"But, Master, I still don't see why I can't come with you!" "I've told you several times, Kansakidan. The mere presence of a Norokai apprentice would send the Henten delegates into hysterical fits. They believe that all children under the equivalent age of seventeen...well, that the boys should be servants to their parents, or the nearest Henten family. Privileged girls, unlike you, Kansakidan, could be maids, but are normally used for sexual---" Norokai Master Jakia was interrupted by his eleven-year old female apprentice, Akidan.

"That is officially, one hundred percent, unadulterated grossness." Master Jakia cleared his throat quietly.

Akidan's ears reddened. "Sorry, Master. Please continue."

Jakia sighed, then resumed his explanation of the Hentens customs. "All girls under seventeen are..used until they reach seventeen, when they can legally start families, own land, Hoverscooters, and stuff like that. When boys turn seventeen, they can also do everything the girls can do, with one exception."

This was new information for Akidan. "What is it?"

Master Jakia grinned. "The boys can be executed. The Henten actually seem to favor the females in that respect, don't they?" It was more of a statement than a question, but nonetheless funny.

A chime from somewhere deep inside the Sanctuary boomed out seven deep notes: fifteen minutes to the next class. For Akidan and nineteen other Norokai apprentices, it meant the Wilderness Survival class all the second- years dreaded: They would have to camp out, either alone or with one other person, on Marek Three.

"Damn! Sorry, Master, I have to go get my stuff if I want to scrape up a passing grade." Akidan bowed, then ran up to flights of stairs to her immediate left as she left the Conference room where she had talked with Master Jakia, ran down a corridor, turned left, rode up nine flights of stairs, ran down two corridors, turned right, and stopped in front of her quarters to catch her breath.

The Chime rang four times: ten minutes to the next class.

She entered her room code (jakia90369). The doors opened, slowly, and she tensed every second she had to wait.

Akidan ran in and shrugged out of her uniform cloak, changed from her everyday tunic to a black, duraleather one, dragged her chest/back armor out from under the bed and checked to make sure the fifty items were there: 25 freeze-dried meals for one? Check. Comm radio? Check. Holoradio? Check. ProtoDagger and ProtoSword? Check. Charged? Check. Four battery packs for said dagger and sword? Check. Collapsible tent? Check. One plate, fork, knife, tinderbox, frying pan, pot? Check. Medical Kit? Check. Nine Unmeltable chocolate bars? Check. Good. Everything's here.

3 chimes: The class would be delayed five minutes. Thank the Goddess. I'll be on time.

Akidan changed into the silver, non-conductible metal armor, tied the tunic belt over the armor, checked the battery power (full. I'm going to make it!!!) on her ProtoDagger and sword, changed breeches (again, black duraleather) and boots (standard brown.). 2 chimes: five more minutes. Dammit! I'm gonna be late!!! She stuffed a sleeping back, fresh clothes, shower stuff, towel, a change of boots and her lucky wolf carving into a backpack.

She adjusted the straps. Apparently she'd gotten taller since the last time she wore it.

Akidan paused with one foot in the air. Maybe I'll cheat, she thought, just this once..

For every Wilderness Survival class, students had to walk (or run like the Grim Reaper was chasing them). But each students' quarters also had a Transport Pad. The closest place to Wilderness Survival was Supplies, and she always got an extra chocolate bar or medkit when she went to restock. Who knows, Akidan thought as she stepped onto the soft pad, maybe I'll get that surprise whatever they've been talking about.

Akidan's palms were sweaty. She wiped them on her tunic. I'm more nervous than I thought. She shook her head in an attempt to clear it.

"Supplies." Akidan was careful to enunciate clearly; the last time she'd used it to get somewhere (in that case the cafeteria), she'd been jammed into the space between the walls of the kitchen and the cafeteria. She'd had to call Master Jakia to get out. She got out of the wall, but got straight bread and water meals for a month. Pure torture.

Green light engulfed her; it flashed, and both light and apprentice disappeared.

Reviews, please!!! I worked forever on this!

Ecliptic Wolf