I ignored him, really hoping he was talking to someone next to me or that he would give up if I didn’t respond. But he didn’t give up, waiting patiently for my answer. When it got to the point where the silence was getting really conspicuous I felt I had to break it.
“Fight.” I said. I did not want to talk to this guy.
“What? Did someone mug you or attack you or something?” He said. Wasn’t there some kind of victim confidentiality? I didn’t want to tell this pompous asshole anything.
“Yes.” Maybe If I just gave him mono-syllable answers he’d try his pickings somewhere else.
“Ok,” he frowned a little, but within a few seconds his face settled back to his confident grin that didn’t seem to reach his eyes. “Well, see this is why we need a strong police force. Our job is to get the people that make your lives hard off the street. We work hard to keep weapons out of the hands of criminals. Last year we took five hundred and seventy guns off the streets of Montreal.
“We work to target gangs and clear our streets of drugs…”
I had to try really hard not to laugh out loud at that. But he’d stopped talking.
I turned and looked around, Beth and most of the students had turned to look at me. Shit, I’d obviously not tried hard enough.
“Is there something wrong miss?” He asked me, clearly annoyed at having his little monologue disrupted.
Well, I was stuffed now. I Might as well keep on going.
“You don’t work very hard as far as I can see.” I said.
“What?” He was still looking surprised.
“I said.” Keeping my voice as loud and clear as I could manage. “You don’t work very hard at it.”
“What… I heard what you said! We have lots of officers working tirelessly on the streets of this city putting all kinds of people behind b-”
“You do in the nice districts yeah, but I’ve never seen an officer where I live. I could point out a fair few drug dealers, hell it’s not hard. There’s ten a penny. You guys though? Never. So yeah, I don’t think you put much into ‘clearing our streets’.” I finished.
Mr Phelps butted in with a stern tone. “Alexis, we can have this discussion afterwards. Lieutenant, please carry on.”
I didn’t listen to the rest of his bumbling speech; I was feeling angry again. Beth gave me a few worried sideways glances.
I think I heard Mike whisper to her “Dude that was awesome.”
The guy had been thrown off his stride and he ended with some details on the qualifications needed and where to find more information. The nurse was up next. He gave an interesting if unconvincing plea for us to join the health service. The money wasn’t good, but it was a moral and worthy cause. Not really the thing to sell to a group of students. Maybe some were just more interested in that kind of thing than me though.
After a while the nurse introduced ‘Commander Randal Sullivan’. The military guy came up and shook hands with the nurse.
“Good fellow that.” It was an odd start. “Now, I don’t know what you’ve been told about joining up. If I had to guess I’d say 90% of it was crap.”
A murmur rippled through the crowd at the curse.
“Oops, sorry Mr Phelps,” He grinned at the principal. “I don’t want to get in trouble.”
Well, that was a considerably better strategy than the police guy. He showed he thought we were on his level by using ‘adult’ words then showed that he was on our level by suggesting that the principal would tell him off. Smart.
“Now, you’d be surprised at how much opportunity the military has to offer. We aren’t just a bunch of apes swinging guns around you know. Nowadays it’s a war for space superiority. Battles are fought way up there, with fly-by-wire fighters and starships the size of small towns, small towns with their own fusion reactors and weapon systems.
“These systems are what give us the power to win. We don’t just need grunts with guns we need engineers, scientists, pilots and we are willing to pay a pretty penny for them.”
He paced back and forwards across the stage.
“There are new worlds out there that need protecting; Tau Ceti, Wasp, Osilia. The Novyy Mir should have arrived at Tau Eridani this month. Ceti is being colonised, Wasp has been successfully terraformed and colonisation is due to begin this year.”
He had our attention.
“All of these are overflowing with resources and land, of which our lovely little planet is sorely lacking given our rather bloated population. The major world powers, ourselves included, are going to be scrambling to get a piece of the pie.
“This is good news for you, there is no better time to join up. Recruitment is an all-time high. The USA is producing more starships than we can crew so we need you. Your country needs you.”
I wondered if he was required to put it in there somewhere.
“We will fund you through college and university. Half the scholarships going at the moment are with us. It’s not all work though, hell we know how to have a good time.” He looked sideways at Mr Phelps with a sly smile.
“I’d get in trouble again for telling you the details, but trust me when I say that. Lads, it’s a great way to get the girls. Girls, no man can resist that uniform. There was this one time-”
Mr Phelps gave an obviously fake cough to silence the Commander but I think he was enjoying himself just as much.
He didn’t get off the stage right away but you could tell his ‘speech’ was over. He continued for a bit on where kind of courses we should go for and where to find more information.
He ended with a neat practiced salute and changed places with Mr Phelps, who wrapped up, reminding us that we were due for personal sessions with career mentors.
Everyone stood up and began to shuffle towards the doors. Mr Phelps called out to me. Sullenly I went up to him, I hadn’t meant to be any trouble – that guy had been asking for it picking me out like that.
With Beth and Mike at my side he made me apologise to the Lieutenant. I did. Grudgingly. The guy turned and Mr Phelps led him off.
“Mz Spencer.” The Commander said. I turned his presence surprising me, who was he talking to?
“Commander.” Beth gave a salute. Oh, Spencer. I hadn’t really known Beth’s second name.
“Your father is doing well. He’ll be up on patrol this week. It sounded like he enjoyed the weekend.” Beth had been excited about her dad coming over for all of last week, I should have asked her how it went over lunch.
I wasn’t really good at this friend thing yet.
“Thank you sir.” She said, sounding all formal.
“So, bit of a trouble maker here then? Who’s you’re friend?” He said, turning to me.
“Alexis.” I didn’t need Beth to introduce me. I held out my hand, looking him in the eye.
“Hello Alexis, nice to see you giving Kenneth a hard time.” At my confused look he clarified. “Lieutenant Mullins, I had the pleasure of going to school with the guy. Bit of a bully if you ask me.”
I think I made a growl… I really didn’t mean to but the Commander burst out laughing.
“A bully do that to you?” He said, nodding to my face.
“You could say that.” I considered them bullies anyway. “I was the one to walk away.”
Why was I telling him this? One of his eyebrows shot up but before he could say anything Beth burst out.
“Alexis! What the hell happened?”
“I’ll tell you later Beth.” I said, feeling like I should have just shut up.
“I like you kid. Are you thinking of joining up?” He said.
“Considering it.” I said, not wanting to seem too eager.
“Have you done anything already?” He asked.
“What do you mean?”
“You know, the Cadets, Scouts, the YPA.”
“No. I haven’t put that much thought into it yet.” I said. I had no idea you needed to do anything like that.
Beth said “You should come to the Cadets Alexis; I’ve been going since I was old enough to join.”
“Consider it kid, It’ll help with the application.” He nodded at Beth. “I’ll tell your father you are well”
He turned and walked off to talk to the principal. Beth let out a slow breath.
“Fuck, that was Commander Sullivan, He’s like my dad’s boss.”