The voice of the TeachBot droned on. I tuned it out. Arrhorsian etiquette, what a dumb class. Who cared what the aliens considered polite? All they really liked was attacking Earth, and we should have been fighting back. Instead, the UN had decided to try and make peace with the aliens. Couldn't they see that would just lead to an occupation?
Finally, the chimes sounded for the end of class. I switched off my TeachBot and switched on my jetshoes. It was lunchtime, but I wasn't hungry. I flew out the roof of my pod and headed to the game room to hang out with my friends.
When I got there, I saw my best friend Jon playing Spheres with some other kid. Holospheres floated around the pod, one purple and the rest yellow. Jon and the other boy dodged the yellow balls, trying not to get shocked while getting the purple ball in the other's goal. Soon time ran out and the holospheres dissolved, Jon winning with a 2 point lead. He flew over to me. "Yo, Jared, what's up?"
"Not much," I replied. "Just back from AE."
"Hey, spacer, I feel your pain," Jon joked, using the slang for anyone stationed on a spaceship. Ours was the beautiful ship Kiniver, named after the last Spacegeneral to be killed by Arrhorsians. I got angry thinking about it. Thanks to our stupid UN, death had become so common that every ship (there were thousands) was named after it. Jon noticed my mood change.
"Jared, you all right?"
"Yeah," I replied, not very convincingly.
"Come on, let's play laser tag," he said, tossing me a laser rifle. I grinned. Jon knew laser tag was my favorite game.
Next day in AE, the TeachBot told me the results of my last test. I groaned. Was that a hint of smugness? I didn't think my TeachBot liked me that much. I sighed and stood to go to yet another meeting with the captain. I wondered if he ever got sick of seeing me.
I flew out the roof and down the hall, towards the captain's office. When I got there, I had a surprise. A note on the door informed me that he was on the bridge. What's he doing there? I wondered. Shrugging my shoulders, I turned around and headed back the way I had come, past my pod to the bridge at the front of the ship. The captain was standing alone on the bridge, looking out the window at a large Arrhorsian ship in the distance. When I came in, he turned and frowned at me.
"Greetings, sir." I bowed my head.
"Jared Hanron," the captain boomed. "You have thus far been unable to pass any examinations in the subject of Arrhorsian etiquette. Can you tell me why?"
"Because it's stupid, sir." The captain's eyebrows went up and I immediately regretted my brashness.
"Stupid, Jared? Would you care to elaborate?"
I considered saying "Not really," but then I realized that now I had a chance to explain my views to someone higher up than Jon.
"Well, sir," I began, "It's like this. As soon as the Arrhorsians arrived in our orbit, the UN decided to try to make friends. That makes some sense. But once they started attacking our ships, don't you think we should have fought back? How can you make friends with someone who's trying to kill you? It's crazy! Look at our ships. We come out with a new one every week, and every week they have hundreds of newly dead captains to pick a name from. Captains only, mind you. The number of dead soldiers must be in the thousands! And here I am, in a place to defend my home and my family, and instead of learning to fight or fly a ship I am learning how to be polite to our MURDERERS!" I stopped, breathing hard. I had never been so angry before and I didn't care. The captain looked angry too.
"Now listen here, Hanron. All the ships that have been destroyed, were because they offended the aliens. If we learn to treat them well-"
"Do you actually believe that?!" I cut in. "Right, let's see. If we are nice to the aliens then they'll be our friends, and come land on our planet very peacefully, and BLOW IT UP! These aliens are not our friends, they're our enemy!" The captain looked furious. My point was not getting across. I cast around the room for something, anything, to shock him into understanding. My eyes lit on the hail button. Dashing across the room, I pressed it.
"Yeah, I'm talking to you, dirty aliens!" I screamed at the Arrhorsian who appeared on the hail screen. "You bloody, destructive-" I cut off as the captain grabbed me and bodily hauled me away from the controls. Now he wasn't angry, he was terrified. I grinned. A waiting silence fell.
And my world exploded.