Clarfax, Robert, Aria, Jada and Hardy made their way across the yard, soon joined by other students making their way to the science building on campus. As they walked, they discussed the upcoming lecture, the previous day’s lecture and speculated on what possibly Captain Mallard would want with Senia and Claudia. It became painfully clear once the science building came into view.
Captain Mallard stood at the entrance to the science building and appeared to be in a heated conversation with someone. Behind Captain Mallard, the leaders of the different houses, including Senia and Claudia, stood silently. As the group of students drew closer they saw just what it was that was causing such a fuss.
Six female Vulpine had chained themselves to the entrance of the science building, while a male stood by with a stone look on his face. He was dressed in the common trappings of one of the more religious clans of Foxburrow. He never flinched as Captain Mallard tried to speak in diplomatic and even tones, keeping her temper in check.
“Mr. Farnsworth,” she said as the small group was in earshot. “This is a violation of campus security. I do not care who you are, this action is illegal. You have not explained yourself at all, neither to the duty guards who found you, nor since the arrival of the house leaders and myself. So if you please, enlighten me as to the reason for your actions that mean to disrupt the routine of the campus.”
“With all due respect, ma’am,” he said in a loud voice as he tilted his muzzle in the air. “I do not expect a vixen to understand, nor do I expect a military official to realize the grave disservice that this building is doing to our youth.”
“And just what would that be, Mr. Farnsworth?” Captain Mallard asked, still keeping her temper in check. She was nearly at her wits end with this one. Students had heard of this Vulpine male and his actions from past reports. He had a habit of dragging a few of his flock onto the base and disrupt daily routines. Nothing he did was ever seen as violent, but it did violate security. He and his followers would spend a few days in detention and then be released.
“We all know what the Great Mother and her sister have taught us as we have grown in society,” he began, his voice pitched as though he were reading his sermon. “That we were born for this land and we are duty bound to stay here. This building and the… teachings within, is blasphemous to what we know to be true.”
Captain Mallard took a deep breath and turned to face the house leaders. They stood at the ready, will to back her up should she require. Claudia seemed the most ready, as this interruption affected her directly. She spied the group of students and looked back to Farnsworth. “Perhaps if I called upon the base chaplin you might consider moving your people aside.” Farnsworth gave no indication either way, but that did not deter Captain Mallard. “Private Sharpspeer,” she called out. “Front and centre.”
“Yes ma’am,” Aria said as she stepped forward and saluted.
“Fetch Chaplin Rosewood and have her meet us at the entrance,” she said to the young Felanus. “Perhaps if we added some spiritual guidance to this debate, we might get somewhere.” Aria saluted quickly and ran off in the direction of the base chapel. Captain Mallard turned her attention fully on Farnsworth.
The small group of students stood behind the house leaders, milling about and whispering among themselves. The house leaders, Claudia included, stood firm, watching the small group of Vulpine that blocked the entrance.
“I recognize this group,” Clarfax said quietly. “Flatlanders. They believe that Vulpinia is one massive plate. Held up by four rhinos or hippos or something like that.”
“We know that’s not true,” Robert replied. “Even I’ve been to Space Port Omega 1, I’ve seen the evidence first hand that our planet is, well, like a big ball.”
“Why don’t they just take them all up in a shuttle and prove it to them?” Clarfax said with an exasperated sigh.
“You can’t force people to do something,” Jada replied in a low voice. “The Flatlanders are very, very stubborn in their beliefs. Their beliefs may be outdated and backwards, but that doesn’t give us the right to tell them they’re stupid.” They looked to their right as they saw Aria returning, the portly frame of the base Chaplin quickly following behind.
Chaplin Tania Rosewood was a veteran of the Great Lupine Land War and many knew that she appreciated her posting on the base much more than her position with the 82nd. She was a stout Felanus who took no guff from anyone. Even someone as stubborn as Farnsworth.
“Barnabus Farnsworth,” Tania called out with a sigh as she stood beside Captain Mallard. Her voice was deep, but had a soothing sing song accent to it. “Thank you, Private Sharpspeer, glad I was called out.” She looked to Captain Mallard and nodded. “Remind me to requisition a decent communication link in the base chapel.”
“I’ll make certain that we talk to Colonel Traymore about that,” Mallard replied with a smile. She was more at ease since Tania arrived.
The Chaplin turned her full attention to Barnabus. “How many times is it this year, Barnabus? Four? Five? This has got to stop.”
“With all due respect, Reverend,” Barnabus retorted. “Until the college accepts my proposal that teaches of the truth of flat land…”
“Theory of flat land,” Tania said quickly, then motioned for Barnabus to continue.
“Until then, we shall continue to make protest,” he concluded with a firm nod that was signified with a slight harrumph.
“Barnabus,” Tania said with a sigh. “If this were a thousand years ago, you and your lot would have been dragged to the stocks already. Fortunately, we did away with such punishments centuries ago. We’ve had this discussion many times before, Barnabus. Your theory is a dying one. We have proof of the way things are. I’ve tried to show you images…”
“Fabrications!” Barnabus cried out.
Among the throng of students that had gathered, Clarfax and Robert whispered to each other. “See? Too stubborn and set in their ways to allow themselves a possible different theory.” Clarfax said with a sigh. “And I’m sorry, Jada. Yes, you have to be polite and discreet when dealing with people like Barnabus, but he and his ilk are spitting on proven theory. Why should we be any different to call him out.”
“That’s the basis for scientific discovery,” Robert said as he tried to keep his voice low. “Be presented with a series of events, try to explain them to a point, revisit the events with different possibilities. Even question your own findings.”
“Hey!” Clarfax whispered toward Senia, just low enough to not drown out the small group at the entrance, but loud enough that Senia might hear him. “Psst! Senia.”
It was Claudia who turned to look and noticed Clarfax. Claudia reached over and nudged Senia lightly and motioned to the group of students. Eventually, both Senia and Claudia stepped back to talk to Clarfax.
“What is it, Clarry?” Senia said in a low voice.
“Maybe if some of us students explained,” he suggested. “He might give up if we state that this is railing against our beliefs.”
Senia looked to Claudia who nodded back as though answering a silent question. Six years at the academy, Senia learned to value the advice of others, even if it came from small glances and quiet nods.
“Alright,” Senia replied. “But let us open it up. Mr. Farnsworth might see an interruption as argumentative and become even more stubborn.” Clarfax nodded in agreement and waited for Senia and Claudia to make their move. “Excuse me,” Senia called out from behind Captain Mallard and Reverend Rosewood. “Might I make a suggestion which could end this stalemate.”
Senia had their attention now, as Captain Mallard, Reverend Rosewood and Barnabus looked directly to her. “Falcon House leader Claudia Whitefur and myself have come to suggest perhaps letting some of the student explain the necessity for such a building as this. Maybe that will shed a bit of light on the situation.”
“Oh yes indeed,” Claudia piped up in her usual happy voice. “If that’s alright with all here.” Captain Mallard looked to Reverend Rosewood, and then both looked to Barnabus. The latter harrumphed in reply, which was taken as an agreement of terms. Satisfied, Senia and Claudia motioned toward Clarfax and Robert.
Clarfax nudged Robert and nodded toward the Chaplin and Captain Mallard. Robert didn’t catch it at first, but began to understand what Clarfax was doing when he began walking toward the two superior officers. “Captain Mallard,” he said as he cleared his throat. “Reverend Rosewood. Mr. Farnsworth.” He took a deep breath and looked to Robert, who was just now starting to realize what Clarfax had in mind. “This is more than just a military college, Mr. Farnsworth. More than a training facility for fighter pilots. We’re also receiving our education, and often that means that we take classes that may, how shall I say…”
“Butt heads with established beliefs,” Robert said quickly, rather embarrassed with his own sudden outburst. But he understood what Clarfax was getting at.
“Precisely,” Clarfax replied with a nod to Robert. “Just because some of these theories may seem foreign and different than what we grew up with, we still have the right to learn about them.” He watched Farnsworth’s reactions carefully. The older Vulpine seemed to be listening carefully at the very least. “To attempt to shut them out or, if I may be so bold, censor them, well, it’s an affront to the very establishment of higher learning.”
Everyone watched Farnsworth very carefully. He seemed to be weighing his options, and to Clarfax, it appeared as though he struck a chord. Without actually saying it, Clarfax was attempting to show that Farnsworth’s actions of attempting to block the class and shut it down was no better than those who called the Flatlanders stupid and backward. It was a bit of diplomacy that Clarfax had learned from Senia.
“I suppose,” Farnsworth replied as he came to his own decision. “That I can see your point, young sir. I don’t have the right to oppose your own education as you wish it.” He reached into his coat pocket and took out the key to the chains that the Flatlanders had used to chain themselves to the doors.
“Oh by the Great Mother, thank you,” Reverend Rosewood said as she removed her hand form her jacket, revealing that she had been holding onto a set of bolt cutters. “I was hoping that someone would try to reason with you, but if that failed I wasn’t gonna hold back and cut you all out.”