The beginning time at the Academy was jam-packed. Everything they did was scrutinized: learning to make the bed properly, eating in a timely manner, learning customs and courtesies, and taking the introductory courses. Jackson and Jeremy had all the same classes together. In fact, most of their company had the same classes together.
It had been just over 4 weeks since everyone first arrived at their rooms, and Jackson had made friends with several other cadets, but some of the cadets had little to no interest in making friends with anyone.
Unless they screwed up somewhere in the week, Sundays were usually a day off for the cadets. Since they were both caught up on classwork and didn’t have much else to do, Jackson and Jeremy decided to take some time to enjoy some time away from the stresses of the Academy. Along with a few other classmates, they headed down to the beach.
Quite a few cadets from all four class years had the same idea. When they got there, much of the good parts of the beach had already been claimed.
“Hey, there’s a spot.” Jeremy pointed over to a spot of open beach on the far end of the beach.
Jackson looked over where he was pointing and led the small group of freshmen towards the spot that Jeremy had pointed out. As they stepped around a larger group of sunbathers, Jackson suddenly found his path blocked by a tall figure.
“And just where do you think YOU’RE going?” the male figure said, putting his arms up in the group’s way.
“We’re just going over to that empty beach over there,” Jackson replied.
The man laughed. “That’s funny, you guys don’t look like senior cadets to me!”
“Excuse me?” Jeremy stated.
“You heard me, kid. This part of the beach is for senior cadets only.” Jackson noticed that the person standing in their way was wearing a yellow bathing suit with four cadet rank pips and the Red Squad logo. He also took note that the cadet was much older than the typical Human cadet. “Why don’t you kids go head back to your barracks and practice your courtesies, since you clearly don’t recognize a superior officer!”
Jackson chuckled and looked back and forth across the beach. “Funny, I don’t see any officers here, all I see is one old man with a big head that matches his fat ass.”
Jeremy and the others laughed as the Red Squad cadet stepped forward to tower over Jackson. “You’ve got a big mouth, kid. Then again, it must be good knowing that ‘daddy’ got you into the Academy.”
That bothered Jackson. Yes, being the son of a decorated career officer made his application packet look a little better than the average application; however, Jackson knew that his own work that he had done throughout his high school career was more than enough to get in. “At least I didn’t need to get an age waiver for my bad hips, gramps.”
The cadet scowled and shoved Jackson, sending him tripping backwards over some beachgoers. Sand went everywhere as Jeremy went to pull him up and the cadets that he landed on tried to push him off them.
“Get off me!”
“Hey, watch it!”
The Red Squad was laughing at him. “Awww, did daddy’s boy fall down?” he said, mockingly.
Just as Jackson was getting ready to throw a punch, another cadet with a red, similarly patterned bathing suit stepped up between them.
“Ok, ok, that’s enough.”
Jackson and the group stopped to figure out who this was. “Who are you?”
“Senior Cadet Terik Mitchell. I’m Micha’s squad leader…” The cadet turned his head to address his squad mate. “…and he also needs to stand down.” Both Jackson and Micha eased their stances, their friends standing behind each of them. “Good. Micha, go back to your spot.”
“Terik, you KNOW the beach is divided by-”
“Yes, I do,” Terik interrupted, “but these new cadets probably didn’t know that, and acting like this doesn’t help them learn…and it CERTAINLY doesn’t look good coming from a member of Red Squad!”
Micha lowered his head. “No, it doesn’t.”
Terik pointed over Micha’s shoulder. “Now go back to your spot before I put you on report for harassing another cadet.” Micha scowled a bit at Jackson before turning around and going back to where his towel was. Terik turned back to Jackson and the crew. “I’m sorry about that. Micha tends to get a little aggressive when it comes to doing things his way.”
“That’s one way to put it,” Jeremy replied as Jackson moved his focus from Micha to Terik.
“We didn’t realize that there was a hierarchy to the beach,” Jackson added.
Terik spread out his arms. “Well, there really isn’t, but as you can see, most cadets tend to stick with their own years. But while that’s true, it’s basically ‘first come, first serve’ at this beach.”
“Thank you,” Jackson replied. He looked around the nearly full beach. “I guess, I guess we’ll go look for a spot over…somewhere.”
“That won’t be necessary.”
The group all turned their heads around to see Terik gesturing for them to follow him. “You can all come stay with us.”
Jackson’s eyes widened. “I…um, ok, sure. I’m Jackson Porter.”
“Yes, I know who you are. My dad is a pilot and he had your dad as instructor. He mentioned that you’d be a new cadet this year.” Terik held out his hand. “Senior Cadet Terik Mitchell, Red Squad Leader and soon-to-be new pilot.”
Jackson shook his hand. “Nice to meet you. And thank you.”
“Don’t mention it, but don’t expect this treatment all the time,” Terik chuckled. “I remember what it was like having everything thrown at me at once.” As the group walked through the senior cadets lying down, they got more than a few dirty looks. “Don’t worry about them. As long as you’re with me, you’re good.”
When they got to the empty spot, the cadets put their towels down and enjoyed their time. Jackson found out that his dad not only was an instructor for Terik’s dad, but he was also his commander after he went from flight school instructor back to a traditional fighter wing. He also got some good advice about some of the classes he was taking and will be taking in his Academy path as a pilot.
As the day turned to evening, the beach slowly emptied as students decided to head back to their barracks. Glancing at a chrono, Jackson noticed that the mess hall would only be open for another hour. He and his friend all gathered their items and said their goodbyes.
“Thank you again for everything,” Jackson said to Terik.
“Anytime, JP. I’m sure our paths will cross again, but until then, good luck with everything,” Terik replied.
The group started walking away and walked past Micha and the couple friends that he was still with. Micha watched them as they walked by but didn’t give any bad vibes off. Being the last one to walk by, Jackson gave a slight nod in Micha’s direction. Micha initially didn’t reply, but then gave a slight facial nod.
When Jackson and company got to the mess hall, it was almost completely empty since it was only going to be open for a short while longer. Jackson and Jeremy decided to get their food to go and head back to their rooms. Once they got back, they each sat down at their desk and opened the to-go containers.
“So, you and Terik spent a lot of time talking,” Jeremy said.
Jackson took a bite of his sandwich. “Yeah, we talked about fighter stuff. He’s also in the Starfighter Corps path and gave me some tips for working my way through classes and trainings.”
“Nice! It certainly never hurts to have friends in high places,” Jeremy replied as he took a sip of his drink. “Of course, once I’m an admiral, you’ll have another friend in a high place.”
Jackson chuckled. “Just an admiral? You don’t want to be C-in-C?”
“Nah. Something tells me mad-man Micha will probably climb up to that position, leaving a path of destruction behind him.”
“Hmm,” Jackson mumbled, “well maybe I just have to beat him to the top.”