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Minutemen: The Crucible
Chapter Seventeen: “The Life and Death of Tim McManus.”
Boston, United North American Protectorate
September 1, 2552
Two months before the invasion of Earth
McGoohan Hall’s largest classroom was a hundred-seat cathedral designed to worship academia. Beige and baked red bricks towered over the students from every side, reaching up the impressive, ancient-looking domed ceilings. The progressive sunlight of each day sparkled through installed filters that in turn projected soothing, soft, inspiring rays of multi-colored light during the day and real-time constellations relative to the sky at night. To counteract the possibly distracting natural light display above, the ten tiers of evenly spaced workstations were all designed to focus the pupils’ attention down toward the stage-like lectern and the rail-thin professor behind its distinctly alter-like holograph projector.
The teacher’s knee-length formal jacket and bizarre white pants coupled with his hands and arms moving like some manic composer gave the class a more cultish feel, but Tim McManus was too busy thinking about beer.
The hazel-eyed Harvard Junior leaned back in his small leather chair, feeling the responsive nanomachines in the leather shimmy and move to make his new position as comfortable as possible. Tim tapped the stylus of his study tablet against a denim-sheathed knee to the beat of an unheard song and he sighed as he ruffled his long brown hair in anticipation of his emancipation.
The Interstellar Politics professor’s voice echoed against the bricks like a tropical bird’s mating call. “Everyone in the faculty urges you to attend the relief concert Saturday night and to welcome the class of ’56. All proceeds benefit the war refugees of Tribute colony.”
On cue, the study tablet of all ninety-five students winked crimson and white, showing details for Saturday night’s concert along with three buttons forcing the children to choose between if they were attending, might attend, or had no intention to attend. McManus sighed and stabbed his stylus at the “maybe” box, waiting for his teacher’s reaction. The long jacketed-cult leader Professor frowned.
“Ninety ‘maybes’,” He grumbled, “You cowards might as well just say ‘no.’”
McManus rolled his eyes from one of the back tiers, whipping around in his chair as a flash drive knocked into the back of his skull. Tim pushed the high collar of his new crisp fall jacket to playfully glare at his roommate, Dylan Winters, no doubt the perpetrator of the classroom crime. Indeed, Winter’s bright blue eyes shone with mischief, both from his last act and the fact that he was sandwiched between two very well dressed girls that Tim thought he recognized from Harvard’s dance team.
Winter’s dark brown skin contrasted sharply but stylishly against the sky-blue chalk stripes of his tailored suit, the home and away uniform of Harvard’s population of old money students. A slick, form hugging pink shirt lay beneath the suit, accompanied by a dark holopin attached to the lapel of his suit that read in stark black letters, “Remember Reach.” Despite the enormous wealth of Dylan’s family, Tim did not hesitate for a moment to flick the flash drive back at his friend when the Professor restarted his lecture.
“What’re we doin’ tonight?” Winters hissed at McManus and not-so-subtly nodded toward his companions on either side.
Tim McManus stopped tapping his stylus and looked over his shoulder with a look of betrayal. The secretly brilliant student, who knew the Professor’s lecture backwards, pointed the sleek writing utensil at his rich friend. “Um, I’m sorry, is it not the first weekend of the first school year we can legally drink? Because I’m reasonably certain tradition demands we defile ourselves at The Foxhole.”
“It’s like you live in my head.”
Tim laughed to himself. “It’s spacious enough.”
Dylan’s bright eyes narrowed conspiratorially. “Hey,” he breathed, leaning forward cautiously to avoid the Professor’s attention, “Remember last weekend of Relative Physics?”
Tim wagged his head as if jostling the memory out of his brain, “Kinda.”
Dylan leveled a knowing look at his buddy. “Class dismissed.”
McManus’ eyebrows shot up in recollection. “Oh.” He replied, finally putting all the pieces together. “Oh!”
Winters’ eyes twinkled as he glanced down at the droning teacher and the pupil’s sagging postures of boredom. Tim shook his head vehemently.
“We cased that for, like, two weeks.” McManus explained, now actively monitoring the Professor’s position and tone, “The firewalls here are way more sophisticated—”
Winters leaned back and shook his head sadly at the two attractive girls on either side. “Sorry girls,” he apologized, “I guess he’s grown complacent in his old age.”
The two old friends exchanged a series of looks that were a conversation in their own right. Finally Tim rolled his eyes. “Gimme your tab,” he sighed. “If anyone’s gonna get busted for this, it should be the guy whose folks bought the gym.”
“It was a library,” Winters corrected, but Tim was already hunched over Dylan’s study tablet, hands twitching over the glow of its display. The trust fund playboy draped an arm over one of the co-eds as he watched his friend with pride. After two minutes of frenzied but masked movement McManus finally slipped the tablet back under his arm and toward the waiting manicured hand of his colleague.
Dylan glanced at the smooth, thin black data pad, chuckled as he showed it off to the ladies, then tapped it with his pinky finger. Instantly, every student’s data pad faded out the lesson and replaced it with a jovial green and orange glow, accompanied by a bright white invitation in Gaelic font:
First weekend of the school year, the text message glowed in the same manner as the relief concert before. The legend is back and legal for the first time. Foxhole happy hour. Right now. Class dismissed.”
Tim shrugged innocently and lightly tapped the “Attending” box as he stood up, followed moments later by the entirety of the large auditorium. Dylan Winters laughed out loud. “Ninety-five attendings,” he crowed, slapping his friend on the back. “A new record!”
“Ninety-six,” McManus corrected, tossing his backpack onto a shoulder and nodding down at the exit. “I think the Professor beat us out the door.”
“You,” Dylan Winters said with not a little pride, “are a legend, man. They’ll sing your song forever.”
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