Chapter One

The hockey puck skidded across the gym floor, slowed by friction from the polished boards beneath it. Adam Lovell intercepted a pass shot by Jase, one of his housemates, that had been intended for Cassidy, another resident of Weaver House. Instantly Trent was there, shoving Cassidy aside before he could get close to Adam. Adam passed the puck to Cain who waited near the center of the gym just as Trent checked Cassidy into the wall, hard.

Adam paused for half a second, making sure that his sort-of friend hadn't been hurt by the collision. There wasn't any anger or annoyance in Cassidy's expression though – only amusement. That was all it took for Adam to be out of there.

Cain lost the puck to Spencer, Adam's roommate at Weaver House. The pass was good it was just that . . . well Cain wasn't. Spencer on the other hand had been recruited for Aiming Academy's hockey team, as had Trent and Adam. Cain's scholarship was for football. So was Cassidy's.

And so it fell to Adam to steal the puck back from Spencer. That was made easier with a little help from Trent who took his job as an enforcer seriously, even in a game of gym floor hockey. Once in possession of the puck Adam took off toward the goal as fast as he could. Like Trent, he saw no reason not to play hard despite this just being phys ed.

Another student on the other team – a freshman whose dorm wasn't Weaver House and therefore wasn't an athlete there on scholarship – got in Adam's way as he raced toward the goal. Adam faked toward the left then shot the puck between his opponent's feet, pivoting to the right to get past him. Before the other student could react, Trent checked him and sent him flying. The kid went down hard and yelped. Adam took the shot and sent the puck flying past the other team's goalie, in between the two cones marking the goal.

"I hate you, you know that," Spencer informed the two other freshman members of the school hockey team as he jogged over.

"We know," Trent told him.

Adam just grinned. A blur of movement out of the corner of his eye caught his attention and his grin melted away. "Look out!" he snapped at Trent.

Trent turned just in time for the prep student he'd checked into the floor to catch him in the stomach with his fist.

"Hey!" Cain shouted and started over just as Spencer grabbed the other student and shoved him backward.

Trent didn't seem phased by the punch though – if anything, he looked about as amused as Cassidy had after being thrown into the cinderblock wall. "Got a bone to pick, Ryman?" he asked, his voice steady and breathing normal.

"What the hell is your problem, Winters?" Ryman demanded. He stormed forward, looking like he intended to attack Trent again.

"Problem? I don't have a problem," Trent told him.

"You just freakin' tackled me for no reason!" spat Ryman.

"I didn't tackle you, fool, I shoved you. It's not my fault if you can't stay on your feet."

Ryman didn't seem to care about the difference in terms. "The hell'd you shove me for?" he growled.

"I'm an enforcer," said Trent. "That's what I do."

"I'll show you enforcer!" Ryman shouted, and lunged.

Suddenly Cain was between them, trying to act the peacemaker as usual. "Guys, cut it out. Ryman, don't take it personally. Trent, you really didn't need to hit him so hard."

"Hard? What, you think that was –"

"Come on," Cain said, "You knocked him to the floor. You don't need to do that unless he's going after you."

Spencer, Trent, and Adam exchanged glances.

"He was going after Adam," Trent told him.

"Exactly. You –"

"It's my job to keep him from interfering while Adam's trying to score," Trent tried to explain.

"Adam?" Cain appealed to the smaller boy, "Tell Trent he doesn't need to be so aggressive?"

"That's his job, Cain," said Adam, wondering why Cain was having a hard time seeing this. "He's an enforcer."

"Telling Trent not to cover for Adam is like telling your linebackers not to block for you," Spencer said, attempted to communicate with Cain on his own level.

Cain sighed. "There's really no reason to be so aggressive in a practice game during gym class."

"Dude," Trent gave them a devil-may-care grin, "I didn't hit him half as hard as I would have if we were on the ice. It's not my fault the guy's a wus."

Ryman's eyes narrowed like he thought he was dangerous. "You wanna start something?!"

Trent looked as though he would like to. "You know, why don't you –"

A whistle cut Trent off. All the freshmen looked over to where their gym teacher, Coach Hatters, stood glaring at them.

"Knock it off, boys, or you'll be running laps instead of eating lunch!" snapped Coach Hatters. "Ryman, Winters is an athlete here on scholarship to play hockey. If you don't want to get hurt, stay out of his way."

"But he just plowed me over!" shouted Ryman. "Were you not watching?!"

"Boy, were you not listening?" asked Hatters. "He's here on scholarship! Stay out of his way!"

Ryman glowered at Trent who smirked. Cain looked back and forth between them, troubled, and Spencer rolled his eyes. Adam felt like doing that too. So Ryman got a few bruises. So what? He needed to get over it. Life was full of pain. It wasn't Trent's – or Adam's or Spencer's – fault if other people had yet to learn that.

XXXXX

Hey, I hope you enjoyed the first chapter of Academics. This is actually the fifth story in my Aiming High series, so if you liked what you just read, check out my other works, and keep an eye out for updates. Chapter 2 will be up within the next few days.