"Let her sleep.  It'll give Lars a break."  Rhiannon finished her coffee.  "And since everyone is down here, I'll going to go grab a shower and get dressed."


Dusty emerged from the hotel's bathroom feeling better now that she had showered.  With her new haircut, drying her hair took far less time than before.  She still wasn't used to her new reflection.  Dusty ran her fingers through her hair, an action that was starting to be habitual.  With a shrug, she grabbed her jacket.  Breakfast somewhere was on the top of her list of things to do.

Leaving the Ocean Reach Hotel, Dusty started walking in the direction of a diner she had passed the day before.  The walk would do for her morning exercise; she didn't want to fall out of practice or habit, not when Sergeant Chang would work the entire first year class harder if anyone couldn't handle even a simple jogged lap around the courtyard.  At the same time, Dusty wanted to let her spa treatment last a little longer before being ruined.

The diner was busy when she arrived.  Dusty accepted a seat at the counter to skip the wait.  The waiter took her order without much chit chat.  With the luxury of not having someplace to be right away, Dusty watched the bustle around her, wondering what the different groups of people were doing.  A family of five ate at one table, the young kids starting to get antsy as the parents tried to finish their breakfast.  Three people in business suits talked over coffee.  Four teenagers compared homework at a third table, triggering a memory from a lifetime ago when Dusty did the same thing with her friends, trying to finish calculus problems before they had to run to school.

Dusty sipped her tea.  A light breakfast would do her for the morning.  She wasn't about to go out and run a marathon or lift weights for several hours.  A quick check of her tablet let her know what her options were.  If she could figure out how to get there, Shelter Cove had a museum on the history of the colony.  If nothing else, Dusty could let herself get lost there for a few hours.

The incoming message sound chimed.  Dusty opened the missive from Commander Haag, asking what sort of mistake she made.  She felt her cheeks grow warm as she started to reply.  /Sorry, Commander.  I did something that I thought I regretted.  It's not so bad now./  Dusty took a quick photo of herself with her new haircut and sent her reply.

The crowd in the diner began to thin.  Dusty finished her breakfast and paid.  She put away her tablet and went outside.  The traffic was still busy on the road as people went their own way.  However, no one paid her any mind.  To them, she was just another pedestrian in the city.

The ocean air helped clear her head.  She followed the path suggested by her tablet to the nearest maglev trolley stop.  A few others waited there with her, some growing impatient.  In the distance, Dusty saw the trolley approach, floating just above the rail, going not much faster than the rest of the traffic.  It coasted to a stop, letting the waiting people on.  Dusty let others board first, then found a seat.  The looped through a number of neighbourhoods, with passengers boarding and leaving at every stop.  Eventually, the trolley arrived at the museum Dusty wanted to visit.

Dusty entered the building, a two story structure whose walls followed the contours of the shoreline a kilometre away.  There weren't many people inside, letting Dusty to let herself be enveloped by the history of the planet.  The displays weren't as interesting as she had hoped, but the solitude made up for it.  No one around to disturb her, and the one or two people who did happen to be in the same exhibit as she was were focused on what was on display.  For Dusty, it was ideal.


The Thorensen family van was once again full when it set down in Vaughan's Landing.  The entire troop poured out of the van, somewhat more awake now that the morning caffeine had hit.  They milled around the fan vehicle, working out which way everyone was going.  Susanna remained close to Lars as he checked his tablet.  "Ma sent me a grocery list," he said.  "I'll--"

"We'll go get it," Susanna said.

Lars nodded.  "We'll go get it."

Miyami let her attention get drawn away by two men across the street.  They were looking around nervously.  Miyami turned away before they noticed her noticing them.  "Um, guys?"

"Don't worry about us, dude," Ric said.  "We'll find a way there."

"I am not walking," Abby said.  "Lars, we'll take the ride."

"Guys."  Miyami tapped at Rhiannon's arm to get her attention.  "Over there."  She pointed at the two men.

"What about them?" Rhiannon asked.

As they watched, the two men put on cheap masks and burst into the bank.  Screams came from inside, followed by two sharp blasts.  "Yeah, that," Miyami said.  "We have to do something."

Ric stepped forward.  "Lars, how big is the police force here?"

"Half a dozen or so constables."

"Abby, stay here and call in the robbery."

Abby's eyes widened.  "You not going in there!  Ric, you're not armed!"

"We're not going in.  We're just going to keep an eye on the situation until the police can get here."  Ric turned to his classmates.  "Okay, we split up.  Lars, Susanna, with me.  Miyami, Rhiannon, across the street and keep in cover where you can."

Miyami nodded, then darted across the road, Rhiannon not far behind her.  She kept an eye out around her.  Two robbers.  There's no way they were going to escape on foot.  Miyami looked around, trying to find a getaway vehicle.  She saw a van on a side street, its fans revving enough to keep the vehicle off the ground.  "There."  Miyami pointed the van out for Rhiannon.  "If we can stop them from using that, they won't get far."

Rhiannon put a hand on Miyami's shoulder.  "And if there's a driver?  They're armed.  We aren't.  Remember?"

"Then we get the details for the police.  But if we don't move, we get nothing."

Miyami glanced over at the bank.  She saw Ric, Lars, and Susanna pressed against the wall as they crept towards the entrance.  Getting her mind back on task, she tried to walk as casual as she could despite the trembling that was building in arms and legs.  The van moved forward a few metres.  Miyami held out an arm to stop Rhiannon.  They both crouched down.  The van's driver didn't seem to notice them as he positioned the van on the street.  The back doors opened.

After a quick check on Rhiannon, Miyami ventured forwards.  The van's driver got out.  He pulled a pistol from his waistband.  The driver looked in the direction of the bank, then aimed his gun.  Miyami picked up her pace, going from a walk to a jog to a run in three steps.  She uttered an inarticulate scream several strides away from the driver.  Startled, he turned to see what was coming at him.  Miyami reached him.  She dropped to her knees, punching down.  The driver doubled over, keening in pain.  Miyami chopped at the his neck, dropping him.

When Rhiannon caught up, Miyami was kneeling on her victim, his gun in her hand.  "That's what you've been practising in the holorings?"  Rhiannon shook her head.  "I was wondering why Sergeant Chang wasn't allowing you to spar."

"The goal is to win the fight."  Miyami smiled.  "I won."


The museum didn't hold Dusty's interest for longer than a couple of hours.  Compared to the rest of the Poulos Nova Empire, Tamar's settlements were still relatively young.  She left the museum, retracing her way back to her hotel.  The trolley left her close to Rorik's, the restaurant she ate at the first night in town.  Dusty got off and started walking again.

After several blocks, she heard a call for help.  Unsure of where it came from, Dusty stopped to listen.  The call came again, just around the corner.  Breaking into a run, Dusty rounded the corner, then came to a sudden stop.  Two men, both armed with knives, both at least a head taller than her, smiled at her.  "Well, well, what do we have here?" the taller of the two said.

Dusty took a step back.  "I don't have anything valuable," she said.

"That's for us to decide."

The shorter of the men circled around Dusty.  "We don't see the likes of you here.  Lost?"

"I know where I am."  Dusty tried to keep the two men away from her, but found herself against the stone wall of a building.

"It'd be a shame to have to cut you up," the taller man said.  He waved his knife for emphasis.

"It's just a knife."  Dusty bent her back knee, tensing for action.

"Like you've seen worse."

"You have no idea."  Dusty spun on her back heel.  As the shorter man ducked the expected kick, the young woman used her momentum to get in close with him.  She chopped at his knife hand, following it up with an elbow to his throat.  While the blow to the hand did nothing, the elbow had the shorter man drop his knife and claw at his throat.  Dusty swept her leg under his, bringing him crashing down on the pavement.  She stomped on his knee, then turned to the taller man.  "Are we done?"

The taller man took a cautious step towards his would-be victim.  "Not even started."  He gave Dusty a feral grin.  "I'm going to enjoy this."

Dusty only nodded.  She kicked her downed opponent then stepped into the road.  The taller man approached her, thrusting with his knife.  Dusty kept out of his reach, drawing him away from his friend.  She kept looking down the road, past the taller man.  She smiled, then darted towards the other side of the street.  Her opponent looked over his shoulder, expecting an oncoming car.  Dusty changed direction, charging in at the taller man.  As he returned his attention to the fight, Dusty jabbed at his gut three times, then grabbed his knife arm.  Using the height difference to her advantage, she flipped him over her shoulder, then twisted his arm.  He screamed in pain and let go of the knife.

"You had your chance."  Dusty looked over at the shorter man who was just getting to his feet.  "Excuse me."  She pulled the taller man's arm until she felt it pop out of the joint.  Dropping the arm, she turned to the shorter man.  "I'm ready if you are."

The shorter man stared at his partner as he screamed.  "No way."  He staggered backwards, one leg not quite able to handle his weight.  He turned and limped as fast as he could.

Dusty adjusted her jacket.  She looked down at her remaining attacker.  "You should call for an ambulance.  That looks painful."  Thrusting her hands into her pockets, she resumed the walk to the hotel.


Ric stopped at the bank's entrance.  He looked back at Lars and Susanna.  "We're going to have to stop them when they run out," he said.

"I thought you said we were just trying to check the situation inside?" Lars said.  "Ric, we're not the constables.  We're also not armed!"

"They don't know that."  Ric peeked around the entry way, looking inside.  "Just two of them.  They have pistols, not rifles, so that's good."

"And bad."  Lars shook his head in dismay.  "Rifles would be easier to grab."

"Work with me here, dude."

Lars exchanged a look with Susanna.  "Okay, but if anyone gets hurt, you get to explain it to the Commandant."

"I need to get to the other side there.  That way, when they come out, we can ambush them.  We know where they're trying to go."  Ric across the street at a delivery van that had just opened its doors.  "Miyami and Rhiannon can handle the van."


"Wait for my signal."  Ric peeked inside the bank again, then dashed over to the other side of the entryway.  In the distance, the wails of sirens could be heard.  Ric gave Lars and Susanna a thumbs up.  His heartbeat grew louder as he waited for the robbers to make their escape.  The sirens should be enough to send them out.  The two men crashed through the doors.

"Now!"  Ric ran after the nearest robber, catching him with a flying tackle.  The two men fell to the street.  The robber rolled over, trying to bring up his gun.  Ric grabbed for the pistol with both hands, forcing the barrel to point into the air.  With his free hand, the robber punched at Ric, landing glancing blows before getting a solid connection to the young cadet's kidney.  Ric fell over, letting go of his target.  The robber got to his knees and pointed the laser pistol at his assailant.  Before he could pull the trigger, Ric kicked out with both legs.  One foot hit the robber's gun, knocking it off aim.  The other hit the criminal in the jaw.  The robber fell back.  His head hit the road hard.

Ric jumped on the gun, getting it away from the robber.  Backing away, he pointed the weapon at his opponent.  "Roll over on your stomach."  He looked over at Lars and Susanna.  They had their target down, Susanna restraining him as Lars picked up the now loose pistol.  "I told you we could do it!" Ric called.  All he got in response were two pairs of rolled eyes.


Back in her hotel room, Dusty dropped her jacket on the bed.  She joined it, falling backwards.  The adrenaline from her fight managed to get her back to the hotel but she could feel it fading.  Her arms and legs were already starting to feel like lead.  Muscles threatened to ache.  While she still could, Dusty turned on the entertainment unit.  The default channel was set to one of Tamar's news channels.  Dusty just wanted the noise, but the announcer mentioned the name of the academy.

"A bank robbery in Vaughan's Landing was stopped today by five cadets from the Colonel KL Terin Military Academy.  The robbers, armed with laser pistols, almost escaped with almost seventy-five thousand credits.  The cadets noticed the armed men and moved in to stop their escape."  The hologram changed to show the five.  Dusty recognized her roommates and laughed until her sides hurt.  Of course they'd do something like that.  She reasoned that it had to be Ric's idea.  Only he would get the rest to do something dangerous.

Dusty turned off the entertainment unit.  She rolled off the bed and made her way into the bathroom, stiff legs protesting with every step.  At the end of the agonizing journey, she ran a bath.  A good long soak would do her a world of good.

Next Week:
"I spent the time away from people who don't trust me."
"I am not showing you my feet here."
"And when they provoke me?"
"As a result, all Guard personnel on Tamar have been placed on alert."

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