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On The Outside Looking In

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-- haughtyChimes [HC] started trolling gelidTrawl [GT] --

HC: So. What is She like?
GT: lol who?
HC: Oh, don't even!
HC: Your newest... Transfer student.
HC: You've had three classes now with Her, haven't You, cinderling.
GT: oh yes that one!
GT: completely weird. really fucked up. girls got the mind of a randy horrorterror.
HC: What are You sAYING, Alioth!
GT: then again those inbetweeners are goddamn creepy amirite.
HC: You can't talk about the hEIRESS that way!
HC: Wait. What.
GT: well shes def my weirdest transfer student. love the way her voodoos feel tho.
HC: Who are You even talking about?
GT: oh did u mean the other one? i guess shes also weird but more like boohoo why am i even in this class i want to mess with computers not people and learning about the history of crowd panics and how to shape a good rumor is so depressing bluh bluh.
HC: Alioth.
GT: hahaha.
GT: did u mean the DUDE one...?
HC: Alioth iSBJORN.
GT: ok yeah the heiress.
GT: shes actually p cheerful non-hostile and listens well so i stand by my first assessment of completely weird n really fucked up.
HC: I will be so relieved when You are culled and out of My hair. c3<

You snicker, and don't bother to hide it behind your hand or your hand-held computing device. It's not loud, but the classroom is quiet; it's not discreet. From the corner of your eye you can see a few of your students sneaking you look -- worried, only two; considering, a few more; and disdainful... Hey, they'll know better soon.

The Heiress, sitting right at the center of the room, does not look up from her test, but she fiddles with a lock of her hair and swings her feet, humming in interest at whatever it is she's reading. (The spy program on the school-issued devices say she's at the section that touches upon the best two ways to aim a riot.) The seadweller girl with all the curls is one of the two looking worried; the seadweller with the blood-lock and the pissy face sneers discreetly at you; and the girl sitting between the guy and the heiress flicks her stunted fins and ticks off another item on her computer device, looking very studious and completely fascinated, but you can feel her 'voodoos in the air, sorta turned your way.

They feel like being lost in the dark, and the walls and the floor so soft, so damp that even horn sense won't pick up anything solid to put your feet on. It's a subtle effect, and most seadwellers will be immune enough not to notice it, but you wonder what it's like at full power. It should be pretty funny.

You wonder if she would think so, too. If she's sister enough for that, or if she'd sneer and puff herself up above you instead, because she has these tiny brineguzzling piss-slits after all.

The heiress looks up, sees you looking, and smiles; her dark pink eyes crinkle. It's so weird how you can see her Imperious Condescension all over her face but only so long as she's expressionless. She's rounder-cheeked still, even though at twelve sweeps she's an adult by now; rounder-bodied too, though her shoulders are strong and you'd have heard at length from that little bitch Xiphas if she proved unsuitable or unremarkable in combat.

It's funny to see the class move around her, though -- breathe out when she smiles and shift in their seats when she frowns -- usually at her texts. You are taking so many notes, holy shit, ain't every century you get an occasion to study blood dynamics in fish trolls. The Heiress has been getting polite overtures -- through her other finned crewmates, mostly -- but you know most of those are little shits who either want to die young in glory -- even when they don't know that's what they're chasing yet -- or who, mostly, want the good rumors and the stories for later, after Her Condescension has culled her summarily.

GT: is it true shes got pissbloods and rusties in her crew?
HC: She has eVERY sINGLE cOLOR in her crew, some twice.
HC: And You didn't hear it from Me but Her registered matesprit is a yellowblood.
GT: holy shit thats amazing. praised be the messiahs i stand corrected of my most grievous mistake. its going to be globefucking titsup hilarious.

You know you'll be flagged yourself if you review certain student files too much, but all in one it's less the Heiress that interests you than her middle leaf.

Test over, you glance at the results for any outliers. Curly girl is gonna be in trouble with her replies -- you can feel the reluctance and confusion even in her best lies, and she doesn't lie half enough. Maybe a good thing she has been studying to go into tech and not command, but the Heiress ain't gonna go far dragging this kind of dead weight.

Meanwhile her other leaf is half again too ruthless and has zero finesse to speak of. Gonna be fun modulating that.

You watch as the Heiress and the inbetweener lean their heads together, chuckle quietly -- let them get away with it for a second, and then click your tongue. "Lalond -- Peixes."

Your heart always kicks a bit, using that hatchname. But you make it a point in your classes not to defer to your own goddamn students, no matter that most of them think one blood class and some fish bulges mean more than centuries of first-hand experience and academic studies on the subject matter.

"Instructormentor?" Lalond returns gently, head tilted in polite, fake interest. You still don't know if it's contempt for you or generalized sarcasm. You've been noticing the thing where other members of her crew try to reply for the Heiress if someone dares to give the gentlest criticism, though. You know the History of Conquest teacher thinks it's timidity and the rest of them arrogance, but you're leaning toward her not wanting to even seem to argue with her teachers and -- for now -- hierarchical superiors. You're still collecting data on her end goal for that. Curry favor? Politeness? She's been off-planet for three sweeps by now, surely she knows how to handle adults of lower classes...

... You kinda want to prod a little. You have awesome ratings, or you wouldn't even have your job. May as well use them. "Reminder that if your answers are similar that's going to be an issue for your grades," you reply with a genial smile. "And if you girls are just flirting, well, that's not fair to the rest of the class."

"All our apologies," the Heiress says in an easy, lilting voice, a smile on her face.

"Yes, very sorry," Lalond says, mock-somber. You wave it off and they bow their heads over their tablets again; you pretend not to see the boy with the blood lock muttering something across Lalond to the Heiress. Hm. Inconclusive.

Then your own reading device gives a quiet beep.

There's a message from Lalond, in that too-bright purple that she likes to use.

We will make sure to flirt with the rest of the class next time, ma'am. I am not sure of the etiquette, though, should the teacher be included in such a collective event? Your experience in such matters would prove invaluable and I assure you I'm at your entire and complete disposition should you want to expound on the theory outside of class.
Rrhoze Lalond

When you glance up she's looking demurely down at her device, but her lips are curved up and her 'voodoos shiver through the room like quiet laughter in an abandoned house.

GT: the GLOBES on that girl. fuckin unreal ahahahahaha.
GT: i just got hit on by the heiresss middle leaf omg.
HC: Oh damn. dON'T answer.
GT: hey it aint my first time teaching a class ok.
GT: she is def a stealth sister tho. all with the laughing at ppl and pulling a long con on her fishy respectability.
HC: I amend: do not fuck the student aND do not laugh with the student.
GT: hmm idk......
GT: do u fuss at xiphas when he gets hit on too or am i ur bulgeblocking favorite?
HC: Oh, do shut up, I'm Your quadrant, I'm allowed to be concerned. This could be entrapment.
GT: hey who is it who sends emails all day about loadgaper cleaning products and office supplies and who is it who teaches a class about manipulating ppl again? c3<

You shoot Lalond a reply anyway. Im sure ur a smart girl and can learn it from being corrected in public enough, Ive found the application of some peer pressure works way better for the longterm than any number of boring teacherly speeches. This is a special trick Im sharing with you & will be worth some bonus points in ur next test. Cheers!

She snorts when she reads it, and it's not genteel or elegant at all. Yeah, okay, you like her.

You're going to be merciless.

You're still smirking to yourself when the door bursts open.

You do mean burst. It's supposed to slide sideways into the wall and instead the whole frame flies off and crashes on the floor and a dozen jackbooted thugs swarm in. You dive under your desk, 'voodoos crackling high and sharp, snatch up your nunchucks, roll out,and then some huge blueblood has you by the throat and is flattening you against the wall with her shield.

For a second you seriously consider frying her brain, but you wouldn't manage to drop her before she crushed your throat in.

You go still, calculated, and you feel her neatly trimmed claws ease off just a tad. Okay. Okay, murder probably not happening; you can stay still, no problem.

Over her shoulder you can still see part of the classroom. The students are also being shoved back, only in the middle the Heiress already has her double-ended trident out and ready -- she has kicked the whole table row into someone's face, cleared a wide space to fight in, and her crew is bracketing her with all their weapons out. Her middle leaf is pressed against her back, one stiletto in each hand, in case a student takes a potshot in the confusion, and both Curly and Blood Lock have phaser rifles up and aimed at the crowd.

Those are not the kind of firepower a riot shield is gonna block. Phwoar.

"Your Haughtiness," one of the men attempts, "We must insist you follow us--"

"You tried to separate me from my crew," the Heiress snaps, and her voice ring clear and loud over the crowd. She really is pretty tall, for a girl her age, but the guards have the advantage of -- at a minimum -- fifty sweeps of growth. She doesn't seem to notice. "What excuse do you have for that?"

"Your Haughtiness, it is of the utmost importance--"

Lalond and whatshisname, Ampora snort in tandem.

"I do not accept your entire lake of excuses," the Heiress says, and tosses her head in challenge, horns swept back as if to say, try to go for my throat, see what that gets you. "You're going to be clear and tell me what's going on first, or you're going to be dragged off in a net for the fishes."

The way the man fidgets, panicked behind his big armor and ridiculous sickles, you're pretty sure he's not the one in charge of this little debacle -- he's just the one tasked to put it in practice.

You're still not sure what's going on. Attempted coup? Attempted foiling of a coup? Not enough data there to see but the fact that they haven't gassed the whole room and picked her up means they still want some legitimacy after this, oh, we were trying to help really brosis I swear. You knew stuff like that was guaranteed to happen -- you heard from that asshole Xiphas that it used to happen pretty regularly in her first sweep, and the first ones were pretty bloody, if too hasty to be well-planned.

"Your Haughtiness--"

"Either talk or move," Ampora says with a sneer.

They stay locked in their stand-off for another few second and then Curly -- Rokshi Alonde -- says "Prince and Mage are ready to go when we are!" and they all shift their weight, grinning much too eagerly.

"Wait."

An older fin-faced asshole passes the door, not even in armor and his hand pointedly off the -- shit, it's the Kingfish Anchorer.

Lord Protector of the Educational Fleet, Shield of the Empire's Core, Ruin of Rioteers, Kingfish Anchorer.

He should maybe be a little less impressive than the goddamn Heiress, but all things considered what has the Heiress done in her life so far, compared? Not very fucking much. Yeah, you're impressed.

The crowd parts for him and his dulling, cracked horns, his sagging face.

He goes on one knee and says, "Your Condescension."

--

-- GelidTrawl [GT] opened memo "smoking a bowl of leaves" on board "yo my fine quads keep me company before i go supaa ninjette on them fucking walls" --

-- ToledoDominion [TD] joined memo --

GT: haha fucking eager aint we.
TD: FUCK. OFF.
TD: What? Is? Your? Status.
GT: jesus tone down the quirk. you always pull that shit when you get pissy its fucking unreadable. were not adolescents anymore bro were in the fucking fleet youve been talked to about readability.
TD: Tone! Down! The! Language.
TD: Also. Fuck off.
TD: Conclude. That you are fine.
GT: im not fine im bored as a clown at a board meeting.
TD: Extra!! Fine!! Then.
GT: fuuuuuck offfffffff.
TD: You. First.
GT: its my motherfucking memo assnugget.
TD: You. Invited. Me.
TD: So! Hah.

-- HaughtyChimes [HC] joined memo --

HC: Alioth, Xiphas.
HC: Alioth, what is Your status?
HC: Xiphas, I know You're stressed out but breathe. Alioth is in so little trouble She's allowed to contact us freely. Things will be fine.
TD: Yes. Okay.
GT: sprawled on my bed face up w computing device held over my face. if it falls on me ill take it as a love tap from u.
HC: Very good, You may.
GT: pffffffff. c3<
HC: Now will one of You fill me in? I have no idea what happened at all!
TD: Don't know if should. Lockdown indicates? Wanting to contain? Information or people.
GT: yeah thats why they let us have trollian stupid.
GT: its def people movement. they know the feline lusus is out of the bag already they just dont want a riot.
TD: You! Be! Polite.
GT: noppers.
HC: Alioth, be polite.
HC: What hAPPENED?
HC: Xiphas, You were out of touch for so long I started getting worried. And then suddenly Alioth as well? It is rEALLY fRUSTRATING that neither of You managed to give Me a heads up.
GT: what xiffy too??
TD: Yes.
GT: wow tallyn shadowbabe that was so enlightening i am now a messiah-blinged bong.
TD: More. Nonsense.
TD: Survivors. Of the Battleship Condescension. Were found.
TD: Heard unsubstantiated rumors.
TD: While in deep. Unknown space. Both Supreme Ruler and helmsman. Disappeared.
TD: Took four sweeps to limp home.
TD: Stuffing every crew member. With a smidgen of psychic ability. Inside the helmscolumn in turn.
GT: hoooooly shiiiiiiiit.
TD: Find it. Unnerving. To have been leaderless for so many sweeps. And not known it.
GT: well that explains part of what happened in my subtle subjugation of the masses class today then.
GT: but like only part.
HC: Yes? What dID happen, cinderling?
GT: buncha threshies burst in and tried to make off with the heiress. heiress was like back off your bass and spit it out first. Then kingfuckingfish anchofucker himself gives her the bended knee riiiiight in the middle of the class and calls her ur condescension.
HC: Oh my.
HC: I agree with You, Xiphas. I am quite unnerved as well. This is barely imaginable.
GT: i mean statistically the empress had to die one day but only because everything else dies and itd suck if the universe finally croaked and she didnt. but wow think about the luck tho. that shed die and *not leave the throne empty*.
GT: hell even more than just not empty.
HC: What do you mean?
GT: you guys havent asked me whats the part that xiffys story didnt explain.
TD: Huh. Didn't. Indeed.
TD: I'm? Asking? Now.
GT: unfun.
TD: Too. Predictable.
HC: Tarlings.
GT: its the part where the
GT: where feferi peixes said nah were not holding the coronation that fast.
GT: because the other heiress is gonna need to haul ass to get there already and they gotta wait for her.
TD: THE. OTHER. WHAT.
TD: THE?? OTHER?? WHAT..
HC: Oh holy mother of fUCK.
GT: yeah thats what i said.

--

Two weeks later, the night before the lockdown is lifted and you can resume classes (without the Heiress or her crew, because they will have left) you get a mail from Lalond.

Do you want to be the future Empress' private tutor, she asks. Since the political situation is too in flux to allow classroom learning and it's still shit they all hella need to know, and amongst those who can also teach instead of make their students want to practice those murderous crowd movements on them you're at the top of your field.

She knows you're a lot more interested in standing on the sidelines with a bowl of popped plant kernels than in taking a side, and it's going to be really, really interesting in the next few sweeps, you don't even know how much.

You want to say yes. It's history in the making, it's crowd dynamics on a gigantic scale and you'd get to be standing right by the eye of the storm.

You say you gotta discuss it with your quadrants.

You're not all that young and passionate anymore. You're comfortable here. You're not sure if you'll regret it longer than you'd have missed them.

You promise Rrhoze you'll mail her your syllabus.