Saturday, January 29, 2011

Chapter 53 - SCHOOL

When I entered my room, I discovered a man sitting at the table I had shoved against the wall near the bed that was shoved into the corner. The room was in utter disarray and I knew my mother would be appalled that I had a visitor here with it looking like this. Note, I said my mother would be appalled. I figure if someone was going to come into my room uninvited while I was away, he had to take what he found.

I had yet to close my door and decided to leave it open. I didn’t feel like being alone with a stranger in my room. Then my bur poked out its thorns, and in a moment of maliciousness, I decided to flex my magic and clean my room. My magic went around the room like a wave. Litter, dirty clothes and dust simply vanished. A few moments later, my bed was made and my bathroom sparkled. I thought the man’s eyes were going to pop out of his head.

I didn’t like this man and I soon discovered one possible reason; aside from the fact that he had invaded my personal space unannounced and had simply rubbed me the wrong way, he handed me a paper. It was a brief letter of introduction signed by somebody who was about twenty steps down the chain of command from the emperor, which was something I apparently was supposed to be impressed with. This man, Mr. Oliver, was my new English teacher. The man stood. “We’ll see about this. Our lessons will begin tomorrow,” he said stiffly, and then left, closing the door behind him.

I called the functionary who had signed the paper. “Listen dude, I may be a prisoner here, but I deserve to be informed when I am going to have a visitor. I understand you’re required to send teachers up here, but that doesn’t give them the right to enter my room when I’m not here.” The man began to bluster some sort of reply, so I hung up on him. I was in no mood for bluster.

Over the next two days, I met the rest of my teachers and my room became a classroom of one. Instead of me going from class to class at the sound of a bell, a parade of teachers came to my room every day. They kept me busy like none of my other lessons had. Until now, I could usually finish my lessons by early afternoon at the worst, but with this kind of structure, I was committed from eight o’clock in the morning until five o’clock in the evening, and then there was homework, which usually kept me at the table until midnight and sometimes well after.

My English lessons with Mr. Oliver were the worst, not because the lessons were difficult for me, but because Mr. Oliver and I seem determined to make life difficult for each other.

My best subject turned out to be math. Mr. Burns taught physics and for some reason the numbers were not just so much chicken scratching on a paper the way they used to be; they seemed to paint a picture for me. Basic math had always come fairly easy for me, but abstract math was well, abstract, and difficult to grasp. Now, either Mr. Burns was an excellent teacher or something within me had changed. Physics was now almost like reading a map and understanding where it was going to lead.

Mr. Cantrell taught biology and he managed to make it interesting enough to make it marginally pleasant. He didn’t cover just the standard creatures of earth; instead, he spent most of the subject on the different races that had joined the empire since we had colonized the first planet almost nine hundred years ago. The only race he didn’t cover was the one on the planet where I had learned my magic; then again, they hadn’t joined yet. Whenever the subject came up, he enjoyed any and all the tales I came up with.

Geography wasn’t all that normal either. Though it did cover the natural formations of all the different kinds of rocks, it concentrated on the formations of suns and their planets. I found it interesting only because it was new to me. Did you know that the speed in which a solar system formed had a lot to do with the types of rocks and elements that could be found on the planets?

Human history with Mr. Lincoln was droll and boring. The never-ending list of places and dates, names and life altering inventions, planet-falls and wars was tedious and I’m sure I didn’t do very well.

I also found economics boring. What did I care about financing, business or personnel? Mrs. Devon did her best to make it interesting and I liked her. It was obvious that it was something she was very interested in. Fortunately, there was a lot of math involved, so I did fairly well.

Miss Collins, my art teacher, was interesting too. Apparently, she had heard of my creative ability with my magic and would have dearly loved to see some, but she told me from the outset that we were not here to practice magic artistically creative or otherwise. We were here to do it all the hard way. The class was also a history of art and we covered the evolution of art through the ages. As we progressed from item to item, from form to form, she also had me try each thing so I was making things out of clay, chipping things out of rock, weaving things out of grasses or twigs or whatever, and painting things using different methods and styles. She even took me to a glass factory where they allowed me to make whatever I could out of the molten glass.

P.E. was my last course of the day and it was a fine way to end a day. Mr. Pries had me run a couple miles, with my guards in tow of course, then he had me do a set of standard exercises like jumping jacks and sit ups. Then, after about half an hour with the sword or staff, he had me lifting weights. Like Miss Collins, he had been informed of my magic and he made it clear that we were exercising my body not my magic.

In my room alone, knowing that someone was always watching, I decided not to do my water dance. I didn’t like being watched, and I didn’t want to make a spectacle of myself.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Chapter 52 - UNDER SCRUTINY

On my way back to my room, my mind was so stuffed with all the new information that I barely noticed my escort or the direction they were taking me. After a few dozen halls, they all started to look alike. Not until we arrived at a door that wasn’t mine, did I wonder where we were.

On the other side of that door was a large room that came close to resembling an amphitheater. Sitting in the center of the room at a huge desk, was the emperor, and swarming around him, were dozens of men and women. There were guards, secretaries, aids, assistants and what not. I could only guess at what they all did.

A man took me to the corner of that huge desk. The guards, both his and mine, seemed to intensify their alertness. They didn’t like me so close to their charge. As I approached the desk, I saw that the emperor was watching me on a view screen. He was watching one of my sword dances.

I had no idea my room had been bugged and I wasn’t entirely sure I liked it. When the dance was over, he continued to watch until I finally lay down, then he turned to me. “Why do you do that?”

What do you say to a question like that? “I . . . because it makes me feel good. It relieves the boredom and the tension.”

“We can do something about the boredom, but there’s not much I can do about the tension.” He thought for few minutes while his eyes seemed to bore through me. “How long have you gone without using your magic?”

“Ah . . . there’ve been some stretches, but nothing really very long; only a few days at a time, I think.” Why would he ask me a question like that?

He leaned back in his chair. “You were fifteen when all this began. That means you were a freshman in high school. Did you finish that year?”

“Yes sir, I did. I finished early.”

“Good, we’ll start you up again from where you left off. With all the traveling you’ve done, I’m sure you haven’t been able to keep up your lessons. By the time you finish your work with the doctor, your books should be here. I’ll arrange for private tutors as well.”

Tutors, ugh. I barely tolerated my mother trying to tutor me. He went back to watching yet another video of me - this time I recognized the doctor’s office, but some signal must have passed, because I was wordlessly escorted away and back to my room.

For long hours over the next week, I soaked up the details about anatomy and sent it all through Colin. It was obvious he was benefiting from both the treatment and the time on a real planet. When the doctor finally pronounced us finished, Colin stretched and said, “I don’t know what all you did but I can feel the difference”

“The doctor said, “The body is a fine tuned piece of machinery, and though I found only minute differences, every machine runs better when it’s tuned properly. I’m impressed you did as well as you did with only a ship’s library for reference.”

“All I did was let instinct put things the way they needed to be. I knew the basics. I knew that his bones needed to be heavier and his muscles needed to be bulkier. I also knew that his heart had to be stronger in order to be able to handle the extra workload. After that I left it up to his body and my magic to put the mass where it was needed most.”

After we left the doctor’s office, Colin said, “The emperor has offered me the opportunity to enlist in his military if this worked. I think I’ll take him up on it.”

“So, you’ll be standing at his shoulder in no time.”

“No, I don’t think so. The position he’s offering isn’t in his personal guard, but it is in his personal army, so I’ll be remaining here. He said, with my background, I could end up being an instructor in zero gravity fighting and tactics.”

“Speaking from experience, you’re a good teacher. Or at least, I would have learned a lot if you were teaching me rather than trying to beat me up.”

“If you learned anything from that, you’re a better student than I am a teacher, but I’m not going to regret it. If it weren’t for that bit of stupidity, I wouldn’t be here today.”

“I think you can call your father now.”

“Yeah, I think I can. I think I’ll wait until after I’ve enlisted though. I’ll even send him a copy of the signed forms.”

“He’ll like that.”

Shortly after that, we went our separate ways. At the door to my room, I turned to my guards. “Listen guys, I’m not going to do anything to anybody. You don’t need to guard me. Besides, I don’t think it would do any good anyway.”

“We have our orders,” said one of the guards.

“I figured you’d say that. Well, could you be more ‘company’ and less ‘guards’? I could use the company.”

“I don’t think so,” said the other guard, but the first one seemed ready to consider it at least.

I shrugged and let it go at that. Maybe someday I’d show them just how useless their post was; then again, maybe not.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Chapter 51 - THE DOCTOR

Finally, after almost two weeks of confinement, I got a message with my breakfast. I was to prepare myself for a meeting with the emperor and his personal physician about Colin. I laid out my leathers, but thought better about it; it would feel odd to wear them and not wear my sword belt. By the time my escort came to retrieve me, I was dressed in blue jeans, a white T-shirt and sneakers; it was nearly the first time since I got the tattoo that it was fully visible.

Outside my door, I found that I now had two guards much like the emperor. They hovered at my shoulders just like his did. I’m sure they were prepared to kill me, or at least die trying, if they thought I was trying any magic on their emperor, or anyone else, for that matter.

We must have walked half a mile through dozens of hallways before we reached the best-equipped hospital I could ever imagine, although it was much smaller.

Colin was there, waiting for me. I noticed he looked tired, but he perked up with a smile when he saw me. “Ah, a familiar face, and someone who won’t be poking and prodding me, I hope,” he said.

We shook hands and then clasped arms. “I never had to poke or prod before. I shouldn’t have to now,” I said.

A man who could only be the doctor came in then. He was probably in his sixties with thick graying hair and a trim physique. Just the kind of doctor one would like to have. He looked healthy as a horse, which lent confidence in his ability to keep you as healthy as possible. “You must be the miracle worker I’ve been hearing about. I’m not sure I believe what I hear, but just to humor the two of you until I can be convinced otherwise, we will discuss some of the anomalies I have discovered. Most of them are minor and may correct by themselves given enough time, and some of them can be corrected by surgery, but young Colin here insists that you have a better way. We shall see.

“At any rate, the emperor wanted you here to do this. He also wanted to watch what we do here, so I’ll set up the cameras.” He fiddled with some equipment around the room and then the three of us sat down at a table.

My guards remained close at my elbows, so I turned around and asked, “I don’t suppose you could just sit down somewhere, could you? You’re very distracting.”

They were reluctant, but a nod from the doctor put them against the wall near the door.

Then my medical lessons began. It was little more than a comparison between the average normal man of Colin’s age and Colin himself, but it was meticulous and detailed. Dr. Makusic was a very good teacher. First, we started with Colin’s bone structure. While Makusic was pouring information into my brain, I was fingering through Colin’s bone structure and making fine alterations. Colin soon got totally bored and my manipulations, as minor as they were, lulled him off to sleep, so within half an hour, Colin was stretched out on a gurney between us while the lesson continued.

After we covered all the bones, our lesson progressed to the muscles, but before we really got started, the day was over.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Chapter 50 - UNDER GUARD

A servant waited at my side until my farewells were completed, and then, with a light hand on my elbow, he escorted me to my apartment. Colin was taken in another direction, but I found out later that he wasn’t all that far away from me, they just took him by an entirely different route.

After the servant had shown me to my apartment, he said, “You are to remain in this room until you are summoned. Your personal effects will arrive tomorrow.”

My things did arrive about midmorning . . . , then my lunch arrived . . . , and then my dinner arrived. Well, I didn’t really think the emperor would have very much time to spend on me, but I figured I’d hear from someone.

The next day a man came and installed a telephone. He then left me with instructions on how to use it. He was my only visitor.

The next day I combed through the television stations and found a couple marginally interesting shows, but I was getting restless and bored. I followed Pip’s advice one more time; it worked once - why not. I called the house operator and asked her if there was some place where I could go to practice with my sword. She sounded surprised that I had been permitted to keep it, but said that she would have to make inquiries into what I was permitted to do.

I decided I would try my rain dance here. I figured I’d try to control my water better and not let it get everything wet, and if something did get wet, then I figured that I could just draw it back out of the material and send it down the drain. I pushed all the furniture to the sides of the room and danced. It felt so good to do this, and the extra flex required to control the water only added a new dimension to the whole thing.

A couple hours later, I decided it was time to quit, so I slowed down the dance, but held the water until I could direct it into the bathtub. Once that was done, I checked the room; not a drop had escaped. I was rather pleased with myself. I shucked my clothes and climbed into bed; it must be midnight by now and I was pleasantly tired for the first time in days.