The Resident Brooding Teenager
Several other students began to gather around where Che and Nikki were standing. Some of them gave Che and Nikki suspicious looks, while others just stared at them with curiosity. A boy with long, wavy hair sauntered over towards them, seemingly unfazed by the gathering crowd.
He was wearing a school uniform, and at first Che thought he hadn’t realized he’d joined a group of newcomers. Still, the boy continued towards them, though his expression seemed dejected as if something was troubling him.
“Oh, wow! Who’s the hottie?” Che heard someone whisper.
“I think his name is Lorenzo,” another person replied. “He’s from Camellia City, I think.”
Che sighed and rolled his eyes. How could he have forgotten? This was basically high school all over again. This boy named Lorenzo was probably the silent, brooding type all the girls (and a few boys) fawned over. He remembered going to school with a few guys like that. It appeared he’d have to start dealing with teenage hormones all over again. Gross.
Lorenzo stopped in front of Che and Nikki, looking them both over.
“Pardon me,” he said in a cold voice.
Che moved out of the way, but Nikki just stood there, staring at Lorenzo with a dazed expression. Mystery Boy moved towards the edge of the group, but not before giving Che one last, long look. Che shivered, feeling as though he had just been stared down by a predator.
“What was that about?” Nikki asked, finally coming out of her daze.
“I have no idea,” Che replied, honestly perplexed. He then narrowed his eyes and smirked at Nikki. “You were checking him out, weren’t you?”
“What? No, I wasn’t!” Nikki protested, blushing.
“Liar,” Che accused, still smirking.
Nikki huffed and turned away from Che, crossing her arms over her chest. Che laughed and shook his head just as an older woman approached the group. Her hair was tied up in a neat, curly bun, and her expression was kind but stern. She wore a navy blue military-like jumpsuit with the academy’s emblem on the left breast. She looked about the same age as his mother. His mom…
What was she doing now? Was she okay?
“Welcome to Legaros Academy, students!” the woman called out. “My name is Professor Avis, and I’ll be your tour guide today. Please, if everyone could make sure they’re standing inside the lines marking the ground, we’ll begin.”
Everyone shuffled into place, and Che quickly joined Nikki near the back of the group near Lorenzo, deciding not to tease her about the coincidence. Professor Avis pressed a few buttons on the display, and the ground sprang to life, lifting the entire group into the air. Che could hear a low humming sound as metal rails rose up and surrounded them.
“This is our latest invention, the maglev cab!” Professor Avis explained with a pearly white smile. “It uses magnets to levitate this platform off the ground and allows us to travel across the campus without causing any damage to the environment. We’re very proud of it!”
The cab shot forward, and Che had to grip the rails to keep from falling over. He could see the entire campus laid out before him, and it was even more beautiful than he had imagined. The buildings were all made of white stone, shimmering in the late afternoon sunlight. Flowers and trees lined the pathways, and students could be seen walking around or sitting on the grass, chatting and laughing.
“Wow,” Che breathed, awestruck. “This reminds me of –“
He stopped himself before he could say anything else. He looked at Professor Avis, who seemed to have heard his comment.
“It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” she asked, also sounding awestruck.
“Yes, it is,” Che agreed, hoping his little outburst wouldn’t draw too much attention. He then turned to look at Nikki, who was also staring at the scenery with wide eyes.
“I can’t believe we’re really here,” she said, almost to herself.
Che smiled and turned back to continue admiring his own impressive view. Maybe some things impressed Nikki after all. The maglev cab’s first stop was the dormitories, and Che could see a few students already milling about outside. It was a large, imposing building, but it didn’t look as shabby as student housing at his university on Earth.
“The dormitories are where you’ll be living while you’re here at Legaros Academy,” Professor Avis explained. “You’ll be sharing a room with one other student, and there are a few rules you’ll need to follow. There will be a curfew in place, and visitors are not allowed in the rooms. You’ll also need to be in bed by a certain time so you can be rested for your classes the next day. You’ll have weekends off, of course.”
Che nodded, figuring all of the overbearing rules he needed to read were tucked away in the information packet Nikki had given him. He couldn’t imagine it being any different from his university on Earth.
“The second stop on our tour is the auditorium,” Professor Avis continued, and the cab started moving north. “The auditorium is where we hold our theater and musical performances. Legaros Academy’s headmaster has a strong passion for cultivating the arts.”
Che perked up at that. He hasn’t been expecting anything like that here. This place was full of surprises! He wasn’t sure if he’d ever get a chance, but he made a mental note to look into the auditorium’s schedule anyway.
The maglev cab made a few more stops, including an observatory for astrologers and a large practice field for sparring, before finally stopping in front of the humongous skyscraper Che had been waiting to see since he first started for Shrub Town.
“And this, students, is where we hold classes,” Professor Avis said grandly, as if she were presenting them with the greatest treasure in the universe. “This is the Legaros Tower.”
The maglev cab began to sink back into the earth, and the metal rails quickly followed. Professor Avis led the way as Che and Nikki slowly made their way toward the tower’s entrance.
“We’ll head inside and take a look at the interactive map of the Tower so you can get an idea of where your classes will be held,” Professor Avis continued, leading the way into the building. “Some of the facilities are closed for the day, and we don’t want to disturb the students who are still in class, so we’ll just stick to the basics.”
The group followed Professor Avis into the building, and they found themselves in a lobby that rivaled every fancy hotel Che had ever been to. The floors were a shining marble, and there was a large chandelier hanging from the ceiling. They were greeted by a receptionist’s desk with two women seated behind it.
“Good afternoon!” they both said in unison.
“Wow,” Nikki huffed. “They go all out here, huh?”
“It would appear so,” Che said, barely able to tear his eyes away from the decor.
Professor Avis led them past the receptionist’s desk and to a large touch screen on a nearby wall. Che noticed two elevators on the wall opposite the lobby entrance, and to the left was a small office with the door slightly ajar. He could see another woman inside, seated at a desk and looking over some papers.
Professor Avis pressed a few buttons on the touch screen, and a holographic map of the tower appeared.
“We’re on the first floor, the lobby and registrar,” she explained, pointing to a section of the onscreen map. “The second floor is the infirmary, while the third and fourth floors are the student shop and library. The fifth and sixth floors are your cafeterias. From there, floors seven through twelve are separated between academy students and army recruits and divided by age.”
“By age?” Che blurted out before cupping his mouth, not realizing he’d asked the question out loud. The entire group turned in unison to look at him, and he felt Nikki elbow him in the side.
“Yes, of course…” Professor Avis seemed taken aback by the question. “It’s always been that way. Academy students ages twelve and thirteen take the tenth floor. Ages fourteen and fifteen attend classes on the eleventh floor, and sixteen and seventeen occupy the twelfth floor.”
Satisfied she’d answered his question, Professor Avis turned back to the map and continued her explanation.
“Geez, you trying to get caught?” Nikki whispered. “You have no idea how to be subtle, do you?”
“What?” Che hissed back. “I wasn’t trying to be subtle. I just wanted to know why the floors were divided by age.”
Nikki sighed and shook her head. “I know you’re like…old or whatever, but try to act like you know how the world works, okay?”
Che was about to retort that he did know how the world worked, his world, but stopped. Professor Avis pressed a few more buttons, and the hologram disappeared.
“And that concludes today’s tour,” she announced. “I’ll see you all tomorrow morning for your first day of classes.”
“Wait! That’s it?” Che asked. “What about the buildings behind this tower?”
The other students turned to look at him again with confusion, but Professor Avis merely smiled.
“Oh, those are classified areas,” she explained. “Students aren’t permitted to go there.”
“But what’s in them?” Che pressed.
“I’m sorry, but that’s classified information,” Professor Avis said firmly, her smile no longer reaching her eyes. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have other business to attend to. You’re all free to make your way to your dormitories.”
With that, Professor Avis turned and walked away, leaving the group of students standing in the lobby. At first, everyone seemed perplexed, but soon enough they began to disperse, each going their own way.
Che felt a hand on his shoulder and turned to see Lorenzo standing before him.
“The buildings behind the tower…” he began, his voice low. “There’s the headmaster’s quarters, a research facility, an aircraft hangar, and the soldiers’ quarters.”
Che blinked, momentarily stunned by the amount of information Lorenzo had just given him. “How do you know that?”
Lorenzo shrugged. “I’ve been there before.”
“Oh,” Che paused, not knowing what else to say. “Well, thanks for the info.”
“No problem,” Lorenzo nodded his head slowly. “See you around.”
Che watched as Lorenzo walked away before turning to Nikki, who was clearly annoyed with him.
“Once again, you suck at being subtle,” she grumbled as they made their way back outside.
“I’m sorry,” Che said contritely. He really didn’t mean to draw so much attention to himself just now. “I just wanted to know more about the place. I didn’t mean to steal your boyfriend from you.”
“Whatever,” Nikki said, dismissively waving her hand. “Let’s just get to the dormitories.”
Che turned around to take one last look inside the lobby and noticed Professor Avis back near the reception desk, looking at him. Her expression was unreadable, but he got the feeling she was not pleased.
Che sighed. It seemed he was making more enemies with each passing second.