Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Hope and Horror

Capitol Stroll Shoppe, Netopia, PC 16
Date: X/XX/XX
Subject: I was Itching to Get out there and Prop the Umbrella over our heads as it Drizzled Acid Rain
Password Protected: Yes

I arrived in the Gray Area as early as 6 to make some rounds in the Organization Quads. As an insider, I have a fairly good idea regarding the operations in and outside the Maroon groups. Some, I respectfully label as "good", so Gaea help them. Others need some work. I report these weekly to Zeimlich and to the Ottoman minor commanders. When I move up a few ranks, I'll be reporting to Commander himself.

After my rounds, I stayed in the physical sciences division hall and studied for an exam, which I had ironically been expecting since the night before. The sun was high by the time I finished three chapters, creating a looming shadow on the Department of Justice next door; across the pavement from the bench where I sat, a litter of auto buses idly grouped together. Every now and then, an identical purple bus would draw itself into the lot and workers would get off and scatter like scuttling ants. Ants of Vorsitzende's Government...

Noon struck. I managed to sit with my classmates near the building entrance. We waited for Stonewall: the last instructor to post grades for the term. I had lounged around their division everyday of the week since the last test. Waiting. Waning. For a sign. Between death and failing the subject, I would choose the former. The minutes passed and I went back to that day, two weeks back from yesterday. Stonewall had turned this Ottoman Turk's systems upside down...

I went to their two-storey division to submit my research to the physical planet studies instructor. Standing by the doorway, I preached to myself under my breath about my mediocre performance for the past term. I tapped the counter, and checked my watch every few minutes for the receiver behind the glass window to notice my presence. Moreover, I had already said good afternoon.

My patience waned and I finally turned to leave, opting to place my report in the instructor's cubbyhole outside the division. That was when Stonewall simultaneously entered the receiving area; the young man's new image caused me to halt in surprise. To my own astonishment, I addressed him aloud. Seemingly, the instructor turned to look at me and then I got a full blast of his outfit: Spikes had filled the top part of his hair where a flat pudding-bowl cut had once been. He would remind someone of a generation-x of the latest millennium, donned in a black long-sleeved top and slightly rugged pants. The black shoes that always remained spotlessly shiny were still there, so was the stance, the small, triangular face and the light almond-shaped eyes that always seemed to stare into the distance during anatomy. The SOLDIER hero Zack Fair? It couldn't be. I mused.

There and then, I let my academic side do the talking. Of course, I needed an outline for the coming exam. I asked for that. Prior training and schooling in my hometown in the middle of nowhere had not prepared me for something as impossible as Maroon life, nor as dangerous as Turk duty. So, there I was. An assassin-in-training, asking help from a Maroon scholar a few years older than my class, regarding air and earth and corrosion and vapor. Why I managed to master ninjitsu faster than I did the apparatus in the lab, I still haven't managed to figure out... Stonewall plainly, and quietly, offered a mentoring session the day after the day after that. I was surprised by the sincere concern for a struggling novice, or was it the sincere offer to help?

The mentoring followed two days after. As usual, I had arrived early. 8 o'clock. 9 o'clock. 10 o'clock. 10 minutes past ten o'clock, and I had another anatomy class simultaneous with the session. And finally, Stonewall came down the division hall; spiky hair still reminiscent of Zack Fair. I respectfully gave my greeting and peered to the office door. He nodded consent as to where we would sit. I had difficulty hiding a smile.

Why was I so drawn to this person?

Since the last term, it was the second time I had been in the upper floors of the division. I looked around and hesitated: the small office cubicles all had laptop bags and mini libraries of Capitoline University instructors, in neat and in disheveled stacks. My hand hovered as if to search for a chair while Stonewall directed us toward the back of the office. Another surprise. He went to get one himself across from where our learning materials were located.

The reason why Amaranth was drawn to Stonewall? The guy was an absolute gentleman, flawless at every angle and in every aspect. Before ever being taught one-on-one by this anatomy instructor, I would have never seen him as nothing other than a quiet, blank person, reciting definitions from verbatim and giving marks for neatness.

The half-hour I was taught there and then, on the verge of failing the subject, was one of the most productive in all my days in the lecture halls and seminar trainings. It actually got me to study properly and intensely. For, not only did Stonewall promise that anyone would be able to perfect the test the following day, I also received the flare, the passion, and the love for studying for the sake of it from that half-hour. I never did, not from geography, life science, and not even from my personal favorite, journo.

Akalis Stonewall, who are you and why does your annoyingly mysterious perfection continue to haunt the likes of an Ottoman Spy? I bid my thanks and my farewell, taking hold of my self-control to not turn back and pester once more. I was retaught the importance of reflection and of solitude and honor that day, aside from the lessons in the manual.

That gave me hope. It prepared me for the horror that arrived the week after the last test in that subject. Every day after that exam, I swarmed at the division. Every day, I made sure to check if our grades were posted or not.

11 o'clock sharp. Spikey hair came rustling down through the entrance corridor. Stonewall, either tingling with the eerie thought that I was hacking into his profile in the Turk databases, or for some other reason, had wide eyes and my fellows and I followed him to his division office, where I had lingered many times in the past week.

Within ten minutes, the grades were finally posted. Everyone passed and no one in my class would be taking the exam that would take place say, fifty minutes after that moment. Doubtlessly, I accepted that my mediocre standing was my fault, and entirely my fault. I just HAD to start to love studying by the manual simultaneous with field training at the END of the TERM. All my other lower grades from the beginning pulled my descent grades down. I ended up near the bottom of the middle.

I never expected to see Stonewall after that. I headed back to the Dormitories but stopped by the empty lot parallel to Capitol Stroll Shoppe. The Organs had raised funds to turn it into a play park, but all that was left of their project was a run-down, yet cozy, waiting shed. There I sat, taking a few deep breaths of relief in my confusion.

Out of the corner of my eye, spiky locks came breezing down the street. Five meters from where I sat hidden, Stonewall had come running under the nearest shade of tree. It started to rain. I was itching to get out there and prop my umbrella over his head, but my consciences pulled at me to stay put. I'm glad I listened to the one on my right shoulder. Not that not propping the umbrella open was the right thing to do, but I had pestered the person enough for the term.

My personal handset blared and I received a message from a lecture instructor that I was confirmed to take the final exam. Just great... It blared again: Zeimlich had confirmed an rendezvous with D-324 Unit for an organization infiltration in the east corner of the city, followed by a investigation. Incredibly perfect...

By the time I looked up, Akalis Stonewall had retreated onto the roofed island in front of the Shoppe and disappeared.

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