Congratulations on becoming a Boy Scout! There isn't a troop here, of course, but I am learning all sorts of Boy Scout type stuff. I can tie any kind of knot you can name and identify pretty much anything you can find to eat in the wild. I bet you never ate a handful of mealbugs! They weren't too bad, tasted like walnuts.
Yeah, I think you should go for the ROTC as soon as you can! Being an officer is way better than starting out as a grunt. And with your dad's flying lessons, you'll be out ahead of the class to start. The Air Force always needs good men.
Oh, I have to go now. It's lights out. I'll tell you about the hike I was on last week in my next letter. Always bring extra socks on a hike! They're good for all sorts of stuff.
Tony writes to Rhodey almost every day. Once in a while, he writes to Jarvis. On her birthday, Mother's Day, Easter, and pretty much all major holidays Tony sends his mother a carefully drawn flower on a card with X's and O's on it-- Rhodey once told him what that meant, and he likes the idea. Virtual hugs and kisses are like I.O.U.s. Tony is keeping track of how many he owes Mom. He drops his mail off at the school office and doesn't seal the envelopes. There is never anything in them to be censored but if they tear open the envelopes, they replace them with typed, official-looking mailers which Tony thinks look scary, like 'This is to inform you,' telegrams.
He gets his return mail once a month. He spends a lot of time analyzing Rhodey's letters, trying to visualize what it would be like to be free and normal. It's one more skill set he knows he'll need to acquire for the future. There's so much he needs to learn that he decides not to escape before he's fourteen. By then the world will probably have forgot that Howard Stark even has a son.
He's stopped being mad at his father for sending him here. Dad was right. Tony was a liability, a weakness, a point of vulnerability. Tony has overheard enough from the other students and the instructors to realize that really important people can't afford to show they care because then they can be pressured into betraying their countries. Dad sent him away because he loves Tony and because he could be hurt through Tony. So really, all he has to do is make himself so strong that he can protect Dad, and then he can come home. Tony used to have a little fantasy about dying and Dad being sorry because he'd miss Tony, but that was a stupid, selfish fantasy. Now he dreams that he'll die saving Dad, and Dad will be proud of him. He'll see that before he dies. He will make his father proud of him. It would be even better if he didn't die, of course.
But to save Dad, first he has to learn how to be strong, really strong. He has to show his father that he understands that they have to pretend not to care about each other. That's why Dad never sends him any letters, and he doesn't write to Dad. That's the way it is for the Starks of the world. You can't show that anything matters to you. You can only complain about the things you don't care about, and you should complain about them a lot, to confuse people. Tony does a lot of complaining and a lot of saying stupid things, and it works. Everyone knows he's a genius, but he's small and he runs off at the mouth, so they think he's a child. Tony doesn't think he's a child. Just... small. And fighting the best way he can.
"Why can't I have any ammo?" Tony asks the small arms instructor. He remembers his first small arms teacher, Nick, saying that he was too lightweight to handle the recoil, but he's a year older and bigger now, and Nick is long gone back to field work.
"Because we're not idiots," the woman replies. "And you are a child."
Tony knows she doesn't like him. She came in limping from a field assignment and is eager to go back out again. She doesn't say what she was doing, of course, but Tony's not an idiot either. He can see how the field agents resent him taking up their time. "How about blanks, so I can at least get used to the sound?"
"You're talented at trouble. I'm sure you could kill yourself with a blank, and then I'd be doing paperwork for the next year." She shoves a rifle at him. "Field strip this, find the fault and repair it. You have two minutes."
Tony does it in thirty seconds and smiles up at her, eyes wide and guileless. He is indeed talented at trouble and when he escapes, he's going to prove it.