[1430.011.1100] Firster Academy Transport

The shuttle plummeted to my new life.

"Fasten your harness. We are on approach," the pilot's voice came over the recessed speaker next to my head. Engines beat the deck harder as grav plates spun up. Heavy wind shear punctuated the pilot's announcement; I bounced around in my harnesses.

Six teens in an old military-grade shuttle set up for transporting twenty-two Marines in full gear. The inside was clean, even if the paint was worn off the hand-holds and the harness material was frayed around the edges. Smelled like it had been used a lot; a subtle mix of sweat and dirty boot residue. The flight seats fit me just fine, they were made big enough for a Marine in armor and full combat load. I am not a lightweight girl. Two outside rows, two inner back to back rows. Two seats missing to account for the hatch in the side of the cabin. That hatch was my hope and I sat right across from it.

Using normal transportation was nice. Usually Dad got the armored limo treatment and I got shuffled from one Protector to another. At Firster Academy no one would know who I was. There would be no newsies tracking my every move. Probably worse, though, to finally be around other teens. I'd heard about bullies, gossips, and peer pressure but never had to worry about it. Never had other teens around. What would they think of me? Was anyone else like me? Anyone I could trust? I can't afford to make any mistakes.

I hoped Mom had warned the pilot that I have a nervous stomach. I've been in enough shuttles to know the feeling, but my stomach learned slowly. My nose hated the perfume from the girly girls sitting forward. A flowery-sick cloying vapor that smelled as weird as their clothes looked. The girly girls gave me stares; I guess they never saw a big-boned, red-skinned girl before. They snickered at my hair; wavy, long, and as difficult to manage as Dad's. No question where that genetic feature came from. There were days I would kill for a hairbrush that could make it through the mess. Other people claimed to be related to Verner Ottoson; I grew the hair to prove it.

Maybe they'd never seen Mountain Man facial tattoos. It's an old tradition. Jillia didn't get them when she changed from girl to woman. Of course, she got Mom's hair, so she won there. She looked a lot more like guys liked, too. I'd puke on the girly girls if it came to that. They giggled and showed off their new fashions. Their trunks filled the aft cargo space. If their perfume triggered my puke response, well, I'd share the love. None of them would like me anyway.

Six teens, one compartment. Not sure about the boy in the rear. He felt older. Maybe it was his scars, or his cane? The girl with him made it clear she was 'with' him. They blushed when they looked at each other and couldn't quit looking at each other. Off-worlders by their clothes and accents. The girl had money, the boy had something else. Not sure what. The boy's scarred face smiled when the girly girls laughed at him. His girlfriend turned red, and I had to decide if I wanted to help her or stop her. My Protectors drilled it into me; never get involved. Never put myself at risk. Dad would snort when they said that; he wanted to keep his little girl safe but he always wanted me to do the right thing. Sometimes I'm not sure who defined me more; adults I didn't know or my own family.

"It's okay," the boy said. He leaned back in his flight seat. Girlfriend huffed and squeezed his hand.

The girly girls and I had boarded at Nora. The shuttle went to the far coast and picked up the off-worlder couple at Ifningholm Downport. Then we headed to Firster Academy. Mom, Dad, and I had spent weeks talking about Firster Academy. Before Dad went into the hospital. When he got out, I stayed home and cared for him while Mom worked. Dad got well enough to walk through the woods and talk about trail sign. We talked about the old days, before the first war. And the second. He talked about Firsters and their gifts. How he would miss me.

"I'm not leaving the planet," I said. I couldn't tell him what I really wanted to say. What I really wanted to be. How much knowing he was dying was killing me.

"Same difference. You will come back a different person. Someone I do not know but will be very proud of," he replied. We walked in silence for a long time.

The girly girls really needed to become different people. The couple in the back were probably going to get married or break up, so they would change too. The guy looked okay as fellow student material. More than enough for me. Not looking for anything more than that. I had a family reputation to live up to; I could not risk anything more than that. No one could understand the pressure I lived under. Pre-schoolers learned about my family in bedtime stories. My parents had city mega-blocks named after them and Jillia had christened fourteen streets with her name. There were a dozen parks in memory of Lukas. I was a baby when the world changed; my legacy was puking on the guy who helped rescue the planet.

The turbulence continued. I hoped I could make it out the hatch in time.

“Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.” -- G.K. Chesterton

"Be a kid when it's time to be a kid. Be a world changer when the world needs changing." -- Josephine "Jo" Franco

"She struggled to understand love, to accept it. She struggled, as we all do, to find her place. To find her heart." -- Matreetha of the Dragon Clan, NavakSen, "Grandmother"

The Domici War novels are easy reading level science-fiction Coming of Age stories with a Christian Warrior ethos.

The characters struggle with their imperfections and the challenges of an unknowable future.

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