***Originally Written for 2012 Pod and Planet Fiction Contest
Arkadia Rural School District 14 christened it “Career Week”. Elementary teacher Ms. Julia named it her “Big Splash Self Promotion Gamble”. (Capsuleer psychopathy be damned! Access to a genuine pilot willing to un-pod was a career opportunity Ms. Julia fully intended to utilize.) Mobile Party Incorporated called it “Exceedingly Long Term Victim Recruiting”. DireNecessity found it uncomplicated fun: Tell a few crazy stories, answer innocent questions and make sure every single one of the adorables got their hug.
Most spectacular crash? Hmmm. Augering the FiestyPony II full speed into Arkadia’s off planet factory quarters a few years back was impressive. With a good telescope you can still see the scar on the station’s lower bulkhead. (Three children bolted for the class telescope before Ms. Julia could stop them; explaining it was rude to suddenly ignore their guest.)
Did it hurt? Yes but not as much as Amarr small arm laser fire; heat cauterizes the wounds meaning you don’t bleed out quickly. Stings like hell for far too long. (The fleeting curse set the children all a twitter!)
Why’d I crash? Don’t pilot space craft and juggle kittens at the same time. DireNecessity had to pantomime the accident, one hand furiously juggling the other distractedly piloting, before the children would accept that this was a genuinely accurate analogy. (Striding above their intellectual inferiors, the four students familiar with the definition of “analogy” beamed proudly. DireNecessity winked conspiratorially at the two students who suspected “kitten juggling” was better labeled a metaphor.)
Did I die? No, not that time. (That no children inquired about the stricken ship’s crew pleased DireNecessity. Oh to be young and peg identity on aspiration. “When I grow up I’m going to be a Capsuleer, not some sorry ass member of an expendable crew!”)
How many times have I truly died? I’ve lost count.
That’s when Jackson, the oldest in the class, announced, “DireNecessity has truly died at least 17 times. See, its right here in the BattleClinic records on my tablet’s hologram.”
Dagger eyed anger flowed swiftly across DireNecessity’s face before she whispered, “Who called me by that name?”
Ms. Julia, hoping to defuse the situation before the children descended into full on snot nosed sobbing, interceded; “Now students, we’ve already discussed proper words when speaking with Capsuleers.” Unfortunately, she was too late and teary eyed, finger-pointing bedlam broke out. (That many of the aspirational children flocked to DireNecessity for comfort hugs went unnoticed.) Ms. Julia was destined to be more than a rural elementary school teacher, everybody knew it, but The Fates conspired against her. Today’s gamble wasn’t panning out.
Jackson found DireNecessity waiting for him on the walk home from school. His quick survey of the surroundings revealed they were entirely alone.
“Are you going to kill me?” he asked.
“What do you think I need to do?” she replied.
“I don’t know.”
“Think it through.”
“Look, I’m sorry. I’m just stupid.”
“Think. It. Through.”
Curiously, DireNecessity’s composed menace calmed Jackson and he found himself thinking clearly; the most clearly he had yet in his entire, short, life. “No, you’re not going to kill me.”
“Why is that?” she asked.
“Because . . . Because all that really needs to be done is teaching me a lesson?”
“Because. . . Because all the students need to be taught a lesson.”
“Because . . . Because I, the other students and Ms. Julia need to be taught a lesson.”
“How will I teach this lesson?”
“You’re going to . . . You will break my arm.”
“Why is that?’
“Parents will choose to believe me when I explain how I tripped on the way home but the students and Ms. Julia, they’ll know the truth.”
DireNecessity tussled Jackson’s hair before giving him his hug then, grasping his right arm, she snapped it just below the elbow.
“What do Standards call Capsuleers like me?” she demanded squeezing the fracture.
“Ma’am,” he uttered wincing.
“Name initials if they’re friends.”
“Well well well, in the midst of fear and dread and intense pain my comrade Jackson engages his brain before engaging his mouth. I see no stupidity here. Don’t underestimate yourself son.”
“I won’t, DN.”
Jackson remembered his lesson; crafting it into an enduring ambition and a public speaking talent known for its composed decisive logic. When whispers of rebellion against the Capsuleers spread across the empires, adult Jackson massaged local discontent into Arkadia‘s famous bloodless coup. Additional decades would pass before elderly Jackson would ponder about how differently things may have gone had he not instructed his friend DireNecessity to break his arm.