You think things would go easier in the safety of the common stream room than on the mechrosse field. Not for Praxit.
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Episode 4 begins:
“Come on,” she looked at her tablet, “Praxit. The tables have been re-structured today, so you’re now at the far end. Follow me and I will introduce to your new section table mates.”
They did this every four weeks. I should have expected it because the morning stream got re-structured last Wednesday. It was supposed to create a dynamic learning environment, but everything still looked the same inside your veer set.
I was glad everyone had their sets on. No-one paid any attention to me until we reached the table. There were seven kids sitting around it plus a single empty chair waiting for me. Two of the kids had mechrosse team shirts on. They had a red mecha fist holding a mechrosse stick with ‘548’ underneath it. I got a bad feeling. Miami tapped on the table until the kids flipped up their sets and looked at us.
“Yo, dim lord,” said Kai. “Try-outs for this table are closed.”
She held out her hand and the girl next to her, Harisa, she was a defender on the team, slapped it, then the girl and guy across from her slapped it. She got a slap from everyone. It was like a tiny round of applause.
“Praxit has been assigned to this table. Please make him welcome. Once you’ve all completed the veer scenario I want you to help each other reach consensus on the learnings and complete the joint quiz. Take your seat, Praxit. What are you waiting for?”
I was waiting for them all to stop grinning at me. Particularly Kai and Harisa.
“I want to take the section test and move to a higher table,” I said.
Miami huffed so her grey fringe flew up and fell back down.
“Now you tell me.”
She started walking back the way we came.
Kai flipped me the fingers. I flashed Kai an “L” for loser. They all flipped me the fingers. One guy, I think his name is Delmar, added the thumb. What a day for fingers it’s been.
“Quickly,” said Miami. “The testing desks are right by the door. Where you came in. I have another one hundred and twenty seven learners to monitor, you know, to be spending my time escorting you back and forth.”
The testing desks have their own veer sets and keyboards, just in case you’ve modified your own for cheating. Both are secured by wire cables to the desk, in case you might want to steal them because they are so worn, the optics so foggy, and throw them out a window or donate them to a museum.
“In your own time,” said Miami, once I had the veer set in place. The test scenario flashed into focus. It was just practical calculation. You know, one third this plus eight point two multiplied by seven fifths divided by three point nine to the power of twelve and two thirds point four. That kind of thing. All presented in text and coloured pies and grids of dots with multiple choice answers hanging below them. I clicked through it, skipping a couple, more for time than for trouble, but not enough to stop me from passing.
I should have taken the test ages ago, but I didn’t care for a couple of reasons. Hanging out in common stream was easy, especially if you scored a seat against the wall and kept a front camera box in the corner of your veer display to spot the guide. You could watch whatever you wanted. If you were careful you could sim. Nothing too frantic. Exploration sims were perfect. Slow brawls, too. If you could find one notched down far enough you could set up your moves and check in every once in a while, see if your blows were landing or if anyone was sneaking past your defence.
The big reason to finish common stream is it unlocks your access to TravNav, the transport system. You’d think sim scores would be enough, but no, they think you need to know all kinds of useless stuff before you can request a course and step onto a transit pad. Until you finish you can’t jet anywhere except to places pre-set by an adult.
Before, when I didn’t have a mecha, I refused to pass common stream until I got one. Along with the whining, I was doing that to put pressure on Dad to get me a mecha. It didn’t work. Now I have the only mecha without jets so finishing common stream wasn’t going to change my life.
Except. Except now I was suddenly becoming Dim Lord. Hanging out in common stream, way past average completion time, even though I was almost finished, gave the name some teeth, a real grip. It might set in permanently if I don’t do something. Or it might get worse. It might go from dim lord to dumb lord.
I finished the test and waited for the system to alert Miami that I had passed and was assigned to a new table. She was pretty happy about my result.
“Already? You are interfering with my rounds,” she hissed at me. “You’re not the only learner. There. That’s your new table over there, with the yellow and black haired kid.”
She pointed towards a table with five people and three empty chairs around it. Even if he had shaved his scalp I would have recognised the blocky head of Risto and his ridiculously square chin, like a box with a mouth glued on the front. I kind of knew some of the others, going by their hair and clothes, but there was no way I was going to sit at a table with him. It was going to be four weeks before tables were re-structured again. I would rather stay home and sim than be within reach of Risto every day. But then, if it was even possible, he might make it out of common stream before me. And he was a year younger than me. Wouldn’t he love that.
“I want to test out of this section, too,” I said.
Miami’s fringe flew up and down three times. I think she was trying to cool herself down.
“You want to test out of common history? Before viewing the scenarios? It’s forty hours of content.”
“Oh, I’ve covered lots of the material on my own. Lots of history veers, history sims, even some books, you know. Can’t get enough.”
“Books? You? Fine. Take the test. I hope you pass. It’s the final section of the common stream so passing means I won’t have to watch you pretending to learn any more.”
She wiggled her fingers at me. It was the three finger pattern you use when you’re cycling between views in a slow brawl using a keyboard. I gave her my best confused look as I slid back onto the seat of the test desk.