From the moment our shuttle landed, our feet haven't touched the ground. Even Rutter and Tez haven't had time for another squabble.
Firstly, we were directed to New Student Registrations. Here, our arrival was documented along with all the other new cadets. You can easily tell which of us are on the new Development Program. We are all so much older than your traditional new recruit. Anyway, there we were assigned our quarters. I wish you could have seen Rutter's face when he found out he would be sharing a room with Tez!
I think it's a good decision though. It would be a mistake to give Rutter a Human roommate. It would allow him to isolate himself away from alien races, and he's done far too much of that already. He needs to learn how to mix with other species, understand their culture and ways. But to assign a non-Human to share a room with Rutter wouldn't be fair either. Why should they have to endure his xenophobic tendencies? Unless, of course, they were a race that would be unaffected by Rutter's bullying ways—like a Klingon or a Tellarite. Tez is immune to Rutter. He'll just look upon every remark as an opportunity for a fresh exchange.
I feel a bit sorry for Rutter actually. He's been very quiet since we landed. It's not going to be an easy ride for him. The last time he was here, he was the cool guy that everyone wanted to hang around with. He is the son of two admirals and therefore was worth getting to know. Now he is, no doubt, the first Ensign ever to be returned to the Academy for a crash course in manners. It's a slap down. The pilot was right. He is one of the Misfits now. Poor Rutter.
After that, we were whisked off to Student Services where we picked up our timetables, study guides, site plans and so on. Then we had an interview to establish that we had selected all the right courses etc, and to make any necessary adjustments. You won't believe my timetable! It's horrendous!
Then, it was off to the Quartermaster to pick up our cadet uniforms and all the things we needed for our courses. Honestly, I have never seen so much kit.
By the time I got to my hall of residence, I was shattered and laden down with enough stuff to fill a shuttle. I stumbled down the corridor looking for my room. I found it and struggled with the door, dropping some of my kit in the process. Finally, it recognised my code and slid open.
Inside was a brightly lit, well-designed room with two of everything: bed, wardrobe, chest of drawers and study areas with desks, chairs and terminals. On the wall was a shelving unit half filled with books, datapads and knickknacks. I kicked my junk through the door, my arms still fully laden, and stepped inside. As the door shushed behind me, I shouted, hello.
"Ah-ha!" shouted a voice back. "So you're the infamous Jenny Terran!"
"I suppose so," I drawled despondently. Did everybody know me? Did everybody call us the Misfits?
The voice laughed excitedly and from the bathroom, a girl emerged dressed in a bathrobe, and a towel wrapped around her head. Younger than I, she was completely and totally green! Yep! She's an Orion!
"Hi," she beamed. "Bairn," and she held out her hand.
I took it and shook it somewhat intimidated by her vivacious personality and stunning beauty. She giggled afresh at my obvious discomfort.
"I promise not to steal your boyfriend," and she held her hand up as though making an oath.
I laughed uncomfortably.
"I don't have a boyfriend," I explained.
"Well, when you do—or if you have your eye on someone—tip me the wink and I'll steer clear," and she winked at me.
"Are you always this sure in your ability to attract men?" I asked, a bit miffed at her confidence. It was a stupid question.
As if reading my mind, she said, "Of course, silly. I'm an Orion!"
She opened her eyes even more widely as she spoke, and her pupils dilated making them even more beautiful. I scowled disapprovingly and she giggled afresh as she settled herself onto her bed and began to towel dry her hair.
I dropped the rest of my stuff onto the floor and sat on the bed opposite and watched as Bairn studied me. She smiled at me. She knew the effect she had on people and seemed to revel in it.
Suddenly, she reached over and from a cabinet, she picked up a medicine bottle and tipped out a couple of pills that she promptly swilled down with a glass of water.
"What's that?" I asked.
She gulped as she swallowed them.
"Sorry," I apologised, realising myself. "It's none of my business."
"No, no!" she exclaimed, shaking her head. "I don't mind! They're pheromone suppressants. Otherwise I'd have every hot-blooded male breaking down the door!"
"Oh right! That makes sense," I admitted.
"And I'll apologise in advance because I hog the shower too. Twice a day. Between that and the pills, men are pretty much safe around me."
I scowled again. I couldn't imagine any man being safe around her.
"What?" she exclaimed gleefully. "I can see you disapprove. What are you thinking?" and she rolled onto her tummy, resting her chin in her palms and waggling her feet in the air. She looked fantastic even while sopping wet. When I step out of the shower, I just look like a bedraggled Afghan hound.
"It's nothing," I lied.
"No," she said. "We're going to share a room for the next three months at least. If we're going to hate each other, we might as well start now."
It quite took me aback, but sounded sensible enough and I was too tired to argue.
"Well, if you really want to know, if you want to make yourself less attractive to men, you don't need to look quite so ..."
"Pretty?" she finished for me.
"Yes," I said, admiring her long, ebony black locks that snaked seductively around her shoulders.
"Ooh! Like get a really bad haircut; eat and eat and eat until I'm as fat as a targ?"
I laughed at that. I couldn't help it.
"Okay, you win! Bad idea!" I chuckled wearily. "I'm sorry. It's just ..." but I didn't know what to say.
"I know. Orion women are intimidating. I try not to be, but it's hard to be anything other than what you are."
The remark struck home. It's what I'm always telling others, and here I was hoping that this woman would do just what I preached against. I think I must have looked a little shamefaced. Bairn sat up on the bed and leaned over towards me.
"Come on," she said. "Girls always like to look their best. Why should I be any different? ... And why should this poor little Orion slave girl give up all her charms?" she said, pulling a pouty face.
I smiled feebly at her. Of all the races I've met, I've never known an Orion, but I've read a little. As Bairn disappeared into the bathroom to dry her hair, I recalled it to mind. By the time she re-emerged, she was dressed in casual trousers and a stripy top that was a little small on her.
"As I understand it, it’s a fallacy ... that Orion women are slaves I mean."
"Is it?" she responded coyly.
She was toying with me, answering my question with a question. I was having none of it.
"So are, or were you, a slave?" I asked bluntly.
She considered the point, pouting her lips as she thought.
"I am as free as the next Orion slave girl," she teased.
"No, seriously. I'd like to know."
Bairn sat down again and turned quite serious.
"Let's put it this way. Technically, the men run the show, but Orion women are manipulative. It's rare that an Orion woman doesn't get her own way."
"But are you free?"
"Are you free? Or are you enslaved by your responsibilities? An Orion woman is typically free of such burdens. Men serve our every whim. They provide us with food, warmth and comfort, and they will fight for us. In that respect, men are enslaved to us. They are responsible for us; they are responsible to us. And, if they disappoint, we can always find another male who will want us."
"But what about when you grow old and less attractive?"
She laughed and rose, her old demeanour returning.
"Oh, you Humans are so funny sometimes!"
But not as evasive as Orion women, I thought.