Tag Archives: young adult

Valor’s Calling Now Available!

Valor’s Calling is now available from Amazon!

http://amzn.to/2fuCp8I

 

The past calls you back.

Jiden made the decision to join the Century Military Academy after her attempt at a normal school ended in disaster.  She’s embraced this new chapter in her life and she’s ready to do her best.

Jiden’s best may not be good enough.  Her relationships with her friends have changed since she’s been away, her classes are harder than she expected, and things aren’t quite what they seem.  Jiden made enemies when she chose to return to the Academy, and those enemies will settle for nothing less than her death.

Jiden must fight with everything she has, not just to succeed, but to stay alive.  Jiden will prove that she isn’t afraid of the challenge, because the military life isn’t just a simple decision, the military is her calling.

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Valor’s Calling Snippet Three

Here’s the third and final snippet for Valor’s Calling.  You can find the first two here and here.  Valor’s Child is available today from Amazon!

The Enclave was weird. As we drove through it, I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. The buildings were all squat and low to the ground, vehicle garages were all underground. It wasn’t a big city, or at least it didn’t seem to be.

That was, right up until Karmazin drove down into what looked like an oversized garage… and the road kept going. I craned my head around in surprise as I saw that the road descended into the ground, winding deeper and deeper.

Karmazin gave his smirk, “My people come from Dalite Three, what we call Acrotan, where the cities are all underground. The planet’s environment isn’t as friendly as here.”

I shot him a disbelieving look. Century was a dry, dusty world. We didn’t get anything near a winter and it only ever rained near the two polar seas. I hadn’t ever heard anyone call our world “friendly.” It’s a dry, barren dust-ball, and most of us think our ancestors were crazy for leaving behind the cool green hills of Earth…

“We’re used to living underground,” Karmazin went on. “Most of the Enclave is below ground. It’s easier to maintain temperatures and it provides better defenses that way, too.”

“Who are you defending against?” I asked.

“Anyone who might attack,” Karmazin hedged. It was a vague enough statement to make me feel uneasy. I’d heard that Enclave citizens were prohibited from service in the Century Planetary Militia by a recent Charter Council decree. Was that because they felt the Enclave was some kind of security risk? For that matter, if there is some kind of fight, which side would Karmazin pick?

I knew they were refugees, from the Three Day War with the Dalite Confederacy. I hadn’t expected them to have defenses or for their aerospace port to look so militarized.

Karmazin pulled into a side street and then into a vehicle garage. He climbed out, “I’ll help you out with your bags,” he offered, moving to open the cargo compartment.

“I’m good,” I said quickly. “I can’t stay long, this is just a quick visit on my way to the Admiral’s house.” The words came out before I could help them. I’d planned

He cocked his head at me, “You’re sure?” There was something in his voice, almost an edge of disappointment. I wasn’t going to think about that, though.

“Yeah,” I forced myself to smile. “I’ve got a lot of the pre-class assignments to knock out.” That wasn’t a lie. I still had several papers to write and three more books to read. I hadn’t even started the military ethics research paper itself yet, in part because I felt like it was sort of pointless.

I’d planned on working with Ashiri and Karmazin. I can do it on my own. The very thought of spending hours with them left me feeling sick. “There’s an evening flight I’ll need to catch, I just have a few hours.”

I had seen there was an evening flight. I had no idea if they had any seats left, but I was going to the aerospace terminal regardless. I’d spend the night there if necessary.

“Well,” Karmazin said, “I’ll give you the quick tour, then.” He gave me a solemn nod, almost as if I’d hurt his feelings. Well, he probably should have thought of that before he started dating my best friend.

I banished the thought before I could go on. I wasn’t going to resent my friends. This wasn’t their fault. I was the one who’d changed her mind. I was the one who had been wrong and I couldn’t expect things to be the way I’d secretly dreamed they’d be.

“This way,” Ashiri said, leading the way. I followed them through the door.

Alexander Karmazin’s home was far more spartan than I’d expected. There was a small dining room, a smaller living room, both with a few simple prefabricated tables and chairs. There were a couple of decorative holoprojectors, which painted two of the walls with vistas of a rainy, lush planet.   I thought I recognized the pattern as one of the default settings, one that most people typically replaced with some kind of custom display.

A tall, dark-haired woman greeted us as we stepped inside. She have Ashiri and I both nods, “Ashiri, welcome back.” Her gray eyes locked on me. There was something watchful there, evaluative and somehow threatening, as if she didn’t know what to make of me. “You must be Jiden Armstrong. I’ve heard quite a bit from Alexander about you.” She had the same olive skin, the same quiet watchfulness as Alexander, I saw.

“Jiden,” Alexander Karmazin said, “this is my mother, Diane Karmazin.”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, ma’am,” I said.

“Yes,” Alexander’s mother said. I wasn’t sure if that was agreement with what I’d said or simply an acknowledgment. “Alexander tells me that you’ll be staying for a few days?” Her voice almost sounded resigned.

“I’m afraid not,” I replied. “I’d meant to clarify, I only had time to swing through and say hello, I’m quite a bit behind on my studies.”

“That’s too bad,” Alexander’s mother replied. She somehow managed to make that sound both sincere and insincere at the same time. I didn’t know if that was because she really didn’t want me here or if she somehow realized why I didn’t want to stay. Either way, I was eager enough to take that as a way to make my exit.

“Well,” I said, studiously glancing at my datapad, “I probably should get back to the terminal if I’m going to catch my flight.” I looked up, “Thank you for inviting me to your home.”

“Of course,” Alexander said. He was looking at his mother though, almost as if he sensed something was wrong. I had no idea what was going on, but I felt like leaving was going to be the best thing I could do.

All I wanted to do was get out of there and I think Alexander was really regretting the invitation to visit. I felt like an idiot, but I managed to say polite things as I backed out and Alexander gave me a ride back to the terminal. I passed the trip in silence. Thankfully, he didn’t seem very talkative, either.

***

 

A few hours later I’d boarded a commercial skimmer and had my datapad out while I worked on some of my projects. I’d been lucky to get a ticket on the flight, the only one leaving the Enclave that day… but I’d scrapped my plans of staying with Karmazin and his family. Not with his relationship with Ashiri.

I’d managed to message the Admiral to let her know I was coming a few days early, just before I boarded. Now I was buried in work. Some people hated to work on a flight, but I welcomed the chance to tune everything out, to not think about how my expectations had been completely overturned.

The skimmer was surprisingly empty for a holiday season flight. It made me wonder if Karmazin’s people celebrated Christmas… or for that matter, if they celebrated off-season from everyone else. After all they were from another world. I knew there were some Christian and Jewish sects that followed the standard Earth twelve month calendar, in spite of the fact that it didn’t remotely match up to Century’s fifteen month years and three seasons.

My mind went off on a bit of a tangent, sort of wandering as I stared out the window. I watched the hydrogen-powered gas turbine, just sort of staring at the heat distortion from the jet wash. It was mesmerizing and I just sort of watched as the superheated gasses blurred the setting sun and desert.

I had a perfect view of the missile that came streaking in at us.

My eyes went wide as I realized what I was seeing. But by the time I could open my mouth to shout a warning, there was a flash of light and the entire skimmer shuddered. The detonation was muted, but the skimmer went into a spin. I heard shouts and screams from the other passengers and the whine of the turbines altered pitch. The smooth flight became a rough spin and I was smashed against the side window. Staring out, I had a great view of the burning engine as the skimmer cork-screwed towards the ground.

I’m going to die. The thought wasn’t as jarring as it should have been. I’d nearly died several times. It just seemed unfair that I’d survived being shot down and attacked by criminals, only to be shot down in a commercial aircraft.

There wasn’t time to panic. There wasn’t time to do much of anything. I found my hands going to my seat restraints, tightening them, even as I heard the skimmer pilot come on over the intercom, “Brace for landing, brace for landing,” his voice sounded abnormally calm and some absent part of my brain wondered if he was a graduate of the Century Military Academy.

The remaining engine roared as the pilot fed it power. The skimmer stabilized and the nose swung up. I watched the spinning sky and sand transition to mostly sand and some sky. This side of the aircraft was lower, the damaged engine providing little or no lift. The sandy, rocky ground whipped past, far too fast for me to pick out details and far too close for me to focus on it.

We hit, a bone-jarring, grating, sliding, and world-ending chaos. Passengers and their possessions flew through the compartment. Something heavy struck me a glancing blow to the head and I saw stars. I saw the skimmer engine ripped away and then a moment later we smashed, hard, into something and the entire craft jerked to a halt.

I unbuckled my restraints and stood. Passengers looked around dazedly. An attendant fumbled with one of the doors up front, but I didn’t see the attendant here near the rear. I pushed past my seat-mate and moved to the door, moving on impulse. The skimmer was damaged, the hydrogen tanks were probably leaking. We had to get off the craft before the hydrogen caught fire or exploded.

I wrenched the door open and the smart-plastic ramp extended. I started to jump down it, but then I saw that no one was following me. I stared at the passengers, most of whom were either in shock or possibly denial. “Move it!” I shouted, “Get out of here!”

I reached over, popped the restraints off a nearby woman and jerked her to her feet. Without thinking I pushed her down the ramp, then grabbed the man next to her. “Go!”

Passengers started to move. Some fumbled with their restraints and I hurried to help them, pushing them towards the door. I didn’t want to think about how little time we had. Hydrogen gas would be spreading through the aircraft. All it would take would be a spark and the entire skimmer would go up like a bomb.

“Go!” I shouted, shoving a business-man ahead of me. I looked around, not seeing anyone else near the rear of the aircraft. I started towards the door when I heard a whimper of pain. I looked over and saw movement under a pile of bags. I reached down, throwing stuff out of the way and found an arm. I pulled, dragging the attendant out from under the pile. She was battered and bloodied, her eyes unfocused. “Let’s go!” I shouted, pushing her towards the door. We ran out, sliding down the ramp and then plowing into a group of passengers milling around the bottom of the ramp. “Get clear!” I shouted at them. “It’s going to catch fire!”

I pushed and shoved at people, even as I heard a whoosh. The sound turned into a roar and I felt a wash of heat, even as I stumbled away. The dusk turned bright as daylight and I looked back to see the entire aircraft engulfed in flames. “Go!” I shouted angrily at people as they stopped to gawk.

We weren’t anywhere near a safe distance away. I helped an attendant to herd people away from the crash site and the roaring flames. We’d managed to get two hundred meters away when the hydrogen tank exploded like a bomb. As the blast knocked me to the ground, I finally gave up and just stayed down. A moment later another hydrogen tank detonated, then the third.

I lay on the ground, listening to the roaring flames and the panicked shouts of the people around me. Someone shot at me… again. There was no reason that I thought of myself as the target, but somehow I knew that I must be. Someone had fired a missile at me. They’d nearly killed dozens of people… trying to kill me.

As I lay on the hard, hot ground, I had a dread certainty that they wouldn’t stop until they succeeded.

***

Valor’s Calling Snippet Two

Here’s the second snippet for Valor’s Calling.  You can find the first snippet here.

Valor’s Calling will be available on September 29th, 2017.

Dad was the one who flew me back to civilization. He’d raised an eyebrow when I’d asked him to drop me at the Enclave, but he hadn’t questioned it. He talked as he flew. Dad wasn’t as good a pilot as mom, so the skimmer bobbed a lot, but Dad’s stories were interesting enough to keep me distracted. It sounded like they’d found a lot of interesting stuff in this next level down of the old alien ruins under Black Mesa.

I was glad for the distraction, because I’d started to feel nervous. I’d messaged Alexander Karmazin to let him know I’d be coming by on my way to the Admiral’s house. He hadn’t responded other than to say he’d meet me at the Enclave’s landing terminal. Most towns on Century just had landing pads in residential areas. With almost all of Century’s surface being land mass, it wasn’t like we didn’t have enough room to spread things out a bit.

The Enclave, though, was supposed to be different. Karmazin had told me that they were refugees of some type, military refugees if you could believe that. His grandfather was the Enclave’s leader, his mom was some kind of important official there too, so Alexander should know.

The terminal we set down in looked like a military base. Most of it was underground, with a few buildings with sensor masts and what looked like weapon emplacements above-ground. Off to the side, past a few big cargo and personnel transports, I actually saw a row of military skimmers and beyond them I saw the big, sleek forms of Mark V Firebolt warp-drive fighters.

Okay, I thought, maybe there’s a reserve unit doing drill here or something.

Dad talked with traffic control and then settled us down near one of the personnel transports. As he dropped the ramp, I looked over to see Alexander Karmazin and Ashiri Takenata come out of the nearby terminal building.

I unstrapped quickly and hurried to the ramp. I felt a smile growing on my face, it felt good to see them in person. Alexander Karmazin stood tall, almost two meters, with dark brown hair and olive skin. Ashiri stood next to him, her short black hair tossed in the hot dry wind.   I opened my mouth to shout a welcome… and then I saw them standing close to each other, holding hands.

Oh.

I forced myself to smile, “Hey, guys, good to see you.” My voice sounded robotic and I felt like an idiot.

“Yeah,” Ashiri smiled back, her expression was wooden, “good to see you too.” She sounded nervous.

“So, these are your friends?” Dad asked from behind me.

All I wanted to do was turn around and run back up the ramp. I felt so embarrassed. Of course they were together. It wasn’t like Alexander Karmazin had showed any real interest in me. We’d been friends… and the one time he’d even hinted at wanting to be anything more, I’d thrown it back in his face by telling him I was leaving the Academy.

Instead I forced my face into something between a smile and a grimace and turned to my dad, “Yeah, these are my friends, Karmazin and Takenata.” I deliberately used their last names. It let me distance myself from it. If I thought about them as classmates, it didn’t feel like a betrayal.

“Great, well, I commed the Admiral, she’s covered your ticket from here back to Duncan City, so I guess I should get back home,” my dad said cheerfully. On impulse, I stepped forward and gave him a hug, burying my face in his shoulder. I wanted to cry, but I told myself that was silly.

He patted me on the back and gave me a last squeeze, then turned away and walked up the ramp.

I turned back to face my friends, they still held hands. It hurt, like my whole chest constricted around my heart… but at this point, I should be used to pain. “Let’s get out of his way, right?” I said as casually as I could manage. I shouldered my duffel bags and moved out of the way of the skimmer.

I was thankful for the sound of the turbines. It meant I had some time where I didn’t have to talk. Carrying the weight of my bags meant I had an excuse not to look at my friends. As the hot air blasted over us, I could pretend that the tears in my eyes were from the turbine wash.

***

 

“So…” Ashiri said a few minutes later as she and I stood by the curb, waiting while Alexander Karmazin brought up a ground vehicle. “We didn’t know you were going to be coming back. Alex and I started spending a lot of time together and…”

I realized with horror that she was going to explain how she and Karmazin had hooked up. The last thing I wanted was to hear any details. “Ashiri, it’s fine. Really, you don’t need to explain.” I swallowed, “It wasn’t like Karmazin or I were dating. We’re just friends, like you and me.” I said the words with as much sincerity as I could manage.

Ashiri shot me a look. I forced myself to meet her brown eyes. “You mean that… I mean, I thought you two…”

“There was nothing between us,” I interrupted before she could finish. “And clearly, you two are together. It’s fine. I’m happy for you both.”

“You’re okay, then?” Ashiri asked, her voice intent.

“Yeah,” I replied. “I’m okay.” It wasn’t like I had some sort of claim to Karmazin. Besides, I liked Ashiri, she was my friend. I couldn’t be angry with her. We’d been through too much together.

I’d be okay. Everything would work out.

If I just kept telling myself that, maybe I’d even believe it.

***

 

Coming Soon: Valor’s Calling

Valor’s Calling, sequel to Valor’s Child, is coming soon!  The second book of the Children of Valor series covers Jiden’s first full year at the Century Military Academy.

The past calls you back.

Jiden made the decision to join the Century Military Academy after her attempt at a normal school ended in disaster.  She’s embraced this new chapter in her life and she’s ready to do her best.

Jiden’s best may not be good enough.  Her relationships with her friends have changed since she’s been away, her classes are harder than she expected, and things aren’t quite what they seem.  Jiden made enemies when she chose to return to the Academy, and those enemies will settle for nothing less than her death.

Jiden must fight with everything she has, not just to succeed, but to stay alive.  Jiden will prove that she isn’t afraid of the challenge, because the military life isn’t just a simple decision, the military is her calling.

Valor’s Calling will be released on the 30th of September.

Valor’s Child

Valor’s Child by Kal Spriggs

Valor’s Child is now live on Amazon!  Valor’s Child is the first book of my YA series, Valor’s Children.  The second book of the series, Valor’s Calling, is nearly complete and I hope to have it out  near the end of August.

This is a quick, fast, fun set of stories and I hope you all will enjoy reading them as much as I have writing them!

Life isn’t fair.

Jiden’s parents barely scrape out a living on the dry, dusty world of Century. Jiden wants more for herself and she is ready to step into a bright future, one which may lead her far from the frontier world of her birth.

She’s just got one obstacle: five months of military school. She’ll be away from her friends, subjected to long hours and a crushing work load. Yet as the challenges mount, she finds that there may be more to life besides comfort and security… things like duty and service.

You can get your copy from Amazon.  And in case you’d like to learn more about my writing process and why I wrote Valor’s Child, sign up for the Century Military Academy.

Valor’s Child, Final Snippet

Here’s the fourth and final snippet for Valor’s Child.  Valor’s Child comes out on Amazon on 30 June, 2017.  You can find the first snippet here.

 

I stared at the Admiral for a long time, with much the same look one might bestow on a crazy person.  At first I was unable to speak.  The very idea that I would want to join the military — much less go to the absurd Military Academy which the Admiral had the charge of — was ridiculous.  I didn’t want to be in the military, I wanted to work for Champion Enterprises.  I suppose, in the unlikely event that I failed at that, I would be an archeologist, like my mother and father.

The next feeling I had was a spike of almost incoherent rage.  I felt it burn up from somewhere in my chest.  It was the concentration of all my frustrations of the past few days, how my parents had seemed to spit on my dreams and how I hadn’t been allowed to talk to anyone, how they had shipped me off here like some kind of disgrace.  Then before I even realized what had happened, I heard the angry words come from my lips, “If you think for even a second that I would ever want to go to your stupid Academy—”

“You have no choice, girl,” the Admiral said.  “You’ll go… and if you fight me on this I will drag you like the petulant child you seem to want to be.”  She let out a disapproving sniff.

“I could fail out,” I said.  It was a desperate option, I knew.   I’d never failed at anything, but it might be the only option.

“You could… if you can tolerate what others would think of you, feel free,” the Admiral’s voice exuded disapproval.  “For that matter, your Champion Enterprises Internship Program does accredit the Century Military Academy as a respected institution… and they will pull our records before you attend.  I think that would be a case of cutting off your nose to spite your face.  And trust me, failing out is the only way I will allow you to leave before this trimester is up.”  I stared at the old woman for a long time.  She had a look of iron-willed determination on her face.  The set of her shoulders was one that I recognized from my mother, whenever she had made up her mind… yet there was something far more implacable about it.  It was almost as if my mother’s stubbornness were just a minor reflection of the Admiral’s.

“Fine, whatever,” I muttered and looked away.

“James,” her grandmother said to the otherwise empty room.  For a moment, I thought the old woman might have gone insane.  Then I realized it was a communications implant.  If she had that, then it only made sense she probably had a full cranial implant.  The implanted device allowed someone to directly link with computers, to communicate with one another across distances… and to creep out people around them at the thought of a computer nestled in their brain.

A moment later, James stepped up to the door.  He assumed some kind of military brace, “Yes, Ma’am?”

“Jiden will be attending the Preparatory School for the Academy.  Please ensure that she has access to the initial coursework.”  She turned her gaze back to me, “Now, girl, most of your fellow attendees will have been preparing for the past few months.  You’ve a bit of catching up to do.  I would particularly encourage you to focus on your physical scores.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to work.”

I stood there, so stunned that I couldn’t move.

“Oh, one other thing,” the Admiral said.  “Dinner will be at 1800, sharp.  Don’t be late.”

***

Valor’s Child, Snippet Three

Here’s the third snippet from Valor’s Child.  You can start with the first one here.  Valor’s Child comes out on Amazon on 30 June, 2017

Chapter Two: I Meet The Admiral

 

The metronome tick of the old fashioned clock against the wall seemed far too loud for the small room.    The study, with the old stuffy furniture and the annoyingly loud clock belonged to the Admiral.  In any other house, I would have felt excitement at the ranks of old, leather bound books and the strange treasures that lined the shelves.  Here I just felt out of place.

I sat, uneasy in the dress my mom had insisted I wear.  The stiff, starched fabric felt rough on my skin and the drab, brown dress was a far cry from what I normally wore.  I’d rather be in a set of coveralls, if the plan was to put me to work, or just slacks and a button up shirt, if she wanted me to look professional.  I hated this dress.  Mother said it made me look proper, but I didn’t care about looking proper.  It wasn’t like I ever saw Mom in a dress.  Why was it important that I look proper while she…

My thoughts trailed off as I heard muted voices from beyond the two sliding wooden doors that separated the library from what I assumed was the Admiral’s office.  I couldn’t make out the words, not from my spot on the couch, but if I moved closer…

No sooner did I have that thought than I stood.  I didn’t head straight for the doors, not right away.  I didn’t know if there were some cameras or other snoops in the library.  For that matter, James might appear at any moment.  I walked first to the old fashioned clock.  It was a complex thing of brass and glass, with whirling gears and a heavy pendulum.  Another time I would have been utterly fascinated.  If I were at a friend’s house, I might have asked permission to take it apart to see how it worked.  Instead, I shifted slightly, as if examining the spines of the books along the shelves.  The doors grew closer.

The heavy wooden doors that separated the study from the Admiral’s office had kept my mom’s and the Admiral’s voices indistinct.  They could not, however, silence them when those voices raised in anger.  “…can’t be serious?”  That was Mom, I realized.

“Deadly serious, June,” the Admiral’s voice was harsh.  “What did you expect, that I’d leave her here while I’m away?  She could hang out with James and his wife while she studies?  She did something which you did not want her to do… worse than that, she lied and deceived.  Would you like me to give her a vacation like your husband’s mother would?”

“She’s not a bad kid!” Mom said.

“And I’m not going to treat her as if she was,” the Admiral snapped.  Her voice dropped below hearing.

I ground my teeth in frustration.  It sounded as if the Admiral had some truly ghastly punishment in mind.  I shifted along the bookshelves until I was almost just outside the doors, where I was able to hear their lowered voices once more.

“I still feel like you’re doing this just because I didn’t follow in yours and Dad’s footsteps,” my mother said.  I could hear the bitterness in her voice.

“You made your choice, June,” the Admiral said.  “I can’t say I’m happy with it, but I’ve come to terms with it at least.  Remember, you came to me with this problem… and I’m glad to help, but if I do… it will be on my terms, not yours.”

“That’s the problem, it’s always your terms,” Mom said, but I recognized the tone of resignation that signaled she had conceded the fight.  Come on, I thought, how bad is this punishment that even my mom thinks it’s too much?

“Wayne didn’t see any problems with this,” the Admiral said, “Trust me, I don’t know if she’ll learn her lesson, but regardless, it is also an opportunity for her.”

“Yes, I’m well aware,” my mom said.  “Very well.”

“Thank you, June,” the Admiral said.  For a moment, her voice softened, “And thank you for this chance to be a part of her life.  I know…”  She trailed off and I could almost swear I heard her voice break a bit.  “I know I wasn’t a perfect mother, but I think entirely cutting me out of your children’s lives was… extreme.”

“Truthfully?” My mom asked.  “Part of that was I was afraid something like this would happen.  It was less about you and more about them… and it wasn’t easy after we lost Dad.”  My ears perked up at that.  I’d remembered my mom had told me once that her father had died, but no details.  “I made a decision then that I didn’t want my kids to have to share that risk… and I never wanted to get that kind of visit.”

“Your father’s death was hard on us all,” the Admiral said.  “But don’t forget what your father accomplished…”

“Let’s not start down this argument again, okay?” Mom said.  “We can agree to disagree.  But I’ll accept your position… and your terms.  Take care of my little girl, okay?”

“Absolutely.  She’ll be in the best hands,” the Admiral said.  “Are you staying the night, I could have James…”

“No, it’s best I get home,” Mom said.  “Wayne and I have uncovered another level in the catacombs.  We’re starting to find actual equipment, some of it definitely alien, not just trash, some of it might be recoverable…”  I tuned out her explanation.  I’d heard it a hundred times.  Mom and Dad both were passionate about their work.  I’d admit, it was interesting… but it wasn’t for me.  They barely scraped by, even at Basalt Mesa, while people like Tony’s father were already making enough money to live comfortably while still making a difference and modernizing Century’s technology base.  What were a few alien trinkets compared to that?

I almost tuned out the sound of footsteps, but I managed to shift along the bookshelf before my mother slipped the doors open.  She gave me a glance, one part suspicion and one part amusement before she stepped forward and embraced me before I could so much as protest.  “Love you.”

I responded by habit, “Love you, too.”  I did, even if she made me want to pull my hair out in frustration.

She pushed me out at arm’s length.  “Good luck, Jiden,” she said and then she walked out of the study.  I heard her talk with James and then the front door opened and closed and I was there alone… with the Admiral.

As if on cue, I heard her harsh voice, “Jiden, come here, please.”

Four months, I thought, it’s only four months and twenty-two days, then I’ll start my internship, I’ll be with Tony, and I can get on with my future.  I walked forward to the doors until I saw the Admiral.  My mother’s mother stood straight and tall behind her desk.  Like the one picture my mother had, she wore her service uniform.  The tan uniform was crisp and sharp.  She had a cluster of service ribbons on her left breast, of various bright colors that stood out sharply.  I was surprised by how young she looked, but then I realized that she must have had life extension treatments, so she wouldn’t age at the normal rate.   Her blonde hair, tied back severely, was the same color as my mother’s, the same light blonde as my own.  She was a thin, severe presence, one that suggested iron discipline and total focus on duty.  There were sharp lines carved into her face, which made her look even more stern and foreboding.  For just a moment, I contrasted her with my other grandmother, Grandma Effy, who ran the archaeologist program at Nelson’s University, was a warm, plump, friendly woman who baked cookies every Sunday.

The Admiral did not compare favorably.

The Admiral’s stern face creased in what someone might have very generously considered a smile.  “Jiden.  Come in.”  Her voice sounded neutral at best.  I stepped forward and stood awkwardly, just inside the door.  I was fully aware that the only real impression I had with this woman was what my mother had relayed.  In these circumstances, that was unlikely to be flattering.  The Admiral looked me up and down for a long moment.  She seemed to read my awkwardness and let out a derisive snort.  “So, how much of that did you overhear outside the door?”

“What?” I asked, surprised that she had guessed.

The Admiral chuckled, “No Armstrong I know would sit so patiently there by the couch.  So either you are the least curious child I’ve ever met or you were careful enough to scurry back to the other bookshelves when you heard the floorboards creak.”

I glared at her, “I’m not an Armstrong, I’m Jiden Nadami.”  I used my father’s name, most times, because that’s what my mother did.  Still, I knew that my birth certificate said Jiden Armstrong.  I was an Armstrong, but it seemed best to not let her push me around from the start.  I didn’t deny her assumption.  She probably had some kind of camera or something installed in the library, anyway.

“You’re your mother’s child, that’s for certain,” the Admiral said.  She looked back at me and I saw a speculative look came to her eyes.  “You’ve got some spunk to you, girl.”

“I have a name,” I said.

“You do,” the Admiral answered.  “But I don’t use first names unless I really know someone…  and it seems awfully silly to call you Armstrong.”  The old woman sighed.  “Take a seat.” She pointed at the leather chair that sat before her desk.  I walked up to it and sat, just on the edge of the big, comfortable chair.  The warm scent of leather enveloped me, even so.  The Admiral studied me with cold, blue eyes.  “Do you know why you’re here?”

I didn’t answer.   Part of that was confusion, part was irritation and anger.  Bad enough to be lectured by my mother, did I also have to hear it from her mother?  Also, how was I supposed to interact with the woman I had never met, the woman who my own mother had barely talked with for over three decades?

“You’ve a good bit of your mother in you, I can see,” her grandmother said, “Stubborn as a mule, she is.  Probably got her temper too, I’d bet.  You take after her, in some ways.  Plenty of your father in you, though that’s more about the eyes and your size.”  My father was medium height and dark haired, my mother as tall and blonde haired as my grandmother.  The mix had meant that I was of average height and while my eyes were as blue as her mother and grandmother, they were shaped much like my father’s.  My older brother had inherited our mother’s height, but our father’s dark hair and eyes.

The Admiral stared at me, much like a cat might eye a skinny mouse as it pondered if it was particularly hungry, “You are fourteen, Jiden?”

“Thirteen,” I bit out, angry that she didn’t know my age.  Grudgingly, I added, “I turn fourteen next week.”  Fourteen years on Century was almost eighteen Earth years.  Seventeen and half, I thought, and I would be considered an adult practically anywhere else.  Here, though, I’d still be considered a “child” for another two years.  Like everything else in my life, it seemed like the length of year was terribly unfair.  Fifteen months for a rotation around our star… thirty more months before I was an adult and able to make my own choices.

“I thought so,” the Admiral’s eyes narrowed.  “The Academy goes in session in two weeks.”

I didn’t respond.  I wasn’t sure what that had to do with me.  I knew, vaguely, that the Admiral ran Century’s Military Academy.  That reminded me of Tony’s father and his jokes about the prim and proper dress of their cadets and the military precision they followed for the rather tiny military forces that Century could afford.

“Minimum age requirements for entry into their preparatory school is fourteen,” the Admiral said.  She lifted the folder which held my records and paged through it, “Yes, as your mother said, you had excellent scores in math and science.  Good physical scores for a girl, as well.”

I felt a hollow in the pit of my stomach.  “You can’t mean—”

“Congratulations, Jiden, I’ve just approved your application to the Century Military Academy Prep School,” the Admiral smiled slightly.

***