Chapter One

    I hesitated to slide into the command chair. I stood behind it, left hand hovering just above the  backrest. My eyes slid across the control console and looked past the closed portal iris and off into the future. Sitting would be the launching of  a new life with new freedoms, new challenges and new experiences. Sitting would be saying goodbye to all that was normal, familiar. And so I hesitated, not rushing but rather relishing every nano-second of shaking off the old, mind-numbing existence that had been mine up to now and that I despised so vehemently.  

    I hated school. I always have hated school. And I know, without a doubt, no matter what, I always will hate school. I can’t exactly put my finger on why. Perhaps it is the stupid, please-let-me-blow-my-brains-out-rather-than-hear-it-again, Christ-on-a-cracker bell clanging through the hallway telling me I have 3 minutes and 45 seconds to get to my locker, change gear, and make my way through a crowd of slow-moving, non-looking where they are going, always in my way, school loving morons before my next class starts. Or, perhaps it is that I know in exactly 3 minutes and 45 seconds another bell will tell me I am late, once again, for a class for which I have failed, once again, to do the homework. Like I said, I can’t exactly put my finger on it but there was no way I was going to volunteer to go to four years of elected education once I finished the minimum years of basics mandated by the state.

    Unfortunately, in our Neo-Utopian Society one can not be gainfully employed without a degree from an elected education institute or a registered trade skill. I had neither. And, if one is not gainfully employed,  then one is by definition unemployed; a violation of article 31 section 3 of the Citizen-Societal Confederation Pac of 2323. And, punishable by an eight year stint in the repatriation camps of Sigma Seven on the dark side of the outer asteroid belt. As my graduation date approached, I was literally stuck between a rock and a hard place.

    I slipped between them both. When the career counselor failed to convince me that someone of my intellect, as defined by the annual aptitude test, must go on to an advanced education in order to be equipped to be a benefit to society, and when that same counselor informed me that the same aptitude test showed I was totally unacceptable for any of the registered trade schools, she reluctantly handed me a small pamphlet titled Beta Edition Exploration Exploitation Defense Command and wished me luck.

    I flipped open the little tri-fold as I walked away and began to read. As I read, my interest grew. I felt one of my eyebrows lift as an alternative career path was sketched out for me; a career path that seemed to have been made just for me. The little pamphlet promised the possibility of independence, solitude, unlimited financial reward and …….oh my ghost…..a tax free, clear title to a Space Faring Exploration Ship. I was sold. I hopped on the nearest transportation pad, punched in the appropriate edifice/office coords and found myself signing an eight year enlistment with options to extend or be extended in the new BEEEDC. But not until they absolutely swore to me there would be no bells, hallways or homework. Hah! Suckers!

    I hovered just a fraction of a heartbeat longer between the two possibilities of future me. The one possibility that reason, parents, counselors and even the very fabric of our society knew to be correct and the other; the one that command chair represented. Jokes on me. My subconscious must hate the mundane even more than I do because I found the rear end of my flight suit kissing the seat cushion of that command chair before I could formulate another thought. I had to just sit and laugh for a moment not sure if it was me or my subconscious enjoying the joke. It didn’t matter. Either way I was sure i was going to get along just fine with myself.  

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