Practical Exercise

“And I’m mostly interested in building design – rebuilding places to eliminate their defects,” Richard said.  “The hard part is finding the defects; fixing them is…fun.”  He smiled.

“Do you have much longer before you’re graduated?” I asked.  These people had been quiet at night; I’d be just as happy not to have new, noisy neighbors.

“Last year for me,” Tad said.  “My friends here all have some years to go, except you, Theo.  You just got here last year.”

“They don’t know,” Theo said.  “The Faculty, I mean.  There’s a Constitutional Law major on the books, but it’s been so long since anyone took it that they are discussing precedents. My House – Northpark – has a stack of heirs ahead of me.  We’re actually in Capital.  Our occasional collisions with Houses like Palmer and Fourbridge made it obvious that we needed someone sharp who knew Constitutional Law very well.  My House suggested I volunteer, with the promise that if I deliver at the Bar I’m elevated to Senior Counselor in a few decades.  They sent me here after I started transitioning to adult.”

Senior Counselor in a few decades?  That, I thought, was amazingly short.

“And you, Adara?” Gail asked.  “Five years?  Six?”

I swallowed.  “I’m targeting the scholar’s track,” I answered.  “That’s ten to infinity, though if I’m clearly not making it I get asked to leave.  But coming to university was not a choice, because I’d run Barlow Academy out of courses. That’s not nearly as hard as it sounds, if you aren’t interested in practical arts.  Here this year was more complicated, because my House saw little point in me studying General Magic, so I had to generate the money myself.  Gramps wanted me to go into Army, learn to lead the House militia, because I’ve already been in combat regularly.  Some of the neighbors of some of our Unmen clients got rambunctious, had to be slapped down.”

“Combat?” Theo looked surprised.

“I’m Heiress-Third, I said.  “I’m required to lead at least a doublefist, ten or so people junior to me.  Usually we were guarding supplies, so I got to wake up every two hours and make sure guard posts were awake.  They were.  Once these idiots showed up with really large wooden ships and started firing cannon at us.  They should have been surprised when all their sails caught on fire, and then the innards of their ships started burning.  More recently things have been more violent.”

About George Phillies

science fiction author -- researcher in polymer dynamics -- collector of board wargames -- President, National Fantasy Fan Federation
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