“Screw bottle duck flight lieutenant!” A robotic voice called to the group of cadets currently on their tour of the SSA Academy. Timmy came around the corner; he made a beeline for the cadets, continuing to shout random senseless phrases at them.
“That’s Timmy; he picks up random words and tries to string them together. But, he is good for monitoring word wars.” Commander Utoxin, Timmy’s creator, explained as he led the cadets into a pitch-black room.
As they crowded in the darkness together, Utoxin brought the lights up slowly to reveal that the room was a giant map containing all of the galaxies that the SSA had been known to travel. A collective gasp swept through the group.
“This is a representation of the places we can reach, and where we go to,” Commander Utoxin pointed to a small dot, “That’s one of my favorite places, they make phenomenal chocolates there.”
“Telling them the good spots already, Commander?” a smooth, deep, mildly feminine voice called out.
As the cadets turned, a woman with short-cropped burgundy hair in a Commander’s uniform stepped through the open door into the map room. A few of them remembered to salute. She smiled and saluted the group, to which all the cadets snapped into a proper stiff backed salute. Commander Rue.Tylar nodded in satisfaction as she stepped into the midst of the cadets and gently moved them away from each other, spreading them throughout the room.
“This is the map room, usually inhabited by the MLS P. Ninja crew and cadets. We’re borrowing it today.”
Once the cadets were completely scattered, Rue nodded to Utoxin, and he dimmed the lights until the room was pitch-black again.
“The object of this game,” Utoxin’s voice cut through the darkness, “is simply to find your other cadets. You always have to know where you are going. If you paid attention when we came into the room, you should know where everything is. So this should be simple for a bunch of D. Shovel cadets.”
There was a great deal of shuffling as the newly recruited MLS Shovel cadets tried to find their way in the total darkness. Some called out to each other; others felt their way around the room, hooking up with their fellow cadets or manoeuvring around obstacles. After a few minutes, they were once more clustered together, and Utoxin raised the lights.
“Wow record time! Great job guys,” Rue smiled slightly at the cadets blinking furiously in the brightened room. “Come on, we’ll show you the rest of the Academy and maybe a special stop.”
“Raptor tunnel! Dance Raptor!” Timmy’s voice chimed up again, as he followed the group of travelling cadets out of the map room.
“I’ve been meaning to update his speech pattern coding, but there’s just so much else to do. I haven’t gotten around to it.” Utoxin told them casually as they walked to the next stop on the tour.
Rue sped up to walk ahead of the small pack and opened the door to the next room in their journey. “And this, Shovel cadets, is the obstacle room.” Rue gestured to the giant obstacle course laid out across the expanse of the room. “In writing, and in life, we come to obstacles; we must always learn how to overcome them. This is a quick little course that will get your blood pumping!” She grinned and took off through the course, vaulting over and crawling under things, her body twisting and turning.
The cadets followed hesitantly through, and all begin to make their way over or around the obstacles, some rather more inventive than others.
Rue slipped from the course and moved to stand by Utoxin, “Figure we’ll let ‘em wear themselves out a bit.”
He nodded as they watched the cadets overcome the obstacles, helping each other. When they were through the course, they gathered before the two Commanders once more.
“Art! Bunch of Bobcats! Stuck! More!” Timmy gestured wildly with his arms near the edge of the group, his expression looking a little more cracked than usual.
“Timmy, why don’t you go get the new recruits some pillows. Some harvest gold ones will do nicely!” Utoxin shooed Timmy off, so that the cadets could ask questions, before continuing on their tour. They stopped by the plot bunny pen and Utoxin and Rue.Tylar allowed everyone a few minutes to pick up a bun to cuddle.
Finally, Utoxin called them all away from the cuddly balls of light and led them to the place their captain preferred to call home, the forge. “And this cadets, is our esteemed Captain, IronAngel.” The cadets gathered around, careful to avoid the worst of the heat of the forge or to touch anything. Captain IronAngelForge chose a length of steel he had picked out for this demonstration, and began heating it in the coals.
“One does not lean on a rake to show a project is starting. The only tool for breaking new ground is the humble, yet mighty shovel. The shovel is the perfect tool for a traveller. It can reach things that are up high, and yet is still short enough to be carried on ship. It can be a digging tool, a cooking surface, a cutting tool, an oar; it is humble, yet mighty.” He paused to shift the steel to heat it evenly, his face now somewhat sooty and with streaks of black ash on it.
“And so are we; we are humble, and mighty. We are at the centre of the other ships; we are balancing them and helping them. Because, each ship has its own strengths; and we help the P. Bunny, the P. Ninja, and the H. Viking to find their way, to achieve their greatness. Now, let’s go kick some butts!”
His motivational speech completed, he turned his attention entirely to the forge, bringing the glowing metal to the anvil for shaping. Several of the cadets lingered to watch, while others wandered to where Rue.Tylar stood waiting nearby.
“As such, we have a tactical shovel for everyone.” Rue smiled as the others unwillingly tore their eyes from IronAngel’s work, and led them out of the forge into a nearby room with a large table laid out with small tactical shovels. The handle was wrapped in para-cord, capped off with a piece that could be used as a pry bar or crowbar. The shaft of the shovel was hollow for storing things, and featured a bottle opener should any cadet get thirsty while using it. The shovel could be folded neatly into a small pack, and was truly a versatile little thing. The recruit’s smiled a bit more, as if starting to appreciate their place in the academy and aboard the MLS D. Shovel.
Rue pursed her lips, leaning against the door jamb. The cadets of the D. Shovel were exploring their quarters, leaving the three officers alone for a time. “Captain, how do you suppose the other ships are doing? I’m sure the Ninja has everything on schedule. The Bunny seems fine… as long as the plot bunnies aren’t running amok and I haven’t heard of Elyndra disappearing yet, so I think we’re safe there.” She sighed a little. “That leaves the Viking. Should we check up on them?”
IronAngel paused a moment. “I think we can – trust them. Just – keep an eye out. We haven’t had to put a fire out in a few days. We might be due…”