[ISS] Good Morning, Class (All 1.1)

edited March 2016 in ISS Tsiolkovsky
ISS Tsiolkovsky - Reactor Cooling Array Cargo Bay 42 - Earthdate: 2316.28.08 08:05 GMT
It is the first day of the nine week "fall cycle" of classes, not that there are actually seasons here on the ISS Tsiolkovsky, a spaceship on a multi-generational journey to colonize a planet in Nokes, a far-off star system. The Tsiolkovsky education program consists of year-round schooling for all children. Even teenagers are considered children on this colony ship. Your class just finished a three-week un-school period, where you worked your shipboard assigned duties full-time and did not attend classes. The quarantine means that your assigned duties are crucial, and while you are in classes, other teenagers are working their un-school period. For some students, the un-school period is a break from the rigors, and the boredom, of school. For other students, the school periods are their respite.

This is your homeroom:
Homeroom - Gen 16-01

Your classroom was originally designed to be a cargo hold. Due to "The Unrest", the areas originally designated as classrooms were contained within the adult sector quarantine. "The Unrest" is the euphemism given to the period when the "little ones" plague ran through the adult population giving rise to extreme levels of violence, distrust, and ultimately the death of the majority of the adult population, as well as the loss of several critical areas of the ISS Tsiolkovsky. The deckplans of the Tsiolkovsky were originally created to keep families together in pods and clusters, allowing for workgroups and their children to exist in small communities - "neighborhoods". The quarantine means the sectors now designated for children have had to convert several areas into classroom facilities. Of course, the adult population, through careful observation and advice through electronic means, assisted the children in constructing these areas to meet protocols.

This cargo room is located near the water reclamation area, as well as the boiler room. The steam pipes to the right of the classroom, can sometimes make Seats 4 uncomfortable. Your desks are simple affairs that were 3D printed to your physical measurements. You are able to sit with reasonable comfort, and there is a flat space where you can dock your Navi. Your Navi is a text-only terminal that ties into the shared network. Of course, there are firewalls to keep you safe.

Instructor Malcolm is displayed on the left-most monitor screen of the duel displays at the head of the class. His opening salvo of educational lecture this morning is about the Donner party.

"The Donner Party, sometimes called the Donner-Reed Party, was a group of American pioneers led by George Donner and James F. Reed who set out for California in a wagon train in May 1846. Delayed by a series of mishaps and mistakes, they spent the winter of 1846–1847 snowbound in the Sierra Nevada. Some of the pioneers resorted to cannibalism to survive."

Mark, who is the class drug dealer? What passes for drugs here? Who wants to "be with" the drug dealer?
Also, Mark, who is most delicious of your fellow students, when it comes to satisfying your Hunger?

"The journey west usually took between four and six months, but the Donner Party was slowed by following a new route called Hastings Cutoff, which crossed Utah's Wasatch Mountains and Great Salt Lake Desert. The rugged terrain, and difficulties encountered while traveling along the Humboldt River in present-day Nevada, resulted in the loss of many cattle and wagons, and splits within the group."

Tabitha, why did Jace Hyo get stuck with a Seat 4 assignment? Isn't his and Mi Sun's dad up there with Ourania, part of the Council?
What rumor did you hear about Pax that has to be false, Tabitha?

"By the beginning of November 1846 the settlers had reached the Sierra Nevada, where they became trapped by an early, heavy snowfall near Truckee (now Donner) Lake, high in the mountains. Their food supplies ran extremely low, and in mid-December some of the group set out on foot to obtain help. Rescuers from California attempted to reach the settlers, but the first relief party did not arrive until the middle of February 1847, almost four months after the wagon train became trapped. Of the 87 members of the party, 48 survived to reach California, many of them having eaten the dead for survival."

Ourania, what does Nadja do that really gets on your nerves?
Who does the Instructor seem to pay the most attention to, and why do you think that is, Ourania?

"Historians have described the episode as one of the most bizarre and spectacular tragedies in Californian history and western-US migration. Now, who can tell me about more recent examples of the tragedies of the Donner Party? Say... something within the last five hundred years..."

Ashlee, how did Zola humiliate you?
Why does Priscilla go to the infirmary so often, Ashlee?


  • edited February 2016

    Why does he bother reciting the text if he's just going to display it nearly word for word on screen? I scoff quietly, cause you know we also have the same text in our Navi. Three times, huh?

    My eyes flicker back and forth from Malcom's dour face to the sterile text scrolling past. Sometimes I wonder if he's just a recording shown each year to these "normal" children to pretend they're worth educating. And sometimes I believe it, but then he suddenly calls someone by name and I remember that I'm the one who isn't worth their time.

    His camera is still off register... he's always looking to your left when he calls on you. Hard not to laugh sometimes.

    What a softball question, though! I start to raise my hand to answer, but then I see Zola sitting there sweating in the heat of the pipes and the back of my neck prickles. Just before un-school it got out that I was going to try out for Speedball... (I am totally not athletic like her) and yeah Zola came looming over my table at evening meal and goaded me into trying to snatch a roll from her hand just to show off. Just to put me down really, huh? Yeah, I ended up eating floor face-first right in front of just about everyone with her foot between my shoulders. Finished with my drink in my hair. What a laugh, right?

    I settle back into my seat, silent. I could have hurt her, then... I nearly did.

    Briefly I meet eyes with Priscilla as I turn away from Zola and try to be invisible to Malcolm. Guilt wells up in my chest as I remember how she actually asked me to cram together over break... But ok. She's been to the infirmary like every other day over un-school and spends hours there. Priscilla's one of the oldest and she's starting to show signs. Maybe it's something else. I quietly mouth, "hey," and wonder if she's all right. She deserves better friends than me.

    I catch a glimpse of Mark behind her... my face feels hot and I quickly turn back to Malcolm. There is just no place to look that isn't uncomfortable. I can't sit still. It feels like everyone's just waiting for me to freak out again.

    I hope he didn't see me looking and try to focus on the screens. It's kind of impossible.
  • image

    Instructor Malcolm drones on and on. That's fine, it means everyone else shuts up. The heat from the pipes makes my skin feel clammy and dry at once. B1 was offered to me a few weeks ago; I said no. Why change it? If things went the way Ioanna wanted I wouldn't even be in this room.

    Jace had a big change when he was caught on camera making out with Olivar. Now little things in his life go wrong like his school seating, even though he and Olivar were officially reprimanded already. I assume his family is doing that.

    I've also heard that somebody had a copy of the video, but I asked a couple of questions and it all sounded like lies.

    I study Malcolm's expression as he asks the class if we can make comparisons between the Donner Party and other events. Does he seriously want us to be doing that? Thinking those things? I wait for one of the good kids to say it, to receive their lesson. I wasn't here for any of it, but if he's not talking about The Unrest I'll be shocked. I'm curious what it was like at the time, what people say about it off of the Navi's record. I shift my back a bit more towards the pipes.

    My eyes wander over to the back of Pax's head. If she's been coming into the room when I'm not there, Ourania would know about it, and she would have been the one to tell me.

    When I was assigned here, they gave me this box, full of Ioanna's things. I hate all of it, the pictures, the military awards, the worn-out books, everything. I keep trying to dump it, but in a cycle it's back in my storage. Right now I'm just trying to ignore it.
  • edited March 2016

    I do my best to pay attention. Instructor Malcolm talks boringly, sure. But I think his classes are really interesting. Other people complain about the way he picks obscure topics. Like today: a bunch of people died on the edge of an empire that hasn't existed for hundreds of years or whatever. It makes a change from all the standard "useful" stuff, though. And it teaches you to approach unfamiliar things and try to understand them. I get that.

    I notice Bea glancing over her shoulder a couple of times. The first time, I think she's looking at me - but I then I realize it's Lucas at the desk behind me.

    That is a crush that's never going to turn out good. They don't match. She's the straight-A student. He's the spooky-intense kid at the back of the class with a stash of Tramahex bullets. I used to think he swiped them from the medbay. That can't be, though. They would have noticed by now. Whatever the case, if you bite the top off one of those things and breathe in, instead of loading it into a jet injector like you're supposed to, it sends you pretty loopy.

    Lucas offered to let me try a few times. The first one's free, right? I said no.

    I find myself staring at Priscilla's neck. She seems so far away now. We barely spoke during un-school, and it bothers me that it doesn't bother me.

    Olivar sits on my left. I can hear him fidgeting, getting restless.
    There's a message on my Navi: "Oh Instructor Malcolm, did they get sent to jaaaail?" With the quote marks. Nadja.

    I look over my shoulder at her. Our eyes meet for a moment. I suppress a smile and turn back to my desk.

    She's trying to make me make Olivar say something. All I have to do is say something, like, really straitlaced and he'll come back with something deliberately dumb or offensive. He's just... contrary like that. And boringness seems to offend him.

    He makes it so easy. But Nadja is the one who makes it fun. It started during un-school. We take it in turns to give Olivar a set-up line. The challenge is to do it without being obvious. Perfectly bland, crafted to set him off.
    I know I shouldn't do it. But it's like a dare.

    I put my hand up.
    "Didn't they, like, get punished when people found out? I mean, even then it was illegal to eat people, right?"
  • edited March 2016

    I feel my eyes narrow at Malcolm’s lecture. The open invitation to compare a doomed expedition to the Unrest… Malcolm veers close to the subversive. What I am not sure of is if it is intentional or not. I should mention it to the Commandant when she calls again. She must be very busy now, having missed the last two calls, but it is the kind of thing that can become dangerous to us all.

    I am sure Malcolm does not mean harm…. or rather I am sure–if this is intentional–that he thinks he is acting in our best interests. Teachers, no matter how seemingly loyal and understated, are often idealists, emphasizing the individual and the selfish over the group.

    He focuses on Mark quite a bit, I’ve noticed. Probably interested in trying to change the mind of the future leadership in more subtle ways. He pays attention to me too, but of course I’m on to him. It’s too bad I can’t go through his things.

    For the moment I note it in my notebook and glance around the class. I already saw Ashlee say something to Priscilla and noted it. I clench my jaw a little and look down. I liked Priscilla.

    Mark asks his question and I hear the hiss of a giggle from Nadja, and I actually grind my teeth. Nadja takes nothing seriously. Ever. Like nothing actually matters. It’s infuriating.

  • image "Yes, Mark, cannibalism was illegal." Instructor Malcolm responds amiably, pleased that a popular kid answered, not Olivar or Nadja. "Four different relief parties were sent to save as many people as could be saved. While Lewis Keseberg was threatened with lynching until he confessed to his part in the tragedy, in the end, none of the Donner party were imprisoned. There were social ramifications for most of them. The only family who prospered were the Reeds, and they staunchly denied any participation in any consumption of human flesh. He scans the room, "Does anyone care to share their opinion of the Reed family?"
  • edited March 2016
    It's cute how he acts a little bit unsure. Like he could be shy right? I try not to turn my head as I watch out of the corner of my eye. I wonder if he would notice me if I answer next.

    I take a couple quick breaths to try and calm, then raise my hand tentatively to answer as my butt rises a little off my seat. "Didn't they... the Reeds, get rich after the whole thing? Like after everything went really shi... really bad." I hesitate, I'm about to lose it, everyone's probably laughing at me, "I mean just because something bad happens doesn't mean it won't get better, right?"

    I can't stop myself from glancing at Mark as I sit back down and try to keep my hands from shaking by holding the edge of my desk.
  • image Olivar does this frustrated little blink of his eyes then stares at the ceiling like "please higher being(s), save me from this inane existence", then grips his desk for a moment before blurting out, "YES! Thanks so much for your amazing insight, Ash." He looks over at you, Ashlee, then continues in an instructor tone, "Ash, like the after effects of something burning except without the flash and the bang and the interesting parts. She's right, you know, it gets better. Hey everyone, the Reeds didn't eat their young, they get to be happy forever for their dietary concerns. Because, Ash, just because someone stomps you in the cafeteria, it doesn't mean they don't love you. It... it doesn't a bit. You're just stompable. There can't BE a social ladder if we don't have a Lower. Rung."
  • image

    Ashlee's terribly kind to these people, forgiving them. Of course, we can't know if they did or didn't. Then Olivar opens his mouth. Why couldn't Malcolm just keep talking?

    I stand up. "I think the Reed family. They were rewarded. Maybe for being liars and conformists. They were given permission to succeed." It's always hard to talk, because I'm not sure if I'm making sense. But to hell with Olivar. "Everyone else looks good. In comparison to the Donners. Even you."
  • edited March 2016
    Olivar does catch my eye for a second, sitting right there at Marks' shoulder. That burns. I force my eyes forward and slowly slouch in my seat as Olivar goes on with fingers gripped on the edge of the desk tight enough to hurt. I don't look at Olivar again but I can't keep his words out of my head and I can't help but see Zola sitting on the other side.

    Don't look at her... my name is Ashlee... I think to myself. I used to call myself Ash but I decide here and now that I'm not taking the name he calls me.

    Tabitha stands and at least takes a few eyes off me. Right? She's got it all together... I feel so stupid for speaking up. Every time I try to stand out or fit in, someone shuts me down.
  • image
    halcy said:

    "Everyone else looks good. In comparison to the Donners. Even you."

    Tabitha, that seems like you're Shutting Him Down. Let's see you roll with Cold.
  • image

    (Rolled: 2d6-1. Rolls: 6, 1. Total: 6)
  • edited March 2016
    image "Olivar. Tabitha."

    Corporal Rys says in that clenched manner he uses before he explodes, "That's one demerit. Stow it now, and you just need to see me after class. Push it... and it happens now." He fixes you both with a glare, switching between you and Olivar.

    Olivar breaks, looking away, then down.

    Nadja snickers lightly.

    Mark, what does one demerit amount to normally?
  • image

    I said what I needed, so this is fine. "Mm." I sit back down without a fight.
  • edited March 2016
    One demerit doesn't amount to a whole lot, unless it puts you over a threshold. I seriously doubt Rys has committed all the figures to memory for everyone in the class. That's more Ourania's thing. The handbook with the Table of Offenses and Severity Modifiers and all that stuff.

    But then that's just the rules. The corps have their own ways too, in the corridors. No cameras.

    If I get a demerit - which basically never happens because it would screw with the speedball seedings - nothing else happens. People like Pax or Zola get bruises.
  • edited March 2016
    imageI watch the exchange, give Rys a look. Olivar deserves the takedown, but not Tabitha. She shouldn't waste her time defending Ashlee, but she didn't actually do anything wrong.

    "The Reeds were liars and traitors." I say, shifting my eyes to Ashlee. "And selfish. Mr. Reed was, leniently, banished after murdering one of the party early in the journey. So what if they all consumed human flesh. And the Reeds probably did too unless we buy the claim that they didn't eat for nine days. Cannibalism was necessary to survive. There is no shame there. They should have stood together."
  • image "Very good discussion, children!" Instructor Malcolm interrupts. "This is an excellent example of how, based on your perception of an event, you feel differently about the outcome. Also, your own personal experience colors your comprehension." He nods, pleased with the results of the discussion, chaotic as it was.

    He moves the conversation on to the books published by the survivors, and breaks the classroom into four discussion groups, divided by letter row. "Each of you will take a particular individual's account, read it, discuss it, and then present it to the class tomorrow. You may use the rest of the period to begin your work."
  • edited March 2016

    Mark, You get a Navi post from Nadja:
    Zeng question. Irked Oli good. 2 bad Tabs got sucked in, y does she care about nerd girl?

    Tabitha, You get a Navi post from Priscilla:
    Nice job sticking up for Ashlee. I'll ask Rys to take it easy on you, ok?
  • image

    I steal a glance at Olivar. Still fuming.

    I tap out a quick reply to Nadja:
    Beats me. Misery loves company? Anyways. What r we doing after class?

  • image
    I can feel Ourania looking at me. Not going to give her the pleasure of getting to me, and anyway I'm just staring at Malcolm cause that's the only safe place to be looking.

    "Oh just great," I exhale as Malcolm assigns us a group assignment. I'll just sit there waiting for someone to talk to me while the others do the work, again. That's how it always is. If they think I'm such a nerd why don't they even ask me to do assignments?
  • edited March 2016

    Ashlee, Priscilla is the first to scoot her chair around to face you, then with a sigh, Jace does the same.

    imageAfter tapping a couple spots on her Navi, "I think we should talk about the differing accounts by Jean Baptiste Trudeau. He told one reporter that he ate a baby raw, then later, he denied it when he saw one of the Donner's afterwards, and again when he was in his sixties." Priscilla says with an eager tone. "It would be super interesting to talk about the motivations to tell the truth, or to lie, you know?" She pauses, then asks, "Ash, what do you think?"

    image Jace huffs a breath while the rest of the class is scooting around into little circles. "This is stupid, we're down a person, but we have to do the same work. Just... gods, why can't we be split by seat number, really? Bea could make up for a missing person, probably, but we're sunk. This blows." He starts tapping on his Navi, you hear Mi Sun snicker from her seat.
  • image
    "That's really gross," I am taken aback by how casually she talks about it, but also how much she's already read up on the whole thing. I mean, I've skimmed the entry on my Navi but I didn't get nearly that deep. Been too busy not making eye contact.

    Priscilla surprises me by asking my opinion and I crow out, "yeah... sure. Yeah we can do that."

    Then Jace speaks up and there went that moment. I almost snap something at him but instead slowly turn and make a peace offering, "let's just do our best, ok?"

    And yeah. I hear Mi Sun laughing.
  • image

    Tabitha, Mi Sun turns her back on you to scoot near Mark, even moving her desk so you're basically "out" of the circle. You see Olivar moving around to face Mark, but he's glaring at you. Mark and Mi Sun are working on their Navis, and nobody's told you to group up or anything, but you know that's expected. Lots of desks being moved, kids switching seats.

    What do you do?
  • image

    Ourania, with you on one side, and Rys on the other, you actually see Lucas and Nadja looking between you, they're wondering if they should move to you, or to him. Do you let them decide, or do something?
  • image

    I read what shows up in my Navi feed, but before I can type out a reply to Priscilla it's time for group work.

    Mi Sun wants to shut me out physically, which is a stupid thing to try and do. I pull her desk out of the way of mine, her included. I glance back at Olivar over her shoulder, ignoring anything she does or says - it must suck to be a fool. Then I pull my own desk into the space I just made and sit.

    To Mark, I say, "You ready to carry our row? To a grade?" I make a couple of taps on my Navi to bring up a list of people. I'll just pick the first person with an interesting name, it doesn't matter to me.
  • image
    "Uh... what?" I don't know how to deal with Tabitha's question, so I just kind of don't. I look down at my Navi and read, and I don't look up when I start talking. That way I don't have to decide whether to look at her or Olivar, or Mi Sun.

    "Hey, how about we do the letter that Virginia lady wrote? Like, who was it really for? She wrote to her cousin but she maybe knew it would get published. And her father was involved in writing it, and then there's the journalist guy..."

    I look up, cautiously, to see if Tabitha is still focusing on me. She's reading her Navi.

    I've been trying to tell myself that Ioanna's daughter, if she'd ever had one, could've looked like a younger version of her mom.
  • image

    "Three people writing one letter?" I go over the material that matches with the name Virginia. There's the letter and some background, which I read lightly. "Ah. She was twelve. Seventh school period."

    I know, when everything was blood (light) and plastic (smells metal) and shouting (wet hands), that I touched Mark and he was cold and like a..

    a plank?

    of wood? (is that what it is?)


    He's carrying the group, though, just like I thought. Lively as anyone. Probably the smartest person in this row. I can't help but rattle him when I can, see what shakes out. But not hard. No.

    I frown at the Navi screen. These people were so woefully unprepared and untrained. Why let them even try this?

    Mark, what's something I do that is spot-on Ioanna?
  • image I have this memory, from when I was very small. Three years old, maybe. A vivid memory of just a moment. My shoe has come off, and I'm sitting down, and Ioanna is putting it back on for me. She holds my ankle with one hand and pushes the shoe onto my squirming foot with the other. The shoe won't go on for a moment, and Ioanna frowns. And then it goes on and Ioanna looks up at me and smiles.

    When she's concentrating on something, Tabitha frowns just like that.
  • image
    "She was twelve?" Oliver repeats you, Tabitha, "So, about eleven years older than you? No wonder her letter was a waste." He continues to glare, hoping, praying that he can egg you on in front of Rys. You can practically feel Rys's eyes on you, Tabitha.

    Mark, you notice this, too, of course.
  • imageI let out a little huff move to them, pulling around to between the two. Nice to know that I'm so close to an arrogant thug that they actually have to think about it.

    "I suggest we look at the notes passed on by Mr. Eddy, unless someone has a different idea."
  • edited March 2016
    imageThat is not cool, Olivar. It's not fair. You don't get to pick your parents, or whether you have any.

    "Come on, man," I tell Olivar. "Give it a rest. Let's just get this done."

    I start to make notes, figure out how we can divide the work.
    I look over to Mi Sun, with an expression like I want her to make a suggestion. Which, you know, I do.
  • edited March 2016
    image"Sure, that sounds fine," Nadja says as she swipes and taps on her Navi, interested in the message sidebar more than the info box popup. "Mr. Eddy, hunh? Funny name. My mother says never trust anyone with a first name as a last name." She hums lightly to herself and pulls up a color-matching game.
  • image

    Instructor Malcom' monitor winks off.

    When the instructor is not present, how heavily are you monitored in class? Does the administrator trust Rys to keep things in hand, or is even he watched?
  • imageOf course Rys is watched. I'm right here, aren't I? But other than me, no. I mean sure the class cams are probably on but I've never heard of any consequences directly stemming from what happens after Malcolm goes that doesn't come from Rys himself.

    I glare at Nadja. "Perhaps we should start with an analysis of who should have been eaten based on their level of utility and contribution to the group."
  • edited March 2016
    image"I'd eat you, first, Nadja." Lucas says suddenly after being completely quiet until this point. In fact, he hasn't spoken aloud all day until this moment. Is that normal, Ourania? His tone isn't a come-on, despite the way it could easily be phrased. It's actually a little twisted, like maybe he would eat Nadja, given a chance.
    He's got to be messing with you, right?
  • edited March 2016

    Mark, why don't you roll to Shut Olivar down?

    image Regardless of whether Olivar listens or not, when you look at Mi Sun, quietly ask her to contribute, she blinks, sort of pulled into your gravity. "Uhm... Virginia is good. I think it's interesting..." She fidgets with some of her pink hair, breaking eye contact and looking at her Navi.

    Mark, you get a Navi message back from Nadja:
    y r u so forgetful, mark? Its Beacon Day! gonna watch abergone
  • (Rolled: 2d6+1. Rolls: 3, 6. Total: 10)
    & Mark marks XP.
  • edited March 2016

    Mark and Tabitha,
    Olivar gets up and heads for the bathroom, looking past you to Rys, who gives a nod, but there's also a bit of a warning in his look, like "Olivar, don't mess around".

    image"Nice move, Mark. Ollie was getting on my nerves. He's like, always PMSing. Which is weird, since he doesn't have the parts for it, you know?" Tabitha, does Mi Sun actually dislike Olivar, or does she put on a show about it? I mean, he was with her twin brother, right?
    Mi Sun puts her Navi down, looks at you, Mark, for a long moment, saying nothing. Just looking.
  • edited March 2016
    image"Uh... thanks?" Where did this come from? Maybe something happened with her and Olivar that I don't know about.

    "I just thought it was out of line. Saying stuff like that. Um..."

    Her silence feels awkward. I smile and shrug as a way of breaking the tension. It's not the looking that bothers me. I've been looked at my whole life. But I don't know what this look means.
  • image

    Mi Sun was basically neutral on Olivar until he was with her brother; now she's moved into genuine dislike. She hasn't been trying to keep Olivar off of anyone's back, though. Probably doesn't want to look jealous or angry or too close to her sibling. Playing it 'cool.'

    I'm still reading as much as I'm paying attention to anything else. "Virginia's letter was a success. Whatever her age. Olivar needs.." What, attention? To put people down?

    Oh, I was talking. "..to grow up."
  • edited March 2016


    image Priscilla offers you a little smile, Ashlee, "Hey Ash... do you have any plans after school?" She turns her Navi around so you can see a display for a popular music group, one that you absolutely despise. "We could check them out, see what's new. Beacon Day." Priscilla doesn't know you hate the group, of course. Who's this music group, and what drives you batty about them?

    "Oh, no, Pris." Jace mutters sourly. "I don't want to come to your fangirl obsession. I've got my own plans." Priscilla gives this quirky frown apology look, and Jace continues, "Maybe I'll just sit in my room and pine for things lost and never to be regained."

  • edited March 2016
    It's more than a little surprising when Priscilla invites me out again, I thought she would hold a grudge about un-school. And my eyes probably light up a bit about Beacon Day until she shows me the navi, "T-Crush?"

    And I pause while Jace complains. Back in the lab I was subject to a test called the "Auditory Interference Test" which basically means they strap me down with ceaseless annoying, painful and disorienting audio recordings piped through headphones to test how long I could go without losing my sh*t. Mostly music passed through a filter to make it discordant or nauseating, or too loud in the high range or low. T-Crush was on the playlist. Their music is literally torture to me.

    "Yeah why don't you do that, Jace, I quietly all but snap at him under my breath with a little dismissive shake of the head. Immediately regret it...

    Keep cool, Ashlee... calm. I try to hide the painful look I feel on my face.

    "That sounds... uh... great," I answer Priscilla. Just wanting to move on before whatever Jace says next ruins everything. "Are you a big fan?"
  • image


    That sounds pretty intense! Why don't you tell me what the worst possible thing that could happen right now, and roll with Cold to Hold Steady?
  • image
    Worst thing that could happen? Probably flashback to the lab and lash out. That would be way more worse if someone actually hits play on the Navi and I hear that awful sh*t right now.

    Holding Steady:
    (Rolled: 2d6-1. Rolls: 3, 4. Total: 6)
  • edited March 2016


    image You flinch a little and Priscilla notices, you see her lean forward a little, like almost touching your hand or something. She hasn't answered you yet, and the moment stretches, you can feel Jace's eyes on you like he sees something coming.
    Trying to move on, Priscilla finally says, "Yes, I adore Hawk. He's so handsome." She taps the play button to play a teeny bit of their video for House of Love, a throwback tune. She grins, like this is a huge treat, even though the volumes set on 2, you hear it.

    And you feel the straps, on your forearms, your wrists, your chest, thighs, ankles, holding you down. This song, all warbled and the bass hard enough to punch your back, and you're screaming, screaming to match the song, to drown it out and it works for a little bit, but then you grow hoarse and they don't stop. They keep playing it.

    How do you freak out, Ashlee? Do you try to run away, or lash out here?
  • image
    It's too much. That sound. I grit my teeth and try to keep a smile on my face, ignore it... focus. Don't move, don't think... just like in the chair.

    "Don't let it get to you... shut it out Ash... Ashlee... Damn it!"

    My hands clench tight and shake, I have to get out of here. The pressure builds behind my eyes as I try to remember that there's no straps, no chains... I can just get up and walk away. Demerit or not, I have to make it stop!

    I suddenly cry out like it hurts, shove my desk back with a loud screeeak of metal on tile and lurch out of my seat crying, "bathroom... bathroom...." hoping desperately that I can get a pass.

    My vision is turning white at the edges and I imagine... no not imagine. Every eye is on me as try to make it to the door.

    I'm running away.
  • Running Away: Volatile +2
    (Rolled: 2d6+2. Rolls: 4, 1. Total: 7)
  • pretty obviously causing a big scene in the process.
  • image

    Mark, Tabitha, and Ourania,

    In the B-row, Ashlee, Priscilla, and Jace are all seated and chatting. Pris plays some low music, sounds like a pop group (if you know them, you know who it is, your call), and moments later, Ashlee completely flips. She shoves her seat and desk, scrambles up and shrieks something about the bathroom and bolts, knocking into Priscilla and knocking over the empty chair at B1.

    The chair falls with a huge clatter and Ashlee's booking, almost running out of the room, to the bathroom evidently. Nadja cracks up at this, and Pris looks completely shocked, maybe a little ashamed? Jace shakes his head and Bea just gapes like that was the weirdest thing she's ever seen.

    Ourania, who used to sit in B-1 until the end of the last school cycle, and what did you like most about them?

    Tabitha, how they die?
  • image


    Please go here.
  • imageI'm up out of my seat and on one knee next to Priscilla before I even think about it.

    "Pris, you okay?"

    It feels mechanical, though. Like a learned reflex.

    There must have been a point where I stopped doing things for Priscilla because I cared about her and started keeping up appearances because everyone expects it. If you asked me to say when it was, I couldn't tell you.
  • edited March 2016
    image Priscilla's hand slips over to yours in a familiar way. Her hand is so cold, Mark. Used to be warm, before, when you were alive, at least. "I'm fine. I don't know what I said. I was... I was trying to be nice to her. You know? Reach out." She looks over to Jace, like "what did I do?" and he does this tiny half shrug.

    Mark, why did you and Priscilla break up, officially?
  • imageWhy would we break up? We're the perfect couple. Everybody says so.

    We were born within an hour of each other. Our parents are friends. We were at each other's first birthday parties. People said that when we grew up we'd get married. No one says it directly to us any more but they all think it.

    During last un-school there was this one time, in the corridor, when Pris walked by and she gave me this sad, distant smile. That was when I was sure we both knew it was over.

    We haven't made a big deal about it. Neither of us has said anything but we both know the adults are watching. And some of them will have fits if we look like we're going off-course. Getting close to the "wrong" kind of people instead - like Nadja, for example. So, we keep a lid on it.

    And besides, knowing something and saying it out loud are two different things. I can't face the look in her eyes, yet.
  • imageI give an exasperated sigh through my nose after Ashlee has left the room. There is something seriously wrong with that girl, something unbalanced. She's not trustworthy. And here she flipped out on poor Priscilla. I start to get up but Mark is there before me and I thump unceremoniously back into my seat and pick up my Navi again, making notes for myself while I watch the interaction between Pris and Mark for a moment. I find myself considering the shimmery copper color of Pris' hair and my eyes drift to the empty seat behind Bea.

    God I miss Gwen. She was just... just someone you could talk to, you know? Somehow it wasn't awkward to speak your mind around her. And my association with the Commandant didn't seem to bother her one bit.

    She hugged me once. And it's something I think about, kind of a secret comfort I guess. It was just so warm and soft and somehow solid and comforting at the same time... and it's a place I still go in my head when I'm feeling bad.
  • image

    There are places to fall, in this indoor world, that are lethal. A long drop, consistent gravity. That's how it is in the recycling plant bay. Four levels of tanks and filters and brewers. That's how Gwen died.

    There are a lot of conflicting rumors; it was an accident, it was a suicide, it was a murder.

    I stand up again as Ashlee goes through her disturbance, trying to be ready. I don't know what for. I glance at Rys.
  • edited March 2016
    imageCorporal Rys looks at you, Tabitha, eyes narrow as he considers something. He's normally the disciplinarian here, the one who enforces the will of the adults, keeps kids in line for Instructor Malcolm. Ourania, she watches, who knows what else, but Rys, he acts. Something about Ashlee, though, gives him pause. "Go check on her," he orders you. Then, almost as an afterthought, "Bring her back and I'll remove that demerit."

    That gets a reaction from Olivar, of course.

    What do you do, Tabitha?
  • edited March 2016
    image"Rania," Lucas says in that nasal tone of his, "Are we going to gawk after nerd girl or get this stupid project done? Not that I care, but I don't want corp this close to me any longer than he has to be, you know?" What did you last report Lucas for, Rania? Does he know? Why do you think nothing happened to him, it was pretty bad, right?
  • imageI look over to the door where Ashlee stormed out, then back to Pris.

    I pull my hand back, gently, reluctantly.
    "I don't get it either. You were being nice."

    My face is a mask. I brush a strand of hair back from my eyes. The cold hint of a smile creeps into my expression.

    "It's just Ashlee being... She's been through stuff, I guess."
  • image

    I nod to Rys, and still standing I tap out a couple things on my Navi. "We could talk about letters. Tie that tradition..to Beacon Day."

    Then I tap my fingers on the desk twice. "Be back."

    I head into the hallway. I'm not on a mission; it doesn't really matter to me if I lose a demerit or not. Guess I should take it more seriously than Olivar, though.
  • image


    Why don't you go join Ashlee, here?
  • edited March 2016
    image "Hey Mark," Nadja says in a stage whisper that isn't really quiet at all. "With Tabs gone, you want a new partner? I could scoot up there!" And yes, she's doing this right in front of Priscilla, probably because of Priscilla. She grins, like "come on, why not, right?"

    What do you do?
  • imageI go back to my seat while I talk to Nadja:

    "These are the groups Instructor Malcolm assigned us... we, uh, shouldn't just switch around like that."

    It would be nice to sit with Nadja. But Instructor Malcolm is in charge. And rules are rules.

    I give an apologetic shrug.
  • image My eyes shift to Lucas.

    "My name does not begin with an R." I say turning back to my Navi. "And I wasn't gawking."

    Lucas creeps people out. Yes, I know I do too, but it can't be helped in my case, I have a job to do. He's just...ew. That statement he made to Nadja? That's typical. Creepy stuff that doesn't seem like a joke. He stares at people too. I've begun to wonder whether he's dangerous and taken to reporting whenever he's out of bounds or paying too much attention to someone because... well I think he killed the dog.

    Nobody knows what happened to it and the last time I saw it was in the hallway. He was leading it down the hallway with some bit of ration. He gave me this big smile when he saw me. It was weird because he hardly interacted with it. After that we didn't see it again. Not that I miss it, it didn't like me. Still.

    He probably wasn't punished because there wasn't any proof, really. Plenty of dead cams, though most people don't know which ones.

    Does he know? Lucas seems to know all sorts of things. Don't ask me how. He hasn't said anything that makes me think he knows of my report.

    "Fine here's the deal..." I stop a moment, timing, then smack Nadja's chair with my foot, right when she's glossing her lips and smirking at Mark. "Everyone read account of the notes by Eddy and come up with ten things that stand out. Then we'll discuss and compile."
  • image

    trevis said:

    image My eyes shift to Lucas.

    "My name does not begin with an R." I say turning back to my Navi. "And I wasn't gawking."

    Ourania, that most certainly seems like you are Shutting Him Down. Take a +1 Forward since Rys is backing you.
  • edited March 2016


    Nadja keeps grinning at you, even as she turns to face Ourania to listen to assignments. On the surface, everyone else is being orderly, following along like little drones.

    You've been so good for so long, and just moments ago, Ashlee freaked out. Olivar keeps picking away at things. Lucas is glaring at Ourania after she talked him down, even Jace has been whining.

    It could tip over. You could tip it over. Why don't you tell me what the worst thing that could happen and roll to Hold Steady to resist that impulse?
  • It's hard to resist needling Lucas. It doesn't take much to make him front up to authority. Even though Ourania or Rys could both put him through a wall.

    (Rolled: 2d6+1. Rolls: 5, 4. Total: 10)
  • imageI'm about to openly laugh at Lucas and tell him he'd better get back in his box, when my better angel stops me.

    I have this sudden clarity and calmness. Everything seems distant - not worth making a fuss about. Class is nearly over, forget about it.

    My jaw itches, on the left side. That keeps happening recently. Distracted, I scratch at it and turn back to my Navi.

    (- Something gives you an advantage, tell us what and take two forward = serenity.
    (Also, Mark gains xp.)
  • imageRolling to shut down. (Rolled: 2d6+3. Rolls: 4, 1. Total: 8)
  • image Lucas blinks, the shift in your tone, Ourania, surprises him for some reason. "I'm sorry, Ourania, honestly. I thought we were... friends." He looks down at his Navi, and behind him Nadja shakes her head, like Wow, what a bitch.

    image "That's enough, Lucas, Ourania was trying to get things moving. We have forty three minutes to complete this assignment, so stop moping and get reading like she said." Corporal Rys urges. He looks at you for a long moment, Ourania, like he's not sure why you slapped Lucas down, but he's not going to say anything in front of the others.
  • image

    Mark and Ourania,

    After almost fifteen minutes, the door to the corridor opens up and Tabitha returns with Ashlee. The entire class, even Nadja, looks up. They have twenty eight minutes to finish the assignment. Nadja gives a low whistle of sucks to be you.
  • edited March 2016

    Ashlee and Tabitha,

    You come back into class, and all eyes are on you. Some are curious, others disapproving, other eyes are laughing, mocking. Ash, I know you're avoiding eye contact, but you do look up at one point just to find your seat and get back to it. Who do you lock eyes with?

    Tabitha, you did Rys's bidding, he gives you an approving nod, and that demerit's gone. When you get back to your seat, you see a message from him.
    Keep it up. You might make Corporal someday.
  • image

    I swipe the message away without so much as a facial tic and get back to the project, as much as I can. Good of Rys to not say that out loud.

    Would Ioanna have gone for Corporal? Did she? Would I? I'll have to look into it.

    "What have we got now?" I access any navi notes that might be available from our ad-hoc study group.
  • edited March 2016
    imageLucas is delusional. Friends? Why would he think we were friends? But Nadja's expression gets to me. It just makes me angrier. I can feel the muscle working in my jaw with my teeth all clenched.

    She's an idiot. I don't care what she thinks. Never have. Never will. I turn back to my reading, though I can't concentrate. I start repeating the code in my head, a mantra to suppress my anger.
  • imageI watch Ashlee cross the room. I'd feel sorry for her, I guess. She doesn't help herself much, though. Everything is a big deal to her.

    I share the content breakdown to Tabitha's Navi. "I already divided up the different parts for each of us to read in detail and present on tomorrow," I tell her. "If that's okay with you?"

  • image
    Tabitha mercifully goes first (as always happens, right?) and then it's my turn. I walk in quickly, trying to get to my desk and disappear. Avoiding Rys, avoiding everyone really.

    But I can't help but look for Mark and find him distractedly chatting with his study group. I quickly look away and end up locking eyes with Zola as I cross the first two rows and turn to my seat.


    It's only a few steps, but it takes me way too long to pull my eyes away and swiftly find my seat and try just to be invisible. Of course Priscilla is sitting right there, and Jace is probably going to say something. I look down at my desk and try to pretend nothing happened. Find my Navi... figure out what I've missed.
  • image


    Zola's bangs are lightly matted against her scalp as they do every time she's been in this room for a few hours. She gives you a disapproving glare, but you expected that, right? It doesn't hurt so much this time for some reason.

    Despite the nerves of returning, you feel a sense of connection with Tabitha from her quiet kindness outside, and you're feeling Hopeful (take the Condition, please).


    Things return to normal and the row teams work through the assignment for the remainder of the time allotted. Instructor Malcolm winks back onto the monitor and receives your work from Navis. Then, he asks each team to choose a presenter to explain their team's work to the class.

    Mark, how is your team's work?
    Tabitha, who presents it to the Instructor?
    Ashlee, who picked up the slack while you were gone, Pris or Jace? What did you do to improve on their work?
    Ourania, why is your row's work the best? Did you decide to present it to Instructor Malcolm?
  • imageOur work is... fine, I guess. It's uneven. Some parts are a little underdeveloped, as if whoever was working on them - naming no names, Mi Sun - wasn't paying attention. But it's good enough.

    It doesn't make much difference, at this stage. Our futures were decided years ago. Tick the boxes, count down the days on the calendar. Wait for the screening test.

  • imageOur work is the best, surprisingly, and it's only after I really analyze our compilation of notes that I figure out why. Rys contributes little and Lucas's contribution is merely average. Mine is good, but the real star of the show in terms of information and analysis and connective insight is... Nadja.

    It's me presenting because I simply don't trust the rest of them to do it properly. Rys simply opts out, as usual., and I'm already walking up to present when the pieces fall into place about why it's working so well, and I look back at Nadja sharply, but she's blithely pestering Mark again as if she's the waste of oxygen she pretends to be. I've never seen this kind of thing from her before. Is it a slip? Weird. She'll bear even more scrutiny now, she's cleverer than she lets on.
  • image
    Jace surprisingly picked up the slack. I wasn't there to see but it felt like he didn't want to admit that he actually is smart sometimes. Like he just wants to be a punk. Maybe he's trying to impress someone? Priss was distracted and thinking about the music, and well... maybe about me? Probably not so much though.

    When I returned I just quietly went over the project on my Navi and started making edits to the shared document. Jace is good at getting information together but the way he writes is totally unpresentable. I think I've made it better. Priscilla will probably be the one to speak.

    Teamwork? Not really... well. Sort of.
  • image

    Mark presents the work of our team. It just feels like the most natural outcome, and nobody questions it. Least of all me.

    If I had to do all of that talking in front of the class I think I would hate it. But maybe it would work alright - I would be reading from a navi screen and not waiting for words to drop from my memory out of my mouth. It wouldn't present any less naturally.
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