Where we introduce Hardy Maynard.
The motor pool for the Academy was rather large and contained all manner of vehicles. Some quite vintage, dating back over 300 years. More museum pieces, but they were used to give students an idea just how far we’d come from using a combustion engine to a vehicle that uses neutrino coils and solar collectors for fuel.
This was the place where Hardy Maynard could often be found when she needed to think. Immerse herself in the simplicity of an engine and she could push back everything else in the world, if only for the moment. But so lost did she get in the depths of an engine block, that she often ignored the world around her. Other sounds would be completely overlooked when she was in the process of something as simple as an oil change. But it was where she liked to be. It was her comfort zone.
Which really shouldn’t have surprised her when she finally did look up from her work to find one of her tools and found Senia standing behind her. She didn’t jump, didn’t scream out for being startled. Her eyes just blinked and she let out a breath. “An’ just how long were you standin’ there?”
“About five minutes,” Senia replied with a grin. “I didn’t wish to disturb you. First time I ever did that, I remember that a wrench was hurled in my direction.”
“Except that was a bicycle,” Hardy said with a chuckle and fully rose from her crouched position by the vehicle’s engine block. “Clarfax’s as I recall. An’, we were eight.” Hardy moved across the small garage and sat on a bench as she looked up to Senia. “I’ll assume by yer appearance an’ the fact yer still in yer dress uniform that the hearin’ is over.”
“Yes,” Senia said with a nod and sat down beside her. “Jada’s been stripped of rank but she’ll be allowed to complete her education. Albeit with a cvilian degree.”
“Thank the Great Mother for some small positives,” Hardy said with a sigh and brushed back her long hair. “I still don’t think it’s fair. But then, fairness never did overrule tradition or military chain o’ command.”
“Sadly, no,” Senia said quietly. “I’ve given Sparky the task of arranging a dinner. One week from tonight. For Jada, I think it’s the least we can do.”
“That’s ’round the time the rough ball semi final is,” Hardy said with a conspiratorial grin. “I take it that yer gonna use that as a cover?”
“More or less, yes.”
“Just make sure Sparky doesn’t blab to any o’ the other House Left-tenants,” she said as she reached into a satchel and pulled out a couple of drink boxes. She handed one to Senia.
“I’ve got Jada making sure he toes the line,” Senia replied as she took the drink. She fiddled with the straw as she continued to speak. “One more month and we have our graduation weekend. I assume you’ve got your escort all ready?”
“Of course I do,” Hardy chuckled. “I don’t think it’s a secret ’bout me an’ Clarfax. Mind you, it does take some prying to get him out of the science building. Especially when there’s a guest speaker.”
“Oh, so not much different than coaxing you out of an engine block,” Senia remarked with a grin. Hardy made a weak punching motion and hit Senia’s shoulder, while the latter feigned pain and hurt. “But in all seriousness, we aren’t that far away from our final evaluations and placements.”
“I heard the tribunal is going to be on the Omega One orbital platform,” Hardy said. “That we’ll be shuttled there over a ten day schedule.”
“House Ocelot has three different tribunals that are overseeing the final evaluations,” Senia said with a nod. They’ll start one week after final exams. And, we still have one more simulation to go through.”
“That’ll be a long day for you,” Hardy chuckled. “You oversee our simulations, and then Captain Mallard divides the house Left-tenants up into groups to give them a final simulation.”
“I know,” Senia said with a sigh. “I just hope I’m paired with Philly. He’s all about teamwork.”
“It’s a very House Lynx trait,” Hardy said as she patted Senia’s shoulder. “I suppose I should get cleaned up, and get some rest. This waiting actually tired me out.” She looked directly to Senia and smiled. “Thanks for coming to find me.”
“Of course,” Senia replied as she smiled back. “I wouldn’t want you to hear the news from someone else.” Senia rose to her feet and offered Hardy a hand up. “Come on. I’ll help you clean this up and put the tools away. You know how Custodian Ramirez gets when the motor pool is left in a bit of a mess.”