The faint cascading chimes woke him out of a light slumber, drawing him back into the waking world with a sleepily mumbled protest. He lifted his head slowly, blinking into the dim light, then carefully disentangled himself from his bedmate's limbs and sat up, the sheets pooling in his lap. The chrono on the side table informed him that he'd overslept, though not badly, and not at all surprisingly considering how late he'd been up the previous night.
Grinning at the memory of what, exactly, had kept him up half the night, he let his eyes roam over the sleek, creamy skin he'd had such fun with, the dark hair just long enough to tangle his fingers in, and the dark lashes that hid such beautifully expressive eyes. Yes, without a doubt Nimulee had proven himself to be quite skilled on top of his impressive looks. It really was a pity that they had class, or he'd be more than willing to coerce Nimulee into a morning round.
Gently he reached out, running his fingers down Nimulee's cheek. "Hey, it's morning. We have to get ready for class."
Nimulee murmured something indistinctly and tried to hide under a pillow, then squeaked as questing fingers ran lightly down his back and along the curve of his buttocks. He sat up quickly, blinking and fighting a yawn as he batted away the entirely too inquisitive hands.
"You're insatiable, Meiki."
Grinning again, Meiki leaned forward to steal a slow, sweet kiss, then reluctantly slid away and off the bed. "And you are delicious, but I'm not going to get you into trouble for being late to class. So, no more playing this morning." He pouted.
"Your libido is a thing of legend, my friend," Nimulee said solemnly, then promptly ruined it by laughing. "Ah, well. There is always tonight." He hesitated. "Unless someone else has already claimed you for the night?"
"Nope," Meiki replied cheerfully, unable to resist leaning in for another kiss even as he tugged his pants on with one hand. "I'm all yours."
Laughing, Nimulee rolled out of bed and hunted around for his pants, getting in a quick grope while Meiki was unearthing his shirt from beneath some books and papers they'd knocked over the prior night in their enthusiasm and getting both a squeak and another kiss out of it, then set about hunting down their shoes. In less time than either of them really expected they were more or less presentable, ignoring the fact that their uniforms were slightly rumpled.
Not that this was an unusual thing. Meiki's uniforms were rarely, if ever, pristine. It was just part of the territory when he spent every night in someone else's room.
Taking a moment to straighten Nimulee's tie for him, Meiki stole one more kiss before proclaiming them both dressed. They each shouldered their bags and stepped out into the hallway, Nimulee first, Meiki following. At the second intersection they had to split up, Nimulee going straight ahead to his first class while Meiki took the stairs up to Professor Boreas's classroom.
The room was half full, and he slid into his seat with a full ten minutes to spare before class started. Around him his schoolmates continued to chatter on idly, barely sparing him a glance, save for one.
"So, the lizard managed to crawl out of the bed of his latest conquest and make it to class, did he?"
Wincing, Meiki turned to give his perpetual tormenter a bright smile. "And good morning to you too, Jeren," he replied.
The handsome boy with pale lavender hair crossed his arms pointedly. "Prince Jeren," he stressed. "Nobodies haven't the right to address me so familiarly."
Widening his smile and batting his eyes in the way that usually got him jumped by those more inclined to such pleasantries, Meiki returned, "But Headmaster Sitarski said that no titles existed within the walls of Ruchbah-Cebalrai Academy other than those of Professor and Headmaster."
Jeren growled, shifting as if to advance on Meiki, only to be restrained by a light hand upon his arm.
"Forget him," Sakkat said quietly. "He's not worth your trouble."
For a moment Jeren seemed as though he would argue, hands clenching into fists, then he looked away. "Whatever." Turning back to Meiki he said clearly, "Just remember, lizard, you don't belong here. I don't know how many professors you slept with to get that scholarship, but you didn't earn it. You'll never belong here."
He turned and stalked away, sitting down in a huff with his circle of friends following close behind. Meiki regarded him silently for a moment, then shook his head and started pulling out his books. It didn't matter what they all thought. He knew he'd earned his place here with a lot of hard work. He'd had to. All his life he'd dreamed of soaring through the stars. He'd studied everything he could get his hands on about the beautiful silver star ships and how they worked, spending every hard-earned point he could acquire on diagrams, workbooks, and scale models. Neither his mother nor her match could afford to send him to school; he'd had to earn that too. Ten academies he'd put in for before one would accept him.
What he couldn't understand was why everyone thought his bedpartners had something to do with his grades. The two were totally separate. When it was time for class he threw everything he had into learning whatever they'd teach him, then begged for more lessons. Meal times and breaks were spent in the library, obsessively looking up extra information and filling in those places that classroom lessons had not gone into detail on. He wanted to know everything. If he knew everything, then surely, surely a ship would take him.
And at night, well, there were plenty of lonely schoolmates that were more than happy to spend a few hours of fun with him. Like Nimulee. When he'd met Nimulee, the young man had been skittish, timid, and completely unsure of himself. Like Meiki, he was at Ruchbah-Cebalrai Academy on a scholarship. That meant he had to be smarter than smart, but he had so little faith in his own abilities that he was barely passing his courses.
That wouldn't do. It had taken a while, but countless nights of confidence-boosting activities later Nimulee was well on his way to being one of the best students in the Academy. That was much better. Someone as delightful in bed as Nimulee shouldn't have anything to be ashamed of.
Happy thoughts of Nimulee in bed buoyed him until the start of class, Professor Boreas walking in right on time and proceeding with the lesson of the day. Boreas was Meiki's favorite teacher, for two reasons. First, he was one of the very few people who accepted Meiki's skills as fact, and second, he was incredibly patient in answering every single one of the Draconis's myriad questions. Sometimes, Meiki swore Professor Boreas actually looked forward to them.
Something about what was being displayed on the holo-screen caught his attention and he frowned, trying to figure out what it was. After a moment he had it, and waved a hand to get Boreas's attention.
"Professor, your angle of ascent is off point zero zero two degrees. If you leave it as-is, your hoversled will crash into that cliff."
Boreas blinked at him over his in-specs, then turned to regard the display behind him. After a moment he nodded a bit and turned back around to face them. "I do believe you're right Meikilenfel. Apparently I transcribed a number wrong somewhere..." He prodded at his dat-screen hopefully, as though poking it would reveal where he'd gone wrong.
"Kiss-up," someone muttered to Meiki's left, but it wasn't a voice he immediately recognized and no one was looking at him when he swiveled his head around to check. He was still looking, wondering who'd made the mean and spiteful remark when Boreas cleared his throat, apparently giving up on trying to figure out where the mistake had been made.
"Anyway, on the subject of hoversleds, I'm sure you all know that the awards ceremony for this term will be held in two weeks time. We will be having guests in attendance, honored alumni and personages from the Infinitum Government. Due to this, the board has decided to hold an airshow to demonstrate the skills of some of our young pilots." Boreas had to pause for a moment to regain their attention after the students all launched into excited murmurings all at once. "Ahem! As I was saying, those of you wishing to be considered for the honor should submit your names for the selection process. The deadline is tomorrow at noon."
Professor Boreas promptly lost the class to chatter and gave up trying to regain their attention as dat-screens were pulled out from the most unlikely of locations and twenty-five anticipatory students all submitted their names for consideration. Meiki right along with them. Or perhaps slightly ahead, as he'd already had his dat-screen out before the announcement.
Wouldn't that be lovely, to soar overhead for the wonder and delight of Important Persons. An incredible honor, to be a part of that team. Oh, if only. Surely he would be selected as part of the team. He'd held the top score in piloting class since his second semester, and was the only student in the history of the school to not crash in Professor Delaunay's disaster simulator course.
Granted, Delaunay and half the staff were still convinced he'd managed to rig it somehow, but still. He'd done it, and eventually they'd have to concede that. Wouldn't they?
Delaunay's class was next, and Meiki knew the man had a particularly grueling course laid out for them. It would be his chance to really prove to Delaunay how good he knew he was, and hopefully assure himself of a spot in the presentation! Surely, surely...
Thoughts of flying and hoversleds consumed his brain for the rest of class, enough so that he only distantly heard Jeren's parting remarks. Jeren's scorn didn't matter. Only flying mattered! Flying was his life, his dream. Flying would prove to his mother's match that he wasn't mentally-challenged. He'd get a place on one of the best ships in the IG and soar through the stars. Being part of the awards ceremony flight team would practically assure that, it was such an honor.
Trilling happy sounds to himself, Meiki threw his arms out and zoomed down the hallways to the hangar where Delaunay held class, pretending to be a ship in flight. He dodged artfully around startled students, took the stairs three at a time, and arrived outside Delaunay's door breathless and early. He felt like he'd had an entire chocolate bar, though of course that wasn't the case. He'd been forbidden from having any sugar while at school.
Bouncing through the door, Meiki detoured to run his hands affectionately over the simulators before assuming his seat. He fidgeted helplessly, caught up in the grip of excitement, until Professor Delaunay and the rest of the class appeared. Everyone else was almost as jittery as he was, though for a different reason. Today's simulated test flight would be a large portion of their grade, and Delaunay delighted in making his courses as difficult as possible.
Meiki wasn't worried. Delaunay hadn't yet come up with anything that would do more than slow him down a bit and make him think. And, indeed, as the first of his schoolmates entered the simulators, their progress broadcast onto overhead holo-screens, he knew he had absolutely nothing to worry about. The course was hard, yes, but not impossible. It altered slightly for the next students to run it, though that only made sense. It wouldn't do to let the students who went last memorize the course from their fellow students failings.
Finally, it was his turn, and he all but threw himself into the simulator. He strapped himself down in record time, placing his left hand on the reader while his right punched in his identification string. There was a soft chime as his identity was confirmed, then the simulator screens all came up and the controls activated.
Meiki blinked. This wasn't the course he'd seen his fellow students run. Not even close! His controls were sluggish for some reason (fifteen possibilities ran through his mind, but none of them appeared to be valid for the situation) and something was wrong with what would be the internal balancer on a normal hoversled. Not something he could fix on a simulator, though he knew exactly how to get to it on a physical sled. All he could do was compensate for the failures and make sure he had sufficient space between turns to account for the delay in control commands.
Unfortunately, sufficient space was not something the nightmare course seemed to want to give him. There were twists and turns that would have been tricky even with a non-malfunctioning hoversled; with everything lagging, it was positively brutal. Still, despite more close calls than he really cared for, he was nearly to the end of it. So close, he could see the finish point. Then all the instrumentation suddenly went haywire, flashing wildly at him, and absolutely nothing would respond. As horror built, his sled promptly took a nose dive straight into the ground and all the screens went blank.
Crashed? He'd never crashed before. And none of the other students had suffered a catastrophic systems failure like he had. Why...
Feeling rather numb, Meiki exited the simulator and lifted his eyes to meet Delaunay's perpetually-scowling face. Though, today there was a hint of something else on that sour face, something colder... surely, surely Delaunay couldn't be smiling?
"Meikilenfel. You fatally crashed your hoversled, killing all aboard. Zero points."
Meiki stiffened. "But... it malfunctioned! No one else's sled malfunctioned..."
Delaunay raised a brow. "Then, as a responsible pilot, you should not have taken off and risked the destruction of your sled. The proper thing to do would have been to call for your engineer to repair the damage."
"That's not part of the usual course," Meiki protested weakly. "If I could have gotten to the rear casings I could have fixed-"
Delaunay cut him off. "You boast that the usual courses are too simple for you, then when you are given an advanced run you complain? Such arrogance is unbecoming in a young pilot. Continue to argue with me and I will begin to deduct points from your standing score. Take your seat, Meikilenfel."
Numb and disoriented, Meiki did as told. He watched the remainder of the students run the course, not a one of them encountering malfunctions of any kind, with a distant detachment. When class finally ended, he made his way back to his seldom-used room, foregoing his usual mealtime trip to the library.
He didn't understand. If he hadn't taken off, he would have stood no chance of finishing the course and Delaunay would have failed him. But by taking off and running the course he'd apparently done further damage to his malfunctioning hoversled that resulted in a fatal crash. Any way he looked at it, he would have failed.
He'd failed the test. Worse, with a crash like that on his record, there was no way he'd be allowed to be part of the flight team. They'd never risk it; not with important persons attending.
Feeling hollow inside, Meiki curled up on his bed and closed his eyes, that last spectacular crash replaying over and over in his mind.
The day of the awards ceremony dawned bright and sunny, with not even a hint of a breeze. Absolutely perfect flying weather, especially for the special ionized smoke trails the academy's hoversleds had been outfitted with. Tasteful banners had been hung, both holographic and real, and the great amphitheatre roof had been opened to the sky. Everything was ready and perfect.
Meiki had watched the set-up until the first of the guests had arrived, then retreated to the simulator hangar for another try at that impossible course. He'd gone through it six times (crashing every single time) when he heard voices in the room without. Curious, he switched off all the simulator equipment and cracked the door open just a bit to hear better.
"You fixed the sled?"
"Yeah. Final equipment check was this morning. I slipped in after and made the mods."
"Good. This will teach Poesia not to mess with Serekkan. Arrogant fools. And Jeren worse than all of them."
"Are you sure about this, Sakkat? I thought Jeren was your friend..."
"Friend?" A derisive snort. "Jeren doesn't have friends. He has lackeys and admirers. Nobody's 'good enough' for him to consider a friend."
"Guess that means nobody will be very upset when his sled crashes during the ceremony, then, huh?"
"Nobody but his ass of an old man, and that's exactly who Serekkan wants to rattle. Now come on, we need to get to our seats. Nothing to implicate us - Serekkan wants to take all the credit themselves. Fine by me, as long as we get paid."
Meiki held his breath as the sounds retreated, then carefully counted to two hundred before pushing open the simulator hatch and slipping out. Sakkat? Planning to kill Jeren? But Sakkat was Jeren's best friend. Wasn't he?
He had to warn Jeren. The hoversleds for the ceremony were being kept in the third hangar, and that's where the flight team would be assembling. The show would be starting any minute now - he had to hurry!
Carefully, though. He hadn't recognized the voices with Sakkat. If they knew they'd been overheard, there was no telling what they'd do. He had to get to the third hangar quickly, but not arouse any suspicion. Fortunately, pretty much the entire academy was used to his odd antics by now. No one so much as batted an eye when he went sailing through hallways in his space ship impression. It was just Meiki being Meiki. As usual.
Skidding through the doorway into the third hangar, Meiki drew in a sharp breath as he realized the sleds were gone. They'd already taken off! He was too late. Outside he could hear the appreciative murmurs of the crowd as the presentation began - a presentation that would turn deadly if he didn't do something. Desperately he ran to the wide-open hangar door, gazing up at the streams of color zipping in and out overhead. Something. He had to do something. Jeren wasn't particularly nice, but that didn't mean he should die.
His frantic gaze fell upon the neat rows of hoversleds used in class practice. Maybe, just maybe...
It took precious seconds to convince the hoversled that he had proper authorization to be using it, then he was up and away, narrowly avoiding the hangar door as he burst out at speeds far in excess of the proper take-off recommendations. Overhead the hoversleds had shifted into a diamond formation... all except one, which was jerking unsteadily. Jeren!
Angling his own hoversled up at a sharp incline, Meiki watched with a sinking feeling as Jeren's hoversled suddenly put on a burst of speed, heading right for the watching crowd. No one else seemed to have noticed that something was wrong yet, both with the irregularly flying hoversled and the addition of a seventh sled when only six were planned. He switched off all the safeties, pushing the little sled past its limits as he determinedly caught up with Jeren's.
A quick glance through the transparent plas-glass of the sleds' overhead awnings showed flames - electrical failure? - and a frantic Jeren trying to put them out. Ahead the ground was coming up far too fast, and everyone was still just sitting there, not realizing the danger they were in. This close, he could make out the formal black and silver uniforms of the IG delegates in the guest section. Why wouldn't they move?
There was only one chance the could think of, and it was a long shot. Had to get this exactly right, or Jeren, Meiki, and far too many onlookers would die. No choice but to try.
In a move that he'd done a thousand times in simulations but been forbidden from attempting for real due to the danger it posed, Meiki flipped his sled so that it was flying upside-down and nudged its nose against the underbelly of Jeren's, forcing the sled higher as he threw all the power it had into changing the angle of their descent so that when they crashed it would be well away from all the people.
It worked, though only just, and the ground was still coming up so fast. Jamming the control stick into place in an improvised auto-pilot, Meiki gathered his magics and closed his eyes, praying that he got this right, and teleported.
The heat got to him just as the smoke made him gag, and the tight confines certainly didn't help. Hoversleds had never been designed for two people. The fire had gone out, no doubt due to lack of oxygen given the fact that Jeren appeared to be unconscious. Meiki wrapped his arms tightly around the man as the ground came screaming up on them, and teleported again.
He misjudged the landing slightly, hitting the ground with enough force to knock the breath out of him and make his ears ring. Even so, he could still hear the boom of the explosion as the two sleds impacted with the ground far too close for comfort. His teleportation range had a limit of just under a hundred meters, but that was enough to get them clear of the wreck.
Both of them. Jeren was still in his arms, and breathing shallowly. Alive. Suffering from smoke inhalation and burns, but alive.
Now, finally, he could hear the startled sounds of the crowd (so close, so very close they'd come to getting incinerated when the sleds hit) and the pace of feet as he and Jeren were surrounded. Hands helped him up, pulling Jeren away from him at the same time (they could see he was injured, couldn't they? Someone needed to get him to the infirmary) and he was swept off back inside the academy in almost a blur.
Finally, at last, he was released, finding himself with a start in Headmaster Sitarski's office. Sitarski was frowning at him, then turned his head to the side as someone else arrived. Professor Delaunay.
"Just what do you think you were doing?" Delaunay snarled. "Didn't get to fly in the ceremony so you thought you'd crash it?"
Meiki started, eyes going wide. That wasn't it at all. "No, sir. Jeren's sled had been tampered with, I had to-"
Delaunay cut him off again. "I inspected those sleds myself. They were in perfect working order."
"Jeren's sled was flying erratically," Sitarski observed, still frowning.
"Why'd you do it?" Delaunay asked, still glaring at Meiki. "Glory? Want to be a hero? Wasn't enough for you to sleep your way to the top of the class, but you had to make yourself famous too?"
Meiki stared. "No!" he protested. "I overheard Sakkat talking to someone, how they were going to kill Jeren and Serekkan was going to take the credit for it. I just wanted to help Jeren!"
"Sakkat," Sitarski repeated, arching a brow in disbelief. "Sakkat and Jeren are the closest of friends. I hardly believe he would involve himself in such a scheme."
Delaunay snorted. "Of course he wouldn't. Stupid Draconis is just pissed I failed him. Aren't you?" he added, sneering at Meiki.
"I... no! I heard them!" Why didn't anyone believe him?
"Delaunay," Sitarski said quietly, "Please call Sakkat to my office."
Though looking like he would like to argue, Delaunay merely grumbled and stalked out. Meiki waited nervously for what seemed like hours, during which Sitarski said nothing, only continued to look at him with that slight frown, until finally Delaunay returned with Sakkat. Sakkat stood respectfully, hands clasped behind his back, and nodded to Sitarski.
"At any time this morning, were you in or near the third hangar where the hoversleds are kept?" Sitarski asked.
Sakkat blinked. "Sure. I wished Jeren good luck as he suited up."
"And at no other time were you in the hangar?" Sitarski pressed.
Sakkat shook his head. "None. Why, Headmaster?"
Sitarski paused, considering his words. "It has been suggested that you might have had a hand in this morning's crash, Sakkat."
Sakkat stiffened. "What? Jeren's my friend, Headmaster! I would never do anything to endanger him. Who told you such filthy lies?" he hissed.
"That does not matter," Sitarski said calmly while Meiki wished he could turn invisible. "The problem is being dealt with. You may go, Sakkat."
Nodding, Sakkat turned to go, his eyes lingering a moment on where Meiki was doing his best to pretend he was part of the wall. There was a flash of... something... in them, then Sakkat was gone.
"Meikilenfel," Sitarski said quietly, "I am issuing you a formal Reprimand for speaking slander against fellow students, theft and destruction of Academy property, and endangerment of others."
Meiki's eyes widened. "But-"
"Furthermore, Sitarski continued, "If you persist in spreading lies about, I will have to have you expelled. This is your only warning. Consider yourself suspended until this investigation has been concluded."
"But... but what about Jeren!" Meiki sputtered, ignoring the look Delaunay shot him. "What if they try something else? You have to protect him!"
"I find it difficult to believe you would care so much about the welfare of someone it is well known that you do not get along with," Sitarski said calmly. "Jeren will be monitored, but you will stay away from him until such time as we are certain you had nothing to do with this... accident."
Meiki looked from Sitarski to Delaunay and back, unable to comprehend what he saw in their faces. Surely they didn't really believe he would do something so terrible for... for glory! But those cold expressions didn't soften in the least; if anything, they got colder. With a stiff nod, Meiki bid them both good day and strode from the Headmaster's office.
And nearly right into a tall man who had been standing just outside. Before he could do more than gasp out a rush of air there was a hand over his mouth and he was being led away, down the hall and around a corner before he was finally released. Blinking, Meiki looked up (and up) at the tall, handsome man, noting the fair skin, pale hair, and intense blue eyes. All set off by a striking black and silver uniform. Infinitum Government uniform.
"The things you told the Headmaster," the man said quietly. "Do you have any proof?"
"I..." Meiki hesitated, studying the man's face for a moment, then shaking his head. "Right now, only what I overheard in the simulator hangar," he admitted, "And the only voice I recognized was Sakkat's. But-" He straightened and squared his shoulders, looking up (and up, the human was considerably taller than he was) feeling oddly calm. "Give me a few minutes to go hack into the school systems, and I'll find whatever proof you want. There has to be a record of messages exchanged, as students aren't allowed off-campus while school is in session and the presentation at the awards ceremony was only announced two weeks ago."
Smiling grimly, the man nodded and gestured for Meiki to lead the way. Meiki headed for the library, casting occasional looks over his shoulder at the somewhat-intimidating man, then all his attention was taken up with sliding past the school's security systems and accessing files he wasn't supposed to have access to. It took longer than he'd expected; there were more security encryptions than normal, for some reason, but eventually he had exactly what he'd been looking for. A full record of messages exchanged between Sakkat and his employers, as well as other references to things that went totally over Meiki's head. From the way the IG official's lips tightened, however, he suspected that the additional information did not go over his.
"Thank you," the man said quietly. "This is all that I need."
Meiki nodded, then stood hesitantly as he passed the terminal over to the blond man. "Um, if you don't mind, I want to make sure Jeren's okay... he's not very nice, but nobody deserves to have that happen to them."
"Of course," the man said cordially. "He owes you his life."
Meiki flushed. "I just... I had to. He doesn't owe me anything. Anyone would have done the same."
Those eerie blue eyes pinned him in their gaze. "Anyone? I wonder." He shook his head. "Go see to your classmate. I need to deal with this."
Nodding, Meiki made a swift retreat from the library, weaving his way through the halls to the infirmary. There was no one guarding the door, despite Sitarski's assurances, and Meiki slipped inside a little more swiftly than he'd intended, wanting to be certain Jeren was still safe.
He appeared to be sleeping, and his burns had been bandaged. Meiki approached the little bed cautiously, staring down at Jeren's pain-drawn face. "I'm sorry I wasn't faster," he said softly. "I'm sorry you got hurt."
Jeren's eyelids fluttered, then flickered open. He gazed unsteadily up at Meiki, then his eyes went wide. "You-" He stopped, coughing, and Meiki grabbed a glass of water off a nearby table. Jeren swallowed it down, breathing shallowly for a few moments, then looked back up again. "I saw you. In the hoversled. I saw you before I passed out."
"I couldn't let you die," Meiki said quietly, "Even if you were mean to me. I heard them talking, and then I tried to warn you, but you'd already left. So I did the only thing I could think of... I wish I'd been faster."
"No, I..." Jeren shook his head. "Thank you. I... I was wrong about you." He smiled, painfully. "I've never seen anybody fly like that before."
Meiki echoed the faint smile. "To be honest, I never ever want to fly like that again. That was the scariest moment of my life."
Jeren arched a brow, then winced when that pulled on his burns. "You, scared? I thought nothing scared you."
"Almost nothing?" Meiki offered with a faint grin, which fell as he remembered what he'd come here for. "Jeren, I have to tell you something. The person I overheard, talking to the others about sabotaging your sled... it was Sakkat."
Jeren stiffened. "Sakkat? Why would Sakkat..."
Meiki shook his head. "Something about Poesia and Serekkan. Serekkan was going to take credit for killing Poesia's prince... I don't know. There's a guy from the IG that's going to take care of things, but until he does please be careful..."
"Sakkat..." Jeren repeated in disbelief. "Sakkat's father is on the school board. Why would Sakkat risk everything like that..."
Meiki reflected back over the things he'd read in Sakkat's messages, then swallowed. "I think... I think he might be part of it... I'm not sure. I think the man from the IG knows, though. He knows more than I do, anyway..."
Jeren drew in a sharp breath, but it was another voice that spoke. "You were warned to cease spreading lies," Professor Delaunay announced from the doorway. "And to stay away from Jeren. Get out, you're no longer welcome at this school."
Meiki straightened and turned, meeting the man's eyes. "Fine. But at least I've warned him. That's more than you would have done." As Delaunay snarled and stalked toward him, Meiki turned back to Jeren. "Be careful," he stressed, then closed his eyes and teleported.
Looking around the bare room didn't really hurt as much as he'd thought it would. Of course, he'd barely seen his own room all term, preferring to spend his nights in others' rooms. All his belongings were packed in a single carry-bag, along with the few mementos he'd been given by some of his lovers. Less than thirty minutes to collect and pack everything he owned. Minus his uniforms, of course. Those belonged to the Academy.
With a slight smile, Meiki made his way out through the halls to the main gates, ignoring the looks sent his way by the other students in response to his casual clothing. It wasn't important. He'd just start over, somewhere else. He'd done it once, and he could do it again. Jeren was aware of the plots against him, the handsome blond IG official would take care of Sakkat and his conspirators, and nobody had gotten hurt. That was good enough.
He let himself out the main gates, taking three steps before stopping and blinking. The blond IG man was standing there next to a transport. He looked up from his data screen, noticed Meiki, then handed the data screen off to someone before walking over to stand in front of the Draconis.
"Leaving?" he asked.
Meiki nodded. "I've been expelled."
Something flashed through the blond man's icy eyes too fast for Meiki to catch, then he nodded as well. "I suspected they might." He looked Meiki over slowly, the slightest of smiles appearing on his stern face. "I hear you're an excellent pilot."
Meiki blinked, then nodded again. "As good as I can be."
"And I've already seen what you can do with computers." The smile deepened, ever so slightly. "How would you like to work for me?" he asked.
Meiki blinked again. "For you? Would I get to fly on a star ship?"
The man chuckled quietly. "Amongst other things, yes."
Grinning brilliantly, Meiki dropped his bag and promptly hugged the handsome man. "Yes!" He held on for a few moments, then released the man whose brows had shot up into his hairline. Picking his bag back up, Meiki grinned. "So, what am I supposed to call you? I don't even know your name."
That smile was there and gone again as the blond man turned away and led Meiki toward the waiting transport. "Pyotr Kavalerov."