Chapter 1c: What is This Place, and Why Won’t This Line Move?
Rebecca Bridgewater hummed quietly to herself and trotted along the path, trying to shake the unpleasant feeling that her fellow Students were ignoring her.
Everything in the past several days had been so interesting! First had been her first solo trip to Earth. AniDai had paid for her very own room! That had to have been expensive! She’d spent most of the trip trying to talk with the ship’s captain and crew about their experiences zooming through the interstellar lanes, but they’d treated her with polite caution the entire time, and rarely said more’n three words to her. She supposed they were probably just busy.
Then she had actually gotten to see California first-hand! Her cruise ship put down in San Francisco, but there was absolutely no way she could pass up the opportunity to do some sightseeing! The first night, she colored her hair a gorgeous shade of pink in anticipation.
During her three-day stay at the SanFran Spaceport Hotel and Juice Bar, she had spent far too much money on Jaunts. First was the Golden Gate Arches, of course. She was so excited when she realized that you could still make out the ancient and fraying base of the Old Bridge in the water. Then off to Modesto to visit the Galactic War Monument. That had been interesting and all, but a little too somber for her tastes.
She’d Jaunted to Lincoln, Montana to tour the CRUD facility the second day. Now that had been great. Lincoln was such a big and modern town, and the refinery was amazing! She had rounded off her tour with a trip through Old Ell Ay, back in California. And don’t get her started on the nightlife in San Francisco!
The boat ride had been unique. She’d never seen so much water before! Not even on Rea Prime! And Rea Prime was 96% water! There were several people aboard that looked sick the entire time. Rebecca was just glad she didn’t catch whatever was going around! Those that were feeling fine had a great time playing board games and showing off their Abilities. She’d gotten some very impressed oohs and aahs as she zoomed around, twenty meters above the deck. Great times!
When they’d finally put to shore, she leapt off the side before they’d even extended the gangplank and flew to the beach, excitedly pressing her nose into the brochure. She probably should have waited to walk down with everybody else, but who could be that patient!?
That Ms. Ina teacher was very nice, and explained just where they were supposed to go to get their rooms, and roommates(!), and where to sign out a school starship, and get school supplies, and where to find food, which reminded her that she hadn’t eaten breakfast this morning due to nerves, and what she wouldn’t give for more of her mother’s famous Derailed Salmon right about now, like she had had for dinner the night before she left home…
Her train of thought was derailed when she reached the Gate into Campus. She gave a small shiver of anticipation, turned to one of the nearby Students, and gushed: “Did you see? The Clocktower looks just like the pictures! And, look, the Arena looks so fun! Ooh, d’you s’pose we could see a Match tonight? Or d’we need special permission? I heard that they sometimes throw you into it if you get in real trouble, but that sounds made-up to me. Hi, I’m Rebecca! I’m Spacefaring and Culinary Arts! How ‘bout you?”
The young man’s eyes glazed over slightly and he mumbled something about “Business and Political Science” before hurrying on. It was just as well, really. There was so much to do still!
She pressed on, only stopping whenever she found a group of Students larger than three. Nobody seemed all that interested in striking up a conversation with a New Girl, she supposed.
Soon enough, she found herself standing on the lawn in front of the Admissions Hall, the famous Clocktower rising above her, just like on HV and on all the pictures of AniDai that she’d ever seen! Then she saw the line and sighed. But, she decided, she would make the best of it anyway and skipped lightly to the back.
She waited there, humming quietly to herself, for almost a full minute before she got bored. She started fidgeting, then bouncing, and then singing lightly under her breath before she finally gave up and turned to the nearest figure standing in the line ahead of her. “Wow, I can’t believe I’m actually here! We’re waiting in line to get our dorms and schedules and everything! I hope I get a bunch of fun roommates, don’t you? I don’t know if I could deal with it if they turned out to be really boring or quiet or something. Well, I suppose I could learn to live with it, I mean, I’m not cruel. I can’t wait for my first classes to start! I have heard so many fun and exciting things about them! I’m…pretty sure you’re not paying any attention to me, either.”
She gave a small pout and then a double-take – the person standing in front of her hadn’t moved at all. She was sure of it! She reached up with a hesitant finger and gave an experimental poke. The clothes were real, but… it was a statue or something! Why was there a statue in line!? Suddenly she realized that she’d been seeing other people skip the line completely for almost five minutes and felt more than a little foolish for not having realized it sooner. Fine, then, she would just go up front herself!
She stepped out of line and strode purposefully toward the front of the line, only pausing to gather groups of Students that had gotten stuck in the line ahead of her. She led a line of more than twenty slightly annoyed young men, women, and aliens to the single teller’s window in a long line of them. There was a young man just finishing up speaking with the very bored looking Dean. He gave her an imperious nod as he passed her, and practically marched out of the building.
Rebecca stepped up to the window a little timidly, looking anywhere but at the Mole-man behind the counter. There were twelve such teller’s windows, but each was closed up, covered with what might be a centimeter of dust, and decorated with “Not This Window, Idiot” signs. She gave a little jump when the Dean of Admissions cleared his throat in a polite but pointed manner.
“Uh, uh, hi! I’m Rebecca! Rebecca Bridgewater, uh, Your Deanship!”
Dean Dennis “Dennery” Molesalot was wearing pinstripe trousers, a neatly pressed brown jacket, (unbuttoned) with a deep, almost purplish, red vest on over a crisp collared white shirt and a neat brown bow-tie. On the desk, next to his computer terminal, was a fine black bowler hat and, just visible from in front of the window, his umbrella hung from a hook in the wall off to one side. “Ah, yes, Miss Bridgewater. I was looking forward to meeting you! It’s not often that we get students here that make it into the news before arriving on Campus! If you could please bear with me, I shall have your packet momentarily.”
Rebecca blushed furiously, and a wild look flashed across her eyes. She managed a bright smile almost immediately. “Don’t you need my identification?”
“Why, no, my dear. Observe!” The Dean gestured toward the entrance, where a worried and slightly confused young man with a very wet foot was just stepping through and failing to notice the telltale blue sensor beams wash over him. “We scanned you as you walked through the door. We know who you are, and, from that, can easily deduce what information your packet will require. Ah! It is finished!” He placed a stack of papers into a large manila envelope with surprisingly narrow and dexterous fingers. “Off you go, Miss. You will find directions to your assigned dormitory in here, along with quite a bit of other useful information. Have a pleasant day and may all your studies and endeavors here be met with success!”
Rebecca took the envelope and wandered out of the building a little dazed. She hadn’t realized that people on Earth had heard of her! Outside, she shook her head and opened the packet. “Greenwood? Well, that sounds nice enough. Ooh! It even has a full kitchen available!”